Saturday, June 07, 2008

Flying Like a Bird.

I have got to get one of these.

Saving on health.

Oregon Health Care won’t pay for cancer drugs, but will pay for doctor-assisted suicide.

It’s cheaper.

Oregon Health Care offers coverage, its Web site said, “if you live in Oregon and are a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen.”

It covers everything but:
· Treatment for conditions that get better on their own, like colds

· Conditions that have no useful treatment
· Treatments that are not generally effective
· Cosmetic surgeries
· Gender changes
· Services to help you get pregnant
· Weight loss programs

But it covers cancer. It is just that it uses “doctor-assisted suicide” to treat cancer.

As Barbara Wagner discovered.

The AP reported:
Last month her lung cancer, in remission for about two years, was back. After her oncologist prescribed a cancer drug that could slow the cancer growth and extend her life, Wagner was notified that the Oregon Health Plan wouldn’t cover it.

It would cover comfort and care, including, if she chose, doctor-assisted suicide.


The story has a happy ending.

That mean-old, profit-driven drug company stepped up and gave her the treatment.


Socialists to cancer victims: Kill yourself.

Capitalists: Can’t pay? No problem.

Oh and the capitalists also pay the taxes that finance the socialist programs.

UN Peacekeepers Abusing Children...Again.

Somehow I can't help but think that if this had been done by Marines in Iraq or the Catholic Church in Boston it would be a huge story. Since it harms the reputation of the sainted United Nations...not so much.

Obama and the Role of the Courts

Recently his spokesman stated, “Barack Obama has always believed that our courts should stand up for social and economic justice, and what’s truly elitist is to appoint judges who will protect the powerful and leave ordinary Americans to fend for themselves.”

Well what’s wrong with all that? Plenty, if you believe in the separation of powers and democracy, according to noted conservative legal scholars.

Steven Calabresi, professor of law at Northwestern University and co-founder of the Federalist Society (who also serves on John McCain’s legal advisory committee), says “I think it means he has completely the wrong idea of what a judge is supposed to do.” He notes that since the first Congress all judges have taken an oath to “do equal justice unto the rich and the poor,” but, by asking judges in essence to side with the less well off, Obama is “calling on judges to disregard this.”

Taken literally, Obama’s conceives the role of the courts as roving advocates of the poor and disadvantaged who will look, not to the text and meaning of the Constitution, but to their own ethics and values — presumably very left-leaning ones — to override statutes, executive branch actions, and the American people themselves.

Given that, one wonders if confirmation hearings for Obama judicial appointees should skip over questions of the law and focus on the appointees’ religious and ethical views, their childhood experiences, and even their record of charitable giving. How else will we know whether they are “sympathetic enough”?

Aside from his judicial philosophy, Obama’s views on specific matters of constitutional law are no secret — and bear little resemblance to the body of case law which has built up over the last thirty years.

Assault Rifles And Their Ammunition.

The lovely and deadly StG 44.

From the article:

In the run-up to World War 2, the focus switches to Germany. Over a ten year period starting in the mid-1930s, no fewer than five German companies were involved in developing short-cased cartridges suitable for assault rifles: Geco, DWM, RWS, Rheinmetall-Borsig and Polte.

Geco was the first in the field, co-operating with the gun company Vollmer-Werke Maschinenfabrik, to produce the Vollmer SL Model 35 self-loading carbine in a nominal 7.75x40 calibre (the calibre was actually 7.9mm, with a bullet 8.05mm in diameter). This was officially tested with good results, but led to no orders. In 1942 Geco produced a new cartridge also intended for a Vollmer carbine, the 7x45SR. This used a wider case and was far more powerful, with a muzzle velocity of 1,000 m/s. Another cartridge, measuring 7.92x33.5, was designed at Geco and attributed to an H.G.Winter, a director of the firm, but the date and the gun for which it was intended are not known.

