Still Pissed Off About the Hawley-Smoot Tariff

Thursday, December 30, 2004

US Undermines the UN by Trying to Help Tsunami Victims

Have you ever read something so astronomically foolish, so unspeakably ridiculous, that as badly as you wanted to fisk it, you just knew you'd run out of adjectives before the second sentence?

Here's a good example of that kind of article, via Drudge (so I assume everyone in the world has read it anyway).

Let me try to clarify what I'm dealing with, here.

"But former International Development Secretary Clare Short said that role should be left to the UN.
"'It is the only body that has the moral authority. But it can only do it well if it is backed up by the authority of the great powers.'"

Seriously, what can you say about that? Other than putting on caps lock and just using the f-word over and over again, is there any language at all that can highlight, better than simply quoting Clare Short, that Clare Short is a ... again, I'm stymied. I don't even know how to finish that sentence without doing violence to the English language.

Moral authority? MORAL AUTHORITY? Even momentarily getting past the fact that disaster relief is about efficiency, not about moral authority, does she just not pay attention to anything that happens in the UN?

Ah, to have the power of the truly snappy comeback. Consider the story of a female NPR reporter interviewing a Marine Lieutenant about Scouts on a camping trip. When she found out the boys were going to be learning shooting, she responded, aghast, "you're equipping them to become violent killers!" To which the Lieutenant responded, "Well, ma'am, you're equipped to be a prostitute, but you aren't one, are you?"

Zing! Even if, in fact, that story is apparently not true.

Let's try to apply it to the situation at hand:

"'It is the only body that has the moral authority. But it can only do it well if it is backed up by the authority of the great powers.' Asked for comment, President Bush noted that Ms. Short is a prostitute."

See, it totally loses its punch.

The Circular Badge of Courage

If you come back from paintballing and you don't have a few of these, something went wrong.

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Gunna Go Hunt Me Some Varmints in Miz-sippi

Except that by "varmints" I mean "human beings," and by "hunt" I mean "shoot paintballs at." That means no blogging on Wednesday, and nothing Thursday until I get home, and even then, I'm not making any promises.

Wish me luck.

Jan Egeland

Fifteen million dollars? How am I supposed to steal enough to provide for my family from such a small amount?


Nice to see you've got your priorities in order.

Follow-up on "Sometimes People Get What They Deserve"

I wrote a post a few days ago about the tragic killing of Toree Donaldson and the even more tragic refusal of people in the neighborhood to help him at the time, or speak to police now. Apparently, my sentiments on the subject are not universal. From today's Times-Picayune comes the following letter to the editor:

"Please spare me any high-minded moralizing about helping our fellow man in his time of need. I know I would act decisively and prudently to protect my life and limb by having the common sense to batten down the hatches and hit the deck. Wouldn't any sane person do the same?

"In the world of today, in the New Orleans of today, self-preservation is the name of the game. While I do sympathize with the victims and their families, I would not choose to join them."

Very well, I'll spare you the high-minded moralizing, you worthless piece of human garbage. I'll simply point out that if survival is the name of the game, the incapacitation of your enemies is the way to go, no? By letting criminals walk the streets, firing fully automatic weapons with impunity, and refusing to contact the police afterwards, are you not contributing to "the world of today ... the New Orleans of today"? It is true that it is a very dangerous city - one of the worst. And why is that? Because criminals know no fear. They know what they can get away with, because of callous bastards like yourself. And because the residents refused to help Toree Donaldson, the ratio of murderers to duckers has shifted in favor of the murderers. There is one less target, meaning the odds of one of those residents being the next to run screaming through the streets in broad daylight has just increased.

So not only are you a soulless monster, you're also not very smart, if self-preservation is the only name of your game. I'll try to keep that in mind should I notice your name in the obituaries.

Christmas Eve in Lutcher

There's a little town about 45 minutes from my home in Louisiana called Gramercy, and every year on Christmas Eve they build a long series of bonfires along the Mississippi River levee and light 'em up. Since the wife and I decided we needed to have a Cajun Christmas, we wanted to go check it out. I didn't know where exactly in Gramercy the bonfires were, but I figured that as long as I could get to Gramercy, it shouldn't be too hard to see a huge line of massive bonfires extending along the river, so I just got on Mapquest and got directions to anywhere in Gramercy. I wrote down directions there, figuring that I could just follow the directions in reverse to get back home afterwards.

The bonfires were cool. We actually got there late because we ate dinner with friends beforehand, and overestimated how long the bonfires would burn. I thought it was funny how my wife insisted that we bundle up our kid to protect against the cold, given that we were going there to stand near a big fire. When we were done enjoying the smouldering heap, we got in the car to go home.

I should say that when we first arrived in Gramercy, I failed to make a left turn that I quickly realized I should have taken, and we passed into the neighboring town of Lutcher, to the west of Gramercy. As we hopped in the car to go back home, little did I realize what a fateful role Lutcher would play in our Christmas Eve experience.

Following my written directions in reverse, I proceded east (back towards New Orleans), and was very quickly surprised to see a sign that said "Welcome to Lutcher." You may recall that the previous time I accidentally ventured into Lutcher, I was going west from Gramercy. So what was this madness? I got increasingly nervous that I had made a mistake, so I made a right turn (now, I was ostensibly going north), and it was only half a mile or so before I again saw a sign that said "Welcome to Lutcher." What the devil? What was going on? There had to be some sort of mistake here. But I stayed on that road for a little while, until I saw a sign that pointed to the state route I was looking for. I breathed a sigh of relief, which was cut short when I realized the state route went left and right, but there was no sign indicating which direction either of them went. There are no landmarks in southern Louisiana other than trees, and it was very late at night, so I had lost my sense of direction. I picked a direction, drove for maybe a minute, and then saw a sign: "Welcome to Gramercy." I was back on the exact same road I started on.

And then it dawned on me. There was no escape from Gramercy. "Lutcher" is not a town, but rather a code, meaning "the impenetrable void that surrounds Gramercy," a space-time continuum anomaly that allows outsiders into the seemingly innocent town of Gramercy, but which never lets you leave. Gramercy is like a roach motel for stranded motorists: you can come in, but you can never leave.

Think I'm exaggerating? I pulled into a gas station when I realized the nature of the cosmic forces which were determined to keep me in the Gramercy/Lutcher Loop. I figured that if anyone could help me overcome the mindbending physics involved in creating the Lutcher trap, it was a gas station attendant in southern Louisiana. The very kind lady told me to leave the station and go left, follow the road about four miles and then turn left. The guy in line at the gas station said "right." The lady said, "oh, yeah, turn right." That, she explained, would get me to the Interstate. You can bet that inspired a lot of confidence. But armed with my new knowledge, I followed her directions and did, in fact, get to the I-10.

End of story, right? Wrong. Shortly after getting on the I-10 going east, towards New Orleans, I saw yet another sign for Lutcher. I screamed the name, that of a hated nemesis, and sneered at the sign's audacity in suggesting I again brave the Gramercy/Lutcher Space-Time Loop. I passed the Lutcher exit, confident that I had won.

Thirty minutes later, I saw another sign that said Lutcher Exit: 2 Miles. What was this madness? How big could Lutcher possibly be, that I could drive for thirty minutes at 95 miles per... I mean, the posted speed limit, and still be near Lutcher? Was Lutcher the South's secret metropolis, like a great Redneck Atlantis, biding its time until the South should rise again? Was New Orleans only a clever trick, designed to attract attention away from the sinister plot unfolding in Lutcher?

I quickly accelerated (up to the posted speed limit) and passed the nefarious exit, fighting back my suspicion that I had seen through the trees a massive army of monkeys and Danes, preparing for their inevitable assault on civilization. It had to be my eyes playing tricks on me, right? Danes and monkeys live in Denmark and zoos, right? Even now, I must confess that I'm not so sure...

Anyway, I'm now back at my home in New Orleans. But is it really New Orleans? Or is it really a city that doesn't yet realize it's been absorbed into Lutcher, another unsuspecting town that got swept up into the unstoppable, cosmic force that will eventually sweep us all into Gramercy, never again to emerge with our sanity intact?

