News and Notes: 12-18-05

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Diana Hsieh's Birthday Conundrum

Fellow Objectivist blogger Diana Hsieh enigmatically tells readers trying to guess her age that, "Hey, I'm a prime number again!" and "I'll be a power of two next year."

Like many other women I know, Diana is too wily to reveal her age so easily: She started counting backwards long ago. She's "3" this year and will be "2" next year.

Who knows how old she is? And who cares, as long as she has many more birthdays? We'll figure out her age sooner or later.


And happy birthday, again, Diana!

Baghdad Bob's New Gig?

The Saudi Arabian Embassy is at it again. Today, I saw the following ad at RealClear Politics. It led to the web site of the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. I lost the exact link, but it was to a form with which to sign up for updates from the embassy and a sidebar with some of talking points taken from these remarks by Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal. This isn't the first time the Saudi government has plied American media with similar propaganda.

Either they think we have now forgotten that many of the September 11, 2001 attackers were Arabs, or Baghdad Bob has just been hired by the embassy. In any case, it is interesting how freely their embassy acts in America, and how hamstrung ours is in Saudi Arabia by comparison. For example, the group blog Cold Fury quotes a State Department document addressing the advisability of American women marrying Saudi men:

Will you be permitted to travel separately from your husband?

Travel by train or plane inside the kingdom requires the permission of the male spouse and the presence of a male family escort. Travel outside the Kingdom is even more restricted. Everyone leaving the Kingdom must have an exit visa. For an American spouse, this visa must be obtained by her Saudi husband. The Saudi spouse must accompany his wife to the airport to assure airport officials that he has given his permission for his wife to travel alone or with the children.

Most American wives believe that the U.S. Embassy can issue exit visas in a pinch. This is not the case. The U.S. Embassy cannot obtain exit visas for American citizens. Passports issued by the Embassy are worthless as travel documents without the mandatory Saudi exit visa. While some more affluent American relatives offer to pay for the American wife to travel independently, this often meets with disapproval from the Saudi husband or family.
"Bush lied. People dyed. Their fingers." -- Mark Steyn

This column lays it on so thick that, if I were a superstitious man, I'd worry that Mark Steyn has jinxed the recent Iraqi election. I'm not superstitious, but I'll save the smack talk, if any, for after the votes are tallied. Color me cautiously optimistic in the meantime.
[E]ven if I was in the mood for a story about two rugged insecure men who find themselves strangely attracted to each other in a dark transgressive relationship that breaks all the rules, who needs Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger when you've got Howard Dean and Abu Musad al-Zarqawi? Yee-haw! And, if that sounds unfair, pick almost any recent statement by a big-time Dem cowboy and tell me how exactly it would differ from the pep talks Zarqawi gives his dwindling band of head-hackers -- Dean arguing that America can't win in Iraq, Barbara Boxer demanding the troops begin withdrawing on Dec. 15, John Kerry accusing American soldiers of terrorizing Iraqi women and children, Jack Murtha declaring that the U.S. Army is utterly broken. Pepper 'em with a handful of "Praise be to Allahs" and any one of those statements could have been uttered by Zarqawi. [italics added]
Ouch! But the best line in a piece worthy of a full read was this: "Bush lied, people dyed. Their fingers." Hee, hee!

Wikipedia Update

The Gaijin Biker did a little googling that I didn't have the time for and came up with some very interesting information concerning both Wikipedia cases I mentioned in last Wednesday's "Around the Web" roundup. Go over there and read the whole thing.
The first thing to note is that "Parents for the Online Safety of Children," the group supposedly outraged by Wikipedia, apparently does not exist. A Google search for its name doesn't turn up a homepage for the organization. In fact, it yields just a few hits -- fourteen when I searched, and Google hid eight of those as too similar to be worth displaying.
His efforts reveal that the same man, one Greg Lloyd Smith, is behind both the QuakeAID suit and the pedophilia suit!

In related news, today's Houston Chronicle ran a column proclaiming Wikipedia's inaccuracy, which stated the following.
The Wikipedia concept holds that the bad material on the site will be pushed out by the good, that users will cleanse the site of inaccuracies and unfairness.

But anybody who thinks that expertise and wisdom necessarily arise from a plethora of voices hasn't listened to drive-time talk radio.

