Wednesday, June 29, 2005


In their paper, Mr. Wein and Mr. Liu describe how the milk industry is vulnerable because individual farmers send their product to central processing facilities, thereby allowing milk from many locations to mix. Terrorists could poison the supply by putting botulinum toxin into one of the 5,500-gallon trucks that picks up milk daily at farms or by dropping the toxin into raw-milk silos, which hold roughly 50,000 gallons each. Pasteurization would destroy some but not all of the toxin, and a millionth of a gram of toxin may be enough to kill a person.
I found this little gem on crooked timber. It made me think "You know, if all the geniuses who sit around thinking of ways we are vulnerable would shut their mouths and stop thinking of all these great ways to kill us, maybe we would actually be SAFER!"

Crooked Timber, incidentally, is some kind of super-blog of academics with an occasionally interesting tract interspersed with some of the most incredibly boring, dry and pointless pieces I could imagine. Most of the time I get done reading the first couple of pieces and feel like I tried to drink a bucket of sand. Then I get sidetracked clicking their links, most of which are just incredibly pointless. Perhaps the worst, barely coherent blog I could think of, with a really great name is "bitch, PHD." Like a lot of things; great concept without the talent to pull it off. Then again I should talk.

The squandered victory camp vindicated

I said well before the first boots ever crossed into Iraq from Kuwait that the hardest part of the war would be stabilizing that country; and I predicted that it would probably dissolve into civil war. In a sick way, and I'm rather embarrassed now to admit it, I argued that Hussein was a source of stability.

Now comes a book called "Squandered victory" explaining exactly why and how Bush screwed things up.


When Mr. Diamond returned to the United States in April 2004, he says, he wrote his old friend Ms. Rice a long, confidential memo, recommending that America "disavow any long-term military aspirations in Iraq," establish a target date for the withdrawal of our forces, respond to concerns about Iraqi detainees, proceed vigorously with a plan to disarm and reintegrate Iraqi militias and send "significantly more troops and equipment."

The memo concluded: "If we do not develop soon a coherent counter-insurgency plan combining political and military, Iraqi and international initiatives, we will creep closer and closer to that tipping point, beyond which so many Iraqis sympathize with or join the insurgency that we cannot prevail at any bearable price."

He says he never heard back from Ms. Rice or her principal assistant for Iraq, Robert Blackwill.

I'm thinking Rice might be up for asshole of the week pretty soon...although Donald Rusmfeld looms large on the asshole radar.

Monday, June 13, 2005

The bubble camp vindicated?

So apparently even the great economic guru Alan Greenspan is now admitting that things aren't so rosy. As the feds look now at low interest rates and continuing skyrocketing housing prices, alongside the number of interest only home loans going out there, the genius has finally realized what many of us, myself included, have been saying for years; what goes up must come down.;_ylt=Aj6GtP3zps0y4BrPdWc.wqGyBhIF;_ylu=X3oDMTBiMW04NW9mBHNlYwMlJVRPUCUl

By Kristin Roberts Fri Jun 10, 4:52 PM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -
Federal Reserve Chairman
Alan Greenspan this week added to a chorus of worry about the growth of home loans seen as far riskier than the 30-year mortgage that has been U.S. housing's bedrock for decades.

Those alternatives, called "exotic" by the Fed chief on Thursday, have played a big role in sustaining the four-year housing boom by making homes more affordable, which in turn stoked demand and drove prices higher and higher.

But these hundreds of alternative mortgage products have also injected more risk into the market -- both for lenders and borrowers, according to regulators and some analysts.

Of most concern are loans that require little downpayment and delay big principal payments, leaving homeowners highly leveraged for longer just as rates appear poised to rise.

"The dramatic increase in the prevalence of interest-only loans, as well as the introduction of other relatively exotic forms of adjustable-rate mortgages are developments of particular concern," Greenspan told Congress.

He's not alone.
And alongside all of this are numerous "experts" within the real estate industry who are doing their best to suppress this news, or simply ignore it entirely. It is noteworthy that I had to search for this story through a number of pages. Considering we are talking about one of the biggest bailouts since the s and l crisis, you would think all the finance geniuses would be talking.

