Monday, February 28, 2005
According to this post at Little Green Footballs they are. The underlying post seems more concerned about the subject of indoctrination - Islamic teachings - rather than the indoctrination itself. I am more concerned by the later regardless of the subject matter. Islam, absent the misguided/disturbed interpretations it is given by certain sects, is a fine religion. Frankly, it is much more accepting of other faiths than Christianity or Judaism.

But there are two issues here. First, where is the outrage from the left about religion being taught in public schools? I mean come on - this isn't a simple sticker noting that evolution is a theory - this appears to be out and out religious indoctrination in a public school. And the fact it is a minority religion shouldn't alter the calculus for the groups that take a very strict separation of church and state view of things. So I fully expect them to voice their outrage at this in the near future (but I won't be holding my breath).

Second, indoctrination, regardless of subject matter, is just bad. Whatever happened to teaching students to think critically? That is what school should really be about. Anyone can run a google search (or back in my day - go to the encyclopedias) and find out facts and information. But the ability to think critically for oneself is apparently somewhat of a rarity (or at least that is the justification that law firms must use to convince our clients to pay our fees, since that is the essence of what lawyers do). Pushing an agenda, regardless of what that agenda is, will never work in the end.

If what is asserted to be occurring in Scottsdale is actually occurring it is just a flawed plan anyway. Teach our kids to be sheep, and they will end up following the flock, i.e., the majority view, not the minority viewpoint you try to indoctrinate them with - that will quickly be forgotten when they move on to the next grade, or next school, etc. Teach them to think critically, and perhaps they will eventually convince the rest of the flock that there is a better way, or at least not accept the majority view without questioning it first. And that is probably what these teachers/administrators want to do anyway.
Good post from The Volokh Conspiracy (although the title is a little misleading - the Judge even states in a footnote Padilla need not be released, he can be charged, if appropriate, under criminal laws).

Like the post says, this is a pure legal issue, so the review will be de novo and this opinion doesn't really mean much at all. It will be interesting what the Fourth Circuit - probably the most conservative circuit - will do with this case.
From Publius Pundit (via Instapundit) [as an aside, I call for a moratorium on blogs named blank-pundit]:

According to Lebanonwire, 10,000 people have poured into Martyr’s Square between late Sunday night and 5:00 this morning, despite a ban on protests:

BEIRUT, Feb 28 (AFP) - Two weeks after the assassination of ex-premier Rafiq Hariri, some 10,000 people massed in the streets of Beirut early Monday in defiance of a ban as the government faced a tough test in parliament where the opposition planned to present a censure motion to bring it down.

The Lebanese opposition vowed to defy the pro-Syrian regime on the streets and in parliament on Monday, amid claims of ministerial resignations, after a top US envoy upheld demands for an immediate Syrian troop pullout from Lebanon.

Waving the Lebanese flag and shouting “Syria out!” the protesters ignored a ban on demonstrations and converged on the central Martyrs’ Square as hundreds of heavily armed but good-natured troops aided by police deployed jeeps and trucks to the main crossroads leading to the square.

They continued the sit-in on Martyrs’ Square after 5:00 am (0300 GMT) despite the ban on protests, announced by Lebanese Interior Minister Suleiman Frangieh, coming into effect.

At 0300 GMT the opposition demonstrators sang the national anthem, as leading opposition figure Akram Shehayeb harangued the crowd and called on the watching soldiers to join the protest.

Much more at Publius Pundit (who will be updating throughout the day), so read the whole thing here.
Sunday, February 27, 2005
Instapundit has a summary of a report on the possibility that the Syrian-backed government has banned anti-Syrian protests scheduled for tomorrow -- Lebanon activists say they will protest anyway.
Via Instapundit, a Reuters article reports that the sex-crimes being committed by U.N. troops is not limited to the Congo:

Rocked by widespread abuse of women and girls, including gang rape, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the United Nations also has found sexual exploitation cases in at least four other missions -- in Burundi, Liberia, Ivory Coast -- as well as more recently in Haiti, they added.

"We think this will look worse before it begins to look better," Jane Holl Lute, assistant secretary general for peacekeeping operations, told reporters. "We expect that more information will come from every mission on allegations. We are prepared for that."

I guess this is how the U.N. "reaffirm[s] faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small . . ." (U.N. Charter.)
Great op-ed piece in today's Washington Post by Michael Kinsley speculating on the housing bubble. He makes some good points.

But I am surprised more people aren't focused on the changing demographics. As the baby boomers retire, more and more of them will be moving out of their big suburban homes and into either smaller townhomes - or as is increasingly happening - into condos in downtown city neighborhoods. After all who wants to do housework and yard work in their golden years?

I think that is where the housing bubble will start to burst, the expensive large suburban homes. It will then work its way through the entire housing market as the investors (who own a very high percentage of the real estate market versus historical standards) sell off their property holdings in a panic looking for the next "get rich quick" phenomenon.

But like Kinsley, I am probably wrong.
A very harsh op-ed in today's Chicago Sun Times by Mark Steyn. It certainly makes some good points, and highlights why America should be concerned about events and politics in Europe.

Instapundit has a brief commentary and links to an alternative vision of Europe's future.
A good op-ed piece in today's Washington Times on objectives that the newly elected Iraq government must meet to be successful, and why many hardliners in the Middle East hope they will fail.
Saturday, February 26, 2005
Via The Art of the Blog, the Denver Post is reporting that University of Colorado officials are considering paying off Churchill. Why? I would just fire him for cause stating he committed fraud in order to get the tenured position, and further appears to have committed repeated copyright infringement for his tracings, err drawings, that he has sold as "originals."

