Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Friday, November 30, 2007

Shocking Facts

Read this list of select nations and their scores from the 2007 Index of Economic Freedom (Index scoring is stated as a percentage figure):

United States
















Saudi Arabia












Now watch this video, in which each of these nations is mentioned (along with Iraq and Afghanistan, which are not rated by the Index). Notice a pattern?

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

A Debate I'd Watch

So what if Democratic activists picked a bunch of questions in the Republican debates? It's CNN, for crying out loud!! It's not a true citizens-asking-the-candidates-questions forum if CNN is picking which questions to air.

It's time for equal time. Get the libertarian Cato Institute or the conservative Heritage Foundation to sponsor separate debates fro the Dems and Republicans. The sponsoring organization picks the questions, and whatever media outlets cover it have to just sit back and report the news instead of manufacture it.

The day of network-moderated debates should come to an end. Now.


Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Why I Don't Trust Teachers Unions

This week's EIA Communiqué cites two reasons:

Quote of the Week: Union Democracy Edition."Larry runs the union like a dictator. He doesn't want his members to know the truth about how dues are spent." – David E. Bradley, newly elected member of the executive board of the Fresno Teachers Association, discussing FTA President Larry Moore. FTA reports 855 ballots were cast by an electorate of about 4,000 members. (November 16 Fresno Bee)

"It's a very hurtful thing for me to be told I'm not a member in good standing after paying my union dues all those years." – Belinda Boyd, New York City school aide who nominated Anthony Ferina for local chairman. Ferina was disqualified because the parent union claimed Ms. Boyd was not a member, despite her membership card, union voting record and seven years of dues payments. Out of 14,000 eligible members, only 27 voted in the election. (November 22 New York Times)

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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Democratic Party Poster Contest

The Malkinator has the winners.

I disagree with the sentiment of the last poster, submitted by Patrick S. The Dems do have core beliefs, as the first place entry illustrates.

Can anyone guess the names of everyone in the "eyes" poster? I found Hillary (top), Sheehan (3rd), Pelosi (4th), Reid (glasses), Kerry (last set of eyes). The second set might be Gore - the eyebrows are hidden, so I can't tell. No Edwards or Obama - heh.


Heroes - The Gathering Storm

(Episode: Truth & Consequences. Spoilers ahead.)

Uh, how did Adam Monroe/Takezo Kensei know where to find his quarry, that mysterious woman in the photo of The Company's founders?

Her name is Victoria Pratt, and she developed Strain 138, a weaponized strain of the Shanti Virus. Hiro discovers through time travel to 1977 that Monroe tried to release the virus into the general population. This confirms Bob's claim that Monroe wants to punish the world with holocausts.

Monroe's vendetta against the world hasn't been sufficiently explained. Best guess is that he became greatly infused with Hiro's heroic idealism, and through whatever experiences has come to view humanity as mostly villainous, and has decided that the villains must be eradicated. He didn't have the ability to inflict a global cataclysm until the weaponized Shanti virus came into being. But what made him snap his twig? What we saw explains his bitterness toward Hiro, but what about the rest of the world?

Another question: how come Maya learned English and Alejandro didn't? Learning a foreign language is not a trivial matter. If she had learned English from common contact with English-speaking neighbors, he would have picked up the language, too - and considering that they are from the Dominican Republic their English-speaking neighbors woudl likely speak a Haitian Creole dialect. If the producers bother to address this curiosity at all, they can say that she learned English for the sake of employment in a profession that puts her in significant contact with English-speaking tourists.

Sylar contrasts Adam Monroe on two levels. Whereas the latter is good at lying, the former is a master of psychological manipulation. (One may read this as an extension of his intuitive aptitude, but the underpinnings of how physical mechanisms work are completely different for those behind human psychology.) Sylar is completely selfish, whereas Monroe (if what we're being led to believe about him is true) has the totalitarian's twisted sense of altruism; Sylar wants power, Monroe wants to save humanity from itself - think of the weaponized Shanti Virus as a parallel to Stalin's purges.

