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  • Archive for March, 2005

    “to help India become a major world power”

    Posted by Lexington Green on 31st March 2005 (All posts by )

    The United States has now declared that it is going “to help India become a major world power in the 21st century. We understand fully the implications, including military implications, of that statement.” The official spoke on condition of anonymity. (here. Read the whole thing.)

    If this is true, it is a major, major step.

    The alignment continues to shape up. Anglosphere (Australia, hopefully UK will stay in) + Japan + India + (Israel?) + others on one side. China, Iran, Hezbollah, NK, France, maybe Russia, on the other. I like our cards.

    The Bush administration is remolding the world and building an alliance structure to keep the peace and preserve democratic capitalism for decades, maybe centuries. Bush the supposed dolt is a visionary on a breathtaking scale. His recent appointments show that he is absolutely serious about kicking the UN and the World Bank into being useful. Picking Karen Hughes, his most trusted consiglieri, to run the USA’s public diplomacy means that this is a top-rung priority. Everything he is doing is meant to achieve world-transforming results.

    Meanwhile, what is Chirac doing? He is draining his bladder in his pants at the prospect of having to compete with Estonia, nickle-and-diming on the deal that would allow some competition in services. Some Union. It isn’t even a free trade zone. What a joke. Europeans have forgotten how to reproduce. They once overran the world and grabbed much of it at swordpoint, and ransacked it and kept the proceeds. You don’t have to like it, but they used to be players. They can’t even face the prospects of a fouled diaper anymore, let alone playing in a league that includes the mammoth world powers of the next Century, India and China. Stick a fork in Old Europe.

    What are the Chinese doing? Everything wrong, politically. Scaring their neighbors into an alliance against them. Very much like Kaiserian Germany, another economic powerhouse but political retard. Ludwig Dehio said that a country which feels itself rising to the status of a world power is overcome by a demonic sense of its own energies and potential greatness, which leads it to act provocatively, cause an alliance to arise around it and against it, and then lunge for hegemony in defiance of the odds. But the European countries based on land could not grasp the nature of the offshore power, England, then America, and one after another went down to defeat — Imperial Spain, Bourbon France, Napoleonic France, Kaiserian Germany, Hitlerian Germany — then on a worldwide scale, Soviet Russia. Will China play this role next? What I hope will happen is that China will be confronted by such an array of power that it won’t roll the iron dice. Instead, it will get across the chasm of political and cultural reform needed to become a free and open society with legitimately elected government. All this will of course be “with Chinese Characteristics”, as they might put.

    Keep your eye on this India business. It is perhaps the biggest thing going amidst a whole boatload of major initiatives.

    Posted in Anglosphere | 16 Comments »

    Here’s Something You Won’t See at Manolo’s Shoe Blog

    Posted by Jonathan on 31st March 2005 (All posts by )

    Superfantastic blogging shoes confer super blogging powers.

    UPDATE: The Autumn Collection

    Posted in Humor | 31 Comments »

    Nature

    Posted by ken on 31st March 2005 (All posts by )

    The so-called “natural world” is characterized, from a civilized person’s point of view, by a distressing lack of metal and energy, and by an abundance of lifeforms that like to gobble up everything we find useful apart from metal and high-octane fuel.

    This means, among other things, that modern civilization, which features lots of metal and really potent fuel and no microbes that like to have either of them for breakfast, looks really weird to creatures evolved in the environment we like to call “nature”. Some such creatures, while giving the appearance of being intelligent, conclude from this that modern civilization is a desecration of nature and that nature is a more desirable environment for human beings.

    But the “natural world” is lacking in metal and high-octane fuel not because that’s the way God or Gaia or Whoever intended, but because these things were buried deep underground and out of reach while the denizens of the natural world were evolving. The real starting point of civilizational advance wasn’t the invention of the wheel, or of fire, or even agriculture. Civilization couldn’t really take off until our ancestors learned how to dig really deep holes and find all that buried treasure.

    If lots of metal and lots of energy had been available at the surface for the last five billion years, not only would people think of them as “natural”, but all life on Earth would be adapted to use them “naturally”. Every animal would have a metal skeleton and a metal shell. Horses would be able to run at a hundred miles per hour or more, and birds would rival our jet planes in performance. Burning wood would yield as much power as burning oil – in fact, plants would synthesize petroleum or coal or something similarly potent rather than starches and sugars, and animals (including ourselves) and microbes would metabolize this high-octane fuel. Leave a lump of coal laying around, and it would rot like a corpse as microbes gobbled it up, and a cup of oil (which would be nice and tasty to us) would spoil like milk.

