Archive for April 2008

Participating In Surveys for Sweepstakes

It used to be that you would receive gift cards or other compensation for filling out these things, but not anymore. Instead they dangle the chance at winning a cash prize. I mention this because I participate in a product evaluation panel and it appears likely that they are moving towards that sweepstakes model. I just filled out a questionnaire that asked if they did move to it,if I would quit, and I answered ‘yes’.

First, I don’t gamble. I don’t participate in the stock market; I don’t even have a 401k. I’ve been in a casino once in my life and refused to play anything; in fact I felt more uncomfortable there than I have just about anywhere, and that includes the Japanese sento. I don’t gamble for philosophical reasons. I cannot profit from the misfortune of others is about the best way I can describe it, but it also involves a supernatural element of risk that is irrational and illogical, but it’s part of who I am.

Second, if the market research firm doesn’t value my opinion enough to pay for it, why should I give it to them for free? These firms are paid money by their clients to evaluate services and products; why should I help them? I’ve participated in market research where my earnings were donated to charity, and that’s fine, but giving me the chance to win $500?

I’m sure there are others out there like me who are being missed by market research. Unfortunately it’s not enough to make the clients of market research firms tell them to get a broader market sample. But until that happens I’ll throw away every survey request that’s printed on my receipt or comes with a product.

Hooked on xkcd

Source: xkcd 

If Hillary Pulls It Off

Eleanor Clift in Newsweek has an excellent piece on Hillary Clinton. Amazingly enough for the MSM it’s not a hit piece.

If she does get the nomination, it will be one of the greatest political comebacks since Reagan.

Hand Cannons at the Range

Immediately after work I nipped over to the shooting range before it got crowded. Unfortunately I got behind a group of guys who came to fire a bunch of handguns including a .357, a .45 and a .460. I hadn’t realized there was such a thing as a .460; it turns out there’s even a .500. Anyhow I was in the slot two gates down from them with my dinky .22 Beretta Neo, and the first time they fired the .460 it was obvious. I felt the shockwave and the muzzle flash lit up the indoor range. While they were shooting the .460 I couldn’t fire; the blast was simply too intense. When they were firing the other guns it wasn’t a problem; there was a significant difference in blast between each gun.

There were four guys, and one of them was on the small side. Watching him wrestle with the .460s kick was not nearly as bad as it was for the bigger guys. They all were wrestling with it and although they joked about it, none of them tried firing the thing one handed.

Here’s a review of a .460 including videos. Here is another video including a joker firing a .460 and a .500 at the same time. And one more .500 video. The sound in the videos does not do justice to the weapon being fired in an indoor range. Even with full ear protection it was one of the loudest things I think I’ve heard.

I suppose if you wanted to drop anything with one shot that was charging at you, this would be the gun to have. But honestly, I’ll stick to my dinky small calibers. I ended up shooting a very tight 3” 30 shot group at 10 yards, so I felt pretty good when I left the range.

Chinese Propping Up Comrade Bob in Zimbabwe

Looks like China wants to burnish burn its human rights reputation by propping up Robert Mugabe with mercenaries in Zimbabwe.

April 24, 2008: Concurrent with China’s latest shipments of arms and munitions to Zimbabwe (see), two dozen uniformed and armed Chinese soldiers were seen patrolling the streets of the eastern border town of Mutare, with Zimbabwean troops, during a strike by Mugabe’s political opposition. The Chinese Embassy denied that there were any Chinese troops in the area, but suggested that local Chinese-owned companies hired contractors to protect their interests.

Tibet. Darfur. Burma. Wow these guys really get around.

It is the Soldier Poem

This is pasted from Babalu, which I found after Dave Price cited it in this post.


It is the Soldier, not the minister
Who has given us freedom of religion.

It is the Soldier, not the reporter
Who has given us freedom of the press.

It is the Soldier, not the poet
Who has given us freedom of speech.

It is the Soldier, not the campus organizer
Who has given us freedom to protest.

It is the Soldier, not the lawyer
Who has given us the right to a fair trial.

It is the Soldier, not the politician
Who has given us the right to vote.

It is the Soldier who salutes the flag,
Who serves beneath the flag,
And whose coffin is draped by the flag,
Who allows the protester to burn the flag.

(? Charles M. Province)

UPDATE: I received this in an email and it raises some important points about the poem:
For some reason this poem strikes me the wrong way.
Although I strongly sympathize with what the author is
trying to convey (proper respect due to our military),
it is a disservice to suggest that the rights
enshrined in the Declaration of Independence and the
Bill of Rights, both civil documents, were somehow
“given” to us by the military. They are, in fact,
among the unalienable rights either endowed to
humanity by a “creator” (if you are so inclined) or by
the simple fact that we exist as humans. The military
protects these freedoms under the direction of a
legitimately constituted government, to be sure, but
it does not grant them. Perhaps this is a subtle or
semantic difference, but an important one.

