Another Useless Car Chase

2 Florida Deputies Killed in Car Chase | New York Times

Statistics on car chases are unequivocal: they cause far more havoc and damage than serve justice. In fact, they don’t serve justice at all. Suspects, who are clearly not bright people, are easily traced through records and apprehended at home. It will be interesting to see how this remarkable tragedy will affect policy.

One wonders why American policy is invariably born of tragedy at all.  

Upgrade to a Slow Computer

Windows XP Significantly Outperforms Vista, Tests Show | Windows | InformationWeek

Wow. This is truly unbelievable. Information Week conducted tests to show that Windows XP outperforms Vista–Microsoft’s upgrade to XP–in every category, even if the computer is equipped with all of the latest hardware. This is the greatest testimony to Microsoft’s monopoly power. The company is forcing computer makers like Dell and HP to sell an inferior product. Instead of suffering losses, it is recording higher profits, to boot! 

My upgrade to Leopard was not totally smooth, but now that I have worked out all the kinks, it’s truly phenomenal. This thing rocks. I think I will stay with Apple a little while longer. They actually deliver something for the price they charge.

Addicted to Apple Macintosh

Yes, I knew I was addicted to my mac, but thanks to a web site, I now have a quantitative measure of this addiction.

58%How Addicted to Apple Are You?

San Jose Dating

Crime and the Punishment of Municipalities

Detroit declared most dangerous US city | Yahoo! News

The American obsession with rankings and the “competition” that rankings are believed to spur is so fervent, so strong and so overwhelming that any ranking–no matter how unscientific, how thoroughly biased or how flawed–is bound to get press. The college football and basketball rankings, the US News & World Report’s annual college rankings, hospital rankings, etc., etc., etc. So many rankings exist that they have obscured the more important question of whether all universities, hospitals or whatever are competent at all. After all, overall competence and excellence is the goal of standards, not individual competence or excellence. Who cares if you have 50 good universities (or even 200), if 1000 universities are lousy? A thousand competent hospitals do much more for public health than five stellar ones.

The 14th annual  City Crime Rankings: Crime in Metropolitan America published by Congressional Quarterly threatens to be the most irresponsible of such rankings primarily because it is published by a trusted source. When a report on crime is anticipated by such criticism from the highest sources on criminology, the reasons why anyone gives it press become baffling. The criticism included in the above article include:

The study drew harsh criticism even before it came out. The American Society of Criminology launched a pre-emptive strike Friday, issuing a statement attacking it as “an irresponsible misuse” of crime data.  

Critics also complain that numbers don’t tell the whole story because of differences among cities.

“You’re not comparing apples and oranges; you’re comparing watermelons and grapes,” said Rob Casey, who heads the FBI section that puts out the Uniform Crime Report that provides the data for the Quitno report.The FBI posted a statement on its Web site criticizing such use of its statistics.”These rough rankings provide no insight into the numerous variables that mold crime in a particular town, city, county, state, or region,” the FBI said. “Consequently, they lead to simplistic and/or incomplete analyses that often create misleading perceptions adversely affecting communities and their residents.”

But, most appalling is the CQ Press’s own insistence and admission that the study is worthless:

 CQ Press spokesman Ben Krasney said details of the weighting system were proprietary.    

Thus, the publisher asserts that it is propounding a hypothesis–their statistical model–that they refuse to have tested independently. This runs contrary to all scientific principles of inquiry. In all sciences–including social sciences like sociology–openness is the most essential ingredient. Without it, hypotheses cannot be tested independently in order to be verified. Without independent verification, there is no truth. By making the hypothesis proprietary, CQ Press is disallowing scrutiny and forbidding independent verification. Thus, CQ Press propagates an untested notion, a falsehood. In effect, it is acting as a propagandist. 

Hopefully other silly rankings will soon be discredited by similar confession of inadequacy by their publishers. 

Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Good or Bad?

BBC NEWS | Americas | Iran ban for Garcia Marquez novel

One wonders what happened to those unlucky 5000 people who managed to buy copies of one of Marquez’s lesser known works. The appeal of Marquez’s work in Iran is abundantly manifest because his works are suffused with a disdain for Spanish colonialism specifically and imperialism in general. In as much, they are grist for a regime that frames its repressive methods and its catastrophic failures in the context of the struggle against Western imperialism. 

Memories of My Melancholy Whores is such a wonderful title. The content of the novel could not possibly differ significantly from Marquez’s other writings. One Hundred Years of Solitude contains many stories of men who were ruined by whores, men who discovered their manhood with whores and men who fell in love with whores. Hence, the Iranian government’s objection to the title and the content of Memories of My Melancholy Sweethearts (the sanitized title) seems especially out of place. After all, the story is ultimately that of the salvation of a pervert at the age of 90. Furthermore, the following quote from Solitude clearly demonstrates that there is just as much content in Solitude that would be deemed objectionable to Islamic law.

…until he heard some old man tell the tale of the man who had married his aunt, who was also his cousin, and whose son ended up being his own grandfather. “Can a person marry his own aunt?” he asked, startled. “He not only can do that,” a soldier answered him, “but we are fighting this war against the priests so that a person can marry his own mother.” 

Hence, Marquez’s seemingly favorable depiction of incest was deemed acceptable in Iran, but the story of a 90-year-old pervert who falls in love with an innocent girl is apparently taboo. 

