Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Monday, March 30, 2009

We Need That Security Fence

A mysterious flash of light were spotted by many observers in Virginia skies Sunday night. Apparently someone got the memo on Human Achievement Hour.

Or perhaps this was more like Martian Achievement Hour. Reader Jay Manifold emailed the link, who asks, "Where's Orson Welles when we need him?"

Update: The music in from Jeff Wayne's Musical Version of The War of the Worlds.

Update: reports that the phenomenon was caused by Soyuz debris falling back to Earth.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Tonight At 8:30 PM (Local Time)

Is Human Achievement Hour. Let your carbon footprint shine!

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Lost - Sayid's Got A Gun

(Episode: He's Our You. Spoilers ahead.)

In flashbacks we catch glimpses of Sayid's past, including his assassin stint and his capture by Ilana. She says she's bringing him to Guam, to justice for the assassination in Seychelles - but they're boarding the Ajira Flight 315 that's going the other way. Sayid asks if she's working for Ben Linus; her nonanswer could mean "yes," which seems likely given Ben's nonchalant reaction to seeing Sayid on the plane.

There's also the outside chance she's working for Widmore...

In 1977, Sayid resists interrogation, and is brought to someone who administers a truth serum. He knows about the Swan, which hasn't been built or even named yet, and says he's from the future. His captors think they gave him too much of the drug.

At night a burning DHARMA van crashes into a home. The community fight the fire, serving as a distraction for Ben to rescue Sayid, on condition that Sayid takes Ben with him. On the way out they run across Jin, who soon gets a walkie-talkie alter about the escape from "La Fleur" (Sawyer). Sayid wrestles Jin, knocks him out, takes his gun, and shoots Ben, evidently thinking that he can change history.

But Faraday insists that history can't change. And he's probably right. And it's probably this moment that convinced Ben that Sayid has the heart of a killer.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Season Ticket On A One-Way Ride

British Member of European Parliament Daniel Hannan says harsh words about Prime Minister Gordon Brown's statist economic policies.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek slams Obama's statist economic policies, calling them a a "road to Hell."

Well now...

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Adventures In Dining

At Yahoo Health, Men's Health writers David Zinczenko and Matt Goulding list America's unhealthiest restaurants. The good news is that the Baskin-Robbins Heath Shake is down from 2,300 to 1,900 calories.

One of the restaurant descriptions links the magazine's list of worst hamburgers. The winner is the Chili's Smokehouse Bacon Triple-The-Cheese Big Mouth Burger with Jalapeno Ranch Dressing: "You know this burger's in trouble when it takes more than 20 syllables just to identify it."


Heroes - "Rebel" Revealed

(Episode: Cold Snap. Spoilers ahead.)

He's Micah - the computer hacking should have given it away.

Somebody left puppet master Eric Doyle in Danko's apartment, wrapped in a red bow and halfway sedated. I bet the donor was Sylar, and this is part of some master plan.

Micah helps Tracy escape from Club Fed, not knowing that she's made a deal with Bennett to lead the feds to "Rebel." When they're cornered by a swarm of agents in a parking garage, Tracy comes up with a plan for Micah to escape without being spotted (thus protecting his identity). He turns on the sprinkler system and heads for an exit while she freezes the waterworks - and herself. Danko and Bennet enter; the former shoots Tracy, and she shatters. A remnant of her head winks at Bennett. Evidently she can transform herself into ice and then morph back into her original form.

The feds are also after Baby Parkman and Angela. The latter stays one step ahead of the authorities until she's cornered in an elevator. Peter comes to her rescue at the last moment, flying her up the elevator shaft.

The baby is Matt's son, born after the divorce from his wife. Mom comes home and finds Hiro and Ando, who tell her of the government hunt for mutants. She knows of the baby's power - the ability to power stuff.

