January 28, 2004
A Day to Remember
Imagine you have some spare time and are near the beach. You see three large construction cranes and about fifty men working on the beach. They are apparently trying to load a 165 foot long whale onto a trailer truck. Then it explodes.

Gentleman Revolutionary
I finished reading Gentleman Revolutionary: Governeur Morris – the Rake Who Wrote the Constitution by historian Richard Brookhiser. It was a very interesting biography of a man who had personal experience with two revolutions (ours and that of the French). If you enjoy history, I highly recommend the book.

Here a few facts that I found fascinating.

The Importance of Tenure
I have some concerns with tenure. For those of you unfamiliar with the tenure process at American universities, let me give you some background. Professors are expected to teach, provide service (to their department, school, university, and/or community), and perform research. The importance of these three factors depends upon the college or university. At pure teaching schools, very little emphasis is placed on research (just enough to keep the accreditation folks happy). At the other end of the spectrum, pure research schools only care about the quality of a professor's research (despite public statements about caring about their students, so long a professor is doing important research – and bringing money and/or prestige to the university, these schools do not consider teaching effectiveness when rewarding professors). Most schools fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes.

January 27, 2004
Maybe it was about the Oil
Using their post-Saddam rights to free speech, Iraqi newspaper al-Mada published a list of influential foreigners who were given oil coupons (worth millions of dollars) in exchange for attempting to eliminate the sanctions against Saddam's regime. According to the BBC, There are at least 11 French names on the list of more than 270 foreigners published by al-Mada. One of those names was that of former French Interior Minister Charles Pasqua. I found his denial quite interesting and quite French.
Mr Pasqua denied knowing that any such transactions were taking place in the 1990s but he said it did not surprise him.

"Former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua is not involved, but maybe other former ministers are involved," he said.

I did not take a bribe. I knew nothing about these bribes. But if my fellow French ministers took bribes, I would not be surprised.

I don't know if Pasqua is an honest man being frank with the media about the lack of ethics in French government, or a dishonest man badmouthing his co-conspirators in order to distance himself from trouble. Neither explanation improves my opinion of the French government.

I Always Wondered
Mike has discovered the secret of chowmein. Well worth the look, but broadband helps.

January 26, 2004
It looks like the latest email scam is trying to use the government's authority.
On Friday, January 23, 2004, FDIC Consumer Call Centers in Kansas City, Missouri, and Washington, D.C., began receiving a large number of complaints by consumers who received an e-mail that has the appearance of being sent from the FDIC. The e-mail informs the recipient that Department of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge has advised the FDIC to suspend all deposit insurance on the recipient's bank account due to suspected violations of the USA PATRIOT Act. The e-mail further indicates that deposit insurance will be suspended until personal identity, including bank account information, can be verified.

This e-mail was not sent by the FDIC and is a fraudulent attempt to obtain personal information from consumers. Financial institutions and consumers should NOT access the link provided within the body of the e-mail and should NOT under any circumstances provide any personal information through this media. You also should be aware that clicking on the e-mail link could activate a virus, Exploit-URLSpoof.gen, that might not be immediately detectible.

The FDIC and the FBI are attempting to identify the source of the e-mails and disrupt the transmission. Until this is achieved, consumers are asked to report any similar attempts to obtain this information to the FDIC by sending information to: alert@fdic.gov

Anyone with questions about this scam may contact the FDIC Call Center toll-free at 1-877-ASK-FDIC (275-3342), which is staffed Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. ET, or look for updates on the FDIC Web site.

You may now return to your normal surfing.

Edwards Loses the Bowlers' Vote
This New Hampshire report paints a vivid picture of what happened Saturday night when Senator Edwards showed up at a bowling alley for a press conference.
The original idea was that Sen. Edwards himself would bowl.

...when I arrived at the bowling alley, about 15 minutes before North Carolina's Sen. Edwards, trouble was brewing. It was like The Perfect Storm, with two powerful opposing forces on a deadly collision course:

On the one hand, you had hundreds of people there to see the candidate, including a large, aggressive press corps that was not wearing appropriate bowling footwear.

On the other hand, you had league bowlers, who were there to bowl, dammit.

Into this festive scene surged Sen. Edwards, whose campaign theme is that he is going to bring America together. He stood on a platform and gave a speech, surrounded by a dense crowd of media and applauding supporters. About 25 feet away, outside the crowd, the bowlers offered their rebuttal. It was a weird kind of stereo: In one ear, I'd hear Sen. Edwards explaining how he would provide economic opportunity to all Americans; in the other ear, I'd hear: "OUR WHOLE NIGHT IS RUINED! YOU DON'T GIVE A (bad word) ABOUT US!"

