Friday, March 31, 2006

ABC News: 'Innocent Until Proved Guilty?' This looks at more voodoo science, a voice stress analyzer that is no more than a stage prop, and completely worthless. And as for the "inventor":

Although throughout the video Humble is referred to as Dr. Humble, "Primetime" discovered that he is neither a medical doctor nor has he earned a doctorate from an accredited university.

Instead, the diploma on his office wall, which reads "Doctor of Psychology," is an honorary degree, awarded by a Bible college in Indiana that used to have an office in the strip mall where Humble's first office was located.

Pressed as to whether giving himself the "doctor" title is honest, Humble replied, "I think it is."

They ought to hook him up to his machine to see if he really believes that.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Forget Dubai -- worry about Smartmatic instead Holy Christ. What next? Isn't anyone paying attention in Congress?

Congress spent two weeks overreacting to news that Dubai Ports World would operate several American ports, including Miami's, but a better target for their hysteria would be the acquisition by Smartmatic International of California-based Sequoia Voting Systems, whose machines serve millions of U.S. voters. That Smartmatic -- which has been accused by Venezuela's opposition of helping Chávez rig elections in his favor -- now controls a major U.S. e-voting firm should give pause to anybody who thinks that replacing our antiquated butterfly ballots and hanging chads will restore Americans' faith in our electoral process.

March Malaise Good article in Slate on the recent demonstrations in France in opposition to a labor law reform known as CPE.

There appeared to be three kinds of demonstrators. Some, like the group dancing around a bongo drum at the Place de la République, or the dreadlocked kids swigging beer and smoking joints as they ambled through the Place de la Bastille, had apparently come for a big day out. Then there were the casseurs, troublemakers in from the suburbs, looking for opportunities for mayhem. The morning news had reported that police would be monitoring inbound trains to keep the casseurs out of the city center; this would presumably involve targeting black and Arab young men.

The third and largest group was comprised of people out for the cause—or causes. Members of ACT UP Paris marched with signs pointing out that "AIDS is still with us." A Marxist group sold Che Guevara T-shirts. And everywhere, on stickers, signs, and T-shirts, and shouted through bullhorns, the demonstrators declared themselves to be "contre la précarité!"

Against precariousness, instability, uncertainty. I'm trying for the kindest translation here, but even so, the sentiment is hard (for an Anglo-Saxon capitalist) to take seriously. Except, if more than a million French citizens take to the streets to demand that the government protect them from uncertainty, something must be seriously wrong, even if it's not the CPE.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Lileks with a great one about the recent Saddam documents that Steven Hayes has been working on.

When Bill Clinton was bombing him in response to aggressive defiance of the interntional community, Saddam Hussein was a brutal dictator who had weapons of mass destruction and ties to al-Qaida. After President Chimpy McHitler had removed him from power in an illegal war, Saddam was a comic thug without weapons of mass destruction who served as a bulwark against Islamists. Everything clear?

Obviously, both cannot be right. American bombs are accurate, but it is doubtful they can go back in time and blow up Clinton's rationales. To the left, however, the clock of history was reset the day the Supreme Court overturned Al Gore's 50-state electoral sweep, and Iraq inexplicably became a large sandy Monaco the U.S. invaded on orders from Petro-Zionist puppetmasters.

What, then, will they make of the newly released documents that reinforce the alleged connections between Saddam and terrorists, and suggest Clinton was right all along?

Jonah Goldberg looks at another "study" that claims to explain conservatives by analyzing them as children. The kids who were whiney and frightened grew up to be conservatives, while the ones who were perfect in every way grew up to be liberal.

In 2003, another Berkeley study, led by John T. Jost, reviewed four decades of research of conservatism and found that conservatives tended to be fear-driven dogmatists, terrified by ambiguity. The study linked Ronald Reagan, Rush Limbaugh, Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini. The findings were hardly surprising since they basically recapped the branch of "scholarship" launched by Adorno.

Yet another Berkeley professor, George Lakoff, has convinced leading Democrats that psychology is the best way to tackle politics. People see things through "frames," according to Lakoff, and if Democrats could simply recast those frames in their favor, conservatives would see the light. Howard Dean calls Lakoff "one of the most influential political thinkers of the progressive movement."

Perhaps the more revealing psychological insight can be found in the fact that so many liberals think disagreeing with them is a form of psychosis.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

James Lileks' Bleat entry for today got me thinking about stupid music. I hadn't thought of that "Indiana wants me" song in years. The late 60s and early 70s were infested with songs like that. This guy was one major contributor. Even at the age of 12 I knew this was crap. He even has a whole page dedicated to his lyrics, such as they are. And don't forget the song "Timothy," which, while I could be mistaken, was probably the only Top 40 hit ever to address the issues of cannibalism and mining accidents (Incidently, the man who made "Timothy" a hit was Rupert Holmes, who was also responsible for "Escape: The Pina Colada Song" and lots of other crap I had no idea was being recorded. Where does this stuff get played? Who buys it? But I digress). There were lots of other story songs back then, and one day they stopped recording them. What happened in the 80s? Did people just wake up one day and think "Jesus, this is garbage, let's start rapping!" So the situation really hasn't improved.

Monday, March 20, 2006

My Ideal War - How the international community should have responded to Bush's September 2002 U.N. speech. By Christopher Hitchens

Well, if everyone else is allowed to rewind the tape and replay it, so can I. We could have been living in a different world, and so could the people of Iraq, and I shall go on keeping score about this until the last phony pacifist has been strangled with the entrails of the last suicide-murderer.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Media shockingly ignorant of Muslims among us I think many of the media types in this country look at Americans the same way they look at Muslim mobs in the street. They think we're uncivilized near savages who are just looking for an opportunity to stage a riot. Therefore they cover up on behalf of Muslims and distort reality.

