Sean King

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San Juan, Puerto Rico, United States

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

If the Republicans Did This, Do You Think We'd Be Hearing More About It?

Mona Charen: The financial markets were teetering on the edge of an abyss last week. The secretary of the Treasury was literally on his knees begging the speaker of the House not to sabotage the bailout bill. The crash of falling banks made the earth tremble. The Republican presidential candidate suspended his campaign to deal with the crisis. And amid all this, the Democrats in Congress managed to find time to slip language into the bailout legislation that would provide a dandy little slush fund for ACORN.
ACORN does many things under the umbrella of "community organizing." They agitate for higher minimum wages, attempt to thwart school reform, try to unionize welfare workers (that is, those welfare recipients who are obliged to work in exchange for benefits) and organize voter registration efforts (always for Democrats, of course). Because they are on the side of righteousness and justice, they aren't especially fastidious about their methods. In 2006, for example, ACORN registered 1,800 new voters in Washington. The only trouble was, with the exception of six, all of the names submitted were fake. The secretary of state called it the "worst case of election fraud in our state's history."

Read the whole thing to learn about ACORN's long history of browbeating banks into making subprime loans.

Under the circumstances, including government funds for ACORN in the initial draft of the now failed bailout bill was particularly brazen, don't you think?

Telling It Like It Is:

Jeff Jacoby: Barney Frank's talking points notwithstanding, mortgage lenders didn't wake up one fine day deciding to junk long-held standards of creditworthiness in order to make ill-advised loans to unqualified borrowers. It would be closer to the truth to say they woke up to find the government twisting their arms and demanding that they do so - or else.

The roots of this crisis go back to the Carter administration. That was when government officials, egged on by left-wing activists, began accusing mortgage lenders of racism and "redlining" because urban blacks were being denied mortgages at a higher rate than suburban whites.

The pressure to make more loans to minorities (read: to borrowers with weak credit histories) became relentless. Congress passed the Community Reinvestment Act, empowering regulators to punish banks that failed to "meet the credit needs" of "low-income, minority, and distressed neighborhoods." Lenders responded by loosening their underwriting standards and making increasingly shoddy loans. The two government-chartered mortgage finance firms, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, encouraged this "subprime" lending by authorizing ever more "flexible" criteria by which high-risk borrowers could be qualified for home loans, and then buying up the questionable mortgages that ensued.

All this was justified as a means of increasing homeownership among minorities and the poor. Affirmative-action policies trumped sound business practices. A manual issued by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston advised mortgage lenders to disregard financial common sense. "Lack of credit history should not be seen as a negative factor," the Fed's guidelines instructed. Lenders were directed to accept welfare payments and unemployment benefits as "valid income sources" to qualify for a mortgage. Failure to comply could mean a lawsuit.

Oh Brother!

Guardian: People will have to be rationed to four modest portions of meat and one litre of milk a week if the world is to avoid run-away climate change, a major new report warns.

The report, by the Food Climate Research Network, based at the University of Surrey, also says total food consumption should be reduced, especially "low nutritional value" treats such as alcohol, sweets and chocolates.
Tara Garnett, the report's author, warned that campaigns encouraging people to change their habits voluntarily were doomed to fail and urged the government to use caps on greenhouse gas emissions and carbon pricing to ensure changes were made.

Uh, seriously guys, I was really just kidding when I said:

If CO2 is really so dangerous, then the international community must come together to create a treaty that requires each signing nation to limit the caloric intake of its citizens to no more than 1,350 calories per day, and like China, limits each person to only a single child. 1,350 calories per day is generally enough to sustain the average person, and limiting people to this amount plus only one child would cut down on the amount of carbon emissions DRASTICALLY AND QUICKLY, as we would not need farm equipment in as many fields, nor would be have to produce fertilizer and other environmentally "unfriendly" agricultural products, nor destroy as many forests to make way for additional fields. In only one century's time, we could cut the human population, and therefore carbon emissions, by almost 50%. More than perhaps anything else, these two things would significantly improve the environment and reduce the effects of global warming.

Hymns of Praise for Our "Dear Leader" Obama:

Okay, this is just spooky!

Harvard Economist:

The current mess would never have occurred in the absence of ill-conceived federal policies. The federal government chartered Fannie Mae in 1938 and Freddie Mac in 1970; these two mortgage lending institutions are at the center of the crisis. The government implicitly promised these institutions that it would make good on their debts, so Fannie and Freddie took on huge amounts of excessive risk.

Worse, beginning in 1977 and even more in the 1990s and the early part of this century, Congress pushed mortgage lenders and Fannie/Freddie to expand subprime lending. The industry was happy to oblige, given the implicit promise of federal backing, and subprime lending soared.

Why Didn't the Administration Do Something To Prevent the Current Crisis?

Well, they did. Glenn Beck chronicles its efforts, going back to 2001.

(Thanks to TK for sending the link)

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Largest Prime Number Discovered

eFluxMedia: Mathematicians at University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) have recently discovered the much sought after largest prime number known so far, a whopping 13 million digits Mersenne prime.
Since the year 1951, all prime numbers have been found by computers.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

I Think McCain Has a Problem

I got to see a little of the first presidential debate last night, and I now think that McCain has a big problem.

All told, I thought both parties did well in the debate, but I couldn't shake the impression that, despite all of the contrived controversy, there's not much daylight between these guys:

Both want to get the government involved in promoting alternative energy, both for national security purposes and to combat global warming, McCain is just a little more bullish on nuclear and drilling than Obama who supports both, just to a lessor degree.

Both agree that we must downsize our presence in Iraq (after winning a clear victory), the only debate is whether we can do so in sixteen months or not. Obama thinks we can, but McCain is not so optimistic. Regardless, it's a moot point because even Obama reserves the right to adjust his timetable based on circumstances in the field, and he agrees that we cannot leave irresponsibly and return Iraq to Al-Qaeda.

Both agree that Iran cannot be permitted to develop a nuclear weapon, the only debate is the extent to which we should engage in diplomacy before bombing them. Presumably, Obama would sit down across from Ahmadinejad and tell him directly that he's going to bomb him unless he complies, while McCain would delegate that conversation to his Secretary of State.

Both agree that the government needs to actively interfere in the markets by adopting a hugely expensive bailout package. Their only debate is...well...I'm not even sure what they are debating on this one, but it is clearly inconsequential. Their joint statement of last week makes it clear that they agree on the substantive issues.

In short, there are only two areas where I see major difference between Obama and McCain. The first is on the issue of taxes. McCain argues that he would cut taxes, but any thinking person knows that either taxes must go up, or the welfare state must be dismantled, and I'm not betting on the latter. So, it will be all but impossible for McCain to cut taxes, his rhetoric notwithstanding. Electing McCain will keep taxes at just about present levels, at best.

By contrast, Obama argues the he would raise taxes on the richest by 5% by increasing their combined income and FICA tax burden by about 30% over present levels, all while cutting taxes for the remaining 95% of the population. But Obama has also acknowledged that raising taxes on the wealthy during a recession would only aggravate its effects, and so he has stated that he won't do it until the economy recovers. Given that we seem to be entering an extended recession driven be demographic considerations more than anything else, the fact is that Obama will almost certainly not succeed in raising taxes, at least not during his first term. Thus, electing Obama will also keep taxes at just about present levels.

So, despite the rhetoric, neither is going to be able to tinker much with present tax policy, at least not during their first term.

The other area where Obama and McCain truly seem to disagree is on the appointment of Supreme Court justices. Obama has stated that he is more inclined than McCain to appoint justices who are willing to substitute their judgement for that of the electorate on social issues. But is this really the case? Well, there's no way to tell, though I suspect that Obama's appointments would be more conservative than most people anticipate, while McCain's would be more liberal than expected.