DWM designed a 7x39 cartridge in the mid-1930s, for which a Walther self-loading carbine was reportedly made. It was appreciably more powerful than the later 7.92x33 Kurz. However, the interest of the Heereswaffenamt (HWA) was by then focused on Polte developments, so the DWM round also failed to progress further. RWS produced several short-cased rifle rounds in the 1930s, including an 8x45, 8x46 and 7x46, but these developments were taken no further. Rheinmetall-Borsig were involved in a number of prewar experiments concerning 7mm rounds in various case lengths, some of them very long, probably for high-velocity aircraft gun projects. One drawing has been found of a 7x36 cartridge which would obviously have been suitable for assault rifles, but there is no evidence that it was made. The design work may have been done by Polte on behalf of Rheinmetall-Borsig.

This brings us to Polte Patronenfabrik of Magdeburg, who made by far the most significant contribution. The HWA awarded them a contract, probably in 1938, for the development of a short-cased infantry cartridge. This resulted in several different designs of cartridge; 7.9x45, 7.9x30, two different 7.9x33 and a 7x45, all by 1940. In all of these, Polte retained the head and rim diameters of the standard 7.92x57 rifle/MG round, and in all but the 7mm the same calibre as well. This kept production costs to a minimum and no doubt helped to account for the success of their proposals. The final 7.92x33 design (which had less case taper than the first or "transitional" effort) was approved in December 1940, the only subsequent change being to the angle of the extractor groove, which was altered from 45 to 60 degrees in May 1942.

The MKb42(H) by Haenel and the MKb42(W) by Walther were designed around the new cartridge and produced in some numbers for field testing. This led to the development of the Haenel MP43/44 (later renamed StG 44 for Sturmgewehr or assault rifle). Despite initial opposition from Hitler, this was the weapon the Army wanted to back-up their MG 42 GPMGs, and it was produced and used in quantity. However, the end of the war stopped the direct line of development of this significant weapon.

An interesting discussion of the history and uses of an oft misunderstood class of weapons.

Is Al-Qaeda Disintegrating?

Which way al-Qaeda? Trotsky or Che? The bitter ideological squabbles of Islamic jihadists are following in the footsteps of the philosophical arguments that fractured Communist comrades.

The physics of elementary particles.

The realisation that the great diversity of the world stems from a handful of elementary particles acting under the influence of a few fundamental forces was one of the triumphs of twentieth century physics. But the path to this realisation was not straightforward, and at one point physicists were faced with a bewildering collection of "fundamental particles" - more than there are elements in the chemical table!

It has taken an understanding of mathematical symmetry combined with experiments into conditions similar to those soon after the "Big Bang" to bring physicists to the elegant understanding of today.

The Iraqi Upturn: Don't look now, but the U.S.-backed government and army may be winning the war.

From the Washington Post editorial:

Iraq passed a turning point last fall when the U.S. counterinsurgency campaign launched in early 2007 produced a dramatic drop in violence and quelled the incipient sectarian war between Sunnis and Shiites. Now, another tipping point may be near, one that sees the Iraqi government and army restoring order in almost all of the country, dispersing both rival militias and the Iranian-trained "special groups" that have used them as cover to wage war against Americans. It is -- of course -- too early to celebrate; though now in disarray, the Mahdi Army of Moqtada al-Sadr could still regroup, and Iran will almost certainly seek to stir up new violence before the U.S. and Iraqi elections this fall. Still, the rapidly improving conditions should allow U.S. commanders to make some welcome adjustments -- and it ought to mandate an already-overdue rethinking by the "this-war-is-lost" caucus in Washington, including Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).

Budget Hero.

Think you can balance the Federal budget? All I have to say is Good luck.

Budget Hero is an interesting little game that allows you evaluate spending priorities over a fairly long time-line. It uses the Congressional Budget Office scoring method which unfortunately has some serious flaws. The worst of these is a failure to take into account the dynamic effects on the economy of your taxing and spending decisions.

If you cut taxes for example, you get less money. There's no possibility that growth in the private sector can offset any of the cuts. Similarly, there's no recognition that tax increases might bring in less money than expected because people might change their economic behavior.

It also uses the Current Services Baseline method of budgeting which scores increases for inflation as a starting point. For example: if your budget last year was $100.00 and inflation is 5% then your budget starts at $105.00. If at the end of the day you wind up with $103.00 that's a $2.00 cut, not a $3.00 increase. That make make sense in terms of providing services to people but it's not what most people think of when they hear that a program has had it's budget cut.

