November 21, 2006

Updating the Obvious: BBC Contradicts Itself on Hezbollah in Two Sentences

Filed under: MSM Biz/Other Bias,MSM Biz/Other Ignorance — Tom @ 8:16 pm

This report may turn out to be the start of a series of posts chronicling the BBC’s failure to change itself following its open admission of pervasive bias against Israel, against Christianity, against the US, against success in Iraq and the War on Terror, in favor of Islam, in favor of “diversity,” in favor of belief in “global warming” and “climate change,” and in favor of any other cause deemed to be politcally correct.

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This is dumber than a box of rocks contradiction, and quite revealing (HT LGF):

As well as highlighting the issue of cluster bombs, Amnesty found that Hezbollah hid Katyusha rockets among civilians and often fired them into Israel from the cover of civilian villages.

But researchers found no evidence that Hezbollah actually used civilians as human shields during the fighting.

Charles at LGF asks plaintively, “Firing rockets from civilian villages isn’t using civilians as shields?”

By the way, I think the second picture (faraway view of explosions captioned “Amnesty has criticised both Israel’s and Hezbollah’s tactics”) at the BBC link looks a little too good to be true, if you know what I mean.

14 Years Later, the Real Boobs in This Controversy (the Trial Lawyers and the Junk Scientists) Are Finally Overruled

From a subscription-only editorial in Monday’s Wall Street Journal:

It took 14 years, but science finally trumped politics Friday, with the Food and Drug Administration’s lifting of its longstanding ban on silicone-gel breast implants. Women will at last be allowed to make their own decisions about cosmetic surgery. This is especially welcome news for mastectomy patients.

The FDA removed them from the market in 1992 during the reign of Commissioner David Kessler, a politically ambitious bureaucrat who was courting support from the left. The agency cited health concerns that have long since been debunked, and silicone-gel breast implants have since been at the heart of one of the trial bar’s biggest scams. Class-action lawsuits raked in billions of dollars and drove implant makers out of the business. Dow Corning went into bankruptcy. Throughout it all, the trial bar was abetted by a gullible press, only too happy to ignore the science and play up sensationalist stories of supposed “victims.”

….. As far back as 1994, doctors at the Mayo Clinic found “no association between breast implants and the connective-tissue diseases and other disorders” that they studied. In 1999, the Institute of Medicine found no systemic health problems caused by implants. In 2003, an FDA advisory panel advised that the ban be removed.

Last week’s FDA decision notes that women with implants still run the risk of complications from leakage — a risk that the industry has never denied and that patients have always been informed of. In approving implants made by two companies, Allergan Inc. and Mentor Corp., the FDA urged patients to get regular MRI exams. That’s surely wise, but in any case it’s a risk that patients and their doctors are perfectly capable of weighing against the benefits of the procedure.

One of the ugliest aspects of the breast-implant controversy has been the irresponsibility of the feminist movement, whose championship of a woman’s right to “choose” doesn’t extend to breast implants. It’s all the more outrageous given the tens of thousands of breast-cancer victims seeking reconstructive surgery each year.

Junk science has real consequences that affect real people, their health, their well-being, their jobs, their companies, and their livelihoods. The reversal is in essence an admission that the whole sorry saga of silicon implant demonization should never happened.

The editorial goes on to note that the National Organization of Women (NOW) wants to reverse the reversal. Considering who these so-called feminists are literally in bed with, the Journal’s description of NOW as “irresponsible” is the kindest word you can use.

Joe Hallett: Other SOBs Make the Comments for Me

Filed under: Business Moves,MSM Biz/Other Bias,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 12:17 pm

Hallett’s “Oh, I’ll Miss Ken So” column is here.

SOB Alliance reax — all are in the “Hear, hear” category:

  • Matt at Right Angle — “(He) couldn’t have possibly written his column from today with a straight face.”
  • Pain Dealer — “You got your man without a plan Strickland so now you are being gracious, Joe.”
  • NixGuy
    • It’s bad enough that Joe Hallett ran with a huge hit on Blackwell for the SoS staffer while refusing to lift a finger on any (pick one) of Strickland’s “issues”. And then to run this piece on how it’s just a shame no one knew the “real” Blackwell? Please. Go peddle it somewhere else.Let this be a lesson to GOP candidates everywhere. There is one sure way to get the media to love you … no. Make that two ways.Attack a fellow Republican or lose an election. Or both! Why not! And then watch the fawning begin. The media loves GOP losers.

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UPDATE: Matt at Right Angle has more — “Joe’s newfound fondness of Ken Blackwell is beyond insincere. People didn’t see how great Ken Blackwell is because Joe Hallett and the liberal MSM hates him and his principles.” Bingo.

