Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Friday, July 30, 2004

NATO Approves Iraq Force

Not much in the way of details in the story, but it represents a positive step forward for multilateralism in Iraq.

Money quote:

"The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said an agreement was reached but did not explain how it resolved a dispute between France and the United States over command and control."

So here's the run-down. America gets together with a bunch of military allies and says, "We should all work on training Iraqi military forces so they can be self-sustaining." France says "only if we can be in charge of all your troops."


One supreme irony of the whole "multilateralism" argument against the Iraq invasion was that even if the UN had sent forces into Iraq, the citizenship composition of the coalition would not have been significantly different. When the UN invades, it's the US plus some other countries invading. When the UN conducts a peace-keeping operation, it's the US plus some other countries conducting a peace-keeping operation. That's not me being arrogant, that's me being aware of what constitutes a "UN presence." But France insists on being in charge of the largely US troops. Why? Because they're France. Very persuasive reasoning.

Global Warming?

If you listen to Neal Boortz long enough, you'll hear his thoughts on global warming - basically, that it's just a myth touted by eco-freaks who want to cripple America economically by scaring people into things like the Kyoto accords.

This story is all about certain birds near the UK which have not been nesting, and therefore not breeding, and therefore the population will take a major hit. The story quotes "scientists" as linking the failure directly to global warming. I put "scientists" in quotes because only five people are actually quoted. Two of them - one a warden and one the director of Friends of the Earth - may be, but aren't necessarily, scientists. The story doesn't present anything like a dissenting scientific view. And I somehow doubt that the director of a group named "Friends of the Earth" is after objectivity.

I mention the story to reject Boortz' reasoning, at least in part. Boortz argues that, although a lot of scientists have signed on to UN-sponsored research regarding global warming, there is reason to believe that many of the scientists were basically bullied into signing it. He cites researchers who a) reject most critically the UN research, and who b) are therefore the subject of ad hominem attacks and professional ostracism. Boortz' research is good as far as it goes, but I think it only goes so far as to prove that there are, in fact, dissenting opinions.

We are, therefore, faced with a choice, and I will analogize that choice to another of Neal's favorite topics: the War in iraq. Neal argues that we had intelligence suggesting Saddam had WMDs. There was always the danger that the intelligence was faulty. But Bush did the responsible thing by erring on the side of caution. Because it's much better to invade Iraq and depose modern history's bloodiest tyrant and discover you were wrong about WMDs than to not invade and discover he had them, he sold them to al-Qaeda, and a nuke goes off in Boise, ID (because you know that's where they're going to strike next).

But Neal abandons this logic when it comes to global warming, in spite of much wider-ranging potential effects. If al-Qaeda blows up Boise, we lose 5 million people (my best estimate of the population of Boise), and that's a tragedy, but that's as far as it goes. If the whole Earth turns into a charred raisin, we lose everybody. Oops.

I am not encouraging panic. I am not even encouraging the Kyoto accords, because I don't even know what they say (and I suspect many proponents of the accords also don't know what they say). I certainly am not encouraging people to watch The Day After Tomorrow and try to shape national policy around a fictional disaster movie. That would be just plain nutty.

I am saying that I'm perfectly comfortable with the directly competing forces of eco-nuts who don't actually commit crimes, and the capitalists who want to use natural resources. As long as we have both, I think we will strike the proper balance between unfettered capitalism, which I suspect would kill us all rather quickly, and unfettered hippy-ism, which would have us living in trees and hemp pants. On the microscopic level, there will be problems. Some companies will pollute, and people will get sick. Some environmental regulations will be foolish, and people will lose their homes or lives in California wildfires. These are tragic consequences, most people will agree (I know some eco-terrorists aren't the least bit disappointed with California homes being destroyed, but I don't exactly respect their opinions). But faced with the choice between government micro-management to strike the perfect balance in every case, and letting the capitalists butt heads with the enviros, I definitely prefer the latter.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Blogging High

In order to show solidarity with fellow right-winger Rush Limbaugh (who, like Sobek, likes to eat liberals), I'm blogging while under the influence.

Sobek "Peace Dragon" Pundit. I've got the munchies for some Liberals!!!

Update: Vicodin is not all it's cracked up to be.

To be fair, I only took one of the two recommended tablets, and then I fell asleep soon afterwards (it was 11:00 at night), and didn't wake up until long after the six hour effective period, so maybe it's more entertaining than I make it out to be. But personally, I didn't see the big deal.

I may have gotten myself an ulcer. The timing couldn't be worse, because I'm driving to California this week-end, and I can't be on Vicodin and drive at the same time, so I've got a big, delicious bottle of powerful narcotics that I can't use if I don't want to kill myself or others.

The doctors I saw thought it was weird that I didn't come in for treatment until four days after my symptoms appeared, but I think the "I'll tough it out" prize definitely goes to the guy in the room next to me. On Friday, he was working on his car, and as he was cleaning up afterwards he somehow got a piece of metal in his eye. He didn't come in to the emergency room until yesterday (Wednesday) evening. Wow. If any of my five or six readers have an "I'll tough it out" story, please feel free to share.

Update: Over the week-end I spent more time in the emergency room, where I discovered a fascinating drug called Dilaudid (I assume I'm spelling that right) which, I am informed, is ten times more powerful than morphine. While happily sailing that particular wave, the doctors decided I have shingles, and gave me more Vicodin. I still need to talk to my doctor here in Nevada to see if she needs to check for ulcers in addition to shingles. In the mean time, as long as I take my pain medication regularly I am (mostly) fine, and no one needs to worry about me. That's all the information I have as of now.

