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  • Archive for March, 2005

    Anti-Television Activism

    Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd March 2005 (All posts by )

    Mrs. Lex asked me to post this:

    Remember what your favorite pub or cafe was like before they put in the TV screens? White Dot, the international campaign against television, have teamed up with the makers of TV-B-Gone, the key chain that turns off any television, to reclaim these public spaces. Now we are recruiting an army for direct action. Starting now, the White Dot website offers a form to enter the names of ruined eating and drinking establishments. Nominate the most diners and you can win a TV-B-Gone (there will be 200 lucky winners). Then, during TV-Turnoff Week (April 25 through May 1, 2005) you can join the Ruined Diner Liberation Army and zap these cafes back to life, leaving propaganda behind (some of it disguised as menus). We are reminding the owners that their customers come for breakfast or beer and some good conversation – not to be captive audience for advertisers. We also offer materials for owners who are proud to be TV-free.

    A worthy cause.

    UPDATE An Instalance, of all things, for a prank toy little better than a whoopie cushion? The level of teeth-gnashing this has generated is on a par with Social Security reform or motorcycle helmets or even fur clothing. Wow.

    UPDATE II TV-B-Gone or Glock, YOU DECIDE!

    Posted in Arts & Letters | 52 Comments »

    Fisking Falluja

    Posted by Shannon Love on 22nd March 2005 (All posts by )

    The physicist Richard Feynman defined scientific honesty as:

    It’s a kind of scientific integrity, a principle of scientific thought that corresponds to a kind of utter honesty–a kind of leaning over backwards. For example, if you’re doing an experiment, you should report everything that you think might make it invalid–not only what you think is right about it: other causes that could possibly explain your results; and things you thought of that you’ve eliminated by some other experiment, and how they worked–to make sure the other fellow can tell they have been eliminated.

    The Lancet Iraqi Casualty Survey is a dishonest piece of work. Setting aside all concerns about its methodology and practical implementation, it is easy to see that the paper was written in an intentionally deceptive manner designed not for scientific clarity but for political impact.

    I thought I would detail this dishonesty in the form of fisking. Pack a lunch, it’s a long one.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Uncategorized | 97 Comments »

    EU Backing Down on Lifting Ban on Arms Sale to China

    Posted by Lexington Green on 22nd March 2005 (All posts by )

    Here and here. The recent Chinese threats against Taiwan, and American Congressional threats to stop arms transfers to Europe, and whatever W and Condi told these b*stards when the door was closed seems to be working. Good.

    “British officials have signaled increasing reluctance to advance the process, because of China’s slow progress on human rights and the new law on Taiwan. Some European governments no longer wish to jeopardize the recent thaw in transatlantic relations over the embargo.” “Diplomats said the UK was sounding out other governments in support of a postponement, possibly until 2006.”

    Good to see the British taking the lead on this. Britain’s defense and intelligence partnership with the USA is far too valuable to throw away for a few renminbi from the Chicoms.

    Posted in China | 6 Comments »

    More Thoughts on the Schiavo Case

    Posted by Jonathan on 22nd March 2005 (All posts by )

    (James already posted on this topic. My comment to his post has grown into a post in itself.)

    It’s unfortunate that this issue has become politicized, as there seems to be no political or legal solution to the dilemma. It comes down to the opinions of a few judges in resolving an improbable dispute between family members. The judges might have decided differently, the interests of the contending family members might (in a different family) be reversed, etc. And it’s easy to foresee future problems as a result of Congressional involvement.

    The dilemma is irresolvable as Ms. Schiavo’s wishes cannot be known. It would have been better if she had made a living will when she could, but since she didn’t, someone else gets to decide whether to believe her husband or her parents. I’m inclined to believe the parents — that is, I’m inclined to think that she should be allowed to live, absent proof that she wants to die.