Sure he would sue, but I am sure the University of Colorado can afford the litigation. And sure the ACLU or some similar group would represent Churchill for free, but when they lose you have now avoided future extortion situations such as this one (hint, hint, ask for a jury trial Mr. or Ms. University General Counsel - I am sure they will love the part where Churchill compares the 9-11 victims to Nazis - and I am sure that won't affect the jury's decision making process at all...).

The University of Colorado only hired this guy because they had a complete breakdown in process caused primarily by irrational fear - they should learn from that mistake - and not act out of fear again by rewarding this guy for defrauding them in the first place.
Maureen Dowd's latest op-ed is here. In her latest diatribe against President Bush, Dowd writes about the checks and balances of democracy, and asserts that George Bush has somehow avoided them all and is unchecked. She writes:

Even the near absence of checks and balances is not enough for W. Not content with controlling the White House, Congress, the Supreme Court and a good chunk of the Fourth Estate, he goes to even more ludicrous lengths to avoid being challenged.

The White House wants its Republican allies in the Senate to stamp out the filibuster, one of the few weapons the handcuffed Democrats have left. They want to invoke the so-called nuclear option and get rid of the 150-year-old tradition in order to ram through more right-wing judges.

. . . . [Note my proper use of the ellipse by the way]

The president loves democracy - as long as democracy means he's always right.
Apparently Dowd forgets about the ultimate check -- the voters -- a majority of whom (not a mere plurality) just reelected Bush not 4 months ago. They reelected Bush even though the things Dowd mentions had previously happened.

Perhaps Dowd is the one who has an issue with democracy - that is when the people disagree with her.

As far as the filibuster, this is an undemocratic rule of the Senate that is not codified in the Constitution. It allows a fairly small minority (1/3 or 34 Senators historically, currently two-fifths or 40 Senators I believe - which is still a small minority given our two-party system) to block legislation that they are opposed to. Notably, the single most filibustered issue has been civil rights legislation. That's right Ms. Dowd, your friends in the South used this device you now seem to cherish so much to continue their oppression of minorities. What a tragedy it would be to see the filibuster removed from the Senate rules.

Oh that's right, Ms. Dowd only favors the filibuster when it helps her cause.
Thomas Friedman writes that there are currently three tipping points happening in the Middle East, the first of which is:

Thanks to eight million Iraqis defying "you vote, you die" terrorist threats, Iraq has been reframed from a story about Iraqi "insurgents" trying to liberate their country from American occupiers and their Iraqi "stooges" to a story of the overwhelming Iraqi majority trying to build a democracy, with U.S. help, against the wishes of Iraqi Baathist-fascists and jihadists.
Read the whole thing to see what the other two are (although you can probably guess). I am most interested in the Iraq point, since it has been somewhat of a theme here with me discussing it in prior posts here, here, and here. Compare Friedman's op-ed with the Herbert op-ed I critiqued in the third linked post (Herbert's op-ed is here). It makes you wonder if Herbert just recycled something he was thinking of writing about 3 months ago - talk about out of touch with current events.
According to this Slashdot article, he pilot episode of Battlestar Gallactica (the remake pilot that is, not from the original series) is available for free via streaming media from the Sci-Fi channel's website.

Personally, I think this is a brilliant move (of course, a download rather than streaming file would have been better). It will increase viewership of the show and probably also sell more DVD sets.

Given that most intellectual property rights holders are so fearful of their product being available from the web, this is really a pretty surprising move. But I bet it will pay off the for the Sci-Fi channel. Hopefully more companies will follow suit if it does prove successful.
Friday, February 25, 2005
Interesting post that has what I believe to be a screen shot of a poll taken regarding the voting habits of college professors. Pretty huge discrepancy between democratic voting professors and republican ones - 15 to 1 overall and up to 30 to 1 in some disciplines.

No surprise that professors trend democratic, but the disparity as found by this poll is pretty shocking. Personally, I like to listen or read opposing viewpoints as I think it is a good thing to test your personal opinions, and also it sharpens your critical thinking skills. But when you get a 15 to 1 disparity it makes you start to wonder if colleges (where the marketplace of ideas should really be flourishing) have stopped serving that purpose and have become more of a pulpit to push one agenda? I don't really care what agenda they are pushing, but I do care if they are starting to just have one single viewpoint. There is really no point to college if the beliefs and opinions you have prior to going to college are not tested by the experience.
Paul Krugman's op-ed piece today is essentially a summary of Thomas Frank's book "What's the Matter With Kansas?" [my answer - they need better outside shooting, but I digress]. Someone who knew nothing about this book, or other discussions surrounding the book, might think this was a fine op-ed piece.

But I couldn't think that. That was because before reading this op-ed piece (at least a day before), I had read this post from Professor Bainbridge that added to a critique of Frank's analysis by James Neuchterlein - and frankly [no pun intended] destroyed the logic, or lack thereof, of Frank's argument.

This just shows again what a valuable service the blogosphere provides - too bad Krugman failed to use it.
Instapundit updates an article about Ward Churchill by linking to an article he wrote 3 years ago. That article is just tremendous, and I highly recommend reading it. It is from FoxNews and can be found here.
Thursday, February 24, 2005
From the NY Times, via Drudge. Maybe it is just me, but that seems like a lot of money.
While I watched ESPN's reply of the Miracle game, I neglected to post anything about it on the anniversary date, which was this Tuesday. I was going to let it go rather than post late, but then I saw this post over at Powerline. The folks at Lake Placid renamed the hockey rink to honor St. Paul, Minnesota's own Herb Brooks - the head coach of the Miracle team.

I can't think of a better way to honor a person who gave so much to the game - truly one of the greatest coaches of all time.
Very good read. I got in a long debate about this issue (on a much less sophisticated level) back in undergrad. I always thought the efficiencies of Walmart made up for the loss of Mom and Pop type shops. But Professor Bainbridge's post has made me rethink my position.