    Nervous systems would tend to use wires, lending all animals (including ourselves) lightning-fast reflexes. Animals would tend to use some of that abundant energy and metal for offense and defense – projectile weapons and explosives might be seen in place of horns and teeth, and a nature hike might look like what we think of as a war zone.

    Savages would have many of the resources we do. They’d have fast horses, metal homes and metal tools; they’d probably have explosives and other nasty weapons, and so on. Unfortunately, they’d also have far more powerful predators than we do, they’d have microbes, worms, and insects eating up whatever fuel they tried to stash along with the walls of their homes, and they’d be constantly at war with other savages using similarly potent weapons. A “classical” civilization might be much like ours, with lots of energy and lots of metal and lots of interesting gizmos that are relatively easy to make (particularly with “manual laborers” doing work and building things at speeds rivaling our factories – of course that includes slaves, which would still be profitable to keep and feed at this point) and not nearly as much war. They wouldn’t bother with steam engines or internal combustion engines – they’d keep using animal power (those hundred-mile-per-hour horses, for instance) until they figured out how to dig up uranium and make nuclear reactors, at which point they’d build a “modern” civilization with homes of depleted uranium, supersonic jet planes in everyone’s garage, tools and fuel that didn’t rot, predators and most other animals no longer even a minor nuisance to most people, animals in general only kept around if they can be eaten or be accepted as companions/surrogate children/etc., and plenty of spacecraft, factories and machines far more productive than anything we have now and easily driving slaveowners into bankruptcy and eliminating that peculiar institution, and some apparently intelligent members of the species would complain about what a “desecration” all this was and how the race was sadly no longer in harmony with Nature.

    What’s the point of all this speculation? First, to poke some holes in the theory that “nature” as we know it is something sacred, rather than a collection of lifeforms that happened to evolve in a low energy and low metal environment. Second, to point out that any kind of modern civilization must use a much better energy source than is available on the surface in order to live significantly better than animals or savages, who would have been using any good local source of energy they didn’t have to dig for since prehistoric times. If Mr. Kunstler is right about the global oil supply, we’ll have to switch to something else that is equally out of harmony with nature, or else return to a more primitive (i.e., nasty, brutish, and short) mode of existence. Adapting to a low-energy existence, like Mr. Kunstler suggests we do, means given up the noble dreams of rising from the jungle to the stars, and makes a mockery of all the sacrifices our ancestors made to further the realization of those dreams and to protect the laws, institutions, and societies that made it possible. Nuclear power may be scary, but so is coal mining, and doubly so is a world where most people rarely venture more than a few dozen miles from home (and have no means of escape from the place they were born), slavery is profitable, and a farmer working a low-productivity, labor intensive farm can only feed a handful of people instead of fifty or more (which means lots more farmers doing lots more manual labor). That’s the kind of world that needs to be desecrated as thoroughly as possible.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

    Late Easter Candy

    Posted by Lexington Green on 30th March 2005 (All posts by )

    My sister sent me a little box of candy from that greatest of all candy stores, Gowell’s, in Brockton, Massachusetts.

    Brockton is a once-great town that has fallen on hard times. Half the boots worn by the Union Army were made in Brockton. It was once the shoe-making capital of America, maybe the world. It was always a tough town, but now it has gang problems and many other pathologies and seems to be heading downward.

    But I find myself almost emotional with relief to see that Gowell’s lives on. Gowell’s home page says: “John Wayne was a customer of ours. He received our chocolates during his stay at a Boston hospital. He ordered candy monthly and his favorite was Dark Almond Bark.” It is probably 25 years since I set foot in the place, but I remember the picture of John Wayne. If business or pleasure should bring you to or through Brockton, stop in and get some candy. Buy whatever you think you want to bring home, and a few loose pieces in a bag to eat in the car.

    UPDATE More Brockton trivia. The northwest border of Brockton is astride the boundary line between Plymouth and Norfolk counties. That is the oldest boundary-line in English-speaking America. It was the boundary-line between the Plymouth Bay Colony and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, way back in the 1600s.

