Your Lying Eyes

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

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30 March 2007

Sure, I'll Send My Kid to School - Gimme a Fifty

This is just the best.
Seeking new solutions to New York’s vexingly high poverty rates, the city is moving ahead with a bold antipoverty experiment that will pay poor families up to $5,000 a year to meet targets like exemplary school attendance, going for medical checkups or holding down a full-time job, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said today.
A bold plan, indeed. Perhaps even audacious. The only redeeming aspect is that it is only experimental at this point and paid by private funds. They'll be evaluating those who receive the incentives against a control group that doesn't. Assuming that these people are not so irredeemably irresponsible that they won't even bring their kids to a doctor for some cash, the program is bound to be judged a "success." Then no doubt public money will fund this disaster. Immigration realist Heather McDonald explains the problem far more eloquently than I could:
"It could destroy the ordinary incentive system that usually motivates people to engage in good" behavior, she said. "You are going to create in people the expectation that they should do such proper things as take their children to school or study only if they are bribed by the government. I think the potential for unintentional consequences for this program are absolutely enormous."
But hey, it apparently works in Mexico, so what could be the downside?

27 March 2007

Dog Perfoms Heimlich on Owner!

This is from the Times, mind you, not the Star. The dog apparently got excited when he saw his owner attempting to give herself the Heimlich maneuver, which based on John Belushi's depiction of Liz Taylor attempting the same feat is no doubt quite an attention getter.
"The next think I know, Toby's up on his hind feet and he's got his front paws on my shoulders," she recalled. "He pushed me to the ground, and once I was on my back, he began jumping up and down on my chest." That's when the apple dislodged and Toby started licking her face to keep her from passing out, she said.
The cynic in me imagines the dog reacting rather excitedly to its owner's bizarre behavior and decided it would be great fun to thump on her chest, as well. The dislodged apple no doubt left a sweet residue along the woman's mouth that the pooch was happy to lick clean.

On the other hand, dogs are amazingly tuned into us, having spent the last several thousand years acquiring this skill. There was a case in my home town here in N.J. a number of years back of a dog saving his owner's life. A man was walking his dog one winter night along the frozen river when he fell through the ice under a bridge where the ice tends to not be so thick. The dog ran up the bank to the street above and proceeded to bark feverishly at passing cars, one of which stopped. The driver followed the dog down the bank, saw the man struggling in the water, and went back up and got help. So I don't doubt that dogs can sense danger to their owners and take steps to mitigate it, though I'm pretty sure this sophistication stops short of being able to execute 20th century first-aid techniques.

23 March 2007

Get Ready for a Lot More of These Arguments

Wars have some obvious negative consequences, but some are not so obvious. A Chinese woman is seeking asylum in the U.S. to escape a bad marriage. The immigration judge sensibly told her to go take a hike. A panel of idiots (the Second US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York) decided she should get asylum. The Bush Administration is appealing (yes, it's situations like these when I remember why I voted for Bush), arguing that we can't be offering asylum to every woman in the world finding herself facing an arranged, abusive marriage. Her attorney's reply?
"We went over to Iraq to try to bring democracy to people, and we can't even offer a woman being sold into slavery asylum?"
That's going to be the formula for the next however-many years. Everything, no matter how stupid, will be justified on the basis of it not being as stupid as invading Iraq. Worried about the budget and would like to cut back on spending? Here's Dean Baker suggesting that $50 billion over 5 years is chump change:
In compartive terms, it is less than what the United States spends in 3 weeks on the war in Iraq.
So nothing can ever cost too much ever again, because we wasted so much money on Iraq.

But back to the asylum case. The whole concept of asylum should be done away with. Asylum is another unforseen consequence of war - in this case, the Cold War. Granting asylum to escapees from communist countries was good PR back in the day because it embarrassed those countries, particularly since they used to actively prevent their citizens from leaving. But liberals complained about a double standard, so we braodened it to include asylum from any oppressive regime. Nowadays, most countries are more than happy to shed themselves of the losers who end up on our shores seeking asylum. In this particular case, the husband-to-be is pissed because he wasted $2,500 bucks on a no-show bride, but I'm sure China couldn't care less what happens to her. So can we just drop the whole asylum thing? I'm sure President Obama will make it his highest priority.

Global Warming - What Me Worry?

