Word Police: The Big Apple Contagion Heads South
It's no longer just New York City residents finding themselves under the soothingly oppressive thumb of a legislature dictating what words we may and may not use. Like a New Yorker fleeing the death tax, this fine idea has shuffled on down to Florida.
A state legislator whose district is home to thousands of Caribbean immigrants wants to ban the term "illegal alien" from the state's official documents.
"I personally find the word 'alien' offensive when applied to individuals, especially to children," said Sen. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami. "An alien to me is someone from out of space."
Senator Wilson, when I think of "wilson" I think of an imaginary island friend, made from a volleyball, some twigs, and Tom Hanks' blood. But... I suppose there are multiple uses for the word "wilson". Kind of like the word "alien".
To help Senator Wilson and the rest of us parse these nuances and all the complexities of homophones, homonyms, and words with multiple definitions, Florida's new Governor, Charlie Crist, has stressed the importance of "plain speaking" by state agencies, an initiative with which Wilson contends her word control policy is in keeping.
As for striking the word "alien", her contention merits at best a half-hearted hmeh. I generally use the term "illegal immigrant" myself, but a hmeh (and even the hmeh is generous) is hardly resounding enough to go banning a non-profane, non-slur word from official documents. But Wilson doesn't stop there. Florida's would-be word czar isn't even convinced the word "illegal" is plain-talky enough.
"'Illegal,' I can live with, but I like 'undocumented' better," she said.
On this one, Wilson scores no better than a dismissive pffft. "Illegal" is the perfect descriptor in this case. Official documents identifying the group of people in question are not seeking to classify those without documentation. Indeed, we know that many illegal immigrants do have some forms of documentation. If such people are hereafter legally cited by the state of Florida as "undocumented immigrants" then mightn't any subsequent law (however misguided it may be) that offers privileges normally reserved for legal residents to illegal residents (drivers' licenses, social security cards, passports, Congressional ID badges, etc.) might arguably exempt the newly duly "documented" illegal immigrants from any laws that make specific reference to "undocumented immigrants" as per Wilson's plan.
Lack of clarity and unintended consequences will always be the case when we prize political correctness over actual correctness. I suspect that's exactly what Governor Crist was trying to guard against.
(HT: Hot Air)
More On Tuesday's Tumble
A more complete dispatch on yesterday's wild market action is available here, but a few new tidbits have come to light since the market closed yesterday that warrant additional discussion.
First, the sudden plummet the Dow took at 3:00 pm (when it sank an additional 200 points almost immediately) appears not to have been the result of programmatic trading or of margin calls forcing huge liquidations, but of a glitch in the computer system that calculates the value of the index. The S&P 500 and the Nasdaq indices had appeared to be falling faster than the Dow, until 3:00, when the Dow suddenly caught up (er, down).
Second, the 9% drop in the Chinese stock market that catalyzed the global sell-off seems to have been triggered by more than mere market sentiment. It's true that Chinese stocks had run up 13% in just a few trading sessions to new historic highs, so a pull-back might've been predicted to begin with. But Tuesday's drop, the largest seen by the Chinese stock market in a decade, followed growing rumors that regulators were going to be introducing new measures aimed at curbing the widespread fraud and market manipulation that make China's equity markets so volatile in the first place. It was rather ironic that such rumors would cause the market to tank, but Chinese investors are used to counterintuitive behavior in their stock market, where poor oversight, corruption, and limited information flows have earned it the nickname "dubo ji" ("slot machine"). In this case, the new regulations could make it more difficult for new speculative dollars to enter the market, which would mean less upward pressure on trading levels, hence the sell-off.
Third, as people are continuing to report today, the declines in the U.S. markets followed a day after Alan Greenspan made his recession comments. As I've noted more than once, Greenspan never called a recession "likely", as the AP inaccurately reported, or anything close to it. But that didn't stop the word "likely" from becoming the centerpiece of every headline about his comments. It's been speculated that Drudge parroting the inaccurate "likely" tag and linking to the story helped fuel the sell-off. This, I don't buy. The institutional investors that moved the market yesterday had seen Greenspan's comments a full 24 hours before the sell-off and had assuredly dug deeper than the misleading headline. The most cursory glance at the AP article in question would have been enough to assure any investor that Greenspan was not heralding a recession. All that being said, the Greenspan factor probably wasn't helpful to overall market sentiment yesterday.
Fourth, the market has been waiting for this happen. Stocks are up (well, were up) nearly 20% since last summer, without once undergoing so much as a 2% correction. Today and tomorrow may see some pretty volatile trading, but if 400 points off the Dow constitutes the lion's share of this sell-off, this correction will have been fairly minor. With the index as high as it is, we'd need to see another couple hundred points of selling to notch up even a 5% correction.
Fifth, to reiterate the case for optimism, yesterday saw two things that haven't occurred since pre-9/11. Not only did the stock market fall 3+%, but the Consumer Confidence Index clocked in at 112.5. The last time consumers were so ebullient was August 2001. With consumer spending accounting for 70% of economic activity, this is a meaningful indicator. Today's GDP report did revise downward the pace of fourth quarter growth, but the revised figure (2.2%) was close to what economists were expecting and still fits the label "slow-to-moderate growth" which is just peachy, given that the Fed appears to be in the flare stage of the "soft landing" it's been guiding toward. Slow-to-moderate growth is right in the sweet spot for such an inflection point in the economic cycle: not so fast as to trigger inflation, not so slow as to approach recession.
Fifth, stocks are objectively trading at reasonable valuations, in terms of earnings multiples. This offers a floor of support to trading levels that doesn't exist when a speculative bubble collapses. As I noted yesterday, the S&P 500 index is now trading at a price/earnings multiple of roughly 17x, significantly below its 20-year average of roughly 22x. Before the tech bubble burst, the index's P/E was in the 40s.
None of this is to say the markets won't be wild and wooly for the next few sessions (though thus far today, they appear to be staging a fairly orderly rebound). But if this correction stabilizes with prices a few-to-several percent lower than they were Monday, then anyone who's been wanting to push some new money into the market, but was concerned about the recent run-up and was waiting for a more attractive entry point, ought to be going shopping.
Market Takes Biggest Plunge Since 9/11
Earlier today, I noted that the Consumer Confidence Index had hit a new post-9/11 high. As the day wore on, what started as ordinary economic nail-biting resulting from a fall-off in durable goods orders and yesterday's distorted reporting on Alan Greenspan's recession comments joined forces with the global pall that the huge Shanghai stock sell-off had cast over international markets. Together, they conspired to finally trip up the virtually undaunted bull market that has sent the Dow Jones Industrial Average 18% higher since last July, without so much as a 2% correction along the way.
Today, when the dust had settled, the Dow was off 3.3%, having fallen 416 points, the biggest single session decline since the 9/11 attacks. (When the markets first re-opened on 9/17/01, the Dow closed down 685 points from its 9/10 level.) At one point late in today's session, the index had plunged more than 550 points on a big spike in volume (check out 3 pm below), apparently the result of programmatic trades triggered by the steep sell-off and/or institutional investors trying to cover margin calls by liquidating big positions in large cap stocks.
An eye-popping sell-off? Yessir. Time to panic? No. Kindly get a hold of yourself.
As I mentioned this morning (300 or so points ago), the troublingly uni-directional nature of the equity markets over the last 9 months has been suggesting that a correction of 5% or so was likely in order. While the immediate-term effects of such a steep sell-off can be self-reinforcing (as observed today) and therefore somewhat dramatic, the day's declines don't impair the strong economic fundamentals (low inflation despite nearly full employment levels, high productivity, strong consumer spending, real economic growth), nor are they likely to mark the beginning of a significant, sustained stock market sell-off, as the market is frankly very reasonably priced (even more reasonably after today), as measured by price/earnings multiples.
Following today's sell-off, the 500 stocks that comprise the S&P 500 are trading in aggregate at roughly 17x their annual earnings. That's well below their 20-year average of 22x and way below their bubbly peak of 46x!
So today was painful if you're long the equity market. But it's probably premature to be opening any high-floor windows. That's not to say the slide couldn't continue over the next couple sessions, but once the correction has had its fun and the curiously undaunted bull has finally been humbled, the market will be far better poised to digest the stream of generally favorable news that the strong economy is likely to continue throwing off for the foreseeable future.
Previously: Consumer Confidence Highest Since Pre-9/11
Update: The Corner points out this U.S. News opinion piece, wondering if the Drudge Report linking to the AP's mischaracterization of Greenspan's recession comments (and repeating the mischaracterization in the text of the link, namely that Greenspan had said a recession was "likely" when he clearly did not) may have contributed to today's dour mood on Wall Street. I tend to doubt it, as Wall Street had been well aware of Greenspan's testimony for a full 24 hours before the sell-off.
