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Miscellaneous thoughts and ramblings
Thursday, December 30, 2004
Truth About Nicotine Gum, Patches and other Nicotine Replacement "Therapy"
With the New Year approaching, millions of people worldwide are prepping themselves for a confrontation with their addiction to nicotine. Bombarded with advertising from "pharmaceutical" companies selling nicotine as "medicine", many of these smokers will turn to nicotine gum, patches, water, lozenges and other forms of "therapy" in the hopes that it will increase their chances of successfully escaping a drug that has a high probability of killing them early.

Those hawking NRT (nicotine replacement "therapy") cite studies that "demonstrate" that NRT doubles a quitter's chances of quitting. The reality is that the numbers cited are misleading. While study participants who were being given a placebo showed a 6 month success rate half that of those given real nicotine (3% vs. 7%), uneducated cold turkey quitters in the real world show a success rate 3 times greater than study participants given the placebo (10%).

This shouldn't surprise. Consider that nicotine is a drug with a discernable effect on the brain. Imagine yourself in a study on the effects of wine, and winding up being one of the participants who was given placebo wine (without alcohol). How long would it take you to realize that you weren't getting any alcohol. Is it even remotely plausible to pose that a smoker who's inhaled nicotine for 10 minutes of every waking hour of his life for 5, 10 or 20 years would not quickly notice that they were not getting their fix?

Now consider that with education and support, quitting cold turkey shows success rates far greater than 10%. For some cold turkey nicotine cessation programs, the 1 year success rate approaches 50%; far greater than the 7% 6-month success rate for NRT users.

Think about it. How many people do you know who have successfully quit smoking? Now, ask yourself how they did it. If you don't know, ask them. According to the American Cancer Society's 2003 Cancer Facts and Figures, 91.2% of all successful long-term quitters quit without using any pills, potions, NRT, herbals etc. They did it entirely on their own.

It makes sense. Nicotine is a highly addictive drug. In what other circumstances is it recommended to treat addiction to a highly addictive drug by administering the same drug via a different pathway? Would you treat a heroin smoker by switching him from the pipe to the needle? Would a cocaine addict be treated by switching her from free basing to snorting?

The truth is that until a drug ceases to be in a user's system, the cycle of physical withdrawal that propogates the dependency will continue. Nicotine takes 72 hours to exit the system. At about the 72 hour mark, physical withdrawal peaks and then subsides. Physical withdrawal only recurs if the drug is reintroduced to the addict's system.

NRT continues to add nicotine to the user's system, but in amounts less than what the user requires to stave off withdrawal. So, instead of a 72 hour period of acute withdrawal, the user is subjected to weeks or months of chronic withdrawal, the continuing presence of nicotine guaranteeing that it will persist. At 2 weeks, as a cold turkey quitter is learning to break the psychological bonds to nicotine in the absense of physical withdrawal, the NRT user is 2 weeks into a slow torture regime. Far from helping a quitter, NRT is actually sabotaging the person's chance for success, and demotivating that person from further attempts.

Yet, the industry continues to sell the myth that cold turkey quitting is too difficult for the average person. To my mind, this is criminal. Millions of people, earnest in their desire to free themselves of a deadly drug are being duped into an approach that is almost sure to fail. Millions of these people will die young. That's not overstating it; it's just reality.

So, as you approach your New Year's resolution, take some time to look into it a bit. Learn as much as you can about your addiction, and what your options are for quitting. I highly recommend WhyQuit.com and its sister support site Freedom from Tobacco for free, no-B.S. education and support. It's volunteer-run. There are no gimmicks, obligations or other kinds of strings attached. One of the managers has run a highly successful live nicotine cessation clinic in Illinois for almost 30 years.

Here is some information from Whyquit on NRT:


The websites and commercials of those marketing the NRT patch, gum, inhaler and lozenge continue to hide the fact that a March 2003 study, conducted by NRT industry consultants, combined and average all seven over-the-counter NRT patch and gum studies and found that only 7% of study participants were still not smoking at six-months. Their web sites and commercials keep secret the fact that it's actually worse, in that the same industry consultants published a November 2003 study which found that as many as 7% of successful gum quitters and 2% of patch users were still hooked on the gum or patch at six months. Obviously these were to entirely different studies but even so the math screams for answers.

Widespread Blinding Failures Put Validity of Nicotine Replacement Studies in Serious Question

Does NRT really double a smoker’s chances? While real-world quitting surveys find no advantage, their simplicity has been attacked as unscientific by double-blind clinical trial NRT researchers. Now the clinical trial's integrity is in question as a new study reports blinding failures in 71% of NRT studies assessing blindness...

...The study found that only 7% of OTC patch and gum users and 3% of placebo group quitters were still not smoking at six months. Although it again provided NRT with its much heralded "double your chances" victory margin, according to June 2000 U.S. Clinical Practice Guideline evidence tables, the 3% placebo rate is at least three times lower than historic six-month "on-your-own" quitting rates.

Edited to add: I am not a doctor. This post shouldn't be construed as medical advice or replace the advice of your physician. The post IS intended to shed light on the studies the pharmaceutical industry cites to support its claims about the Nicotine Replacement Therapy, and to point the way to a highly successful alternative.
Wednesday, December 29, 2004
Jerry Orbach, RIP

Jerry Orbach died today of prostate cancer at the age of 69. His listing on IMDB catalogues a career of broad talent and prolific productivity. ball-and-chain loved him as Lennie Briscoe, the hard-nosed detective with the very dry humor on Law and Order, but he had many more roles. He actually started as a singer and dancer. A review of his work will show you roles that you forgot you saw him in. The biggest surprise though (for which I'm indebted to David Bogner) was that he played a major part in the movie that our kids have watched over and over probably more than any other movie we own; he was the voice (including the singing) of Lumiere in Beauty and the Beast. He was a gifted performer and will be missed.
Tuesday, December 28, 2004
The Tsunami Toll Climbs
The news was unimaginably horrible a day and a half ago, and it just keeps getting worse. Every news outlet is reporting the death toll and articles about the calamity, so I'll try to give you links to some aspects you may not have seen.

Jordan Golson at Cheese and Crackers has links to 3 horrifying amateur videos of the tsunami, as well as other informative links (via LGF).