    Posted in Diversions | 6 Comments »

    Lancet Letters Part II

    Posted by Shannon Love on 30th March 2005 (All posts by )

    Courtesy of Amac comes letters just published in Lancet concerning the Iraqi Mortality Survey.

    Stephen Apfelroth, Department of Pathology, Albert Einstein College of Medicine writes:


    In their Article on mortality before and after the 2003 invasion of Iraq (Nov 20, p 1857),1 Les Roberts and colleagues use several questionable sampling techniques that should have been more thoroughly examined before publication.

    Although sampling of 988 households randomly selected from a list of all households in a country would be routinely acceptable for a survey, this was far from the method actually used–a point basically lost in the news releases such a report inevitably engenders. The survey actually only included 33 randomised selections, with 30 households interviewed surrounding each selected cluster point. Again, this technique would be adequate for rough estimates of variables expected to be fairly homogeneous within a geographic region, such as political opinion or even natural mortality, but it is wholly inadequate for variables (such as violent death) that can be expected to show extreme local variation within each geographic region. In such a situation, multiple random sample points are required within each geographic region, not one per 739 000 individuals

    So cluster sampling is inadequate for sampling heterogeneous phenomena! Wish I had thought to point that out. Oh, wait I did, 5 months ago.

    ” In my opinion, such a flaw by itself is fatal, and should have precluded publication in a peer-reviewed journal.”

    Glad I’m not the only nut job out here.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 59 Comments »

    Lancet Letters

    Posted by Shannon Love on 30th March 2005 (All posts by )

    Below are two letters recently published in Lancet concerning the Iraqi Mortality Survey. I am going to post on the letters but I wanted to cache them here because the Lancet link system (1) requires registration and (2) is a bit wonky under the best of conditions and I want people to have easy access to them.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

    Dear Google

    Posted by David Foster on 30th March 2005 (All posts by )

    Dear Google:

    It’s been over a year since you acquired the Blogger product line. I use blogger at Photon Courier (or try to) and it’s becoming increasingly difficult due to very frequent performance problems. Trying to use Blogger Comments at other weblogs is also an often-painful experience.

    Presumably, you acquired Blogger based on some theory about how you were going to make money with it. How do you think you are going to do this when you are alienating your customer franchise, or at least the most serious part of it?

    Integrating acquisitions is hard, but I would think this one would fall on the relatively “easy” end of the scale. What happens when you try to do a really difficult one? This experience does not fill me with confidence as to your abilities in the acquisition arena….

    Posted in Uncategorized | 7 Comments »

    Comments to an Author About Blogging

    Posted by Lexington Green on 30th March 2005 (All posts by )

    I have this friend who is a published author. He started a blog but practically never puts anything on it. I get these great emails from him. So, I responded ” Might as well use that dang blog. These clever insights might as well see the light of day someplace. You should every day or two cannibalize your email into blog posts. I do that ALL the time. He wrote back about how he over-analyzes and fusses too much, then by the time he’s ready to post something it is no longer timely.

    To paraphrase Truman Capote’s famous jibe against Jack Kerouac, blogging is not writing, it is typing. A writer who is blogging is not writing, he is blogging. A concert pianist who is sitting down at the concert grand piano in Carnegie Hall in front of a packed house is the equivalent to an author publishing a finished book. The same person sitting down at the piano in his neighborhood bar on a Saturday night and knocking out a few old standards, doing a little improvisation, and even doing some singing — that is blogging. Same instrument — words, piano — different medium. We forgive the mistakes and wrong-guesses because we value the immediacy and spontaneity. Plus, publish a book, it is fixed in stone. Write a blog post you later decide is completely wrong, it is actually good, since it gives you a good hook for a later post explaining your thoughts that led to the changed conclusion. The essence of a blog is to air things informally, to throw things out, to say “this interests me because …” From time to time a more considered and article-like post is good. But most people read blogs by skimming. If a post is too long, in my observation, it does not get much response and may not be read at all.

    He wrote back ” Thing is, I wonder how many spontaneous jam sessions big artists would do if every one of them were recorded and posted as MP3s on the web?”

    I responded:

    Actually, we are getting to the point where that is exactly what is going to happen more and more. Artists are putting jam sessions, live recordings, demos, everything on the web. They know that their hardcore fans are products of the Web Age and need constant stimulation. So they keep giving us a recurring barrage of STUFF, in between the big projects. So the answer to your question is “all of the smart ones.”

