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Sunday, October 31, 2004

Happy Halloween

Just wanted to take a minute to wish everyone a very happy halloween. And for you liberals, here is a very scary jack-o-lantern

Friday, October 29, 2004

Megan McArdle endorses Bush

On Instapundit. She analyzes the issues, including a long bit on Foreign Policy. I pretty much agree with her analysis, except that I think going into Iraq was more important than she seems too. Read her thoughts though.

Good and Evil

In the comments to this post Andrew accused me of believing that there is such a thing as good and evil. Guilty as charged. I believe that moral relativism is the great intellectual sin of our age. The idea that right and wrong are meaningless concepts can only lead to moral degradation and acquiescence to evil. Edmund Burke said "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." Moral Relativism is a philosophy that allows good men to do nothing, and pretend that not only is this not a moral failure, indeed that is a correct moral position. Now I freely admit there is a place for not judging others based on difference of culture. Neck stretching is not more inherently weird, or wrong, than breast enlargement. Numerous examples of a similar nature can be found. The fallacy occurs when one attempts to generalize an acceptance of tradition and custom into the belief that right and wrong do not, and cannot, exist as concepts. While I do not claim that our culture is the final say on what is right and wrong, or to be without sin, I strongly assert that some things are better than others. Slavery is wrong. Intentionally targeting innocents is wrong. Non-Democratic governments are wrong. Racial discrimination/tribalism is wrong. Rape is wrong. Child abuse is wrong. Genocide is wrong. People who do wrong are what we call evil. By this I do not mean that they have no redeeming characteristics. No one is wholly evil, but when people are evil enough they must be opposed, by force if necessary. Obviously we as a people or as individuals cannot right all wrongs. Nor is anyone free from fault. None the less where we can intervene we should, indeed we are obligated to do so. Let me conclude by quoting J.R.R. Tolkien:

Good and ill have not changed since yesteryear; nor are they one thing among Elves and Dwarves and another among Men. It is a man's part to discern them, as much in the Golden Wood as in his own house.

Geek Dreams come True

These girls are hot! And they are video game geeks! (More on them here) How things have changed since I was a geeky teenager. (via Smack my booty)

Thursday, October 28, 2004

Libertarian Issues Guide

David Hogberg analyzes Kerry and Bush on multiple issues from a libertarian perspective. I pretty much agree with him on most of these issues, although I am not too confident that the Republican congress would restrain government spending, which in my mind neutralizes Kerry's advantage there. Spending money for pork has wide, bi-partisan support. (via Instapundit)

The world from Nome's point of view.

My friend Naomi has a blog. She didn't even tell me about it, but nothing is secret on the Internet. Go check it out.

Tree Pollution

New Scientist.com:

Industry has dramatically cut its emissions of pollutants, called volatile organic compounds. But those cuts have been more than offset by the amount of VOCs churned out by trees. The revelation challenges the notion that planting trees is a good way to clean up the atmosphere. When fossil fuels used in industry and automobiles fail to combust completely, they generate VOCs, which react with nitrogen oxides and sunlight to form poisonous ozone in the lower atmosphere. In the past few decades, the introduction of more efficient engines and catalytic converters has dramatically reduced these emissions. But trees also produce VOCs, which tend to be ignored by scientists modelling the effects of ozone on pollution. So a team led by Drew Purves at Princeton University investigated the impact of newly planted forests on VOC levels in the US.
Interesting. One of my big complaints with the modern environmental movement is that it has become a religion. A major tenant of that religion is: What is natural is good. Certainly I can see the attractiveness of this argument, but that doesn't make it any less fallacious. Obviously not everything that is natural is good for US (volcanos and hurricanes are natural, as is ebola). Taking a slightly larger viewpoint, that Good and Evil should be judged from an intrinsic, rather than a humancentric viewpoint has more logical merit, but by it's very nature this argument is in the realm of religion, rather than science.

More Evidence on Syria WMD tests in Darfur

Channel News Asia:

Syria tested chemical weapons on civilians in Sudan's troubled western Darfur region in June and killed dozens of people. The German daily Die Welt newspaper, in an advance release of its Wednesday edition, citing unnamed western security sources, said that injuries apparently caused by chemical arms were found on the bodies of the victims It said that witnesses quoted by an Arabic news website called ILAF in an article on August 2 had said that several frozen bodies arrived suddenly at the "Al-Fashr Hospital" in the Sudanese capital Khartoum in June. Die Welt said the sources had indicated that the weapons tests were undertaken following a military exercise between Syria and Sudan.
Strange isn't it how all the 'bad guys' seem anxious to work together? Almost as though we were facing a world wide enemy...perhaps even an Axis of Evil.

Enemy Number One

Christopher Hitchens writes that Al-Zarqawi is more dangerous that Bin Laden. Read the whole thing. He also includes this very salient point:

Until recently, it has been surprisingly easily accepted that there is scant evidence for any tie between Saddam and al-Qaeda. But it begins to look rather as if Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, in person and in action, IS that tie. (And probably always was: why should a consecrated jihadist have spent so much time trying to kill Saddam's deadliest enemies in Iraq, the Sunni Muslim Kurds?)
While Zarqawi is a bad guy, I think that the most dangerous man we face is Ayman al-Zawahiri, Al-Qaeda's #2 man and the brain behind 9/11. He isn't nearly as public or flamboyant as Zarqawi or bin Laden, but he is ruthless and smart. He also knows how to bide his time and strike when we least expect.

Evidence of Hobbits found

USA Today:

Fans of The Lord of the Rings may be interested to know that a remote Indonesian island has yielded the remains of pint-size people — a surprising new human species — that paleontologists say lived just 18,000 years ago. In fact, scientists have nicknamed the new creature "Hobbit" after the diminutive folks in the famed J.R.R. Tolkien trilogy. Fiction aside, the discovery reported today by an Australian paleontology team is a big deal, challenging decades of human-origins research. Buried amid scattered stone tools and the bones of pygmy elephants at Liang Bua cave on the eastern Indonesian island of Flores were the skeletal remains of a female belonging to the species that the discoverers have formally named Homo floresiensis. ... Brown's team believes that Hobbit is an example of island dwarfism, the widely observed tendency of isolated species to evolve toward smaller sizes because they are separated from mainland predators. The scientists suggest that the species started as an offshoot of Homo erectus, a human ancestor dating to 1.8 million years ago, that reached Flores by boat and eventually got smaller, hunting pygmy elephants and dodging Komodo dragons.
No word yet on whether any of the Komodo dragons were named Smaug.

The Russians did it?

I didn't previously make any comments on the missing explosives story on this blog(although I did make several comments on other blogs) but this information is interesting The Washington Times reports:

Russian special forces troops moved many of Saddam Hussein's weapons and related goods out of Iraq and into Syria in the weeks before the March 2003 U.S. military operation, The Washington Times has learned. John A. Shaw, the deputy undersecretary of defense for international technology security, said in an interview that he believes the Russian troops, working with Iraqi intelligence, "almost certainly" removed the high-explosive material that went missing from the Al-Qaqaa facility, south of Baghdad.
The story also contains this little tidbit at the end:
Defense officials said the Russians can provide information on what happened to the Iraqi weapons and explosives that were transported out of the country. Officials believe the Russians also can explain what happened to Iraq's weapons of mass destruction programs.
I was somewhat puzzled in the end of 2002 and early 2003 about Russian instranigense toward supporting the Iraq war. Obviously like France, Russia had very significant oil contracts with Iraq but unlike France they do not have a national policy of containing American hyper-power. Indeed, Russia is probably more happy with American hyper-power than they would be with a bi-polar EU/America world. So given that it was obvious by the end of 2002 that America would act in regards to Iraq it seemed strange that Russia position itself so firmly in opposition. We have of course since learned that some Russian officials were bribed with the Oil-for-Food money, and it was always obvious that Russia had been a major supplier of weapons to Iraq. If Russia was also heavily implicated in Iraq's WMD pursuits then their opposition to the war is a bit more clear. Strangely though, this doesn't hold up to well with Putin's claim that he warned President Bush that Iraq was working on a terrorist strike against the U.S. So, Russia remains a murky place, and it is difficult to guess their true motives or goals. Perhaps this is their main goal.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Voices of Iraq

This movie looks very interesting. Sadly, it won't be shown in my area, but I am seriously thinking of purchasing a copy. (via Smack my Booty)

Arab Liberals speak out

From Iraq the Model comes this letter by prominent Arab Liberals to the U.N. It points out the danger of terrorist inciting Fatwas and calls upon the U.N. to establish an international tribunal to prosecute individuals who use religion to incite terrorist acts. I am not entirely in favor of their plan, but the fact that such people are speaking out, and speaking out strongly against this behavior is a good sign. The reason I do not like this plan, is that I think the U.N. is too corrupt and undemocratic to be given this power. While the U.N. is far better than the Arab governments that shelter these clerics I do not like the idea of an unelected body being responsible for prosecuting people because of their speech. (note, this is not really a free speech issue, as incitement of violence has not been historically protected speech, but in a system without sufficient checks and balances it could become so easily) My belief is that democracy in the Arab world is the path to solving this problem, as well as other factors that are feeding the terrorist threat. This bit of the letter sums up what I see to be the problems in the Arab world:

By these “fatwas” all terrorists have died, or will die, fully convinced that they will immediately enter Paradise. Of course, we are not excluding other causes for committing terrorist acts, such as the ticking-bomb of population explosion with its resultant illiteracy, poverty, unemployment, backwardness in education systems, reactionary religious teaching, and, above all, living under dictatorial systems of governments in almost all Arab countries.
Despite my concerns with their solution though, I am very encouraged by the fact that this letter exists, and by the positive response it has recieved by many in the Arab world.