Cox & Forkum
offers this editorial cartoon and makes the point that affluent countries can protect its citizens from natural disasters, and that the tsunami's victims were disproportionately poor.

Finally, Hugh Hewitt recommended giving to the relief effort through World Vision, so ball-and-chain immediately got on line and donated $75. When she told me, I initially balked and may have proposed some sensible objection like the fact that that's not really money we have. She promptly reminded me that there are a million displaced people, and that soon cholera and dysentery will be rampant. She reminded me that while we're at risk of getting into more debt, we won't lose our home, our kids won't be hungry, and we will definitely have electricity and water and working sewers. At that point I thanked her for doing the right thing and shut up.

Now it's your turn.
Where is Mohammed Al-Durrah?
I had heard long ago that it was the Palestinians who shot the boy, not the Israelis. Now this article comes along and says he wasn't shot at all. (hat tip: The Corner at NRO.)

Think he can be produced? Or has he surely been killed by those behind this apparent hoax by now?

This article also touches on press "even-handedness," which Bean mentioned in a comment to my Friedman post.
Monday, December 27, 2004
Power Line: Misinformation at the Times
Nice Power Line takedown of NYT's T. Friedman. How the mighty have fallen.

I wonder if this is a George Lucas kind of situation. George is so powerful within his own universe, there's no one at Skywalker Ranch who would dare tell him that it might not be such a good idea to, I don't know, go with the Jar Jar Binks thing.

Okay, Friedman isn't the top dog at the Times, but surely he's "big" enough that a fact checker isn't gonna come back to him with details such as those that Power Lines seems to have come up with fairly easily.
Maldives... the sunny side of life
While I was enjoying egg nog with relatives late on Christmas Day, a massive earthquake (magnitude 9.0) occured in the Indian Ocean about one hundred miles off the coast of Sumatra. Hours later, tsunamis struck Indonesia (of which Sumatra is part), Sri Lanka, India, Thailand, and the Maldives. Over 22,000 people were killed.

I have always been fascinated by tsunamis and I have imagined what it must feel like to see the ocean recede suddenly from the shoreline and then return as an enormous wall of water. However, my mind reels at the thought of tsunamis striking the Maldives, a collection of 1,000+ tiny coral islands south of India. According to the CIA World Fact Book, the highest point on the Maldives is only 2.4 meters above sea level. Eighty percent of the country is one meter or less above sea level!

Given millions of gallons of water in the form of a forty foot wave and a collection of short-statured islands, it is possible that the Republic of Maldives temporarily disappeared from the face of the earth. It is miraculous that out of 340,000 Maldivians, there are only (as of this writing) 52 dead and 68 missing.

For a country whose main industry is tourism, you may not be surprised that the Maldives Tourism Promotion Board paints a bright and sunny picture of the country. It takes some digging to find a Press Release and a "Situation Assessment" that are a little bit suggestive of a nation recently underwater. Planning your next vacation? I know an exotic location on the equator that has recently become very affordable.
Sunday, December 26, 2004
Hassidic Ninja!
No foolin'.
Friday, December 24, 2004
The Runt of the Blog Litter Survives, For Now
Yesterday Kerckhoff Coffeehouse clocked 2 months on its odometer (blogometer?). It is well established as an international opinion leader and the "go to" blog for the latest buzz on everything from spaceships to Slestacks. Well, not really, but we're working on it.
Well, it's snowing again in the rest of the country. The parts that I like to call "places where it snows." As opposed to sunny Southern California. It seems to me, sitting here in the seventy-degree sunshine that the people in the "places where is snows" suffer from short-term memory loss. Every year it snows, and every year they seem surprised. Both last year and this year, this shock and surprise has resulted in new stories about the snow. This year, FoxNews is announcing that it is cold and icy and snowing in one of the "places where it snows." Why is this news? It snows every year! I can understand that the first settlers being stunned by the sudden appearance of cold, white stuff in the sky. However, they stayed. It seems to me that every year after that they should look at the sky and say "hey, there's that cold, white stuff again." On years where there was extra snow, perhaps "gee, there sure is a lot of that cold, white stuff this year." Now, thousands of years after these intrepid settlers, why is the snow news? By the way, I hold this same theory for hurricanes.
Thursday, December 23, 2004
Titan or Bust
Tomorrow NASA's Cassini spacecraft will drop the European Space Agency's Huygens probe on a course that will have it falling into Titan's atmosphere on January 14. This will be the first time anything man-made has landed on Titan, and will make Titan only the fourth fifth body in the solar system to have Earth machinery land on it (not just orbit it). Can you name the others? (No, I'm not counting Earth itself.) Extra points for the years and the names of the missions first landing on each of the bodies.
Movie Review -- Spanglish
b&c and I saw Spanglish last night. Terrific. Adam Sandler is wonderful in the most serious performance I've seen him in (with dashes of his classic slapstick, of course). All of the supporting roles are totally enjoyable, especially the insane wife played by Téa Leoni, and Flor played by Paz Vega.

As a minor aside: crazy right-wingers who are sensitive to the caustic leftism in the entertainment industry (like yours truly and b&c) will be slightly annoyed by the placement of an anti-animal-experimentation sticker on the daughter's door, the romanticization of illegal immigration, and the sinking suspicion that Christina's Princeton aplication essay, which forms the narrative for the movie, is much less relevant given their admission "diversity" program.
Tuesday, December 21, 2004
Deep Space Network Malfunction
NASA's Cassini spacecraft continues to deliver the most detailed pictures we've seen of Saturn.
It's Beginning to Look A Lot Like Christmas
The National Christmas tree stands lit on the Ellipse in front of the White House Dec. 2, 2004. President George W. Bush and Laura Bush assisted Chantilly, Va., Girl Scout Brownies Clara Pitts and Nichole Mastracchio in lighting the 40-foot Colorado blue spruce.
Mushy Musings
Thirteen years ago tomorrow I did the wisest thing I have done in my thirtysomething years. I married ball-and-chain. In retrospect, I don’t think I was a fully responsible adult before that time. Being responsible for another person, being an interdependent half of a couple is a radically different life from that of a single guy. No relationship is perfect, and we’ve certainly tried each others’ patience, fought, and at various times driven each other crazy. We’ve also encouraged each other when we were down, reminded each other of our strengths, made each other laugh, and made each other much happier than we would have been apart. Oh, and we also had four kids who are now taking turns trying to kill us.