    The thing that I don’t understand is why this is being called a “right to die” case. That’s not what it is. Ms. Schiavo is helpless but very much alive. There is controversy about her thinking ability, but it’s not as though she were being kept alive via heroic measures. (This fact appears to be a problem for her husband.)

    The question, rather, is whether she should be killed by starvation because or her debilitated condition, and without our knowing what she would have wanted. If she awakened one day and announced that she wished to die, and if she persisted with that wish over a reasonable period, then I would accept that she should be accommodated (though by a method more gentle than starvation, which strikes me as terribly cruel). I might also accept her premature death if she had made a living will that declared her wish to die if she became incapacitated — though I would be hesitant due to the possibility that she had changed her mind in the meantime. But to kill her without a strong indication of her wishes, and over her parents’ and siblings’ vehement objections, strikes me as presumptuous and reckless. I don’t think anyone has moral standing to do it.

    Posted in Society | 15 Comments »

    From the latest Franco-German summit

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 22nd March 2005 (All posts by )

    Gerhard Schrder and Jacques Chirac frequently hold Franco-German summits, but usually keep their cards close to the chest. Thanks to a daring paparazzo we know now what’s going on at these occasions:

    What, you expected actual political substance?

    Posted in Humor | 3 Comments »

    Some more beagle blogging

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 22nd March 2005 (All posts by )

    I had posted this image last week, so here are some of her younger half-sister.

    Our dogs usually turn away from the camera when it looks to as if you point it at them. The best way to get some good shots is to hold it casually in your palm and point it in their general direction without being obvious about it. Most pictures are unusuable, but with a digital camera that doesn’t matter. I hadn’t caught her whole head in the lower picture but kept it anyway because I like the look on her face.

    Posted in Photos | 5 Comments »

    Reversal

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 22nd March 2005 (All posts by )

    One of the major stories that has been getting some play in the US media is that of Terri Schiavo. (If youre unfamiliar with the case, the author of this blog has written up all of the info you need in a thorough and non-biased way.)

    Unlike many pundits who are interested in this case, I cant say that I have any direct opinion. But I was rather startled by how people have become sharply divided along political lines, and the positions that have been assumed.

    If my impressions are correct, the Republicans want the Federal government to step in and overrule state law in order to keep Ms. Schiavo alive. Basically theyre advocating central control and increased government involvement in private affairs.

    Democrats want Ms. Schiavos feeding tube removed. They say that not only should an individuals wishes be respected, but that its wrong for the Feds to interfere and trample states rights.

    I was under the impression that the two major parties usually have ideologies that are directly opposite to those shown in this case. Isnt it the Democrats who usually say that big government is desirable, while the Republicans want to limit the growth of powerful central authority?

    Just wondering.

    Posted in Politics | 10 Comments »

    A Lie in a Lab Coat

    Posted by Shannon Love on 21st March 2005 (All posts by )

    So my old nemesis the Bogus Lancet study of Iraqi casualties is showing up again here and there so I thought I would revisit it.

    What grabbed my attention this time around is the intentionally inconsistent use of the Falluja cluster data. The study produces radically different results depending on whether the Falluja data is included or excluded. With the Falluja data, most of the excess deaths result from violence, without it most excess deaths result from accident or disease. With the Falluja data, most of deaths from violence were of woman and children, without it, most of the deaths from violence were of military aged males. With the Falluja data, well over 250,000 Iraqi, over 1% of the entire population, have died largely from Coalition helicopter airstrikes, without it, that number is in the more plausible tens of thousands.

    The highly selective inclusion or exclusion of the Falluja data in various statements are clearly finely tuned for maximum political impact while still conveying a plausible number of Iraqi deaths. The paper is clearly written to maximize the damage to the Coalition war effort and for political impact in the US presidential election.

    It is an act of outright scientific corruption, a lie in a lab coat.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Science | 105 Comments »

    There’s Still Hope

    Posted by James R. Rummel on 21st March 2005 (All posts by )

    It would seem that France is going to abolish their legally mandated 35 hour work week.