Still, I too had noticed the Drudge link and his unfortunate choice to echo the inaccurate AP charactization of the story. I found it sufficiently materially misleading that I decided to e-mail Drudge last night and helpfully point out my calling the AP out on it earlier in the day. My note to Drudge read, in part:
I saw you'd linked the AP story about Alan Greenspan's comments about a possible recession before year-end. I was amazed to read this article this morning, given the headline, because it turns out that all Greenspan said was that he couldn't rule out a recession, and he even noted that a recession is unlikely and something most economists do not predict.
There is indeed an interesting story here though; it's the gross micharacterization of Greenspan's comments by the Associated Press.
Alas, my comments fell on a deaf inbox, as the link remained intact (though it'd been demoted from red to black) and with the misleading description as of this morning. Whether in response to publication of the U.S. News piece is hard to say, but I see the link has now finally disappeared from the Drudge Report (and a link to the piece speculating about Drudge's involvement in precipitating the sell-off has appeared).
Hillary Campaign Dismisses Local Chinese-American Reporter As "Foreign" Press, Bars From Campaign Event
Hillary's "One Week, One Million" campaign, which is now in its final 24 hours, is not quite on track to hit the grassroots fundraising goal it had set, according to the e-mail update sent by today by Bill Clinton on the candidate's behalf.
But judging from the Clinton campaign's latest west coast gaffe, maybe the "million" in "One Week, One Million" didn't refer to dollars after all, but rather the number of Americans the campaign intends on offending before the week is through. The 7-day blitz had barely gotten underway before the Geffen-Obama debacle began to unfold. Not long after Maureen Dowd's column citing Geffen's unflattering comments hit newsstands, Hillary had so overreached in her response as to cast herself as embittered and hypocritical, pitching a highly publicized fit over losing the Hollywood base to which she's duly entitled.
Today, as the initiative heads into the final hours of its attempt to prove grassroots support, the San Francisco Gate reports that Team Hillary might be suffering not only from Hollywood envy, but also from an acute case of xenophobia. Members of her staff reportedly refused to allow Chinese-American journalists into a campaign event, on the grounds that they were "foreign press", despite repeated explanations that, while they were ethnically Chinese, they were in fact duly credentialed members of the local press.
[Reporter Portia] Li, a prominent journalist who has worked for more than two decades in the Bay Area, said she knew such events routinely begin late and that reporters often are allowed in after they start.
But a staffer told her she was too late to get in. When Li argued, the staffer explained that because she was considered "foreign media" -- which were limited to a single pool reporter -- she could not go in.
Any local media who checked in by the cutoff were admitted.
When Li showed her business card, the staffer asked for two forms of identification, which seemed to Li to be insulting. She said she had never had to show identification at similar events.
"She kept saying this is only open for local media, not foreign press," Li said. "I told her, I'm not foreign press. I'm local media. I was really angry. It's not about myself. It's about how the mainstream looks at Chinese (people) as a whole. Why do they call us foreigners, even they we have a local address on our business card?"
Hat Tip: Human Events
Consumer Confidence Highest Since Pre-9/11
The Conference Board published their February reading of the Consumer Confidence Index today, which clocked in at a hearty 112.5. The last time the index was this high was 5 and a half years ago, in August 2001.
Upbeat consumers outnumbered fussbudgets by more than 2 to 1. What's more, the percentage of people having difficulty finding jobs also hit its lowest level since 9/11.
Still, no amount of consumer jauntiness was going to keep Wall Street happy today. The dramatic fall-off in durable goods orders (down 7.8%, excluding defense spending), combined with a single-session cratering of Chinese stocks put investors in a decidedly glum mood, perhaps compounding Alan Greenspan's comments yesterday about the possibility of an economic recession on the horizon (even if the Associated Press did egregiously mischaracterize Greenspan's fairly innocuous comments).
Despite the AP's overblown economic fearmongering and ignoring the fact that the durable goods number is a notoriously volatile one (skewed this month by aircraft orders), if this confluence of catalysts is what the market needed to inspire a correction, so be it. Stocks have been somewhat troublingly uni-directional since last summer. Since July of 2006, the Dow has climbed nearly 18% without once enjoying the purifying fires of even a 2% correction.
Maybe it's time.
After this extended and largely unbroken run-up, a correction of 5% or so might give investors, suspicious of the seemingly tireless bull, a chance to gather themselves, regain their composure, and join consumers in a little forward-looking jauntiness. After all, consumer spending (which accounts for the large majority of economic activity) is strong, corporate earnings are strong, productivity is high, and the job market has managed to stay hot without triggering inflation. All the domestic economic stars remain aligned, so I'm not overly concerned about the macro picture. If the equity markets need a breather, they've probably earned it.
A few weeks ago, I wrote about New York City Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-Queens) and his attempt to expand the city's metastasizing supervisory purview over its people to include dictating which words are acceptable for vocalization within the city limits. Specifically at issue was the "N word". Comrie's initiative sought to "begin a campaign of awareness about the word" by triggering our legislature's spastic banning reflex, rather than by actually encouraging private citizens and organizations to actually wage a "campaign of awareness".
But if Comrie's idea was that the word in question is simply so taboo, so poisonous that we do indeed need to symbolically trample First Amendment rights in order to prevent its utterance, then the effort has run afoul.
At a hearing yesterday on a resolution to discourage the use of the n-word, the racially offensive term was heard more times than on a Kanye West album.
The spewing of the slur nearly 50 times in less than two hours angered the anti-n-word measure's sponsor, Councilman Leroy Comrie (D-Queens).
"If I had been the chair, I would have asked them not to use the word," Comrie told The Post afterward. "I was not pleased."
Marcia Harris, founder of the Harlem-based Ban the N-Word Movement, got the ball rolling with a passionate lecture on the word's origins - that dropped the n-bomb a staggering 19 times.
It's enough to make Michael Richards blush.
Goodbye, Bird Flu. Hello, Pig Meningitis
Year of the pig, indeed.
According to Pig Progress ("Your portal on global pig production"), scientists have confirmed a domestic case of the potentially deadly disease "pig meningitis" in a human.
The unlucky pioneer is a healthy 59-year-old farmer in the state of New York, complaining of sudden fever and confusion. His pulse was racing, he breathed rapidly and he had meningitis, an inflammation of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord.
The hospital's preliminary tests revealed the presence of Streptococcus suis, a bacteria prevalent in pigs that can lead to meningitis.
Ruth Zadoks, research associate and veterinarian at Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, provided the insights and a DNA-level analysis of S. suis strains found in both the farmer and pigs from his farm. ... "It could be that the disease is spreading," said Zadoks. "But also we may be just better at recognising it."
A 2005 outbreak of the disease resulted in 38 deaths in southeast Asia, but it's not the kind of disease the population at large needs to worry about.
"This should heighten awareness of the possibility of this illness for people with the occupation of dealing with swine," said Kara Willenburg, MD, of Bassett Hospital. "But it should not affect the lives of the general public."
So fret not, unless you're a farmer, a butcher, or a member of Congress. Oh, zing!
Hillary's Star-Studded Grassroots Campaign Hits the Home Stretch
Since Hillary's "One Week-One Million" campaign kicked off last Wednesday, we've seen a flurry of high-profile e-mailers reaching out on her behalf. Announcing the initiative, which is intended to illustrate the depth of Hillary's support among the left-wing grassroots (where her support is roughly puddle-deep), was her doting husband, warning us not to pay attention to the right wing attackers who dogged his own upstanding Presidency and would now surely come after Hillary. The next day, James Carville took a turn, warning supporters that "swift boaters" were quietly encircling the candidate, preparing to besiege her with unwarranted attacks. Only delicious grassroots dollars, it seems, can keep that evil in check.
Now, with less than 48 hours remaining in the week-long drive, Madeleine Albright takes to the keyboard, inviting us to "be part of history" and playing the gender card with more explicit gusto than we've seen from Hillary's campaign to date. Forget the swift boaters, forget Bill's immaculate legacy, and just write her a check because she's a woman, already. She is the only woman in the primary field after all, and isn't that as good a reason to support someone for office as any?
I remember what it was like to be the first woman secretary of state of this country. Have you seen the look in the eyes of young women at Hillary's campaign rallies? Can you sense the thrill that comes with knowing their first vote in a presidential election could elect America's first woman president?
Albright pointed out Hillary's womanhood and her womanly policy stances no fewer than nine times (nine times...) during her pitch.
It's easy to see why Team Hillary is amping up the sales pressure. With 71% of the week elapsed, she's only hauled in 62% of her fundraising goal of one mill-ee-yun dollars. It's time to pick up the pace, grassroots. Please, won't you give generously?
For just $380,000 - about the cost of round trip air travel between Washington, D.C. and San Francisco - you could give this deserving grassroots candidate a chance at a better life. For herself and her cronies. Some of whom are also women.