Happy anniversary, sweetheart! I’m looking forward to the next 13 years.
Support Our Troops!
Why not help a US serviceman celebrate Christmas this year?

(Sorry - I mean: Why not help a US serviceperson celebrate the holidays this year?)

Any way you slice it, send two care packages thru the USO and get a free half-year subscription (ooooh) to Time Magazine. Yes, that's the same Time Magazine that boasts a fine portrait of W. on the cover of their Man of the Year issue (whoops - that's Person of the Year. My bad.).

I haven't read the article - for all I know it's a thinly veiled hit-piece - but go ahead and send those care packages anyhoo. You'll be glad you did!
Monday, December 20, 2004
A Musical Find
ball-and-chain loves jazz vocalists. She has CDs of Dina Washington, Ella Fitzgerald, Louis Armstrong and others, and she can't get enough of them. I never really got a taste for that genre, though I realize that people who know music much better than I do love it.

I recently discovered a singer that may have me take a second listen to b&c's collection. At work, I frequently listen to my Yahoo Launch station. It customizes what it plays according to your rating of songs, albums and artists, and supplements that with new releases it's trying to get you interested in.

A singer that the station kept playing finally got my attention. Renee Olstead has a new, self-titled album of many classics in that genre including "Summertime" and "Someone To Watch Over Me". I don't know anything about singing, but she has a rich, beautiful voice, so I found her web site. It turns out she's a bit of a child protege. She's 15 years old. Besides the new album, she's on a TV series. The website plays her new album in its entirety, and I've been listening constantly for a few days. My favorite is "Meet Me, Midnight". I'm probably a maroon for turning my nose up at Ella Fitzgerald for all those years and then liking this neophyte. Take a listen. I'm curious what you think.
Black Pearls
This holiday season, treat your honey (or yourself) to an ounce of caviar. It's the most expensive snack you'll ever have. Real caviar is the roe of sturgeon, although other fish eggs can be sold as caviar in the U.S. so long as the name of the fish comes first (e.g. salmon caviar).

Caviar is delicate stuff, and it does not keep well, so it must be processed carefully but quickly. You start with a pregnant sturgeon. Then you bash it on the head to stun it (killing the sturgeon would speed the deterioration of the roe). Then you remove the roe sac, strain out the individual eggs, clean the eggs with very cold water and then dry them. Then a caviar expert steps in to judge the size, smell, taste, and texture of the eggs. Most importantly, he (find me a woman that does this) determines how much salt to be added. The finest caviar is malossol, a Russian word that means "low salt."

Caviar must be kept refrigerated and it will only last a few weeks. You don't want to freeze caviar because the eggs might burst. Once the container is opened, you better finish it.

At the Bristol Farms near my home, you can get an ounce of Beluga for $105. Beluga is the largest kind of sturgeon and it produces the largest eggs - dark gray eggs with a mild buttery taste. This is considered the best caviar and it is increasingly more difficult to come by as the beluga sturgeon population (located mostly in the Caspian Sea) has been decimated over the last 20 years. My first experience with caviar was beluga served at the reception following my wife's boss' wedding.

You can get an ounce of Sevruga for $70. Sevruga is the smallest sturgeon with the smallest eggs. It has a strong taste (less subtle = less expensive) and it was served atop hors d'oeuvres at my company's Christmas party this past Friday.

The in-between caviar is Ossetra and you can get an ounce for $80. It comes from a medium-sized sturgeon and it has a stronger taste than Beluga, but less strong than Sevruga. I bought an ounce of this for my wife two Christmases ago because they were out of Beluga, and she didn't like it. This is one of my top three "Great Gift Ideas that Totally Backfired." Moral of the story: try it before you buy it, because caviar is not for everyone.

For those of you that care, a quick search of the Internet reveals that - yes - there is kosher caviar. I was initially unsure of this, given the unusual method by which caviar is processed.

Bon apetit.
Sunday, December 19, 2004
Pic of the Day

President George W. Bush is Time's Person of the Year
I suspect that, like Reagan, W. will be remembered as a great president, and that in 20 years, like Reagan, suddenly everyone in retrospect will say they admired him. Nobody ever changes their minds; the opposition just fades away.
Saturday, December 18, 2004
Blogging from Japan right now. On my way over here I caught "The Last Samurai" on the little screen provided just for l'il ol me on the flight. Figured it was the least I could do, seeing as I was going to Japan and all. I never had any interest in it before - but that's because no one bothered to market the most important aspect of this movie. Ninjas! Why was this not advertised? Ninjas doing Ninja things: sneakin' around, throwing stars, bursting through walls (okay, they were paper walls but it was still cool).

A movie that finally answers the question of who wins when Ninja fights Samurai, and no one mentions this? Sacrilige.
Friday, December 17, 2004
Dione and Saturn
Cassini captured Dione against the globe of Saturn as it approached the icy moon for its close rendezvous on Dec. 14, 2004. This natural color view shows the moon has strong variations in brightness across its surface, but a remarkable lack of color, compared to the warm hues of Saturn's atmosphere. Several oval-shaped storms are present in the planet's atmosphere, along with ripples and waves in the cloud bands.
I continue to think of Cassini as a very expensive way of getting me the coolest desktop wallpaper pictures. So, I'm all for it. Check out the hi-res picture.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
Mullah Pet

Leave it to Cox and Forkum to perfectly crystallize the relationship between Iran and the U.N.

