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Saturday, November 30, 2002

I've never even heard of this ...

...I can't stress how important this is: the more people out there who understand sleep paralysis, the less will think they're being abducted by UFOs, haunted by ghosts of dead relatives, etc. The fact is, in sleep paralysis you wake up in bed, feel paralyzed, and tend to sense a terrifying presence in your room. Sometimes you even see something. I have seen a small humanoid during one occasion of sleep paralysis; during another, more recent one, I saw what looked like a dog in my room. Others see ghosts, vampires -- whatever they have in their mind or are particularly afraid of...
From Chris Mooney's Web Site(via InstaPundit)

Friday, November 29, 2002

P. Krugman
#61: a little late for the whining party...

"Let The Whining Begin" might have been a better title for Paul Krugman's columnIn Media Res (11/29/02) which is an awkward attempt to blame the Democrats' recent losses on growing media bias. On the other hand, Krugman would be coming in a little late for a whining party. Al Gore and Tom Daschle have been at that for a couple of weeks now. So when Krugman began this column by wondering why Al Gore's latest claims of right-wing media bias were being met with embarrassed silence in the "liberal media", we wondered why he didn't just give the answer.

Al Gore IS an embarrassment. His current book tour has degenerated into the "cockamamy-comment du jour" parade. The man needs a keeper! As the New York Times put it recently in an analysis of poll data, "In a measure of additional concern for Democrats, Al Gore, who is the best-known Democrat who might run for president in 2004, is viewed unfavorably today by a ratio of almost two to one.... Just 19 percent said they held a favorable view of the former vice president, compared with 43 percent who had an unfavorable view."

We think most people realize that claims of "media bias" often depend on the perspective of the beholder. To the far left, the media seem conservatively biased. To the far right, liberally biased. Krugman is no more exempt from his liberal perspective in these matters than the rest of us are from ours. So his media bias views should be heavily discounted.

But there is a larger point. Today, taking all media sources combined, there has never been greater access to news diversity in human history. Krugman admits as much but then maintains, incredibly, that most people do not have the time or inclination to access enough of this information to reduce the influence of the mainstream media. Thus, they are "dependent" on the five big news sources which, Krugman notes ominously, are all owned by large conglomerates.

Note the liberal pabulum beginning to percolate to the surface:

1. People are not capable of thinking for themselves and are influenced mostly by the major media.
2. Since the major media are owned by large commercial interests they are "tempted" to slant the news coverage to favor the interests of their owners.
3.That's not "fair."
Krugman stops short of giving the liberal solution–government interventions to "level the news influence playing field" so that all voters can be influenced equally and fairly. We guess that's coming next.

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. You can find Paul Krugman's writings, including the latest columns, here]
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Lexington and Concord revisited...

Natalie mentioned (with tongue in cheek) that hydra-headed myth about the American Revolutionary War: "...ungentlemanly persons to plink at us from miles away, rather than coming up close to fight as Real Men should..." So, just for fun, I'm re-publishing this old blogpost on the subject, with some additions:
The Captain [Can't find the link. It was around 11/25/01] has written a great bit debunking the persistent myth that the American colonists fought the British by shooting from behind trees and rocks, while the redcoats foolishly paraded in lines.

This is a tall tale that never dies, but in fact the linear tactics were used by both sides for good reasons.

The smoothbore muskets used then were very inaccurate. An individual sniper would be unlikely to do much damage. (even at Lexington and Concord, the majority of the British survived that long cruel day) Only with masses of men firing in volleys was firepower effective. AND, muskets were slow to reload. While you were reloading, your only defense was the bayonet. Again, the individual was vulnerable, but a line of men could present a bristling front of bayonets.

Some colonists had rifles, which were very accurate. BUT, rifles then were VERY slow to load, and didn't have bayonets. They were a grief to the British, but never decisive in battle. [Rifles of the time were often loaded by pounding the bullet into the barrel with the ramrod and a little mallet!]