Greenspan Says Recession Possible, AP Upgrades To "Likely"
The moment the Associated Press slapped the title "Greenspan Warns of Likely U.S. Recession" on this article, its pants spontaneously combusted.
Greenspan did no such thing. The most dire prediction the former Fed chief made (in the AP's own words) was this:
"When you get this far away from a recession invariably forces build up for the next recession, and indeed we are beginning to see that sign," Greenspan said via satellite link to a business conference in Hong Kong. "For example in the U.S., profit margins ... have begun to stabilize, which is an early sign we are in the later stages of a cycle."
"While, yes, it is possible we can get a recession in the latter months of 2007, most forecasters are not making that judgment and indeed are projecting forward into 2008 ... with some slowdown," he said.
"Slowdown", of course, not equally "recession", which requires negative growth (and two consecutive quarters of it, at that). We've already encountered a slowdown. That shouldn't be news. The new Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has been attempting to engineer an economic "soft landing" from the hypergrowth the economy put on at the peak of the current cycle about a year ago, a feat he appears to be on the verge of completing successfully, avoiding both problematic inflation and recession. In the most recent quarter, GDP growth popped up to an above trend 3.5%.
Whether or not we do slip into a couple quarters of contraction has (as Greenspan is reminding us) yet to be seen. The situation most likely to bring this about appears to be the case in which the Bernanke Fed proves overly inflation-hawkish and hikes rates another time or two (rather than continuing to stand pat or even beginning to ease rates later this year, assuming inflation stays at bay and growth continues to moderate). If they over-hike, we could indeed find ourselves suffering an unnecessary, man-made recession. With the Fed's throttle at its current setting, however - despite likely being somewhat more restrictive than neutral - the soft landing (with no recession) looks to be in play.
Still, one never knows what shocks lay around the corner, ready to wreak havoc on a robust economy for a few quarters.
Greenspan said that while it would be "very precarious" to try to forecast that far into the future, he could not rule out the possibility of a recession late this year.
Of course that's true. That's always true. If asked whether during the entirety of his tenure as Chairman, Greenspan had ever encountered a year in which he could rule out the possibility of a recession, I'm confident his answer would have been no.
Commenting further about the impact of contraction in the housing market (whose weakness identifies it as the economic sector most likely to be responsible for triggering any natural recession this cycle might endure), Greenspan noted just how unlikely that outcome now appears.
We are now well into the contraction period and so far we have not had any major, significant spillover effects on the American economy from the contraction in housing...
Goldilocks remains alive and vibrant, thanks to those powerful vitamins she took a few years back. Slow/moderate growth gradually creeping back up to moderate growth, with near full employment and low inflation serving as a stable backdrop, enabling the Fed to ease up a hair, just enough to give the economy a touch more gas, constitutes the ideal scenario for sustainable real economic growth.
Nothing about what Greenspan said indicates that scenario is any less likely. To characterize his comments as suggesting a recession by year-end is "likely" is simply, grossly misleading.
An Oscar Buying Opportunity
A futures contract on "An Inconvenient Truth" winning Best Documentary is currently trading at $0.90 on the dollar at InTrade. A 10% chance of the Goracle's magnum opus not winning? If that movie doesn't win, it means whichever accounting firm was auditing the voting made a major clerical error. Shy of that, this has to be the biggest lock in Oscar history.
Of course the actual nominee is the film's director Davis Guggenheim, not the Gorebot himself, but that won't prevent what's bound to be a nearly unending standing ovation when the film wins. Some pre-show buzz suggests Gore may go so far as to declare his Presidential candidacy if "he" wins. Me, I think he'll hold off to see how the Nobel thing shakes out before reluctantly bowing to the pressure of his teeming fans and joining that fray, but his speech tonight ought to be one for the ages, nonetheless.
Steel yourselves for a heavy-handed, self-congratulatory, faux-impassioned lecture, during which the guy who cues the get-off-the-stage music will hold off longer than for any other limelight hog of the evening.
Elsewhere: Hot Air is hosting a discussion thread and video repository throughout the evening.
Update: Well, "he" won (obviously). But the acceptance speech was remarkably succinct (just about 60 seconds, which seemed to be the typical musical cut-off time for honorees who ran long). Of course by the time Gore took the stage, the audience had already been treated earlier in the telecast to a performance by Melissa Ethridge of the film's nominated song "I Need to Wake Up", punctuated with a text-based eco-lecture projected on the stage-wide screen behind her. This was followed immediately by Gore appearing on-stage with no less superlatively hip a superstar than Leo himself, who vomited so much hero worship and bootlickery at the Goracle, I wondered if he was about to get one of Al's patented on-stage cybersmooches.
So by the time Gore took the stage for the second time to bask in victory, he and his cause had already gotten 5 or 6 minutes worth of airtime. What's a 30-second spot going for this year? If he were to have declared candidacy tonight, might he have had to book in-kind contributions for the tens of millions of dollars worth of free advertising?
However ripened his intent to run may or may not be, I think he'd be foolish to announce now, despite this being a nice time to poach a few Hollywood politicos from Hillary and Obama. Better to let them beat each other up for another 6 months and then waltz in clean.
Quote of the Day
Admittedly, the day is still young and this quote could be trumped many times over during the Oscars or tonight's debut of Fox News Channel's new blogging show "It's Out There", but this is at least an early contender for the title.
On "Meet the Press", asked whether Senate Democrats' intent to take a mulligan on their duly enacted authorization of the use of military force in Iraq constitutes an attempt to tie the President's hands, Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI, Chairman of the Armed Services Committee) offered:
Of course we're trying to tie the President's hands.
Russert had to hit Levin with the question a few times, but he finally got him to acknowledge it in those terms. The hand-tying in question would involve a cap the number of troops that the President and our generals believe are necessary to achieve victory in Iraq and the imposition of a different (more "limited") military strategy than the executive branch sees fit.
In the midst of his rhetorical gymnastics aimed at painting this effort as something other than a disingenuous political power grab, Levin followed minutes later with this astonishingly contradictory line:
To heck with the politics here. We're in the middle of a war.
Cronkite Calls Iraq a Terrible Disaster, Is Still Alive
Like Jane Fonda, Walter Cronkite is suffering from an acute Vietnam protest flashback and treating us to his well-worn antiwar sensibilities, apparently believing his influence to be as pronounced as it was 40 years ago.
[Cronkite's] pronouncement that the Vietnam War was unwinnable led to such a shift in public opinion against the war that President Lyndon Johnson said, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost America."
The 90-year-old Cronkite was in San Jose on Friday addressing the Commonwealth Club. In an exclusive interview with CBS 5, he weighed in on the situation in Iraq.
"We should have gotten out a long time ago. This is a mistake, this entire war there, its a disaster. And the earlier we get out the better," Cronkite said. "It's a terrible disaster. Look at the loss of lives of our young Americans there and those who have been maimed for life, for what purpose? No purpose we can define."
Until now, the most influential jawing "the most trusted man in America" has done in a generation was the narration for Epcot's suitably underwhelming Spaceship Earth ride in the mid 80s.
But those who make it to the bottom of the article detailing this antique windbag's condemnation of America's foreign policy will learn that his substantive contributions to the media landscape continue even today.
Cronkite is still active at CBS, with his voice on the introduction of the "CBS Evening News With Katie Couric." He retired from the anchors desk in 1981 at the age of 65...
Wait for it:
...a decision he regrets.
No worries though. I smell a nonagenarian comeback, now that Cronkite's taken such a courageously fashionable stance on the Iraq War. His immediate successor's anti-Bush bona fides are certainly beyond reproach, but let's see Katie Couric parrot Congressional Democrat talking points with such seasoned aplomb.
Stop the Presses: Mitt Romney's Antebellum Ancestors Were Also Mormons
While Mitt Romney condemns polygamy and its prior practice by his Mormon church, the Republican presidential candidate’s great-grandfather had five wives and at least one of his great-great grandfathers had 12.
Polygamy was not just a historical footnote, but a prominent element in the family tree of the former Massachusetts governor now seeking to become the first Mormon president.
Romney's great-great grandfather, Parley Pratt, an apostle in the church, had 12 wives. In an 1852 sermon, Parley Pratt's brother and fellow apostle, Orson Pratt, became the first church official to publicly proclaim and defend polygamy as a direct revelation from God.
Do we (and by "we" I of course mean the "Associated Press and their preferred party") really want to put 4-generations-removed family affiliations on the table? We only need to travel one degree of familial separation from Hillary to find a heap of criminal and sexual misdeeds for which she probably doesn't want to be forced to answer. If we're saddling candidates with the religious persuasions of their ancestors and the practices associated with those religions in centuries past, let's remember that Obama's father was a Muslim, but only before becmoing an atheist. Plus, he was from Kenya, where natives fought bitterly with the colonizing Portugese about five hundred years ago. Do we trust that Obama won't embrace Muslim extremism or heathenism or suddenly demand systematic internment of all Portugese Americans? None of John E'wards' ancestors even bothered graduating from college. Law and textile degrees aside, won't his long family tradition of limited education impact the level of intellectualism he'd bring to the Presidency?
