September 9, 2006 - September 2, 2006
Wednesday, June 22, 2005
Study finds... not.
Who's gonna talk you home tonight?
Practically every day, some news organization or other presents us
with a dire headline that includes the phrase "Study finds." Without a
full exploration of the content, each of these can function as a
factless propaganda item that reinforces an existing belief or annoys
us by contradicting an existing belief. The interesting question is
whether we, as individuals, behave differently depending on which of
these two circumstances applies. Today, I came across this teaser in
STUDY: Cellphones take up driver
I happen to believe that this is true. It seems reasonable to think
that there would be fewer accidents if all those businesspeople,
housewives, and teenagers weren't motoring down the highway yakking on
the phone. On the other hand, my libertarian inclinations resist the
notion that the cops should have yet another excuse to punish people
for what they do on their own private property (i.e., in our cars)
before any external driving misconduct occurs. So I was curious to see
what the "study
had found. The opening paragraphs certainly sounded authoritative:
Using a cellphone -- even with a
hands-free device -- may distract drivers because the brain cannot
handle both tasks, U.S. researchers said on Tuesday.
Imaging tests show the brain directs its
resources to either visual input or auditory input, but cannot fully
activate both at the same time, the team at Johns Hopkins University in
Johns-Hopkins. They're smart. They must know. But then Reuters
briefly describes the methodology:
Writing in the Journal of Neuroscience,
Yantis and colleagues said they tested people aged 19 to 35 by showing
them a computer display while they wore headphones playing voices.
At the same time, the volunteers brains
were scanned using functional magnetic resonance imaging.
They were told to look for specific
numbers, for instance, on a computer screen, while hearing recorded
voices saying a stream of numbers...
This, the article concludes, "is like driving and trying to talk on
Uh, no, it isn't. It may be that there is some fundamental validity
to the point that driving and talking on the phone are competing tasks
which the brain doesn't handle efficiently at the same time, but this
test proves no such thing. It's a setup. The exercise performed by the
volunteers involved identifying the exact same information, specific
numbers, via two different senses, sight and hearing. The one task is a
direct and highly specific confusion factor for the other. What kid
hasn't teased a pal who was trying to memorize a phone number from the
yellow pages by reciting a stream of random numbers out loud? In this
case, it's obvious the brain will switch its number processing capacity
from one input source to the other, aware that no mixed attention span
can do justice to either input.
This is very far from being akin to the circumstance of driving and
talking on a cellphone. Neither task is directly analogous to the
processing of numbers, which occurs in a different part of the brain
from language processing. If you doubt this, consider the difference
between the number task -- identifying specific numbers -- and the
phone conversation task, which can lose or ignore plenty of specific
words and still achieve understanding of the gist. And the brain
process that attends to the road is neither numeric nor linguistic --
it's performing a kind of subconscious pattern recognition, looking for
important exceptions in the overall visual field which require the
application of conscious decision making. If it were otherwise, we
would find it impossible to do what we all do on a regular basis: drive
some familiar route with hardly any recollection of the trip after
we've reached our destination. No exceptions spotted, no conscious
The study focuses on one kind of processing function, not related to
driving or talking, and tries to compare it to a situation that
involves two altogether different kinds of processing functions which
may or may not create complications in an organ well known to be
capable of advanced multiprocessing tasks.
The conclusions are nonsense. Johns-Hopkins should know better, and
we should all be reminded of the need to be skeptical when we're urged
to be credulous of some scientific authority and even when we're
inclined to agree with the conclusions being reported.
Is this how the link between global warming and human behavior came
to be regarded and reported as a "fact"?
A Contract with America
"We'll Bless America."
FOR DEAN & COMPANY
Republicans keep referring to Democrats as "obstructionist," implying
that the minority party doesn't really have any ideas for changing the
status quo. I think this does them a disservice. If they'd known about
John Kerry's Yale grades beforehand, they might have picked a standard
bearer more adept with words than George W. Bush. And since the
election, it may be the case that the Democrats have been too caught up
in their anti-Bush emotions and rhetoric to articulate a set of
proposals for definitive action, but that doesn't mean they can't be
articulated. All that's required is to draw some logical inferences
from the views consistently espoused by those who speak for the party
and convert them into an agenda that could be presented to the voters
in the next two elections.
