Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Those Who Live On Bridges To Nowhere . . .

Sarah Palin unwisely tried to blast as federal pork a earmark to study fruit flies "in Paris, France" (as if the location had anything to do with the project's worthiness, or the lack of it.)

Palin appeared to be cribbing from the Citizens Against Government Waste's awarding of an "oinker" to a Democratic congressman for appropriating $212,000 for olive fruit fly research. That project's value is hard to ascertain from CAGW's announcement, which contains no details about why it thinks the research is so wasteful.

Given her own record on the subject, Palin ought to do more research before deriding something as pork. Just because it looks ridiculous at first glance, as fruit fly research does to those who are not knowledgeable about science, doesn't mean it is ridiculous. As the lefty site ThinkProgress pointed out in the link I gave, fruit fly research has been quite useful to understanding human diseases. Many fruit fly genes are quite similar to human genes; they exist for the same reasons and do the same thing.

Of course, this grant is not aimed for human health; it is for research on an destructive agricultural pest. California is continually battling such invasive pests. One can debate the merits of the federal government funding such research, but it's hardly wasteful per se. Here's more info on the olive fruit fly's threat.

Olives are a minor crop in California. In 2004, UC Davis Agricultural Extension estimated the value of California's olive oil industry at about $85 million annually. But there's more -- according to the Napa Valley Register, the earmark also goes to fund research into Pierce's disease, a bacterial pest of grapevines. That has been a major concern of winegrape growers in California, and its ravages has sharply cut back on the acreage of vineyards in areas like Temecula. And wine, and the grapes that make them, are much more significant economically. The value of grapes, for wine and table grapes, was $2.76 billion in 2004, according to the Agricultural Resource Marketing Center.

However, why do the olive fruit fly research in France? The author of the earmark, Rep. Mike Thompson, gave a reasonable answer in the Napa Valley Register article:

“The Olive Fruit Fly has infested thousands of California olive groves and is the single largest threat to the U.S. olive and olive oil industries,” he said. “I secured $748,000 for olive fruit fly research and irradiation in the (fiscal year 2008) appropriations bill for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA will use some of that funding for their research facility in France. This USDA research facility is located in France because Mediterranean countries like France have dealt with the Olive Fruit Fly for decades, while California has only been exposed since the late 1990s. This is not uncommon; the USDA has several international research facilities throughout the world, including Australia, China and Argentina.”

One could argue that the agricultural growers should themselves be funding the research, since they have such an interest in the issue. But the research is by no means as ridiculous as CAGW or Palin say it is.

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Sunday, October 26, 2008

Ending Radio Silence

I hope so, anyway.

Regardless of various and sundry inter-personal dramas (a good deal of which I seem to have missed), it's been a bit hectic at the homestead lately.

I contracted an antibiotic-resistant ear infection in the middle of August. It lasted for over a month and a half, with five doctor visits and four different medication regiments - three antibiotics of increasing power and one steroid along with various fever-controllers, pain-killers, ear drops, etc.

It basically felt like I was underwater, with sounds distorted, odd sensations of pressure, and the odd pain or dizziness. Plus I was constantly exhausted. Things finally cleared up when I was prescribed an antibiotic powerful enough that it had several warnings and my mother (who is a nurse) felt obligated to lecture me about the side effects and dangers for nearly an hour.

About a week after I started feeling better, the Boo came down with bronchitis, which lasted an unusual two and a half weeks (thankfully Julie's contract had just ended, as the doc kept the Boo out of school for a full week for starters). Boo was sick and miserable and we couldn't do anything, so we started catching up on the new Battlestar Galactica, and wound up watching the whole thing whilst the Boo slept in the other room with her humidifier. Mostly loved it, though the writers were certainly bastards here and there.

But anyway, almost two months gone. Just sort of faded in and out. Managed to keep the job up, kept eating and just... recovered. First time I've ever been that sick (I'm very blessed). But still.... fast forward, man. Pretty weird. Like it never happened, except I know a lot about Battlestar Galactica and earaches and have a mild phobia of my earbuds.

