Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. -- Winston Churchill

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. -- Galileo Galilei

I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell. -- Harry Truman

Location: Wichita, Kansas

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Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Mon Dieu! New IQ Study Says French are Dumb, Germans Smart

The French are dumber than their European counterparts, and the Germans and Dutch have the highest IQ's in Europe. Can this be true? In comparative terms, yes, according to a newly released study of national IQ's, by Professor Lynn, at the University of Ulster. The professor has issued controversial intelligence studies in the past, including his work correlating IQ's to race and sex.

The London Times reported France came in 18th with an average IQ of 97, fully 10 points behind those clever Germans and Dutch at 107. And shelve all those dumb Polish jokes – they scored third at 106. Some critics of Professor Lynn charge him with bias, and flawed methodology. He also correlates brain size with intelligence, pointing out that in the average brains in Northern and Central Europe are 1,320cc in volume and in southeast Europe it is 1,312cc.

Is all this nonsense? Probably not. Anthropologists and paleontologists have long correlated brain size with intelligence in human evolution. But as we learn more about brain morphology and development, size alone may be insufficient to explain all differences in intelligence.

A 15 year long study just released by the National Institutes of Mental Health (NIMH) used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to gain a detailed picture of how the brains of children change over time. It found that in kids who did better on standard IQ tests, the cortex grew thicker and faster and its growth peaked later than among their average peers. "The study shows that there are clear features in brain images that are different for smart children versus average children," says Paul Thompson, a brain-imaging expert at the University of California, Los Angeles, in the MIT sponsored Technology Review.

Numerous studies have born out that genetics plays a strong role in intelligence among other factors. It gets uncomfortable for many when racial differences are explored, and given recent history, that is understandable. Professor Lynn, for example, postulates that in military conflicts, the side with a greater IQ will win, unless overwhelmed by greater numbers, as he states happened in World War II.

It is hard to deny that Germany would likely have prevailed were it not for the sheer weight of numbers and productive capacity that the New World provided, both in World War I and World War II. German engineering and German scientists are part of the lexicon to this day for superior abilities. Albert Einstein was a German Jew, and our acquisition of Wernher von Braun and his colleagues were the basis of our space program. There were many jokes about how the American space effort resembled a reunion for Peenemünde rocket scientists.

Professor Lynn's theories that people in northern latitudes developed greater intelligence in order to survive more severe climatic challenges stirs controversy by feeding into racist beliefs about the inferiority of blacks. He has been a critic of British immigration policy, saying that the lower scores of African and African-Caribbean immigrants cause higher unemployment,crime, and illegitimacy – compared to immigrants from India and Asia. In another study, he concluded in his meta-analysis that Asians have about a 5 point IQ advantage over Whites.

He does not explain why the comparatively mild Italian climate would produce a higher average IQ than Norway, Denmark and Finland. Perhaps there is a link between garlic and intelligence, it seems to be good for just about everything else. American undergraduates must be doing something right, as his studies say that they have the highest IQ's compared to other countries, at 110. Who would have guessed that. He must have studied students remaining on campus during spring break.

One hopeful conclusion on intelligence has been described as the Flynn effect. This indicates that globally, IQ scores are increasing slightly every year. Some attribute this to better nutrition, particularly in childhood. Whatever the cause, maybe we'll become intelligent enough to avoid the penchant humanity has for finding excuses to hate each other based on religion, race, ethnic traditions, and politics. That seems a long way off. Intelligence is, after all, not the same as wisdom.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Should Supreme Court Justices Shut Up?

Newsweek reported on Justice Scalia's remarks in Switzerland at the University of Freiburg, in which he essentially ridiculed the proposition that terrorist detainees had rights for civil legal protections.

"War is war, and it has never been the case that when you captured a combatant you have to give them a jury trial in your civil courts," he is quoted as saying. "Give me a break." Asked whether Guantanamo detainees have any rights under international conventions, Justice Scalia reportedly answered:

"If he was captured by my army on a battlefield, that is where he belongs. I had a son (Matthew Scalia) on that battlefield and they were shooting at my son and I'm not about to give this man who was captured in a war a full jury trial. I mean it's crazy." Mr Scalia is also quoted as saying he was "astounded" at the "hypocritical" reaction in Europe to Guantanamo.

Critics are saying that his remarks compromise his ability to hear the upcoming Salim Ahmed Hamdan case which appeals against the right of President Bush to order that detainees be handled in military tribunals. Justice Scalia is not a man that suffers fools gladly, and often speaks in refreshingly plain, common sense terms. Does that mean he is somehow violating judicial ethics when he does so?

If he were to comment on specific cases coming before the court, he would be compromising his position. But to suggest that expressing himself on basic issues in general is ludicrous. That is tantamount to advocating that a judge who states that murder is wrong and that those who commit them should be punished, renders that judge unfit to sit on murder cases.

Casual observers of the Supreme Court are often disappointed when Justices issue decisions contrary to their personal beliefs. They don't understand that most Justices do an amazingly good job of rendering opinions based on points of law, rather than their own biases. At least those that oppose judicial activism practice such restraint.

The belief that Justices have sacrificed their 1st Amendment rights probably reflects the deterioration of Senate confirmation proceedings. Nominees now routinely invoke not wishing to comment on cases that might come before the court as a way to avoid entrapment of partisan got you games. For the most part, confirmations are dog and pony shows in which Senators demagogue and posture, rather than a substantive exploration of judicial views and constitutional issues. It's an unfortunate casualty of the overall political state of affairs.