"East is east and west is west/And ne'er the twain shall meet," wrote Kipling. Obviously, they meet every moment of the day -- the cabbie driving you to your appointment in Washington, the affable fellow at the corner store. But proximity isn't the same as understanding: Taheri-azar and that 20 percent of British Muslims think they know "the west" and they don't like it. By contrast, the New York Times and Co. insist they like "the east" but go to an awful lot of trouble to avoid finding out anything that would ruffle their illusions. The twain would never meet, said Kipling, "till Earth and Sky meet presently/At God's great judgment seat."

I'd rather find out before then. Five years after Sept. 11, it's astonishing how little we still know about the West's Muslim populations.

Monday, March 06, 2006

Survey Says - Let the exchange of trade and ideas with Iran begin. By Christopher Hitchens Here's an interesting idea from Hitchens in regard to Iran. He suggests that there is a third option besides war or pointless sanctions.

The most touching remark I heard during my time in Iran last year was from a woman in the wonderfully beautiful city of Isfahan. (It is just outside this cultural treasure house that the mullahs have chosen to place one of their mountain-dugout nuclear sites.) In the family home where I was staying, contempt and hatred for theocracy was a given, but this was a family friend, moreover draped in a deep black chador, who stayed on the edge of the conversation. Finally she broke in to ask shyly, in faultless English, "Would it be possible for the Americans to invade just for a few days, get rid of the mullahs and the weapons, and then leave?"

Debunking Katrina Myths Popular Mechanics (of all things) takes on Tales of Katrina. It's good to have this available since so few people really know what happened down there. The narrative has shifted recently so that it's once again all Bush's fault.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

I wrote this for MnDOT to put in their agency newsletter. I'll add photos when I can.

Construction work on the Twin Cities area freeways may occasionally cause headaches for commuters and the people who live around the various projects. But any irritation caused by that construction is quickly put into perspective by a drive through the area affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Granite Construction Company, currently teamed with C.S. McCrossan on the reconstruction of I-494 through Minnetonka and Eden Prairie, was recently awarded a $266.8 million contract by the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) to rebuild a bridge over St. Louis Bay on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

When describing the destruction Hurricane Katrina caused to the Gulf Coast of the United States, words, and even photographs, fail to truly capture the devastation. The analogies one keeps coming up with invoke war zones. It looks like Berlin after World War II, or maybe Hiroshima after the atomic bomb. It’s a level of destruction that has seldom, if ever, been seen in this country.

“I served three tours in Vietnam, and I’ve seen a lot of damage from bombing,” said Tony Carbone, a Granite structures superintendent who recently was transferred from the I-494 project to work in Mississippi. “But I’ve never seen anything like this.”

About six months ago Hurricane Katrina made international headlines when it caused massive flooding in the city of New Orleans. But while the storm struck the Crescent City a glancing blow, it made a direct hit a little further east in the state of Mississippi, and especially on the towns of Bay St. Louis, Pass Christian, Gulfport and Biloxi.

With 160 mph winds and a storm surge as high as 40 feet the destruction Katrina caused was severe and widespread. Giant oak trees, many of them more than five feet in diameter, were snapped in half or blown over, while those that stayed up had all their leaves stripped off and replaced by wind and water borne debris which still clings to their now skeletal branches. Sheets of plastic, old blankets and insulation from destroyed buildings hangs there, slowly flapping in the breeze, ghostly reminders of the homes and businesses that had once lined the beaches.

For mile after mile along the coast nothing is left standing. Every home, apartment building, hotel, restaurant and shop for more than 30 miles along the shore was completely destroyed. In some areas the wreckage remains where it fell, in other areas nothing is left behind at all besides a concrete slab or an overturned car still waiting to be hauled away. Many people built their homes on piers ten or 15 feet in the air anticipating that an occasional storm might send water onto their property. Today they are left with piers sticking out of the ground, and the homes once perched on them are now long gone.

The bridge over St. Louis Bay was one of the bigger casualties of the hurricane. Constant pounding by the waves of the storm surge washed out the approaches and flipped bridge deck panels into the water like they were made of cardboard. Pieces of the two-mile-long structure now lie next to the supporting piers or lean against them like toppled dominoes. The collapse of the bridge turned a fast, two-minute drive across the bay between the towns of Pass Christian and Bay St. Louis into a 45-minute, 25-mile detour.

The Granite project involves the removal of what remains of the old bridge and its replacement by a new structure, 85-feet tall at its highest point (the higher profile eliminates the need for a drawbridge). The new bridge will be significantly wider that the one it replaces, which frequently saw traffic back-ups due to everyday congestion or vehicle break downs that would block a travel lane. The new bridge will have four, 12-foot travel lanes separated by a concrete median barrier, with wide shoulders and a 12-foot pedestrian/bicycle lane.

The duration of the entire project is only 21 months, with one lane open in each direction required by May of 2007. Local officials are hopeful that by the time the bridge is rebuilt more of the clean up will have been accomplished and more people will have moved back to the area to make use of the new structure. Once the bridge helps make it easier to get around more people may be motivated to try to rebuild their lives in south Mississippi. For now though, the people who remain in the area, some living in FEMA trailers, some still living in tents, will see the start of the bridge reconstruction as another step in the long, hard journey back from the day Hurricane Katrina blew in, blew away the life they knew.