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Thursday, December 01, 2005

Moving Day

Justus for All has moved off of blogger. My new site is: http://www.davejustus.com/. Please update your bookmarks. Thanks!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Faith in Materialism

Paul Campos has written an interesting essay in the Rocky Mountain News. Here is the central point:

Materialism, as a philososphical doctrine, has the great advantage that it reduces the catalog of things that actually exist to those which can be investigated by science. It has the great disadvantage that it requires treating as illusions morality, art, free will, and much else that most people call 'reality.' That, of course, does not make it false. It does, however, make it literally incredible to anyone who hasn't made the leap of faith materialism requires.
I have a few materialist friends and readers. I wonder if any would care to comment on or refute Campos's statement.

David Duke loves Syria

David Duke has visited Syria to offer his support to that poor regime and, of course, do a little Jew bashing. MEMRI: "

I have defended Syria for a long time, so I was admiring Syria, I have admired your president very much. I hope at some point to be able to meet him and shake his hand. I think he is the greatest man in a very difficult period, and especially with what's going on right now, in terms of Lebanon and its relations with Syria. But absolutely, even from my perspective, and it shows you how the Zionist media around the world controls and affects all of us. Even those of us who are aware of it - it's subtly affecting.'
I have long believed that a good way to check your premises is to take a look at the character of your allies and the character of the allies of your opponents. Obviously, evil men can sometimes still embrace a good cause, and good men can be mistaken and support evil, but overall it is a good way to make sure that you haven't deluded yourself. So it is a great comfort to me to see David Duke happily on Syria's side. (via Vodkapundit)

Immigration Reform

I caught President Bush's speech yesterday. All in All I liked what he said, but felt it somewhat short on details. I have to admit though that 'immigration reform' or whatever you want to call it isn't a big issue of mine. I pretty much assume that while it might be a great scare tactic, border control doesn't have much to do with defending against terrorism (especially the border control that is focused on preventing Mexicans from getting into the U.S.) I am also in favor of immigration. Yes, we should enforce our laws etc. etc. but the thought of millions of Mexicans (or whoever) coming to America doesn't scare me as it does some of the Republican Party. I want more immigration. I want the best and brightest and most ambitious people in the world to come to America. I don't like our current system of massive illegal immigration while we politely look the other way, but my issues with it are not the fact that too many Mexicans are coming here, but that the system creates a black market labor force of people who are easily, and systematically exploited. This bit of Bush's speech I both like and dislike:

Every new citizen of the United States has an obligation to learn our customs and values, including liberty and civic responsibility, equality under God and tolerance for others, and the English language.
The first part I agree with. I am not so sure about American citizenship being tied to the English language however. I love English as much as anyone however, I am doubtful English is all that important in being a good and productive citizen of the United States. Further, I expect that technical innovation will make this less and less relevant.

Kiss me deadly

Chicago Sun Times:

A 15-year-old girl with a peanut allergy died after kissing her boyfriend, who had just eaten a peanut butter snack, hospital officials said Monday.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The Myth of the Scandinavian Model

The Brussels Journal has an article on the economic climate in Europe with special attention given to the Scandinavian countries and Ireland:

In 1970, Sweden’s level of prosperity was one quarter above Belgium’s. By 2003 Sweden had fallen to 14th place from 5th in the prosperity index, two places behind Belgium. According to OECD figures, Denmark was the 3rd most prosperous economy in the world in 1970, immediately behind Switzerland and the United States. In 2003, Denmark was 7th. Finland did badly as well. From 1989 to 2003, while Ireland rose from 21st to 4th place, Finland fell from 9th to 15th place. Together with Italy, these three Scandinavian countries are the worst performing economies in the entire European Union. Rather than taking them as an example, Europe’s politicians should shun the Scandinavian recipes.
The Scandinavian nations have presented a problem for people like me who advocate low tax burdens for economic growth as these nations always seem to be highly regarded in best place to do business lists and other similar ratings. This article, assuming it is accurate, which it seems to be, refutes that myth very strongly. Very interesting stuff. I hope a few European leaders (and American politicians) see this and understand it. (via Instapundit)