Personally, I give Justice Scalia high marks for not pandering to a European audience, and both speaking truthfully and calling them on their hypocrisy. We have had quite enough examples of Americans who go overseas and undermine American interests in their speeches.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

Back With New Ubuntu Linux

Sorry for the lack of updates to the blog. I lost a hard drive and had to recover files. As someone who left the world of paying Bill Gates for Windows some time ago, this meant installing Linux. If you are not already a Linux buff, that means installing an alternate operating system to Microsoft Windows – all free and open source.

My favorite flavor of Linux is Ubuntu, which releases an updated official version about every six months. It's very easy to install, and basically fool-proof. Being foolish, I decided to go with the latest “experimental” version called “Flight 5”, which means it has the latest “bleeding edge” code being developed. It was really easier than I imagined, and the problems I encountered were actually few. If you don't know at least a little about Linux and have some command line familiarity, some fixes could stump you. The reward for going this route is having the newest features available.

Once everything was up and functioning, I then went further to install something called XGL and Compiz. This takes advantage of code released into open source by Novell in the last month, who has been doing great things in Linux development and contribution of their results. Installing this was not easy, but if you have the patience to do so, you'll be blown away at the results.

You'll get a user interface or desktop that is stunning. Some of the effects are cool eye candy, while others are useful features that are unbelievable. You wind up with a 3-D computer system that is aesthetically superb, customizable, and improves ease of use and productivity.

The next Microsoft release, codenamed “Longhorn”, has been delayed once again until next January. Given the sophistication and features you can obtain right now with Linux, you can have a system that is generations ahead of WindowsXP. It's not even a close contest. Moreover, when the new Windows does come out, you'll not only pay for the software, but find you'll need to upgrade your computer's memory, CPU, and video card to run it properly. I built my computer several years ago, and the state of the art Linux I am describing hums along just fine on it.

The truly amazing part for me was the close cooperation between users and developers in the Ubuntu support community. When I would get stuck, and request help in the Ubuntu forum, another user would provide a solution, often within minutes. Sometimes you see a glitch being fixed in the coding itself by a contributing programmer within hours of it being identified and the solution being uploaded. The talent these folks have and donate to making this happen are so impressive.

Here's a few links if you want to know more, and even preview Compiz by watching videos of it in action.

Ubuntu Support Forum
Novell Compiz Announcement

I'm back in the saddle now with my uber-cool new operating system, so expect posts to resume as usual.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Bullseye! Veto on Concealed Carry Overriden by Kansas House

That was quick! Hot on the heels of last night's Senate vote, the Kansas House just overrode the concealed carry veto. It has been 12 years since the Kansas legislature overrode a governor's veto, and Gov. Sebelius just earned that distinction. The House vote was 91-33, giving supporters of the measure seven votes more than the two-thirds majority necessary. The Senate voted Wednesday night to override the veto, 30-10, with three votes more than needed.

The law will take effect July 1st, with requirements to pass a gun safety course, a background check, and prohibitions against carrying firearms in schools, churches, libraries and courthouses. Kudos to Senator Phil Journey, a Haysville Republican, for his long and determined fight for the statute. His past efforts were thwarted by two previous vetoes, one in 1997 by Gov. Graves, and another in 2004 by Gov. Sebelious.

The third time was a charm for Senator Journey, an outspoken advocate for gun owner's rights. Gov. Sebelious, a Democrat, has a 60% approval rating in this largely Republican state, despite taking positions not in step with most Kansans. So far, no strong Republican has emerged to challenge her in this fall's election.

Kansas Senate Overides Veto of Concealed Carry Bill

The Kansas Senate voted to override the Gov. Sebelious veto of a concealed weapons bill. The House is expected to take a vote on the matter soon. The bill originally passed in the House by a sufficient margin to overide, so it will be a matter of whether those representatives will stick to their guns.

Senator Phil Journey(R) has worked on passage of this measure for a decade. He must be getting the champagne ready after such a long battle to allow Kansans the right to obtain concealed carry permits. It's close, but not over the goal line yet.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Kansas Legislative Update - Sex, Guns, Illegal Immigrant Tuition, and School Finance

Kansas legislators never seem to tire of their efforts to regulate sex, yet are running as fast as they can from an up or down vote on illegal immigrant tuition and solving school finance.

Three measures are in the hopper related to punishing sexually related businesses and making it easier to outlaw what material adults in the state can read or view.

First we have Sub SB 253, which seeks to define the size and content of signs for adult businesses located within a mile of any highway or interstate. It would mandate that there could only be two signs, one no more than 40 square feet with the name, address, phone number and operating hours, and another noting the premises are off-limits to minors. It passed a first vote in the House, and if passed will go to the Senate. Sen. Tim Huelskamp, R-Fowler said, "It's good for children and families and sends a message that Kansas is a family friendly state." Apparently such signs are only a public menace when near a highway.

Then there is the Porn tax bill, HB 2680, which puts a 10% tax on adult oriented businesses. We had a creative suggestion for this bill, but the House Tax Committee is going to keep it in committee till next year, largely because Utah is being sued over similar legislation.

The third bill, HB 2912 wants to cleanup the language on dirty subjects, by amending the the state's anti-obscenity law to improve the chances of prosecutors charging people for sexually explicit materials. It to needs a final House vote to make it to the Senate.

