Friday, July 02, 2004
I previously blogged about Mary-Kate Olsen being anorexic.
She checked into the Cirque Lodge, a rehab clinic in Utah. The National Enquirer and the Star will both have the story this week.
American Media [the company that owns the Star and the Enquirer] mouthpiece Stu Zakim gloated yesterday, "If they were going to sue us, they would have done it already. Nothing has come forward and that only reinforces the validity of our reporting. We knew how explosive this story would be, and it's been fact-checked and fact-checked and fact-checked. We have all the confidence in the world that our reporting is on the money."
The cover of the Enquirer says that Mary-Kate has beein in rehab twice, that she's been addicted for a year, and her weight plunged to 77 pounds.
Mary-Kate's family insists that the story isn't true.
A Virginia Pilot June 12 editorial about the Olsen Twins is wonderfully ironic. The columnist, Jacey Eckhart, wrote:
On the good side, these girls havenít been arrested for drunken driving or shoplifting. Neither seems to be on intimate terms with dealers of crack cocaine.
Guess you were wrong about the cocaine, Jacey!!!!
Even if Mary-Kate is in cocaine rehab, I say that at 77 pounds she's still anorexic. Both Olsen twins need to do some serious eating. They're not pretty, they're scary looking. How can our pop culture glorify those two? I just don't get it.
I want to get away from these Hollywood type posts, but sometimes I just can't resist. Especially if it's a follow up to a story I already covered. Sorry.
Check out my new post where I respond to many of the comments posted here: Mary-Kate Olsen, drugs, and personal responsibility.
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Check out Big Mike's Wedding Blog for the latest news on celebrity weddings
Kimberly Swygert from Number 2 Pencil, one of my favorite bloggers, writes bout nerds.
And she refers to an essay about nerds written by Paul Graham in which I disagree with most of what he says about nerds, but his analysis of non-nerds seems spot on. He has the following insightful analysis about teenagers and popularity:
I wonder if anyone in the world works harder at anything than American school kids work at popularity. Navy SEALs and neurosurgery residents seem slackers by comparison. They occasionally take vacations; some even have hobbies. An American teenager may work at being popular every waking hour, 365 days a year.
Paul ends with the following paragraph that seems relevant to these related posts:
If life seems awful to kids, it's neither because hormones are turning you all into monsters (as your parents believe), nor because life actually is awful (as you believe). It's because the adults, who no longer have any economic use for you, have abandoned you to spend years cooped up together with nothing real to do. Any society of that type is awful to live in. You don't have to look any further to explain why teenage kids are unhappy.
At the Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh is looking for thoughts on statutory rape laws.
And now for my opinions on all of this.
Glenn Reynolds is right, people tend to act the way they are treated. If you treat someone as if they are immature, they will tend to act immature. Thatís what we do with teenagers.
No one brought up the drinking age, but itís ridiculous that one has to be 21 to drink when at 18 you can serve in the army and die in Iraq.
Popularity is the most important thing for teenagers; itís how they develop self esteem. Intelligence doesnít seem heavily related to popularity. Intelligence is a highly undervalued attribute even among adults, but among adults being smart helps you make more money, but teenagersí money generally comes from their parents, so having rich parents will help your social standing more as a teenager than earning potential based on your intelligence.
Glenn Reynolds wrote that some kids perhaps shouldn't be in school and should be working instead. I have written before that too many kids are going to college. Glenn takes that a step further and says too many are going to high school. Maybe he has a point.
Statutory rape laws are based on the premise that people of a young age are too young to consent to sexual activity. The age of consent tends to vary from 16 to 18 in most states in the U.S., but it might be as low as 14 somewhere.
If I remember my statutory rape law correctly, there are some places where if two 17 year olds have sex then they have both committed a felony. This is ridiculous. And itís not enforced in those circumstances, but I am strongly opposed to laws that everyone breaks and that are not enforced. Thatís what my post about speeeding was trying to get at.
At minimum, laws should reflect how people actually behave, so if 18 year olds routinely have sex with 17 year olds, then that shouldnít be a felony on the part of the 18 year old. Iíd say that at the very least, statutory rape shouldnít be a crime so long as the age difference is less than four years.
Finally, this topic made met think of the Robert Heinlein book The Door into Summer in which the protagonist seems to have an inappropriately close relationship with his friendís young daughter. Through the magic of time travel, he is able to travel to the future where she is old enough for him to marry.
