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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Heroes - Do What I Say, Or I'll Nuke Your House

(Spoilers ahead - episode synopsis here.)

I remembered one thing incorrectly from last week's episode: Hana Gitelman wasn't part of the confrontation at the Bennetts' house. She is in league with Sprague and Parkman, though - or she was. Now that the two are being held by the Mystery Organization (and Parkman is under consideration as a possible recruit), what's her next move?

This series exhibits one of the plusses of the 1995 series Invasion: the protagonists learn something new every week. Lost, by contrast, is really bad about dragging out the mysteries for too long. This week Claire learns something very important - that her dad really is one of the good guys, although the jury is out regarding his employers. The two things we know about the Organization are a) that it seeks to know the identity of every "mutant" on Earth, and b) and hiding the existence of a "mutant" is a capital offense. Mr. Bennett wanted for Claire nothing more than what she wanted for herself: "to be a normal person and not someone's freak show or lab experiment," quoting yesterday's post.

The Haitian's secret also comes out - he's not a mute after all. So far, only Claire, Mr. Bennett and Parkman know. Question is, why did he hide this fact?

Viewers also find out that Hiro's dad is part of the Organization, so far the highest-ranked member that we know of. It certainly adds some flesh to the remark that one of Mr. Nakamura's henchman made to Hiro and Ando a few weeks ago, abut his boss being a man who understands power.

We also know that Claude was once Bennett's partner. But what "mutant" was he hiding from the Organization?

I'll withdraw my speculation that Mr. Linderman is part of the Organization. I believe Linderman knows about "mutants," and has at least some idea of what Niki/Jessica can do - and for this reason he can't be with that outfit. The Organization would never let someone like her running loose if it knew about her. Linderman has an agenda of his own, and Niki/Jessica, if nothing else, is a reliable assassin. The previews for next week say that we'll finally see his face, and show that he has white hair and a white beard. Sounds like Burt Reynolds to me - he's perfect for the role of a Las Vegas mobster.

The big winners this week are Claire and Parkman. Despite the ordeal and now going into seclusion, she is now safer from the Sylar threat than she's ever been under The Haitian's care. Parkman now knows about the Organization, and has the opportunity for the undercover operation of a lifetime. I don't think for a minute that he'll ever trust the organization, but he trusts Bennett. (Telepathy rocks.) I can see those two teaming up, and without the Organization's knowledge working with Hana once Parkman mediates between her and Bennett. If Sprague's fate is a bone of contention - locking him up vs. letting him alone in the middle of nowhere where he can't nuke anyone - Hana may be willing to work with Bennett on a threat she currently knows nothing about: Sylar.

Per the preview for next week's episode, my prediction about Simone was at least partially right. Simone lives, but we'll have to tune in to find out how.

I'll make another prediction for a future episode: Sylar will eventually tangle with Jessica. That will be the smackdown of the year.

One other thought. It seems too coincidental that two brothers would have that same rare gene if they didn't inherit it from at least one parent; I suspect that the Petrellis' dad was a "mutant," and that such a revelation would shed some light on their dad's relationship with Linderman. It certainly does seem that two "mutants" will necessarily pass down the gene, if Micah and Claire are any indication.


Monday, February 26, 2007


(Warning: spoilers.)

The show takes obvious inspiration from the venerable X-Men comics, but with a much different twist. X-Men is set in a universe that can be neatly divided into four factions. The big question is whether humans and mutants can coexist peacefully, and both humans and mutants are divided.

Heroes is a bit more complicated. The general public doesn't know about the "mutants" yet. Several story arcs collide with each other. The main arc involves a premonition of a nuclear explosion in New York City. Hiro Nakamura, who can manipulate time, witnessed the event in an inadvertent trip into the future. Isaac Mendez, a precognitive who can paint images of the future, painted a large mural of the event on his studio floor.

Also, Peter Petrelli had a premonition of exploding while on the streets of New York, so evidently he is the source of the explosion. Peter's powers are drawn from coming into close proximity with other "mutants;" he has to do so only once to gain that power, although controlling that ability will take lots of practice. "Claude," a man with invisibility powers, has reluctantly fallen into the role of giving Peter that training.

