Monday, July 29, 2002

Cowboy Bebop

Cowboy Bebop the movie is set to open in New York this year for a silver screen debut. This will be the biggest opening for a Japanese Anime movie I've heard of, and it is one more reason that Hollywood ought to be a bit concerned about losing their hegemony.

The Bebop series debut in Japan in 1998 and quickly became the #1 anime series on Japanese TV. It has become monsterously popular in the US since appearing here. Unauthorized versions of the movie with English subtitles have been making the rounds, and the anime faithful have dubbed it worthy of the Bebop name.

The movie is neither a prequil or a secquil to the series, but is a story that might have fit anywhere within the middle ten or so episodes, when the entire cast of characters was assembled aboard the spaceship Bebop. As such, it might have been just another especially long episode in the series, which included a number of episodes that built on the characterizations without touching on the plot themes undergirding the series. Thus, one problem with the movie is that it does not attempt the level of story development that the series does

However, the movie does much to satisfy in the Cowboy Bebop way, with plenty of action, snappy characterizations that build on the profiles established in the series, and a winning plot.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

You Don't Say

Husbands forget spats, wives never do

Husbands never remember marital spats. Wives never forget.

A new study of that ancient matrimonial given suggests a reason: Women's brains are wired both to feel and to recall emotions more keenly than the brains of men.

A team of psychologists tested groups of women and men for their ability to recall or recognize highly evocative photographs three weeks after first seeing them and found that the women's recollections were more accurate by 10 percent to 15 percentage points...

Friday, July 19, 2002

The Gay Culture

Camille Paglia is writing again. This time with a review in

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

A View from the Bridge

A post by XaosSurfer, a member of the Political Asylum board of

I have been reading some of the threads on Political Asylum recently. Being a Canadian it gives me a good view into the political views and the politcal process on America.

I think, that for all the shouting, you can miss the true wonder that is America. I look at America with awe everyday..

It is a country that allows, encourages and rewards the type of debate that happens of this board. Try to rouse a group of Canadians into a passionate debate about our Politics. Hah, everyone sucks there is no hope. Didya see what the Leafs did, eh? Lots of interest but no passion.

This is a country that has technology bubbles. Celebrate. Of the 14 technology bubbles I can find since the beginning of the Indrustrial Revolution, 12 happened in America. Bubbles are an awesome force of innovation and progress. They build railways and canals in just a few years. The wire the country for electric light in a decade. The only major public infrastructure that was not built by the awesome force of a bubble was the national highway system. The military took care of that one. Bubbles come and go about every 15 years but they leave behind a nationed transformed.

Name the other countries in the world where the people are so free to pursue their desitiny that Americans are lined up to get work visas to move? It all happens, right next door in America and the world knows it. The may envy or hate the system but no one ignores it.

Look at the 2000 elections. What a mess. We could recount it forever and come up with a different winner each time. In the face of a breakdown of this magnitude, a solution emerged. Half the country hated the solution. Half the country loved the solution. On Jan. 20th they all shook hands and then saluted the new president. Not a shot fired in anger. Not a thought that maybe the generals would take contol. Order out of the most extreme chaos. A nationed did itself proud but has yet to learn that lesson.

There are problems, no doubt. The people in the inner cities have been forgotten and they need to be invited back into the flow and even then, their children don't die in childbirth and the can count on living to a ripe old age.

On Sept. 11, firemen and policemen turned around and ran back into the WTC after the first tower fell. The nation paid tribute in a way that did every American proud.

The American people and their systems are the most innovative, productive people on the planet but they sometimes forget. This was a reminder.

Monday, July 15, 2002

Putting My Marker Down

The Dow dropped to below 8500 today before rebounding back to where it started the day. All in all, a movement of more than 4% on moderately heavy volume.

For what it's worth, I'm putting my marker down here. This is the bottom, in my humble opinion. It may churn for a while, but from this point there will be a steady climb that will pick up speed as the earnings reports come out mostly better this quarter.

All of this wailing and gnashing of teeth, of course, is due to the discovery of the horrible truth, unforeseen by so many, that businessmen act like, like, (gasp!) businessmen! Naturally, it will take investors some time to get over this.

The New York Times Lies About Global Warming Again

Not to long ago the New York Times put forth a breathless headline story claiming that the ice was melting at the north pole. Open patches of water had been found there, the Times panted, more proof that global warming is here.