The cops show up, with a warrant to take in mother and child for questioning. The oddd request to question an infant convinces the ex-Mrs. Parkman that Hiro and Ando need to protect the baby. The cops search the house, and in a desperate confrontation Ando discovers he can use his power to project force beams. Hiro discovers that the baby can even power his own drained ability, to the extent that he can freeze time. This allows for escape; Hiro takes the baby and time-frozen Ando in wheelbarrow and flees to a bus stop.

Daphne is taken to the hospital. Matt telepathically convinces the doctor to treat her gunshot wound (which Danko's people never treated) without filing a police report. We see her recover, flee from the hospital (and from Matt, having reservations about a continued romantic relationship), and wind up in Paris where Matt quickly tracks her down. But all this is a Matt-generated illusion; at the end of the show she's in a spartan hospital room with Matt and Mohinder present as the EKG flatlines.

Is Daphne really dead this time? Will Tracy regenerate? Where will the bus take Hiro and company? Stay tuned.

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Monday, March 23, 2009

Headline Du Jour

One of the stories linked in James Taranto's piece (see update in post below): Men would rather date beautiful bimbos than ugly, clever women, finds survey.

Frankly, neither "bimbo" nor "ugly" attract me.

Bimbos are drop-dead gorgeous women who don't take life seriously; they live for the moment and regard men the same way they regard jewelery.

Few women really qualify as "ugly," even if one factors in the elderly. Most non-gorgeous women are simply plain-looking, and most of those can be pretty - the key is cheerfulness.

Update: The article uses Chantelle Houghton (pictured in article) and University Challenge star Gail Trimble (pictured in this bio) to illustrate its point. Trimble is not ugly, and Chantelle has a haughty look that nearly rivals Paris Hilton's. I can't stand haughtiness.


My Reaction To The AIG Bonuses Story

Said in comments here:

A government that doles out HUNDREDS OF BILLIONS OF DOLLARS IN PATRONAGE has no moral position to criticize AIG giving less than one-one-thousandth of that sum to employees to whom AIG is contractually obligated to reward for their services.

Update: The 90% tax Democrats in Congress want to pass actually raises the total tax burden to about 102 percent, when other taxes are factored in.


A False Dichotomy

Dodgeblogium links this Jared Seefer article that claims that the religious and free-marketer segments of the Republican Party are mutually incompatible.

Since the title of the article explicitly states the situation as a choice between John Galt and Jesus Christ, one must ask two questions. First, who is Jesus Christ? First and foremost, he is responsible for a philosophy neatly summarized by the Four Spiritual Laws tracts. This issue is completely apolitical.

But Jesus has other concerns, and they do touch on the political realm. Recall the Golden Rule, the call to proactively do good for others (Luke 6:31). This command did not come with qualifications - "do good for one set of people, treat this other set with indifference (or worse)." Everyone. Period. No favorites. John 3:16 means that God values all humans equally. A Christian political philosophy must therefore seek to maximize the well-being of the individual.

(Reciprocal punishment through due process to establish payment for a crime or tort. must not be interpreted as a violation of the Golden Rule. Such punishment constitutes payment of debt, not thievery.)

Second question: who - or what - is John Galt? Seefer answers the question in this mangling of the English language: "Capitalism upholds each individual’s right to exist for his own sake, independent from any group." That ideal he describes is John Galt. Capitalism is a subset of that ideal: the philosophy that the means of production and trade, and the decision-making authority over said means, rightfully belong to the private sector.

John Galt is the personification of Objectivism, Ayn Rand's concept of liberty. Seefer's article first appeared in an Objectivist publication (see end of article), so it's a strong hunch that he is writing from that perspective. He also identifies Galt with free-market, small-government Republicans, most of whom aren't Objectivists but many of whom have drawn inspiration from Galt.

So where is the conflict?

