Hurricane Ernesto

Gene, I think you'll be amused by this article on the failure of Ernesto forecasting.

I had been calling landfall in the middle Keys since before it hit Haiti, but I will admit that you can never tell where these things will go or how tough they will be if they have to go through Cuba. One of the problems I see a lot is that they don't seem to look at their own satellite or radar pictures. They say "the forecast track takes it into Tampa" and you'll see on the satellite loop that the storm is on a direct line to Miami. On one of Ernesto's satellite loops (visible) the center seemed to have crossed over the Haitian peninsula but the official track has it has having gone around.

In unrelated Ernesto news, during the storm-that-wasn't, a water main broke and ate my van. No damage but it was a bitch to get the city to call the tow truck company and tell them to send the bill to the city instead of trying to swindle me out of $230 (for the use of two tow trucks). The tow truck company is a nightmare here. They were successfully sued for beating up an angry victim. They had taken his truck from a legal spot and when he showed up to complain about it, they sent him to the hospital. Awful company.

Hatchet Job on Me

This guy at Strike the Root defends Amanda Taylor's column. But he misquotes me! I didn't say hers was "the dumbest article ever." Rather, I said it was quite possibly the dumbest article I had ever read. Big difference.

(P.S. I haven't even read this yet. It's entirely possible that I will agree with him.)

Eyewhat News?

I just saw that our local news team is called the "Eyewatch News." I guess this is kind of the regional version of Eyewitness News, except that, well, Eyewitness News is a pretty good name for a news team -- you know, they're out there actually witnessing the events that make the news, or interviewing those who did witness them -- while, on the other hand, Eyewatch News makes no sense whatsoever. Are they trying to say they watch the news with their eyes? Well, what else would they watch it with? Or is it that what they watch to get the news is eyes?

Well, at least it sounds a bit like the name of a real news programme.

Super Powers

The other day my kids were discussing which super powers they'd like to have, things like "Seeing through walls," or "Healing wounds with the mind." Then they asked me which one I'd choose. "That's easy," I said, "I'd like the power to get clothes clean and smelling fresh, while still leaving colors as bright as new."

And Here's the Answer...

to the question I posted some months ago, as to the meaning of "10% chance of rain":

Precipitation Probability Forecasts

In 1965, the National Weather Service instituted the use of probabilities into precipitation forecasts. This was done since the use of words such as "chance" and "likely" are much too ambiguous for the public to utilize effectively. Today, probability forecasts ranging from 0% to 100% (issued to the nearest 10%) are used to provide the public with more concise information.

There are, however, common misinterpretations of the current precipitation probability forecasts. Consider the following statement "There is a 40 percent chance of precipitation at any location in the forecast area". Unfortunately many people interpret this statement to mean there is a 40 percent chance that measurable precipitation (>0.01") will occur somewhere in the forecast area, and a 60 percent chance that it will not occur anywhere in that area. This interpretation is wrong. In actuality, this forecast means that at any point in the forecast area (such as in the vacinity of your home or farm) there is a 40 percent chance that there will be measurable precipitation and a 60 percent chance that there will be no measurable precipitation during the forecast period.

To break this down even further, one can think of the chance of precipitation occurring at a specific location in a forecast area as the product of two quantities: 1) the probability that a precipitation-producing storm will move into the forecast area, and 2) the percent of this area which the storm is expected to cover. For instance, a forecaster can have a high degree of confidence that a storm will move through an area (say 80 percent), yet determine that only 50 percent of the area will be affected by precipitation. Taking the product yields

0.80 x 0.50 = 0.40.
The forecast in this situation will call for a 40 percent chance of precipitation. This shows that although precipitation is nearly certain (80 percent), the chance it will affect you (40 percent) is much less.

Targeting Civilians

Our nemesis JIMB kept trying to hint that we must, you know, be the "anti-s" word for implying that the Israeli government attacks civilians in war. But, as Sheldon Richman reports, the Israeli government itself does not agree with him:

"In 1978, after a major Israeli incursion into Lebanon, Chief of Staff Mordechai Gur bluntly told the press, "For 30 years, from the War of Independence until today, we have been fighting against a population that lives in villages and cities. " Gur cited as examples of Israel's previous campaigns against civilians the bombing of villages on the east side of the Jordan valley and the shelling of towns in the Suez Canal area in the years after the Six-Day War. These acts of terror drove more than a million and a half Jordanians and Egyptians from their homes.