Just as important, no one back then had figured out how to control a battle when men were crawling about taking cover. It was a then-insuperable problem. (It was really only solved in 1918, when the Ludendorf Offensives almost defeated the Allies) [The German offensives in the Spring of 1918 used infiltration tactics. Small units of well-trained and motivated soldiers used individual initiative to find routes through enemy lines, bypassing and cutting off strong points. If most of the enemy was manning the first trench line, they were almost certainly doomed to be isolated and destroyed. The counter-move was defense in depth, with a thinly-held front line, and the bulk of the defense further back. The Germans had invented the ground warfare we know today. Actually, the painful irony is that a French officer outlined the concept. His ideas were ignored, but the Germans captured a copy and were inspired. ]

... Also good to remember is that the British at Lexington were peace-time soldiers who had never practiced their craft seriously; and didn't expect to find themselves at war (their position was similar to modern "peacekeeping missions".) If the same battle were fought a year later, they would have burned Lexington and Concord to the ground, and massacred any Minutemen who couldn't run very very fast.. [keep in mind the the War hadn't started yet. The British were trying to prevent the outbreak of war, by striking a blow against the hot-heads, and seizing their gunpowder. They weren't ready for what they got into.

The British Army actually had tactics to deal with this situation, but the necessary training had been neglected during peacetime. Every battalion had a light company, whose job was to deal with skirmishers and unexpected obstacles. The light company would include agile men who could be trusted to fight in open order, without rigid supervision.

Also, 18th Century European warfare was notably civilized. Most of the time the countryside was not ravaged, and civilians were not plundered or killed. This was the positive side of that rigid control. The Revolutionary War included a lot of what we call guerilla warfare, and for that reason things got quite ugly.

Actually, the colonists were also not ready for what they were getting into. General Washington had a long hard job training his men to the point where the were regulars, who could stand up and fight like men should.]

Thursday, November 28, 2002

perhaps I was wrong ...

I've speculated before that President Bush is thinking far ahead in his chess games, making moves that seem unimpressive until he smiles and softly says checkmate (without gloating, of course). Perhaps he's just lucky; they say God watches over drunken sailors and unilateralist cowboys ... but the evidence seems to keep coming.

I and many others supposed that that education bill was some sort of sell-out. After all, Teddy Kennedy liked it... Now Orrin Judd writes on how new regulations may lead to loosening the grip of state socialism on our schools:
...The new regulations do not oblige school districts to adopt specific solutions. At a news conference here today, Education Department officials said that schools might consider signing contracts with neighboring districts to accept students from failing schools, hiring more teachers or building new classrooms at more successful schools.

But critics suggested the administration was quietly paving the way for vouchers to private schools as the answer when districts could come up with nothing else.
After two years folks are finally starting to figure out just how tenacious this President is in pursuing his goals. Even Ted Kennedy had figured out shortly after the bill was signed that Mr. Bush was just pursuing the vouchers through the regulatory process. Why it took the Times so long to figure out we'll leave it to you to determine.
Of all the reforms we might pursue, letting parents choose where their children will go to school, and taking the schools out of the hands of government, is probably the best.

And now it's starting to look as if, at the very moment that I was bitterly lamenting the failure of Bush to at least try to start some reforms, he was quietly pushing a pawn forward, then a knight... Peggy Noonan told me I was wrong, but my faith was far less than the mustard seed.

Now I'm just about ready to say I was wrong. <EVIL GRIN> I was wrong! Hee hee hee hee ... I WAS WRONG! HA HA HA HA HA ...</EVIL GRIN>
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piemakers three

Too much fun. Clockwise from lower left: Shaker Lemon (killer, 9 eggs and 4 cups of sugar!), Pumpkin (that decoration says Sam, in honor of a young neighbor's birthday), Pear Tart (A thrilling recipe; it's baked in a skillet with the crust laid over the top, then flipped into a pie dish, with grave danger of being seared by boiling sugary sauce), Mince (I can make a lattice, but this one devolved due to some overly-brittle dough), and Pecan (a successful first venture by daughter Betsy)

Thanksgiving pies

Better than the feast itself is the thought of all the left-overs; tasty meals for days to come...

