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Archive for January, 2008

January 31st 2008

View From Mt. Everest

Ever wanted to stand on top of Mt. Everest and slowly turn around, seeing the world at your feet?

Now you can.

See if you spot the climber on his way up.


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January 31st 2008

An Airy Ta Da! From Tata

Tata Motors, the Indian car company that just flummoxed Greenies because its $2,500 Nano mini-car will actually bring joy and comfort to the poor, may get back in with the alienated Birkenstock bunch with its latest effort, the Air Car.

No, not the Jetson’s kind of air car. This one runs on air and emits just air from its tailpipe. The long-distance model adds a gas engine that compresses the air on-board, increasing the range while still getting 130 miles to the gallon.

Tata is licensing the technology from Guy Negre, a French inventor and former Formula One engineer, whose Motor Development International (MDI) has been perfecting the car over the last several years.

Here’s the description of the technology from the Greenie mag Plenty:

The Air Car works similarly to electric cars, but rather than storing electrical energy in a huge, heavy battery, the vehicle converts energy into air pressure and stores it in a tank. According to MDI’s Miguel Celades, Negre’s engine uses compressed air stored at a pressure of 300 bars to pump the pistons, providing a range of around 60 miles per tank at highway speeds. An onboard air compressor can be plugged into a regular outlet at home to recharge the tank in about four hours, or an industrial compressor capable of 3,500 psi (likes those found in scuba shops) can fill it up in a few minutes for around two dollars. Celades says optional gasoline or biofuel hybrid models will heat the pressurized air, increasing the volume available for the pistons and allowing the car to drive for nearly 500 miles between air refills and about 160 miles per gallon of fuel burned.

Here’s an Australian TV video on Negre’s air car. You’ll notice it’s a clattery, noisy thing. The second air car featured in the video is even more remarkable; it scoots around quietly, powered by an engine that weighs just 14 pounds.

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Tata says it will market the car later this year for about $10,000, but Negre thinks it may take a couple more years before the car actually hits the market.

Against all this put the draconian approaches to global warming favored by John McCain and the (other) Dems. Their desire to limit our economy instead of let it act to create new technologies is symptomatic of Dem Disease, that horrible condition where your mind gets so sick it actually believes that government is superior to individual when it comes to knowing what’s best and doing what’s best.

Government can be very effective at getting people to stand in line. They’ve done this; they’ve gotten practically the entire planet to stand in the line under the “We’re freaked out about global warming”‘ sign.

Now they’ll serve the world best by saying, “Gosh, we sure did that well,” and leaving the solution to the more creative side of the government/private sector yin-yang.


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January 31st 2008

Samba To That Holocaust Beat

When I think of the holocaust, it makes me feel like … dancing!

Or so it seems with the Unidos do Viradouro samba school, one of Rio’s big samba schools and a primary Carnival participant. The group built the pictured float to be one of three in its presentation for Carnival, which starts this Sunday.

The Jewish Federation of Rio de Janeiro got a court order today prohibiting Viradouro from entering the float in the parade, but there are still a couple days available for the legal case to flip and even flop.

BBC quotes Viradouro’s creative director saying the float is designed to be “a reminder that such an atrocity should never be repeated.” No dancers were going to be around the float, the group says.

That may be a noble motivation, if true. But a noble motivation in an inappropriate venue cannot remain noble. File this under “What were they thinking?”


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January 31st 2008

The Libyan Gets A Look At Hell

Abu Laith al-Libi, “The Libyan,” a senior al-Qaeda operative who tried to kill President Cheney in Afghanistan a year ago, became a charred, dismembered victim of superior US technology today.

A CIA Predator drone piloted via video controls a thousand miles away fired a missile into a passle of Taliban and al-Qaeda scum, killing 12, including al-Libi..

As it happens, the 12 were hanging out in Pakistan, in the Waziristan tribal area next to Pakistan. That makes the hit an even better tactical strike, since it lets the enemy know there are no safe havens, and it sends Musharaff a much-needed message that if he can’t take care of Waziristan, we will.

Next up: drones over Iran. Even more cool.

AP quotes Eric Rosenbach, a terror expert at the Center for International Affairs at Harvard’s Kennedy School:

“Al-Libi has been waging jihad for more than 10 years and it will be a blow to both al-Qaida and the Taliban, but not in a way that will lead to the downfall of those organizations.”