    The article linked to above makes some good points. One of them is that the biggest source of French foreign investment came from the US, and we just didn’t want to pour money into a culture that is that restrictive when it comes to business.

    But there were also some unintended consequences that are biting French lawmakers.

    Often touted as the working mother’s godsend, the 35-hour week actually made life harder for poorer women and single parents, according to women’s organization CLEF.

    “The women that suffered were the lowest paid, who needed all the overtime they could get to make ends meet,” said CLEF president Monique Halpern. “I think this is one of the reasons that Lionel Jospin lost the elections.”

    Posted in France | 4 Comments »

    The MSM Will Counter-Attack

    Posted by Lexington Green on 21st March 2005 (All posts by )

    I tried to respond to Mr. Hiteshew’s comment to Nito’s post, but our super-duper comment-spam blocker kept dinging me. So, I’m sticking it here.

    Michael, I don’t start from a false premise. As it happens, I agree with you about linking and fair use. So, three cheers for us. Rather, I am addressing a different but related issue, the one Nito raised in his post.

    I start not from a premise, but from a strategic perspective: I am trying to think of ways the MSM could counter-attack the blogosphere. Under that scenario, I think they could plausibly argue that linking is akin to republication. I think that is a facially plausible argument, which is all they really need. How about putting a disclaimer at the bottom of their webpages saying “any link to this site shall be deemed republication and requires the express, written permission of xxx” and require people to sign up and pay a fee. Then selectively enforce it against anyone who is troublesome by suing them. Would this work? I don’t know. Is it obvious? Yes. Are there any number of further ways that the MSM could strike back, that thoughtful lawyers who are paid to think about these things might come up with? You betcha.

    The point is not what I think the right answer is. What I think should happen in the world is irrelevant even to me at this point, since none of it is likely to happen. The interesting question is the objective one: “Can the MSM raise the cost of alternative, Internet-based media that are eroding their economic and ideological position?” A further question is, “Can the MSM make facially plausible legal claims, now or after taking steps to strengthen their position that could raise the cost of blogging above nearly zero, to reduce the scale of the opposition?” I think the answer to both of these is obviously yes. Even if you are totally right, those are arguments you would have to make in response to a lawsuit, and that is expensive, which is the point, from the perspective of the MSM. The further question is “Will there be fallout, trouble, bad publicity, unintended consequences, if the MSM makes this move?” The answer is yes. Weighing those risks and costs against potential gains is a business decision that the owners of the MSM will have to make. I think you can count on some of them at least trying some kinds of counter-attacks, to see how it goes. They have a lot at stake — everything, in fact: money, influence, their jobs.

    This leaves aside the possibility of the MSM seeking some advantage via legislation or regulatory action, which is a huge front that the MSM is much, much better equipped to operate in than is the dispersed, under-funded blogosphere composed of hobbyists whose livelihoods and careers do not depend on blogging. If I had to place a bet my head but not my heart would say “bet on the organized, well-funded, well-connected guys with big law firms and big lobbyists who are fighting for their lives.” In any case, the MSM is going to respond to the changing environment, since it has to, and some of that response is likely to be aggressive.

    Here is a sad fact, and I mean this without any sarcasm at all. The mere fact that you or anyone happens to be legally, intellectually and morally on the correct side of an issue is only somewhat related to whether you will be able to prevail, whether in litigation, in politics or in any other forum. More importantly, these factors are often inversely correlated with whether you can afford to engage in the combat at all. The guys who are decent and right and good frequently don’t have the money, the organization, the willpower, the time, the ruthlessness to win. As Nito put it, correctly, working for the Dark Side is a better way to get your fees paid in full, on time, on a monthly basis.

    This is not a counsel of despair. But any “blogospheric triumphalism” is not so much premature as just foolish. Let’s be alert. Things are going to get interesting.

