Your Lying Eyes

Dedicated to uncovering the truth that stands naked before your lying eyes.

E-mail Me

Twitter: yourlyingeyes

30 October 2006

Atheists Are Supposed to Be the Smart Ones?

Matthew Yglesias declares the evangelical Christian belief that
...failure to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior will result in eternal damnation is... in fact, completely absurd. And not just absurd in a virgin birth, water-into-wine, I-believe-an-angel-watches-over-me kind of way. On this view, a person who led an entirely exemplary life in terms of his impact on the world (would an example help? Gandhi, maybe?) but who didn't accept Jesus as his personal savior would be subjected to a life of eternal torment after his death and we're supposed to understand that as a right and just outcome. That, I think, is seriously messed up.
What's seriously messed up is for someone who doesn't subscribe to a given religion's beliefs to be upset about what that religion teaches about the afterlife. Yglesias clearly doesn't share evangelicals' views on heaven and hell - so what the - heck - does he care whether they think he's going to hell or not? They're not saying he should go to jail or be burned at the stake - they're talking about the afterlife - which he presumably doesn't believe in anyway - what's his problem? It's one thing if you're offended if someone of your own faith says you're damned - that might be upsetting. But who cares what they think if you don't believe? How stupid is that.

To be fair to the evangelicals, they do have a pretty good case. Right there in John 3, Jesus tells Nicodemus "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God...For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life...He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." Now you can quibble about the details (e.g., Catholics believe baptism in infancy counts as "born again") but there are few passages in scripture that are stated this plainly. So if your premise is that the gospels are - gospel - then believing that "failure to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior will result in eternal damnation is" anything but "absurd" - indeed the rallying cry of protestantism has been "Sole Fide" - faith alone can bring salvation, not good works as Catholics believe. This is hardly some radical tenet of some backwoods tongue-speakers. On the other hand, if your premise is that, whatever else they may be, the gospels are not the word of God, then you needn't worry about any of this - you can believe what you want and not have to worry about salvation - but for goshsake, grow up about it!

Big News on NPR

I like to listen to NPR because the reporting is very professional but mostly because it provides a window into that special world of refined liberalism upon which none of the daily reality of the average American's life shall ever intrude. But this morning I have to admit they really tapped into the heartbeat of the nation with a real barn-burner of a story - a breathless account of an "eye-brow raising" and "soul-baring" interview conducted with San Francisco's beknighted mayor Gavin Newsom. What did the mayor say that was so astonishing? Well, you'll have to listen to the interview to find out. You won't believe it! It's a wonder it didn't lead the network news.

Ya Think?!

The Instapundit on the Duke rape case (in the wake of recent revelations that Nifong has never discussed the case with the alleged victim and her pole-mate's claim that she asked her to "put marks on me"): "This case seems awfully weak." Don't go out on a limb there, Glenn.

This kind of commentary can come in handy if you want to avoid being wrong at all costs, such as

"It sure looks like Iraq isn't going to be a cakewalk afterall."
"It seems likely that the Republicans could lose some seats this fall."
"There sure seems to be some ethnic tension in France."
"Kim Jung Il doesn't seem to want to give up his nuclear program anytime soon."
"The problem of African poverty seems real hard to solve."

27 October 2006

Gay Marriage Ruling Unconstitutional

Mickey Kaus has some good political commentary on the NJ Supreme Court's ruling. But legally, state courts and legislatures seem to have bizarre relationships. The NJ Court has ordered the legislature to write laws defining full marriage-equivalent rights for homosexuals - in 6 months. Even the most activist U.S. Supreme Court would never presume to tell Congress what laws to write. They may void a law, but never mandate one. This has happened before in NJ (for example, with school funding). Isn't this a violation of the U.S. Constitution's guarantee of republican government for each state(Article IV section 3)? How are the people supposed to respond when the deadline is sooner than it would take to amend the constitution?

26 October 2006

How to Get in Trouble Down Under

For years now, young Australian muslim men have effectively waged war against white Australian women, from verbal harassment to gang rape, but no one has seemed too concerned - indeed, they garnered much international sympathy when white youths decided to fight back during the Crounulla riots last year.