"At the time of the Israeli general's statement, Israel's most respected military journalist, Ze'ev Schiff, wrote, "The importance of Gur's remarks is the admission that the Israeli army has always struck civilian populations, purposely and consciously. The army, he said, has never distinguished civilian [from military] targets ... [but] purposely attacked civilian targets even when Israeli settlements had not been struck."

"This is the policy that Moshe Sharett, Israel's first foreign minister, critically dubbed "sacred terrorism." [Read excerpts from Sharett's diary here.] The doctrine is found in the thinking of Israel's founding prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, and in the military actions approved by both major governing blocs. In 1981, when the Labor Party criticized then Prime Minister Menachem Begin for his bombing of Beirut, which killed civilians indiscriminately, he responded by listing some of the civilian attacks perpetrated by previous Labor governments. "There were regular retaliatory actions against civilian Arab populations," Begin said."

Kirkus Review of PUCK

"Metafiction and metaphysics collide in this hugely ambitious debut novel.

"After his discovery of a cure for psychosis leads to international acclaim and the Nobel Prize, Dr. Morris Fitzmaurice is unable to handle the pressure of his newfound fame, and he tumbles into a vortex of drugs and alcohol that eventually leaves him comatose. Meanwhile, in an alternate universe, nervous citizens await the return of a messiah-like figure, the Render, who will save them from an evil sweeping through the land. Back on Earth, Morris’s invention of Copenhagen II, a drug sold by a company called PUCK—one of the many overt references to A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which acts as a controlling metaphor throughout the narrative—has gained popularity as a means to access the alternate realities postulated by modern physics. In the fantasy world, warring factions battle over control of The Book of Night, a vaguely biblical text—written in a Joycean mélange of allusions and puns—that tells the past, present and future of the world. These two worlds collide in Morris’s comatose state, with references to the Bible, quantum physics and string theory, various creation myths, Shakespeare, Joyce, Beckett, Plato and more. Occasionally, the intertextual references become excessive—such as when Morris traipses around his hometown in the fashion of Leopold Bloom (on June 16, no less)—and may cause readers to wonder about the author’s purpose, especially considering that this is well-worn postmodern territory. Still, the interplay of narrative and idea is evidence of Callahan’s impressive intelligence and research, and readers will enjoy the ride.

"Notable for its ambition and erudition."

So buy it already!

Way to Go, Deb!

On today, I found:
"Tropical Storm Debby has become better organized over the far eastern Atlantic Ocean early this morning."

That's good. The way things had been, her checkbook was in one drawer, her ledger in another, she was missing appointments all the time, she could never find her keys -- it was time for a change.

And, it strikes me that we're not very far through the alphabet in naming storms, for late August, are we? The low level of hurricane activity must be due to global warming. Oh, and so is my recent flautulence.

hypocritical comment of the day

Palm Tree Pete sends us this bit of cackle enducement:

"...Pyongyang has refused to return to arms talks in anger over the U.S.'s blacklisting of a bank because of its complicity in North Korea's alleged illegal activities, including the counterfeiting of U.S. dollars.

Washington insists the financial issue is unrelated to the nuclear standoff -- a position Bush stuck to in his call with the Chinese leader.

"Counterfeiting U.S. dollars is an issue that every president ought to be concerned about. When you catch people counterfeiting your money, you need to do something about it," Bush said."

Apocalypse Then

Yesterday was the day that National Review predicted that Iran would launch an apocalyptic attack on the US. My friend Jim Henley has described how he dealt with the horrific events of that day of infamy. Pop over and share the terrors you braved.

A Disaster

So Bush today said that if the US pulls out of Iraq now, the situation will be "a disaster." In other words, he feels our presence there makes no difference.

Filipino Folk Healing

My eighty-something in-laws were telling me about Filipino folk healing from the old days (meaning up into the 1970s, at least). The most curious story I heard was about this fellow they knew who would feel his patient's pulse, and then declare whom he had to go to to be cured. Now, this third-party was generally not a healer, and had never done this kind of thing before. But you brought the healer-designee seven grains of rice, he chewed them, placed them on your neck, and, bing-botta-bing, you're healed! I guess the bloke who told you whom to go see was kind of like the gateway provider in an HMO.