Here's a first draft of what such an agenda might look like in several
broad areas of policy:
If the American people vote to return Democrats to a majority in the Senate and House and to the
1. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation making it
illegal for any American troops to serve as instruments of national
imperialism in any way whatsoever. All U.S. troops presently serving
overseas will be brought home immediately and put to work rebuilding
the infrastructure of our impoverished inner cities.
2. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation declaring an
end to the illegal and undeclared War on Terror. Further, legislation
will be passed to ensure appropriate reparations to all nations and
demographic constituencies who have been victimized by American
bombing, troop actions, prisoner abuse and humiliation, U.N.
resolutions, and domestic and international propaganda efforts.
3. The Democrat Party will immediately nominate and assure the approval
of a U.N. ambassador who will work tirelessly to repair the damage done
to America's reputation abroad by the current administration's
unilateral efforts to conquer alleged enemies, overthrow alleged
tyrants, and undermine international efforts to secure a more fair and
equal distribution of the world's wealth.
4. The Democrat party will immediately nominate Former President Jimmy
Carter as a cabinet-level Ambassador-at-Large-for-Life to
negotiate mutually acceptable peace terms with North Korea, Iran, al
Qaida, and the Palestinian people, including terms for ending the
illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and for executing the prompt
relocation of Jewish people from Palestine to other countries,
including the United States and our closest allies, such as France,
Germany, and Russia. Mr. Carter will be specifically chartered to
conduct all negotiations in a spirit of true tolerance for the cultural
traditions of other countries and their historical mistreatment by the
United States of America.
5. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation authorizing the
World Court in the Hague to begin war crimes proceedings against all
U.S. government and military personnel who have been complicit in the
undeclared war on terror and the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
1. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation creating a new
commission to identify the perpetrators and/or accomplices in the
September 11, 2001 attack on New York during the period of time between
January 2000 and October 2001. All those identified and proven
complicit by the commission will be prosecuted and punished to the
fullest extent of the law, including George W. Bush, Condoleeza Rice,
Donald Rumsfeld, and their aides and representatives.
2. The Democrat Party will immediately triple the budget for 'first
responders' to domestic attacks by aggrieved foreign constituencies,
including the first ever budget for education and sensitivity training
to prevent the possibility of hostility or acts of revenge by American
victims of such attacks. All Americans must understand and accept the
abiding rights of other peoples and civilizations to freely express
their resentments against their historical oppressors. This initiative,
combined with the Carter initiative to negotiate a peaceful resolution
with al Qaida, should speedily end the irrational aspects of
international relations which have fueled the cycle of violence.
3. The Democrat Party will pass legislation to reduce the military
budget of the United States by 90 percent. This will preclude the
possibility of inadvertent provocation of other foreign nations and
constituencies by the fact of American military power, reinforce the
importance of diplomatic negotiations as the only appropriate road to
peace, and vastly reduce the federal budget deficit created by the
4. The Democrat Party will pass an employment bill guaranteeing minimum
wage jobs to all unemployed Americans and undocumented aliens as security guards at nuclear
power plants, chemical plants, truck depots, shipping docks, and other
facilities which might be targeted by foreign insurgents prior to the
attainment of lasting peace. Any American citizens killed while so
employed will receive compensation equal to that received by civilian
victims of the September 11, 2001, tragedy.
1. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation raising the
minimum wage to a level equaling the minimum annual income of the
nation's highest tax bracket, thus eliminating the nation's recent
history of giving tax breaks to the rich at the expense of the poor.
Any increases in revenue associated with this legislation will be used
to guarantee the continuation in perpetuity of the current social
security system, as well as to radically refund affirmative action
programs designed to offset any new disparity between rich and poor,
and to finance reparations from the federal government to
African-Americans, Arab-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Native
Americans, women, and Undocumented Aliens -- all of whom have created
wealth for the rich without being fairly compensated in the past.
2. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation creating a
single-payer national health care system, so that Americans can finally
enjoy the unparalleled benefits of the health care enjoyed in such
countries as Canada, the United Kingdom, and France, where all share
equally in such attributes as access and expertise, as well as delays
1. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation banning all new
domestic oil exploration and requiring automotive and energy companies
to find a replacement for petroleum-based fuels in 12 months.
2. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation endorsing the
Kyoto Protocols, so that the ensuing worldwide economic slowdown will
be shared equally with Europe and Asia, thus forestalling the potential
for military and diplomatic conflicts arising from inequity.
1. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation to realize the
historical dream of Franklin Delano Roosevelt for a Supreme Court
consisting of 12 justices. All subsequent nominations to the Court will
dispense with the Republican litmus test on abortion and will instead
focus on the highest principles of constitutional justice, such as the
need to continuously rehabilitate the obsolete verbiage of 18th century
slaveowners with the more enlightened judicial principles practiced by
our closest allies, such as France, Germany, and France.
2. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation extending legal
protections afforded American citizens under the U.S. Constitution to
all living human beings on earth, without exception.
1. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation banning all
forms of voter registration as intrinsically discriminatory against the
poor and uneducated. In future, voters may vote where, when, and as
often as they choose during the entire month of November, and all
disputes will be resolved by the new, larger, and more democratic
Supreme Court, thus ensuring that every voter's voice is counted.
2. The Democrat Party will immediately pass legislation creating
a commission of our country's most prestigious academicians to
develop standards for the politically correct use of the First
Amendment, thus ensuring that our national political discourse will no
longer be impeded or diverted by language insulting to disadvantaged
minorities, including women, African-Americans, Arab-Americans, Native
Americans, undocumented illegals, and so-called "liberals." The
recommendations of this commission will be enacted immediately after
the swearing in of the new Supreme Court.
3. Immediately after the signing of the political reform act described
above, the Democrat Party will pass a series of special
reform measures banning the Fox News Channel, political talk radio,
political abuse of the internet, and the participation of any avowedly
religious persons in the political process, with the exception of
muslims, hindus, buddhists, taoists, new age spiritualists, wiccans,
and some Jews.
I think it's a good start. Did I leave anything out?
Monday, June 20, 2005
OUR FRIENDLY UNCLES
this year for the
first time. In many ways it's a silly show, but all its sound and fury
does reinforce an elementary imperative that too many people forget:
REMEMBER THE MISSION. That's what distinguishes the Jack Bauer
character from all his supposed allies in the government and the
counter-terrorism organization he works for. The bad guys don't forget
their mission, but the good guys keep getting distracted by their
romantic relationships, their egos, and most alarmingly, by their
inability to imagine that prospective mass tragedy far outweighs the
ugliness of what must be done right now, right here, to prevent it. In 24
, only Jack Bauer has the vision
and the discipline to remain focused on the reality of the situation.
He's the one who's willing to torture his lover's husband to find the
perpetrator of a nuclear terror plot, the one who will sacrifice the
life of someone who saved his own to keep a bad guy with important
information alive, the one who will defy a timid President to extract
information from a suspect through extra-constitutional means, the one
who will repeatedly risk his own life to keep the bad thing from
happening. The others remember the mission sometimes, or partially, or
up to a point, but at critical junctures they get tricked by their own
emotions or the cynical maneuverings of the enemy into disastrous cul
de sacs where their prideful, civilized virtues make them accomplices
of evil. Somehow, they just can't seem to remember that the right thing
to do under ordinary circumstances can be the completely wrong thing to
do when 10 million lives are at stake. The horror of the current moment
blinds them to the unutterably greater horror of the likely death of 10
The TV show makes this point so often and in so many ways that it
becomes almost tiresome. But when I think they're overdoing it, I need
only look at the headlines to see that there's no such thing as
overdoing it. So-called civlized societies absolutely insist on
forgetting the mission.
The most recent example is the Durbin affair. The blogosphere has been
saturated with anti-Durbin
, but the most important part of the
story has been forgotten in the rush to pillory one idiot senator.
There will always be idiots in the Senate. That's not news, and it's
not very important. It doesn't really matter whether he apologizes or
not or whether he can be made to recognize his own reckless
irresponsibility or not. What does matter is that the mainstream media
and the American people can't seem to REMEMBER THE MISSION, which is to
win a war against ruthless barbarians who are absolutely set on killing
us. The real plotline of the Durbin remarks is that only a handful of
conservatives are outraged by what he said. The majority of average
Americans are indifferent, the media elites are embarrassed but intent
on covering for him, and the spotlight remains fixed on the irrelevant
idiot senator rather than the suicidal apathy of the nation he has
betrayed at a level which amounts to treason.
So I'm having a Jack Bauer moment. Here's my call to action for the
bloggers: forget Durbin. Apply your wit and eloquence to the far more
difficult objective of waking up the American people. We are at war,
and the mainstream media are the accomplices of our enemies. That's the
plotline of our story. You want to be a hero? Expose and defeat the
villains who are doing the most harm, not the pitiful dupes and foils
they use to distract us from their poisonous ongoing machinations.