What bright campaign manager thought of this fiasco? It reminds me of Clinton's infamous runway haircut, albeit on a smaller scale.

In another column, Mr. Barry also gives his brief impression of Wesley Clark.

January 25, 2004
Mark Twain Quote
I'm a big fan of Samuel Clemens. Today I discovered a quote from him that was new to me.
Sometimes I wonder if the world is being run by smart people who are putting us on, or by imbeciles who really mean it.
Some things never change.

Snow Bound
We awoke to a white, icy view. Most of our small town closed for the day; they are not used to this type of weather. A few minutes ago, it warmed up enough for the sleet to turn to snow. Looks like a nice day to spend with the family and to finish some loose ends (such as catching up on emails and comments).

January 24, 2004
Just in from New Hampshire
The latest from the political columnist who most accurately captures the perspective of most Americans.

The Sound of Mommy
This morning, Lady Quixote was playing with the Little Princess.
Lady Quixote: What sound does a duck make?

Little Princess: Quack! Quack!

Lady Quixote: What sound does a dog make?

Little Princess: Woof! Woof!

Lady Quixote: What sound does a cow make?

Little Princess: Moo! Moo!

Lady Quixote: What sound does a mommy make?

Little Princess: Chocolate!

The Little Princess is one smart two-year-old.

January 23, 2004
Ineffective Marketing
As we continue to work on our home, my wife is looking for some inexpensive (e.g., disposable) chairs to use until we have the repairs completed and paid off. She sent me a link to some Ikea chairs.
The castors are designed for soft floors.

To protect your floor, use KOLON carpet/floor protector; sold separately.

Wonder what sort of protection my floor would require if the castors weren't designed for soft floors?

Protect the Spiderhole
TIKRIT, Iraq - The U.S. military said Friday it may fill in the spider hole that Saddam Hussein used as his final hiding place to prevent it from becoming a tourist attraction.
I hope not. Once Iraq is a peaceful and stable country, I hope the spiderhole – complete with lice – becomes a major tourist attraction. Let all people, especially those who desire power – mull upon how a modern day Ozymandias spent his last days as a tyrant.

Tip of the helm to Outside the Beltway

Debate Coverage
The debates last night had very little meat to them. After almost a year of debates, where the contenders are asked to give brief answers to questions – usually the same ones asked in previous debates – I can usually predict what the candidate is going to say before he speaks. I am dubious of any real benefit to these debates other than serving as a forum where candidates can practice their sound-bytes in front of a mostly appreciative audience (Lieberman was booed a few times for his pro-war statements).

Jeff Jacoby wrote a great review of the debate. I also found a complete transcript if you want all the details.

For the rest of you, let me use the actual words of the contenders to summarize the entire debate. (Disclaimer, I am snipping bits from various parts of the debate in order to organize the discussion by subject. The candidates actually skipped around quite a bit as they avoided answering some questions.)

January 22, 2004
2004 - Big Spender vs. Big Spenders
As my regular reader know, I think President Bush has done an abysmal job domestically. He has presided over one of the largest increases in domestic spending (non-defense related) in modern history.

I had hoped that at least one of the Democratic contenders would bring a dose of fiscal responsibility to the campaign. Alas, the non-partisan National Taxpayer Union claims otherwise.

Imagine That
Imagine that you were not a law-abiding citizen, but you had set aside your morals. For some reason you became a car thief. You laugh at the morons who leave their vehicles relatively unprotected. These people are too stupid to keep their vehicles and their insurance will pay them back anyway. Why, people should thank you for adding spice to their boring lives.

You have a good time stealing cars around the country. You like to travel, so you only steal a few cars in one location, then you move on. This way, the cops don't have time to learn your methods. Then you come to Columbus, Ohio. You spot a real winner. The car is really hot, you can probably pocket $35k from the local fence for a few minutes work. The dumb owner didn't even lock it.

You hop in the car. With your skills, it only takes a few seconds to hotwire it. You drive off, already planning how you will spend your money. All of a sudden, the car stops and the car's tape deck starts blaring.

Bad boys, bad boys, Whatcha gonna do, Whatcha gonna do when they come for you?
You realize the door is locked as you see some of Ohio's finest come for you.

Tip of the helm to Clayton Cramer

January 21, 2004
Shopping Under the Influence
A 27-year-old Belgian was almost jailed for smuggling marijuana into Brussels after visiting Amsterdam. However, the police released him shortly after picking him up.
The man admitted that he'd been smoking marijuana in a coffee shop and had bought £140 worth of the drug to take home.

