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Generic Confusion

When you leave, my blog just fades to grey
Nu ma nu ma iei, nu ma nu ma nu ma iei

News? Check. Politics? Check. Music? Check. Random thoughts about life? Check. Readership? Ummm.... let me get back to you on that. Updated when I feel like I have something to say, and remember to post it.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Quagmire... civil war... unwinnable.

From LGF, via Riding Sun and Stephen Den Beste, an amusing exchange about an unwinnable quagmire.

Lizard 1: It's terrible.
Lizard 2: The horrible loss of American soldiers freeing that country from tyranny...
Lizard 3: ... only to have it devolve into Civil War.
Lizard 1: Car fires, busses burning, security forces being attacked...
Lizard 2: ... and the native population seeming to be helpless to stop it.
Lizard 1: Unemployment sky high...
Lizard 2: ... no vision for the future ...
Lizard 3: ... a leader at odds with the U.S.
Lizard 2: No-go zones with anti-government gangs in control.
Lizard 1: Terrible. We never should have "liberated" them. It was a mistake.
Lizard 2: And I was so hopeful..
Lizard 1: They voted in a constitution...
Lizard 3: The economy was doing well - exports were increasing...
Lizard 1: But now, just thousands of dead and wounded Americans.
Lizard 2: Billions of dollars squandered.
Lizard 1: And for what? Muslim radical driven civil war.
Lizard 2: Yeah. Sad. What a waste.
Lizard 3: But enough about France. Now what should we do about Iraq?

A surprisingly fast verdict

Shortly after I arrived in Indiana, IU student Jill Behrman disappeared while cycling. Billboards asking for information about her whereabouts were prominent, but no leads were found. Years later, a pond was drained based on a tip, but that was a false lead. It wasn't until nearly three years passed before her remains were found.

Another three years passed, and John R. Myers II was arrested. Surprisingly, the trial proceeded quickly, and on largely circumstantial evidence, he was convicted after a short jury deliberation.

Something stupid about this article: Comments from the jurors are presented. "Several Morgan County jurors agreed to talk to reporters provided they would not be quoted by name." Yet each juror is identified with enough details that anyone familiar with the trial could positively identify them.

Here's a photo gallery.

In local news....

It's truly remarkable! One week before the election, and I've seen the first advertisement related to my own congressional race. It was a mass mailing extolling how my representative stands for Republican virtues. But when you're in as solidly a Republican district as I am, you don't need to do much to win in November once you've won in May.

On the other hand, the Mike Sodrel-Baron Hill battle number 3 is attracting a lot of commercials here. Some of these ads for Democrat Baron Hill mention prominently that Mike Sodrel is a millionaire. That's not going to be a profitable angle.

Of the following attributes, which would be worst for a potential legislator? Millionaire, pot smoker, lifelong politician, child of the previous officeholder, lawyer?

Ask yourself: what is wrong with being a millionaire? It's not like Mike Sodrel attained his wealth by inheritance, like Ted Kennedy, or by marriage, like John Kerry. He attained his wealth by founding and building a family business. If more Congressmen had that experience, I think Congress would make better laws.

One effective ad in this race points out how Baron Hill went from Congress to a lobbying job, almost as if he expected to win back his seat in the 2006 election. But I think a significant number of voters look down on that, staying in Washington culture and detached from the people you represent.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Slippery Slope

One contentious topic (with very little actual impact on the country) is gay marriage. On one side, judges decide that gay marriage must be allowed. In response, amendments are proposed to define marriage as one man and one woman. Amendments prevent judges from supplanting the legislature, but largely ties the hands of future legislatures.

One argument often mentioned is that once marriage is redefined beyond its traditional definition, there's nothing stopping it from being changed to embrace even more combinations, particularly polyamory, but also marriage between close relatives. It's a slippery slope argument.