Less impressive was the story of the woman who could make someone sick just by looking at them. I said that's nothing -- I've made a whole room-full of people sick just by talking to them, and a whole discussion-list of people sick with my posts.

"We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."

I can't stand it when signs say this! Ninety-nine times out of a hundred, it's definitely causing me an inconvenience! (If it weren't, I probably wouldn't be reading the sign.) Why can't they just be men about it and say, "We're sorry for the inconvenience"??

If I weren't a pacifist, I'd find the guy who wrote the sign (latest example: the printing station by my favorite bank of computers is down), kick him in the crotch, and apologize for any discomfort that may have caused.

Floyd Puts Neocons in Their Place

No, it's not a Murphyesque critique of some neocon. Rather, Floyd brilliantly argues that the whole preoccupation with the neocons is dangerous for it overlooks the real danger. (Not only is the writing great, but the accompanying pictures are good too.)

Mixing Metaphors

During the Nixon years there was a "freeze" on wages, meaning they couldn't (legally) go up. Okay, so that means it must be bad (other things equal) for your wages to be frozen.

So would it be good for your wages to melt? Would you be ecstatic if your boss said, "Next month, Jim, your wages will evaporate"?

(It's true, to say your wages would boil doesn't sound bad, but it doesn't sound good either. In fact, it just sounds weird.)

Novel Sentences

One of the great things about kids is that you see life from a new perspective. For example, before Clark, I had never uttered anything like the following: "Hey! What are you yelling for? I just turned the water on. Give me a break! You don't hear me yelling, even though you just took a dump in the tub."

Young from Lebanon

Michael Young, usually a strong supporter of the "war on terror" in general and Israel in particular, and a resident of Lebanon, writes of the recent conflict:
"All of Beirut is a target; all access roads, airports, and ports have been blocked or are in constant danger of being attacked, and a much larger swath of civilians are in danger. According to eyewitnesses in southern Lebanon, including journalist friends of mine, the destruction of villages is the worst they've ever seen – both intense and systematic – and it's not Hezbollah that is usually on the receiving end of the ordnance, it is civilians."

Our tormentor JIMB kept claiming that Israel was not using disproportianate force. What does the government of Israel have to say about the matter?
'Israel's UN ambassador, Dan Gillerman, told an American audience that to those "who claim that we are using disproportionate force, I have only this to say: You're damn right we are."'

Hat tip to Doug Bandow.

if you can't do real booze, drink bacardi

Apparently, someone at the Bacardi ad agency stumbled upon old video of a Cacophony Society event and turned it into an ad campaign. Hey! Just cause we aren't typical couch potatoes doesn't mean we weren't going to notice, Bacardi.

Traffic Help

I was driving down Tillary St. in Brooklyn yesterday and reached a major intersection (I believe to get onto the Brooklyn Bridge.) There were three of four traffic cops in the road, waving on and stopping traffic. In a way that, as far as I could tell, exactly matched what the traffic lights said to do.

What could the point of this be? All I could see was that it created confusion by dividing drivers' attention between two sources of control over the intersection. Maybe its some punishment the NYPD assigns to cops on the verge of being fired.

Meryl Streep: "She's so hot right now..."

My wife and I went to see Meryl Streep and Kevin Kline in "Mother Courage" in Central Park yesterday. In a nod to mother Russia, I had to wait in line for 5 hours for the tickets. (I'll be describing that process in a more official venue, so I'll postpone discussion of it here.)

Streep (I won't call her "Meryl" as many of the theatergoers did) was great; I don't think I've ever seen someone command such attention on the stage. (Kevin who?) She flubbed a few lines, but she recovered gracefully (and my wife pointed out that this show would only run for a month, and it had only been open about a week).

One thing really bothered me though: The security people kept emphasizing that there were no pictures allowed. Okay fine. Now before the "curtain" went up, a girl sitting next to us (whom I knew because we had spent 5 hours earlier that day in line) took a picture of her friend in the seat next to her. She wasn't even pointing the camera in the direction of the stage. A security woman came up (we were all in the middle of the row) and yelled at her, and told her to delete the photo.

The girl was protesting and saying it was just a photo of her friend. (The girl was from Germany I think, so I believe the different cultures--the security women I'm pretty sure were American blacks--added to the tension.) The first security woman told her to delete the photo. The girl (after the first protest) said OK.

