Saturday, June 30, 2007

What are We Going to Do About Iran?
and, more importantly, when are we going to do it?

Give the Iranian regime credit for forthrightness and consistency -- they hate America and don't try to hide dipolmatic speak; moreover, they consistently train and arm our enemies. The perplexing question is why the U.S. seems oblivious to it. Here is a good editorial from IBD on this topic.
Another Act Of War

By INVESTOR'S BUSINESS DAILY | Posted Thursday, June 07, 2007 4:20 PM PT

War On Terror: Iran has been caught — again — sending arms to terrorists and insurgents who are trying to kill American soldiers. At some point, a line is drawn in the sand, and we either say "enough" or "we give up."

It's hard to tell whether Iran's repeated provocations are an attempt to shame the U.S., which so far has done little to stop them, or just another bad terrorist habit they can't break.

NATO says Iran has been shipping arms to its one-time enemy, Afghanistan's Taliban, those nice fundamentalist fellows who cut off fingers and hands, stoned women to death and murdered their foes for over a half a decade before being ousted by the U.S. in late 2001.

Iran's already been caught — numerous times — arming anti-U.S. fighters in Iraq. And they've been indiscriminate in doing so, arming both the hated Sunnis and friendly Shiites alike. Give them credit: When it comes to sowing hate, Iran is quite ecumenical.

In addition to Iraq, Tehran is arming terrorists on the West Bank and in Southern Lebanon. It's now engaged in a headlong rush to develop a nuclear weapon. Recent estimates from the International Atomic Energy Agency says they'll have a nuke within three to eight years — and those are conservative estimates.

That's why NATO's revelation is so important. NATO says it tracked two convoys of trucks in April and May leaving Iran and traveling to Afghanistan. The trucks were laden with lots of deadly stuff — C4 explosive, small arms, mortars, EFP (explosively formed projectiles) bombs, RPG rockets, and the like.

A picture emerges: Iran is moving ahead, undeterred, in its bid to foment war in the Mideast, defeat the U.S. and the West, then use a nuclear weapon to gain unquestioned supremacy over the region.

The U.S. has tried the velvet glove routine, last month even breaking our 27-year ban on holding direct talks with Iran. We did so with naive goodwill. Now we see the Mullahs' response.

It may be time now for the closed fist. As a reminder that we're not a paper tiger, the U.S. late last month sent a nine-ship flotilla into the Persian Gulf in a massive show of force. Just a little reminder to Iran of what they might someday face.

As we've said, Iran is at war with the U.S. The fact that we refuse to acknowledge it doesn't make it less of a war — it only makes those who deny it pathetic.

With Europe unwilling to impose sanctions that bite, and Israel seemingly unwilling to remove Iran's nuclear threat through force, the job inevitably falls to the U.S. to do something about Iran. If we don't act soon, you can rest assured Iran will. It already has.

For additional reading on Iran and some thinking on how to arrest its development of nuclear weapons, last spring the Claremont Review of Books published a symposium on the threat we face from Iran. You can read the various viewpoints here.
Global Warming Hysteria

Liberals never seem to catch on that, like the boy who cried 'wolf!', after a while normal people tend to discount their absurd claims. Instead, it seems that the more skeptical the masses are, the more shrill and extreme their dire warnings become.

I thought of this today after reading a piece in James Taranto's 'Best of the Web' that some pet adoption group is claiming that an increase in cats being turned into shelters is caused by (I am not making this up) global warming.

Can you believe these people? Did you ever hear something so stupid? Like I said though, the good news is that the more hysterical the global warming claims get, the easier they are to ignore.
Money Talks

Got this article forwarded to me by a friend. Despite their protestations to the contrary, their financial contributions to liberal candidates puts the lie to media's claims that they have no liberal bias.
"[W]e need a journalism ethicist. How about Orville Schell? He favorably reviewed Eric Alterman's book "What Liberal Media?: The Truth About Bias and the News." And this Feb. 9, while he was still dean of the journalism school at the University of California, Berkeley, Schell gave $1,000 to Sen. Hillary Clinton.

Or we could ask Randy Cohen, who writes the syndicated column "The Ethicist" for The New York Times. The former comedy writer gave $585 to in 2004 when it was organizing get-out-the-vote efforts to defeat Bush. Cohen said he understands the Times policy and won't make donations again, but he had thought of as no more out of bounds than the Boy Scouts.