Peter has another clue to the explosion - which may turn out to be a false lead. One day he received a visit from a future Hiro, who delivered this message: "Save the cheerleader, save the world." But the world is threatened by more than just radioactive mutants.

Enter Sylar. He is a watchmaker who has the ability to sense where things are broken. His nickname comes from a fictional watch brand. The scientist who began the inquiry into these paranormal abilities, Dr. Chandra Suresh, compiled a list of persons with the superpower genetic marker, and Sylar was apparently the first he visited. Sylar found a name from the list, a man with telekinetic powers. He visited the man and came up with an ingenious evil plan: to kill the man and to use his ability to find the genetic information - located within the victim's brain - and somehow graft it into himself. Thus he has been on a killing spree, stealing powers from other "mutants." He killed Suresh, and under an assumed identity he has recently joined with the doctor's unwitting son Mohinder to find more prey.

The cheerleader? Claire Bennet, like X-Men's Wolverine, has the ability to regenerate. I can see how this power would make Sylar unstoppable. Early in the series she used her power to rescue someone from a burning train wreck. She was in uniform at the time, so a cop showed up at the school to find out which cheerleader rescued the man. Claire wants to be a normal person and not someone's freak show or lab experiment, so she stays quiet. One of the other cheerleaders takes credit, and unwittingly sets herself up to be Sylar's victim. Sylar shows up to homecoming and attacks the girl, but finds out too late that the real mutant is Claire. Peter is there, having found the location of the attack through a photo of one of Isaac's paintings. Peter tackles Sylar, and the two fall from a height. Sylar disappears, and Claire finds Peter; her presence allows him to absorb her power and regenerate.

Claire's adopted father, Mr. Bennet, works for some shadowy organization that is investigating the "mutants." His people capture Sylar for a while, but Sylar eventually gets away. His people have been studying "mutants" for a while, and tagging them with a radio isotope so they can be found in the future. His comrade The Jamaican has the ability to erase specific memories; this is used to cover their tracks when they don't want their subjects to know that they were ever taken to the secret back rooms at Primatech paper.

Unfortunately for Mr. Bennet, three of his taggees have shown up on his doorstep with drawn guns: Matt Parkman (police officer, telepath), Hana Gitelman (former Israeli soldier, interfaces with computers Internet - a computer telepath), and Ted Sprage (a fugitive who can emit radiation and create nuclear explosions).

Mr. Bennet once tried to apprehend Nathan Petrelli, but Nathan used his power to fly away. Nathan is Peter's brother, a candidate for public office who has no interest in his or his brother's powers. He recently found out from an old fling (who has pyrokinesis) that Claire is his daughter. He has no interest in that relationship - or his own powers for that matter - and pays the mom to hush it up.

Unless I missed something, Peter has yet to come into contact with Sprague. Speculation: it could be that what sets off the future explosion is Peter's first contact with Sprague.

Meanwhile in Vegas, there's Niki Sanders, who has a split personality and has superhuman strength when her alternate personality Jessica surfaces. Jessica will kill anyone she perceives as a threat to herself or her son. Her husband D. L. Hawkins can pass through solid objects, and her son can manipulate over electronic gadgetry, not too unlike the alien in The Brother from Another Planet. The kid used his powers to make a broken payphone operable, and to get an ATM to dispense thousands of dollars. Jessica and D.L. tried to kill each other earlier in the series - read her profile for details - but have since reconciled. Jessica is secretly working for the mysterious Mr. Linderman as a hit woman and carries off her first hit - a man being protected by Parkman. During the encounter Parkman heard Niki and Jessica arguing, and assumes they're two separate people. Last Week Jessica has just received orders for her next hit - Nathan Petrelli.

Linderman hasn't been shown during the series, but several roads lead his way, and I have to wonder if he knows about the existence of "mutants" - or is one himself. He's a mobster with business ties to the Petrellis' dad. He used his influence to get Niki out of the padded cell; she had turned herself in in order to protect the world from her alter ego. This tells me that Linderman knows what Nikki/Jessica is. The mysterious mobster also owns a sword that Hiro is questing for - a samurai sword that will somehow help him control his power. (Probably as a sort of psychosomatic placebo, just as Isaac used heroin early on to manifest his abilities, and Peter needed to be around his brother early on to use his power.)