Thursday, July 01, 2004
Saddam pleads not guilty and he also says that the real criminal is Bush. (link to AP article at MSNBC)
Everyone is acting like this is big news when itís not. Of course he says heís not guilty, thatís the purpose of the trial, to prove his guilt. Unless he was offered some kind of plea bargain, what idiot would plead guilty?
The whole concept of a trial for Saddam Hussein is a dumb idea anyway. I donít understand the legal basis for it. He didnít violate any Iraqi laws, he was the law. Not exactly the style of government I endorse, but there are loads of other dictators just as guilty as Hussein, why arenít they on trial?
One of the basic rights of criminal defendants is that they can only be convicted of crimes that existed as crimes at the time the act was committed. This is enshrined in Art. 1, Sec. 10 of the United States Constitution which prohibits any State from passing an ex post facto law. This is even more important than anything in the Bill of Rights, because the Bill of Rights wasnít intended to apply to the States.
We donít need a trial to hold Saddam, heís an enemy whom we were at war with. Thatís enough. We didnít have to have a trial to hold the enemy combatants in Guantanamo Bay (the Supreme Court only held they have to have access to the courts, not a trial), and we didnít have to hold a trial every time one of our warplanes dropped a bomb that surely killed people that it hit on the ground.
Pat Buchanan agrees with Saddam Hussein that the trial will help President Bush win reelection. But heís skeptical about whether this will help us in the Arab world. By giving Saddam a soapbox to speak out against America, he is likely to become a hero to the Arab street.
A war crimes trial against Hussein, held in Iraq, is such a big juicy target for insurgents that itís hard to imagine how they will get through the trial without terrorist attacks killing some of the participants.
Meanwhile, has anyone considered the worst possible outcome? Saddam Hussein is found not guilty, and then he runs for President in the democratic Iraq, wins the election, and heís back in charge of the country.
In a Clay Aiken internet tagboard, a young fan by the pseudonym mrsaiken2b wrote, "OMG I love Clay Aiken EEK CLAY AIKEN I LOVE HIM".
But then she say the Clay Aiken breast grab photo here at my site and wrote, "LOOK AT THE PIC OF CLAY! I DON'T EVEN WANT TO BE A CLAYMATE ANYMORE IT'S THAT HORRIFIC!"
Awww, don't stop loving him. There's no indication that the breast grab was anything but consensual. It looks like Clay and Mezhgan were posing for the unknown person who was took the photo. (Thus the photo has no bearing on whether or not Clay might be gay.)
Clay's consensual breast grabbing is in contrast with President Clinton who is alleged to have grabbed the breasts of White House volunteer Kathleen Willey and flight attendant Christy Zercher, both without any permission. (link to article about Clinton and the women he may have assaulted)
Wednesday, June 30, 2004
Much thanks to The Backer for bringing this to my attention. (Check out his blog!)
Yes, according to Thursday's New York Times, Jessica Cutler sold her novel for "substantial six figures" and she's also going to be posing nude for Playboy. (link)
In May 26-year-old Jessica Cutler was fired by Senator Mike DeWine, an Ohio Republican, from her $25,000-a-year job sorting mail in his office after she was discovered using the Senate computer to write a blog that supposedly chronicled her sexual exploits with six unidentified Washington men, including one she described as a prominent appointee of the Bush administration. Now Ms. Cutler has taken what, for generations of young women who have become involved with the powerful, has been the next logical step. She has become a writer. Yesterday she sold a novel based on her exploits to HyperionDisney (Walt). Her agent, Michael Carlisle of Carlisle & Company, said the price was "a substantial six figures," and Hyperion would not be more specific. Not only did he sell her novel, he said, but she will also pose nude for the November issue of Playboy. Ms. Cutler's novel will be called "The Washingtonienne," after the name of her blog. Mr. Carlisle said that Ms. Cutler would not speak to the press until the book was published, perhaps a year from now. DINITIA SMITH
I really hate to moralize here, but there's something wrong with her getting that much money to write a book when her only claim to fame is that she was slutty and wrote about it in a blog. She didn't even do it with anyone famous. At least Monica Lewinsky did it with the president.
This also means that Richard Leiby is completely out of the loop, the New York Times beat him to the scoop. Wonkette hasn't reported this yet either.
This story appeared in the Washington Post on Friday, July 2. (Names and Faces) I think Leiby is on vacation. Anne Schroeder compiled the linked to "Names and Faces" column.
According to an article in todayís New York Times (link), Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, who is being held hostage by Iraqi insurgents, was a deserter who was trying to make his way home to Lebanon.
