Saturday, April 20, 2002

Well, it has begun. Here it is, 6:15 on the left coast (on a SATURDAY, no less), and the first article on the Los Angeles Times website is a big article on the protests. (The LAT is now doing the registration thing, like the NYT and the WSJ. This started today, apparently).

I am actually going to fire off a letter of protest to the editor this time, as this so so bloody disgraceful. With the lack of coverage on the Israel rally, I thought that perhaps because of the distance, they were not going to devote a lot of coverage to the rally, but since the (50% smaller) protests today are already receiving top billing, distance is not a part of the equation.

If it's not yet obvious, I'm incensed. This is just wrong.

Friday, April 19, 2002

Contrast the Los Angeles Times' almost non-coverage of the Israel rally earlier this week with this article in today's paper, discussing rallies that haven't even happened yet. One had to wade through an almost equivalent amount of pixels to find information about an event that was three to ten times larger than this series of events, the day *after* the large rally occured. There was no coverage of the rally on the day that it occured, nor was there any discussion beforehand. I am willing to bet the LAT will feature the protests this weekend, unless something really big happens in the Middle East (like Sharon dropping a nuke on Ramallah or Nablus).

Some say the New York Times is the worst in the nation; others cite the San Francisco Chronicle. I have to cast my vote with the Los Angeles Times, because it has neither the decent columnists the old grey lady sometimes runs (just its own cast of idiots) nor the lower profile of the Chronic. It's the worst of both worlds, and it's sad that it is the largest paper on the west coast. There are far better papers in San Diego and Orange county (for conservatives) and San Jose and Seattle (for liberals), but they are overshadowed by the behemoth that ate LA.

The American Prospect has this to say about Paul Ehrlich in their "Tapped" column:

EHRLICH ON THE SIDE OF CAUTION. For anti-environmental conservatives, there's simply no whipping boy like Stanford's Paul Ehrlich, author of 1968's The Population Bomb. The latest example is former Delaware governor Pete du Pont's OpinionJournal column, written for the occasion of Earth Day, arguing that "It's time to stop taking the likes of Paul Ehrlich seriously." Why? Because Ehrlich made an incorrect prediction about widespread famines back in the 1970s. Now, we know this is the Wall Street Journal and all. But seriously, is a person's entire life's work discredited by an error, or even several errors?

The article goes on to document a few errors in Du Pont's column. But let's get back to what they are saying about Ehrlich. They say that Ehrlich made an incorrect prediction.... This implies one. No, Ehrlich was not content with just one predicition. He wrote three separate books (The Population Bomb-1968, The End of the Affluence-1974, and The Population Explosion-1990) that all stated that mass starvation was imminent. He predicted (in his 1968 book) that by the 1980s the US would be using insecticides so toxic that the rest of the Earth would launch a nuclear attack upon us to forestall the environmental damage (I'm not making this up). His 1974 opus anticipates a "nutritional disaster that seems likely to overcome humanity in the 1970s (or, at the latest, in the 1980s)." He believes that "a situation has been created that could lead to a billion or more people starving to death." He imagines the President dissolving congress during the food riots of the 1980's (gee, I must've missed them). His 1990 book reintroduces the prophesies of his earlier books, despite the fact that none of what he had predicted came to pass. In fact, I'd like to see anything that Ehrlich predicted that came true.

Economist Julian Simon made a bet with Ehrlich and two of Ehrlich's environmental compatriots. He offered $10,000 that *any* given raw material, to be picked by his opponents, would be cheaper at least one year later. The results were, um, informative.

(quoting Bjorn Lomborg from The Skeptical Environmentalist):

Ehrlich, Harte, and Holdren...staked their bets on chromium, copper, nickel, tin, and tungsten, and they picked a time frame of ten years. The bet was to be determined ten years later, assessing whether the real (inflation adjusted) prices had gone up or down . In September 1990 not only had the total basket of raw materials but also each individual raw material dropped in price. Chromium had dropped 5 percent, tin a whopping 74 percent. The doomsayers had lost.

Truth is they could not have won. [author's emphasis] Ehrlich and Co. would have lost no matter whether they had staked their money on petroleum, foodstuffs, sugar, coffee, cotton, wool, minerals or phosphates. They had all become cheaper.