    If you are going to have a blog, it should be a blog as that is understood. There are at least three good models I can think of. Barnett’s blog is great. He just dumps that day’s thoughts on there. But it is engaging. Virginia Postrel is the opposite. She only puts stuff up that either supports her positions or pretty directly amounts to promotion of her money-making ventures. Rather cold-blooded, though sometimes interesting. The Long Tail guy is terrific, He is thinking out loud about his next book, tossing out ideas, as he goes.

    The main thing though, is a blog has to be frequently updated with enough (short) posts that blog readers will read the posts.

    That’s how it looks to me.

    (Of course, saying “a blog” is a little bit like saying “a piece of paper”. There are people who use the technology to put up all kinds of erudite stuff, or use it to gather professional or technical information. I am speaking of the blog as an online journal of opinion and commentary, like this one.)

    Posted in Blogging | 3 Comments »

    Germany as Husband

    Posted by Ginny on 29th March 2005 (All posts by )

    My son-in-law forwarded “Germany Is Tired of Footing the European Bill” (from On-Line English edition of Der Spiegel). It discusses preparations for June 16-17 when

    Europe’s heads of state will come together for their next summit and to ratify the European budgetary framework for the coming years. What may sound like a routine yawner is really a meeting at which nothing less than the future of Europe will be decided — and especially Germany’s role in that future. On those two days in June, the assembled heads of states will decide how much each member state should pay to Brussels and how much it should receive in payments from Brussels, if anything.

    The potential pitfalls are huge; the European Commission’s proposals in this regard are completely unacceptable to the German government. According to the current draft of the legislation, which bears the relatively innocuous-sounding title “Financial Forecast for 2007 to 2013,” the EU’s budget will increase from about €100 billion this year to €158 billion in 2013. This increase would have serious consequences for Germany, which, as Europe’s largest economy, pays by far the most into the common budget. Between now and 2013, Germany’s contribution to the EU would almost double, to about €40 billion. Instead of the current 8 percent of its federal budget, Berlin would then be required to send more than 10 percent of its budget to Brussels.

    The authors observe that

    the Germans send significantly more money to Brussels than they receive back. In 2003, the difference amounted to €7.7 billion, making Germany the biggest net contributor by a long shot. Only the Netherlands and Sweden pay more on a per capita basis.

    Posted in Europe | 8 Comments »

    TV-B-Gone v. Glock: Compare and Contrast

    Posted by Lexington Green on 29th March 2005 (All posts by )

    What follows is simplified, but based on the true facts, i.e. the responses to the posts linked to here. I am really trying to be fair. Really.

    1. The simple, random ChicagoBoyz reader is asked this question: “Should Jane Q. Public be allowed to carry a concealed TV-B-Gone?

    His answer would go something like this: “Are you mad, sir? Why, think for a moment of what you are suggesting. She could use such a device irresponsibly and without express permission! In fact, I can imagine a hideous scenario that should give you pause. She might walk into a crowded sports bar full of cheerful and unsuspecting patron, and when no one was looking at her, at a key moment in The Big Game, reach into her purse, take out the infernal object and turn off the TV! That is the kind of atrocity I am contemplating! Do you grasp that, you irresponsible maniac? No private citizen can possibly be trusted with such awesome power!”

    2. The simple, random ChicagoBoyz reader is then asked this question: “Should Jane Q. Public be allowed to carry a concealed Glock?

    His answer would go something like this: “Are you mad, sir, to ask such a question in this venue, this haven of Second Amendment absolutism? I will have you know that the right to keep and bear arms is one of our most precious freedoms! How dare you suggest that Jane Q. Public, a law-abiding citizen, might be denied her natural right, in fact her Constitutionally enshrined right, to possess a concealed firearm, so that she may have instantly at her disposal such lethal force as she alone shall deem necessary for the defense of herself and her loved ones in any contingency. I resent, sir, the merest suggestion that any citizen or our great nation shall not be presumed to be able to carry and use a firearm responsibly and sensibly.”

    I agree with 2, by the way.

    Posted in RKBA | 10 Comments »

    Lancet Update

    Posted by Jonathan on 29th March 2005 (All posts by )

    Via commenter AMac:

    Tim Lambert has a new post that responds to some of Shannon’s arguments and takes me to task.