It turned out that open patches of water are often found at the north pole normally, and the Times story was just another example of global warming hype.

Now the Times claims that temperatures in Alaska are more than 7 degrees Fahrenheit higher than normal due to accelerating warming. A long article in the Times and subsequent editorial page articles went into great length about the effects of the warmer weather on the US's northern most state. The Times subsequently corrected the figure down to a 5.4 degree increase.

But, once again, it turns out to be false. Even the corrected value was much too high. The real figure is down around 2 degrees, putting the "increase" well within the range of normal variation.

According to Andrew Sullivan:

I've had a chance to read closely the report cited by the Times as showing a 5.4 degree Fahrenheit increase in mean annual temperatures in Alaska over the past thirty years. No such figure is in that report. Anywhere....

To recap: the Times got it wrong on the front page; wrong on their editorial page; wrong in an op-ed column; and wrong in the Corrections column. Is it too much to ask that they eventually put it right? Or would that be too humiliating for what was once a paper of record?

Wednesday, July 10, 2002

JC Watts

JC Watts, the only black republican in the US House of Representatives, announced his retirement amid charges that his white peers in the House did not give him enough respect.

It's amusing to see liberals who acted as if Watts didn't exist suddenly discovering him to bemoan his retirement. He got almost no press at all for being elected the only Republican of his ethnic group, and certainly no one in the mainstream media wanted to help him get his viewpoint out. Now that he's quitting the liberal media wants to make political hay from it.

In a House with over 200 Republican members not everyone can be a star and not everyone is going to agree with you. Watts was the number 4 man on the Republican side, which is pretty good treatment whether he thought so or not.


A quote from President Bush published recently:

"And so, in my State of the — my State of the Union — or state — my speech to the nation, whatever you want to call it, speech to the nation — I asked Americans to give 4,000 years — 4,000 hours over the next — the rest of your life — of service to America. That's what I asked — 4,000 hours."

Leftists, especially Noam Chomsky, for example, often sound like this when they talk informally. So did Clinton on occasion. So would almost anyone. However, in the case of Chomsky and Clinton, the media always does their subject the courtesy of editing his responses so that they read in a coherent manner. They respect Chomsky and they buy into the idea that he's brilliant even on those days that he's sounding like an imbecile, and they want his comments to read like he's intelligent.

By contrast, the left has taken to quoting Bush verabim when he speaks off the cuff in an informal situation so that it makes him sound stupid. They simply don't extend the same courtesy to Bush that they do to people who's politics they like.

That's one of the reasons that these quotes from Bush, collecting Bushisms, and the like do not impress many people. They know what the game is. They don't regard the news media as being credible, and they don't regard the left as credible.

Tuesday, July 09, 2002

Postmodernism's High Priest

Jonah Goldberg writes in National Review Online:

...Stanley Fish has a long defense of postmodernism, which has been under assault since September 11. The doctrine that there are no moral absolutes, it seems, is fun to play with when arguing about the president's pants or the meaning of "is." But when thousands of Americans are murdered by zealots, the demand for postmodern analysis over the last few decades all of a sudden seems like the intellectual equivalent of the tulip-bulb craze of the 17th century: a huge market built up around an amusing but essentially valueless commodity. Fish, the George Soros of the PoMo market, has been working overtime to protect his investment.

I'll leave it to others — Peter Berkowitz, for example — to take Fish's efforts head-on (though you might take a gander at my "Facts and Firemen"). But what's set me off is Fish's claim that postmodernism is simply "a rarefied form of academic talk." Fish would have people believe that postmodernism is simply what postmodernists do in their hidden English-department laboratories.

Well, not only did the virus of postmodernism escape Fish's lab, but he and his henchmen ground it up into fine particles and sent aerosolized packets of it to every magazine, newspaper, publishing house, and movie studio in America. Fish's hypocrisy is stunning. The PoMo virus has infected millions, destabilizing traditional institutions across the social landscape. And yet when confronted, he says "I'm not responsible for what happens in the real world, I'm just a lab technician." Well, this high priest of the cult of the twelve monkeys is responsible.

When Fish is on the defensive he can make postmodernism sound humble and useful. Postmodernism, he says, merely holds that people from different or opposing belief systems cannot appeal to objective truth in order to persuade each other who is right and who is wrong. "Postmodernism maintains only that there can be no independent standard for determining which of many rival interpretations of an event is the true one," he writes. Assuming he's not being an intellectual Arafat, saying one thing in English to the American public and another thing in his "rarefied academic talk" to his minions, that actually sounds somewhat reasonable. It certainly isn't a radically destructive idea.