Then, the second security woman came up, on the other side of the aisle. She repeated that the girl needed to delete the photo, and the girl said she did, then asked somewhat sarcastically, "Do you want to check it?" while holding up the camera. The security woman called her bluff and held out her hand. So we all passed down the camera to the security woman. But then, instead of checking the photos, she started to walk off saying the girl could pick it up after the show.

The girl yelled, "Wait a minute! Take my name so I can get my camera back!" The security woman walked back (she'd only taken a few steps) and handed the camera back down the aisle. So at this point, it seemed that she had just been trying to scare the girl.

Now at this point my memory is a little hazy, but somehow the security woman wanted the camera back (after we'd handed it back to the girl). She said something like, "You knew the rules. You were told twice to not take photos but you did it anyway." (As my wife pointed out, this is a bit misleading. She was only told twice because the 2nd security woman came up and butted in after the situation had been resolved.) The girl just said, "No, I'm not giving you my camera, I deleted the photo just like you asked." The security woman walked away.

After a few minutes everyone had forgotten about it, but then the security woman came back with a guy and they motioned for the girl to come out. I seriously thought she was getting booted, and that her 5 hours in line were wasted. (I know, sunk costs, I should've said her anticipation of enjoying Meryl was now lost--whatever.) But they just yelled at her (the show had already started by this point) and let her sit down.

NOW, the thing about this whole episode that really bothered me, was that the idiots behind us took the side of security. These people didn't know what had happened--e.g. that this girl was a normal, nice person, and that she had taken a flash photograph of her friend and not of the stage, and that the security woman was apparently making up justifications for her pseudocontradictory actions on the fly (I omited some of the dialogue)--and yet one guy was quite confident in saying, "I can't believe that girl. She should've just handed in her ID with the camera."

Yeah, I'm sure that's a smart move. Maybe she should've given her house keys too and asked the kind security woman to drop off the camera on her kitchen table.

I'm trying to put my finger on just what it is that bothered me so much about the guy's idiotic analysis. I think it's because you can't possibly expect a society to have zero power hungry busybodies. But so long as public opinion doesn't automatically condemn the "lawbreakers" (as designated by the busybodies), then there's no real danger. A bully can only beat up a few people, and even that wouldn't happen if the popular kids truly ostracized him for doing so.

But if most people cheer on the busybodies, then they can wreak havoc.

(Mea culpa, I didn't do anything (a) because I wasn't at the time sure she had taken a picture of her friend [my wife later confirmed this], but mostly because (b) I had waited 5 hours for those tickets and I didn't want She-Ra kicking me out too.)

More Anti-Semitism

The last resort of warmongers, these days, is to charge anyone speaking out against the slaughter they endorse with "anti-Semitism." Moseying around the Internet today, I came up with a typically idiotic example of this tactic here.

First point: The author charges everyone on the left with anti-Semitism, and all Arabs as well: "As if anyone Arab or from the Left needed a reason to hate Israel or Jews in general." Has the author ever seen a survey of the voting pattern of American Jews? Doesn't he know that, in aggregate, Jews are well to the left of the American mean?

He blathers on:
"Like the KKK against the Black Americans. There is absolutely no excuse for this kind of blatent bias and anti-Semitism."

Yes, sure, objecting to the Israeli air force dropping bombs in downtown Beirut is just like lynching black people. And then I really chuckled when I got to his anti-bias pitch. Wouldn't his blanket condemnation of all Arabs fall into this "no excuse" zone? I bet if you get a few beers in this fellow you'll start hearing a lot of gripes about the "towel heads."

But the really insidious idea is that anyone who objects to the Israeli government killing 1000 Lebanese civilians is against Jews. My friend Peteyboy, let me tell you, the orthodox Rabbi, Israel Kirzner, to whom I dedicated my first book, did not drop a single one of those bombs. My best friend, Jamie Mandell, did not kill even one Lebanese civilian this summer. My long-time co-author, Stu Morgenstern, never blew up an apartment building in Beirut in his whole life. It is not Jews, but the criminals running the state of Israel, who have done these things, just like it is not Americans, but George Bush and puppetmasters, who have killed so many Iraqis.

In fact, it is the people who identify every action of the Israeli state with all Jews who are guilty of anti-Semitism, smearing a whole people with the crimes of a few.