But now a mulim cleric has figured out how to really spark some worldwide outrage - not by committing a rape, but by talking about it. In a sermon to his followers, he observed that "if you take out uncovered meat and place it outside on the street, or in the garden or in the park, or in the back yard without a cover, and the cats come and eat it... whose fault is it, the cats or the uncovered meat? The uncovered meat is the problem." Oooh. Sounds like someone needs some sensitivity training.

25 October 2006

How to Eat

Due to a medical necessity (viscously clogged arteries) that I became aware of about a year ago, I try to keep my daily intake of saturated fats to less than 10 grams (I'm usually well below that) and rarely consume trans-fats.

As a result, there are some food items that I consumed regularly - some weekly, some more frequent, some at least a few times a year, or only at parties - that I no longer eat at all. For example, Philly cheese steaks; Snickers; buttered rolls; TastyKakes; hamburgers; Drake's apple pie; cheeseburgers; jelly donuts; Cuban sandwiches; bread and butter; Reese's peanut butter cups; chicken cheese steak; rib-eye steaks; pasta with cream sauce; brie; bacon and eggs; pate; ice cream; pigs-in-a-blanket; pizza; m&m's; bagel & cream cheese; taylor ham & cheese; milk shakes; french fries; lasagna; Big Macs; chocolate cake; french-onion dip; Girl Scout cookies (thin mints); goat cheese; Whoppers; babecued ribs; pastrami on rye; grilled cheese; breakfast sausage; roast beef; hot dogs; egg salad; fried chicken; pot roast; hot pockets; cheese enchiladas; mozzarella; White Castles; Entenmann's cakes; taco dip; sauces made with butter; pastries; baked ziti; gorgonzola; reuben sandwich; Wise potato chips; sausage and peppers; lobster bisque; Egg McMuffin; creme brulee.

Given the above list, is it any wonder that when people say to me "Oh, you can cheat once in a while..." I say "When. And with what?" How does one choose any one particular day to cheat with any one particular item? I suppose since I don't go out to eat all that much I could indulge in some foie gras once a year, but otherwise I could probably cheat once a day for 90 straight days without repeating a single item.

On the positive side, some of my favorites offer unlimited satisfaction: pasta with any combination of broccolli, olives, anchovies, artichokes, etc. with garlic and olive oil; smoked whiting and pickled herring; sushi. No-fat pretzels are ubiquitously available. Mayo isn't that bad, but Hellman's now has Canola-based mayonnaise. I've always made my own salad dressing wiht olive oil. Grilled, marinated chicken breast is a mouth-watering staple. I still do eat potato chips, now and then, if they're kettle-cooked in peanut or sunflower oil (I look for non-saturated to saturated ratios of at least 7-to-1). Raisin Bran has always been a favorite (I use 1% milk, which takes up about 2 grams of my 10 gram quota). Fortunately, I like fish, I love vegetables (though I used to really enjoy them with a tbs or 2 of butter tossed in at the end) and things like hummus, tofu, olives. I do satisfy my sweet cravings with SmartBalance peanut butter and jelly on rye bread at night. Also, Ovaltine (fat-free) with low-fat milk (1.5 g saturated fat) is a nice indulgence. But most important, if your concern is choleserol and not weight, your quota of olive oil is effectively unlimited.

I haven't traveled outside of the Mid-Atlantic region in a while, but I
will be traveling west at least once in the coming months and I absolutely will have a Breakfast Jack - though I think I'll pass on the JB Tacos.

19 October 2006

How to Pay CEO's

A New York judge has ordered former NYSE chairman Richard Grasso to pay back a big chunk (probably $100 million) of his sweet little ($187.5 million) retirement package. Attorney General Elliot Spitzer had argued that the package was illegal as non-profits are prohibited from paying "excessive" compensation. I have no idea what being a CEO of stock exchange entails, but I'm pretty sure it doesn't require a $188 million pension.

