Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Thursday, April 29, 2010

Reason #17,684 Why The United Nations Is a Colossal Waste Of Time

FOX headline: U.N. Elects Iran to Commission on Women's Rights

Time to dig up the meme hack of the 2112 album cover [update: the back cover of the original album release - AKH] I cranked out for the fourth anniversary of the Iranian student protest movement.

Remember July 8, 1999! And the more recent protests!

How do you say "tea party" in Farsi?

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Tragical History Tour

Veronique de Rugy dispels some myths about the economic crisis. Finance industry regulation was on the rise, not the decline, and one bit of actual deregulation that actually did take place is irrelevant to the situation:

While Gramm-Leach-Bliley did facilitate a number of mergers and the general consolidation of the financial-services industry, it did not eliminate restrictions on traditional depository banks’ securities activities. In any case, it was investment banks, such as Lehman Brothers, that were at the center of the crisis, and they would have been able to make the same bad investments if Gramm-Leach-Bliley had never been passed.

The real culprits? An explosion of high-risk lending. ("Stricter regulation of credit-default swaps wasn’t going to make those subprime mortgages any less likely to go bad.") The Fed’s "cheap-money policy."And this:

Allowing financial institutions such as Freddie Mac, Fannie Mae, and investment banks to maintain significantly smaller capital reserves than commercial banks, while implicitly guaranteeing their obligations

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Tuesday, April 27, 2010


The Simpsons reacts to the South Park Mohammed kerfuffle.

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We Work Together, Common Sons / Never Need To Wonder How Are Why

EIA's quote of the week:

"We don't lobby as a special interest; we lobby in the common interest." - Carl Korn, spokesman for the New York State United Teachers. (April 26 New York Post)

Title reference courtesy of Rush (the band, not the radio guy).

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Monday, April 26, 2010

Adventures In Spam

I just got an email (purportedly) linking to a Christmas sale shop. In April.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Obama Contradicts Obama

Hat tip to Steve Green's This Week in Blogs for this video.

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Quote Of The Day

"Why oh why is there not one single alpha male in GOP Congressional delegation-aside from Olympia Snowe?" - the latest Kruiser Control video at PJTV (advance to 9:20)

Also featured in the video: the Voldemort-like curse of speaking Keith Olbertmann's name on MSNBC, Joe Biden's amazement at modern audio technology, and Chris Matthews' unpreparedness for the inevitable invasion from Canada.

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Friday, April 23, 2010

More Texas vs. California

Glenn Reynolds has a few choice words from Mickey Kaus.

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Why We Have The Second Amendment

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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lost - When Losties Collide

(Episode: The Last Recruit. Spoilers ahead.)

I'm not in the mood for a lengthy synopsis tonight - check out the Wikipedia link or Lostpedia for the rundown.

In one scene Hurley suggests that Sayid and Claire could be turned from the "Dark Side," their sell-out to Fake Locke. Looks like he's right; Kate is gaining Claire's trust, and Desmond may have given Sayid some cause for second thoughts.

MIB wants off the island. Widmore wants to stop him, and take control of the island for himself for some purpose. Sawyer wants to leave those two to duke it out and flee the island. Jack has decided to stay, and to seek some way to keep MIB from leaving. Richard and Ben have the same intention - but what are they up to? And Desmond? If he's still alive (I'm confident of that), what's his next move?

In the flash-sideways storyline, will all the Losties show up at the hospital? Looks like that's Desmond's goal.

Only five more episodes to go.

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Happy Earth Day

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Super-Outrageous Quote Du Jour

From EIA:

"It is the greatest middle-class, job-creating mechanism that we have ever had in America that doesn't cost tax payers a dime." - Andrew Stern, retiring president of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), referring the organized labor movement. (April 14 Washington Post)


Follow The Money

They gave over twice as much to Obama than to McCain during the campaign. So what did they get in return?

As reported in this Cliff Kincaid article at Accuracy in media, Wizards of Wall Street author Zubi Diamond says the so-called finance reform bill is letting hedge fund abuses off the hook.

Funny, I seem to recall Candidate Obama taking potshots at hedge fund managers. I guess that gets filed with Hollywood moguls bashing the rich.

I bet the "reform" package doesn't address easy-access mortgages, either.

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Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Three Horsemen Of The Calipocalypse

City Journal tells the tale of teachers’ unions, public-safety unions, and the SEIU in the tarnished Golden State.


