Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What are they talking about?

Is the DEA trying to make us think that Muslim terrorists are funding themselves by smuggling drugs into the US? What does this story mean?
Hezbollah is using the same southern narcotics routes that Mexican drug kingpins do to smuggle drugs and people into the United States, reaping money to finance its operations and threatening U.S. national security, current and former U.S. law enforcement, defense and counterterrorism officials say.

The Iran-backed Lebanese group has long been involved in narcotics and human trafficking in South America's tri-border region of Paraguay, Argentina and Brazil. Increasingly, however, it is relying on Mexican narcotics syndicates that control access to transit routes into the U.S.

Hezbollah relies on "the same criminal weapons smugglers, document traffickers and transportation experts as the drug cartels," said Michael Braun, who just retired as assistant administrator and chief of operations at the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA).

"They work together," said Mr. Braun. "They rely on the same shadow facilitators. One way or another, they are all connected.
I'm pretty sure it has no meaning at all "One way or another, they are all connected".

One way or antoehr, we're all connected to Kevin Bacon.

Read the whole thing, it's just nonsense written so that it soulnds like it says something.

h/t Classical Values

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

What's wrong with us?

Why do we lock so many people up?

The United States has less than 5 percent of the world's population. But it has almost a quarter of the world's prisoners.

Indeed, the United States leads the world in producing prisoners, a reflection of a relatively recent and now entirely distinctive American approach to crime and punishment. Americans are locked up for crimes — from writing bad checks to using drugs — that would rarely produce prison sentences in other countries. And in particular they are kept incarcerated far longer than prisoners in other nations.

Criminologists and legal scholars in other industrialized nations say they are mystified and appalled by the number and length of American prison sentences.

The United States has, for instance, 2.3 million criminals behind bars, more than any other nation, according to data maintained by the International Center for Prison Studies at King's College London.

China, which is four times more populous than the United States, is a distant second, with 1.6 million people in prison. (That number excludes hundreds of thousands of people held in administrative detention, most of them in China's extrajudicial system of re-education through labor, which often singles out political activists who have not committed crimes.)

San Marino, with a population of about 30,000, is at the end of the long list of 218 countries compiled by the center. It has a single prisoner.

The United States comes in first, too, on a more meaningful list from the prison studies center, the one ranked in order of the incarceration rates. It has 751 people in prison or jail for every 100,000 in population. (If you count only adults, one in 100 Americans is locked up.)

The only other major industrialized nation that even comes close is Russia, with 627 prisoners for every 100,000 people. The others have much lower rates. England's rate is 151; Germany's is 88; and Japan's is 63.

The median among all nations is about 125, roughly a sixth of the American rate.

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Monday, March 30, 2009

Killing fields

We used Agent Orange to kill off foliage in Vietnam. It also created a generation of vets with diabetes and other major health problems.

Now we want to do the same thing to consumers of grapefruit from the Rio Grande Valley.
The U.S. Border Patrol plans to poison the plant life along a 1.1-mile stretch of the Rio Grande riverbank as soon as Wednesday to get rid of the hiding places used by smugglers, robbers and illegal immigrants.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

The Drug Problem

The liberal approach to the drug problem is that "You have a problem with drugs and the government will help you fix it." They call this reducing demand.

The conservative approach to the drug problem is that "You have a problem with drugs and if you don't fix it the government will come down on your head". They call this going after supply.

The rational approach to the drug problem is that the only drug problem is that government thinks there's a drug problem. There is no actual drug problem.

Government supports a criminal market system which supplies drugs. If we allowed a free market system (or a regulated market might be better) they would be cheaper, safer, and the only problem would be finding productive employment for all thosw drug warriors who'd be freed up to do stuff like make cars.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Bright Lines

In a post about parental whuspping of unruly kids, Simple Justice says
What is not at all clear is how to develop a rule for parents to understand where the line is drawn between good and responsible parenting and child abuse. Do we want to leave it up to the nearest Schandelmeier-Bartels, making the determination of whether one happens to have a zealot close at hand to call the cops any time a parent behaves in a way in which she disapproves? But then, we are also aware of many instances of serious child abuse by parents, resulting in death and disability of children that leaves us asking how this could happen without anyone intervening.
and asks
Where is the line? Both parents and children deserve to know.
I think parents and children do know. It's cops and judges who don't seem to get it.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Evaulation of evidence in criminal prosecutions.

I thought that evidence of crime was supposed to be evaulated with a "defense spin". That's what burden of proof and presumption of innoncence means.