I have two reasons for doubting that global warming will end up being the disaster Al Gore warns it will be. The first is Greg Cochran's bright future, which promises to not only bring about unlimited, cheap, carbonless energy within a few generations, but to increase the wealth of man even more dramatically than did the Industrial Revolution, an unbelievable abundance with which to "make the deserts bloom, put two cars in every pot, and end world poverty, while simultaneously fighting global warming."

The other is the possibility that natural variations in the sun's output are causing much more of our warming than climatologists think. Climate models attribute minuscule amounts of warming to increased solar activity. I've noted before that Russian astronomer Khabibulo Abdussamatov believes very strongly that current warming is due to the sun and that we're in for some really cold times a few decades hence. Now there is a new study from scientists at JPL claiming to have found signals of the sun's 88 and 200-year cycles in accounts of Nile flooding from the middle ages (pdf). If the effects of the sun can be found in such coarse historical records, is it so outlandish to suppose that it might have played a significant role in the half-degree rise in temperatures of the last couple decades?

We should know in about ten years, I think, how serious the warming is. But if we get moving now on the technology that Cochran foresees, we'll be covered however the climate plays out.

22 March 2007

The NeoCon Mind at Work

In late 2002, Max Boot compared the traditional conservative and the neoconservative worldviews:
One group of conservatives believes that we should use armed force only to defend our vital national interests, narrowly defined. They believe that we should remove, or at least disarm, Saddam Hussein, but not occupy Iraq for any substantial period afterward. The idea of bringing democracy to the Middle East they denounce as a mad, hubristic dream likely to backfire with tragic consequences. This view, which goes under the somewhat self-congratulatory moniker of "realism," is championed by foreign-policy mandarins like Henry Kissinger, Brent Scowcroft and James Baker III.
He contrasted this traditional view with the neoconservative position:
Many conservatives think, however, that "realism" presents far too crabbed a view of American power and responsibility. They suggest that we need to promote our values, for the simple reason that liberal democracies rarely fight one another, sponsor terrorism, or use weapons of mass destruction. If we are to avoid another 9/11, they argue, we need to liberalize the Middle East--a massive undertaking, to be sure, but better than the unspeakable alternative. And if this requires occupying Iraq for an extended period, so be it; we did it with Germany, Japan and Italy, and we can do it again.
It's pretty bizarre reading this today as an endorsement - rather than a parody - of the neoconservative position. Four years later, Boot engaged in an on-line discussion in the NY Times Book Review about Iraq, where he admitted the catastrophe Iraq has become but can't seem to admit to being wrong on this most fundamental point.
It is true that Iraqis were not well prepared for democracy, but then the same thing could be said of most democratizing countries...By and large, most Iraqis were as ready and eager for democracy as anyone else. But a small minority of extremists was determined to violently resist this transition, and the U.S. and its allies were not well positioned to stop them.
Most Iraqis - at least in Baghdad - were ready and eager to loot the entire city as soon as the dust cleared. And when they did vote, they were eager and ready to vote for their side - Shia, Sunni, Kurd, but there's no evidence any Iraqis were voting for a democratic government. He goes on:
Following Saddam's fall, a security vacuum developed which has gotten worse over time. It is the absence of a functioning judiciary or police force that accounts for the sinister condition of Iraq today. New York or London probably would look only marginally better than Baghdad if, four years ago, their police forces had been disbanded, their government dissolved, their electricity turned off, two-thirds of their workers laid off, and their prison doors opened to release thousands of criminals.
Obviously - we have those things because our forefathers - over the course of centuries - found them to be necessary to civil order. Arabs have their own approach to creating order - autocratic, Islamic governments. I'll give Max credit, though - he described his own foreign policy approach quite aptly in the first snippet: "a mad, hubristic dream likely to backfire with tragic consequences."

21 March 2007

The Fred Thompson Juggernaut

The Draft Fred Thompson movement appears to be an unstoppable force. My previous attempt to pour cold water on the idea has met with surprisingly little response. Mickey Kaus tries to help his Republican friends by pointing out that Fred hasn't really done anything to make anyone think he'd be a good president.