    AMac himself posted this comment on Tim Lambert’s site, and I think summarizes well most of the important concerns about the Lancet piece. AMac is more cautious in his inferences than I would be, but I may be wrong and he may be right. He is generally thoughtful and fair-minded, and his contributions to the comment threads on this topic have been very helpful. I suspect that the data used in the Lancet study are of such low quality as to be of little practical use, but additional scrutiny of those data can’t hurt and should suggest ways in which future surveys could be improved.

    UPDATE: AMac helpfully forwards some additional links in his comment below.

    UPDATE 2: AMac provides this link to his latest and greatest post at WOC. Worth reading.

    Posted in Science | 5 Comments »

    Customer Service: The New Paradigm

    Posted by Jonathan on 28th March 2005 (All posts by )

    In chronological order:

    1 Need backup hard drive.

    2 Order HD with free delivery. Get it in a couple of days. Easy!

    3 Order HD enclosure from popular high-speed/low-drag online retailer.

    4 Install HD in enclosure. Plug into computer. Computer doesn’t recognize. Plug into second computer, with same result. WTF?

    5 Driver conflict? Attempt to contact tech support at enclosure mfr. Phone number goes to answering machine. Send email query. They answer in a couple of days: “We will upload the driver to www.rosewill.com, please check the site in few days and down load the driver.” OK.

    6 Call retailer. Much time on hold. Customer-svc rep can’t help, says only option: send back for refund, pay restocking fee — hassle, and still need an enclosure. Decide to wait a while: maybe mfr will upload driver soon? That will solve all problems! Yes.

    7 Waiting for drivers to be uploaded. Two weeks pass. Nothing. Retailer’s time limit for refund expires.

    8 Annoyed. Finally dawns that there is no driver. Mfr was blowing smoke, or smoking blow, or something. Go to retailer’s website and complete online RMA request to return enclosure. Append testy note demanding refund. Fedex enclosure back to retailer.

    9 Still need a HD enclosure. Still curious why enclosure didn’t work. Check out customer reviews of returned enclosure at retailer’s site. Hmm. Latest review, added since I purchased enclosure, says:

    The only thing that had me struggling for a while is that the drive was brand new and XP Pro will not recognize the unit unless the disk is partitioned. That would have been nice to know 2 hours ago. Also, the jumper setting on the disk drive has to be “Master (Single)” and NOT the factory default of “Cable select”.

    10 I’m using a brand new, unpartitioned disk. Do you think. . .

    11 Partition HD using another enclosure. Takes 1 minute.

    12 Receive replacement enclosure, identical to first, from retailer who completely ignored note attached to RMA request.

    13 Install HD and test. Works immediately. Perform computer backup.

    14 Total time: 7 weeks.

    Posted in Customer Service | 17 Comments »

    Lex’s Books Finished in First Quarter of 2005

    Posted by Lexington Green on 28th March 2005 (All posts by )

    (I enjoyed putting together my list of books read in 2004, and got some positive responses. But since the list for the entire year was too long, the individual entries were a little bit truncated. So, I decided to do a more substantive post now, since the additional detail may be of interest so some of our readers.)

    H. John Poole, Tactics of the Crescent Moon (January, 2005)
    The book adds a specifically Middle Eastern dimension to Poole’s earlier material (Reviewed here.). Poole offers interesting speculation on the key role of Hezbollah and the Iranian Sepah (Revolutionary Guards) as chief instigators of regional terrorism and inventors of suicide bombing. Poole concludes that winning the war on terrorism regionally and globally will require a re-focus away from a maximizing firepower to a light infantry focus with more discriminating use of aimed fire. This too is consistent with Poole’s other writings, which advocate focused and even minimalist employment of firepower — both from a moral and a practical standpoint. Poole also sees the need for a large non-combat element to follow the combat forces, to win the “hearts and minds” battle which is fundamental under current conditions . Poole’s proposals are fully consistent with Thomas Barnett’s prescription for a “SysAdmin” force, and with the requirements of “4th Generation Warfare” as described by William Lind and Thomas X. Hammes. UPDATE: As of March 2005, it is interesting to see the events in Lebanon, which may well isolate and weaken Hezbollah, or engross its energies in a civil war, in light of Poole’s assessment of Hezbollah’s importance as the “worst of the worst” in the world of terrorism.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters | 8 Comments »

    Happy Easter

    Posted by Lexington Green on 27th March 2005 (All posts by )