He was handed over to Belgian police who took him to a police station to Antwerp but then found his marijuana was cabbage.

A police spokesman said: "He was quite mad about it. We've set the man free, because it's not prohibited to bring cabbage over the border.

"Probably the man had smoked so much in Holland, that he didn't realise he'd been swindled."

My Kind of Woman
This thief entered the wrong pastry shop.
Police say a masked man entered the baker's shop in Wetzlar. The knife-wielding raider ordered the 47-year-old woman working there to hand over cash.

She reacted by taking several rolls and pieces of pastry from the display and throwing them at the man. He fled, but managed to snatch the woman's handbag which contained £20.

SOTU Analysis
I have reviewed the entire State Of The Union address and commented on each part of it. President Bush covered a lot of ground, so it is quite lengthy. If you want a quick synopsis, I gave him a D for his domestic agenda. Other than his tax cuts, Bush has accomplished little at home in his time in office. Spending is higher than ever and many of his new initiatives treat symptoms, not problems.

However, I give President Bush an A- for the war on terrorism. He has made some mistakes, but has achieved much. To paraphrase Sherlock Holmes, in 2003 the story was that the terrorists did not bark in the States. Keep them on the run, Mr. President.

The entire transcript of President Bush's SOTU address and my comments follow:

January 20, 2004
Political Survey
Select Smart has an interesting survey that matches some of your political preferences with the current candidates for President. The survey covers a lot of ground. I am a bit skeptical of their methodology, although I find their results fairly interesting.

Summaries of the Iowa Caucus
The Blogosphere did a great job covering the Caucus. The Command-Post was updated very frequently and did a better job than many paid news agencies. Professor Bainbridge presented a chronological perspective of the day. Outside the Beltway has collected summaries from many bloggers, so I will not gild the lily. Go read his post.

One Can Only Hope
While I respect some of Congressman Gephardt's decisions, I have never liked the man. Like many non-coastal politicians, he ran on a pro-life platform, then had a change of heart once he was in office and realized that he had to support abortion to rise in the Democratic Party. Given the power of incumbency, reelection was relatively simple despite his betrayal of those who put him in office. Thus, I will not miss him if his political career is over. As the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reminds us, Gephardt said he will not seek to keep his congressional seat.
Gephardt declared a year ago that - win or lose in his presidential bid - he was not seeking re-election this fall to the 3rd District congressional seat that he's held since 1977.

Gephardt has repeatedly denied Republican speculation that he might reconsider his plans to retire from the U.S. House, or choose instead to challenge Sen. Christopher "Kit" Bond, R-Mo.

I hope Gephardt keeps this promise.

January 19, 2004
Gephardt Dropping Out?
According to the AP, the results of the Iowa Caucus are in:
John Kerry rode an 11th-hour surge to victory in Iowa's kickoff presidential caucuses, upsetting Democratic front-runner Howard Dean and stunning caucus favorite Dick Gephardt.

Gephardt scrapped plans to fly to New Hampshire for next week's primary after a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Iowa caucuses, a source said Monday night, possibly signaling the end of his presidential campaign.

If this report is correct, then I believe this does indeed signal the end for Gephardt.
Sen. John Edwards of North Carolina was in second. "It feels terrific," Edwards said as he awaited the final results at a downtown hotel. "What's happened here the last two weeks with my campaign has been phenomenal." The Dean campaign said he called Edwards to congratulate him on his strong showing.
So Dean, the frontrunner, came in third. The 2004 Democrats may have decided not to run off a cliff after all. The next few days should be quite interesting.

Iowa Caucus - Update
It will be hours before everything is resolved tonight. In the meantime, here are some comments and links of interest to those watching politics.

To my surprise and amusement, Dave Barry is covering the Iowa caucus. Barry's three columns enlighten as well as entertain.

Many bloggers are making their own predictions, including Ben, Xlrq, Antioch Road, The Yin Blog, Cornfield Commentary, and Polipundit. Slate's Kaus then explains why the numbers you hear tonight will be an undemocratic result while Kos believes any margin of victory by Dean will be a great victory.

Poliblog found a story that Edwards and Kucinich have agreed to support each other if either of them do not have enough supporters to be viable. (One of the oddities of the Iowa caucus is that votes from supporters of non-viable candidates do not count, so delegates may change camps throughout the process). I suspect this deal will help Edwards, but it was a clever move for both of them.

