Friday, July 28, 2006

So, You Want To Destroy The Earth...

A simple concept: poof, no earth. It has long been a staple of sci-fi B-movies (and A-movies based on B-science), but how hard would it be to actually do it, really? Keep in mind, we aren't talking about wiping out all life from bacteria on up, or merely destroying mankind. The issue here is, how does one go about actually removing the entire planet Earth from existence? Turns out, it ain't gonna be easy.

Sam Hughes has given it a lot of thought, and compiled the essential guide to destroying the Earth. The only prerequisite of the various methods he lists is that they must be theoretically possible. Feasible, however, is quite another matter, as you will see.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Exxon Mobil 2Q Profit Jumps 36 Percent

Exxon Mobile has reported quarterly profits 36% higher than this time last year. This report coincides with all-time record high gas prices across the country, which the oil companies blame on high oil prices. Now, I am as capitalist a pig as the next guy, but I have some problems with this.

Increased profits of this magnitude cannot be adequately explained by increased sales alone. I believe (and this is just my opinion) that the oil companies are raising their gas prices far more than the increase in oil prices warrant. As the price of oil rises, the oil companies are also expanding their profit margins. It is, of course, good business practice to charge what the market will bear. The oil company shareholders are no doubt thrilled with the dividend checks they are receiving, and the executives are doing a fine job enhancing shareholder value.

Here is the problem: As gas prices rise, so too do the prices of everything else. I'm no socialist, but when the price of a single product or commodity has such a far-reaching impact on the entire economy, it makes me pause. Gasoline appears to have moved from being just another product for consumers to consume, to something more.

Electricity, natural gas, telephone service, all are considered to be utilities. They are recognized as essential, necessary services that our civilization relies upon heavily. Due to this fact, they are regulated by the government to ensure that they don't price-gouge their customers. The price of these utilities directly affects the price of everything else and loss of these utilities, even briefly, can have enormous economic consequences. So I ask, how is the gasoline supply any different?

Gasoline has the same importance and impact on our society as any utility. But the price of gasoline is free from any regulation which might reasonably be applied to electricity, etc. Can the public interest be entrusted to corporations whose only goal is to make the most money possible?

I know that history has shown that government price regulation doesn't work, and attempts to do so invariably fail due to a lack of agility on the part of said regulations to adapt to changing market and economic conditions. The most glaring example is California's price cap on consumer costs which was imposed on electricity providers a few years back. As wholesale energy prices went up, the utilities were powerless to pass the increases on to their customers, resulting in mounting debt and potential insolvency of the electric utilities, rolling blackouts statewide, and ultimately the downfall of governor Gray Davis (and the ascendancy of Ahhnold).

The California mess is an example of an ill-conceived attempt to control prices and the unintended consequences thereof. Prices cannot be artificially set in a market economy, but what about profit margin? Isn't that the basis of utility price regulation? And why can't profit margin control be applied to some extent on oil companies? Some might argue that such controls would stifle exploration and development of additional refining capacity, which this country desperately needs. My response would be that huge dividends paid to shareholders aren't doing much to develop resources or increase capacity either.

So what am I missing here? Isn't it inherently perilous to leave the complete control of a strategically critical resource entirely in the hands of the executives of multi-national conglomerations whose sole interest is enhancing shareholder value and earning multi-hundred-million dollar bonuses? Should there be some kind of control on the exorbitant profit margins that come at the expense of everything else? I don't want to redistribute wealth here, I just want to get Exxon Mobile's pump nozzle out of my pipeline, if you get my drift.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Dick Morris: True Friends Of Israel Cannot Let The Dems Take Power

Dick Morris used to work for the Clinton administration as chief strategist during the 1996 campaign, and later as Clinton's pollster. It is a telling fact that, after working for the Clintons for so long, he has emerged as one of their staunchest critics, and has penned two books about them. Its like he is some kind of archetypal Karl-Rovian spy before there was a Karl Rove.

Mr. Morris published a column today that compares and contrasts the Clinton administration's handling of Israel's invasion of Lebanon in 1996 with the Bush administrations handling of the current Israeli incursion:

Clinton’s willingness to use American power to force a cease-fire on Israel before it had fully eradicated Hezbollah stands in stark and sharp contrast to George Bush’s insistence on letting Israel proceed with its attacks until the terrorist group is neutralized.

In a nutshell, this illustrates the difference between the Democratic and Republican approaches to Israeli security.

Bush and his administration clearly see the Israeli attack as an opportunity to clean out terrorist cells that have come to be pivotal in Lebanon. With Hezbollah’s power extending into the cabinet in Beirut, it is clear that Israeli military action is necessary to forestall the creation of a terrorist state on its northern border.

While Clinton said he embraced the need for Israeli security, when the going got rough, he bowed to world opinion and called for a cease-fire. When the United States asks Israel to stop fighting, it is like a boxer’s manager throwing in the towel. The bottom line is that true friends of Israel cannot afford to let the Democrats take power in Washington.

Here is the whole thing.

This guy must drive the Clintons nuts, especially Hillary. I can't help but like him for that.

Monday, July 24, 2006

Michelle Malkin Wants Everyone To Call Me!

Somehow I always knew she was a fan of mine.

Sour-Grapes Armchair Quarterbacking The MidEast Conflict

John "Bush must have stolen Ohio" Kerry tried to tell America I Told You So when he was in Detroit on Sunday, slamming Bush on his handling of the conflict in Israel and Lebanon, claiming "If I was president, this wouldn't have happened."

He goes on to blame Bush's preoccupation with Iraq for keeping him from going after Hezbollah and
other terrorist organizations, such as al-Qaida and the Taliban. So, how do you suppose Kerry and the KosKids would have reacted if Bush had invaded Lebanon instead of Iraq? He is such a, a, a liberal!