Sylar took a huge risk by manipulating Maya into releasing her power, so that she would learn to control it without her brother. It could be that Alejandro had no power at all, that his "ability" to turn off her power was psychosomatic. There's precedent for this - Isaac Mendez needed heroin to trigger his paint-the-future ability, and Peter needed his brother nearby to gain the confidence to use his.

Monica is now beginning her superheroine career, breaking into a gang's house to retrieve Micah's stolen backpack and its contents, his dad's medal and his comic book collection. Seeing her in black garb, Micah connects her with the 9th Wonders! character St. Joan. IIRC, she dropped that comic book when the gang caught her. Micah may use it to figure out where they are taking her, and he and Niki go to rescue her. The Company had given her an iPhone (or something similar) with a library of videos of acrobatic moves - I'm guessing they intend for her to be a future agent of theirs, and this is their way of training her.

Now that Mohinder knows more details about The Company's viral research and Strain 138, does he really trust those people as much as he lets on? And why did The Company save Bennett? Mohinder demanded it in return for his continued cooperation, no doubt. But what will they do with him? I'm hoping that Mohinder is not as naive as he acts, that he is still working against The Company, but not in a way Bennett intended - perhaps to bring about regime change rather than its destruction.

Wikipedia's article of next week's chapter finale currently posts this synopsis:

Peter and Nathan Petrelli are reunited, but a battle erupts between them. Matt Parkman and Hiro Nakamura are set up by Adam Monroe as Monica Dawson is captured by a street gang, and Micah Sanders turns to his mother Niki for help. Maya Herrera learns Sylar's true nature when he kidnaps Molly Walker and Mohinder Suresh. Elle plays the hero to get back into her father's good graces. The preview states two characters will die.

Actually the preview says they will "fall" - which probably means "die," but I wouldn't put it past Tim Kring for it to mean something else in one or both cases. And death isn't necessarily permanent on this show..."Hero" doesn't necessarily mean good-guy - Maury Parkman could be one of the two, and he's pretty much useless now. I'm betting Elle will be one of them.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

Blogging the Qur'an: Sura 9, "Repentance," verses 14-28

Robert Spencer has the latest installment here.

Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar cited verses 14 and 15 to justify his March 3, 2006 attack at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, in which he attempted to run down people with an SUV, injuring nine:

YUSUFALI: Fight them, and Allah will punish them by your hands, cover them with shame, help you (to victory) over them, heal the breasts of Believers,

And still the indignation of their hearts. For Allah will turn (in mercy) to whom He will; and Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.

PICKTHAL: Fight them! Allah will chastise them at your hands, and He will lay them low and give you victory over them, and He will heal the breasts of folk who are believers.

And He will remove the anger of their hearts. Allah relenteth toward whom He will. Allah is Knower, Wise.

SHAKIR: Fight them, Allah will punish them by your hands and bring them to disgrace, and assist you against them and heal the hearts of a believing people.

And remove the rage of their hearts; and Allah turns (mercifully) to whom He pleases, and Allah is Knowing, Wise.

But who are them - "pagans" in general, or the specific tribes against whom Mohammad warred?

There's more, including the Ayatollah Sistani's list of najis - persons or things that are ritually impure. Note that najasat, cited in item 10, is a derivative of naji. Note also that this is list is a Shi'ite teaching; this article doesn't state whether the Sunni list varies from this one. The classification of nonbelievers as unclean is derived from verse 28.

Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Mark Steyn Is Thankful

For this:

"The New World" is one of the oldest settled constitutional democracies on earth, to a degree "the Old World" can barely comprehend. Where it counts, Americans are traditionalists. We know Eastern Europe was a totalitarian prison until the Nineties, but we forget that Mediterranean Europe (Greece, Spain, Portugal) has democratic roots going all the way back until, oh, the mid-Seventies; France and Germany's constitutions date back barely half a century, Italy's only to the 1940s, and Belgium's goes back about 20 minutes, and currently it's not clear whether even that latest rewrite remains operative. The U.S. Constitution is not only older than France's, Germany's, Italy's or Spain's constitution, it's older than all of them put together.