Could Linderman be Mr. Bennet's boss?

I will make a bold prediction about tonight's episode. Isaac tried to shoot Peter last week, hoping that that would prevent the nuclear explosion Peter's supposed to cause. But he shoots Simone by accident - she's Isaac's ex-girlfriend who now loves Peter. Peter earlier manifested Sylar's telekinetic power while "Claude" was training him; I'm predicting that Peter will discover Sylar's original power within himself and will "fix" Simone so that she survives.


Saturday, February 24, 2007

Bond, James Bond?

Take a look at this collage of the six James Bonds. Now look at this image of Vladimir Putin.

Doesn't Daniel Craig look more like Vlad than any of the other Bonds?


Hillary Clinton And John Edwards Call For Socialized Medicine

It happens in the middle portion of this video.

(Link via Instapundit)


Friday, February 23, 2007

Researchers Discover The Obvious

The American Psychiatric Association reports that sexualizing girls at an early age is harmful:

Researchers report sexualized images negatively affected girls in three main areas of their lives. The first is cognitive and emotional consequences, which resulted in self-image problems, like shame and anxiety. Secondly, researchers found the sexualized images caused mental and physical health problems, which sometimes lead to depression and eating disorders. Third, researchers report sexualized imagery in the media has a negative effect on sexual development, causing an inability to create a healthy sexual self-image.

The APA missed a crucial fourth consequence: injury to girls' ability to form relationships with boys.

A sexually charged atmosphere during childhood delivers a double whammy. First, children in such circumstances are apt to spend less time engaged in one of the most critical lessons of life: forging peer friendships with the opposite sex. Second, sexuality is presented in an unhealthy light, as something that doesn't require marriage - or even peer friendship - to be good for you.

Mona Charen has commentary.


Battlestar Galactica Music Video

Right here.

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Thursday, February 22, 2007

What Does David Geffen Have Against Hillary Clinton?

NewsMax has the answer:

His personal attack made this week on Hillary Clinton harkens back to then-President Bill Clinton’s refusal to pardon an American Indian activist Geffen believes was falsely convicted of murder.

DreamWorks co-chairman Geffen and Bill Clinton were once close, and Geffen raised some $18 million for Clinton. He was even a guest in the White House's Lincoln Bedroom during the Clinton presidency.

Geffen turned his back on his friend when he pardoned fugitive financier Marc Rich in the last days of his administration – after rebuffing Geffen’s request for a pardon for Leonard Peltier.

The article also contains a list of some of the more controversial recipients of Clinton pardons.


Violent Peace Protesters In Australia

See here (link via Glenn). Note the protest sign in the first image.


Wednesday, February 21, 2007


I've been tagged with the latest meme - to name six weird facts about myself. (In most circles except this one, being a blogger would top the list.) Well, let's see what I can come up with:

  1. On two occasions in the late 1970s I sacked groceries for Tammy Huerta, the daughter of Tejano singer Freddy Fender. The first time I didn't know who she was, but my coworkers did.
  2. My first set of wheels had four wheels and not two - a 1984 Honda Aero 80 motorscooter.
  3. The three scooters I have owned met untimely deaths. The first was stolen and partially stripped before the cops retrieved it. The second was wrecked when an eastbound car made a lefthand turn in front of my westbound bike on Lancaster Blvd. in Fort Worth, Texas. I did a perfect somersault at 35mph and landed flat on my back, suffering low back strain for a few days. After seeing the ambulance bill ($500 or so) I swore that if I get in another wreck I'm taking a cab instead. The third was rear-ended in a hit-and-run on MacArthur Blvd. in Irving, Texas. I was thrown maybe 10 feet and suffered no injuries. Indeed I did take a cab home.
  4. At the time of the first wreck I had my brief fling (pun intended) with judo. Judo is the least aggressive of the martial arts, and after a number of weeks I decided that I wasn't aggressive enough for it.
  5. I have something in common with former Republican congressman Richard Armey aside from Texas residency: we are both members of the Progressive Student Union of the University of Texas at Arlington. The PSU makes you a member automatically if you attend so much as one meeting - even if one is there as a guest speaker, as in Armey's case. (I wasn't at that meeting, but I did meet him at a different campus event.)
  6. I can say the following in a single breath, and from memory:

    To be or not to be, that is the question—
    Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
    The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
    Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
    And by opposing, end them.

