Sunday, December 31, 2006

Principle or merely excuse?

The Washington Post reports:
CBS appeared to be the most reluctant of the networks to take the unprecedented step of broadcasting video footage of an execution on television in the United States, a country where 53 people were put to death in 2006 alone.

CBS News Vice President Paul Friedman all but ruled out showing footage of Saddam's hanging, saying, "I personally believe it is beyond the pale to show executions."

"I would not want to see moving pictures of the actual moment of Saddam Hussein's death, or anyone else's," Friedman told Reuters[emphasis added]
As Kathryn Jean Lopez points out, it's all a lie: (a) Showing an execution is not unprecedented and (b) despite the CBS VP's protestations, CBS itself has already shown video of an execution. In particular, in November, 1998, CBS 60 minutes showed video of the execution, including the moment of death, of Thomas Youk by lethal injection at the hands of Dr. Jack Kevorkian.

The difference, of course, is that liberals are generally in favor of Kevorkian-style euthanasia while the liberals are extremely uncomfortable with justice being delivered to a mass-murderer such as Saddam.

Media bias in Germany

Having heard endlessly over the years about how evil the US is (and, more recently, Iraq is) for having capital punishment, I was surprised to see opinion polls that show that majorities in the UK, Germany, France, and Spain support the execution of Saddam. David Kaspar details how the European media ignore this and try to spin the Saddam execution.

Incidentally, Kaspar's Medienkritik blog is an overall fascinating look at German media bias.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Science under attack

Activists are now asking scientistst to put a stop to some biology research. Previously, science has identified many hormones and their role in controlling or regulating human biology. In addition to controlling hunger (ghrelin), growth (GHRH), and happiness (serotonin), hormones such as testosterone and estrogen control sexual behaviors. However, now researchers at Oregon State University have identified hormones that control, at least in rams, homosexual vs. heterosexual behavior. Some think that science has gone too far:
Martina Navratilova, the lesbian tennis player who won Wimbledon nine times, and scientists and gay rights campaigners in Britain have called for the project to be abandoned.

Navratilova defended the “right” of sheep to be gay. She said: “How can it be that in the year 2006 a major university would host such homophobic and cruel experiments?” She said gay men and lesbians would be “deeply offended” by the social implications of the tests.


Peter Tatchell, the gay rights campaigner, said: “These experiments echo Nazi research in the early 1940s which aimed at eradicating homosexuality. They stink of eugenics. There is a danger that extreme homophobic regimes may try to use these experimental results to change the orientation of gay people.”

He said that the techniques being developed in sheep could in future allow parents to “play God”.

Saddam and terrorists

A very interesting blog,, has extensive information on Saddam's links to various terror organizations,

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Prosecutorial Misconduct

In our criminal justice system, the guilty often go free. At the same time, the innocent can be harassed by politically motivated prosecution. The Duke rape case appears to be the latest of the latter. Our system is careful to protect the rights of the guilty but the innocent can be powerless. Democracy doesn't necessarily help: Durham D.A. Michael Nifong appears to have won his primary battle because of rather than in spite of his seeming prosecutorial misconduct.

In the '80s and early '90s, there were several people falsely convicted of bizarre and unlikely child molestation changes. Grant Snowden was lucky enough to have his conviction overturned after evidence presented was freed after 12-years in prison. 14-year-old Bobby Fijnje spent two years in the Miami Juvenile Detention Center on molestation charges before a jury before a jury declared him not guilty. Both these miscarriages of justice were perpetrated by then Miami prosecutor Janet Reno. For this, Janet Reno was not punished but rather rewarded. Bill Clinton selected her to become the US Attorney General. Similarly, DA Scott Harshbarger infamously obtained convictions against the Amirault family and went on to become the Massachusetts attorney general and later to head the liberal-lobby group Common Cause.

The one thing that these case have in common is identity politics. The Duke Lacrosse players are Southern whites and therefore, as as a group, are presumed guilty of brutalizing blacks. Similarly, child-care workers, as a group, are presumed guilty in child-molestation cases. Punishing an unpopular group can be popular and successful politics even if the punished individuals happen to be innocent.

Rest in Peace

Gerald Ford (1913-2006) was a decent and honorable man with a calm voice. James Brown (1928?-2006) was the opposite. May they both rest in peace.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

e-mail is not private (yet)

The US Appeals court is expected to rule soon on whether e-mail should be considered private. Unlike USPS mail or telephone conversations, there are no laws protecting the privacy of e-mails. Federal prosecutors assert the right to read to any e-mail that is a public server. This includes, for example, any mail in a google, hotmail or AOL account. Prosecutors used this to gain evidence to charge Steven Warshak, an Ohio spam-merchant, with mail fraud and money laundering. A US district judge sided with Warshak that e-mail should be private but the US appealing.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Murderers are the real victims

James Taranto found this bizarre passage in a New York Times story describing a possible death penalty procedure for Saddam Hussein:
The victims are led up a set of steel stairs to a platform, about 15 feet above the ground, and nooses fashioned from one-and-a-quarter-inch-thick hemp ropes are slipped over their necks. The executioners are different each time, drawn from among employees of the Justice Ministry who volunteer for the job. Many have lost relatives or friends in insurgent attacks, officials said.

With a tug of two large levers, the steel trapdoors drop open and the victims fall through. The doors make a loud clanging sound as they slam against the apparatus, according to people who have witnessed hangings. The jarring noise echoes off the cold, unadorned concrete walls.

Death is supposed to come instantly — a doctor is on hand to certify it — and the bodies are removed to a cooler where they are held before being handed over to the victims’ families. The entire process is recorded by a photographer and a video cameraman and the images are stored in a government archive.
Although this is from an "unbiased" news story, it captures clearly the upside-down liberal view of the world: murderers, such as Saddam, are "victims."

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Liberal racism

Jason Riley is a member of the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal. His wife is expecting. He finds that his liberals friends have a problem with that:
Your wife, who unlike you is white, and who is expecting your first child, has been receiving the oddest reactions to the news of her pregnancy. Upon finding out, friends can't resist informing her that "interracial children are beautiful." It's said in a tone that suggests deep gratitude and admiration, although the reasons are a little unclear.

The comment may be kindly meant, as a sort of reflexive compliment, but it inevitably suggests that she is being congratulated for her willingness to place the aesthetic enhancement of the populace above the imperatives of racial purity. She's heard the remark, or some variation of it, from a dozen different people if she's heard it from one. And more often than not, your wife tells you, it's the first thing they blurt out, even before asking about gender and due dates. ....

A short time later, at a wedding reception in London, your wife finds herself chatting with a Danish woman she has just met. Back at the hotel, your wife informs you that the woman asked her, "How do you feel about having a baby who will look nothing like you? I have a lot of friends who have interracial babies, and they feel totally alienated from their children." ....

It's no surprise that these comments all came from white people; surveys have long demonstrated that blacks are much more accommodating of interracial relationships. More noteworthy is that in all but a couple of cases, the remarks came from white people parked on the political left, the kind of superior folks who might run you down in their Prius for even suggesting that they harbor racial hang-ups. As liberals constantly tell themselves, only conservatives have race issues.

But you know the truth is closer to the opposite. It is the left's obsession with skin pigmentation--invoking it everywhere and always, regardless of its relevance--that keeps race front and center not only in our public policy debates but even in everyday life. In his latest book, "White Guilt," Shelby Steele tackles this phenomenon with his usual peerless eloquence. He describes the endless frustration of dealing with whites "who have built a large part of their moral identity and, possibly, their politics around how they respond to your color."

Clinton legacy

Mike McCurry was Bill Clinton's press secretary from 1995 to 1998. In a speech at Princeton, Mr McCurry evaluated the Clinton presidency with unusual honesty. As reported by the Daily Princetonion:
McCurry said, above all, "the record and legacy of the Clinton presidency is, dare I use the word, 'stain.' .... In some ways, he had enormous potential and political gifts. But, they didn't arise because of his lack of discipline."