On the bright side, if these comically distant family ties represent the best stuff detractors are coming up with, Mitt should keep on smiling.
Human Enslavement Watch
The last installment of Human Enslavement Watch was a double whammy, as it involved both robots AND monkeys (the ideal recipe for a doomsday chimera). This one, alas, is merely simian. But as it involves sophisticated planning and reasoning as well as troubling dexterity, we need to recognize it as another step toward our assured demise.
Chimpanzees living in the West African savannah have been observed fashioning deadly spears from sticks and using the tools to hunt small mammals -- the first routine production of deadly weapons ever observed in animals other than humans.
The multistep spearmaking practice, documented by researchers in Senegal who spent years gaining the chimpanzees' trust, adds credence to the idea that human forebears fashioned similar tools millions of years ago.
Researchers believe the chimps have picked up a number of human behaviors, following decades of human-chimp interaction, so apparently we have only ourselves to blame for murderizing the them. But fault not the knuckle-dragging primate patriarchy.
The landmark observation also supports the long-debated proposition that females -- the main makers and users of spears among the Senegalese chimps -- tend to be the innovators and creative problem solvers in primate culture.
Those bloodthirsty lady chimps...
Using their hands and teeth, the chimpanzees were repeatedly seen tearing the side branches off long, straight sticks, peeling back the bark and sharpening one end. Then, grasping the weapons in a "power grip," they jabbed them into tree-branch hollows where bush babies -- small, monkeylike mammals -- sleep during the day.
In one case, after repeated stabs, a chimpanzee removed the injured or dead animal and ate it, the researchers reported in yesterday's online issue of the journal Current Biology.
"It was really alarming how forceful it was," said lead researcher Jill D. Pruetz of Iowa State University, adding that it reminded her of the murderous shower scene in the Alfred Hitchcock movie "Psycho." "It was kind of scary."
Someone get Dr. Pilkington on the phone. He's the only one who'll believe this.
Sandy Bergler Corrupting Young Boys
No explicit connection is offered here, but what else are we to deduce? If kids will mimic the violence they see their characters committing in video games, surely they don't stand a chance at tuning out so vaunted and trustworthy a role model as a former National Security Advisor.
Local YouTube.com misadventures are under investigation by Brookfield police, after they received reports that three youths videotaped themselves spitting into library books and inserting the books into their trousers.
According to police, the boys made the videotapes during recent visits to Merrick Public Library, and then posted the videotapes on the popular Web site.
Chief Ackerman said no charges had been filed yet. He said interviews with the boys and their parents are being scheduled. The department is considering charges that include a felony — malicious destruction of public property — as well as defacing library material and videotaping and broadcasting the videotape of people without consent.
In other words, these minors could be facing far harsher penalties than the stroke on the wrist Berger negotiated.
The Great Punditry Migration away from linear print and televised media and out into the decentralized, self-organizing badlands of the blogosphere is making a wee u-turn this week.
Big league bloggers and frequent Fox News contributors Michelle Malkin and Kirsten Powers will debut the newest experimental Fox News show this Sunday, immediately following FNC's second-newest experimental show, "The Half-Hour New Hour".
Whereas mainstream media clamor has often and richly served as fodder for political blogs, this mainstream media show's fodder will in turn be the clamor amid the political blogosphere.
Mongoose, snake, etc.
"It's Out There," a half-hour of stories derived from blogs, will get a half-hour test run following Joel Surnow's satirical take on news.
Show, fronted by conservative blogger-columnist Michele Malkin and former Clinton administration operative Kirsten Powers, will take on political and cultural issues enflaming the blogosphere.
The first episode will look at John Edwards' virtual campaign HQ and other candidates using social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to reach young voters.
The pilot airs in a timeslot that's sported a grab-bag of specials and repeats of shows. Both pilots are part of FNC's bid to develop a more permanent lineup for the night with young-skewing skeins that can attract and maintain an aud.
Cup your hand to your ear. You can hear the faint sound of the big lefty bloggers trying to fashion a reason why this outrages them.
(HT: Riehl World View)
Hillary Spots Swift Boats On the Horizon
Team Hillary has had some heavy hitters pinch e-mailing for her the last couple days (perhaps she's busy brooding about that presumptuous, non-coronation-worthy freshman Senator stealing her fancy friends away).
Yesterday, Bill himself announced his wife's new grassroots fundraising initiative. Today, the Ragin' Cajun stepped up to the plate to take a few proactive swings at Hillary's inevitable "swift boaters".
You want to know what we're up against in this campaign? Here's a direct quote:
"Those Swift Boat Veterans for Truth were the real heroes of the 2004 election. We at the StopHillaryPAC want to do the same thing to Hillary."
You read that right. There are people who think the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth are heroes for what they did in 2004 -- and now they have their sights set on Hillary.
This week, let's show them what we're made of. With a contribution of just $100, $50, or even $25, you can help make our "One Week, One Million" drive a success.
Make a Contribution:
These "swift-boaters" know, like you and I do, that Hillary is the strongest candidate Democrats have. They know she's a fighter who will stand up for what's right, as she has done all her life.
And there's nothing they fear more.
But we're ready for everything they've got. Time and time again, Hillary has taken the worst attacks these people can cook up and come out a winner -- because she isn't afraid to fight.
She has the strength to respond because of the power of the people behind her. Let's show these attack dogs what we're made of. Our "One Week, One Million" campaign will send a clear message: Hillary won't back down, and we've got her back.
Make a Contribution:
Make no mistake about it. They want to defeat Hillary because they know what a powerful, forward-looking president she will be. They don't want her -- or you -- to have the power to get America moving forward again. This isn't about defending Hillary. It's about protecting our ability to shape America's future.
Let's talk about how we're going to make this week a success. President Clinton got us off to a great start yesterday, and we're already a more than a quarter of the way to our goal after just one day.
This campaign is a symbol of the enormous grassroots support that stands behind Hillary. Your contribution of $100, $50, or even $25 will make the difference in our "One Week, One Million" campaign.
As President Clinton wrote yesterday, Hillary is as strong as they come. And with you standing behind her, there's nothing she can't do.
Make a Contribution:
How do we read this? As a reminder that some high-profile 90s era Clinton Campers are still on board, despite Mr. Geffen's outspoken criticism? As a broad-based poisoning of the well to discount any organized criticism, no matter how valid, that may come Hillary's way? As an attempt to paint any such critics as "swift boaters", banking on the premise that America wistfully pines for President John Kerry and blames his fellow soldiers - the bastards - for stealing the election at Karl Rove's behest?
Whatever the intended subtext, the e-mail is tough to swallow even at face value. Carville says, "This campaign is a symbol of the enormous grassroots support that stands behind Hillary."
Kos, the unquestioned arbiter of the lefty grassroots movement, might differ. Just today, he's slapped her not once, but twice, describing Hillary's politics as being "straight from the 'George Bush' style of leadership."
Perhaps not precisely the enormous grassroots attention she's looking for.
Governor du Pont On Climate Change
Pete du Pont, former Governor of Delaware and Chairman of the anti-big government group National Center for Policy Analysis, writes in today's Opinion Journal about the "bad science" fueling the "global warming alarmism [that] has become a daily American press feature."
During the 20th century the earth did indeed warm--by 1 degree Fahrenheit. But a look at the data shows that within the century temperatures varied with time: from 1900 to 1910 the world cooled; from 1910 to 1940 it warmed; from 1940 to the late 1970s it cooled again, and since then it has been warming.
Many things are contributing to such global temperature changes. Solar radiation is one. Sunspot activity has reached a thousand-year high, according to European astronomy institutions. Solar radiation is reducing Mars's southern icecap, which has been shrinking for three summers despite the absence of SUVS and coal-fired electrical plants anywhere on the Red Planet.
While Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" warns of up to 20 feet of sea-level increase, the IPCC has halved its estimate of the rise in sea level by the end of this century, to 17 inches from 36. It has reduced its estimate of the impact of global greenhouse-gas emissions on global climate by more than one-third, because, it says, pollutant particles reflect sunlight back into space and this has a cooling effect.
The IPCC confirms its 2001 conclusion that global warming will have little effect on the number of typhoons or hurricanes the world will experience, but it does not note that there has been a steady decrease in the number of global hurricane days since 1970--from 600 to 400 days, according to Georgia Tech atmospheric scientist Peter Webster.
Nor do frenzied predictions of man-made climatological disaster - no matter how unanimous the true believers inaccurately insist they are - merely constitute a benignly misleading feel-good political adventure. Cause-driven scientific sleight is a dangerous game.
