Tuesday, August 30, 2005

What Happened To Keith Olbermann's Brain?

Update: The post below is 3 years old, yet still is the result of common search terms. People are indeed curious as to what happened to Keith Olbermann and if you are reading this now then apparently you are too. For more recent posts about Olbermann please click:

Olbermann and Matthews on Obama


Olbermann and Matthews out at MSNBC

Thanks for reading. End Update.

Keith Olbermann spoke at convocation when I graduated from Cornell. His speech was witty and thought provoking. As an anchor on ESPN, he was definitely my favorite; though only rehashing sports scores, Olbermann came across as intelligent.

What then, I am forced ask, has happened to him?

After the election, Olbermann devoted his MSNBC show night in and night out to how the election in Ohio was fixed and how the election was stolen, unfair and invalid. His treatment of the election has been ripped apart numerous times, so I don't really feel the need to do so. Suffice it to say Mr. Olbermann was proudly wearing his tin foil hat for all to see.

His latest confounding production comes in the form of an entry on his "blog" on MSNBC. I almost didn't want to link to it, as the fewer people who read it, the better. However since MSNBC links to it on their front page, I feel compelled to do my part to point out the idiocy of his commentary.

Olbermann's post deals with Lance Armstrong and why Olbermann doesn't believe his denials of doping use. I'll post a summary of his logic here, to spare from you from reading his rants. The train of thought goes something like this:
  • During an actor's strike, Armstrong "crossed the picket lines" and made commercials
  • Armstrong is therefore a "louse" for not supporting unions
  • Being a louse, Armstrong is untrustworthy and man of weak character
  • Thus, he must be lying about doping and is a "juiced louse"
All the terms in quotes, above, are Olbermann's own. This chain of logic is unbelievably biased (not to mention moronic). He has the nerve to comment on his own rant with:
This is not a piece of pro-union dogma here. This is not a question of a guy crossing a picket line. This is a millionaire, being given a pass to work by a union full of guys making $7,000 a year, saying no, he wouldn’t do it -- and then going and doing it anyway.
While there is some legitimacy to the complaint that Armstrong said he wouldn't make commercials during the strike and then changing his mind and doing so, let's be honest here. Everything Olbermann wrote was a piece of pro-union dogma. And claiming Armstrong's behavior with the unions is related to the doping allegations is farcical.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Warning Labels for French Fries

Out here in California, the foolishness of the state government never ceases to amaze. The latest item: Attorney General Bill Lockyer has filed a lawsuit to require that makers of french fries and potato chips put a warning label on their products because they could cause cancer (Yahoo News story). FDA studies have shown that a chemical that appears in starchy foods cooked to high temperatures (e.g. frying) causes cancer in mice subjected to high doses.

California law requires warning labels for anything that is deemed carcinogenic. The labels are ubiquitous. For example, every gas station has such a warning at the pump. Now certainly the motivation behind these warnings is a good one. The folks in Sacramento want to protect citizens from harmful chemicals. But common sense should temper this desire of legislators and regulators. When warning labels are everywhere does anyone truly pay them any mind? Is there anyone in California who worries about whether to fill up his car because there might be carcinogenic chemicals at a gas station? How many people will choose not to eat fries at McDonalds because of such a warning? Warnings should be reserved for things that actually pose a significant, immediate threat.

When the government tries too hard to protect us the results end up in the range of ridiculousness.

Update: Debra Saunders (via RealClearPolitics) writes along the same lines.

Democratic Party And The Union Vote

There is an interesting editorial on FoxNews by Martin Frost concerning the Democratic Party and the potential loss of the union vote.
The raw numbers are perhaps the most telling:
According to Dionne, Kerry won union households in Pennsylvania 62 to 37 percent while losing non-union voters 55 to 45 percent. The story in Michigan was similar. Kerry won the union vote 61 to 37 percent, while losing the non-union vote 55 to 44 percent.

Equally dramatic was the percent of votes that came from union households — 30 percent in Pennsylvania and 37 percent in Michigan.
I also agree with this commentary:
Several large unions have broken from the AFL-CIO (search), arguing that labor should concentrate more on recruiting members and less on politics. Since the bulk of labor’s money has gone to Democratic candidates in recent years, this will have an impact on Democratic campaigns.

But the impact goes far beyond dollars.

