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Saturday, December 24, 2005

Christmas Zaniness

We saw this years ago, but it's still fun. This version via UnklB:

There are approx. 2 billion children (persons under 18) in the world. However, since Santa doesn't visit children of Muslim, Hindu, Jewish or Buddhist (except maybe in Japan) religions, this reduces the workload to Christmas night to 15% of the total, or 379 million (according to the population reference bureau). At an average (census) rate of 3.5 children per household, that comes to 108 million homes, presuming there is at least one good child in each. Santa has about 31 hours of Christmas to work with, thanks to the different time zones and rotation of the Earth, assuming East to the West (which seems logical). This works out to be 967.7 visits/second. This is to say that for each Christian household with a good child, Santa has 1/1000th of a second to park the sleigh, hop out, jump down the chimney, fill the stockings, distribute the remaining presents under the tree, eat whatever snack that has been left for him, get back up the chimney, jump into the sleigh and get onto the next house. Assuming that each of these 108 millions stops is evenly distributed around the Earth (which, of course, we know to be false, but will accept for the purposes of our calculations), we are now talking about 0.78 miles per household; a total trip of 75.5 million miles, not counting bathroom stops or breaks. This means Santa's sleigh is moving at 650 miles/second--3,000 times the speed of sound. For purpose of comparison, the fastest man made vehicle, the Ulysses space probe, moves at a pokey 27.4 miles/second, and a conventional reindeer can run (at best) 15 mph.

The payload of the sleigh adds another interesting element. Assuming that each child gets nothing more than a medium sized LEGO set (two pounds), the sleigh is carrying over 500 thousand tons, not counting Santa himself. On land, a conventional reindeer can pull no more than 300 pounds. Even granting that the "flying" reindeer can pull 10 times the normal amount, the job can't be done with eight or even nine of them, Santa would need 360,000 reindeer. This increases the payload, not counting the weight of the sleigh, another 54,000 tons, or roughly seven times the weight of the Queen Elizabeth (the ship, not the monarch). A mass of nearly 600,000 tons traveling at 650 miles per second creates enormous air resistance - this would heat up the reindeer in the same fashion as a spacecraft re-entering the earth's atmosphere. The lead pair of reindeer would absorb 14.3 quintillion joules of energy per second each. In short, they would burst into flames almost instantaneously, exposing the reindeer behind them and creating deafening sonic booms in their wake. The entire reindeer team would be vaporized within 4.26 thousandths of a second, or right about the time Santa reached the fifth house on his trip.

Not that it matters, however, since Santa, as a result of accelerating from a dead stop to 650 miles/second in .001 seconds, would be subjected to acceleration forces of 17,000 g's. A 250 pound Santa (which seems ludicrously slim considering all the high calorie snacks he must have consumed over the years) would be pinned to the back of the sleigh by 4,315,015 pounds of force, instantly crushing his bones and organs and reducing him to a quivering blob of pink goo. Therefore, if Santa did exist, he's dead now.

Attention PTG!

Our friend, PTG, at Plains Feeder will certainly want to check out the recent advances in feedlot odor control reported at
Thyme, oregano being used to battle feedlot odors. Oregano and thyme are part of the recipe Vince Varel, Elaine Berry and Jim Wells are using to try to defeat feedlots odors rank enough to wrinkle the stoutest of Nebraska noses. "These spices have been on kitchen cabinet shelves for ever and ever," Varel said, "and they have been shown to be effective as anti-microbial chemicals. It just depends on the dose."
We've heard it called "The Smell of Money," but when it's not your money, the smell of a feedlot is something else. Therefore we can't help but applaud these attempts to spice up the diets of the animals. It's high thyme.

Strange Days

The legal side of the GwoT took a bizarre turn this week in the Jose Padilla case. The DoJ had been attempting to move Padilla and his case to the criminal courts, as demanded by the ACLU and their ilk, but the Appeals Court blocked that. The MSM stories fit the facts and comment smoothly into the Yet Another Defeat for Bush paradigm, but there is more to it than that.
OpinionJournal: Fortunately, in the Padilla case, an appeals court is now forcing the Administration to show the courage of its own convictions. In an extraordinary ruling issued Wednesday, a unanimous three-judge panel of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, rejected the Department of Justice's request to vacate its earlier ruling, which said that the President "unquestionably" has the right to detain U.S. citizens who happen to be enemy combatants--a right the Administration has said repeatedly is indispensable to fighting this war.
Indeed, the opinion, written by Judge Michael Luttig, was a stinging rebuke of the DoJ move. Luttig was frequently mentioned as a possible SCOTUS appointment, and he's nobody's moonbat. So like the Harriet Miers nomination, this "defeat" actually forces the adminstration to stand and fight for its principles. Ultimately, the "defeat" of Miers as a SCOTUS nominee led to the better outcome of Judge Alito as a nomine and, we're predicting, an excellent Justice.

