Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The song remains the same

The subject of slanted and downright fake journalism came up in conversation the other day. I mentioned Walter Duranty, and was met with bafflement. PJ Media has a piece today by Bruce Bawer that goes into some detail about the Times's history of faking news in a way that benefits the enemies of, dare I say it, civilization. "The Times, It Ain’t a-Changin’: Just as it once did with the dangers of Stalinism and Hitlerism, the New York Times is doing its best to whitewash the threat of Islam." Thanks to the Instapundit.

I have mentioned Duranty here before.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Hansen urges trials for spreading doubt about warming

Anthony Watts has the story: NASA's Jim Hansen calls for energy company execs to be put on trial, for "high crimes against humanity and nature, accusing them of actively spreading doubt about global warming." The Instapundit has a great headline, Storm troopers in clown shoes, and a couple of reader emails including a suggestion that Gore and Hansen be put on trial if warming does not pick up. Also "Nobody expects the climate inquisition." Watts says: "I suspect he’ll be calling for the jailing of bloggers like myself next."

TigerHawk says: "Officials of the United States government are supposed to uphold the Constitution. It is nothing less than outrageous that a government employee would propose to criminalize speech with which he disagrees. If Hansen's ideas, which enjoy the support of Al Gore, the United Nations, the Democratic Party, virtually every OECD government, and the vast majority of the media and academic establishment, cannot win in the marketplace, perhaps it is because they are not so persuasive as he maintains."

These warmingists are taking themselves altogether too seriously. Maybe they didn't like the jokes. Perhaps we need some new jokes.

"Sex education is completely beside the point."

Says Kay S. Hymowitz of the Gloucester teenagers' pregnancy pact.

So stop calling me, Planned Parenthood! These girls did plan to get pregnant. If them, how many more? It's not the technical issues that they are having trouble with.

Thanks to Kathryn Jean Lopez at The Corner.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Roddenberry vs. Brin in the jungle

Or "rain forest," as we say now. A couple of recent news stories about a tribe in the Brazilian forest reveal that the Brazilian government, through its National Foundation for Indians, has had for years a policy of keeping isolated tribes isolated. FUNAI's official web page is in Portuguese, of course. Here's a page about FUNAI from Virtual-Brazil. Here's another, from the Brazilian Consulate in San Francisco. Just a couple of results from a quick Google. And here's Survival International - The movement for tribal peoples.

They seem to be following the Prime Directive from Star Trek. Briefly, that the star-farers were not to reveal their existence to dwellers on worlds where interstellar travel had not yet been invented. No interference with the primitives, even if they are all going to die in a nuclear war, or something like that. It would damage their authenticity, or something. Something much more precious than their lives. (Don't ask them, though! They might not agree.)

In David Brin's Uplift series, by contrast, every intelligent species strives to raise non-intelligent species to intelligence, about as big an interference as one could imagine. So the bears haven't discovered fire yet? Modify them genetically so that they can hold the matches, and show them how it's done. This often does not work out well for the uplifted, as they tend to become slaves. (Not on Earth, though! Earth people, and dolphins, and chimps, are the good guys in these stories.)

How does all this relate to these isolated tribes? As Freeman Hunt says, "People are not pets." It's one thing for a New Yorker, say, to leave the city and take up a simple life, cutting wood and carrying water. But for more-or-less advanced civilizations to keep people living in the forest isolated, simply to study them, or in the case that was in the news, not even to study them, seems terribly cold.

As we ease our way into the 21st century and closer to the Singularity, paradigms will be changing. When we have our starships, will there still be tribes living in the rain forest because they have been prevented from finding out about what their fellow human beings are doing in the universe? Or will there be tribes living in the rain forest because they want to live there, because they have seen civilization and like my hypothetical New Yorker above, rejected it? The first seems cruel; the second, entirely likely, and unobjectionable.

One thing about that Prime Directive: It was violated frequently. Nearly every week, as I recall.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Recent flicks

SPOILERS!! Be careful, now, if eyes are sensitive, shield them. Inline update: well, this was really too spoiler-y, so I have revised it a little.

I seem to have run into a bunch of heist movies lately.

Flawless: Michael Caine and Demi Moore steal all the diamonds from the London diamond exchange, then get £100,000,000 ransom from an Evil Capitalist insurance man. The diamonds are, eventually, found, and returned to the exchange so that life can go on, but the stress of the whole thing gives the Evil South African Capitalist who runs the diamond exchange a heart attack. Demi, of course, uses the filthy lucre for the Cause of Good. (Demi: "Do you have any idea have hard it is to give away £100,000,000?" You could just write one check to the Red Cross. They would probably be able to figure out what to do with it.) Thieves win.

Firewall: Harrison Ford fights off home invaders who want $100,000,000 from the bank where he works. In Seattle, in the rain. By hacking into the bank's computers. Thieves lose.

Slow Burn: Someone not identified until the end steals, yes, here it is again, $100,000,000 from everybody. This seems to be a dreamscape version of L.A., but it might be Seattle, except for the lack of rain. Much in the spirit of The Usual Suspects, in that one does not know what's really going on until the kicker at the end. Thief wins.