Jordan's king urges war on Islamic militancy


Jordan's King Abdullah II has appointed his national security adviser as the new prime minister, giving him a mandate to launch an all-out war against Islamic militancy in the wake of this month's triple hotel blasts. In a designation letter to newly appointed Prime Minister Marouf al-Bakhit, Abdullah said Thursday the November 9 attacks 'increase our determination to stick to our reform and democratization process, which is irreversible.'
This seems like a positive step. It seems to me that a rising consensus against jihadism is sweeping the Arab world. While the greatest portion of this is doubtless a result of Al Qaida's attacks against fellow Muslims, I think some of this is a result of them being militarily defeated in Afghanistan and Iraq. A good portion of the terrorists power has always been the fear they could cause in both individual citizens and entire governments. That fear is being broken.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Wax On, Wax Off


Actor Pat Morita, whose portrayal of the wise and dry-witted Mr. Miyagi in 'The Karate Kid' earned him an Oscar nomination, has died. He was 73.
The Karate Kid is a great movie (we won't mention the sequels) and Morita is the actor who made that movie shine. He will be missed.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Must read post of the day

WILLisms.com Trivia Tidbit Of The Day: Part 224 -- General Motors, Michigan, Health Care, & Wealth Care.

U.S. vs China


The overwhelming assessment by Asian officials, diplomats and analysts is that the U.S. military simply cannot defeat China. It has been an assessment relayed to U.S. government officials over the past few months by countries such as Australia, Japan and South Korea. This comes as President Bush wraps up a visit to Asia, in which he sought to strengthen U.S. ties with key allies in the region. Most Asian officials have expressed their views privately. Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara has gone public, warning that the United States would lose any war with China. 'In any case, if tension between the United States and China heightens, if each side pulls the trigger, though it may not be stretched to nuclear weapons, and the wider hostilities expand, I believe America cannot win as it has a civic society that must adhere to the value of respecting lives,' Mr. Ishihara said in an address to the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies.
This has been making a bit of a splash (see here and here for examples) today. The question of whether the U.S. could 'win' a war against China depends greatly on what the objectives of this theoretical war is. Clausewitz's famous dictum 'war is merely the continuation of policy by other means' applies here. Before we can ask the question, we need to know what the objectives of each side are, and if one side can prevent the other from accomplishing those objectives, that side is the winner. If we look at the exteme examples. The U.S. wanting to occupy and control China or China wanted to occupy and control the U.S. it is clear that the defender in both cases would win. If one had the more modest goal of simply destroying the other side, it would probably require a significant nuclear exchange and while it would be hard to claim either side as a 'winner' in such a scenario, the U.S. certainly has greater capabilities in such an encounter. It's weakness there would be in a willingness to engage (and a first strike option by the U.S. could probably destroy China and prevent a counter-attack) however, the political aspect is simpler than in other possible conflicts as essentially it would be a decision controlled solely by the President and while there would doubtless be a great deal of political damage to the President afterward, the policy objection could be achieved. I think it is fairly safe to rule that out as being likely however. The real question of course is not the generic could the U.S. defeat China, but could the U.S. prevent a Chinese takeover of Taiwan. I am convinced, that if we were prepared for such an assault, the U.S. would easily defeat China at sea and in the air. This would of course prevent a ground war in Taiwan at all, and leave China essentially with a missile bombardment to force Taiwanese capitulation. That would, in my opinion, fail and fail misserably. If though China could achieve strategic surprise and land significant ground forces in Taiwan before the U.S. could gather it's full strength in the region the situation would be much more difficult. I think that the occupying Chinese forces in Taiwan could still be cut off, and a eventually a ground assault could liberate the island. This level of a campaign would evolve into the political dimensions though where the U.S. is less predictable. It is possible to envision a very gung-ho U.S. populace who would not only support, but demand that we liberate Taiwan. It is also possible to imagine the opposite. Part of the reason we have a bases in Taiwan