Analyzing President Bush's Marriage Proposal
I have yet to read one complimentary opinion about Bush's new proposal to promote marriage. Many bloggers have expressed opinions on the issue. A small sample includes Poliblog, Calblog, Scrappleface, Zombyboy, the Vodka Pundit, andCitizen Smash. At best, some of these bloggers are merely skeptical. Most of them are opposed. I will play devil's advocate and explain Bush's thinking on the issue and argue in favor of it.

January 17, 2004
Quiz of the Day

This morning I received a fun quiz from one of my readers (Bill B.). You have to answer four simple questions. The only trick is that you have to answer as quickly as possible.

January 16, 2004
Unexpected Consequences
My transition from Nucleus to MT had a few problems. All new endeavors have risks and when deciding on a plan of action, the wise thing to do is to ask as many questions as possible, decide if the benefits outweigh the risks, and proceed if the answer is yes. I tried to follow my own advice when the King of Fools suggested moving from Nucleus to MT.

I understood I would lose a few comments in the transition, but also knew I could probably salvage them from the nucleus database. In fact, I plan on doing this today. This was an acceptable cost to me. The King is very skilled at MT and has developed many elegant coding tricks for MT sites (I am not a coder, but I know enough to follow coding logic once someone else has done the work). I am quite happy with his work and would highly recommend him.

However, the biggest risks in new endeavors are the unexpected consequences. It is difficult to weigh the pros and cons of decisions when you are unaware of some of the consequences. I did not realize that switching from Nucleus to MT would void all the permalinks people have placed to my site. After all, when I switched from Blogger to Nucleus, all of my old Blogger posts still work.

Had I realized that up front, I would not have moved to MT. However, given all the time the King and I have invested in implementing my theme in MT, I am certainly going to stay with MT. Today I will also add a section on the left that references my most popular posts with their new permalinks. I regret any inconvenience this loss of old permalinks has caused my readers, but I have learned two things from this experience. One, if I ever switch to another program (doubtful), I will ensure I do so in a way that saves all permalinks. Two, as people experience unexpected consequences throughout their lives, it probably influences their thinking. After all, only a fool does not learn from experience. Thus, the law of unexpected consequences – along with personal experience with these consequences – may explain why people grow more conservative with age.

News From Mars
Spirit has left the lander. Now the martian explorer is safely on Mars and out of the lander, scientists are eager to play and learn.

NASA takes a lot of flack, sometimes deservedly so, but they also deserve a lot of credit. Imagine the patience and skill it took to design the entire mission and ensure everything went perfectly. Merely confirming that Spirit had safely left the lander was an exercise in patience.

The team had sent the command to leave the lander at 3:21 a.m., then waited for more than an hour and a half before learning the results.

It took the craft only 78 seconds to travel the 10 feet from the lander onto the surface, but the craft then had to locate the sun, take pictures of its surroundings and wait for a passing Mars orbiter before it could phone home with confirmation of its success.

Kudos to NASA for an excellent job so far. Hopefully their success will continue with Opportunity, which is scheduled to land in nine days on the opposite side of Mars.

January 14, 2004
Clinton's Resounding Victory?
While I am sure James Tartanto and his usually capable staff at the Wall Street Journal's Best of the Web would like to forget President Bill Clinton, that does not excuse statements such as this:
It has been 40 years since the Democrats won a resounding victory in a race for the White House. That was in 1964, when the GOP nominee, Sen. Barry Goldwater, was seen as an extreme right-winger.
While it has been 40 years since a Democrat won over 90% of the electoral vote, Bill Clinton's victory over Bob Dole was quite decisive. Clinton won 70.4% of the electoral votes and a slight majority of the popular vote in the 1996 election. So it has only been 8 years since the Democrats won a resounding victory in the race for the White House, while it has been 16 years since the Republicans last did so.

C'mon Taranto - give credit where credit is due. Love him or hate him, Clinton was the most charismatic Democratic politician since JFK.

Update: James Taranto responded.

The Roundtable's New Look
My first blogiversary will be Saturday. I have really enjoyed my first year of blogging and look forward to many more. It has literally allowed me to communicate with people from around the world, and my perspective has grown from the experience.

As a blogiversary present to myself (and my readers), I commissioned the wonderful talents of the King of Fools to give my site the new look you see today. I highly recommend the King to anyone who desires a custom look. He has been an artist and a gentlemen. He listened to what I wanted, made great suggestions, and even implemented one feature before I had the chance to ask.

As part of this new look, I am transitioning from Nucleus to MT. No transition is painless, although this one has been smoother than I imagined. If you spot any bugs or problems, please let me know via comments or email.