I highly recommend reading the whole thing at his blog.
Instapundit links to an article over at thetwowayweb.com that argues Google's new Autolink feature is bad for web publishers.

If you don't know what the Autolink feature is, the article does a pretty good job of explaining it. But basically it is a feature of the google toolbar that users can turn on or off as they wish. If it is turned on then it inserts links into webpages as if they were placed there by the website author themselves. For example, if you had an address typed in your webpage, it would create a link to a map of that location.

I completely disagree with this article, primarily because it focuses on how the autolink feature might affect webpublishers. The primary argument seems to be that users will be "confused" about whether the link is from google or the author of the website. I say who cares? The user has to enable this feature. The user could take the address and plug it into google themselves, this just provides a shortcut. The article argues that google should provide an "opt out" or "opt in" policy for websites. But again, why should a website author be able to prevent a person viewing the website from utilizing a feature that simply provides a short cut? It is impossible for a website to prevent me from typing in information from that site into a google search, so all the "opt out" would do is prevent viewers from using this shortcut feature if the choose to use it.

The article finally goes to a slippery-slope style argument, stating:

Where is the line?
This is the question that keeps coming up. Even if you don't find the current implementation invasive, even if it doesn't compromise the integrity of your writing, even if does flow money into Google and their partners, without sharing, where is this going? What's next? Could they link it to Gmail, and where ever the name of a Gmail user appears in a page, change it to a mailto link so you can send them mail? If you're in the widget business, might they change the links to your widgets to links to your competitors' widgets? (Aren't they already doing that to Barnes and Noble?) Would they add discussion software so that any Internet user can mark up your page with their comments, no matter how inane or immature?
As far as linking a gmail user name to a mailto link, I see nothing wrong with that - again it is just a shortcut for the user. The line is clearly drawn, however, at the next point - changing links to your products to links to your competitors. That would clearly be tortious, and also in theory copyright infringement. From a user's perspective it would also probably be fraudulent (i.e., the user would be deceived into linking to a competitor when it thought it was linking to that website's products). And the next example is also clearly across the line - permanently defacing your website to allow others to edit content? Obviously that is nothing like what the Autolink feature does. The Autolink feature doesn't alter any content on the webpage itself, it merely interacts in between the browser and the display for the user who chose to use the feature. It wouldn't affect people who don't want to use the Autolink feature.

So in short, I really don't think this article's fears are justified.
Great op-ed piece by Thomas Friedman in today's NY Times that discusses the falling U.S. dollar, and the fact it may fall much more. For the past several years I have been pretty worried about the US economy, especially when you look at the housing market and the number of people with 2nd and 3rd mortgages that do not have fixed rates. It is good to see a good opinion piece on this issue. Hopefully it will start to get the attention it deserves.
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
Reading this reiterates to me why the Iraq war was a good thing. Who would ever have imagined this as a realistic possibility a few years ago? Now we just need to turn our "ally" nations in the Middle East into democracies...
A very interesting exchange of letters (emails between Jeff Jarvis of Buzzmachine.com and Bill Keller of the NY Times) are posted on Buzzmachine.com.

It is a very interesting back and forth and well worth the read.
An individual who actually read his PC Pitstop EULA found an interesting provision: send us an email and we will give you $1000 dollars. Turns out it was a move by PC Pitstop to see how many people didn't read their EULAs, and to highlight why people should read their EULAs - you might win cash (actually - to avoid spyware).

According to PC Pitstop, 3000 people had received the EULA with the $1000 cash option and had not noticed (or simply didn't believe it and didn't send in the email).

Just goes to show another reason why EULAs shouldn't be enforceable - no one reads them and everyone (including the companies that include them with their products) knows that no one reads them.
Great post over at Vodkapundit linking to an article in the Washington Post (registration required....). According to that article, Walid Jumblatt, the leader of the Lebanese inifada, and formerly very much opposed to the American invasion of Iraq, stated this:

"It's strange for me to say it, but this process of change has started because of the American invasion of Iraq," explains Jumblatt. "I was cynical about Iraq. But when I saw the Iraqi people voting three weeks ago, 8 million of them, it was the start of a new Arab world." Jumblatt says this spark of democratic revolt is spreading. "The Syrian people, the Egyptian people, all say that something is changing. The Berlin Wall has fallen. We can see it."
As I previously mentioned here, it may very well be that in the future we look back at the Iraq war and realize that Jumblatt is right: it was the first domino to fall on the road to Middle East peace.
A very somber op-ed piece today shows visual evidence of the horrific and barbarous acts occuring in Darfur. Something needs to be done on an international level, my question is: why isn't the United Nations doing something right now? Isn't that the whole point of the U.N.?

Nichlos Kristof seems to blame Americans for not doing something. And frankly I agree that America should do something if no one else will. But this really should be the function of the U.N. Of course the U.N. failed miserably in Iraq as well and America gets blamed for stepping up to the plate to do the U.N.'s job for it.

I wonder if the same thing would happen in Darfur if America intervened?
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Vodkapundit has your required reading for today, and it is indeed a good read.
From Reuters, at today's oral argument D.C. Circuit Judge Harry Edwards told the F.C.C. that they "crossed the line," when they implemented the broadcast flag.