In short, putting all the rhetoric and cheap shots aside, the debate made it clear to me that there's not much difference between these guys. Reading between the lines, McCain seems to be arguing that he and Obama agree on most issues of great importance, but we should vote for him he's more capable of getting things done given his superior experience and history of bipartisanship. By contrast, Obama is arguing that he agrees with McCain on most issues of great importance, but we should vote for him because he's not a Republican.

Both arguments are weak. But regardless, if the American people can expect the same policy outcomes regardless of which man gets elected, then this election ultimately comes down to a personality contest. And, on that count, Obama clearly wins, Sarah Palin notwithstanding.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

What Will They Do?

Contrary to my initial inclination, the financial panic seems to be helping Obama. And that raises an interesting question: What will the Dems do now?

Will they support quick passage of the bailout, which may have the effect of improving things in the short term before the election, or will they play politics and seek to stonewall it knowing that the turmoil seems to benefit their candidate?

It's hard to say, but I think there's at least some chance that Pelosi and Reid hold a press conference at the end of this week during which they blame the president for using recent market turmoil as an excuse for demanding "dictatorial" power via the bailout bill, power which they can not in good consience give him. Under this scenario, they then state that any bailout will have to occur only after the election of a more "honest" and "reasonable" president and that, in the meantime, they are going to adjourn Congress and go campaign for reelection.

If this happens, things will likely get much worse before the election in November, and based on recent polls, that would appear to benefit Obama even though it may do catastrophic damage to the economy in the long run.

Would the Dems do such a thing? The sad truth is that either party would probably do it if they thought that they could get away with it and that the economic damage wouldn't be "too bad." In fact, if this scenario DOESN'T play out and the bailout sails through within the next week to ten days, that (more than anything else) will be an indication of just how dire things really are. Politicians just don't give up on playing politics unless they absolutely must.

Palin is a Hit in the UK. Who Knew?

The Hindu: While Hillary Clinton who is closer to the British idea of a cosmopolitan, liberal and politically sophisticated politician is intensely disliked in Britain, especially by members of her own gender, the gun-toting, anti-abortionist Ms Palin is a hit across the gender and political divide. Men find her glamorous, women admire her for putting ``misogynists” on notice — as one woman commentator put it — and politicians of different hues like her for her brazen political incorrectness.

Mackubin Thomas Owens:

Our Generals Almost Cost Us Iraq

Bill Gross on the Bailout:

Gross, the chief investment officer of Pacific Investment Management Co., or Pimco, estimates the average price of distressed mortgages that pass from "troubled financial institutions" to the Treasury at auction will be 65 cents on the dollar. That will represent a loss of one-third of the original purchase price to the seller, and a prospective yield of 10 percent to 15 percent to the Treasury, Gross said.

"Financed at 3 percent to 4 percent via the sale of Treasury bonds, the Treasury will therefore be in a position to earn a positive carry or yield spread of at least 7 percent to 8 percent," Gross argued. "The Treasury proposal will not be a bailout of Wall Street but a rescue of Main Street, as lending capacity and confidence is restored to our banks and the delicate balance between production and finance is given a chance to work its magic," Gross added.

I have great respect for Gross. His understanding of the workings of the debt markets is unsurpassed. So, I tend to think he's right on this.

Even so, I'm still concerned about moral hazard. Perhaps the estimated 35% loss to the seller of these assets is a sufficient disincentive? I don't know.

UPDATE> Gross' full article can be found here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

PC World Offers Their Own "Glimpse of the Near Future":

10 Future Shocks for the Next 10 Years

Here's the one I find most promising:

Shock No. 4: Nothing escapes you
In 1945, Vannevar Bush conceived of a device called a Memex that would store and retrieve all information accumulated throughout one's life. In the next 30 years, advances in speech and video recognition, the power of cloud-based computing, and real-time, continuous, wearable content capture will bring the Memex vision to life. Just think: You'll be able to leave a meeting without worrying about manually capturing your to-dos. You won't have to remember that interesting thing your friend mentioned over coffee. You won't have to write down the thought that sprung to mind when you saw an advertisement on TV or a billboard on the way home.

Vannevar's Memex vision will come to fruition through your next-next-next-generation PDA. The device will continuously capture all audio and video from your daily experiences and upload that content to the cloud, where it will be parsed to succinctly recognize your tasks, interesting information, and reminders -- all searchable, of course. A summary of important content from your day will be available through your PDA automatically. And yes, like Google Chrome, a "p0rn mode" option will ensure that the things you don't want remembered won't be.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Christopher Hitchens Asks:

Is Obama Another Dukakis?

Why yes. Yes he is.

Here's my favorite part of Hitchens' article:

And yet, and unless I am about to miss some delayed "groundswell" or mood shift, none of [last week's events] has translated into any measurable advantage for the Democrat. There are three possible reasons for such a huge failure on Barack Obama's part. The first, and the most widely canvassed, is that he is too nice, too innocent, too honest, and too decent to get down in the arena and trade bloody thrusts with the right-wing enemy. (This is rapidly becoming the story line that will achieve mythic status, along with allegations of racial and religious rumor-mongering, if he actually loses in November.) The second is that crisis and difficulty, at home and abroad, sometimes make electors slightly more likely to trust the existing establishment, or some version of it, than any challenger or newcomer, however slight. The third is that Obama does not, and perhaps even cannot, represent "change" for the very simple reason that the Democrats are a status quo party.

So Sad, So True

How We Became the United States of France

Jonathan Darman to Dems: Forget About Rove

[T]his paranoid view, that Roveism alone wins campaigns for the GOP, cannot fully explain a simple reality: for 40 years, Republicans have won the presidency more often than not. The GOP has won seven of the past 10 presidential elections. Republican candidates have won more than 400 electoral votes in four separate elections (Richard Nixon's re-election in 1972, Ronald Reagan's wins in 1980 and 1984 and George H.W. Bush's victory in 1988), while the Democrats' best showings came in 1992 and 1996, when Bill Clinton won 370 and 379 electoral votes, respectively. Jimmy Carter is the only Democratic presidential candidate in 44 years to win 50 percent of the popular vote. If this phenomenal Republican record is thanks only to the dirty tricks of Karl Rove (or Lee Atwater, or Richard Nixon before him), then surely our political system is so easily subverted by treachery that a revolution is required.

It is not.

Darman offers good advice. The Dems will never win until they figure out why they've been losing. And why they've been losing has very little to do with Rove, or Willie Horton, or swiftboating.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Google Chrome Rocks

So, I've been using Google's new web browser, Chrome, since it was released a few weeks ago, and I have to say that, even though it's in beta, I absolutely love it. It's even faster than Safari, and light years faster than Explorer, and yet it doesn't seem to have nearly as many compatibility issues as the former.

One thing I have noticed is that is tends to display pages in a smaller font than Explorer, but this is easily remedied by pressing the "ctrl" and "+" buttons on your keyboard at the same time.

Here's PC World's review of Chrome for those with an interest.

Too Big To Fail?

Time and again we've heard the past month's bailouts justified on the grounds that the companies involved are "too big to fail." Using this logic, the government has taken unprecedented steps to prop up certain large companies--loaning money to some and nationalizing others. The problem with this approach is that it is inherently anti-capitalist, and it seeks to protect certain people and companies from the natural consequences of their own actions. This, in turn, presents a severe moral hazard.

As a result, some are arguing that any company too big to fail should also be deemed too big to exist. They argue that the US should amend its anti-trust laws to permit the federal government to break up companies that become "too big to fail" long before they have any chance of doing so. While this approach is inherently anti-capitalist as well, it does have much to recommend it in my view, at least as compared to the "bailout" approach. Its primary advantage is that the failure of smaller companies would presumably not present systemic risk to the economy, thus doing away with the justification for government bailouts and eliminating the threat of moral hazard.