Goldman Sachs In The Bag For The Democrats

Matt Drudge is currently linking this list of Barack Obama's top campaign donors - at number 2 behind the University of California (figures) is Goldman Sachs, at $994,795. That's a lot of arugula.

But look at this page, which shows the firm's recent campaign donation history - much more money for Dems than Republicans, especially during presidential elections (of course).


Saturday, April 17, 2010

The World We Live In

Mark Steyn notices something that a lot of people miss:

The mound of corpses being piled up around the world today is not from high-tech nuclear states but from low-tech psycho states.

We could use him in the State Department. Can he hold his liquor, though?

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Can Hillary Drink The Russian Foreign Minister Under The Table?

The State Department is spending an awful lot of money on booze.

I like James Taranto's take:

What better way to deal with allies and adversaries alike than to get them drunk and then have our way with them? But will the world respect America's moral authority in the morning?


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lost - Libby's Back!

(Episode: Everybody Loves Hugo. Spoilers ahead.)

In the flash-sideways, Hurley won the lottery (with the same numbers?), bought Mr. Clucks, made it an international franchise, became a philanthropist - and to his mother's chagrin, he never married.

Mom sets up a blind date that never shows. Instead Hurley is approached by Libby; she has faint memories of the two on the island. Her chaperon Dr. Brooks breaks up the meeting - she and several patients from the Santa Rosa sanitarium are at the restaurant on a day trip.

Hurley drowns his sorrows in a bucket of chicken. Desmond finds him. Hurley tells him about Libby; Des says go after her. Hurley does just that; he visits Santa Rosa, bribes Dr. brooks with a generous donation for the rec room to arrange a visit with Libby. They chat, Hurley sets up a date, a beach picnic.

On the beach, she kisses him, and he has memory flashes on the island. And Desmond watches from a distance - you can just see the "Mission Accomplished" banner lighting up in his mind.

Des has another mission. He parks in front of the school where Ben works. Ben questions him, Des gives a story about moving into the area and checking out schools for his son Charlie. Ben walks away, Des sees wheelchair-bound Locke crossing the street - and he runs Locke down.

Back on the island, Hurley is met by the ghost of Michael, the man who shot Libby. Michael tells him that blowing the plane will get a lot of people killed. Hurley tries to stop Ilana (who has retrieved dynamite from the Black Rock) and Richard, who are adamant in their plans.

In a later meeting Michael tells Hurley the island whispers are all ghosts like himself, people who died on the island and are trapped there.

Ilana accidentally blows herself up, in an accident similar to Leslie Arzt's in Season One. Richard doesn't take that as a sign of being on the wrong path. They head to the ship for more dynamite. Richard will handle it himself, because he knows Jacob's gift of immortality will protect him.

But Hurley gets to the Black Rock first - and he blows up the ship. He confronts Richard, bluffing that he's in direct communication with Jacob at that moment, and that Jacob wants the group to meet with Fake Locke. Richard calls his hand, asking Hurley to ask Jacob what the island is. Hurley says he doesn't have to prove anything.

Ben and Miles continue to follow Richard;Jack, Lapidus and Sun join Hurley. Hurley confesses his bluff, Jack says he knew Hurley was lying, but trusts him somehow.

Meanwhile, Sayid returns to MIB's camp, and leads him away in private to meet Desmond. MIB instructs Sayid to return to camp, and takes Desmond to an ancient well. The well sits on top of one of the island's unique magnetic pockets. Some ancient saw the effect on his compass, and dug to find the source of the power. Others throughout history have made the same discovery - and Charles Widmore is the latest.

MIB senses that Desmond exhibits no fear, and asks why. Desmond says he sees no point in it. MIB pushes him down the well. Back at the camp, he tells Sayid they don't have to worry about Desmond anymore. And then Hurley and company arrive!

I am confident that Desmond is not dead. He is in tune with the island, in much the way the real Locke was. The island will heal Des' injuries as it healed Locke's.

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Pay Your Taxes On Time

You wouldn't like the audits.


Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Justice Kennedy's Legacy

Thomas Sowell says good riddance.

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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Poetic Justice

Change! ObamaCare strips lawmakers of their health care plan.

(Link via Rand)

Let the maniacal laughter commence!


Longstanding Blogger Issue Solved

Ever since Google acquired blogger, direct links to Blogger posts have displayed incorrecxtly. Each post gets a unique numerical modifier. For example, the link to yesterday's Texas Stadium post is:

The following code embeds the hyperlink in a text field (text field "Link" used as an example):

<a href="<$BlogItemArchiveFileName$>#<$BlogItemNumber$>">Link</a>

At least that's the way it used to be.