Blows are good, even if not fatal. They mean we have good intelligence in the al-Qaeda’s backyards and we have the capability and will to act on that intelligence, even at the expense of another nation’s sovereignty.

The attack must have dispirited and demoralized al-Qaeda greatly, so I hope there are more to come, and soon. Name the enemy (which the Dems can’t do), attack the enemy and kill the enemy using technology that boggles their minds. Dispirit and demoralize them some more.

Can we do it again tomorrow?


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January 31st 2008

Fade-Out On The Campaign TV Spot

Karl Rove’s “campaign lessons learned” piece in today’s WSJ is good reading for any political wonk. Nothing much stands out as entirely new thought, but the four “new rules” and seven “old rules” he lists and illuminates are a primer for politicos.

One item did jump out from the rest, under the “new rule” topic that TV political ads ain’t what they used to be:

By Feb. 5, when it costs $16 million to burn one television spot in every state that’s voting, it’s simply too expensive to be on air everywhere at once.

Breathtaking, isn’t it?

I watch a bit more TV than I’d like to admit and I live within the huge LA TV market in a state that in five days will begin the process of doling out well over 100 GOP delegates — and I have seen one presidential campaign ad. With the volume muted. It was for Hillary.

I was already numbed to it because of the Indian wars. We have four ballot propositions that would make four tribes vastly more wealthy, thousands of poor, gambling-addled citizens vastly poorer, and the state not much better off at all. The two sides have been skirmishing for well over a month; it seems like every day I see more Indians than Custer met at Little Big Horn.

Not all states are as initiative-crazed as California, but all states have local campaigns of one sort or another than are buying lots of TV spots for long before the primary bandwagons roll in. By the time the day comes when it costs $16 mil to buy a spot in every Feb. 5 primary state, the prez campaigns should know that the local politicos with their local campaigns will have already pretty much putrefied the waters, so the national spots will be little welcomed.

Rove’s conclusion from this phenomenon is sound:

The 20th century’s closing decades saw the rise of the TV ad man as the most potent operator in presidential campaigns. The 21st century’s opening decade is seeing the rise of the communications director and press spokesman as the more important figures on a campaign staff. It is the age of the Internet, cable TV, YouTube, multiple news cycles in one day, and the need for really instantaneous response. Ads and ad makers are still vital — but not nearly as much as they were just a few years ago.

That means that unless we bloggers can figure out a way to rake in money as effectively as TV stations do, campaigns should become less expensive to run. In Iowa, we saw Huckabee do well without a big ad budget and Romney not do well despite a huge ad budget.

This is good news for American politics, because as important as the TV spot was, and is, it’s a lousy way to communicate with the public. The wealth of debates this year provided much more than the ads could, and the ensuing storm of commentary and YouTube clips created a depth of knowledge unprecedented in a campaign.

Granted, most Americans aren’t watching political YouTube clips, listening 24/7 to talk radio or reading blog posts on the campaign — but most Americans know someone who is. Unfortunately, they’re doing this in a year when there’s not a single great candidate on either side. But maybe in 2012 or 2016 we’ll hit a sweet nexus of fantastic candidates and dazzling new ways to stay up on them.

This has been quite a campaign, flawed as the candidates may be, and the new media have helped us to see their flaws. But that sweet future campaign … that will be one to shape America’s future!


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January 30th 2008

Creationism Bragging Rights

Did you know a “giant step” has been made in scientific efforts to create human life?

Yes, indeed! We are truly on the doorstep of designer life from scratch … at least that’s true if you’re not paying careful attention to the bombastic claims of some scientists. Unlike the SF Chronicle, which bought the story hook, line and genome:

American scientists have built from scratch a synthetic chromosome containing all the genetic material needed to produce a primitive bacterium – a giant step toward the creation of artificial life. …

Now, a team led by Dr. Hamilton Smith, director of the Venter Institute’s Synthetic Biology Group, has manufactured from laboratory chemicals a ring of DNA containing all the genes of Mycoplasma genitalium – the tiniest bacteria ever found.

That means the team is tantalizingly close to creating an artificial form of life that could replicate itself using these machine-made genes.

The article mentions curing disease and all the usual promises of mad scientists, then cuts to the chase:

And there is the matter of bragging rights of mythological proportions. Mere mortals have yet to lay claim to creating life.