Minimum wage and hypocrisy

Megan McArdle looks at how one of the premier left-wing fundraising organizations treats its own employees.
If you want to know why I am no longer a lefty, just read this series on MyDD about PIRG, the organisation that supervised my transition from ultraliberal to libertarian. I have never worked at any organisation, including the Catskills hotel that basically used foriegn temporary labour in sweatshop fashion, that treated its employees as shamefully as PIRG. People talk about workers being disposable, but no other business model I have encountered depends on its employees having an average tenure of two weeks, the better to funnel their lost wages up the hierarchy to god-knows-where. It's all there in the series, what happens to you if you threaten to make too much money: the paycheck mixups that all run in favour of PIRG and somehow can never be rectified, the sudden firings of people for having a bad day, the curiously malleable policies on things like sick leave and holiday pay, which ensure that no one actually ever collects same, the shamelessly llame pretexts for getting rid of the overly successful, and the deliberate assignments to bad turf in order to depress your wages and thus force you to quit, or if that doesn't work, give them an excuse to fire you.
Similarly, ACORN, an advocacy group well known for campaigns to raise the minimum wage, didn't want to pay minimum wage to its own workers:
ACORN and Minimum Wage Hypocrisy ACORN is a vocal proponent of minimum wage hikesexcept when they apply to its own organization. ACORN actually sued the state of California to have its employees exempted from the state minimum wage. The group argued that if it were forced to pay higher wages, it would also have to hire fewer employeesthe very dilemma faced by businesses.
Even the Democratic Party tries to get away without paying the minimum wage to its employees:
Alex Scherer-Jones began working for Grassroots Campaigns to fight the Bush administration and elevate the fortunes of the Democratic Party. The 21-year-old MATC student left feeling exploited and sour: "I went in there being very idealistic, and it kind of ruined my idealism."

The job involves going door to door asking people to give money to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, using talking points that include a call to raise the minimum wage. For this, Scherer-Jones says he was paid far less than the state minimum wage of $6.50 an hour.
The Democrats tried to claim that the rules don't apply to them:
"These kinds of fund-raising and sales positions are governed under different [rules]," asserts [Wes] Jones [the national canvass director] in a phone interview from Seattle....

These practices likely violate state law. Rose Lynch, spokeswoman for the state Department of Workforce Development, says there are no special rules for canvassing firms, and "even individuals paid on a commission basis must receive at least minimum wage."
The left doesn't want to obey the rules that it advocates. One might think that this would them cause to stop and think whether the rules they advocate are good ones or not, but it doesn't.

The Public Policy Institute of California has done a study on "living wages" and found what would seem to be obvious to be worth a study: raising minumum wages causes an increase in unemployment among the lowest skilled labor.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Creationism in Europe

Although Europeans used to regard creationism/intelligent design as an American issue, it is now appearing in Europe. The November 23, 2006 issue of Nature (v444, p406, $$) says that two schools in Hesse, Germany, have been teaching creationism with the support of Karin Wolf, Hesse's Christian Democrat education minister. Nature writes:
[I]n Italy in 2004. Letizia Moratti, then education minister, caused a public outcry when she removed the theory of evolution from the curricula of Italy's middle schools on the grounds that teaching Darwin's theory of evolution can instil a materialist view of life in young minds.... [A]lmost two-thirds [of Italians] would prefer lessons to cover both evolutionary theory and the creationist view.
In addition to Germany and Italy, advocates of creationism are also active in Britain, Turkey, and Russia.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Consequences of a US pullout from Iraq

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is concerned that, if the US pulls out of Iraq, the Shia dominated government might use Iraqi troops against the Sunni population. In that case, Saudi Arabia would back the Sunnis. One can speculate that Iran would respond strongly. The foreign policy issues of this should concern the next session of Congress except that, when it comes to Sunnis and Shia, congressmen don't know who's who.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Congressional Intelligence: it takes a committee

If Congressmen sound clueless, it is probably because they are. Jeff Stein interviewed the incoming chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes (D-Tx), and found that he didn't know the basics about the dividing lines in the Middle East, such as Al Qaeda being Sunni while Hezbollah is Shi'ite. Mr. Stein had previously found other members of the Intelligence Committee, Rep. Jo Ann Davis (R-Va) and Terry Everett (R-Ala), to be similarly clueless.

One shouldn't consider congressmen dumb though. They probably know, for example, every major campaign contributor by name, hometown, and dollar amount.

UPDATE: CNN picks up on this story here.

ADDENDUM: Last month, Hugh Hewitt interviewed the candidates for Republican leadership positions and reports that "not a single Republican congressman vying for a party leadership position could name a book he had read relating to Islamic terrorism."

Thursday, December 07, 2006

American Ingenuity

America soldiers are using toys and bee to defeat IEDs in Iraq. The toy, Silly String, is sprayed across a room to detect trip wires. If the string drops to the ground, there are no trip wires. The mother of a soldier is collecting cans of Silly Strings to send to Iraq. Separately, bees are being trained to sniff out explosives. This work likes trained dogs but, if a bomb goes off, no one misses the bees.

The Uncivil Society

In today's LA Times, Arianna Huffington comes out against Hillary Clinton:
Democrats are fed up with fence-straddling and triangulation. But that has become Clinton's brand. Smiling photo ops with Bill Frist, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum. Backing a bill criminalizing flag burning. Coming out against violent video games. Signing on to President Bush's missile defense plan.
So, Ms. Huffington opposes having the leaders of the US Congress working together in a civil fashion? Maybe she would prefer it if our elected officials acted like the people in those "violent video games" that she seems to advocate?

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

"Any enemy of the US is my friend"

Sen. Kennedy reportedly had secret talks with the USSR for the purpose of thwarting US foreign policy. Today, the Jerusalem Post reports that the terrorist organization Hamas says that it has "held talks with officials from the US Democratic Party at an undisclosed location." There is no word yet on who participated or what they may have discussed.

UPDATE: Captain's Quarters notes that this paragraph in the Jerusalem Post story has now disappeared from their web site.

UPDATE 2: Ynet is now reporting on Hamas' claim to have met with Democrats. GatewayPundit has much more on the Democrat's history of collaboration with enemies going back to their efforts to persuade Union soldiers to desert during the Civil War.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Judicial activism in the 19th century

In one of the Supreme Court's most notorious decisions, Chief Justice Roger B. Taney wrote the maority opinion that ruled that the laws of slave states applied to slave Dred Scott even after his master had moved him to a free state. As the WSJ wrote:
The opinion Taney wrote for the majority in Dred Scott not only guaranteed slaveholders' ability to move slavery into the territories but also tacked on the gratuitous announcement that blacks were incapable of rising to the level of citizenship and therefore had no rights, under the Constitution, that could be violated by enslavement.
Nothing in the constitution supported Taney's conclusions: his decision was simply judicial activism. His activism came from the same source as today's activists. Taney was appointed to the Supreme Court by Andrew Jackson, the US president from the newly formed Democratic party. Only two justices dissented from the Dred Scott decision: Benjamin Robbins Curtis and John McLean. Curtis was was appointed to the Court by President Fillmore of the Whig party, which was, for a while, the main opposition to the Democrats. Originally a Jackson Democrat, McLean's strong opposition to slavery lead him eventually to join the Republican Party where he was twice a candidate for the Republican nomination for president.

Friday, November 24, 2006

This is not the age of reason

Jeff at Caerdroia meditates on the role of reason in public debate on four pressing issues ranging from global warming to Iraq.

Poison: the choice of emperors

The body of Alexander Litvinenko, the dead Putin critic, was found to have unexplained high levels of deadly radioactive Polonium-210. Poison was the tradition means for solving political disputes in the Roman, Chinese, and Mongol empires. The USSR took this to new levels of sophistication when the KGB poisoned Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov by stabbing him with a ricin-tipped umbrella in 1978.

UPDATE: After Putin's denial, James Taranto has an interesting theory: Maybe the intention was to poison Litvinenko with a very slight dose of Po-210, just enough to give him terminal cancer that would appear natural.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Government knows best

Las Vegas has government social services providers set up to help the homeless. There was a problem: the homeless didn't want these services. Rather than admit that the city might have had the wrong approach, the city instead passed a law banning private citizens from donating food to the homeless:
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman had argued that [private] handouts discourage homeless people from seeking help from social service providers set up to handle mental health and substance abuse problems...."The main thing is to make sure these people get professional care," Goodman said of homeless and indigent people....
where, of course, the "professional care" that he prefers is government care. U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jones has issued an injunction prohibiting enforcement of the city's ordinance.

Not mentioned in the AP article is that the mayor who wants to ban private citizens from feeding the homeless is a Democrat.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

The great flood and other mega-disasters

Through a combination of satellite imagery and geological samples collected on Earth, some scientists now believe that they have evidence that large asteroid and comet impacts are much more common than previously thought. One such impact may have occurred 4,800 years ago in the Indian Ocean, leaving a crater 18 miles in diameter.

Dr. Bruce Masse, of the Los Alamos National Laboratory, has been collecting an analyzing 175 flood myths from around the world. There is speculation that that impact 4,800 years ago could have caused a large tsunami and worldwide weather change, including torrential rains, that are described in the myths. 14 of the myths mention a full solar eclipse which Dr. Masse speculates could be used to date the impact to May, 2807 BC.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Victims never have to be responsible

Steven Den Beste notes a difference between how Republicans and Democrats accept electoral defeat:
2000, Democrats: "We wuz robbed!"
2002, Democrats: "We wuz robbed again!"
2004, Democrats: "We wuz robbed yet again!"
2006, Republicans: "Bummer. Oh, well, we'll do better next time."