Monday, December 27, 2004

Holy Monkey

Drudge has about fifty links up right now (this one, for example) about the earthquake and tsunamis that killed thousands and actually moved the island of Sumatra more than one hundred feet.

"'All the planet is vibrating' from the quake, said Enzo Boschi, the head of Italy's National Geophysics Institute. Speaking on SKY TG24 TV, Boschi said the quake even disturbed the Earth's rotation."

It seems to me that most conservatives hate the idea of foreign aid (although perhaps they make an exception for natural disasters such as this one), but I do not.

I am perfectly fine with using U.S. money for assistance projects in the Third World. The altruistic justification is simply that Americans have been blessed with tremendous wealth, and we have a moral duty to share that wealth. The obvious Conservative/Libertarian response is that a moral duty shouldn't translate into compulsion through forced taxation, because then there is nothing "moral" about it. If I donate to charity simply because government puts a gun to my head, my actions have nothing of charity about them. So why, then, do I support using federal funds for foreign aid?

The main difference is practical effectiveness. It seems to me that AIDS programs in Africa, for example, simply cannot run effectively (or at all) by relying exclusively on voluntary donations. The situation is different with welfare-type programs, because studies show that the lower the income tax, the greater the voluntary donations, in terms of both money and time.

And foreign aid necessarily contemplates relations between nations. The response to the recent earthquake will not be viewed in terms of individuals donating to individuals, but in terms of nations dealing with nations. Many actions must operate on this level, the conduct of a war being another example. When France sells arms to Saddam Hussein, it is not the collective will of every Frenchman that does it, but a fictional but recognized entity that we call government. And because government must have power to conduct its foreign affairs, I think that necessarily contemplates improving our esteem and our bargaining power through foreign aid.

My stance can be defended, I think, it terms of capitalistic self-interest. Our economy is a global economy. If formerly U.S. jobs are being sent to India, it is because that is where market efficiency lies. By helping the nation of India improve its education, health services, irrigation, power, and whatever else it is we donate for, we contribute to the stability of an important trading partner, which furthers the twin goals of market stability and the efficient allocation of capital.

Friday, December 24, 2004

Happy Holidays!

Wait, did I just betray my conservative value by not saying Merry Christmas?

There was a story in the newspaper last Dec. 19th about a group of Christians who plan on boycotting stores that make their employees wish customers a Happy Holidays rather than a Merry Christmas. Yesterday Beth Lachin, a local business owner, wrote a letter to the editor explaining why she wishes her customers Happy Holidays.

"This is not because I am intimidated by those who wish to obliterate religious expression from our day-to-day-life... It is simply out of respect for my customers who may observe non-Christian faiths, but are enjoying their own religious holy days or cultural observances concurrent with the Christmas season."

Average Joe expressed a similar sentiment:

"I don't know about you, but for the most part I can't instantly tell someone's religious affiliation at first glance and I'm not pompous enough to think that my beliefs trump yours."

Interestingly, after I told him in his comments that I was fine with Merry Christmas, he wished me a Merry Christmas in my comments below.

Contrast these opinions with atheist Dave's griping about anti-Christmas freaks complaining about a tree (not a "Christmas" tree, a "giving tree") that generates about $25,000 in chartiable donations per year, because two atheists were offended by the sight of it. At the end of his post, he wishes us all a "Merry Birth of Jesus Christ Our Lord And Savior Day!" (Heh. This coming from an atheist).

Since you're all dying to know my opinion on the secularization of Christmas, I'll tell you. Up to and including the time I read Dave's post, I agreed without reservation with his sentiments. Those who complain about Christmas trees on public property are ipso facto freaks who need to shut up and be forced to watch "It's a Wonderful Life." And "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" for good measure. That's because I tended to assume that there was a bilateral divide between those who want Christmas trees around because they are traditional and associated with the obvious reason we're not at work or in school right now, on the one hand, and those who didn't want Christmas trees because they hate religion, and want to twist the First Amendment into an anti-religion Amendment. On those terms, I have no problem whatsoever snubbing the atheists, because seriously, how is your right not to be offended greater than thousands of years of tradition?

But there is another group, one which I confess I hadn't considered until reading Average Joe and Beth Lachin's letter to the editor - the observant Jew (for example) who celebrates Hannukah but who is too polite to complain when someone assumes he is a Christian and wishes him a Merry Christmas. When the only impact of a Merry Christmas is getting under an atheist's hyper-sensitive skin, I say a little annoyance might be good for the soul. But when the impact is disrespect for the well-meaning, non-politically-motivated Jew, I think Christians ought to more seriously reflect on the impact of their actions.

Ultimately it comes down to forcing one's beliefs on another. The atheists in Dave's post want to force a tree off of public property because it offends them. The Christian-organized boycott referenced in Lachin's letter are trying to force Christmas into private retail outlets. I cannot in good conscience conclude that either group is right to force their views.

So Happy Holidays, everyone, and for you Christians out there, I wish you a very Merry Christmas. And to everyone but the neo-pagans who celebrate the New Year at vernal equinox, Happy New Year. And all of you anti-Christmas atheists - if you don't like it, I hope you're at work tomorrow. And I also hope you're at work every Sunday, including Easter.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

Sometimes People Get What They Deserve

On the front page of the newspaper today, there is a story about a kid who was murdered last November 23d. Given that I live in New Orleans, you might legitimately wonder why this made the front page. And given that it's a black kid, you might wonder why it's on the front page. And given that he's 19 but never graduated from High School, and that he grew up in probably the most dangerous part of the city, and that the story suggests his father wasn't a part of his life (there's no indication of whether he even knew his father), and that it also implies he had something of a criminal record ... well, even the most cynical among us, on the facts I've given, might wonder why that's on the front page. Sure, a murder is a bad thing, but when it's so common, it's easy to get desensitized, right?

I'm writing this post mainly because of desensitization. But unless you live in New Orleans, you probably have no idea what I mean by that yet.

Toree Donsaldson was "mentally challenged" (the story gives no other information), and failed his LEAP test last year, but he was taking remedial classes with high hopes of passing it this year. He wasa shy and soft-spoken. The criminal record I mentioned? "This gentleman had virtually no criminal record," according to Lt. Bruce Adams. "He was not involved in narcotics. He's not what they call a 'street player.' He was just walking down the street minding his own business."

Walking down the street at first, perhaps, then running. Two men decided to hunt him down and kill him, for no other reason, it would seem, than sport. It was 11:00 a.m. The terrified boy ran for nearly five city blocks, screaming for help, pounding on doors, in the middle of the day. The .223-caliber assault rifle they used to riddle his body with bullets, according to Adams, causes a booming sound that echoes for blocks.

But no one helped him. And after they shot him, "ammunition from his attackers' high-powered assault rifle repeatedly ripp[ing] through his head and body," no one identified the attackers to the police.

Perhaps you wondered at some point why I titled this post "Sometimes People Get What They Deserve." Toree Donaldson didn't get what he deserved last November, although I'm sure he's getting what he deserves now (and it's a lot better than anything he could have hoped for here in this lifetime). But the people in the Ninth Ward, it seems, those who left their doors closed, and who now refuse to help police - how can they now complain about their crime rate? If you won't protect those among you who need it most, what will you say when the killers come after you next? How is your neighborhood anything less than what you deserve?

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Reading Assignment: Update

As promised, here are some of my thoughts on the article. I will proceed from the assumption that we all agree that there is a substantial liberal bias on most university campuses, and rather than trying to prove that point again, I just want to discuss what can or should be done about it.

To the extent that the article mentions grading bias or student intimidation, I don’t think there’s much open for debate. There is no justification for a professor punishing you for your conclusions. Obviously that issue turns on proof of actual bias, and professors who are caught grading outspoken conservative student more harshly should be censured, if not fired, because what they are doing is the opposite of education. They are simply promoting unthinking acceptance of their own opinions - dumbing down their students to advance preferred social causes.

The more difficult issue is whether students can or should have influence in the materials to which they are exposed. Suppose a professor shows his class Fahrenheit 9/11. Should he be compelled to show them Dick Morris’ Fahrenhype 9/11 in rebuttal? If a student must read the Qu’ran for a class, can the professor be compelled to assign the Bible as well? If a history professor assigns a book that is favorable to Communism, should he be forced to assign another book critical of that view? Or forbidden from assigning the first book altogether?