    …. many of us as are living humbly in the fear of God. Who those secret ones are, who in the bosom of the visible Church live as saints fulfilling their calling, God only knows. We are in the dark about it. We may indeed know much about ourselves, and we may form somewhat of a judgment about those with whom we are well acquainted. But of the general body of Christians we know little or nothing. It is our duty to consider them as Christians, to take them as we find them, and to love them; and it is no concern of ours to debate about their state in God’s sight. Without, however, entering into this question concerning God’s secret counsels, let us receive this truth before us for a practical purpose; that is, I speak to all who are conscious to themselves that they wish and try to serve God, whatever their progress in religion be, and whether or not they dare apply to themselves, or in whatever degree, the title of Christian in its most sacred sense. All who obey the Truth are on the side of the Truth, and the Truth will prevail. Few in number but strong in the Spirit, despised by the world, yet making way while they suffered, the twelve Apostles overturned the power of darkness, and established the Christian Church. And let all “who love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity” be quite sure, that weak though they seem, and solitary, yet the “foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

    Sermon 22. Witnesses of the Resurrection,
    John Henry, Cardinal Newman (and here, and here.)

    Posted in Religion | 1 Comment »

    Army Reserve Components Boost Enlistment Age Limit

    Posted by Lexington Green on 26th March 2005 (All posts by )

    “The Army Reserve and the Army National Guard have raised the age limit for recruits from 34 to 39, Defense Department officials said.”

    Further details here.

    If the war starts to go really, really bad and they raise it to 42, I’m in. My wife will kill me. But I will.

    (Any of our readers who join under this new program, and who get sent to Iraq, and can get Internet access, can post on ChicagoBoyz as our Iraq correspondent.)

    Posted in Uncategorized | 11 Comments »

    Savings Deficit or Capital Surplus?

    Posted by David Foster on 26th March 2005 (All posts by )

    There’s been a lot of discussion about a savings deficit in the United States. But recently, there have been several articles suggesting that the US…indeed, the entire world…now has a surplus of capital, and that this surplus is pulling down rates of return on investment. (In actuality, supply and demand of capital will always be equal, of course: the question is at what price level…in terms of returns on investment…the supply and demand curves will intersect.)

    Floyd Norris makes the capital-surplus argument in The New York Times (3/25). As evidence, he makes these subsidiary arguments:

    1)There are low rates of return on debt instruments, and long-term rates have proven to be “sticky”
    2)Stock prices are high relative to underlying valuations
    3)Countries defaulting on debt have been able to get away with it (he specifically mentions Argentina) implying reduced relative power on the part of owners of capital
    4)Increasing management compensation levels, which he believes make the same point about relative power (in this case, of managers vs owners of capital)

    These seem like good arguments, except for the last, which feels like a stretch. I’d also observe that many corporations are carrying considerable amounts of cash on their balance sheets, which they’d be unlikely to do if they were seeing lots of compelling opportunities for investment.

    But on the other hand….
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 12 Comments »

    Happy 91st to Borlaug

    Posted by Ginny on 25th March 2005 (All posts by )

    Instapundit notes that today is/yesterday was the 91st birthday of Norman Borlaug, Nobel Prize winner and Aggie. More than any other single person, he made life better in the second half of the twentieth century. Today, when our blog is heavy with disputes over death counts and the death watch in Florida continues, we can celebrate Borlaug and thank him for what he has done, for the billions he has saved. We can be grateful that one pragmatic man set about (and still sets about) making the world a better place.

    Already in his seventies twenty years ago, Borlaug turned his attention to Africa. We are sometimes critical of Carter on this blog (and I think reasonably so), but his union with the father of the Green Revolution appears to bring out the best in the peanut farmer from Georgia – and the best in African soil.

    And, thinking of Borlaug, I feel a broader gratitude. To the Chicagoboyz, grateful they let me play on their blog, respectful of the Great Books tradition that influenced so much of our plains life and came from Chicago. And I will go pretty far with them in terms of reducing government, but I am also grateful that in 1862 a Vermont congressman, Justin Smith Morrill, envisioned the Land Grant Schools that have not only educated farm kids (like me, my siblings, my husband, my parents) for the last hundred and forty years but also increased life expectancy- a fact that trumps much.

    Our life is mundane, but it sparks the imagination: we sit in the middle of the largest campus in the world as experimental fields stretch for miles. And now Aggies are planting crops in Iraq.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Environment | Comments Off

    A Question About the Middle Kingdom

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 25th March 2005 (All posts by )

    A reader named Paul Stinchfield left a very interesting question at this post.