But then again fancy titles and the amount of money in your bank has never been much of a sign of intelligence in the US.

Friday, June 10, 2005

More freedom and less guns...

There is an impressive array of statistics out there on the issue of gun control, and I suppose that perusal of them would indicate how easily it is that statistics can be swayed toward one point of view or toward another. Suffice to say, though, that so much of it is simply obfuscation and sophistry directly related to middle-aged men compensating for the physical impotence and desirous of the great equalizing factor; the firearm.'women%20and%20gun%20violence'

Myth: Guns protect women from gun violence.

Fact: Rates of female homicide, suicide and unintentional firearm death are disproportionately higher in states where guns are more prevalent.[3]

Fact: In the US, regions with higher levels of handgun ownership have higher suicide rates.[4] Although women have higher rates of depression than men, it is the handgun-suicide connection, rather than depression, that accounts for higher suicide rates.

Myth: Handgun ownership increases womenÕs ability to defend themselves.

Fact: In 1998, women were 101 times more likely to be murdered with a handgun than to use a handgun to kill in self-defense. Women were 302 times more likely to be murdered with a handgun than to use a handgun to kill a stranger in self-defense. Women were 83 times more likely to be murdered by an intimate acquaintance with a handgun than to kill an intimate acquaintance in self-defense.[5]

Fact: In the rare cases in which women do use guns in self-defense, it is most commonly against an attacker known to them.[6]

Myth: Guns protect women from rape.

Fact: Guns are rarely used by rapists - less than 2 percent of rapes are committed with guns, while almost 70 percent are committed with personal weapons (physical violence). Women would be safer knowing self-defense to fight off an attacker than using a gun which can easily be turned against them.[7]

Myth: Women need guns to protect against stranger rape.

Fact: Stranger rape is not the greatest danger for women as most women (75 percent) are raped by offenders known to the victim. 60 percent of rapes are committed against victims under the age of 18 who are forbidden by law to own a gun.[8]


1. Susan Glick, Female Persuasion: How the Firearms Industry Markets to Women and the Reality of Women and Guns. Washington, D.C.: Violence Policy Center, 1994.
2. Violence Policy Center, A Deadly Myth: Women, Handguns, and Self-Defense. Washington, D.C., 2001, 1.
3. Matthew Miller et. al., "Firearm Availability and Suicide, Homicide, and Unintentional Firearm Deaths Among Women." Journal of Urban Health 79: 26-38 (2002).
4. David Hemenway and Matthew Miller, "Association of Rates of Household Handgun Ownership, Lifetime Major Depression, and Serious Suicidal Thoughts with Rates of Suicide across US Census Regions." Injury Prevention 8: 313-316 (2002).
5. Violence Policy Center, A Deadly Myth: Women, Handguns, and Self-Defense. Washington, D.C., 2001, 2-3.
6. Ibid., 3.
7. FBI Uniform Crime Reports, The Structure of Family Violence: An Analysis of Selected Incidents. Washington, D.C., 1998.
8. Susan Glick, Female Persuasion: How the Firearms Industry Markets to Women and the Reality of Women and Guns. Washington, D.C.: Violence Policy Center, 1994, 3.

Monday, June 06, 2005


Far be it for me to take on a great UCLA Professor, but on the subject of Gun Control there are no shortage misinformed people out there, and apparently Eugene Volokh is one of them. His essay "guns and the constitution" which apparently was printed in the Wall Street Journal, is an exercise in wishful thinking and is borderline dishonest.

His misreading of the second amendment is replete with illogical thinking; he points out that the English Bill of Rights of 1668 referred to a "individual right" but fails to point out that England no longer has that, nor is the history of English law proof that our framers intended for that to be the case. He points out that it refers to the "people" but neglects to point out that it starts out with the qualifier "A well-regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free state". Why omit this particular sentence from the equation unless it is inconvenient for your argument? Are there no examples of the use of the phrase "people" collectively?

If I am not mistaken, when charges are filed against an individual, the case is referred to as "the people v. ...". How is it, then, that the law can be read as referring to the individual right?

Volokh points out that the state constitutions refer to an individual right. Do they? Perhaps I am unable to wrap my head around how the supremacy clause can be used to argue that people should keep arms, but cannot be used to argue people cannot. Such arguments run the risk of a person being hoisted on their own petard.