    Update: The comments here and to Nito’s post point in the direction I have been trying to push this conversation all along. We should be thinking out loud, wargaming the possible MSM responses to the blogosphere and considering ripostes and even how to push things in a productive direction.

    While the MSM has huge assets, the blogosphere has one advantage the MSM cannot match, if it can be harnessed: Massively distributed intelligence. A good idea put into play by one person can be globally distributed costlessly and, in practical effect, instantly. They hold a lot of cards, we hold one big card.

    Bets, Ladies and Gentlemen?

    Posted in Cuba | 12 Comments »

    A View From the Past

    Posted by Jonathan on 21st March 2005 (All posts by )

    1974

    (Click the image to open a large version in a new browser window.)

    Posted in History | 3 Comments »

    First shots fired vs Internet fair use

    Posted by In-Cog-Nito on 19th March 2005 (All posts by )

    During the CBS/Rathergate fiasco, Lex predicted a counterattack is coming from the MSM. I predicted the MSM will go after linking/fair use, a la Drudgereport.

    Today Drudge has the following headline:

    Agence France Presse Sues Over Google News

    SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – Agence France Presse has sued Google Inc. (GOOG), alleging the Web search leader includes AFP’s photos, news headlines and stories on its news site without permission.

    It’s a shot across the bow, methinks.

    Pretty smart move. If they sued a helpless individual, they would get the free speech/uproar factor. Sue another media company with deep pockets, and no one really cares. It becomes a technical fight by lawyers. Fight it out, and get a ruling on the side of copyright protection. Then use this ruling as a saber to rattle down the road.

    Posted in Internet | 19 Comments »

    Discussion Question

    Posted by David Foster on 19th March 2005 (All posts by )

    You wake up tomorrow morning and find that the Board of Directors of General Motors has decided on a management change, and has appointed you as the new CEO of GM. (Actually they met with you the previous evening and, after a few drinks during the discussion, you signed the contract. “Resign” is not an option.)

    What do you do?

    Posted in Business | 119 Comments »

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

    Posted by Ginny on 18th March 2005 (All posts by )

    Book TV Schedule. C-SPAN 1 schedule.

    Topics from After Words and Q&A follow.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Schedules | Comments Off

    Mason, Rockfish & Nursing

    Posted by Ginny on 18th March 2005 (All posts by )

    Today, Jonathan & Shannon discuss heroes and my daughter tells me that, visiting her oldest sister, she finds her tivoing Perry Mason, the series my family watched together in my youth. The cable news networks are obsessed with trials that seem no more real than Mason’s (for all that they are). So, I thought I’d rescue another one of the essays I did during that short year in which I was unemployed – had sold my business and hadn’t started teaching. So, below is a recycled essay, a tribute to Perry Mason and to James Rockford. Yes, I watch far too much television. And my tastes are not those, in general, of this blog’s audience. But, you know, tv isn’t all that bad if you don’t turn your mind off. (I put this under our division of Arts & Letters – surely that is too lofty for such series.) And thanks for letting me do this kind of thing.

    And, of course, I am not profoundly moved by Perry Mason. He does not, as real heroes do, show us the tragic nature of life, the clay feet and because of that the even greater transcendence. He is not real. But as good fiction can, he brought me pleasure. And as the representation of character often can, the series helped me understand myself and what I value better.

    Addendum (to myself, I assume no one is still drawing this up). Googling for an old teacher, I found him used as a reference in this “Perry Mason: The Authorship and Reproduction of a Popular Hero” by J. Dennis Bounds. I haven’t read it, but didn’t want to lose it. Nice epigraph; Mason observes “That’s what I like about the practice of law–it’s an adventure. You’re looking behind the scenes at human nature. The audience out front sees only the carefully rehearsed poses assumed by the actors. The lawyer sees the human nature with the shutters open.” from: Erle Stanley Gardner’s The Case of the Caretaker’s Cat
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters | 3 Comments »

    Exchange on Taiwan

    Posted by Jonathan on 18th March 2005 (All posts by )

    This is the cleaned-up transcript of a recent email discussion between Lex and me:

    ==============

    JG: Have you seen this?

