August 2006, Part 4

Jim Miller on Politics

Pseudo-Random Thoughts

Most Laptop Batteries Won't Explode, for which we may be grateful, but improper care will shorten their lives.  Here's the advice on how to care for laptop batteries that the New York Times gleaned from experts.
Lithium-ion batteries are particularly sensitive to heat.  To avoid the danger of a fire, they should not be stored in places that get direct sunlight, like a car's interior.  Many manufacturers specify a temperature range for operation.  In addition, the connectors should be kept away from metals that could cause a short circuit.
. . .
According to Brian Kimberlin, director of consumer batteries for the Panasonic Battery Corporation of America, one of the best strategies to prolong battery life is to use them. Otherwise, "they will lose their capacity to hold a charge," he said.

On the other hand, continually keeping a laptop's lithium-ion battery at full capacity also reduces the battery's ability to live a long life.

"Leaving a notebook charged all the time is not a good idea," said Andrew Bradner, senior product manager for the American Power Conversion Corporation, a maker of charging devices.  To keep the battery able to hold a charge, it is best to use the battery and wall current alternately to run the laptop.
And if you keep the laptop plugged in all the time, or are not using it for an extended time, then you should remove the battery.

(With some types of rechargeable batteries, it is best to discharge them completely before recharging them.  I don't think that is true for lithium-ion batteries, but I could be wrong.)
- 5:10 PM, 30 August 2006
More:  I forgot to mention that Apple experts think that when you store your laptop battery you should store it at half charge.

And there is a technical solution, thin-film batteries, that may help.
Thin-film batteries have a solid lithium core rather than a liquid one, so they are less vulnerable to overheating and catching fire.  They lose virtually no power over time, and the units can be recharged thousands of times before they need to be replaced.
In time.  According to the article, these new batteries are not drop-in replacements for the old batteries.  In fact, they would require the re-engineering of "Every piece of circuitry", according to one expert, so they would have to introduced over time, as old equipment wears out or becomes obsolete.
- 1:07 PM, 11 September 2006   [link]

There Are A Few Good Journalists:  And one of them is Kate Riley, whose columns for the Seattle Times are always worth reading.  In her latest column, she comes back to a topic she has written about frequently, Kennewick Man.  She begins by showing that conflicts between scientists and native American tribes are not inevitable, using another set of ancient remains from Alaska to make that point.  
A federal court fight made Kennewick Man the symbol of the struggle between science and native beliefs over the telling of the earliest Americans' story.  But Kuwóot yas.éin proves it doesn't necessarily have to be so.
And then goes on to argue that what made the difference is the different actions of the federal agencies.  The Army Corps of Engineers botched the handling of Kennewick Man; the US Forest Service handled the discovery of Kuwóot yas.éin tactfully and sensibly.  (She does not mention one of the worst actions of the Corps.  They actually buried the site where Kennewick Man had been found, making further investigations almost impossible.)

If you are at all interested in this issue, you will want to read the whole column.

Riley is a little more discreet in this column than I would be.  I think that I would have said that the decisions of the Corps of Engineers were almost certainly motivated by a desire to please their superiors in the Clinton administration, and that Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit's decision to overrule his scientific advisors was political.  (American Indians have more votes than American anthropologists.)  And I might have added a general point about showing respect for all religions, not just those of politically correct groups.  But, still, it's a fine column.

(You can review some of the facts about Kennewick Man here.  A quick Google search turned up nothing on Kuwóot yas.éin, so I suppose there isn't much available outside professional journals.)
- 10:52 AM, 30 August 2006   [link]

Last Year, When Katrina Hit, I found the TV coverage so infuriating that I was almost unable to watch.  From two thousand miles away, I could tell that the talking heads were botching the story, that they were putting out rumors and poltically slanted stories.  And I was fairly sure that many of those journalists knew they were putting out rumors and slanted stories — and didn't care.  The print media was a little better, but only a little.

I have seen nothing in the year since to suggest that "mainstream" journalists have had second thoughts about their coverage of Katrina.

And this morning, I saw just enough of the coverage to decide that the false stories of last year have hardened into conventional wisdom, and that most "mainstream" journalists are now simply incapable of taking another look at how they covered Katrina.  They have their story and they are sticking to it — regardless of the facts.