According to the article, Hassoun, a Muslim and fluent Arabic speaker, befriended many of the Iraqis on base and they agreed to help sneak him off. Once off, instead of helping him, they turned him over to the bad guys.
I blogged two days ago about Wassef Ali Hassoun, and noted the fact that he is Muslim. Not only did the insurgents not care about about his religion, even his Iraqi ďfriendsĒ on the base betrayed one of their Muslim brothers.
It may not be politically correct to say this, but this story has me wondering about whether his religion had anything to do with his deserting the Marines. In March, 2003 a Muslim-American soldier in Kuwait, Sgt. Asan Akbar, killed a fellow soldier with a grenade and wounded 15 others. (link to article at CNN.com) Muslim-American soldiers just donít seem all that trustworthy to me.
Apostasy in Islam
Someone left a comment on my previous post pointing out that the insurgents would consider Hassoun a traitor, who should therefore be dealt with more harshly than an infidel. I think this is correct. In the Islamic world, the crime of apostasy, that is turning oneís back on Islam, is punishable by death. This is a much worse crime than never having been Muslim at all. The Hadith (the collected saying of Mohammed) says ďKill whoever changes his religion.Ē
Many Islamic nations punish the crime of apostasy with death, and thatís death by beheading if itís in a country like Saudi Arabia, called by some the beheading capital of the world.
In my previous post, I expressed hope that by killing a Muslim brother the insurgents would lose support in the Islamic world. But thatís not likely if the Islamic world views Hassoun as an apostate for being in the United States military and fighting against Islam.
Tuesday, June 29, 2004
That's the hypothesis of an article in today's Wall Street Journal. This has been shown to be the case in rats:
In the latest study, researchers from Purdue University looked at whether artificial sweeteners disrupt the body's ability to "predict" the caloric consequences of a food. The study, published in the July issue of the International Journal of Obesity, involved young rats who were fed a steady diet of sweetened drinks for 10 days. One group of rats consumed only sugar-sweetened beverages. A second group received an inconsistent diet -- sometimes real-sugar drinks and sometimes drinks with no-calorie saccharin.
After 10 days, all the rats were given a real-sugar chocolate drink and rat chow. The rats with a history of eating both real sugar and artificial sweeteners ate three times the calories as the rats who always drank the real-sugar drink.
Now one shouldn't necessarily jump to conclusions based on a study of rats. As pointed out in the article, adult humans are alot smarter than rats. And I mention adults because there have been studies that babies are able to automatically regulate their caloric intake.
But I never did see the point of all these artificial foods containing fake sugar, and now they even have foots that contain fake fat. It seems healthier just to drink a naturally non-caloric drink if you don't want calories. You might try iced tea, carbonated water, or even the stuff that comes from the tap.
And there you see the commercial incentive behind getting people to drink diet soft drinks. Coke and Pepsi wouldn't make any money if people started drinking tap water.
I previously blogged about how Americans are not getting fatter. That post was about a New York Times article which explained that "contrary to popular opinion, national data do not show Americans growing uniformly fatter."
There's a lot of political correctness in the area of dietary health. The powers that be want you to believe that there's an "obesity epidemic" and the answer is to drink Diet Coke and eat foods that contain fake fat. If such an "epidemic" actually exists, why is it happening now that we are getting such good diet advice? Why were people thinner a generation ago when they didn't know to avoid fat and they didn't have sugar-free soft drinks?
Monday, June 28, 2004
Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun is the U.S. Marine who was taken hostage.
According to the the Associated Press, Hassoun is of Lebanese descent and he's Muslim.
Hassoun's family is appealing to the kidnappers on the basis of their shared religion:
Some of Ali Hassoun's relatives, including his father, Ali Hassoun, and a brother, Sami, are in Tripoli, Lebanon. The relatives said contacts were under way with politicians and Muslim clerics in Lebanon and Islamic groups in Iraq to secure the Marine's release.
"We are trying to send word through all channels that he is Lebanese, Arab and a Muslim," Abdullah Hassoun, another member of the extended family and the head of Al-Safira municipality in Lebanon, told The Associated Press.
I find it rather surprising that the insurgents would be going after Islamic soldiers when there are so many infidel ones to behead. However this doesn't seem to be that major of a factor. Besides Wassef Ali Hassoun, there are three Turkish hostages (link to Reuters article) and a Pakistani hostage (link to Reuters article). All of these hostages are being threatened with beheading.