Yeah, and that’s a good thing, if you ask me or nine out of ten science fiction writers. Why exactly would we want to produce artificial life? Is there something wrong with God-created life? Do we really think we can do any better?

Never mind with the metaphysical questions, though, because it turns out that Dr. Smith is hardly creating artificial life:

The plan is to slip the synthetic chromosome inside the microscopic skin of one of the Mycoplasma bacterium, replacing its natural genome with the machine-made one and sparking the creature into a life form that can reproduce itself.

He may be hijacking actual life, but he’s not creating anything sustainable from scratch if it takes having a Mycoplasa bacterium handy to pull of the trick.

It all reminds me of what is, perhaps, the greatest of all creationist jokes (not that there is exactly a primordial sea-full of creationist jokes, mind you).

A scientist waves his arm at his massive lab of sophisticated equipment and says to God, “Human intelligence is now so great and our understanding of science so comprehensive that I, too, can create life.”

Unimpressed, God reaches down, takes a lump of dirt, breathes on it, and transforms it into a butterfly that flutters from his hand.

“That’s nothing!” brags the scientist. “I too can make a butterfly!” He reaches down to get a piece of dirt.

“Hold it right there,” God says. “Make your own dirt.”

Make your own host bacterium, Dr. Smith. The chromosome was a nice trick, but let’s not lose our perspective, eh?


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January 30th 2008

Mukasey Makes It Clear (Sort Of) On Waterboarding

In a letter quoted in today’s NYTimes, AG Michael Mukasey wrote top Lib Sen Patrick Leahy on the subject of whether waterboarding is torture:

“If this were an easy question, I would not be reluctant to offer my views.

“But with respect, I believe it is not an easy question. There are some circumstances where current law would appear clearly to prohibit the use of waterboarding. Other circumstances would present a far closer question.”

That’s hardly a sterling endorsement of the legality of the procedure, but Dems took the occasion to rail against the Bush Admin nonetheless.

Leahy, who’s firing up an oversight hearing of his Senate Judiciary Committee, said the letter does not answer “the critical questions we have been asking about [waterboarding's] legality.” He promised tough questions.

He didn’t promise to not look like an apologist for terrorists or a political opportunist. But if we strip our interrogators of the ability to carefully and selectively chose from procedures that do not break the bones, cut the skin or trim the toenails of top terrorist operatives, aren’t we being apologists for terrorist? And if we can’t admit that these tough questions were never asked of Dem administrations, aren’t we being political opportunists?

As for the NYT coverage, it rumbles through 11 paragraphs before getting around to sharing this with its readers:

[Mukasey] said [in the letter to Leahy] that only “a limited set of methods is currently authorized for use in that program,” and added: “I have been authorized to disclose publicly that waterboarding is not among those methods. Accordingly, waterboarding is not, and may not, be used in the current program.” (emphasis added)

The headline on this story is, “Mukasey offers views on waterboarding,” which, in fact, he didn’t.

Why isn’t the headline, “Mukasey confirms administration does not use waterboarding?” Might that have clarified matters a bit more? Might that have made readers feel a bit more positive about the Bush Administration?

Oh … I get it … never mind.

Photo: AFP/Getty, from NY Magazine


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January 30th 2008

There Is Still Hope

I often wondered why John Edwards wasn’t pulling out of the race, but I’m not one of the legions who figured John Edwards would stick to the campaign forever in order to (1) stoke his galaxy-sized ego and (2) become a power broker at the convention, thereby stoking his galaxy-sized ego. Many pundits certainly assumed he would.

But no:

Sen. John Edwards today will end his quest for the Democratic presidential nomination where he began it 14 months ago — in New Orleans, where his signature issue of poverty is a stark part of everyday life.

Democratic sources said he will not immediately endorse either of the front-runners, Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) or Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). He’s scheduled to make remarks at 1 p.m.

So there is hope. For a while there, I thought there were enough stupid people in America to fall for this snake who raised prices all over America through his self-motivated class-action lawsuits, then wandered out from his 25,600-square-foot home to secure the votes of gullible fools concerned about “two Americas.”

It turns out Edwards ran out of fools.

But let’s not be too optimistic about the mental state of America. He did garner 64 delegates before falling on his gilded, jewel-encrusted sword.