Note that right-wing pundits and bloggers don't seem to be fixating on voter fraud, despite documented evidence that the Democrats have been doing that kind of thing? Note that Republican candidates who lost very narrowly gave in gracefully, without demanding recounts or resorting to the courts? Why the difference?

I think it's the basic Democrat culture of entitlement showing through. Democrats were angry in 2000, 2002, and 2004 because they felt that they deserved to win. Republicans don't feel that anyone deserves anything. They believe that all rewards have to be earned.

There's another way of looking at this. In 2000, 2002, and 2004, Democrats explained their defeat by looking to see what the Republicans had done to inflict defeat on the Democrats. In 2006, the Republicans seem to be explaining their defeat by loo king for all the ways they themselves loused up. The Democrats are showing their investment in the cult of the victim. They didn't lose because of any fault or failure of their own; they lost because of the nefarious acts of villainous Republicans.

I think the issue is a more general avoidance by liberals and the left of any uncomfortable introspection. Thus, liberals would not look inside for what why they lost elections. Similarly but on the left, Karl Marx wrote endlessly on the supposed faults of capitalism but never examined critically his ideas of communism (Just how was his communist government supposed to 'wither' away?).

On some larger levels, they will introspect endlessly: Democrats obsess on foreign policy issues like "why they hate us?" However, they obsess on this only in ways that leave liberals as the innocent victims of the wrong-headed policies of others. An example would be Sen. Murray's (D-Wa) famous theory that Islamic fundamentalists hate the US because the US has not spent enough money on foreign aid to build daycare centers in Islamic countries.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

"I don't fall down"

A left-blogger, Mike McIntee, claimed to have proof of the White House editing videos to remove the "mission accomplished" banner. As reported in Spiegel Online, the claim has been debunked another blogger. Links to both videos are here.

While Mr. McIntee's mistake may well have been an honest one, his response to its exposure has been curious: it is alleged that he has been deleting comments exposing his error. Abusive comments are often best deleted but left-bloggers, such as, have a reputation for deleting polite and rational comments merely because the comments present facts or evidence that makes liberals uncomfortable. This seems to me to be of a kind with Sen. Kerry's ski trip, as the New York Times reported (March 19, 2004, "Amid Natural Splendor in Idaho, a Weary Kerry Gets Away From It All" by David M. Halbfinger):
The image-conscious candidate and his aides prevailed upon reporters and photographers to let him have a first run down the mountain solo, except for two agents and Marvin Nicholson, his omnipresent right-hand man.

His next trip down, a reporter and a camera crew were allowed to follow along on skis just in time to see Mr. Kerry taken out by one of the Secret Service men, who had inadvertently moved into his path, sending him into the snow.

When asked about the mishap a moment later, he said sharply, "I don't fall down," then used an expletive to describe the agent who "knocked me over."
Reportedly, Sen Kerry fell six times that day when not in eye-shot of camera men. This is natural: All real skiers fall. Yet, Sen. Kerry doesn't want to admit to it, just as Mr. McIntee would rather delete comments than admit to an error interpreting a black bar. At least for our government leaders, I would prefer a higher level of emotional maturity.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Problem spotters vs problem solvers

David Simon spent 13 years as a crime reporter for the Baltimore Sun before rising to prominence with the publication of his 1991 book: Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets, the inspiration for two TV series. He and collaborator, Ed Burns, a narcotics detective and 20-year veteran of the Baltimore police department were on a promotional tour and were asked about the drug problem:
Ed Burns and I spoke at one of those groups. There came this point where a guy said, "Well, what is the solution? Give me the paragraph; give me the lede. What's the solution, if not drug prohibition?"

I very painstakingly said: "Look. For 35 years, you've systematically deindustrialized these cities. You've rendered them inhospitable to the working class, economically. You have marginalized a certain percentage of your population, most of them minority, and placed them in a situation where the only viable economic engine in their hypersegregated neighborhoods is the drug trade. Then you've alienated them further by fighting this draconian war in their neighborhoods, and not being able to distinguish between friend or foe and between that which is truly dangerous or that which is just illegal. And you want to sit across the table from me and say 'What's the solution?' and get it in a paragraph? The solution is to undo the last 35 years, brick by brick. How long is that going to take? I don't know, but until you start it's only going to get worse."

And the guy looked at me and went, "But what's the solution?" He said it again. Ed Burns restrained me.

Mr. Simon has a keen eye for what has gone wrong but doesn't seem to know what a "solution" is: "Undo[ing] the last 35 years" is a wish, not a plan. Center-cities, for example, have deindustrialized for a variety of good reasons and there are no policies that people can agree on that would reverse it. Often the people who can identify problems in emotionally compelling terms seem unable to recognize that, compared to finding the solution, identifying the problem was the easy part.

UPDATE: On the same theme, Democrats can identify problems with our policies in Iraq but soldiers interviewed in the Washington Post point out that the proposed Democratic "solutions" would be worse than the problems. Ann Althouse comments.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Global warming, again

Anxiety does not engage the higher brain functions. Consequently, beliefs driven by fear are often wrong. Take, for example, fear-based climate-predictions, as summarized by Christopher Monckton in today's London Telegraph:
In 1988, James Hansen, a climatologist, told the US Congress that temperature would rise 0.3C by the end of the century (it rose 0.1C), and that sea level would rise several feet (no, one inch).
The rest of the article is as good a summary of the science issues as one will find in a popular newspaper.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Can't say what you feel: Become a Democrat!

Much of what is wrong with how Democrats approach the world is exemplified in Matthew Yglesias' post:
It would be useful, for the purposes of electoral politics, for liberals in the media to avoid expressing the view that the belief -- adhered to by millions of Americans -- that failure to accept Jesus Christ as your personal savior will result in eternal damnation is daft. On the other hand, the evangelical view of this matter is, in fact, completely absurd. And not just absurd in a virgin birth, water-into-wine, I-believe-an-angel-watches-over-me kind of way. On this view, a person who led an entirely exemplary life in terms of his impact on the world (would an example help? Gandhi, maybe?) but who didn't accept Jesus as his personal savior would be subjected to a life of eternal torment after his death and we're supposed to understand that as a right and just outcome. That, I think, is seriously messed up.

But I shouldn't say so!
Note the recommendation that liberals should not say what they really think. Whatever the topic, be it health care, Iraq, or religion, Democrats often think that they should try hard to avoid saying what they really believe. This is corrosive on two levels. For one, it prevents a serious honest debate in this country when one side feels that it has to dodge and weave in order to defend positions that it doesn't honestly believe in. For another, not admitting out loud what they believe seems to prevent them from ever developing a coherent thought on national policy. That seems true here where Mr. Yglesias seems to be so busy reviling Christians that he doesn't seem to realize that his position (that, if there is a God who admits people to a heaven, then that God will admit all virtuous people regardless of which sect they happened to adhere to) is a mainstream Protestant Christian belief. That is not a belief that Democrats would need to hide.

Furthermore, note that Democrats seem unable to politely say they disagree over an issue: they feel compelled to declare the opposing view to be "daft" or "absurd." Such declarations may be fine for political commentators. But it is not useful for politicians who need to build coalitions. Further, since deciding who gets into heaven is not on anyone's list of pressing national issues, there is no harm in being polite.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Political Ignorance

As reported by the Australian, Rep. Harold Ford, D-Tn, currently running in a close race for the Senate in Tennessee, spoke on the nuclear issue:
"Here we are in a world today where more countries have access to nuclear weapons than ever before," Mr Ford said, adding that when he left college in 1992 he thought the nuclear age had come to an end "and America would find ways to eliminate the number of chances that a rogue group or a rogue nation would get their hands on nuclear material".

"Today nine countries have it - more than ever before - and 40 are seeking it, including Argentina, Australia and South Africa," he said.
Now, anybody can misspeak, especially while on an exhausting campaign. But what makes this gaffe remarkable is that Rep. Ford's campaign refused to correct it when pressed on the issue by an Australian reporter. He continued in this confused fashion:
On North Korea, he claimed Pyongyang had conducted two nuclear tests, the first of which he said occurred on July 4. This confuses the ballistic tests Pyongyang carried out on that date with the single nuclear test earlier this month.
It is too bad that the skills that make a good politician don't include knowledge of the issues.

It is also curious no Tennessee, or even American, reporter saw fit to report on this: we learn about this from an Australian paper.

UPDATE: Power Line has more on this here.