I deliberately phrased my question that way because I think even conservatives will bristle at the use of the words "compelled," "forced" and "forbidden." The Golden Rule simply means that if I wouldn’t want a University administration forcing me to teach certain materials, I shouldn’t want other professors (even those with whom I disagree) to be forced into teaching certain materials.

It’s also impractical. Not every point of view can be taught, not every book can be read, and exposure to the Qu’ran doesn’t necessarily require exposure to the Vedas, the I Ching, or the Book of Mormon. And not every point of view should be taught. In a course on Middle Eastern history, the Bible has an impact, but certainly not as great an impact as the Qu’ran (depending on your focus - if you include Greece in a Middle Eastern history course, the Bible takes on a much larger role).

So there are practical problems with a blanket approach to force equality of thought onto campuses and into classrooms, and ethical problems with the very notion of compulsion in education. To the extent that these lawsuits go beyond attacking intimidation and grading bias, I don’t know that I can support them. A professor’s freedom of thought is as inviolate as the student’s, even if the professor has a captive audience. I fear the result should we try to upset the system, because there is very little that can be taught that won’t offend someone. And I do not fear the impact of leftist propaganda on even a captive audience, because those who are independent-minded enough to question the bias will do so regardless, and those who are not will be indoctrinated by one source or another, it seems.

"Many teachers insist personal politics don't affect teaching. But in a recent survey of students at 50 top schools by the American Council of Trustees and Alumni, a group that has argued there is too little intellectual diversity on campuses, 49 percent reported at least some professors frequently commented on politics in class even if it was outside the subject matter."

As to the first sentence, I don't care what teachers insist, only on facts. As to the last part, so what? You’re going to be exposed to asinine viewpoints in life, so you’d best learn to deal with it, instead of trying to shut up the speaker. So you math professor wants to lecture about politics? Raise your hand and ask him what that has to do with math. He doesn’t approve of the War on Terror? Ask him what that has to do with math, and ask him what he’s being paid to teach. Or go to his office afterwards and refute him. But putting a gag on him? No, I can’t support that, any more than I would support an unconstitutional move by Lefties to shut down talk radio, or Fox News.

"‘I feel like (faculty) are so disconnected from students that they do these things and they can just get away with them,’ said Kris Wampler, who recently publicly identified himself as one of the students who sued the University of North Carolina. Now a junior, he objected when all incoming students were assigned to read a book about the Quran before they got to campus."

You’re not paying tuition so your professors can "connect" with you. You’re there for an education, and one thing you must learn is that a degree doesn’t change a fool into anything but an overeducated fool. And I don’t have much sympathy for his legal challenge (which, according to the article, ended with a small degree of success), because exposure to different viewpoints - even stupid ones - can have serious educational benefits, such as refining one’s ability to spot stupid viewpoints.

So the University used to require student to read a book about the Qu’ran. My wife argued that this would be appropriate for students who take a class on religion, or political science, or history, but not as part of general education. I disagreed. A university is not a vocational school, which only teaches the necessities for a job. If that were the case, we might as well send kids to vocational schools. Education is best when it exposes people to the maximum breadth of views possible. Education involves the entire scope of human knowledge.

I don’t mean to entirely trash the article, or suggest total disagreement with the movements described therein. I think it’s for the best if faculties take notice that yes, there are conservatives in their class; no, conservatives won’t take any crap just because they are conservatives; yes, conservatives should be able to defend their views without fear of retribution; no, professors are not immune from criticism. I love reading Mike Adams columns (and his book, Welcome to the Ivory Tower of Babel) and seeing the institutionalized idiocy at our universities. I think that legal battles for the free speech rights of conservative and Christian students are essential to defending our nation from internal attack by intellectual elitists.

I have my quibbles with some of the battles, even if I support the war.

Barely Related Tangent: Patton has an interesting read on First Amendment and the freedom of the press. I tried to comment on it over there, but it wouldn't let me for some reason. It kept asking me for my e-mail address, even though I had already entered it.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

Reading Assignment

Read this story about conservative students complaining and/or filing lawsuits regarding liberal bias on campuses.

No time to comment tonight, but the wife and I had an interesting argument about it, so I thought I'd post some thoughts tomorrow.

Communist Firebrands of the Caribbean

I hope I may some day be forgiven for putting Barabara Streisand's head on Keira Knightley's body. If any of you felt that something was not quite right with the universe today, that's why.

Back "story" can be found here, thanks to the Commissar.

Good News and Bad in the War on Terror

The good news is that a new fingerprinting system seems like it's working. I say "seems" because just because we're making arrests doesn't necessarily mean we're arresting the right people. I'm all for curbing illegal immigration, but obviously the priority is on preventing those who want to blow up America.

"Mr. Bonner has described the new system as 'absolutely critical' to CBP's priority mission of keeping terrorists and terrorist weapons out of the country, adding that it gives the agents the ability to identify those with criminal backgrounds 'we could never have identified before.'

"The program, known as the Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS), is a biometric identification technology enabling Border Patrol agents to search CBP's Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT) and the FBI's criminal fingerprint database simultaneously, CBP spokesman Mario Villarreal said. "

The bad news is that 22 people were killed in an attack in Mosul.

Okay, taken in isolation, and compared with the broader perspective of the necessity of the War on Terror and the potential benefits of a Democracy in Iraq, 22 isn't so much, is it? But it's not just the 22, it's the 22 combined with the more than 60 from yesterday, combined with however many were killed the day before. At a some point, I have to be concerned not only with the deaths themselves, but with how those deaths reflect on our learning curve.

I totally respect our military. They freakin' kick butt, as illustrated in the video I linked yesterday. U.S. military technology is second-to-none, and I believe it is in the hands of dedicated warriors who are well trained to do an unpleasant job.

But should out learning curve in Iraq look the way it does? I'm assume it's hard to prevent a suicide bombing, but it gets depressing to think that we haven't come up with some way of preventing these attacks. It looks like our intelligence net is insufficient. It looks like our campaign to train Iraqi military and police forces isn't working out. I know these things take time and hard work, but even with that knowledge, daily attacks can certainly get to you. And I live in New Orleans. Imagine how the Iraqis must feel.

Great, now I'm going to be depressed all day. At least, until I finish my latest Photoshop project featuring Leon Trotsky. Hopefully that will be ready later today.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Permission to Engage?

Permission granted. Click here to watch some Iraqi insurgents learn about American technology. Warning: contains images of terrorists taking the eternal dirt nap.

Saturday, December 18, 2004

More Trotsky

The Sphinx

Some people make sandcastles, others make recreations of famous monuments. The Sphinx was a friend of mine, back in the day, so I thought I'd give him this little hat tip.

I also did the pyramids of Giza, but the pic didn't turn out as well as this one.


This is my niece, Grace. For some reason her parents let her shamefully traipse around in her underwear.

Number Two

The ultrasounds weren't great. This was the best one.

Michael Playing in the Sand

Adorable. Man, what a cute kid I have!

Michael and Uncle Tommy

This is from last summer, when I went water-skiing at Lake Powell. Before this vacation, my son was pretty much indifferent to me, but I spent a few days with him in Utah while my wife was in Las Vegas - the first time I was ever alone with him for such an extended period of time -and he actually got attached to me.

So we went to Lake Powell, and put him on the speedboat for waterskiing. I put on my lifejacket and jumped into the water, and Michael started screaming his little lungs out. He thought something really awful must be happening to me, and the cruel in-laws were speeding away leaving me to a horrible fate.

Even in between runs, when the boat came near me, I would smile and wave and tell him how much fun I was having, but he kept crying and reaching for me, and wondering why he was the only one in the boat with the good sense to want to help me out of the water. It was both adorable and heart-breaking.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Glorious Struggle Against Kapitalism Will Never End

For those of you who don't recognize Leon Trotsky's face, back story here.

Separation of Church and State, the Constitution, and the Pledge

Not until this morning on Neal Boortz' radio show did I hear anyone actually defending the pending recall vote against David Habecker. Not that I've been looking, really, but I got a Google hit for my original post, and while skimming through other Google hits I only saw people criticizing that decision. Example here, where the author sarcastically asks "I mean really... who wants a rotten atheist making decisions for the rest of us?"