Hopefully these actions against fellow Muslims will cause the insurgents to lose support in the Islamic world.
My latest thoughts on photos of beheadings not being published in the news media: Sally Mann: What Remains vs. terrorist beheadings.
Sunday, June 27, 2004
The gold standard, or maybe more specifically gold currency, is strongly endorsed in Atlas Shrugged, Ayn Randís huge 40,000 page novel. (I may have exaggerated the number of pages by a modest amount.)
Because libertarians and other free-thinking contrarians have great reverence for Ayn Rand, they tend to uncritically endorse her views, and there seems to be a strong trend of ďreturn to the gold standardĒ thinking among libertarians. And there is also the bad karma associated with our current fiat currency system, because it began with socialist Franklin D. Roosevelt, by executive order, confiscating all private holdings of gold.
The main reason why some support a return to the gold standard is because they have a rightful distrust of government. With fiat currency, the government can expand or contract the money supply to aid whatever political group holds the power. Normally, the tendency is for over-expansion of the money supply resulting in unchecked inflation. This has been the demise of many a fiat currency monetary system.
However, the confiscation of gold by FDR shows that the gold standard doesnít really give us a permanent protection from the ďlootersĒ (to use Ayn Randís terminology). Even if we returned to the gold standard, what would stop another FDR from being elected in the future and abolishing it once again? The only true guarantee of freedom is an electorate that values freedom combined with a Constitution that protects freedom from the tyranny of the majority (something that our own United States Constitution has only partially achieved).
At the moment, there just isnít enough gold to back the U.S. dollar at the current gold price of $402.60/ounce. The U.S. would have to engage in a massive gold buying program which would cause the value of the dollar to fall and the price of gold to rise until the United States had sufficient gold reserves. Once the world knew why the U.S. was buying, the price of gold would rise pretty quickly. This would amount to a massive transfer of wealth from the United States to those who own gold. How does this benefit the nation? A massive transfer of wealth based on a political decision is exactly the kind of government activity that libertarians should be opposed to.
Supposing the price of gold rose to $2000/oz (an amount that a lot of the pro-gold websites seem to think gold is destined to reach), and the world knew it would stay there because we were returning to the gold standard, then this would make gold mining a lot more profitable, and there would be a huge investment in gold mining. But all that gold mining would be worthless activity that wouldnít enhance the worldís actual productivity. Instead of investing in new computer chips or new factories, people would be investing in digging metal out of the ground. In fact, this activity is more than worthless, it harms the environment because large amounts of sodium cyanide are needed to extract gold from the ore.
A return to the gold standard would benefit countries where there are large gold reserves, primarily countries in Africa. They would essentially be able to dig money out of the ground. A great boon for South Africa, but how does that benefit the United States? It doesnít. The current system where the U.S. dollar is the world reserve currency benefits the United States, because we magically create new dollars, without any messy mining, and give it to the world in exchange for useful goods such as raw materials, automobiles, and most of the stuff you see on the shelves at Walmart.
Meanwhile, it looks like Islamic nations may have already beaten us to a gold standard. Malaysia is trying to promote a new gold dinar coin as a means of trade between Islamic nations. If it catches on, then Islamic nations would accumulate a large amount of gold. The economic productivity of all the Islamic nations, even in sum total, is pitifully small, so there is plenty of gold in the world to cover the currency demands of these nations. But if the United States then followed suit, this would have the effect of suddenly increasing the wealth of those nations, and thatís an undeserved transfer of wealth that I think is not in our interests.
While the gold standard may not make any sense for the United States, it will probably work quite well for the Islamic nations if they choose to go that route. Unlike the U.S. dollar, fiat currencies printed in countries such as Iran or Syria are obviously not trusted. So for Islamic nations with dubious governments, the use of a standard currency which is relatively stable and not under the control of any of their governments would undoubtedly increase economic activity in the region.
There are a host of other reasons why a return to the gold standard is impractical for the United States. Constant deflation, bank runs, and depressions (including the Great Depression) have all been blamed on the gold standard. Writing about all of this is certainly beyond the scope of this essay. Instead, I will end this essay with advice for Libertarians. Stop supporting extreme positions such as a return to the gold standard and focus on core issues such as reducing the size of federal government, lowering taxes, and deregulating society, the issues that Ronald Reagan supported but the current administration seems to have abandoned.
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Disclosure: I own a pretty big position (relative to my net worth) in South African gold mining company Durban Roodepoort Deep (NASDAQ: DROOY).