Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Fourth Annual Blogger Costume Party

This year's theme: X-Men.

As Professor Charles Xavier (Roger L. Simon) tours the X-mansion...

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...Magneto (Andrew Sullivan) hatches his latest plans for mutant domination.

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Beast (Hugh Hewitt) enjoys a good read.

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Wolverine (Dean Esmay) senses trouble.

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Never start a flame war with Pyro (Markos Moulitsas Zúniga).

Markos Moulitsas as Pyro photo PyroKos.jpg

Storm (Michelle Malkin) goes into action.

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Courtesy of Chris Muir, the stars of Day By Day show up to the party: Sam as Dr. Jean Grey, Zed as Cyclops, Damon as Iceman (keeping the bottle of champagne chilled), and Jan as Rogue.

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Designer notes: Heh, looks like Kos is the only one not wearing hat or helmet who keeps his original hair. His is my first Paint Shop Pro creation to make use of the directional illumination effect.

I created the Hewitt image and an earlier version of the Sully image prior to October 25; that interview had nothing to do with their inclusion in the costume party.

The first Sullivan image used a closeup of Magneto, but it required blowing up his face so that it came out real blurry. I got Sully's image by screen-capturing a YouTube video of one of his appearances on The Colbert Report - you can see a purple glow above his right eye from the Colbert set lighting.

As challenging as getting Wolverine's hairline to look reasonably natural on Dean, the most time-consuming task was getting Hugh Hewitt's face the right shade of blue.

Many thanks to Chris Muir for his contribution.

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Monday, October 30, 2006

What Katie Didn't Tell You

Last Thursday, Couric interviewed Michael J. Fox about the recent McCaskill ad and Rush Limbaugh's response:

"The irony is that I was too medicated. I was dyskinesic," Fox told Couric...

His body visibly wracked by tremors, Fox appears in a political ad touting Missouri Democratic Senate candidate Claire McCaskill's stance in favor of embryonic stem cell research. That prompted Limbaugh to speculate that Fox was "either off his medication or acting."

Fox told Couric, "At this point now, if I didn't take medication I wouldn't be able to speak."

Couric did not explain the rationale behind Limbuagh's speculation, although she knew the answer. She had requested an email from Limbaugh explaining his side of the story, and he obliged. NewsMax has the complete transcript of the email. Here is the portion relevant to that question (emphasis added):

I have seen him many times on TV but never have I seen him as he appears in the ads. I read from his own book that he will not take his medications before certain appearances (Senate, 1999) in order to illustrate the ravages of Parkinson's, which I understand and applaud. So the concept of manipulating meds has been stated by Mr. Fox, which is what caused me to question his appearance in his ads.

(This raises questions about Fox's claim that he can't speak without medication.)

Here is the complete email:

"Thanks, Katie, I'll try to make it simple:

"I believe Democrats have a long history of using victims of various things as POLITICAL spokespeople because they believe they are untouchable, infallible. They are immune from criticism. But when anyone enters the POLITICAL arena of ideas they forfeit the right to be challenged on their participation and message.

"I have not met Mr. Fox, do not know him. I have admired his work in film and TV and his appearances on Letterman were howlers. I have nothing personal against him. But I believe his implication that only Democrats want to cure disease(s) is irresponsible (as I believed about John Edwards assuring voters Christopher Reeve would walk if only John Kerry were elected). I think this is ultimately cruel and gives people who suffer these terrible afflictions false hope.

"As of now there is NO EVIDENCE that embryonic stem cells even hold promise, while other approaches, such as adult stem cells, already have yielded results. Michael's TV spots mislead and misinform on this. (You might ask him about the gene therapy research at a Chicago hospital which has produced encouraging results on Parkinson's patients. A VIRUS is inserted in the gene, which is then inserted in the brain. The Michael J. Fox Foundations has committed $1.9 million to further research on this . . . story from earlier this month.)

"I did NOT mock or make fun of Mr. Fox. I have seen him many times on TV but never have I seen him as he appears in the ads. I read from his own book that he will not take his medications before certain appearances (Senate, 1999) in order to illustrate the ravages of Parkinson's, which I understand and applaud. So the concept of manipulating meds has been stated by Mr. Fox, which is what caused me to question his appearance in his ads.