Chaos: Someone not identified until the end steals (move that decimal!) $1,000,000,000 from everybody, again, in Seattle, in the rain, by hacking into a bank's computers. As above, much in the spirit of The Usual Suspects, in that one does not know what's really going on until the kicker at the end. Thief wins.

These are all quite adequate in their way. Nothing to get excited about, sort of like, I was going to say Travis McGee novels, but maybe Parker would be closer, only not quite so deep. Not sure that I like this trend of thieves winning.

Other recent flix worth mentioning:

Human Desire: Glenn Ford and Broderick Crawford get bent out of shape over Gloria Grahame. Ford is an engineer, of the train-driving variety, Crawford the assistant manager of the railyard. Grahame is Crawford's wife, who has a history with an important investor in the railroad. Watching this movie is, as they say, like watching a trainwreck: you wish you could look away, but you can't. Every time a character has the opportunity to make a decision, he or she chooses the wrong one. It just keeps getting worse, and building in tension, until Glenn Ford does the right thing, close to the end. And, by that point, it comes as a surprise. Everybody has been making the wrong moves, so when one character breaks out and does the right thing, it's startling. Something that Grahame does to display the nature of her character is that trick with lipstick that squicks me every time I see it, painting a cupid's-bow larger than one's actual lips. She looks in every scene as if she had just dipped her mouth in the pudding. None of these characters starts out bad, in the sense of evil or wicked; their weaknesses cause them to fall into a vortex that spins out of control. Nice clickety-clack motif in the score.

The Bad and the Beautiful: Wow. An amazing film. I may have to watch this a couple more times to squeeze some more juice out of it. The score alone is worth the rental. (Blake, you studied with the composer of this? I may never talk about music again. Nah, I will, but, wow.) That muted horn part (valve trombone?) at 58 minutes in, while Lana Turner is wandering around the deserted soundstage, is especially nifty. I see from IMDB that there is a Kazan-Pinter-De Niro version of The Last Tycoon. I wonder how that would compare to this in terms of characterization. I'm not even going to try to summarize this. It's the heck of a movie: see it if you can.

On tour of England

Randy the Internet Ronin has been posting some gorgeous pictures from England.

Go look at them. I'll still be here when you get back.

Do you know what's in the news?

Apparently, I do. And so does Morgan Freeberg. We both hit 12 out of 12 on the Pew News IQ Quiz. But, really. These questions are not even interesting. They are in the "Is the Pope German?" category. I screencapped my score, but it's just the same as his, with the 97 at the top. Makes you think you might have missed one. In other words, 100 per cent on the quiz puts you in the 97th percentile. Got that?

Oh, all right, here it is:

That's what reading blogs will do for you. Maybe I'll go read a few more.

Historical research could be fun

Working on my life list. I know I've had drinks in at least three of these places, and have been employed at one of them, but I'm a little … vague … about a couple of the others.

The 10 Oldest Bars in the U.S.

Thanks to Theo Spark for linking to this.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Leonard Cohen

Touring again, at 74. No stops in the States. What a pity. Neo-neocon has a post with a couple of videos, and links to more. The second one, from the early '60's, includes a standup routine. It's subtle stuff. A few more: Closing Time. The Future. Again: The Future, "Natural Born Killers" movie version, slightly different lyrics, very different video. An anthem for cynics: Everybody Knows. If this one were more recent, I dare say it would have included references to the US government or the Mossad being responsible for 9-11, and something about "Bush Lied!" (In this [musical] context, that looks like "a German song about an azalea.") Because everybody knows. Nice oud solo on this one. Bird On a Wire, with uncanonical lyrics. Suzanne, of course. That's No Way To Say Goodbye. So Long, Marianne (karaoke!). So Long, Marianne again, live. Famous Blue Raincoat. The Tower of Song: "I was born like this, I had no choice. I was born with the gift of a golden voice." Irony, much? Everybody knows.

Here's Neo-neocon's picture of Leonard Cohen:
Here's a recently discovered bust of Julius Caesar: Mere coincidence? You be the judge.

Update: Cohen started out as a poet, went on to write novels, and is now best known as a singer-songwriter. An interesting evolution. It's all good.

Another update: Some don't see the irony.

Yet another update: I have had to change some of the links, mostly for less satisfactory ones. YouTubes, they come and go.

And another update: Neo-neocon has another Cohen gem, which we might call "I'm the Man Who Wrote Suzanne."

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Wildlife to watch for

Not just coyotes, now the fishers are coming back. This is the second article I've seen this year about fishers (or fisher cats, as some call them) in New England. A little Googling shows people talking about fishers in Stonington and Sterling, CT, and Wakefield, RI. If you see one, back off, as it may be rabid. Thanks to Glenn Reynolds.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

How can you be anywhere at all when you're already in several places at once?

Looking for info on the Lisbon Treaty vote that will take place in Ireland on Thursday, I serendipitously stumbled across a revelation about the Irish railways.

Punctuality, as defined by Irish Rail, means arriving at the destination not later than ten minutes after the scheduled time.