Through trial and error, I discovered that Blogger changed the value of the $BlogItemArchiveFileName$ variable. Originally, it contained everything to the left of the pound sign - now it includes the pound sign and the $BlogItemNumber$ value. And Blogger/Google didn't tell anyone.

I reported the issue THREE TIMES and nobody had an answer. Blogger tech support is about as unresponsive as the Vogon Constructor Fleet.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Texas Stadium (1971-2010)

The legendary stadium was imploded yesterday. Article links two videos of the demolition.


The California Death Spiral

Reason has a worthwhile seven-minute video and accompanying article.

At 5:33 the narrator notes which state is the top destination for people moving to another state: Texas. Note the TX-CA employment graph six minutes into the video - since the recession Texas' employment leveled off, while California's numbers nosedived by a little over a million. That's 3.8 percent of the state's adult population of 26.1 million (source).

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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Condolences To Poland

Belmont Club reports the plane crash at Smolensk. The plane carried a delegation of top Polish officials including President Lech Kaczynski. All 96 passengers and crew were killed.


Now That Easter Is Gone...

Episcopal priest Barbie.

(Via Insty, who prefers SpongeBob Barbie.)

To me, the top Barbie image looks more like an Audrey Hepburn character than a cleric.


Friday, April 09, 2010

Freudian Slip Du Jour

Watch this video. It isn't long.

The President of Shell Oil is asked whether he can guarantee lower oil prices if the Feds allow increased oil exploration. He says that increased scarcity will guarantee higher prices. Maxine Waters threatens to socialize Big Oil - and then realizes what she just said.

My response to Waters: SINCE WHEN DID SOCIALIZING A GOOD OR SERVICE EVER REDUCE ITS COST? Look at public education. Costs per pupil are much higher than the average private-sector alternative. Socialized health insurance for selected individuals - I mean Medicare - drives up medical costs. Single-payer insurance systems (such as Canada's) and socialized medicine (such as the UK's) ultimately have to resort to rationing. These are the two primary arenas of Western socialism today - and nobody's figured out how to make them cost-effective.


Thursday, April 08, 2010

Lost - Desmond Enters The Twilight Zone

(Episode: Happily Ever After. Spoilers ahead.)

In the normal timeline, Widmore has brought Desmond Hume to the island because for some undisclosed purpose. He needs someone who can survive an intense electromagnetic field normally lethal to humans. Hume had survived such an event before - the Swan Hatch implosion.

Widmore tests his theory without telling Desmond what's going on. Unfortunately a technician gets fried when the generator assembly is turned on prematurely. Des is strapped to a chair, the generator is turned on, he loses unconsciousness momentarily, and all of a sudden he's cooperative with Widmore.

Zoe and a Widmore flunky escort him through the jungle afterward, where Sayid, armed with pistol, knocks out the flunky, tells Zoe to run, and tells Desmond to follow him. Desmond clamly and cheerfully complies.

What happened?

The alternate 2004 timeline folks are sensing the present-day timeline. Jack seemed to be showing signs of deja vu on Flight 815 at the beginning of the season. Sawyer might have gotten a whiff when he saw Kate after the flight and after her escape from her Fed escort Agent Mars.

Alternate Desmond works for Widmore, who is based in LA, married to Eloise, and happy to share his prized MacCutcheon scotch whiskey with Des. George Minkowski, who we know as the communications officer of Widmore's freighter, is Des' limo driver.

Des is tasked with babysitting a self-destructive rock musician, Charlie Pace, whose band is scheduled to perform at an event hosted by the Widmores. They chat in a bar, where Charlie tells of his near-death experience in the plane (he had swallowed his stash of heroin to prevent its discovery, only to have it lodge in his windpipe when the plane hit turbulence). Charlie caught a glimpse of a blonde woman who he had loved dearly - the real-timeline Claire, evidently.

They leave the bar in Desmond's sports car, with Des driving. Charlie grabs the wheel and forces the car into the marina. Des gets glimpses of Penny and the "Not Penny's Boat" message that the regular-timeline Charlie had written on his hand when they were at the underwater DHARMA hatch. At the hospital, Des prepares for an MRI. The visions return, more vividly. He tries to get answers from Charlie, who will only say that he needs to find Penny.