This doesn't mean, however, that the F.C.C. will lose this case as there are serious questions as to whether the plaintiffs have standing. But if Judge Edwards remarks are shared by the majority of other federal judges, it means once a party with standing sues, there is a good chance the broadcast flag rule will get shot down. Or at least we can hope.
Great post about this case, and issue, on Professor Bainbridge's blog. We can only hope the Court puts a stop to this egregious misuse of eminent domain power.
According to the NY Times Rehnquist will step down from the Court by this June at the latest. I am sure this will just add fuel to the speculation fire on who Bush might name to replace him.
Monday, February 21, 2005
Excellent post that lays out the issue: essentially the story appears to be a complete fiction. I frankly don't have that much of a problem with biased reporting, since bias is inevitable, but when a "news" report is complete fiction that is clearly a problem (and it is a problem for the reporter when a Judge calls you out as making up facts...).

Unless additional information comes out, the NY Times pretty much has to fire the reporter. Even if the reporter was merely relying on reports in Sri Lanka that just doesn't seem like a good enough excuse (especially since the article doesn't say it is relying on other reports - it just mentions that daily narratives of the baby's story are in the local papers).

The original story is here.
This is a good read. It is an article discussing a speech given over the weekend by NY Times editor Bill Keller. Here is my favorite part:

Keller also sees “blogging,” or online writing that blurs news and commentary, as a mixed blessing. While he celebrated the blogger’s ability to uncover breaking news, he noted that a blog’s inherent bias might be detrimental to the reader. “A blog is still a view of the world through a pinhole,” he said, noting that it can sometimes fall as low as being a “one man circle jerk.”

“There is a pressure to feel well informed without ever confronting an opinion that confronts your prejudices,” he said of blog readers.

Too bad Keller doesn't realize the main stream media, including (or perhaps best exemplified by) the NY Times, does the exact same thing. When reporters and editors all have essentially one world view it is irrelevant how many of them there are, the news will inevitably be biased. This goes for both left and right bias. And therefore, it is up to the readers themselves to think critically about what they are reading - regardless of whether they are reading this blog, or the NY Times.

Besides, this blog is less biased.
Bob Herbert's op-ed piece today asks this question:
So tell me again. What was this war about? In terms of the fight against terror, the war in Iraq has been a big loss. We've energized the enemy. We've wasted the talents of the many men and women who have fought bravely and tenaciously in Iraq. Thousands upon thousands of American men and women have lost arms or legs, or been paralyzed or blinded or horribly burned or killed in this ill-advised war. A wiser administration would have avoided that carnage and marshaled instead a more robust effort against Al Qaeda, which remains a deadly threat to America.
We've energized the enemy? Really? They were already committing suicide bombings before the Iraq war, can you get more energized than that? As far as recruitment, see above - they were able to get people to commit suicide bombings even before the war - obviously they weren't having any recruitment issues. And lately, it sounds like they are having trouble finding volunteers. According to several reports, the militants have resorted to using mentally handicapped suicide bombers on at least three occasions. Good guys those terrorists. If only 6 year olds were strong enough to carry the bombs I am sure they would be sending them in too.

So this point seems to me to lack any merit.

Herbert then turns to a bunch of quotes - most if not all made before the war - that state the war in Iraq (or I should say, the possible war in Iraq) is being used as a recruitment tool, and in some opinions, an effective tool. Also a quote wholly unrelated to this argument that it is only a matter of time before Al Qaeda attempts to use chemical, biological or nuclear weapons. Wow, what a revelation. Terrorists want to use the most destructive weapons possible. Hmm, maybe we should try to stop them from getting their hands on such things? Perhaps we should make sure that countries that have such weapons don't give them to terrorists. Perhaps we should do something about a country run by a dictator that has chemical and biological weapons that might be friendly to terrorist groups.... Maybe that would be a good idea, you think?

So it seems to me that Herbert provides us with the very reason why this war was a good idea, and why it has helped the war on terror.

Plus, in my opinion, you have to think long-term. Long-term we have democratized one formerly terrorist-friendly nation and, presumably, eventually that will be one less country from which the terrorists will be able to recruit. This could also be the first domino in creating a democratic Middle East.

Herbert's only other point is that American soldiers have died. Well that certainly is a tragedy. But people die in war. And the fact they die cannot be used to argue the war was an "ill-advised" decision. The question is, was the war worth it. I think most would say that it was worth the loss of life and limb to defeat Nazi Germany. But this same argument could have been used to say that was an ill-advised war. As far as the Iraq war, we won't really know whether it was an "ill-advised" war or not until 10 or 20 years from now. At that point we may very well look back and see that this Iraq war was the first step in creating a democratic Middle East and ending terrorism as we know it. It is short-sighted to say the least to claim now that the Iraq war hasn't been successful in the war on terror. Only time will tell.

Oh, and lets not forget the people of Iraq. I think it is fair to say they are much better off without Saddam than they were with him.
Vodkapundit has an excellent post discussing one proposal for using bloggers to vet MSM stories, and then proposing his own idea - for MSM to incorporate blogs and bloggers into their content. A very good idea, and very well thought out. The only thing I question is whether the script / automatic approach for incorporating blogs into online newspapers is feasible. I doubt many newspapers (or their lawyers) would let content be placed into their websites without any editorial review.

But I am sure they can figure out some workable method to implement this excellent idea.
Sunday, February 20, 2005
Lubbers, the head of the U.N. Refugee Agency, resigned amid allegations of sexual harassment. The allegations were previously mentioned on this site here.
Essentially there are two standards that various members of the W3C are proposing for the new web forms standard. One, XForms, is not compatible with current browsers. The other, Web Forms 2.0, is compatible with current browsers although it is not as feature rich or advanced as the XForms standard.

In addition to those two standards, there are other proprietary "standards" out there made by different proprietary makers. Microsoft has XAML, Macromedia has Flash MX, and Mozilla has XUL.

The splinter faction is composed of browser makers such as Opera Software, Mozilla, and Apple Computer (which has its own browser).