The issue is whether American citizens who are enemy combatants can be designated as such by the president, detained and treated outside the normal criminal justice system. As the Opinion Journal article says:
In its 2004 Hamdi decision, the Supreme Court upheld the authority of the President to detain enemy combatants, including U.S. citizens. The difference between Hamdi and Padilla is that the American in the former case was captured on a battlefield in Afghanistan and the citizen in the latter was picked up in the U.S. Given the nature of modern technology and terrorist strategy, where the U.S. homeland is a major target of attack, the enemy's location is an illusory distinction.
Indeed, in a war against terrorists the US homeland is as much a battlefield as is Afghanistan or Iraq or... The fact is the Administration won on the merits in the previous cases. Now Padilla will almost certainly be heard by the SCOTUS. The Bush DoJ will have to make its case there, but it's very likely to win. President Bush could use some more "defeats" like the Appeals verdict.

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Merry Christmas

Tycho provides this link to a video of a great, musical Christmas lights display timed with the song Wizards of Winter.

Merry Christmas to all.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Glad You Didn't Take It Personally

New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer has made a name for himself with agressive, high profile prosecutions. In some cases, Martha Stewart's "insider trading" for example, there turned out to be less to the charges than claimed. Earlier this year Spitzer held a press conference promising a criminal indictment for fraud against Hank Greenberg An indictment never came and the case was quietly dropped the day after Thanksgiving (subscription link).

In response to Spitzer's public smear of a respected colleague John C. Whitehead wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal decrying the tactic. That might have been the end of it, but today Whitehead continued the story with this bizarre revelation:
After reading my op-ed piece [last April], Mr. Spitzer tried to phone me. I was traveling in Texas but he reached me early in the afternoon. After asking me one or two questions about where I got my facts, he came right to the point. I was so shocked that I wrote it all down right away so I would be sure to remember it exactly as he said it. This is what he said:

"Mr. Whitehead, it's now a war between us and you've fired the first shot. I will be coming after you. You will pay the price. This is only the beginning and you will pay dearly for what you have done. You will wish you had never written that letter."
I tried to interrupt to say he was doing to me exactly what he'd been doing to others, but he wouldn't be interrupted. He went on in the same vein for several more sentences and then abruptly hung up. I was astounded. No one had ever talked to me like that before. It was a little scary.
Indeed. Don't worry though, once Spitzer becomes governor of New York, he's bound to calm down.

Hate Speech

The term "hate speech" today has become little more than a club to beat those who don't toe the PC line. Ann Coulter, never one to evade controversy, is a frequent target of noisy demonstrators seeking to silence her views. Unlike the Dixie Chicks or the Hollywood Leftist du Jour, people really are trying to stop her from speaking. Not just getting upset by what she says or refusing to listen.

We've seen leftists accuse Ann of "hate speech," but we've never actually seen anything resembling it in her columns. We suppose this is the kind of thing that gets their goat:
Which brings me to this week's scandal about No Such Agency spying on "Americans." I have difficulty ginning up much interest in this story inasmuch as I think the government should be spying on all Arabs, engaging in torture as a televised spectator sport, dropping daisy cutters wantonly throughout the Middle East and sending liberals to Guantanamo.
Now we were laughing so hard when we read this, that we really missed the "hateful" aspect at first.

Hint for liberals: this is hyperbole for the purpose of humor. Second hint for liberals: it's not supposed to be funny to you, because it's a joke about you. You don't have to make your reservation for Camp Gitmo. Any televised torture will surely be restricted to cable and probably pay-per-view. Admittedly, she might not be kidding about that "spying on all Arabs."

Thursday, December 22, 2005

NSA and Wiretaps

In an obvious bid to damage GWB and to torpedo the renewal of the Patriot Act, the New York Times published leaked information about national security operations. We wait patiently for the Times to start the drumbeat for Fitzgerald's grand jury to investigate the source of these leaks. Apparently they don't see exposure of real security information to be as dangerous as revealing that a woman who drove to work at CIA headquarters every day worked at the CIA.