For the most part however, this is how Congress draws up a budget and it brings home the enormous costs of some of the programs Democrats are talking about these days. Have fun!

Who Owns Antiquity?

To what culture does the concept of “cultural property” belong? Who owns this idea?

It has, like much material property in the last 50 years, often changed hands. And in doing so, it has also changed meanings and grown in importance. It now affects the development of museums, alters the nature of international commerce and even seems to subsume traditional notions of property.

It was brought to modern prominence in 1954 by Unesco as a way of characterizing the special status of monuments, houses of worship and works of art — objects that suffered “grave damage” in “recent armed conflicts.” In its statement Unesco asserted that such “cultural property” was part of the “cultural heritage of all mankind” and deserved special protection.

But the framers of that doctrine with its universalist stance would hardly recognize cultural property in its current guise. The concept is now being narrowly applied to assert possession, not to affirm value. It is used to stake claims on objects in museums, to prevent them from being displayed and to control the international trade of antiquities.

Why I am an anti-intellectual.

My confession of being an anti-intellectual requires a bit of explanation. Being anti-intellectual is not the same as being anti-intellect. My beef is with a particular social class -- the "intelligentsia" -- and not with the practice of using one's intellect to reflect on experience. In my experience, intellectuals (as a class) are ideologically intolerant, easily offended by ordinary humor, and pretentious in their prejudices, which they disguise as universal truths.

Derrie-Air: The more you weigh, the more you pay.

PHILADELPHIA - Derrie-Air has been exposed. Readers of The Philadelphia Inquirer and Philadelphia Daily News opened their papers Friday to see ads for a new airline called Derrie-Air, which purportedly charges passengers by the pound.

But the new carrier will never get off the ground. It's a one-day advertising campaign about a fake airline by Philadelphia Media Holdings, the papers' owner, and Gyro ad agency.

H/t The Wife

The 10 Oldest Bars in the United States.

P.J. Clarke's Established in 1868.

More here.

Evil Dead: The Musical.

Apparently this is completely serious.

The Unraveling.

The jihadist revolt against bin Laden.

After September 11, there was considerable fear in the West that we were headed for a clash of civilizations with the Muslim world led by bin Laden, who would entice masses of young Muslims into his jihadist movement. But the religious leaders and former militants who are now critiquing Al Qaeda's terrorist campaign--both in the Middle East and in Muslim enclaves in the West-- make that less likely. The potential repercussions for Al Qaeda cannot be underestimated because, unlike most mainstream Muslim leaders, Al Qaeda's new critics have the jihadist credentials to make their criticisms bite. "The starting point has to be that jihad is legitimate, otherwise no one will listen, " says Benotman, who sees the Iraqi insurgency as a legitimate jihad. "The reaction [to my criticism of Al Qaeda] has been beyond imagination. It has made the radicals very angry. They are very shaky about it."

Why have clerics and militants once considered allies by Al Qaeda's leaders turned against them? To a large extent, it is because Al Qaeda and its affiliates have increasingly adopted the doctrine of takfir, by which they claim the right to decide who is a "true" Muslim. Al Qaeda's Muslim critics know what results from this takfiri view: First, the radicals deem some Muslims apostates; after that, the radicals start killing them. This fatal progression happened in both Algeria and Egypt in the 1990s. It is now taking place even more dramatically in Iraq, where Al Qaeda's suicide bombers have killed more than 10,000 Iraqis, most of them targeted simply for being Shia. Recently, Al Qaeda in Iraq has turned its fire on Sunnis who oppose its diktats, a fact not lost on the Islamic world's Sunni majority.

Additionally, Al Qaeda and its affiliates have killed thousands of Muslim civilians elsewhere since September 11: hundreds of ordinary Afghans killed every year by the Taliban, dozens of Saudis killed by terrorists since 2003, scores of Jordanians massacred at a wedding at a U.S. hotel in Amman in November 2005. Even those sympathetic to Al Qaeda have started to notice. "Excuse me Mr. Zawahiri but who is it who is killing with Your Excellency's blessing, the innocents in Baghdad, Morocco and Algeria?" one supporter asked in an online Q&A with Al Qaeda's deputy leader in April that was posted widely on jihadist websites. All this has created a dawning recognition among Muslims that the ideological virus that unleashed September 11 and the terrorist attacks in London and Madrid is the same virus now wreaking havoc in the Muslim world.