Essentially the splinter faction is concerned about the lack of backward compatibility in XForms, i.e., it wouldn't be supported by their browsers (nor by IE) and would probably require a plug-in.

Sense no current browser supports Xforms, this group figures that Microsoft won't implement it and instead use its proprietary XAML form specification. And since IE has over 90% of the market, that would make Xforms essentially irrelevant. XAML would become the defacto standard, and the spliter group's products (alternative browsers to IE) would not be able to implement the proprietary XAML standard. This would effectively lock their products out of any corporate market that utilized form technology.

So it is a pretty big deal, and it makes sense that the splinter group members are concerned enough to take this action. Hopefully their concerns are taken seriously by the W3C.
The EFF (Electronic Frontier Foundation) has recently released a pretty good white paper on the dangers of EULAs to consumers. EULAs are a pet peeve of mine, and I hope to write in great length about them in the near future.

EULAs, for those of you unfamiliar with the term, are End User License Agreements. These accompany pretty much every piece of software sold today. Often (almost always) the terms of the EULA are not disclosed to the buyer of the software until after the purchase is made, the CD or DVD is placed into the purchaser's computer, and the software starts to install.

And of course at that point it is unlikely that any consumer is going to return the software, rather most just click through the windows that pop up without reading the terms. If you read the terms, however, you will find very biased - and often - unconscionable provisions that favor the software maker (shocking, I am sure). I personally believe EULAs are not enforceable for the most part, but many believe they are enforceable and cite to some case law out there that seemingly supports that view. For the most part whether EULAs are enforceable is an open issue as most states' courts have not addressed this issue yet.

Try reading the next EULA you see - it is pretty scary what terms you may be deemed to be agreeing to when you use that software....
This is another potential example of the way the patent system in the U.S. has become a real problem. Large companies are acquiring and amassing patents in an attempt to erect barriers to entry for potential competitions.

Even more egregious are the numerous illegitimate patents that are issued each year. The U.S. patent office simply is understaffed and overwhelmed by the flood of patent applications. And as a result numerous patents are issues fraudulently as they are clearly barred by prior art. The patent holder than uses these illegitimate patents to extort money from small businesses that cannot afford to fight those patents. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is fighting some of these patents, and is a good source of information on this issue.
Despite a very low turn-out and general popular skepticism about the EU, Spain is expected to endorse the constitution. Even if the vote is successful, the constitution still must be ratified by parliament.

Update: The vote is in (or close enough): Spaniards approve the constitution.
New Yorkers fed up with overhearing other people's private conversations as they talk on their cell phones are increasingly turning to illegal jammers to block cell phone signals as reported here.

Apparently hotel chains may also be using these devices to block guest's cell phones in order to force them to use the hotel phones and incur those ridiculous charges. I smell a class action lawsuit in the future.
I think she would be a good candidate, but lets take a year or two off before we start the madness again please!

In related news, apparently the rumor in the beltway is that Cheney will step down as V.P. due to health issues and Condi will be named his replacement.
I really could care less, but it is pretty funny given Ms. Hilton is one of the featured stars in those annoying T-Mobile ads. Apparently her friends are a bit upset with her. Of course who wouldn't be pissed after getting a sunday morning wake-up call from Matt Drudge.
As I first mentioned here, space.com reported that NASA researchers had evidence of life on mars. Now apparently those researchers are saying this ain't so. NASA has a similar press release.

Personally, I smell a government conspiracy to cover-up the truth....
Saturday, February 19, 2005
Along with every other gmail user, I have been given 50 gmail invitations. If you want one, leave a comment below with an email address, or send me an email at armchairgenius at gmail.com and I will send you one.
After many reports of an immenient deal to "uncancel" the season, the NHL and NHLPA met for 6 plus hours today only to find they were farther apart then they thought.

Needless to say, the season really is dead now. And as I discussed earlier today, the league is probably soon to follow....
Its an interesting read, and tends to show that the public and private President Bush are one and the same.
According to this article Americans are ignorant about Europeans and also too religious and censorship-happy. But ironically, this article shows that Europeans (as represented by this member of their media) are just as, if not more, ignorant of Americans.

For example:

America is strait-laced and earnest, and is getting more so with every passing day.

A recent example which caught my eye, I thought at first it was a joke, that several television stations refused to allow the screening of Steven Spielberg's film Saving Private Ryan.

Saving Private Ryan, starring Tom Hanks, is not pornographic, nor is it grotesquely violent. It is a war film with some shooting and some swearing.

Although it would be shown on any television station anywhere in Europe, with no comment and no censorship, the swearing is too much for America.

Actually the stations did not air that movie for fear of possible fines by the FCC, as reported here.

America is fast becoming a nation of faith not fact. A nation where the unpleasant aspects of human existence are simply airbrushed away.

Television coverage of the Asian Tsunami was a case in point. In Europe it was covered as an unrelenting tragedy, in America, one television network promised "incredible stories of lives saved in near miraculous fashion".

Americans want to believe in miracles, their heads are in the clouds.

While Europeans fret about what they regard as real life, about poverty and social justice and about combating AIDS, Americans find it easier to rally round a vision, however otherworldly it might be.

Nevermind the fact that Americans have given more aid to the Tsunami relief efforts than any other nation, that they give more money to support aids prevention in Africa and on medical research generally than any other nation... Apparently Americans aren't the only ones unconcerned with facts.

Witness President Reagan's arms build up in the 1980s, which helped to destroy the Soviet Union, or the first President Bush's decision to press for German re-unification, when even Mrs Thatcher was nervous.

The fact is that Americans have long regarded Europeans as weak-willed, lily-livered, morally degenerate moaners, incapable of clear thinking or resolute action.

My point is that this tendency is accelerating.

