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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Inventions That Changed the World

If you build a better mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. Watch for this invention, which is sure to have a big impact on everyone's lives (H/T Lyle):
United States Patent
Boies , et al.
December 11, 2001

System and method for providing reservations for restroom use

The present invention is an apparatus, system, and method for providing reservations for restroom use. In one embodiment, a passenger on an airplane may submit a reservation request to the system for restroom use. The reservation system determines when the request can be accommodated and notifies the passenger when a restroom becomes available. The system improves airline safety by minimizing the time passengers spent standing while an airplane is in flight.

Inventors: Boies; Stephen J. (Mahopac, NY); Dinkin; Samuel (Austin, TX); Moskowitz; Paul Andrew (Yorktown Heights, NY); Yu; Philip Shi-Lung (Chappaqua, NY) Assignee: International Business Machines Corporation (Armonk, NY) Appl. No.: 639254 Filed: August 14, 2000

What is claimed is:

1. A method of providing reservations for restroom use, comprising:
receiving a reservation request from a user; and
notifying the user when the restroom is available for his or her use.

2. The method according to claim 1, further comprising assigning a reservation number in response to the request.

3. The method according to claim 2, wherein said assigning the number assigns number based on a set of priority rules.

4. The method according to claim 2, wherein said assigning the number assigns number on a first come, first served basis.

5. The method according to claim 1, further comprising providing the user with an approximate waiting time.

6. The method according to claim 1, further comprising determining whether the reservation is cancelled.

7. The method according to claim 1, wherein said reservations are provided on an airplane.

8. The method according to claim 1, wherein said reservations are provided on a passenger train or boat.

9. The method according to claim 1, further comprising determining whether the user has entered the restroom within a predetermined time period.

10. A method of providing reservations for restroom use, comprising:
submitting a reservation request for restroom use; and
receiving notification when the restroom becomes available for use. [...]
Believe it or not, there are 64 claims. Fortunately, it doesn't appear that getting up and standing in line at the lavatory door will constitute infringement, at least not by the passengers. Airlines may want to consult "competent counsel" on this issue.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Crime and Punishment

We hear lots of talk about "Hate Speech" these days, with the Left eager to hang that label on anyone who disagrees with some aspect of the Sacred Dogma of Liberalism. You don't hear so much about "Thoughtcrime;" it got a bad reputation back in 1984. Still, the Hate Speech term has rehabilitated the Thoughtcrime concept nicely. As Mark Steyn explains:
So what is a "priority crime"? Well, the other day, the author Lynette Burrows went on a BBC Five Live show to talk about the government's new "civil partnerships" and expressed her opinion - politely, no intemperate words - that the adoption of children by homosexuals was "a risk". The following day, Fulham police contacted her to discuss the "homophobic incident". A Scotland Yard spokesperson told the Telegraph's Sally Pook that it's "standard policy" for "community safety units" to investigate "homophobic, racist and domestic incidents" because these are all "priority crimes" - even though, in the case of Mrs Burrows, there is (to be boringly legalistic about these things) no crime, as even the zealots of the Yard concede. "It is all about reassuring the community," said the very p.c. Plod to the Telegraph. "All parties have been spoken to by the police. No allegation of crime has been made. A report has been taken but is now closed."
Oh, well, then nothing to worry about. No one was intimidated or threatened in any way for having a different opinion than the Liberal Orthodoxy. She was just questioned about "the incident" and a report about her is now in the government files. If this had happened to the Dixie Chicks, Amnesty International would have blown a gasket.

We happen to think that leaving a child unadopted, in perpetual foster care is also "a risk," possibly a greater risk than being adopted by a gay couple. Still, how can anyone think this kind of law is anything but outrageous?

Syria and Lebanon

The same day as the release of the Mehlis the report of the UN investigation of the murder of Rafik Hariri a car bomb killed another prominent Lebanese democracy advocate. The victim was Gebran Tueni, a journalist. Claudia Rosett knew Tueni, and he knew the risks of defying the gangster regime that is Syria:
In March Tueni was meeting with other organizers of the Lebanese opposition, trying to translate the momentum in the streets into major steps toward real independence and democratic change. I asked him who was the leader of these democrats, and he replied that part of the strength of the movement was that there was no single leader; instead, many leaders of various groups and communities had come together. He stressed that this was just as well, given Syria's propensity for murdering Lebanese patriots, "A one-man show would make a beautiful target."