(If, unlike our "mainstream" journalists, you are interested in the facts, I would start with the Popular Mechanics article on Katrina myths.  Here's their key conclusion:
MYTH: "The aftermath of Katrina will go down as one of the worst abandonments of Americans on American soil ever in U.S. history."--Aaron Broussard, president, Jefferson Parish, La., Meet the Press, NBC, Sept. 4, 2005

REALITY: Bumbling by top disaster-management officials fueled a perception of general inaction, one that was compounded by impassioned news anchors.  In fact, the response to Hurricane Katrina was by far the largest--and fastest-rescue effort in U.S. history, with nearly 100,000 emergency personnel arriving on the scene within three days of the storm's landfall.
The largest--and fastest-rescue effort in U.S. history.  Have you heard that from any "mainstream" journalist?  I haven't.  Maybe I am weird, but that seems like a conclusion that we ought to know.)
- 3:43 PM, 29 August 2006   [link]

American Muslims Are Less Assimilated Than You Think:  Or at least less assimilated than some think.  This unpleasant message may surprise some, but it did not surprise me.
If only the Muslims in Europe -- with their hearts focused on the Islamic world and their carry-on liquids poised for destruction in the West -- could behave like the well-educated, secular and Americanizing Muslims in the United States, no one would have to worry.

So runs the comforting media narrative that has developed around the approximately 6 million Muslims in the United States, who are often portrayed as well-assimilated and willing to leave their religion and culture behind in pursuit of American values and lifestyle.  But over the past two years, I have traveled the country, visiting mosques, interviewing Muslim leaders and speaking to Muslim youths in universities and Islamic centers from New York to Michigan to California -- and I have encountered a different truth.  I found few signs of London-style radicalism among Muslims in the United States.  At the same time, the real story of American Muslims is one of accelerating alienation from the mainstream of U.S. life, with Muslims in this country choosing their Islamic identity over their American one.
Nor would it surprise anyone who has read American Jihad.  In fact, those who have read Emerson's book might find her conclusion much too mild.

Geneive Abdo notes something strange, though she doesn't seem to realize that it is strange.
But the Sept. 11 attacks also had the dual effect of making American Muslims feel isolated in their adopted country, while pushing them to rediscover their faith.
Muslims committed a horrendous crime on 9/11 — in the name of their faith.  Some American Muslims responded by — becoming more Muslim.  (No doubt a few American Muslims responded by rethinking some of their beliefs, but I haven't seen much reason to believe that group is large.)

Abdo ends with the standard argument.
It is too soon to say where the growing alienation of American Muslims will lead, but it seems clear that the factors contributing to it will endure. U.S. foreign policy persists in dividing Muslim and Western societies, making it harder still for Americans to realize that there is a difference between their Muslim neighbor and the plotter in London or the kidnapper in Baghdad.
In other words, she wants the vast majority of American citizens to capitulate to minority Muslim demands, though she doesn't say it quite that bluntly.  And she wants us to ignore the fact that some of our Muslim neighbors do support what she calls "the plotter in London or the kidnapper in Baghdad" and what I call radical Islamic terrorists.

I'll be more direct than she was.  If these second and third generation Muslims can not accept political decisions made by majorities, and our culture of freedom, they should emigrate to some Muslim nation where they will be more comfortable.  Yemen might be a good choice.
- 11:29 AM, 28 August 2006   [link]

From Time To Time, everyone has to go to the bathroom.  Just hope that you are not in New York city when that happens.  For decades, the city has been unable to provide decent public toilets for residents and visitors.

First, a little history.  At one time, New York had pay toilets, but they were outlawed in 1975 after a lawsuit by the homeless (who seem to have awfully good lawyers), at least according to this answer.  Strangely, after the lawsuit, people in New York still had to go to the bathroom from time to time — only now they had many fewer places to go.  (I'm not sure how that made the homeless better off, but perhaps their lawyers can explain that to us.)

Fortunately, there was a good solution available; a number of companies make automatic, self-cleaning toilets.  And the value of advertising space in New York is so high that the companies were willing to install these toilets for free, in return for being allowed to put ads on them.

Some years ago, a French company (probably Decaux) thought they had an agreement with New York to install such toilets, but they were foiled by the opposition of various special interest groups.  The company offered to install their regular toilets around the city and a smaller number of larger toilets for use by those handicapped people who can not use regular toilets.  As I recall, the handicapped lobby objected because they could not use all the toilets, so the company then offered to install the larger ones in all locations.  The police objected to this because the larger ones can be used for other things, some of them illegal.