I agree. Europeans need to grow a back-bone and stop relying on the United States to clean up their messes....

Good op-ed piece over at the NY Times discussing the skyrocketing costs of the prescription drug benefit program. Pretty crazy numbers being thrown around.
Several recent articles have pointed out that NHL ratings have fallen behind sports such as Arena League Football, and that the current replacement programming on ESPN has more than doubled the ratings that the NHL received last year: college basketball on ESPN2 and the new poker drama Tilt are substantially outperforming the NHL's performance last year. A great article here.

It is so bad that there are serious questions as to whether ESPN will continue NHL coverage in future years.

This article points out that the NHL's ratings are not only lower than the obvious, MLB, NFL, and NBA, they are also lower than: golf, NASCAR, college basketball, the Professional Bowlers Association (that is just sad), poker (this I can understand - at least the WSOP), and the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show (this is sadder than the PBA... if that is possible).

This article notes that Fox regional channels are seeing disappointing ratings without the NHL, but also notes that ESPN has doubled its performance. But apparently ESPN still would like to have NHL playoffs as those ratings are generally significantly better than the regular season NHL ratings. NBC is replacing its NHL programming with dog shows, figure skating, skiing, and skateboarding -- all of which are outperforming what the NHL did on ABC last year. (Great job Bettman). And all of these replacement programing choices are cheaper to produce than the NHL.

Even before the debacle of the lockout this season, even in the midst of last season, articles noted:

According to a New York Times article this week, regular-season ratings actually have declined 21 percent during ESPN's 5-year involvement. That's not an easy thing to do when we are talking numbers that are lower than those for Arena Football League games on NBC.

According to the article, the average playoff ratings over those 5 years have fallen 39 percent, to 0.69 last season on ESPN, and 19 percent on ESPN, to 0.37. The combined rating between ESPN and ABC for the Stanley Cup finals last year was a 2.4, down from 3.6 in 2002, and around the number your average regular-season arena football game gets.

The argument often made is that, well, hockey is, like baseball, a provincial sport. Arena football, well that's global, man.

The argument doesn't skate. Fox Sports Net carries 20 teams through regional sports networks it owns or is affiliated with. The average rating among those 20 teams this season is a 1.15.

That's 1.15. ABC's ratings are a 1.3. Put them together and you've got, well, an Arena Football League game. Put those numbers in the hands of another league, even a bowling league, and I guarantee three things:

One, you would hear no noise about a work stoppage;

Two, you would fire whoever was in charge;

And three, you would make drastic changes.

My point in citing all of thes articles is this: "uncancelling" the season is a start, but there is still a ton of work to do if the NHL wants to remain more than a glorified bar league. If they don't bring in a new commissioner with a vision for the sport it won't matter if they can reach their next collective bargaining agreement or not, no one will care.
According to the New York Post, the Feds are investigating possible insider trading surrounding Howard Stern's deal with Sirius satellite radio.

Maybe he can share a cell with Martha? (I jest - but it does not appear from this article that Stern himself is a target).
Friday, February 18, 2005
Not exactly a shining city on the hill for all to see....
Just when I think the plaintiff's bar can't do anything more outrageous, they pull something like this.

Although to be fair, they are just cutting out the middlemen and women. Who needs those pesky injured plaintiffs anyway who just screw up the claims the lawyers invented.
An ingenuitive "gentlemen's club" owner has found a way to avoid local Idaho laws aimed at prohibiting all nude dancing -- sell the customers a sketch-pad and pencils and call it an "art club."

I always wanted to try my hand at art....
According to the Hockey News and many other reports, the NHL and NHLPA are set to meet tomorrow and are expected to "uncancel" the season!

Perhaps common sense will actually rule the day and they will drop the puck this year.

As an aside, the speculation is that the agreement will feature a $45 million dollar cap that I suggested three days ago.

Update: EJ Hradek of ESPN reports that the deal is official with a $45 million dollar cap that will be announced tomorrow. Lace 'em up!
This proposal just scares me. The theory behind the proposal is to somehow try to take politics out of appointments to some extent (i.e., to take away some of the incentive to appoint young ideologues to the bench).

But wouldn't this proposal just really incentivize attempts to reverse prior decisions by loading the bench with 3 or 4 true extremist over a few congressional terms? Appointing an extremist wouldn't be as much of a concern under this system because (from that party's perspective) they would only be serving 18 years or so rather than a life time.

The authors of this proposal summarize it (in part) by stating:

The proposed Act deals directly with the lengthening of service, gives equal weight in the appointment of Justices to each federal election, reduces the opportunities for individual Justices and Presidents to manipulate current arrangements to perpetuate their own predilections, and may have a beneficial indirect influence on the exercise of judicial power by encouraging judicial restraint. Yet it does not impair the independence of the judiciary from the political branches of government.
Proposal at Section C.

Someone will have to explain to me how this proposal would encourage judicial restraint. It would not hold any individual justice accountable to any other body or the public. All it would do is encourage a justice to try to accomplish as much as they could do in a shorter, predefined period of time. I would think it would cause more judicial activism. Justices, having reached the pinnacle of their profession, would have an incentive to create their legacy as quickly as possible.


Life time appointments have worked pretty well for the last 200 years. The problem identified by the authors of this proposal is not the judicial branch, it is the executive and legislative branches --- I think a better proposal would try to fix the problem and not one symptom of the problem.
The Choicepoint break-in that was reported awhile ago under a California law turns out to be much worse with over 110,000 accounts nationally compromised.

The well-publicized hack of T-mobile's website is in the news again because security expert Jack Koziol has publicized several more holes in their website.

And Microsoft is warning of impossible to clean spyware....
He is probably right, but the more important question for Democrats is: can any of them win?
The New Jersey AG has sued blockbuster over its "no late fees" ad campaign claiming it violates that state's consumer fraud act.