However, such an approach is not without its own costs, disadvantages, and limitations, not the least of which is the role of partisan politics in deciding which companies have become "too big." But, most of these costs, disadvantages, and limitations are inherent in any government action. At least this "anti-trust" approach doesn't distort the market with the same perverse incentives that bailouts do.

For instance, with the bailout approach, what's to keep these too-big-to-fail companies from making the same mistakes that got them into this mess originally (e.g., assuming too much risk by over-leveraging)? As a result of these bailouts, don't they now have an even greater incentive to do exactly that? They can now count on the government to rescue them when their risky bets don't pan out. For these companies, it's now "heads we win, tails the taxpayer loses", and that is a formula to make things worse, not better. By attempting to protect the public from the consequences of these companies' irresponsible conduct, we are in fact encouraging more of the same.

Those who favor the bailout approach argue that we can prevent these too-big-to-fail companies from gaming the system via regulation. For instance, they argue that we can prevent over-leveraging by simply having laws on the books that outlaw it. The problem with this approach is that, as the present crisis demonstrates, financial markets and companies evolve much more quickly than regulations ever can. Today's regulatory structure, which was updated as recently as the 1990's, was ill-prepared to regulate many modern and novel of financial instruments (e.g., certain derivatives, certain collateralized mortgage obligations, etc.). Regulation will always lag the market, for political reasons if no other.

In the long run, I think the country would be best served if the government did nothing and simply let the market sort things out. The market is brutally efficient in the long run, and left alone, it will more than adequately punish those who took excessive risks. In doing so, it will provide a great disincentive to like-minded individuals who may be tempted in the future to repeat present mistakes.

But, I also recognize that most people choose short-term gratification and comfort over long-term good health everyday. This is as true in matters of finance as it is in matters of diet, maybe more so. So, since this is a democracy, the immediate gratification that comes from increased regulation is inevitable. I simply argue that regulating company size is easier, less intrusive and less perverse than the proposed alternative: Attempting to regulate market conduct while at the same time bailing out too-big-to-fail companies when those regulations ultimately fail to keep pace with changing times.

Glenn Reynolds:



The Latest From Ray Kurzweil For example, Kurzweil said his trend lines show solar energy as meeting the world's energy needs in about 18 years, since the amount of electricity generated from solar doubles about every two years.

Having recently charted the human genetic code, scientists are only at the early stages of treating biology like technology, but using the same approaches will let people reprogram the genetic software that makes them run. That work will mean that in about 15 years, humankind will start adding more than a year each year to its average life expectancy.

"If you can hang on another 15 years, you may get to experience the remarkable century ahead," Kurzweil said.

Seems hard to believe, huh?. But, we forget that Kurzweil's prediction (made in the 1980's) that a computer would defeat the world chess champion by 1998 was equally unbelievable. And, if someone told me 10 years ago that I'd be walking around today with a palm-sized cell phone that would provide high speed internet access, GPS capability, hundreds of songs, a college dictionary, virtually every translation of the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare (both in searchable format), a scientific calculator, live weather radar, a detailed map of any location in the world, and much, much more--all for $400--I would have said that they were crazy.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Well, Your Politics May Be In Your Genes Too

BBC: By measuring the electrical conductance of the volunteers' skin and their blink responses, the scientists were able to work out the degree of fear they were experiencing - how sensitive they were to the images and sounds.

They found that subjects who were more easily startled tended to have political views that would be classified as more right wing, being more in favour of capital punishment and higher defence spending, but opposed to abortion rights.

Is Intelligence in the Genes?

Carl Zimmer: Intelligence tests do identify a difference among people that has predictive power, and that difference can be linked–in part–to differences in people’s genes.

A Glimpse of the Near Future (cont.)

Discover: It cost nearly $3 billion and took 13 years to sequence the first human genome, and since then only a handful of people have had their total genome analyzed. Today it would price out at about $350,000 and take a few months. But Pacific Bio sciences in Menlo Park, California, says that as early as 2013 it will have the technology to map all of a person’s DNA in just a few minutes and for mere hundreds of dollars.

But, you never know what you might find. Just ask Sergey Brin.

UPDATE> On a related note:

A Google-backed startup that analyzes customers' genetic makeup to predict health risks and provide ancestry information has slashed the price on its personal DNA test, the company announced this month.

The decision by 23andMe Inc. to cut the price of its test from $999 to $399 could herald a price war in the small but buzz-heavy marketplace for direct-to-consumer genetic testing. The company's main competitors charge anywhere from just under $1,000 to $2,500 for similar services.

Granted, that $399 doesn't get you a complete gene sequencing yet, but still....

A Glimpse of the Near Future (cont.)

MailOnline: Researchers predict that within a generation, cognition enhancing drugs - or 'cogs' - will be so advanced that parents and teachers will be able to 'manipulate biology' to enhance pupils' brainpower.

What Did Neanderthal Women Look Like?

Well, let's just say they were "handsome."

You Won't See This Headline Everyday:

French commandos rescue tourists....

Wow, Sarkozy really is remaking French society, huh?

Why I No Longer Support the Death Penalty:

TalkLeft: Johnnie Earl Lindsey, age 56, became the 20th Dallas, TX inmate to be cleared by DNA testing and today was freed from prison.

Lindsay served 25 years in prison for a rape he didn't commit. His letters over the years requesting DNA testing were ignored.

Thought of the Moment:

Very little good can come from seeking to protect people (or companies) from the natural consequences of their own actions.

UPDATE> But, it doesn't sound like the Feds see things the same way I do. Pelosi seems to speak for both parties when she says:

The government must bail out the financial system "because if we don't, it will have a tremendous impact on American consumers, homeowners, taxpayers and the rest," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said at a citizens' workshop in San Francisco.

But, she added, "We cannot deal with this unless this bailout helps families stay in their homes."


Glenn Reynolds:

WAS THE BUSH ADMINISTRATION ASLEEP AT THE SWITCH ON FANNIE MAE? Not according to this New York Times article from September 11, 2003:

The Bush administration today recommended the most significant regulatory overhaul in the housing finance industry since the savings and loan crisis a decade ago.

Under the plan, disclosed at a Congressional hearing today, a new agency would be created within the Treasury Department to assume supervision of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the government-sponsored companies that are the two largest players in the mortgage lending industry.

The new agency would have the authority, which now rests with Congress, to set one of the two capital-reserve requirements for the companies. It would exercise authority over any new lines of business. And it would determine whether the two are adequately managing the risks of their ballooning portfolios.

The plan is an acknowledgment by the administration that oversight of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac -- which together have issued more than $1.5 trillion in outstanding debt -- is broken. A report by outside investigators in July concluded that Freddie Mac manipulated its accounting to mislead investors, and critics have said Fannie Mae does not adequately hedge against rising interest rates.

I wonder why this never happened?

Well, this undoubtedly had something to do with it.

ACORN is at it again.

This time in Durham County.

As I have said before, imagine the mainstream media outcry if Republican campaigns were being systematically assisted in rather dubious ways by a politically motiviated, non-profit organization previously fined for voter fraud. Next, imagine also that this same organization received significant contributions from a partisan billionaire previously convicted of insider trading. Now imagine that the same billionaire made his fortune as an "evil" currency speculator, by shorting the British pound no less. And finally, imagine if McCain had personally associated with that Billionaire and that organization.

Well, that's exactly what we have, but the Dems are involved rather than the Republicans. ACORN is a non-profit organization with a long history of voter fraud, as any Google search will reveal. George Soros, the famous currency speculator convicted of insider trading in France, has given ACORN sizable contributions. And Obama has been quite friendly with both Soros and ACORN.

It's good to be a Dem.

Anthony Watts:

NASA to hold press conference on the state of the sun.

A Glimpse of the Near Future

Charlie Stross: Today, I can pick up about 1Gb of FLASH memory in a postage stamp sized card for [ten euros]. Fast-forward a decade and that'll be 100Gb. Two decades and we'll be up to 10Tb.