"We admire those colleagues who participate in their communities — help out at the local school, work with Little League, donate to charity," Cohen said in an e-mail. "But no such activity is or can be non-ideological. Few papers would object to a journalist donating to the Boy Scouts or joining the Catholic Church. But the former has an official policy of discriminating against gay children; the latter has views on reproductive rights far more restrictive than those of most Americans. Should reporters be forbidden to support those groups? I’d say not."
Read the whole article here.
Lott versus Freakonomics

Economist John Lott has been blasting Freakonomics author Steven Levitt for a while now because of the shoddy and questionable scholarship (see these archived posts). Here is a review of Lott's new book rebutting Levitt from The American:

John Lott, Loaded

Thursday, June 28, 2007

The economist’s new book fires back at Steven Levitt and other critics.

freedomnomicsFreedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and Other Half-Baked Theories Don’t, by John R. Lott, Jr. (Regnery, June 2007) 275 pages, $27.95.

For years now, economists John R. Lott and Steven Levitt have been at each other's throats. They can’t seem to agree on anything, from guns to abortion. They’ve been collecting and analyzing data like mad, striving to prove their respective worldviews correct.

Ten years ago, Lott (then an adjunct scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, which publishes The American) authored a study showing that “right-to-carry” laws—which allow all non-criminal adult citizens to carry guns—reduce crime. In his bestselling Freakonomics, Levitt wrote that “[w]hen other scholars have tried to replicate his results, they found that right-to-carry laws simply don’t bring down crime.” Lott sued for libel; the judge threw out the complaint about the Freakonomics passage, but a trial about a related e-mail Levitt sent is set for October 1.

Now, with Freedomnomics, Lott aims to discredit Levitt—and in doing so, he takes on Levitt’s style. Like Levitt, Lott bases his writing heavily on his own academic research. And like Freakonomics, Freedomnomics is a collection of essays on a smattering of topics. Both books rely on econometric methods.

Freakonomics was one of the worst book titles in memory, and ripping it off probably isn’t the best idea (though the similarity in covers might help Lott sell books). And Freedomnomics’s positioning as a response to Freakonomics means it will always sit in the latter’s shadow.

What’s more, the book shares Freakonomics’s lack of focus. In part it’s a response to Levitt, but in other ways it’s a defense of the free market, even on topics Levitt didn’t touch. And some essays are neither anti-Levitt nor pro-market; Freedomnomics could more accurately have been called The Brief Book of Everything John R. Lott, Jr., has Ever Written About.

Nonetheless, most of what John R. Lott, Jr., has ever written about has been fascinating. He’s a great writer, especially for the general public, and the book renders lots of charts, graphs and statistical analysis into clear, uncomplicated conversation. In particular, those who haven’t followed Lott’s research and op-eds should read it.

As a response to Freakonomics, the book is often persuasive. The right-to-carry issue is near and dear to Lott’s heart, so he shows some restraint by dedicating only six of about 200 pages to the topic. He provides lists of studies finding that right-to-carry reduced, did not affect, or increased violent crime—more studies, by Lott’s count, came to the first conclusion than the second (Levitt’s). Freakonomics’s implying that no other scholars agree with Lott may fall short of libel, but it’s definitely untrue.

In saying that none of the studies have concluded right-to-carry increases crime, Lott classifies the conclusions of Mark Duggan’s “More Guns, More Crime” as equivocal. Lott explains, “after correcting four typing mistakes, sixteen of his thirty estimates actually show statistically significant drops in crime, while only one shows a significant increase.”

The “More Guns, Less Crime” thesis is certainly tenable, but Lott should have mentioned two government “study-of-the-studies” analyses—in the last few years, both the CDC and the National Academy of Sciences went through the available data on right-to-carry. Neither study saw any clear link, either way, between right-to-carry provisions and crime rates.

Lott and Levitt’s other main point of contention is abortion. In Freakonomics, Levitt claimed that 1973’s Roe v. Wade culled out potential ne’er-do-wells. The decision decreased the birth rate by 6 percent, and unwanted children tend to commit more crimes. Abortion thus, he says, helps explain the 1990s crime drop—crime fell first in states where abortion became legal before Roe.