UPDATE 2: Matt also noted layoffs at the Dispatch. Here’s the Dispatch’s own, uh, dispatch on what they’re doing. Note the sugar-coating — “Dispatch ad work goes to outside firm; Move made to improve speed, efficiency.” If it were anyone but themselves, the headline would have been, “90 To Be Let Go; Jobs Outsourced to India.” They’re all in advertising, so for better or worse, Joe Hallet’s job is safe — for now.

Excerpt of the Day: Don Luskin Updates the ‘Net Neutrality’ Non-Arguments

In the later stages of his most recent Smart Money column:

Companies such as AT&T and Verizon Communications have been licking their lips in anticipation of providing their own bandwidth-intensive products over their new networks — products such as high-definition pay-per-view movies on demand, and high-definition video-phone calls.

In other words, the telecom companies want to use their new networks as a way of going into competition with today’s content providers.Google, Microsoft, Amazon, eBay and others are plenty scared. So they want regulations that will force the telecom companies to make the new networks available to them on the same economic basis that they use their own networks themselves. In other words, Google wants a law that says that Verizon can’t charge Google more to use Verizon’s network than Verizon itself pays.

Is that fair? If I pay my own money to build a road, I can darn well drive on that road for free, any time I want. Does that mean I have to let everyone else drive on my road for free, too? According to the doctrine of “net neutrality,” that’s just what it means.

I think I should have the right to ask whatever price I please to let you drive on my road. For that matter, if I simply don’t want you driving on my road at all, I think I have the right to simply tell you stay out.

Of course, the telecom companies are in this to make money, so they aren’t going to tell any content providers to stay out — their customers wouldn’t stand for it. For the same reason, they’re not going to be able to charge excessive prices, either.

But today’s e-tailers and content providers don’t want any competition from the telecom companies. So they’re claiming the ability to prohibit access to the new networks, and to charge unregulated fees, would be a form of “discrimination” — and that it would interfere with “freedom of speech.”

Isn’t it funny how entrenched business giants can come up with language that makes it sound like they’re a repressed minority group when they want to preserve their profits against new competition?

If the Democrats pass “net neutrality” legislation, then the future profits of the telecom companies become the future profits of the e-tailers and content providers. No wonder the telecom sector has fallen out of bed since the election, even as the stock market overall has risen to new highs.

And no wonder that the tech sector — which contains the e-tailers and the content providers — has gained by almost the same amount that the telecom sector has lost.

The “net neutrality” debate is at bottom an argument between two sets of very rich companies. Two underappreciated concepts known as “freedom” and “property rights” persuasivly argue against doing anything beyond leaving the current situation alone, while ensuring that that both the telecoms AND the e-tailers don’t engage in monopolistic or anticompetitive behavior.

Couldn’t Help But Notice (112106)

Filed under: Business Moves,Life-Based News,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:12 am

Receipts pouring in, money flying out – The Monthly US Treasury report for October showed receipts of $167.7 billion, up $18.2 billion (12.2%) from October 2005, and spending of $217.0 billion, up $20.2 billion (10.3%).

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Press claims to the contrary, being prolife was an advantage in the election 2 weeks ago:

A whopping 36% of the total sample (in a national poll) said that the abortion issue influenced their vote. Almost exactly two-thirds of that figure (23%) voted for candidates opposing abortion as compared to only 13% who voted for candidates favoring abortion. The pro-life advantage saved a number of candidates.

Those who lost typically were felled by other issues, the importance of which overrode or neutralized the advantage enjoyed on the abortion issue by the pro-life candidate.

And speaking of EMILY’s List, NRL PAC went head-to-head with the largest pro-abortion PAC in 18 contests. NRL PAC prevailed in 14 of the 18 — 78%!

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The minimum wage law passed two weeks ago in Ohio increased a different minimum wage by 60%. The tipped employee minimum, paid to a group that for the most part earns double-digit wages pre hour including tips, went from $2.13 to $3.43, and is set to remain at half of what the “main” minimum is as it escalates with inflation.

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Gun registration exists in Belgium“Some 900,000 weapons have been registered in Belgium. They occur on an inventory called the Central Arms Register, however it is estimated that there are many more weapons in circulation.” Doh.

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Target has taken the $4 charge for many generic drugs inititated by Wal-Mart a couple of months ago nationwide. The linked article notes that Giant Eagle is offering offering the same discount at its 93 stores in Ohio. I’m sure other retailers are reacting similarly. Gee, I wonder how long it would have taken a nationalized health care system to get around to this?