While legislators are eager on those issues, no similar enthusiasm is being shown to allow an up or down vote on repealing illegal immigrant tuition, being championed by Rep. Becky Hutchins. She has been pushing for getting a floor vote, after attempts to first kill the bill in committee, and then a vote that sent her bill back to committee, by attaching her measure to other bills. So far it has not worked, but the plucky Holton gal has not given up. "She wants a clean vote and until she gets a clean vote, she'll keep bringing amendments," said Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka. "Once it comes up as a clean vote, it'll pass."

This tuition break amounts to $3,926 per semester for a student carrying just 15 credit hours at the University of Kansas, or $7,852 per year. Assuming they graduate in four years, that is $31,408 per student. So far 221 students have qualified, for a total cost of $6,941,168. Of course that will constantly be increasing as new students are approved. Here's a thought - why not take that seven million dollars and the additional millions that it would cost in the future, and establish a tuition fund for the children of legal immigrants. Sure it would mean changing the incentive toward people following the law rather than breaking it, so no doubt our legislature and governor would hate the idea.

Meanwhile, the must solve issue for this legislative session apparently won't be, as there are a number of legislators saying the school finance problem will be headed for a special session. We will be commenting more on school finance and the Kansas Supreme Court in the near future.

Finally, Gov. Sebelious once again vetoed the concealed carry bill that would allow Kansans with a permit to carry firearms, as all but three other states do. Expect a battle to override that veto shortly, which should be a close vote.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Supreme Court May Decide Who Owns Your Genetic Code

A case being argued in the Supreme Court may decide basic questions about what can be patented, particularly intellectual property rights and biotechnology. The case itself deals with a patent granted in 1990 to scientists at the University of Colorado and Columbia in New York. They discovered that high levels of an amino acid, homocysteine, in the blood or urine tended to be associated with a deficiency of B vitamins.

The patent not only granted ownership of a test invented for vitamin B deficiency to Metabolite Laboratories, which owns the patent, but for the thought about the relationship between two chemicals in the human body. Another company, LabCorp, invented a different testing method, which was also based on thinking about the correlation between the two chemicals. Metabolite sued LabCorp when the latter did not pay royalties.

You may be wondering why you should care. Potentially the court's decision could impact thousands of other patents, including the 20% of the human genome that is patented, as well as many other areas of patent law that revolve around discoveries of what are not man made inventions, but instead reveal what already exists in nature. Imagine if Watson and Crick had patented the discovery of the double helix structure of DNA. All subsequent genetic research would have infringed on that patent.

But even more specific genetic patenting is a huge problem. For example, a patent has already been granted for the genetic sequence governing Alzheimer's disease. Anyone now wanting to research that disease must have the money to first pay the royalties. In affect, these patents allow huge areas of potential life saving research to be cordoned off by "biopiracy".

A biotech company, Myriad Genetics, has secured exclusive licenses based on patents for the BRCA 1 and BRCA 2 genes, mutations in which are linked to breast and ovarian cancer. It sent letters ordering laboratories to stop screening women for the mutations.

Here's a quote that capsulizes the issue of these extraordinary attempts to chill research for monetary gain:

"Any company that wants to be in the business of using genes, proteins, or antibodies as drugs has a very high probability of running afoul of our patents. From a commercial point of view, they are severely constrained - and far more than they realize." Dr William A. Haseltine, Chairman and CEO, Human Genome Sciences.

It is as if Joseph Priestley had patented his discovery of oxygen, and threatened patent suits against those who breath. How broadly the court chooses to address the issue of patenting naturally occurring processes and structures is an important one. Not just for scientists, but for everyone in the future who might benefit from medical research efforts to find new cures and treatments for disease.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Political Correctness is Killing African-Americans

AIDS is a racial issue. In the United States as of July, 2004, according to the Census Bureau, Whites account for 67% of the population, Hispanics 14%, and Blacks 13%. In 2004 the CDC reported new AIDS cases by race were Whites 28.4%, Hispanics 20.5%, and Blacks 49.5%. That is around 13% of the population of this country having 50% of all the new AIDS cases.

We don't have enough research to say why these rates vary so drastically between races, we only can say with certainty that they do. The question is why leaders – both in general and in particular African-American, are not making this a high visibility issue. The numbers are so dramatic that it is clear targeted awareness and prevention campaigns are needed.

The reason for the lack of public attention seems to be related to political correctness, a phenomena that has turned discussion of many subjects in a meaningful and honest manner into taboo in American culture. The implications of allowing political correctness to govern over the health of blacks are serious – deadly serious. In his last State of the Union Address, President Bush tried to point out the problem.

“Half of all AIDS cases occur among African Americans...We will also lead a nationwide effort, working closely with African American churches and faith-based groups, to deliver rapid HIV tests to millions” – George W. Bush, State of the Union 1/31/2006.

Air America’s Randi Rhodes attacked his remarks for what she described as his incredible racism for making the overt connection of the Black community with AIDS. That is the standard tactic of those who view themselves as the enforcers of the political correctness ethos – call anyone who speaks to race related problems bigots and racists. That they are trying to save the lives of those they are accused of discriminating against does not matter to these nitwits and race demagogues.

The impact of political correctness is going far beyond left wing pundits. It is effecting the public health field, which is responsible for getting factual information out to us. Not many physicians seem to have the courage to speak out frankly on the problem, but a few voices are trying to be heard.