Indeed, a critical aspect of our presence in Iraq and
Afghanistan is to promote the concept of “good
governance” and the notion that it is legitimate
government structures (both civil and military) which
are the sources of the common good.

One of the beauties in our system is that the military is controlled by elected civilian leadership – another example of the rock/paper/scissors balancing act that the Founding Fathers built into the system. The writer’s last point is especially worth noting. Iraq will be all the more successful if it maintains civilian control over the military. Having it ruled by another dictator, even one who supports our policies in the region, would tarnish our efforts there.

Al-Qaeda Peeved at 9-11 Conspiracy Theories

Al-Qaeda’s #2 Ayman “Z-man” al-Zawahiri is pissed about Iran’s recent spreading of 9-11 theories blaming the Jews or the American government for that day’s events.

“The purpose of this lie is clear — (to suggest) that there are no heroes among the Sunnis who can hurt America as no else did in history. Iranian media snapped up this lie and repeated it,” he said.

extended=”true”>”Iran’s aim here is also clear — to cover up its involvement with America in invading the homes of Muslims in Category: War  |  1 Comment

The Commodities Bubble and Ethanol

This post at Dean’s World reflects the common view that ethanol is driving up the price of corn. However from what I’ve read all commodities are in a bubble due to the declining dollar, the threat of inflation, and the impact the subprime crisis has had on business earnings. I suppose the money has to go somewhere, and right now that place seems to be commodities. Here are some comparative charts taken from Seeking Alpha:

oil price chart

Commodities charts

Commodities charts

Note that with the exception of orange juice, all the commodities are moving in tandem, spiking in February (and doing the same this month – but the charts don’t go that far).

If ethanol demand is driving the price of corn, wouldn’t the price be rising faster than the other commodities? While ethanol is no doubt partly to blame for the rising price, how much ethanol do we produce from wheat or platinum?

I’m not an economist, but I think the commodities bubble can be blamed more than biofuels. Unlike the housing bubble or the internet bubble, the commodities bubble is really quite painful, so the sooner it bursts the better – at least for my pocketbook.

My Thought on Aliza Shvartz

If you have to go through all that to “provoke a discussion about the link between art and the body” then you really must suck at communication.

Colt M4 vs. Fabrique Nationale’s SCAR

Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) is questioning the government’s contracts with Colt over the military’s reliance on the M4.

“What we have is a fat contractor in Colt who’s gotten very rich off our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” says Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

The M4, which can shoot hundreds of bullets a minute, is a shorter and lighter version of the company’s M16 rifle first used 40 years ago during the Vietnam War. At about $1,500 apiece, the M4 is overpriced, according to Coburn. It jams too often in sandy environments like Iraq, he adds, and requires far more maintenance than more durable carbines.

“And if you tend to have the problem at the wrong time, you’re putting your life on the line,” says Coburn, who began examining the M4’s performance last year after receiving complaints from soldiers. “The fact is, the American GI today doesn’t have the best weapon. And they ought to.”

M4 by Colt

Colt M4

As an American taxpayer I really don’t care if the gun is overpriced, as long as our soldiers are getting the best tool they need for the job. So what do they think?

In 2006, a non-profit research group surveyed 2,600 soldiers who had served in Iraq and Afghanistan and found 89 percent were satisfied with the M4. While Colt and the Army have trumpeted that finding, detractors say the survey also revealed that 19 percent of these soldiers had their weapon jam during a firefight.

But surveys always have biases, and I would like to see more feedback from SCAR users in the field before I committed either way. Design-wise the SCAR seems better, using a gas-piston cartridge feed in contrast to the M4’s gas impingement, which allows the gases to foul the gun’s mechanism over time. Then again, the SCAR is new – and sometimes new isn’t always the best.

From a commenter at Futureweapons: “I would contend that because the M4 has its roots in the 60’s it’s had over 4 decades of evolution and “working out the kinks”. This thread at The Guns Network, which has several active duty personnel on it, seems favorable to the SCAR, although the M4 supporters are pretty hardcore.



Given the situation, why not have them all? Just standardize on the caliber so that ammo can be used by all the guns and let “the market” (soldiers in the field) decide which they want. I’d rather see them decide than an Oklahoma senator anyway.

Fools Rush In – The Life of ex-President Jimmy Carter

Mirrored at Dean’s World.

For over the past 25 years former president Jimmy Carter has used the prestige of his office to stay in the news, winning a peace prize in the process. Is Carter truly motivated by the quest for peace, or is there something else making him get involved in nearly every major foreign policy issue of the last 17 years?