"He is stumping for Democrats, in the political arena, and is therefore open to analysis and criticism as we all are. His suffering is NOT fair game and I am sorry if people drew that conclusion about my comments, but I believe this happens precisely because NO criticism of victims is ever allowed, at all, which as I say is the Democrat strategy in putting them forward."

Saturday, October 28, 2006

History Of The World, Part 1

Daimnation! has a brief history of liberalism and conservatism.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Iraq vs. Vietnam

Amir Taheri counts the many differences between the two conflicts (story via Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi email), and cites one way in which the two coudl resemble one another:

Having said all that Iraq may yet become "another Vietnam" in only one sense. The Americans may still decide to snatch defeat from the jaws of military victory just as they did in Vietnam. There are many in the US political and cultural elite who want Iraq to fail with an almost pathological ardour solely to get at George W Bush and his supposed cabal of "neoncons". A Democrat controlled Congress could cut the budget for the US troops in Iraq, forcing their withdrawal.

He doesn't foresee that such an outcome would lead to a repeat of the Fall of Saigon, at least not at the hands of the al-Qaeda and Saddamite insurgents:

A precipitous US withdrawal from Iraq is certain to complicate matters for the newly created democratic system.

But it would not mean a seizure of power by Al Qaeda and the Saddamites. The terrorists and the insurgents could continue killing people and causing mayhem for many more years just as their counterparts did in Algeria, Egypt and Turkey among others. But one thing is certain: Al Qaeda and Saddamites will never rule in Baghdad.

There is no Ho Chi Minh, but there is Iran, who may threaten a fragile Iraqi state if Western troops disappear. We already have evidence of Iranian-built munitions being smuggled into Iraq (see also here). If the coalition forces leave, would the Iranian flag soon fly over the Shi'ite portions of Iraq?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

This Comes As No Surprise

I am nerdier than 89% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!

David Zucker Political Commercials

There's two of 'em, and Pajamas Media has them both - the Albright ad and Taxman ad (second link via It Comes in Pints).

Maybe Zucker could have a little chat with the Wachowski Brothers and have Agent Smith appear in a future ad. "Mis-ter Anderson, we missed youuuu..."

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Stem Cells And Celebrity Political Ads

Kathryn Jean Lopez tells a few things that Michael J. Fox doesn't:

President Bush was the first president of the United States to authorize federal funding for any embryonic-stem-cell research. In correcting a writer from The New Republic back in 2004, my colleague Ramesh Ponnuru pointed out, "Actually, Bush provided funding for the first time. Congress had essentially banned funding, the Clinton administration issued preliminary regulations getting around the ban, and then Bush imposed a policy of funding with restrictions."

Further, embryonic-stem-cell research is currently legal and completely unrestricted in both Maryland and Missouri, and in the vast majority of other states. It is largely personal and institutional ethics that keeps scientists from cloning research. The debate we're having is almost always about government funding or radical measures like the one currently on the ballot in Missouri (Amendment 2), which would write a right to cloning into the state constitution.

There's also some info on the efficacy of embyonic stem cells (emphasis in original):

Additionally, embryo-destroying stem-cell research is by no means the only or the most promising stem-cell research. Alternative research — including cord-blood research and adult-stem-cell research — is already working, unlike the embryonic-stem-cell research we're all focused on as if it were a proven cure-all. As Princeton professor Robert P. George, who sits on the president's bioethics commission, tells National Review Online:

the ads exaggerate the therapeutic potential of embryonic stem cells beyond anything that Michael J. Fox or anyone else has reasonable grounds to believe they can be used to accomplish. Adult stem cells — stem cells that can be obtained harmlessly from umbilical cord blood, bone marrow, fat, and other sources — have actually been used successfully to treat people. They have been used to improve people's lives. Embryonic stem cells have not helped anyone. No one knows when, if ever, embryonic cells will be used in therapies at all. Indeed, not a single embryonic-stem-cell-based therapy is even in stage one of clinical trials. That is because the tendency of embryonic stem cells to produce tumors makes it unethical to use them in human beings — even in experimental treatments. By contrast, there are more than 1,000 adult-stem-cell-based therapies in clinical trials. In his ads, Michael J. Fox hides these crucial facts, thus creating an appallingly false impression and slandering candidates against whom the ads are directed."

LifeNews notes inaccuracies in Michael J. Fox's first ad:

In the first commercial, Fox, who is clearly increasingly suffering from the effects of Parkinson's disease, makes inaccurate generalizations about stem cell research.