Seefer's most glaring error is to conflate the Christian charity ethic with the welfare state. As I stated in comments at Dodgeblogium:

WWJD? He instructed followers to charity - not to forcing people to give their stuff to the needy and to third-party bureaucrats who such [sic] up about three-fourths of the take in overhead. THE WELFARE STATE IS THEFT EVEN BY NON-LIBERTARIAN STANDARDS, AND A LOT OF CHRISTIANS KNOW THIS.

Of course, a lot of Christians do compromise this principle by measures great and small - and they have lots of company from the rest of society. But many Christians do recognize the corruption that is welfare statism, and Seefer is blind to this common ground between religionists and free-marketers.

The author is also critical of the "social agenda." None of the explicitly stated policies is exclusively religious in nature.

Abortion revolves around the question of when life begins. Completing claims say that point is after birth, or some point in gestation, or implantation of the fertilized ovum, or at conception. Biological life is a physical phenomenon and is thus scientific in nature; right-to-life organizations religious and secular cite numerous medical sources to support their claims that life begins well before birth.

Roe v. Wade is unconstitutional no matter which of those groups is right; there is no blanket right to privacy, and the Courts are not empowered to arbitrate science.

The gay marriage issue is really about whether or not the State has the authority to legislate the English language to make a word mean what it never has.

Regarding "greater policing of the airwaves for objectionable content" - I suspect that parenthood is a greater motivator than religion on this issue. It's hard to elaborate on this issue when Seefer doesn't go into specifics about these airwave-policing policies.

Seefer confuses the bearded-Spock universe with ours, as demonstrated by his snark about "the religionist's call to force children to pray in school."

If that doesn't tempt you to suspect that Seefer lives under a rock, maybe this will:

The religionists want to maintain and improve public schools but ensure religion has an influence on the curriculum (such as how evolution is taught), while the capitalists have tended to support things like school vouchers, which some see as a step towards privatizing education.

Religionists are HUGE proponents of privatizing education. They're simultaneously trying to ameliorate the real and perceived ills of the current system they're forced to live under while the ultimate goal of privatization has yet to be achieved.

Seefer's remark about vouchers hits on a principle that irks many libertarians. Weaning the State from theft is often a gradual process, a Nicorette patch rather than going cold turkey. School vouchers represent welfare statism, a rough parallel to food stamps. But it is a lesser statism than the alternative available to the majority of us who aren't rich enough for private schools or lack the time resources (or cannot afford to be single-breadwinner households) to undertake home schooling.

Seefer needs to get out and talk to some actual religious conservatives.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lost - Reunion Time

(Episode: Namaste. Spoilers ahead.)

Namaste is a greeting in Sanskrit.

Due to the timely arrival of a sub bringing in a smaller batch than usual of new recruits, Sawyer is able to doctor the manifest and pass off Jack, Kate and Hurley as DHARMA inductees.

Has anyone noticed that the Lostaways working for DHARMA (minus Jin) are the very ones that Ben ordered Michael to lead to the Others' camp in the Season Three finale? Ben may not have known how it happened, but he's known all along that these four Flight 815 survivors joined the DHARMA Initiative in the 1970s when he was a boy. And that a fifth - Sayid - was captured as a "Hostile" at the time thatr Sawyers' friends showed up in 1977.

We learn that Horace and Amy's baby is Ethan Rom. (Perhaps he took the surname "Rom" as an alias when he left the island to work for Mittelos.) He's maybe 7-10 years younger than Ben. When will Ethan defect from the Others - just prior to the Purge, or some time earlier?

Why didn't the time fracture capture Sun along with the others? I suspect it has something to do with the fact that her physiology has significantly altered since the last time the island saw her - she was pregnant at the time.

So it's Sun who takes off in the canoe (after Sun knocks out Ben. They find the DHARMA Class of '77 picture - and Christian Shepherd's doppleganger, who is about to lead the two on some journey...