So much for Paul Ehrlich and his credibility. Nonetheless, he still gets admiring press from The American Prospect and its lefty relatives Mother Jones and The Nation.

Thursday, April 18, 2002

Today, I thought a little bit about this blog, and where I wanted to go with it. There are several different routes I could take.

I could post lots of links to fascinating, outrageous, or important places. But Instapundit already does that, better than I ever could.

I could pick a subject each day and write a long, thoughtful post on each subject. But USS Clueless has that gig, hands down.

I could go the humor route, spiking my posts with hilarity while (hopefully) remaining relevant. Happy Fun Pundit is what I'd come up with, if I was that good.

I could try the reporting thing, researching my subjects and talking to experts in the field. But I don't have enough time in the day, and I'd never be as good as Matt Welch.

I could stick to what I know, and report on military subjects. Sargeant Stryker wins the prize there, hands down. He and Sargeant Schultz have a world more knowledge than I do on what the other services are doing, and seem to have a broader knowledge base than this twidget.

I could write an online journal, personal and revalatory, except that is not my style, and the mundanity of my life would bore most people into a coma. We don't need another weblog from someone who whines that school is tough, I need to go grocery shopping, my best friend is getting married next year, I broke a nail at work today, I was so drunk last night, etc. etc. etc. I enjoy occasional glimpses of personal lives, but I don't want a site composed exclusively of drama and strife.

This site really doesn't have a focus yet, and that is partially because of my lack of focus, and partly because I am a bit of a dilettante in many subjects. I have shallow knowledge of a wealth of topics. Eventually, I will settle down and find my groove. Until then, I welcome suggestions from my readers. If you have something you'd like to see me pontificate upon, by all means, let me know. The comments button and the e-mail link are there for your inputs.

While idly clicking links at The Last Page, I came across one that sounded interesting, Ipse Dixit. Imagine my surprise when I discovered the the guy behind the page was someone that I had worked with in the early 90's, before he got out of club nav and became fabulously successful. </suckup> Seriously, though, he has a cool blog that I have added to my list over on the right. Check him out.

Federal Judge Upholds Oregon Assisted Suicide Law

This is a ruling that I am heartened to see, despite the fact that I think it's rather creepy. Ashcroft should never have become involved in this issue; it is something over which the federal government has no jurisdiction. Licensing of doctors is a task performed by the states, and the revocation of those licenses is also a state function (having one's medical license in one state does not always prevent one from getting licensed in another state, although that is something that *should* be addressed, just not by Washington, DC).

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

Today's Los Angeles Times ran a story on the Rally for Israel in Washington--on page A10, buried in the middle of the section. At least there was a nice color photo on the front page, above the fold. The only online story I could find was buried in the "print version" section of the website, in the "inside A" section. It was the 18th article from the top, and there were no pictures.

The article did not estimate the size of the crowd; they quoted an organizer of the rally as stating that 100,000 showed up. (A Washington Post story quoted an independent source who also quoted the 100,000 figure).

The reason I bring all this up is because of the protests scheduled for next week. I wonder if the Times will treat them with the same diffidence that marked their coverage of this event. It will be interesting to see how many of the articles will be on the front page, how many articles will feature prominently on the website, and how many photos will be printed. I will note the number of attendees at the upcoming protests, and compare the coverage relative to the size of this crowd and the coverage it received. A comparison of the number of arrests to those at yesterday's rallies might be noteworthy as well. (The Times doesn't say how many were arrested at yesterday's demonstration; WaPo reports three arrests).

The Times has always fancied itself as a paper of national stature, but sometimes their coverage is downright provincial. Perhaps this was just an oversight, but coming from the same paper that prints the lunatic ravings of Robert Scheer, I have to wonder what the editors are really thinking. (Here is a deconstruction of Scheer's latest offering, from Pejman Yousefzadeh.)

Edited to fix ugly abuse of "also" and "compare", and a few other errors. No changes to thrust of article.

Here is an invaluable resource for those who look for media bias. It gives examples of logical fallacies, and advises how to counter them.