In joining the general-public discussion, Lott’s a bit late to the party. Levitt’s original paper with John J. Donohue III came out in 2001, and Lott published an academic response at the time. It’s been two years since The Economist ran “Oops-onomics,” a description of flaws in Levitt’s abortion work that were first unearthed by two Boston Federal Reserve economists.

But Lott’s arguments are powerful, and since so many people have bought into the Levitt view that abortion cuts crime, they remain worthwhile. Illegitimacy went up, not down, after Roe v. Wade. In the 1990s, crime fell among older criminals before it fell among the younger, “culled” ones. While crime fell first in states that legalized abortion first, other states had permitted abortion quite liberally for medical reasons. Some of these “banned” states had higher abortion rates than the “legal” states did, yet saw no comparable drop in crime. Children born in the four years before Roe had markedly lower crime rates than those born in the first four post­-Roe years. Canada had the same 1990s crime drop the United States did, though it hadn’t legalized abortion until 1988.

Lott takes it a step further, though—citing two studies by other researchers in addition to his own work—and asserts that abortion’s availability actually causes illegitimacy. If this is true, abortion’s effect on crime is the opposite of what Levitt’s famous theory contends.

The idea is that legal abortions lead to more casual sex, which obviously causes more pregnancies (conceptions increased 30 percent after Roe). However, some women can’t go through with abortions when they thought they would, and some women who don’t believe in abortion have more sex to compete for mates and keep up with social mores. Additionally, men are less likely to marry women they’ve accidentally impregnated. To make things worse, adoption rates for unwanted children plummeted after Roe.

Abortion may have culled out 6 percent of the would-be population, but by Lott’s calculations, the accompanying disintegration of two-parent families more than made up for the “gain.” At the very least, many factors contributed to the breakdown in nuclear families (most notably the welfare state), and it’s difficult to sort them out.

Freedomnomics’s second function is to provide a wide-ranging defense of the free market. The book is dedicated to the memory of Milton Friedman. Many experts have made careers out of finding “market failures,” or instances where freedom has bad consequences. Lott concedes markets aren’t perfect, but he demonstrates how some common criticisms don’t really indicate failures at all.

His approach, unfortunately, is like trying to swat a roomful of flies: Lott can hit a few, but there are simply too many allegations of market failure for one book, especially a short one, to cover.

His picks do tend to be enlightening. For example, Levitt has argued that real estate agents capitalize on people’s naivette. They sell their own homes at higher prices than they sell their trusting clients’ homes—they’re in a hurry to get to the next commission, so they sell too fast. But Lott points out that the difference is only 2 to 3.3 percent, and that agents know what kinds of improvements will help a house sell. Even when they suggest these improvements to clients, many clients don’t take the advice.

Besides, he adds, anyone in any profession knows how to get the most value. Doctors probably find better health care than other people do. That doesn’t mean the market isn’t working.

Another Levitt idea is that a car’s value drops precipitously as soon as it leaves a dealer’s lot. If an owner sells soon after buying it, buyers wonder why—there must be something wrong with it. Thus the market takes advantage of sellers of barely used cars. But Lott provides data indicating that’s simply not the case. Most cars’ values decline slowly and steadily, with no plummet right after purchase. In cases where manufacturers set maximum prices on new cars, creating a shortage, sometimes barely used cars even sell for more. This is because the market created mechanisms for evaluating cars, including transferable warranties and used car certification.

Lott also suggests why alcohol is so expensive in restaurants—when a customer buys a glass of wine, he tends to spend a lot of time sipping it. The waiters can’t clear the table to make room for other customers, so the owners lose money. Drinkers rent tables, rather than forking over extra money for greedy profiteers.

Outside of the Levitt versus Lott controversy, one of the book’s most fascinating chapters argues that female suffrage has led to government growth. Though many designate the New Deal as the dawn of Big Government, spending increases began before that. States that gave women the vote before the federal government experienced higher spending at the state level.

Lott provides a variety of reasons that women support spending, and have done so increasingly. One interesting factor is no-fault divorce. Women tend to make less than men do, and sometimes married women stay home altogether—so when they can’t bargain with their husbands over divorce terms, they’re more likely to end up poor. Thus, they have strong reason to value an economic support system.

All said, Freedomnomics entertains, educates and argues forcefully. Scholar wars may seem petty at times, but this book shows they lead to some worthwhile endeavors.

