Jens 'n' Frens
Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

"A strong conviction that something must be done is the parent of many bad measures."
  -- Daniel Webster

Saturday, November 15, 2003 :::

Bobby Jindal appears to have lost in Louisiana. I'm disappointed. Commentary will be available at the Corner.

::: posted by Steven at 11:27 PM

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Soccer-wise, the Chicago Fire beat the New England Revolution last night in overtime. The last two seasons, the Revolution have tended to get most their losses out of the way toward the beginning of the season, but they won't be returning the title game this year (IIRC, they lost it last year).

::: posted by Steven at 11:26 PM

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Friday, November 14, 2003 :::
Republicans on Friday finished a massive energy bill that would double Americans’ use of ethanol in their cars, reduce their susceptibility to power blackouts and aim tax breaks at oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear power providers. However, the measure would deny President Bush his top energy priority: oil drilling in the Arctic wildlife refuge.
Most of the time when I can go down a laundry list like this and disagree with every single item, I'm more upset by the passage of the bill than I really am here. Okay, I oppose blackouts. I don't know the details of how the bill deals with them, but I would expect they likely do more good than harm.

Oh, I got that from MSNBC, by the way.

::: posted by dWj at 4:19 PM

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When I said I was cheering for the Chicago Fire today, I also did not believe I would be there in person. There is a non-negligible chance that I will be going to that game tonight.

::: posted by dWj at 12:08 PM

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"[P]erformance enhancement substances in baseball" are being used by 5 to 7% of players.
Under baseball's labor contract that took effect on Sept. 30, 2002, testing with penalties begins after any season in which more than 5 percent of survey tests are positive. And from now on, players who test positive will be identified to the commissioner's office and the union.

Starting next year, a first positive test for steroid use would result in treatment and a second in a 15-day suspension or fine of up to $10,000.

I'm suprised the percentage was as low as it was, but that's not what I want to dwell on; I'm interested in that second paragraph.
Starting next year, a first positive test for steroid use would result in treatment and a second in a 15-day suspension or fine of up to $10,000.
Am I grossly misinformed about the extent to which these substances are addictive — my impression being not at all — or has our society has gone so soft on giving actions consequences that we're "treating" people who willfully violate the rules?

::: posted by dWj at 11:10 AM

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International driving stories:

::: posted by dWj at 9:39 AM

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By way of clarification, when I said I was cheering for the Chicago Fire today, this is not what I meant.
A wind-driven fire roared through a warehouse and spread to four other industrial buildings on Chicago's Southwest Side early today, shooting glowing embers into the sky and forcing the evacuation of neighboring homes.

The fire at the four-story brick building at 19th and Peoria Streets in the city's Pilsen neighborhood was reported at 3:06 a.m. No major injuries have been reported, Fire Department spokeswoman Molly Sullivan said.

One firefighter was taken to a hospital with a minor leg injury after he slipped and fell, Fire Department spokesman Patrick Howe said. One person was treated at the scene for smoke inhalation.

WGN-Ch. 9 reported it was the largest fire in the city since 1967, when McCormick Place burned almost to the ground.

::: posted by dWj at 9:25 AM

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You may or may not have seen the Onion article headlined "Mom Finds Out About Blog":
In a turn of events the 30-year-old characterized as "horrifying," Kevin Widmar announced Tuesday that his mother Lillian has discovered his weblog.
Blogger (the company which hosts this blog, as well as any others at has responded, using the opportunity to explain some of the features available.

::: posted by Steven at 2:15 AM

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Since we haven't mentioned the Louisiana gubernatorial race in a while -- it's held tomorrow (Saturday) -- I just thought I'd mention that it's still close.

::: posted by Steven at 2:03 AM

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Thursday, November 13, 2003 :::
I almost missed this from Tuesday, listing military (rather than reconstruction) successes in Iraq in two days last week. Scan it to get a sense of some of what isn't being covered. (Not that I'd necessarily cover it if I were big media; it's just not as good copy as our boys dying.)

::: posted by dWj at 1:15 PM

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You've heard, I assume, that the Republicans have forced the Democrats to engage in an active filibuster of Bush's judicial nominees, rather than the passive filibuster they've been getting away with. Amidst the coverage:
As Frist spoke on the floor, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) walked into the chamber with a sign that said: "I'll be home watching 'The Bachelor'," which elicited snickers from the press gallery.
If this filibuster accomplishes nothing else, at least we've learned that Tom Harkin watches The Bachelor.

::: posted by Steven at 1:58 AM

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When I first heard of Paris Hilton, twenty-something party girl of the Hilton hotel clan, I had two thoughts: 1. Paris is a boy's name (and, yes, I know that a lot of currently-female names were once exclusively male) and 2. If I had a hotel chain named after me (or my kin, or anybody with my last name), I would not name my daughter after a major world capital. That's just asking for jokes about how many men have been in the Paris Hilton or what facilities the Paris Hilton might have. Well, this new sex tape that all of the local radio talk guys were discussing today can't help.