Hugh Hewitt Got Skillz

At the DNC he interviewed Kate Michelman, president of NARLA pro-choice America.

The man knows how to interview. It's incredible. I admit the possibility that maybe Michelman just isn't a very polished speaker, or that she was nervous or something. But it looks like Hewitt is just supremely skilled at getting people to say that which they least want to say: what they actually think. Let's check out some highlights.

"And the rights that we have taken decades to win, women’s rights, worker’s rights, civil rights, protecting the environment, are all at risk in the next presidential election, if George Bush is re-elected."

It looks like Katie has just admitted (and we will see this again) that these rights are not, in fact, in the Constitution. The right to free speech, for example, was never "won." It is expressly in the Constitution, and does not have to be won. Same thing with the right to keep and bear arms.

"Well, in my personal opinion, I believe that gay people should have the right to marry."

"Should have" means "don't have." Again, a tacit admission that the right does not, in fact, exist.

"I don’t think we should tamper with the constitution at all. "

Gotcha. No tampering. That which is there is there, and that which is not there, is not there. I'm with you so far. As Hugh points out, she didn't actually, technically, answer his question. She answered someone else's question, specifically, "Should we ratify a Federal Marriage Amendment."

"What I do believe is that gay people…um…people who are gay and lesbian, should not be prohibited from…you know…deciding that they are…uh…are…are interested in marrying, and shouldn’t be denied to right to do so."

Here we're getting some mixed messages. She starts out with arguing that gays shouldn't be prohibited from deciding they're interested in marriage. No problems. There's no reason to believe that anyone, government or otherwise, can prevent someone from deciding that they are interested in doing something. But that's such a watered-down sentence, I think what she was originally getting at is that gays shouldn't be prohibited from actually marrying, not just deciding to be interested in marriage. That is, government should not intervene to block the process of marriage.

If that's all this were, then I think we'd have a legitimate equal protection issue. We should all be equally protected from the government intervening in our affairs.

Then she ends her "sentence" by saying gays shouldn't be "denied the right" to [get married]. i substitute the words in brackets because again, I don't think she's really after a right to decide to be interested in something, but in a right to actually do that something.

And note that an affirmative right to marry is not the same thing as the negative right to have the government stay away while you're getting married. But since "marriage" as we're discussing it on the national level refers to the legal recognition by the state of a relationship, there's not really any such thing as that negative right. You can't say "Government, stay out of my business by marrying me to someone." Well, you can, as Michelman has just demonstrated, but you're being quite inconsistent when you do so.

But most interestingly, she arguing that gays should have the right to be married (to other gay people, of course). Therefore a) they don't have that right, b) but they should, and c) the Constitution should not actually be changed. I'm not quite sure how she's going to reconcile these three propositions.

"Well, I would welcome the rights of gay and lesbian people to…to carry out their own personal lives without…you know…intrusion by the courts or the government."

Here again we've got that same inconsistency. The rights in question do not exist (otherwise they would not need to be welcomed). And she's gotten back to this intrusion thing, even though it's logically inconsistent. "I don't want the government intruding in my life by not changing my legal status!"

Here's the key quote:

"I don’t think that’s a fair characterization of as you call it the left, if people who have fought for decades for rights that were not granted or recognized by the constitution, among them being women, African-Americans, other minorities, disabled people, now gay and lesbians, they have had to fight for constitutional protections, and that’s what our constitution is about. It should be protecting the rights of the individuals…"

Again, we're talking about rights that aren't there in the Constitution. They didn't exist. But now, of course, they do - if I discriminate against you because of your gender (and if I am a public entity) then you can sue me based on THE CONSTITUTION. But please note, the Constitution did not originally grant or recognize such a right (BTW, I don't think the Constitution "grants" rights, but merely delineates those areas where the government cannot take away pre-existing rights), and now it does, and therefore the Constitution has been changed. According to Michelman, that's a bad thing.

Hewitt later points out that blacks have equal protection because an Amendment was added. Women can vote because an Amendment was added. In other words, the Constitution didn't recognize a right, then it was amended, and now it does recognize a right. Michelman doesn't want an Amendment (is it a coincidence that the amendment she opposes doesn't jive with her personal politics?), but she does want to actually change the rights recognized by the Constitution. In other words, she wants to amend it. But without actually "amending" it. Do you see the distinction? Me neither.

Read the Hewitt interview, which is fantastic. If I could paint people into corners with their own words so effectively, I'd never stop interviewing people. Then, because I am a crocodile, I would eat them.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Liberal Larry writes the single funniest thing (other than Ted Kennedy, who I suspect was being unintentionally funny) I've seen on the DNC thus far. 

"And Hillary - woo, baby! She gets sexier every time I see her. Doesn't she look hot in yellow? It's very French. I only wish they had fixed that horrible, screeching feedback sound that drowned out her entire speech."

Liberal Larry's site is fantastic.  I strongly encourage everyone to check it out.

Senator Waffles on Film

There's a new movie out, produced by conservatives, which basically takes footage of John Kerry discussing his position on the war in Iraq. Watch it for free here.

The reaction on the conservative half of the blogosphere is somewhat predictable.