Sometimes the consequences of bad science can be serious. In a 2000 issue of Nature Medicine magazine, four international scientists observed that "in less than two decades, spraying of houses with DDT reduced Sri Lanka's malaria burden from 2.8 million cases and 7,000 deaths [in 1948] to 17 cases and no deaths" in 1963. Then came Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring," invigorating environmentalism and leading to outright bans of DDT in some countries. When Sri Lanka ended the use of DDT in 1968, instead of 17 malaria cases it had 480,000.
Yet the Sierra Club in 1971 demanded "a ban, not just a curb," on the use of DDT "even in the tropical countries where DDT has kept malaria under control." International environmental controls were more important than the lives of human beings. For more than three decades this view prevailed, until the restrictions were finally lifted last September.
(Obviously, I would immediately thereafter puchase carbon offsets to neutralize the impact of my eco-unfriendly ways, as the Gorebot has taught us.)
HT: The Corner
Oh, It's On Now
The dust-up between Hillary and Obama over who has more awesome Hollywood friends has reached full-on cat fight proportions. After Obama-backer David Geffen referred to the Clintons as liars, as reported in today's New York Times, Hillary's camp lashed out at Obama, telling him to renounce Geffen's vicious (if accurate and extremely well-documented) assertions and return his money. Obama spokesman Robert Gibbs immediately returned fire:
We aren’t going to get in the middle of a disagreement between the Clintons and someone who was once one of their biggest supporters. It is ironic that the Clintons had no problem with David Geffen when was raising them $18 million and sleeping at their invitation in the Lincoln bedroom. It is also ironic that Senator Clinton lavished praise on Monday and is fully willing to accept today the support of South Carolina State Sen. Robert Ford, who said if Barack Obama were to win the nomination, he would drag down the rest of the Democratic Party because ’he's black.’
This is getting feisty. And the rounds are coming ever faster, thanks to the magic of the etherwebs, giving each side less time to cool off before retaliating. I think I speak for all Republicans (and John E'wards), when I say, "Fight! Fight! Fight!"
Deluding For Dollars
Hillary Clinton is preparing to strut her grassroots appeal by attempting to raise $1 million in one week, strictly in "grassroots donations". The One Week, One Million campaign may pale in comparative scale to Mitt Romney's one night, $6.5 million fundraising rampage on his first day out of the gate, but one has to suspect it's less about stuffing Clinton's coffers with another measly million and more about feigning credibility among the fringe-dwelling nutroots, who thus far appear to detest the candidate (presumably an unwelcome byproduct of her expediently centerward sashay and her refusal to recant her Iraq War vote without a heaping dose of nuance and blame-shifting).
The defeat-at-any-cost Democrats seem so dead set against Clinton that it's hard to imagine this stunt convincing a meaningful number of them to come into her camp. I wonder even whether she'll be able to raise the million, unless she decides to take a retroactively expansive view of the term "grassroots" and include all donations made during the week in the tally in order to save face, should she come up short.
No official start-time was given, but an e-mail announcing the grassroots campaign came in at 11:11 am today, so let's check back in around noon on the 28th.
Interestingly, the announcement e-mail came not from the candidate, but from the aspiring First Gentleman, who Team Hillary must see as a better lure for the disillusioned far left. In his plea, Bill assures us that his teflony ability to survive his spree of scandals is an asset his wife will also enjoy.
During eight years in the White House, Hillary and I faced a constant barrage of attacks from Washington Republicans. No insult was off-limits. No tactic was too low. They threw everything they could at us -- but we beat them time and time again.
The attacks on Hillary haven't stopped, and she hasn't stopped winning. You know how they say what doesn't kill you makes you stronger? Well, Hillary is as strong as they come.
What a trooper. She survived rebuke that you and she brought upon yourselves through your various misdeeds. Where's my checkbook?
Human Enslavement Watch
Which is more likely to take over the world and rule our post-apocalyptic future - robots or damn, dirty apes?
New Lunacy From NYC's Screwiest Councilman
The New York City Council's resident Black Panther, Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn), spent most of December trying to whip up the city's Black population into a violent anti-police insurrection (video of his incitement is here). In a series of incendiary rallies, Barron called for "an explosion" sufficient to "put the fear into" the hearts of New York's finest, in response to the death of Sean Bell, who was shot by police in an incident outside a Queens strip club last November.
Now we learn that Barron's disrespect for the rule of law doesn't end with the promotion of race warfare and violence against police officers. He's now wielding the race card in an incredible effort to devalue the rights and privileges of American citizenship.
Immigrant-rights activists yesterday renewed their push to allow legal noncitizens to vote in the Big Apple.
A bill that would grant permanent residents and other legal immigrants the right to vote in municipal elections has been stalled in the City Council since last year.
"More than 50,000 adult noncitizen taxpayers in those two districts are disenfranchised by citizenship voting laws," said Cheryl Wertz, of New Immigrant Community Empowerment, referring to today's special election for council seats in Brooklyn and Staten Island.
Councilman Charles Barron (D-Brooklyn), the sponsor of the Voting Rights Restoration Act, said that years ago, when immigrants were mostly European, they had voting rights.
"Then when the complexion of immigrants changes, then all of a sudden, the laws change," he said.
Yeesh, citizenship as a prerequisite for ballot access? What's next, an ID requirement? That'll only further discourage fraudulent and non-citizen voting. A slippery slope we simply can't afford to slide down if we're serious about keeping race-baiting politicians securely in office.
The text of Barron's bill suggests that the principle of "taxation without representation" argues for voting rights for non-citizen residents. So why only legal immigrants? Surely illegal immigrants are similarly deserving of voting rights, assuming they've made any taxable purchases within the city limits during the year. For that matter, we might want to think about tracking tourism, so we can be sure to send absentee ballots to residents of other states and foreign visitors who may have passed through the Big Apple and gotten dinged by our ravenous tax scheme. And I guess it goes without saying that corporate entities legally incpororated in New York State, being distinct, taxpaying "persons" under the tax law, ought to be able to cast their own votes in municipal elections. Unfortunately, once we adopt the logic that paying tax in New York City is the single standard that earns one a vote, we'll have to start turning away citizens without any municipally taxable income for the year, unless they can produce sales receipts or other documentation of tax-paying to their poll workers.
That'll all be a lot to get used to, but at least we'll no longer be "disenfrachising" citizens of other countries by preventing them from voting in our elections.
Mitt's First Ad
Mitt Romney's first televised campaign ad is out and set to debut tomorrow in early primary states.
The message, in paraphrased summary:
I'm an executive. I'm for lower taxes and lower spending. I'm against activist judges. I'm tough on terrorism. I'm an American optimist.
(Also, I'm handsome and charismatic and I can speak passionately without sounding shrill and nasally.)
Happy Washington's Bicenterquasquigenary
GW hits the big 2-7-5 this week and his Presidential successors, living and dead, have taken to borrowing some of his founding luster.
I've received no fewer than three e-mails from the office of Congressman Roscoe Bartlett (R-MD) on this topic, so I feel compelled to pass along the message.
There has never been a Presidents' Day federal holiday!
Bartlett recently re-introduced a bill (previously introduced in the 107th Congress and again in the 109th) that would keep crummier Presidents from encroaching on Washington's special day, stating, "A generic Presidents' Day diminishes the accomplishments of America's greatest Presidents, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, while rewarding the mediocrity of others."
Bartlett calls Clinton out for further denigrating the original George W. by trying to expand the celebratory locus beyond the Presidents as individuals to include the institution of the Presidency itself.
On this Presidents' Day, we recall the many times in our history when past Presidents have challenged this Nation from this office in times of crisis.
Greetings to Americans across the country celebrating Presidents' Day, 1995. As citizens gather to reflect upon our nation's rich history, I am proud to salute our former Presidents for the legacy of leadership they have built in this nation.
Warm greetings to everyone celebrating Presidents' Day, 1996. I am pleased and proud that so many of our citizens gather at this time each year to celebrate our nation's rich history and to pay tribute to the office of the Presidency.
See. Listen. Understand.
David All, the new media guru behind Congressional Blog King Jack Kingston (R-GA) and founder of the David All Group, a Republican "modern media strategy" consultancy, has a new video out.
Watch below. Then visit the video at YouTube so you can lavish it with a praiseful rating.
"Tonight Our Troops Dine In Hell"
Frank Miller’s stunning graphic novel “246” finally comes to film, as 246 brave congress members stand against 150,000 of the world’s greatest warriors.
FNC's "Half-Hour News Hour" May Surpass Low Expectations
This contradicts prior reviews and the general indications given by the sneak previews, so my hopes aren't particularly re-elevated, but let's all have a watch, just in case Fox's new right-leaning fake news show is indeed shy of terrible.
(HT: Hot Air)
[T]hose on the left anticipating, and probably hoping for, some kind of ghastly disaster will be disappointed — and may even feel like joining in the (apparently canned) laughter more times than they’d expect. In a nutshell: It isn’t terrible.