While we are on the topic of political ignorance, ABC interviews Michael J. Fox who admits he doesn't know what is in that controversial Michigan Initiative. On the positive side, he comes across as respectful of those who disagree with him, something that so many of our national politicians are incapable of.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Lasers, popular myths, and Reuters

Reuters reports on progress on the US Air Force's airborne laser and includes the following bit of popular disinformation:
Philip Coyle, the Pentagon's chief weapons tester under former President Bill Clinton and now at the private Center for Defense Information, said in an e-mail reply to Reuters that its real effectiveness appeared doubtful.

"If a laser can be developed with enough power to penetrate the atmosphere and still be lethal once it reaches a target, an enemy would only need to put a reflective coating on the outside of its missiles to bounce off the laser beam, making it harmless," he said.
Now, remember that we are talking about a laser power enough to burn through a rocket's casing. A mirror exposed to that would not be a mirror for very long. Even the best mirrors under laboratory conditions are not 100% reflective. Further reflective coatings are, by their nature, fragile. Consequently, damage thresholds for laser mirrors even in a laboratory are much lower than damage thresholds for just the rocket. Worse, a mirror on the outside of a missile travelling through the atmosphere at high speed would soon look more like the chrome on an old car than like a mirror. In other words, any laser powerful enough to destroy a missile will easily destroy any reflective coating.

If Reuters had wanted to write an honest and accurate story, they could have found all this out by asking an informed person at the Pentagon to comment on Mr. Coyle's claim. They didn't.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Why didn't they do this sooner?

Opening a new front in the war on terror, the DoD is now highlighting perceived errors in MSM reporting on an open web site. They take on, for example, a Newsweek article:
INCORRECT NEWSWEEK CLAIM: “In the countryside over the past year Taliban guerrillas have filled a power vacuum that had been created by the relatively light NATO and U.S. military footprint of some 40,000 soldiers, and by the weakness of Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s administration.”


* Qari Mohammed Yousaf Ahmadi, generally viewed as the Taliban’s current chief spokesman, stated publicly on Sept. 15, “The Taliban forces have conducted a tactical retreat.” It is difficult to fill a power vacuum if your forces are retreating. ....
It seems unlikely that this, or any effort, would cause the MSM improve its accuracy. But it is, at least, helpful for the public to have access to more information.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Affirmative racism

A retired high school english teacher, Edmund Janko, writes in today's Wall Street Journal about double-standards in discipline. After a federal agency notified the high school that that is discipline was not racially balanced, they applied a racial double-standard to achieve balance:
What this meant in practice was an unarticulated modification of our disciplinary standards. For example, obscenities directed at a teacher would mean, in cases involving minority students, a rebuke from the dean and a notation on the record or a letter home rather than a suspension. For cases in which white students had committed infractions, it meant zero tolerance. Unofficially, we began to enforce dual systems of justice. Inevitably, where the numbers ruled, some kids would wind up punished more severely than others for the same offense.
One suspects that this benefited the white students two ways: (1) they were forced to learn to behave better, and (2) they learned at an early age that life is unfair. One wonders, though, if this isn't creating some new racism in the school's graduates.

Tolerating free speech, IV

Rush Limbaugh claims that Michael J. Fox got several of the facts wrong in his campaign commercials, such as the substance of Missouri Amendment 2 and which candidate is the one supporting stem cell research. On ABC's Good Morning America, Diane Sawyer ignores all that and asks instead:
"If you have Parkinson’s disease, and you believe embryonic stem cell research is the, is the answer, a possible answer, a possible cure, don't you have a right to speak up?”
The question is highly dishonest because no one questioned Mr. Fox's right to speak. The implicit premise is that Mr. Fox has a right to speak without being criticized: In Ms. Sawyer's world, free speech is only for her side.

Summary of election issues

If you like politics quickly summarized and put to music, have a look at this:

Hat tip: Redstate.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Absentee ballot and dishonest elections

States like California have been promoting the use of absentee ballots and this only makes vote fraud easier. Ballots sent by mail can be intercepted in either direction, discarded, or filler out by cheats. In today's Wall Street Journal, John Fund reviews some example of fraud:
The growth of absentee ballots has been explosive in recent years, exceeding 30% of all ballots cast in 2004 in such states as California, Washington and Iowa..... They clearly increase the potential for fraud "The lack of at-the-polls accountability and protection from intimidation makes absentee ballots the tool of choice for those who commit fraud," the Florida Department of Law Enforcement concluded in 1998 after a mayoral election in Miami was thrown out when it was learned "vote brokers" had submitted hundreds of phony absentee ballots. More recently, in Wise County, Va., three elected officials were charged this past March with 900 counts of ballot fraud. They had filled out absentee ballot applications for others, intercepted the ballots in the mail, and then filled them out themselves. Last year a Connecticut state representative admitted, according to the Hartford Courant, that he "illegally induced elderly residents of the Betty Knox housing in Hartford to cast absentee ballots for him." He got off with a $10,000 fine and community service.
In the six years since the 2000 vote controversy, the US has made little progress toward honest elections.

UPDATE: More on the ACORN/Democratic voter registration fraud scandal here.

RELATED: Federal district judge Tom Lee found racially motivated voter discrimination in Noxubee County, Mississippi, by party boss Ike Brown, a twice-convicted felon.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Action vs. Analysis

Robert Kiyosaki and Donald Trump have written a book on how to get rich. While both are very successful at making money, the Wall Street Journal was not impressed with the book:

The book, however, doesn't suggest conventional solutions. According to the introduction, saving money is "obsolete and bad financial advice" and "the 401(k) savings plan will not be adequate for approximately 80 percent of all workers." ....

Mr. Kiyosaki stresses that mutual funds are risky, while building your own business can be a predictable path to prosperity. Yet he also notes that 90% of start-up businesses fail within the first five years.

When I ask Mr. Kiyosaki about this apparent contradiction, he responds that starting a business isn't risky if you know what you're doing. "Most small-business owners have no financial education when they started," he says. "They weren't trained to be entrepreneurs."

Halfway through the book, all this talk about entrepreneurship gets particularly puzzling. Mr. Kiyosaki says that, in 1996, he started an oil company, a gold-mining company and a silver-mining company. The oil company failed, which would seem to be a sign of risk.

In the next paragraph, however, he writes that, "While there was some risk [in launching these companies], to me it was very little. I could mitigate the risk simply because I know we all use -- consume -- oil and gas."
It is likely that good instincts make a good businessman and Mr. Kiyosaki and Mr. Trump undoubtedly have these. The ability to organize thoughts into a coherent philosophy is separate skill, one that is apparently not their strong point.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Art or hate crime: you decide

Which of the following are art and which are hate crimes:
  • Cow dung splattered on an image of the Virgin Mary
  • A statue of Jesus on the cross immersed in urine
  • A Koran placed in a urinal
Liberal opinion is that the first is art worthy of display at the government subsidized Brooklyn Museum. The second, Andre Serrano's Piss Christ, is also art worthy of an NEA grant. The last, however, was found at Pace University in NY and is being investigated as a hate crime with the police looking to make an arrest.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Ozone hole ignores treaty

Following the 1987 Montreal protocol, ozone-depleting chemicals have been banned. This exceptional example of international cooperation led Kofi Annan reportedly to claim it is "Perhaps the single most successful international agreement to date...". The ozone hole, however, seems to have been ignoring the treaty:
This year's ozone hole over Antarctica is bigger and deeper than any other on record, U.S. scientists reported on Thursday. .... Concentrations of ozone-depleting chemicals in the lower atmosphere have been declining since 1995,
It is undisputed that the banned chemicals deplete ozone. What was never settled, and is still debated in science journals, is whether their effect was significant or insignificant. It was found that the chemical effects were insignificant based on usual gas phase reaction chemistry. It was then proposed that maybe there were catalysts which greatly magnified what would have been an otherwise small effect. This question may not be settled for decades.

Global warming is similar. CO2 is indisputedly a global warming gas but, by itself, it is quite minor. It only becomes important if there is a feedback mechanism whereby changes in CO2 cause changes in atmospheric H2O which magnify the effect. The scientific uncertainty in this feedback mechanism is a key reason why even global warming advocates cannot settle on a number for how much warming will happen.

Unfortunately, uncertainty is unacceptable to political activists who always must claim to have absolute answers and have no qualms about using their received wisdom to rearrange the lives of the rest of us.

UPDATE: NASA attributes part of ozone hole increase to "colder than average temperatures."