Des goes to Eloise Widmore and tells her Driveshaft won't be able to make the gig. She takes rock band recklessness for granted and is quite unperturbed. But Des overhears some of her servants mention a Penny who's on the guest list. He asks about Penny, and Eloise is quite mad. She tells him he's not ready - this Eloise knows something.

And so does her son Daniel - who in this timeline carries his birthname Widmore and not the alias (or stepdad's name?) Faraday. Overhearing the confrontation, Daniel privately approaches Des and confides a couple of things. First, Penny's identity. Second...after experiencing a deja vu moment over a cute redhead (Charlotte Lewis, obviously), Daniel had subconsciously drawn up a bunch of equations in his journal. This Daniel is a musician, not a scientist. He had shown a college friend the notes; friend says that they're the product of someone who'd devoted a lifetime to quantum physics. Daniel says that a nuclear explosion has altered the reality that everyone is experiencing, and is somehow aware that he set it off.

On a tip from Daniel, Des goes to meet Penny - she's jogging at night at a stadium. They meet, shake hands, and Des passes out. He asks her out for coffee. They agree to meet in an hour. He goes to his limo, tells about the coffee destination, and requests George to acquire the Flight 815 manifest.

There seems to be a connection between the electromagnetic experiment and Alternate Desmond's passing out at the stadium. Did the two Desmonds make contact?

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Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Life Imitates X-Files

Deepak Chopra says his meditation caused the Baja earthquake.

Hey, can we get him to work on North Korea's nuclear sites?

Glenn Reynolds says: "Let the lawsuits begin." Who will they call on for expert testimony? Art Bell?


Liberals And Conservatives

Let's take a closer look at that classroom handout linked in the post below.

The teacher, Barbara Geerdes, is correct in that humanity is viewed as basically good by many liberals and as basically flawed by many conservatives. She unwittingly describes the Utopian and Tragic Visions, as coined by Thomas Sowell.

Ben Casnocha cites his explanation here.

In the Tragic Vision, humans are inherently limited in knowledge, wisdom, and virtue, and all social arrangements must acknowledge those limits. "Mortal things suit mortals best," wrote Pindar; "from the crooked timber of humanity no truly straight thing can be made," wrote Kant. The Tragic Vision is associated with Hobbes, Burke, Smith, Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, the jurist Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., the economists Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman, the philosophers Isaiah Berlin and Karl Popper, and the legal scholar Richard Posner.

In the Utopian Vision, psychological limitations are artifacts that come from our social arrangements, and we should not allow them to restrict our gaze from what is possible in a better world. Its creed might be "Some people see things as they are and ask 'why?'; I dream things that never were and ask, 'why not?'" The quote is often attributed to the icon of 1960s liberalism, Robert F. Kennedy, but it was originally penned by the Fabian socialist George Bernard Shaw (who also wrote, "There is nothing that can be changed more completely than human nature when the job is taken in hand early enough"). ...

In the Tragic Vision, our moral sentiments, no matter how beneficent, overlie a deeper bedrock of selfishness. That selfishness is not the cruelty or aggression of the psychopath, but a concern for our well-being that is so much a part of our makeup that we seldom reflect on it and would waste our time lamenting it or trying to erase it.

The Tragic Vision says that humans' prime motivation is self-interest, that human do not perfectly desire or perfectly understand what is good. We are inherently selfish, and not basically beneficient as the Utopian Vision claims.

Geerdes claims, "If you give people opportunities to improve themselves they will usually take advantage of them and improve." Improve themselves how? She's referring to welfare handouts, judging from her what she says about conservatives, that they perceive welfare as something that "will not be used properly" and that will "cause additional problems as the weaker tendencies of human nature will be reinforced."

There's a lot of truth in these statements. The Tragic Vision recognizes that humans will tend toward the easiest path available to a particular goal. To borrow an old Rush Limbaugh quip, the government safety net can easily become a hammock. The Tragic Vision also believes that people tend to allocate earned goods more wisely than they allocate freebie goods, contrary to the Utopian view that the welfare dependent are just as efficient as working citizens. The fact that the latter put more effort into work puts an RPG round in the Utopian claim.

Geerdes then proceeds to achieve deep space flight with her claim that liberals favor democratic institutions while conservatives distrust self-governance. Girlfriend, it's the other way around. Tragic Vision conservatives favor self-government precisely because of their limited trust in humanity. Power has to be decentralized in order to minimize the potential for each government office's abuse.