January 13, 2004
Predictions and Movie Reviews

Another blogger prediction has been fulfilled. Khobrah sent me an email stating my post motivated him to open his site. If you like movie reviews, go visit him. He specializes in the cinematic swordplay genre, but I have found him to be a connoisseur of many genres of old movies, including science-fiction. The reviews at his site are far more detailed than anything you will find in a newspaper and he does warn his readers before he discusses major spoilers.

He also takes request for movies to be reviewed.

Defending the Rights of Smokers

I dislike smoking - I'm not a rabid anti-smoker, but think it is a filthy and foolish habit. My maternal granddad picked up the habit in WWII, managed to survived four years of hazardous duty, and then died from lung cancer a decade ago. His wife still lives, but suffers from lung damage. The evidence on second-hand smoke is still a bit soft, but it is highly likely that her suffering was caused by second-hand smoke (she never smoked herself). My brother has been smoking since college and I expect I'll lose him to lung cancer in a few decades unless medical science can get ahead of the problems caused by smoking.

Given this, it may surprise you to know that I am concerned at how the government is infringing on the rights of smokers. The rights of smokers are being slowly trounced upon in ways that freedom loving Americans should abhor. This is a particularly interesting issue for me as many different "rights" conflict with one another.

January 12, 2004
A Day's Worth of Reading

In my blogger predictions, I said Jim would start farming out the Best of Me. Little did I know he had already made arrangements to do so - the first Best of Me not hosted by Jim was posted yesterday. Ilyka Damen did a great job. Of course, I may be biased because yours truly was compared to one of my favorite bloggers.

Jeremy Wright also did a wonderful job hosting the Carnival of the Capitalists. These collections of good blogs leaves me with quite a dilemma. Do I spend my sparse blogging time reading or writing? At least it is a nice problem to have.

January 09, 2004
Roundtable Comments

Update: The informatin in this post applied to Nucleus. With the move to MT, none of this still applies.

January 08, 2004
An Improbable Dream

Posting political predictions is easy. So after posting mine, I decided to do something much more difficult. I have taken up another almost impossible challenge. Foolhardy as it may be, I shall run where the brave have not gone. Yes, I have dared to make forecasts about the most elusive of creatures, my fellow bloggers. Some predictions are serious. Some are not. Figuring out which are which is part of the fun.

Political Predictions for 2004

Here are my political predictions for 2004.

President Bush will win reelection (OK, I started with a easy one)

More WMDs will be found in Iraq - these WMDs will be displayed in such a manner only unreasonable people will question it.

Unreasonable people will claim the US planted the WMDs.

The aforementioned WMDs will be found between the Democratic Convention and the November election

Time's first choice for person of the year will not turn it down. (Another easy prediction, but I wanted to publicize Rumsfeld's commendable behavior).

John Thune will defeat obstructionist Daschle

After the new senators take office in 2005, the Republicans will have at least 55 Senate seats, but less than 60 (they currently hold 51).

I'll revisit these predictions in November, 2004.

Fingerprints, National Security, and the Unprincipled

Many columnists and bloggers have been discussing Brazil's response to the new US policy of fingerprinting visitors. However, they focus on the new policy instead of pointing out the utter lack of principles shown by many critics of this new policy. Let me give you some background. Despite showing their political bias by putting quotes around the word terrorist, the BBC captures the key points of the story.

Brazilian Judge Julier Sebastiao da Silva reacted to the new US plan to fingerprint and photograph Brazilian visitors to America by ordering that that US citizens will be fingerprinted and photographed on entering the country [Brazil].

"I consider the act absolutely brutal, threatening human rights, violating human dignity, xenophobic and worthy of the worst horrors committed by the Nazis," Federal Judge Julier Sebastiao da Silva said in the court order.

There are two points here. First of all, while I agree and support Brazil's decision to fingerprint American visitors to Brazil, I completely disagree with Judge Sebastio's perspective. This act is not brutal by any reasonable interpretation of the word and using it in such a way weakens the word. A very sensitive person may consider their human rights and dignity violated by this act, but I certainly do not. Someday I hope to visit Brazil, and the fact that they will now fingerprint and photograph me barely influences me at all. To the very minor extent this practice does influence me, it encourages me as I hope the process will dissuade the small population of crooked Americans from also visiting Brazil. Thus, the process actually helps protect my human rights and dignity from being violated from real criminals. The Brazilian judge also misuses the word xenophobic. A fifteen second process of fingerprinting and photographing visitors in an attempt to dissuade criminals after the events of September 11 is hardly an abnormal or unreasonable response. And Judge da Silva's comparison of this mild act with the worst horrors committed by the Nazis shows either his complete ignorance of history (in which case he should not refer to these horrors until he educates himself) or his complete lack of perspective (in which case he has no business being a judge and should be removed from office).