    Lex: Yeah, I saw it. The guy adds nothing to the conversation. The Chinese face huge obstacles to invading — for one thing, the US Navy has submarines that could sink their invasion fleet. And now the Japanese Navy is on our side. This guy is just shooting from the hip. There are many good articles on the topic of Chinese military capacity. I don’t think they are ready to do it, and a seaborne invasion is the hardest military operation of all to pull off successfully.

    JG: I hope you’re right. As I see it the problem for the Chinese leadership is similar to that for the Iranian mullahs. They cannot simultaneously keep their population under control by force and relax their economic control enough to allow their country to be internationally competitive. Something will eventually have to give. The last Soviet government didn’t have the heart to start killing people en masse, and consequently the Soviet regime fell. China, like Iran, has a significant pro-democracy movement that is not likely to go away absent drastic violent suppression and/or a return to the economic rigidity that characterized China before about 1978. Either measure would wreck the economy and thereby threaten the regime.

    The temptation for dictators in these situations is to gin up nationalist sentiment and hysteria about external enemies. It may be the path of least resistance.

    The same technological advances that now force US companies to be internationally competitive also put the squeeze on dictatorships. If they try to maintain control in the traditional way, using force, they risk harming their own economies to the extent that popular unrest may lead to their losing power. Even North Korea, whose leadership is ruthless, is feeling the strain. China could have gone the NK route, but having liberalized economically in the late-1970s and 1980s the leaders cannot now reverse course without making war on their own population and killing the golden goose.

    China the country is doing well but its leadership is really in a desperate situation. They face an inevitable choice between further liberalization, and losing their grip, and cracking down. Ginning up war with Taiwan seems like a reasonable alternative for them, even if the a priori odds of losing seem high. I don’t think we should discount the threat merely because invasion would be difficult.

    I also don’t know if the US would defend Taiwan. Maybe we would, but it’s not obvious. A gambler might be willing to run the risk.

    Lex: And I agree with all of it. . .

    I just don’t think that the next few weeks or months are somehow a particularly worrisome period. The Chinese are simply not yet equipped to attack across a large body of water, transport a large number of armed men, get them ashore, defeat the Taiwanese, and occupy the island. They may try to do intimidation, like the missile launches of a few years ago. If they try to invade, there will be a build-up period that we will detect. This will allow us to deploy submarines and other assets. It is similar to the situation the Warsaw Pact faced during the Cold War. They never had a sufficiently big advantage at the critical point to make an invasion of Western Europe worth the risk. The recent treaty with Japan makes a Chinese attack even more risky. If they attach and it fails or bogs down, they are facing the two biggest navies in the world, economic catastrophe as all
    trade screeches to a halt, and a likely declaration of independence that they could never undo by the Taiwanese.

    JG: The guy who wrote the post I cited wasn’t talking about invasion in the coming months. He was speculating about the next three or four years. He predicts China will do something around the time of the 2008 Olympics.

    Lex: The military balance may have changed by then. But, Bush will still be president, our involvement in Iraq should be winding down, and Japan is on-board. The Chinese will have acquired European weapons by then, but I still think the cards we are holding are better. Attacking Taiwan would be very, very difficult under the best of circumstances — and facing the US Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force is as far from the best circumstances as you can ask for. I think the Chinese are aggressive, but not stupid. They want to bully people into surrender. But I don’t think they are this stupid. As long as we have a credible deterrent they won’t get into a shooting war they will probably lose. If the Democrats win in 2008, and try to “finesse” the “complexity” of the “nuanced” situation, then the Chinese might smell weakness and pounce. So, maybe after the 2008 elections and after the Olympics. But not sooner. So it appears to me. Of course, if civil unrest is looking like it might bring down the regime, all bets are off. Then a foreign war could be used as a desperation ploy to unite the country. In that case, the fish in the Taiwan straight will dine well on PLA corpses, courtesy of our Navy’s torpedoes.