The Democratic Party has relied heavily on organized labor to provide the ground troops to run campaigns and, more importantly, the votes necessary to carry key industrial states in presidential campaigns.
The magnitude of the impact remains an interesting question. While the unions might not be paying as much to "get out the vote" how likely is it for people that voted for Democrats in prior elections to suddenly switch because of the lack of union pressure? It is more likely that they don't vote at all. Lack of union voter turn-out would definitely hurt the Democratic Party, but not as much as union voters switching sides, so this would likely lessen the political impact. The editorial also makes this comment:
Labor has a multiracial make-up and minority union members probably will continue to be solidly Democratic, but white union members — without a strong push from the top — may not be as reliably Democratic as they have been in recent years.
While this is probably generally true, I don't think it can be taken for granted. Bush made some significant inroads among African American and Hispanic voters. It is unrealistic to think that there will be earth-shattering changes in the voting patterns of these demographics; but significant changes are indeed possible.

Red Cross Donations For Victims Of Hurricane Katrina

There is not much I can add to the wealth of coverage about the impact of hurricane Katrina. I can only hope that the loss of life is kept to a minimum by the efforts of emergency and relief organizations.

The Red Cross is accepting donations to help people who have been affected by the storm.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Agenda Journalism on Gas Prices

Agenda journalism on display in this AP piece picked up by CNN. Gas prices are high. Does it surprise anyone that the presidential motorcade uses a lot of fuel? Or Air Force One? But if it makes Bush look bad (wasting your tax dollars!) and it touches on the current theme that gas prices are the fault of government (specifically Republican government) then it's worth writing...

The most amusing bit in the story is the two paragraphs on Bush's farm truck. Horrors - it only gets 13/17 mpg! Of course, "Bush actually drives the pickup very little", so it really has nothing to do with the overall story. But it makes Bush look like a gas guzzling heathen, so why not include it? Not to mention the fact that a fuel efficient little passenger car wouldn't be much use in running a ranch (not that Bush is doing much actual ranching, but still).

Gas Price Controls: Haven't we tried this once before?

Hawaii will shortly begin imposing price caps on wholesale gasoline in hopes of stopping the rise in retail prices. MSNBC reports that caps will take effect on Sept. 1 and will be tied to an index comprised of gas prices in five U.S. markets.

This story sounds somewhat familiar. Haven't price controls for gas been tried before? Oh that's right, in the 70's. And what a smashing success they were. Rationing, long lines, shortages. And prices still skyrocketed.

The likely result of the Hawaii policy will be the same as the country experienced 30 years ago. Shortages and less incentive for producers to refine oil in Hawaii.

When will people (especially but not exclusively left leaning legislators) finally realize that you can't repeal the laws of economics? Not every market is perfect or efficient, but things almost always get worse when you let bureaucrats control prices. The fact that oil companies are making money is not a good reason to interfere (and since when is is a bad thing that companies actually make a profit?)

Note: regardless of what the headlines may say we're still well below record high prices for gasoline when adjusted for inflation. Check out this chart for one person's experience (thanks to Glenn for the link).

Outright Lies By The Mainstream Media

Instapundit points to this article by Jack Kelly which tells a story of outright fabrication and lies being told by the New York Times. I'm sure you are shocked to hear of such behavior by the NYT, but if you read the details the depth of unprofessional behavior just might surprise you. Here's a summary of the real story.
The Army has been using "Interceptor" body armor in Iraq. While a superior form of protection to the previous forms of body armor used by the military, there are a few special rounds that can penetrate it. There is no evidence the terrorists in Iraq have access to such specialized rounds, but the Army wanted to be proactive. For emphasis, there is no evidence that these rounds are being used against U.S. soldiers in Iraq. The Army released new specs for improved body armor and let companies in the U.S. design and bid for a replacement. The improved armor has been delivered to U.S troops as early as March of this year, despite the specs only being released in January.
The New York Times interviewed Colonel Spoehr and was given all the information I just summarized, above. How did the story read?
For the second time since the Iraq war began, the Pentagon is struggling to replace body armor that is failing to protect American troops from the most lethal attacks of insurgents.

The ceramic plates in vests worn by most personnel cannot withstand certain munitions the insurgents use. But more than a year after military officials initiated an effort to replace the armor with thicker, more resistant plates, tens of thousands of soldiers are still without the stronger protection because of a string of delays in the Pentagon's procurement system.
Apparently, and rightful so, Spoehr is angry with the NYT for distorting the truth.

At first I was going to suggest that the New York Times in no better than a grocery store tabloid. But upon further reflection, "no better" isn't fair--to the tabloids. The New York Times is far worse than a trashy tabloid. Tabloid articles focus on topics such as alien babies, Elvis sightings, and the Loch Ness monster. They are obviously false. The articles in the Times are deviously and purposely deceitful. How many people read the lies written in the Times about the body armor story? How many people will read the real story?