My second point is the one that really amazes me. Judge da Silva claims the US policy is absolutely brutal, threatening human rights, violating human dignity, xenophobic and worthy of the worst horrors committed by the Nazis yet sees nothing wrong with returning perceived vast evil with equivalent vast evil. What hypocrisy! What an utter lack of principle! If a good person sees an evil person doing an evil deed, he should try to stop him. But not by becoming like him, or he has become evil himself. When many nations fought the evil of Nazism, they did not adopt the evil practices of Nazism to do so. Good thing Hypocrite da Silva and his unprincipled supporters had no say in WWII. Hopefully those who call Judge da Silva a hero simply haven't thought the issue through.

January 07, 2004
Biblical Puns

If you don't like bad puns, avoid this post. Make sure you don't read the comments too.

Why the US Military is the Best in the World

It is not our technology, impressive as our equipment may be. It is not our spending, even if we are willing to spend more in total and per capita than any other free country in the world. It is because of our brave volunteer soldiers who are willing to put their lives in danger for the rest of us.

When 1st Sgt. David Henry heard Command Sgt. Maj. Eric Cooke had been killed outside the wire in Iraq, he wasn’t surprised.

Cooke was that kind of sergeant major, Henry said. He was a leader who went where his soldiers went and took the risks they took even though he didn’t have to.

“He didn’t have to be out there with soldiers manning checkpoints, checking on soldiers during cordon searches,” said Henry, 1st Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry Regiment rear detachment noncommissioned officer in charge at Büdingen. “But that’s what he liked to do.”

May God be with you Sergeant Major. And many thanks to all our brave soldiers for putting their lives on the line to make the world a safer place.

A tip of the helm to Sir Dave for bringing this story to my attention.

January 06, 2004
Test Everything - Response to a Boycott Request

Today I received a well-forwarded email that asked people to boycott Target. The message alleged many reasons for the boycott. I am very sympathetic to boycotts, but I also like to investigate things for myself. I won't copy the email here, but among its many allegations, it claimed Target was a French owned company that discriminated against veterans in its giving policies. If these allegations were true, I would join the boycott.

However, the allegations are completely false. Target is a well run American company and it has made contributions to veterans. This is from the Veterans of Foreign Wars website.

The Veterans of Foreign Wars would like to remind all that the Internet culture weaves rumors and misinformation. Simply put, don’t believe everything you read. For example, an e-mail message urging veterans to boycott Target has been circulating on the Internet because a solicitation request to support “The Moving Wall” was denied.

Target has a long-held corporate policy regarding donations. And in all fairness, Target contributes more than $2 million weekly to charitable causes and is one of the corporate sponsors for the 2003 tour of the Vietnam Veteran’s Memorial Fund’s “The Wall That Heals.” “The Wall That Heals” is a traveling Vietnam Veterans memorial and museum that has a strong educational component for schools and serves to honor all our veterans.

The email I received has apparently become widespread enough that Target also mentions it on their web-site and clearly and honestly denies it.

This is a great example of why people need to fact-check what read via the internet as well as what they get from the media. And I hope my readers will continue to send me email, but please review the following before forwarding me a chain email.

Update: Another reader forwarded me this response to the false email:

I got this same e-mail weeks ago and was able to confirm that it was indeed a false rumor. Target for one is not a French company. They are part of the Dayton-Hudson group of store whose home base is in the midwest. Dayton owns Mervyns also. Pro-life groups have been boycotting Mervyns, Target and all other stores owned by this group because they have been, and are still, staunch supporters of planned Parenthood.

I believe this is also untrue, at least for now, but I am always willing to consider new information. According to my research, Target's parent company did support Planned Parenthood for many years. They briefly decided not to support Planned Parenthood in 1990, but changed their mind after pro-abortion supporters threatened a boycott. Of course, this triggered a boycott from the pro-life supporters. So Target tried to please everyone. They greatly reduced their funding to Planned Parenthood to about $18,000 per year and insisted that this money only be used for education on HIV/AIDS and pregnancy prevention at locations that do not perform abortions.