A Historian for Bush

Blackfive posts a letter from British Historian, Paul Johnson.

There is something grimly admirable about his stoicism in the face of reverses, which reminds me of other moments in history: the dark winter Washington faced in 1777-78, a time to "try men's souls," as Thomas Paine put it, and the long succession of military failures Lincoln had to bear and explain before he found a commander who could take the cause to victory. There is nothing glamorous about the Bush presidency and nothing exhilarating. It is all hard pounding, as Wellington said of Waterloo, adding: "Let us see who can pound the hardest.” Mastering terrorism fired by a religious fanaticism straight from the Dark Ages requires hard pounding of the dullest, most repetitious kind, in which spectacular victories are not to be looked for, and all we can expect are "blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” However, something persuades me that Bush with his grimness and doggedness, his lack of sparkle but his enviable concentration on the central issue is the president America needs at this difficult time. He has, it seems to me, the moral right to ask American voters to give him the mandate to finish the job he has started.
He has some pretty harsh words about Kerry as well.

Indymedia Server Re-cap

Orin Kerr, at the Volokh Conspiracy, has a detailed analysis of the FBI, Indymedia, Rackspace server shutdown story. His conclusion:

To summarize, it seems highly likely that the FBI only served an order to disclose information on Rackspace. Rackspace was lazy, though, and instead, on its own volition, handed over the entire server (to whom, we don't know). We can't be sure yet, but it seems very likely that Indymedia's sites were down not because the FBI ordered that they be taken down, or because the FBI ordered that Rackspace had to hand over the servers, but because Rackspace was being lazy. Further, it's not clear why any gag order on Rackspace would forbid Rackspace from admitting this. I don't know much about Rackspace, but I wouldn't be surprised if they are taking an unreasonably broad interpretation of the nondisclosure order to try to shield their goof-up from the public.
This seems reasonable to me, read the rest of his post for more details about how he arrived at this conclusion.

OPEC asks U.S. to tap reserve

International Herald Tribune:

The Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries has called on the United States to dip into its strategic petroleum reserve to help deflate oil prices, the cartel's president said Wednesday. "We had communication with them," OPEC's president, Purnomo Yusgiantoro, told reporters, referring to U.S. policy makers. "I asked them to use their reserves." Purnomo, who is also Indonesia's oil minister, did not describe Washington's response.
I am against tapping the reserve just because the price was high. The strategic petroleum reserve is there for strategic reasons. If there is a serious disruption in the supply of oil (not likely, but possible) we will need it. Further, unless you have good reason to expect that the price of oil will drop soon using this supply would only temporarily relieve the situation, and refilling it would likely cost more in the future. Now, if you did know for sure that the price was going to drop, perhaps tapping the reserve would make sense (buy low, sell high). I am not sure I want our Government involved in futures speculation in this way though.

Voting is a duty

Sayyid Ahmed Al-Safi, a representative of Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, reiterated during the Friday prayers sermon at Karbala the call of the Maji'iya for widespread participation and voting in the upcoming elections late January 2005. Al-Safi stressed that 'heavy participation in the voting procedures is a national and legal (religious) duty,' adding that those who refrain from voting would 'enter Jahannam (Hell)'. Al-Safi strongly denied rumours appearing in the media last week that the Marji'iya or Sistani had prepared or endorsed any slate of candidates.
From Healing Iraq So Vote or go to Hell.

Screedy goodness

From Today's Bleat:

Is it instructive to note which side Sen. Kerry instinctively inhabited in the 80s? Apparently not. Because now he knows that if terrorists strike, he runs the risk of discrediting his party. Got that? Runs the risk. Of discrediting his party. Of all that the theats he might face, apparently that's the one that seals the deal. Look: The guy voted against the first Gulf War. What else do you need to know? UN thumbs up, global test, allies coming out the wazoo, and he voted no. Because that’s who he is. There are lots of Democrats with hard-core pro-defense no-nonsense smite-the-fascist records. He ain't one of them. One might reasonably assume he would only commit US forces unless they were under the command of the Vulcans, and only then if the Federation High Council had given up on the Organians coming in and making everyone’s guns disappear in their hands. If they don't? Back the Sandinistas and hope for the best.
Go read the rest already.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

1948 all over again?

This TCS Article points out some interesting similarities between this election and the Dewey vs. Truman contest of 1948. For Bush supporters, this is good news:

Which brings us to the lesson about the electoral map. The past century has seen four elections that pitted the South and West against the Northeast (along with, today, the West Coast): 1916, 1948, 1968, and 2000. Each time, the election was close. And each time, the candidate of the South and West won. Democrat Woodrow Wilson beat Republican Charles Evans Hughes in a majority-Republican country. Truman beat Dewey in the most famous upset in our history. Richard Nixon defeated Hubert Humphrey -- by 1968, the South and West were Republican territory -- in a majority-Democratic America. And, as we all know, George W. Bush held Florida and took the White House, overcoming a sitting Vice President in a Democratic Administration that had produced peace, prosperity, and budget surpluses. Red America tends win these battles with Blue America. Even against long odds.
Read the whole thing though, it is some very interesting history.

What Lincoln could teach Kerry

This Wall Street Journal op-ed makes a lot of points that I have tried to make better than I have.

Yet who ever said war is easy? On the eve of the war, in 2003, we wrote that "the law of unintended consequences has not been repealed, no war ever goes precisely as planned," and that "toppling Saddam is a long-term undertaking." We had no doubt that the American people had the staying power to win, but our main concern was "whether Americans can generate the political consensus to sustain involvement in Iraq." Alas, that worry has been borne out by Monday-morning four-stars on both the left and right.
The only tangible advantage that the enemy in Iraq has is a weakening support for the Iraq war here in America. That is their only hope of victory. Some say that John Kerry would pursue this war and push for victory as hard as George Bush has. Perhaps that is so. But it is hard to imagine that a Kerry victory would not give hope to the war's foes and weaken the morale of the war's supporters.
Yet to acknowledge these blunders in hindsight doesn't mean anyone else would have done better. From the decision to disband the Iraqi army, through the complex negotiations over the Iraqi Constitution, to the calibration of force employed in Najaf, the Administration has faced one hard call after another. We know now of the consequences of those calls, good and bad, but how certain are we that the alternatives would have turned out better?
As I have said several times we only know that bad that has resulted from the choices we made. We have no idea what bad things would have resulted from choices we didn't make (and there would have been some bad things, that is a certainty). The enemy gets to react too, they get to find weaknesses and try to exploit them. That is part of what is meant by the old saw 'no plan survives contact with the enemy'.
Throughout most of 2003, a sufficient fraction of America's liberal elite concurred in the Administration's view that the choice America faced in Iraq was between Saddam Hussein's eventual rehabilitation or his destruction, and that the first option was intolerable. They further agreed that the goal of a free and moderate Iraq was both attainable and essential if America was to prevail in the overall war on terror. Not much more than a year later, this pro-war liberal elite has broken with that earlier consensus, much as the liberal elite that initially supported the Vietnam War headed for the tall grass as the going got tough after 1965. This time the excuse is competence--as if competence, in the absence of political will, can win this or any other kind of war. In their support for Mr. Kerry, they apparently see a modern-day version Richard Nixon, circa 1968, a man who isn't saddled by his predecessor's mistakes and who will fight "a better war." But in order to win a war, you have to have the vision and determination to fight it despite setbacks and political difficulties. Americans should be wary of politicians who promise more "competent" leadership in a war that those same politicians say they'd rather not fight.
Another way of saying this is something I saw in another blog (no idea where now). In Shanghi Knights Owen Wilson's character say "What in our history together makes you think I'm capable of something like that?" I get the same feeling when ever I hear Kerry will fight a more 'competent' war. Why would anyone think that? His largest executive role was either as a assistant district attorney or as Lieutenant Governor of Massachusetts. Neither involve a great deal of making war. His leadership role in Vietnam consisted of 4 months captaining a small river going vessel, doubtless something that gave him a lot of interesting perspectives, but not something that gives him any particular competence on leading America. His Senate career doubtless gives him good up to date information on American foreign policy, but he hasn't exactly been a leader in the Senate. Perhaps one could argue that while he may not have any personal experience that would inspire confidence, he will bring in a team of individuals that are more competent then the current crop. I find that unlikely (admittedly, I pretty much like Bush's foreign policy team) Kerry's current advisers are mostly Clinton era back-benchers. In contrast to the very knowledgeable Dick Cheney, Kerry has selected John Edwards as his running mate, certainly not someone known for vast foreign policy experience. Admittedly, unlike Cheney, Edwards will probably have the traditional 'attend a lot of funerals' VP job. Of course I have admitted one aspect of John Kerry's biography when he did have a significant leadership role that helped ensure victory in war. That was when he was a leader of Vietnam Veteran's Against the War. Certainly he did demonstrate leadership potential and brought victory to his side. I am not sure that the leadership experience bodes well for U.S. victory in Iraq however.