I Guess He's an Anti-Semite, Too

Jewish peace activist Michael Lerner:
'Few, if any, of those misgivings have entered the US media. "There is no major figure in American political life who has been willing to raise the issue of the legitimate needs of the Palestinian people, or even talk about them as human beings," Lerner said. "The organised Jewish community has transformed the image of Judaism into a cheering squad for the Israeli government, whatever its policies are. That is just idolatry, and goes against all the warnings in the Bible about giving too much power to the king or the state."'

Read the rest here.

Final Civilian Death Totals

Lebanese: 1000
Israeli: 30

SUUUUURE, it's Hezbollah who deliberately targets civilians, while Israel is very careful not to kill them.

Just how much does the Israeli Army care about causing civilian casualties? '[Lead Israeli General Dan] Halutz gained fame (or notoriety) when he was asked what he feels when he drops a one-ton bomb on a residential quarter and answered: "a slight bang on the wing."'

More here.

Why? (Big numbers)

060119 Thu 2330 Prime factors of factorials

I. Originally, I sent this challenge: How many 2s are among the prime factors of 10 factorial; i.e., how many times can 10 factorial be evenly divided by 2?
10! = 3628800
/2 = 1814400 (1)
/2 = 907200 (2)
/2 = 453600 (3)
/2 = 226800 (4)
/2 = 113400 (5)
/2 = 56700 (6)
/2 = 28350 (7)
/2 = 14175 (8)

Now compare this shortcut (when dividing, ignore fractional part):
10/ 2 = 5
10/ 4 = 2+
10/ 8 = 1+
10/16 = 0+
10/32 = 0+ etc.
total 8

This works for counting any prime factor p of any factorial N! Why?

II. Thank you for your replies. The reason I'm fond of this trick is a simple proof embodying one of the archetypes found throughout the deductive network of mathematics: in counting the dots of a matrix of dots and spaces, or in summing a matrix of numbers, it does not matter whether you first take columns and finally the subtotals row, or first take rows and finally the subtotals column; the result is of course the same. Do you see the proof in this matrix (p=2, N=10)?

0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 1 5
0 0 0 1 0 0 0 1 0 0 2
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 0 1
0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
0 1 0 2 0 1 0 3 0 1 8

III. Further investigations: Let's try prime factors p of a really big factorial.

1000! ˜ 4.02*10^2567 is big--much, much bigger, for example, than any number needed to count any collection of physical entities.

Writing "N#p" for the number of times p occurs as a prime factor of N, plot p:1000!#p -

p 1000!#p d
--- -------------- ---
2 994 ? 1000 6 (Here we use "?" for "approximately equal to")
3 498 ? 1000/2 2
5 249 ? 1000/4 1
7 164 ? 1000/6 2
11 98 ? 1000/10 2
13 81 ? 1000/12 2
17 61 ? 1000/16 1
19 54 ? 1000/18 1
97 10 ? 1000/96 0
101 9 ? 1000/100 1
991 1 ? 1000/990 0
997 1 ? 1000/996 0

Where the deficit d = 1000/(p-1) - 1000!#p (using integer division).

IV. Let's plot N!#p:d for some representative N,p -

N!#p d
-------------------------- ---
(7^1!= 7!)# 2 = 4 3
(7^2!= 49!)# 2 = 46 3
(7^3!= 343!)# 2 = 337 6
(7^4!= 2401!)# 2 = 2396 5
(7^5!= 16807!)# 2 = 16800 7
(7^6!=117649!)# 2 = 117640 9
(7^7!=823543!)# 2 = 823532 11