However, this compromise was unacceptable to many pro-lifers who correctly pointed out that money is fungible and that this freed up $18,000 for Planned Parenthood to use for other purposes and that Planned Parenthood was using their "education" funds to promote abortion. Target admitted the promotion of abortion charge was true at a press conference in 1990, but continued to provide the minor amount of funding to Planned Parenthood in an attempt to avoid controversy. Many pro-life groups continued to boycott Target. As one pro-life organization stated, they had already accomplished the financial part of their objective (the dramatic reduction to $18,000 per year, a nominal fee, did dry up this formerly large source of pro-abortion funding). However, the boycott continued because Planned Parenthood probably desired the credibility it received from the support of a major Minnesota corporation.

Thus, many pro-lifers continued to boycott Target for the next ten years. In January 2000, the Dayton Hudson company reorganized as the Target Corporation. Shortly thereafter, the Target Foundation stopped funding Planned Parenthood in any way, shape, or form. Like most groups that succumb to pressure, Target claimed the boycott was not a factor in their decision, but I don't believe reasonable people believed them any more than intelligent people believed that the EU's threat of trade war had no influence on the Bush administration's decision to eliminate the steel tariffs.

So it appears all pro-life boycotts ended in 2001 after Target ceased providing even a nominal sum to Planned Parenthood. These sources were used in compiling this column. Admiral Quixote is not associated with the Target Corporation.

Yellow Dog vs. Dean

My in-laws are yellow dog Democrats from the Deep South. If you are not familiar with the phrase, it means they would vote for a yellow dog if it was on the ballot as a Democrat instead of voting for a Republican. My in-laws are kind generous people who are relatively well-informed compared to the average American. Unfortunately, they only get their news from old (liberal) media and they believe every word must be true or it would not be on TV (or in the paper, or in Time, etc). Thus, they believe most Republicans are evil people who want to oppress the poor to favor the rich. When the Democrats do something awful, they shake their heads and say both parties are evil, but at least the Democrats are the lessor of two evils.

This Christmas vacation, we spent a few days at their Tennessee farm. As expected, I heard a few anti-Bush remarks and how they were looking forward to voting against him in 2004. I saw no point in commenting on this, but Lady Quixote (who unlike my Independent self, is a strong Republican) jumped into the fray. She asked who they would vote for if Howard Dean was running against President Bush. I was shocked to hear my father-in-law say he would not vote for Dean. Assuming Dean wins the Democratic primary, this does bode well for the Democrats in the South. It may be moot since the South seems to be more Republican every year, but when a yellow-dog Democrat won't vote for his party, you know the Democrats have lost touch with the heartland.

Dean's almost magical ability to raise scorn in the South makes the Democratic primary more interesting. It may not make much difference in the national election (the South would probably vote to reelect President Bush even if Dean was respected in these States), but it may greatly influence the Democratic party. What happens if Al Sharpton wins a few Southern primaries? His delegates at the Democratic primary may make things interesting at the Democratic convention (or, more realistically, in the hidden negotiations before the convention). It should be an interesting year for watching politics.

The Surface of Mars

The first color image from Spirit, America's most recent probe to Mars, is now available.

For those of you with high-bandwidth connections, a larger (8 MB) version of the photo is available from NASA. Spirit has been sending black and white photos back since it landed on January 3rd. NASA did this to save bandwidth (black and white photos take less bandwidth than color photos), but NASA is now starting to use Spirit's high resolution color cameras.

If all goes well, Spirit will be joined on Mars by its twin sister Opportunity. This rover should land just after midnight eastern time on January 25. Opportunity should land halfway around Mars from her sister.

January 04, 2004
While I was Away

While I was on vacation, others were posting some great stuff. Iowahawk had a funny, yet thought-provoking, post on why he is a Democrat. Let me share one of his many reasons:

I am a Democrat because I believe in campaign finance reform. Sadly, our politics are dominated by advertisements, paid for by the contributions of giant corporations. All too often, these drown out legitimate grassroots opinions, like the kind heard on TimeWarner-AOL-CNN, TimesCorp, or Disney-ABC.

In a similar satiric vein, Sergeant Stryker imagines Wesley Clark on Hardball.

On a more serious note, Clayton Cramer posted a nice summary of the main four Christian perspectives on war: pacifism, non-resistance, defensive war, and just war. While I am firmly in the just war camp, I believe a rational case can be made for the non-resistance and defensive schools of thought. The pacifists are just delusional in my opinion (I'll be glad to respond in detail if anyone disagrees, but first ensure you read the difference between pacifism and non-resistance). My only point of disagreement with Cramer is the claim that that some of Jesus’s disciples regularly carried swords. I can think of one example (Peter when expecting an attack on Jesus), but am not aware of any other cases. I don't think this changes Cramer's argument, but I don't think the case needs to be overstated. I will write Cramer and ask him to expand on this if he is aware of more examples of which I am not aware. Now there were many Roman soldiers who believed in Jesus (e.g., the Roman Centurion whose faith impressed Jesus Himself), perhaps this is what Cramer meant. At any event, while I may nitpick the details, I agree with Cramer's main points.