But whether that's the truth or just a propagandistic lie is entirely irrelevant. Fish damn well knows that millions of people think postmodernism means something very, very, very different — even if they don't know what postmodernism is. For lots of Americans, the idea that there are no objective standards of truth or morality is incredibly sophisticated and intelligent. The authors who write the clever novels, the film directors who get awards and rave reviews for blurring the lines between good and evil, the professors who claim George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden are morally indistinguishable: These are the "thoughtful people" in our culture. Meanwhile, the people who talk in terms of right and wrong are ridiculed by the sophisticates.

Call it feminism, critical race theory, critical legal studies, queer theory, whatever: It's all shrapnel from the same postmodern bomb, broadly speaking. These doctrines haven't all been terrible for America, but their misapplication and over-application have. Scientists take responsibility for the damage they do. English professors take speaking fees. Conservatism, which does not fetishize the masses, understands that even an intelligent idea can have horrific consequences if let loose upon a society. The uninformed, the lazy, the affected, the ambitious, and the dumb can adopt sharp-edged ideas and use them as blunt cudgels if we are not careful. The authors of postmodernism have not been careful.

I keep thinking of the exchange in the film A Fish Called Wanda. Otto, played by Kevin Kline, is an idiot and a bully who also fancies himself an intellectual (he thinks the central message of Buddhism was "every man for himself"). Wanda, played by Jamie Lee Curtis, says to him: "To call you stupid would be an insult to stupid people! I've known sheep who could outwit you. I've worn dresses with higher IQs, but you think you're an intellectual, don't you, ape?"

Otto objects, "Apes don't read philosophy."

To which Wanda replies, "Yes they do, Otto, they just don't understand it!"

There are legions of Ottos out there who believe postmodernism means there is no truth, no right, no wrong, no good, no bad. They believe it because they either misunderstood Fish and his disciples or because they understood them all too well.

Stanley Fish knows all this. And, a few throwaway lines notwithstanding, he clearly thinks it's great. Indeed, if he didn't think so he would not devote his energies to defending postmodernism. Rather, he would, like Dr. Frankenstein, run through the village trying to make amends for the damage all of his Ottos have done.

Friday, July 05, 2002

The Wealth and Prosperity of the West

The prosperity of the Western world is in and of itself enough to earn the ire of leftists. Seeing the distribution of wealth in all cases as a zero sum game, leftists assume that the West gained its prosperity through the oppression and exploitation of others, especially the third world. This idea is justification for the left to hate the West and Western civilization and to look favorably on those who use violence and terrorism against it.

But in getting down to cases the left has a problem. None of the means of oppression and exploitation allegedly used by the West on their victims are unique to the West. Slavery, for example, is an institution practiced universally, by all peoples at all points in history prior to last century. What is unique to the West is the abolition of slavery. The first great leader to speak out against slavery anywhere was Saint Patrick, and it was the tradition of Christian love for one's fellow man that was used as the rationale for movements that oppose slavery, the practice of which ended only in the West. (Slavery never stopped in the rest of the world, where it entrains as many lives as it ever did. It continues to be of significance today in Arab, African, and Asian countries.)

Colonialism in not unique to the West, either. The Turks, Mongols, Persians, and Chinese also had their empires. The degree to which imperialism contributed to the wealth of the West is debatable, and it is certainly no great source of income for western nations today. The wealthiest of all the nations in the West, the U.S.A., has never had any colonial possesions to speak of.

The West has always derived its strength not from slavery or imperialism but from its superiority in science, technology, government and commerce. The technological of western civilization superiority goes all the way back to 2000 BCE, to the emergence of proto-Indoeuropean speakers from Asia Minor, which occured by virtue of their technical prowess with the mighty horse drawn chariot. With that technical superiority in war they subjugated the known world. The Indoeuropeans almost certainly later became the ancient Greeks and Romans, and their traditions probably prefigured those of both of those civilizations. Their technical ability was combined with an ability to communicate effectively about and conceptualize technical problems, geography, numbers, and other issues important for winning wars. This ability overlapped quickly into other spheres of human activity, especially commerce. It is the market along with private property that gave rise to democracy, a form of government that is pointless without the guarantee of private property and a free exchange of goods and ideas. And from that the West has always derived its wealth, which is the wealth of its successful citizens.