Elections in Kosovo after 5 years of U.N. rule did not go well:

Early results from the weekend's general election showed that five years of UN rule had only deepened ethnic divisions as Kosovo's voters signalled their despair with the Balkan province's administrators. Barely more than half of Kosovo's 1.4 million voters went to the ballot box. While the province's majority ethnic Albanians were struck by apathy, its 130,000-strong Serb minority was seized by anger and completely boycotted the poll. Only a handful of Serbs voted, following calls from Vojislav Kostunica, the Serbian Prime Minister, and the Serbian Orthodox Church to stay away. Mr Kostunica described the election as a "failure". The level of absenteeism prompted Soren Jessen-Petersen, the UN governor in Kosovo, to protest that some Serbs had been intimidated into observing the boycott and had "had their democratic right to vote hijacked".
Perhaps we can get some Afghanis to go to Kosovo to help out and teach the poor people of Europe how elections are supposed to work. Hopefully, we won't need the Afghanis help to unravel things with our own upcoming elections.

More on Youth for Bush

The 2004 Weekly Reader Poll is out.

The students who read Weekly Reader’s magazines have made their preference for President known: they want to send President Bush back to the White House. The results of this year’s Weekly Reader poll have just been announced, and the winner is President Bush. Hundreds of thousands of students participated, giving the Republican President more than 60% of the votes cast and making him a decisive choice over Democratic Senator John Kerry.
This bit was the most surprising to me:
Since 1956, Weekly Reader students in grades 1-12 have correctly picked the president, making the Weekly Reader poll one of the most accurate predictors of presidential outcomes in history.
Hopefully the streak will continue!

The next foreign policy surprise

This article reminds us that the most serious foreign policy troubles are rarely expected and points out a number of different problems that could rise to prominence in the next four years. Who ever wins the Presidency next Tuesday, I do not envy him the job.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Interesting Comparison

Richard Rushfield writes in Slate about wearing a Kerry Edwards t-shirt in Bush country and wearing a Bush-Cheney country Kerry territory and the different reactions he gets. (via Michael Totten guest posting on Instapundit. He posts his own observations on this as well.) I want to thank my Liberal readers for engaging in polite discussions on this blog, even though they often strenuously disagree with me.

Wolfpacks for Truth


Saddam and Terror

Deroy Murdock has put together this very well done report on Saddam Hussein's connections to terror. If you don't know much about this subject, I certainly recommend you take a look at it. (via MacBoar) For the record, I am usure of what to make of the continued Czech claim that an Iraqi diplomat met with Mohammad Atta or the links to 9/11 hijackers in the Phillipines. I am sure, as everyone should be, that Saddam Hussein did indeed support terror, most notably against Israel, and I certainly would believe that he would support terror against the United States if he thought he could get away with it. Given Saddam's past misjudgements on what he could get away with, as well as his long success at getting away with more than he should have, whether or not he aided in 9/11 it was only a matter of time before he aided, or attempted to aid, a major attack against the U.S.

Rehnquist hospitalized


Chief Justice William Rehnquist has undergone throat surgery after a diagnosis of thyroid cancer, but is expected to be released from the hospital this week, according to the Supreme Court. Court spokeswoman Kathy Arberg said the 80-year-old chief justice was admitted to the National Naval Medical Center at Bethesda, Maryland, on Friday, and underwent a tracheotomy Saturday. Arberg said he is expected to be released from the hospital this week, and to be back on the bench when court arguments resume next week.
Best wishes and hopes for a speedy recovery.

Hillary Humor

Jake, at Smack My Booty, has posted a great Hillary joke.

Christmas at the U.N.?

Washington Times:

U.N. ambassadors from several nations are disputing assertions by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry that he met for hours with all members of the U.N. Security Council just a week before voting in October 2002 to authorize the use of force in Iraq. An investigation by The Washington Times reveals that while the candidate did talk for an unspecified period to at least a few members of the panel, no such meeting, as described by Mr. Kerry on a number of occasions over the past year, ever occurred.

The Best Political Blogs

The Washington Post has it's results up for The 2004 Best Blogs Readers' Choice Award winners. Sadly, this blog did not win, although that is hardly surprising as it was not nominated.

What D&D Character are you?

via Crossblog I found this quiz: I Am A: Lawful Evil Human Ranger Mage

Lawful Evil characters believe that a nice, orderly system of life is perfect for them to abuse for their own advancement. They will work within 'the system' to get the best that they can for themselves.

Humans are the 'average' race. They have the shortest life spans, and because of this, they tend to avoid the racial prejudices that other races are known for. They are also very curious and tend to live 'for the moment'.

Primary Class:
Rangers are the defenders of nature and the elements. They are in tune with the Earth, and work to keep it safe and healthy.

Secondary Class:
Mages harness the magical energies for their own use. Spells, spell books, and long hours in the library are their loves. While often not physically strong, their mental talents can make up for this.

Iyachtu Xvim is the Lawful Evil god of fear, hatred, malice, and tyranny. He is also known as the Godson and the Son of Bane. He appears as a gaunt, naked, scimitar-wielding man, or as a black cloud with glowing green eyes. His followers are working to strengthen his position in the world by converting (often by force) other deities' worshippers. They wear black robes with dark green trim, and wear black iron gauntlets with green eyes on the backs. Iyachtu Xvim's symbol is a black hand, inset with green eyes.

Find out What D&D Character Are You?, courtesy ofNeppyMan (e-mail)

I probably should not have posted this, as the results probably won't inspire my readers to any great trust of my words...oh well...Gib also linked to this quiz:

You Are a Pundit Blogger!

Your blog is smart, insightful, and always a quality read. Truly appreciated by many, surpassed by only a few.
No surpise there I suppose.

The dark side of the Duelfer report

Mortimer B. Zuckerman writes in U.S. News and World Report about the parts of the Duelfer report that arn't getting quite as much publicity as the lack of WMD stockpiles.

Saddam wanted to re-create Iraq's banned weapons programs, including nuclear weapons. Saddam was determined to develop ballistic missiles and tactical chemical weapons when the U.N. sanctions were either lifted or corroded. Saddam retained the industrial equipment to help restart these programs, having increased from 1996 to 2002 his military industrial spending 40-fold and his technical military research 80-fold. Even while U.N. weapons inspectors were in Iraq, Saddam's scientists were performing deadly experiments on human guinea pigs in secret labs.
There is more, read the whole thing.

Brazil successfully launches Rocket

BBC News:

Brazil has successfully launched its first rocket into space. Sunday's launch came 14 months after an attempt to put satellites in orbit ended in a deadly explosion. That rocket blew up before take-off from the Alcantara launch site in northern Brazil, killing 21 people, including key technicians. Brazil hopes the successful launch will push forward its plans to sell 15 of its VSV-30 rockets to the European Space Agency.
Good for them! Brazil has long been a nation that seems to almost, but not quite, be able to move out of the third world. Things have been going reletively well for them recently, lets hope that this, and other successes will build together.