is to assure that any attempted takeover of Taiwan would involve an attack against U.S. forces, and therefore prompt a greater level of support in any ensuing conflict. It is also wise to remember that Chinese policy is not, and probably never will be, to take Taiwan at any and all cost (just as we doubtless are unwilling to defend Tiawan at any and all cost.) Just as war is a continuation of policy, policy is a continuation of war. Even a best case scenario for China would have to calculate that it would be subject to strict economic sanctions. This would be very damaging to the Chinese economy (it would hurt us too, but not as badly.) The more signifigant the military conflict, the more damaging and lengthy any economic consequences would be. It is quite possible for China to succeed in controlling Taiwan, but still to have lost the 'war' if economic damage to the nation is beyond what its policy demanded. Certainly in the most extreme case where economic damage led to internal revolution (possible but doubtful) China could end up being a substantial loser, even in apparent victory. Lastly, I think it worthy to consider the source of the original comments that the U.S. would lose a lose a war with China. We should remember that this statement is itself a act of policy, and a method of reaching certain objectives. Beyond the unknown scores of anonymous people making this assessment, we have one name, Shintaro Ishihara.
Ishihara is an outspoken nationalist who rails against the United States and China and the central government. It is well known that he claims thatfifty years of subservience to the interest of the United States has deprived the Japanese of a national purpose and engendered a paralyzing identity crisis. And he reminds his countrymen that theirs is the only non-Caucasian society to have created a modern superpower.
It is pretty clear that whether the claim that the U.S. could not defeat China is true or not, it is useful to Ishihara's political goals. Ishihara wants to use this as an excuse to beef up Japanese. Ishihara is also part of the current Japanese revisionist history trend:
More than once he suggested that the Rape of Nanking in December 1937, was a fabrication of the Chinese. When confronted, Ishihara reproached Nathan by saying: "I said that the Chinese have exaggerated the numbers. In the hysteria of war, the Army did massacre people. That happens in war. The United States killed three hundred and fifty thousand people in Hiroshima in a single day."
Japan is not alone in this of course, there is a disturbing rise of nationalism and, often pure racism, across a good portion of Asia. Nonetheless, I think it clear that Ishihara is not an unbiased analyst of military capabilities, and his statements are for political purposes.

Unsafe toys


Yo-yos that can snap back and strangle, dolls impregnated with toxins and pacifiers that choke: All toys for sale this holiday season that should not find their way to Santa's sleigh, according the annual Toy Safety Survey from the nonprofit U.S. Public Interest Research Group (PIRG). Released Tuesday, the report finds too many toys marketed with too-small pieces (a choking hazard) or containing toxins that may cause lasting harm.
Sounds like our children are in serious danger, thank God for this report to stem the epidemic of death caused by these killer toys.
According to CPSC figures, in 2004, 16 American children died from toy-related injuries
16? All this noise for 16 deaths? 16 out of about 60 million? Perhaps we can relax a bit here people.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Innocent man Executed?

Washington Post:

A decade after Ruben Cantu was executed for capital murder, the only witness to the crime is recanting and his co-defendant says Cantu, then 17, was not even with him that night. The victim was shot nine times with a rifle during an attempted robbery before the gunman shot the only witness. That witness, Juan Moreno, told the Houston Chronicle for its Sunday editions that Cantu was not the killer. Moreno said he identified him at the 1985 trial because he felt pressured and feared authorities.
In discussing the death penalty with people before, I have expressed the opinion that while an innocent person being executed was possible, it was very unlikely given the number of checks and appeals a death row inmate has. This case certainly seems to throw some doubt on my assumptions. This bit here is especially appalling:
Sam D. Millsap Jr., the district attorney who handled the case, said he never should have sought the death penalty in a case based on testimony from a witness who identified a suspect only after police showed him a photo three times.
No shit Sherlock. I have been mildly pro-death penalty. I am convinced that it does little as a deterent, but I think that some crimes deserve it as a matter of justice. However, it is more important to not take life unjustly, and the fact that this appears to have occured fairly recently changes the equation. (via Instapundit)