    UPDATE: Commenter ArtDOdger raises a very interesting question about the possibility of different outcomes from an official ROC declaration of independence vs. a popular Taiwanese independence movement a la Lebanon.

    UPDATE 2: Related posts here and here.

    Posted in China | 6 Comments »

    We Always Suspected

    Posted by Shannon Love on 18th March 2005 (All posts by )

    This image is from Superdickery.com which host an entire series of classic comic pages that are unintentionally hilarious when seen through our contemporary over sexualized viewpoint.

    Check out the entire series.

    (Update: Looks like the image above doesn’t show up in Safari but it does in Firefox, so your mileage my vary. Click here if you can’t see it.)

    Posted in Arts & Letters | 8 Comments »

    Quote of the Day

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th March 2005 (All posts by )

    The importance of the growth rate increases, the further into the future we look. If a country grows at two percent, as opposed to growing at one percent, the difference in welfare in a single year is relatively small. But over time the difference becomes very large. For instance, had America grown one percentage point less per year, between 1870 and 1990, the America of 1990 would be no richer than the Mexico of 1990. At a growth rate of five percent per annum, it takes just over eighty years for a country to move from a per capita income of $500 to a per capita income of $25,000, defining both in terms of constant real dollars. At a growth rate of one percent, such an improvement takes 393 years.

    -Tyler Cowen

    Posted in Economics & Finance | 1 Comment »

    One Cost of Homeland-Security Ineptitude

    Posted by Jonathan on 16th March 2005 (All posts by )

    For a long time Miami has been the de facto capital of Latin America. The infrastructure is good (including the cultural infrastructure that is particularly hospitable to Spanish- and Portuguese-speaking visitors), taxes and other costs are relatively low and official corruption isn’t a serious problem. Miami is also conveniently located within a couple of hours of most of Mexico, the Caribbean and Central America and is on the way to the northeastern United States and Europe.

    But now Miami faces increased competition. A recent WSJ article (subscription only) describes how Panama City is gaining market share as both a regional travel hub and banking and business center. Post-9/11 airport-security procedures have added a lot of time and hassle to trips for Latin American business people using Miami as a hub. And burdensome U.S. financial regulations make relatively laissez-faire Panama attractive.

    There is also the matter of how U.S. officialdom too often treats foreign visitors, and that’s the real subject of this blog post. The WSJ article opens with an infuriating anecdote about the reception a Brazilian woman received at the Miami airport:

    Anna Paula Gama, an accounts executive for MTV Brasil, got a cold reception when she arrived in Miami last year for a vacation.

    Despite having visited the U.S. four previous times, she was pulled aside by immigration agents and grilled about her finances. She emerged teary-eyed, vowing to never visit Miami again. “They opened all my bags, opened my wallet, dropping money all over the floor, then they left me to pick it up myself,” she recalls.

    This kind of treatment is inexcusable. This lady isn’t likely to be a terrorist, and even if she were, treating her disrespectfully would hardly increase our odds of identifying or apprehending her. But treating her badly probably does make it more likely that she will avoid visiting or doing business here, that she will vote for anti-American politicians in her own country, and that she will be less sympathetic to U.S. policies and interests when her elected officials look for public support for pro-U.S. policies.

    I don’t care what the French political elite think about us, but I think that the perceptions and opinions about the U.S.A. of ordinary people around the world matter. A large part of what the Bush administration is trying to do, in its current campaign to promote democracy in formerly dangerous dictatorships, requires the residents of those places to trust in our good faith. We also need the support of voters in the democratic countries we are allied with. We gain nothing by abusing any of these people in our airports. And while I have no doubt that not all U.S. immigration officials abuse foreign visitors, I have heard and read enough of these stories to believe that mistreatment of visitors is frequent and that our bureaucracy does little to discourage it. This is an area in which the Bush administration, for all of its great successes overseas, has performed poorly. Never mind the Congressional gimmick of reorganizing the INS, surely we are long past due for a housecleaning of our immigration bureaucracy, starting at the top. Nothing reinforces accountability better than high-level firings, as Bush’s recent actions at the CIA demonstrate. What about the INS? I get the impression that it’s a low priority. I think that’s unfortunate.