Holy Flying Rat Brains

Wired News:

Somewhere in Florida, 25,000 disembodied rat neurons are thinking about flying an F-22. These neurons are growing on top of a multi-electrode array and form a living "brain" that's hooked up to a flight simulator on a desktop computer. When information on the simulated aircraft's horizontal and vertical movements are fed into the brain by stimulating the electrodes, the neurons fire away in patterns that are then used to control its "body" -- the simulated aircraft.
I expect that organic computers are going to be a big deal in a few years. It seems much more plausible to me that the first artificial intelligences will use neurons, rather than silicon. Interesting stuff anyway.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Stolen Honor

You can see the video here.

Arafat Ill


Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon has allowed Tunisian doctors to enter Yasser Arafat's compound in the West Bank to treat him for the flu, officials there told FOX News. Three Tunisian doctors were headed to Arafat's Ramallah headquarters, where the 75-year-old Palestinian leader has been confined since after the second intifada began four years ago. "The president is in good health. He is suffering from a cold," a Tunisian representative was quoted as saying in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz. "There is nothing to worry about." But sources told FOX News the Palestinian Liberation Organization leader's condition has seriously deteriorated since Friday, when Israeli TV first reported he had the flu. Palestinian sources said that if the doctors determine Arafat needs surgery he will be flown to an overseas hospital.
While it is unseemly to take joy in another's pain, I will shed no tears when Arafat dies.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Religion and Politics

Charles J. Chaput, the Catholic Archbishop of Denver who said that catholics who vote for Kerry are commiting a sin, has written an article in the New York Times defending using religious beliefs to inform political positions. Not being Catholic, I am not qualified to comment on the Catholic theological issues as to whether John Kerry's pro-abortion stance makes it a sin to vote for him, but Archbishop Chaput did have some interesting points on the basic question of how much religion should effect politics.

Lawmaking inevitably involves some group imposing its beliefs on the rest of us. That's the nature of the democratic process. If we say that we "ought" to do something, we are making a moral judgment. When our legislators turn that judgment into law, somebody's ought becomes a "must" for the whole of society. This is not inherently dangerous; it's how pluralism works.
I disagree to an extent with the Archbishop. I think this is inherently dangerous. Not that that means we should never to it, sometimes we have to do dangerous things but you should always be careful turning your 'oughts' into 'musts'. His larger point though, that Catholic 'oughts' are as valid as Pro-choice 'oughts' or Vegan 'oughts' and that they have as much right as anyone to convince a majority to turn their 'oughts' into 'musts' I agree with.
The civil order has its own sphere of responsibility, and its own proper autonomy, apart from the church or any other religious community. But civil authorities are never exempt from moral engagement and criticism, either from the church or its members. The founders themselves realized this. The founders sought to prevent the establishment of an official state church. Given America's history of anti-Catholic nativism, Catholics strongly support the Constitution's approach to religious freedom. But the Constitution does not, nor was it ever intended to, prohibit people or communities of faith from playing an active role in public life. Exiling religion from civic debate separates government from morality and citizens from their consciences. That road leads to politics without character, now a national epidemic.
I will never claim that one has to be religious to be moral. Religion however is certainly one way of arriving at morality and a valid means of making moral judgements. It is interesting that one of the major claims for immorality of the Catholic Church as an institution is their failure to condemn Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. It is interesting that many who criticize the Church for this (and rightly so) also complain that they are 'injecting their morality' into today's issues. I can see how you could logically fault the Catholic Church for either of those positions, but it seems to be a logical fallacy to fault them for both.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

Bush wins the Youth vote

Unfortunately these youth are too young to vote.

American teens have spoken, and they want George W. Bush for president. Nearly 1.4 million teens voted in the nation's largest mock election, and the Republican incumbent wound up with 393 electoral votes and 55 percent of the total votes cast. Democratic challenger Sen. John Kerry received 145 electoral votes, far short of the 270 electoral votes needed to win a presidential election. Kerry received 40 percent of the total votes, while five percent of teens selected the third-party option, though no third-party presidential hopefuls managed to pick up any electoral votes. In an exit poll taken after making their pick for president, teens weighed in on the issues most important to them. A majority of respondents-- 44 percent-- said that the war in Iraq was the most important issue facing the candidates today. The economy was the first priority in the minds of 22 percent of teens, followed by education (14 percent), national security (12 percent) and health care (8 percent).
Update: Here is another poll, possibly related.

This guy won't be voting for Bush

But only because he is a Brazilian:

The actual damage of a terrorist attack has less to do with its dimensions than with the when and where. A single, tiny blood clot can kill a 200 pound guy. On the other hand, though some people consider the possible nuking of a Western city a nasty thing that should cause no overreaction, the truth is that a nuke cannot logically be answered by anything less than at least two nukes. How long would any US president remain in the White House if, after the nuking of, say, LA, he went to national TV to say: we’ll find the culprits, capture them, send them to the Hague and you can all be sure they’ll spend the next ten years behind bars? In short: either in the US or elsewhere, even in Europe, if the governments and elites do not act, the people will eventually do. There are two candidates in the US presidential election. One gets it, the other doesn’t. I won’t be voting for Bush, but that’s only because I’m not American.
I agree completely. Read his entire post

Terrorism and Organized Crime

Based on John Kerry's comments on Prostitution and Gambling, William J. Stuntz writes about how Terrorism and the Mafia do present similar problems from a law enforcement point of view. His analysis is very interesting, but the most important part is probably his conclusion:

Perhaps that is why military and intelligence services have played such a large role in the war on terrorism. Some crime problems are intractable. Seen as a crime problem, terrorism is intractable too. It makes sense to redefine the problem, to look for other tools. This war needs to be fought by the Army and the CIA, not merely the Justice Department. Therein lies the real problem with Kerry's comments. Kerry thinks America's seventy-year-long battle against the Mafia was a success story. He is wrong. Tolerating Mob bosses (which is what we did for most of those seventy years) was very costly. Tolerating terrorism -- or leaving it to police and prosecutors, which amounts to the same thing -- would be a disaster.

Jesus for Bush?

This article makes me a bit ashamed of some of my political allies. While I am all for the general idea that God has a plan and that he watches over us and our nation, I don't think he is actively campaigning for a particular person. I expect that God wants us to use the critical thinking and free choice he has given us and make our own decisions. Sadly though, he seemed to give a bit less of the critical thinking abilities to democrats. (For those with a sense of humor impairment, that last line was a joke.)

Wednesday, October 20, 2004


The International Herald Tribune has this story about a recently released report on how corrupt various nations are.

"This is an amazing evidence again that corruption is still rampant all over the world," the organization's chairman, Peter Eigen, said in London. "In most countries economic policy is still perverted by corruption," he said, "and therefore poverty cannot be effectively addressed."
A quick glance through the article shows that the poorest nations are, by and large, the most poor. I would expect that in fact it is corruption that causes poverty even more than poverty causes corruption.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Franks on Tora Bora

Gen. Tommy Franks attacks Kerry's assertion that we took our focus off Bin Laden or 'outsourced' Tora Bora.

As commander of the allied forces in the Middle East, I was responsible for the operation at Tora Bora, and I can tell you that the senator's understanding of events doesn't square with reality.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Nuisance Terror

Mark Steyn has a column on Kerry's terror as a nuisance line, what it means and why it is such a dangerous idea:

The ''I'll hunt down and kill America's enemies'' line was written for him and planted on his lips. The ''It's just a nuisance like prostitution'' line is his, and how he really thinks of the issue. What an odd analogy. Your average jihadist won't take kindly to having his martyrdom operation compared with the decadent infidels' sex industry, but the rest of us shouldn't be that happy about it either. Kerry is correct in the sense that even if you dispatched every constable in the land to crack down on prostitution there'd still be some pox-ridden whore somewhere touting for business. But, on the other hand, applying the Kerry prostitute approach to terrorists would seem to leave rather a lot of them in place. In Boston, where he served as a ''law enforcement person,'' the Yellow Pages are full of lavish display ads for not-all-that-euphemistic ''escort services.'' In other words, while you can make an argument for a ''managerial'' approach to terrorism, the analogy with prostitution sounds more like an undeclared surrender. This is aside from the basic defect of the argument: If some gal in your building is working as a prostitute, that's a nuisance -- condoms in the elevator, johns in the lobby; if Islamists seize the schoolhouse and kill your kids, even if it only happens once every couple of years, ''nuisance'' doesn't quite cover it.
Read the whole thing. I won''t claim to know for sure what Kerry was thinking when he said that. The man has turned being inscrutible into an art form. I know for sure though that hoping to go back to a Sept. 10 mindset is very dangerous, because a Sept. 10 mindset is what you have right before a Sept 11th. This bit from Steyn's column is also worth thinking about:
In 2000, after 17 sailors were killed on the U.S.S. Cole, Defense Secretary Bill Cohen said the attack ''was not sufficiently provocative'' to warrant a response.
One of the great dangers of the philosophy that violence doesn't justify violence is that it plays fully into the hands of those whole don't believe that violence needs no justification at all.

