Thursday, March 31, 2005

Please Relent, Become A Liberal

Paul Wolfowitz was unanimously elected World Bank President today. Here's a Yahoo! News link to the AP story.

CNN didn't use the AP story, instead choosing to use their own reporter. My favorite quote from their take on the story is:
An unrelenting conservative, Wolfowitz, deputy secretary of defense, was criticized as an architect of the U.S. invasion in Iraq and his nomination by President Bush to replace James Wolfensohn at the World Bank was controversial among European countries and others that opposed the war.
If only Wolfowitz would relent, and stop being a conservative...

(Note that the CNN article says that Reuters contributed to the report, but if you check the Reuters version of the story, you will see no mention of "unrelenting conservative".)

Fair and balanced?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Time For Overtime

I missed this story, but here it is a few days late. It seems France has voted to abolish the maximum 35-hour work week.

Is this beginning of something more or just an isolated incident? For an interesting perspective on why Europe would be better off with an economy patterned after the United States, see Cowboy Capitalism: European Myths, American Reality. The book is written by a German journalist and offers a fascinating analysis between American capitalism and European socialism.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Science And Politics

As a scientist who is also interested in politics, it infuriates me when people either misinterpret good science or blatantly practice bad science in the name of a political cause. The spirit of the scientific method is to help reach conclusions without emotional biases. I have no patience for those that would sully that spirit in an effort to confuse and manipulate public opinion.

A past transgression that has for some reason been getting recent press is a Lancet study that suggests there have been over 100,000 civilian Iraqi casualties. This study has been widely debunked as nothing more than a political farce that came out during the last presidential election in a (thankfully failed) effort to damage Bush. And I say thankfully failed because I cannot abide false claims being used as political weapons. There were and are abundant and justifiable reasons not to be a supporter of President Bush; resorting to fabrications should not be tolerated. Yet do a search on "Lancet Iraqi casualties" and you'll find dozens of sources treating the conclusions of the study as hard fact.

For those interested, a thorough debunking of the study can be found here, here, here and here.

To be clear, my distaste for the abuse of science is not partisan in nature. I'm equally disapproving of this conduct by the EPA, where they apparently knowingly hide data that doesn't support the administration's agenda.

Let science be science and politics be politics.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

What Media Bias?

Despite my utter frustration with media bias, I haven't posted much on the topic. This story I just can't let go by without commenting.

The real analysis was done here (hat tip Instapundit). If you don't have time to click the link and read, here's the quick summary.

A poll of Iraqi's was released, indicating 62% of Iraqi's polled thought the country was headed in a positive direction, 23% thought it was headed in a negative direction. The USAToday covers the story with the simple headline, "Most Iraqis say future looks brighter". So far so good.

How does the New York Times cover the story? By finding a single person in Iraqi that has a negative view, quoting him and using the headline, "Many Iraqis Losing Hope That Politics Will Yield Real Change." Unbelievable.

Never let the truth stand in the way of an agenda, right?

You Mean All Of Russia Isn't Pink?

I'll explain the title in a sec...

There's an interesting analysis available at StrategyPage that is definitely worth a read. It has inspired Instapundit to publish a letter (the first letter, not the second).

I'll let those posts speak for themselves, but reading them made me think back to a great opportunity I had just after high school. Almost by pure chance, I found myself part of a group of high school and college students that was traveling to the then USSR to meet similar age students over there. The idea at the time was that both sides would be less likely to press the button if they had a real connection to the people on the other side.

One of the biggest realizations people had while on the trip was just how much the USSR looked like places they knew in the USA. There were mountains much like the Rockies, plains much like Kansas and cities with subways much like New York City. As crazy as it might sound, we were told this is a common reaction. People were used to looking at the USSR on maps in a classroom and seeing it as one amorphous (usually pink, for some reason) blob. Only when they spent the time did people realize that, just like home, it was a diverse and varied place.

The same realization, I think, needs to happen when people today think about the "Middle East". I'm am more than tired of statements that lump millions of people together as if they think as part of a collective hive-mind. "Every Arab is going to hate the US because of Bush and what he has done." Such statements are absurd. It isn't any more true that all Arabs are bound to think as one than it is that Russia (and all the former USSR) is flat and pink. The same can be said about statements from the other side of the political spectrum, statements that contend that all Arabs everywhere are a threat to freedom.