10Tb is an interesting number. That's a megabit for every second in a year — there are roughly 10 million seconds per year. That's enough to store a live DivX video stream — compressed a lot relative to a DVD, but the same overall resolution — of everything I look at for a year, including time I spend sleeping, or in the bathroom. Realistically, with multiplexing, it puts three or four video channels and a sound channel and other telemetry — a heart monitor, say, a running GPS/Galileo location signal, everything I type and every mouse event I send — onto that chip, while I'm awake. All the time. It's a life log; replay it and you've got a journal file for my life. Ten euros a year in 2027, or maybe a thousand euros a year in 2017. (Cheaper if we use those pesky rotating hard disks — it's actually about five thousand euros if we want to do this right now.)

Life Expectancy in Nigeria Falls to Mid 40's Currently, high on the scale of these major causes of adult and child mortality in the country is the HIV/AIDS pandemic. In many countries of the world, HIV/AIDS represents the deadliest emergency and the greatest social, economic, and health crisis of modern times. In Africa, Nigeria ranks second after South Africa. The impact of the disease goes beyond the lives of infected people. It changes community dynamics, undermines the structure of the family, and threatens the future of children.

Progress on Aging

Science Daily: Scientists studied a gene called TOR, which regulates cell growth and plays a role in the development of cancer. "In C. elegans, the tiny roundworm that our lab studies, as well as some other animals, a loss of TOR has been shown to slow aging. Our work with C. elegans reveals that TOR depends on a second gene called pha4/FoxA to control the aging process," says study co-author Susan Mango, PhD, HCI investigator and professor in the University of Utah Department of Oncological Sciences.

World's oldest man...

...turns 113 years old.

We're going to see more and more of this.

"Open Source" DNA?

New York Times: The Google co-founder Sergey Brin on Thursday disclosed that he carried a mutation of a gene known as LRRK2 that gave him a higher-than-average risk of contracting Parkinson’s disease.

When I called medical experts and financial analysts for comment, the first question I got was: “Why would he disclose that?”

Read the article for one possible explanation.

Taku Lodge, Alaska 2004:

The glacier in the background is enormous. It's actually three miles from where I'm standing in this picture (though it looks to be only a few hundred yards away), and it's several thousand feet in height.

Grecian Sunset 1990:

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

John McCain spoke on the subject of Freddie and Fannie back in May 2006:

I join as a cosponsor of the Federal Housing Enterprise Regulatory Reform Act of 2005, S. 190, to underscore my support for quick passage of GSE regulatory reform legislation. If Congress does not act, American taxpayers will continue to be exposed to the enormous risk that Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac pose to the housing market, the overall financial system, and the economy as a whole.

I urge my colleagues to support swift action on this GSE reform legislation.

Needless to say, they didn't. Why? Well, read the whole thing. It is very enlightening, and very incriminating.

Steve McIntyre notes that...

the consensus opinion is often wrong.

True for stocks, and true for science.

How Far Will They Go?

Palin's personal email account has been hacked.

Arctic Sea Ice Adds 9% Over 2007

Details available at

A $25K Supercomputer?

ChannelWeb: [C]ray's new CX1 supercomputer is priced starting at a relatively cheap $25,000, not bad for an integrated box that weaves together compute, storage, and visualization functions. Cray has designed the CX1 to remove some of the complexity involved with supercomputing that has hindered its adoption, particular in smaller organizations.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Getting to the Bottom of the "Obama Supports Sex Ed for Kindergarteners" Accusation

Byron York analyzes the bill in question and concludes:

Obama’s explanation for his vote has been accepted by nearly all commentators. And perhaps that is indeed why he voted for Senate Bill 99, although we don’t know for sure. But we do know that the bill itself was much more than that. The fact is, the bill’s intention was to mandate that issues like contraception and the prevention of sexually-transmitted diseases be included in sex-education classes for children before the sixth grade, and as early as kindergarten. Obama’s defenders may howl, but the bill is what it is.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Russ Smith considers what will happen when Obama loses:

[I] do have an opinion of what will follow in this country if McCain pulls off what so recently seemed the miraculous feat of becoming the country’s 44th president. Voter fraud, conspiracy, “sleazevertisements” (the preferred term of many left-wing bloggers), disenfranchised voters, the return of redneck chic; those will be the immediate cries of Democrats who thought the election was in the bag. Once again, scores of celebrities will claim they’re moving abroad (and inevitably won’t). And then the depression will kick in hard.
Tom Bevan, co-founder of Real Clear Politics, was succinct: “Two words: Hari Kari. The base of the [Democratic] party is so vested in its nominee…that to lose in November would be one of the most demoralizing in the modern era."

Yes, I expect we'll see all five stages of grief: (1) denial; (2) anger; (3) bargaining/justifying; (4) depression; and finally, if we are lucky, (5) acceptance.

It may take a long time until we get to that last step.

I Think Today Was a Bad Day for Obama

To have any chance of winning, Obama needs things to be bad. How bad? Bad enough that people want change, but not so bad that they panic. Panicky people want a strong, experienced, and tough leader to take charge and reassure them.

Advantage: McCain.

UPDATE: Well, it looks like I was wrong. The latest polls seem to show Obama gaining ground.

Jennifer Rubin calls out the MSM:

Any pretense of fairness by the mainstream media is gone. The MSNBC duo of anchor buffoons have been downgraded but not fired. The Washington Post runs dueling front page articles -- one a recycled tabloid-like piece (apologies to our tabloid friends who generally don't recycle old material) about Cindy McCain's past drug problems and one, made up out of whole cloth, that Sarah Palin's allegedly believes and told departing troops that Iraq was behind 9-11. Caught concocting the latter story, the Post tried a hasty edit on the piece (in the middle of the night, no less) -- a maneuver which bloggers quickly spotted. We saw the oozing condescension of normally mild-mannered Charlie Gibson in his Palin interview. Assuring Palin he was using a direct quote (he was not) to accuse her of believing her son was on "task form God" and laying a gotcha trap on the Bush Doctrine (which has no single meaning), Gibson seemed himself to have a "task" -- to trip up a figure held in contempt by most of his colleagues. And of course we are treated to lengthy "investigative" pieces on Palin -- which lack any factual support for their scandal-suggestive headlines. But still there is nary an investigative piece in any major newspaper on Barack Obama's ties to the Chicago machine of Bill Daley, the mismanaged Annenberg Challenge, his relationship with Bill Ayers or the problematic donations from the Woods Fund.

I'm Not Sure that Hurricane Season is the Time to Announce This

TimesOnline: Google may take its battle for global domination to the high seas with the launch of its own “computer navy”.

The company is considering deploying the supercomputers necessary to operate its internet search engines on barges anchored up to seven miles (11km) offshore.

A new kind of politics, eh?

New York Post: WHILE campaigning in public for a speedy withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Sen. Barack Obama has tried in private to persuade Iraqi leaders to delay an agreement on a draw-down of the American military presence.

According to Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, Obama made his demand for delay a key theme of his discussions with Iraqi leaders in Baghdad in July.

"He asked why we were not prepared to delay an agreement until after the US elections and the formation of a new administration in Washington," Zebari said in an interview.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

William Saletan describes... seniors became cyborgs.


Economics 103

Alex Taborrok: Many people think that price is determined by historical cost. Price is never, ever, determined by historical cost. Price is determined by supply and demand. If supply or demand change then the price changes regardless of historical cost. Last year's fashions? The price falls regardless of cost. Chopped up dead sharks? If demand is high, the price is high regardless of historical cost. If the demand for gas were to suddenly fall, the price of gas would fall too, regardless of cost. In the present situation the supply of gas has been reduced and the price has gone up. Historical cost is always irrelevant.