Elizabeth Whelan, ScD, MPH, president of the American Council on Science and Health, says ideology and science are becoming more intertwined in public health and, in fact, "the ideology is starting to take over the science." The news that many more gay black men than white men are infected with HIV should set off alarms in the public health community that messages on safe sex are not getting through, says Dr. Whelan. Instead, she is concerned that the more sweeping issue of discrimination will be raised, and that attention as well as resources will be diverted from the problem at hand.

“Many in the public health elite are putting more passion into the promotion of political doctrine than into direct efforts to improve health," Dr. Satel writes in her book, PC, M.D.: How Political Correctness is Corrupting Medicine. She documents the negative effects of allowing the tenets of political correctness to enter medicine.

Concern about appearances, image, and sensitivity in the superficial and insincere form of political correctness has become a dangerous enemy of truth.

African-Americans should not be an accepted casualty of those who care more about promoting their political agendas than people. Treatment for AIDS has made some progress, but there is still no effective vaccine or cure. Until that day, the only viable approach to saving lives is changing behavior.

Infectious disease does not care about which political party you claim, or the color of your skin. It just seeks the opportunity to spread by vectors of transmission, which for AIDS is primarily unprotected sex and injection drug use. Tell the PC's to go to hell, spread the truth, not disease.

Sunday, March 19, 2006

Breakfast at Denny's?

In a string of unconnected events, three shootings have occurred at Denny's Restaurants in the past few days, with five deaths and three wounded. All were in California, the results of fights and a mentally ill man. A analyst said the shootings are unlikely to effect the company. However, Denny's has for years sought to overcome an image problem related to charges of racist incidents.

This certainly won't help that image, or it's business, even though it has nothing to do with the restaurant chain's actions. We won't be eating at Denny's anytime soon, but that is neither because of the race issue or the shootings. It's the food that we don't care for.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Constitutionality of Sex Toys and a Solution for Kansas

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals handling of sex toys (as a constitutional issue) has been on the rise. In a series of cases, the rights of Americans to such toys have come into play. The involvement of the federal courts have resulted from a Alabama law prohibiting the sale of sex toys and in Georgia, where an obscenity statute prohibits the sale, or advertisement for sale, of "[a]ny device designed or marketed as useful primarily for the stimulation of human genital organs." There was also an appeals case of a civil suit against Delta Air Lines for compensatory and punitive damages for a woman's embarrassment at airline's workers holding her up for ridicule after finding an adult novelty in her luggage.

The court rejected the challenge to the Alabama law prohibiting the sale of sex toys which claimed it violated a constitutional right to sexual privacy. The court found in Williams v. Attorney General of Alabama : "we hold that the district court committed reversible error in concluding that the Due Process Clause 'encompass[es] a right to use sexual devices like ... vibrators, dildos, anal beads, and artificial vaginas.'"

Georgia's statute was found to have violated the First Amendment in banning commercial speech, while exempting teachers and students studying sex toys (Never saw that course listed) and those having a doctor's prescription (please follow the written instructions carefully, and discontinue use if side effects are experienced).

In the Delta case, a woman and her husband had just bought a sex toy on their trip to Las Vegas (What happened in Vegas doesn't always stay in Vegas). A security agent noticed something buzzing in their luggage. She sued when the employees who made her remove the vibrator "began laughing hysterically" and offered "obnoxious and sexually harassing comments." She lost the case.

We here in Kansas may employ a different strategy to limit the scourge of sex toys. A bill currently under careful study in the House Tax Committee, HB 2680, would apply apply a 10 percent excise tax on adult entertainment businesses and products. The so called “porn tax” is clearly misguided. Rather than a one time excise tax on purchases, we are losing the opportunity to really boost the state's coffers by making it a usage tax. A “pay as you play” plan would help to simultaneously stamp out sinful sexual gratification and provide badly needed funds.

Some might point to enforcement difficulties, but surely with today's technology such hurdles could be overcome with simple monitoring devices. Collection could even be expedited by requiring the purchase of prepaid debit cards that could be swiped in bedside readers. Kansas should lead the way for the nation with this new and progressive legislation. It's an idea whose time has come.

Friday, March 17, 2006

St. Patrick's Day Politics

IRA at the White House

President Bush swapped shamrocks at the White House with Ireland's politicians, including Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, representatives of the Social Democratic and Labor Party, the Democratic Unionists, Ulster Unionists, and Britain's secretary for Northern Ireland, Peter Hain.was on hand.

Gerry Adams, leader of the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party, was the big change from last year, when he was banned from attending. His presence this year reflects the IRA announcing an end to its armed campaign and promising to complete the process of decommissioning. Still, Adams is miffed that the Administration has not lifterd a ban on Sinn Fein fund raising when Adams is there.

The Administration wants to get the party to end its boycott of the Northern Ireland police force. Rep. Peter King, a Republican, also criticized the White House handling of Sinn Fein, saying that the President did not realize what a big step decommissioning was. Overall, even with the stalled process, the situation in Ireland is a far cry from the bitter days of the struggle for peace.

Paddy's Day Parade Gay Controversy Marches On

Council Speaker Christine Quinn, New York City Council's first openly gay leader, boycotted the annual 150,000 marchers on Fifth Avenue after organizers rejected her compromise attempts and barred an Irish gay and lesbian group for a 16th straight year. Referring to the Irish Lesbian and Gay Organization, parade chairman John Dunleavy said, "People have rights. If we let the ILGO in, is it the Irish Prostitute Association next? If an Israeli group wants to march in New York, do you allow Neo-Nazis into their parade? If African Americans are marching in Harlem, do they have to let the Ku Klux Klan into their parade?"