His position on immigration is not real clear, but he appears to be better than McCain (not hard), but basically takes the we-need-cheap-foreign-labor with a dose of border-control toughness approach. His aggressive assertions that Saddam had a scary nuclear program is of concern. He didn't just back up the president, he expressed absolute certainty that Saddam was a menace, which suggests to me a dangerously uncritical mind.

An example of the kind of facile analysis we could expect from a President Thompson is this nugget of wisdom being touted all over the dopey-con blogosphere: "The CIA has better politicians than it has spies." What is that supposed to mean? Wasn't it the politicians who got in the way of the CIA analysts and monkeyed-up the intelligence? And then there's his support for Scooter Libby, which suggests a cronyism that I'd rather not have in a president. It doesn't speak well for the Republican field that so many feel it's necessary to draft such a man into the race.

16 March 2007

Down Home Justice

Funny little story from NPR's Storycorps series about a Judge in Mississippi and his favorite sentencee. Listen to the audio rather than read it - I was chuckling this morning listening to it on the radio, anyway.

15 March 2007

Tuna on Rye, Hold the Latex

There's a controversy discussed in the Times about what type of gloves, if any, food preparation personnel should be using when handling food. Some people are highly allergic to latex, while some are concerned about the toxic chemicals in vinyl gloves. Use of bare hands, of course, risks passing on deadly microbes.

I hate the use of gloves in restaurants. Very often the preparer seems oblivious to the junk accumulating on the gloves, and thinks nothing of leaving wet smudge marks all over the bread as he finishes up your sandwich. A bare-handed preparer would wipe his hands off after handling the wet ingredients before wrapping up the sandwich. This peeve was echoed in the article: "When your hands are bare you can tell if you get something on them, and you immediately wash," said Debra Silva, who owns Clem & Ursie’s, a seafood restaurant in Provincetown, Mass. "But if you’re wearing gloves, you might have no idea that you’ve touched something dirty." Indeed.

Bare hands, regularly washed, is the best approach to food preparation.

But if you're real paranoid about food-borne illnesses and freaked-out by bare hands touching your food, avoid Sushi bars:
Many sushi chefs prepare raw fish with their bare fingers despite the rules requiring them to use gloves, tongs or paper. On a recent night the chefs at a Greenwich Village sushi bar scoffed at the idea of using gloves. One, who did not want to give his name for fear of getting the restaurant in trouble, said gloves would make it difficult to tell, by feel, if the fish was fresh. In that way, he said, gloves could make customers less safe. "You can’t make real sushi with gloves on," he said. It was the same story at a sushi restaurant in Midtown. "We’ve been doing it this way for 250 years," one chef said. "People who make the regulations just don’t understand."

13 March 2007

Latin America Hates Us

But why? What have we done to Latin America lately? Hell, back in the 80's, we were funding right-wing death squads and overthowing governments to counteract Soviet influence. But nowadays we keep our hands off. There are leftist governments sprouting everywhere, and at most we utter a little tut-tut now and then. Meanwhile we have free trade agreements which basically shift jobs from the U.S. to the south, but the continent is in an uproar as if these agreements don't help them. Not to mention about 20 million Latin American immigrants.

So what does this tell us? We cannot please these people by leaving them alone - we cannot please them at all. Attempting to get on their good side by providing massive U.S. aid may work for a little while, but then they'll just ask for more. No, unfortunately what this means is that the rest of the Western hemisphere, like the rest of the world, is mostly made up of shitheads who are not worth our time and effort to placate. What about the suffering people in Darfur? It would be nice if we could magically send over a fleet of C-5 transports to feed the starving people in Darfur. But they're starving because other people around there want them to starve. And if the starving people had the upper hand, the situation would be reversed.

What we have in America is a nice isolated region of the world consisting of mainly civilized people operating under a set of agreed upon rules that allow us to live a generally peaceful, fulfilled, and long life if we want it. There are a few other regions like this - Western Europe, Australia, Canada. Our only hope to keep this going is to keep from getting involved in the lunacy in the rest of the world, and keeping the lunacy of the rest of the world from us. Unfortunately, our leadership seems intent on ruining this.

Schools These Days

My 7th-grade daughter asked me to help her with her science homework. The worksheet had questions about alleles, phenotypes and genotypes. I felt bad for all those other parents who aren't regular Gene eXpression readers.