Incidentally, I avoided the USA Today web site because it seemed to have a particularly obnoxious pop-up, but it also had an other headline, which read "Madonna to launch toy line, and no, not that kind." Ahem.

::: posted by Steven at 1:40 AM

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Wednesday, November 12, 2003 :::
The costs of complying with the personal income tax.

::: posted by dWj at 3:33 PM

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This is bad:
Confounding President Bush's pledges to rein in government growth, federal discretionary spending expanded by 12.5 percent in the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, capping a two-year bulge that saw the government grow by more than 27 percent, according to preliminary spending figures from congressional budget panels.
But the last sentence of this paragraph is over the top:
Stan Collender, a federal budget analyst at Fleishman-Hillard Inc., said: "This is an administration that cannot possibly take up the mantle of fiscal conservatism. It's probably the least fiscally conservative in history."
Don't exaggerate to make it look bad -- you don't need to.

::: posted by Steven at 1:28 PM

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The MLS Eastern Conference championship game will be this Friday at Soldier Field, and I'm sure we're all cheering for the Chicago Fire.

::: posted by dWj at 1:03 PM

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There was going to be a double-A baseball team called the New Hampshire Primaries, but apparently they changed their minds.

There's still the Albuquerque Isotopes, whose name was invented for a Simpsons episode. Sadly, though, the East Coast Hockey League appears to no longer have a team in Macon, GA, called the "Whoopee" (they seem to have moved to Lexington).

Hat-tip to the KC for the original news about the Primaries.

::: posted by Steven at 5:48 AM

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Tuesday, November 11, 2003 :::
Incidentally, Texas Christian is #6 in the BCS this week. "Garbage In, Garbage Out," we say.

I don't know whether I suggested that they were likely to lose to Louisville, but they're also likely to lose at Southern Mississippi. ("Likely" here means it's not to be taken as a surprise if it happens, not that it's more likely than not. Though I suppose I'd say that's true as well, come to think of it.)
Update: My own meta-ranking top 15:
1 Oklahoma
9 Georgia
5 Texas
8 Michigan
3 Ohio St
Miami OH
7 Tennessee
10 Washington St
14 Florida
13 Florida St
12 Miami FL
11 Purdue
Yes, that's Miami of Ohio up there. TCU is 16th. BCS ranking prepended where relevant.

::: posted by dWj at 4:51 PM

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Nanoscopic clusters of gallium atoms, consisting of as few as 17 atoms, melt at much higher temperatures than bulk gallium, according to recent research at the Indiana University. The observation runs counter to theoretical expectations of melting points for small clusters. In fact, current theory suggests that the melting point should fall as a cluster size is reduced, and that nanoscopic lumps of many materials should be liquid at room temperature. In previous work, the researchers discovered similar trends in the melting of tin clusters, but did not observe melting transitions directly. Instead they monitored the shapes of small clusters to determine their state. In the recent experiment, the researchers launched the gallium clusters through a high pressure collision cell where they were heated in collisions with a helium buffer gas. By monitoring the portion of dissociated clusters that exited the collision cell, the researchers could directly determine the clusters' melting temperatures. While bulk gallium melts at 303 K, thirty-nine and forty atom gallium clusters melt at about 550 K, and seventeen atom clusters show no sign of melting at temperatures as high as 800 K. No theoretical framework currently exists to explain the high melting temperatures of gallium clusters.
I can't honestly explain why I find this so interesting.

::: posted by dWj at 4:44 PM

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My brother notes the economic difference between healthcare for humans and animals. Certainly insurance and litigation are the major part of it, but I expect demand elasticity has something to do with it as well; a doctor is less in competition (price-wise) with other doctors than are veteranarians with other veteranarians, but the latter are also in tighter competition with "take it someplace peaceful and shoot it". This is true of pets, but even more of farm animals.

We also may care less about how much our animals enjoy their food, while more willingly buying junk for our kids and letting them pay to have their arteries scraped out later in life.

::: posted by dWj at 2:44 PM

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The WTO has declared the Bush steel tariff a violation of international trade agreements; good for them. Now, as the Wall Street Journal says, the administration should correct its mistake.
The best solution is for the Administration to recognize the WTO decision for what it is: a golden opportunity. The U.S. economy is showing signs of recovery, but nothing is certain. By citing the verdict and dropping the tariffs now, Mr. Bush can further aid the economy, in particular one sector that is still struggling to get on board the recovery train: manufacturing. Along the way, he'll save other industries from big hits to their exports. And by complying with global trade rules, the U.S. will gain needed credibility in its attempts to get free-trade talks back on track.