I know you love them because of their anti-terror pro-US artistic genius. I know you've probably already bought their first book Black & White World which ball-and-chain and I love. I know you've been jonesing for more. Your prayers have been answered. Their second book has been published, Black & White World II, and we must acquire it immediately.
Pic of the Day

Test Failure Sets Back U.S. Missile Defense Plan

Our missile defense program has certainly followed a rocky course. From the very beginning, when Kennedy mocked Reagan's plan by calling it "Star Wars", many of the scientific experts have been very skeptical about our ability to overcome the huge technical hurdles in killing a missile in mid flight. Nevertheless, I've supported missile defense despite the huge cost, uncertain technical future, and multiple setbacks. Is it that I've made up my mind and don't care about the facts? No. It's because other facts argue strongly for missile defense. All war is primarily psychological. The ultimate target is not a silo during launch phase or a falling warhead; the target is always the enemy's will to continue fighting. The best argument for missile defense is how much our adversaries fear it. The Soviets were prepared to make huge sacrifices in return for Reagan's promise not to develop missile defense. Our experts never thought it could work but the Soviets were terrified it would. Reagan refused to bargain away missile defense and instead engaged them in an arms race that bankrupted them. Similarly, China has been very hostile to our R&D on missile defense. They have a good reason to be scared. Unlike the Soviets, the Chinese have only dozens of nuclear warheads. A defense that could stop most of them would make their nuclear arsenal irrelevant. Finally, North Korea has a regime that we would sorely like to replace but with one or two nuclear warheads, we dare not try. An effective defense to their missiles would spell the end of the NorK regime, and they know it. So I support missile defense because it doesn't matter if it will work; it matters if the bad guys fear it might.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
Doctor Bean Saves A Life -- and you can too
I'm embarrassed to say that it's been 5 years since I last donated blood, but I'm happy to say that I donated again today. It feels good (afterwards, at least), and it's the right thing to do. I'll try to do it at least annually from now on. If you want to find a Red Cross donation center or blood drive near you, just click on the picture.
Democracy is Contagious
Reformer wins surprise victory in Romania

Another pro-West candidate defeats a communist incumbent. Almost a century after the Bolshevik revolution, citizens are finally taking back their countries. What a horrible waste of two or three generations in countries that at the turn of the last century were flourishing centers of commerce, art and culture. Are all of the lefties that refused to criticize communism in the 60s and 70s ready to apologize? Do they understand that they supported the subjugation of hundreds of millions of people? Being a lefty means never having to say you're sorry.
Monday, December 13, 2004
In Memoriam
Bernhard Leopold Friedrich Eberhard Julius Kurt Karl Gottfried Peter zur Lippe-Biesterfeld was born in 1911 in Jena, Germany to Prince Bernhard of Lippe and Baroness Armgard von Cramm. He was dubbed Prince Bernhard of Lippe-Biesterfeld by his uncle, Leopold IV, the Reigning Prince of Lippe.

Prince Bernhard was a spirited lad, indulging in fast cars, horses, and hunting. As a young man he trained as a fighter pilot and became an officer in the German SS. In 1935 he went to work for IG Farben, the German chemical giant whose directors financed the rise of Adolph Hitler and the German war effort thereafter.

In 1937 Prince Bernhard married Princess Juliana, daughter of Queen Wilhelmina of the Netherlands. This surprised and annoyed many Dutch because of his Nazi ties. He redeemed himself somewhat by helping the Dutch Royal Family escape to England as German tanks rolled into the Netherlands at the outbreak of WWII.

Bernhard then flew for the British Royal Air Force until 1944, when he became commander of the Dutch armed forces. At war's end, he annoyed his countrymen once again by expressing sympathy for the Germans.

After the war, Prince Bernhard was made a board member for KLM, Royal Dutch Airlines, Fokker Aircraft, and many international corporations. His extensive traveling ultimately led him to (1) help found the Bilderberg Group, a secret international organization of government leaders, rich industrialists, media barons, and other members of the power elite; (2) help found the World Wildlife Foundation; and (3) cheat on his wife the Queen with several mistresses.

In 1976, the press discovered that Prince Bernhard accepted a $1.1M from Lockheed to promote the sale of fighter planes to the Dutch government. Humiliated, the Prince resigned all his high-profile public and private offices.

In 1991, the press discovered that Prince Bernhard had hired a small army of merecnaries to fight poachers in South African wildlife preserves. Unfortunately for the Prince, the mercenaries entered the poaching business themselves.

Prince Bernhard died of cancer on December 1, 2004, at the ripe old age of 93. He is survived by his four daughters, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands and Princesses Irene, Magriet, and Christina.
McCain: 'No Confidence' in Rumsfeld
PHOENIX - U.S. Sen. John McCain said Monday that he has "no confidence" in Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, citing Rumsfeld's handling of the war in Iraq and the failure to send more troops.
Sounding more like a candidate all the time. I want him crushed decisively in the primaries. Who else will run?
Peterson Preemption
Well, they're preempting regularly scheduled network programming to cover reporters reporting about the Stanislaus County DA's every movement in salivatory anticipation of the penalty verdict in the Peterson case. For thoses who are dying to know, the DA went to lunch 5 minutes ago.

I'll be a happy Nomad when this trial is ancient memory.
McCain's Steroids Push Puts Him in '08 Mix
Sen. John McCain (news, bio, voting record), the straight-talking Republican who often challenges the GOP establishment, has taken on a headline-grabbing issue — steroids in baseball — and generated talk of a presidential bid in 2008.

Well, I guess that explains it. It just confirms that, far from being the maverick, "straight-talker" he (and the adoring media) portrays himself to be, he's just another sleazball politician, happily exceeding Constitutional mandate in order to generate attention.
Sunday, December 12, 2004
"Happy Holidays"
Well, it's that time of year again. The time for "Happy Holidays." The reason we use this hackneyed phrase is to avoid offending Jews with "Merry Christmas." We recognize that the Jews have a holiday in December also. Unfortunately, this attempt frequently backfires. Many years, Hanukkah falls so distant from Christmas that people are saying "Happy Holidays" weeks after Hanukkah has passed. This year is a great example. Hanukkah will be over on Wednesday. Two weeks before Christmas. I will have to endure "Happpy Holidays" as well as dancing dreidels cavorting with snowmen, holiday concerts and gift ideas long after my children have broken all their toys and I have digested the last latke. Is this actually sensitive? Or is it more like wishing someone a "happy birthday" months after their birthday; a clear indication that you don't really give a damn about them. After Wednesday, please greet all Jews you meet with "f$&^ you and your religion." So much more personal than "Happy Holidays," don't you think?
Saturday, December 11, 2004
You know what else? How 'bout we arm CHP helicopters with small air to surface missiles and institute a policy of taking out with extreme prejudice people who lead police on high-speed chases through our public streets?

Is there anything qualitatively different between a guy driving recklessly at 100 miles per hour through streets filled with families and a guy pointing an automatic weapon at those same families? In the latter case, none of us would have a problem with a sniper taking the guy out. But, for some reason, we continue to let criminals risk the lives of our friends and family while the police make futile efforts to stop them.