Gay Marriage Ammendment

Jeff Jacoby writes a column for it, while Peter J. Gomes presents the opposing view. Both are well written and certainly present good arguments. Both concerntrate primarily on whether a Constitutional Ammendment is the correct intrument to resolve this issue. Neither spend much, if any, time on the basic question of whether gay marriage is good or bad, prefering to focus on what the correct method of deciding this issue is. I find Jacoby's arguement that a Constitutional ammendment is needed to be persuasive if one takes the view that gay marriage is a bad thing. Certainly it seems possible, perhaps even likely that the Supreme Court could end up 'forcing' gay marriage upon the country. Sadly though, since I value the 'laboratory of the states' concept and do no believe gay marriage to be the threat many of it's opponants feel it to be I cannot support the current Federal Marriage Ammendment. A marriage ammendment I would support would be something along the lines of: It is left up to the Legislators of the several States, in accordance with their State Constitutions, to determine the requirements for marriages under thier jurisdiction. No state shall be required to honor the marriage of any other state but the Federal Government shall honor all marriage equally so long as the marriage is honored in the beneficiaries state of residence. An ammendment such as this would allow this discussion to evolve over time, would provide test cases as states took different tacts in the debate and would keep the Federal Government from stepping on the rights of the states in this matter. Obviously it would not resolve the 'Massachusetts Problem' as a State Supreme Court could 'force' the legislatures to adopt gay marriage, but I think that the states themselves would be able to handle that just fine. Similarly, it does resolve the claim from the pro-gay marriage side that being married to the person of your choice is a fundamental right that should be protected by the constitution. I am unconvinced that marriage is in fact a fundamental right or that limiting marriage to a man and a woman constitutes discrimination and more than limiting marriage to non-family members constitutes discrimination. Over time, I expect that gay marriage will be adopted by most, if not all of the states. Reaching that decision via the legislatures of the states, rather than the Supreme Court would be a far preferable outcome in my opinion as it would reflect that the pro-gay marriage people had managed to convince the population, rather than just the courts, that this was the best choice.

Changing Parties

This Boston Globe feature on voters who have been Democrat but are Voting for Bush or were Republicans but are voting for Kerry is interesting. One thing that seemed apparent to me is that a lot of them, based on the reasons they gave, probably should have changed parties years ago, but had been voting on a certain ticket for years because of 'history'. Between 9/11 and the War on Iraq I think a lot of voters are reevaluating what their political beliefs are in ways that they might not have done if we hadn't been through such momentous times. I expect a lot of previous non-voters are doing the same thing, which is one reason I think that the political polls may be way out of line with the final election results. I believe that these reactions are a good thing for our democracy no matter who wins this election.

Kerry and Israel

This LA Times editorial is very negative on John Kerry's Israel policies. It also contained this little gem:

To project his Middle East bona fides, Kerry has bashed President Bush dozens of times for supposedly showing no interest in Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking, for breaking a continuum going back at least 30 years. "Some cliches," wrote the dovish Israeli journalist Aluf Benn in the even more dovish Israeli newspaper Haaretz, "become permanent features in public until someone takes the trouble to check out their validity." Which is what Benn did. And what did he find? The Bush administration "has been far more involved than any previous administrations in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and has courageously presented the two sides with practical objectives and demands." Kerry seems to have nostalgia for the peacemaking ways of Clinton. But what Clinton actually bequeathed to George W., says Benn, was "an Israeli-Palestinian war and a total collapse of the hopes that flourished in the 1990s…. The height of the peace process during the Clinton era, the Camp David summit in July 2000, was a classic example of inept diplomacy, an arrogant and rash move whose initiators failed to take into account the realpolitik, misunderstood Arafat and brought upon both Israelis and Palestinians the disaster of the intifada."
Another consequence of our interesting times is that the Jewish vote is in play to an extent that has not been seen in a while (ever?). That is bad news for Kerry in Florida, and probably accounts at least in part for why New Jersey, although likely to go for Kerry, is very close.

Coming of the Storm

George Will writes in Newsweek about how Bush v. Gore may pave the way for mammoth court battles to determine the Presidency this election:

the parties might unleash thousands of lawyers, each clutching a copy of Bush v. Gore, to ferret out "equal protection" violations in every closely contested state. Consider the use of different voting systems—electronic touchscreens, punch cards, etc.—in different jurisdictions of a particular state. All systems are fallible, and different systems have different error rates. Does that mean that "equal protection" is denied when different systems are used? What if the distribution of the different systems within the state means that errors have a "disparate impact" on minorities?
Unless one side or the other wins a landslide, I expect that it will be very interesting (in the Chinese? Curse sense).

Afghan women

This article on a couple of Afghan women is well worth reading.


Wretchard has a good post up on Belmont Club about child abductions by Islamic groups that took place before Beslan. He also has some other good info as well. If you arn't reading Belmont Club every day, you probably should be.

Creepy music

Lileks made me laugh today with this line:

I promised a Halloween Party, and we had one. Got out the decorations, decked the house with grinning gourds and cackling cats, lit the candles, put on spooky music that raises the hackles and chills the blood – Celine Dion, mostly – and put out Halloween paper plates and orange plastic cutler and tiny cups shaped like ghosts.
Check out the rest of today's Bleat as well, it includes a review of "The Day after Tomorrow" (well, more a bitch fest than a review, but funny) and some thoughts about politics and God along with the random happy Gnat stuff.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Election poem

Random Gemini has written an election poem. Go check it out.

Boom Boom Boom

Thomas Freidman writes in the New York Times about 3-baby booms that will define our future, and how we are NOT dealing with them.

The leading edge of the American baby boom generation is now just two presidential terms away from claiming its Social Security and Medicare benefits. "With unfunded entitlement liabilities at $74 trillion in today's dollars - an amount far exceeding the net worth of our entire national economy - and with payroll taxes needing to double to cover the projected costs of Social Security and Medicare, how can any serious person not call entitlement reform the transcendent domestic policy issue of our era?"
This is a problem that must be solved now, before it gets worse. I don't know if George Bush's plan will work or not. I know John Kerry's plan of 'no major changes' will not work.
The second group of boomers barreling down the highway are the young people in India, China and Eastern Europe, who in this increasingly flat world will be able to compete with your kids and mine more directly than ever for high-value-added jobs. ... When was the last time you met a 12-year-old who told you he or she wanted to grow up to be an engineer? When Bill Gates goes to China, students hang from the rafters and scalp tickets to hear him speak. In China, Bill Gates is Britney Spears. In America, Britney Spears is Britney Spears.
This problem needs to be solved soon. I am sure George Bush's education plan doesn't do enough to solve this. The rest of the heavy lifting probably needs to be taken up parents, and perhaps young people themselves. No one is entitled to a good job just because you are an American. You better be prepared to learn the skills you need and work hard, because others will, and no power on earth will be able to keep you employed if you are not employable.
The third group of boomers our next president will have to deal with is from the Arab world. The Arab region has had the highest rate of population growth in the world in the last half century. It has among the highest unemployment rates in the world today. And one-third of the Arab population is under the age of 15 and will soon be entering both a barren job market and its child-bearing years. There are eight Saudis under age 15 for every one between ages 45 and 60.
You think the Arabs are crazy now? Just wait a few years. Demographics is destiny and there are going to be a lot more frustrated young Arabs in a few years unless something radically changes. And we all know how frustrated Arabs seem to react. I don't know if George Bush's plan to democratize the middle-east will work. Even best case scenario it is probably a race with our horse carrying a heavy handicap. The middle-east must change (it will change) soon, for better or for worse. I cannot believe that John Kerry is the leader to deal with such a challenge. Of course we do have a sure fire way of dealing with this problem. A massive nuclear bombardment of the region would solve this issue quite quickly and neatly. I don't want to see that happen. There are few things I can imagine that would be worse. But I could see it happening in the future. I could see it being our only choice if our culture is to survive if we don't fix things there now. Note: Some may consider my comments above about Arabs racist. Let me be clear that I think any group with similar demographic and economic stresses would react in a similar way. As I said above, demographics is destiny. The Arabs do have one other peice against them though, their history of once being a mighty nation, a superpower of their times, makes it perhaps easier for them to slip into a fantasy ideology that leads them to believe they can through simple and violent means return to their former prominence. Italy and Germany embraces similar fantasy ideologies before WWII, with much less historical cause, that mental trap is even more dangerous for the Arab world.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Supporting the Troops