"In Missouri, you can elect Claire McCaskill, who shares my hope for cures," Fox tells viewers urging them to support the pro-abortion, pro-cloning candidate.

"Unfortunately Senator Jim Talent opposes expanding stem cell research," Fox claims. "Senator Talent even wanted to criminalize the science that gives us a chance for hope."

Though the ad makes it appear Talent opposes all kinds of stem cell research, he has voted in favor of spending millions in federal funds for adult stem cell research, the only kind of research that has ever cured a single patient.

What Talent has opposed is forcing taxpayers to pay for studies using embryonic stem cells, which can only be obtained by destroying human life.

...And in the second:

In the new spot, Fox vouches for Senate hopeful Ben Cardin, a current Congressman, in his bid against pro-life Maryland Lt. Governor Michael Steele.

"Cardin fully supports lifesaving stem cell research and that's why I support Ben Cardin," Fox says.

However, Cardin voted against a bill that would have authorized the federal government to search for embryonic stem cell research alternatives that don't involve the destruction of human life. The measure would have promoted some types of research that could possibly have been palatable to both sides of the debate.

YouTube has the McCaskill and Cardin ads.

It also has an ad opposing a proposed Missouri Constitutional amendment that would allow human cloning with some restrictions. (On YouTube the video is labeled, "Response Ad to Michael J. Fox" - despite the fact that Fox never mentioned this proposed amendment in the McCaskill video.) LifeSite has the background story:

The Passion of the Christ star Jim Caviezel entered the escalating election battle on embryonic stem cell research yesterday. He appears in an ad clip countering campaign ads by Michael J. Fox who is urging voters to support election candidates backing the research...

In the one minute response ad Caviezel is joined by celebrities that include Cardinal's pitcher Jeff Suppan and Patricia Heaton, star of the TV comedy Everybody Loves Raymond and honorary chair for Feminists for Life. After explaining the facts of the issue they in turn state, "Don't be tricked", Don't be deceived", Don't be fooled", with Caviezel ending the ad telling Missouri voters, "You know now. Don't do it. Vote no on (Amendment) 2", the ballot initiative that would permit research using human embryos in the state.

Although the amendment appears to ban the buying and selling of human eggs, women who "donated" their eggs would be permitted "reimbursement" by fertility clinics or sperm banks. The ban on buying and selling would not apply to reimbursement for the cost of "the removal, processing, disposal, preservation, quality control, storage, transfer, or donation of human eggs, sperm, or blastocysts, including lost wages of the donor."

More Celebrity Global Warming rates the gaz-guzzling habits of a few notable Hollywood environmentalists. The biggest offender is Brad Pitt:

On the ground: Eco-champ Brad is yet another Prius-lover, and he reportedly has several hybrids in his stable.
In the air: Los Angeles/Namibia, 9,400 miles in a private jet.
Gas guzzled: 11,000 gallons of jet fuel.
Prius penance: Brad burned enough fuel to take a Prius to the moon.

Most commenters are irked by the story. Some like Herstory Girl accuse TMZ of hypocrisy, without knowing anything about the site staff's travel requirements:

Ummm... I wonder how much fuel TMZ and other papparazzi burn up chasing celebrities for these stupid stories?
Those who live in glass houses...

Web journalists and papparazzi can afford private jets? I'm in the wrong business...

Others argue the alleged unfairness of criticizing the unusual travel demands inmherent in the movie start business. Commenter Michael doesn't buy it:

As for the need for private jets...I flew business class from Ireland to Chicago, and sat just in front of a star of far greater magnitude than any mentioned in the article...Paul Newman. He was not only gracious to all who said hello to him, but was generally not bothered by anyone. The idea that a "star" needs to be secluded on a private jet is really more a reflection of a hyperextended ego than a need for privacy. Has anyone flown first class on an international flight? The cabin is secluded, the passengers need never interact with the main cabin, and all those believing they need privacy get it, whether needed or not. Here's to Leo for understanding what the substandard so called "stars" don't get.

Update: Personally, I don't bemoan the use of private jets for any peaceful purposes whatsoever. But it is hypocritical to preach the message that fossil fuel consumption causes global warming when one uses private jets to reach destinations available to commercial air traffic. If average citizens are supposed to economize on fuel consumption where possible, why not movie stars as well?