The common goal, he said, was to "restore democracy so we can have elections, and then we can compete with each other." On the broader front, concerning the wisdom of charting a similar course for Iraq, he had no doubts: "George Bush is doing the right job in the Middle East for us, believe me." Tueni's only reservation was his belief that Lebanon, endowed with a rich pre-Syrian legacy of democratic institutions, deserved a chance to lead the way: "We really think if the big issue is about the Middle East, about changing the world, Lebanon is the answer."

An-Nahar's new building had armed guards and bulletproof security shields and doors. But sitting in his corner office with its big picture windows, not far from the spot where Hariri was murdered, Tueni seemed both brave and terribly vulnerable. I asked him if his own life was in danger. He said he expected a wave of Syrian-backed "assassinations, booby-trapped cars," but did not think that could stop Lebanon's democratic movement. "They can kill one, two, three of us" he said, but then they are "finished."
We should note that, just when we're sure the UN can't do anything right, the Mehlis report proves it's not impossible. It's quite clear from Mehlis' report on the investigation that the highest levels of the Syrian government were involved in the Hariri assassination. It shows what can happen when France and the US are on the same side: it's almost like seeing a flying pig.

Meanwhile, all Baby Assad could do to deflect attention was to suggest that the UN really should be investigating the death of Yasser Arafat in France instead. That's so completely transparent and impotent that it's laughably pathetic.

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Australian Riot Illuminated

If you only got your news from the TV networks on the recent riot at the Australian beach, you definitely need to read this: Moonbattery: The Muslim Iceberg in Australia.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Coup D'Etat

It was only a matter of time, of course. Anyone could see that Bush would suspend the electoral process when he saw he couldn't win. Now it's happened in New Orleans, as Steve Sabludowsky at BayouBuzz reports:
On Monday, Governor Kathleen Blanco took the extraordinary step and signed an executive order delaying the qualifying period and the February 4 and March 4, 2006 elections in Orleans Parish due to the collapse of the electoral process in New Orleans.
Whoops! That's the Democratic governor, not the President, short-circuiting the democratic process. Nevermind.

It seems likely that the objective was to protect Ray Nagin, the Democratic mayor who has bungled nearly every aspect of the response to Hurricane Katrina. Sabludowsky continues:
I am one of those people who believe that if the Iraqi people could go to the polls under duress of being killed, the citizens of New Orleans could have held an election. Makeshift voting polls could have been installed in buildings and even in tents using the power of generators if necessary in some locations.

If voting machines were not available, hand ballots work quite well in other countries we call “democratic”.
Meanwhile, not unlike the hapless Michael Brown, Gov. Blanco's memos during the crisis indicate considerable concern with wardrobe and appearance. We never thought Brown deserved all the scorn that heaped on him for his memos, and Blanco's are no worse. We can't help noticing, however, that the Brown story got much more play. Not that there's a double standard here or anything.

Monday, December 12, 2005

This Is Fun

Yes, it's satire. The Peace Moonbeam Chronicles

Term Limits Again

We've written several times lately about the Nebraska term limits constitutional amendment and the lawsuit some state senators have filed against it.

For those not from Nebraska, or Nebraskans who have not been paying close attention, Paul Jacob at has a nice rundown of the history of this issue in Nebraska.

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Nothing to Fear But...

victory? Could that be the real cause of the pervasive panic in the opponents of the Iraq war? Norman Podhoretz argues they're not afraid of defeat as much as afraid that victory will vindicate President Bush's worldview and refute their own.
In Iraq today, however, and in the Middle East as a whole, a successful outcome is staring us in the face. Clearly, then, the panic over Iraq--which expresses itself in increasingly frenzied calls for the withdrawal of our forces--cannot have been caused by the prospect of defeat. On the contrary, my twofold guess is that the real fear behind it is not that we are losing but that we are winning, and that what has catalyzed this fear into a genuine panic is the realization that the chances of pulling off the proverbial feat of snatching an American defeat from the jaws of victory are rapidly running out.
There's much more, so go read it.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Chronicles of Narnia

Tycho, Viper, and I went to see The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe at the theater on Friday night. I read the entire Narnia series aloud to the boys when they were little, and they had re-read them on their own since then. Our unanimous verdict: the movie is thoroughly enjoyable on all levels. It was as true to the book as a film can be. The non-human characters and special effects were well-done and very realistic looking, and the actors playing the children were good.