Robert VerBruggen is Assistant Book Editor at The Washington Times.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pogue's iPhone Review

iPhone Flashback

Here's a short video from the New York Times' tech writer/blogger, David Pogue, on the iPhone announcement last winter. (btw, Pogue is probably the only guy at the NYT worth reading).

iPhone Mania

From the Washington Post:

iPhone iNsanity Continues

Are some folks out there taking the launch of the iPhone just a little too seriously? Consider the following few items.

* First, the AppleInsider site reports on the arrival of the first iPhone shipments, and some of the extraordinary security measures taken with these deliveries:

Awaiting the freight at each location on Sunday were armed personnel, who were reportedly hired by Apple through its courier's ground handling agent and then cleared by the Transportation Security Administration.... Apple management on Sunday began informing its retail personnel that beginning Monday, no cameras of any kind will be allowed in the back stockrooms of its retail outlets.

* Then we have this item about people advertising on Craigslist, either looking for help in buying an iPhone or selling their services as line sitters. The story cites prices from $75 to $250 to hold somebody's place in line at an AT&T Wireless or Apple store before the iPhone goes on sale Friday evening. It also quotes one would-be iPhone owner's Craigslist post: "I need an iPhone. Like, really need an iPhone. It's so bad, I've taken to carrying around my paper cut-out just to get used to the size." The Washington area is not exempt from this kind of behavior, either.

* Third, as of Monday afternoon, somebody had already begun to camp out for an iPhone outside Apple's Fifth Avenue store in Manhattan.

* We even have an I-hate-iPhone-hype column by tech pundit John Dvorak that, by making a Hitler (!) analogy in the first few paragraphs, shows that Godwin's Law is alive and well.

You almost have to wonder if it wouldn't be appropriate for Steve Jobs to show up Friday to deliver William Shatner's "Get a Life!" speech.

There is some genuine iPhone news to relate today: Apple and AT&T unveiled a set of rate plans for this little sucker, starting at $60 a month for unlimited data, 200 text messages and 450 anytime minutes. Current AT&T subscribers can transfer their voice plan to an iPhone, then add $20 a month for unlimited data use and 200 text messages.

(BTW, in case you had any questions about the iPhone itself--I still don't have one. Apple's PR department seems to be taking its time at getting review hardware out to the press, or at least to me.)

By Rob Pegoraro | June 26, 2007; 2:44 PM ET
iPhone is Here

Here is the Mossberg review:

Testing Out the iPhone

We Spend Two Weeks Using Apple's Much-Anticipated Device
To See if It Lives Up to the Hype; In Search of the Comma Key
June 27, 2007; Page D1

One of the most important trends in personal technology over the past few years has been the evolution of the humble cellphone into a true handheld computer, a device able to replicate many of the key functions of a laptop. But most of these "smart phones" have had lousy software, confusing user interfaces and clumsy music, video and photo playback. And their designers have struggled to balance screen size, keyboard usability and battery life.

Now, Apple Inc., whose digital products are hailed for their design and innovation, is jumping into this smart-phone market with the iPhone, which goes on sale in a few days after months of the most frenzied hype and speculation we have ever seen for a single technology product. Even though the phone's minimum price is a hefty $499, people are already lining up outside Apple stores to be among the first to snag one when they go on sale Friday evening.

We have been testing the iPhone for two weeks, in multiple usage scenarios, in cities across the country. Our verdict is that, despite some flaws and feature omissions, the iPhone is, on balance, a beautiful and breakthrough handheld computer. Its software, especially, sets a new bar for the smart-phone industry, and its clever finger-touch interface, which dispenses with a stylus and most buttons, works well, though it sometimes adds steps to common functions.

The Apple phone combines intelligent voice calling, and a full-blown iPod, with a beautiful new interface for music and video playback. It offers the best Web browser we have seen on a smart phone, and robust email software. And it synchronizes easily and well with both Windows and Macintosh computers using Apple's iTunes software.

It has the largest and highest-resolution screen of any smart phone we've seen, and the most internal memory by far. Yet it is one of the thinnest smart phones available and offers impressive battery life, better than its key competitors claim.

The phone is thinner than many smart phones.

It feels solid and comfortable in the hand and the way it displays photos, videos and Web pages on its gorgeous screen makes other smart phones look primitive.