What tangled webs we weave when we first choose to lie, the famous saying goes. The complexity of this web pales in comparison to the web woven by religious zealots who insist on reconciling their backward and repressive ways with modern philosophy. Daniel Patrick Moynihan famously said,

It is quite possible to live with uncertainty, with the possibility, even the likelihood, that one is wrong. But beware of certainty where none exists. Ideological certainty easily degenerates into insistence upon ignorance.

It is very clear exactly what it is that religious zealots, Islamic or otherwise, insist upon these days.

The Deli is Dead, The Deli is Dead, Long Live the Internet

KosherChefsDiet is a remarkable new service. They deliver Kosher California cuisine (my ascription) to your door daily, fresh or frozen.

They targeted me in one of their junk mail campaigns. Without a doubt, they must have obtained my information from organizations like the World Jewish Congress and other Jewish organizations who must have targeted me because I am a Jewish man who lives in Beverly Hills, who has a good credit rating and who has donated to Jewish charities in the past.kosherchefs.com“The past” is, alas, a rather long span of time. Though I have not contributed any money to these organizations in years, past donations and my prestigious zip code must place me in that class of people who are most likely to pay $27 or more per day to have gourmet Kosher food delivered to their houses.

This cost is considerably more than the standard “Jewish” food for which delis in New York are famous. The price is higher because kosherchefsdiet.com serves California cuisine: the latest varieties in healthy, fusion culinary delights designed especially to help people lose weight. 

The fact that this luxurious service is based in New York suggests that even New Yorkers have finally fallen pray to the sedentary life spent in cars and office chairs that has plagued the rest of the country for the past twenty years. No more walking to work or even to the subway station. Worse yet, no more kibbitzing over nosh at Nathan’s or the Carnegie Deli. Potato kugel? That’s for the birds. The modern Jew prefers small portions of low-cal potato puree, instead. Yiddish and pickled herring in sour cream are for boat people. Kosher needs to be as modern as Napa Valley, and if people can’t go to Napa Valley, then Napa Valley is going to come to them.

In Kosher form, no less.

I don’t know about you, but this is exactly what I have been dreaming about….even praying for.

Ocean’s 13

I had the incredible misfortune of being stuck with this remarkable turkey of a movie on an Air India flight back to Los Angeles from Frankfurt. What is perhaps more remarkable than the fact that the writing is so phenomenally poor is that the movie has so many stars, young and old. It is entirely understandable why Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Matt Damon would want to make this jerk-off movie. They have rather grand lifestyles to sustain. It is impossible to understand why fine actors with fine legacies–like Al Pacino, Carl Reiner and Elliott Gould–would voluntarily elect to participate in such a pathetic excuse for product placement.

This movie is nothing but one long commercial for Las Vegas, cell phones, Oprah Winfrey and Maxim magazine. The plot is not just stupid. It is insulting. Everyone is willing to suspend disbelief at the movies, but how can anyone believe that it is possible to obtain a subway tunneling drill in order to simulate a magnitude 4 earthquake on the Vegas strip and still have a profitable heist? Even if one were to believe that the earth moving equipment could somehow be secreted underground or even usurped from the controls of city workers, how on earth could an operation like this veer off course for weeks without anyone’s notice? And, why the hell could they evade attention when they caused countless other earthquakes along the way?

None of this is as stupid as gimmicks like “magnetrons” and artificial intelligence clusters that evaluate the legitimacy of big casino payouts by performing biometrics on the winners–in real time.

I did not suffer this bomb nearly as much as people who paid money to see it in movie theaters. I donned my headphones only when I could not sleep on and after my computer’s and my iPod’s batteries had expired. This movie movie was so bad that I was tempted to exit the airborne theater, nevertheless.

Steve Soderbergh has made many great movies in his time, such as SchizopolisSolarisGood Night and Good Luck, to name a few of many. Almost all of them have been quite profitable (and cast with George Clooney). It is awfully puzzling, then, why he would choose to work with this remarkably childish script. A six-year-old could probably not sit through this incredibly shallow and poorly veiled commercial. 

Soderbergh needs neither the money nor the publicity. Why do people make these movies? 

Battle Fatigue

2007 Toll A Record For U.S. In Iraq | washingtonpost.com

The statistics in this article are encouraging, but hardly indicative of any comfortable end to hostilities in Iraq. What Lt. Col Dale Kuehl says of the cost at which the current scenario has been achieved expresses the fundamental problem of cost that nobody wishes to address.

“I am confident that we have established a much more secure environment for the people we have been tasked to protect,” Kuehl added. “However, a part of me is afraid to believe what we have accomplished, knowing what it has cost to get us to today.”

Is any price for victory a fair price to pay? What remains elusive in popular discourse on this military intervention remains its cost. The absence of this discussion is an absolute travesty for it is the price that determines whether a military campaign is a victory or not. Vietnam was not a military defeat because military progress was not made. Rather, it was a loss because the price paid for the meager victories on the battlefield were so staggeringly large.

There is an awfully dear lot that hinges on the ability of the American populace to weigh the gains against the losses (both mortal and financial) that have been incurred by the United States. Do people avoid the analysis because they lack the ability to carry it out, or because they do not acknowledge the costs involved?