I doubt CEO jobs generally are all that difficult, and am sure that there are numerous qualified candidates for any given opening. CEO's have very rare skills, but these skills are what get them the jobs to begin with - politics, self-promotion, communication, aggressiveness, ambition. Once safely ensonced at the helm, the CEO's next job is to pick his management team, which is usually easy because it's just the same people who worked for him at his last job. He now merely has to cajole and threaten his subordinates to produce. Unless he does something really stupid like an ill-advised acquisition or getting caught spying on the board, millions of dollars are his for years to come. The nice part is that he basically gets to pay himself - the board, after going thru the whole search process and triumphantly announcing their wise choice, aren't about to challenge their annointed ruler on such a petty concern as his compensation, no matter how outrageous his demands may be.

Since the CEO can so easily loot a company's treasury, I believe executive compensation should be regulated (in public corporations, that is - a privately owned concern can dish out its booty any way it sees fit). I would start with a maximum base salary that is a function of revenue and number of employees (these acting as fair proxies for the complexity of the job) - something like 10 + xR + yE. The trick now is to reward exceptional or visionary performance. The best way to do this is via stock options, so that compensation is tied to overall company performance. The strike price should be floored at the current price plus the stock's average appreciation over the prior 3 years. This would limit the compensation potential in the first few years and force the CEO to concentrate on long-term growth. Now I haven't really thought this thru completely so no nitpicking, but the general idea is that the maximum should be generous so that the majority of compensation arrangements would be unaffected, but abuse would be curtailed.

Of course in the case of Grasso it was a retirement package that was at issue. This is much easier to tackle - the maximum value of any given retirement package should be based on a percentage of the company's total pension fund. What - your company doesn't have a pension fund? Oh well...

How to Win in Iraq

The U.S. security campaign has been a "disheartening" failure, according to the man in charge there, Gen. William Caldwell. Our efforts have been undermined by the same scenario that has occurred in every other place in Iraq we've attempted to pacify: before we go in, the bad guys melt away, we harass the remaining locals for awhile, leave, and the bad guys flood back in.
In Baghdad, the military has been observing a marked increase recently in sectarian attacks in so-called cleared areas, General Caldwell said, noting that insurgents were "punching back hard." "They’re trying to get back into those areas," he said. "We’re constantly going back in and doing clearing operations again."
So obviously this approach is hopeless. What do they think, it's like securing South Central L.A. after the Rodney King riots? What we need to do is roll into Sadr City and take out the Mahdi militia. We have been prevented from taking on Sadr's little fiefdom by internal Iraqi politics (Maliki depends on Sadr's support in Parliament). Well, the Iraqi government is as good as dead if we leave, so there's little point in worrying about parliamentary coalitions. We then need to go heavy into other areas with strong militias, without prior warnings, and clean them out. U.S. casualties will climb, but Iraqi casualties will be massive.

If we don't have the stomach for this, we can then stand by and keep watching them slaughter each other for a few more years (while a couple dozen of our guys get picked off each month). Or we can leave and watch the carnage from here. Any other ideas?

13 October 2006

Yes, the New Yorker

Some interesting articles in the New Yorker this week:

It Should Happen To You, on YouTube.

Murdoch's Game, on Rupert Murdoch's apparent leftward lurch.

David Denby reviews "Little Chidren" and "The Departed".

And, in the print edition, ...this little gem

This counts as "Fair Use," right?

12 October 2006

The Iraqi Death Toll

This latest estimate of 655,000 Iraqi deaths due to the war seems preposterous, but the methodology seems sound. For a good summary of how the figure does not pass the smell test, see the reader comments in Steve Sailer's commentary. Steve himself seems inclined to accept the figure because the methodology is sound. But the reader makes a helluva point that the study essentially claims 80,000 car-bombing victims, or 135 a day . We know that's out of bounds, since car-bombings are usually reported in the news, and make real big news when the death toll exceeds a couple dozen. Randall Parker also discusses the survey, and in the comments Laurence Auster points out that this number of dead is about the same level as U.S. Civil War dead - a war which featured major pitched battles where 10,000 would die in a single day. Nothing like that has ever occurred in this war (though they might have been common in the Iran-Iraq war).