I can't find the quote I'm looking for, but basically the reaction from the Kerry camp is, "This isn't fair, it's taken out of context, it's manipulative, it tries to boil a complex issue down to a simple yes or no." We'll just pretend that's an actual quote, and deconstruct it. (Ah, journalism at its finest).

First, "taken out of context" is only half of a rebuttal. Rather, it's an assertion, to be backed up with some evidence. I'd like to see Kerry, for example, go through the quotes and explain what, precisely, he meant by them, and how the video's use is therefore misleading. That's a rebuttal. 'That's out of context!" is a knee-jerk assertion, nothing more. And given that they're your guy's words, I think the burden of persuading America that they mean something other than their plain import is on you.

Also, I imagine there's a good number of conservatives out there who would argue, "But Michael Moore did it in Fahrenheit 9/11!" Again, this is not an argument. This is kindergarten "he hit me first" justification. Clearly, if the charge is true, pointing out that others are doing the same thing doesn't make it less true. Do the ends justify the means? I guess one way to look at the situation is this: Michael Moore's propagandist appeal to emotion unfairly distorts presidential politics, but only affects the supremely shallow/uncritical. If the Kerry film only affects the extremely shallow/uncritical in the opposite direction, we're really just restoring the status quo. I don't think that's a particularly impressive line of reasoning, because I think the movies will simply serve to further polarize the polarized. And no, I don't think the ends justifies the means. I think the best antidote to falsehood is truth, not falsehoods which operate in the opposite direction.

On to the final point, which is about complex issues versus black and white.

Issues are complicated. The decision to go to war is especially complicated. There is no easy answer, and America really has risked quite a lot. Perhaps Iraq will descend into tyranny again, and our efforts will be in vain. Worse than in vain, because we will have spilt American blood, and innocent Iraqi blood, and angered people (although I doubt we've angered many who didn't already hate us), both at home and abroad. On the other hand, perhaps Iraq will become a stable democracy, a model for all other Middle Eastern countries to emulate. Anyone who tells you definitively one way or another is blowing smoke, because we're talking about the future, here, and political science is the "science" of making educated guesses about the future, not about perfect clarity.

Further complicating the decision are factors such as when, how much force to deploy, how best to get allies in on the project, to what degree do we care what the UN says about things, and once we win (okay, that part was a foregone conclusion), what next? And all of these questions are individually very complicated, and we lump them together into the most complicated question of all - to bomb or not to bomb?

Those who praise Kerry for being "nuanced" are not fools for appreciating nuance. I can't fault them for recognizing a simple truth. Stuff is complicated.

My complaint, rather, is the implied suggestion running through the nuancing that we should never take any steps unless all nuance has been resolved, until we have a perfectly workable solution, until we can infallibly prognosticate unmitigated success. As gray as the question is, it all boils down to one very black or white question. To bomb or not to bomb? Either we sit idly by for another decade and let Saddam keep butchering his own people, or we take him out of power. Either we enforce more than a decade of UN resolutions, or we don't. Either we take an affirmative step towards making good on our promise to deal harshly with terrorist-sponsoring states, or we don't. These questions are black and white. And they are all the action questions. Either we do something, or we do nothing. The grey area questions are "how?" and "when?" but those are the thinking questions, not the action questions, and no amount of thinking will ever get anything done.

I object to the implied belief that George W. Bush took action, therefore he can't see shades of grey. I object to the claim that John Kerry says he sees shades of grey, and therefore he will know when to take action.

And fundamentally, that's my biggest problem with Kerry's position on the war. Basically, he doesn't really have one. He voted for the war. Then he saw Dean making tremendous headway by being virulently against the war, so Kerry was against the war. Now that he's sewn up the nomination, he has to be a centrist, so he's sorta for the war. Only he'd do it differently. How? That's what I'd like to know. But it's opportunism, pure and simple. Anyone who's watched Kerry through the primaries knows it.

Watch the film if you want, I suppose. I don't think it will contribute much (if at all) to civil discourse. I think the producers are doing themselves a disservice by entering territory that doesn't need a population boost.

Summer Book Report

In this, the second in my two-part series of non-political blogs, I thought I'd comment briefly on what I've been reading (other than legal materials) over the summer. I went to Barnes & Noble where they had a buy two, get one free sale going on. I picked up Dostoevsky's "House of the Dead" and "Poor Folk" (one volume), and then I figured, hey, I can't afford not to buy another book. Specious logic, to be sure, but I like buying books, so I wasn't interested in detailed self-analysis of my logical conclusions. I also picked up Bram Stoker's Dracula and Robert Louis Stevenson's Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde and other short stories. my wife wondered out loud if my particularly gloomy choices indicated anything. What can I say - I like gloomy.

I read Jekyll and Hyde first. It's set up like a mystery novel, but of course everyone in the world knows exactly what's going on the whole time, so there's no mystery, and therefore the book loses a lot of its effect. I kept wondering how much scarier the book would have been if I had approached it with a blank slate.

Then I read Dracula, and I could not put it down. I read long into the night - and suffered for it the next day at work - because it was so amazingly scary. I find it interesting that, like Jekyll and Hyde, I knew the story from the get-go. There was no mystery about it. I mean, if you get a letter from a guy named Dracula, who lives in Transylvania, and he's got creepy powers over wolves, for crying out loud you know he's a freakin vampire! Jonathan Harker was either exceptionally dim, or else he lived before Bram Stoker immortalized the story. But although it is so well-known, the story is so masterfully crafted that it totally creeped me out.