Some herald the coming of blogs as the death knell of print media. If this behavior by the Times is any indication of what print media can give us, I can only hope that it happens as quickly as possible.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Iraq vs. Afghanistan Constitutions

A comparison of the Iraq and Afghanistan constitutions by Alenda Lux has been getting a lot of blog press today, see instapundit and redstate, for example.

The comparison is quite interesting if lengthy for those that have the time to read it. The two most interesting observations are that:
(1) the language of the two constitutions is quite similar, right down to the reference to Islam
(2) the media decided the Islamic references in the Afghanistan constitution were good and that the nearly identical references in the Iraq constitution were bad
I'm not normally a tinfoil hat kind of guy. But such behavior by the media smacks of conspiracy. It is as if soon after 9/11 it was inadvisable to be critical of America's success in fighting terrorism. Remember what happened to the Dixie Chicks and news ratings are little different than country music ratings. Now, after some time has passed, it seems the media feels that ability to criticize even if the results now are nearly identical to the results then.

I'm thankful the new blogosphere media exists to inform me of such things. I can't imagine such an observation being covered heavily in the mainstream media. And I'd be happy to be proven wrong...

Conflicting Economic Messages From Yahoo

I just couldn't pass this up. Here were the top 5 headlines on finance.yahoo.com.

Let's see. The number two headline is "Stocks Move Higher as Oil Prices Drop." The number three headline is "Oil Prices Rise After U.S. Supply Report."

No wonder I don't understand economics...

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Islam And The Iraqi Constitution

Bill Roggio at the Fourth Rail has some encouraging interpretation of the text of the proposed Iraqi constitution. (Hat tip: Instapundit) The most encouraging section reads as follows:
Article Seven denounces terrorism and vows to fight it. Chapter Six, Article 151 grants the women one-quarter of the seats on the assembly. Article 36 grants “Freedom of expression by all means” and “Freedom of the press, printing, advertising and publishing.” Article 39 states “Iraqis are free to abide in their personal lives according to their religion, sects, beliefs or choice.” The rights of various ethnic groups are protected throughout the document. These are not the guarantees of an Islamist state such as that of the Taliban or Iran.
In light of concerns about women's rights in Iraq that I detailed in a previous post here, I find the provision granting women one-quarter of the assembly seats particularly good news.

I'm no expert in how Iraqi politics or law will work, but there are some areas that seem generic enough to cause problems. For example:
1. Islam is a main source for legislation.

* a. No law may contradict Islamic standards.

* b. No law may contradict democratic standards.

* c. No law may contradict the essential rights and freedoms mentioned in this constitution.
I would think there are some Islamic standards that would be at odds with democratic standards or essential rights and freedoms. However, the inclusion of (b) and (c) would suggest that an Islamic run state is not being created. Rich Lowry at the NRO had this to say about this section:
The Iraq draft appears to be similar. In addition to the broad bill of rights, our translation of the Islam provision states that ‘no law shall be enacted that contradicts [Islam’s] established provisions, the principles of democracy, [or] the rights and basic freedoms stipulated in this constitution.’ This is actually a better formulation than Afghanistan’s model.
Lowry also adds:
The same provision also protects ‘all the religious rights of all individuals in the freedom of belief and religious practice’ – a provision consistent with international standards and identical to the widely praised Transitional Administrative Law (TAL), the interim constitution signed by the Iraq Interim Governing Council in 2004.

In addition, Islam is declared to be ‘a’ – not ‘the’– source of legislation, a victory to secularists and roughly in line with the TAL formulation.
There's a wealth of additional reactions to the text of the Iraqi constitution; much of it seems positive. I'll remain cautiously optimistic.

Republicans In Trouble In 2008?

Patrick Ruffini is running a straw poll to see who is the front-runner for the 2008 Presidential nomination for the Republican party. The results at the moment are interesting.

Among serious contenders, Guiliani is leading. Among a larger list of (more unlikely) candidates, Rice and Jeb Bush do very well.

Here's the problem as I see it. Guiliani probably has the best chance to appeal to the widest group of people. But he is "liberal" on several key issues and the religious right is unlikely to support him, choosing instead to do follow their standard "stay home" voting strategy. The loss of that segment of Republican voters, the name recognition of someone like Clinton, and the unleashed anger of the loony left after eight years of W spells disaster in the 2008 election for the Republicans.