The guy working at the Flame station is Radzinsky. He's working on a model of the Swan station. Earlier in the series we learned that he had served at thre Swan with Kelvin Inman, until he committed suicide. He is also the one who removed this segment from the Swan orientation film (immediately follows Candle's statement, "Now do not attempt to use the computer...for anything..."):

...for anything else other than the entering of the code. This is its only function.

The isolation that attends the duties associated with Station 3 may tempt you to try and utilize the computer for communication with the outside world. This is strictly forbidden. Attempting to use the computer in this manner will compromise the integrity of the project and worse, could lead to another incident. I repeat, do not use the computer for anything other than entering the code.

There's a two-part episode titled "The Incident" slated for May 13; it would appear that this is the incident Candle is talking about. Perhaps this event is the cause of the island's curse on pregnancies, which, as evidenced by Ethan's birth, hasn't happened yet.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

J. K. Rowling - Zionist Conspirator?

That's what an Iranian documentary claims.

One of the more glaring holes in the argument lies in this statement: "Propaganda for purity of blood and race, one of the principles of global Zionism,is openly portrayed and emphasized in the second Harry Potter film." Uh, Harry Potter associates the concept with the villains, not the protagonists.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

We Have Nothing To Fear But Government Greed Itself

Larry Summers says:

In remarks to a private dinner at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday, Summers was even blunter, according to an attendee: "Before, we had too much greed and too little fear. Now, we have too much fear and too little greed.

At the Volokh Conspiracy I left this response:

Given the greed of the Pirates of the Potomac, Ali 'Bama and his thieves, whatever you want to call them...I think we have just the right amount of fear.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

That's No Moon

I have a bad feeling about this.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Alec Baldwin For Congress, Part Trois

He's for tax cuts as well as that other stuff.

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Heroes - Family Tradition

(Episode: Shades of Gray. Spoilers ahead.)

Sylar finds his birth father. The elder Gray has the same intuitive ability that allows him to steal powers - and he's dying of cancer. During the visit he sees Sylar's regenerative ability, and attempts to steal it. Sylar gets the upper hand, and decides to let the cancer carry out his self-promise to kill his dad.

Nathan and a bunch of feds arrives on the scene where Parkman was dropped. As the telepathy-deadening anesthetic starts to wear off, Nathan gets Matt to search for the mind of a demolitions expert (one is certainly among the agents) and figure out how to disarm the bomb. At the home base, Danko orders the remote demolition - but Rebel hacks in. Danko eventually overrides Rebel, but Nathan pulls the black wire in time. No boom.

Danko suspects Nathan has an ability. Nathan manages to gain Tracy's confidence, so Danko gets no info from her. Nor from Angela - she denies his hints that Peter Petrelli inherited his power from her; she states that powers, just like other traits, can skip generations. She also mentions a mysterious past incident in Angola that Danko had "miraculously" survived.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes Nathan arranges to get Danko fired; his post will to Bennett. In a confrontation after that staff change, Danko shoots at Nathan, intentionally missing, and pushes him out a window to expose Nathan's flight ability. At the end of the show Danko goes home to his apartment, where Sylar awaits...

Claire refuses to help Doyle at first. She lands Alex's old job at the comic store, hoping to use it as a springboard for aiding the mutant resistance. While leaving she gets a text message from Rebel - Mulder and Scully are about to nab Doyle. Doyle manages to take care of the female agent, but Claire arrives to trip up the male agent, and Doyle escapes. At the end of the show Claire meets him in a park and supplies him with documents for taking on a new identity. She asks if he's sincere about wanting to go back to a normal life; he smiles and turns away.

At the end of the show, Rebel warns her that the free pass is up. Agents show up at her house, but she's fled - into the waiting arms of her birth dad.

Hiro and Ando arrive at an address, under Rebel's directions to save Matt Parkman. The Matt Parkman who lives there is not the guy we know but an infant, who a teenage baby sitter is glad to abandon to our heroes' care.