I have a few people in mind to tag with this; I'll let y'all know if they take up the challenge.

Update: The meme is passed to Jay Manifold.


Tragical History Tour

Everything you need to know about Jimmy Carter. Read the whole thing.

(Link via Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi email)

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Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Shiny Happy People

Happiness is a moral obligation, so says Dennis Prager. His thesis: all of the people who make this world a worse place are unhappy. Read the whole thing.

Update: I tossed in this comment:

Joy has the same prerequisites as love, as Paul of Tarsus once stated so eloquently. For those of you who brought your Bibles, turn to First Corinthians chapter 13, verses 4 through 7:

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres."

Revelry rejects those restraints; it is an immature attitude towards "fun." (Paul hints at that observation, contrasting love with childishness in verse 11: "When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child.") Joy (and love) require moral discipline. But some cultures are less moral than others; thus some adults are less grown-up than others.


Monday, February 19, 2007

The Road To Hell Is Paved With Good Intentions

And will be driven on by hybrid cars:

IRVINE, Calif.--In 2006, the California legislature authorized the state Department of Motor Vehicles to distribute 85,000 stickers to the owners of gasoline-electric hybrid cars. The stickers allow drivers to travel without passengers in all of the state's high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lanes, which were formerly restricted to cars with two or more passengers. A report determined that California's HOV lanes were operating only at two-thirds of their capacity and not easing congestion as much as they could; the idea was to stimulate demand for hybrids and thus reduce the emissions of greenhouse pollutants.

The sticker distribution did exactly what it was supposed to do. People wanted to shave time off their commute, and the stickers drove up demand for hybrids for the Toyota Prius and Honda Civic hybrid (the only cars that qualified for stickers), so much so that the small Prius has been selling for over $30,000, and until recently had waiting lists. The Civic hybrid has carried a dealer "added premium" to the manufacturer's suggested list price of as much as $4,000 (with the hybrid Civic total price nearly $7,500 higher than the quoted price of a non-hybrid Civic).

But it seems that the hybrid HOV program, rather than suppressing automobile use, did the exact opposite: The program was wildly popular, and the HOV lanes became clogged. Californians began talking about "Prius backlash."

Then at the end of January, the DMV ran out of stickers, leaving more than 800 new Prius and Civic hybrid owners, who may have been enticed to buy their hybrids at premium prices inflated by sticker advantage and who applied for the stickers, without the right to drive alone in the state's HOV lanes.

Read the whole thing.


Sunday, February 18, 2007

Quote Of The Day

"Rudy and the right? It's not the most obvious fit, but it's a marriage that could work. Let's just say they're dating but agreeing to see other people right now."

- Kathryn Jean Lopez


Happy New Year

Today marks the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Pig.


Friday, February 16, 2007

Another Anniversary

Fidel Castro became maximum leader of Cuba on this day in 1959.


29 Candles

CBBS, the first bulletin board system, was developed by Ward Christensen on February 16,1978.


Thursday, February 15, 2007

You Can't Blame This On The Cylons

C'mon - you don't think these people would favor alien guest worker programs, do you?

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The Cylon Conspiracy - It's Bigger Than You Think

On Battlestar Galactica during his time aboard a Cylon basestar, Gaius Baltar began to suspect that he is a Cylon. Last week's episode "Taking a Break from All Your Worries" ended those speculations; Baltar's subconscious visions verify that he is indeed human.

Or so we are lead to believe.

Twelve Cylon humanoid models exist. The original five (known hereafter as The Five) were the originals. Keeping their identities secret from their progeny, they developed the other models. As the Cylons we are familiar with plotted the destruction of the Twelve Colonies, The Five had other plans - to locate and to reach Earth. By means yet unknown they achieved this goal.