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I have to agree with this from Thespis — This was “The Most Philosophically Vacant Election of My Lifetime.” Since I’m probably older than Thespis, I think I’d have to rank 1974 as almost as bad as 2006. Nationally for the Dems, it was basically “Vote for Us; We’re Not Nixon” — pretty similar to “Vote for Us; We’re Not Republicans.” But in Ohio, at least, there was a clear distinction between Jim “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” Rhodes and John “Tax a Billion” Gilligan. No one who was in Ohio at the time can forget going to bed “knowing” that Gilligan had won (with Rhodes even conceding), only to wake up the next morning to learn that Rhodes had pulled it out by 11,000 votes.

Grade Inflation Leads to Unintended Consequences in College Admissions

Filed under: Education — Tom @ 8:07 am

It’s no secret that there is a strong dislike for standardized tests in academia.

There is also a well-documented long-term trend of grade inflation in colleges, which has filtered its way down into high schools.

This poses a problem for college admissions directors (HT Joanne Jacobs):

Extra credit for AP courses, parental lobbying and genuine hard work by the most competitive students have combined to shatter any semblance of a Bell curve, one in which ‘A’s are reserved only for the very best. For example, of the 47,317 applications the University of California, Los Angeles, received for this fall’s freshman class, nearly 21,000 had GPAs of 4.0 or above.

That’s also making it harder for the most selective colleges — who often call grades the single most important factor in admissions — to join in a growing movement to lessen the influence of standardized tests.

“We’re seeing 30, 40 valedictorians at a high school because they don’t want to create these distinctions between students,” said Jess Lord, dean of admission and financial aid at Haverford College in Pennsylvania. “If we don’t have enough information, there’s a chance we’ll become more heavily reliant on test scores, and that’s a real negative to me.”

Standardized tests have endured a heap of bad publicity lately, with the SAT raising anger about its expanded length and recent scoring problems. A number of schools have stopped requiring tests scores, to much fanfare.

But lost in the developments is the fact that none of the most selective colleges have dropped the tests. In fact, a national survey shows overall reliance on test scores is higher in admissions than it was a decade ago.

“It’s the only thing we have to evaluate students that will help us” tell how they compare to each other, said Lee Stetson, dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania.

So grade inflation, aided and abetted by an out-of-control self-esteem-at-any-cost mentality, is forcing admissions officers more and more to make admissions decisions based on ….. those dreaded standardized tests, because they are apparently the only objective and unfiltered measurement tools still available.

Oh, the irony.

‘Waste Ted’ (Bridge to Nowhere) Stevens Will Run for Re-Election

Filed under: Taxes & Government — Tom @ 8:02 am

Here’s the news. He’s running again. At age 84.

Here’s the BizzyBlog post from last year: “‘Waste Ted’ Stevens Threatens to Resign. He Should.”

Betsy’s reax is mine: “Oh joy.”

If Vista Doesn’t Control This Kind of Nonsense, There Will Be a User Revolt

Filed under: Consumer Outrage,Corporate Outrage,Privacy/ID Theft — Tom @ 7:57 am

I’ve noticed a significant uptick in spam. Though 85% or so of it gets thrown into the Junk folder right away, the sheer number of the 15% that get through to my regular mailboxes is growing to the point where I’m actually wondering if a challenge-based system will be necessary to keep my sanity.

Now I know why this is happening — From eWeek.com (bold is mine):

‘Pump-and-Dump’ Spam Surge Linked to Russian Bot Herders
November 16, 2006

The recent surge ….. is the handiwork of Russian hackers running a botnet powered by tens of thousands of hijacked computers.

Internet security researchers and law enforcement authorities have traced the operation to a well-organized hacking gang controlling a 70,000-strong peer-to-peer botnet seeded with the SpamThru Trojan.

According to Joe Stewart, senior security researcher at SecureWorks, in Atlanta, the gang functions with a level of sophistication rarely seen in the hacking underworld.

For starters, the Trojan comes with its own anti-virus scanner—a pirated copy of Kaspersky’s security software—that removes competing malware files from the hijacked machine. Once a Windows machine is infected, it becomes a peer in a peer-to-peer botnet controlled by a central server. If the control server is disabled by botnet hunters, the spammer simply has to control a single peer to retain control of all the bots and send instructions on the location of a new control server.

….. The botnet stats tracker even logs the version of Windows the infected client is running, down to the service pack level. One chart commandeered by Stewart showed that Windows XP SP2 (Service Pack 2) machines dominate the makeup of the botnet, a clear sign that the latest version of Microsoft’s operating system is falling prey to attacks.

Back in April, a Microsoft security official publicly suggested that “businesses should consider investing in an automated process to wipe hard drives and reinstall operating systems as a practical way to recover from malware infestation.” In other words, he admitted that spam, viruses and malware were out of control, and that the wizards of Redmond were losing the war against them.