We hear lots of accusations that the administrations actions, which were tapping phone calls of terrorists were "illegal." However, as OpinionJournal reports:
The truth is closer to the opposite. What we really have here is a perfect illustration of why America's Founders gave the executive branch the largest measure of Constitutional authority on national security. They recognized that a committee of 535 talking heads couldn't be trusted with such grave responsibility. There is no evidence that these wiretaps violate the law. But there is lots of evidence that the Senators are "illegally" usurping Presidential power--and endangering the country in the process.

The allegation of Presidential law-breaking rests solely on the fact that Mr. Bush authorized wiretaps without first getting the approval of the court established under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978. But no Administration then or since has ever conceded that that Act trumped a President's power to make exceptions to FISA if national security required it. FISA established a process by which certain wiretaps in the context of the Cold War could be approved, not a limit on what wiretaps could ever be allowed.

The courts have been explicit on this point, most recently in In Re: Sealed Case, the 2002 opinion by the special panel of appellate judges established to hear FISA appeals. In its per curiam opinion, the court noted that in a previous FISA case (U.S. v. Truong), a federal "court, as did all the other courts to have decided the issue [our emphasis], held that the President did have inherent authority to conduct warrantless searches to obtain foreign intelligence information." And further that "we take for granted that the President does have that authority and, assuming that is so, FISA could not encroach on the President's constitutional power."
It seems the President is likely to win any court case on his power to tap al-Qaeda phones without a court order.

George Will, while not claiming the wiretaps were illegal, argues that they were a mistake. In Will's view Bush should have asked for the authority, because he certainly would have gotten it:
On the assumption that Congress or a court would have been cooperative in September 2001, and that the cooperation could have kept necessary actions clearly lawful without conferring any benefit on the nation's enemies, the president's decision to authorize NSA's surveillance without the complicity of a court or Congress was a mistake. Perhaps one caused by this administration's almost metabolic urge to keep Congress unnecessarily distant and hence disgruntled.
Well, maybe. We're more on board with Roger Snowden's take on this. The key thing is to win and that requires nimble intelligence gathering, because there really are people trying to kill us.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Union to New York: Drop Dead

Mrs. Abe's sister and her family are currently visiting New York City, and we certainly appreciate everything the Transit Workers Union (TWU) is doing to make these French visitors feel right at home. Ironically, the place they work in France was also hit by a strike today, so it's almost like they never left.

Practically every time we go to France there's some strike or other action: burning GM crops; trashing a MacDonald's; dumping tank trucks of wine on the highway; and so on. Generally, the actions are illegal, but no one ever seems to face significant punishment over these things, and the owners of the property are just out of luck.

New York businesses are losing an estimated $400 million a day in business due to the illegal transit strike. A judge is fining the union $1 million a day for the strike, but that seems like small potatoes compared to the damage they are doing. They've timed it for maximum damage, of course, during the "holiday season" as the PC crowd requires us to call it.

Of course one can't help but be sympathetic for those poor workers, struggling to get by, as the Wall Street Journal (subscription link) reports:
Today TWU bus drivers earn, on average, $63,000 annually, while subway motormen make $54,000 and subway cleaners $40,000. Workers get full health benefits, make no contributions to insurance premiums and can retire after 25 years of service or at age 55. The MTA has an unfunded pension liability of $1 billion. Given the strike, one might think the MTA is asking for significant givebacks of these perks. Hardly. It asked to push the retirement age back to 62 for new workers but dropped that demand and is now merely asking that they contribute 6% of their pre-tax salaries toward their pension for their first 10 years on the job, as well as pay 1% of salary for health insurance. By contrast, the TWU demanded that the MTA lower retirement age to 50 for its current workers and grant 8% wage increases over the next three years.
Admittedly, the cost of living is high in New York (and this is a big reason why), but this is 25% above the pay for comparable jobs in the private sector in New York. And that's before the rich benefit package.

In 1980 we interviewed for a job as a professor at a university on Long Island. The salary for the job, which required a PhD in chemistry, was $14,000 per year. At the time the garbage collectors in the city made $20,000, and they were on strike. Our guess is that the educational requirements for the garbage jobs were somewhat lower than for the college professor jobs.