You're Not Likely to Find Such Honesty in the US Press

At least not on the subject of Obama:

The Democratic presidential candidate's slump in the polls has sparked pointed private criticism that he is squandering a once-in-a-generation chance to win back the White House.
Party elders also believe the Obama camp is in denial about warnings from Democratic pollsters that his true standing is four to six points lower than that in published polls because of hidden racism from voters - something that would put him a long way behind Mr McCain.
A senior Democratic strategist, who has played a prominent role in two presidential campaigns, told The Sunday Telegraph: "These guys are on the verge of blowing the greatest gimme in the history of American politics. They're the most arrogant bunch Ive ever seen. They won't accept that they are losing and they won't listen."

The above is from the UK Telegraph. Read the whole thing here.

On the subject of "hidden racism", I would point out that the Bradley Effect results from paranoia over being labeled a racist, not necessarily from racism itself.

UPDATE> Here's another example of the foreign press' candidness on the subject of Obama, a candidness that is sorely lacking in the US mainstream media:

Here's the real problem with Mr Obama: the jarring gap between his promises of change and his status quo performance. There are just too many contradictions between the eloquent poetry of the man's stirring rhetoric and the dull, familiar prose of his political record.

I find it so ironic...

... that the most personal, vicious, hurtful, and unfounded of attacks against Palin come from WOMEN. I've alluded to this phenomenon previously.

The latest such attack, this time from lefty talk show host Randi Rhodes, suggests that Palin is a cougar for teenage boys.

I'm not arguing that Palin should be beyond criticism, but really, do her political enemies need to imply, without offering any evidence, that she secretly lusts for our teenage sons? What a nasty smear.

I would think that women in particular would be more sensitive, compassionate and understanding than to engage in such ad hominem. Clearly, I was wrong.

Media Misrepresentations

Tom Maguire: Newsbusters offers the unedited transcript of Governor Palin's interview with Charles Gibson of ABC News.

Now, do remember - prior to the release of the first interview, this was the ABC tease:


From the unedited transcript it is astonishing the length to which ABC went to get to that hawkish headline.

Read the whole thing to find out why.

This bit of editing trickery follows on ABC's and the NYT's disingenuous attempts to portray Palin as an intellectual lightweight who is unfamiliar with one of the many variations of the Bush Doctrine.

Unlike some, I don't expect the media to be "unbiased" in its coverage, but it would be nice if they were at least honest in their presentation of the candidates.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Hard to Believe

The integrated circuit is only 50 years old.

Consider how far we've come. Imagine how far we'll go.


According to Roland Piquepaille at ZDNet, a report prepared for the National Intelligence Counsel chronicles six "disruptive technologies" that are likely to appear before 2025. Among these six is something called "biogerontechnology."

What is biogerontechnology?

Well, according to the report,“[b]iogerontechnology offers the means to accomplish control over and improvement in the human condition, and promises improvements in lifespan. The advancement of the science and technology underlying the biological aging process has the potential to not only extend the average natural lifespan, but also to simultaneously postpone many if not all of the costly and disabling conditions that humans experience in later life, thereby creating a longevity dividend that will be economic, social and medical in nature.”

Why is that potentially disruptive? Well, for one, do you really think people will easily relinquish their age 65 Social Security benefits just because life expectancies have dramticially improved?

That's the problem with entitlements: Nobody wants to give them up, even when the circumstances that originally justified them cease to exist.

What's He Thinking?!

I was willing to give Obama a pass on his "lipstick on a pig comment." Taken in context, it was clear to me that he was NOT calling Palin a pig. Rather, Obama was inferring that Palin was simply the "lipstick" on McCain's policies. Thus, it was McCain's policies that served as the analogy's "pig."

While one might still disagree with Obama's assessment of McCain's ideas, there was nothing unseemly about his criticism of them. Even so, Obama or his staff should have anticipated that Obama's words would be twisted by his enemies, and Obama should therefore have been advised to make the same point a little more "artfully." With the benefit of hindsight, I bet Obama would have done exactly that.

That's why Obama's latest gaffe, where he mocks McCain for being unable to use email, is all the more mystifying. After all, there's a reason why McCain can't use email--a reason that was documented by the press as early as 2000, and a reason that Obama's staff should have uncovered before the ad ran.

If I was Obama, I'd be chewing some ass right now.

What's Up With Knoxville's Gas Prices This Weekend?

Well, this is the most reasonable explanation I've seen.

(via Instapundit)

McCain's Exaggerations

The New York Times chronicles a few of McCain's distortions of Obama's positions.

And, for the most part, the NYT is right: McCain HAS been oversimplifying many of Obama's positions of late. Even though the substance of McCain's descriptions is often valid, his attempt to encapsulate Obama's views into sound-bite-size chunks exposes McCain to accusations of lying.

Now, if the NYT would only exercise the same diligence in scrutinizing Obama's descriptions of McCain's positions, they might regain just a little of their lost credibility.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Plus, it tastes good!

People who eat a strict Mediterranean diet are at less risk of developing heart disease, cancer, Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease, Italian researchers report.

I've been predicting for months that McCain would win... I'm not surprised by the fact that he's taken a lead in the polls. But, I never expected the Republicans to be competitive in Congressional races, so this Gallup poll is truly shocking.

Lots of people have given Palin credit for the recent change in Republican fortunes, and that might indeed explain some of McCain's bump in recent polls, but I doubt seriously that Palin's coattails are THAT long. It seems to me that something else is afoot. In my view, it's two things.

The first is energy prices. The Republicans have successfully exposed the duplicitous nature of the Dem position of bemoaning rising prices while systematically throwing up roadblocks to expanded drilling and nuclear power.

The second is McCain's assumption of Obama's theme of "change." Obama was right to sense that the public is screaming for change, and he was smart to orient his whole primary campaign around that theme. But, ever since he cinched the nomination, Obama has squandered all credibility on this subject by flip-flopping to more conservative positions on virtually every key issue of this campaign--from oil drilling to domestic spying, from campaign financing to the success of the surge, from timetables for Iraq withdrawal to his allegiance to Reverand Wright and the appropriateness of earmarks. And, in a misguided attempt to bolster his thin resume', Obama further undermined his credibility as an agent for change by surrounding himself with conventional Washington insiders, like Joe Biden.

Sensing that Obama could no longer credibly represent the change that he espoused, McCain leveraged his well-earned reputation as a "maverick" to offer up a more consistent, and therefore more believable, vision for reform. He demonstrated his total commitment to the idea through his unconventional VP pick, which had the benefit of focusing tremendous media attention on the McCain campaign for the first time this election cycle. And, he exploited this attention to argue compellingly to the public that, as the "original maverick" who frequently defied his own party, he and Palin (who enjoys the same reputation) were the only ones capable of reforming Washington.

In the end, McCain came across to many as both the experienced candidate, and the one most dedicated to, and capable of delivering, much desired change. If you're a Dem, that's a tough combination to beat.

I Lost it a While Ago

Glenn Reynolds is "seriously beginning to lose faith in the honesty and professionalism of the mainstream media...".

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

So, like I said before, I was in NYC this weekend.

The rain finally cleared on Sunday and I was able to get out and reacquaint myself with the city. I had a great lunch in Little Italy:

And then I headed down to Ground Zero. The construction site for the new World Trade Center was largely fenced off, so there wasn't much to see, as you can tell:

After a day of site seeing, I made my way to the USTA National Tennis Center, where the Davis Cup was on display. And finally, after three days of waiting, I got to see the US Open Women's final between S. Williams and H. Jankovic:

"Participatory Panopticon"

Jamais Cascio: Soon -- probably within the next decade, certainly within the next two -- we'll be living in a world where what we see, what we hear, what we experience will be recorded wherever we go. There will be few statements or scenes that will go unnoticed, or unremembered. Our day to day lives will be archived and saved. What’s more, these archives will be available over the net for recollection, analysis, even sharing.

And we will be doing it to ourselves.

