Thursday, August 31, 2006

Denial is comfortable

Over at HuffingtonPost, R. J. Eskow takes on Pres. Bush's use of the phrase "Islamic fascism." I'll just take one quick excerpt:
The term "Islamic fascism" paints all Muslims with the same brush [emphasis added]
Of course, the term doesn't mean that. Pres. Bush has repeatedly gone out of his way to distinguish between the "religion of peace" and the extremists. (It is obvious that the term "Islamic fascism" refers to a variation of fascism rather than all muslims just like it is obvious that the term "German fascism" refers to a type of fascism and not all Germans.)

It appears that Mr. Eskow finds it easier to criticize his self-created false characterization than to do the hard work of addressing the real issues.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Media meet modernity

The AP has partially corrected their dishonest account of VP Cheney's speech. Cheney spoke of historical parallels for our current security problems. The AP instead claimed that he was attacking administration critics. QandO has the details. Sen. Reid picked up the same distortion.

The difference between now and just a few years ago is that everyone has easy access to the full text of the real speech and the AP has to make corrections. Similarly, Reuters has found out that its readers know more about how to spot a photoshop fake than its editors. (Today, various armored vehicle manufacturers weigh in on another Reuters claim.) The news media have not yet adapted to being part of the information age.

Sudden Jihad Syndrome

While many people experience life's temporary frustrations, the West has traditionally discouraged suicide as cowardly or sinful. The Catholic Church, at times, has even denied burial rights to suicides. Now, we have a competing culture (Islamism) that claims that suicide will guarantee your access to heavenly pleasures, provided that you kill as many innocents as possible in the process.

The power of the Islamist approach to frustration was evident in yesterday's vehicle attack in San Francisco: the driver is now quoted as calling himself a terrorist. It is possible that his attacks on random people was 'revenge' for a traffic accident outside his mosque. His attack is reminiscent of Mohammed Reza Taheri-azar who drove his vehicle onto a university mall in Chapel Hill and Naveed Afzal Haq's attack on the Jewish center in Seattle.

Since, there will always be some who want to die in a murderous rage (Columbine), a responsible society should discourage this. It would be helpful if Islamic scholars could unequivocally remove the 72-virgin incentive from murder/suicide rampages.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Philadelphia vs. Iraq: Which is safer?

The Washington Post provides the statistics and Gateway Pundit analyzes them. This provides some needed perspective.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Not a clue

Over at HuffingtonPost, former Senator Gary Hart, the one-time front-runner for the Democratic nomination for president, worries that George Bush, like Augustus Caesar before him, is going to replace a democracy with an empire. He writes for example:
In the last five years we have seen an effort by the current government to control the American judicial system by the appointment of ideologically selected judges. The unprecedented attempt to make the administration of justice the instrument of ideology is incompatible with the Constitution of the Republic whose flag we salute.
So, what, exactly, is supposed to be "unprecedented" here? Democratic presidents also try to select ideologically compatible judges. Nothing new here. Sen. Hart continues:
The unprecedented submission of social policy, and foreign policy in the Middle East, to religious fundamentalists violates the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution...
Now, the people involved in Bush's foreign policy, like Sec. Rice or Sec. Rumsfeld, are generally not "religious fundamentalists." Sen. Hart makes no effort to explain how our Middle East policy is supposed to be abridging First Amendment rights: it is not like there is a shortage of criticism.

Gary Hart may feel threatened by the Bush administration but to make a convincing case, he needs to provide more substance. Otherwise, it just appears to be paranoia.

Half of a clue

Staci Schoff grew up in Republican states. At blogcritics,org, she writes to Democrats about it. Unusual among Democrats, she tries, at least superficially, to understand the other side. She explains, for example:
When discussing homosexuality, you’ll find most rural and working class folks firmly in the “mind your own business” camp. But suggest the public schools use their tax money to “educate” their children about it, and I’m afraid all bets are off.
Democrats often taking a winning issue, such as "equal rights," and convert it into some strange caricature of itself as, in this case, insisting on instructing kindergartners in sexual details.

