Friday, November 28, 2008
ANC leader Jacob Zuma has asked the sensible question, “Why should Afrikaners not remember their heroes?” Apparently this song is now frequently sung spontaneously at rugby matches, complete with the waving of the old South African national flag. Nelson Mandela has called van Blerk one of his favorite singers. Another reason to put his picture in every dictionary by the entry for magnanimity.
Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
UPDATE: Danger Room links to the Twittering, YouTubing, GoogleMapping, and Flickring developments.
UPDATE 1120ET: Times of India now reporting 101 dead, with 6 confirmed to be foreigners.
It transpires that half the food-vehicle miles associated with British food are travelled by cars driving to and from the shops. Each trip is short, but there are millions of them every day. Another surprising finding was that a shift towards a local food system, and away from a supermarket-based food system, with its central distribution depots, lean supply chains and big, full trucks, might actually increase the number of food-vehicle miles being travelled locally, because things would move around in a larger number of smaller, less efficiently packed vehicles.This study was in compact, crowded Britain. The situation can only be worse in spacious America. This excerpt uses the phrase food-vehicle miles. Maybe we can come up with a better term than that, but it hinges on thinking not about total miles traveled, but on miles traveled per item of produce in a given shipment. Think of it this way: you buy a local tomato at the trendy farmers' market instead of one that's been shipped from California, thus reducing "food miles". What you fail to account for is "food-vehicle miles": the local tomato might have ridden thirty miles in the back of a pickup with maybe 50 other tomatoes. The California tomato was shipped cross-country, true, but in a semi-load of millions. The amount of fuel burned per tomato to get it from the field to your house ends up being far less for the mass-market tomato, particularly if you drive further to the farmers' market than the grocery store.
This is all such a great example of the sort of environmentalism that cares more about labels and trends than about actually accomplishing anything. Some of the political motivations are suspect as well; much of the local-food movement has an ugly strain of protectionism to it. Indeed, Kenya has been forced to defend her cut-flower industry from the "food miles" concept, with an ad campaign point out that Kenyan flowers are "Grown Under The Sun" instead of in heated greenhouses and are thus "greener" than British or Dutch cut-flowers. Again, we're back to growing things where they grow best. Crazy talk, I know.
All this is most certainly not to suggest that I'm against buying locally. I think there's a great food security argument to a more distributed agricultural production. There may be some nutritional benefits (though studies are inconclusive). For me, there is without a doubt a mental health benefit; it just feels right to be eating food grown in the community. It supports a more localized economy, a sense of civil interdependence, and a healthier, more traditional lifestyle. So in the end I'm all for local produce, or best of all, food you grow yourself. Just don't try to convince me I'm saving the world by buying it.
Oh yeah, and I'm thankful for stuff. But I don't think I really need an allotted day to acknowledge that.
UPDATE 27NOV08 2352: Yepp, there are heritage turkeys out there. No word on how pricey, but they do exist.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Monday, November 24, 2008
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Friday, November 21, 2008
What worries me considerably more is the possibility floated by Todd Zywicki at The Volokh Conspiracy, that the bailout money might just tide the automakers over until "card check" empowers the UAW to get those peskily profitable foreign automakers under control.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
Step one: remove dead pine needles from base of tree. Step two: replace with slightly less dead pine needles. Step three: repeat. I would go TDY to the moon, butt-@$$ naked from a slingshot, if it got me out of this.
UPDATE: Kenneth Anderson at Opinio Juris suggests that Somali pirates could be low-hanging fruit for an Obama administration eager to gain some serious security credibility while simultaneously demonstrating its commitment to internationalism. He also notes how Great Britain, once the lonely guardian of shipping lanes worldwide, has abdicated any responsibility to fight pirates:
Meanwhile, the British have instructed their navy to ignore pirates, out of the remarkable fear that any captured Somali pirates might have asylum claims on metropolitan Britain. I am not alone in thinking this an ignominious day for Britain.Not alone, indeed.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Saturday, November 15, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
This thing needs to be destroyed. (HT Mike Elgan). Also, is it just me, or does it look like a creepy android Paul Dano (who is himself wandering awfully close to the brink of the Uncanny Valley)?
Arizona State University student Alex Botsios said he had no problem giving a nighttime intruder his wallet and guitars.
When the man asked for Botsios' laptop, however, the first-year law student drew the line.
"I was like, 'Dude, no -- please, no!" Botsios said. "I have all my case notes…that's four months of work!"
He then proceeded to beat the snot out of the burglar. I particularly love that his mom attributes his hand-to-hand skills to watching cop shows on TV.