But the most fascinating assertion of all is that "hundreds of thousands of people defend themselves each year with firearms." Utter nonsense, and more so when he points out that women defend themselves using firearms.

These statistics come from a few crackpot Professors (Lott and Mustard and another who have been roundly rebuked by the social science field) who have made a name for themselves trading on the popularity of guns among middle-aged men compensating for their insecurity. There aren't "hundreds of thousands" of people whipping out pistols to get some punk to back off and there never have been. This is a complete fantasy, but that doesn't stop the NRA and their useful idiots from putting this out there.

The fact remains that the US gun laws are insane, and our ability to accept some twenty thousand gun deaths each year because Americans are killing Americans is absurd. If those people were being killed by Arabs, our army would invade their country.

Eugene Volokh may be a distinguished scholar, but he's been hoodwinked.

Interestingly enough, the poster child for this article is a doctor who threatened his wife and kids with a gun and was denied the right to carry a firearm though he hadn't been charged with a misdemeanor. This exemplifies the issue. Women are far more likely to be killed by jealous husbands and boyfriends with a firearm than anything. The presence of a firearm in the home, for most women, spells greater danger. In fact, if you looked at the issue of suicide alone, where states with lax gun laws have greater suicide rates than those with strict ones, the argument is powerful.

medical marijuana and the commerce clause

Today the Supreme Court struck down a lawsuit against Ashcroft declaring that the government has the power under the commerce clause to regulate medical marijuana. Interestingly enough, Rhenquist and Thomas, along with O'connor dissented, attempting to make their support for states' rights a little more consistent than the majority.

The commerce clause is Congress most wide-reaching power; it gives Congress the power to regulate interstate commerce and though it's power has ebbed and flowed, it was most recently curtailed in the Lopez decision. Gun control advocates, attempting to prevent the massive slaughter we see every year, invoked the power of the commerce clause in attempting to file criminal charges against those caught with guns on school grounds. While apparently such action is too "local" (a brief examination of the Wickard decision as well as Heart of Atlanta shows how ridiculous that view is) the pot clubs are not.

So there it is. The federal government doesn't have the power to charge crooks who carry guns on school grounds with a federal crime (although I'm sure a lot of those guns are flowing through interstate commerce, which demonstrates how these particular articles of commerce are treated so differently)but it does have the power to stop those people dying of hiv and cancer from getting medical treatment.

The best evidence available indicates that the physician should be making this choice, and the line drawn in the sand by the Supreme Court, who has worked backwards to support their conclusion, is an arbitrary and capricious one. But then again that doesn't make it too different from a number of other decisions they have made.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Asshole of the week...part three...

This weeks asshole is none other than British politician George Galloway, who we recall the other week dressing down the sub-committee on the UN oil for food program who dared to accuse him of, gasp, taking MONEY from the UN (something I am sure hasn't ever been done before) for his own personal gain.

The sound-bite we received was oddly one-sided; we hear Senators timidly responding to Galloways' agressive attack but hear none of the evidence or the questioning. It just didn't make good drama.

Granted, the same Senators convinced of Galloways' wrongdoing might be probing into the lack of a phase four plan on the invasion of Iraq, or for that matter Rice's efforts to build a missile defense system just before the WTC imploded, and the fact that there is an "unamed source" behind the testimony stinks. But a little more information on this character from Hitchens and the picture becomes a lot more clear.


First of all, and easiest, he had dared to state under oath that he had not been a defender of the Saddam regime. This, from the man who visited Baghdad after the first Gulf war and, addressing Saddam, said: "Sir, I salute your courage, your strength, your indefatigability." How's that for lickspittling? And even if you make allowances for emotional public moments, you can't argue with Galloway's own autobiography, blush-makingly entitled I'm Not the Only One, which was published last spring and from which I offer the following extracts:

The state of Kuwait is "clearly a part of the greater Iraqi whole, stolen from the motherland by perfidious Albion." (Kuwait existed long before Iraq had even been named.) "In my experience none of the Ba'ath leaders have displayed any hostility to Jews." The post-Gulf war massacres of Kurds and Shia in 1991 were part of "a civil war that involved massive violence on both sides." Asked about Saddam's palaces after one of his many fraternal visits, he remarked, "Our own head of state has a fair bit of real estate herself." Her Majesty the Queen and her awful brood may take up a lot of room, but it's hardly comparable to one palace per province, built during a time of famine. Discussing Saddam's direct payments to the families of suicide-murderers--the very question he had refused to answer when I asked him--he once again lapsed into accidental accuracy, as with the Stalin comparison, and said that "as the martyred know, he put Iraq's money where his mouth was." That's true enough: It was indeed Iraq's money, if a bit more than Saddam's mouth.

As much as I enjoyed Galloways' rejoinder, referring to Hitchens as a "drink-sodden ex-trotskyist poppinjay" and i always suspiciously regard him, as I do myself as suspect when we refer to ourselves as the "authentic left" I would say there is considerable evidence that Galloway represents precisely the worst elements of the Jurassic left who, exhumed from their hermetically sealed bubble of fantasy, continue to argue as though we have seen the enemy and he is us. I become less convinced of that every time a mosque explodes and a protest regarding "Koran abuse" surfaces somewhere while Saudis react in outrage over the proposal that women be allowed to drive.

In a word; ASSHOLE...

The gulag of our time...

Maybe it's just my imagination but the Michael Moore faction of the left seems to making inroads into the progressive movement more than ever. While liberals like me at one time had a certain level of credibility, we seem to be perpetually fighting our image now because the statements like the one AI put out about Guantanamo. Steve Donahue, who I just linked, has written an interesting piece on the subject.

For my own part, I would be incredibly insulted if I were a victim of one of Stalin's prisons. There seems to be no shortage of attempts to trivialize the holocaust, or the purges of Stalin, or the crimes of Hussein and North Korea, but they do it anyway. Trivializing these crimes is borderline denial of them, and it's hard to imagine how anyone can feel good about it.

I personally like much of what AI or HRW have to say; but that being said, it's our duty to take a good look at their bias. These organizations have collected considerable information regarding Iraq under Hussein. The fact remains that we use them when we like them, and discard them when we don't like them.

Driving by women leads to evil...

Conservatives, who believe women should be shielded from strange men, say driving will allow a woman to leave home whenever she pleases and go wherever she wishes. Some say it will present her with opportunities to violate Islamic law, such as exposing her eyes while driving or interacting with strange men, like police officers or mechanics.

"Driving by women leads to evil," Munir al-Shahrani wrote in a letter to the editor of the Al-Watan daily. "Can you imagine what it will be like if her car broke down? She would have to seek help from men."

But al-Zulfa contends neither the law nor Islam bans women from driving. Instead, the ban is based on fatwas, or Islamic edicts, by senior clerics who say that any driving by women would create situations for sinful temptation.

It is the same argument used to restrict other freedoms. Without written permission from a male guardian, women may not travel, get an education or work. Regardless of permission, they are not allowed to mix with men in public or leave home without wearing black cloaks, called abayas.

There doesn't appear to be a day that goes by that a story comes out of the Arab world showing how utterly backward Arab civilization can be. Let's point out the first thing; that the KSA is an American ally and that the US has no problem with womens' rights in the KSA, compared to say, our great cause in Afghanistan. The stunning hypocrisy of the USA when it comes to women's rights is totally apparent to many observors; we won't fund international birth control programs but we suddenly discovered our sacred duty in Afganistan by coincidence after the WTC collapsed.

I can already hear female radicals from the hysterical left explaining away such things and our criticism of that society as failing to understand the multi-cultural issues. I dare say that few, if any of these same women would feel that way were they living in the KSA. I posted a few weeks ago an astonishing conversation from a particularly vile Canadian woman who attempted to explain genital mutilation and compare it to, gasp, circumcision.

WHile I am tempted to comment on women driving, (in truth it is testosterone laden teenage men and their twentysomething compadres who are by far the biggest assholes on the road)in the final analysis this isn't at all funny.

If there was any doubt we are at war with a seventh century mentality, this is one more piece of evidence that we are. As much as many would like to reduce our conflict with the mideast to imperialism and the reaction to it, let's be honest about it.