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January 30th 2008

Wednesday Reading

Somehow I’m seeing Fred McMurray, all tweeds, slippers and pipes, settling down for a good read with the Watcher of Weasels‘ weekly carnival of miscellaneous good stuff. My three sons … and a computer?

Anyway, here’s what the Watcher’s Council nominated as this week’s best curl up for a good read posts in the blogosphere. Council members will vote Thursday evening, and winners will be posted here Friday morning.

Council links:

  1. Complicit
    Soccer Dad
  2. A Shot in the Dark
    Done With Mirrors
  3. Orwell’s Britain Is Halal Toast
    Wolf Howling
  4. About Those “Lies”
    The Colossus of Rhodey
  5. How to Lie About Lying
    Big Lizards
  6. The Media, Richard Scaife, and the Never Ending Soros Connection
    Bookworm Room
  7. State of the Union, 2008
    The Glittering Eye
  8. Quote of the Day: Prez Bill Edition
    Cheat Seeking Missiles
  9. Energy Independence — What It Am And What It Ain’t
  10. Repeal the Twenty-Second Amendment
    Rhymes With Right
  11. The ACLU: Senator Craig’s Newest Pals
    The Education Wonks
  12. The GOP Comes A’Courtin’
    Right Wing Nut House

Non-council links:

  1. On Term Limits and Government Power
    Somewhere On A1A…
  2. A Moral Core for U.S. Foreign Policy
    Hoover Institution
  3. Britain’s Top 9 New Names For Islamic Terrorists
    The Nose On Your Face
  4. Big News: Indonesia’s Largest Muslim Group Vows to Combat Misunderstanding of Islam!
    Jihad Watch
  5. John McCain’s Open-Borders Outreach Director: The Next DHS Secretary?; Update: A “Non-Paid Volunteer”
    Michelle Malkin
  6. The Audacity of Questioning Obama’s Commitment to Israel
    American Thinker
  7. Treaties and Executive Agreements
    Outside the Beltway
  8. Capitalism Doesn’t Work, Mr. Gates?
    Rasmussen Reports
  9. The Muslims of Europe Charter
    Gates of Vienna
  10. A List of Regional Pizza Styles
  11. The Conclusion We Dare Not Face
    Dr. Sanity
  12. Be a Victim! Or Else!
    Classical Values
  13. BDS as an Occupational Hazard
    The Paragraph Farmer
  14. Thoughts on Froggy Billion Fraud

Thanks, Watcher … got a match for my pipe?*

* Long, long ago. I’ve been a nonsmoker for years now.


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January 29th 2008

Poll Check: Florida Vote

CNN is beating Fox on reporting returns, having just broken through the 90% barrier, so the results of the Florida GOP primary are pretty much set in stone.

Here are this morning’s RCP polling averages followed by CNN’s actuals:

McCain: RCP – 30.3%; Actual – 36%
Romney: RCP – 29.8%; Actual – 31%
Giuliani: RCP – 15.0%; Actual – 15%
Huckabee: RCP – 12.7; Actual – 14%
Paul: RCP – 3.8%; Actual – 3%

McCain’s final tally was outside the 3% margin of error we expect from polls, but just barely, and no one else was outside the margin. McCain just picked up a bit here and there from each of the other candidates to solidify his narrow win.

This all leads to one (almost) known conclusion: Rudy’s out. It’s a shame he ran such a pathetic campaign, because he deserved much better. But I don’t think he had a choice of any other strategy. If he had had the money, he would have run in more states.

He did tell supporters he’s going to California … but the good money is on the trip being about endorsing McCain, not running himself.

The results also tell us that McCain was able to get away with dirty politics this time around. His contention that Romney waffled on the a timeline for Iraq was a stretch of Reed Richards proportions.

So McCain (and the pollsters) leave Florida with their heads high. But with the warm-up states behind them and Super Tuesday a week away, McCain only holds a 21-delegate edge over Romney (95 to 74). To win, 1,191 delegates are needed … so you can liken what we’ve done up to now to a hitter taking a couple practice swings while the pitcher looks in at the catcher for a sign.


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With Obama winning the presidency by seven percent, we can't blame the media. Their laudatory coverage and refusal to extensively probe into Obama's background and [lack of] experience was at best responsible for five percent of his vote, the pundits tell us. Here is a compilation of over 100 significant instances of pro-Obama/anti-McCain bias during the 2008 campaign.

For all 'Media Bias 2008' – Click Here

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