And there the matter rested until recently, when Mayor Bloomberg may have resolved it.
Three successive New York mayors struggled over the last quarter-century to transform the city's ramshackle bus shelters, newsstands and public toilets, and failed as the efforts succumbed to politics, scandal or inattention.

Small wonder that the fourth mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, gleefully announced last fall that a little-known Spanish company, Cemusa, had agreed to pay the city more than $1 billion over 20 years for the rights to build and install 3,300 bus shelters, 330 newsstands and 20 public toilets.  City officials said the structures — commonly called street furniture — would be comfortable and distinctive additions to the city's sidewalks, and Cemusa would sell advertising panels on them.
But — and you can tell there is a but coming — the agreement is being threatened by lawsuits.

A quarter of a century.  That's an awfully long time to wait to go to the bathroom.

(Residents of cities dominated by leftists, such as New York or Seattle, often believe that they know how the rest of us should be governed.  That their own cities often fail, sometimes absurdly, as in this example, does little to shake their confidence in that belief.

By the way, if Mayor Bloomberg asked for my advice, I would say that New York's mistake in this case was granting a monopoly.  They would have done better to cut up the job into pieces and sell the pieces separately, over a period of time.  That way, New York could have rewarded the companies that performed well, by giving them more of this business.)
- 9:19 AM, 28 August 2006   [link]

"Such As" Versus "Like":  In the last sentence of the preceding post, I used "such as" where many writers would use "like".  I switched to "such as" recently, after seeing arguments such as this one from James J. Kilpatrick.

An example may make the difference between the two clearer.  I wrote "such as Switzerland or the United States" because I meant those two nations and similar nations.  If I had written "like Switzerland or the United States", I would have meant, literally, nations similar to Switzerland and the United States, but not including Switzerland and the United States.

Perhaps I am being too pedantic.  "Like" is so commonly used when writers actually mean "such as" that I am sure nearly all of you would have taken the same meaning from either way of saying it.   But, after seeing this argument from Kilpatrick, I have found that using "like" when I mean "such as" bugs me (usually).  I hope you will not mind seeing this bit of pendanticism from time to time.
- 8:13 AM, 28 August 2006   [link]

Worth Reading:  E. J. Dionne reminds us that he used to be a journalist, and a pretty good one at that, in this column commending Australia's prime minister.
Last week, [John] Howard organized a "history summit" to call attention to the decline of Australian history as a subject in high schools.  In most states here, history has been subsumed within (and thus displaced by) a broader social studies curriculum focused on "studies of society and the environment."

"I think we have taught history as some kind of fragmented stew of moods and events," Howard declared, "rather than some kind of proper narrative."

This is the sort of cultural and educational fight familiar to Americans.  My gut is with those who see history as a distinct subject.  Wherever we live, we should know our country's national story.
. . .
What's exportable about Howard's politics is his shrewd understanding that conservative parties embracing hard-line market economics need to provide those threatened by economic change with something to hang on to -- tradition, nation, family, flag -- so that their world doesn't fly apart.
(Americans may need to know that many of the Australian states have been controlled by the opposition Australian Labor party while Howard has been prime minister.  In fact, since 2002, "Labor has been in government in all six states and both mainland territories".  So, by raising this issue, Howard is attacking his Labor opponents.)

It is strange, when you think about it, that the teaching of history as a "proper narrative" should be controversial.  Most likely the Australian educational bureaucracies have had the same bad effects on the teaching of history as the American educational bureaucracies.  (Oddly, whenever reporters do those stories about American ignorance about our own history, they (almost?) never follow up by asking those in charge of our schools why they have failed.)

Dionne is making a daring argument for a leftist columnist, though he is less explicit than I would like.  He is saying that conservatives are right on some social issues.  In general, leftist journalists are willing to accept the possibility that conservatives might be right on economic issues, but not on social issues.  That's true even when the evidence is strong.   For example, Fox Butterfield of the New York Times became famous for his articles puzzling over the fact that we have more people in prison, and that crime is down.   Butterfield (and the leftwing academics he relied on) seemed genuinely unable to examine the possibility that conservatives might be right, that putting the bad guys in prison will reduce crime, everything else being equal.

I hope that Dionne isn't expelled for this bit of heresy.