N!#p d
-------------------- ---
1!# 2 = 0 0
10!# 2 = 8 2
100!# 2 = 97 3
1000!# 2 = 994 6
10000!# 2 = 9995 5
100000!# 2 = 99994 6
1000000!# 2 = 999993 7
1!# 3 = 0 0
10!# 3 = 4 1
100!# 3 = 48 2
1000!# 3 = 498 2
10000!# 3 = 4996 4
100000!# 3 = 49995 5
1000000!# 3 = 499993 7
1!# 5 = 0 0
10!# 5 = 2 0
100!# 5 = 24 1
1000!# 5 = 249 1
10000!# 5 = 2499 1
100000!# 5 = 24999 1
1000000!# 5 = 249998 2
1!# 7 = 0 0
10!# 7 = 1 0
100!# 7 = 16 0
1000!# 7 = 164 2
10000!# 7 = 1665 1
100000!# 7 = 16662 4
1000000!# 7 = 166664 2
1!#11 = 0 0
10!#11 = 0 1
100!#11 = 9 1
1000!#11 = 98 2
10000!#11 = 998 2
100000!#11 = 9997 3
1000000!#11 = 99998 2
1!#13 = 0 0
10!#13 = 0 0
100!#13 = 7 1
1000!#13 = 81 2
10000!#13 = 832 1
100000!#13 = 8331 2
1000000!#13 = 83332 1
1!#17 = 0 0
10!#17 = 0 0
100!#17 = 5 1
1000!#17 = 61 1
10000!#17 = 624 1
100000!#17 = 6249 1
1000000!#17 = 62497 3
1!#19 = 0 0
10!#19 = 0 0
100!#19 = 5 0
1000!#19 = 54 1
10000!#19 = 554 1
100000!#19 = 5554 1
1000000!#19 = 55553 2

Why does N!#p approximate N/(p-1)?

Sorry about the formatting.

A Corpse Grows...

in Brooklyn.
(Hat tip to Elen.)

Perspective Changes Everything

While in Auburn for Mises University, I got into an argument over the existence of God. The young man arguing with me thought he had a priori proof that God couldn't exist. (We were both at the bar, so it's possible that he didn't present his case well and/or that I am botching my summary of it.)

Basically he argued that theism made no sense, because if God created the universe, then that's something out of nothing. (I will pause just to let that sink in.)

Naturally my first response was to say that God is not nothing. He asked, "Then what does God consist of?" I responded, "Love, wisdom, omnipotence..." It soon became clear that he was a materialist (or some variant of), and so thought that nothing could exist before the existence of the physical universe.

I tried showing the problems with this by asking, "Of what does Austrian economics consist? Of what does geometry consist?" (Note that you can say propositions, but by the same token I had given him constituents of God. He rejected them as silly because they were intangible, just as propositions are.)

Anyway, my point here is not to ridicule this guy; when I was an atheist I would've agreed with his stance wholeheartedly no doubt. But it just cracks me up that someone who believes in the Big Bang can say with a straight face that theism is logically nonsensical because it implies something from nothing!

(A similar example: G.K. Chesterton has a great quote--which I will butcher--to the effect that, "The fact that every civilization has a memory and stories of the great flood is somehow construed by skeptics as evidence that it is just a myth.")

Funny Slate Article on Condi Rice

This is even funnier than The Onion's spoof. I think Kaplan didn't really drive home the point, but he did write these choice quotes:

[Rice's] statement is worth a close look now, because it reflects with glaring clarity something horrifying about this administration's leaders: the wide-elbowed indifference with which they stomp around the globe, their shrugged inattention to the consequences of their actions.


Scholars who enter the chambers of power should use their training as a tool to help them make decisions. Condi Rice is using hers as a chant to wish away the consequences.

US to Arab World

(Hat tip to Tim Swanson.)

Run Away From Sprint

My son really loves my Sprint cell phone, to the point of sucking on it. The contact points on the battery and phone (where it hits the charger) got corroded, and now the phone doesn't charge.

It was a gradual process. Over the course of about 3 weeks, the charging got to be a hassle where I'd try several times putting the phone in the charger, until finally it looked like it was working.

Anyway while on vacation my phone totally died, and I couldn't get it to charge enough even to get my numbers out of my address book. I took it to a Sprint store while in Alabama, and the lady there just looked at my phone and said she couldn't help because it was an old model.

Today I am back in Manhattan and took it to a Sprint store. After putting my name on a list and waiting a few minutes, I was called to the "agent" who just showed me the corrosion and said my numbers were gone.

Somehow I think that if it had been her phone she would have at least tried to plug the thing in. For all she knows, maybe I'm a moron and don't know how to charge the phone.

(Okay sure, you're probably right: Had they tried plugging in my phone before informing me it was too corroded, I may very well have complained on this forum that they don't even take my word for it that it won't charge. Nonetheless, they didn't even try.)

We have now switched to T-Mobile. If they are also crappy, maybe I'll make a post about my patronage being portable. And then that would lead to the next pun, namely "These people give cingularly bad service!" and so forth. We can only hope things don't come to that point...