The situation in the Middle East is obviously complex. But from common thoughts and views expressed politicians, "reported" by mainstream media, voiced in blogs, etc. it would seem that a large number of people have missed the obvious.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Update: UAW and Marine Parking

This was just going to be a quick post to follow-up on One More Reason... below. It appears that the UAW has reversed its decision, as reported by news/talk radio WJR. Excellent.

However, I did a google search on "UAW marines" and I got a number of hits for blogs discussing the original ban on parking and how wrong it was, news articles talking about the ban, etc. But very few of these sources seemed to have noted the reverse in the decision.

I still think the original decision shows the true character of the UAW. But blogs/papers/media outlets should at least acknowledge the final outcome.

Massive Protest in Lebanon

National Review Online has some pictures up of the latest protest in Lebanon.

One of the captions suggests that (if crowd-size estimates can be trusted) nearly 1/3 of Lebanon's population attended the protest. Wow.

Sanity and the FCC?

Encouraging behavior from the FCC.

Hopefully society will continue to calm down after the Janet Jackson incident.

Friday, March 11, 2005

One More Reason...

While I understand the historical reasons for labor unions, I've never been a fan of the bloated, overpowered organizations they have become. Here's one more reason not to be a fan.

They have the right to deny parking to whomever they choose, of course. But singling out military personnel in such a manner is classless.

(Hat tip:

Monday, March 07, 2005

Unspoken Good News

I'm traveling for business, so I haven't had much time to post. For those that don't know of him, Arthur Chrenkoff has an interesting blog. Chrenkoff was born in communist Poland, but moved to Australia in 1988. He definitely has an interesting worldview.

For some time now, he's been cataloging "good news" from Afganistan. Given that the only way Afganistan is mentioned by the mainstream media today is if a helicopter crashes killing Americans or some random flare up of violence occurs, I find this collection of information to be refreshing.

(A warning in advance though: He's never brief in his writing, so it isn't a quick read. And note that the link above is just what is new in his 10th installment of good news, so you will quickly see that he has collected a lot of information.)

Friday, March 04, 2005

Update on Cable / Satellite "Regulation"

I don't like his attitude, but soon-to-be-leaving FCC chair Powell was interviewed by FoxNews and stated that the attempts to regulate non-broadcast media is unconstitutional.

Good news. Unfortunately his point was that the Supreme Court had made it difficult if not impossible to regulate cable and other non-broadcast media with a number of decisions. It wasn't that it was wrong to regulate it, only that it was not legal.

But I'll take it as a victory for the freedom of speech. Hopefully the proposal will now die sooner rather than later.

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Enough With the Censorship Already

This story, or variations on it, has been discussed on a number of blogs.

The executive summary is that Senator Stevens from Alaska is going to push for legislation to regulate cable TV and satellite radio to the same level as broadcast TV and radio. Enough is enough, I say, and I'm not the only one to think so. references the story here and makes the comment:

Something bothers this idiot so he will use his power to bring the might of the government to squash it. How childish.

Sometimes I think we were better off with my party in the minority, where they could spend their time stopping bad legislation sponsored by Democrats, rather than coming up with their own.

While clearly coming from a biased view point, it's noteworthy even such a conservative blog is critical of Stevens.

Normally I'd assume such legislation would die the death it deserves on the senate floor. But after the senate voted to increase FCC fines for indecency 99-1 last year, I'm no longer confident that censorship legislation like this won't pass in today's political climate.

You can contact Senator Stevens here. If you have the time, please let him know that there are more important things for him to be worrying about than Sex and the City. Congressman Barton in the House has said he will support the bill if it doesn't violate free speech. You can contact Congressman Barton here.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

The "New" Daily Show

I've always been a fan of the Daily Show. Even before Jon Stewart, I thought Craig Kilborn did a great job with it. As good as Kilborn was, I think Stewart was even better when he took over. But over time, Stewart left less and less of his personal politics off-camera. The tone of the show became so one-sided, so anti-Bush that I gave up watching it. From all reports, another of my favorite comedians, Jay Leno, is just as liberal as Stewart. But Leno doesn't let that out on his show; he writes jokes about everybody and that's only fair.