Extreme Sand Sculpting.

Magnificent, yet perishable art.

You Know You're in California if...

1. Your co-worker has 8 body piercings and none are visible.

2. You make over $300,000 and still can't afford a house.

3. You take a bus and are shocked at two people carrying on a conversation in English.

4. Your child's 3rd-grade teacher has purple hair, a nose ring, and is named Flower.

5. You can't remember if is pot illegal.

6. You've been to a baby shower that has two mothers and a sperm donor.

7. You have a very strong opinion about where your coffee beans are grown, and you can taste the difference between Sumatran and Ethiopian.

8. You can't remember is pot illegal?

9. A really great parking space can totally move you to tears.

10. Gas costs $1.00 per gallon more than anywhere else in the U.S.

11. Unlike back home, the guy at 8:30 am at Starbucks wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses who looks like George Clooney… really IS George Clooney.

12. Your car insurance costs as much as your house payment.

13. You can't remember... is pot illegal?

14. It's barely sprinkling rain and there's a report on every news station: "STORM WATCH."

15. You pass an elementary school playground and the children are all busy with their cells or pagers.

16. It's barely sprinkling rain outside, so you leave for work an hour early to avoid all the weather-related accidents.

17. HEY!!!! Is pot illegal????

18. Both you AND your dog have therapists.

19. The Terminator is your governor.

20. If you drive illegally, they take your driver's license. If you're here illegally, they’ll give you one.

Thought for today: According to the EPA, lead particles in the air in Los Angeles cause six thousand deaths a year. Los Angeles residents call them ‘bullets?

Stolen From Miss Cellania.

Will the Oil Bubble Burst?

Eleven years ago, after doing a lot of studying and a lot of thinking, Richard Rainwater convinced himself that the long decline in oil prices that had begun in the early 1980s was about to end. As a billionaire who had made his name and fortune steering the Texas oil riches of Fort Worth's Bass family into lucrative nonenergy investments like Disney stock, Rainwater had the wherewithal to act on his conviction. So he plunked down about $300 million of his own money on energy-company stocks and oil and gas futures.

For a while it looked like a boneheaded move. At the end of 1998, the price of oil fell below $10 per bbl. Regular gas sold for 90¢ a gal. While Internet billionaires were being minted to the right and left of him, Rainwater was getting poorer by the day.

You can guess the rest of the story. The dotcoms imploded; the price of oil climbed, climbed and climbed some more--and Rainwater's energy bet came to look like one of the better investment calls of our time. It has netted him about $2 billion, vaulting him from the mid-200s on Forbes magazine's 1999 list of the 400 richest Americans to No. 91 last summer (with $3.5 billion overall).

So guess what Rainwater did a few weeks ago, right after oil prices topped $129 per bbl. for the first time? "I sold my Chevron," he says. "I sold my ConocoPhillips. I sold my Statoil. I sold my ENSCO. I sold my Pioneer Natural Resources. I sold everything."

In the end, all bubbles burst. In the fullness of time, so will this one.

The Friendly Leopard Seal.

Paul Nicklen is a photographer for National Geographic Magazine. Over the course of several days last year, he developed a relationship with a 12-foot 1,000 pound leopard seal. She brought him penguins to eat and even tried to teach him how to hunt penguins! The story is told in a multimedia presentation on Nicklen’s work here.

via Neatorama.

The 50 Best Pun Stores.

Pun stores. Stores with puns in the title. Bet you didn’t think we could rank the 50 best ones. But you didn’t even think there were 50. Well guess again.
More here.

Dems yank global warming bill.

Apparently three days of debate was enough for what many senators called "the most important issue facing the planet."

Voting Machine Hi-jinx in L.A.

This kind of thing does more to undermine faith in democracy than almost anything else. The truth is, for all the outrage over "hanging chads" paper ballots remain the safest, most reliable way of casting and correctly counting votes. It is however pretty amusing that the same liberals who created this mess after the debacle in Florida are now paranoid that they're the ones being cheated by electronic voting. The truth is were all being cheated.