(caricature courtesy of Cox & Forkum)

Friday, July 21, 2006

Breaking: Israeli Troops Find Body Of Missing Soldier

Al Reuters reports:

DUBAI (Reuters) - Al Arabiya television said on Friday the Israeli army had found the body of an Israeli soldier who had previously been reported missing. It later said the body was found in southern Lebanon, but gave no more details.

There is no indication that this is one of the two soldiers kidnapped by Hezbollah, but then one would expect Al Reuters to paraphrase "kidnapped" with "reported missing" so the question remains.

Update: This was not one of the kidnapped soldiers:

Jerusalem - Israel's army has found the body of a soldier who was reported missing in south Lebanon during fighting with Hezbollah guerrillas last week, a spokesperson said on Sunday.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Why Elites are AWOL

Patrick Poole of has a review of the new book AWOL: The Unexcused Absence of America’s Upper Classes from the Military – and How It Hurts Our Country (HarperCollins), in which authors Kathy Roth-Douquet and Frank Schaeffer analyze "a severe illness in our body politic, noting that the children of the cultural elite – whether from families involved in politics, business, academia or the media – have almost entirely abandoned the military, leaving the defense of our Country and our freedoms to the children of the working class."
Poole writes:

The authors present several sobering statistics to help illustrate the problems associated with the cultural elite abandoning the military:

  • Of the Princeton University Class of 1956, more than half of the graduates went on to serve in the military (400 of 750); in 2004, that number was less than one percent (9 graduates). Sadly, among Ivy League schools, Princeton is in the lead for ROTC participation.
  • During the 1956 school year, Stanford University had 1,100 students enrolled in ROTC; today, there are only 29.
  • In 1969, seventy percent of the members of Congress were veterans; in 2004, only twenty-five percent were, with that representation falling rapidly.
  • The percentage of members of Congress with children serving in the military is only slightly above one percent.
  • While the old political clans of the Kennedys, Roosevelts and the Bushes have had many family members previously serving in combat, none of these privileged families (Democrat and Republican alike) has any relative in the military today.

These statistics paint a bleak portrait of an entire class that has eschewed military service, which is problematic in itself, but particularly since this class comprises America’s opinion makers and cultural leaders. The authors identify several concerns raised by this almost universal trend:

We believe that the increasing gap between the most privileged classes and those in the military raises three major problems: It hurts our country, particularly our ability to make the best policy possible. It undermines the strength of our civilian leadership, which no longer has significant numbers of members who have the experience and wisdom that comes from national service. Finally, it makes our military less strong in the long run. (pp. 10-11).

What is most troubling is that this military desertion is neither an isolated nor a passive trend. The authors document a mindset amongst the cultural elite that is clearly anti-military. A testament to the outright contempt that many bear to our military is seen in the public response to an op-ed by the authors published a few weeks ago by the Boston Globe, A Call to Serve. The op-ed is a suggested commencement address that could be given by leaders of either political party promoting the virtues of military service.

But the Letters to the Editor to that op-ed demonstrate a virulent, almost rabid, reaction to the mere suggestion that Americans from all walks of life should feel compelled to serve in the military. One reader said that the innocuous op-ed was “sadly reflective of a seemingly ubiquitous primitive mentality”, and another attacked our civilian military leaders, saying “no clear-thinking, loving parents should entrust their child to these cynical ideologues.” These diatribes could easily be entries appearing any day on Daily Kos or the Huffington Post.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest Results for 2006!

This is one of those days I eagerly await all year. If you have never heard of the Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest before, it is basically about writing the worst single disjointed, run-on sentence with which to begin a book, and is named after Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, the author of the infamous (the first part, at least) line, "It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness.""

Here is this year's grand prize winner (The prize? A pittance.) :

Detective Bart Lasiter was in his office studying the light from his one small window falling on his super burrito when the door swung open to reveal a woman whose body said you've had your last burrito for a while, whose face said angels did exist, and whose eyes said she could make you dig your own grave and lick the shovel clean.

All of the 2006 winners can be viewed here. And here is a list of all the grand prize winners through the years.

I'll end this post with a few of this year's runner-ups:

Sex with Rachel after she turned fifty was like driving the last-place team on the last day of the Iditarod Dog Sled Race, the point no longer the ride but the finish, the difficulty not the speed but keeping all the parts moving in the right direction, not to mention all that irritating barking.

Frank took one look at Tina's moderately shapely legs, her adequate waist, her decent bosom, and her not-unattractive face, and said to himself "Well, hello Miss You'll-Do-Until-Something-Better-Comes-Along!"

Withdrawing his hand from her knee, the English professor stormed, "Ending a sentence with a preposition is the sort of nonsense up with which I will not put," although she had merely looked at his hand and asked, "What are you doing that for?" in a sentence intended to end the proposition.

Yet again Imelda was exacerbated, or at least she assumed she was, as she was never sure exactly what the term meant though when she felt bloated and crampy as she was now, she was pretty sure she was, exacerbated that is.

Monday, July 10, 2006

P.J. O'Rourke: How to Explain Conservatism to Your Squishy Liberal Friends: Individualism 'R' Us

Here is a throw-down post. Most conservatives have liberal family/friends/acquaintances who invariably love to debate their views. Get your conservative talking points from P.J.:

The Bill of Rights tries to protect our freedom not only from bad people and bad laws but also from the vast nets and gooey webs of rules and regulations that even the best governments produce. The Constitution attempts to leave as much of life as possible to common sense, or at least to local option. The Ninth Amendment states: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people." Continues the 10th Amendment, "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."

It is these suit-yourself, you're-a-big-boy-now, it's-a-free-country powers that conservatism seeks to conserve.

Read it all here.