Don't believe in slippery slope arguments? Tell that to the people of New Jersey. From Eugene Volokh:

Consider how the decision relies on the enactment of past gay rights laws. The backers of such laws often argue that these laws do not create a slippery slope towards same-sex marriage or civil unions. Thus, for instance, an editorial in the Boston Globe, Oct. 15, 1989, at A30, said "[A proposed antidiscrimination law barring sexual orientation discrimination in credit, employment, insurance, public accommodation and housing] does not legalize 'gay marriage' or confer any right on homosexual, lesbian or unmarried heterosexual couples to 'domestic benefits.' Nor does passage of the bill put Massachusetts on a 'slippery slope' toward such rights." See also Phil Pitchford, Council Members Wary of Partner Registry, Riverside Press-Enterprise, Apr. 30, 1994, at B1, quoting Riverside Human Relations Commission member Kay Smith as saying that "[t]hose that truly have a problem with homosexuality will see [a domestic partnership proposal] as part of the 'slippery slope' [toward gay marriages] . . . . But, this legislation needs to be looked at on the face value of what it is, and it really does very little." And see the Editorial, A Vote Against Hate, Louisville Courier-J., Feb. 3, 1994, at 6A, rejecting as "arrant nonsense" the claim that a hate crime law "would lead to acceptance of gay marriages."

Yet the New Jersey Supreme Court's equal protection argument begins by citing such non-same-sex-marriage, non-civil-union gay rights laws (citations omitted):

In addressing plaintiffs’ claimed interest in equality of treatment, we begin with a retrospective look at the evolving expansion of rights to gays and lesbians in this State. Today, in New Jersey, it is just as unlawful to discriminate against individuals on the basis of sexual orientation as it is to discriminate against them on the basis of race, national origin, age, or sex. Over the last three decades, through judicial decisions and comprehensive legislative enactments, this State, step by step, has protected gay and lesbian individuals from discrimination on account of their sexual orientation.

The way I see it, from the beginning of society, marriage became defined as the relationship between a man and a woman for plainly obvious reasons. The couple protect each other, and they most likely produce children to support them when too old or sick to do so themselves (among other reasons). Now, not every couple is capable of having children, and when older couples want to marry, we don't stop them, because the definition of marriage has been set by tradition for so long.

"It's tradition" is a reason to support not changing the definition of marriage. It won't get a passing grade in a class on logical argumentation. But if you bypass tradition, there's really no reason to restrict marriage at all. Let people who want to care for each other, in any combination, get all the financial benefits we now provide to married couples. After all, it would be discriminatory to do otherwise.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

How Not To Get A Job

Check out the latest viral video sensation, Aleksey Vayner!

And check out the whole story.

This would be brilliant if it were an attempt to promote a new TV series, perhaps a comedy about a pathological liar. But sadly, it appears to be a true attempt to get a job.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Conspiracy alert!

You must read Waiter Rant. He's uncovered the secret conspiracy whose tentacles encircle all elements of American society.

“Sugar, fat, and salt are what make going out to eat enjoyable,” I say. “Trust me.”
“It’s true,” Georgie says, “The food in restaurants always tastes better than what you make at home.”
“It’s cabal between chefs, doctors, and pharmaceutical companies,” I whisper. “Let’s turn Americans into fat, toothless, high blood pressured diabetics so they can spend billions on health care and we can buy yachts.”
“Now I know you’re paranoid,” Georgie says.
“It’s all bread and circuses!” I crow. “Just before Rome fell the elites kept the populace fat, happy, and distracted from what was really going on.”
“We don’t feed people to the lions anymore,” Georgie says.
“No,” I reply, “Now we have Reality TV and fast food.”

Monday, October 23, 2006

The latest fashion accessory

Why, may I ask, does the news media deem a person's decision to adopt a newsworthy event?

If Madonna wants to adopt a child from Malawi, that's her business, and not ours. As long as that business is conducted on the level, that's fine.

But if it's taking advantage of another's ignorance, well, that's another matter....