So as far as creepiness goes, Dracula wins, hands down. But I actually found Jekyll and Hyde a little more thought-provoking. The complex interplay of good and evil, struggling in a man's soul - and the question of whether "good" even means anything in the story, is far more philosophically stimulating than anything I saw in Dracula. Of the two, I'm much more likely to re-read Jekyll than I am to re-read Dracula because that latter is terrifying, a thrill for the sake of a thrill, and masterfully done as far as that goes, but that's all there is to it.

I haven't touched Dostoevsky yet. I'll let you know how it goes.

Right now I'm reading a book of short stories by Hemmingway. It's a book my parents gave my for Christmas perhaps ten years ago, and which I've started a few times, but never got very far. It's hard to read a collection of short stories quickly, because every few pages you have a good stopping point.

Another thing I've noticed about the book is that it really highlights Papa's growing skill. The first five stories are the last five he wrote, and then it goes in chronological order. The first story, The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber, is fascinating. In about 30 pages he guides us through complex relationships as they shift in comparative advantage, and what that does to each of them. It is riddled with fascinating details, brilliant flourishes, and philosophical bits to mull over after you finish reading. Then you get into the early stories, and the mastery vanishes. Well, it doesn't vanish, really, you just step into a time machine to a point where the mastery isn't there yet. And you read that, page after page after page, and it's all dreary Hemmingway. He's realistic about the dark things in life, the despair and hopelessness that are to be found everywhere and at all times, but he seems quite blind to the good things. Francis Macomber's life may be happy (eventually), but that's exactly why it's short - a good thing can't last.

Criminy, Ernest, just because your life sucked so much you put a shotgun to your head and pulled the trigger with your toe doesn't mean everyone's life is that dreary. Believe it or not, there is some happiness in this world. Dracula recognizes that, even if only through Dr. van Helsing's campy melodrama. Robert Louis Stevenson recognizes it in some of his stories - consider the "victory" at the end of Markheim - although there is nothing of real happiness in Jekyll and Hyde. And Dostoevsky, as dreary as that man could be (I've read Devils and Crime and Punishment) never ignored the happiness in life. It's what gives Dostoevsky such enduring readability. He recognizes the gloom, but gloom is never the only thing there.

I did really like Hemmingway's "After the Storm." Not because it departed from the others, thematically, but because it's about a guy doing shipwreck diving from a boat in the Gulf of Mexico. It made me wish I were on a boat in the Gulf. Oh, well. My wife talked me into going to Lake Powell in a month, and I guess that's probably even better (for water-skiing purposes, not for diving purposes).

Having said all that, let me end this non-political post by observing that I sure do miss Howard Dean.

Nevada is Insane

My brother thinks I've gotten "too politcal."  I'm not exactly sure what he means, but in case he means that my blog is too politically-oriented, this post and the next will highlight some of my other interests.  For those of you who only care about politics, you can safely ignore this post. 

I just found a judicial opinion by the Nevada Supreme Court which leads me to conclude that Nevada is insane.  The case is Life Insurance Co. of North America v. Wollett, 766 P.2d 893 (1988).  It's the story of a woman who shot her husband to death November 5, 1985.  Nearly a month later, she was charged with murder.  On March 12 of the next year, she plea-bargained the charge down to involuntary manslaughter.  She was sentenced to six years in prison, which sentence was then suspended, and she was given five years probation.  In other words, no jail time for killing her husband. 

That's not the part of the story that is insane.

It turns out the husband, deceased, had two life insurance policies which named the wife as the beneficiary, totalling $220,000.  The wife notified the insurance companies of her husband's tragic demise, and said, "Give me my $220,000."  The insurance company said okay.  Then the wife sued to collect on another policy.

You might be thinking at this point, "Isn't a life insurance policy voided if you murder someone to get the money?"  I'm guessing that's the case in 49 states, but not in Nevada.  We have a statute that says an insurance company can only deny payment if the wife is convicted of killing her husband intentionally.  So if there's no conviction, she gets the money.  If she's convicted, pursuant to a plea-bargain, of involuntary manslaughter, she gets the money.

Here's the money quote: "Neither the legislative history nor common sense indicate that [the insurance statute] should be construed differently than [a statute dealing with decedent's estate]."  That's right, in addition to statutory construction, the Nevada Supreme Court actually appeals to common sense in holding that a woman can murder her husband in cold blood, plea bargain it down to involuntary manslaughter, and walk away with a bundle of cash to spend in, for example, Tahiti.  Common sense, indeed. 

Good News Mixed With Scary News

Read the story here.

Basically this South African woman, arrested in Texas ten days ago, may turn out to be a high-level al-Qaeda operative.  The story raises a number of interesting issues.

1.  Mad props to the unnamed security personnel who spotted the irregularities in her paperwork and had the good sense to investigate further.  We'll never really know the impact of their actions.  It could mean nothing - it is possible that there is a plot currently in the works that will go through even without here.  It could mean a lot - maybe we directly thwarted something, or maybe they'll get her to reveal whatever project is was she was working on.  Hopefully it's the latter.  But in any case, I'm glad these people were doing their jobs. 