Not on time. Within ten minutes of being on time is what Irish Rail defines as punctual.

How astonishing. The problem is even worse than is immediately obvious, as a glance at the schedule will immediately make apparent. A train leaves Dublin Connolly every morning at 8:27, arriving at Lansdowne Road at 8:36. This is a nine minute journey, one minute less the ten minutes bounded by Irish Rail’s definition of “punctual.” And that means that, as far as Irish Rail are concerned, when the train is still at Dublin Connolly, it is also and at the same time at Dublin Tara Street, Dublin Pearse, Grand Canal Dock and Lansdowne Road. Simultaneously.
Go read the rest.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


A few more.

Compare and contrast.

Wherever the UN "peacekeepers" go, sex crimes follow: "Children as young as six are being sexually abused by peacekeepers and aid workers, says a leading UK charity. Children in post-conflict areas are being abused by the very people drafted into such zones to help look after them, says Save the Children." Thanks, I guess, Charles. I have mentioned this pattern of abuse here before.

Starship Troopers, here we come: the Berkeley Bionics robotic exoskeleton. (via)

J.F. Beck: "Arguing matters of fact with Tim Lambert is pretty silly; even though Lambert's often wrong, he steadfastly refuses to admit it." Beck goes on to provide a handy listing of some of Lambert's errors. Updated: Lambert has attacked, of course; and Beck has a followup post. (via)

Analyzing antique absinthe: it was all about the alcohol, all along.

Reynolds gets pithy

That's what we love about the Instapundit, isn't it? That ability to say a lot in a few words. Multum in parvo. Linking to a Jon Henke article, he says:

I can think of no better reason to vote against Obama than the prospect of an administration where any criticism of the President is treated as racism.
Every one of Obama's announced policies is a reason to vote against him. But we cannot have a President who must be handled with kid gloves. I am no big fan of FDR, but I can appreciate that he did not make an issue of his paralysis, while not appreciating that he hid it from everyone.

The Iron Law, and a corollary

In the course of discussion of the Muslim Student Union at University of California Irvine (articles here and here at PJ Media and LGF passim), Dr. Pournelle posts a corollary to the Iron Law.

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people: those who work to further the actual goals of the organization, and those who work for the organization itself. Examples in education would be teachers who work and sacrifice to teach children, vs. union representative who work to protect any teacher including the most incompetent. The Iron Law states that in all cases, the second type of person will always gain control of the organization, and will always write the rules under which the organization functions.
The corollary:
[T]hose who don't have another life take over organizations.
Context. And see below.

Update: and see Iron Law, another version, above.

"If the facts don't fit the theory, change the facts."

So said Albert Einstein about something else altogether. (I wish I knew what. This line is all over the place as an "Einstein quote," but without context.) An article in The Register, Painting by numbers: NASA's peculiar thermometer, says that that seems to be what NASA, under the supervision of James Hansen, has been doing with their "adjusted" temperature records. Never mind that the data are inaccurate anyway, applying adjustments, otherwise known as massaging the data, can make it all come out to suit any preconceptions one might happen to have.

Kind of like scientific beer goggles.

From Jerry Pournelle's mail.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Bill Quick reflects on the dark night of McCain's soul

And theorizes about what has made him a "maverick." As Quick says, "what may well be the single most important event of a potential President’s life" is something to consider.

What's on your shoulder?

Mark Steyn has a weasel. Mary Katharine Ham has a little Obama.

Lieberman-Warner-Boxer defeated, for now

And a good thing, too. But it will be back. McCain says he would have voted for it, if only he could have been there. How discouraging. Anthony Watts has the story, and good comments. He also has a speech by Rep. Dana Rohrabacher, who, being in the other House, could not vote on this, but has some fairly pithy remarks: "Do you really think the world is filled with morons? When it comes to bait and switch, used car salesmen are paragons of virtue compared to this global warming crowd." Long, as speeches in Congress tend to be, but worth a RTWT.

Update: Politico has: Dems yank global warming bill. It's strategery, that's all. The transnational progressives can try this over and over again. They need to succeed only once. Unless McCain can be made to see reason on this, so that there will still be a veto threat after Bush leaves office, their odds of success will be greatly improved. And if Obama becomes President, with a Democrat Congress, then the new Depression is ensured. For the good of the planet, of course; although some will have to suffer. For the greater good.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Mark Steyn on trial

A note to remind myself that Andrew Coyne is live-blogging, starting with this post. Ezra Levant is blogging the hearing, starting with this post. More from Jay Currie, starting with this post.

At Coyne's second post, commenter Douglas quotes former Canadian PM John Diefenbaker:

I am a Canadian,
free to speak without fear,
free to worship in my own way,
free to stand for what I think right,
free to oppose what I believe wrong,
or free to choose those
who shall govern my country.
This heritage of freedom
I pledge to uphold
for myself and all mankind.
Canada has slid a fair way down the slippery slope since Diefenbaker came up with that, the Canadian Pledge, in the debates leading to initial passage of Canada's Bill of Rights.

Americans should be paying more attention to this hearing. This could happen here.