I don't want to write off these co-hosts before the first episode has aired, but how do you not tap Dennis Miller for this gig? He already works for the network, he's brighter and wittier than either of the Comedy Central fake news hosts, and he cut his teeth as a fake TV news anchor back in the 80s when Jon Stewart was still Jonathan Leibowitz. Team him up with Drew Carey or Larry the Cable Guy or one of the other few Hollywood pariahs who's dared to declare right-leaning tendencies and there you've got a show.
1/2HNH Premieres tonight at 10 Eastern.
New York's Runaway Banwagon
The latest public threat so grave as to justify trampling personal freedoms by banning it: spinning rims.
State Senator John Sabini (D-Queens) has introduced a bill, now before the Senate Transportation Committee, which "Prohibits the use or sale of hubcaps which contain parts designed to continue moving when the motor vehicle to which they are attached is not moving."
The fine: up to $750.
In fairness to Senator Sabini, let's hear him out. From the "Justification" section of the text of the bill (search for "S01640"):
This legislation is intended to prevent automobile accidents caused by hubcaps that are designed to deceive other motorists into believing the vehicle is moving, or traveling at a rate of speed different than the actual speed of the vehicle. While the design and use of devices known, as "spinners" is benign, the use of these devices on public roads can cause accidents resulting in serious injury or death. The sole purpose and design of spinners are to provide the illusion of movement of the vehicle's wheels and to thereby deceive persons into believing the vehicle is moving at a rate of speed greater than the actual speed of the vehicle, including when the vehicle is stopped. Unfortunately, this otherwise innocent deception can result in other motorists misjudging the rate of speed of the vehicle equipped with "spinners", and can result in the other motorist taking actions based on the perceived but misleading speed of the other vehicle.
The mind surrenders to boggling.
Since we're so flagrantly getting into the game of behavior and lifestyle control, why not simply ban drivers from drawing hasty conclusions about the speed of other cars based on the RPM of their hubcaps. This measure would be somewhat easier to enforce, as I'm fairly certain no driver in the history of our fair state has ever made use of hubcap rotation rate as a determining factor in gauging a car's velocity. Certainly not when other visual cues (say, for instance, the fact that a car is sitting still) argue against the hubcap-implied motion.
How about when you're watching something rotating very fast (a spinner, a fan, "The Price Is Right" wheel, etc.) and as it speeds up or slows down, it appears to create a secondary pattern, which rotates much more slowly, or even stops and reverses? Might we be able to ban all optical illusions once and for all?
One almost has to wonder if Sabini is putting us on. I know it's fashionable among the New York legislative set to outlaw things willy-nilly, but doesn't your bill at least have to pass some kind of nominal laugh test?
If he told us that there were reports of spinners actually flying right off the wheels, injuring people or damaging property, he might have a bit more of a leg to stand on. But to suggest witless New Yorkers are out there overestimating hooptie speeds and making disastrous decisions as a result, and that we therefore must pass a law banning wheel decorations, is more than a little absurd.
Most Honest, Most Ethical, Most Frostbitten Congress In History
Rep. "Dollar" Bill Jefferson (D-LA) is back in the news today. No, cops didn't find another $90,000 in bribe money stashed in his freezer.
But Congressman Jefferson has turned up in an equally unlikely place: on the House Homeland Security Committee.
Rep. William Jefferson, the Louisiana Democrat who's facing an ongoing federal corruption probe, is being granted a spot on the Homeland Security Committee, according to Democratic aides.
The appointment will be announced Friday, according to one aide who requested anonymity because the decision isn't yet official.
Jefferson was removed from his seat on the Ways and Means Committee, one of the most important panels in Congress, by Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) last summer in an attempt to show how seriously Democrats viewed the allegations of corruption.
Yes, let that last point marinade for moment.
But the move by Pelosi, who was still minority leader at the time, infuriated members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who said Jefferson shouldn't be punished unless he is indicted; federal prosecutors have yet to bring an indictment, despite an FBI raid 18 months ago on his home that yielded $90,000 in cash in his freezer.
New Orleans saw fit to return this crook to Washington six months after cops thawed out his illicit stash. But now, thanks to Democratic leadership that's willing to excuse (if not reward) egregious corruption, so long as it curries favor with a targeted demographic, this crooked sham of a politician will now be all of our problem.
Has the CBC convinced the Speaker to undertake a Congressional affirmative action program? If Jefferson's appointment goes through, Black members will make up 37% of the Democratic members of the Homeland Security Committee (more than double their representation in the House).
African Babies Are So 2006
You can quit working on that Namibian visa, Hollywood A-listers. 2007 is the year of the brainwash.
After notching up recent high profile zombification wins with Katie Holmes and Isaac "Chef" Hayes, the Scientology set is poised to bag a few more celebrity trophies. Both Holmes' and Hayes' "conversions" involved very fishy details and, coincidentally or otherwise, poster zombie Tom Cruise featured prominently in both, not as a religious recruiter, but as Holmes' baby daddy and as a scorned, litigious celebrity spoofed by Hayes' show.
As for the incoming class...
Recently, concerns that "Dianetics" may replace Variety as the bible of the entertainment capital of the world peaked with reports that a new wave of A-list celebs may be joining Cruise, Katie Holmes, John Travolta, Kirstie Alley, Isaac Hayes, Leah Remini, Priscilla and Lisa Marie Presley, Beck, Nancy Cartwright (who voices Bart Simpson) and others.
Soccer's No. 1 face, David Beckham, and his wife, Victoria "Posh Spice" Beckham, who are moving to Los Angeles, have recently become good friends with TomKat, and in October, Victoria Beckham was spotted reading a Scientology healing manual (she's officially denied that she's interested in joining the church).
Cruise, Holmes and TV actress Remini have also reportedly been wooing J-Lo, who is said to be intrigued by Scientology's toxin-flushing purification process and its claims that the religion can help her conceive a child and aid her career.
Lopez, whose father is a Scientologist, has said she isn't interesting in converting to the church and that she remains a Catholic.
But sources told FOXNews.com gossip columnist Roger Friedman that Lopez and her husband Marc Anthony are getting more and more into Scientology, despite their denials.
"They're in," a source said. "There's no doubt about it."
Need a refresher on the "auditing" process that enables Scientologists to purify their thetans? These "training routines" are nothing more than straight up brainwashing, leveraging a variety of time-tested techniques that have been honed over decades. Some first hand accounts are available here, here, and here.
The Hubbard-worshippers may never lock themselves in a compound and start burning or drinking bad things. The extent of the evil plied by the cult of Scientology may be as benign as recruitment of new rubes and the financial gain associated with selling them ever-higher levels of treatment. After all, the ultimate goal of Scientology is to practice it well enough that you're eventually worthy enough to purchase the "Advanced Technology", which involves listening to a story about Xenu, the alien ruler of the Galactic Confederacy who flew humans to Earth 75 million years ago on a 1960s-era commercial jetliner (hey, just like we used here on Earth when Hubbard was scribbling all this down). And that's where it starts to get weird. Of course, you can always just watch the South Park episode Trapped In the Closet, in which they offer a nice synopsis of the super secret technology for free.
But even if Scientologists never hole up in their Hollywood Celebrity Centre and start offing themselves, the toll reportedly taken on so many of its victims is a significant one, offering complete disruption of their prior lives and for some, abruptly severing them from friends, family, colleagues, and careers.
The Second Sign Of the Ablogalypse
Scientology Gag Made Manifest
Return to Konspiracy Korner - The Strange Transformation of Katie Holmes
The First Sign of the Ablogalypse
Konspiracy Korner - Did Chef Really Quit South Park?
Profiles In Sidestepping the Air Travel Liquid Restrictions
Security staff at Manchester Airport say they are still having to confiscate thousands of litres of liquids every week despite repeated reminders ... And the rules are driving some passengers to extreme lengths to try to get their over-sized liquids through security in their hand luggage.
One passenger was so incensed at having his deodorant confiscated that he proceeded to publicly empty his bladder of liquid in a plastic bag in protest at the legislation.
A man with four bottles of frozen water who claimed they were solids and exempt from the rules.
A man who was told he couldn't take through a bottle of vodka so drank the entire bottle in front of security staff. He was later removed from the flight for being drunk.
A woman who insisted that her two bottles of wine were not liquid but "fine wines".
And one man who was having a can of shaving foam confiscated and protested by squirting it all over the x-ray and barringer machines. The clean-up operation took almost half an hour.
Live, Damn You, Live!
Saints be praised! We finally have a name for the newest, most totally fashionable ever, multi-venue, worldwide, simulcast, cause-driven rock concert in history. It's Live Earth!
Yes, go ahead and let it roll off your tongue.
It even fits the naming trail so capably blazed by multi-venue, worldwide, simulcast, cause-driven rock concerts of yesteryear.