Monday, April 15, 2002

This is a reminder of what was being said 25 years ago. Although it is probably disavowed by its authors and supporters, it was presented as straight news in 1975.

The same rhetorical handwringing is now being used for diametrically opposed arguments.

For those of you not old enough to remember the mid-to-late 1970's, everyone was concerned that we were all going to freeze to death. The unusually cold winter of 1977, when it snowed as far south as Fort Lauderdale, brought forth terrified predictions of ice sheets covering Canada and most of the United States, dramatically lowered sea levels (from large amounts of water being converted to ice), and economic catastrophe (as nations hoarded resources for the coming apocalyspe). Of course, these same experts were positive that SST's such as the Concorde were going to destroy the ozone layer, and that hundreds of millions of people were going to starve to death (the last from everyone's favorite leftist Cassandra, Paul Ehrlich).

Edited 18 April 2002 to correct spelling error on Ehrlich's name.

I'm not going to post anything about the Washington Rally; that is what InstaPundit is for. Go to him for all the latest news.

I am curious, though--why is it that the Los Angeles Times, which prides itself on its importance, has not a single article on the rally? Not only is there nothing on the front page, but there is nothing on the national section either. Even the San Francisco Chronicle has an article on the march, slanted though it may be.

Anyway, here is what I will discuss instead. The Reform Party continues to implode.

Eight more states have disaffiliated themselves with the national party, and the Texas chapter is dissolving, with a plan to reorganize under a new name.

I hope the Pitchfork Pat's minions understand that they have killed the party once and for all. The party's influence was on the wane after 1996 (Jesse Ventura notwithstanding), and Buchanan's takeover of the party left most of its disaffected leaders sputtering in rage.

With the schism in the Libertarian Party, John Hagelin' s Natural Law party may be the fourth-largest party in the country soon, behind the Democrats, Republicans, and Greens. All together now....OMMMMMMMMM.

Jeff Goldstein over at Protein Wisdom has linked to me, and I've reciprocated. Thanks for the support.

I have also added BB Spot. It's not really a blog, but it is terribly funny nonetheless.

Check both of them out.

PejmanPundit posted this, after one of his readers alerted him to it. This is from a Jeff Jacoby column:

One side deploys suicide bombers to wipe out guests at bat mitzvahs. The other side wants to wipe out the suicide bombers.

One side publishes maps showing how Israel and a Palestinian state can coexist. The other side publishes maps on which Israel doesn't exist.

One side apologizes when its explosives kill the wives and children of the killers it targeted. The other side targets wives and children.

One side was grief-stricken on Sept. 11 and declared a national day of mourning. The other side danced in the streets and distributed candies in celebration.

One side has never deployed a suicide bomber in its 54 years of existence. The other side has deployed more than 40 in the past 12 months alone.

One side developed a mandatory ''peace curriculum'' to prepare its children to live in peace next to a Palestinian state. The other side steeps its children in hate, extolling suicide bombers as ''martyrs'' they should emulate and operating summer camps to train them for jihad.

One side is an unshakable ally of the United States and fully backs our war against global terrorism. The other side is armed and financed by Iraq, Iran, and Syria, three of the world's most notorious terrorist states.

One side repeatedly gave up land for peace. The other side took the land and made war.

In the same column, this fact is presented:

Last Tuesday, yielding to Bush administration pressure, Israel pulled its troops out of the West Bank cities of Tulkarm and Qalqilya. Forty-eight hours later, eight Israelis were murdered and 22 were wounded when a suicide bomber exploded a bus near Haifa. The terrorist had entered Israel by way of - Tulkarm.


According to this story, the Israelis have to make the first move to allow negotiations to continue.

Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat rebuffed Secretary of State Colin Powell's demand Sunday for a halt to violence, saying Israel first must withdraw its troops from the West Bank.

It doesn't work that way. The Israeli troops are in the West Bank because you failed to stop the violence.

A foreign policy adviser to Sharon said Israel has "already made substantial progress in heeding to the president's request, and we pulled out of substantial areas."

"On the other hand, we have not seen any movement from the Palestinians in what they were requested to do," including accepting a meaningful cease-fire and cooperating on security, Danny Ayalon said on ABC's "This Week.