Read the whole thing.

Update: Not mentioned is non-continental Europe - the United Kingdom, Ireland and Iceland. Britain grew into the mold of an established democracy gradually, so pinning an exact date of birth is tricky. After reading Wikipedia's history on Parliament, I would place that date at the early 20th century, when the House of Commons had wrested supremacy over Parliament from the House of Lords. The UK does not have a constitution.

Iceland didn't even gain full sovereignty - from Denmark - until 1918; its current constitution was drafted June 17, 1944. Ireland became independt from the UK in 1921; its constitution dates to 1937.


Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Year Of Thanksgiving

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Heroes - Mohinder's Got A Gun, Now Everybody's On The Run

(Episode: Cautionary Tales. Spoilers ahead.)

Yay - West and Bennett figure out that they're on the same side.

But who's the real bad guy in the struggle between The Company and Adam/Kensei? We still lack one vital piece of information - why The Company imprisoned him.

But we're getting closer to that answer. Matt now knows that Adam is 400 years old, and Hiro knows that Kensei is the man who killed his father. And both will now start looking for the guy...

The Series of Eight paintings have all come true, but Bennett is neither dead nor missing an eye. Obviously he was resuscitated with mutant blood - probably Claire's, outside chance with Adam's blood.

Just had a thought - did Adam rescue Sylar from death? He has the capability. If his blood was used for that purpose, it is possible that its regenerative properties restored Sylar's genes to their original state before he started assimilating powers. That doesn't explain why he couldn't make use of Candice's ability - unless the blood has created some sort of permanent side effect that is blocking Sylar's attempt at stealing powers.

Now we have a better idea why Matt's dad is "worse than Sylar" - he can put thoughts into other people's minds, and Matt has the same power. (Very useful for a cop.) The first big hint of that power was the attack on Angela Petrell. In my post on The Kindness of Strangers I said this:

I'm guessing that Parkman's dad has the ability to possess people, assuming he's the one who attacked Angela Petrelli last week. She said she attacked herself, which may be true - but who was making her claw at herself?

Three of the Group of Twelve (see this photo) still live: Angela, Bob, Maury Parkman, and the Kathleen Katherine Harris lookalike. Angela won't tell Matt who "Kathleen" "Katherine" is.

The scenes with Hiro and his dad were great. Hiro must come to accept what Kaito Nakamura does - that history must be kept inact even if it costs the life of a love one. Ironically, what changes Hiro's mind from saving hid dad is a conversation with his younger self.

Update: Typo on Ms. Harris' name corrected.

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Blogging the Qur'an: Sura 9, "Repentance," verses 6-14

Robert Spencer has the latest installment here. Today's topic: truces, and whether or not to break them.

Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.

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Saturday, November 17, 2007

War On Speech, Santas Down Under Edition

Sully links this post by Obsidian Wings:

"Santas in Australia's largest city have been told not to use Father Christmas's traditional "ho ho ho" greeting because it may be offensive to women, it was reported Thursday.

Sydney's Santa Clauses have instead been instructed to say "ha ha ha" instead, the Daily Telegraph reported.

If Santa were wearing a lime-green leisure suit, matching wide-brimmed hat, and five pounds of gold jewelery, they might have a point.

As if the silliness of this weren't self-evident...imagine if some outfit had, out of "sensitivity" concerns, petitioned publishers to refrain from hyphenating certain words between the second and third syllables for purposes of line justification. Like this:

Jason missed the bus, but arrived at school
in time for Professor Montgomery's demon-
stration of the Laws of Thermodynamics.