Due to its overwhelming popularity among the troops in Southwest Asia, country music star Chely Wright is about to release a new single recording, "Bumper of My SUV," about the need for Americans to continue supporting the men and women fighting the war on terror. Half of the proceeds of the recording will go to Stars for Stripes, the nonprofit organization that sponsored Wright's recent 10-day, five-concert tour in Iraq and Kuwait.
I'm not a country music fan, but let me say that this is a great thing for Ms. Wright to be doing. I wish more of our musicians were more interesting in supporting our troops rather than protesting the war. (via Powerline)

Latest Swift Boat ads

The ads can be found here. They are interesting in that while there is certainly some focus on Kerry, a lot of the two newest ads focus on why they Vets are doing this and are somewhat of a rubuttal to the idea that this is a purely partisan attack. Update: Read this interview with America's most highly decorated soldier, who appears in these ads. Teaser:

Col. Bui Tin of the North Vietnamese government said words to this effect: that every day, the North Vietnamese listened to the radio to see what was happening back here in the United States. And what they heard from Kerry was exactly the kind of propaganda that they wanted to hear, because their claim was they were going to win this war on the streets of San Francisco and New York City. And it was clear that John Kerry was helping them do that. That was also part of the Soviet Union's disinformation program, which was saying exactly the same thing that John Kerry was saying… He basically functioned as a propaganda minister for both the Russians and the North Vietnamese. He basically was advocating that the Communists win.



Iran might be willing to give up its uranium enrichment capabilities but it wants many things in return -- above all a guarantee that no one will try to topple the Islamic regime, diplomats and analysts say. North Korea has demanded similar security assurances from Washington, which listed both Tehran and Pyongyang as members of an "axis of evil," in exchange for relinquishing its atom bomb program. Iran's nuclear ambitions will be discussed at a meeting of senior officials from the Group of Eight (G8) industrial nations in Washington on Friday.
My response to this would be 'Sorry no deal'. Followed by an assurance that if those nations continued to pursue WMD they would be targetted for regime change for sure. If they want to assure that the policy of the United States will not be regime change, they can abandon WMD, cease all support of terrorists groups, and change their behavior in regards to human rights. If all that happens, then regime change would not be an issue. In fact, they could likely become partners with the United States and members of the civilized global community.

Possible Malaria Vacine


Clinical tests of a product candidate to be a vaccine against malaria, the RTS/ASO2A, that were carried out by the Manhica Health Reaserach Centyre, in the southern Mozambican province of Maputo, revealed its efficacy and safety to reduce this disease, that has been the main cause of deaths in Mozambique and in Africa at large.
This could be a huge benefit for all of sub-Saharan Africa. Despite the much publicised (and very real) aids tradegy in Africa, it is malaria that is the real killer there. Not only does it kill directly, but it also contributes greatly to the wide-spread poverty of the continent. Anything that can be done to reduce malaria will be a huge benefit.

Executing Juviniles

This Slate article has a lot of information about the Roper v. Simmons case being heard by the Supreme Court on whether the execution of people who were 16 or 17 years old when they committed their crimes constitutes "cruel and unusual punishment". Now, as I have stated previously, I tend to give teens a lot of credit in regard to how much responsibility they should be able to have, and that includes responsibility for their actions and the consequences of those actions. So, I don't think that executing a 16 or 17 year old convincted of egregious murder is necessarily wrong. That being said, the phrase 'tried as an adult' gets in my craw. If 'adultness' is an attribute that can be gained regardless of age for the purpose of criminal prosecution then it should be an attribute that can be gained, regardless of age for other purposes as well. If 16 or 17 year olds could take an 'adultness test' that would allow them to purchase cigarettes or alcohol, sign contracts and fully engage in other adult activities then I would have no problem with an 'adultness test' being administered by the courts. There is one piece in the Salon article that I thought was especially foolish:

Dissenting in Atkins, Justice Antonin Scalia once raged: "But the Prize for the Court's Most Feeble Effort to fabricate 'national consensus' must go to its appeal (deservedly relegated to a footnote) to the views of assorted professional and religious organizations, members of the so-called 'world community' … the views of professional and religious organizations and the results of opinion polls are irrelevant. Equally irrelevant are the practices of the 'world community,' whose notions of justice are (thankfully) not always those of our people." This is an argument George Bush makes five times every debate. (Watch for it again tonight.) While we might agree that world opinion, international law, and scientific truth can't single-handedly dictate American law or policy, the new patriotism holds that they cannot even illuminate it.
I have to fully agree with Scalia on this issue. Popularity certainly does not equal morality, if you doubt me on this, ask any parent whether 'everyone is doing it' constitutes a sound moral arguement. Things are either moral or immoral. It is certainly possible that immoral practices might be considered moral because of cultural blindspots, and in this situation world opinion may enlighten us that we might have missed something, but in the end, the moral reasoning must stand on it's own, not be based upon current opinions or popularity.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

Economic Reform

Benjamin Netanyahu writes about Israeli economic reform in the Washington Times. Several of his points are general and apply to much more than just Israel and those are the points that interest me most. He begins:

Governments no longer have a choice. They either enact free-market reforms now at a painful but tolerable cost, or they reform later at an infinitely higher price. We live in a world full of choices. With the push of a button, billions of dollars can instantly be sent across the globe. Plants and even whole industries can be transferred to the country that offers the most business-friendly environment. Yet because consumers and investors have more choices, governments have fewer. More choices mean more competition, and more competition means that governments — regardless of their political and ideological composition — must enact policies that will enable their national economies to compete in an increasingly uncompromising and unforgiving global marketplace.
This scares a lot of people, and I can understand that, but it is a great comfort to me. I trust individuals more than governments, so any trend that increases the power of the individual and weakens the power of the government is something that I like. Some worry about globalization causing a 'race to the bottom' a fear that as first glance seems credible. I have been reading In Defense of Globalization by Jagdish Bhagwati, which I highly recommend to anyone who has an interest in globalization and wants a good account of it's benefits and it's problems. He argues, convincingly to me that the 'race to the bottom' while a valid fear, does not bear out in reality. Basically, I attribute this to the fact that human capital is the single most important resource a corporation can have, and that good human capital isn't going to settle for living at the 'bottom'. No doubt about it, globalization can cause problems, particularly short term problems dealing with changing economies, but the benefits far outweigh the problems. Netanyahu also says:
The formula for economic success in the global marketplace is clear: lower taxes, reduce government spending, streamline bureaucracy, invest in infrastructure and education and de-monopolize industry. Enacting these reforms demands political courage. Leaders can try to delay reform in the hope of avoiding unpopular decisions. But what may be politically prudent for the individual leader proves disastrous for the nation.
He is right, that is exactly what a country needs to do to be economically competitive, the only thing I would add is a respect for rule of law and avoiding coruption, two things that are expected to exist in the U.S. and Israel but sadly lacking in parts of the world (the poorest parts primarily.)

Fair Game?

Deacon at Powerline has a good post on John Kerry's gratutitous mentioning of the fact the Dick Cheney's daughter is a lesbian last night. I personally believe that this is a tactic designed to keep certain Bush voters home on election day. It certainly did not add any meaningful information to the debate, unless the generic data that Republicans have gay children too is somehow signifigant. Singling the Cheney daughter out in that fashion struck me as very crass and unbecoming of Senator Kerry. Senator Edwards made some remarks in a similar fashion in his debate with the Vice President, but at least Edwards disguised his remarks as a complement to Cheney. A candidate's children should be pretty much off limits for Political opponants, unless they insert themselves in some fashion into the political questions of the day.

Getting Ugly

Bill Hobbs has a round-up of voter fraud stories. This election is getting very ugly, and it will likely get worse before it gets better. Stephen Green has some related thoughts. Update: More ugliness here.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004

Kerry's votes

This bit from the debate was also interesting, Kerry said:

Once again, the president is misleading America. I've actually passed 56 individual bills that I've personally written and, in addition to that, and not always under my name, there is amendments on certain bills.
Even if we give him his numbers, this seems a little light for a twenty year career in the Senate. According to congresslink.org between 1985 and 2000 6474 Bills were passed. If each Bill had a single author, that would be about 65 per senator. I believe that most legislation has multiple authors, the McCain-Feingold bill for example. I was unable to find any data for the last 4 years, but obviously that would increase the number. The average number of bills passed for each of these years was 809, so if we add in that number for 2001, 2002 and 2003 giving Kerry a pass on 2004 since it is not over yet, the Senate has probably passed about 8901 bills in Kerry's career for an average of 89 per Senator if each bill was authored singularly. That would mean, if all Bills had single authors, Kerry has performed about 63% as much as the average Senator. Translate that to a letter grade if you wish. Perhaps though, quality makes up for quantity. I found this list of 57 Bills and Resolutions John Kerry Sponsored. I assume these are what Senator Kerry was talking about, but I cannot be sure and I cannot account for the one extra in this list from the Senator's number. However, take a look at them and decide if you think that these are substantial legislation or not. It is also interesting that this list included the number of cosponsors. The total, assuming I didn't flub the math, is 737 cosponsors.