UPDATE: Thanks to Michelle Malkin -- welcome to
MichelleMalkin.com visitors. Feel free to take a look around.
Saturday, June 18, 2005
There was once a Father who had Two Children -- Part II
Drudge confirms what we reported here
April 7th. FYI.
Queen goes nuts
H.R.H. Queen Elizabeth II
ROCKING ROLL MUSIC
very disturbing report from the United Kingdom:
Queen Elizabeth II has dipped into the
royal purse to snap up an iPod.
The Sun said the 79-year-old sovereign had bought a six-gigabyte silver
model for 169 pounds.
The pocket-sized digital music players can hold up to 10,000 downloaded
"The Queen loves music and was impressed by how small and handy the
iPod is," a royal insider told the tabloid on Friday...
The newspaper suggested Abba's "Dancing Queen" and "Everybody Wants to
Rule the World" by Tears for Fears might be on the royal iPod.
? Is this a new
royal amusement, or is it something more than that, something
considerably darker? I was reminded of another Brit, Andrew Sullivan,
who delineated the gathering iPod storm back in February
He wrote, in part:
(A)s I looked across the throngs on the
pavements, I began to see why. There were little white wires hanging
down from their ears, tucked into pockets or purses or jackets. The
eyes were a little vacant. Each was in his or her own little musical
world, walking to their own soundtrack, stars in their own music video,
almost oblivious to the world around them. These are the iPod people...
(L)ike all addictive cults, it's spreading. There are now 22 million
iPod owners in the United States and Apple is now becoming a mass
market company for the first time. Walk through any U.S. airport these
days, and you will see person after person gliding through the social
ether as if on auto-pilot. Get on a subway, and you're surrounded by a
bunch of Stepford commuters, all sealed off from each other, staring
into mid-space as if anaesthetized by technology. Don't ask, don't
tell, don't over-hear, don't observe. Just tune in and tune out.
Has it all finally become too much for Her Royal Highness? The Princess
Di scandals, the continuous misadventures of Harry
business, the final mediocre season of AbFab
Is she now about to withdraw into her "own little musical world," where
she can "star in her own music video" while "staring into mid-space"?
That would be sad indeed.
I prefer, though, to think of hers as a madness more along the lines
of King Lear, in which she is actually reconnecting with her subjects
by entering the state of spreading "atomist" isolation decried by Mr.
Sullivan. While she listens to "Dancing Queen," tapping her royal foot,
isn't it possible that in the depths of her anaesthetized mind, a voice
Poor naked wretches, whereso'er you
That bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,
How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides,
Your loop'd and window'd raggedness, defend you
From seasons such as these? O, I have ta'en
Too little care of this! Take physic, pomp;
Expose thyself to feel what wretches feel,
That thou mayst shake the superflux to them,
And show the heavens more just. (Act III, Scene IV,Lines 28-36)
No, I don't think so, either.
Friday, June 17, 2005
Liberty -- the bell is cracked
Deciding where to move? Most Americans move every five to seven years, at least that's what we're told.
And, we found a helpful way to know where to go -- put together by Al
Doyle. More accurately, where not to move, if you have a choice.
Al's analysis is not complicated. It doesn't involve complicated computer models that combine the
studied values of real estate, education spending, test scores, employment, economic output, or other factors
that might be considered by a better funded analysis. No, Al's got to work fast and under budget, so
he only looked at one thing -- gun laws.
The logic seems simple enough -- if the citizens of a State don't care enough about their right to
keep and bear arms, they probably don't care enough to stop intrusive governmental regulations in
every other area of life. Since a low value on protecting life in the most deadly of circumstances
leaves the barn door wide open in other less grave circumstances. Makes sense to us.
You're not given a list of places to go, rather a list of States to avoid.
Without further adieu:
The Seven Worst Places to Live -- by gun law reckoning:
2. Washington D.C.
6. New Jersey
7. New York
NJ -- Only holders of a Firearms Purchasers Identification Card (FID) may legally
own a weapon and according to Packing.org:
"As of 12-30-03 there are a little over 3000 permits issued in a state of 8 million people. Most are
held by retired law enforcement officers." This, of course, refers to concealed carry permits and
not to the FID -- we couldn't figure out how many of these exist.