All except for Baltar, who was left behind to act as an unwitting spy. The Five use a communications device that reaches directly into Baltar's mind, creating a hallucination of a Number Six to cajole him into doing their bidding. (His series was designed with a weakness for blondes.) The mirage of Baltar that appears to Caprica Six is evidence that The Five are keeping tabs on other Cylons - or that a fifth column among the Five is afoot.

The Five have no wish to exterminate the human species. They know they need humans to perfect the humanoid Cylon models. They also understand human nature well enough to know what the Cylons in charge of New Caprica didn't: that humans are highly resistant to coercion. They concluded that the best way to deal with humans is through covert manipulation.

On Earth they set up a puppet organization, the Hanso Foundation, through which the Cylons would conduct various experiments in psychological manipulation. Most of their agents know nothing of the Cylons, although some speculate that Alvar Hanso himself is a Cylon.

A base was set up on a small Pacific island, chosen due to a natural electromagnetic anomaly useful for primary island defense. A base code-named The Swan was built; it collects the electromagnetic energy which must be dissipated every 108 minutes in order to prevent an overload. If dissipation is postoned a few seconds after the critical point, the collected energy will tear apart any metallic Earth craft. The Cylons arrange for the Swan operators to do just that (via the medium used to manipulate Baltar) if any boats or planes get too close.

The so-called smoke monster serves as a secondary line of defense.

The Cylons eventually arranged for a copy of the Baltar series, oblivious to his true nature just like Baltar, to find his way to the island. This copy is known to the Earthlings as Desmond Hume.

Yes, Desmond Hume from Lost.

Don't believe me? Look at the photographic evidence - Baltar on the left, Desmond on the right:

 photo BaltarDesmond.jpg

(Note that Desmond's old girlfriend Penelope Widmore and his current fixation Claire Littleton are both blondes - that design feature is still in place.)

So what's so special about Desmond? Why have a Cylon on the island if all those unwitting human lackeys are good enough to do the job?

The Cylons were alarmed when a scientist named Dr. Chandra Suresh (a character from the TV series Heroes) released a book titled Activating Evolution. It described human abilities that many would call "superpowers" - abilities that were evolving their way into the human genome, and that would make the Earthlings much more to deal with. The Five launched a plan to study and eventually synthesize the genetic code that produce the paranormal traits, with the ultimate goal of "upgrading" the humanoid Cylons.

They spied on Suresh's research and conducted their own studies, until they were ready for their first experiment at synthesis. Desmond was given precognition ability, which so far operates quite erratically. Keeping him in the general population turned out to be a bad idea, so he was manipulated into finding his way to the island base, where the Cylons could keep close watch. They were also glad to find a replacement for the annoyingly curious Kelvin. That should teach the Cylons the perils of hiring CIA operatives.

But problems arose. A French scientific team landed on the island at one time. The Cylons launched a bio attack that got all but one member, Danielle Rousseau, who managed to elude the DHARMA team all these years. Oceanic Flight 815 was successfully "zapped," but the crash left survivors who have remained a thorn in the side of the operation ever since. The destruction of the Swan station was a huge blow; the Cylons lost their best covert means of keeping the island secret. And Desmond is now in league with the castaways.

(You should be able to figure out how Des survived the Swan explosion - he really died, but resurrected on the Resurrection Ship. The Cylons suppressed his memory of the event and brought him back to the island.)

The Cylons did reap one stroke of luck on the island. A sensor station known only to The Five picked up the "Suresh Gene" in one of the survivors, a boy named Walt. DHARMA kidnapped Walt and studied him for a while. Walt and his father were placed on the boat and given a heading where a Cylon heavy raider would await.

Meanwhile in the outside world, a serial killer known as Sylar is stalking humans with the Suresh Gene. The Cylons know who and what he is, but aren't sure if he's an asset or a liability. He's reducing the "mutant" population, but absorbing their abilities and becoming more powerful in the process. The Cylons will have to deal with him some day...

We still don't know if Mr. Bennett or Mr. Linderman are part of the Cylon network, or if they are simply two more pesky complications.

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Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Political Quiz

Your Political Profile:
Overall: 80% Conservative, 20% Liberal
Social Issues: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 100% Conservative, 0% Liberal
Ethics: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 75% Conservative, 25% Liberal

Commentary on some of the questions:

Immigration policies

  • Should be less strict. Immigrants enhance this country.
  • Should be more strict. Too many people enter illegally.