2.  On the other side of that same coin:

"It was revealed in court Tuesday that she was on a watch list and had entered the U.S. possibly as many as 250 times."

WHAT!?!  A high-level al-Qaeda operative, who was on a government watch list, made a solemn mockery of our borders as many as 250 times?  I almost think it was inevitable she would get caught.  One can only play Russian Roulette so long, you know.  What on earth is wrong with our security that we didn't get her until the 251st visit?  I'm going to be sick.

3.  Our borders are clearly too porous.  This is a standard conservative argument, and the standard liberal argument is either, "you're an anti-Latino racist!" or "al-Qaeda isn't trying to get into America through Mexico!"  Bull crap they aren't, we just caught one.  And of course most of the illegals coming into America through Mexico are Latinos.  That goes without saying.  I am relatively unconcerned about them.  But I am incredibly concerned about Ms. Farida Goolam Mohamed Ahmed, and if porous borders let her and her ilk in with ease, then I don't care if, by tightening our borders, things get a little tougher on illegal by non-terrorist Latinos. 

4.  Many conservatives who favor racial profiling (examples include Michelle Malkin, Anne Coulter and Neal Boortz) scoff at the idea of shaking down old ladies at airport security while Hassan, Muhammad and Sa'id get no more than a passing glance.  I suspect that Farida the South African would have eluded Malkin, Coulter and Boortz without too much trouble. 

This is not an argument against racial profiling, it is an argument that security measures need to be ramped up across the board. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Wisdom from Ted Kennedy

Story here.


"Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, Democratic titan..."

Interesting choice of words.  I suppose that the Greek gods were a bunch of lascivious meddlers with no sense of responsibility, so it looks like the word was chosen well. 

"...told the party faithful Tuesday night that America can only reclaim its greatness by denying President Bush a second term."

Well, either that or come up with some positive, constructive ideas.  But Kennedy's idea would work, too, I guess.  And Kennedy's idea is certainly the more likely.  Right now it looks like the Democratic platform basically consists of a) anybody but Bush, and b) there's no problem so big that we can't spend more money on it.  They seem to have the President sold on this last point.

"The goals of the American people are every bit as high as they were more than 200 years ago," said Kennedy. "If America is failing to reach them today, it's not because our ideals need replacing, it's because our president needs replacing."
Really, Senator?  And what, pray tell, are those goals?  What are those ideals?  We await the answer with eager anticipation.

"The administration has alienated longtime allies. Instead of making America more secure, they have made us less so."

Which allies would those be?  France?  France was selling weapons to Iraq.  Iraq is our enemy.  Therefore France was selling weapons to our enemy.  Therefore, although I won't go so far as to call France an enemy (some bloggers do), they most certainly are not allies, by any stretch of the imagination.

And here's the undisputed king of all Kennedy statements thus far:

"The only thing we have to fear is four more years of George W. Bush."

This is a political party that actually wants to be taken seriously in the homeland security department.  A party that is about to nominate a man who claims he can fight the War on Terror.  A man who, as far as I know, is aware that Islamic terrorists turned two and a half American buildings into smoking wreckage.  I cannot for the life of me figure out what, other than Scotch, was going through Kennedy's head when he made that statement.


There is Justice in this World

A movie-goer who answered her cell phone in a movie theater gets hit with pepper spray.


I suppose that arguments that it's a bad thing would go something like this:  the movie hadn't started yet (it was during the credits), she was speaking very quietly, and it was a family emergency.  Also, it was Catwoman, which no one in the world is watching because they care what the characters have to say. 

These are weak arguments (except for the last one).  You turn your cell phone off before the movie, no questions asked.  If you don't, you will not remember to turn it off the instant the movie begins.  Although she claims she was speaking quietly, obviously she was loud enough that people knew what she was doing.  As far as the family emergency goes, there's no way to know before you pick up that the call is an emergency, and so you would have to answer every call just in case one of them was an emergency.  If you are expecting a call that might be an emergency, don't go to a movie.

When I saw "The Ring," it was in a theater that I will never again patronize.  The place was full of 14-16 year olds, every one of whom decided that they needed to shriek in high-pitched voices regardless of whether anything scary was happening on screen, so I couldn't hear the dialogue.  Most apallingly, two kids walked in maybe 30 minutes into the show and yelled, "Hey, is Dave in here?  Dave?"  I seriously considered throwing a shoe at them, but I would probably have missed (given that I throw like a girl - more specifically, a girl who doesn't throw very well), but if I had pepper spray ... well, I just can't say I blame the officer in the linked story.

Republicans Leakin Like, Well, Like Something That Leaks a Lot

Assuming, of course, that NASA is Republican.

According to Drudge, Kerry campaign manager Mary Beth Cahill claims 'dirty tricks' by NASA after it released 'surprise' photographs showing the Dem presidential hopeful dressed in a space suit crawling through a rocket hatch.

Considering the picture, I'd have to say "Kerry posed for these with the intent to have the photos widely distributed" is the least likely explanation.  Also confirming Cahill's theory is the likelihood that NASA would not be well-funded by Kerry.  I don't know that Bush will give them anything, in spite of what he has said.  But when Kerry won't even pretend to pander to a group, that's saying something.

Whether or not it was a leak, I have to wonder how NASA forced him into the suit in the first place.  Is it really possible that no one on Kerry's team thought, even for a moment, "This will look our boss look like one of the bad guys from E.T."?  If not, well, then they all deserve the shame for not thinking ahead.