    The world is becoming increasingly competitive. Just as U.S. companies increasingly face foreign competition for business, so U.S. cities compete with foreign cities as business venues. And so the U.S. as a country competes with other countries for the world’s most productive people, who enrich our country greatly but don’t have to come here. We should treat them decently when they visit.

    Posted in Terrorism | 5 Comments »

    Beagle blogging

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 16th March 2005 (All posts by )

    After I got this steamed today it’s time to post about something that’ll cheer me up:

    Posted in Photos | 8 Comments »

    Why I’m so touchy when it comes to Airbus

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 16th March 2005 (All posts by )

    This article in the Scotsman from last January made the EU look very bad, and it was widely quoted in the blogospehre:

    TSUNAMI-struck Thailand has been told by the European Commission that it must buy six A380 Airbus aircraft if it wants to escape the tariffs against its fishing industry.

    While millions of Europeans are sending aid to Thailand to help its recovery, trade authorities in Brussels are demanding that Thai Airlines, its national carrier, pays 1.3 billion to buy its double-decker aircraft.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Europe | 8 Comments »

    Aerial Euro-bashing?

    Posted by Ralf Goergens on 16th March 2005 (All posts by )

    In his post below, Shannon states that there are serious questions about the Airbus 300/310 safety, but that European political considerations and prestige might prevent a comprehensive investigation ino the matter. Those are pretty heavy allegations. Now if you look at the post Shannon is linking to, and that obviously has inspired him to make these allegations, the basis for them does look pretty flimsy:

    …we have Canada whose rather vicious cycle of lies of late would made the Clintons blanch; and the world-wide left still ticked off that we have an embargo against the socialist worker’s paradise.

    I can see why it’d take a week for this story to break; It’d take ‘em that long to figure out how to spin it.

    It’s become clear, though that the 310 is an accident waiting to happen… And the EU and it’s apologists don’t want that info getting public. They may not, however, be able to hold it off, this time.

    It’s quite clear that Eric has a political axe to grind here; he doesn’t offer a shred of evidence for his accusations. There’s also a lot of interesting information in the comments section that runs contrary to the thrust of Eric’s and Shannon’s posts.

    It also has to be considered that the A 310 has been around since 1983, so its track record doesn’t look bad at all. It’s not as if there hadn’t been any problems with comparable models by Boeing during that same period. The Boeing 737 had problems with its yaw damper and the rudder system in general:

    Over the years, pilots around the world have filed hundreds of reports of 737 flights disrupted by uncommanded rudder movements.
    Many safety experts believe the most extreme of such movements – an uncommanded hardover – is what caused two highly publicized and unsolved 737 crashes in the U.S. this decade. United Airlines Flight 585 dived from the sky into a park near Colorado Springs on March 3, 1991, killing 25 passengers and crew members. The plunge of USAir Flight 427 near Pittsburgh on Sept. 8, 1994, killed all 132 on board.
    Since the Pittsburgh crash, there have been more than 70 reports of 737 flights briefly thrown off course in a manner that suggests rudder malfunctions.

    A complex system like a commercial airliner simply can’t be made 100 % safe, the risk can only be minimized, so calling Airbus unsafe on the facts known so far is uncalled for.

    Here’s an interesting debate on the matter at a forum frequented by airline pilots, for some additional information.