Apparently, it makes for high cable news ratings. One fugitive can bring a global news organization to a standstill, while some anchor attempts to fill time endlessly repeating the same tripe in commentary. And, we also apparently understand the danger, as I've heard it suggested that the police call off such pursuits in the interest of public safety. Of course, the public safety to be gained is only temporary, as the action would result in LETTING A DANGEROUS CRIMINAL GO FREE.

Think about it. One Stinger Hellfire missile through the driver's side window, caught on TV news cameras, would not only prevent unnecessary loss of innocent life on the day (via the vaporization of the perp and his car), but would serve as a memorable deterrant to future would-be fugitives. Fox News could bring in Norman Schwarzkopf to revise his Gulf War I performances narrating the elimination from a helicopter-mounted camera.

Sure, once the pursuits stopped, Spike TV would have to replace some of their high speed pursuit footage with some other testosterone-friendly programming. But, I think the net result would be a positive one.
National Hypocrisy
So Bernard Kirk can't be our Homeland Security Chief now. Why has this well-qualified public servant been disqualified? Because of a nanny that once worked for him who had questionable immigration status.

Folks, can we, as a nation, get over our hypocrisy on the illegal immigrant issue? How many smug Americans do I hear pontificating on the importance of cracking down on Mexican (and other) immigrants, while chowing down the produce they pick, eating at the restaurants in which they cook and clean dishes, and often employing them not only to clean their homes, but to RAISE THEIR CHILDREN.

I've had the pleasure of knowing a good few "illegals" over the course of my life. By in large, these people have been harder working than most, commited to family, and, having come from dire situations, immensely appreciative of life's smallest blessings. They come to our country, and work their tails off in order to be able to support families at home. They provide services enjoyed by millions of American citizens, while living under the constant pressure exerted by the government of these same citizens, always having to look over their shoulders.

I understand that America probably can't afford to simply open our borders to any and all immigrants. I also understand that there is an issue with terrorists using our land borders with Mexico and Canada to infiltrate our country. I believe Bush's guest worker program is a step in the right direction. By allowing people to leagally work in our country, we validate the contributions made to our country by good people, provide a means and motivation for documentation in order to help combat terrorist access to the country, increase tax revenue, and most of all, end this ridiculous hypocrisy that's plagued our national consciousness for decaces.
Friday, December 10, 2004
VDH on Tolkien
The Ents of Europe
Strange rumblings on the continent.

Can anything be better than a VDH article in which he compares Europe's somnolence in the face of Islamic aggression to the drowsy Ents avoiding the evil at the edge of their forest? No. Read it.
That's Nice. G'bye!
Bill Moyers Retiring From TV Journalism
Many years ago some conservative opinion writer, maybe in National Review, wrote "Every time I see Bill Moyers I get sick to my stomach and want to throw up." That pretty much summarizes my opinion of him. What is he doing for his very last story on TV? I'm glad you asked.
"I'm going out telling the story that I think is the biggest story of our time: how the right-wing media has become a partisan propaganda arm of the Republican National Committee," says Moyers. "We have an ideological press that's interested in the election of Republicans, and a mainstream press that's interested in the bottom line. Therefore, we don't have a vigilant, independent press whose interest is the American people."
Whaaaa? Did he miss the whole CBS memogate scandal? Is there a single "right-wing" media outlet that lied to re-elect Bush? The idea that the blogosphere is somehow controlled is ludicrous. The blogosphere is the most extreme manifestation of freedom of press and information. The information may not be accurate, but fact-checking is redundant and nearly instantaneous, and no voice is silenced. It is Moyer's MSM that has for too long has a monopoly on the stories most American's hear, and since the 60s they've had a liberal agenda.

UPDATE: ball-and-chain looked up the above quote. It was Barry Goldwater. The entire quote and its context is in her comment.
Thursday, December 09, 2004
The President Remembers the Maccabees

President Bush Participates in Menorah Lighting Ceremony

In 2001 President Bush presided over the first menorah lighting in the White House, a tradition he has continued annually since. Here are some of his remarks this year:
THE PRESIDENT: Welcome, everybody, to the White House. Hanukkah is a festive holiday that celebrates a great victory for freedom. We remember the liberation of Jerusalem and a miracle witnessed in the holy temple 2,000 years ago. For eight days the oil burned, and the light of freedom still burns in Jewish homes and synagogues everywhere.
I truly believe that President Bush has a genuine affection for Jews, an affection that is clearly not motivated purely by politics. (Only about a quarter of American Jews voted for him this year.) I believe that some of this fondness is informed by his faith as a Christian. I'm very grateful to him and can't fathom the suspicion and dislike of many of my co-religionists.
Wednesday, December 08, 2004
World Cultures
In 1966, Paddy Roy Bates and his family occupied an abandoned military platform in the North Sea six miles off the eastern coast of Britain. The following year, Paddy proclaimed himself Prince Roy, ruler of Sealand. In the thirty-odd years that followed, Prince Roy and kin have been busy minting coins, printing stamps, issuing passports, and keepin’ British revenuers offa ther proppity.

In 1968, Michael Bates, son of Prince Roy and the heir apparent, fired upon a British navy vessel that sailed into Sealand’s territorial waters. Had the British navy come to evict the Bates family from its 550 square meters of homeland, or to repair a nearby navigational buoy? Who cares? What matters is that Master Bates was summoned to court over the incident and the court ruled that Sealand was outside British jurisdiction.

In 1978, Prime Minister Achenbach and a group of Dutch businessmen took Sealand by force at a time when Prince Roy was out of the country (that is, he was off the platform). Michael was taken hostage and held at gunpoint. Prince Roy returned by helicopter with a group of mercenaries and retook Sealand. The treacherous Achenbach and his minions were held as prisoners of war until the Netherlands and Germany successfully petitioned for their release.

Achenbach continued to plague Sealand in later years by selling phony Sealand passports. In 1997, the beleaguered Bates family revoked all of the passports that they had issued in the previous 30 years.

Nowadays the principality of Sealand hosts websites through HavenCo. Alas, there is no tourism. Only the Royal Family and HavenCo personnel are allowed to travel to Sealand.
Nomad's Notes of the Day
Can we dump the word “basketbrawl” from the media lexicon? It’s just silly.