Also, I'd like to point out that Democrats sure do seem to hate leaks that make them look bad, but never seem to care so much about the ones which hurt Republicans.  Wonder why that is...

Conspiracy Theory Central

As SobekPundit is fair (if vicious) crocodile, I want to highlight conspiracy theories wherever they may be found.  Here's the new reigning champion:

What I want to know is why you or any of your Bush lovin friends have not commented on how the republican party murdered Reagan just so they could make a big deal about his funeral to give Bush some votes.

I would give credit where credit is due, but it's an anonymous post.

To answer your question, Anonymous, the reason we don't make a big deal about murdering the man is because it's supposed to be a secret.  Let's be a little realistic here, okay?  Only in James Bond movies does the villain actually tell people what he's done.  We were trying to keep it secret, but you've proven yourself more than a match for the entire Republican party. 

Monday, July 26, 2004

John Kerry Implicated in Secret Tests on Extra-Terrestrial Life-Forms!

Reports indicate that as Mr. Kerry, presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, emerged from the top-secret laboratory, a plaintive cry was heard coming from inside, saying "Eliooooooooooootttttt...."  Although the shrieks of pain made all reporters present cringe, Mr. Kerry couldn't stop smiling sadistically.

Gotta Love Teresa Heinz

As everyone in the blogosphere knows by now, Teresa Heinz Kerry called for more civility in political discourse mere moments before telling a reporter to "shove it."  As I remarked on Ace's blog, this shouldn't be a story.  It should be something that we all chuckle about for five minutes, Teresa should feel embarrassed for about five minutes, and then we should all forget about it.

But we won't, and I'll tell you why.

She won't let it go.

Drudge has a partial transcript of a Katie Couric interview, in which Couric asks whether Teresa regrets her statement.

"No, I don't. And-- I think that I-- say what I believe. I'm plain spoken. I really want him to back off. You know, back off. And he-- and reporters generally don't do this. They don't trap you and they don't misrepresent you when they talk to you. That's exactly what he did"...

No, Teresa, he did not misrepresent you.  He quoted you.  If you continue to insist that you did not use the word "un-American," but everone with a computer can see video of you using the word "un-American,"  we must conclude that you are an idiot for forgetting so fast, or an idiot for thinking we can't/won't watch the tape, or so bull-headed as to refuse to admit to something embarrassing even when it is completely undeniable.

BTW, as far as what reporters generally don't do, ask President Bush how much slack the press is willing to give him. 

Kerry stood up for his wife, as reported here.  Of course, it's a good thing to stand up for one's wife, especially when that wife is worth a zillion dollars, and when you've made all of your money by marrying such wives.  Kerry's not stupid - he knows where his allowance is coming from.  In the linked article, he stated:

"My wife speaks her mind appropriately."

Well yes and no.  On the one hand, I actually admire the fact that Teresa is willing to say what she actually thinks, rather than nuancing her speeches beyond comprehensibility.  Everyone prefers a straight-talker over someone who can speak for hours without communicating a single idea.  We could do with more of that in politics. 

On the other hand, John, your wife just called for civility in politics, and immediately afterward tells someone to "shove it."  In other words, it seems the civility she seeks is a one-way street.  Assuredly she's not asking for Democrats to quit being so darned uncivil towards one another, even if she's the one who doesn't trust Ted Kennedy, and who thinks Democrats are putrid

No, what she's calling for, and I agree with her, is for civility that crosses party lines.  And she refuses to give any of that civility which she recognizes we need.  So basically, Kerry could not be more wrong when he says his wife "speaks her mind appropriately."  She is speaking her mind in hypocrisy, and she won't let it go - the reason this non-story will stay around.  She could easily have said, "I'm sorry, I'll try harder next time to practice some of that civility I'm calling for."  And that would have been that, as far as I'm concerned. 

Asked about Heinz Kerry's comments, her spokeswoman Marla Romash said: "It was a moment of extreme frustration aimed at a right wing rag that has consistently and almost purposefully misrepresented the facts when reporting on Mrs. Heinz Kerry."

Welcome to the club, Teresa.  Again, go ask the President what he thinks about media hostility.

But my conclusion is not that she needs to shut up.  Rather, I hope she keeps talking. 

"I'm too old to be embarrassed," she told reporters during a conversation on her husband's campaign plane..."

Perhaps, dear, but you're never too old to embarrass your husband.   

Obligatory link to the God of Photoshop

Google is selling this lovely item.


I like Allah's take on the fashion statement du jour.



And for women in their first trimester:

And Steve gives us this version.


I love Allah's wit in general, but he is at the top of his game when he asks, "Incidentally, abortion's supposed to be based on privacy, right?"

About Freakin' Time reports that "EU to Push for Sanctions on Sudan"

But what does it mean, exactly?  Nothing in the article actually says what, specifically, those sanctions might be.  Instead, "EU officials said they did not plan to cut off million it gives Sudan in development aid, which is focused primarily at the country's poorest people."  That's good, because a simple embargo does nothing but exacerbate the plight of the people being butchered.  During the worst possible famine, the government never starves.  But are we talking about military intervention?  France seems determined not to let that happen (they have too much Sudanese oil coming in to worry about a little genocide), and they have a veto power on the Security Council.