The iPhone's most controversial feature, the omission of a physical keyboard in favor of a virtual keyboard on the screen, turned out in our tests to be a nonissue, despite our deep initial skepticism. After five days of use, Walt -- who did most of the testing for this review -- was able to type on it as quickly and accurately as he could on the Palm Treo he has used for years. This was partly because of smart software that corrects typing errors on the fly.

But the iPhone has a major drawback: the cellphone network it uses. It only works with AT&T (formerly Cingular), won't come in models that use Verizon or Sprint and can't use the digital cards (called SIM cards) that would allow it to run on T-Mobile's network. So, the phone can be a poor choice unless you are in areas where AT&T's coverage is good. It does work overseas, but only via an AT&T roaming plan.

In addition, even when you have great AT&T coverage, the iPhone can't run on AT&T's fastest cellular data network. Instead, it uses a pokey network called EDGE, which is far slower than the fastest networks from Verizon or Sprint that power many other smart phones. And the initial iPhone model cannot be upgraded to use the faster networks.

The iPhone compensates by being one of the few smart phones that can also use Wi-Fi wireless networks. When you have access to Wi-Fi, the iPhone flies on the Web. Not only that, but the iPhone automatically switches from EDGE to known Wi-Fi networks when it finds them, and pops up a list of new Wi-Fi networks it encounters as you move. Walt was able to log onto paid Wi-Fi networks at Starbucks and airports, and even used a free Wi-Fi network at Fenway Park in Boston to email pictures taken during a Red Sox game.

But this Wi-Fi capability doesn't fully make up for the lack of a fast cellular data capability, because it is impractical to keep joining and dropping short-range Wi-Fi networks while taking a long walk, or riding in a cab through a city.

AT&T is offering special monthly calling plans for the iPhone, all of which include unlimited Internet and email usage. They range from $60 to $220, depending on the number of voice minutes included. In an unusual twist, iPhone buyers won't choose their plans and activate their phones in the store. Instead, they will do so when they first connect the iPhone to the iTunes software.

Despite its simple interface, with just four rows of colorful icons on a black background, the iPhone has too many features and functions to detail completely in this space. But here's a rundown of the key features, with pros and cons based on our testing.

Hardware: The iPhone is simply beautiful. It is thinner than the skinny Samsung BlackJack, yet almost its entire surface is covered by a huge, vivid 3.5-inch display. There's no physical keyboard, just a single button that takes you to the home screen. The phone is about as long as the Treo 700, the BlackBerry 8800 or the BlackJack, but it's slightly wider than the BlackJack or Treo, and heavier than the BlackBerry and BlackJack.

The display is made of a sturdy glass, not plastic, and while it did pick up smudges, it didn't acquire a single scratch, even though it was tossed into Walt's pocket or briefcase, or Katie's purse, without any protective case or holster. No scratches appeared on the rest of the body either.


There are only three buttons along the edges. On the top, there's one that puts the phone to sleep and wakes it up. And, on the left edge, there's a volume control and a mute switch.

One downside: Some accessories for iPods may not work properly on the iPhone. The headphone jack, which supports both stereo music and phone calls, is deeply recessed, so you may need an adapter for existing headphones. And, while the iPhone uses the standard iPod port on the bottom edge, it doesn't recognize all car adapters for playing music, only for charging. Apple is considering a software update to fix this.

Touch-screen interface: To go through long lists of emails, contacts, or songs, you just "flick" with your finger. To select items, you tap. To enlarge photos, you "pinch" them by placing two fingers on their corners and dragging them in or out. To zoom in on portions of Web pages, you double-tap with your fingers. You cannot use a stylus for any of this. In the Web browser and photo program, if you turn the phone from a vertical to a horizontal position, the image on the screen turns as well and resizes itself to fit.

In general, we found this interface, called "multi-touch," to be effective, practical and fun. But there's no overall search on the iPhone (except Web searching), and no quick way to move to the top or bottom of pages (except in the Web browser). The only aid is an alphabetical scale on the right in tiny type.


There's also no way to cut, copy, or paste text.

And the lack of dedicated hardware buttons for functions like phone, email and contacts means extra taps are needed to start using features. Also, if you are playing music while doing something else, the lack of hardware playback buttons forces you to return to the iPod program to stop the music or change a song.