But if we actually did that prosecutors wouldn't get to put as many people in prison as they do now (more than any other country in the world). And what would be the fun in that?


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Too much religion can be dangerous your health and safety.

An Okie got away with murder for over 30 years was foiled by his religious beleive in an afterlife.
A US man who thought he was dying and confessed to having killed a neighbour in 1977 has been charged with murder after making a recovery, US media say.

James Brewer could now face the death penalty over the unsolved killing in Tennessee 32 years ago, reports say.

Convinced he was dying after a stroke, Mr Brewer reportedly admitted to police he shot dead 20-year-old Jimmy Carroll.

The 58-year-old, who had fled Tennessee after the killing, was arrested after his condition improved, reports say.

"He wanted to cleanse his soul, because he thought he was going to the great beyond," said police detective Tony Grasso, who interviewed Mr Brewer in an Oklahoma hospital, The Oklahoman website reported.


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Brains or beauty?

This just out

LOS ANGELES (Reuters Life!) – Smart or thin? Rich or ugly?

Women still have a complex and contradictory relationship with their own image according to a poll released on Tuesday that found 25 percent of those questioned would rather win the "America's Next Top Model" TV show than the Nobel Peace Prize.

Really? Is this what it illustrates?

Why don't they ask guys a similar question, and see if they get similar results.

You know, ask them "Would you rather be Brad Pitt or Martti Ahtisaari"?


Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Nano - the car

This car is cheap, with not a lot of extras. The body style is similar to the Smart Car, but with 4 doors, not 2.

From BBC

India's Tata Motors will launch its extra-cheap 10 feet (3 metres) long Nano car in Mumbai on Monday, selling for 100,000 rupees or $1,979 (£1,366).

The four-door five-seater car has a 33bhp, 624cc engine at the rear. It has no airbags, air conditioning, radio, or power steering.

Of course it can't be sold in the U.S., not without airbags, and who knows what else.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Math students

Kitchen Table Math reports on a conflict with the local school administrators
I've just learned that the principal has faulted our Continental Math League for "widening the achievement gap."

It's been suggested that, instead of running a math club for gifted students, I instead run one for struggling students.

Maybe I'm being unreasonable, but I tend to think that it's the school's job, not mine, to educate struggling students.

The lack of ability of our public schools to deal with students who are interested in math isn't anything new.
I wasn't much of a student in elementary school , mostly a B and C student. I didn't much excel at anything, didn't show a lot of interest in anything they had to offer. I read a lot but it was mostly comic books and adult paper back novels (I got sent to the principals office once for reading a western novel of my dad's during "free reading period" instead of picking a book from the school library).
But I was a bright kid, you just never would have guessed by looking at my school performance.
When was in the sixth grade the University of Texas (I lived in Austin) had this special summer program for gifted 6 graders that they made available to the top two students at each Austin elementary school as determined by scores on a standardized achievement test. By that criteria I was one of the ones selected from my school (Wooten Elementary). I think it was 1961.
Although my achievement test score was very high, my school principal didn't think much of my actual achievement. She didn't think I was worthy of going to that summer program. But for her to be able to offer it to her preferred selection I had to turn it down. It turns out that she just wasn't smart enough to figure out how to manipulate an uninterested 12 year old.
She called me to her office and gave me a speech about how I wasn't deserving of this program and shouldn't go. Of course I was going to go if she thought I shouldn't. Maybe she was trying to double fake me into wanting to go, but somehow I don't think so.
Of course I just confronted more stupid administration when I got there. They had a science track with math at 8:30 and biology at 10:30 or a humanities track with english at 8"30 and history at 10:30. I wanted to take math and history. But that wasn't allowed -- students had to be either science nerds or humanities dweebs -- mixed interests couldn't be tolerated.
So I signed up for the science track, went to the math class and cut the biology class, just hanging out with the beatniks just off campus during that class period.
Learning how to cut class served me well for when I started junior high that fall.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

How to interrogate

I have been a little surprised no one has mentioned "Stockholm Syndrome" in reference to our interrogation methods of suspected terrorists.

Apparently, some of the actual interrogators know, being kind is the best way to obtain information. I can only guess, as usual, no one in the military paid attention to them.

This from a New York Times Op-Ed

..none of the methods contained in the current Army manual on interrogation have ever been scientifically tested for effectiveness.