Wednesday, November 5, 2008
Tuesday, November 4, 2008
There are about 1,460 days until the next Presidential election, and I assume that I will spend approximately the next 1,459 of them opposing Barack Obama. But I'm spending today proud about what my country has overcome.
Look, I expect to be one of the most severe critics of the Obama administration and the Democrats generally in the years ahead (though I sincerely hope I won't find that necessary). But Obama ran a brilliant race and he should be congratulated for it. Moreover, during the debate over the financial crisis, Obama said that a president should be able to do more than one thing at a time. Well, I think we members of the loyal opposition should be able to make distinctions simultaneously. It is a wonderful thing to have the first African-American president. It is a wonderful thing that in a country where feelings are so intense that power can be transferred so peacefully. Let us hope that the Obama his most dedicated -- and most sensible! -- fans see turns out to be the real Obama. Let us hope that Obama succeeds and becomes a great president, for all the right reasons. As for John McCain, he is an American hero and arguably the best candidate we could have fielded. I will in the days to come offer no small amount of criticism about his campaign. But where his campaign may have lacked qualities that would have helped it win, the candidate never lacked for honor and integrity. Thank you John McCain for your sacrifice, commitment, and honor. God bless America, and may He guide Obama to be the best president possible.Amen.
I hereby vow that if Obama wins:
- I will remove my McCain campaign bumper stickers shortly after he is sworn in. I will not leave them on my bumper until Obama leaves office.
- I will never refer to the election as "stolen" or a "coup d'etat". Massive voting problems should prompt future reforms, not invalidate the election. No matter how dirty the election, he will still be my President.
- I will never own a "days until Obama is out of office" countdown calendar.
- I will never pass on every verbal stumble as proof he is a moron, or buy books or calendars asserting such. Caveat: Joe Biden is fair game.
- I will not adopt a cutesy insulting nickname for Obama and use that whenever referring to him in order to avoid calling him the President of the United States.
- I will never call Obama "Hitler" or a "Nazi". Similarly, no pictures or photos will ever be digitally altered to give him a Hitler mustache.
- If any organization affiliated with Obama is enriched due to the direction of the country under Obama, I will not insist that Obama's motivations are wholly to enrich that organization.
- If Obama makes reasonable, logical statements that are backed up by the information known at the time, but these facts prove to be incorrect, I will not call him a liar.
- I will admonish any right-wing blog which dismisses Michelle Obama for being a woman, or which photo manipulates her image in a sleazy way. I will not adopt any kind of rude nickname for her, or hold her up for mockery for anything unrelated to political statements which she makes.
- Obama's daughters are totally off-limits. If they do something stupid, I will admonish any blogs which gossip about them. Their parents are in politics; they aren't.
- I will not demand Obama's resignation or impeachment for making decisions that are consistent with being President.
- Obama will take office while the War on Terror is still going on, and unless he is even dumber than he appears to be I can only assume he will take some steps to fight terrorism, regardless of what actions he takes in the current fronts of the war (Iraq and Afghanistan). I will not assume that Obama's every action in this is a malicious move towards oppressing the American people.
- If Obama, too, fails to capture Osama bin Laden, I will not assume he is not trying.
- Obama's judges, U.N. representatives, cabinet officials, diplomats, etc. are his to appoint. If elected, he is the President and he does not have to appoint people who are ideologically acceptable to Republicans.
- I will never threaten to move to Canada because Obama is taking our country to Hell in a handbasket.
- Should things ever become so dire under Obama's Presidency that I would have to leave the land that I love to flee to Australia, I will not threaten to do so. I will move and then verify my change of residency with a photo of me in front of that weird horseshoe crab opera house or the big rock.
I hesitated. The little angel on my right shoulder was saying: "Purity, Derb, purity and a clean conscience! How could you live with yourself, voting for Ted Kennnedy's and Joe Lieberman's best friend? You're a conservative, man! Go into the darkness unsullied, with your head held high!" Meanwhile the Father of Temptation had a representative sitting on my other shoulder, waving the Delonas cartoon at me, whispering: "Remember your Kipling, Derb! Stick to the Devil you know! At least when you're breaking rocks in that labor camp in the Aleutians, you'll be able to tell yourself you did what you could to stop it." I succumbed. By an effort of will, I reached out a trembling finger and turned down the tag. Then I shut my eyes and pulled hard on the lever. Yes, my friends, I voted for John McCain.