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Al Gore demonstrates global warming at climate control rally (emphasis added):

"I'm here to change peoples' minds on the climate crisis and to support Prop 87," Gore called to a group of reporters after he emerged from the "100 miles per gallon" Toyota Prius that brought him to a noontime rally in a sun-drenched park behind Berkeley's City Hall.

His motorcade also included three motorcycles, two limousines and a Dodge Ram 1500 light duty truck.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Getting Serious About Chemical WMDs, Too

WorldNetDaily has the story in Omaha:

The Nebraska city's elected leaders and police department are urging residents who see violations to call the 9-1-1 emergency system for an immediate response.

Omaha banned smoking in public Oct. 2. Penalties are $100 for the first offense, $200 for the second and $500 for the third and subsequent infractions.

Some establishments are exploiting loopholes:

The new smoking ban applies to bars that serve food and those that don't have keno licenses. Some bars have applied for keno licenses to keep their smokers happy, and a few decided to give up food instead of smoking.

US Getting Serious About Biological WMDs

The United States has banned the import of vegemite. Tim Blair declares fatwa. Perry de Havilland of Samizdata plots civil disobedience.

Friday, October 20, 2006

I Can Hardly Wait For Someone To Name A Car Model After Cancer

The Ford Taurus, first introduced in December 1985, will soon be discontinued (link via Damian).

Three other autos were named after signs of the Zodiac: Dodge Aries (1981-1989), Isuzu Gemini (1974-2000), Ford Scorpio (1985-1998).

Only eight more to go.

Stupid Political Tricks

US News and World Report reports this non-story:

Some Republican strategists are increasingly upset with what they consider the overconfidence of President Bush and his senior advisers about the midterm elections November 7 – a concern aggravated by the president's news conference this week.

"They aren't even planning for if they lose," says a GOP insider who informally counsels the West Wing.

Earth to unnamed GOP insider - Bush is NOT going to engage in any conversations that could sabotage the elections. If plans for dealing with a GOP loss in the House and/or Senate were made public, the headlines would read "BUSH PESSIMISTIC ABOUT THE MIDTERMS." Every Democrat candidate would be featuring those headlines in their campaign ads.

I'm sure the President has a wide variety of contingency plans that he's not telling anybody except for a handful of top officials. He certainly won't trust such information to an informal councel who the press can pry for information.

Do the Dems have plans for if they lose (again)? If so, are they telling anyone?

Update: In The Agora has very brief commentary.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Carnival Time

Carnival of the Vanities #213 is up at Silflay Hraka. Among the attractions is my post on Nobel Peace Prize qualifications.

Antireligious Paranoia On Parade

Mark Lowry addresses the nonexistent threat of Christian theocracy in America:

The theocracy charge relies mainly on blowing Christian conservative positions out of proportion. Do Christian conservatives oppose the public funding of embryo-destructive stem-cell research? Well, then, Calvin's Geneva can't be far behind. Never mind that in opposing such funding, they are usually supporting the status quo. It's a little like saying that because Democrats oppose cuts in Medicaid, they favor a dictatorship of the proletariat...

The truth about Christian conservatives is that they support public-policy goals infused with a certain view of morality. This isn't unusual. The greatest reform movement of the 20th century - the civil-rights movement - was explicitly Christian. Today, the opposition to torture is based on a moral view that trumps all practical considerations (the inviolable dignity of the human person). A moral sense is often behind the liberal opposition to the Iraq War and to the death penalty.

Lowry notes a worst-case scenario, which isn't bloody likely to happen:

National Review senior editor Ramesh Ponnuru has pointed out that you can take all Christian conservative positions - including far-fetched ones like banning sodomy and contraception - and if they happened overnight they "would merely turn the clock back to the late 1950s. That may be a very bad idea, but the America of the 1950s was not a theocracy."

Here's something else to think about. Never mind coming up with a series of events by which such a revolution could occur in the US. Tell me - which branch of conservative Christianity could pull off establishing a theocratic United States? You think the Catholics would sit back and allow the Baptists or the Assemblies of God to take over? Or vice versa?

"Why not all of the Religious Right collectively?" Because multichurch theocracies can't exist. A theocracy seeks to impose the One True Faith, and there's too much disagreement between Protestants and Catholics (and between different Protestant camps) for a coalition theocracy to work.