    I have seen accounts of Chinese citizens becoming violently enraged at even the most polite disagreement with Chinese policy regarding Taiwan, Tibet, etc. And yes, I mean literally, not figuratively, violent. What do you know about this, Mr. Rummel, and what clues might this give us to what the Chinese government might do?

    For many years Chinese children were educated to hate ‘foreign [capitalist] devils’ as the ruling elite found that fear and hatred of a foreign menace was an effective method of control. (See Natan Sharansky’s “The Case for Democracy”.) Now, perhaps, we have a ruling elite which was itself educated to believe the propaganda that an earlier generation of rules cynically implemented.

    I would be very interested in the thoughts of somebody who has actually studied China.

    I’m more interested in military history than current political reality, so most of my studies have concentrated in that area. But there are a few things that jump out when someone takes even a casual glance at China.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in China | 16 Comments »

    Those who Beseige Shannon & the Schiavo Tragedy

    Posted by Ginny on 25th March 2005 (All posts by )

    Thanks to Heiko’s and Jonathan’s comments; they have a sense of proportionality. Also Heiko shows us what a good study can do: narrow, real, thorough; then it points to modifications that will (clearly their motive) save lives.

    I delete most of my friend’s e-mails on Schiavo or skim them to be polite. To him, as a Catholic, this case has attained great significance. Quality of life, what is life – these are important questions and of course he believes quite strongly in what Pinker dismisses as the “ghost in the machine.” I’m closer to my friend in that, but not all the way. The tensions involve the big issues – what is life and what is death, the relationship between the family and state. This then moves to the ancient tensions: between the “new” family of the Schiavo’s marriage and the “blood” family of the Schindlers; between the state and the federal government, between the courts and Congress. So, now, not only have people of strong religious commitment weighed in, but so have doctors. Then, politicians entered: not always grandstanding, they are often legitimately moved by these two issues. The big hitters on constitutional law on the blogs then enlisted in the battle. Yes, I’ll admit its importance not only to my friend but to others, on both sides of most of these issues. I can only feel sorrow at her death and sympathy with her parents, her husband, and even those involved in what has become a pathetic circus in front of her hospice. But I still delete. I know my sympathies will be pulled & cloud my mind; I won’t be able to deal with the big questions. Others argue that the cliche is wrong; that, indeed, hard cases can make good law. I have my doubts. Certainly, my husband’s argument that dysfunctional families make bad law seems true. I suspect both sides have enlisted troops to satisfy gnawing uncertainties. Applications in family matters to such external authority comes from a “nuclear option” mentality and a lack of confidence. I sympathize but suspect it arises from an unwillingness to face truths at which most of us would blink.
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    Posted in Science | 25 Comments »

    Eroding Science’s Brand

    Posted by Shannon Love on 25th March 2005 (All posts by )

    My use of strong language to describe both the process and people involved in creating and publishing the Lancet Iraqi Mortality Survey has really set some readers off. I used such language intentionally, expressly because I did not wish to convey the impression that the only matters under discussion were dry scientific technicalities with no broader import than Iraq. I have used pejoratives such as “scientific whores” to describe those responsible for the study because I am angry and I want people to know it. I am angry because I am scared.

    People who think I have been unfairly harsh in my assessment of those who created and published the Lancet paper should ask themselves this:

    “What if Shannon is right? What if a major scientific journal and the peer review process it represents has been politically subverted? What are the consequences of such subversion beyond the this particular study?”
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    Posted in Science | 13 Comments »

    C-SPAN 1 & 2 (times e.t.)

    Posted by Ginny on 25th March 2005 (All posts by )

    Book TV Schedule. C-SPAN 1 schedule. Topics from After Words and Q&A follow.

    Note: At this point all the links seem to work but the sites themselves are intermittently down.
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    Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

    Compare and Contrast

    Posted by Jonathan on 24th March 2005 (All posts by )

    (From the comments on this post.)

    dsquared:

    This is, of course, untrue, though I doubt any neutral observers were fooled. If Shannon decides to declare victory on this account he/she is a bigger fool than I thought, which is quite some fool.
     

    [. . .]
     

    By the way, can we get the charge clear; Shannon is still saying (falsely) that the authors made “sweeping claims of mass murder”, but appears to have dropped the accusation that they did so specifically in order to provide propaganda for Iraqi fascists? I only ask for the benefit of the libel lawyers who I still hope will take an interest in this series.