How to lose a War

This Ralph Peters op-ed is pretty brutal on those advocating immediate retreat from Iraq. Except:

Yes, we've been told lies about Iraq — by Dems and their media groupies. About conditions on the ground. About our troops. About what's at stake. About the consequences of running away from the great struggle of our time. About the continuing threat from terrorism. And about the consequences for you and your family. What do the Democrats fear? An American success in Iraq. They need us to fail, and they're going to make us fail, no matter the cost. They need to declare defeat before the 2006 mid-term elections and ensure a real debacle before 2008 — a bloody mess they'll blame on Bush, even though they made it themselves. We won't even talk about the effect quitting while we're winning in Iraq might have on the go-to-war calculations of other powers that might want to challenge us in the future. Let's just be good Democrats and prove that Osama bin Laden was right all along: Americans have no stomach for a fight.
To an extent, I think it is both true and unfortunate that Democrats have made the war in Iraq a partisan issue and that failure there is needed for them to succeed. Politically this strikes me as very foolish. Even if they manage to 'succeed' in the short term, it is likely that there will come a time, probably not too far away, when the American people will decide that we need a strong pro-military President. The world is, and will remain, a dangerous place. While the anti-war rhetoric may indeed weaken the Bush administration and allow Democratic gains in 2006 and 2008, it will also further cement the Democrats as being anti-military and weak on national defense. That will be a tough perception to overcome and weaken the party further in the long term.

CNN.com - Florida teacher pleads guilty to sex with teen student - Nov 22, 2005


A female teacher pleaded guilty Tuesday to having sex with a 14-year-old middle school student, avoiding prison as part of a plea agreement. Debra Lafave, 25, whose sensational case made tabloid headlines, will serve three years of house arrest and seven years' probation. She pleaded guilty to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery.
I always think about two things when this sort of story comes up. One is, that if the genders had been reversed I don't think that the penalty would have been the same, which is profoundly unfair. The second is jealousy that I never got to bang the hot teacher when I was in middle school. And she is pretty hot.

Open Source Media returns to Pajamas

OSM - Excuse us while we change back into our pajamas I don't really get the idea behind this venture or what it brings to the table. The bloggers involved are fairly cool, and I like them individually for the most part, but what putting them into a single site adds is beyond me. In some ways, it seems to have the potential to be the worst of old media by creating an echo chamber effect, without having the ability to do actual reporting.

Monday, November 21, 2005


Who you gonna call?

Gateway Pundit posts on pro-democracy protests in Azerbaijan. Pictures and a link to videos are included. As we have seen in many of the pro-democracys protests, one world leader is being called upon to help. One world leader seems to have gained the trust of these brave people. They don't ask for help from the U.N. They don't look to Europe. They look to America and it's President. Hopefully President Bush will respond to these pleas and issue a strong statement in support of Democracy in Azerbaijan. I want America to be the country that people fighting for their own democracy look to for support. It would be great if we were one nation amoung a chorus of nations demanding that Democratic reform take place in the totalitarian countries of the world, but with a crowd or all alone I know what side I want to be one. The Iraq war has been especially controversial in the past few weeks or so, with various political manueverings and loud declarations. One question I have for those who are against this war, is would the people of Azerbaijan be calling on America and it's current President if we had not gone to war in Iraq? Does that influence the equation on the correctness of the war or not?