She also comments on the Democrat's naive view of their party:

I’ve never met a rural or working class person who doesn’t know that Republicans cater to rich conservatives. But what they also know (and evidently liberal journalists do not) is that the Democratic party caters to rich liberals.
Good point. Democrats support the death tax but they support it in a way that allows Warren Buffett, the USA's 2nd richest person, to pass on most of his estate tax-free.

She also seems to understand something about the news media that eludes most Democratic commentators:

I like to read Mother Jones for the same reason a conservative person likes to watch Fox News, because I often nod my head in agreement or learn something I didn’t already know that seems perfectly reasonable. Not because I need to be told what to think.
hat tip:

Choosing sides

The Wall Street Journal today discusses Belgium's ruling Socialist-Liberal coalition which banned crucifixes from government buildings. Now, however, in a surprising show of religious sensitivity, Belgium police officers are barred from eating or drinking on the streets during Ramadan.

This is reminiscent of New Jersey public schools which ,allowed Muslims to use an empty classroom for prayer while denying similar privileges to other religions.

"The President Lied!!!!!!!!!"

Over at Austin Bay Blog, Tom Nichols of the Naval War College reviews what President Clinton was saying about Saddam and WMD.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Weather is more complicated than first thought, II

While some argue over how much global warming will make glaciers melt and shrink, a new study from Newcastle University says that global warming may, instead, make glaciers grow, at least in the Himalayas. According to the BBC, this would be because global warming makes for cooler summers there.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Gambling with nukes

One of the most technically challenging parts of making a nuclear bomb is creating the perfect implosion which trigger the nuclear chain reaction. In an operation personally approved by then-President Clinton, the CIA gave plans for doing this to Iran. The plans were supposed to contain a subtle flaw. But, some say the flaws were "so rudimentary they would have been easily fixed."

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Attacking the messenger

Photojournalism has been rocked by a number of scandals recently as front-page photos have been repeatedly exposed as fakes or staged photos. David Perlmutter takes the issue seriously. By contrast, Greg Mitchell, the editor of the Editor & Publisher trade magazine, takes a different approach. He attacks the bloggers who exposed the problem:
One day last week I spent an entertaining ten minutes examining a long thread at one blog in which most of the posters were convinced that, for some unfathomable reason, a very dark-skinned Lebanese man in one photo MUST have been pasted into the scene -- for everyone knows (?) Arabs are never that dark.
I saw several discussions of that photo and they had nothing to do with the man's race and everything to do with suspicious photoshop-like artifacts around his head in the image.

Reuters has admitted to a real fauxtography problem by withdrawing over 900 photos. Mr. Mitchell prefers instead to ignore the actual issue in this particular photo and instead accusing the bloggers of being racists. This self-delusion reminds me of Mr. Laurence below.

Much more on this subject here,

Fraud and Deceit in 2004

AP reports that Ralph Nader lost a lawsuit over the 51,000 signatures he submitted in his attempt to get on the Pennsylvania ballot for the 2004 presidential election:
The Commonwealth Court opinion described the Nader-Camejo petitions as ''the most deceitful and fraudulent exercise ever perpetrated upon this court.''
Remember that the next time Ralph Nader tries to tell you what kind of car to drive.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Perceptions of Bias and Biased Perceptions

Bob Laurence, the TV critic at San Diego Union-Tribune, explains why the two Fox News journalists kidnapped in Gaza are getting so little media attention:
Fox has deliberately set itself apart from other news media. Starting at the top with Roger Ailes, the Fox sales pitch has been to deride other media, to declare itself the one source of the real truth, the sole source of 'fair and accurate' news reporting.
Maybe I don't watch enough TV but I don't remember Fox claiming any of these things. I suspect that Mr. Laurence hasn't watched much of Fox either because he apparently doesn't know that the Fox slogan is "fair and balanced" not "fair and accurate."