12 March 2007

Let the Sobbing Begin

Oh the humanity. The Boston Globe reports that the Massachusetts Department of Social Services (DSS) is intervening on behalf of illegal immigrants being held by ICE after raids on a New Bedford factory. They are requesting the release of 21 of the detainees, 19 because they have children to care for, 1 woman with cancer, and a 17 year old. The story is obviously intended to evoke feelings of sympathy for the hard-luck immigrants, but the whole mess only set off alarm bells as I read it.
DSS Commissioner Harry Spence said he was "extremely upset and angry" that immigration officials whisked the detainees, mostly women, out of Massachusetts on Wednesday before these cases were discovered. "If the department had been given access to the detainees at Fort Devens on Tuesday night, as we consistently requested, then a great deal of this could have been avoided," Spence said in Harlingen. "The threats to the children's safety that the federal action caused could have been greatly diminished."
So we see how an immigrant's first priority is to have a child - when there's children involved, we're no longer supposed to enforce our borders.
But Spence said DSS workers' efforts had shown that the interviews conducted by immigration officials did not get all the information. He said detainees who come from countries with a history of government repression might have been too afraid to tell their stories to federal immigration workers. As an example, Spence said he heard about a detainee who at first denied being a parent, but later acknowledged having two school-age children in New Bedford after a DSS social worker gained that person's trust.
Immigrants from third world countries bring along low levels of trust in the law and a penchant for deception that is not a healthy addition to our society.
Many detainees, wearing hospital-style scrubs, burst into tears at the sight of Massachusetts social workers.
I have to admit, I'd probably have some extreme reactions myself if approached by Massachusetts social workers.
A 38-year-old detainee said she has two daughters, ages 2 and 4, who are being cared for by an aunt, according to social workers who interviewed her and spoke on condition of anonymity. The 4-year-old cannot walk or talk and requires a feeding tube. The social workers said the girl requires regular treatment at a hospital.
That's terrific - I guess we know who's paying the bills - I bet it's not the aunt.
Other social workers described an interview with a sobbing mother of a 17-year-old girl, who has been left in the care of her 22-year-old brother. The mother said the girl gets good grades and is a senior in high school. But the girl, whom the mother described as depressed and weeping, has not been to school since Wednesday.
Oh horrors! Four days of missed school - her life is ruined. Gee, maybe she could just go back to the home country with the mother - nah, I guess that's out of the question.
A Guatemalan woman told social workers she has a US-born 2-year-old boy who has a respiratory condition and needs to be connected to a breathing machine four times daily. The mother was not sure who is taking care of the boy; his estranged father, who left the family five months ago, or his baby-sitter he social workers said.
That breathing machine can't be cheap, though traitor George is probably in Guatamela as we speak making all kinds of promises with our money and future. (Update: Bush did defend the raid down there, insisting we will enforce our laws, so he's not as contemptible as others mentioned below.) Let's see, out of 19 identified parents, 2 have children with expensive disabilities. That's quite a bargain we're getting out of these immigrants, isn't it?
Hundreds of friends and family of detainees crammed into the basement of St. James Church yesterday to weep, pray, and tell their stories to elected officials.
Oh, good lord, please.
US Senator Edward M. Kennedy held their hands and prayed with them, joined by Senator John F. Kerry and Representatives Barney Frank and William Delahunt, who repeated calls for a congressional investigation into the raid.
What scumbags, what utter, complete, shitheads. If I were miraculously to become Dictator of the U.S. I can't even imagine how quickly I'd put these traitors up against the wall and shoot them. Better yet, I'd offer the detainees $1000 for each body part just to laugh at how quickly they'd tear their "saviors" to shreds. Can you tell they piss me off?
Nancy Kelly, a lawyer with Greater Boston Legal services in Boston, said the released detainees were confused about what will happen to them next. Some mistakenly believe that an appointment with an immigration official is tantamount to appearing in court. "They're terrified," she said.
Terrified - yes, that's the idea. But there's a simple solution - GO HOME!

Schumer Calls for Gonzalez Resignation

Senator Schumer is calling for Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez to step down based on his political firings of U.S. Attorneys and the FBI's misuse of the Patriot Act. Gonzalez is a complete hack and an embarrasment to Republicans, never mind the country. He has argued that habeas corpus is not a fundamental right, when in fact habeas corpus is the only right mentioned in the body of the constitution. He may or may not be right to deny the use of U.S. courts to detainees in Gitmo, but the way to do that is not to deny to everyone one of our most fundamental of rights. I certainly won't shed a tear when he's gone.