Are we still talking about Scott Peterson? At least OJ was famous.

The World Series of Poker, and tournament poker in general is some of the most entertaining television that’s come around in a while. With the airwaves inundated with “reality” shows that are really “unreality” shows based on producer-contrived accumulations of personality types, it’s great to see a good old-fashioned game of chance reveal such interesting stuff about the participants.

With the pending release of the Return of the King Extended Version DVD, I’d just like to reiterate that Liv Tyler is the hottest elf ever to walk Middle Earth.

Hats off to the UCLA Bruins for fighting the good fight against hated cross-town rivals USC. Expected to be sacrificial lambs to the number one team in the country, UCLA had possession with a chance to drive for the winning TD in the waning minutes of the game. Go Bruins!

I own no orange clothing. With Mrs. Nomad hailing from Catholic Ireland, the color’s not a popular one in our house. However, in light of the great things taking place in Ukraine, I’m going to get a shirt.

Drenching rain on California’s Central Coast today. It’s a welcome sight. I love seasons.

Happy Hanukkah!
Establishment Clause
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof

These are the first words of the first amendment to the US Constitution.

Hannity and Colmes are doing a special show at a college located across the street from my former employer. Oliver North is currently debating Michael Newdow, the guy who brought the suit to eliminate "Under God" from the Pledge of Allegiance.

I'm sure I would disagree with Newdow on most of his politics, but on this, I think he's correct. I also think he's running circles around Sean and Oliver who continue to throw out non sequiturs in order to track the conversation against what I consider to be the most pertinent words to the discussion: the ones I quoted above.

While I don't believe that the Establishment Clause prohibits much of what people claim it does, I simply can't see how the "Under God" line, as it was implemented, passes Constitutional muster.

The Weekly Standard provides some background on the history of the introduction of the words into the Pledge:

the Court of Appeals placed great weight on the fact that Congress inserted the words "under God" into the pledge in 1954 as a means of advancing religion at a time when the nation was engaged in a battle against the doctrines of atheistic communism. The court further noted that when President Eisenhower signed the bill, he stated, "From this day forward, the millions of our schoolchildren will daily proclaim . . . the dedication of our Nation and our people to the Almighty."

So, Congress passed a law with the deliberate intent of advancing religion. To me, that seems to be one thing that IS explicitly forbidden by the Establishment Clause.

Friends have argued with me that an assertion of the existence of God is not by its nature religious. That's ludicrous. It is the very heart of religion, and in the context of the law that was passed by Congress, it's clearly a congressional endorsement of a Christian God.

The Supreme Court copped out on the case when it came to them, throwing it out on the issue of whether or not Newdow had legal standing to sue on behalf of his daughter. So, we'll have to wait for final word on this issue for another day, but I believe, in a rare occurrence, the 9th Circuit actually got this one right.

Combat Deaths
Now that the number of US combat deaths in Iraq has passed the 1000 mark, suddenly the AP is interested in making a distinction between combat deaths and other deaths of US service men and women in Iraq. I've never seen the distinction made at the headline level before, with the AP (as well as Reuters and the rest of the mainstream) opting instead to report the higher number reflecting all deaths in Iraq (currently 1,278).

U.S. Combat Death Toll in Iraq Hits 1,001
I received a message (sent to all alumni on the list) from an educational institution in Jerusalem I attended a few years back. The message was one of condolence for a former student who had "died in his sleep." Nothing more about the death itself was mentioned, and I didn't know the guy, and assumed he had been ill - the message didn't make it sound like it was sudden. I thought it kind of rude and pointless to reply asking about it.

Then this morning I read this article. Seems the man, Jason Korsower, died unexpectedly in his sleep, and now the FBI is investigating. The first paragraph says it all:

The FBI is investigating the mysterious death of a young American Jewish terrorism expert who worked at a think tank where research into Islamic extremism has drawn death threats, family and friends said.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004
Best of Franken?
Scroll down a ways in this article for the list of Grammy nominees, then a little more to nominees for best comedy album. Oh, I'll spare you the trouble:

'Come Poop With Me,' Triumph The Insult Comic Dog; 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents ... America: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction,' Jon Stewart and The Cast of the Daily Show; 'The Funny Thing Is ... ,' Ellen DeGeneres; 'Live at Carnegie Hall,' David Sedaris; 'The O'Franken Factor Factor-- The Very Best of the O'Franken Factor,' Al Franken.

Best of the O'Franken Factor???? Has this program even been on the air for a year? You can already have a best of?

Maybe this is for folks - most of America - who can't get Air America on the dial. Sort of like how I watch all those cool shows on HBO, by renting them when they're released to DVD...
Happy Hannukah!

ball-and-chain and I wish our 3 or 4 Jewish readers a bright and joyous Hannukah!
Pic of the Day

The Attack on Pearl Harbor, December 7 1941

The Naval Historical Website has a lot of interesting information. Here's the American toll:
When the attack ended shortly before 10:00 a.m., less than two hours after it began, the American forces has paid a fearful price. Twenty-one ships of the U.S. Pacific Fleet were sunk or damaged... Aircraft losses were 188 destroyed and 159 damaged... American dead numbered 2,403. That figure included 68 civilians... There were 1,178 military and civilian wounded.
Sunday, December 05, 2004
Seasonal Coffeehouse Decor
I'm taking liberties with the template. The rest of you stop me if you think it's lame. I put a picture of some fall leaves in the left column above our list of links. I'd like to keep a seasonal picture there. Unless y'all object, during Chanuka (next week) I could have a menorah and light an additional candle on it every night. (I found a set of pictures with every number of candles. It's not pretty art, but it works.) I certainly wouldn't object to a Christmas tree or a manger scene or whatever the heck the Christmas-celebrating Coffehousers would want. (I'm not speaking for Ralphie, but he can speak up if he thinks it's a bad idea or if he objects.) What do you all think? You get the idea, a picture of fireworks the week of July 4...
Oil Price Plunge - Nomad's Paranoid Musings

In a decline that started almost exactly concurrant with the U.S. election, oil has lost 22% of its value. Peaking at $55.17 just before the election, oil has plunged to $42.80 in the subsequent weeks, and it appears to be a good distance from bottoming out.