We are thankful we are not living in a cave in Afghanistan, giving thanks for our scorpion shish-kebabs...

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

giving thanks

On Wednesday, December 17th, [1777] General George Washington issued general orders including: "Tomorrow being the day set apart by the Honorable Congress for public Thanksgiving and Praise; and duty calling us devoutly to express our grateful acknowledgements to God for the manifold blessings he has granted us, the General directs that the army remain in its present quarters, and that the Chaplains perform divine service with their several Corps and Brigades. And earnestly exhorts, all officers and soldiers, whose absence is not indispensably necessary, to attend with reverence the solemnities of the day."

Lt. Col. Henry Dearborn's diary entry for December 18th read, "This is Thanksgiving Day. God knows we have very little to keep it with, this being the third day we have been without flour or bread, and are living on a high, uncultivated hill, in huts and tents, lying on the cold ground. Upon the whole I think all we have to be thankful for is that we are alive and not in the grave with many of our friends."

And Surgeon Albigence Waldo observed, "Mankind is never truly thankful for the benefits of life, until they have experienced the want of them."
(Borrowed from the Federalist Newsletter)
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giving thanks

Measured by the standards of men of their time, ... [the Pilgrims] were the humble of the earth. Measured by later accomplishments, they were the mighty. In appearance weak and persecuted they came -- rejected, despised -- an insignificant band; in reality strong and independent, a mighty host of whom the world was not worthy, destined to free mankind. --Calvin Coolidge

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from Jay Nordlinger's Impromptus

I’ll accept certain liberals’ contention that only those with combat experience should pronounce on Iraq if they will agree that only those who pay income taxes can decide on what the rates should be and how the money should be spent.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

P. Krugman
#60: Can he avoid "creeping Streisand-ism?"

We've been watching with malicious amusement as awareness grows on Paul Krugman that his partisan, attack-dog writing style could lead him to political irrelevance in the post-election environment. Krugman was “a player” of sorts as long as the Democrats were in control of the Senate and could effectively obstruct Bush policies and court appointments. He could take satisfaction, real or imagined, that his views bore some weight in Washington policy discussions. But now, with Bush firmly in control, his sphere of influence could contract into little more than bi-coastal enclaves of limousine liberals impressing each other with their sensitivity to the fate of the environment, the poor, the downtrodden (pick your favorite "victim") at the hands of the heinous Republicans. Call it "creeping Streisand-ism." If there's a Hell on earth for Paul Krugman, being viewed as an irrelevant wacko has got to be it.

So, with that as prologue, you can imagine our satisfaction when we read Every Breath You Take (11/26/02). This is a reasonably sensible column dealing with the Bush administration's revision of the current system of air pollution control. Of course, Krugman being Krugman, he takes some perfunctory cheap shots at Republican campaign contributors for reaping the rewards of pollution. He also notes, ominously, that the states "downwind" of the polluters tend to vote Democratic. And, he is skeptical that the administration will follow through on its Clear Skies Initiative (CSI) announced earlier this year. But all in all we sense a change in tone here. For example, Krugman's real targets are the eco-nuts whose zealotry screwed up the prospects for a cap-and-trade system of pollution reduction in the first place. Such a system is at the heart of Bush's CSI and, as Krugman correctly points out, by allowing those who reduce pollution to sell emission rights to others (as the cap on total emissions steadily declines) provides businesses with the broad-based incentives they need to further clean the air.

We've never doubted Krugman's abilities as an economist and he could play a valuable role in bridging the gap between environmental lunatics and the real world. These are people who seem incapable of acknowledging that trading pollution licenses is not inconsistent with reducing pollution itself. Krugman, as a liberal Democrat, could explain this to them in their own language. He could then move on to other liberal fantasies that would benefit from some hard-headed economic analysis. He used to do this at Slate magazine and we think it would be a good career move if he began doing it again now.