(Image from Count Your Sheep)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Playing the charts

Here's a band leader after my own heart! The Crüxshadows (who?) set a goal of having their latest single appear on the Billboard single sales chart, and worked to meet that goal. First, the single release was designed so that it was eligible to chart as a single. Second, they timed the release week of the single to correspond with Dragon*Con, a convention which many of their fans will attend, where the band performs annually, and where they have a booth selling merchandise, including said single. Third, they made sure both their convention sales and their online sales were tracked by SoundScan.

It worked. The song debuted at #1 on the Dance Single Sales chart, and #7 on the Single Sales chart. (I contributed to that success, by buying the single at Dragon*Con.)

They've documented their success here, and the plan was discussed extensively on the band's blog. Now, had I known about this plan, I'd have promoted it here. I'm a chart fan, and am all in favor of having a virtually unknown band that I like chart.

If I were to be in a band, I'd like to maximize my chart presence. For example, one tactic would be a contract provision requiring the record company to release each single in a format making it eligible for the Hot 100. (Back in the late 90's, a lot of record labels were not releasing singles, under the assumption that they cannibalize record sales, so a lot of songs didn't chart on the Hot 100.) There's really no reason for this, other than I like chart records and oddities.

Now, what this really shows is how far the physical singles market has fallen. That #7 charting is certainly less than 1000 sales.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Hilarious video

David Zucker, the brains behind classic movies like Airplane!, has created a not-safe-for-airing campaign ad, criticizing the Democratic coddling of North Korea. Thanks to the link from Drudge and posts from sites like Instapundit, this ad will probably get more exposure than something aired on the television.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Waiter, remove this from my bill!

Waiter Rant has some wildly humorous suggestions for additional codes to explain why a charge was removed from a customer's build.

Good joke

I'll steal this joke from the Actuarial Outpost:

Why doesn't congressman Mark Foley use bookmarks?

Beyond that, there's not much to say. Criminals, especially those who violate trust, have no place in Congress. And that doesn't change based on the party involved. It will be interesting to see what comes from the investigation, revealing who knew what and when, but for now, that joke is my contribution to the blogosphere's analysis of this news story.

Those insidious fast food purveyors....

The Associated Press has an article on food ads reaching young children.

Messages for high-fat, high-sugar foods permeate TV programming for preschoolers, according to new research that is adding to criticisms that food marketers are trying to hook the youngest children as lifelong customers.
Last week, the Federal Communications Commission announced plans to study links among the ads, viewing habits and the rise of childhood obesity. For now, marketing of food to children is unregulated.

Previous studies have found that kids as young as 3 who see TV ads are more likely to request and eat advertised foods high in fat, sodium and sugar.

This strikes me as a total non-issue. First of all, you cannot "hook" anyone on an item that's not addictive. You can certainly introduce them to food via advertisements, and if they try it and like it, then and only then do you have a customer. But no amount of ads or cartoon characters will make a child enjoy spinach.

Second, food tastes change. I'm sure you can think of a food you never used to eat as a child, or a food you no longer eat now.

Third, no toddler has any control over what he eats. If the parent won't provide McDonald's, the toddler won't eat McDonald's.

Finally, and most importantly, the specter raised in this article can be very easily disproved. Just offer toddlers McDonald's cheeseburgers (heavily advertised) and a typical cake, made from a cake mix and canned frosting (little advertisement). See which of these is preferred more often.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Bridge collapse

I chanced upon a rather dramatic scene in the news yesterday, the collapse of an overpass in Laval, Quebec. The worst part is large chunks of concrete had fallen from the overpass an hour prior to the collapse; still, the highway remained open.

The story reminds me of the ill-fated Hoan Bridge in Milwaukee (immortalized in The Blues Brothers). That bridge suffered a failure little more than a year after it became linked to the Lake Parkway. While it didn't collapse, several support beams cracked, and the road sagged. Fortunately, no one was hurt, the bridge was immediately closed, and the damaged bridge sections were successfully demolished and replaced. In the interim, though, the local news media devoted an inordinate amount of resources to filming the bridge, needing to be there 24/7 in case it collapsed.

A collection of news stories can be found in the archives of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. The company that analyzed the failure has a report here.