So far, nobody who finds demons offensive (Christians and Muslims being two notable examples) has yet to complain about this printing practice. It's obvious to sane people that "demon-strate" connotes nothing about evil spirits - just as "ho ho ho" is just a laugh and not a recitation of a bachelor party guest list.


Charen vs. Sully

Mona Charen lays out a few of Ron Paul's shortcomings. Listed in order of appearance, they are: inconsistent support of the rule of law, some splotches of historical amnesia, Quixotic dreams of slashing entire government agencies with the greatest of ease, willfully associating with white nationalists and whackball conspirazoids.

Andrew Sullivan links one sentence, and his response is baffling:

No, Ron Paul is not my candidate. Not for president. He might make a dandy new leader for the Branch Davidians.

The anti-Semitic slur is repeated.

What anti-Semitic slur is he talking about? Apparently, this:

Moreover, Paul seems to be playing a sly game with his conspiracy-minded fans. He does not explicitly endorse the crazier theories out there, but he hints at dark forces in the U.S. government threatening our liberties, he inveighs against the "neo-cons" (shorthand for Jews in some circles) and he gives aid and comfort to the paranoid by appearing on their favorite radio shows.

I disagree with Sullivan's view that the column overall is "weak" - Charen raises vital issues about the candidate - but on this one topic he has a point. It is false to assume that there is anything inherently anti-Semitic in the use of the term "neo-con." David Horowitz - himself a neoconservative (according to dKosopedia) and Jewish - explains:

"Neo-conservatism" is a term almost exclusively used by the enemies of America's liberation of Iraq. There is no "neo-conservative" movement in the United States. When there was one, it was made up of former Democrats who embraced the welfare state but supported Ronald Reagan's Cold War policies against the Soviet bloc. Today "neo-conservatism" identifies those who believe in an aggressive policy against radical Islam and the global terrorists. It is a group identical to conservatives generally. Its opponents -- including most Democrats and all parties to the left -- would appropriately called "appeasers."

Dick Cheney is a neo-con, after all, and he's as Jewish as a ham sandwich.

Charen's column doesn't offer evidence that Paul is an anti-Semite himself, but he does associate with and take money from those sorts. Not a good campaign move.


Thursday, November 15, 2007

Jews For Ron Paul, Revisited

The other day I blogged on the organization. Decided to do a little snooping. The FAQ reveals that it opposes all foreign aid, including that to Israel, and opposes the Iraq War as unconstitutional.

It does agree with Ron Paul's support for Israel's right to exist and to defend itself, and with his support for "the U.S. military intervention into Afghanistan to find bin Laden and take him out." No word on how they feel about our current presence in that nation; that quote gives the impression that they don't support any action in Afghanistan other than the hunt for bin Laden.

This page lists its board of advisors.

Update: Sultan Knish has background info on Executive Director Jim C. Perry. Among his fellow Jews he is, shall we say, a statistical outlier.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I Just Have One Question For Hillary Clinton

Why would anyone find it necessary to plant a question about global warming at one of your events? I thought that it was an absolute dead certainty that someone would bring up that subject at a Democratic event.


Jena 6 Legal Fund Abuse Charges

Michelle Malkin has the story.


Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ron Paul's Big Tent

Jews For Ron Paul 2008

(Link via Volokh conspirator David Bernstein)

Shh, don't tell Stormfront.


Heroes - Another Pointless Death

(Episode: Four Months Ago. Spoilers ahead.)

The storyline leading up to D. L. Hawkins's demise is deflating. He survives a bullet he took from Mr. Linderman, but he gets killed in a stupid barroom brawl. Pointless. Idiotic. Someone sic Mr. Muggles on Tim Kring.

So, Maya discovered her power at her brother's wedding, when she catches the bride making out with her not-so-former flame. Ouch.

Technically, Peter did not explode himself - he emitted an explosion burst around himself. He rescues Nathan and brings him to the hospital, and manages to get nabbed by Bob and Elle.