Keyboard: The virtual keys are large and get larger as you touch them. Software tries to guess what you're typing, and fix errors. Overall, it works. But the error-correction system didn't seem as clever as the one on the BlackBerry, and you have to switch to a different keyboard view to insert a period or comma, which is annoying.

Web browsing: The iPhone is the first smart phone we've tested with a real, computer-grade Web browser, a version of Apple's Safari. It displays entire Web pages, in their real layouts, and allows you to zoom in quickly by either tapping or pinching with your finger. Multiple pages can be open at the same time, and you can conduct Google or Yahoo searches from a built-in search box.

Email: The iPhone can connect with most popular consumer email services, including Yahoo, Gmail, AOL, EarthLink and others. It can also handle corporate email using Microsoft's Exchange system, if your IT department cooperates by enabling a setting on the server.

BlackBerry email services can't be used on an iPhone, but Yahoo Mail supplies free BlackBerry-style "push" email to iPhone users. In our test, this worked fine.

Unlike most phone email software, the iPhone's shows a preview of each message, so you don't have to open it. And, if there is a photo attached, it shows the photo automatically, without requiring you to click on a link to see it. It can also receive and open Microsoft Word and Excel documents and Adobe PDF files. But it doesn't allow you to edit or save these files.

Memory: The $499 base model comes with four gigabytes of memory, and the $599 model has eight gigabytes. That's far more than on any other smart phone, but much less than on full-size iPods. Also, there's no slot for memory-expansion cards. Our test $599 model held 1,325 songs; a dozen videos (including a full-length movie); over 100 photos; and over 100 emails, including some attachments, and still had room left over.

Battery life: Like the iPod, but unlike most cellphones, the iPhone lacks a removable battery. So you can't carry a spare. But its battery life is excellent. In our tests, it got seven hours and 18 minutes of continuous talk time, while the Wi-Fi was on and email was constantly being fetched in the background. That's close to Apple's claim of a maximum of eight hours, and far exceeds the talk time claims of other smart phones, which usually top out at five and a half hours.

The interface features "cover flow" technology for flipping through album covers.

For continuous music playback, again with Wi-Fi on and email being fetched, we got over 22 hours, shy of Apple's claim of up to 24 hours, but still huge. For video playback, under the same conditions, we got just under Apple's claim of seven hours, enough to watch four average-length movies. And, for Web browsing and other Internet functions, including sending and receiving emails, viewing Google maps and YouTube videos, we got over nine hours, well above Apple's claim of up to six hours.

In real life, of course, you will do a mix of these things, so the best gauge might be that, in our two-week test, the iPhone generally lasted all day with a typical mix of tasks.

Phone calls: The phone interface is clean and simple, but takes more taps to reach than on many other smart phones, because there are no dedicated hardware phone buttons. You also cannot just start typing a name or number, but must scroll through a list of favorites, through your recent call list, or your entire contact list. You can also use a virtual keypad.

One great phone feature is called "visual voice mail." It shows you the names or at least the phone numbers of people who have left you voicemail, so you can quickly listen to those you want. It's also very easy to turn the speakerphone on and off, or to establish conference calls.

Voice call quality was good, but not great. In some places, especially in weak coverage areas, there was some muffling or garbling. But most calls were perfectly audible. The iPhone can use Bluetooth wireless headsets and it comes with wired iPod-style earbuds that include a microphone.

[iPhone with Google Maps]
Google maps on the iPhone.

A downside -- there's no easy way to transfer phone numbers, via AT&T, directly from an existing phone. The iPhone is meant to sync with an address book (and calendar) on a PC.

Contacts and calendars: These are pretty straightforward and work well. The calendar lacks a week view, though a list view helps fill that gap. Contacts can be gathered into groups, but the groups can't be used as email distribution lists.

Syncing: The iPhone syncs with both Macs and Windows PCs using iTunes, which handles not only the transfer of music and video, but also photos, contacts, calendar items and browser bookmarks. In our tests, this worked well, even on a Windows Vista machine using the latest version of Outlook as the source for contacts and appointments.

iPod: The built-in iPod handles music and video perfectly, and has all the features of a regular iPod. But the interface is entirely new. The famed scroll wheel is gone, and instead finger taps and flicking move you through your collection and virtual controls appear on the screen. There's also a version of the "cover flow" interface which allows you to select music by flipping through album covers.