And it's gonna rock Antarctica like Antarctica's never been rocked by a Nobel-Oscar double threat before.
Is it just me or is it odd that only 1 of the 7 continents to be righteously glorified by Live Earth's gloriously righteous tunes doesn't have a specific location booked yet? Might every American city actually be that sensible or has the Gorebot simply lain a path of scorched Veep through every burg in the United States?
Previously: Gorebot: Cybernetic Rock God
Someone Will Fly, Someone Will Die
Now, I'm as big a "Heroes" fan as they come. But going into last Monday's episode, I was tantalized by the NBC promo promising that, "Someone will fly, someone ill die." Unless I missed something, the only hero that died was the brand new one who can melt things on the floor of his apartment and who had a total of 30 seconds or so of screen time before Sylar dispatched him. And the only one who flew was Officer Parkman when Niki/Jessica threw him out a window and he fell about 18 inches before mildly abraising himself on some scaffolding.
The new "Heroes" promos, in all of their creative genius, are promising, "Someone will fly, someone will die."
Do we believe it? Will Peter Petrelli finally learn to harness his talents and soar around the country, preventing Sylar's next herocide? And will someone important like Hiro or Isaac or Claire actually be shuffled loose the mortal coil? Or is this just another fake out?
For now, I'm willing to give the show the benefit of the doubt. Maybe they worked up this tagline as a teaser for next Monday's episode and they later realized it was applicable - in a very stretched way - to last week's as well, so they decided to double up. Maybe the promo voiceover talent is just that expensive.
Time will tell. Don't make a fool out of me, newest serial drama to win my devotion.
Sean Hannity works the video splicer to expose Senator Clinton's grossly revisionist memory about the path to war in Iraq.
Pay close attention to the number of times she uses the word "conviction". As her... well, dynamic viewpoint lays bare, her convictions are utterly unswayable, so long as they conform to public opinion. Just the kind of fortitude you look for in a world leader.
The Etherwebs Are Doomed, Time To Start Fresh
Thanks, Al. You invented us a lemon.
According to a "growing number of scientists" (how fittingly suggestive of a vague scientific preponderance) the internet is reaching a tipping point of complexity and abuse, thanks to exploding demand for high-bandwidth video, the proliferation of non-PC internet devices and legions of spammers, hackers, phishers, and other cyber scourges.
If left unchecked, they say the very framework upon which the internet is built will not be able to sustain viability merely through incremental improvements in speed, space, bandwidth, and security.
We need to junk it and start anew.
Indeed, researchers say, it is time to rethink all the old notions from the late 1960s and 1970s when the Internet was in its infancy. While few think it is possible to literally start over, there are a number of so-called clean-slate research programs that start with the premise that anything is possible and no option is too far out to consider.
Nick McKeown, a computer scientist at Stanford University, heads up one such program. He says the Internet is "broken" in at least two places — security and mobility.
Happily, the U.S. will still be in charge.
The National Science Foundation has funded Internet research for many years, but most of its projects have been of the incremental improvement variety, and most have not involved proving out new ideas on a large scale, with millions of users, says Deborah Crawford, deputy assistant director for computer and information science and engineering at the NSF.
But now the NSF is gearing up to build a $300 million to $400 million clean slate on which researchers can chalk up and test radical new ideas. The Global Environment for Networking Innovation, or GENI, will be a giant test laboratory stretching across the U.S., complete with wired and wireless computers, routers, switches, management software and subnets of wireless, cellular, sensor and radio devices. It will include a fiber-optic backbone and tail circuits to some 200 universities.
That ought to irk the EU.
Leave Off the "L" For Love, Unrequited and Tormenting
Google only throws up a dozen or so of these holiday edition logos each year. You'd think they'd have time to spell check them.
Experiencing technical difficulties today.
A Black Fly In Global Warming's Chardonnay
Irony, thy name is the House Subcomittee on Energy and Air Quality.
As headlining Drudge, "House Hearing On 'Warming Of the Planet' Cancelled After Snow/Ice Storm."
The Subcommittee on Energy and Air Quality hearing scheduled for Wednesday, February 14, 2007, at 10:00 a.m. in room 2123 Rayburn House Office Building has been postponed due to inclement weather. The hearing is entitled “Climate Change: Are Greenhouse Gas Emissions from Human Activities Contributing to a Warming of the Planet?”
The hearing will be rescheduled to a date and time to be announced later.
Herring, the Other Red Meat
Earlier today, John Hinderaker at Power Line Blog pointed out the logical fallacy being used to trumpet a "60 Minutes" piece on Barack Obama, subtitled "Is America Ready?"
The appropriate question is not whether America is ready for Obama, but whether Obama is ready to be President. But I expect we'll see this a lot. Reservations about Obama's qualifications to be President will be delegitimized as indications that America is not "ready" for him.
It doesn't take much scrutiny of Obama's resume to pick out his brief stint in higher office as his most glaring weakness, but it's more palatable for supporters to wonder, with wagging fingers at the ready, whether America has matured sufficiently to give a minority candidate a fair shake at the Presidency.
It got me thinking - how transparent and flimsy would similar straw men be if propped up in lieu of legitimate arguments against other candidates?
Winning the Argument By Denying One Exists
Thomas Sowell takes the eco-doomsayers to task in his column on global warming's biggest myth, namely that there's near unanimity among qualified climatologists.
The political left's favorite argument is that there is no argument. Their current crusade is to turn "global warming" into one of those things that supposedly no honest and decent person can disagree about, as they have already done with "diversity" and "open space."
It is not just the sky that is falling. Government money is falling on those who seek grants to study global warming and produce "solutions" for it. But that money is not as likely to fall on those skeptics in the scientific community who refuse to join the stampede.
If you heard both arguments, you might not be so willing to go along with those who are prepared to ruin the economy, sacrificing jobs and the national standard of living on the altar to the latest in an unending series of crusades, conducted by politicians and other people seeking to tell everyone else how to live.
What about all those scientists mentioned, cited or quoted by global warming crusaders?
There are all kinds of scientists, from chemists to nuclear physicists to people who study insects, volcanoes, and endocrine glands -- none of whom is an expert on weather or climate, but all of whom can be listed as scientists, to impress people who don't scrutinize the list any further. That ploy has already been used.
Then there are genuine scientific experts on weather and climate. The National Academy of Sciences came out with a report on global warming back in 2001 with a very distinguished list of such experts listed. The problem is that not one of those very distinguished scientists actually wrote the report -- or even saw it before it was published.
In short, there has been a full court press to convince the public that "everybody knows" that a catastrophic global warming looms over us, that human beings are the cause of it, and that the only solution is to turn more money and power over to the government to stop us from our dangerous ways of living.
Sowell recommends Unstoppable Global Warming: Every 1500 Years, by Fred Singer and Dennis Avery and Shattered Consensus, edited by Patrick J. Michaels, as two sources of essays and studies by people not counted among the crusading everybodies.
"Half-Hour News Hour" Set To Debut on Fox News
On February 18th, "24" co-creator Joel Surnow will unleash the un-Daily Show on FNC, a "a conservative satirical treatment of the week’s news" entitled the "Half-Hour News Hour" (think that's a deliberate allusion to HBO's "Half-Hour Comedy Hour" or just the same bit of cleverness conceived independently?).
The show will be co-anchored by Kurt Long and Susan Yeagley. Yeagley has hosted and appeared on shows like "World's Funniest Commercials", "The Soup" and "Best Week Ever", so she's classically trained in the pop culture insta-nostalgia genre.
Mary Katharine has details and links aplenty.
Update: Hot Air points out this sneak preview, suggesting, "Maybe the producers leaked this to lower expectations, thereby ensuring our surprise at the quality of the pilot will be that much more pleasant."
Repentance Day Reminder
Don't forget: today is the beginning of the end. So make sure your affairs in order.
Cyberdyne, er, I mean D-Wave Systems promises today is the day they unveil their quantum computer. If James Cameron's calculations are correct, D-Wave should become self-aware on March 10th.
Previously: Everyone Brace For... Well, Something (Maybe)
These Rhetorical Pretzels Are Making Me Thirsty
In his second face-reddener in as many days, Barack Obama revealed that only rarely and inadvertently laid bare anti-war supposition - that American soldiers lost in Iraq gave their lives in vain.
Rookie mistake, O. Your more seasoned colleagues have learned to dance the rhetorical dance of virulently decrying the American military and the hideous bidding they do, without so overtly derogating fallen servicemen and women.
Update: In the comment thread at the above-linked Hot Air post, there's some disagreement about whether this was a Freudian gaffe or a deliberate migration by Obama into a more patently anti-military position among his fellow primary contenders.