So I must say I was shocked when I read this, which is an excerpt from the Daily Show were Stewart was interviewing Nancy Soderberg, a former Clinton aide. Specifically, I was amazed by the exchange at the end.
Stewart: Do you think they're the guys to--do they understand what they've unleashed? Because at a certain point, I almost feel like, if they had just come out at the very beginning and said, "Here's my plan: I'm going to invade Iraq. We'll get rid of a bad guy because that will drain the swamp"--if they hadn't done the whole "nuclear cloud," you know, if they hadn't scared the pants off of everybody, and just said straight up, honestly, what was going on, I think I'd almost--I'd have no cognitive dissonance, no mixed feelings.

Soderberg: The truth always helps in these things, I have to say. But I think that there is also going on in the Middle East peace process--they may well have a chance to do a historic deal with the Palestinians and the Israelis. These guys could really pull off a whole--

Stewart: This could be unbelievable!

Soderberg:---series of Nobel Peace Prizes here, which--it may well work. I think that, um, it's--

Stewart: [buries head in hands] Oh my God! [audience laughter] He's got, you know, here's--

Soderberg: It's scary for Democrats, I have to say.

Stewart: He's gonna be a great--pretty soon, Republicans are gonna be like, "Reagan was nothing compared to this guy." Like, my kid's gonna go to a high school named after him, I just know it.

Soderberg: Well, there's still Iran and North Korea, don't forget. There's hope for the rest of us.

Stewart: [crossing fingers] Iran and North Korea, that's true, that is true [audience laughter]. No, it's--it is--I absolutely agree with you, this is--this is the most difficult thing for me to--because, I think, I don't care for the tactics, I don't care for this, the weird arrogance, the setting up. But I gotta say, I haven't seen results like this ever in that region.
Two things to say here.

First, hats off to Mr. Stewart. I'm both shocked and impressed that he can see positive things happening in the Middle East, even as much as it annoys him to give any credit to President Bush. I'm sure that wasn't an easy admission for him and I might just start watching the Daily Show again if he continues to be so honest.

Second, the exchange illuminates what I hate about the two-party system. Earlier in the article, Sodenberg is quoted as saying, "Well, I think, you know, as a Democrat, you don't want anything nice to happen to the Republicans, ..." Really? Even nice things like millions of people discovering freedom and democracy? And perhaps it's spreading (peacefully) to places like Egypt, Lebanon and Syria? It's a shame the two-party system creates such
adversaries out of people that it become all about wishing failure on the other side regardless of how positive success would be.

(Hat tip PoliPundit.)

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

117 Days Late

The original title for my first post was supposed to "Why Blog?" That first post was also suppose to have been made 117 days ago. I'll save you the trouble of flipping through a calendar and just tell you the original plan was to start blogging right after the presidential election. During the campaign I have to admit that I was caught up in the blog revolution. My opinion of an activity that I had initially discounted (who would want to share private thoughts online?) changed to one of amazement (these guys took on Dan Rather and won!).

Thinking I might just be excited by a passing fad I decided to wait. But as the days, week, and now months have passed, the desire has not diminished. So here we are, 117 days later... The purpose of this post is still to answer the same question I had originally intended to answer--why blog?--so I should probably get to it.

Last year I had the opportunity to visit Boston for the first time and, while there, I was able to walk most of The Freedom Trail. I found the experience to be far more moving that I could have predicted. The highlight for me was standing on the street, looking up at the balcony from which the Declaration of Independence was first read. I've visited many museums, but I've never felt history like I did that day.

It is perhaps presumptuous, but I feel that the modern equivalent to the debate about democracy in the revolutionary times is the debate that rages today across the countless blogs of the internet. The activity is not, or at least doesn't have to be, the discordant rants of a host of individuals. The linking, referencing, fact-checking and instant feedback allow for debate and discussion among the largest group of people in history.

So it is with that lofty view that I throw my virtual hat into the ring. I don't have a master plan as to what my destination will be with this exercise. To be honest, I'm only vaguely sure of the direction I want to take. And the hard truth is that I can't be sure anyone will ever read this aside from the few friends I point this way at first.

Only time will tell how successful this experiment will be. But 117 days is late enough so let the journey along the trail begin here.