The issue, in my opinion, is not about atheism, but about whether voters are satisfied with their elected officials. That's what the electoral process is all about - representative responsiveness to popular concerns. MichaelTOE might disagree with Estes park voters about the relative importance of atheistic Councilmen (actually, I didn't see anything in the article that says he an atheist), but what the majority wants, the majority should get.

"I can hear the bitching already; 'there's nothing religious about tradition!' Nevermind that the pledge wasn't originally worded that way. Nevermind that the words 'under God' were a product of the Red Scare, a time which seems all too familiar these days."

I have two problems with that paragraph. First, the claim that there is nothing religious about tradition is simply wrong. Religion and tradition are inextricably woven together. I asked a Rabbi recently why he says that the words of King Messiah won't be added to the Tanakh, and his response was "it is accepted tradition." Islam is governed cheifly by the Qu'ran, but also in large part by the hadiths - sacred traditions - about the life and sayings of Muhammad. Christians celebrate Christmas and Easter, not because the Bible tells us to, but because that's what Christians have always done (and we accept the date chosen for Easter celebrations although it was originally connected with pagan worship).

My second problem is the author's suggestion that because the pledge didn't originally have the words "under God" in it, those words can't be part of tradition. There is no time limit on when tradition becomes tradition. If we've been saying "under God" for fifty years, I'd say that's long enough to give rise to tradition. Whether or not tradition may or should be modified is, of course, another question.

Anyway, back to Boortz defending the Estes park recall. He ripped into Habecker on the basis that the Constitution nowhere says the words "separation of Church and State." No, it doesn't, but I don't think that really says anything about the issue. I won't go so far as to hysterically call the Pledge of Allegiance the first step towards fascist theocracy (go to Democratic Underground for that kind of nonsense), but a reasonable argument might be made that combining religious elements into an oath of loyalty to a political entity is beyond the bounds of propriety.


"My response to Mr. Habecker: You think this is intolerance? If you’ve still got your head or your tongue or your eyes or your hands or you haven’t received 100 lashes…then sir, you haven’t seen intolerance. This is simply a town excercising their rights to the kind of social standards they deem sufficient. And, sir…if you can’t even stand your lousy butt up and go through the freaking motions…then you’re the intolerant one, not them."

From Voices In My Head.

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Christmas Comes Early to SobekPundit

I won a caption contest over at GOP and the City. I'll let y'all click over there to see.

BTW, bonus points to anyone who can tell me what the title of his post, "Saddam -a- GoGo," refers to.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Colo. Politican Threatened With Recall Because of Pledge

Via Drudge, story here.

The short version is that this guy was elected as a trustee/Councilman on the Town Board (pardon that sentence - the article unclear as to what, exactly his job is). Earlier this year, the Board started reciting the Pledge of Allegiance at the beginning of meetings. Councilman David Habecker won't stand up for that part of the meeting, and the town is now organizing a recall vote to give him the boot.

Habecker says his problem (as if we couldn't guess) is that he feels the words "under God" violate the separation of Church and State.

The U.S. Constitution, Article II.1.7, requires the President to take the Oath of Office, but it also provides for an affirmation, should the President object to taking an oath. Federal Rule of Evidence 603 says that sworn testimony in a court is the same way. Our laws, therefore, are designed not to compel someone to say or perform an action that violates a conscience-based objection to "religious" requirements. Because there is no "affirmation" version of the Pledge of Allegiance, I support Habecker's personal decision not to stand during the pledge.

Even if Habecker is doing nothing more than making a political statement, having nothing to do with personal religion-based objections, that's fine as well. There's no reason to suggest that politicians shouldn't be able to make political statements during political meetings.

I also support the right of the locals to recall the guy. If they don't think their elected representative actually represents them, they should have the power to give the guy the old heave-ho.

But I don't think the guy's transgression is so great in this case as to justify the time, expense, and interference with the operation of the Council that a recall is a wise thing to do. Not everything needs to be a full-blown political catastrophe. Let his term expire and vote in someone who will stand for the Pledge, if that's what you want.

Color Your Shopping List

Neal Boortz has an interesting post today. It seems that informs the politcally-minded about which companies donate in which percentages to which political parties, so that if you are a hard-core Dem you can buy a Toyota (which donates virtually nothing to Republicans) instead of ... well, anything else, because all the other auto makers donate Republican.

You can read his list for the specifics, and I encourage you to do so. You should probably be forewarned that Starbucks does, in fact, donate solidly to Democrats. I tell you that in advance to spare you the shock value. has an interesting idea, but "interesting" in this case probably means "bad." After all, everyone knows that a) rich people are evil, that b) evil people vote Republican, and that therefore c) evil Republicans will use this site to stifle Free Speech and run rough-shod over the First Amendment by only buying from "red" companies.

Boortz wraps it all up by observing, "you will see that there are occasional businesses who support Democratic Party politics to a greater extent than they do Republicans .. but for the most part you will see heavy support for Republican policies."

Maybe that's because corporations understand that Republicans want to keep Americans doing business.

The Blogging Equivalent of Listening to a Police Scanner

I officially declare that Shawn, of Middie Back! (whatever that's supposed to mean) will not be devoured by crocodiles, for the following reasons:

1. He's a cop, and has a post about interesting calls he gets. One downside to legal work is that you can't discuss a lot of details about your clients, because it's privileged. But apparently cops can tell you fun stories about employees setting off the burglar alarm while going to the bathroom at work, and there's no conflict of interest problem.

2. He has Peter Griffin from the Family Guy in his profile. (SobekPundit flashback here).

3. He hates Paris Hilton and porkbarrel politics. Good luck with getting that copyright.

Congratulations on not being devoured. Sobek is a gracious crocodile when properly appeased.

Bill Kristol Trashes Donald Rumsfeld

Via Dave, who is similarly annoyed with the Washington Post's "free" registration. So I'll exerpt. I'm good that way.

"Actually, we have a pretty terrific Army. It's performed a lot better in this war than the secretary of defense has."

"Contrast the magnificent performance of our soldiers with the arrogant buck-passing of Rumsfeld."

"All defense secretaries in wartime have, needless to say, made misjudgments. Some have stubbornly persisted in their misjudgments. But have any so breezily dodged responsibility and so glibly passed the buck?"

That's really the heart of it. Kristol's main argument is that Rumsfeld is a buck-passer, as though the admission of fault would somehow improve his performance. (NOTE: the ability to admit fault can certainly improve future performance, but the admission of past fault doesn't change the past - it only arms your critics).

All I have to say about this is that Bill Kristol talks pretty big for a guy who used to be a male stripper:

Put some clothes on, then get back to us.

Thanks to Dave, who gave me an excuse to finally use my "Bill Kristol as a stripper" picture.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Imginary Photoshop Moment

Okay, pretend you see the following photoshopped picture:

Kojo Annan, corrupt son of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, has green skin and is decked out like a witch, with a pointy hat, holding a broom, and such. Above him is a speech bubble of him saying "This is all just a big witch hunt!"

So why am I describing the scene to you, rather than just showing you? Two reasons. First of all, I can't find a picture of Kojo Annan on the web. I know, surprising, huh? Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, I wouldn't even recognize him if I did find a picture of him, and I imagine most of you couldn't, either. I suppose I could label the picture, or give it a caption or something, but at that point, the impact would be gone anyway. But trust me: that Photoshop woulda been good...

Anyway, the link above is about Kojo Annan claiming the UNSCAM allegations are just part of a Republican witch-hunt. Uh huh.

"In a written statement to the network, the 31-year-old said: 'I have never participated directly or indirectly in any business related to the United Nations.'"

I'm having a little trouble squaring that claim with this statement by his father:

"Naturally, I was very disappointed and surprised."

If his own father didn't find it odd that there were allegations that Kojo was stealing from a UN program, why didn't Kofi say something to the effect of "but he doesn't have any contact with the UN"? That's a strange reaction, if Kojo really doesn't do any business, "directly or indirectly," with the United Nations. Kojo's claim is also a little hard to square with this:

"After earlier announcing the payments had ended by 1999, a UN spokesman admitted Friday that Kojo Annan had been paid monthly until February 2004 -- just weeks after media reports focused international attention on the scandal."