Sounds like there is some merit to the claim, as Blockbuster still does charge a fee if you keep the rental more than a week - they just call it a "restocking fee" - and if you keep the movie for 30 days they charge you the full retail price of the movie...

That sounds like late fees to me. Netflix is much better anyway.
Instapundit links to some interesting polling information. 37% of Americans also think that Kofi Annan should resign, only 26% don't think he should resign, and 37% are undecided.

Of those people following the oil for food scandal coverage closely a whopping 63% think that Kofi Annan should resign. I am sure that more Republicans are following the story closer, so that likely biased this result somewhat, but still that is a pretty high percentage.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
A hilarious fictional O'Reilly - Yoda interview at Wuzzadem.com. Good stuff. Although probably not as good to O'Reilly as the Thai Sex Show.

Hey that's not a lightsabre!
While I disagree with most of this article, it does raise some good points.
The Department of Homeland Security can't even secure their computers....
Hopefully the U.S. will follow suit.
Because they obviously have good judgment..... The voting holiday is a good idea though. I am actually in favor of a whole week off every four years to give the electorate time to study the candidates and issues before they vote.

But of course there aren't many politicians that have won an election who would be in favor of an educated and informed citizentry.
Apparently Gretzky and Lemieux (Mario, not Claude obviously) have entered the picture and are trying to resurrect the season. For some reason these two think it was crazy and stupid for the season to be cancelled (shocking I know)....

As I wrote about earlier (the update at the bottom), yesterday both sides seemed to suggest that they would have agreed to the 45 million dollar cap number, but neither was willing to propose it. That still seems to be the situation now. The NHL earlier stated they would be happy to take a call from the NHLPA, and E J Hradek on ESPNEWS stated that neither side wants to make the 45 million dollar offer unless they know the other will accept it.

WHY?!?! Regardless of what the other side does, the party that offers the 45 million dollar cap first ends up the winner. If the other side accepts it, you were the one that set aside your pride to make the move that saved the season. If the other side rejects it, you were the reasonable party that breached the divide, and the other side was unreasonable and unwilling to budge to save the season. It is a win-win.

Clearly no one involved was a litigator, and certainly not a good negotiator. This deal should have been made about 6 months ago.

Edit: the story originated at The Hockey News - they do great work and deserve the credit.
I just found this article amusing on several levels. Bush-bashers must be getting desperate when this the best ammo they can come up with.
According to an article from zdnet:

"A wife who installed spyware on her husband's computer to secretly record evidence of an extramarital affair violated state law, a Florida court ruled Friday.

The Florida Appeals Court, Fifth District said that Beverly Ann O'Brien "illegally obtained" records of husband James' online conversations with another woman as the two played Yahoo Dominoes together.

"It is illegal and punishable as a crime under (state law) to intercept electronic communications," wrote Judge Donald Grincewicz on behalf of a three-judge panel.

He and the two other judges barred Beverly O'Brien from revealing the contents of the intercepted conversations, and said the chat records could not be introduced as evidence in the unhappy couple's divorce proceedings."

If I can track down the full opinion I will try to post it here.
I guess this is one way to stop the Republicans from appointing conservative judges....

Satire from Scrappleface
25 million downloads. Move over Microsoft!


Note - the www.spreadfirefox.com link seems to be down right now --- Slashdotted I am sure.
Class action lawsuits and a SEC investigation cannot be far behind. Good thing SCO has plenty of lawyers.
I plan on writing more on this later, but for now read why Grand Theft Auto is the devil.
According to an article posted on Slashdot Napster's copy protection system has been hacked. This will allow Napster users, in theory, to create CDs containing millions of songs.

At some point the RIAA and its members need to wake up and realize they won't be able to stop things like this. They need to create other reasons for customers to overpay for their CDs, or just go with the flow and make their revenue in some other manner.

Oh by the way, even with all the so-called pirating occurring right now, CD sales increased by 2.3% last year.
Instapundit links to several articles on this topic, and I share his joy at seeing these things go the way of the dodo bird.

I once received a speeding ticket in Arizona from one of these things. I didn't even think of arguing improper service... But I challenged the ticket and they dismissed it, so I guess it worked out about the same.
This article from Canada's Globe and Mail discusses the findings of several economists who actually looked at the NHL's payroll figures. Overall the economists suggest that Bettman and the league are not being honest about the divide between the NHL's 42.5 million dollar cap offer and the NHLPA's 49 million dollar cap offer.

Only seven teams would have exceeded the NHL's cap figure. And only 6 would have exceeded the NHLPA's 49 million dollar cap. That makes it a difference of 42 million between the 2 proposals not 200 million as Bettman stated in a very deceptive manner yesterday.

Many of the economist interviewed for this article believe the league didn't actually want to reach a deal, but rather want to use replacement players and attempt to break the union next year. But the NLRB will require the league to have negotiated in good faith as a prerequisite to being allowed to utilize replacement/non-union players next year. And it is not clear - especially based on the facts discussed in this article - that the league ever really negotiated in good faith.

Of course on the other side of the coin, NHL players are incredibly overpaid, on the top end especially, compared to the ratings their sports receives (or more aptly a lack of ratings). So the players certainly could have fed their families with the money they would have made under the NHL's cap offer.

A pox on both their houses I say.


Update: A good article from the LA Times on possible NLRB issues and the possible use of replacement players next year. Another article here that claims the NHL isn't likely to use replacement players because the more pro-worker Canadian laws won't allow the practice.
Are they sure the monkeys aren't just buying it for the articles? Check out this report at the Guardian.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
NASA researchers believe they have evidence of life on mars.