This is how the study was conducted:
A sample size of 12000 was calculated to be balance the need for robust data with the level of risk acceptable to field teams...[S]election of survey sites was by random numbers applied to streets or blocks rather than with global positioning units (GPS), since surveyors felt that being seen with a GPS unit could put their lives at risk...By confining the survey to a cluster of houses close to one another it was felt the benign purpose of the survey would spread quickly by word of mouth among households, thus lessening risk to interviewers.

As a first stage of sampling, 50 clusters were selected systematically by Governorate [province] with a population proportional to size approach, on the basis of the 2004 UNDP/Iraqi Ministry of Planning population estimates. At the second stage of sampling, the Governorate's constituent administrative units were listed by population or estimated population, and location(s) were selected randomly proportionate to population size. The third stage consisted of random selection of a main street within the administrative unit from a list of all main streets. A residential street was then randomly selected from a list of residential streets crossing the main street. On the residential street, houses were numbered and a start household was randomly selected. From this start household, the team proceeded to the adjacent residence until 40 households were surveyed.
So one obvious problem is that the sampling is not really random since, ironically, the situation is just too dangerous to do the job right. Thus while they sampled some 1800 households, they were concentrated in 47 clusters (i.e., neighborhoods - once they randomly chose the neighborhoods, they then went door to door within each neighborhood to find 40 households). That the survey could have oversampled in more dangerous neighborhoods doesn't seem too farfetched to me.

The raw data is frustratingly not available on the Lancet site. It would be very interesting to look at the distribution of deaths by neighborhood and household within neighborhood. The calculations are also not detailed, but the basic approach doesn't seem too much more sophisticated than extrapolating the survey deaths proportionately out to the Iraqi population as a whole. It would be better I think to take into account relative population densities of the selected clusters vis a vis the surrounding geographic region than simply adding up all the survey deaths (as if the sampling were truly random) and extrapolating the total.

04 October 2006

My Party, Right or Wrong

I'm watching "Capitol Crimes" right now, a Bill Moyers report on the Abramoff scandal. While Moyers is as far from an objective reporter as one could imagine, this story is such a sordid tale it makes little difference whether it's played straight or intended as a hit job. It's just another painful reminder to me of what a pathetic waste of 6 years this has been. Just what have Republican voters gotten out of having their party in control of the U.S. Government? Let's see - the Dow has just broken a record - a 6-year old record. Affirmative action and the "Diversity" regime are still solidly in place. Illegal immigration out of control. Manufacturing jobs dwindling away. Massive trade deficits (6% of GDP). $100+ billion being thrown down a black hole in Iraq. There's been some rollbacks in big government - if you're a big rancher or logger with an eye on national parks. But what I see is a government more involved in my life - No Child Left Behind interference in schools, intrusive searches at events, Sarbanes-Oxley regulations. My will to fear Nancy Pelosi is not particularly strong right now.

The Ozone Hole Is Back and Bigger Than Ever

Great. Now what do we have to give up - speed sticks?

03 October 2006

Oh no, It's Definitely You

From the Instapundit:
THE LATEST POLL shows a Ford-Corker dead heat. Hmm. Just yesterday we had one with Ford up by 5; not long before that there was one with Corker up by 5. Is it just me, or is this more variation than we usually see? Are voter sentiments that volatile (or superficial)? Or is there something about this race that makes minor differences in polling methodology more important? Or is this normal?[Emphasis mine]
I guess noting the fact that it's a close race and he's looking at 3 different polls (Middle Tennessee State University, Rasmussen, WSJ) with margins of error of 4, 4.5, and 3.4% and so this is quite expected would be getting just a little too technical for the Ole Perfesser.

Update: Michael Barone has since come to the rescue, explaining it all to the professor without once adopting a patronizing tone - I admire that.

01 October 2006

Transparency in Blogging

Dennis Dale has released his (and no doubt anyone's) first annual blog report for his Untethered blog for the "egotistical year ending August 30, 2006." While Untethered is among the best written blogs around, this cautionary note in the report should give potential investors pause:
A severe shortage of original thought continues to plague the ideational development department. Expertise and knowledge remain scarce commodities. Wisdom and clarity acquisition costs remain prohibitive.
On the other hand, similar problems haven't gotten in the way of some other blogs' popularity.