Governor Pataki of New York fancies himself Presidential Material, but has yet to do anything to distinguish himself (in a postive way). Elliot Spitzer has been trying to build up his presidential resume by prosecuting everyone in sight, but apparently doesn't see anyone here to prosecute. Mayor Bloomberg has caved to this kind of thing before and seems to have no stomach to defend the New York taxpayers against the depredations of the public sector unions. Come on, boys, show us you deserve your current jobs, enforce the law.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Big News

Microsoft to Drop Windows Support, Refocus on Core Markets:
Microsoft has announced that will officially drop support for Windows in 2009, a company spokesperson has said. "Customers using Windows should move to a more modern operating system, such as Linux or the Mac OS, as we are going to stop
shipping Windows in 2007 and stop all support for all versions of Windows in 2009," said Steve Ballmer of Microsoft.

The reason for the move, long anticipated by industry analysts* has to do with the mounting costs of supporting all of the myriad patches and updates to keep Windows operating.
More fun where that came from, including a few zingers aimed at Linix and Apple.

I Don't Know Art, But I Know What I Like

We're not a big affictionado of art, but do enjoy the occasional visit to a gallery. We're especially fond of the Impressionists. Some aspects of "modern art," however, leave us rather cold. We did enjoy this story about an art expert's attempt to identify a particular work:
Art for Art's Sake: The director of the State Art Museum of Moritzburg in Saxony-Anhalt, Katja Schneider, suggested the painting was by the Guggenheim Prize-winning artist Ernst Wilhelm Nay. "It looks like an Ernst Wilhelm Nay. He was famous for using such blotches of colour," Dr Schneider confidently asserted. The canvas was actually the work of Banghi, a 31-year-old female chimp at the local zoo.
We've actually suspected that of a number of paintings we've seen in galleries. So we're not too surprised Dr. Schneider was tripped up by the talented chimp. Perhaps she can book a show of Banghi's work at the museum. (H/T BotW)

Monday, December 19, 2005

Taranto Imitates Abe

Last night I commented about President Bush's speech on Ryne's blog Panhandle Pundit: Tonight's Speech On Iraq:
Perhaps this will turn out to be the political equivalent of Muhammed Ali's "Rope a Dope" strategy. He's been leaning on the ropes as the MSM and Dems threw punch after punch. Now he's fighting back (at last). He may have given them enough rope to hang themselves.
Today James Taranto at Best of the Web Today sounds a similar theme in Dopes Get Roped:
Watching President Bush's political recovery on Iraq, one is tempted to think that this has all been part of a rope-a-dope strategy. In recent weeks Democrats have taken a host of outrageous positions on Iraq: John Kerry* accuses our troops of "terrorizing kids and children." Howard Dean says victory is "just plain wrong." On Friday the House voted 279-109 in favor of a resolution "expressing the commitment of the House of Representatives to achieving victory in Iraq," which means that 108 Democrats and socialist Bernie Sanders are now on record opposing victory. (Fifty-nine Dems voted for victory, and 32 of them, along with two Republicans, voted "present.")
Not that we're suggesting Taranto copied our theme. It's just that great minds tend to think alike. :)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Danger: Success

The rabid anti-war left has lured the Democrats into painting themselves into a corner on Iraq. Since the 2004 campaign they have placed themselves in the position of profitting from and hoping for bad news. Now, even with the help of the major news media, it's getting harder and harder to conceal how well things are really going in Iraq. Mark Steyn calls them to task:
One day Iraq will be a G7 member hosting the Olympics in the world's No. 1 luxury vacation resort of Fallujah, and the Defeaticrat Party will still be running around screaming it's a quagmire. It's not just that Iraq is going better than expected, but that it's a huge success that's being very deftly managed: The timeframe imposed on the democratic process turns out to have worked very well -- the transfer of sovereignty, the vote on a constitutional assembly, the ratification of the constitution, the vote for a legislature -- and, with the benefit of hindsight, it now looks like an ingeniously constructed way to bring the various parties on board in the right order: first the Kurds, then the Shia, now the Sunni. That doesn't leave many folks over on the other side except Zarqawi and Dean. What do the two have in common? They're both foreigners, neither of whom have the slightest interest in the Iraqi people.
Or perhaps it was all a cleverly managed plot by Karl Rove to manuever the Democrats into supporting the wrong side? You'll want to read the entire Steyn article.