A lot could change between now and then of course. Future events could make someone new a clear choice for the nomination. Or the fringe right of the party could realize that the best chance of keeping control of the presidency is to support someone with mass appeal, such as Guiliani. But if (as I suspect) the current leaders of the Republican party become arrogant from their sustained success over the last few decades and continue to push more to the right, they will be very vulnerable to a legitimate candidate from the Democratic party. Time will tell.

Monday, August 22, 2005

George Will On Gas Prices And The Media

George Will has a Newsweek column that discusses how the media covering gas prices recently. His point is quite clear and as it is unlikely that I'll be able to communicate it better than Mr. Will, I can only suggest that you read it now.

The whole article is an essay, basically, on how one can use numbers about the economy (gas prices, deficits, unemployment rates, take your pick...) and easily tell whatever story you want to tell if you take the numbers out of context. In short, it tells of how one can lie with statistics. Perhaps it is the baseball reference, but I like how the article ends:
Still, various voices warn that parts of the economy's improvement are "temporary." Well, yes—isn't everything? During a broadcast 14 years ago, Vin Scully, voice of the Los Angeles Dodgers, said, "Andre Dawson has a bruised knee and is listed as day-to-day." (Pause) "Aren't we all?"
Seriously. What in an economy is permanent?

As I continue to blog and I continue to find reason that the media has gone of course, I also continue to wonder. The bias in the media is too pronounced to not be deliberate. But is the bias there in an effort to sell more papers or attract more viewers, or is it more malicious? Many would argue the later and at times I'm strongly attempted to agree. As a counter point, however, watch the local broadcast news wherever you may live (at least in the U.S.). Fires and car crashes get far more than their fair share of coverage. Since I refuse to believe local news is "pro fire", I have to assume that disasters equal ratings and ratings are king.

Just the other day, CNN had a story on the front page reporting a bomb in Afghanistan and the death of two U.S. soldiers. This is the first time that any news from Afghanistan has made the front page of CNN. Even Chrenkoff, who has cataloged mountains of good news from Afghanistan, hasn't done so since March 7. Is the only news worth reporting bad news? Whose fault is it that the good news goes unreported--a biased CNN or an audience who will only bother to tune in if the news is dire?

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Remains Of 12 Vietnam MIAs Heading Home

The AP reports via MSNBC that the remains of 12 Vietnam MIAs are on their way home. This may or may not seem like a big deal, but to the families involved it undoubtedly is. I've attended a number of air shows and you often see people flying black MIA flags next to their umbrellas and lawn chairs. After speaking with a few families, it became clear to me just how important getting any information at all is to them. So while this may not sound like good news, I'm glad that a small group of parents, siblings and children no longer have to wonder and wait anymore.

Welcome home.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Nature Of The Enemy In Iraq

Yet one more doom-and-gloom article about Iraq at MSNBC. Three Iraqi civilians were murdered for hanging pro-democracy poster, urging people to vote. One detail of the events jumped out when I read the article:
Gunmen seized three Sunni Arabs hanging posters urging people to vote in the constitutional referendum, drove them to a mosque and shot them dead Friday, an official of their political party and witnesses said.
The emphasis is mine. Contrast this with U.S. military behavior early on in the war, as we would avoid targeting mosques in an effort to offend the general Islamic populace. A fake story about a Koran being desecrated gets circulated and there are deadly riots across the globe. Three people are driven to a mosque and murdered in cold blood--where are the riot? Where is the outrage?

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Kathy Dyer, Marine Mom

Yesterday I posted a link to an article about a marine mom in Ohio that was urging support of the Iraq war as the best way to honor her fallen son.

CNN is now covering the story, and has video of the memorial service. The video doesn't cover the part of the service concerning the support for the war. Thankfully, the coverage is very respectful. She ends with this quote:
My son is not a fallen hero, but a risen one.
I figured the best way to counter the Cindy Sheehan's of the world is to let as many people as possible know about the Kathy Dyer's.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The Opposite Of Cindy Sheehan

In West Chester, OH, the mother of a marine spoke in support of the war in Iraq at her son's funeral. MSNBC carries the AP reports.
“Honor me in this way,” Kathy Dyer said during a memorial service for Lance Cpl. Christopher J. Dyer, 19, of the Cincinnati suburb of Evendale.

At the funeral at Tri-County Baptist Church, Kathy Dyer delivered what she believed would have been her son’s own message: “It has been with the greatest pride I have served ... fighting to preserve freedom.”

Quite a contrast to the false antics of Cindy Sheehan. I'm suddenly more proud than usual to hail from southern Ohio.