Cramer was really on roll while I was away. In another post, Cragmer manages to fisk Professor Volokh in a very convincing manner. Volokh is usually well reasoned, but everyone has a bad day. One of the better characteristics of the blogosphere is that people will fact-check (and logic check) your postings.

Well, sticking with my resolution of getting more sleep, I'm logging off for the night. Just in time to finish watching LSU win at least a share of the college national championship barring a comeback from Oklahoma.

Secret Santas in the Blogosphere

In December, Justene Adamec started a Secret Santa group for bloggers. I participated and it was a lot of fun. When I got back from vacation, I found a gift on my doorstep and another via email. My Secret Santa sent me a very cool mug from a conservationist group. I had never heard of Friends of the Sea Otter, but they seem like an effective voice for the mammals. The mug will prominently displayed on my desk at work. My Santa also sent me an Ebay gift certificate which is greatly appreciated. Thank you! Now the only question is – who are you? :-) From the partial list of participants that I found at Calblog, I will guess you are e-claire.

For my part, I was Amanda’s Secret Santa – one of the young ladies at The Twins Tell the Truth. I was glad to see both Amanda and her mother enjoyed the books – they were some of my favorites when I was Amanda’s age and I look forward to when my children can discover them.

January 03, 2004
2004 Resolutions

With the advent of a new year, it is traditional to make resolutions. I have not usually made serious resolutions before, but I decided to do so for 2004. A man should set high goals for himself and I have attempted to do so with these resolutions. I am posting them here as additional motivation for myself and ask that my faithful readers occasionally prompt me about them.

Reread the entire Bible

Spend more time with my wife and children

Finish rebuilding our money pit (we bought an old house last year that has been a fiscal disaster, but I can see the light at the end of the tunnel.)

Read at least 24 non-fiction books and post comments on them

Start a small, part-time business

Write and submit a short story for publication

Get more sleep

Get more exercise

Give my web-site a face lift

Start and post an idea of the week

Reduce my sugar intake; in part by consuming no more than 1 soda per month

See the Southern Cross

Answer my email in a more timely manner

Some of these resolutions seem to contradict each other (accomplish more while sleeping more and spending more time with my family). This means I will have to be more productive with my time and while that is not a resolution in itself, it is a requirement to reach my goals. While these goals are ambitious, I believe I can obtain all of them in 2004 if I better organize my time. I’ll keep everyone posted.

Congratulations Drewhead and Clemson

Drewhead is a friend of mine despite being a Clemson graduate. The Clemson Tigers trashed my beloved Tennessee Volunteers at the Peach Bowl while I was on vacation. The Volunteers were expected to win. Both teams were on winning streaks, but Tennessee was the higher ranked team, had played a tougher schedule, and had more experienced players. Yet Clemson won fairly easily. I think the reason for this is a lesson for us all.

Clemson is a young team who went through a lot of problems this year. They overcame a lot to get to the Peach Bowl and they were excited to be there. Their players gave it their all and earned my respect.

On the other hand, Tennessee expected to go to a better bowl. The Volunteer players were upset that lower ranked teams went to more prestigious bowls (e.g., even the Outback Bowl ignored the Volunteers and asked the lower ranked Gators – who the Volunteers had beaten – to play instead). Unfortunately, Tennessee has a habit of only playing well when they feel like it. The Volunteers love challenges and will play their hearts out when they are underdogs. They did it this year when they upset the Miami Hurricanes in South Florida. They did it a few years ago when they beat FSU for the national championship. However, they tend to sulk like children when they are disappointed and don’t put much effort into games in these situations. They slacked off last year against Maryland – also at the Peach Bowl – because they also were upset about being passed over by more prestigious bowls. As much as I love the Vols, this aspect of their character is disheartening. They could learn a lot from the Clemson Tigers – whether you are playing for a national championship or just playing for a pride, you should always play your best. Clemson did, and the Tigers deserve the upset victory.

I'm back

I had a wonderful vacation with very limited internet access and enjoyed the break from being online. I hope all my readers also enjoyed the holidays and have a wonderful year in 2004.



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