Supreme court rebuked by congress

John Yoo, professor of law at UC Berkeley, writes on the "military commission law," which was Congress' response to the Hamdan decision, explaining that it is much more than just that:
[Congress and the president] told the courts, in effect, to get out of the war on terror, stripped them of habeas jurisdiction over alien enemy combatants, and said there was nothing wrong with the military commissions. It is the first time since the New Deal that Congress had so completely divested the courts of power over a category of cases. It is also the first time since the Civil War that Congress saw fit to narrow the court's habeas powers in wartime because it disagreed with its decisions.

The law goes farther. It restores to the president command over the management of the war on terror. It directly reverses Hamdan by making clear that the courts cannot take up the Geneva Conventions. Except for some clearly defined war crimes, whose prosecution would also be up to executive discretion, it leaves interpretation and enforcement of the treaties up to the president. It even forbids courts from relying on foreign or international legal decisions in any decisions involving military commissions.
Traditionally, treaties have been considered politics not law and consequently the Supreme Court should have no business interpreting them. During Pres. Washington's administration, for example, France went to war with England and tried to force the US to obey our mutual defense treaty and go to war on France's side. No politician on the US side agreed. If the Supreme Court had claimed jurisdiction then and forced a war, the American experiment might have come to a quick and painful end.

Professor Yoo's interpretation of how the press missed the meaning of this law is also interesting:

All this went overlooked during the fight over the bill by the media, which focused on Sens. McCain, Graham and Warner's opposition to the administration's proposals for the use of classified evidence at terrorist trials and permissible interrogation methods. In its eagerness to magnify an intra-GOP squabble, the media mostly ignored the substance of the bill, which gave current and future administrations, whether Democrat or Republican, the powers needed to win this war.
In other words, the press was so busy trying to make Republicans look bad that they missed the big picture.

Liberal gay bashing

Three weeks before the election, Dailykos and Mike Rogers are "outing" a supposedly gay Republican senator. As I have noted before, the usual conservative reaction is mind-your-own-business. (The exceptions to this rule, rape, sexual harassament, and pederasty, don't seem to apply here.) The liberals doing the "outing" likely don't understand the conservative reaction. In fact, many expect a backlash against Democrats over gratuitous "outing." The liberal defense seems> to be to claim "hypocrisy." Apparently, the argument is that any gay Republican who disagress with the liberal gay agenda is a hypocrite. The possibility of a mere difference of opinion is unthinkable to them.

The liberal reaction to Black Republicans seem similar. Not understanding the concept of differing opinions, they regard Black Republicans as "inauthentic" or worse.

UPDATE: More on the hate motivation here and here.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Medical care and governmental control

The CDC made quick work tracking down the cause of 21 deaths in Panama, according to an AP report:
U.S. health officials this week cracked the case of what caused the mysterious deaths of 21 people in Panama since midsummer _ an industrial chemical in red cough syrup....

Some of the people who grew ill had been taking a sugarless cough medicine that was made in a pharmaceutical factory operated by Caja de Seguro Social, a government hospital system. That led investigators to test the medicine.

So the deadly medicine was manufactured by the government.

Problems with medical care are often greeted with calls for more government control. This Panama example illustrates that more government control is not always the answer.

UPDATE: China has several thousand coal mines that Chinese regulators say should be shut down for safety and environmental reasons but the mines are controlled by local governments (or local government officials) that won't obey the regulators. In this case also, more government involvement is not answer.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Tolerating free speech, III

From the Omaha World Herald:
Two African American teachers have filed a racial complaint against Lakeside School, claiming that the elite private institution created a hostile work environment and discriminated against them.

Among the plaintiffs' complaints was Lakeside's invitation to conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza to speak as part of a distinguished lecture series.

After [some] faculty members and parents complained, the school in January rescinded the invitation to D'Souza, who has argued that the underachievement of African Americans has more to do with cultural attitudes and behaviors than with white racism.
In other words, Mr. D'Souza's opinions are somewhat similar to Bill Cosby's. By suing the school over his invitation to speak, these two teachers are claiming the right to limit views expressed at the school to those that they agree with. As James Taranto writes:
In the plaintiffs' view, equality requires that dissenters from the racial orthodoxy be treated as nonpersons. This attitude is totalitarian in its essence.

The publics right to know vs. journalism

When it is convenient for them, the press touts the public's right to know, a principle which has been enshrined in the Freedom of Information Act. The BBC, however, doesn't think that the public's right to know applies to them. They are currently fighting an expensive court battle to keep secret a 2004 report by a senior editorial adviser, Malcolm Balen, that is rumored to be critical of the BBC's anti-Israel bias. The BBC's secrecy is understandable if you remember that the release of the Hutton report, on bias in Iraq coverage, led to the resignation of the BBC's two top officials: Greg Dyke, editor-in-chief, and Gavyn Davies, the chairman of the BBC's board of governors.

More on tolerating free speech

Patterico writes about a L.A. Times columnist, Meghan Daum, who praises the violence of the leftists at Columbia University. Ms. Daum writes of the incident:
The speaker, Jim Gilchrist of the Minuteman Project, a citizen's border patrol group, had been invited to campus by the Columbia University College Republicans. Reports in the New York Times said students holding banners reading "No One Is Illegal" jumped on the stage and were soon joined by dozens more protesters as well as supporters of Gilchrist. Protesters later said Gilchrist was knocked backward and his glasses were broken. The student newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, reported that "one student was kicked in the head and bleeding." [Emphasis added]
What does Ms. Daum think of these violent efforts to shut down what was supposed to be a civilized discussion of the issues? She writes:
But considering that most young people are considered to be politically apathetic, you have to credit the Chicano Caucus and the International Socialist Organization for trying. .... I'll give them an A (OK, maybe a B+) for trying.
So her concern is with "political apathy." But, the College Republicans didn't show apathy: they organized an event and brought in a speaker. Ms. Daum doesn't find that praise-worthy. She gives high marks instead to those who would shut down the debate.

In a related post, Brian at IowaVoice also writes more generally on the gap between the ideals that liberal profess and their actual policies.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Those who cannot tolerate free speech

Peggy Noonan outlines four recent instances of liberals not tolerating dissenting opinions. One instance was out Columbia University where protestors silenced a Republican-sponsored speaker. It was explained that silencing one's opponent is part of "free speech":
"We were aware that there was going to be a sign and we were going to occupy the stage," said a protestor who was on stage and asked to remain anonymous. "I don't feel like we need to apologize or anything. It was fundamentally a part of free speech. ... The Minutemen are not a legitimate part of the debate on immigration."
The psychology of this rage can understood by looking at a much smaller example, also from Ms. Noonan:
On "The View" a few days earlier it was Rosie O'Donnell. She was banging away on gun control. Guns are bad and should be banned. Elizabeth Hasselbeck, who plays the role of the young, attractive mom, tentatively responded. "I want to be fair," she said. Obviously there should be "restrictions," but women have a right to defend themselves, and there's "the right to bear arms" in the Constitution. Rosie accused Elizabeth of yelling. The panel, surprised, agreed that Elizabeth was not yelling.
To Rosie, even polite dissent sounds, in her mind, like "yelling." Something similar might have happened in Bill Clinton's mind when he was questioned by mild-mannered Chris Wallace and responded: "So you did Fox's bidding on this show. You did your nice little conservative hit job on me."

This leads to a related issue: paranoia. Notice that, after being asked a substantive question, Mr. Clinton jumps to a conclusion about Mr. Wallace doing "Fox's bidding" on a "conservative hit job." This is reminiscent of Mrs. Clinton's theories about the "vast right-wing conspiracy." Jonah Goldberg reviews examples of this in his essay "The magnifying trick of liberal paranoia."

Alexander Hamilton had similar paranoid delusions about the evil things Thomas Jefferson would do if Jefferson was elected president. He thought Jefferson would ally with France and start a war with England. He didn't, even after two terms in office. History showed that Hamilton's concerns were merely based on delusions.

It is impressive that democracy continues to work even when so many of its participants appear insane.

Friday, October 13, 2006

"Soft racism of low expectations"

While a person must present photo ID to board an airplane, drive a car, or cash a check, Democrats have been arguing that it is too much of a burden to ask a voter to do the same when voting. Here is House minority leader Pelosi on this subject:
Though the right to vote is the foundation of our democracy, the bill we debate today would in effect disenfranchise millions of American voters: the elderly, African Americans, Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, people with disabilities; and the list goes on.
OK, I understand that the elderly and disabled might have a hard time because one can only obtain a picture ID by walking 5 miles through the snow uphill. Also, historically, southern Democrats had taken extraordinary measures to prevent Blacks from voting. (However, that was 40+ years ago and hasn't recurred.) But, why does her list include "Asian Americans, Latinos, Native Americans"? Are these groups supposed to less able to get IDs than other types of hypenated and non-hyphenated Americans? Is this just racism ("low expectations) on the part of Ms. Pelosi?