Car Bombers Arrested in Baghdad

CNN is reporting that Iraqi police have arrested four people connected to a string of car bombings that killed 43 earlier today.

While the loss of 43 people is horrible, I'm heartened by the speed in which the arrests have been made. A number of stories have been written, both positive and negative, about the training of Iraqi police by the U.S. military. Without being there, it is hard to judge just how effective the Iraqi police are becoming. Quick action like this is a positive sign.

Redstate.org had questioned whether the attacks would have a negative impact on the constitution discussions. Hopefully these arrests eliminate the chances that that could happen.

Captain Sherman Powell 1, Matt Lauer 0

Many have probably already seen this, as it has been covered on NRO Corner and Instapundit. But there is a story at NewsBusters that deserves to get the widest distribution possible. Follow the links for more details, but here's the best part:
LAUER: Don't get me wrong, I think you're probably telling the truth, but there might be a lot of people at home wondering how that might be possible with the conditions you're facing and with the insurgent attacks you're facing... What would you say to people who doubt that morale could be that high?

CAPTAIN SHERMAN POWELL: Well sir, I'd tell you, if I got my news from the newspapers I'd be pretty depressed as well.
Well done, Captain Powell, well done.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Women's Rights in Iraq

Earlier I had posted about a rather ridiculous comment by Howard Dean that women would be worse off in Iraq now as opposed to under Hussein. While I believe my initial reaction was correct, it was not complete.

One fear is that given that there will be a heavy Islamic influence on the new Iraq government, women's rights in Iraq will take a step backwards. While it is unlikely they could get worse, this is a legitimate concern. NPR has recently covered this issue, and notes:
Human-rights groups are concerned the Iraqi constitution will place restrictions on women's freedom in areas such as property rights and divorce.
I don't have enough details of the Iraq constitution writing process to know how serious this concern is. One would certainly not be surprised to hear that they are well-founded. In an effort to gauge how things are going, I checked with Chrenkoff's latest "Good News From Iraq" installment, which happens to be part 25. Here is a relevant section:
The newly elected Iraqi Transitional National Authority (TNA) will write a constitution this year and it is essential that women be involved in the process in order to guarantee their rights. USAID's partner implementing the project to support the TNA and the drafting of the Iraqi Constitution hosted a meeting in late February with 26 women leaders to discuss an initiative to ensure that women's rights are included in the constitution. Over the next year, the implementing partner will work with women elected officials and civil society representatives to educate Iraqis on the importance of constituting women's rights, and to train them in the necessary advocacy and education skills they will need to promote their rights with the Iraqi Government and the society at large.
It is important to note that this is the view of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). It does not represent the current state of the constitution writing process--things certainly could turn out more negative there.

Overall, it would seem that the issue is still undecided. Hopefully things will progress positively and the women of Iraq will get to share in the new found freedom that all people of Iraq deserve. It bears repeating that above all else things cannot return to the state they were in before the Iraqi people were liberated, where:
Under the pretext of fighting prostitution, units of "Feda'iyee Saddam," the paramilitary organization led by Uday, have beheaded in public more than two hundred women all over the country, dumping their severed heads at their families' door steps. Many of the victims were innocent professional women, including some who were suspected of being dissidents.
Women are often raped in order to blackmail their relatives. Men who leave Iraq and join Iraqi opposition groups regularly receive videotapes showing the rape of a female relative. These tapes are intended to discourage Iraqi nationals abroad from engaging in opposition activities. Some authorities carry personnel cards identifying their official "activity" as the "violation of women's honor.

Howard Dean: Women Will Be Worse Off In Iraq

The battle between feeling I've posted enough idiotic comments by Howard Dean versus his ability to keep toping himself rages on and Mr. Dean is winning.

The quote:
It looks like today, and this could change, as of today it looks like women will be worse off in Iraq than they were when Saddam Hussein was president of Iraq.
GOPBloggers links to this state department report, which is the only response that is needed.

Alternative Approach To Cindy Sheehan's

Yesterday I blogged about this Newsweek/MSNBC article as a small ray of hope that the MSM might cover fairly the issue of Iraq and parents of soldiers. The story has been covered and commented by numerous bloggers, some of which I listed in the previous post.

Today I read a suggestion by Cal Thomas (hat tip polipundit) that President Bush meet with Cindy Sheehan again. Not in private and not alone, but with the parents of other soldiers who have been killed or wounded in Iraq. While I understood his intent, my first reaction was that it was too risky a meeting to attempt.