Before traveling to Syria this week to meet Hamas Chief Khaled Mashaal, former president Jimmy Carter spoke at American University in Cairo, where he condemned the Israeli blockade of Gaza. “It’s an atrocity what is being perpetrated as punishment on the people in Gaza. It’s a crime… I think it is an abomination that this continues to go on,” Carter said. A few days earlier Carter visited southern Israel where he met with the kin of those killed by rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza. There he referred to the Qassam rocket attacks as criminal acts.

When Israel left Gaza there was no blockade in place. Immediately after assuming control, the Palestinians began firing rockets into southern Israel – just as predicted by the Israeli settlers evicted by force from settlements in Gaza. When Hamas violently overthrew the Palestinian Authority in June 2007, the rockets rained down in earnest and the blockade was put in place. But even today when nearly a dozen rockets landed, fuel supplies are being sent to Gaza from Israel from a depot where 2 civilians were murdered by Palestinians earlier this week.

Carter refuses to accept that Israel cedes land and gets rockets in return from Hamas. It’s not perceived by Hamas as “land for peace”; it’s “land for rocket staging areas.” He sees no difference between a terrorist organization that targets civilians and a military that targets the terrorists. Instead he sees Hamas and the Israeli government as morally equivalent, unelected terrorists who slaughtered their own people in the coup last year and a government freely elected by its people as moral equals. By this logic a cop that shoots a killer to death in the line of duty is just as immoral as the killer himself.

On Friday he met Mashaal. By doing so he has elevated a terrorist organization that is sworn to the destruction of Israel, and one that has the blood of his own countrymen on his hands. Why? Because he accepts the validity of terrorist acts as a means to wage war, according to former adviser to Carter and onetime executive director of the Carter Center Ken Stein. Writing in this piece for the Middle East Quarterly:

(In his book, Peace Not Apartheid, Carter writes) “It is imperative that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Roadmap for Peace are accepted by Israel,”[40] he leaves the impression that it is legitimate to engage in terrorism and suicide bombing against Israelis until Jerusalem accepts his interpretation of international law. In doing so, he ignores the fact that the performance-based formula for advancing Israeli-Palestinian talks, the so-called “Road Map” endorsed by the Quartet in 2003, required immediate cessation of terrorism.

To return to the cop analogy, it’s as if the cops must stop pursuing a murderer before the killer stops killing. It’s a naive morality that wouldn’t survive an hour in a sandbox full of preschoolers, but it’s the one Carter has followed since being thrown out of the Oval Office in 1981. But with Israel in particular, there is more to Carter’s meddling in its affairs. It starts with the fact that Carter has never forgiven American Jews for siding with Ted Kennedy during the 1980 primaries according to Stein. Beyond that,
Carter’s grievance list against Israel is long: He believes the Israeli government’s failure to withdraw fully from the West Bank is illegal and immoral; he condemns settlement construction; and he lambastes its current human rights abuse in the West Bank, which he labels “one of the worst examples of human rights abuse I know.”[5] From the time he was president, he has criticized Israel’s confiscation of Palestinian land, usurpation of water rights, and retaliatory bulldozing of Palestinian houses. Such policies, he has argued, are responsible for the moribund Palestinian economy. Carter holds particular animus toward the security barrier, first proposed by the late prime minister and Nobel Peace Prize winner Yitzhak Rabin,[6] as the latest example of what he believes to be a policy of de facto annexation of the West Bank.

Carter sees the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as the root of both U.S. unpopularity in the region and the wider problem of Middle East instability. Once the historic injustice done to the Palestinians is resolved, he believes, other issues plaguing U.S. foreign policy will dissipate, if not disappear.

Stein writes that Carter believes had he won re-election in 1980, he would have solved the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Carter possesses missionary zeal. He believes that had he won re-election, he would have succeeded in ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Numerous times during the 1980s, Carter quipped after leaving meetings with Middle Eastern or U.S. officials that, if given a chance, he could “make this happen.”

The Carter presidency was an unmitigated disaster economically as well as militarily. The rise of Islamic fascism began on Carter’s watch, and was exacerbated by Carter’s personal ineptitude as well as that of his administration. He encouraged Saddam Hussein to attack Iran in 1979. He made Iran the example that anyone with a grudge could do whatever they wanted against the United States without penalty, whether it was holding embassy personnel hostage in total disregard of international law or attacking civilians at home and abroad. The blame for 9-11 lays solely with al-Qaeda, but the Carter Administration mishandling of the Iranian revolution and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (in which Carter’s bungled handling of the SALT I treaty led the Soviets to believe that they could get away with the invasion, followed by U.S. National Security Adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski’s recommending the supporting of the mujahadeen against the Soviets) played a critical role in the internationalization of Islamic terrorism beyond the Middle East.