Wikipedia is a Web-based manifestation of the idealistic notion that all speech should be free and that from that freedom good ultimately emerges.
Interestingly, in a time when newspapers are hurting financially due to their compromised credibility, it is an editor (Rex Smith of the Albany, NY, Times-Union) who joins the anti- "new media" bandwagon! There is no need to ask whether, like Armstrong Williams or Doug Bandow, this man has a financial interest in the story that might compromise his objectivity. He even admits this:
But as more people migrate from printed media to the Web, will the revenue that supports the content creators evaporate? If fewer people buy newspapers, newsroom budgets will surely shrink, threatening the quality of the content not only in those papers, but also on the Web.
Perhaps that is why he made no mention of a recent study that found similar error rates for Wikipedia and the venerable Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Those in the "new media" threaten the jobs of those in the "old media" only to the extent that they allow considerations other than objective reporting to affect their delivery of the news. Until then, amateurs will do just as well at their jobs, if not better.

The Pope Who Stole Christmas

I found this Capitalism Magazine article worth a read, especially these paragraphs.
Let's say, for example, that a rich guy puts a big red bow on an $82,000 Cadillac XLR convertible for his wife for Christmas. Aside from creating envy among the neighbors and relatives, what's also created in the first round, automatically, by that $82,000 in spending is exactly $82,000 in new income, with roughly three-quarters of it going to labor. And in due course, by way of successive rounds of spending, that $82,000 turns into three or four times that much in new income, with the vast majority of it, again, going to labor.

The Pope's not happy about any of this. Speaking to a large crowd gathered in St. Peter's Square in early December, just as Christmas sales were getting some traction, Benedict XVI, fully decked out in fancy papal regalia and surrounded by billions in art and assorted treasures, warned against creeping materialism and what he called the "commercial pollution" of the holiday season.

On both counts, economically and morally, the good pontiff may be a bit off base. What's worse than Christmas shopping and its subsequent job creation is inadequate Christmas spending and unemployment. Further, as regards the Pope's disapproval of some guy getting a few sweaters and a snow shovel under the tree at Christmas, it seems that a re-reading of the sentences about the log and the speck is in order at the Vatican.
-- CAV


12-19-05: Fixed some typos.


Vigilis said...

Gus, as a confessed Objectivist do you think Wikipedia's explanation of your philosophy is accurate as far as it goes, for example?

Has Diana Hsieh attained 31 or 63?
Well, not many people in their 60s attend gun training camps. The 3 > 2 convention is humor at her benefit, I take it, as it has a fairly short half-life.

The advisability of American women marrying Saudi men is not devoid of the references to Sharia law (that makes the warnings applicable to other Muslim countries, as well). I personally know an American family submitting to blackmail (support payments to the young, nonworking, physically and mentally able, muslim father) in order to keep their grandchildren in the U.S.

Some would say such indolence and threats are the rare exception. We need wait only 4 or 5 more years to see if a well-orchestrated trend developes. Had it not been for 9-11, many more of these subversive tactics would have

Your postings were provocative, as usual.

There is certainly more good news, however, for objectivist appreciation: Media Bias Is Real, Finds UCLA

Unknown said...

63's not prime.

Gus Van Horn said...


(1) As a professed Objectivist, I find the Wikipedia article in its instantaneous form to be not much better or worse than similar articles I have seen in other encyclopedias. If you really want a better summary of Objectivism, I would recommend this one.

Without getting into the debate over whether the way Wikipedia is edited can reliably produce good articles, the big lesson in the stories I have cited is that one should get one's information from many sources and actively judge the reliability of each source against the rest of one's knowledge.

(2) Diana is, I think, 31, counting forwards.

(3) Blackmail. Nice. What a great "gift to the world" Islam is, eh? I recall a movie from long ago called, Not Without My Daughter, in which a woman who makes the mistake of following her husband to Iran has to smuggle herself and her daughter out. True story.

(4) Thanks for that link. I found it very interesting that they found Drudge "left of center". Their metric was simply to use stories he pointed to, which is almost all he gives them to go on. He often points to lefty stories, however, to make a conservative point, something the study misses.

I don't fault the authors of the study for missing Drudge's political leanings. In fact, I applaud them for mentioning this result and explaining why. That's how a responsible media outlet behaves.

All in all, the motto caveat emptor, while not absolving any media outlet of responsibility, certainly applies to all media consumers.


Unknown said...

Thanks for the birthday wishes! I am indeed 3 going on 2 -- but only if you count backwards from 34. :-)