What happened in Angola? Does Danko have an ability? What will Sylar do to Danko? Where will Nathan take Claire? Will Doyle go on the straight and narrow? What's the deal with the baby? Where's Peter? Where's Molly? What that chardonnay or pinot blanc Angela was drinking? Stay tuned.

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Monday, March 09, 2009

All Your Moon Are Belong To Us

The Japanese are talking about sending a robot to Luna.

Let's hope the robots don't start building basestars...

Update: Maybe we should worry about the terrestrial robots.


A Small Mind

Obama's gift to British Prime Minister Gordon Brown isn't quite as bad as giving one's wife a blender on Valentine's Day. But it demonstrates weak imagination and diplomacy. When a head of state begins relations with another, gifts that serve as part of that initiative should be deeply meaningful. First contact is a big deal; the gifts should be big deals. Once the relations are well established they can swap lesser gifts.

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Financial Crisis Solutions

Live, from New York. If you have a plan, call the number now!

(link via Glenn)


EIA Dissects Unemployment Figures

Guess which sector is outperforming most others?

The economy lost more than 650,000 jobs in each of the last three months, with February's total job loss totaling 651,000.

As usual, the aggregate data disguise meaningful facts. Last month, the private sector actually lost 660,000 jobs, while government added 9,000 jobs...Of the 9,000 jobs added by government, the federal government added zero, state governments lost 3,000, and local governments added 12,000.

The Labor Department [see link in previous paragraph] helpfully disaggregates these numbers yet again, and your eyes really start to open.

State governments added 2,500 education positions in February, and local governments – where most education hiring takes place – added 13,400 positions. This means police, firefighters, sanitation workers, et al., suffered an aggregate net loss in jobs, while education employees enjoyed new job opportunities unmatched by any other sector of the economy, public or private, save for health care.

Just So You Know Who To Blame

This is the guy who pioneered Daylight Savings Time.


Friday, March 06, 2009

Lost - Sawyer And Friends Join DHARMA!

(Episode: LaFleur. Spoilers ahead.)

The episode picks up the Lostaways' events after Locke's fall down the well. They see briefly the ancient statue when it was still in one piece, before making one last time shift - to 1974.

Evidently the temporal anomaly was caused by the wheel in the teleport chamber and not by the breach in the wall created by Ben. Locke's departure saved them from the deadly physical effects of the anomaly. Thus the purpose of returning the other Lostaways is to rescue their friends from some something else.

From what? The Purge? I don't think so. The Purge happened in 1992; the events of the show take place in 1974 and 1977, and I don't think Sawyer and friends are going to be in DHARMA that long.

Sawyer's people stumble across two male Hostiles who have killed a DHARMA employee and are about to shoot a female member. Sawyer tries to break up the scene with the threat of armed force, and quickly winds up using it, killing the assailants. The surviving victim Amy leads them to the sonic fence; she apparently turns it off (at least the lethal component), but it's set to stun, incapacitating her hearing-protection-unequipped rescuers.

Horace Goodspeed
interrogates Sawyer. The seasoned conman adopts the alias James LaFleur, and successfully convinces Horace that he's captain of a wrecked salvage vessel looking for the Black Rock.

DHARMA plans to ship put Sawyer's gang - until LaFleur saves their bacon. The never-aging Richard Alpert shows up to the compound, and complains that the truce between their people has been violated. Sawyer offers to straighten things out, and talks to Richard alone. He tells what he knows about "Jughead" and his 1950s encounter with John Locke. Richard agrees to keep the peace, with an odd request: possession of the body of Amy's husband who had been killed in the encounter.

By 1977, Sawyer's group have joined DHARMA with "LaFleur" in charge of security and living with Juliet. Amy is married to Horace, pregnant, and going into labor two weeks early. Sawyer pulls Juliet "out of retirement" to handle the pregnancy complication (breech birth). It's a boy, and I'm wondering if he's gonna be named Miles...

This means that Sawyer's hunch was spot-on - whatever caused the fatalities of babies conceived and born on the island hasn't happened yet.