Other features: There are widgets, or small programs, for accessing weather, stock prices and Google Maps, which includes route directions, but no real-time navigation. Another widget allows you to stream videos from YouTube, and yet another serves as a notepad. There's a photo program that displays individual pictures or slideshows.

The only add-on software Apple is allowing will be Web-based programs that must be accessed through the on-board Web browser. The company says these can be made to look just like built-in programs, but the few we tried weren't impressive.

Missing features: The iPhone is missing some features common on some competitors. There's no instant messaging, only standard text messaging. While its two-megapixel camera took excellent pictures in our tests, it can't record video. Its otherwise excellent Web browser can't fully utilize some Web sites, because it doesn't yet support Adobe's Flash technology. Although the phone contains a complete iPod, you can't use your songs as ringtones. There aren't any games, nor is there any way to directly access Apple's iTunes Music Store.

Apple says it plans to add features to the phone over time, via free downloads, and hints that some of these holes may be filled.

Expectations for the iPhone have been so high that it can't possibly meet them all. It isn't for the average person who just wants a cheap, small phone for calling and texting. But, despite its network limitations, the iPhone is a whole new experience and a pleasure to use.

FDR Means "Fading, Declining Reputation"

There was a very interesting op-ed, The Real Deal, in the Wall Street Journal by Amity Shlaes examining the legacy of FDR (her article is highlighting her upcoming book "The Forgotten Men". According to Shlaes:
Regarding the 1930s "there has been curiously little argument. The American consensus is ... that FDR saved democracy from fascism by co-opting the left and far right with his alphabet programs. Certainly, an observer might criticize various aspects of the period, but scrutiny of the New Deal edifice in its entirety is something that ought to be postponed for another era -- or so we learned long ago. Indeed, to take a skeptical look at the New Deal as a whole has been considered downright immoral."
Contrary to the standard hagiographies about FDR, Shlaes says:
The premier line in the standard history is that Herbert Hoover was a right-winger whose laissez-faire politics helped convert the 1929 Crash into the Great Depression. But a review of the new president's actions reveals him to be a control freak, an interventionist in spite of himself. Hoover signed the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act, which worsened a global downturn, even though he had long lived in London and understood better than almost anyone the interconnectedness of markets. He also bullied companies into maintaining high wages and keeping employees on their payrolls when they could ill afford to do so. Perhaps worst of all, he berated the stock market as a speculative sinner even though he knew better. For example, Hoover opposed shorting as a practice, a policy that frightened markets at an especially vulnerable time.

The second standard understanding is that the Brain Trusters were moderate people who drew from American history when they wrote the New Deal. If their philosophies were left wing, then that aspect ought to be treated parenthetically, the attitude was. But the leftishness of the Brain Trust was not parenthetical. It was central.

This article reminded me of a great book that came out a couple of years ago entitled "FDR's Folly" by Jim Powell. Like Shlaes, Powell's examination of the New Deal was that FDR's policies, instead of helping to allieviate the effects of the Great Depression, actually exacerbated and made matters worse.

Powerline noted the link between the Shlaes article and Powell's book in a post yesterday and noted: "Building on the work of predecessors such as Jim Powell in "FDR's Folly, Shlaes brings a storyteller's gift to her challenge of the received version of the Great Depression."

Finally, for more on Powell's book, you can read a review of it from the Claremont Review of Books here. The short and sweet of it is:
"Jim Powell's FDR's Folly provides a useful reminder of the dangers inherent in embracing governmental solutions to social problems. Powell's book is quite instructive on what the New Deal did not achieve: economic recovery from the Great Depression. Indeed, FDR's folly, Powell argues, was precisely the prolongation of the Depression through ill-advised economic policies, most of which worsened the economic picture for millions of Americans."

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

More Uncommon Common Sense from Thomas Sowell

Maturity Eludes Intellectual Adolescents Who Have Been 'Liberated' From Reality

By THOMAS SOWELL | Posted Tuesday, June 05, 2007 4:30 PM PT

To a small child, the reason he cannot do many things that he would like to do is that his parents won't let him. Many years later, maturity brings an understanding that there are underlying reasons for doing or not doing many things, and that his parents were essentially conduits for those reasons.

The truly dangerous period in life is the time when the child has learned the limits of his parents' control, and how to circumvent their control, but has not yet understood or accepted the underlying reasons for doing and not doing things. This adolescent period is one that some people — intellectuals especially — never outgrow.