My answer to this question is more nuanced. I generally favor the first alternative, but special circumstances call for special temporary measures. The massive flight from Mexico to the US is not normal activity. As I've stated before, Mexico's lack of economic liberty is at the root of the problem on the southern border. As long as that nation makes Canada look like a libertarian paradise, we have to take stronger measures on that border.

Public education could be improved by

  • Having a voucher system
  • Revoking No Child Left Behind

The first choice is an improvement, but not improvement enough. Schools must be completely privatized. Educational food stamps are a stepping stone, not a solution.

Some people have less luck than others

  • False
  • True

The folks at It Comes in Pints (see comments) found the inclusion of this question odd. I offered this:

The luck question makes perfect sense to me. What is this question relevant to? Success, financial or otherwise. What's the opposite of luck? Conspiracy.

Underrepresentation of X demographic in Y profession? It's a plot to keep X down. Levee breaks in N'Awlins? It's a plot to kill Democratic voters. Three hurricanes hit Florida? It's a plot to protect oil company profits at the cost of safety from global warming - and perhaps also a plot using the HAARP array to send major storms in an attempt to rub out the Florida Supreme Court.

Actually there is another opposite to luck, which better explains the luck question's relevance to enviro policy: neglect. People who don't believe in luck believe we have the ability to end global warming or poverty or other phenomena that humans in reality can't eradicate.

The only social responsibility of a company should be to deliver a profit to its shareholders.

  • False
  • True

    It depends on how you define "social responsibility." Abstaining from the three basic crimes - theft, assault and murder - are social responsibilities. But people who use that term tend to want companies to be responsible for a lot more than just that. And they also tend to pervert the meaning of "assault," to include sales of SUVs and fatty foods in its definition.

    All authority, by its nature, should be questioned

    • False
    • True

    It's called "checks and balances."

    Military action that defies international law is sometimes justified.

    • True
    • False

    A lot of what passes for international law isn't justified.

    Update: There goes that theory. I retook the quiz and changed by answer to the "luck" question, and my scores shifted toward conservatism. I was thinking of luck in terms of chance events that we cannot control. The quizmaster is thinking of luck in terms of its role in individual success, which, barring a freak tornado or getting that bug job at the WTC at the wrong time, is minimal. Skill, not life's lottery, is the prime determinant of personal achievement.

    The updated scores are posted. Originally I scored 75% overall and 50/50 in the "Personal Responsibility" category.


    The Democrats Do Not Have Faith In The Troop Surge...

    ...but Muqtada al-Sadr does:

    Anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr fled Iraq for Iran ahead of a security crackdown in Baghdad and the arrival of 21,500 U.S. troops sent by President Bush to quell sectarian violence, a senior U.S. official said Tuesday.

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    Happy Valentine's Day

    And stay warm.


    Tuesday, February 13, 2007

    Dallas Freeways Are Evil

    That is all.


    Monday, February 12, 2007

    Belated Carnival Announcement

    The February 7 Carnival of the Vanities appeared at Silflay Hraka. Among the attractions was my brief history of black advancement in football.


    Weak Analogy Alert

    NewsMax reports:

    Sen. John McCain said Monday he fears an offensive by Iraqi insurgents similar to the Tet Offensive by the Viet Cong that sent U.S. casualties soaring in Vietnam nearly 40 years ago.

    This very article explains why this comparison doesn't work (emphasis added):

    Tet, a massive 1968 invasion of South Vietnam by Communist North Vietnamese, inflicted enormous losses on American and South Vietnamese troops and is regarded as the point when U.S. public sentiment turned sharply against the war.

    An Iraqi "Tet Offensive" would have to involve an invasion by a foreign nation such as Iran.

    Also, in Iraq there are two sets of "Viet Cong" that are at war with each other - the Sunni and Shiite militias.

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    Friday, February 09, 2007

    They're Tanned, They're Ready...

    The choice Republican ticket. Especially if you own stock in Eli Lilly, makers of Prozac.

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    Blogroll Tweakage

    David Trowbridge has retired Redwood Dragon and started up a new blog - The Discovered Country.