The night before Horace got drunk and tossing dynamite about the woods. He told "LaFleur" that he'd found Amy's dead husband's ankh necklace - she'd kept it for those three years, and he's jealous that she hadn't gotten over his death in that time. Sawyer says three years should be enough time to get over someone - but that's before his end-of-show reunion with Kate...

Now that Jin has retrieved Kate, Jack and Hurley, where's Sun? Will the Others find her - and Rose and Bernard's group?

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Thursday, March 05, 2009

I'll Have What Glenn Is Having

Breakfast time!


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Heroes - Who's Rebel?

(Episode: Exposed. Spoilers ahead.)

So, Rebel isn't Peter or Parkman - but appears to be someone working at Building 26. Which would mean that Rebel was able to track Ando and Hiro to India without his/her superiors' knowledge.

Sylar finds a defunct diner and remembers a traumatic event that took place. As a boy his Dad took him there, sold him to Mr. and Mrs. Gray, returned to the car where his mom waited, got into an argument with her, and killed her with a telekinetic slash to the head. Now Sylar wants revenge, and he wants his annoying traveling companion to go home.

Hero of the week is Sandra Bennett, who prepares a fake ID for Claire's fugitive friend Alex Woolsley and successfully outwits agents Scully and Mulder (or whatever their names are) to aid his escape.

And surprise of surprises - Eric Doyle is alive! Somehow he survived that showdown with Sylar from last season's finale. And he's got a message from Rebel telling him to seek Claire's help.

Rebel leads the two to Building 26, and once they get telepathically get past security to a certain room Rebel supplies footage of the abducted mutants being led to an airplane. Peter gets away, but Parkman is apprehended.

Peter calls Nathan and demands a swap - Matt and Daphne for the incriminating footage. Danko won't go for it - he'll pretend to act on Peter's terms while actually leading him into a trap. Before Danko's team leaves Nathan reminds Bennett that Peter has Matt's telepathy. At the meeting place, Bennett warns Peter in his thoughts. Peter is winged by Danko's sniper rifle; he falls off the high-rise building top, Bennett and Danko advance, and they see Peter fly away.

(Since he retrieved his power he can copy only one power at a time, and physical touch is required. Obviously someone with supersonic flight ability was waiting for him to fall, and we know only one senator with that ability...)

Danko decides to fulfill Parkman's artwork prophecy with the old Reichstag Fire trick. He drugs Matt with something impairing lucidity and/or motor skills, straps a pipe bomb vest to him, and dumps him near the Capitol.

The video makes the news. Nothing about mutants, but the press will want to know who's being herded off in that plane.

Will Matt be rescued in time? Will Claire find Alex again for more underwater kissing? Will Peter find out where Daphne is? Will the ACLU and Mark Levin hammer the government with FOIA requests? Will Mr. Muggles finish that sandwich? Stay tuned.

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Monday, March 02, 2009

Gerald Ford For President!

If he opposed a cheapo auto industry bailout in 1975, no way in Hades would be approve the Democrats' s multi-trillion-dollar wish list.

(Link via No Pasaran)


Sunday, March 01, 2009

Limbaugh Speech At CPAC

Watch it at NewsBusters; it's divided into ten separate videos. Or read the full transcript at Rush's site.

I will nitpick one item in the speech. He said that tax cuts got us out of the 1980s recession. It is more accurate to state that tax cuts - specifically, the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981 and the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 1982 (aka the Kemp-Roth tax cut) - accelerated recovery from the recession.

Recessions don't last forever in a mostly-free economy. Government can speed up or slow down recovery depending on whether it expands or contracts that existing freedom. Reagan chose policies that favored sooner over later.

It should be noted that the early 1980s recession was the unpleasant side effect of Paul Volcker's cure for the hyperinflation problem, following the prescription detailed in Milton Friedman's Free to Choose - see this post under the "Inflation" heading.

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