The Last Debate

I gotta give this one to Bush. Kerry seemed on defense for most of it while Bush seemed animated and hopeful for the future. Perhaps that is the strongest difference between the two men tonight. Kerry seemed worried about America, fearful of the future almost while Bush appeared more positive and hopeful. I suppose voters will react according to which vision they identify more with. I thought that this bit from Senator Kerry was interesting, when he quoted from the Bible:

My faith affects everything that I do, in truth. There's a great passage of the Bible that says, "What does it mean, my brother, to say you have faith if there are no deeds? Faith without works is dead."
I am certainly not going to impinge Kerry's faith, but it was interesting that he said this in a question on Abortion. I don't want this post turning into another abortion post, the last debate did that and I posted an abortion follow-up here. But it is an interesting question as to how much a person's religious beliefs should effect their public policy decisions or their decisions on who they vote for. This seems especially topical in light of the recent statements by Catholic arch-bishops. If you believe something is moral, how far should you go promoting that belief? This is especially true in for a subject like abortion where a person's religious beliefs might lead them to think it is a question of conflicting rights (the woman and the fetus) rather than simply a private matter. If you would like to comment on the effect of faith on decisions or the debate in general please do, if you would rather comment on general abortion policy I would prefer you do so in the other post, to keep things sorted out a little. As always, I welcom all comments. I don't have a fully formed opinion about this subject yet, but I may play devil's advocate to any comment. (Debate transcript here)

New Jib Jab

The makers of the This Land animation have a new one out Good to be in D.C.. Not as funny as the first one, but still pretty funny. Once again, Bill Clinton gets the best line. Hat tip: Jenn

Charter Schools

This study of Charter Schools is interesting. Also, good news for those who support Charter Schools.

Compared to students in the nearest regular public school, charter students are 4 percent more likely to be proficient in reading and 2 percent more likely to be proficient in math, on their state's exams. Compared to students in the nearest regular public school with a similar racial composition, charter students are 5 percent more likely to be proficient in reading and 3 percent more likely to be proficient in math. As a rule, the charter schools' proficiency "advantage" is larger when the comparison school has a similar racial composition.
This is not a perfect study, for example it has no way to tell to what degree these students differ from the average student in the nearest school. For example, a student could be self selecting into the charter school program because of either higher parental involvement (thus we would expect them to do better than average) or because of poor achievement in regular schools (thus we would expect them to do poorer than average). Nonetheless it strikes me as the best study done so far on charter schools and it seems to be very good news.

How to die

Mark Steyn has recently had a column pulled. It is availible online. I understand why his editor's pulled it, it is not very kind to Kenneth Biggley, the British hostage who was recently beheaded in Iraq, but I think he does express some ideas that need to be discussed. This bit here especially:

If the FCO wants to issue advice in this area, that’s the way to go: If you’re kidnapped, accept you’re unlikely to survive, say “I’ll show you how an Englishman dies”, and wreck the video. If they want you to confess you’re a spy, make a little mischief: there are jihadi from Britain, Italy, France, Canada and other western nations all over Iraq – so say yes, you’re an MI6 agent, and so are those Muslims from Tipton and Luton who recently joined the al-Qaeda cells in Samarra and Ramadi. As Churchill recommended in a less timorous Britain: You can always take one with you. If Mr Blair and other government officials were to make that plain, it would be, to use Mr Bigley’s word, “enough”. A war cannot be subordinate to the fate of any individual caught up in it.
I respect anyone who has the courage to be brave in the face of horrible adversity, to refuse to give in even though facing certain death. I have often wondered whether or not I would posess that courage myself. I would hope so, and I have immense respect for Fabrizio Quattrocchi for his bravery. I doubt many would disagree with me. The larger question though, of whether government should publicly advocate that sort of response, as Steyn suggests is a bit more complex. I certainly believe that to negotiate with terrorists and kidnappers is to invite more terror and kidnapping. The Mel Gibson movie Ransom seems to me to be the best response to kidnapping, at least on a large societal scale. For the individual though, a payoff is much more likely to result in survival. Governments though have a responsibility not only to the current victim of a kidnapping, but to the next victim should they allow the kidnapping to be profitable. Thus no negotiation. Advocating defiance of the kidnappers is another step beyond that though. I believe however it would be wise. Resistance and defiance will probably not save your life in such a situation, but it will make it harder for the kidnappers and will make the whole exercise less worthwhile for them. You won't save your life, but you might save someone else's. Let me say though, that while I greatly respect Fabrizio Quattrocchi's bravery that does not mean I dispise, or think less of Kenneth Bigley and others who have not shown such heroism. It would be a tough situation for anyone.

Novelists for Bush

They are decidedly in the minority in this survey but the points they make are interesting.

Orson Scott Card I'm a Democrat voting for Bush, even though on economic issues, from taxes to government regulation, I'm not happy with the Republican positions. But we're at war, and electing a president who is committed to losing it seems to be the most foolish thing we could do. Personal honesty is also important to me, and Kerry is obviously not in the running on that point, given that he can't keep track of the facts in his own autobiography.
Card is one of my long time favorite authors, ever since I read Ender's Game in junior high.
Robert Ferrigno Mark me on the Bush side of the ledger, a lonely side for this survey, I'm certain. Most novelists live in their imagination, which is a fine place to be until the bad guys come knock knock knocking. I don't agree with Bush on shoveling free meds to granny and grandpa, or his antipathy to fuel conservation along with opening up the arctic reserve, but this is small stuff. I'll be voting for Bush because his approach to stopping the people who want to kill my children is the right one, i.e., kill them first. Kerry will dance the Albright two-step with Kim Jong-il, consult with Sandy Berger's socks, and kowtow to the U.N. apparatchiks who have done such a fine job of protecting the Cambodians, Rwandans, and the Sudanese. No thanks. No contest.
I am not familiar with this author, but I might have to try reading him. If his novels are as fun to read as his political commentary they will be well worth the money. Still laughing about the Albright two-step.
Roger L. Simon I am a registered Democrat. I disagree with George W. Bush on gay marriage, stem-cell research, a woman's right to choose, and, to a lesser extent, a host of other issues, but I am supporting him unreservedly for president. We are in a protracted war with Islamofascism and I do not trust John Kerry to lead us in that war for one minute. Also, I think my party has been hijacked by a cult of know-nothing isolationism out of the 1930s. But if they win, I hope the hell I'm wrong.
I am familiar with Mr. Simon's blog (not on my daily reads, but I am a frequent visitor) and I have found him enjoyable and interesting. He writes mystery novels, not my favorite genre, but I might check him out as some point.
Thomas Mallon I'll be voting for President Bush. His response to the 9/11 attacks has been both strong and measured, and he has extended a once-unimaginable degree of freedom (however tentative) to Afghanistan and Iraq. I am unimpressed by the frantic vilification that has come his way from even mainstream elements of the Democratic Party. The rhetorical assault is reminiscent of—though it far exceeds—the overheated opposition to Ronald Reagan's re-election in 1984. Back then the intellectual establishment told us how repression and apocalypse would be just around the corner if the American "cowboy" were kept in the White House for another four years. Well (as Reagan might say, his head cocked to one side), I remember a rather different result from RR's second term. And I'm hopeful about another four years under George W. Bush.
I am not familiar with Thomas Mallon's writings, but from a quick scan through Amazon he seems to write a lot of historical fiction set in the 20th century. One interesting , with the exception of Mallon (who does not say) they all describe themselves as liberal or democrats. This of course makes one wonder if all novelist are liberal or if Slate only talked to liberal novelist. I encourage everyone to read the opinions of the novelists that are supporting Kerry too. If they don't make you want to vote for Bush, nothing will.

If not me, then who; if not now, then when?