Call me crazy, but I have a hard time seeing this as coincidence. Forces around the globe had a vested interest in seeing George W. Bush booted from office. Many oil producing Arab states were of course, at the top of this list, as Bush has doggedly sought change in the Arab world that threatens the longstanding control of many of the region's despots. Russia, which produces its own significant portion of the world's oil, and has a leader who is proving to be less West and freedom friendly than we had hoped, may also have preferred a Kerry administration. Other oil producers like Mexico have had cool relations with the president. My paranoid mind suspects some (if not all) of these players working to deliberately raise prices in the weeks leading up to the election in order to create an economic panic that would tilt the election in Kerry's favor.

I've been looking for some commentary to support my delusions, but have come up dry to date. I'll keep looking. I do recall stumbling across a blogger's suspicions that George Soros, who has a history of manipulating commodities markets, had the means and the motive to lend his speculative weight to any temporary upsurge in oil prices.

Here is a reasonable piece from NRO on the decline from a few days ago.

I am sure Leuffer is correct about the underlying fear factors that contributed to oil's 2004 rise in price. What doesn't sit well with me (and is clear from the chart above) is the sudden, drastic and historic skyrocket that occurred from July to the end of October (interrupted slightly by a downtick after the GOP Convention). Alone, that surge might not be enough to raise my suspicions, but followed immediately by a complete collapse of the bubble that corresponds so closely with Bush's reelection... I have a hard time swallowing it.
Is There Still a Tenth Amendment?
Congress to mull mandatory drug tests for baseball: McCain

I'm sure I'll get disagreement from other Coffeehousers, but this further solidifies my dislike of McCain. I've never liked him, for the simple reason that he's not in any way conservative. He's more of a populist. I know lots of Republicans loved him when he was running against Bush in the 2000 primaries, but even then I disliked his support of campaign finance reform, which I see as a limitation on free speech and a huge boon for the unions, which are exempt. Was the 2004 election much better because of the legislation? Was George Soros less able to spend gazillions of dollars to unseat Bush?

Now to baseball. I hope I get smarter commentary from the other contributors, since I'm easily the least interested in sports here, but even if this was a really important issue (and I'm sure for big fans it is), how does it rise to something that deserves Federal attention? Is there anything less worthy of Congressional time than a baseball player using steroids? Are the fans being forced to buy tickets at gunpoint? Can the fans not demand that baseball have stricter testing standards?

I like to read the tenth amendment to the Constitution periodically. It's my favorite.
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.
Very clear, no? Sadly the courts have thoroughly weakened this amendment largely by finding more and more things that Congress can act on because it has something to do (no matter how indirectly) with interstate commerce. And how does McCain justify Congressional action on baseball? He says in the article
Antitrust exemption was granted by Congress to organize baseball, and also it's got to do with interstate commerce. So we do have a role to play.
Great! How 'bout securing the borders? Does Congress have a mandate there, or should we leave that for baseball fans to sort out?
Do Your Best

Our son recently joined the Cub Scouts. He is a Webelo. That's the level in scouting for forth and fifth graders. It looks like we'll be doing a lot of fun stuff in the next year or two, and if I think it might be of general interest, I'll post about it occasionally.

The tile of this post is the Cub Scout Motto.
Democracy is Contagious

Opposition supporters sing the Ukrainian national anthem during a Yushchenko rally in Kiev's main square.
Three cheers for the Ukrainian pro-democracy demonstrators who are wresting their country away from corrupt kleptocracy. Another former Soviet republic chooses the course of human liberty. Remember, everyone who was on the left during the Cold War was happy to consign every one of these people to endless totalitarianism. I've admitted I was wrong and thank God that Reagan fought and won the Cold War. Anyone else?

Charles Krauthammer has a terrific article about Ukraine and about Europe's only occasional support of democracy (which I found via LGF).
Saturday, December 04, 2004
Higher Education / Fair and Balanced
This is my first post here at the Kerckhoff Coffeehouse, so a little background. I'm the East Coaster here, and somewhere between a libertarian and neo-conservative PhD student in one of the country's top Public Policy programs in a blue state. Michael Moore was paid $30,000 from our student activities fees to speak on campus here in November. Needless to say I'm a little different than that my classmates and professors. Usually it's a fun, though sometimes frustrating, part to play.

Here is the latest in "diversity in academia":

I pick up our student newspaper this week and read "This space left intentionally hate free." Huge headline. The space underneath is a letter from the editor explaining how he refuses to print a letter in the form of an ad that David Horowitz tried to purchase.

The ad is contentious (read it below), but certainly we in higher education can read such contentious pieces, diversity of thought and experience is the whole point of American education, right? I guess not.

Here is my letter to the editor of our newspaper:

Dear editor,

I respect the right of every newspaper's editor to decide what advertisements are and are not appropriate for their publication. However, as an agent for this university, I think it is clearly not balanced that our Student Activities Committee pays $30,000 to bring Michael Moore to speak on campus, but student newspaper will not allow David Horowitz to purchase an ad for an editorial.

As justification for blocking Horowitz's ad you cite his desire to "play off tension and hatred and divide the community." Playing off existing tensions and hatred to divide the community is precisely what Michael Moore does all of the time. There are few more polarizing figures in American pop-culture.

While I realize that it was two different university groups that invited Michael Moore but blocked David Horowitz, perhaps the appropriate remedy is to invite Mr. Horowitz to write an editorial. The newspaper's editors could work on this piece with Mr. Horowitz to ensure the piece is not overly offensive (the original piece he tried to print, available at www.frontpagemag.com, was not).

At the same time, I am not surprised that the university is afraid to have an honest debate about the role of religion and terrorism throughout the world today. While universities throughout this country strive for diversity, too many only value diversity that is skin deep.


The text of the Horowtiz Ad:


The war between Arabs and Jews is not the cause of the war on terror, as apologists for Muslim radicals claim; it is the war on terror.

Twenty-five years ago, there were two non-Islamic democracies in the Middle East: Israel and Lebanon. This was too much for Islamic radicals, Syrian irredentists and Palestinians who joined forces to destroy Lebanon and make it a base for terror.