If Vista experiences similar problems and gets near the “give-up” point (one eWeek writer back in May was very worried), I expect that user and IT director disgust will hit the fever pitch level. And as I’ve said several times before, the economy’s dependence on Windows-based computers and applications makes it vulnerable to a slowdown if Microsoft’s problems handling the bad guys hold back productivity for a protracted period, or if it can’t get its products to market without inconveniencing consumers on a massive scale. What might fairly be called a “Microsoft Recession” is not out of the question.

Unix, Linux or MacOS, anyone?

Dragon Out an Absurd Example of Government Regulation

Filed under: Business Moves,Taxes & Government — Tom @ 7:52 am

A firebreathing folly in the UK (HT Rhymes with Right):

A SPICY sausage known as the Welsh Dragon will have to be renamed after trading standards’ officers warned the manufacturers that they could face prosecution because it does not contain dragon.

The sausages will now have to be labelled Welsh Dragon Pork Sausages to avoid any confusion among customers.

….. His company, the Black Mountains Smokery at Crickhowell, in Powys, turns out 200,000 sausages a year, including the Welsh Dragon, which is made with chili, leak and pork. A Powys County Council spokesman said: “The product was not sufficiently precise to inform a purchaser of the true nature of the food.”

Really? I think what has been revealed is the truly bubbleheaded nature of bureaucrats with way too much time on their hands.

Positivity: Secret Santa Reveals Identity

Filed under: Positivity — Tom @ 5:58 am

After 26 years:

Nov 18, 6:10 AM ET

For 26 years, a man known only as Secret Santa has roamed the streets every December quietly giving people money. He started with $5 and $10 bills. As his fortune grew, so did the gifts. In recent years, Secret Santa has been handing out $100 bills, sometimes two or three at a time, to people in thrift stores, diners and parking lots. So far, he’s anonymously given out about $1.3 million. It’s been a long-held holiday mystery: Who is Secret Santa?

But now, weak from chemotherapy and armed with a desire to pass on his belief in random kindness, Secret Santa has decided it’s time to reveal his identity.

He is Larry Stewart, a 58-year-old businessman from the Kansas City suburb of Lee’s Summit, Mo., who made his millions in cable television and long-distance telephone service.

His holiday giving started in December 1979 when he was nursing his wounds at a drive-in restaurant after getting fired. It was the second year in a row he had been fired the week before Christmas.

“It was cold and this car hop didn’t have on a very big jacket, and I thought to myself, `I think I got it bad. She’s out there in this cold making nickels and dimes,’” he said.

He gave her $20 and told her to keep the change.

“And suddenly I saw her lips begin to tremble and tears begin to flow down her cheeks. She said, `Sir, you have no idea what this means to me.’”

Stewart went to the bank that day and took out $200, then drove around looking for people who could use a lift. That was his “Christmas present to himself.” He’s hit the streets each December since.

While Stewart has also given money to other community causes in Kansas City and his hometown of Bruce, Miss., he offers the simple gifts of cash because it’s something people don’t have to “beg for, get in line for, or apply for.”

That was a feeling he came to know in the early ’70s when he was living out of his yellow Datsun 510. Hungry and tired, Stewart mustered the nerve to approach a woman at a church and ask for help.

The woman told him the person who could help was gone for the day, and Stewart would have to come back the next day.

“As I turned around, I knew I would never do that again,” Stewart said.

Over the years, Stewart’s giving as Secret Santa grew. He started a Web site. He allowed the news media to tag along, mostly because he wanted to hear about the people who received the money. Reporters had to agree to guard his identity and not name his company, which he still does not want revealed.

His entourage grew over the years, and he began traveling with special elves. People like the late Negro Leagues icon Buck O’Neil, who handed out hugs while Stewart doled out $100s. NFL Hall of Famer Dick Butkus will join Stewart this year in Chicago when Stewart hands out $100s in honor of O’Neil, the first African-American coach in the Major Leagues.

They’ll give out $100,000 between Chicago and Kansas City. Four Secret Santas who Stewart “trained” will hand out an additional $65,000.

Doctors told Stewart in April that he had cancer of the esophagus and it had spread to his liver. He has been lucky, he says, to get into a clinical trial at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. But the aggressive chemotherapy has stripped away his appetite and energy. He’s lost about 100 pounds, but has held onto his white hair.

The treatment costs more than $16,000 a month, not including the cost of traveling to Houston every two weeks and staying there for five or six days. He now has two months off, but returns to treatment in February.

His insurance company won’t cover the cost of the treatment, which has left him concerned about his finances and his family.

Now, his mission is bigger than handing out $100 bills. Stewart wants to speak to community groups about his devotion to kindness and to inspire others to donate their time and money.

“That’s what we’re here for,” Stewart says, “to help other people out.”