Unfortunately, the "sanctions" the article mentions may be nothing more than pressure - i.e. trying to shame the Sudanese into compliance. 

The EU said the Sudanese government "will be pressed to arrest these persons or suspend them form office and to bring them to justice."

That's an interesting approach, given that the government is accused of backing the militias.  I can't imagine that the leadership in Khartoum will say, "Hey, the EU is going to frown at us.  Let's arrest ourselves." 

Personally, I don't know what to do about the situation, but the EU method seems totally useless.  The France method seems demoncially corrupt.  The UN - well, the UN doesn't really offer solutions so much as rhetoric.  And the U.S., while we have a President who is willing to blow up bad guys, also has a thinly-stretched military (thanks, Clinton) and no particular interest (other than humanitarian) in the Sudan.  Maybe a humanitarian interest is good enough.  Maybe it isn't.  Certainly it is ironic to suggest a military invasion to keep people from being killed. 

Also, I can't decide what exactly would be the goal of an invasion.  Topple the regime?  That's what the rebels are after in the first place.  And replace it with what?  We are gambling in Iraq - gambling that what we've gotted rid of will be replaced with something better.  No need to roll those dice any more than necessary.  If you're going to send in ground troops, you have to tell the troops who they are supposed to shoot, and you should have a pretty good idea of why they are shooting (and being shot at). 

Update: According to CNN's on-line, non-scientific web poll, 42% of respondents think the UN should "take the lead in resolving the conflict in Darfur, Sudan."  Compare that to Sudan, 20%; African Union, 18%; the EU, 12%; the US, 6%, and Britain, 1%.  The poll makes me wonder whether any of the 42% can name a single instance where the UN has successfully resolved a violent conflict.  I'm not just referring to te genocides it knows about but ignores (i.e. in Rwanda), but to any conflict where it gets involved.  Consider the UN's success rate before deciding it should take the lead in resolving something.

I mostly check web poll results on and to learn about their respective readerships.  Invariably, where the viewpoints of poll answers can be classified as "liberal" or "conservative," CNN polls favor the liberal answer and Fox polls favor the conservative answer.  (I know, this shouldn't surprise anyone).  This poll falls squarely into the pattern.

Convention or Fiesta?

Drudge links this story with the headline, "Let's Get the Party Started."

Okay, seriously.  For the millions of Americans not actually at the convention, Drudge is committing a serious abuse of the English language if he's referring to the DNC as a "party."  This isn't just me being partisan - the word is equally offensive to the RNC.  Watching several days of politicians making speeches is no one's idea of a "party."  So come on.

On the other hand, according to Dave Barry the whole thing is basically an excuse for journalists to get free food and alcohol, so perhaps "party" is exactly the right word.  A party to which the vast majority of America is not invited (unless C-Span wants to mail us all sandwiches).  A party where the only cover charge seems to be enduring day after day of long-winded, hollow political speeches, although with no guarantee that the attendees will be sober at the time.  Also, Dave seems to think stupid hats are, but should not be, a part of that process. 

(Note: Dave's column requires registration.  Courtesy of, you can use as the e-mail address and nopassword as the password. rocks).

Too Good Not to Blog

Props to Supernatural Rabbit Scribe (a.k.a. Random), who takes the lead in the Saddam poetry contest with this entry:

This coming month of Ramadan
(Sacred to Islam-adan)
Oh, please free poor Saddam-adan.
Just think of my dear mom-adan!
I swear: no more car bomb-adan:
This ain't no Viet Nam-adan.

If the contest weren't rigged, you would definitely be in the lead. 

The Softer Side of Saddam

Here's a touching little peek into the life of Saddam Hussein. 

"Saddam Hussein is spending his time in solitary confinement writing poetry, gardening, reading the Qur'an and snacking on American muffins and cookies. One of his poems is about his arch-enemy George Bush."

You have to wonder what that poetry is like.  "Hmm, what rhymes with 'Bush is the criminal'?  Minimal? Subliminal? In the mill? Bah! (shreds the page and starts over)."

So I'm hereby announcing the first official SobekPundit poetry contest.  Write a poem from the perspective of Saddam Hussein in jail.  The winner gets a big hug.  I feel reasonably confident in making such an offer, because so far all of three people outside of my immediate family know about this blog.  And since I'm judging the contest, I'll just decide in advance that my wife will win.  I'll tell you it was really funny, but if you want to know what it said, you should have thought about that when you failed to start your own blog and create a Saddam poetry contest. 

I hope you've learned your lesson.

This happy little camper is Sobek the crocodile.  I was going to write this blog in the persona of Sobek, and say things like "Because John Kerry is such a flip-flopper, I'm going to drown his children in the depths of the Nile and devour their corpses.  I must be appeased!"

But I doubt I could maintain interest in such a shtick for very long, so I can't imagine any readers would.  Instead, I'll just keep calling myself Sobek because my background is green.  If I ever change that, then I suppose the whole house of cards will have crumbled.  I'll have to go back to commenting on other peoples' blogs.  Or whatever.

A Little Unexpected Friction?

Via Drudge:  Ter-AY-zuh told a reporter to "shove it" immediately after a speech calling for a more civil tone in politics.  But it seems there's been a mistake.

The story is linked right below this picture:


"Shove it!"

Actually, Matt, that's her husband, presumptive Democratic nominee John "F'" Kerry.


I'd say it's about time someone got around to doing this.