If conservative Christians were serious about imposing religious totalitarianism, they'd abandon school choice; no true theocrat would trust the masses with picking and choosing their own education.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Red Planet

More of a mixture of brown and yellow in this pic (click the pic for high resolution). This is the Cydonia region on Mars. The yellow plateau in the lower right corner is the famous "Face on Mars" - see Wikipedia article for background info.

Red Menace

Ion Mihai Pacepa tells us who was single-handedly responsible for China acquiring nuclear weapons technology - Nikita Khrushchev.

Scuba Kitty

I am not making this up.

Monday, October 16, 2006

This Day In History

On this day in 1978, Karol Józef Wojtyła was inaugurated as Pope John Paul II.

Another Polish-related anniversary: the founding of the Warsae Ghetto (1940).

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Who Deserves A Peace Prize?

Someone whose influence makes the world more peaceful, of course. What makes the world more peaceful? I will list three qualifiers, and people who meet them (Nobel Peace laureates in boldface).

  • Activities that lead to significant and long-term decreases in a government's tyranny over its own people, and, if applicable, over conquered nations.

    • Ronald Reagan, for leading the West to victory in the Cold War.
    • Lech Walesa, for leading the Solidarity movement that led to the collapse of the Polish Communist government.
    • Vaclav Havel, for his leadership in the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, and his role as first president of the Czech Republic.
    • George C. Marshall, for his oversight of the American war effort in WWII. (He actually won the award for the Marshall Plan.)
    • Dwight D. Eisenhower, for his role as Supreme Allied Commander in Europe during WWII.
    • Douglas MacArthur, for his role as Supreme Allied Commander in the Pacific theater during WWII, and for leading the postwar political reformation of Japan.
    • King Juan Carlos I of Spain, for overseeing that nation's transition to democracy after the death of Francisco Franco.

  • Military efforts that lead to the destruction or significant long-term weakening of a tyrannical revolutionary or terrorist force,

    • Alberto Fujimori and the Government of Peru, for waging a successful war against the Communist Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) insurgency, reducing it to a shadow of its former self. A Shining Path victory in Peru would have led to more Communist uprisings in neighboring countries.

  • Diplomatic efforts that lead to long-term peace between once-warring nations.

    • Douglas MacArthur. His efforts in Japan led to a strong alliance between our two nations.

  • Influence that significantly eases cultural conflict.

    • Martin Luther King. Easing of black/white racial tensions had already made a few inroads by the time he came on the scene, but his prominence influenced a broader acceptance of racial tolerance.
    • Mother Teresa. Whatever tensions between Christians and Hindus may exist today in India, they would be worse if it weren't for the Macedonian nun's ministry.

Can anyone think of more examples? President Bush doesn't count - it's too early to judge the long-term future of Iraq or Afghanistan, or if al-Qaeda or the Taliban have been permanently crippled as the Sendero Luminoso were.

Friday, October 13, 2006

The 2006 Nobel Peace Prize

Taking a break from awarding paper tigers, appeaseniks, and general moonbats, the Nobel committee gives his year's prize goes to Muhammad Yunus and the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh, "for their efforts to create economic and social development from below."

The Hindu reports:

In awarding them the prize, the Nobel Committee said their efforts showed how working to eliminate poverty can result in a lasting peace.

They're a bunch of loons. Poverty isn't an obstacle to peace. Tyranny is an obstacle to peace (and a major contributing factor to poverty, BTW). Being a humanitarian is one thing; influencing a decrease in tyranny is another, and Yunus ain't doing the latter. Alfred Nobel should have set up a Humanitarian Prize for people like Yunus (and Norman Borlaug).

Update: If you're wondering why Wangari Maathai qualifies as a general moonbat, visit Winds of Change.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Envelope, Please XIV

The 2006 Nobel Prize in economics was awarded to Columbia University professor Edmund S. Phelps. Marginal Revolution has some background.

This year's Nobel for Literature goes to Turkish author Orhan Pamuk, "who in the quest for the melancholic soul of his native city [Istanbul] has discovered new symbols for the clash and interlacing of cultures". According to his Wikipedia bio, Pamuk faced criminal charges for a public statement he made in Germany, that "One million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds were killed in Turkey" - referring to the 1915-1917 Armenian Genocide and the Kurdistan Workers Party's 20-year separatist war in eastern Anatolia that began in the early 1980s. The charges were dropped in January of this year.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Today's Musical Entertainment

Mark Byron waxes lyrical, taking inspiration from one of my posts from last week.