    Posted in Aviation | 8 Comments »

    Flying on National-Prestige Airframes

    Posted by Shannon Love on 16th March 2005 (All posts by )

    So last Sunday, an Airbus 310 flying from Cuba to Quebec lost the entire control surface of its rudder (picture). According to BitsBlog (via Instapundit), even though the plane was in US airspace at the time, the pilot elected to return to Cuba rather than declare an in-flight emergency. He did so after conferring with the plane’s owner, Air Transat.

    This is the third incident involving a A300-series’s rudder. One of the incidents resulted in the crash of American Airlines flight 587 in November of 2001, which resulted in the deaths of all 265 lives aboard. This raises legitimate questions about the safety of the A300 airframe’s revolutionary use of composite materials. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Airbus or any competent authority is taking the matter seriously. I think they are not tackling the problem because of matters of national prestige.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Aviation | 11 Comments »

    Independent Investors

    Posted by Shannon Love on 15th March 2005 (All posts by )

    Over at the WSJ Opinion Journal, John Zogby writes that the emerging “investor class,” i.e., people with significant investments and investment income, is large — 46% of the population and growing. Zogby thinks this portends well for the Republican party because investors tend to vote Republican. I think Zogby is probably correct.

    One neglected facet of the Social Security debate is how changing Social Security from a non-saving welfare program to a saving investment program will alter the relationship of the individual citizen to the State. Under the current system, an individual’s right to Social Security and his rate of return are wholly dependent upon political fiat. An individual gets only what the political class say he will get and only when they say he will get it. The individual becomes very dependent on the whims of the political elite.

    How many elderly people have voted for socially liberal Democrats, not because they support the full set of the Democrats’ political agenda but only because they fear losing their Social Security benefits? How many deeply religious people must choose to vote for politicians who support abortion on demand, in order to get their retirement checks?

    For the political class, creating dependence on the State is the first and best means of job security. I think that what opponents of privatization really fear is not that it will fail, but that it will succeed and thereby obviate the need for a political class to provide retirement security. If most people no longer have to kowtow to politicians in order to have a secure retirement, a wide swath of the political spectrum will lose a major justification for its existence. Individuals will be far more free to vote their consciences without fearing economic harm.

    Throughout history, political classes have used fear to control the people. The current fear mongering over Social Security springs from the same totalitarian impulse as motivated those who rattled sabers in the past. It is time to move beyond fear and create programs that let individuals be financially secure but politically independent.

    Posted in Politics | 9 Comments »

    The follies of semi-socialized medicine

    Posted by ken on 14th March 2005 (All posts by )

    In the 3/3/2005 edition of USA Today (sorry, no link), we see an interesting statement: “For the past quarter-century, the American Medical Association and other industry groups have predicted a glut of doctors and worked to limit the number of new physicians.” Further down, the story notes “Congress controls the supply of physicians by how much federal funding it provides for medical residencies – the graduate training required of all doctors”.

    The story goes on to deliver the shocking news that the prediction of a doctor glut wasn’t quite accurate, and that thanks to that work to limit the number of new physicians, we’ve got a shortage now.

    Jesus, didn’t these guys learn anything from the failure of the Soviet Union? Those Five Year Plans didn’t work. You can’t predict with any accuracy the total amount of anything that the whole country’s going to need.

    I wish I had a dollar for every time someone said that health care was too important to leave up to the free market. That makes about as much sense as saying that passenger airline flights are too important to leave up to Bernoulli’s Principle. The alleged importance of health care isn’t going to make bureaucratic controls on the supply of doctors work any better than bureaucratic controls on the supply of steel, nor is it going to magically endow Congressmen or bureaucrats with the superhuman intelligence needed to get a better answer than millions of people acting on undistorted price signals would arrive at.

    And remember when you find your medical bills going up, and your wait to see a doctor gets longer, that your government took deliberate action to reduce the number of doctors as part of its ongoing effort to protect you from the cruel free market. Be sure to show your appreciation next election day.

    Posted in Uncategorized | 14 Comments »