While Mr. Laurence's anger at Fox may very well be genuine, the reason for that anger must be something other than what he has claimed.

Big Stakes

Thomas Sowell reminds us who we are fighting and how important it is, particularly as we decide what to do about Iran:
What kind of people provide a market for videotaped beheadings of innocent hostages? What kind of people would throw an old man in a wheelchair off a cruise liner into the sea, simply because he was Jewish? What kind of people would fly planes into buildings to vent their hate at the cost of their own lives?

These are the kinds of people we are talking about getting nuclear weapons.

Hat tip: Dr. Sanity

Non-islamist terror

The Animal Liberation Front has taken credit for placing a molotov cocktail at the home of the director of UCLA's Center for Primate Neuroethology. In their haste to protect life, the ALF apparently mistakenly left the failed bomb at the home of an unrelated 70-year old woman. There was no word on whether, if the cocktail had successfully exploded, it would have harmed any cats or dogs.

Schools set priorities

Dan Holden, a seventh-grade social teacher in Kentucky, burned two US flags in class last Friday. American students may graduate from school not knowing who George Washington was, but at least they will know how to protest.

How safe is your home?

If some fine citizen were to walk up to your house and try to kick in your door, would he be assured of safety? When such a fine citizen tried kicking in the door of Michael Grant's $550,000 2nd story home, the stairway under him collapsed. The Boston Herald reports that the city will cite the homeowner for his failure to maintain a burglar-safe environment.

Around and around in circles we go

Reuters reports that Iran now says it is "ready for serious nuclear talks."

Monday, August 21, 2006

Shopping for profit

Diana Newton is suing J. C. Penney Co. after a mannequin allegedly hit her on the head. In Diana's favor, the mannequin will not be able to testify in its own defense. This approach has been profitable in the past:
And in 2001, a Canadian shopper in Vancouver won a $330,000 verdict after a Gap store mannequin landed on her head. Elizabeth Ball was apparently jinxed when it came to store displays. A few years earlier, while shopping at a lighting store, she was beaned by a falling chandelier, according to the Canadian Press.
On the downside, not all lawsuits against malicious mannequins have been successful: Indiana woman claimed she caught herpes from the lips of a CPR training dummy. She dropped her lawsuit against the American Red Cross in 2000 after further tests revealed that she didn't have the disease, according to news reports.

Is lying a virtue?

The UN security council unanimously approved the Israel-Lebanon ceasefire resolution after France promised to the lead the international peacekeeping force. France now seems to have reneged. This bothers the editors at the Wall Street Journal. Matthew Yglesias agrees that France has been dishonest but he approves and goes so far as to claim that the dishonesty was "brilliant."

Weather is more complicated than first thought

AFP reports:
Greenland's glaciers have been shrinking for the past century, according to a Danish study, suggesting that the ice melt is not a recent phenomenon caused by global warming.

Bomb Plot or Political Plot?

Kevin Drum sees something suspicious in the latest airplane terror plot:
These guys, on the contrary, "had not attended terror-training camps in Pakistan or Afghanistan and had relied on information gleaned from text books on how to make bombs." ....

So: was this a serious conspiracy? .... Was it about winning elections? Building public support for draconian security legislation? Plain old bureaucratic incompetence?

One of the alleged plotters, El-Nashar, had a doctorate in chemistry from a university in Leeds. Does Mr. Drum really believe that British education is so bad that this person wouldn't know how to make an explosive without receiving additional training in Pakistan?

Similarly, at Time, Andrew Sullivan wonders if Lieberman's primary defeat had anything to do with the decision to round up the suspects in this "alleged" plot.

The alleged Lieberman connection seems particularly strained: Is the outcome of a Democratic primary really that important to Bush and Rove? Would Pakistan and Britain really participate in such a scheme over a mere primary election in a small US state? If this was a grand conspiracy, wouldn't it have made more sense to unveil it before the primary when it could have made a difference rather than after?