Clinton's North Korea Legacy

This PDF file lists the highlights, including those infamous light water reactors that were given to Emperor Kim. There's even an appearance by Hans Blix. (But no shark tank.)

Michelle Malkin has a map showing the ranges of North Korea's long-range missiles. The two-stage Taepo Dong 2 (green circle) can reach James Lileks. The three-stage variant can reach a sliver of South America and the whole of all the other continents (except Antarctica, which is completely out of range).

Friday, October 06, 2006

The Illegal Alien Problem Is Worse Than We Thought

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Build your sign here.

(Link via Sandmonkey)


The Benefits Of Diplomatic Immunity

Sandmonkey has a chart displaying the nations with the top per-diplomat unpaid parking violations in New York City. Egypt tops the chart if one counts parking violations per nation - check it out.

Question Answered

Yesterday I asked who lobbied to have the age of consent lowered to 16 in the District of Columbia. The answer I got is not who but when.

Some intensive Googling turned up a site that specializes in the cause against sodomy laws; this letter issued by the Gay and Lesbian Activists Alliance states that the age of consent had been set at 16 "for at least 92 years" as of the letter's 1993 date. The purpose of the letter was to protest the age of consent law which, at that time, was 16 for fornication and 18 for sodomy. Presumably the ages have been equalized by now, even without help from Lawrence v. Texas. Cybersex isn't sodomy, so even under the old law Foley wouldn't be in legal trouble, unless there were also an age disparity in DC "delinquency to minors" laws.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Just In Time For Christmas

Neiman-Marcus is selling a six-passenger charter flight into orbit via Virgin Galactic.

(Link via Rand Simberg)

A Question Nobody's Asking

There's a fact relative to the Mark Foley case that catches my eye. The LA Times reports:

Former Republican Rep. Mark Foley's electronic messages to congressional pages may have been vile, despicable and outrageous, as colleagues and critics have declared.

But was his conduct illegal?

If Foley had sex with a page in the District of Columbia, it wouldn't be a crime. In the capital, the age of consent is 16, as it is in many states. That, coincidentally, is the minimum age to be a page.

Can somebody tell me who it was that lobbied the District of Columbia to lower the sexual age of consent to 16?

When World Collide

Don't get mad, get even.

The Envelope, Please XIII

A Jay Manifold email alerted me to Mitch Townsend's anticipation of this year's crop of Nobel Prizes. He offers a rule of thumb on how some of those prizes will be distributed:

Many of the prizes for actually discovering something will go to Americans, and the prizes for doing things that make Europeans feel good will go to anti-Americans (Rigoberta Menchu, Peace, 1992; Yasser Arafat, Peace, 1994; Harold Pinter, Literature, 2005).

As of tonight, the Townsend Theory is scoring 5 for 5. This year's Nobels for Physics and Medicine are each shared by two Americans. One American - whose dad shares the 1959 Nobel in Medicine with another American - won the prize in Chemistry.

Update: It's Bush's fault.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Bringing Back Firefly

I don't think the odds are great, but I'll throw in my two cents anyway.

I'll start by warning off plot devices that would stretch credibility to monumental proportions.

Do not make the conspiracy too large. Secret conspiracies may employ vast resources, but to protect the secret those in the know will always be few. Viewers won't buy it if hundreds or even dozens of people were aware on the human experimentation on River and at Miranda. We know from the film that top members of Parliament were aware of the former (and the latter, I think).

Besides them, the Operative, Dr. Mathias, the head of the project using River as a guinea pig, and the "blue gloves" guys from the series, the cabal better not go much further. The military doesn't have to know the real reason why the Tams are wanted or why Miranda is under quarantine; it just needs to hunt for the fugitives and blockade the planet. If the full body of Parliament approved Mathias' project, aside from the top leaders they don't necessarily know what's really going on behind closed doors. The project probably employed a number of people who had no access to the top-secret experimentation room.

Do not, I repeat, do not create a romance between River and Jayne. There is simply no way to make it credible. The brainy psycho teenager and the boorish redneck are sorta like combative siblings. The script should keep it that way.