Israel Orders: Leave South Lebanon!

But stay out of cars and off the roads.

Meanwhile, in a war to "protect" its people, the Israeli government is deliberately allowing some of them to be attacked.

Twin Sons of Different Mothers

Roderick Long writes:
"By most reports, Israeli bombings of Lebanon are strengthening Hezbollah’s support among Lebanese civilians, while Hezbollah bombings of Israel are strengthening the Israeli government’s support among Israeli civilians.

"So here we have (what are by libertarian standards) two criminal gangs, both blasting away at innocent civilians, and the result is to increase these gangs’ popularity among the civilians being victimised! A very successful outcome for both sides."

Read the whole post here.

Bugs, Bugs, Bugs

Until you've lived in the woods, you don't know bugs. I'm now living in the midst of, I'd guess, several hundred thousand acres of nearly unbroken forest. (No, I don't own all or even most of it.) Almost every night our porch light attracts some critter I've never seen before. For instance, we recently encountered this friendly little gal. (CAUTION: Do not click on link if squeamish.) Instead of fleeing when I poked her to get her to move on, she repeatedly threatened to slice me in half with those mandibles. (In my family, we refer to it as the Rob Dodson fly.) We also have seen moths that look like fighter planes, giant hornets, moths colored like sherbert, and luna moths as big as my hand.

Another thing I've realized out here is that these creatures really come and go in waves. Growing up in the suburbs, I always thought, "Insects pop out in the late spring, and go away in early autumn." But in the woods I realize that it's different insects almost every week. About 20 days ago the hemlocks were filled with hundreds of yellow butterflies flitting high amid their branchs, to what end I know not. Ten days ago they were completely gone. That's about when the katydids appeared, in the trees and two or three per night in the bathroom, as well as a few of the more negative "katydidn'ts." Around the same time came the itsy-bitsy flying bugs that can go right through your screens. There would be a couple of hundred hanging around the kitchen light, lampin' forty, each evening. Fortunately, they're gone already, although the katydids still have a week or two left.

Linda Chavez on the "new anti-Semitism"

I can't believe how much the Bush Administration has turned my former heroes (when I was a teenager) into the very thing they supposedly despise. You know how annoying it is when a liberal Democrat accuses you of racism for opposing the War on Poverty? Well, if you oppose the War on Terror you're an anti-Semite. As Chavez explains:

Gibson's claim that Jews have caused all the world's wars is only a less subtle and more grandiose version of the current mantra that "neoconservatives" have led us into war in Iraq. Make no mistake, most critics on both the left and right who inveigh against "neoconservatives" really mean "the Jews" or "Jewish influence" has caused this war. Old-fashioned anti-Semitism used to blame "Jewish bankers" for controlling the world, now, apparently, it's Jewish intellectuals who pull the strings. The Rothschilds have been replaced as villains by Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, William Kristol and Charles Krauthammer.

Well, yes, I think those guys all suck, but I didn't know Perle was Jewish. (Is that an obviously Jewish name? The others are.)

Now the people who oppose the war are mad first and foremost at "the war criminal" Bush, who's famously a Christian. But I suppose Chavez could say, "No, I'm talking about the claim that neoconservative intellectuals are secretly running the show--just as Jews are supposedly behind every bad thing in the world, according to the conspiracy theorist bigots."

OK, then what about warmonger theorist Victor Davis Hanson? Gene and I have been critizing him for a long time. He's a Christian, right? (At the very least I think he is, so if he's Jewish then my bigotry is so subtle it's hidden even from myself.) And there are tons of neoconservatives on various college campuses (campii?) who are hardcore Christians. So I guess I'm anti-Semitic and anti-Christian, too.

By the way, I lost a ton of respect for Mel Gibson because of this whole fiasco. If he said that stuff, obviously that's dumb. And if he didn't say it but apologized for damage control, then that's dumb too. But one final comment: My wife and I are both amazed at how good his mug shot looks. I mean seriously, isn't that an amazing photo for somehow hauled in on a DUI? Look at how horrible other celebrities look in National Enquirer shots.

(Of course now people will say, "Murphy is a bigot who hates Jews and he thinks Gibson should be excused for his reprehensible actions because he's cute. What a dumb mick.")