The Utopian Vision favor centralized power. People are basically good, but some are more good than others, and if a given bureaucracy is initially staffed with the more-good-than-others, they will ensure that subsequent hires employ the equally enlightened, guarding the bureaucracy like a holy priesthood. Checks and balances are seen as an element of inefficiency, and an avenue for the less-good-than-others to interfere with operations.

The second half of the handout can be summarized quickly: conservatives favor tradition and the status quo and resist rapid change, while liberals are the opposite. Liberals and conservatives each favor and/or represent different status quo circles, each have different sets of traditions, and each call for different sets of rapid change. Some liberal traditions are quite old; centralized government, for one, is old as the hills, and unions, for another, date at least as far back as the Medieval guilds.

The Tea Parties have lots of folks challenging the status quo and demanding rapid change, and most of them aren't liberal.

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Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Don't Mess With Texas

Check out this handout a Texas teacer passed out to her high school government class.


Monday, April 05, 2010

Today's Musical Offering

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What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

Japan develops an android.

Update: Americans develop a robotic space plane.

John Conner, call your office.


Friday, April 02, 2010

Life Imitates Art

Rember that SNL skit I blogged about almost a month ago? The one that prompted me to advise the GOP to recruit a homeless dominatrix to run against Pelosi?

The bondage-gate story has me wondering how much of my readership works for the RNC...

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Thursday, April 01, 2010

Lost - Jin's Unexpected Travel Plans

(Episode: The Package. Spoilers ahead.)

In the flash-sideways storyline, Jin had not declared his suitcase full of $25 grand, so Customs is seizing it. That puts him in hot water with Keamy, the man Mr. Paik had told him to deliver it to.

Keamy and his goons take Sun and Jin to separate locations - her to the bank, where she has a bank account with the sum promised, and him to the restaurant. The goon accompanying her is multilingual Mikhail Bakunin. They learn that her account was drained by Mr. Paik - he had evidently surmised her scheme to "run away" from her dad's influence.

At the restaurant, Keamy tells Jin what the money was for: a payoff for Keamy to rub out Jin. Keamy leaves him the freezer, and he and his goons have a meeting with Sayid with unpleasant results. Sayid finds Jin and decides to leave him there, with a razor in his hand to give him a chance to cut himself free. Jin accomplishes this when Bakhunin and Sun arrive. He gets the drop on Bakhunin, shoots him dead, and finds Sun bleeding. She tells him she's pregnant.

On the island, FakeLocke tells Jin about the cave with the names on the wall - and that one is Kwon. He has to take the remaining names with him. It seems obvious that the purpose is to make sure none of the Candidates take Jacob's place. Sayid remarks to FakeLocke that all his emotions have vanished. MIB says that's not necessarily a bad thing.

While MIB takes off on an errand, Widmore's commandos attack the camp with tranquilizer dart guns - and grab Jin.

FakeLocke tries talking Sun into joining his camp. She refuses, despite the fact of Jin's presence. She runs away, hits her head and suffers from aphasia, which scrambles her ability to speak English but not her knowledge of the language.

On Hydra Island, Widmore tells geophysicist gal Zoe they carried out the order prematurely. He gives Jin a digital camera found on the Ajira plane - it's Sun's, with pics of their daughter. Widmore says that if MIB gets off the island, everyone's futures come to an end - something to that effect. He's also got a surprise - a package...

When MIB returns, he and Sayid prepare to go to Widmore's camp. Before they leave, Claire asks about the conversation with Jin. She wants to know if her name is on the wall - it isn't. He also says Kate's name is not on the wall, but he needs both her and Claire for unstated purposes. (Kate's is probably to pry Jack's complicity, and to secure Sawyer's.) He implies that he will not interfere with anyone's plans once they get off the island, which sounds like a hint that she's free to dish out all the revenge she wants against Kate once they escape.

MIB arrives on the island. Sonic pylons are set up; Widmore knows more about MIB than he lets on. The two meet on opposite sides. Widmore denies having Jin present.

Meanwhile, Hurley and Richard return. Richard intends to blow up the Ajira plane to prevent MIB's escape. Sun objects; she finally consents when Jack breaks the temporary language barrier with a writing tablet and assures her that he will reunite the Kwons. So the beach gang plans to head out to Hydra Island.

MIB returns to his camp without Sayid, who has stayed behind to lurk in the water to discover what Widmore's "package" is. He sees Widmore's gang lead a drugged Desmond Hume from the sub. Well now, Mrs. hawking was right that the island wasn't done with ol' Des...

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