More on Rep. Pelosi and vote fraud here.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Liberal fears

Have you ever felt that powerful evil forces are out to get you? That seems to be how a columnist, Chris Reardon, at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst newspaper feels:
Students are among the many victims of an American economy, an entity that pays little attention to individual citizens and benefits a tiny upper-class. Every time tuition is increased, or a new edition of a textbook is published, capitalism is at work taking advantage of every available dollar on the market.
A problem with this critique of capitalism is that Mr. Reardon is a student at University of Massachusetts-Amherst, a state school. Consequently, the university and its policies on tuition and choice of textbooks are not a part of the evil capitalist system.

Weather is complicated than first thought III: mass extinctions

A research paper in Today's issue of Nature (Editor's summary is here. Full text requires subscription) claims that Mother Nature systematically and repeatedly causes mass extinctions ("species turnover"). They studied the past 22 million years and found that cyclical changes in the Earth's orbit cause climate change and extinctions:
Because obliquity nodes and eccentricity minima are associated with ice sheet expansion and cooling and affect regional precipitation, we infer that long-period astronomical climate forcing is a major determinant of species turnover in small mammals and probably other groups as well.
The subset of environmentalists who believe that Mother Nature is perfect now have to consider climate change and mass extinctions as part of that perfection.

More on this here and here.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Jimmy Carter on Korea

In the New York Times today, Jimmy Carter presents his version of events leading the North Korean nuclear test. If he had any doubts about the wisdom of giving money and nuclear reactors to cash-strapped loony regime bent on developing nuclear weapons, he doesn't mention them.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

The Democrats' enemies list

This video on the Democratic approach to foreign policy is funny but the GOP has been deemed it too over-the-top to use:

The video shows Sec. Madeleine Albright attempting to befriend terrorists by singing kum-ba-yah with them. While, as far as we know, this scene is fictional, appeasement does seem to be the Democrats preferred approach to foreign policy, a few stray cruise missiles to the contrary notwithstanding.

The Democrats approach to domestic enemies is strikingly different. Domestically, Democrats have a long enemies list: tobacco companies, Wal Mart, and Republicans, to name a few. However, they never seem tempted to approach any of them with offers of compromise and appeasement.

Russia opposes action on N. Korea nukes

MOSCOW, October 10 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Vladimir Putin said Tuesday that diplomacy should be the only way for the international community to dissuade North Korea from further nuclear tests.
Separately, Russia's defense minister dismisses the US pentagon news leaks about the test having failed:
He said Russian experts have no doubt that the explosion was a nuclear one, but refused to give details.

"We have our secret methods, but I will not discuss them," he said

Humor requires insight

Pres. Bush Sr. is a fan of Dana Carvey's Saturday Night Live impersonations of him ("Wouldn't be prudent..."). Carvey is funny enough here that even his target appreciates it because Carvey had some insight into G. H. W. Bush's personality (type ISTJ). Contrast this with Barbara Streisand:
There was Streisand, enduring a smattering of very loud jeers as she and "George Bush" _ a celebrity impersonator _ muddled through a skit that portrayed the president as a bumbling idiot.
This presentation of Pres. G. W. Bush simply lacks insight into his characters and his flaws.

Monday, October 09, 2006

S. Korea makes a discovery

Curiously, South Korea hadn't seriously considered the implications of its funding of North Korea's government while that government was pursuing nuclear weapons. South Korea has provided over $2 billion(US) in financial aid to the financially-strapped North as part of the South's "sunshine policy." The Korea Herald wants the policy changed:
Over nearly a decade of implementing an engagement policy toward the North, Seoul has been the biggest donor. Once the recipient shook the peninsula with a nuclear blast and broke a military equilibrium in the region, there is no sense of continuing humanitarian and economic aid to it. ....

An estimated 2 trillion won (about $2 billion) worth of aid has been delivered to the North under the engagement policy which had two major justifications - to prevent a new war on the peninsula and prevent the collapse of the North, an event that would cause an unbearable economic and social impact on the South. A nuclear-armed North Korea dismisses these reasons. It says it needs nuclear arms for self-defense, but their concept of self-defense is nothing less than holding Seoul hostage in the event of an external invasion.
The Joon Gang Daily recommends similar measures and reviews the self-deception of the Korean government:
President Roh Moo-hyun and his men in charge of diplomacy and national security have made unbelievable remarks. President Roh has said, "North Korea's nuclear development is reasonable, looking at it as a means of self-defense." When North Korea test-fired its missiles, he said they were not aimed at South Korea.
It will interesting to see if Seoul can summon the strength to cut the aid to the North now that the North can make credible nuclear threats. It is not easy being the hostage.

Foley, house staff, and the problem of the House

John Fund finds that the house failed to stop Rep. Foley's flirtations early because the issue was handled by staff rather than the elected representatives themselved. The 435 members of the House depend on 17,000 staffers who tell them, as per Fund's article, what's important or how to vote.

This illustrates what might very possibly have been a mistake in how congress was organized. After the US constitution was enacted, there were only 30,000 constituents per house member (see Article I, Section 2, Clause 3) and no staff. If you have lived in a town of 30,000 or 40,000, you know that it is relatively easy to know your town mayor reasonably well. If you had a strong opinion on a local issue, you would expect to be able to bend his ear, one on one. As the US grew, however, it was decided not to increase the number of representatives. There are now 680,000 constituents for each representative. That is the size of a large city. Most people now know their representatives only from their TV ads.

If we had kept a ratio of 1 representative per 40,000 constituents, there would now be enough representatives to divide the work so that their need for staff, like in the original congress, would be minimal. The problems with the staff functioning as a shadow unelected government would be disappear. Because TV ads become superfluous when you can meet a candidate personally, the costs of running an election campaign would largely disappear, similar a small-town mayor's reelection budget, while representatives would have to represent their constituents more accurately. On the down side, though, the capitol building would need to be enlarged to hold the 7,400 representatives.

North Korea and dealing with stress

The North Korean test this weekend is cause for concern. So far, two strategies for dealing with stress have emerged: (1) minimizing (denying) the threat and (2) placing blame on someone else.

Using the first approach is the NY Times which minimizes the threat. They write:
If the test occurred as the North claimed, it is unclear whether it was an actual bomb or a more primitive device. Some experts cautioned that it could try to fake an explosion, setting off conventional explosives; .... Even then, it is not clear that the North could fabricate that bomb into a weapon that could fit atop its missiles....
They also write that "A one-kiloton blast would be extremely small for a nuclear weapon." Actually, The North Korean blast, variously estimated at 0.5 to 15 kiloton, is not "extremely small." It is the normal size for fission bomb. (The larger bombs are fusion (H) bombs.) Claiming that such a bomb is "extremely small" is, as the survivors in Japan would likely testify, an act of denial.

The other approach is to admit that it is a problem but to blame is all on Pres. Bush, as Sen. Reid and Sen. Clinton did today. This strategy can work because both senators can be confident that no one in the MSM will ask them any difficult questions about the Carter-Clinton-Albright policy of giving N. Korea money and nuclear technology in exchange for empty promises.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

What to do about the civil war

"We are in a state of civil war, orchestrated by radical Islamists. This is not a question of urban violence any more, it is an intifada, with stones and Molotov cocktails. You no longer see two or three youths confronting police, you see whole tower blocks emptying into the streets to set their 'comrades' free when they are arrested.... We need armoured vehicles and water cannon. They are the only things that can disperse crowds of hundreds of people who are trying to kill police and burn their vehicles."
So it is in Paris, at least according to Michel Thoomis, secretary general of the Action Police trade union, where over 2,500 officers have been injured this year.

What would the Democrats recommend? "Immediate withdrawal," or "a timetable for redeployment" out of Paris?

Freedom of speech, liberally defined

Yesterday, Jim Gilchrist, the founder of the Minuteman Project, was scheduled to speak at Columbia University when protesters stormed the stage. See the video here. The left interprets "freedom of speech" to mean freedom to prevent your opponents from speaking.

One of the protesters' slogans was "no one is ever illegal." Superficially, this is a nice warm emotional statement. When you think about applying it fully as a governmental policy, it appears ugly. One would have hoped that Columbia students would have been able to demonstrate more sophisticated thinking.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Caring for the children, Democrat-style

The difference between the two parties is made clear by the Foley and Studd's scandals. Not only has Rep. Foley resigned, but conservatives, like the editors at the Washington Times, are calling on the House Speaker to resign for failing to be sufficiently vigilant in protecting the pages.