This won't simply be a world of a single, governmental Big Brother watching over your shoulder, nor will it be a world of a handful of corporate siblings training their ever-vigilant security cameras and tags on you. Such monitoring may well exist, probably will, in fact, but it will be overwhelmed by the millions of cameras and recorders in the hands of millions of Little Brothers and Little Sisters. We will carry with us the tools of our own transparency, and many, perhaps most, will do so willingly, even happily.

It seems that my suspicion...

of Palin's "women problem" was well-founded:

A CNN/Opinion Research Corporation survey out Tuesday indicates that 62 percent of men questioned have a favorable opinion of the Alaska governor, nine points higher than women.

What does longevity mean for our finances? "Retirement planning is so 20th century," says Cutler, who runs the Center on Aging at the Motion Picture and Television Fund. "Some of us may not ever retire - so how do you plan for that? What we should be planning for is living longer."

This Sounds Like Fun Four Knoxville area friends decided to put on a fabulous meal with only one hard and fast rule: No food could be purchased. It all had to come from what they found or what friends or family provided.

This is Pretty Cool

ChannelWeb: In 2006, Google started working with the New York Times and the Washington Post to index existing digital archives and make them searchable via Google's search technology. The new effort expands that initiative, with the goal of reaching every story ever printed, "from the smallest local weekly paper up to the largest national daily," according to a post on Google's official blog.

Get Your B-12

US News: Older individuals with low levels of vitamin B12 seem to be at increased risk of having brain atrophy or shrinkage, new research suggests.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

What's that smell?

Anyone who has ever traveled to Manhattan knows that it has characteristic odor. The odor is so distinctive in fact that they've apparently found a way to bottle it and diffuse it into the air in the New York, New York hotel and casino in Las Vegas.

For those who have not experienced it themselves, I can only describe it as a cross between sauerkraut, saltwater, and sewage, though the combination is not as offensive to the nose as that might sound.

What causes this odor in NYC? I have no clue. Maybe it really is sauerkraut, saltwater and sewage?

So, I'm in NYC...

for the US Open. I was supposed to watch the women's singles final yesterday, and the men's final today. Unfortunately, the women's final was rained out and has been rescheduled for tonight, and the men's final has been rescheduled for Monday afternoon. I'll be able to stay over tonight for the women's, but not the men's. Bummer.

In the meantime, I've had lots of time to kill, so I've been roaming the city a little. Here's a picture from my hotel room this morning (that's the East River in the background):

And, here's a picture of Times Square from Friday night:

Wow. Even UK's Guardian Thinks the US Press Has Gone too Far

Nick Cohen: My colleagues in the American liberal press had little to fear at the start of the week. Their charismatic candidate was ahead in virtually every poll. George W Bush was so unpopular that conservatives were scrambling around for reasons not to invite the Republican President to the Republican convention. Democrats had only to maintain their composure and the White House would be theirs. During the 1997 British general election, the late Lord Jenkins said that Tony Blair was like a man walking down a shiny corridor carrying a precious vase. He was the favourite and held his fate in his hands. If he could just reach the end of the hall without a slip, a Labour victory was assured. The same could have been said of the American Democrats last week. But instead of protecting their precious advantage, they succumbed to a spasm of hatred and threw the vase, the crockery, the cutlery and the kitchen sink at an obscure politician from Alaska.

Read the whole thing.

Over the last several years the liberal UK Guardian newspaper has been vicious in its attacks on George W. Bush and Tony Blair. If even it recognizes that the Left's attacks on Palin have been over the top, then that says something.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Palin on Creationism in Schools

Associated Press: In a subsequent interview with the Daily News, Palin said discussion of alternative views on the origins of life should be allowed in Alaska classrooms. "I don't think there should be a prohibition against debate if it comes up in class. It doesn't have to be part of the curriculum," she said.
Neither have Palin's socially conservative personal views on issues like abortion and gay marriage been translated into policies during her 20 months as Alaska's chief executive. It reflects a hands-off attitude toward mixing government and religion by most Alaskans.

"She has basically ignored social issues, period," said Gregg Erickson, an economist and columnist for the Alaska Budget Report.

Palin on Abstinence

Los Angeles Times: The Republican vice presidential candidate says students should be taught about condoms. Her running mate -- and the party platform -- disagree.
In a widely quoted 2006 survey she answered during her gubernatorial campaign, Palin said she supported abstinence-until-marriage programs. But weeks later, she proclaimed herself "pro-contraception" and said condoms ought to be discussed in schools alongside abstinence.

"I'm pro-contraception, and I think kids who may not hear about it at home should hear about it in other avenues," she said during a debate in Juneau.

Palin's Problem with Mothers

Over the last couple of days I've come to the conclusion that, despite her popularity, many mothers have a problem with Palin. And I'm not just talking about radical, lefty, political mothers, but sane, well-meaning and open-minded ones.

I've come to this conclusion because at least a couple of mothers who I trust and respect have expressed skepticism as to whether Palin can be both a good politician and a good mother. Actually, to say that my friends were simply skeptical on this point is an understatement: Truth be told, they both insisted that it is impossible to be a good mother to five children, one of whom is a special needs child, while also being a responsible Governor or VP.

One even went so far as to suggest that she probably couldn't vote for Palin because doing so either insures that we'll have a distracted VP or else enables her poor parenting.

Many of Palin's defenders insist that such sentiments are sexist, and perhaps they are. But these questions concerning Palin's abilities are being raised primarily by women, not men, and women are much less fearful of the "sexist" label than men are. So, I'm not sure that the Republicans' strategy of calling her critics names will succeed. And, simply labeling such ideas as sexist doesn't change one bit how women feel.

Given Palin's 80% approval rating, there can be little doubt that she's been an excellent Governor of Alaska, and I think it's also clear at this point that she is up to the challenge of being VP. So, if my friends are correct that she can't be both a good mother and a good politician, then she must be a bad mother. I doubt that good mothers will vote for a bad one.

So, the million dollar question is: Are my friends correct?

Well, because I'm a male, and I only have 3 children, I can't offer any personal insights that are likely to persuade women either way on this subject. But, I can ask questions, and it seems to me that there are many that need asked.

For instance, do those who say that Palin can't both govern and mother mean to suggest that no "good" mother would ever run for high political office? I certainly hope not, because our country could benefit greatly from the life experiences of current mothers, and it would truly be a shame to deny our nation the direct benefit of that motherly insight.

And, if we are not prepared to say that no good mother should ever run for high political office, then what makes Palin's situation different? Is it the sheer number of her children? If so then where do we draw the line? At one? Two? Three? Is it really reasonable to suggest, for instance, that a mother of two could be both a good nurturer and a competent political leader, while mothers of three or more children simply can't be both?

Perhaps so. But if so, then aren't we implying, at least indirectly, that fewer children make for superior mothers--that is, that a mother can more effectively care for one child than she can to three or four? If so, what does this say about Angelina Jolie, or any mother who opts for multiple children? Under such circumstances, why would any mother of one child, who has that one child's best interest at heart, ever elect to have more?

If we are going to argue that fewer children make for better moms, then we must acknowledge that this thinking represents a major shift from that of most previous generations, all of whom generally had large families. Most American families began limiting themselves to one or two children only in the last 50 years or so, and I for one am not so sure that we are better off for it. It seems to me that having fewer children has made each one more dear to his or her parents, and this has led to an epidemic of child-centered parenting that may very well do more harm to children than good.

There was a time when each child was a small part of a very big team (the family), and each child was expected to do their part to benefit the family as a whole. This family-centerd view gave each child a sense of identity, purpose and place in life. Today, however, it seems that far too many parents and children have turned this successful family-centered paradigm on its head by accepting the opposite premise--that the family unit exists to benefit the child. The result of such child-centered parenting is that the child's wants are given precedence over family needs, and many children therefore develop an inflated sense of self, no sense of duty or responsibility, and no real feel for their place in the world.