Sunday, July 25, 2004

Not quite sure how I feel about this

Israeli settlers protest pulling out of Gaza settlements.

On the one hand, if you don't want your citizens getting blown up, you might want to consider not putting them next door to the people who want to blow them up.

On the other hand, I hate to think of Palestinian militants thinking, "All right! All of our blowing stuff up is finally getting results!"

But the real reason I'm posting this is to wonder out loud whether gimmicky protests really work.  We're talking about a 55 mile human chain, here.  Will Ariel Sharon see this on the news and think (in Hebrew) "you know, they make a really good point"?  Of course not, but obviously the point is not the chain itself.  The chain is designed to attract attention so that you can then get news cameras to tape you saying something  like, "Sharon, this is a dumb idea." 

I suppose that if the gimmick works out well enough, you might get some media attention you wouldn't get otherwise.  But first of all, Ariel Sharon seems determined to convince everyone in the world that he doesn't care what others think.  Second, when Palestinians then launch attacks on that chain, you have to wonder if they aren't asking for it.  "Let's all get together in one big group so that the people bent on our violent deaths will know where to aim!"

Congratulations to Lance Armstrong

I mention this, not because I care at all about bicycle racing, but because if the French weren't so used to losing, I bet it would piss them off.   

Update:  I'm generally not a fan of watching others participate in a sport, but bicycle riding has to be one of the most appallingly boring sports I can imagine watching.

Freedom of Speech and the Democrat National Convention

Read the story here.

Especially precious is the line, "We don't deserve to be put in a detention center, a concentration camp," said Medea Benjamin of San Francisco. "It's tragic that here in Boston, the birthplace of democracy, our First Amendment rights are being trampled on."

Pardon me, dear, you are not being put into a detention center, you are voluntarily entering it so that you can protest.  And if you really think that the enclosed area is a "concentration camp," then those words have lost all meaning.  Let's ask some German Jews what a concentration camp is.

Okay, First Amendment rights are the cornerstone of our democracy.  Without the widespread dissemination of information, we may as well be living in, say, France.  But the First Amendment is deisnged to protect people from the government shutting down their presses, outlawing certain points of view, etc.  Nothing in that amenment guarantees a person an audience, or the right to go wherever one wants to convey his or her message.

If Ms. Benjamin disagrees, then perhaps she won't mind me blaring Bush campaign ads 24/7 at full volume in her living room.

This is the reason I think Michael Moore made a fool of himself after Linda Ronstadt got booed off stage in Las Vegas this past week.  He incredulously asked the owner whether he'd ever heard of Freedom of Speech, while I incredulously wondered if Moore has ever read the First Amendment.  Ronstadt was in a privately owned building.  She had no right to be there after management told her to leave.  Perhaps management could have been a little nicer about it, but the Constitution doesn't guarantee that people will be nice to you.  And the people in the audience had every right to boo her.  Destruction of property is another thing - tearing down posters, throwing cocktails, etc., was not the best plan.  But Ronstadt (and Moore) can't complain if people think her message is full of crap, she can't keep them in the theater after they decide to leave, and she can't force people to come hear her if they don't want.  Nothing in the First Amendment is to the contrary.

Counter-point:  the justification for keeping the DNC protestors in their little hamster cage is that, in a post 9/11 world, we can't take chances with security.  Granted, but I'm a little doubtful that keeping placard-waving PETA freaks in a cage (a little ironic, that) will stop a jihadi with a bomb in his backpack from getting into the convention through alternate means.  We'll just have to see.

On a final note, kudos to a Boston-area pizza shop owner who, in protest of the city passing out free food, will close his shop for a week, and who hung on the front of it a banner saying "DNC Thanks for Nothing!  Go Bush!"  The city wants him to take it down.  Note the difference between this case (a man doing what he wants with his private property) and the above-linked protestors (people complaining about restricted access to someone else's property). 

Update: Hat tip to Alisa, who wondered out loud in what sense Boston is, as Ms. Benjamin states, the birthplace of Democracy.  I was led to believe it was Athens.  I guess that's public schooling for ya.  Actually, she was wondering why Philadelphia doesn't at least earn an honorable mention. 

It's because we're not really a democracy.  We're actually a representative democracy, which is a compromise solution to the problem of getting 250 million Americans together to vote on every issue that comes up.  Instead, we elect representatives, who go to Washington on our behalf, and there, on our behalf, they eat incredibly expensive food, ride in limousines, make the occasional speech, live in luxury, and perform the single most important task a politician can perform:

Look out for you, personally.

That's right, government exists so that if you screw up your life in unimaginable ways, a big faceless bureaucracy can spend money on you.  This is a good thing, because not only are you no longer in charge of your own welfare, but it gives politicians an opportunity to show compassion, which otherwise they wouldn't be able to do.

My second post

I'm still getting the hang of this, so bear with me.  I'd like to figure out how to put a picture of Sobek over in the right corner.  Also, I'd like to get paid to just monkey around with a blog all day.  We'll see which of the two is more likely to happen.

For those of you who are wondering, Sobek is an Egyptian crocodile god who was both respected and feared.  Sort of like Pacific islanders throwing virgins into a volcano - you keep Mr. Crocodile happy, he won't eat your children.  That sort of thing. 

I'm still trying to figure out how to post pictures.

Wednesday, July 21, 2004


You didn't really think this was a real link, did you?