Things are finally starting to be normal again now... spent a lot of this weekend preparing for a High School Musical party the Boo was invited to... I had assumed since it was about 'high school' it wasn't a First Grader thing, but I sure was wrong. We watched the first two and then went to the party, which was where one of the Boo's friends' moms had decided to buy tickets to the movie for all the girls in her class(!) and their parents(!!) and rented a hotel ballroom by Disneyland(!!!) so we could have cake and the kids could get face-painting and balloon animals from a professional clown-type(!!!!) as well as getting entire HSM purses full of HSM swag(!!!!!).

I wasn't too excited about High School Musical, but we actually really liked it. Probably because the leads are all so adorable, especially the main couple, who have amazing chemistry (it helps that Vanessa Hudgins has an almost preternatural elfin charm, apparently partially because she's anglo-hispanic-asian-pacific islander.

So, G-rated musicals aside, how about that free market? Would you have believed ten, five, even one year ago that Congressional Republicans and George W. Bush would be buying bad mortgages and banks and sponsoring trillion dollar 'bailouts'? It seems to have passed under the radar to a large extent, but still... what the hell is that?

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As usual, comedy is more truthful than regular reporting. Watch the SNL video spoof of Biden and Murtha and see if you don't agree.

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Saturday, October 25, 2008

Bookmark Patterico.net - And Contribute If You Can!

Patterico.com is out of commission, and may be forever, since it has been cyberjacked with the help of 1&1 Internet. So think carefully if you have or are considering an account with this sleazeball. Here is what was briefly advertised for Patterico's site.

Patterico has endured a lot of inconvenience and expense shifting to a new host (who appears to be much better at keeping his site active, btw). And since his site is heavily into politics, the disruption this close to the election is exceptionally troublesome.

I have given Patterico $15 through Paypal, and hope other Swampers will do the same. It's not a lot of money, and if several of us give it will make a big difference. You can email it to Patterico at his eponymous Gmail address, patterico (at) gmail.com.

What happened to Patterico is a common nightmare to all bloggers, regardless of their politics. And we should show our solidarity with him in any way we can against the sleazy practices he's been a victim of.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Patterico is at: -- And Vote McCain For Free Speech Remember that! Patterico is encountering difficulty with his URL over a renewal notification.* So bookmark this address above. Bad timing for such a breakdown, with the election weeks away.

*The original post said the renewal notice was misdirected. Patterico said in comments that is not the case:
"The renewal notification was not misdirected. It was properly directed to 1&1, and it was done two days before the expiration date. They have acknowledged this in e-mails.

I need a good civil lawyer.

Any such attorneys, whatever their political persuasion, who care about stopping such practices abusive to bloggers, please contact Patterico at the above address.

* * * * * * * *

BTW, I am voting for McCain, because I care about the First Amendment.* Obama and the Democrats have been hinting about reinstating the "Fairness" Doctrine, which is government-mandated time to favored political viewpoints. While McCain and conservatives have no love lost for the MSM, they're not showing any similar inclination to suppress the media.

The alarm raised by sensible conservative Stephen Bainbridge is persuasive to me. Bainbridge is no robotic supporter of Republicans; he has long expressed great dissatisfaction with Bush Administration policy and McCain. For him to endorse McCain over this issue is cause for all who think of supporting anyone other than McCain to reconsider.

My support of the First Amendment trumps everything else in this campaign.

And via a link from Bainbridge, a look at what's wrong with Obama from a Libertarian perspective.

*This is my personal political opinion, and does not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of my employer, the North County Times.

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Monday, October 20, 2008

The Palin Rap, And The Rap On Obama

Sarah Palin took part in two skits on her SNL appearance. This one pictured, of her swaying to a rap song about her candidacy, was fairly funny. The other, not so.

That had some style. OTOH, the endorsement of Obama by Colin Powell, was little more than a bad joke. It's not that McCain is looking better to me, but that Obama keeps looking worse. His endorsement by a mealy-mouthed functionary like Powell did neither any credit.

I heard that profile in political cowardice endorsing Obama, and found it hard to believe my ears. William Ayers, Obama said, did "reprehensible" things in the Weather Underground. (Like a terrorist bombing campaign). However, Powell said, to bring up the subject today is also reprehensible.