In my experience, parents of singletons are particularly susceptible to the temptation of child-centered parenting, but paradoxically, the susceptibility lessens with each additional child. Parents of large families usually don't have the time or resources to dote on any one child like parents of smaller families do.

My point? Well, perhaps the Palin children are better off as part of a large family than they would be otherwise. Perhaps children benefit more from being an essential part of an organized, loving pack than from the one-on-one, doting attention of their parents. And, perhaps the sacrifices and contributions that the Palin children will each be expected to make for the benefit of the family (such as by supporting their mother's political career, or by helping out with their younger siblings, especially the disabled one) will give each of them a sense of identity, duty, purpose, and place that is seldom found in today's youth. In short, perhaps the Palin children will be better off for the experience. And if so, isn't that exactly what any "good mother" would want for their child?

Regardless, it occurs to me that maybe my friends' were more concerned with the ages of the Palin children than their number. For instance, no one seems concerned that Nancy Pelosi's five children may be neglected as a result of her high pressure job as Speaker of the House. Is this simply because Pelosi's children are all grown?

If so, then to be fair we must acknowledge that two of Palin's children are also grown, or soon will be. Her oldest son is full-time military and will be shipping out to Iraq in just a few days. Her eldest daughter, soon to be 18, will be getting married soon and will presumably be moving out to start living on her own. And, even if she wasn't pregnant and getting married, she'd likely be heading off to college in a year anyway.

Don't get me wrong: I understand that today's 18 and 19-year-olds still need nurturing and guidance. Hell, I'm 38 and I still look to my parents for coaching on occasion. But, let's face it, children in their late teens don't require anywhere near as much attention as younger ones do. In fact, many parents of older children hardly ever see them--not because they neglect to spend time with them, but because most such children are biologically programmed to break away from their parents and begin making their own way in the world at that age. 18-year-olds want to spend time with friends, not family. Sure, they may return to Mom and Dad for guidance and support on occasion, but lets face it, by the age of 18 most of the real parenting is done.

So, this actually leaves Palin with only 3 real "children" at home. Is that too many to be both a good VP and a good mom? If so, by how many? Before answering, consider that Obama has two young children of his own. Consider further that Michelle Obama has always worked outside the home, she has taken a very active role in Obama's campaign (traveling almost constantly for the last several months), and by all accounts she would play a very active role in any Obama White House. Even so, no one seems to wonder who is raising the Obama kids. No one seems to think that Michele can't be both a good hospital administrator (or First Lady, a job that is arguably more demanding than that of VP) and mother. So, what's the difference? Is it because the Obamas have only two children at home while Palin has three?

For what it's worth, I think that the judgment as to whether Palin can be both a good mother and politician is one that only she and her family are positioned to make. Could my family handle it if my wife ran for high office and won? Well, given where my children are in life, my personal limitations as a substitute nurturing figure, and the requirements of my job, probably not. But I'm not willing to make that call for the Palins. Perhaps their children are more confident or less needing of parental support at this point (after all, I know some who are). Or, perhaps Mr. Palin is willing and able to quit his job and is a more capable substitute mother figure than I would be. Or perhaps they have family who could help. Or perhaps Sarah is just a particularly well organized and gifted person who can do far more than the wife and I ever could.

The fact is, I just don't know. I admit it. And, I'm not so sure that my skeptical friends know either, despite the fact that they are mothers.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Michael Reagan:

I’ve been trying to convince my fellow conservatives that they have been wasting their time in a fruitless quest for a new Ronald Reagan to emerge and lead our party and our nation. I insisted that we’d never see his like again because he was one of a kind.

I was wrong!

Wednesday night I watched the Republican National Convention on television and there, before my very eyes, I saw my Dad reborn; only this time he's a she.

Glenn Reynolds:

WITH VIOLENCE, AND AN IRRETRIEVABLY CORRUPT POLITICAL LEADERSHIP, I think we should just pull out of Chicago: "Nearly 125 Shot Dead In Chicago Over Summer. Total Is About Double The Death Toll In Iraq."

Clearly Chicago is a lost cause. We need benchmarks for improvement, and we need a definite timetable for withdrawal to "keep pressure on the Chicago political leadership."

Bias at the New York Times

You'll never see a story in the NYT discussing the Democrat party's ties with wealthy billionaire elites such as George Soros, Warren Buffett, Ted Turner, and many others even though the fact is that, as I have previously alluded, most ultra-wealthy individuals are socialist out of their own self-interest, many of them put up millions to support left wing causes and organizations, and most of the wealthiest zip codes in the US vote reliably Democratic.

Instead, we get stories like this one attempting to portray only the Republican party as beholden to the wealthy.


Yet another study confirms no link between...

autism and vaccinations.

Well, this is depressing:

Life expectancy declining in parts of WV, rural America

The major causes: Obesity, smoking, and drugs.

The UK Telegraph gets it...

...even if Eve Fairbanks doesn't:

Like Margaret Thatcher before her, Mrs Palin is coming in for both barrels of Left-wing contempt: misogyny and snobbery. Where Lady Thatcher was dismissed as a "grocer's daughter" by people who called themselves egalitarian, Mrs Palin is regarded as a small-town nobody by those who claim to represent "ordinary people".

What the metropolitan sophisticates failed to understand in the 1980s when Thatcher won election after election is even more the case in the US: most (and I do mean most) ordinary people actually believe in the basic decencies, the "small-town values", of family, marital fidelity, and personal responsibility. They believe in and honour them - even if they do not manage to uphold them.

Middle America - of which Alaska is spiritually, if not geographically, a part - builds its life around those ideals and regards commonplace moral lapses as part of the eternal struggle to be good.

The life of small-town USA is based on the principles of those Protestant colonial settlers who founded the nation: hard work, self-improvement, personal faith and family devotion. Mrs Palin speaks to and for them in a way that patronising "liberal" elitists find infuriating.

Read the rest of Janet Dailey's spot-on analysis here.

Roger Kimball on "Palin Hysteria Syndrome":

What worries me is how the Left is going cope come the election. Their hysteria about Sarah Palin simultaneously shows that they know deep down that something has gone terribly wrong with Obama’s Children’s “Yes-we-can” Crusade and that they are unable to acknowledge the damage. Their hysteria signals both their panic and their blindness. I predict that on the morning of that fateful day in early November they are going to be like Pauline Kael the day after the 1972 election when Richard Nixon won 49 states: “How could that be?” a bewildered Kael asked. “I don’t know a single person who voted for Nixon.” The disillusionment this time will be even more bitter. I suggest that caring Republicans consider establishing emergency telephone hotlines and outpatient trauma centers in demographically susceptible areas–New York City, for example, Ann Arbor, all of the states of Massachusetts and Vermont, etc.–in order to cope with the shock that their burst bubble will undoubtedly cause.

It's Condescending Crap Like This That Will Cost The Dems This Election

Eve Fairbanks: That’s the problem with the positive case Palin made for herself, with its emphasis on all that small-town stuff: It convinced me that she makes a good PTA mom, that she may make a fine mayor, that she hasn’t totally bombed as the essentially brand-new governor of the third-least-populous state in the Union, even that I might like to have a beer with her, or a glass of fermented whale milk or whatever one drinks with mooseburgers. But just because we’re a nation of a hundred thousand Wasillas doesn’t mean all those hundred thousand mayors ought to be in the White House. Tonight, she sounded for all the world like an unusually sharp version of those “regular people” they drag onstage at conventions to tell their stories in the off-primetime hours.

UPDATE> More condescending, patronizing, elitist crap, this time from Fromma Harrop:

I had dinner last night with a Republican-leaning independent who was despondent over John McCain's choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin as his running mate. She had been looking forward to supporting McCain as a fiscal conservative with a deep understanding of foreign relations. But all she could now see was that picture of Palin's pregnant 17-year-old looking defiant and stupid as she held mom's fifth baby.