Mr. Dunleavy might have chosen better examples to illustrate his point. But we do agree that the annual parade is for the celebration of St. Patrick's Day, and therefore should not become a pawn in promoting other agendas.

On Australian Strippers, Canadian Sex, and Habeneros

Some frivolous items of the day, just because it's Friday. Happy St. Patrick's Day! - or Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh (pronounced "La ale-lah pwad-rig son-ah jeev")

Australian Labor Board Exposes Need for Stripper's Holiday Pay

"We've got rights to have public holiday pay now, which we've never had in our career before," said a union spokeswoman called Mystical Melody. "We've got rosters and set hours. We can't work more than 10 hours a shift." The award also entitles unionized strippers to overtime, rest periods, meal breaks and maternity leave, she added. Apparently Australians take their stripper's seriously.

Canadian Baby Boomers Choose Internet and TV Over Sex

A study reveals Canadians between the ages of 40 and 64 spend an average of 15 minutes a day on sex and romance, but can spend as much as five hours a day watching TV or surfing the Internet.

Of 2,500 people surveyed, more than half said they were often too tired to have sex, while 42 percent said they were too stressed out and 40 percent said they did not have time. Another yet-to-be released study found that 37 percent of Canadians over 55 prefer a good night of sex to a good night of sleep, indicating that sex is still important to that age group.

Who wanted to know about about the sex lives of Canuck baby boomers? - Pfizer Inc., the maker of Viagra sponsored the study. The Canadian health care system does not pay for the drug, which may explain their interest, as well as the 15 minutes. Perhaps the Canadian government is concerned that sleepless nights would hurt worker productivity.

Holy Habaneros - Hot Peppers Kills Prostate Cancer

Capsaicin led 80 percent of human prostate cancer cells growing in mice to commit suicide in a process known as apoptosis, said Dr. Soren Lehmann of the Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and the University of California Los Angeles School of Medicine.

Lehmann estimated that the mice ate the human equivalent of 400 milligrams of capsaicin three times a week. That is about the amount found in three to eight fresh habanero peppers, depending on how hot the peppers are.

Ever eaten a fresh Habanero? I've only seen one person take a big bite of habenero, which was fresh from the garden. An acquaintance, who ironically was an oncologist not familiar with them wanted to eat it, despite being warned - it wasn't pretty. He might just have have well taken a can of pepper spray and sprayed it down his throat.. No wonder the cells committed suicide.

Big Bang Evidence Stuns Scientists

“Amazing”,”Stunning”, and “Spectacular” are descriptions you expect to see on every movie ad. This time these are the words leading physicists are using for a discovery giving the first evidence supporting the “Big Bang” theory of how our universe began. The normally more sedate scientists have reason to be excited.

They now have the smoking gun that shows the universe went through extremely rapid expansion in the moments after the big bang, growing from the size of a marble to a volume larger than all of observable space in less than a trillion-trillionth of a second.

The new finding was made with NASA's Wilkinson Microwave Anisotropy Probe (WMAP) and is based on three years of continuous observations of the cosmic microwave background, the afterglow light from the first moments of the universe. "It blows my mind that we can now distinguish between different versions of what happened within the first trillionth of a second of the universe," said Dr. Charles Bennett of the Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, WMAP principal investigator. Go to the link, it is amazing.

Leftist Groups Continue Brutality and Slaughter

No, not our domestic moonbats. Sure our far left wing has by our standards become increasingly fanatical in their socialist rants and hatred of President Bush. They regard most Americans as incomprehensibly stupid puppets of the capitalist corporate establishment (AKA Neocon Fascists). But there are truly dangerous strains of leftist rebels about, busily spreading death and mayhem in their zeal to improve things.

Just when it seemed that communist revolutionaries had experienced their well deserved demise, new Maoist rebel groups are gaining strength. Maoism is that branch of communist ideology that shifted from classical Marxist philosophy to envision a rural peasant vanguard leading the way to a classless paradise. The architect was of course Chairman Mao, whose Great Leap Forward and his successor's Cultural Revolution were responsible for the death of millions from famine and constant violent purges.

This is the same humanist movement that spawned the infamous "ultra-Maoist" Khmer Rouge, whose anti-urban purges in the 1970s left at least 1.7 million Cambodians dead. Now they are being emulated in India by a group known as Naxalites, with as many as 20,000 armed followers, named after the town of Naxalbari in West Bengal where the movement began.

They have close links with the Nepali Maoists, who over the last few years have been known for torturing and executing bureaucrats, teachers and doctors, assassinating public figures, and bombing schools, bridges, government offices and power stations. They skinned one Nepali Congress Party worker alive and decapitated their own fallen comrades rather than leave them identifiable. They abducted tens of thousands of school children for “political education” sessions, held in remote locations. Worse, children have been tortured, raped, and recruited for military fodder. In Nepal the death toll is around 12,000 lives.

In India, the situation is just as violent and ruthless. Villagers are massacred, civilians have their limbs hacked off, Hindu temples are bombed, officials and judges are kidnapped and killed, trucks and buses loaded with people are blown up, and trains are attacked. The rebels operate in 15 of India's 29 states and 1,000 people died in the conflict last year. In November, the leftists briefly took over a town in Bihar.