    It's A Bird, It's A Plane...

    It's Nancy Pelosi!

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    Red Menace

    FrontPage has an article about George Orwell's battles against Communism in the UK. Interestingly, the article begins on our side of the Atlantic, exploring the other Hollywood blacklist - the one imposed against the anticommunists. Read the whole thing.


    Just A Few Surprises Here

    Citizens in six Arab nations respond to a poll:

    Based on face-to-face interviews conducted for the Saban Center by the Zogby International polling firm last November and December, attitudes were surveyed in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco and United Arab Emirates.

    Respondents were asked to identify which world leader outside of their own country they disliked most.

    Bush was named by 38 percent, former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon by 11 percent, current Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert by 7 percent and British Prime Minister Tony Blair by 3 percent.

    This is the part that really interests me:

    The most admired leader was Hassan Nasrallah of Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Islamic militant group in Lebanon, with 14 percent.

    French President Jacques Chirac followed with 8 percent, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with 4 percent and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez with 3 percent.

    Unfortunately the news report doesn't break down the results by nation.

    What is more amazing about Nasrallah's numbers - that 14% of respondents in largely Sunni countries are fans of a Shiite cleric and stooge for Iran, or that 14% regard him as a "world leader?"

    And why is anyone in the Arab world even paying attention to Hugo Chavez?


    Wednesday, February 07, 2007

    Sometimes A Guitar Is Just A Guitar - But Not Always

    This was unintentional. This was not.

    Second link courtesy of The Worst Album Covers Of All Time, "Naughty and Bawdy" category.

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    Tuesday, February 06, 2007

    Super Bowl Trivia

    How many head coaches named after a castaway from Gilligan's Island appeared in the Super Bowl?

    It helps to know their full names - Jonas Grumby (the Skipper), Willy Gilligan, Professor Roy Hinkley, Thurston Howell III, Eunice "Lovey" Howell, Ginger Grant, Mary Ann Summers.

    Counting first and last names, the current tally is six. Here's the list (coach, year of first appearance, Super Bowl record):

    Update: Naturally I'm talking about head coaches - I edited the opening sentence to clarify that distinction.


    A Long Long Time Ago, In A Ball Club Far Far Away

    Black Super Bowl coaches will knock down another wall, so says the Boston Herald.

    There was no racial barrier to knock down. Not any more. The wall was knocked down in 1945, in a different team sport where blacks were traditionally absent - baseball - when Brooklyn Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson.

    The National Football League once had black players and even one black coach prior to that (Fritz Pollard, 1919 Akron Pros, 1925 Hammond Pros), but that changed, as Wikipedia's entry on the NFL states:

    "But shortly after the entry of George Preston Marshall to the league in 1932 as owner of the Boston Braves/Washington Redskins franchise, black players disappeared from NFL rosters.

    The tide turned in 1949, when George Taliaferro was the first black to be drafted by an NFL team (Chicago Bears), and Wallace Triplett was the first to actually play in the NFL (for the Detroit Lions).

    (See this site for a list of milestones in black participation in American football.)

    With blacks participating in professional football once again, and in increasing numbers, it was only a matter of time when they would gain sufficient knowledge of the game to qualify for coaching positions. In 1957, Lowell Perry began three seasons as an assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Art Shell would be the first black head coach of the modern era (1990-1994 Los Angeles Raiders).

    Coaching is one thing; getting to the Super Bowl is another. The greatest coach in the world can't get there without gifted players, and the greatest players can't work as an effective team without a competent coaching staff.

    Super Bowl XLI is a testimony to a cultural shift of the latter 1940s, and to the men who used opportunity and talent to reach the pinnacle of success.

    And it all happened without the benefit of a single government program.


    Polar Bear Fraud

    Why is a 2004 image of polar bears on an ice formation carved by waves (see lower right corner) appearing in 2007 articles on global warming? It gives the average reader the impression that melting - rather than wave activity - is responsible for the erosion of the ice mass.

    Ann Althouse and Riehl World View have more.

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    Monday, February 05, 2007

    Imagine No America

    What if America never existed? This site asks the burning question. In comments I offered an alternate 20th century history, complete with references to Lech Walesa, the Alaska Soviet Socialist Republic, and the Falklands.