However, after reading Other ways to grieve by Chrenkoff, I'm now not so sure. Check out the post to read some moving comments by parents who have lost a child in Iraq and understand the sacrifice that their child made.

All Milbloggers are against the war....

...or so the MSM would have you believe.

I happened to have the radio tuned to a local newsradio station this morning, KCBS out of San Francisco. The hourly national/international segment from the network came on and I was surprised to hear an item about blogs written by servicemen in Iraq. Wow - the blogosphere is really getting big and important, right? My surprise faded as I listened. After a few words about the process of blogging they quoted from one Milblog (unidentified). Aside from a few bits of inanity (the soldier liked Metallica) the snippet naturally included the fact that Iraq was a "lesson in futility" (or something like that). It's funny isn't it, how with all of the blogs out there by soldiers who support the mission CBS found a quote that meshes perfectly with their worldview?

Michael Barone blogs this morning about a similarly biased story that appeared in the Washington Post last Friday. The MSM is nothing if not consistent. (In fairness, the blogosphere shows just as much tendency towards herd behavior.)

I've pretty much lost the ability to get worked up about this type of thing. It's just so typical, almost expected, that all I can do is shake my head sadly. It is still worth pointing out, however. Propaganda needs to be refuted, even when when it seems transparent, as long as there is still anyone who believes it.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Alternative Energy Threat To OPEC

A short but interesting article about how OPEC sees alternative energy providers as a threat.
"Our competitors, the alternative energy providers, are intensively pursuing research programs aimed at reducing the domination of oil and gas in the global energy market," Abdullah Salatt, Qatar's representative to OPEC, said.
Here's hoping that threat is realized. And soon.

Only Half Of The Cindy Sheehan Story

I've been avoiding writing about the Sheehan story in the hopes that the ridiculous stunt will end soon. But this post at LyfLines is too good to pass up. (Hat tip polipundit.)

My biggest frustration with this whole thing is that it is all so obvious. The moment you heard about a mother protesting the Iraq war outside of Bush's ranch, you knew that the situation would be exploited. You knew there would be a hidden agenda. You knew that opinion would be reported as fact, while the truth would go largely unreported. You knew that it would become a media spectacle--either due to (being generous) a desire to sell papers and get ratings or, more probably, due to desperate desire by a biased media to get its view heard.

One can only hope that with new media sources available on the internet, that the general population of the U.S. realizes the sham they are witnessing and change the channel. But sadly I tend to doubt it.

Putting my doubts aside, here are a few more posts and articles about Sheehan, for those that want to see past the smoke and mirrors.

Slate (Hat tip: anklebitingpundits)

(with commentary by Lorie Byrd, the Anchoress, and Betsy Newmark -- whom all reference each other)

Power Line

Sunday, August 14, 2005

250 MPG Hybrid?

There is an AP article (see FoxNews, for example), that has the sensational headline of, "Experimental Hybrid Cars Get Up to 250 Mpg."

While I've been impressed with the success of hybrid cars so far--especially the amount of energy that can be gathered via regenerative breaking--using miles-per-gallon to rate such a vehicle is highly misleading. This experimental hybrid plugs into the wall and stores extra energy in batteries. Such a concept is not new and really pushes the definition of what a hybrid car is. Would a pure electric car be rated at infinite mgp? You have to look towards the end of the article to find this admission:
Backers of plug-in hybrids acknowledge that the electricity to boost their cars generally comes from fossil fuels that create greenhouse gases, but they say that process still produces far less pollution than oil. They also note that electricity could be generated cleanly from solar power.
Also of note is that the inventor, Ron Gremban, is getting about 80 mpg, not 250 mpg:
Even after the car runs out of power from the batteries and switches to the standard hybrid mode, it gets the typical Prius fuel efficiency of around 45 mpg. As long as Gremban doesn't drive too far in a day, he says, he gets 80 mpg.
Overall, the engineering accomplished by Gremban seems impressive. It is unfortunate that the AP feel it necessary to sensationalize the story given the high gas prices.

Friday, August 12, 2005

NASA MRO Has Successful Liftoff

The Nasa Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter, after a delay or two, was launched successfully this morning at 7:43 EDT.

The main purpose of the mission is to look for sources of water on Mars. Details of the mission are available at NASA.

Positive coverage via an AP report (imagine that) at CNN (with video) and FoxNews.

First Blue Angel Pilot Dead At Age 86

This post is more personal than political. Sad news, as the first Blue Angel pilot, Captain Roy Voris, died at the age of 86.