In Nepal, their rise has been aided by the take over of autocratic King Gyanendra, who the West has been pressuring to move the country toward democracy. In India, the 'Red corridor' that stretches all the way from Nepal down to Andhra, is one of India’s most backward areas that is rich in forest and mineral resources. For many years the government overlooked the region's problems of malnutrition, poor health care, and deficient education.

Some analysts say the Naxal problem, long neglected by the union government, is by far the most serious issue facing the country, outstripping Kashmir and Islamic militancy. One would think that a political movement that has brought nothing but subjugation, torture, and death to millions would be a lesson that is not forgotten. It may be a lesson that was never taught in these rural, less developed, and inaccessible areas of India and Nepal.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Jessica Simpson Won't, Porn Star Will

Jessica Simpson, known for her riveting performance as Daisy Duke in the Hollywood epic “The Dukes of Hazzard” and her erudite political analysis, turned down an invitation to meet with President George W. Bush at a major Republican fund-raiser. National Republican Congressional Committee spokesman Carl Forti told Reuters he was surprised at Simpson's position. Forti said the Republican group had even arranged for Simpson to dine at one of the head tables with U.S. House of Representatives Majority Leader John Boehner, an Ohio Republican.

Never fear, blond feminine pulchritude will be well represented at the dinner. Mary Carey, the XXX porn diva who caused an uproar last year for dining with President Bush is looking forward to the event. "I'm really excited to be going back to Washington, D.C., to see the president again," said Carey. "Everyone thinks that politicians are stuffy, but we all had a great time last year, and I had fun signing a lot of autographs. Wait till they see that I have lost 20 pounds since the last time they saw me. Watch out Mr. President!"

They say politics makes for strange bedfellows. Remember Marilyn Monroe, who took the expression quite literally. Of course Republican politicians are above salivating over starlets and porn stars. It's purely a matter of business. The NRCC hopes the $2,500-per-plate dinner event will raise $7.5 million for Republican candidates in the congressional midterm elections in November.

Some might point to a certain irony in having porn stars attend, but those critics are missing how important this will be as a way for the Republican party to really demonstrate that it does indeed have a big tent. The sacrifices our leaders are willing to make for us can be truly inspiring. We'll try to keep you abreast of further developments.

US and Iraqi Forces Go on Offense

“Operation Swarmer” started in the Salahuddin province of Iraq, where Samarra is a key city. It is described as the largest air assault since the 2003 U.S. invasion. It included 50 aircraft, supported by a force of 1,500 Iraqi and Coalition troops and 200 tactical vehicles.

A US military spokesman is quoted as saying the assault is designed to “clear a suspected insurgent operating area north east of Samarra”. It is expected to last several days, and has already resulted in a number of enemy weapons caches being captured, containing artillery shells, explosives, IED-making materials, and military uniforms.

From outward appearances, our forces had been largely taking a back seat after the mosque bombing incident. It's important that we are resuming a more offensive campaign against insurgents. We will turn the situation in Iraq around only by going after these insurgents with all possible force. They need to be put on the defensive, not us. Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that the terrorists must be “rooted out” and “they have no conscience so they need to be eliminated”.

Sirhan Sirhan Denied Parole

The world will not be subjected to the treat of a Sirhan Sirhan on the loose, who said he “hates Americans and, if released, wants to be involved in Middle East politics". There was no real possibility of his release, as even if the California parole board had made a ridiculous call on this one, Gov. Schwarzenegger would have overridden their decision. Leave it to the good professor over at The Volokh Conspiracy to point this out:

One of my favorite examples of Chutzpah was Sirhan's statement to the parole board in 1982:

"If Robert Kennedy were alive today, he would not countenance singling me out for this kind of treatment."

I suppose that it is just Sirhan's bad luck that somebody killed Robert Kennedy. This is a real-world example of the classic plea for mercy: "A boy is on trial for murdering his parents, and he begs of the judge leniency because he is an orphan."

The case of Sirhan has never disappointed fans of the bizarre. In 2003, Lawrence Teeter, an attorney for Sirhan was arguing for a new trial. "Have you seen The Manchurian Candidate? It's the same thing with my client. He was the victim of hypnotic programming." In Sirhan's case, Mr. Teeter and others claim he was the unwilling tool of some faceless fiends in the Central Intelligence Agency or an amorphous entity they call "the military industrial complex."

Mr. Teeter claims his client attended a hypnosis demonstration in Pasadena a month before the Kennedy assassination and may have been recruited by unnamed CIA members who he claims were experimenting with hypnosis at the time. That's one for the conspiracy theory Book of Classics.

What we do know more factually about the murder is that Sirhan was a 24-year-old Palestinian born militant at the time he pulled the trigger. In a diary police found at his home, he reportedly wrote: "My determination to eliminate RFK is becoming more the more [sic] of an unshakable obsession. RFK must die. RFK must be killed. Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated..... Robert F. Kennedy must be assassinated before 5 June, 1968."

The date is significant because it is the first anniversary of the start of the Six Day War, in which Israel trounced its Arab neighbors, capturing East Jerusalem, the Golan Heights and the Sinai. Sirhan and his family had been uprooted from their home in Jordan by the Arab-Israeli war in 1948, and prosecutors at his trial claimed Sirhan, who was a Christian Arab, was vehemently anti-Israel. Sirhan testified he was angry at Kennedy after finding out from a radio broadcast in May the senator had promised to send 50 U.S. bombers to Israel.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Ahmed Saadat Not Ready for Martyrdom

The primary object of Israel's move on the Palestinian jail in Jericho was the capture of Ahmed Saadat, head of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, and four other jailed terrorists wanted for the murder of Israeli Cabinet minister Rechavam Zeevi. The Palestinian Authority had said it might release the five and a sixth jailed terrorist, Fuad Shobaki, the alleged mastermind of an illegal weapons shipment to the PA in 2002.