The widespread and fervent use of the word "liberation" in a wide variety of contexts is one of the signs of the adolescent belief that only arbitrary rules and conventions stand in the way of doing whatever we want to do.

Old Laws

According to this vision of the world, the problems of all sorts of individuals and groups — women, minorities, homosexuals, children — are to be solved by liberating them from the restraints of laws, rules, conventions and standards. They are to be liberated even from the threat of adverse judgments by other individuals. We are all to be "nonjudgmental."

Two centuries ago, the great British legal scholar William Blackstone pointed out that there are some laws so old that no one remembers why they existed or what purpose they served then or now. But the bad consequences of repealing some of these laws have often made painfully clear what purpose they served.

Some of the painful consequences of various "liberations" that began in the 1960s have included the disintegration of families, skyrocketing crime rates, falling test scores in school and record-breaking rates of teenage suicide.

A long downward trend in teenage pregnancy and venereal diseases sharply reversed during the 1960s, starting a new trend of escalating teenage pregnancy and venereal diseases, climaxed later by the AIDS epidemic.

Sometimes bad things happen because of adverse circumstances — poverty or war, for example. But our post-1960s social disasters occurred during a long period of peace and unprecedented prosperity. Murder rates, for example, were much lower during the Great Depression of the 1930s and during World War II than they became after various "liberating" changes in the 1960s.

One of the signs of maturity is the ability to learn from experience. Some of us have learned and we have halted or reversed some of the adverse trends. For example, the quest for those elusive "root causes" of crime, so dear to the political left, has been put aside in favor of locking up more criminals — and the crime rate has declined.

Those on the left are upset that we have so many people behind bars and lament how much it is costing to keep them there. They do not even bother to estimate how much it would cost to turn them loose.

The left has never understood why property rights are a big deal, except to fat cats who own a lot of property. Through legislation and judicial rulings, property rights have been eroded with rent control laws, expansive concepts of eminent domain and all sorts of environmental restrictions.

Insulated From Reality

Some of the biggest losers have been people of very modest incomes, and some of the biggest winners have been fat cats who are able to use political muscle and activist judges to violate other people's property rights.

Politicians in cities around the country violate property rights regularly by seizing homes in working-class neighborhoods and demolishing whole sectors of the city, in order to turn the land over to people who will build shopping malls, gambling casinos and other things that will pay more taxes than the homeowners are paying.

That's why property rights were put in the Constitution in the first place, to keep politicians from doing things like that. But the adolescent intellectuals of our time have promoted the notion that property rights are just arbitrary rules to protect the rich.

Many academics and federal judges are sufficiently insulated from reality by tenure that they never have to grow up.

Copyright 2007 Creators Syndicate, Inc

Friday, June 15, 2007

Father's Day

Here's a reminder that some dads won't be coming home for Father's Day. Let's be sure to remember to keep them men who've given the ultimate sacrifice in our prayers this Sunday.

Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine upon them.
May the souls of the faithful departed,
through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Liberal Logic

Came across this video on a site. The comments section was chock full of praise for the "compelling", "irrefutable" logic.

I guess this is what passes for clear and compelling thinking -- if you're a liberal. However, I thought it was a bunch of bull.

If you buy this guy's line of reasoning, all you have to do to win your argument is come up with a more dire consequence resulting from the failure to follow your action plan. So, no matter what you say, all I have to do is say "the world could come to an end unless you enact my plan".

In fact, this type of thinking is classic liberal argumentation. Look at all the campaigns which are based on emotional appeals to "save the children". Who could be against helping children (besides heartless conservatives that is). You don't need to support your plan with facts or reason; No, you're doing it for the children and that's all that matters!

Anyone who's actually interested in a non=hysterical look at global warming should watch The Great Global Warming Swindle.

Friday, June 08, 2007

It's Just A Commercial ...

... but it's pretty cool regardless.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Cubs Get Fired Up

Say what you will about the Cubbies, but they're not about to go down without a fight. Sure, they've lost 6 in a row now. Sure, they've dropped from 2nd place to 4th in one week. But they are fighters.

The only problem is they're aren't fighting the other team -- they fight with each other after they lose!

Friday, June 01, 2007

'Nuff Said


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