    Shannon Love:

    One of the disturbing things about the sociology of this study is the degree to which many have embraced its findings as revealed truth even though, just as any other scientific study, it must be verified through replication before we can confirm its accuracy. (Our arguments over methodology are so vociferous because we don’t have any other means of evaluating the accuracy of the study. Solid science ends arguments, it doesn’t start them.)
     

    If we use a single, unverified study to direct our policy we are not actually basing our decisions on good science.

    Posted in Science | 39 Comments »

    Free Will

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 24th March 2005 (All posts by )

    Last year, Ohio passed a law which allowed people to apply for licenses to carry concealed firearms in public.

    It’s not easy, though. The applicant has to pass a minimum level of training, submit their fingerprints, allow the sheriff to conduct a background check, and pay a fee.

    Even after all that, the CCW license holder has many restrictions as to where they can go while armed. For example, they can’t enter a school building or loiter on a campus. (And we all know how effective restricting legal firearms is when it comes to reducing school violence.)

    One of the provisions in the law is that private citizens can bar CCW license holders from entering their property while armed, even if the property is a business open to the public. This is particularly distressing to me, a fully qualified self defense instructor, since it means that I probably won’t be able to protect anyone from violent attack even if the crime should happen right in front of me. Even so, I can’t say that I object to the owner of a private business barring me from their establishment. It’s their property, after all, and they have the right to make such decisions. I just go somewhere else.
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    Posted in Diversions | 17 Comments »

    It’s Nice to Have Outside Verification

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 24th March 2005 (All posts by )

    There’s been some discussion here about China’s continuing hostility, mainly because they want to gain control of Taiwan while Western states are reluctant to abandon a fellow democracy, however flawed, to a Communist regime. If you’re interested, you can check out the previous discussions here, here, here and here.

    My position is that the Chinese military isn’t in any shape to take on the US Navy, and it won’t be for at least another twenty years. Even one carrier group in the area would devastate an invasion force moving towards Taiwan, and the Chinese really don’t have anything that has a good chance of countering that. Instead I saw all of this bluster and aggression as a way to gauge the reaction that the West would have to military action. If we indicate that we’re not interested in fighting for Taiwan then the landing craft would launch, otherwise not.
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    Posted in Uncategorized | 17 Comments »

    A Challenge to Lancet Defenders

    Posted by Shannon Love on 24th March 2005 (All posts by )

    A lot of people have taken me to task for calling the Lancet Iraqi Mortality Survey [PDF] an example of scientific corruption. I still stand by this claim.

    Many seem to equate scientific corruption with falsification of data but there are many ways to create a false impression even if the underlying data is sound. (I will expand on this in a subsequent post).

    One easily graspable example in the Lancet study’s dishonesty is the key sentence in the Summary, the one repeated in the media world wide, that pegs the “conservative” estimate at 100,000 excess deaths. The actual given estimate is 98,000. What pure scientific purpose is served by rounding the number up to 100,000? There is no technical reason for doing so. They chose that number because a big, round numbers stick in people’s minds. Its a number chosen only for its marketing value.

    More damning is the utter practical uselessness of the study’s findings. The cover-story for the study is that it is a medical epidemology study intended to provide decision makers with information they can use to reduce the mortality rate in Iraq from all causes.

    When one looks at the study as actually published, however, it provides no solid information on which a decision maker could act in Oct 2004 or later. Indeed, the study obscures such data as the age, gender, combat status and means of death of those reported killed. It doesn’t report any kind of detailed time series that would let decision makers determine whether the people reported killed died in the major combat phase or not and it produces widely different scales and causes of death dependent on whether the outlier Falluja cluster is included or not.

    But I could be wrong, so let me issue this challenge:

    Can anybody point out information contained in the study, as published in Oct 2004, that would let a real world decision maker make changes to policy, strategy or tactics that would have or will save lives in Iraq?

    Please be as specific as possible.

    I think the answer is “No.” I think this proves this study was designed, conducted, written up and published purely for its hoped for political impact in America and the rest of the Western world. Trying to save Iraqi lives was never a major consideration.

    To me that is scientifically dishonest and represents corruption of our scientific institutions.

    (Update:) let me rephrase the question slightly
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    Posted in Uncategorized | 89 Comments »