The American and British monitoring team had warned several times the past few weeks it would depart the prison in protest of what it called lax prison rules, including the issuance of cell phones to prisoners and allowing some prisoners to come and go. Shortly after the team's withdrawal, the Israeli's moved in.

Ahmed Saadat spoke to Arabic TV network Al Jazeera on the phone during the siege to say he and his colleagues would not be taken alive, “Our morale is high. We are Palestinian militants and we don't fear death. We will not surrender.” Later he and the others appeared to have a change of heart and did surrender.

Abu Mujaheed, a leader of the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades terror group in the West Bank town of Nablus, was disappointed.

"We don’t know what brought Saadat to react the way he did. I think that there was a deal, an international deal, which had dictated this end. It is true we hoped this affair will go to a different end and that if the Israelis will reach Saadat it would have been in a different and much more heroic way [with Saadat dying a martyr]," said Mujaheed to a WorldNetDaily correspondent.

In the Jihadist's eyes, his failure to die in the cause is an embarrassment. The guarantee of going immediately to heaven greeted by 30 virgins for their pleasure is a basic part of how suicide bombers are convinced to blow themselves up. Saadat's lack of martyrdom zeal is bad for business, setting a poor example. Apparently the leadership is not as anxious to make the trip as their young recruits. There was no word on whether Sadaat's membership in the Martyrs Brigade will be revoked.

More Details on Al-Qaeda Plot for Embassy Attack

The story of the Al-Qaeda plot is beginning to come out. Sounds like Secretary Rumsfeld tried to deflect inquiry when he was asked. He told reporters that he had not received anything definitive on the report, but cautioned that earlier accounts are often adjusted later on.

"We've always known that there are people who have tried to infiltrate the various security forces and tried to get close access to places that they ought not to be," he said. "There's nothing new about that that I know of."

Nothing new? Here's the key points uncovered so far:

1. The plot centered on 423 Al-Qaeda members who infiltrated the security force guarding key checkpoints in the green zone, needing only one more bureaucrat's signature to induct the recruits.

2. They would be in charge of security in the Green Zone, controlling the entrances to the Green Zone and internal squares.

3. Most of them are wanted terrorists using false identification, and most are from the same tribe and from the same area. (Specifics not disclosed yet)

4. The Al-Qaeda recruits planned to take U.S. and British diplomats hostage and then demand withdrawal of U.S. and British troops.

5. A number of Defense Ministry officials had been jailed after the plot was discovered. Some of them had forged the signature of the Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dulaimi on behalf of the terrorists.

6. The plot was uncovered by the military intelligence and the government’s General Intelligence Service.

Interior Minister Bayan Jabr disclosed the information to an AP reporter. He is a Shiite, with past accusations of allowing actions to occur against Sunnis. However, his remarks were confirmed by the top Defense Ministry official, a Sunni, who described it in even more dramatic terms.

That Al-Qaeda had not only infiltrated their members in the most sensitive high security area in all of Iraq, and that they had ranking officials inside who were working for Al-Qaeda to make the plot work is amazing and extremely worrisome. Imagine having the top Diplomats of the United States and Britain kidnapped out of their own Embassies in the green zone, probably with significant loss of life. Follow that up with the television screens of the world filled by their hostages repeating their captor's demands, and Al-Qaeda harangues on their superiority over the American Infidels.

This would have been the most successful single Al-Qaeda operation since 9-11. Thank god it failed, but that it almost succeeded raises some very serious questions that are going to need some serious answers. This plot was uncovered three weeks ago. Think about the timing. There seems little doubt that it was intended to be coordinated in concert with the mosque bombing.

The bombing alone was a close call, requiring the best efforts of everyone to keep it from sending Iraq down the drain. Had both plots worked, Iraq would be a nightmare that we would be hoping to wake up from. As it is, if most of those involved are rounded up, and those in custody are effectively interrogated, it may turn out to be a major blow against Al-Qaeda. We were lucky, but being lucky is not a confidence inspiring strategy.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Al-Qaeda Plot to Attack US and UK Embassies in Bagdad Foiled

The Associated Press reports that:

Iraq's Interior Minister Bayan Jabr says security officials had foiled a plot that would have put hundreds of al-Qaida men at critical guard posts around Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone, home to the U.S. and other foreign embassies, as well as the Iraqi government.

A senior Defense Ministry official said the 421 al-Qaida fighters were recruited to storm the U.S. and British embassies and take hostages. Several ranking Defense Ministry officials have been jailed in the plot, said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the information.

This should be a fascinating story if details come out. The big questions would be how such an ambitious plot came about, how it was discovered, and the extent to which "ranking Defense Ministry officials" were involved. This sounds like an important big win for the good guys. Had a plot of that scale and magnitude suceeded, it's effect would have been devasting.

Is there a Candidate that would be a Good President?

John McCain made a cute play to enhance his chances for the Presidency by encouraging Republicans to cast their straw poll votes for Bush at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. He knew he was going to lose, so he tried to invalidate the results.