There has been some outcry from the anti-religious leftabout the Christian symbolism Lewis employs, and certainly there's no disputing Lewis' own faith. These critics are just as foolishly short-sighted as those complaining about Harry Potter. These movies and books are simply great stories. Harry Potter is not going to brainwash children into satanism, and a visit to Narnia is not going to "brainwash" them into Christianity.

Can Lieberman Save the Democrats?

We're pleased to say we actually voted for Senator Lieberman, when he ousted nutsack RINO Lowell Weicker from the US Senate in 1988. Our joy at Weicker's defeat was tempered by his election as governor of Connecticut soon after.

Lieberman is the kind of Democrat the party needs more of, as he showed again last week by actually supporting the troops in Iraq. His points: we're winning as long as we don't lose our nerve and snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. Naturally, this made Lieberman unpopular with the Defeaticrat faction, as the WaPo reports:
Senate Minority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) is troubled by Lieberman's comments, Reid's aides said. "I've talked to Senator Lieberman, and unfortunately he is at a different place on Iraq than the majority of the American people," Reid said yesterday.
We'd say that it's Reid that's in a different place from the majority of Americans. Despite the massive bombardment of negative stories provided as part of the MSM narrative, most Americans know that the Howard Dean/John Murtha approach would lead to disaster. Although the war is unpopular, what people want is for the US to win it, and the Democratic "cut and run" negativism is not getting the traction they expect.
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) told reporters this week that "I completely disagree" with Lieberman. She added: "I believe that we have a responsibility to speak out if we think that the course of action that our country is on is not making the American people safer, making our military stronger and making the region more stable.
As usual, Pelosi makes no sense at all. First she says she completely disagrees with Lieberman, then she validates everything he said.
"Liberal political groups, including Democracy for America and, are considering ways to retaliate, including backing a challenge to Lieberman in next year's Democratic primary. Former senator and Connecticut governor Lowell P. Weicker Jr., an opponent of the war, has vowed to run as an independent, absent a strong Democratic or Republican challenge to Lieberman.
Rather than listen to Lieberman, these "liberal" groups are determined to run the Democrat party off the cliff. Not surprisingly, Weicker, who used to consider himself presidential material, is eager to regain the limelight. He severed ties with the CT Republican Party to win the governorship as head of his own party. Now, even the Democrat Party is not anti-war enough for Looney Lowell.

Weicker - Sheehan in 2008, because sometimes you feel like a nut. Sometimes you need two.

What If...

We hear hear a daily litany of complaints about what a mess the Iraq war is. Many, particularly non-Iraqis, are pining for the "stability" the ancienne regime brought to the region. Comedy Central's Jon Stewart regularly does a bit entitled "Mess-o-potamia." Hand-wringing abounds, "If only we had never gone in there."

Any suggestion by the President or other administration officials that, even without finding WMD, toppling Saddam might have been A Good Thing is spun as an unwillingness to admit to a mistake. But was it a mistake? In a column on OpinionJournal Holman Jenkins takes a look at what things might be like today if everyone who opposes the war now had opposed it then and prevented Saddam's fall. Extrapolating from the pre-invasion situation:
Let's see: Sanctions have collapsed; the French and Russians are keen on rehabilitating the Iraqi dictator and his military. He benefits from the sharp increase in oil prices, whether or not he still labors under the U.N.'s corrupted and creaky Oil for Food program (most likely it would be gone). The U.S. no-fly zones still exist only on paper, because neighboring countries won't let our planes fly armed. Kurds in the North and Shiites in the South are either preparing for civil war or seeking coexistence with a resurgent Saddam.
It's an interesting speculation.