Are we dreaming? Probably. But hope springs eternal and with "Every Breath You Take" we see small sign of hope.

[The Truth Squad is a group of economists who have long marveled at the writings of Paul Krugman. The Squad Reports are synopses of their discussions. You can find Paul Krugman's writings, including the latest columns, here]

Monday, November 25, 2002

are you feeling tired? run-down? blixxed?

I was enchanted by this piece from Lileks. [NOTE: the link doesn't take me to the piece anymore. Mysterious. It was about Nov. 20th ] Not only is the man witty beyond compare, but he whipped-up a sharp 30's-style graphic for his imaginary beverage ... He's graphically literate; my admiration is limitless.
Blix adFinally. Blix, as in Hans Blix, the Sgt. Schultz of international arms inspection, always makes me think of some Scandinavian brand name. A powdered drink, for example. Solveig? A cup of hot Blix for to go with Mueslix please. I see a thin bearded guy wearing a thick turtleneck sweater, spooning Blix into a mug in his small flat, scowling at the newspaper. It tastes like cocoa, but it’s not chocolate. It has a hazelnut note, and there’s chicory in it. In trendy supermarkets in America you’ll find a can or two, with a thick layer of dust on top. Since 1927, the company’s motto has been “Drink Blix.” They haven’t run TV ads since 1964, but the trains carry small ads that say “Drink Blix” or just “Blix,” with a picture of the stylized mascot they’ve used since the 50s.

I can almost taste it. Can’t you?

Yes! Yes. I'm sure I've seen it. A sort of Swedish Ovaltine, from when I was young and just a few sophisticates showed their superiority by consuming European products. It's hard to believe now, but there was a time when Swedish modern furniture was, well, modern. Exciting. Then Danish Modern came and went. Now the only excitement from Scandinavia is poor Blix.
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the scoop from Sweden

Mike plaiss sent me a link to a Ha'aretz article, Sending in a dupe to disarm Saddam. It's about Hans Blix, by someone who knows him, Per Ahlmark, a former Deputy Prime Minister of Sweden...
... I have known Mr. Blix for more than 40 years. In 1960, he was my deputy when I was a leader of the Swedish Liberal Youth organization. Since then, I have followed his career closely. He became Sweden's foreign minister for a year and then served later as director-general of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria.

Personally, Mr. Blix is amiable and has a sense of humor; politically, he is weak and easily fooled. I can think of few European officials less suitable for a showdown with Saddam. Indeed, it is with utter disbelief that I watch television news about Mr. Blix's negotiations with the Iraqi dictator's henchmen.

The world has been amply warned about Mr. Blix's weaknesses because he has a track record of compounded failure...
Blix's face should be put on Euro notes.
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Doctor Frank has written a long post joining those who are expressing extreme skepticism about Bush's delay in removing Saddam. Well, I'm feeling impatient too, and if we are moving slowly out of tenderness to Arab (or French) feelings, I think that's about as useful as being sensitive to the feelings of mules.

But there's another possibility to keep in mind. We on the side of freedom have our own Vietnam Syndrome, which includes a profound abhorrence of political meddling in military operations. Especially of weakening our forces to avoid looking like bullies. I know that Bush was utterly disgusted that 18 of our soldiers died in Somalia because a certain politician thought tanks and gunships would look too threatening. If our military isn't ready to move, Bush will be very unlikely to overrule them.

So it's quite possible that it's General Franks who's setting the schedule, and Bush is just filling in the time appeasing the appeasers. If delay turns out to be a bad decision, Bush will look bad, but so will a lot of other people...

* Also entertaining is Dr Frank's link to Joan Jett's open letter to Rolling Stone. (I have no opinions or knowledge of Rock, but Joan's been doing USO tours to entertain our troops, including being the first female rocker to perform in Afghanistan! Tres cool.)