Now we have Russ Feingold trying a similar disingenuous move in his bid to become the candidate of choice for the left wing of the Democratic party, by introducing a censure of President Bush. Feingold knows full well it has no chance of being supported, not just among Republicans, but by the main stream candidates of his own party. The object is to gain support among those disenchanted with Hillary Clinton's effort to position herself as a moderate.

A pox on both of these candidates. Tricks and cynical political moves are not the stuff of which good Presidential candidates should be made. We have much too much in the way of political figures playing for sound bites, prevaricating, and manipulating rather than illuminating. Maybe it is naive to expect straight shooters who lay out sincere, honest, and serious positions on the important issues.

The media does not help. After a political speech or debate the press critiques “the performance” and not the substance of what was said. Rather than a credible analysis of the issues, they talk about how many times the politician blinked, tapped a pencil, or smiled.

For our sake, I hope both parties have candidates emerge from the pack to give the American people a reasonable choice between two principled grownups. The Presidency is more than a chance to gain partisan advantage. Regardless of your political leaning, the President of the United States should be someone who can be trusted to put the interests of the country above games and political ploys.

Does character matter? When the nation faces critical and often unpredicted events, character - and mature, reasoned judgment - are the most important characteristics we need in a President. Which candidates in your view fit that bill?

Vote for your choice in comments.

U.S. will be Blamed for Israeli Break into Palestinian Jail

Israel sent 50 jeeps, three tanks, and an armored bulldozer into the West bank town of Jericho in the Jordan valley, as two helicopters hovered overhead. Grabbing Ahmed Saadat was apparently the main objective. Saadat, leader of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, is blamed by Israel for killing a cabinet minister in 2001. An Israeli army spokesman said 182 people had been taken from the prison and were being questioned, including 26 wounded. Saadat, however, and between 30 and 80 other people were still hold up in the compound, at last report from the BBC. Aljazeera is reporting that Saadat has already surrendered.

This story will cause diplomatic problems, as the U.S. and the U.K. had been monitoring the jail under a 2002 agreement with the Palestinians. Recently concerns for the security of the monitors had grown, and they were pulled out shortly before the Israeli raid. Anticipate much more on the timing of these events to come out.

Demonstrations, kidnappings, and killings have already occurred in response in Palestinian territory. This looks like more than the average Israeli – Palestinian violence, in a time that was already tense and uncertain.

Charges of U.S. complicity with the Israeli's are going to come fast and furious, which can do nothing but inflame the overall middle east situation. It will no doubt cause anti-western propaganda and demonstrations beyond the west bank.

Monday, March 13, 2006

Norway Woman Gets Beer from Kitchen Faucet

A woman in Norway reports she thought she and her husband were in heaven when her kitchen faucet began dispensing beer instead of water. Unfortunately this blessing did not last as long as they hoped. It turned out that a bar below their apartment had somehow accidently hooked a new keg to her waterline rather than their beer tap.

Haldis Gundersen told a BBC reporter that if it happened again, she would order Bailey's. A woman after my own heart. Unfortunately for the Gunderson's, Norway's state controlled beer prices are some of the highest in the world.

No wonder they thought they were in heaven.

Is Iraq in Civil War?

There are those in Iraq who desperately want civil war and will do anything they can to bring it about. Most notably, of course, Zarqawi and Al-Qaeda. That the bombing of an important Shiite mosque, an extreme act of desecration, did not cause the break down into civil war is the remarkable thing. It was a provocation designed to do just that, and failed to achieve it's end.

For Al-Sistani and even Moqtada Sadr to push for unity after that event, and thousands to march in the streets against civil war, speaks to the deep desire of Shiites for Iraq to emerge intact. The Kurds could have used the situation to try to break away from Iraq, but they did not. An increasing number of Sunnis are committed not only to participating in the government, but are actively fighting against Al-Qaeda, a story that receives virtually no media coverage, but may be one of the most important developments happening in Iraq.

Groups in one of Iraq's most violent provinces claim that they have purged the region of three quarters of al-Qaeda's supporters after forming an alliance to force out the foreign fighters.“There is a hatred for Zarqawi in Ramadi now,” a resident said. “People are exhausted by what he has done. Six months ago he was still accepted, though not 100 per cent. Now we see him continue to target locals and their sons and kill our leaders, and we reject him totally.” "We have killed a number of the Arabs, including Saudis, Egyptians, Syrians, Kuwaitis and Jordanians," said an insurgent representative in the western province of Anbar.

All three of the major groups in Iraq have centuries of dislike, distrust, and blood between them. Overcoming that is an extraordinary challenge for them, and is not going to come easily. It may be in the end that they will fail. The insurgents who are willing to kill indiscriminately and destroy even sacred mosques to prevent a democratic Iraq may prevail. But those that say this has already occurred are wrong.

The violence we see now is not millions of people at war with each other. It is the same IED's and suicide bombers as before. The same murder of civilians by those that don't care who they blow up, as long as someone dies.

There are many agendas and a labyrinth of political maneuvering going on in Iraq, as groups jockey for influence. Sadr hates America, and yet he has pushed for restraint in sectarian violence. He knows that in the long run it is not in his best interest. "Sunnis and Shias are not responsible for such acts, national unity is required," he said after Sundays car bombs in Sadr City, adding he would order his Mehdi army militia not to respond.

Each time a bomb goes off in Iraq, the media portrays it as sectarian violence. It is not. It is murder by terrorists who want to incite sectarian violence. If that is civil war, fine, call it that. But no major leader of any of the factions in Iraq is calling for his followers to go out and kill the others. None of them.