Contrast that with the Democrats. In 1983, Rep. Gerry Studds was caught with a 17-year-old page (the same age as Rep. Foley's). The Democrats did not force him to resign. They did not call for Speaker O'Neill's resignation. Not only did Studds stay in office but the Democrats in his district re-elected him five more times until his retirement in 1997. Democrats always talk about caring for the children. Their re-election of Rep. Studds tells you how they think children should be cared for.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

BDS in California

California, like most states, has many important political issues such as education, environment, budget deficits and spending priorities. To support their candidate for governor, Democrats have been ignoring all these state issues and instead running campaign ads linking incumbent Republican governor Arnold Schwarzenegger with Pres. Geo. Bush as if hatred of Mr. Bush was going to be an important and unifying issue that would drive Democrats to victory in a state election. So far, this stategy is not working.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Al Qaeda vs. Iraq

While Michael Moore may regard al Qaeda as heroic muslim minutemen, the Iraqis are tired of getting killed (from the Boston Herald):
Also in the news last week, poll results from a University of Maryland public policy institute found that 94 percent of Iraqis hate al-Qaeda.
Having arabs see terror for what it really is is a major accomplishment of the war on terror. Further, the Iraqis remain reasonably in favor of a united democratic Iraq:
Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his tough-on-militias unity government, which Americans fought and died to establish, has the approval of six in 10 Iraqis. Two-thirds of Iraqis believe Iraq will still be one country in five years.

Felon Rights

Today's Wall Street Journal explains why Congress will continue to allow felons to work at US ports. First:
The Department of Homeland Security recently investigated the ports of New York and New Jersey and found that of 9,000 truckers checked, nearly half had criminal records. They included murderers, drug dealers, arsonists and members of the deadly MS-13 gang. [emphasis added]
Consequently, unions, fearful that too many of the members would lose jobs, lobbied hard to prevent background checks for dock workers. This problem is also in state laws. Consider South Carolina:
"There is a gaping hole in port security," Byron Miller of the Charleston, S.C., port, the nation's sixth largest, told me. "Right now, by law we cannot do background checks on 8,000 people who work at this port." He noted that a state bill to provide for background checks was killed last year after unions applied a full-court press against it. [emphasis added]

Washington Post goes to war

For three weeks in a row, the Washington Post Sunday front-page has featured a one-sided attack on the Bush Administration. The pre-election timing of these and other MSM articles is obvious: The NIE report dates back to April but the first selective leak occurred just weeks before the midterm elections. Likewise, the Rep. Foley IM transcripts are old but only being publicized now.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Are they Nazis?

It is common in the less civilized portions of the internet to refer to Republicans as fascists or Nazis ("Bushitler"). This has gone mainstream with ex-VP Al Gore referring to Republicans as brownshirts. Sen. Byrd claimed that proposed changes in the filibuster rules would make Senate Republicans equivalent to Nazis. This makes it interesting to look back in history at the relationship between Democrats and fascists:
The Nazi press enthusiastically hailed the early New Deal measures: America, like the Reich, had decisively broken with the "uninhibited frenzy of market speculation." The Nazi Party newspaper, the V├Âlkischer Beobachter, "stressed 'Roosevelt's adoption of National Socialist strains of thought in his economic and social policies,' praising the president's style of leadership as being compatible with Hitler's own dictatorial F├╝hrerprinzip" (p. 190).

Nor was Hitler himself lacking in praise for his American counterpart. He "told American ambassador William Dodd that he was 'in accord with the President in the view that the virtue of duty, readiness for sacrifice, and discipline should dominate the entire people. These moral demands which the President places before every individual citizen of the United States are also the quintessence of the German state philosophy, which finds its expression in the slogan "The Public Weal Transcends the Interest of the Individual"'" (pp. 19-20). A New Order in both countries had replaced an antiquated emphasis on rights.

Mussolini, who did not allow his work as dictator to interrupt his prolific journalism, wrote a glowing review of Roosevelt's Looking Forward. He found "reminiscent of fascism … the principle that the state no longer leaves the economy to its own devices"; and, in another review, this time of Henry Wallace's New Frontiers, Il Duce found the Secretary of Agriculture's program similar to his own corporativism (pp. 23-24).

Roosevelt never had much use for Hitler, but Mussolini was another matter. "'I don't mind telling you in confidence,' FDR remarked to a White House correspondent, 'that I am keeping in fairly close touch with that admirable Italian gentleman'" (p. 31). Rexford Tugwell, a leading adviser to the president, had difficulty containing his enthusiasm for Mussolini's program to modernize Italy: "It's the cleanest … most efficiently operating piece of social machinery I've ever seen. It makes me envious" (p. 32, quoting Tugwell).
(Hat tip to Brussels Journal.)

Even if FDR and the fascists shared some economic ideas, principally a disdain for the free market and an admiration for strong central government, that does not make FDR a Nazi. Even if FDR put Japanese in concentration camps during WWII, that still does not make him a Nazi. (Lack of gas chambers is an obvious key difference.) Of course, Geo. Bush isn't a Nazi either.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Environmentalism and its contradictions

The EPA must now decide how to make nature stop polluting itself. The publication of Rachel Carson's book "Silent Spring" in 1962 inspired the growth of an environmental movement that claimed that the natural state is ideal and man pollutes it. However, new case studies show that the majority of "pollution" now comes from "nature." In the Potomac river, for example, 59% of bacteria comes from wildlife and while merely 16% comes from humans. Potty-training the wildlife is not option, so what is an enviromentalist to do? Kill wildlife? Yes. The Washington Post reports that "Maryland does kill a few hundred geese annually to reduce water pollution."

This all makes clear a problem with the ideology: Nature is not "pure" and not "ideal."

15% of the Potomac's bacteria comes from pets. Will back-to-nature environmentalists insist on taking our pets away from us?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Deterrence works

The law in High Point, NC, tried a new approach when dealing with street-level drug dealers. From the WSJ, they didn't actually prosecute the dealers. Instead, they explained to the drug dealer and his parents a new policy:
The district attorney promised to seek the maximum possible sentences, and the assistant U.S. attorney threatened to bring federal charges, which, he stressed, don't allow for parole. Police from surrounding areas warned them against trying to relocate operations, noting that their names were flagged on statewide law-enforcement computers.

Rev. Stevenson recalls that the alleged dealers "seemed to be paying a lot more attention."

The West End street drug market closed "overnight" and hasn't reopened in more than two years, says Chief Fealy, who was "shocked" at the success.

Clintons continue blame game

From the San Jose Mercury News:
"I'm certain that if my husband and his national security team had been shown a classified report entitled `Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside United States,' he would have taken it more seriously than history suggests it was taken by our current president and his national security team," Hillary Clinton said.
So if, as the Senator claims, the Clinton team would have taken a classified report "seriously," why didn't they take the 1993 WTC bombing "seriously"? After that strike was there any doubt that terrorists were determined to "attack inside the United States"?

If the Clintons don't want to be faulted (see below), they should stop making rediculous claims.

UPDATE: Apparently Bill Clinton not only saw such a document, he signed it.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Civil vs. Uncivil

Discussing people who disagree with his Iraq policy, Pres. Bush today said:
....And those are good, decent, patriotic people who believe that way -- I just happen to believe they're absolutely wrong.
Contrast that with a Democrat discussing the same topic (as reported by the Guardian):
Al Gore has made his sharpest attack yet on the George Bush presidency, describing the current US administration as "a renegade band of rightwing extremists".
The Anchoress has noticed the same thing. She remembers viewing one of the Bush-Gore presidential debates:
At the time of that debate, I was no longer calling myself a “liberal democrat” but I still had not gone over to “the dark side” and pulled a lever for a Republican. But I was struck by Dubya in this debate, both by his amused look at Gore, and by a response he made to a woman in the audience. She got up with a little bit of an attitude, doing the “powerful woman and angry Dem” thing. I don’t recall the question, but Dubya’s answer made me pick my head up from my needlework. He said, simply, “well, this is just a difference of opinion…”

A difference of opinion…after 8 years of the Clintonistas turning every issue into a morality play with the Democrats always on the side of the angels against the “morally reprehensible” Republicans, after listening to Al Gore declare that the 2000 election was “a fight between good and evil…” I was more than relieved to hear “this is just a difference of opinion…”
While the MSM contempt for Republicans long preceded Clinton, I think she is right that Clinton's approach of replacing rational debates with name-calling does seem to have been widely adopted by establishment Democratic politicians. While Hubert Humphrey strongly disagreed with Richard Nixon, it is hard to imagine him referring to Republicans as "renegade right-wing extremists."

History of climate change scares

Sen. Inhofe, chairman of the senate environment and public works committee, has produced a summary of global warming/climate change issues that is, coming from a politician, surprisingly good. For example, he outlines a history of media scares about climate change going back over a century:
Here is a quote form the New York Times reporting on fears of an approaching ice age.