Bacterial life that is, not little gray (or green) men, but still it's a start.
Overlawyered has a story about a lawyer representing a group of German and Austrian tourist suing the government of Thailand, a hotel chain, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.

Perhaps when this lawsuit gets dismissed as frivolous we can impose sanctions - Thailand style - on the lawyer and flog him in public.
Interesting article noting that an increasing number of college applicants are choosing not to indicate their ethnicity on their college application. I have always believe that after the baby boomers move out of the work force race will become less and less relevant as the younger generations are less race-conscious.

Diversity is a good thing, but is it really diversity when it is by design?
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
From my crystal ball....
The NHL season will be saved when the NHL and NHLPA agree in principle to a $45.75 million dollar salary cap system.... Currently the NHL proposed a $42.5 million dollar cap. The NHLPA rejected that offer and countered with a $49 million dollar cap as reported here from ESPN.

It doesn't take a genius to do the math. And even if the NHL pulls some stupid move like refusing to raise their $42.5 million offer, I fully expect the NHLPA will propose the middle number. If the NHL refuses that then they are the bad guys, and the NHLPA will when the support of the hockey public, and perhaps more importantly the National Labor Relations Board.

But it won't get to the NLRB unless Betteman is more of a moron than even I think he is - this thing will settle somewhere around the $45-46 million dollar cap figure. It is only a matter of time (hours!) now....

Gentlemen, start your Zambonis.....

Update: I am not the only one that thinks this is the magic number, so does ESPN's EJ Hradek.

Update redux: It is official, they are all idiots.... According to this article it appears that both sides may have agreed to my 45-46 million dollar proposal if either one of them had made it.... Hubris killed the NHL. Both Betteman and Goodenow should be fired immediately.
A hilarious article over at Scrappleface discusses the recent Senate vote that passed class action reform.

My take: The changes this bill would enact are very minor and the chicken-little reactions from some of the trial lawyer groups are simply absurd. All this bill would do is push a small sub-set of class-actions that include classes from more than one state into the federal courts. It makes sense that federal courts should decide cases that will impact a nationwide class.

Specifically: "class action suits would be heard in state court if the primary defendant and more than one-third of the plaintiffs are from the same state. But if fewer than one-third of the plaintiffs are from the same state as the primary defendant, the case would go to federal court. At least $5 million would have to be at stake for a federal court to hear a class-action suit."

The bill also puts some limits on legal fees in certain types of cases. Worst case scenario for the trial lawyers though is that they would receive their fees on an hourly basis - the way most lawyers bill their clients anyway.

This is a good start but more class-action reform is necessary.
An LA Times article reports that Microsoft will release a new "safer" version of Internet Explorer this year. This version will focus on having "anti-spyware" features, does that mean we will finally get a bug-free product from Microsoft? I doubt it. And since most of the really malicious spyware utilizes bugs in the browser, I doubt the anti-spyware features will do much good.

Besides, Firefox is a much better product anway....
Overlawyered has an article discussing McDonald's settlement of the transfat lawsuit. More interesting to me is the fact that McDonald's apparently only switched to using transfat at the urging of nutritionists and groups that wanted McDonald's to stop using animal and tropical fats.

It now turns out the replacements are more harmful than the original fats... Oops.
Instapundit links to an excellent story published in the Rocky Mountain News about the Ward Churchill scandal.

I haven't been following this story much at all since the insane ramblings of a disturbed individual don't really concern me. But this article does an excellent job of explaining how Churchill was able to obtain his job despite his scholarly shortcomings by defrauding the University of Colorado and using the political leanings of the University against itself. Pretty ironic.
Monday, February 14, 2005
ASmallVictory links to a couple of articles that state the NHL season will official be no mas this Wednesday barring some miracle (no pun intended).

I would state whether I think the players or owners are to blame, but I will join my blogging brethren at asmallvictory.net in mourning and leave the blame game till later.... Especially since there is more than enough blame to go around.... And especially since the Yahoo article that is linked does a good job of discussing this issue.

Update:

All is not lost according to many reports, including this one from ESPN. The NHLPA offere a proposal that included a salary cap, the one thing they have said all along they would never accept. The NHL refused their proposal, but the sides are now only going to debate money, not cap v. no-cap so hopefully they can work it out. The sides are only 12 million apart in the per team cap with NHLPA's offer of 52 million and the last NHL offer having a $40 million cap.

If they can't bridge that gap, then I propose they handle it like this.
Vodkapundit links to a Drudge story that cites to soon to be released article from Roll Call (are you dizzy yet) that states the FEC will examine how internet activities when coordinated with candidates' campaigns fit into the definition of "public communications." (emphasis added).

Now I can understand why the blogosphere has concerns about this report. But I think chicken little can rest easy at least for now. This should not impact anyone who is not acting in concert with a campaign. So hopefully the FEC will do something right, and leave us bloggers alone.
Dynamist links to a LA Times article about an Iranian blogger who was arrested for blogging... Which according to her interrogator was "inviting corrupt American Liberalism to rule Iran."

Yes, that darn corrupting freedom we hear so much about.... There is much less corruption in totalitarian states like Iran because, of course, the leaders are not corrupt, they are just always right....
Overlawyered links to an interesting article about a woman who sued a 7 year old. The woman was injured while rollerblading when her rollerblade caught on the wheel of the boy's bicycle. The article notes that the trial court and appellate court have dismissed the case. And the article suggests this is because she was suing a 7 year old, but in fact the description of the facts - or what little there is - suggests that in reality the case was thrown out probably because she failed to state a claim.

It would be interesting to read a full factual summary of the circumstances surrounding the accident itself. It seems unlikely to me the case was simply dismissed because the defendant was a 7 year old - but what do I know.....
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