11 March 2007

Fred Thompson for President?

Instapundit and others are pushing Fred Thompson to run for president, but is he kidding? With Thompson's checkered past? Let's review:

Falsifying intelligence as CIA director
Involvement with violent hate groups
Criminally negligent auto executive
Siding with big business against our nation's future
Incompetent White House Chief of Staff
Credulous foreign policy analyst
Mob Lawyer defender
Not to mention his recent stint as a Manhattan district attorney where he and his staff have used creative legal maneuverings to fanatically pursue innocent white defendants while letting the more obvously guilty minority suspects walk free.

08 March 2007

How I Spent My Winter Vacation

As I mentioned below, I was in Steamboat Springs, CO last week for some skiing with my wife, my brother and sister-in-law, and nephew and his wife. I won't bore you with the skiing details, especially since I'm not a particularly good skier, so I have little to say on that anyway.

But what was interesting was what was going on around us. We just happened to book the very same week (or maybe it wasn't such a coincidence - we were looking for a good deal) as the 2007 Ski Summit sponsored by the National Brotherhood of Skiers! It was a tad surreal, but being that these are skiers we're talking about, it was nothing like it must have been to accidentally book a weekend getaway to Las Vegas during NBA All-Star weekend. It was a bit disconcerting strolling thru the litte ski-town area and hearing loud thumping hip-hop out of the saloons instead of country and gold-chains around mens' necks in place of string ties, but no big deal.

One thing that stood out is the difference in black and whites personality types. On the gondola or shuttle rides, conversations among whites are typically stilted, formal/reserved, or annoying. When it's young white men, there's no conversation at all beyond a few minimal communications in hushed tones and grunts ("Head'n to Storm Peak? Ummm") Which is fine with me - I find conversing to be an enormous effort. When you're with blacks, there's a steady stream of kidding, joking, and laughter throughout. There's no measuring of each word, no calculated small talk, but alot of fluid, disarming chat.

Another observation is that the women tended to be more refined - or perhaps I mean to say 'whitish' - than the men. They tended to have more prep-school accents and speak more deliberately, while the men, as gentlemenly and bourgeoise as they were, had much more down-home deliveries and more traditional African-American patois. And the blacks had much niftier ski-outfits than the whites (particularly this white). That could be explained by the group dynamics, as people in groups are likely intent on impressing each other, but I also got the feeling that looking good is part of the whole experience.

One well-known negative stereotype - that blacks are poor tippers - was confirmed. Our table of six sat next to a table of 4 'Brotherhood' couples. They had a great time from all appearances, were joking with the waitress, and one of the couples we recognized from the lift and we exchanged pleasantries. We left a $60 tip on our $300 pre-tax bill (there was some debate on whether the 20% should be applied to the whole bill or just the non-tax part). The other table left first, and as we were leaving, the waitress came up to thank us, and then mentioned that the other table "stiffed me." They left $3.00, which would amount to 1% at most. My wife vowed that if we ran into the same couple again the next day (our last day) on the slopes, she would confront them about it. I prayed to God that such an encounter would not transpire, at least in my presence, and my prayers were fulfilled.

It was a fun time, and while I would recommend researching the whereabouts of the NBA All Star Game before planning a winter-weekend getaway, no such precautions are really necessary before booking a week of skiing.

07 March 2007

I'm Back

Sorry I haven't posted in quite awhile (in case you noticed), but I was on vacation (skiing in Steamboat Springs, CO) and then, on my return, found that the thing I feared most next to the plane crashing did indeed happen - my laptop with my whole financial world on it had crashed, requiring my undivided attention for several days. I will post about both these tonight. The time was not a complete waste, however, as the Anna Nicole Smith affair has apparently been resolved to the full satisfaction of the media. For some reason, her finally being buried was the signal to stop the 24/7 coverage, even though the paternity issue, which I would have thought to be the one somewhat interesting aspect of the story since half-a-billion dollars are at stake, is still unresolved. Anyway, to make up, I pledge to post everyday this week, no matter how uninteresting the topic or irrelevant and uninformed my commentary.