If all the terror plots are phony, then, of course, there would be no need for wiretap international phone calls or for more intrusive airport screening procedures. Politics would then be much simpler.

Space Exploration: does it have a future?

An interesting analysis of NASA's situation is here. I don't accept his conclusion because, as far as I know, there is nothing worth mining on the moon. The major issue with space travel is the launch costs: at around $10,000(US) to get a kilogram into low Earth orbit, there is very little cargo that can pay its way. As long as we are limited to chemical propulsion, costs won't come down much.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Insufficient Bias

Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe chastises the New York Times for being accurate in their legal analysis when they should be attacking the Bush administration instead. Powerline responds.

Are consumers just victims?

Do you make your own buying decisions? Well known economist J. K. Galbraith said we don't. Rather, as he wrote in 1967, we are controlled by corporations:
The mature corporation had readily at hand the means for controlling the prices at which it sells as well as those at which it buys. ... The proper shape of an automobile, for most people, will be what the automobile makers decree the current shape to be.
Most consumers seem to have more free will than Galbraith imagined: Many consumers looked at the "proper shape of an automobile," as decried by Galbraith, and chose Toyota, Honda, and Nissan instead. Consequently, Ford just unveiled a 21% cut in its production. General motors has half the market share it did when Galbraith wrote about its control and it is still struggling financially.

Some, like J. K. Galbraith, are certain that people's lives are run by forces outside of their control. Others believe that they are firmly in control. The human mind is not good at separating reality from anxieties.

The UN War Machine

Among the war materiel that Israel captured from Hezbollah were sophisticated night-vision goggles that previously belonged to the U.N. Drug Control Program in Iran.

In 2000, Hezbollah used UN uniforms as disguises when capturing Israeli soldiers. The UN was later found to have destroyed evidence related to their complicity in this incident.

Airplane passengers revolt

Unusual in the summer heat of the beach resort of Malaga, two airplane passengers on their way back to England were wearing leather jackets and thick jumpers. They appeared nervous and checked their watches often. When someone claimed to have overheard what the two were saying to each other, eight passengers got up and walked off the plane. They joined six passengers in the lounge who had refused to get on the plane in the first place. The pilot examined the passports of the two and called police. The plane took off three hours late but without the suspicious two.

Opposition politician, Patrick Mercer, declared "This is a victory for terrorists."

Saturday, August 19, 2006

In committees, we trust

We must implement the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission
So wrote senate-candidate Ned Lamont. The same theme is echoed in today's Democrat radio address. Does that particular report deserve such reverence? The commission's investigation seemed to follow a conclusions first, facts later approach. Its recommendations were largely vague (e.g. from page 376: "The United States must stand for a better future"). It seems that politicians find it easier to cite this report than to define and defend a real policy.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Jimmy Carter's Lasting Influence

Jimmy Carter's UN ambassador speaks:
Andrew Young ... last night [told] an African-American newspaper that Jewish, Arab and Korean shop owners had “ripped off” urban communities for years, “selling us stale bread, and bad meat and wilted vegetables.” ... “You see those are the people who have been overcharging us,” he said of the owners of the small stores, “and they sold out and moved to Florida. I think they’ve ripped off our communities enough. First it was Jews, then it was Koreans and now it’s Arabs.” (emphasis added.)
This contrasts strongly with Ambassador Young's feelings toward Ayatollah Khomeini whom he described as "a saint."  That statement was from back when the Carter Administration was working, successfully as it turned out, to replace the Shah of Iran with Khomeini. To help push the Shah out, Carter embargoed arms shipments to him. Carter, of course, lifted the embargo when Saint Khomeini assumed power. Khomeini then displayed no gratitude: Iran held Americans hostage for the rest of the Carter presidency.