Do not let River heal completely, or too quickly. She's just beginning to recover from the trauma related to the victims of the Miranda experiment, including the Reavers. That kind of healing doesn't come rapidly. In addition, physical damage was done to her brain. The Wikipedia article on the amygdala states:

In the television series Firefly, the fictional character of River Tam is portrayed as having had her amygdalae 'stripped'. This operation, according to characters on the show, has caused her to be unable to suppress emotions, giving her a hypersensitivity that can come across as creepy and unsettling. She also exhibits possible signs of autism, a condition that has been proposed by some to be linked to amygdalae malfunctioning.

Here are a few things I'd like to see:

  • A map of the Alliance solar system.
  • Episodes introducing the Serenity crew's family members, which would enhance character development and tell us which planets they're from.
  • Reveal Derrial Book's background. He's dead, but psychic River knows all. And someone who knows about Book's past could show up in an episode.
  • Bring back Niska, Saffron, Badger, and (from the "Shindig" episode) Sir Warrick.
  • Let Mal start to actually make some decent money. That weaponry he had mounted on Serenity in the film should fetch a decent price.

The top item on my to-do list is for the show to take its time exonerating the Tams. The Miranda broadcast revealed to all the experiment that killed off most of the planet's colonists and transformed the remainder into the Reavers. Logically, Parliament would launch an immediate investigation, and while its top leaders who are in on the Conspiracy would not be able to stop it, they would be scheming to set up fall guys and to hide evidence incriminating themselves.

The experiment that imprisoned River is still a secret, but it is related to the Miranda project and investigation into the latter should turn up evidence of the former. For the government to exonerate the Tams, it must have evidence that the criminal charges are bogus. This won't turn up overnight. Standard law enforcement will still be out to arrest them, and Simon and River are still a threat to the Conspiracy.

If I were to script the show, he would not fall on his sword for failing his original mission - because he would have a Plan B. He could not preserve the secrecy of the Miranda project, so now he should work behind the scenes, without the knowledge of either Parliament or the Conspiracy, to ensure that the incriminating evidence (other than that pointing to himself) surfaces. The Operative's ultimate mission is to preserve the State. The mother of all scandals is out, so now he must ensure that Parliament holds people accountable, so as not to give citizens a reason to revolt.

Free Markets vs. Public Education

Pejman links a John Stossel column which summarizes a chief argument against socialized education, citing as Exhibit A the New York City school system's rules that make it difficult to fire teachers (emphasis added):

The rules were well-intended. The union was worried that principals would play favorites, hiring friends and family members while firing good teachers. If public education were subject to the competition of the free market, those bureaucratic rules would be unnecessary, because parents would hold a bad principal accountable by sending their kids to a different school the next year. But government schools never go out of business, and parents' ability to change schools is sharply curtailed. So the education monopoly adopts paralyzing rules instead.

The regulations are so onerous that principals rarely even try to fire a teacher. Most just put the bad ones in pretend-work jobs, or sucker another school into taking them. (They call that the "dance of the lemons.") The city payrolls include hundreds of teachers who have been deemed incompetent, violent, or guilty of sexual misconduct. Since the schools are afraid to let them teach, they put them in so-called "rubber rooms" instead. There they read magazines, play cards, and chat, at a cost to New York taxpayers of $20 million a year.

Would Mark Foley be in trouble if he were a New York City public school teacher?

Monday, October 02, 2006

Free Markets vs. Big Business

John Stossel reports some unconventional wisdom on how government favoritism benefits big business - but not in the way that the Leftists describe:

There was never a time in America when big business didn't get favors from government, which means the taxpayers. Canal and railroad companies loved the big government contracts. Corruption was rampant, and work was often shoddy, but the contracts paid handsomely. The politicians prospered, too. Only taxpayers and consumers lost out.

The history books say that during the Progressive era, government trustbusters reined in business. Nonsense. Progressive "reforms" -- railroad regulation, meat inspection, drug certification and the rest -- were done at the behest of big companies that wanted competition managed. They knew regulation would burden smaller companies more than themselves. The strategy works.

Regulation isn't the only form of protection that big business gets from government. Companies with political clout get cash subsidies, low-interest loans, loan guarantees and barriers to cheap imports.

Even foreign aid is a subsidy to big business because governments receiving the taxpayers' money buy American exports. Fans of foreign aid say those exports are good for the economy because they create jobs. Don't believe it. If the taxpayers had been able to keep the money, their spending would have created other jobs -- probably more jobs.

Read the whole thing - and find out which energy-based business supported the Kyoto climate treaty.

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