::: posted by dWj at 2:06 PM

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As my personal life goes, the good news from Sunday evening is that it turns out I'm capable of changing a tire, eventually. Loosen the nuts before you lift the vehicle; that occurred to me as soon as I tried to loosen them with the vehicle raised. A patrolman who came by while I was raising the car seemed to know I had done this wrong, but was perfectly willing to let me figure it out myself.

If you're ever wondering how demoralizing it is to have the spare go flat as the patrolman is pulling around the curve and out of sight, the answer to that is "very". I got one of his colleagues, who called a fellow named Tony who brought a tow truck and a compressor; indicating that spare tires unused for a while sometimes behave this way, he first tried inflating the tire — no luck — and then doing so after elevating the vehicle again, so it wasn't resting on the tire until the tire was inflated. That actually worked, and Tony refused payment, even in the form of apples or grandma-made cookies.

So yesterday I called a phone number that I got from a sign across the street from me; there happens to be an automotive tire center right there. I drove my car over there this morning, and called the same number; it turns out the phone number is no longer attached to that place, but instead is now the phone number of another car place several suburbs away, and for some reason they have an out-of-date sign on their property. I've never had a wrong number and discovered it after having a conversation and a half with the wrong guy. Fortunately I was able to acquire the phone number of someone who, when called, had seen my car; it sounds like some progress is being made.

Anyway, I've been taking the bus to the train station yesterday and today, and have been unable to take stuff from my old apartment to my new one. Hopefully I get the car back tomorrow and accelerate my efforts.

::: posted by dWj at 2:05 PM

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There's a tale in the American Spectator about the author taking his dying dog to the vet. Toward the end, though:
We won't have [the dog] too much longer, but the point of the story is not the sadness. What is the difference, in skill, sophistication, technological resources, and training, between a veterinarian and a physician who treats human beings? Not a whole lot. For perhaps 95 percent of what ails man or woman, we could all go happily to a veterinarian.

What accounts for the difference in price? (Just imagine what those procedures would have cost for a human being.) Dogs don't carry insurance, and dogs don't sue. Insurance disguises price. Last year, I went to an otolaryngologist to have a papilloma removed from my lip. The doctor's office could not even tell me what the procedure cost. When you don't know the price, you pay the price for ignorance.
Yeah, what he said.

::: posted by Steven at 1:51 PM

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I feel some kind of obligation to mention the death of Irv Kupcinet, a major media figure in the Chicago area, at least to our grandparents' generation.
He wrote what is commonly referred to as a "gossip column," but it was actually the result of hard-nosed and tireless reporting and a vast network of sources, from the corner newsboy to the White House. Beset over the last decade by a variety of physical ailments and the inevitable infirmities of age, Kup died of pneumonia Monday after being rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital on Sunday. He was 91.
The PBS station turned over "Chicago Tonight" into an hour-long obituary, running from four hours after he died till five hours after he died.

::: posted by dWj at 9:41 AM

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Monday, November 10, 2003 :::
Dave Barry writes:
Just when you think all the great ideas have been thought of, scientists dream up a concept so radical, and so innovative, that you wonder if they've been smoking reefers the size of Yule logs.
He's talking about the "space elevator" concept. He goes on to discuss other elevators, but I just wanted to point out Dave Barry on space elevators as the mainstreaming of a concept. Much as everyone observes Talk Like a Pirate Day, which he has promoted. Okay, so maybe Dave Barry isn't a great cultural indicator.

::: posted by Steven at 8:02 PM

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Sunday, November 09, 2003 :::
Former Senator Bob Kerrey (D-NE) on that leaked memo:
The production of a memo by an employee of a Democratic member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence is an example of the destructive side of partisan politics. That it probably emerged as a consequence of an increasingly partisan environment in Washington and may have been provoked by equally destructive Republican acts is neither a comfort nor a defensible rationalization.

In those instances where intelligence failures become important public issues, the danger arises that partisan politics will become destructive of the committee's purpose. Whenever they caucus with their parties, the chairman and vice-chairman are under pressure to use the failure for political gain rather than simply trying to make certain the failure doesn't happen again.

I know these pressures well. In 1995 as vice-chairman of the Senate's committee, I worked with the then-chairman, Sen. Arlen Spector, to move away from a system in which the committee staff was divided between Republican and Democratic members, as it is on all other Senate committees. We argued that the staff should be professional and work for the entire committee without regard to party affiliation.

::: posted by Steven at 2:23 AM

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Dahlia Lithwick has a tale of a recent Supreme Court case. All three passengers in a car had been arrested after drugs were found and nobody admitted to owning them. One of the passengers contends that the cops lacked probable cause. A good read.

::: posted by Steven at 1:39 AM

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Idle thoughts of a relatively libertarian Republican in Cambridge, MA, and whomever he invites. Mostly political.

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