The goal of the post-Oslo Intifada is not to establish a Palestinian state alongside a Jewish state. Its goal is an Islamic umma extending "from the Jordan to the sea." That is why Oslo was rejected by Arafat even though Barak and Clinton offered him an independent state on virtually all of the land Palestinians claimed in the West Bank of the Jordan and Gaza. That is why the very birth of Israel is referred to by all the present Palestinian leadership as the "Naqba" - the "catastrophe." To Islamic radicals at war with the West, the very creation of Israel is a catastrophe.

American apologists for Arab aggression are also apologists for Islamic aggression. In their eyes, Arab terror in the Middle East has a root cause in the policies of Israel, whom terrorists refer to as the "little Satan." For apologists of the Islamic terror of 9/11 and the Zarqawi terror in Iraq, jihad is not a self-generating creed but has a "root cause" in the policies of "the Great Satan," which is us.

Peace in the Middle East and peace in the war with al-Qaeda and Zarqawi will come only when the terrorists surrender or are defeated, and when Arab governments cease their incitement of hatred against Israel and the United States.

David Horowitz

Thursday, December 02, 2004
You Can't Make This Stuff Up Dept.
I recently visited a cousin in a nice area of Minneapolis (seems there aren't too many not-nice areas up there, but stay with me). Her daughter's first grade class - public school - doesn't say the pledge "probably because of the 'under God' thing," she tells me, but she can't be sure. And for Halloween the students came home with costume guidelines. Witch costumes were banned since they might offend wiccans.

Now, I've read about this kind of stuff but you never think you're going to see it up close and in person!

Sort of like the time I saw a car with a Kucinich bumper sticker on the freeway. I had to catch up to it and drive side-by-side for a while just to get a look at a real-life, bonafide Kucinich supporter! It was so cute!

Meanwhile, back here in solid-blue Los Angeles, my daughter's kindergarten teacher teaches patriotic songs. My kid can already sing America the Beautiful and the Star Spangled Banner, and does so often and with great volume. And at parent-teacher night the teacher said that the students say the pledge (yes, my kid can do that now, too) - noting that while there's been some talk about the "under God" controversy in the news, she doesn't care about it.

I want her to be my teacher.

As for Halloween, I believe one kid dressed up as Dracula, but so far no one from the Vampire community has demanded any blood.

HA! HA! I kill me!
Presidential Wit

"I want to thank the Canadian people who came out to wave, with all five fingers, for their hospitality"

-President Bush in Ottawa yesterday

Pic of the Day

San Diego Super Chargers!!
(AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

After years of futility, which seemed to be getting worse; not better, my only hope for the 2004 NFL season was that the Chargers would not become the first team in NFL history to go 0 - 16.

When they won their first game of the year, I felt that I could relax, secure that, at the very least, my beloved Bolts would not be on the wrong side of football history

When they lost their next 2, I was pretty sure that it was going to be business as usual in Mission Valley this year.

But, something happened on the way to the annual early vacation. Drew Brees came of age, and the Chargers started winning. Not just winning, but beating a couple of real teams, and even trouncing a couple of doormats.

So, here we are in December, the Chargers (8 - 3) find themselves all alone atop the AFC West, and for the first since 1995, I may get to enjoy some postseason pigskin for the Holidays.

Sing it with me now.... "San Di E Go... Super Chargers... San Di E Go, CHARGERS!"
Well that's weird. I posted the "Presidential Wit" quote about a half hour before posting the "G Block" bit, but they appear in reverse order. Maybe I need to ease up on the quaaludes.

Update: Even more strange, the president's incredible sense of humor seems destined to headline our blog forever. Hmmm.
G Block
In case you were wondering, the "G Block" is defined as the 7th and final block of a news broadcast, with the previous 6 blocks being labled alphabetically from A to F. Fox explains it in better detail on their site:
"Each segment of our shows is titled with a letter of the alphabet. We call the segments 'blocks.' A block is made up of the time between each commercial break and is sometimes further broken down into smaller segments such as A1, A2, A3,...When Shep Smith refers to the "G Block" he is indicating that it is the seventh and last block of FOX Report. It is usually the segment in which he discusses entertainment and 'lighter' stories."

You're welcome. I know that was bugging you as much as it was me.
Wednesday, December 01, 2004
Kerckhoff has a new contributor
As soon as he manages to get past the registration process, Kerckhoff will welcome a new contributor to our ranks. Like me, a conservative with libertarian leanings (he might describe himself as a libertarian with conservative leanings), and a great admirer of Reagan, Joe (as he'll be known until he creates a screen name) made the drive from Pittsburgh to D.C. in order to pay his respects to our 40th president.

He also shares my infatuation with Peggy Noonan.

Big round of applause!
Thanksgiving Conversation
Spent a significant portion of Thanksgiving night engaged in conversation with an 80 year old Jewish lady from Marina del Rey. She was a Berkeley coffeehouse (not to be confused with Kerckhoff Coffeehouse) liberal who was only a few wrinkles away from poetry readings on Shattuck. She had an interesting family history, with her parents (separately) escaping the pogroms in Russia and Poland as teenagers, and finding their way to the US.

When I told her I went to UCLA, she asked me if I'd ever been to the Wiesenthal Center. Showing my ignorance, I revealed that I didn't know it was in Los Angeles. When I told her that I'd been to Yad Vashem, she surprised me by saying, "what's that?" I thought that was strange. Maybe it was the wine.
M.A.S.H. Hair
Seems M.A.S.H. has been making the syndication rounds again lately. Something occurred to me the other day.

Did people in the 50's wear their hair anywhere anywhere remotely close to this length? Much less in the army? Seems to me the Beatles stirred up great controversy several years later with hair that was shaved by comparison.
Well, welcome to December folks. I love this time of year. Took some stuff up to the curb for the Salvation Army last night, and felt the winter in the air for the first time. A heavy humidity, in the early stages of considering a morning frost. Took some deep envigorating breaths and shivered my way back inside.

Seems I've been absent the past couple of weeks. First, there was Vegas. But, since returning, I've been immersed in writing copy for the website. I'm pretty much an A.D.D. guy, so when I'm writing for one spot, I don't really have the ability to switch gears and write for another, without grinding the clutch and ending up in the shop. Hence, the silence from Northern California.

As I finish writing copy over the next few days, I should be able to renew my contributions to Kerckhoff.

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