“Geologists Think the World May be Frozen Up Again.”

That sentence appeared over 100 years ago in the February 24, 1895 edition of the New York Times.

Let me repeat. 1895, not 1995.

A front page article in the October 7, 1912 New York Times, just a few months after the Titanic struck an iceberg and sank, declared that a prominent professor “Warns Us of an Encroaching Ice Age.”

The very same day in 1912, the Los Angeles Times ran an article warning that the “Human race will have to fight for its existence against cold.” An August 10, 1923 Washington Post article declared: “Ice Age Coming Here.”

By the 1930’s, the media took a break from reporting on the coming ice age and instead switched gears to promoting global warming:

“America in Longest Warm Spell Since 1776; Temperature Line Records a 25-year Rise” stated an article in the New York Times on March 27, 1933. The media of yesteryear was also not above injecting large amounts of fear and alarmism into their climate articles.

An August 9, 1923 front page article in the Chicago Tribune declared:

“Scientist Says Arctic Ice Will Wipe Out Canada.” The article quoted a Yale University professor who predicted that large parts of Europe and Asia would be “wiped out” and Switzerland would be “entirely obliterated.”

A December 29, 1974 New York Times article on global cooling reported that climatologists believed “the facts of the present climate change are such that the most optimistic experts would assign near certainty to major crop failure in a decade.”

The article also warned that unless government officials reacted to the coming catastrophe, “mass deaths by starvation and probably in anarchy and violence” would result. In 1975, the New York Times reported that “A major cooling [was] widely considered to be inevitable.” These past predictions of doom have a familiar ring, don’t they? They sound strikingly similar to our modern media promotion of former Vice president’s brand of climate alarmism.
The whole thing is worth reading.

UPDATE: The senator responds to his critics at CNN here.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

AP as propaganda

Usually when the press talks about the press, they talk about their high standards, unbiased reporting, and many layers of fact-checkers. In other words, they are in deep denial. That makes it interesting when the Boston Herald's City Editor writes honestly about the problems with wire services:
The Associated Press, the reliable just-the-facts news agency you and I once knew, no longer exists. Amoral propagandists have taken over.

Previously: an NBC correspondent explains the problems with foreign news.

UPDATE: More MSM admissions of bias are here (scroll to "Pope Is Catholic, Media Are Liberal").

Saturday, September 23, 2006

CIA war on Bush Administration Continues

The New York Times-CIA alliance continues with another attack on the Bush administration with a story entitled "Spy Agencies Say Iraq War Worsens Terror Threat." In the text of the article, the source for this allegation is "one American intelligence official." So the headline is based on a single anonymous source. The source says his claim backed merely a "passing mention" of Iraq in a larger report. So the NY Times makes a single anonymous source's claim of a passing mention of something into a headline.

UPDATE: In From The Cold has more info from the full report and concludes, not surprisingly, that the NY Times coveraged was biased.

Newsmedia Perfidy

Pham Xuan An died Wednesday. He spent 15 years working as a reporter for AP, Reuters, and Time. He went to off-the-record briefings by US military in South Vietnam and then transferred all he learned to the North Vietnamese. As the NY Times writes:
Mr. An proved invaluable to his spy masters. “I had access to all the Vietnamese bases and their commanders,” he is quoted as telling Mr. [Morley] Safer.... “My superiors wanted to know the strengths of various units. They wanted estimates of the capabilities of commanders — who was corrupt and who was corruptible. They wanted all the political stuff, the same stuff you guys wanted.”
When someone says the press is working for the other side, history shows it might be literally true.

The Blame game works both ways

For years, Democrats have pretended that 9-11 was all Pres. Bush's fault. Remember all the hopes that were placed on a presidential daily briefing that was to prove that Bush knew. Bill Clinton is now red-faced and outraged that anyone could blame him. This seems to be part of Clinton's reaction to the "Path to 9-11" docudrama. The docudrama, using 20/20 hindsight, makes both the Clinton and Bush administrations look stuck on political correctness rather than public safety. The truth is likely that presidents face many priorities and, before 9-11, no one envisioned al Queda as a critically important one.

Helping the poor, not

AP reports on Hugo Chavez's plan to help the poor in the US:
Accusing Bush of neglecting the poor, Chavez started a program last winter for Venezuela's U.S.-based oil company Citgo to sell discounted heating oil to poor American families. It distributed more than 40 million gallons of oil last winter to low-income Americans, and Chavez announced a doubling of that this winter.
The GDP per capital is $40,100 in the US while it is merely $5,800 in Venezuela. If Chavez was interested in helping the truly poor, as opposed to scoring political points, he would be providing his aid to the people of Venezuela. Since Chavez assumed office, the income in Venezuela has not only remained low, it has dropped sharply (contrast with US): If he truly cared about the poor, Chavez would let someone more competent run Venezuela.

California sues laws of physics

California has filed suit against Ford, GM, Toyota, DaimlerChrysler, Honda, and Nissan, "charging that greenhouse gases [CO2] from their vehicles have cost the state millions of dollars."

Pause for a moment and reflect a moment of the nature of fossil fuel (hydrocarbon) combustion and why the "global warming" gas CO2 is produced. When combustion is done, the carbon doesn't disappear. It has to go somewhere. Further, the amount of energy released by combustion (which controls gas mileage) is highest if the carbon ends up as CO2 (which is the lowest energy form of carbon available). So, when a car that burns gasoline produces CO2, it is working at its best. The same, by the way, is true for fossil fuel power plants, whether oil, natural gas, or coal: they all produce CO2 when working properly.

If man-made activities are responsible for global warming, then governments should set policies and enact laws regulating the burning of fuels. California Attorney General Lockyer's lawsuit, however, is merely a political stunt.

Friday, September 22, 2006

A How-to on civilized conversation

Do muslims have a right to be annoyed with Pope Benedict's remarks not violent, just annoyed)? The Anchoress has an answer:
In our house, we have a rule: You have the right to disagree with and be annoyed by anything someone else says, just as soon as you can accurately repeat back to your opponent the thing they said.

I would say that holds true for these fundamentalist Muslims, too. Can they first repeat Benedict’s arguement back to him, accurately? It means reading the speech though, with an honest attempt to comprehend his meaning, and then saying, “this is what you said, Benedict - do we have the right of it?”

If they can do that, then yes..they have a right to be annoyed, if they like. Annoyed. Just like Catholics get “annoyed” when they feel they have been treated obnoxiously at the hands of, say, Hollywood. Annoyed does not mean killing, burning, calling for blood and death or converting people under a sword.
Of course, few will take her suggestion. For many people, outrage seems to be a pleasurable emotion.

The party of hate

I discussed anti-semitism in the Connecticut Democratic primary below. Today, Powerline has a summary of anti-semitism on the part of the Democrats in the Virginia senate race.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Government lost 1,100 laptops

Since 2001, the US Commerce Dept. has lost over 1,100 laptops, including 246 laptops from the Census Bureau which contained personal data on US citizens.

Newspapers continue committing suicide

The Miami Herald attacks Cuban-Americans and, reportedly, loses 1,200 subscriptions. This is reminiscent of the LA Times in 2003 which did a partisan attack on Arnold Schwarzenegger and reportedly lost 1,000 subscriptions.

Newspaper circulation has been declining anyway. They shouldn't be chasing their customers away.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

When is a freedom not a freedom?

In Turkey, the government is considering a petition to arrest the Pope when he arrives for violating "freedom of belief and thought":
They said the pontiff had violated Turkish laws upholding freedom of belief and thought by "insulting" Islam and the Prophet Mohammed.
So, how did "freedom of belief and thought" turn into freedom from hearing "insults"?

Proponents of modern multi-culturalism often want to ban insults. Since "insults" are in the mind of the beholder and, for any statement, there is likely to be somebody in this wide world who finds it "insulting," banning "insults" the same is nearly the same as banning speech.

UPDATE: The laws against insulting Turkey will be enforced tomorrow as a novelist is put on trial for having fictional characters in the novel mention the alleged Armenian massacre.

A Democrat discovers supply side economics

Reuters reports:
Former U.S. Vice President Al Gore on Monday suggested taxing carbon dioxide emissions instead of employees' pay in a bid to stem global warming.

"Penalizing pollution instead of penalizing employment will work to reduce that pollution," Gore said in a speech at New York University School of Law. ....

"Instead of discouraging businesses from hiring more employees it would discourage business from producing more pollution," Gore said.
This is the opposite of the usual Democratric claim, loudly advocated when tax reduction legislation is before Congress, that taxes would cause no one to change behavior.

The thought of taxing pollution instead of employment is interesting, worthy of consideration if a concrete plan is developed.

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