MA -- Residents must register with the state and obtain permission from Massachusetts to
purchase even a simple single-shot long gun. Class A licenses are required for
handgun ownership, and random restrictions may be placed on the license.
IL -- There is a handgun ban in the City of Chicago. So, no one is shot by a handgun? In 2002,
511 (almost two per day) homicides were committed
with a firearm. H-m-m-m didn't they know that
it was illegal to own a handgun in Chicago? It is probably illegal to kill people in the City
of Chicago too. Outside Chicago -- all Illinois gun owners are required to obtain a Firearm Owners
Identification Card (FOID) from the state, and the card must be presented to purchase even a single
round of ammo. All gun purchases are supposed to be registered with the state.
DC -- All handgun ownership is banned, and those who own rifles or shotguns must register with the city.
CA -- You must register all handguns with the Department of Justice. There is also a 10-day
waiting period for every gun purchase.
You can read all the details in Al's analysis.
What to do? Well, as we like to say, "That'd be up to you." You can live in these places and break the
law. You can live in these places and attempt to abide by the laws. You could work feverishly to
change the laws. Or, you could just look around at the forty-three other states that value your liberty
a bit higher than these frightful seven. Good luck.
Is it killing baseball?
When the United States Congress
decided to hold hearings about the unaddressed problems in baseball, I
was exhilarated. I thought that the greatest game in the world might be
salvaged in spite of itself. I looked forward to an in-depth
investigation of the rummy doings with the S-Word. But I was bitterly
disappointed. All the beltway crowd wanted to talk about was steroids.
No mention of the real S-Word: socks.
I began to wonder if I'm the only one who's noticed. Anybody else? Take
the picture up top. It's a college team. Most of the players are
wearing their pants to just below the knee, where the baseball socks
begin. But just as in the major leagues, there's something else going
on in the picture too. Something sinister. Starting in the middle of
the picture, you can see a player with his pants extending all the way
to the ankles. To the right of him there's another and another doing
the same. And the player who's out in front of the rest of the team is
wearing his pants all the way to his shoe tops.
This isn't an isolated phenomenon. It's like a cancer on the game, a
creeping malignancy that will destroy baseball as surely as
the ludicrous spinnaker costumes worn by basketball players have
transformed the NBA into a clown show.
Ruth vs. Derek Jeter
"So what," I can hear some of you saying. "Big deal." Well, it is. For
three reasons. First, why do you think they call them uniforms? Members
of a team are supposed to dress alike. Yet it's clear that players are
doing whatever they want with their trouser lengths. It's
unprofessional. Second, the result is jarring to the eye. Especially
for those of us who grew up with baseball -- all those generations of
baseball socks embedded in our brains -- the pants-to-the-shoe-tops
look is akin to the hip-hop fad of displaying four inches of boxer shorts
above the low-riding waistband. It gives the impression that something
has fallen down that shouldn't. Baseball pants are supposed to show
plenty of sock, a fact borne out by the third reason this is such an
outrage: it undermines a mysterious but not insubstantial element of
the history of baseball.
Sandy Koufax vs. Randy Johnson
For whatever reason, major league baseball has always been obsessed
with socks, even to the point of naming teams after them. You don't
find any NFL teams called The Purple Helmets or The Black Shoulderpads.
But baseball has the Chicago White Sox, the Boston Red Sox, and the
Cincinnati Redlegs (as far as I know it's still their official name).
So it's kind of important even if none of us understands where this
peculiar fixation came from. And it's damned annoying when
disrespectful players tarnish the legacy of their own teams with
displays such as this:
The Boston Red Jax?
Scarcely a red sock in sight. And why exactly is it better to look like
a housepainter than a major league baseball player?
Still think I'm over-reacting? Then explain this:
Detail from Red Sox photo
It's the next step in the process, pants that follow the mall fashion
mode of wrapping under the heel of the shoe. In this direction lies the
end of baseball as a sport -- players tripping and falling and losing games
because of their own
feckless sartorial affectations. It has to be stopped forthwith.
The worst thing is that it's happening everywhere. Even little league
teams are looking motlier than usual because some of the kids wear
their pants right, and others wear them wherever. Can't we get back to
some standards of decency in at least this one small category of
Which do you prefer?
Some things -- especially small things
-- really should be held sacred.
Well, I'm glad I got it off my chest, anyway. It's been bothering me.
Now, hopefully, it will bother you too.