But, remember, boys and girls, it's all ISRAEL's fault.

There's more in the article, but those are the high points.

Sunday, April 14, 2002

Gotta love food activists.

From today's Los Angeles Times comes this wonderful "analysis" of the new BK Veggie at Burger King:

Nutritionally, the BK Veggie has little to recommend it. The patty alone is composed of an astonishing 48 ingredients, including such marvels of modern food science as sodium acid pyrophosphate, hydrolyzed corn gluten and "grill flavor."

Well, yes. Perhaps you should take a look at most of the non-meat patties out there. It takes a few miracles of modern science to put something resembling flavor back into a burger that has no meat in it.

Combined with its nutritionally deficient, refined-flour bun

...the overwhelming favorite of people worldwide. If you don't believe me, tell me how many whole-wheat and multi-grain hamburger buns you can find at your local supermarket, as opposed to those made with white flour.

the sandwich reflects the ingenuity of its engineers more than it does Burger King's concern for the health of its customers.

Burger King is in business to make money. While it certainly is not out to kill off its customers, it has to take into account how well the product will sell. They are a BURGER JOINT, not an organic food market. People who eat at Burger King (or any of the myriad other fast food chains) are not going there for heatlhy eating; they are going for a quick meal. From what I have read, one of the reasons the BK Veggie was made available was to allow a group of people to eat in a Burger King even if one of the group was a vegetarian. Since none of the other chains has anything like it, they have filled a niche. It remains to be seen if the niche *needed* to be filled.

But the mere absence of meat and cheese from the BK Veggie says nothing about its nutritional value. Froot Loops, Pepsi and Burger King's own French fries, for that matter, are also free of animal products, but few health advocates would seriously recommend consuming these foods as part of a well-balanced meal plan. Promoters of the BK Veggie are doing the public a serious disservice by suggesting that it is anything other than a highly processed, nutritionally deficient junk food that just happens to be meatless.

NOBODY IS SAYING THAT FAST FOOD IS WELL-BALANCED. I haven't seen any ads for this item (I don't watch TV), but I doubt that Burger King is positioning this as a dietetic panacea that will cure cancer, AIDS, and the common cold.

From an environmental standpoint, Burger King's new menu item is also not much to celebrate. A BK Veggie is produced with ingredients originating in disparate locations: The onions might come from Iowa, the smoke flavoring from New Jersey and the jalapeno powder from Mexico. They are brought to a central manufacturing plant, assembled, packaged and reshipped in their new "value-added" incarnation to Burger King franchises far and wide. This method of producing and distributing food draws heavily on fossil fuels and other nonrenewable resources, a price that our beleaguered ecosphere can ill afford to pay.

Not only are they trying to trick us into thinking that it is healthy, but they are killing mother Earth in the process. Horrors!

True, the ecological footprint of a BK Veggie is appreciably lighter than that left by one of the chain's highly resource-consumptive meat sandwiches. But trumpeting the marginal environmental benefits of a mass-produced industrial pseudo-food--meatless though it may be--does little more than supply the Burger King PR machine with a ready source of greenwash.

So, is it bad or is it good? You can't have it both ways. And why is it that food that is developed in a laboratory is worse than food that is naturally occuring? They are both made of chemical compounds.

Finally, there is the question of animal welfare. Does the addition of the BK Veggie to the Burger King menu stand to improve the plight of the 9 billion animals slaughtered each year for human consumption?

This has absolutely nothing to do with Burger King. If every Burger King, McDonald's, Wendy's, Carl's Jr, and Jack in the Box were to disappear from the face of the earth, there would still be plenty of meat being consumed. People are not going to give up eating meat because they have to cook it themselves.

In a recent article, vegetarian activist Erik Marcus warned that if the BK Veggie flops, "it might set the growth of the movement [to protect animals] back 10 years." That's an awful lot to hang on the fate of one sandwich.

Oh, please, let it be so! I'd love to see the whole movement set back. I am sick and tired of sanctimonious vegans berating me for enjoying meat.

I have nothing against vegans--it is their choice. I have no arguments with the vast majority of vegans. However, the ones who presume to lecture me on my eating habits can go take a flying leap. I don't tell them how to eat, so they should extend the same courtesy to me.