Angela Petrelli is the most Machiavellian of the cast. She lies to Nathan's own wife to cover up the very existence of "mutant" humans.

Elle is more evil and more insane than Sylar.

The best part of the episode is the Peter/Adam subplot. Peter's surfacing in Ireland has a credible explanation, but we still don't know Adam's agenda.

Now we know something more about the Haitian's power. That Peter's regenerative ability (inherited from Claire) can restore his own memories tells us that the memory wipe doesn't erase the memory, it just severs the link to it, which Peter can regenerate. From last week's episode we know that Angela is aware of this feature - is she aware of someone else with that power - namely, Adam - regenerating a lost memory?

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Blogging the Qur'an: Sura 9, "Repentance," verses 1-5

Robert Spencer has the installment here. The chief topic is Verse 5; refer to the three popular translations (emphasis added):

YUSUFALI: But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, an seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

PICKTHAL: Then, when the sacred months have passed, slay the idolaters wherever ye find them, and take them (captive), and besiege them, and prepare for them each ambush. But if they repent and establish worship and pay the poor-due, then leave their way free. Lo! Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

SHAKIR: So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.

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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Why Does Stormfront Support Ron Paul?

That question arises in comments to this post at the Agora. I offered up this explanation:

Ron Paul does have white-sheet supporters. But then, everybody has nutbags within their support constituencies.

Why does he resonate with these sorts? I went to Stormfront's site (find the link yourself), and read the first post in the Ron Paul comment thread, linked plain as day at the bottom of the home page. The author, Charles Coughlin (not to be confused with, but most apparently inspired by, this guy[)] lifted certain quotes from the candidate's issues page:


Debt and Taxes

Working Americans like lower taxes. So do I. Lower taxes benefit all of us, creating jobs and allowing us to make more decisions for ourselves about our lives. (more)

American Independence and Sovereignty

So called free trade deals and world governmental organizations like the International Criminal Court (ICC), NAFTA, GATT, WTO, and CAFTA are a threat to our independence as a nation. (more)

War and Foreign Policy

The war in Iraq was sold to us with false information. The area is more dangerous now than when we entered it. We destroyed a regime hated by our direct enemies, the jihadists, and created thousands of new recruits for them. (more)

Border Security and Immigration Reform

The talk must stop. We must secure our borders now. A nation without secure borders is no nation at all. It makes no sense to fight terrorists abroad when our own front door is left unlocked. This is my six point plan: (more)

Privacy and Personal Liberty

The biggest threat to your privacy is the government. We must drastically limit the ability of government to collect and store data regarding citizens personal matters. (more)

Property Rights and Eminent Domain

We must stop special interests from violating property rights and literally driving families from their homes, farms and ranches. (more)


The common theme in these issues is a "leave us alone" attitude. Don't take our stuff, don't let the world meddle in our trade decisions, don't let foreigners criminally tresspass into the country, don't get us involved in wars irrelevant and/or harmful to national security. All of those sentiments are sane. Including the last one; I disagree with Paul's claim that Iraq is such an unnecessary and bad war.

Stormfront and its fellow travelers insert two additional attitudes that are not so healthy. First is xenophobia; white racialists seek a sort of cultural protectionism to insulate themselves from nonwhite groups. Second is whackball conspiracy theories that misplace the blame on real and perceived threats, and that misidentify the true intentions of various groups.

Good ideas can be used to serve bad causes, and the white-sheets find much that is useful in Ron Paul's political platform.

(Note: noise strings like "…" that are present in the original are edited out.)


Saturday, November 10, 2007

Nobel Peace Prize Nomination

No Pasaran recommends Kumaar Thakkar, inventor of a portable cell phone jammer.


That Seems About Right

cash advance

Update: Via Volokh Conspiracy. I tested some other sites, and listed the results in this comment.

Update: I ran another test, on different sites with the full text of the same Supreme Court case - see this VC comment.