To flagrantly plagiarize my contribution to the discussion: I think it’s still fair to call this a gaffe, insofar as Obama will inadvertently irk those who contort themselves into the Pelosi-style bundle of nuances in order to nominally support the troops while blasting everything they do. They’ll be quick to look past it of course, but I think this insufficiently nuanced rhetoric from Obama is a combination of his being a relative newbie to the game of illogic as practiced on the national stage and of the kid gloves with which the press has handled him to date.
He’s thus far unsullied by any meaningful rebuke by press or opponent, so he’s likely starting to feel that whenever he opens his mouth, he automatically disgorges little piles of pure and unassailable liberal sputum for his legions to fawn over. Whenever he gets his first real bashing, whether at the hands of the Clintonistas or the media, we might expect him to suddenly find a more measured diplomacy.
Romney To Webcast Official Presidential Kick-Off
Tomorrow morning at 9:00, Mitt Romney will ditch the exploratory committee in exchange for a full-on Presidential bid, in a speech webcast (and presumably telecast) from Dearborn, Michigan. Online registration is available here.
Czech President: Al Gore Crazed
No commentary or annotation needed on this one. Just enjoy:
[Interviewer]: IPCC has released its report and you say that the global warming is a myth. How did you get this idea, Mr President?
[President Václav Klaus]: It's not my idea. Global warming is a myth and every serious person and scientist says so. It is not fair to refer to the U.N. panel. IPCC is not a scientific institution: it's a political body, a sort of non-government organization of green flavor. It's neither a forum of neutral scientists nor a balanced group of scientists. These people are politicized scientists who arrive there with a one-sided opinion and a one-sided assignment. Also, it's an undignified slapstick that people don't wait for the full report in May 2007 but instead respond, in such a serious way, to the summary for policymakers where all the "but's" are scratched, removed, and replaced by oversimplified theses.
Q: How do you explain that conservative media are skeptical while the left-wing media view the global warming as a done deal?
A: It is not quite exactly divided to the left-wingers and right-wingers. Nevertheless it's obvious that environmentalism is a new incarnation of modern leftism.
Q: If you look at all these things, even if you were right...
A: ...I am right...
Q: Isn't there enough empirical evidence and facts we can see with our eyes that imply that Man is demolishing the planet and himself?
A: It's such a nonsense that I have probably not heard a bigger nonsense yet.
Q: Don't you believe that we're ruining our planet?
A: I will pretend that I haven't heard you. Perhaps only Mr Al Gore may be saying something along these lines: a sane person can't. I don't see any ruining of the planet, I have never seen it, and I don't think that a reasonable and serious person could say such a thing.
In addition to being a
Holoacaust-denier, er, man-made global warming skeptic, Klaus is a Milton Friedman-inspired conservative economist and a "Eurorealist" who has called for the scrapping of the EU, which he calls a "failed and bankrupt entity". And still he maintains popularity among a large majority of the public.
Maybe Klaus should be the GOP nominee in 2008. Hasn't Arnold done anything about amending that natural-born citizen requirement yet?
Onboard Counter-Hijack System IDs Fishy Passengers As They Blink, Fidget, Whisper the Koran
The Onboard Threat Detection System is still in the development stage, but the ACLU and CAIR must be experiencing palpitations at the mere suggestion of such a wanton intrustion.
Tiny cameras the size of a fingernail linked to specialist computers are to be used to monitor the behaviour of airline passengers as part of the war on terrorism.
Cameras fitted to seat-backs will record every twitch, blink, facial expression or suspicious movement before sending the data to onboard software which will check it against individual passenger profiles.
They say that rapid eye movements, blinking excessively, licking lips or ways of stroking hair or ears are classic symptoms of somebody trying to conceal something.
A separate microphone will hear and record even whispered remarks. Islamic suicide bombers are known to whisper texts from the Koran in the moments before they explode bombs.
Thanks to modern technology, the seat back staring you down throughout the flight will be able to distinguish between radicalized neredowells and the merely secularly fidgety.
The software being developed by the scientists will be so sophisticated that it will be able to take account of nervous flyers or people with a natural twitch, helping to ensure there are no false alarms.
But... but my liberties?! you protest.
Mrs Neary said that under the Data Protection Act, all video, audio and other recordings would be destroyed at the end of every flight so that passengers' civil liberties were not infringed.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of the human rights group Liberty, said: "Watching people constantly on aircraft and trying to work out patterns of behaviour is a difficult road to travel.
"I suspect that it will put people off flying because they will feel uncomfortable if their every blink and twitch is being monitored."
I somewhat ambivalently tend to agree. The monitoring system seems unlikely to be well-received, even outside the realms of liberty crusaders and Islamic relations counselors. Then again, we've rebuilt a lot of sanguinness over the last 5.5 incident-free years. Nothing would put people off flying quite like another spate of hijackings. If the system turns out to be effective and reliable (and if it manages to avoid triggering false positives every time a passenger gets jumpy, enters REM sleep, or mutters angrily to himself), maybe submitting to constant "terrorist or not" facial evaluation is something we could learn to live with.
Presidential candidates from both parties have been falling all over themselves to one up each other in their collective scramble into the web's newest-fangled arenas. Web videos, online chats, social networking sites, and the political blogosphere have made for active early battlegrounds, already accounting for a number of dust-ups and semi-scandals.
Taking the social networking craze to the next level Barack Obama's site actually hosts its own network, My.BarackObama.com. Doing social networking right could well help to cement Obama's branding on the left as the choice of the web generation. Instead, due to a highly unfortunate bug (actually, less of a "bug" per se than an oversight and an misoverestimation of the civilities of the site's users), the forum became an unwitting hate speech distributor.
When a user attempts to use the "find a group" feature, he encounters a dialog box that offers an example of how to phrase the query. The example given was, er... unsavory. Quite unsavory.
The problem appears to have been that the example was auto-generated based on the most recently formed group, but the names of the groups were not being screened. They are now.
Michael Arrington of TechCrunch brought the embarrassing oversight to the site administrators' attention, soliciting an ungracious reaction.
Liberal Economic Policy In Action
Thanks to last month's increase in the minimum wage, many hard-working Arizonans can finally earn a living wage.
Those who haven't been laid off anyway.
Some Valley employers, especially those in the food industry, say payroll budgets have risen so much that they're cutting hours, instituting hiring freezes and laying off employees.
"I've had to go to some of my kids and say, 'Look, my payroll just increased 13 percent,'" he said. " 'Sorry, I don't have any hours for you.' "
The Employment Policies Institute in Washington, which opposed the recent increases, cited 2003 data by Federal Reserve economists showing a 10 percent increase caused a 2 percent to 3 percent decrease in employment.
Labor markets are rational - whoulda thunkit?
Maybe I Could Learn To Like Spitzer
If there's substance to this, it'd be the best indication to date that Eliot Spitzer is serious about cleaning up corruption and dysfunction in Albany.
(HT: Urban Elephants )
Gov. Spitzer has "serious concerns" about Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver remaining in power, The Post has learned.
Spitzer's war on fellow Democrat Silver and the Assembly escalated yesterday when those close to the governor said he'd like to see Silver gone.
"He has very serious concerns with him remaining as speaker," said a source familiar with Spitzer's thinking.
"There's not something actively afoot, but clearly there's a small margin [of Republican control] in the Senate and if you [the Democrats] regain that body, the balance changes," the source added.
Democrats need to pick up just two seats in the Senate to take control of the body for the first time in decades, which would give Spitzer another potential ally in trying to force Silver out, the source said.
The current Democratic minority in the Senate has been far more allied with Spitzer than the Democrats in the Assembly.
"Clearly Eliot thinks the relationship has been damaged and there's serious questions about whether you can trust someone who clearly goes back on their word," Anderson said when asked if the governor still has confidence in Silver as speaker.
"He has serious concerns about his ability to negotiate with him in the future."
Silver yesterday insisted he can work with Spitzer, and made it clear he has no plans to go anywhere.
"I feel very secure," Silver said when asked if his leadership is in jeopardy.
Spitzer on Thursday had warned a group of donors that "the knockout blow is coming very soon" - hinting at a possible coup against Silver, The Post reported yesterday.
It's not surprising that Silver would feel
complacent "secure", given his long-standing biannual success at getting his electoral opponents thrown off the ballot by his team of election lawyers (2006 being a rare exception in which he failed (not for lack of trying) to bounce his Republican opponent). His many uncontested reelections have likely imbued him with a sense of entitled invincibility, which he might have expected only to blossom further with a Democrat in the Governor's mansion.
Spitzer's motives behind any coup attempt might not turn out to be as democratic and pure as simply dismantling Albany's power structure. An ornery, obstructive Assembly speaker might well be a thorn in any Governor's side as he tries to push through his own agenda and ousting this poster boy for Albany's entrenched power brokerage could serve to centralize the influence Spitzer enjoys. But whatever the Governor's impetus, wresting some of Silver's chronic and undemocratic supremacy away from him would be good news for New Yorkers.
Mitt Romney Gets Around
Omnipresence - I like that in a candidate.