    Arnold Schwarzenegger Is Wrong

    From NewsMax:

    "We had the Berlin Wall; we had walls everywhere. But we always looked at the wall as kind of like the outside of the wall is the enemy," he said. "Are we looking at Mexico as the enemy? No, it's not. These are our trading partners."

    Dude, the Soviet Union was a trading partner (to some degree), and it was our greatest enemy.

    Mexico is not an enemy in the ways that China and Iran are enemies. But it is the enemy of enforcing laws against illegal immigration. Not only does Mexico refuse to assist border enforcement, it actively assists illegals:

    Once again the government of Mexico has chosen to support illegal immigration into the United States. This time their National Human Rights Commission, a government-funded agency, said it will distribute at least 70,000 maps showing highways, rescue beacons and water tanks in the Arizona desert to curb the death toll among illegal border crossers. They also claim that this does not encourage illegal immigration into the United States; it just makes it safer for those who choose to act illegally.

    Mexico is also the enemy of its own people. According to the Index of Economic Freedom report, Mexico is 65.8% free. Under "Freedom from corruption" its score is 30%, noticeably below the world average (which itself is pretty dang corrupt). Its minuses are summarized thus:

    Freedom from corruption is weak and is the only factor worse than the world average. Foreign investment in many sectors is deterred by special licensing requirements, although the government is working to make commercial regulations more investment-friendly. A weak judicial system produces slow resolution of cases and is subject to fairly significant corruption.

    As I've said before, addressing the immigration issue must include pushing Mexico toward economic reform.

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    Friday, February 02, 2007

    The Envelope, Please VIII

    The Index of Economic Freedom 2007 is out.

    Its methodology has been revamped - see here for detailed explanation. The 1.00-5.00 scoring scale has been replaced by a much easier-to-understand percentage figure. Also, the ten factors that make up economic freedom have been modified slightly. This is the old list:

    1. Trade policy
    2. Fiscal burden
    3. Government intervention in economy
    4. Monetary policy
    5. Capital flows and foreign investment
    6. Banking and finance
    7. Wages and prices
    8. Property rights
    9. Regulation
    10. Black market

    This is the new:

    1. Business freedom
    2. Trade freedom
    3. Fiscal freedom
    4. Freedom from government
    5. Monetary freedom
    6. Investment freedom
    7. Financial freedom
    8. Property rights
    9. Freedom from corruption
    10. Labor freedom

    The first eight factors are the same, just named differently. "Regulation" gives way to "Freedom from government corruption," which makes sense since regulation is a subset of factor 3. The black market is also a reflection of government intervention, so it gives way to labor freedom.

    The ten freedoms are also weighted differently. Under the old system some categories carried more weight than others; now they are given equal weight. This radically affects Estonia's standing - once in the top 10, it now ranks 12th with a score of 78.1%. It is still the highest-ranked former Communist nation, and ranks fifth among European nations, surpassed by the UK (81.6%), Ireland (81.3%), Luxembourg (79.3%), and Switzerland (79.1%).

    The top ten:

    1. Hong Kong (89.3%)
    2. Singapore (85.7%)
    3. Australia (82.7%)
    4. United States (82.0%)
    5. New Zealand (81.6%)
    6. United Kingdom (81.6%)
    7. Ireland (81.3%)
    8. Luxembourg (79.3%)
    9. Switzerland (79.1%)
    10. Canada (78.7%)

    The bottom ten:

    1. North Korea (3.0%)
    2. Cuba (29.7%)
    3. Libya (34.5%)
    4. Zimbabwe (35.8%)
    5. Burma/Myanmar (40.1%)
    6. Turkmenistan (42.5%)
    7. Congo, Rep. of (43.0%)
    8. Iran (43.1%)
    9. Angola (43.5%)
    10. Guinea-Bissau (45.7%)

    Hyperlinks embedded in country names lead to individual reports on those countries.

    The Democratic Republic of Congo (the former Zaire), Iraq, Montenegro and Serbia are not rated.

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    Global Warming Update

    Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow - we're having an early spring this year.

    Update: But today it's bloody freezing.


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