I'm appalled. I'd always thought of anti-Mormon feelings in connection with wary evangelicals unsure what to make of the LDS. I just never really thought what the LDS must represent to some of the more paranoid-leaning lefties out there.
Monday, November 3, 2008
About the only one I agree with on this list is the scanner, and that's just because it's been made obsolete by my digital camera. They're right that home printers and fax machines should be obsolete, but there are still agencies and employers out there who still deal stubbornly in hard copy, and until they start accepting things digitally, I'll still be relying on my trusty printer and occasionally scrambling to find someplace I can send and receive faxes. I agree the situation is completely ridiculous when I'm emailing documents to myself so I can print them out in my room and drive to the UPS Store to fax them off, but there's not a lot I can do about that.
As to optical drives, flash memory and functionally limitless hard drives are pretty much making the disc obsolete, but software and media haven't moved completely into the cloud yet, so until that happens I still need to be able to install programs and play my DVDs.
My real disagreement is the landline phone, which I think I've mentioned before. The authors just don't seem to take seriously the implications of an entire city being rendered incommunicado after a major disaster, and how easily cell networks could be brought down by malicious actors.
Sunday, November 2, 2008
What a fool I was. It was all a vast waste of time... Oh, it was fun while it lasted but, seriously, I should have been a mailman out of high school!! Like yourself, I have advised my grandchildren accordingly.It does make me want to cry. It makes me fear for the future of our nation, regardless of who wins the election on Tuesday.
Let me be clear, this is a catastrophic development for our country. When the private sector can no longer compete with the public sector, you know that society is on its way out... At this point, my wife and I are planning to make the most of it and have as much fun as we possibly can for as long as we possibly can. Frankly, nothing else makes sense anymore. The old beliefs, the old gods, the old standards have gone a-glimmering. I now answer the deep questions of the day with a cosmic shrug, a "whatever" and an inquiry as to when the Chargers are playing this Sunday. It is wise not to have opinions in the new America. Opinions are dangerous.
I have visited Philadelphia, the cradle of our freedom. I have been astonished at the modest rooms where the great men of that time gave birth to our country. I think of Washington, Jefferson, Adams and Franklin spinning in their graves. They would be appalled that it has come to this. Ask yourself, would you sacrifice your life, your sacred honor and your fortune for what you see around you today? The answer is self evident. We are a de facto colony of China. It is enough to make you cry.
My boyhood, and the Arab political culture I have been chronicling for well over three decades, are anchored in the Arab world. And the tragedy of Arab political culture has been the unending expectation of the crowd -- the street, we call it -- in the redeemer who will put an end to the decline, who will restore faded splendor and greatness. When I came into my own, in the late 1950s and '60s, those hopes were invested in the Egyptian Gamal Abdul Nasser. He faltered, and broke the hearts of generations of Arabs. But the faith in the Awaited One lives on, and it would forever circle the Arab world looking for the next redeemer.
America is a different land, for me exceptional in all the ways that matter. In recent days, those vast Obama crowds, though, have recalled for me the politics of charisma that wrecked Arab and Muslim societies. A leader does not have to say much, or be much. The crowd is left to its most powerful possession -- its imagination.
On a totally unrelated note: 300th post!
Saturday, November 1, 2008
But unlike stealing a lawn gnome or a plastic pink flamingo, I admit, stealing a lawn sign is a more heinous crime. There is moral and ethical guilt. I believe in free speech, and also believe and encourage political expression. I guess I could argue that I was flexing my free expression to say "shut up." But that would put me at the same low-level of political discourse as Bill O'Reilly, who consistently steamrolls over anyone who disagrees with him. If I need to justify my actions, I could argue that I was trying to achieve some great public service for rural voters. In his 2004 book, What's The Matter With Kansas, Frank Rich explains that working class and family farmers, like these in Minnesota, increasingly vote conservative and against their own interests. By pulling out the McCain signs, I was hoping to curb the impression for passing motorists that family farmers in Minnesota supported McCain. Or, at least that's the most high-minded explanation that I can offer.Sir, your free expression is in your yard. Your act is not equivalent to O'Reilly's (admittedly annoying) railroading of interlocators whom he has provided with a platform on his own show. It is, rather, equivalent to O'Reilly sabotaging the satellite feed of someone else's show. And I can't even bring myself to discuss how Professor Busse considers "high-minded" his rationalization that he was censoring less enlightened citizens for their own good. Just last week I came across the Arabic expression "an excuse more damnable than the offense", and didn't entirely understand its application. Now I do.
UPDATE 04NOV08: Phil Busse has resigned his position at St. Olaf. Good riddance.