Many religious conservatives are jubilant. They regard Palin as a swell choice because her high-schooler was going to have the baby. The line sent my friend into shock. This is not a matter of abortion politics, she said, but of managing one's own affairs.

"Don't they have birth control up in Alaska?" she asked.
Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has five children, but she waited until they were grown before she ran for high political office. Palin returned to the job three days after giving birth to a special needs child, all the while her 17-year-old is entertaining a lover. And what about plans to have the girl wed the stud, author of some very unromantic remarks on Facebook? Note that she's been pregnant for five months and still no matrimony. These nuptials couldn't be a last-minute political move, could they?

Palin supporters insist that her out-of-control home life will resonate with many American families. Yes, if they're from Mars or perhaps on welfare.

WTF! How arrogant! How condescending! How patronizing! How presumptuous of Ms. Harrop!

Was it really necessary for Fromma's friend to say that Palin's 17-year-old daughter looked "stupid"? Did she have to chide this poor girl for not using birth control (and who says she didn't, by the way)? And, is it really rational to change how you're going to vote for this reason? I mean, what kind of logic goes like this: "I was going to vote for McCain, but now I'm not because he chose a running mate whose 17-year-old daughter is too stupid to use birth control." Yah, presumably that line of reasoning makes perfect sense to brilliant people like Fromma and her friend who, we are implicity assured, are not "on welfare."

Finally, even if we can forgive Fromma's friend for blurting out such a vile thought to an apparent confidant in a one-on-one meeting, how does Fromma justify publishing it in writing? What possible purpose does it serve other than to cause great personal pain to Palin and her family?

Like I said, it's condescending crap like this that will cost the Dem's this election.

Andrew Natsios:

WHEN PRESIDENT BUSH traveled to sub-Sahara Africa in February he was greeted by large and tumultuous crowds of admirers - which mystified many of his critics, who believe that the animosity toward his administration abroad is universal. But polling data from the Pew Foundation shows something different: Approval ratings for the United States exceed 80 percent in many African countries, some with large Muslim populations. In Darfur, many families name their newborn sons George Bush.

What is it that the Bush administration did differently in Africa than it did elsewhere?

Read the whole thing to find out.

Victor Davis Hanson to Dems:

Want Real Change? Quit Nominating Lawyers

Daniel Henninger asks:

What's So Special About Sarah?

Many younger women didn't learn what it means to be an achieving woman from dormitory feminism. She didn't abandon her hometown for the big city. She stayed home, had babies, helped her snowmobiling husband with his commercial fishing business and with him, tried to assemble a life.

She got into politics in Wasilla with zero connections -- no famous father, no financing husband, no mentor, nothing. She got elected mayor. She got into politics to improve her community, not to launch herself on some career path she had figured out while in college.


"It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer, or the baker that we expect our dinner, but from their regard to their own interest."

--Adam Smith

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Yep, That Would Do It

Glenn Reynolds:

HOW THEY COULD HAVE KEPT THE PALIN PREGNANCY STORY OUT OF THE PRESS: Leaked it that John Edwards was the father . . . ..

Poverty in America

Cheryl Wetzstein: The poverty calculation stinks, experts say, because it uses an obsolete formula. It doesn't factor in taxes or modern expenses, nor does it count generous noncash "aid" given to poor people, like housing subsidies, health care subsidies or food stamps.

If poverty were measured using a new, reasonable formula, it would probably drop to 8 percent, maybe lower, says Douglas Besharov, a scholar at the American Enterprise Institute.

Read the whole thing.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Are Fat People to Blame for Global Warming?

Oh geez, what will they dream up next?

Lake Tahoe:

All McCain's "Friends"

Paul Collins: John McCain's insistent recourse to "my friends" is easily the most mystifying verbal tic of any politician since Bob Dole's out-of-body presidential campaign of 1996, which featured Dole's not entirely reassuring promise that "Bob Dole is not some sort of fringe candidate." Like Dole's use of the dissociative third person—or illeism, a propensity also shared by Elmo and the Incredible Hulk—this year's obsessive invocations to friendship invite scrutiny.

I agree. I'm always sceptical of assumptive friendship.

Go Figure

If you incentivize people to produce more, they do.

Who would have guessed?

"Autonomous Helicopters"

PHYSORG: Stanford computer scientists have developed an artificial intelligence system that enables robotic helicopters to teach themselves to fly difficult stunts by watching other helicopters perform the same maneuvers. The result is an autonomous helicopter than can perform a complete airshow of complex tricks on its own.
The dazzling airshow is an important demonstration of "apprenticeship learning," in which robots learn by observing an expert, rather than by having software engineers peck away at their keyboards in an attempt to write instructions from scratch.

Very cool.

"Credit Where Credit is Due"

Jonathan Kay: Bush's legacy will be based not on his intellect, nor on what becomes of New Orleans. It will turn on his signature project, the war in Iraq. Though the war itself was a mistake - at least in the clumsy, thoughtless way it was fought - an extraordinary new book has convinced me that Bush deserves enormous credit for turning the tide in what might have otherwise become the single greatest military disaster in American history.

Learn more about the book and its insights by reading Kay's whole article in Canada's National Post.

Palin, the Libertarian?

David Harsanyi: [I]n contrast to any national candidate in recent memory, Palin is the one that exudes the economic and cultural sensibilities of a genuine Western-style libertarian.

Find out why he thinks so here.

Monday, September 1, 2008

I think we're going to find that more and more of "our" behaviors...

...are controlled, or at least strongly influenced, by genes. For instance, see this story:

Bonding Gene' Could Help Men Stay Married

And, the fact that our personalities my be largely a product of our genetic "programming" will have a significant impact on the coming debate over whether human-level artificial intelligence is "alive" or not.

Human Longevity Gene Identified

The Australian: FOR the first time researchers have identified a human gene firmly linked to ageing and longevity. People with a specific form of a gene are likely to live longer, healthier lives than those without it.

Harvard Researchers Achieve Direct Reprogramming of Cells

The Harvard Crimson: HSCI co-director Douglas A. Melton is the first to report successful "direct reprogramming," a technique that—as its name suggests—directly transforms one type of a fully formed adult cell into another.
Unlike the technique used to create induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells by genetically manipulating a patient's cells and reprogramming them into a pluripotent state before morphing into a different type of body tissue, direct reprogramming simply flips an adult cell directly into the desired form, skipping the middle steps.

It's disingenuous to preach evolution...

...while denying some of its necessary implications, or so says David Friedman.

I agree. Evolution cares not a whim for political correctness.

(via Instapundit)

US Returns Anbar to Iraqis

Glenn Reynolds: Remember that just a couple of years ago -- heck even a year ago -- most people seemed to think that a Vietnam-like debacle in Iraq was inevitable. And it would have been, had we given up instead of pursuing the Surge. The hurricane story is getting all the attention, but this is the big news.

An Ice Age Cometh?

DailyTech: The sun has reached a milestone not seen for nearly 100 years: an entire month has passed without a single visible sunspot being noted.
In the past 1000 years, three previous such events -- the Dalton, Maunder, and Spörer Minimums, have all led to rapid cooling. On was large enough to be called a "mini ice age". For a society dependent on agriculture, cold is more damaging than heat. The growing season shortens, yields drop, and the occurrence of crop-destroying frosts increases.

Don't get me wrong. We are a long way from being able to say that we are in an extended solar minimum like the one that caused the "Little Ice Age." But, I do find it ironic that many scientists who are absolutely convinced that recent warming is anthropogenic are also being forced to acknowlege the sun's potential role in climate change and that "cold is more damaging than heat." In fact, some scientists estimate that the benefits of global warming may come very close to outweighing its costs. No one argues the same for global cooling.

UPDATE: Er, maybe I spoke too soon. Hmmmm.