Strangers on a Train

Nathanael at The Rhine River tells of a conversation with a French Muslim:

As the train passed through Bar le Duc, he admitted to me that he rarely has conversations with non-Muslims that are so fulfilling. I laughed: our conversation had stretched my conversational abilities to the breaking point, and I made many grammatical mistakes because of fatigue. That was not what he meant. Few Frenchmen paid as much attention to what he had to say. He talked about how he felt about being a French Muslim, born in country but not taken seriously. Unable to talk directly to his experiences, I tried to talk about minority experiences in America. I knew I was not communicating directly to his concerns. I imagined his predicament in American terms. As I equated things that made sense to me about integration and advancement, I hit a nerve. 'More education!?' he said. I wasn't sure what had given him a shock. 'Why should I have more education? I move on to the next level, studying more, because the degrees I have earned don't help me to get a job. I look forward only to more education.' He had no faith that an employer would give him the chance to practice what he studied (he tried hard to find a job) so he continued to study. This chance meeting was not unique. I've had it many times in France and Germany: a conversation with an enthusiastic Muslim or African who is surprised that someone will pay attention. Listening to them, I find that they are enthusiastic about their European homeland (adopted or natal.) They are culturally aware, exhibiting (what I consider) good social practices for their milieu. Yet they remain outsiders. I have also asked Frenchmen and Germans about Muslims and Africans: 'Why are people who seem assimilated not accepted?' The question can turn a conversation on its end, turning transnational discourse into national defense.
I have mentioned before that part, perhaps the biggest part, of the French riots was the result of French unwillingness to accept anyone else as 'French.' This is another good piece of anecdotal evidence of the problem. I don't doubt that their is an unwillingness to assimilate on the part of some, perhaps even most, of the Muslims in France. Clearly it is connected to their Religion to some degree, and from what I have read the treatment of women in the French suburbs is only marginally better than the treatment of women in Taliban Afghanistan. That is a problem, and something that French authorities should have addressed long ago. That being said, it is probably unfortunate that the unrest in France is happening during the war on terror. While there are a few similarities, they probably work to obscure the problems in France more than to illuminate them. (via Instapundit)

U.S. Officials Believe Zarqawi Not Killed in Mosul Gunfight

Washington Post:

U.S. officials said Monday that they do not believe Abu Musab Zarqawi, the Jordanian insurgent leader, was among those killed in a gunfight in northern Iraq Sunday. 'I do not believe that we got him,' said Zelmay Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador to Iraq. 'But his days are numbered. We're closer to that goal but unfortunately we didn't get him in Mosul.' Khalilzad was referring to a house in the city of Mosul, north of Baghdad, which was the scene of a three-hour gunfight Sunday precipitated by a tip that led U.S. forces to believe Zarqawi might be inside along with members of al Qaeda. U.S. and Iraqi troops surrounded the dwelling and engaged in the gunfight, which left seven men dead.
While it would be nice to have gotten him, it seems very unlikely. Buried a bit further down is the most significant aspect of the story though:
Over the past month, there has been a series of raids following a surge in tips from Iraqis unhappy with Zarqawi and his operation, said a U.S. military intelligence official involved in Iraqi issues. These tend to be traditional Iraqi leaders -- sheiks and imams -- upset with the organization, especially its recent execution of Sunni Arabs in Ramadi, the provincial capital of Anbar. "Their feeling is that al Qaeda in Iraq has overstepped its bounds," he said.
From what I can tell, the Sunni ex-Baathist part of the insurgency has pretty much dried up as Sunni's have decided to become involved in the political process and the jihadist Al-Qaeda in Iraq is in serious trouble as it's popularity has fallen dramatically. This means that they have to remain hidden from both American and Iraqi forces. While they are still capable of launching terrorist attacks, there numbers and capabilities will have to shrink as a cost of remaining hidden. I expect in six months 'Al-Qaeda in Iraq' will have less capabilities to attack than Al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia does. Which is not to say zero, but certainly an improvement.