Friday, November 09, 2007

Climate Hoax Backfires

At, Dr. Roy W. Spencer (see his Wikipedia bio) exposes an odd climate hoax.

Yesterday (11/7/07), a "research study" was circulating on the internet which claimed to have found the "real" reason for global warming. Even though the hoax was quite elaborate, and the paper looked genuine, a little digging revealed that the authors, research center, and even the scientific journal the study was published in, did not exist. I sent an e-mail to Rush about the issue regarding the hoax, with a copy of the "research study". Unfortunately, my very brief note to Rush was not very clear, and he thought that I was calling global warming a hoax, rather than the study. Even though Rush has told me not to worry about it, and that "the buck stops here" with him, I just wanted to apologize to everyone for this misunderstanding, as I feel that better wording on my part would have prevented this from happening.

Ironically, the hoax was published by a true believer in anthropogenic global warming, in an attempt to discredit AGW skeptics:

An anonymous Brit has now admitted in a brief interview that he wrote the fake global warming research paper which is claimed to have fooled some of us "global warming skeptics". His stated purpose was to "expose the credulity and scientific illiteracy of many of the people who call themselves climate sceptics".

I would argue that he has done just the opposite.

Several of us (scientists and non-scientists alike) were able, within a matter of seconds to minutes, to identify the paper as a fake. We then spread the word, warning others of the hoax. Therefore, we showed that we do not, as the hoaxer claims, "believe almost anything if it lends support to their position". We did exactly the opposite.

I was listening to Rush that day. He introduced the bogus study and debunked it during the same broadcast.

Dodgeblogium has the bogus study's abstract.

Dr. Spencer demonstrates one of the first rules of both journalism and peer review: check the validity sources. In this case the named authors didn't even exist.


Six Televangelist Ministries Under Finance Investigation

Michael F. Haverluck of CBN has a worthwhile article, with links to Charles Grassley's official correspondence.

KCCI/Des Moines summarizes the central legal issue:

The IRS requires that pastors' compensation be "reasonable," depending on matters such as comparable salaries, church size and a pastor's value to the congregation.

IRS rules prevent pastors and other insiders from excessive personal gain through their tax-exempt work.

From an emotional stance, I really don't want either side to win. I am fond of neither excessive lavishness with church funds, nor the very notion of the IRS regulating salaries, even those of nonprofit employees. But what is important is the law - that the IRS interprets it objectively, and that the ministries follow it.

Kenneth Copeland has a rather unique situation compared to the others, as Haverluck states:

Kenneth and Gloria Copeland's Kenneth Copeland Ministries of Newark, Texas must explain church assets transferred to a for-profit company, Gloria Copelands's $1 million loan to that company, and Kenneth Copeland's $2 million gift marking the 40th anniversary of his ministry.

I'll need more details before I can offer an opinion on this.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

2008 Presidential Candidate Selector

Link via Volokh Conspiracy.

Warning: Question 19 asks for your view on environmental policy, in terms of whether or not you agree with "positions of environmental groups like the League of Conservation Voters." Who? Its issues page reveals that it takes the typical leftist positions on global warming and energy policy. The quizmasters should have cited a more widely known outfit such as Greenpeace.

Heh, there's a question about slavery reparations.

The quiz, my choice is...Steven Colbert - whose last name I finally learned to pronounce :-) Of those actually running, the winner is Duncan Hunter. Romney is the highest-ranking frontrunner.