Consumers who believe that purchasing a BK Veggie will encourage the company to scale back its efforts to sell as many meat sandwiches as possible will be sadly disappointed.

Anyone who is stupid enough to buy into a line like that should exit the gene pool as quickly as possible.

Let's not forget that Burger King has been a leading force behind such "enlightened" policies as suburban sprawl, the homogenization and commodification of the global food supply and the backlash against unions and food- and restaurant-industry workers worldwide--points well documented by Eric Schlosser in his best-selling book, "Fast Food Nation."

No, they have not, despite what wing-nuts like Schlosser would have us believe. Suburban sprawl, in particular, started well before any of the fast-food chains started multiplying; they are a result of sprawl (and of prosperity), not the cause. Fast food restaurants do not fare well in downtown areas; Downtown San Diego has lost Burger King, Jack in the Box, Taco Bell, Arby's, and Carl's Jr in the past ten years, and the only new big chains still surviving are Wendy's and McDonald's. Homogenization of the food supply is a good thing, because the US has much higher standards for food than anywhere else in the world, and it's not our standards that are changing. And I will confess I have no idea what he is talking about when he refers to the "commodification of the food supply", because the food commodities markets have been in place for more than 100 years. They have little to do with any "backlash" against unions, because a union would utterly destroy them (it's hard to sell a burger for $2.00 when the cashier, the cook, and the two assembly people are each earning $15.00/hour).

Some may object that we can't change the system overnight and that people are used to eating fast food, so isn't the availability of a meatless burger in a major chain a step in the right direction? Well, yes, it is a step, but a step toward what, exactly? A nation in which animal-based foods are replaced by plant foods transformed into products bearing little resemblance to actual plants? Our modern food economy was built on the promise of "better eating through technology." We should be working to create a more just, humane and sustainable food system that provides people with produce in its whole, unadulterated form--as nature meant for it to be eaten. Pinning our hopes for a better food system on the fortunes of the Burger King empire's latest junk food amounts to a rather depressing surrender of the imagination.

And there, distilled down to one paragraph, is the essence of his philosophy; he is a luddite. He is anti-technology,unless it is "socially and environmentally responsible" (my words, not his, but it's implicit in his statements). I suppose he wishes that we get rid of all our cars, our power plants, our fertilizers, our supermarkets, and our hospitals, and returned to a simpler time--one where everyone was a subsistence farmer, running on the edge of starvation, fighting over the prime agricultural land, and dying by the thousands from diseases that our modern technology has cured or curbed. He can always move to sub-Saharan Africa if he wants primitivism. The rest of us can stay where technological innovation continues to improve our lives.

For what it is worth, I ran a google search on the "Center for Informed Food Choice" and didn't get any hits. Does anyone know if this is a real group, or if it was created to burnish the writer's credentials?

Islamic moderates--they do exist.

While doing a web search for a post I never completed, I ran across this reference. Since it was six years old, I bookmarked it and forgot about it, because I was looking for something more recent. Well, I found it. This article, dated 25 Jan 2001, condemns the use of children as "martyrs" as apostasy. The author also calls for condemnation of the House of Saud for their support of the intifada.

From what I see, the man is not some sort of Islamic apologist for Israel; his credentials are pretty solid. He is currently the Director of the Cultural Institute of the Italian Islamic Community. The interesting thing is that his PhD in Islamic science is by decree of the Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia--the same Saudi Arabia that he vociferously condemns. While the Grand Mufti is not fomally part of the government of Saudi Arabia, his views are supposed to be those that guide the country, as he is the supreme Islamic leader in the Kingdom.

We need more people such as Shaykh Prof. Abdul Hadi Palazzi in the Arabic world. Unfortunately, he is in Italy, where his words are hidden from Muslim ears, minds, and hearts.

Tony Woodlief over at "Sand in the Gears" has an excellent post that expounds upon the intellectual bankruptcy of our current educational system (make sure to visit all of the links in the article, including his original post). Perhaps someone will actually listen to what he has to say, but I don't think that will happen. Serious change would upset the status quo of the teaching establishment, and with their considerable political clout, they will stymie any threat to their fiefdom.