To the West, slavery and colonialism eventually became inefficient holdovers from less sophisticated forms of human society. With the development of Western civilization (and only because of that development) these violent institutions were thrown aside as counterproductive. Such a development would have been possible in no other cultural tradition known to man.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Racial Preferences in Medical School Admissions

Most people are aware that colleges and universities grant preferences to blacks and hispanics in the admissions process. These practices are currently being challenged in court, and disparate rulings at the appellate level virtually guarantee that the issue will be decided by the Supreme Court at some point. Plaintiffs have pointed out that affirmative action has gotten to the point that black applicants, for example, are often 10 to 20 times more likely than whites to gain admission to some major universities. Even in these cases the affirmative action programs still have their defenders.

What is not generally known is that medical schools use the same types of affirmative action programs with the same results. Medical school admissions committees often reach well down into the pool of black and Hispanic applicants to admit students whose qualifications are well below those of rejected whites. A recent study of medical school admissions by the Center for Equal Opportunity (CEO) bears this out. They found that the average GPA of admitted whites was 3.64. The corresponding median for blacks was 3.23, for Hispanics 3.30, and for Asians 3.63. On the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), the median score for whites was 37, for blacks 31, for Hispanics about 34, and for Asians 38. In short, Asian and white students had the highest academic qualifications, followed by Hispanics and blacks, respectively.

As John Perrazo reports in Front Page Magazine:

The extent of these preferences is nothing short of shocking. In 1996, for instance, black applicants were 19 times likelier than similarly qualified whites to be admitted to Georgia Medical College. That same year blacks were 23 times likelier than academically equivalent whites to be admitted to SUNY Brooklyn, and a year later blacks were 30 times likelier than comparable whites to be admitted to the University of Washington... Notably, Asians were consistently less likely to be admitted than were whites of equivalent credentials.

The CEO researchers also calculated – in terms of absolute percentages – the likelihood of admission for black, white, Hispanic, and Asian applicants with the same test scores and grades. Again, the results were startling. For example, consider those students with MCAT scores of 30 and GPAs of 3.25. At the Medical College of Georgia in 1996, black applicants with such credentials had a 51 percent chance of admission. For Hispanics, whites, and Asians, the corresponding figures were 14 percent, 5 percent, and 2 percent. At Michigan State College of Human Medicine in 1999, black applicants with the aforementioned credentials had a 43 percent chance of admission. The corresponding numbers for other groups were: 26 percent for Hispanics, 5 percent for whites, and 3 percent for Asians. For similarly qualified applicants to SUNY Brooklyn in 1999, the likelihood of admission was 25 percent for blacks, 13 percent for Hispanics, 3 percent for whites, and 3 percent for Asians. At the University of Washington in 1997, the numbers were 61 percent for blacks, 20 percent for Hispanics, 5 percent for whites, and 4 percent for Asians.

One wonders whether similar preferences operate at other types of schools responsible for training people who's skill and knowledge is a matter of life and death to their fellow citizens. What about commercial pilot training, for example?

It is difficult to be certain about whether or not such differences in qualifications based on standardized tests and GPA's translate to differences in performance at the bedside for doctors. There is no good way to measure the performance of doctors with any accuracy beyond the standardized written tests done at various points in medical training. There results of these examinations are generally in agreement with the MCAT, but this may not be that relevant to practice.

In fact, there has been a movement in medical schools over the past decade to reduce the emphasis of standardized written exams in the student evaluation process in favor of more subjective evaluation methods. This approch, among other things, provides considerable wiggle room to the medical school faculty concerned about disparities in the performance of certain ethnic groups.

On large obstacle looms that prevents schools from discarding standardized examinations entirely, however, and that is the medical licensing examination. The US Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) is a standardized written examination that tests the student's mastery of medical knowledge, and, up to now, it remains the one reliable index of overall competence of graduating doctors that has not been fiddled too much by social engineers. It is this that renders the admissions qualifications less of a concern for those worried by the drop in standards. All students, including minorities, must pass the USMLE or else they cannot practice medicine.

Thus, one suspects that for most things the performance of minority students is good enough for the things that doctors do. However, it begs the question of whether or not it is reasonable to disregard qualifications and standards to this degree in pursuit of affirmative action goals.