That's the mush-brained moral equivalence that Obama excels in. It's reprehensible to bring up the past of an unrepentant terrorist, who has said he doesn't regret his bombing spree, but is a respected person to folks like Obama and Powell.

It may be necessary to hold my nose and vote for McCain after all.

However, I am delighted to announce that our mild-mannered Swamper qpdsteve is in the process of setting up his own blog.

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Weekend Update

I've been remiss in posting, and no doubt you are anxious to hear from qdpsteve and David and Julie Scott. That I expect to start next week.

In the meantime I've been working -- and I admit, recreating -- to take my mind off of politics.

So I present this, an example of what I do every Halloween at work. Call it my Web development strategy.

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Monday, October 6, 2008

Too Popular?

Patterico is among my handful of favorite blogs because its proprietor, Patrick Frey, insists on factuality more than any blog or reporter I know of. He is living proof one can have strong opinions and still be devoted to facts. And, he has savvy guest bloggers like DRJ and WLS.

He got a shout-out from another of my favorites, The Volokh Conspiracy, recently for prodding the LA Times into yet another correction. (See second correction, about the president's ability to fire the chairman of the SEC).

Trouble is, Patterico is harder to reach these days, apparently because his site is too popular for his Web provider's bandwidth.

Patterico, you're approaching megablogger status, so please upgrade your bandwidth! Especially with the presidential election at hand, you really don't want to have any lapses.

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Thursday, October 2, 2008

Don't Like The Product? Change The Name?

After the shock of the $700 billion bailout plan's defeat in the House of Representatives last week, the spinmeisters set to work finding politically correct language to dupe the rubes on Main Street to support it. "Economic stabilization", "rescue" -- anything to call it something other than a bailout.

Bloomberg is inching into this Orwellian transformation,

Bailout Bill Sent Back to House After Senate Passage (Update2)

By James Rowley and Nicholas Johnston

Oct. 2 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Senate passed a $700 billion financial-market rescue package loaded with inducements for the House of Representatives to approve the measure following its rejection of an earlier version. . .

Michelle Malkin, as is her wont, scorns euphemisms and pungently calls it as she sees it:

Kill the bailout: Operation Hold The Line

By Michelle Malkin • October 2, 2008 05:32 AM

The massive, unprecedented trillion-dollar-plus (remember, they just pulled the figure from thin air) Bailout Crap Sandwich With Sugar On Top returns to the House. A vote is expected on Friday. I keep hearing and reading that public opposition to this rushed-through monstrosity has “softened” in the wake of the Senate’s approval last night. I’m not sure why the bailout pimps keep touting that talking point when countless Americans trying to express their vehement disapproval can’t even get through the FUBAR House e-mail system! . . .

I noticed the same thing as Malkin did -- lots of journo chatter on programs like NPR's Marketplace business report that sentiment is turning in favor of the bailout. But the actual evidence presented is very thin. Business journalists and newspapers have signed on for the bailout, and you're not going to get anything like an objective description of the reasons for opposing the bailout. Gwen Ifill would be more likely to back McCain.

Marketplace did a segment yesterday based on the oh-so-objective assumption that those opposed to the bailout were irrationally resentful, and willing to hurt themselves to get back at Wall Street's masters of the universe. I'd say the public is rationally resentful of having its pockets picked to help those far wealthier than themselves.

I'd also say it's irrational to cure a debt-caused crisis by loading up the country with still more debt. And still more irrational is the assumption that the presumption of mortgage-backed securities are undervalued now. Those securities were wildly overvalued during the housing/credit bubble.

This supposed disaster of falling prices is really just the market correcting that mistake. When that process is finished, the economy can start to grow again. And by the way, the affordable housing will have been corrected. The more government intervenes to (vainly) re-inflate the bubble, the longer this inevitable process will take, and the more taxpayer money will be wasted.

Instead of doing a pseudoscientific piece calling those who oppose the bailout as irrational, Marketplace could perform a much more useful service by probing the psychology of bubbles. There was plenty of evidence at the time that real estate values had gotten totally out of whack with economic fundamentals. But those who discussed this were ignored. Cheerleaders were more valued than expertise. Why do people keep making the same mistake, and how can we prevent it?

But Marketplace apparently isn't talking to folks like me.

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