Here's the rankings:

  • Stephen Colbert (campaign ended) (74%)
  • Duncan Hunter (72%)
  • Tom Tancredo (71%)
  • Newt Gingrich (says he will not run) (63%)
  • Alan Keyes (63%)
  • Ron Paul (63%)
  • Mitt Romney (62%)
  • Chuck Hagel (not running) (62%)
  • Fred Thompson (61%)
  • John McCain (61%)
  • Sam Brownback (withdrawn, endorsed McCain) (61%)
  • Jim Gilmore (withdrawn) (58%) -- Virginia Governor (R)
  • Tommy Thompson (withdrawn, endorsed Giuliani) (48%)
  • Rudolph Giuliani (47%)
  • Kent McManigal (campaign suspended) (45%) -- obscure independent
  • Mike Huckabee (43%)
  • Christopher Dodd (30%)
  • Bill Richardson (30%)
  • Al Gore (not announced) (28%)
  • Michael Bloomberg (says he will not run) (27%)
  • John Edwards (26%)
  • Hillary Clinton (24%)
  • Barack Obama (23%)
  • Joseph Biden (23%)
  • Mike Gravel (20%) -- former Alaska senator (D)
  • Wesley Clark (not running, endorsed Clinton) (19%)
  • Dennis Kucinich (13%)
  • Alan Augustson (campaign suspended) (9%) -- Congressman (D-Illinois)
  • Elaine Brown (7%) -- Green Party candidate, former chairindividual of the Black Panther Party

Not one candidate gets so much as a B grade in my book, only three make a C, and only two of those are actually running. I knew I would be dreading the 2008 race.

The top Dems are Chris Dodd and Bill Richardson, tied at 30%.


Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Will Script-Write For Food

As the strike continues, maybe Hollywood could hire some non-unionized bloggers.

I bet we could crank out a saner script for Lost...


Heroes - Viruses, Samurai And Time Travel, Oh My!

(Episode: Out of Time. Spoilers ahead.)

Paintings 3 through 6 of the Series of Eight come to pass: a vial of the Shanti virus, Niki beats down Bob's office door, Peter sees the immense morgue of the future, Hiro and Kensei fight in the burning munitions tent.

Should have figured that Kensei would survive the explosion. But why is he alive in 2007, under the alias Adam Monroe? I can think of three possibilities:

  • His regenerative power bestows either immortality or immense longevity; in this case it must also prevent him from aging.
  • He has teamed up with another time-traveller.
  • He has somehow gained time-travel ability himself.

He has had contact with Peter Petrelli. Is it possible that Kensei/Monroe actually originated from the current timeframe, and that Peter was somehow responsible for his presence in seventeenth-century Japan?

Bob tells Nathan about Monroe. He was one of the founders of The Company. (And he is younger in appearance than any of the Twelve who have had screen time.) He is a megalomaniac who wanted to harness "mutant" powers to make the world a better place by inflicting not-so-divine wrath on its corrupt elements; we see signs of that megalomania in his interactions with Hiro. Linderman was a true believer. The Company imprisoned Monroe, but Monroe escaped two weeks ago, and has been hunting down the other founders.

Peter is back from the future, but he left his Irish girlfriend Caitlin there. Will he be able to retrieve her?

This episode introduces a new wrinkle: a child inheriting the same ability as that of one of its parents. Matt Parkman is the only known example of this.

When Future Peter regained his memory of his mother, did we just witness Angela Petrelli's ability?

Mohinder was right to be dubious of Bennett's sanity, but too quick to trust Bob with what he knows. He'd make a lousy spy.

Niki has the mutant strain of the Shanti Virus. She will most likely be kept in quarantine, and some event in March will cause the virus to escape into the general population. I'm predicting that Sylar tracking down Mohinder (or The Company itself) will play a key role.

Next week's episode "Four Months Ago" will show events that happened between Seasons One and Two. Some vague spoilers here. We'll see how Maya and Alejandro became outlaws, how D. L. Hawkins died (his gunshot wound last season didn't seem lethal), and how The Company bagged Peter after the explosion. Hopefully we'll also learn more about Adam Monroe, and about Sylar's rescue - maybe Adam had something to do with it...

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Monday, November 05, 2007

With Friends Like These, Who Needs Enemies?

Walter Mondale back Hillary Clinton.

Hutton Gibson backs Ron Paul.


We're Winning In Iraq

Lt. Col. Gordon Cucullu explains.