Pardon me? If Kojo wasn't doing any business with the UN, why were they sending him checks? Perhaps they were royalties for his hit rap album "I'll Starve Your Family."

The only way I can think of that Kojo's statement is not a lie is if his father is in on the Republican conspiracy. Bascially it would break down like this: the eeeeeevil Rovian Republicans lobby to get Kofi in as Secretary General so he can mismanage the United Nations into the ground through utter ineptitude and record-breaking corruption, pinning all the blame on his own son. I'm trying to decide which version of Kofi would be the bigger douchebag - corrupt hyper-liberal Kofi who lets millions starve in Iraq and get slaughtered in Sudan, or scheming hyper-conservative Kofi who is willing to sell out his own son for to reach his political goals. I'm leaning towards the first.


Will Michael Moore jokes ever get old? I hope not. I'm not creative enough to get along without him.

Woot, as the kids say

See how happy I am to be done with finals?

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Now That's a Snappy Comeback

Check out this story. I don't want to spoil it for you, so all you get is a link.

Via the indispensable Dave Barry.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

"Terrorist Threat" in Amsterdam

Look, Netherlands, how many times does Michael Moore have to tell you:


Here you go arresting a man just because he was planning on blowing up some hookers, and make a big deal about it just because of his dark skin, funny-sounding name, Moroccan passport, and connections to the suspected murderer of Theo van Gogh. All the while, you ignore the simple, simple fact, reiterated time and again by that paragon of intellect and reason, Michael Moore, that


When oh when will our wayward Dutch brethren learn? Theo can Gogh saw a threat, and now he's dead. Michael Moore doesn't see a threat, and he's still alive. Do I have to draw you a freakin picture? Or just continually write in great big letters that



Done with Tax

Now let us never speak of this again.

Liberal Larry's Billion Dollar Idea

Liberal Larry has come up with a handy solution to the problem of insufficiently-armored, gas-guzzling Hummers in Iraq. The Chomstein Babykiller 2000.

Not that he'd sell his idea, of course. The very notion of getting paid for labor is anathema to people who like pie.

Friday, December 10, 2004

Blogroll Update

First, a note about my blogroll. Anyone who spends a lot of time reading conservative blogs will notice that it's missing some important names. Where is Captain's Quarters? How about Belmont Club? NRO's Corner?

The thing is, I use my blogroll - it's not just there to look pretty or complete or to suggest my endorsement of whatever is said on any of them. And frankly, I don't have time to read more blogs than I have listed. I don't really have time to read what I've got. So I only blogroll those that I want to cycle through on a daily or a near-daily basis.

So why not just pick the biggest, baddest, Republican-est blogs around? To me, blogging exists because of participation. If all I'm doing is passively reading and that's it, I may as well be watching television, or listening to the radio. It's simply no fun if I can't dive in as well. So my links include smaller blogs, generally, because I can and do invest the time to keep up with them. And that's why, possibly for the first time in the history of the computer, Instapundit is about to lose a blogroll. I know he won't care (or know), but the fact is, I don't have time to keep up with his content (by which I mean "links followed by the word "Heh"), and I can't participate because he doesn't have comments. Nothing personal, but if I don't use the link, it's gone.

I'm also dropping Big Red Hammer. Again, nothing personal. If anything, this is something of a goad to get you posting again, you slacker. He was my roommate in college, and he helped me figure things out when we both started blogging, so I owe him a link, but I don't see how a basically dead link helps either of us. When you come out of retirement, drop me a line and I'll restore you to your place of honor.

Patton at Opinion 8 fame almost got the boot, too, but then I saw a flurry of posts there after he won an award for not posting anything, courtesy of the UnPopulist (who is new to my blogroll). Dude, that's a pretty sweet deal you've got going, Patton. And I'm glad I don't have to chop you. Keep it up.

Beatdown was fun at first, but they got less creative, quit updating, and aren't funny anymore. Beatdown with a blogroll that doesn't have them on it. (Heh, I'm stealing their bit). If they wanna get funny again, they can drop me a line.

What about Allahpundit? Why is he still there? He hasn't posted anything since October? Folks, the fact is, he's the reason I started blogging in the first place. His is the first blog I ever saw, and not only did it reveal to me the possibilities, but it made me laugh out loud in the middle of an Evidence lecture (that was embarrassing). He will always have a place of honor on my blogroll.

Finally, after perusing her site I've deemed the tantalyzingly anonymous Mrs. R worthy of a spot on the blogroll and worthy of not being devoured by a crocodile. It doesn't look like she updates frequently, but it also looks like she puts a lot of time into her very funny posts.

Totally Unrelated Update: Is it just me, or has Red Meat totally lost its charm? I used to laugh so hard at the old Milkman Dan and Karen strips.

"Our Interests Have Grown in Different Directions"

It looks like the dream is already over for some married homosexual couples in Massachusetts. That didn't take long. But let's make one thing absolutely clear.

"Anyone who argues that gay and lesbian couples divorcing is grounds for opposing gay marriage is being incredibly hypocritical."

I think that's a perfectly fair statement. I'm not linking this story for any kind of "I told you so" purposes, because frankly these divorces prove absolutely nothing.

Well, okay, they might prove something, but they don't prove that gay marriage in general is a bad idea. Because frankly, heteros get divorced as well, and no one is petitioning the government to get rid of hetero marriage. What it does prove is highlighted, I hope, by the quote I used as the title of this post. That's a quote from a couple that got married May 22d of this year. They lasted less than seven months together.

Again, that sort of thing happens to heteros all the time. But I suspect that we can reasonably conclude that some, if not many, of the couples who flooded the courthouse steps in the PRM (People's Republic of Mass.) earlier this year because of some desire to publicly demonstrate their commitment, so much as they wanted to make a political statement. I remember Rosie O'Donnell flying to San Francisco to get married very, very publicly when mayor Gavin Newsome went off the hook (all the while criticizing the President for politicizing gay marriage).

Seriously, how much of this is love, and how much of it is a politicized demand for acceptance?

The problem with the latter is that you can never be happy by relying on others as the source of your acceptance. I could choose to feel alienated every day because Tulane is a liberal university in a very liberal city. I know I'm in the minority around here, but I don't rely on the approval of others for my happiness, and therefore I've never felt the need to garner national media attention to get people to support one of my causes. When people disagree with me, they disagree, and I shrug my shoulders and get on with my life.

At its most fundamental level, that is why I oppose, not gay marriage as such, but gay marriage by judicial fiat. Frankly, if the majority of people decided that gay marriages should be performed and recognized by the state, I would be willing to accept that, because it would be the will of the people (as opposed to the will of a small and very vocal minority). What I bristle at is being told what to think by people who label me a fascist or worse for bristling at people who tell me what to think.

Achieve your political aims politically, folks, not judicially. It will lend some modicum of respect to your agendas.

Update: And in an amusingly ironic story, the Law of Unintended Consequences bites gay couples in the butt.


I got an e-mail from Mrs. R, who told me she has a comic strip on her blog about Michael Moore versus Mel Gibson. It's not really - it's more of a commentary on liberals in general, in the context of Michael Moore versus Mel Gibson. But go look anyway. Partly because skewering Lefties is fun, partly because she has a funny pin on her site, and partly because she took the initiative to get more traffic on her blog. I gotta respect that last one.

Update: Folks, let me apologize. When I got the e-mail directing me to the link above, the responsible thing to do would have been to read the rest of the web site before linking anything on it. I shirked my blogging responsibilities, and I apologize.

To make up for my failing, I offer this.

Another Reason Not to Move to Washington

As if you needed another reason. It appears that they're all insane.

Okay, not all of them. Carmen Dixon seems like a perfectly rational person. It seems that she recognized that her daughter was having problems, so she started listening in on her phone calls. In one of those snooping sessions she heard her daughter's friend, Oliver, planning a robbery. Ms. Dixon informed the police. The police arrested Oliver. A jury convicted him. The state Supreme Court threw the case out.