(There is, by the way, no inconsistency in Young's statements: He may hate Arabs but his sainted Khomeini is Iranian, not Arab.)

This is not irrelevant history: Israel fights with Iran-funded Hezbollah while the rest of the world grapples with Iran's determination to develop nuclear weapons. Jimmy Carter's replacement of the Shah with the Khomeini regime may be one of his most important legacies.

What do you get when a naked woman fondles the carcass of a dead pig?

Answer: A £30,000 government grant
from the Arts Council England.

Affirmative Action

Did anyone else find it odd that, after defeating Sen. Lieberman in the primary, Ned Lamont appears on stage with two of the Democratic party's most prominent anti-semites: Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson?

Meanwhile, MoveOn.Org is less subtle: its discussion board refers to the current Conn. senator as "Jew Lieberman."

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The netroots' Iraq policy

Ned Lamont, the netroots candidate for senate, spells out the substance of his Iraq policy:
While we will continue to provide logistical and training support as long as we are asked, our frontline military troops should begin to be redeployed and our troops should start heading home.
He doesn't call for immediate withdrawal or even a date certain for withdrawal. As written, his policy is indistinguishable from President Bush's.

What kind of victory is this for the netroots if their candidate won't even call for an immediate withdrawal?

What happens when an impoverished country gets too much financial aid

Yasser Arafat's widow receives a pension of US$22 million per year from the Palestinian Authority.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Order from Chaos

Endless human conflict has been caused a simple disagreement over philosophy: is it better to have life organized by a few central leaders or by the uncoordinated actions of small groups or individuals. One example would be the 20th century wars between communism (strong central organization) and free enterprise (minimal central authority).

The same argument appears now in the conflict between the major wire services and bloggers. The wire services claim decades of experience in their field with layers of fact checkers and editors to review and verify the stories. By contrast, bloggers are layerless and unorganized beyond the individual writer. Bloggers seem to be winning the battle over fact-checking.

On the other hand, maybe the major news media don't even try to check their facts.

How to celebrate a victory

The AP quotes a wealthy Palestinian fruit importer:
"My wife wanted to call the baby Nasrallah, but I wanted Hezbollah — to commemorate the entire resistance," he said smiling.
The proud parent seemed fully aware of, but narcissistically uninterested in, the consequences for the child:
"My friends said with this name he won't be able to work, or travel abroad. I have business in Israel as well — but you know, there is a nationalist spirit in me," he said.
One Gaza hospital reports six babies named after Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Racial Profiling

In a move that will anger many Asians, Britain considers racial profiling at airports. LaShawn Barber comments.

Why Do They Hate Us?

The LA Times printed an op-ed today that claimed:

"Bush is wrong to say that foreigners hate us because of our values and freedoms." (emphasis added.)
The op-ed goes on to claim that the true reasons include issues such as US lack of adherence to the Kyoto treaty.
The transcript of Bush's speech however shows that he was actually talking about why the terrorists hate us. No one can honestly claim that bin Laden or al Zarqawi hated us because of Kyoto. On the other hand, the constitutional first amendment rights to, say, commit blasphemy or read Salman Rushdie are on the Islamists' list of reasons. The LA Times might have caught the error if they had fact checkers.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Why the news is so uninformative

An NBC correspondent with 39-years in journalism provides a remarkably frank explanation of the problem with news reports from Lebanon: The reporters are young, they don't know anything about the region, and they fear Hezbollah.

In 2003, CNN admitted that fear kept them reporting from Iraq only what Saddam wanted: CNN kept secret the torture and murder of their own employees and contacts. Similarly, it seems that Fox should have had more fear of reporting from Gaza. This makes the recent fauxtography from Lebanon not so surprising.

Didn't airports smell bad enough before?

As of Sunday, it is mandatory for passengers to remove their shoes and have them put through the X-Ray machine. However, according to a Homeland Security Department report, X-ray machines cannot detect explosives in shoes.
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