Half of Americans Believe Iraq Had WMD

The problem with an article like this is that the Fox News aficionado will simply say, "Yeah, there goes the liberal media labeling me a nut when I know the truth."

For those of you who think Saddam had stockpiles of WMD, and even that our troops found them, I have a simple question: Why then did Bush during the debates admit that their intelligence had been dead wrong?? Did the liberal media trick so many Americans (though under 50% apparently) about the "missing" WMD that Bush was forced to lie when he "admitted" they found no WMD in order to beat Kerry?

No Relief Thursday!

It's interesting how the weather purveyors have really bought into sensationalizing the weather. The Weather Channel is always running some program about how your city is likely to be destroyed by a plague of locusts or hail the size of bowling balls, probably by the time the program ends. Today I looked at the Accuweather site and found a headline something like (I'm getting an error re-loading the page right now): "Northeast Heat: No Relief Thursday." Pretty awful, huh?

But when I checked the details I found that, first of all, it is going to be seven or eight degrees cooler than yesterday, and secondly, that the cold front is about one hundred miles north of me and moving my way. An alternative headline would have been, "Already cooler, cold front to hit tonight." But I guess that doen't sell as well.

2 Legit 2 Quit

Invariably when I write an article involving international trade, someone emails me (or comments on the Mises blog) to the effect that, "If you'd leave your tenured job and work in the private sector like the rest of us, maybe you'd understand the threat from China."

In response to the latest such email, I just asked, "Does it matter that I'm currently unemployed?"

After this revelation concerning my position, the guy now thinks outsourcing is good, since my articles are unbiased after all.

(Ha ha one of the sentences above is false--can you guess which one?)

I Pick on Someone Half My Size

But I'm sure JIMB will defend me (ha ha). Anyway, my wife ran across this article in L Magazine, was quite angered by it, showed it to me, one thing led to another...

Let's Not Squabble About Who Killed Who

Jim Henley details the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs official list of Hezbollah attacks 2000-2006:

"1. Prior to this month, there haven’t been that many incidents: one in May 2006, five in 2005, 3 and 4 in 2004 and 2003 respectively.

"2. Almost without exception, the attacks have been against military targets, usually IDF patrols or bases. One egregious exception is what the IDF calls an attempt to kidnap two Israeli Arab citizens to pump them for information. A Katyusha attack on Kiryat Shemonah in December 2005 also appears to have had purely civilian targets. Almost all the other attacks targeted the Israeli military."

In other words, when our bete noire JIMB claims that Hezbollah has killed thousands of Israeli citizens over the last few years, he's just making it up, exagerating by a factor of, oh, a thousand or so. In fact, the evidence makes it clear that Hezbollah has been far more cautious about hitting Israeli citizens than Israel has about hitting Lebanese civilians.

Of course, JIMB will probably point out that the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs is well-known to be a front for Islamo-Fascism.

THIS Christmas in Havana

I've just watched several hours of coverage of the Castro news. Thousands of people clogged the streets of Miami. Little Havana, Westchester and Hialeah were all packed with partygoers. Beautiful. Happy faces all around. Pure joy! I'm certainly in the wrong neighborhood for this, but glad to see it on tv.

It would kill Castro to hand over power to his brother for even five seconds, so chances are good that he's already dead or incapacitated. Many here are keeping their fingers crossed. He's a tough old bastard, so I'm definitely keeping in mind that he could revive and disappoint us all, but for the Exiles, this is extremely good news worth celebrating over--even if it only temporary.

It's a strange feeling though. I've discussed it with other friends. A sort of disbelief or inability to process the information. Like you've been putting the wrong key into a lock, over and over again, convinced that it will work...then one day the door opens anyway and you don't know what to think.

A lot of the regular emotions are flying around as well. Mom was crying in the other room for awhile. I'm sure she was thinking of all the people that died waiting for the jerk to drop dead. People she left behind like her father. I'm sure it's bittersweet for many of the older folks. As I scanned the radio for Cuban stations, I stumbled across the Cuban National Anthem on one of them. It was at Midnight, so it was probably just the regular feature, but it was fairly chilling considering what might be happening on the Island.

I can only hope that the next few weeks lead to positive changes. One butcher has ceded to another one. I know that, but that door seems open now. If we can all just get the gumption to step through it. I'm going to bed. Tomorrow might be a long day of partying. :D