"The Supreme Court ruled that Dixon's testimony against a friend of her daughter should not have been admitted in court because it was based on the intercepted conversation. The justices unanimously ordered a new trial for Oliver Christensen, who had been convicted of second-degree robbery in part due to the mother's testimony."

Okay, to be perfectly fair, it doesn't look like the unanimous Supreme Court are the insane ones. The story also reveals that they based their ruling on a statute that requires the consent of all parties before a telephone conversation can be intercepted. In other words, it is the state legislature that is insane. I think it is perfectly reasonable for the state's Supreme Court to apply the law, even when it is outrageously ridiculous. I also must admit that the ACLU, which defended Christensen on appeal (surprise, surprise) was doing what they have an ethical duty to do: zealously advocate on behalf of their client. That doesn't mean they aren't a bunch of barmy moonbat fools, but this ruling is not evidence of that foolishness. No, the real blame here rests with the legislature that decided parents shouldn't be able to actually, ya know, take some responsibility in their children's lives.

Okay, the Supreme Court isn't entire without blame, here. Vacating a jury verdict is not the only remedy on appeal. The rationale behind draconian measures, such as reversing convictions based on police misconduct, is not that the criminal should get away with the crime, but that the police shouldn't benefit from their misconduct. There should be no incentives, in other words, for cops to violate the Bill of Rights.

But does that rational really apply to parents monitoring their teen-age children? The mother's incentive, if she is responsible at all (and here it seems she is) is the well being of her child. That incentive is neither advanced nor diminished by the Supreme Court's throwing out a jury verdict; her primary motivation is to protect her daughter, and getting her scumbag friend chucked in jail is pure gravy. For that reason, and for that reason alone, I might have decided the case differently. But I might not have, and it's simply because a statute is a statute, even when it's an astronomically stupid statute.

SobekPundit: Helping Kids Cheat Since July, 2004

Sitemeter lets you find out where some of your traffic comes from, and occasionally it's interesting to see which google (or other) searches get you unwitting traffic. By "unwitting traffic" I mean that the search terms clearly indicate that the searcher was looking for something totally unrelated to your content.

It seems someone went to and typed in the query "Is there a book report for Markheim?" and it hit this post from July 28. The post is clearly nothing that a would-be plagiarist can use, because although the title is "Summer Book Report," it's just me blathering on about some books I had read. There's no real structure, and more importantly, I only mention the Robert Louis Stevenson short story Markheim in passing. So at least I was able to waste the kid's time.

I'm somewhat disturbed by my discovery, but it looks like at least some smart educators, such as Dr. Shackleford from MyPetJawa, have found that plagiarism is often easy to catch.

One Down, Three to Go!

Thanks to this semester, you can now ask me any question about Transnational Litigation and I am qualified to pretend I know the answer.

Tomorrow: Federal Income Tax.
Monday: 1st Amendment
Tuesday: European Union

I'm about to have the most sucktastic week-end of my life. But at least I'm 25% of the way there.

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Holy Freaking Crap!

Via Drudge, former Pantera guitarist "Dimebag" Darrell killed at concert.

I don't know how many people who read my blog will care. I never really listened to Pantera, although the opening riff for "Throes of Rejection" has been stuck in my head for about six years now. But I know he was an incredibly talented guitarist - one of the best. Hearing about his death (and that fact that it was not alcohol-related) is such a shock, I'm compelled to blog it.

I mean, holy crap.

I heard about the shooting on the radio this morning, but they didn't say which band or who got shot. Then I saw it on Drudge, and wow. I just don't know what to say.

Redefining Reality

Ace has a post, as well as some critical remarks, about a proposed new Democratic strategy of winning by re-defining terms.

For example:

"He has suggested that same-sex marriage should be referred to as 'the right to marry.'"

I'm posting this mainly in response to a commenter on that thread, Chris Grant, who basically complains that Republicans do that as well as Democrats, so blah blah blah. I note at the outset that "he did it first" was a logical argument that lost its persuasive force back in kindergarten.

Secondly, as I pointed out in Ace's comments, politicians speak to the lowest common denominator. That's simply a fact of political life, and it's due in large part to the fact that a complicated, rambling argument is hard to put on a t-shirt, and therefore hard to drill over and over into the heads of a very dim-witted public. Let me offer an example of this sort of phenomenon, and its abuses.

According to the book 'Michael Moore is a Big, Fat, Stupid White Man," the big fat stupid white protagonist of that book went to Europe and decided to demonstrate how stupid Americans are, compared to their intellectually superior European cousins. He asked Germans (for example), to name the President of the United States, and then the Chancellor of Germany, and the Germans could all do it. Then he said that most Americans can name our President, but not the German Chancellor. Therefore Americans are stupid. QED.

The problem is that Moore's question doesn't reflect intelligence so much as it reflects relative importance in world affairs. Sorry to any Germans reading this, but you are simply not the economic and military super-power that America is, and the last time you tried to be... well, I'll leave that one alone.

To illustrate precisely why Moore's question is so flawed, consider a hypothetical interview conducted in America. Let's start in Louisiana, and ask some random passers-by to name the Governor of Louisiana and the Governor of California. I'm willing to bet that most Louisianans could do both, because our Governor is in the newspaper all the time, and the Governor of California is also in the newspaper all the time. Now let's go to California and ask the same question. How many Californians do you think know who the Governor of Louisiana is? And if that number is very low, is it because Californians are really stupid? (Before you answer that, I remind you that California went very blue last time, and Democrat Barbara Boxer absolutely kicked the crap out of her opponent).

Let's try the same experiment for Moore's state of residence, New York. How many New Yorkers can name the governors of both New York and Louisiana? Can Michael Moore name our governor? If not, does that make him stupid? [No, his lack of a functioning brain makes him stupid.] Does it mean Louisianans are more intelligent than New Yorkers?

Frankly, no. Louisianans are neither more nor less intelligent than people in other states. The problem is the relative importance of the position we're discussing. As much as I like Louisiana, it is clearly not as important as New York, in terms of overall national prominence. Louisiana is like Germany to New York's America.

The problem with all of the foregoing is that it doesn't fit on a bumper sticker. You can't make a radio ad out of it. It takes several paragraphs to combat the sheer stupidity of Michael Moore's fundamentally dishonest conclusion, and frankly, less people are likely to read my several paragraphs than are likely to read the bumper-sticker-sized slogan that Americans are stupid.

So really, it's no surprise that politicians do their best to dumb everything down, and redefining terms is part of that. It's stupid, but that's how the system works.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Feed Me!


This ghastly picture was "inspired" by an observation by Dave about Michael Moore and the dangers of becoming one with your couch.

I may update again, if I find a couch that looks like a 500 lb man habitually sits on it. Plus, I think the couch is entirely too clean to belong to Moore.

Who knows? Maybe I'll transform the entire theme of this blog into a "Michael Moore metamorphosizes into a couch" kind of thing.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Afghan President Hamid Karzai Sworn In

I'm looking for a link to the whole text, and so far I've only seen exerpts. This from the BBC is the most comprehensive one I've seen so far. I'd find the original and do my own translation but, sadly, I don't know any Pashto or Dari (I know, I know, I let you all down).

If anyone sees a transcript of the whole thing, let me know.

This news is huge. If you don't find this story inspiring, you are dead inside. Congratulations, people of Afghanistan, and may your passion for freedom keep you turning out at presidential elections in numbers that should make Americans hang their heads in shame.

Update: Also via BBC News, I found their web site in Pashto, which it turns out has the same alphabet as Arabic (which is how I found the link to the Pashto site in the first place). For some reason they have rectangles liberally interspersed throughout the text, which leads me to believe that the software is simply racist. The Arabic site doesn't have rectangles. What's up with that? Also, I see that Urdu uses the Arabic alphabet, but all the cool Central Asian languages like Uzbek and Kyrgyz use Cyrillic. What's up with that? But then again, they're Turkish languages, and not even the Turks use Roman characters, so I guess the Uzbeks should be able to use Cyrillic without me giving them grief.

Carter's Grandson Caught with Marijuana

Ha ha ha, this proves that all liberals are a bunch of pot-smoking burglars who ...

Wait a minute, not is doesn't.

Why is this even in the news? Public figures, of course, are basically news fodder all day every day, but for what logical reason does this extend to their children, or even their grandchildren?