As military interrogators, each of us has questioned hundreds of prisoners of war, terrorists and insurgents in the Middle East, Latin America and Asia — during both Iraq wars and the 1989 invasion of Panama — and we have supervised thousands of other interrogations. While we speak only for ourselves, we have seen firsthand that many standard approaches are rarely useful in eliciting reliable intelligence, and often serve only to harden a detainee’s resistance. Widely employed tactics like “fear-up harsh,” which is meant to scare a person into answering questions, or “pride and ego down,” which uses humiliation to try to overcome a person’s resistance, are actually counterproductive in establishing the kind of relationship — one based on trust — that is almost always necessary to win a detainee’s cooperation.

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Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Monday, March 09, 2009

Becoming an expert

Scott Greenfield, at Simple Justice, asks
does promoting oneself as an expert make you one?

Well, yes, pretty much. That 24 hour news cycle thing has caused a huge jump in demand for self-declared experts.

Lifestyle and Political Blogs

Sunday, March 08, 2009

What to tip?

The BBC has an article about the (as they call it) unusual custom in the U.S. of tipping certain service providers. I know from socializing with Australians in particular, they believe this concept of tipping to be totally absurd. I kind of agree with them, but, that's the way it is.

However, one thing that caught my eye, is this writer claims the standard amount of a tip in a full service restaurant is now 20%. I remember when it went from 10-15%, and sometimes 20%, but I don't really remember 20% being the rule.

To their credit, the BBC points out some of the benefits of tipping.

Americans think it is the most natural thing in the world to pay for a service, at the point where you receive it, person-to-person.

First, they reason, it keeps whoever is doing the serving on their toes.

There is something in that, by the way. I have waited half an hour for a receipt in communist Poland while watching two young waiters playing football with a polystyrene cup.

And it's not just in communist places this is a problem. I sat in an Argentine restaurant with a group of 20 people, and it took more than 1/2 hour to place our orders.

Of course Argentines are accustom to leisurely dining, but we had a bus to catch.

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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Tornadoes in Kansas

It's early March and already we had our first tornadoes here in Kansas. On the TV they say the latest one spotted is an "elephant trunk" tornado. It's not where I live, so I am not too concerned.

I have never seen a tornado. My mother lived in Kansas almost her entire life and only saw one when she was in her 60's.

However, last year one of my cousins was picked up by a tornado when driving a car in Western Kansas. He was very lucky, with fairly minor injuries.

Anyway, although my mother never saw a tornado, apparently one went over our house before I was born. My mother was at home alone with my 2 oldest brothers, my dad was at work. I heard the story over the years, but only recently asked her "what made you think there was a tornado?". She replied "when I saw the curtains standing straight out from the wall, but the windows were closed, I thought it was probably a tornado". They didn't have a basement, so she took a mattress and covered her and the children while laying on the floor.

When my dad got home from work he couldn't get in the front door. Apparently the tornado had moved the house off the foundation a few inches, and the door was stuck.

My parents built a new house when I was in high school. It had a "tornado shelter" in the basement - solid concrete. They never used it for that, and somehow it became something like a "root cellar", used to store canned vegetables.

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Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Texas Ranch House

Although it was broadcast about 3 years ago, I just got around to watching PBS's Texas Ranch House on DVD. It's 8 episodes and gets off to a slow start but quickly becomes engrossing. After the last episode I got so obsessed with it that I watched the whole thing all over from the beginning.

Then I went to the internet and found a number of old discussions of the show.

Watch the whole show, all 8 episodes, before you read the discussions.

Here's the original casting cal from 2005
PBS’ Texas Ranch House now casting.
If you’d like to spend the summer and early fall living in 1867 Texas, apply now for PBS’ forthcoming Texas Ranch House. PBS and Thirteen/WNET are searching for “Wranglers, Cowhands, Cooks, Vaqueros, Ranchers, and anyone interested in taking part.” They want people “who have what it takes to build a ranch, ride the range and ultimately deliver a herd of cattle to a market over 100 miles away.” The site also reveals that “volunteers will be fully immersed in the inner workings of a ranch house: building corrals, rounding up and branding cattle, taming stallions, and preparing for a two week cattle drive—all the while tending to the daily needs of themselves and their livestock.” The show’s FAQ covers all of the bases, including what kind of guns and ammo will be distributed (none), and how much cash you’ll get (a stipend only). Applications are due March 18, and production is scheduled to start in June.

Southern Rockies Nature Blog was also sucked into the show. I particularly liked his tongue-in-check characterization of the last episode.
all the cowboys left angry and joined the Industrial Workers of the World

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