Since leaving office Carter has striven to rehabilitate his legacy as one of America’s worst presidents (#11 according to this meta-survey). He could have stuck with Habitat for Humanity and lived an honorable and exemplary life proving such polls wrong in the end. But his ego wouldn’t let him. Instead the incompetence that doomed his presidency has stalked his efforts in personal diplomacy. He undercut George Bush’s senior’s efforts to drive Saddam out of Kuwait in 1991 by appealing to governments to not join the coalition he was putting together to do so. In 1993 he brokered a “get out jail free” deal with Mohammed Farah Aidid, after the firefight with his militiamen (backed by al-Qaeda we later learned) that left 18 servicemen dead and 77 wounded. The 1994 “agreement” he “brokered” in North Korea to halt its nuclear program was never taken seriously by the North Korean regime, and the regime made a dozen nukes. Given Carter’s willful ignorance to listen to members from his own party over the years as well as these failures, it’s clear that he’s not in it for peace: he’s in it for his own personal glory.

Like the neo-cons from the Ford Administration gravitated around Bush in 2000, Carter officials have glommed onto Barack Obama’s candidacy. For millions of under 35’s who don’t remember gas lines, aren’t familiar with terms like “misery index” and never saw US hostages being paraded before cameras on the nightly news every night, the Carter years are just history pages from a textbook turned very quickly at the end of the school year. For many of us who lived through it, names like Brzezinski coupled with the sight of the ex-president meeting and elevating the status of our enemies are chilling reminders of what the world would have been like had Kennedy beaten Carter in the 1980 Democratic Primaries, or better yet, if Ford hadn’t pardoned Nixon and thereby beaten Carter soundly in 1976 Election – depriving the USA of one of its worst presidents and the enemies of freedom and peace with one of their most determined champions.

Networking Sites

Until a few days ago I had avoided networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and such. Over the years I’ve occasionally received invites from Chad or Dean to join their networks, but I’ve avoided visiting these sites more than once or twice. I’m not sure why; maybe it’s because I don’t have many friends at my age (quality trumps quantity – and freedom on a Saturday afternoon trumps having to help a friend move) or maybe it’s because I come from the Usenet generation, where people wrote and exchanged ideas on forums. Whatever it is, I haven’t felt that I was missing out on anything.

Until now. I’m trying to promote the Ministry of Propaganda, my Cafepress shop. It doesn’t sell very much today, and I feel that my designs are good enough to sell more. I got to talking about the store with my colleagues at work, and one suggested that I explore promoting it using one of the networking sites. I’ve tried Google adwords, and it’s too expensive. I’m also running a Blogads ad, but the click thru rate (CTR) is quite low; when you figure that most clicks don’t net in sales, and that my average sale nets me a buck, the odds of this working are rather long. So free advertising is really the only kind I can afford at this point.

Which leads me to Facebook and Myspace. These sites seem pretty closed off to someone like me; like going to a restaurant alone and there aren’t any free tables. So I’m messing around with the sites, and man I just don’t get it. I’ll keep messing around with them, but technologically they make me feel like I’m a freakin’ geezer.

Islam to Conquer Rome

Hamas Cleric Yunis al-Astal vows that the “religion of peace” will conquer Rome, and after that, the rest of the world.

“Today, Rome is the capital of the Catholics, or the Crusader capital, which has declared its hostility to Islam, and has planted the brothers of apes and pigs in Palestine in order to prevent the reawakening of Islam.

“I believe that our children, or our grandchildren, will inherit our jihad and our sacrifices, and, Allah willing, the commanders of the conquest will come from among them.

“Today, we instill these good tidings in their souls – and by means of the mosques and the Koran books, and the history of our Prophets, his companions, and the great leaders, we prepare them for the mission of saving humanity from the hellfire at whose brink they stand.”

No surprise given his sermon last year where he said women should become suicide bombers:
“When jihad becomes an individual duty, it applies to women too, because women do not differ from men when it comes to individual duties,” he said, calling Jews “the brothers of apes and pigs” who should “taste the bitterness of death.”

No word whether his own daughter, wife, mother or sisters have taken him up on the offer. Maybe he can convince Jimmy Carter to sacrifice Amy or perhaps her son.

What Has Barack Obama Accomplished

Bill Kristol asks: “But what has Barack Obama  that entitles him to look down on his fellow Americans?”

Good question. I’m thinking.

I’m thinking…

Still thinking… 

Is it Faces of Meth or Faces of Addiction

Dean has given my post thumbs up for his best of archive, which I appreciate. Unfortunately I’ve had way too much experience with the sauce over my 4 decades, and at this point in my life I hate to admit that I really can’t say much about it. You want wisdom go to an AA/NA meeting and talk to someone with more sobriety under their belt than my 2,324 days.