If you've never had the chance to see the Blue Angels in person, I highly recommend it.

Best wishes to Captain Voris' family.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

George Will On Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter has made a number of unfortunate and inappropriate comments in recent time. This latest I find a little unbelievable. Mr. Carter continues to state that Reagan only defeated his reelection bid because he won the presidential debate during the campaign. Furthermore, he contends that Reagan only won because he was provided Carter's briefing book for the debate by columnist George Will. Mr. Will takes Carter to task in this editorial. He ends with this:
But to be fair: As a candidate, Carter promised only that as president he would never tell a lie, thereby leaving himself a loophole for his post-presidential career as a fabulist.
It would probably be best if Mr. Carter concentrated on efforts like Habitat for Humanity but I have little hope that he will do so, given his recent behavior.

Update: MRO Launch Delayed 24 Hours

I didn't intend for this blog to become "space watch" blog, but since I posted on this yesterday and there is new news, I figured an update was warranted.

The MRO launch has been delayed 24 hours due to a fuel sensor glitch.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter

The successful return to space of the shuttle Discovery has renewed my active interest in space missions in general. Another mission is planned for Mars, the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO). The launch has been delayed for one day, now scheduled for Thursday, August 11.

I'm glad to see the mission is getting press in mainstream sources. See CNN and Yahoo News.

Religious Tests for Judges

During the past few years of battle over judicial nominations there have been a number of times when those on the right have accused the left of employing a religious litmus test. The opposition to William Pryor's appeals court nomination was met with charges of a "Catholics need not apply" policy. I had largely concluded that this was more politics than substance. The fact that there's a strong correlation between being religous and conservatism doesn't imply that the opposition to conservatives is based on religion.

But yesterday I was proved wrong (at least in regards to some on the left). The Boston Globe published an op-ed entitled "Stopping a judicial conflict of interest" in which the author, Christopher Morris, argues that Catholics cannot be trusted to rule on issues like abortion because their church instructs them to vote a particular way. His preferred solution:
If the bishops repeated or confirmed their threats [to withhold communion from politicians who support abortion], the Senate Judiciary Committee should draft legislation calling for the automatic recusal of Catholic judges from cases citing Roe v. Wade as a precedent.
I find it truly amazing that someone could write this and have it published in a major newspaper. What part of Article VI, Clause 3 does Morris not understand?
...but no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States.
Morris is obviously so blinded by his insistence on a particular result (maintaining Roe v. Wade) that he is willing to ignore the Constitution. Or as Opinion Journal puts it:
In other words, in order to preserve the bogus constitutional right abortion, it is necessary to disregard the actual constitutional provisions for church-state separation and against religious tests for officeholders.

Picking on Dean

Dan, by all means pick on Howard Dean. Not just because it's easy and fun. If you want the Dems to become a strong, reasonable opposition party then it's important that the faults of their current leader be highlighted for all to see. Pointing out the foolishness in his own statements is by far the best way to do this.

That said, his comments about a 50-state strategy don't really qualify. Or rather the verdict depends on his future actions in pursuing this strategy. It's the job of the DNC chairman to try to drum up support for his party. Everywhere in the country, not just in so called blue or battleground states. Yes, it would be foolish for the DNC to pour money into senate races in Idaho (Crapo won in '04 with 99% of the vote), just like the RNC shouldn't spend too much to beat Teddy Kennedy. But it is good strategy to try to develop grass root organizations in these states, in order to lay the groundwork for long term change, much the same way that Ken Mehlman is trying with the black community. He doesn't realistically expect blacks to vote 50% for Republicans anytime soon and isn't allocating tremendous financial resources, but it's a wise way to spend some human capital.

Dean's 50-State Mistake

I don't mean to pick on the man, but Howard Dean continues to show a naivete concerning politics in America that is frightening for a man that has become DNC chair.

His recently announced a new plan for the next presidential election, which he calls the 50-state strategy, is the latest example. The as-per-usual energetic Dean described it this way:
I don't believe in blue states or red states,'' the former 2004 presidential candidate said. ''I believe in purple states — and some are more purple than others.
Such a plan seems to have been negatively received from both ends of the political spectrum. Patrick Hynes has a conservative opinion piece on why the strategy will fail. Hynes notes:
There is a reason Democrats haven't spent a great deal of time, energy and resources in states like Mississippi and Utah in recent elections, just as Republicans have largely ignored, say, Vermont. Republican National Committee Chairman Ken Mehlman would love to make next year's Vermont open seat Senate race competitive by dumping hundreds of operatives and millions of dollars up there. But not only would such an effort be for naught, it would also rob genuinely competitive races of those resources.
It is also clear that many Democrats also see the folly in the plan. Again from Hynes:
To many red-state elected Democrats, Dean is about as welcome as a Wal-Mart Superstore. On a recent trip to Georgia, not one of the six Democrat state officeholders appeared with Dean. Democrat governors in predominantly Republican states such as Tennessee, Kansas and South Carolina all pleaded "scheduling conflicts" when Dean headlined events in their backyards.