Monday, December 06, 2004

It's About That Time...

Finals week. Crap. Why didn't anybody tell me about this?

Anyhoo, that's why I won't be updating much. But my last final is next Tuesday, at which time I will have absolutely no committments for almost a full month. I plan to use the time reading the University of Chicago's Journal of Near Eastern Studies (assuming I get that subscription for Christmas), practicing my Arabic, tickling my son for hours on end, and Photoshopping Michael Moore's head onto things.


Friday, December 03, 2004

What do you think, too obvious?

Update: I updated the picture because I wanted to color the hair red, and also because I was unhappy about the poor job on did on blending the flesh-tones in the faces. I'm much happier with the new result. For those of you who didn't see the old version, just trust me that it sucked.

On an unrelated note, how goofy is the shape of Jim Carrey's head? I never noticed until the close examination that is a natural part of Photoshopping. Sheesh.

Also, while I'm updating, I should include my sincere apologies to Jim Carrey and Jeff Daniels, who I think made a masterpiece of a movie. "Big Gulps, huh? Well, see ya later!"

Casual Discussion of Geopolitical Nuclear Politics

Oops, look what I've started (read the comments in the latter).

I figure it's better to post here than to comment on one of those sites, because a) it means more traffic for all three of us, and b) it means I don't have to deal with a stupid character limit.

Regarding the treatment of detainees, I might be a little more liberal than Average Joe thinks. I refer the reader to this post from mid-November, in which I criticized some Ashcroft statements concerning detainees and the judicial process.

Parenthetical Update:
(Thanks to Cox & Forkum) End Parenthetical Update.

When considering the three nations that Bush terms "The Axis of Evil," I think it's too simplistic by far to claim that we ought to approach them all in the same way. Frankly, Iran is not North Korea is not Iraq. Each one has its own considerations, problems, potential benefits, etc. The too simple argument, therefore, is that because we invaded Iraq, we must also invade the other two or risk being labelled inconsistent.

Keep in mind, we are fighting a War on Terror, not a War on the Axis of Evil. That means it is not enough to topple a government. Anything that does not contribute to the overall goal of ending terrorism is either superfluous or insufficient. Giving Saddam the boot, then, is not a legitimate goal in the War on Terror. It must be a means to some other goal.

What I've gleaned from the Bush doctrine is that we want to set up democracies in the Middle East, on the theory that democracies lead to freedom, which in turn crushes the impetus to commit acts of terror. So before we invade anywhere (we're going back in time, now, to immediately post 9/11, before issuing any ultimatum even to Afghanistan), we look at our options and see which are the most promising.

Iran: On the plus side, there has been a massive underground resistance movement there for years. Iran operates a vigorous business in stifling dissent, which means there must be a healthy demand for stiflin'. Iran has no real allies, they don't have the same linguistic kinship with their neighbors that Iraq has, they have massive natural resources that can be exploited to build a thriving regime post-invasion.

On the down side, look at a map of Iran and tell me how you would even go about invading. Seriously, where would you start? In Iraq, we had bases in Saudi, Qatar and Kuwait, Turkey (eventually) let us use their airspace. And what is the plan of attack? In Iraq, because of the river valley system, everything is in a straight line. You start at the Gulf and move north until you get to Baghdad, and you can capture everything in between. Iran doesn't have anything comparable, geographically. If you go straight for Tehran, you are surrounded by unconquered areas. If you conquer the surrounding areas, you are still totally surrounded, and you have more stuff to defend. It huge, its major population centers are scattered haphazardly, and we have limited logistical options.

North Korea: On the plus side, it's much smaller than Iran, so that means a smaller force is required to capture it. We have staging areas courtesy of S. Korea (assuming they don't yank that support when they see us getting aggressive), Japan, the Republic of China, and our many carrier groups in the region. If you take Pyongyang, there really isn't much left to caputre. The people are incredibly poor, troop morale has to suck, and supplies are assuredly limited.

On the downside, Kim Jong-Il is both insane and armed with nukes. He can and would launch those nukes at S. Korea and Japan. The country, while small, is reportedly one long series of ridgelines, so advancing by ground would be far more difficult than, say, Iraq. And once you capture Pyongyang, then what? We get headaches in Iraq because of Iranian support for insurgents - consider if China was the source of that support? N. Korea has no infrastructure, we have no insiders who we could trust to take power, S. Korea doesn't want to just absorb them (because of the devastating impact on their economy). What could you even do with the place?

Perhaps more importantly, N. Korea has little to no exemplary value. If our noble experiment in Iraq succeeds, the practical and undeniable impact will be that every Arab will look at a flourishing democracy in their midst and think, "we could have that, too." Talk about enormous pressure. Pressure of Libya proportions.

Iraq: The entire country is built in a straight line. You start at Basra and walk to Baghdad, and you don't miss anything in between. It has tremendous natural resources to jump-start the economy after the old regime goes down. The tyrant is universally hated. We have Iraqi defectors among us who we can trust (to one level or another) to run things afterwards. Iraq has a long and proud history that can unite the population and get them to work for something better. It's exemplary value is especially poignant for Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, the Arabian Peninsula states.

On the down-side, by stopping at the borders in the 1990s, a lot of Iraqis who trusted us got burned (literally). Once bitten, twice shy, as they say (when I say "they," I mean 80s hair band "Great White.") Because of its long, hard-to-protect borders with Syria and Iran, terrorists can easily enter the country and resupply the resistance fighters. International support for the operation is diminished because certain nations were making a pretty penny in oil bribes from the erstwhile dictator.

Of these three nations, I think Iraq looks far and away like the most attractive target. It doesn't mean we abandon the other targets or ignore their threat value. Rather, we use multi-lateral talks with N. Korea to stall for time. We let Europe deal with Iran to stall for time. We simply don't have enough troops to fight all three battles at once, so we fight one and keep the other two in check. And if we succeed in Iraq, then our geographical problem about getting troops into Iran effectively disappears.

The whole project is a gamble. If Iraq fails, we will have made things much worse than when we started. But when gambling, you double your odds of one success by betting on more than one horse. Iraq is not the only nation we're reconstructing. We're also in Afghanistan. If either of those nations walks away from this with a functioning democracy, we will have scored exemplary points.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Politics and Religion

Politics and religion are two of my favorite topics. But readers of this might might not have known that until just now (or the last post, where I mention getting into a lengthy discussion with a California Rabbi about the return of Messiah).

Dave has a post about conservative atheism which I think is interesting, and in which he states, "yet I feel somewhat comfortable in defending conservatism without invoking religion, or requiring the presence of a higher power."

Dave and I apparently disagree on religious matters. But clearlt one need not be atheist to take such an approach. I defend conservativism (and lampoon liberalism) every day on this blog, and yet make little or no mention here of my religious convictions. A big part of that is because "God said so" is simply not a persuasive argument.

I remember watching a Jehovah's Witness arguing with a Muslim friend of mine, and the JW in frustration started quoting a bunch of verses from the Bible. I laughed and thought, "that's going to be about as persuasive as him quoting to you from the Qu'ran." For the Muslim, the Bible was not an authority, and therefore it had no persuasive power beyond its ability to construct a logical argument in a non-religious context. And speaking as one who reads the Bible quite a bit, I know that's not what Biblical authors try to do.

The same here. When discussing (for example) homosexuality, I simply don't rely on the Bible to make any points, unless the context for the discussion is whether or not the Bible condemns homosexuality. Because if the topic of the conversation is what the government should do about homosexuality, what the Bible says is simply of no relevance. It has no persuasive power, because it nowhere sets out to make a rational argument. Either God tells people not to do it, or He does not.

I'm not trying to divorce religion from politics entirely, or to divorce religion from rational arguments. But when an atheist argues to me that the government should guarantee special rights for homosexuals, if I disagree solely on the grounds of what the Bible says, I will find myself in the position of that JW arguing with the Muslim.

Pseudo Link Round-up

I call it a Pseudo Round-up because it's not really a round-up of all the interesting links I find during the day, and there's no particular theme. Some of it is new blogs I find by randomly surfing blogger, some of it just catches my eye for whatever reason. Check back for updates.