Birthday And Blogiversary

I turn 47, and the Henderson Prize turns five.


Blogging the Qur'an: Sura 8, "Booty," verses 31-75

Robert Spencer has the installment here.

Since we left off, Mohammed has defeated the Quraysh tribe in the Battle of badr. In verses 38-40 Allah hands out some directives to the prophet (three translations cited here):

YUSUFALI: Say to the Unbelievers, if (now) they desist (from Unbelief), their past would be forgiven them; but if they persist, the punishment of those before them is already (a matter of warning for them).

And fight them on until there is no more tumult or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere; but if they cease, verily Allah doth see all that they do.

If they refuse, be sure that Allah is your Protector - the best to protect and the best to help.

PICKTHAL: Tell those who disbelieve that if they cease (from persecution of believers) that which is past will be forgiven them; but if they return (thereto) then the example of the men of old hath already gone (before them, for a warning).

And fight them until persecution is no more, and religion is all for Allah. But if they cease, then lo! Allah is Seer of what they do.

And if they turn away, then know that Allah is your Befriender - a Transcendent Patron, a Transcendent Helper!

SHAKIR: Say to those who disbelieve, if they desist, that which is past shall be forgiven to them; and if they return, then what happened to the ancients has already passed.

And fight with them until there is no more persecution and religion should be only for Allah; but if they desist, then surely Allah sees what they do.

And if they turn back, then know that Allah is your Patron; most excellent is the Patron and most excellent the Helper.

Now, do these references to "unbelievers" refer specifically to the Qurayshi, or to unbelievers in general? Spencer mentions several scholars who claim the latter:

According to Ibn Abbas, Abu Al-`Aliyah, Mujahid, Al-Hasan, Qatadah, Ar-Rabi` bin Anas, As-Suddi, Muqatil bin Hayyan and Zayd bin Aslam, the statement that Muslims must fight until there is no more fitnah means that they must fight "so that there is no more Shirk." Shirk is the association of partners with Allah – i.e., calling Jesus the Son of God. [Refer to this article for a more detailed description of shirk - AKH] So this verse, although it was revealed in the aftermath of a seventh-century battle between Muslims and pagans, has a universal application: the Tafsir al-Jalalayn glosses it this way: "And fight them until sedition, idolatry, is, exists, no more and religion is all for God, alone, none other being worshipped…" Muhammad himself said: "I have been commanded to fight against people so long as they do not declare that there is no god but Allah, and he who professed it was guaranteed the protection of his property and life on my behalf except for the right affairs rest with Allah."

This section continues to describe the battle itself, and to lay out a few more divine directives.

Click the "Koran" label to see all my posts on this series.

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Friday, November 02, 2007

We Don't Need No Education...

Another brick Palestinian mortar round in the wall...

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I Knew This Was Coming Sooner Or Later

The latest in plastic surgery: Vulcan-ized ears.

Wait'll this fad catches on with anime fans. Some anime characters have really big pointed ears - see examples here (top left) and here (right).

Can Klingon skull ridges be far behind? How about full-body hair transplants for fans of Wookiees and Kzinti?


Thursday, November 01, 2007

Getting People To Like You Is Not A Virtue

Last Tuesday's snarky post requires some further attention.

Does the sentiment expressed in the title of this post sound controversial? Mean? Arrogant? It really shouldn't, when you consider this basic fact of life: there are many people in this world who do not know right from wrong, who love certain things that are bad and hate certain things that are good. Ron Silver's advice on how to get the world to like us illustrates some of the more outrageous examples.

That's not to say that not knowing right from wrong necessarily stems from ill will. Many of the evils in the world are rooted in a failure to understand human nature. In policy disputes regarding foreign relations, economics, criminal justice and so on, opposing camps disagree on how certain policies will affect human behavior in the long term - and in all cases at least one of those camps is wrong.

How Europe or Arabs or Rotarians feel about us is not a measure of whether we're doing the right thing.

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