(Years ago, students of comparative politics made a similar argument to explain the fact that so many stable democracies are constitutional monarchies.  They argued that a monarch gave citizens a stable symbol to hold on to in a time of change.  And sometimes, as in the case of King Juan Carlos of Spain, a monarch may do even more for a democracy.  Stable democracies without monarchs, such as Switzerland or the United States, usually have powerful traditions that serve similar functions.)
- 7:38 AM, 28 August 2006   [link]

Does Nasrallah sound like a winner?
Hezbollah chief Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah has said he would not have ordered the capture of two Israeli soldiers if he had known it would lead to such a war.

"Had we known that the kidnapping of the soldiers would have led to this, we would definitely not have done it," he said in an interview on Lebanese TV.
Not to me.

If Nasrallah is telling the truth — and he might be — the kidnapping was not intended to provoke a war, but was a gambit to get some of his thugs and murderers out of jail.  Or, if he is lying — which he does regularly — he may have hoped to provoke a war, but did not expect such heavy losses.
- 6:03 AM, 28 August 2006   [link]

Michelle Malkin has a good summary of the stories on the release of the two kidnapped Fox journalists.

She ends with this point from Clifford May:
I'm glad these guys are safe and free.  I wish them well.  But I hope there will be some attention paid by Fox and other media to the way in which kidnappings and similar threats coerce and intimidate journalists, and may influence their coverage.
I hope so, too, but I doubt that will happen.
- 3:21 PM, 27 August 2006   [link]

Why Are There So Many Spam Emails?  Because they work.
Spam messages that tout stocks and shares can have real effects on the markets, a study suggests.

E-mails typically promote penny shares in the hope of convincing people to buy into a company to raise its price.

People who respond to the "pump and dump" scam can lose 8% of their investment in two days.

Conversely, the spammers who buy low-priced stock before sending the e-mails, typically see a return of between 4.9% and 6% when they sell.
And the same is true of many other email scams; they continue because they pay often enough to make them worth while.

I have sometimes thought that we might discourage email scams by putting a small tax on commercial emails.  Even a nickel per email might be enough to take the profit out of many of the scams.  I am not sure a tax is the right solution, or that it is even practical, but it is something I would like to see considered.
- 7:20 AM, 27 August 2006   [link]

Many Arabs, Especially Those In Lebanon, don't believe Hezbollah won.  
The leaders of the March 14 movement, which has a majority in the Lebanese Parliament and government, have demanded an investigation into the circumstances that led to the war, a roundabout way of accusing Hezbollah of having provoked the tragedy.  Prime Minister Fuad Siniora has made it clear that he would not allow Hezbollah to continue as a state within the state.  Even Michel Aoun, a maverick Christian leader and tactical ally of Hezbollah, has called for the Shiite militia to disband.
And not just those in Lebanon.  Amir Tahiri ends with this summary from an Egyptian:
Having lost more than 500 of its fighters, and with almost all of its medium-range missiles destroyed, Hezbollah may find it hard to sustain its claim of victory.  "Hezbollah won the propaganda war because many in the West wanted it to win as a means of settling score with the United States," says Egyptian columnist Ali al-Ibrahim.  "But the Arabs have become wise enough to know TV victory from real victory."
Here's my original post on this question.  I'll just add that TV victories have consequences, too, as Americans who went through the Vietnam War know only too well.
- 12:53 PM, 25 August 2006   [link]

Wonder What Happened to the Democratic candidate who voted twice in the 2000 election?  He has withdrawn from his state senate race.
It's been a busy year for state Senate candidate Donovan Riley: The liberal Dem moved into the south side [Milwaukee] district in November, then dumped more than $65,000 of his own cash into his campaign and, finally, got caught apparently voting twice in the same election.

And now he's out.

Late Thursday, Riley's lawyer Jeremy Levinson issued a statement from the candidate saying he was pulling the plug on his bruised and battered campaign.
I think Wisconsin will be able to get along without him.

(I didn't mention this in the original post, but my guess is that Riley was caught by someone working for an opposing candidate.  It is routine to check the voting records of opponents, especially neophytes.)
- 12:34 PM, 25 August 2006   [link]

Paul Greenberg believes we should try to understand terrorists.
Don't misunderstand me.  I'm all for understanding terrorists — but the way a pathologist would understand the growth and development of tumors, the better to excise them.
The better we understand them, the easier they will be to excise.
- 5:18 AM, 25 August 2006   [link]