What does it say about Chairman Dean's vision and strategy if this is how successful Democrats in Republican states receive him?
Once again, a strong Democratic party is better for the country than a weak one; a two-party system is infinitely superior to a one-party system. But I'm still hoping against hope that the idea isn't to get the Democratic base super excited by the same (lack of) ideas. The plan should be to come up with legitimate, new, differentiated ideas and views and the excitement will come naturally.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Welcome Home, Discovery

The space shuttle Discovery landed safely at 8:11:22 a.m. EDT at Edwards Air Force base in California. Congratulations on a job well done, all.

While some hope for this to be the last venture into space, I'm encouraged that a Senate panel is in favor of Bush's space plan to return to the moon. Others have joined in support.

For an interesting read on the economics and engineering of colonizing the moon (and why the moon before Mars), see this article at the Space Review.

Monday, August 08, 2005

"Deferred Success" In Ohio

A recent proposal by a British teachers' union was to remove the concept of "failure" and replace it with "deferred" success. Such a ridiculous idea needs no commentary, but Mark Steyn used the concept to good effect in an editorial about Howard Dean's reaction to the recent Ohio Schmidt-Hackett special election.

Another quotable quote from Dean:
In nearly the biggest political upset in recent history, Democrat Paul Hackett came within just a few thousand votes of defeating Republican Jean Schmidt in Ohio's Second Congressional District.
Is he really excited that the Democrats almost won? And in this case, to a candidate that Steyn describes as:
... a weak Republican candidate with a lot of problematic baggage.
I completely agree with two other observations that Steyn notes.
After the Ohio vote, Dem pollster Stan Greenberg declared that "one of the biggest doubts about Democrats is that they don't stand for anything." That might have passed muster two years ago. Alas, the party's real problem is that increasingly there's no doubt whatsoever about it.
Two-party systems need two parties, not just for the health of the loser but for that of the winner, too. Intellectually, philosophically, legislatively, it's hard to maintain the discipline to keep yourself in shape when the other guy just lies around the house all day.
I've said this many times in the past to friends; the only thing worse than the two-party system is a one-party system.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Peter Jennings Dead At Age 67

Sad news that I'm sure everyone is already aware of: Peter Jennings died of lung cancer at the age of 67. The news is covered everywhere, of course. See ABC, FoxNews, and CNN.

I grew up with my family watching ABC news so in a bizarre way I feel like I knew him. I remember his round the clock coverage of New Years 2000. Perhaps most of all I remember his coverage of 9/11. I listened to his reaction as the towers fell. I listened to his almost constant coverage for the rest of the week. I don't normally buy into the "anchorman as a comforting voice" line, but in this case for me there was definitely a lot of truth to that. In a world turned upside down, it somehow made it feel just a little OK to hear Peter Jennings bounce questions off experts as the tried to make sense of a senseless situation.

I hadn't considered it until now but his departure from the news desk to fight his cancer is probably one of the major reasons I get 99% of my news now from blogs and MSM internet sites.

You will be missed, Peter.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Are Soldiers Victims?

The top headline on Cnn.com right now is a story about reactions in Ohio to the recent deaths of 19 marines from a reserve unit - Grief hits home of Marine reservists. A typical piece of MSM war coverage, highlighting casualties without any context about what the unit was doing in Iraq. But the bit that jumped out at me was this description from the seventh paragraph, which made the text on CNN's front page:
A few steps away, near the gates of the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marines, residents piled red roses, American flags, handwritten notes of condolences and white crosses for the victims.
These are Marines who were killed in the line of duty, serving their country. They are casualties of war. But victims? This strikes me as a piece of anti-war editorializing in a "news" story, which diminishes the service and sacrifice of the slain. To the reporter they are not Americans who fought for their country but simply "victims" of an unjust war.

Maybe I'm over-reacting here. Maybe fallen soldiers have often been referred to in this manner. And this is surely not any worse than some of the other biased war reporting that focuses on casualties and not the mission. But it really struck a chord.

Oh, I just noticed the byline. It's an AP story. Naturally.