Jennifer puts some serious Kung Fu on Maureen Dowd. It's an enjoyable read for all those who think Dowd is a whiny tramp who couldn't construct a rational argument even if she were paid a billion dollars by various UN officials.

Here's an interesting-looking blog that I'm going to have to spend some more time perusing. From what I've seen, it looks like the author is both liberal and not afraid of critical thinking - a rare combination. I could be wrong, as I have not read very much of it, but for starters here's a post about the California teacher who can't teach the Declaration of Independence. Is it possible that I've leapt to an unwarranted conclusion on this case, based on insufficient facts? It's entirely possible, although this blogger seems more to be advancing a theory than an outright refutation. At any rate, I admit that when I first read the original story, I didn't stop to wonder if maybe I was getting a slanted report - so shame on me.

On the other hand, the title of the post is "More on Christians and Intellectual Honesty." If you're going to hector conservatives about leaping to conclusions, and then leap to a conclusion about all (or most) Christians apropos of this story, then shame on you.

Update: Via Bad Thinking, here's an interesting report on Mormons in Scotland getting a restraining order against an Anglican preacher who was harrassing them.

"The judge said that Mr Price, who described himself as a missionary to Mormons, said that his 20-year ministry manifested itself in speaking about what he regarded as the 'sinister, anti-social and non-Christian' nature of the church, which he regarded as a cult.

"He heard evidence that Mr Price had shouted and screamed outside services and meetings, followed missionaries on to buses, tube trains and into Sainsbury’s, gone to their homes and bombarded them with up to 4,000 cold-calls."

That's a good way to spread the gospel: harrass people until they capitulate.

Update: This link is basically for my own benefit. I left a comment on this post, and I want to be able to find it again should the author respond. The author seems to have a problem with how Guantanamo Bay detainees are being treated.

Update: The Barking Dingo quotes an entire story, adding nothing of his own, about a former Republican campaign chairman who got indicted for allegedly jamming the phone lines of a Democrat get-oout-the-vote drive. A few points:

1. Maybe you could try writing some of your own content when violating fair-use rules. Even Instapundit finds it in him to say "heh" or "read the whole thing."

2. If James Tobin, the Republican who was just indicted, really did this, then he should be vigorously prosecuted and receive the appropriate punishment. Partisanship doesn't extend to illegal manuvers that threaten the very foundations of our political system. But note that I said "if" (I really have no idea), and that Democrats only complain about this sort of thing when it's a Republican involved.

3. The story does not mention Sandy Berger even once.

4. Keeping point 2, above, in mind, if you're going to commit election fraud during a Presidential contest, why on Earth do you pick Connecticut?

Final Update: I planned on looking for more political stuff to comment on, but I found this blog which is basically a place to discuss Jewish traditions, got into a conversation about the restoration of the temple and the return of Messiah, and whether the tanakh is closed, and then I ended up chatting live with a Rabbi in California. So I guess I got a little distracted. But you can see why, right? Anyway, the server cut our conversation short, so here I am.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Consider the Source

While randomly surfing blogspot blogs, I came across Just Between Strangers, which had this post and link. It accuses U.S. troops of using napalm in the recent assault on Fallujah. The link is to the UK tabloid Sunday Mirror, which does not name a source (the blogger, incidentally, tips a commenter on Atrios' blog Eschaton). What do we have so far? An Atrios reader and an unsourced article in a British paper. Let's go to Yahoo! and see what else we can turn up.

The first report is from November 28, in al-Jazeera. Yes, you read that right. We are to take the word of al-Jazeera for this. Riiiiiiight.

We've also got this item on Free Internet Press, which just links the DailyMirror article.

Then there's this, which is just another reference to the al-Jazeera link.

The final relevant hit is from the Asia Times, and it is a fascinating exercise in misdirection. If read the article, tell me what exactly you think the source is. Just try. Let me know if perhaps I've missed something. What we do have is testimony from "unimpeachable source" Dr. Abd as-Salaam al-Kubaysi. What makes him unimpeachable? He is chief of the public relations department of the Sunni Association of American Scholars, he is a university professor, and he lived in Fallujah until before the invasion.

I grew up in Colorado, but if I try to tell you that I know what's going on there, and in doing so I contradict credible news reports, feel free to disbelieve me. I can tell you all about New Orleans, where I live now, but I can't tell you about Colorado just because I used to live there. Please. The good Dr. tells us that "the Americans are entrenched in Fallujah but cannot get out and on to any street or alley in more than half the city, whether that be in Jolan, Shuhada or the industrial zone, or Nazal, or in many places." But inevitably he reminds me of this guy.

Now please note that just because something is reported on al-Jazeera does not mean it isn't true. All I'm saying is that when al-Jazeera is your only source, unconfirmed by any others even three days after the fact, you might want to get a little skeptical. Consider the source.


Is it just a coincidence that the one thing most likely to bring a sweet flood of relief to my burning, feverish desire for more hits is shaped like a needle?

Thanks to Ace for the link.

Blogspot Link Roundup

Every once in a while I use the "Next Blog" feature on BlogSpot to see what else is going on in the wacky 'sphere. I found this one, and I'll update as my surfing progresses.

Lee Horn II has the handy Sponge Bob Square Pants drinking game. For the record, my wife is a huge fan of SpongeBob. You'll never get her to admit this, though. She's always saying "I hate that stupid show" and "you couldn't drag me to that stupid movie kicking and screaming" and "if you love me at all you'll never mention that stupid cartoon ever again." But secretly I know she likes it, and would watch it if we had a television.

Update: Wow, blogger is really quite disappointing today. Seems like most of the things I come across are tributes to Japanese cartoons or written in Spanish. When I feel like taking the time I can muddle my way through Spanish, but I usually don't.

Here's a delightful little blog, update about once every other week, in which a very liberal writer offers the following profound insight into the religious mind:

"I know what these folks like about Christianity, though, and it's rather unfortuneately the same things they liked about it as children: it's simple and makes you feel self-righteous, takes up very little time for the protection it offers, and, after you've lived a life that would have whole villages across the world chasing you with torches and axes, lets you take a "king's X" at the last minute and still be saved so long as you can get yourself to muster up a bit of enthusiasm for the idea that Jesus was the son of God (heck, aren't we all!) and that's easy enough to do for people who are used to reconciling their Christianity with all sorts of behavior that would have Jesus' knickers in a twist in short order."

Ah, with that kind of depth of understanding, assuredly our informant can offer us some insight into how Jesus really feels about Iraq, right? You don't have to wait long:

"Because Jesus is more worked up about Janet Jackson's breast than the other body parts strewn obscenely across sidewalks, walls and intersections in Fallujah, right?"

Pray tell, are you referring to the hundreds of murderers whose body parts are so strewn by the U.S. Marines, or to the hundreds of thousands of innocents tortured and shot by Saddam Hussein? And what do you think of UN envoy Stephen Lewis's remark (in a different context) about "mass murder by complacency"? Does America have a duty to stop mass-murderers?

But considering that she doesn't believe that Bush won the election, I doubt she'll be willing to do anything so gauche as apply critical thinking or consistency to her blogging. Pity, that.

It's (Going to Be) A Boy!

We're at 20 weeks, so we went in to get the ultrasound yesterday, and it looks like I'm just rip-roaring full of testosterone, because so far 100% of my seed are male.

Here's a link to kidd-o number one.

Picture of number 2 forthcoming if I find someone with a scanner, who will let me use it for a bit.

Canary Islands Update

Dave, with whom I apparently have some sort of symbiotic blogging relationship, suspects that the root cause of the recent problems in the Canary Islands is really the Danes. Naturally, I assumed he'd been drinking a little too much Pepsi Holiday Spice.

But then I took a closer look at this picture. Seems pretty innocuous, right?

Scenic Las Palmas Teror

Wrong. Dead wrong. Let me zoom in a little bit:

Hey, who are all those brightly-dressed figures in the background? Let's zoom in closer:

It's the Danes! Dave was right!!!

Okay, this is just getting silly.

Update: "Hello," the program I use to upload pictures, has been fritzy for a bit. If you can't see one or more of the above pictures, try again, and hopefully the problem will go away if I ignore it hard enough.