This essay by a Liberal American Jew is well worth reading. If I were to excerpt it, I would have to grab the whole thing so just go read it already! (via Vodkapundit)

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Syria, slow progress

This editorial is a good glimpse at the problems that Syria presents. It notes some steps that have been taken and highlights more that need to be taken. Mostly I agree with it but I have a few problems with some bits.

The Security Council should renew its demand that Syria withdraw from Lebanon, and accompany it with the threat of sanctions.
Perhaps the threat of regime change would be more effective here. Of course, coming from the Security council, what tinpot dictator would respect such a threat? Shortly thereafter the possibility of military action is mentioned:
The Bush administration and Iraqi leaders should make it clear that continued infiltration of insurgents and terrorists into Iraq will be considered a hostile act by Syria and subject to the responses usually given an enemy, from the breaking off of relations to -- in the last resort -- military retaliation.
I agree fully that military action should be a last resort, but I don't think we can under-emphasize the last resort part enough, especially when talking to thugs. Rogue nations that we 'negotiate' with need to be fully aware that a military option is on the table. If they are, and if the believe that we mean it (and we should never, ever threaten such a thing unless we mean it) it is much less likely that we will have to use that option. The conclusion to the editorial I agree with completely though:
There are no reasons for continued toleration of Syria's rogue behavior; instead, there is an opportunity for insisting on change in the Arab state where it is most needed.
I would expand the statement somewhat though. There is no reason for continued toleration of any nation's rogue behavior.

Giuliani on Kerry

This address by Rudy Giuliani echos a lot of my thoughts on the matter. Glad to see I'm in good company. The entire thing is a powerful, perhaps even devastating, argument against Kerry's vision. This bit here is especially powerful:

It is consistent with his views on Vietnam: that we should have left and abandoned Vietnam. It is consistent with his view of Nicaragua and the Sandinistas. It is consistent with his view of opposing Ronald Reagan at every step of the way in the arms buildup that was necessary to destroy communism. It is consistent with his view of not supporting the Persian Gulf War, which was another extraordinary step. Whatever John Kerry’s global test is, the Persian Gulf War certainly would pass anyone’s global test. If it were up to John Kerry, Saddam Hussein would not only still be in power, but he’d still be controlling Kuwait.
I know some of my readers favor Kerry in this election. I would be very interested in any comments about this, especially the last part. John Kerry's opposition to the Gulf War has never, to my mind been satisfactorily explained. It was an important vote and I don't think people are wrong to make inferenced about his character based upon it.

Kerry as Chamberlain?

William Tucker provides this analysis of Matt Bia's New York Times article on John Kerry. His conclusion:

All this tells you what's about to happen if John Kerry is elected the next President. Not only does he not have the fortitude to fight the war on terror, he doesn't even believe we're in a war. Terror will be explained away as "crime" and ultimately "an aberration." Councils of world leaders will sit around mulling over the problem -- just as the U.N. now talks circles around itself while ignoring the situation in Iran and the Sudan. Meanwhile, al Qaida or some offshoot will continue burrowing until they accomplish their goal; another major terrorist attack on our soil. At that point, Kerry will have an explanation similar to Neville Chamberlain's: "Everything would have worked if only Hitler had kept his promises."
I am cannot sure that this interpretation of Kerry is accurate, but I am far from sure that it is not. John Kerry has been reflexively anti-war and anti-American militarism since before he went to Vietnam. It is the single most obvious and consistent fact about his public career. I could perhaps overlook this if I felt that Kerry had changed his mind about all this, but I don't think that such a case could be made. From Bai's article:
When I asked Kerry how Sept. 11 had changed him, either personally or politically, he seemed to freeze for a moment. ''It accelerated -- '' He paused. ''I mean, it didn't change me much at all. It just sort of accelerated, confirmed in me, the urgency of doing the things I thought we needed to be doing. I mean, to me, it wasn't as transformational as it was a kind of anger, a frustration and an urgency that we weren't doing the kinds of things necessary to prevent it and to deal with it.''
Now of course Kerry is claiming here that 9/11 didn't change him because he was already ahead of the curve in evaluating this threat, but it is hard to get from his record or any of his public statements that I am aware of that this was in fact the case. Even if it is, there is no evidence that I know of that he was advocating a more militaristic or democracy promoting agenda. The Clinton era law enforcement approach to terror obviously didn't work, I suppose one could argue that it failed not because it was the wrong way to do it, but that it was the right way just not pursued enough. There is some justification to that probably, but there is no 'law enforcement approach' that would have deprived Al-Qaida of their secure base in Afghanistan where the training took place and the 9/11 attacks were planned. There is no law enforcement approach that will drive them from a future base in a failed state either. Mostly though what troubles me is that John Kerry doesn't seem to be strongly in favor of promoting democracy in the Middle East, which I believe is our best hope for effectively eradicating terror. Again from Bai's article:
Kerry, too, envisions a freer and more democratic Middle East. But he flatly rejects the premise of viral democracy, particularly when the virus is introduced at gunpoint. ''In this administration, the approach is that democracy is the automatic, easily embraced alternative to every ill in the region,'' he told me. Kerry disagreed. ''You can't impose it on people,'' he said. ''You have to bring them to it. You have to invite them to it. You have to nurture the process.''
I have several problems with this statement. While I agree that you can't impose democracy on people, I don't believe that you ever have to. People naturally want democracy, they want a say in how their lives are governed. It isn't rocket science to figure this out. Sometime though, you do have to impose democracy on governments. One of the downsides with the modern technology is that it makes it easier than anytime since the beginning of the enlightenment for governments to impose their will upon people and defeat rebellions, especially if they are willing to be brutal about it. Simply put, the Iraqi people were never going to be able to depose Saddam on their own. No rebellion will succeed against Kim Jung Il. This sort of regime may be vulnerable to a coup from within the power structure but a popular rebellion is simply not going to succeed in those type of countries. Even with these facts being true, I would in general be willing to go along with Kerry's 'nurturing of the process' if these regimes did not present a threat to us. If terrorism really was just a 'nuisance' problem we could afford to wait, let a slow democratization process take root (or fail to) and hope for the best. I believe however that the situation is a bit more serious than that. I believe that serious measures have to be takes to change the character of the Middle East, and while we have a little time in which to accomplish that, it is not infinite. I do not believe it is hysterical or paranoid to worry about a nuclear weapon being detonated by terrorists in New York or Washington D.C. If we follow the path set in the 90's, if we allow ourselves to believe, as we did on Sept. 10th, that we have reduced terrorism to a 'nuisance' I think the likelihood of such a catastrophe goes way up. Some of John Kerry's specific ideas about confronting terrorism are good. Many of them are already being done. I am sure that as a Senator he will be able to continue offering good advise on some specific strategies and tactics to damage the Al Qaida networks and reduce various threats. However, I doubt his ability as President to meet this global challenge with the vision and foresight needed to succeed. Again from Bai's article:
''I think we can do a better job,'' Kerry said, ''of cutting off financing, of exposing groups, of working cooperatively across the globe, of improving our intelligence capabilities nationally and internationally, of training our military and deploying them differently, of specializing in special forces and special ops, of working with allies, and most importantly -- and I mean most importantly -- of restoring America's reputation as a country that listens, is sensitive, brings people to our side, is the seeker of peace, not war, and that uses our high moral ground and high-level values to augment us in the war on terror, not to diminish us.''
His laundry list of tactics here is fine, until the end. I strongly disagree that the most important task facing us, the one thing we need to do more than anything else, is to restore our reputation as a sensitive, multi-lateral, peace at any price nation. I don't think I would even put that in my top ten list of most important things to do. I mean sure, it would be nice if everyone thought we were great. I wouldn't complain if it happened, but I am not going to lose sleep over it either. Rogue nations developing WMD, terrorists shooting school kids in the back, train stations and night clubs and hotels being blown up around the world are the sort of things that make me lose sleep. Personally I am far from sure that we aren't a little too 'sensitive' now, what with our refusal do blow up an insurgent military base just because it happens to also be a mosque. John Kerry's plan for fighting the War on Terror offers the illusion of security. That is a very dangerous situation to be in, as eventually such illusions are shattered. The last time this happened in the U.S. was 9/11. Doubtless, at some time in the future, American illusions of security will be shattered again. But if it has to happen again to deal with the same threat we are simply being fools.

Reporting Iwo Jima

Zell Miller imagines how Iwo Jima would be covered by today's media. Sadly, I don't think it is much of an exaggeration.

Monday, October 11, 2004

Drug War

(via Instapundit) This report by Dave Kopel and Michael Krause is well worth reading. My belief is that before the war on terror, the drug prohibition was a bad idea that infringed on civil liberties. Now it is plain dangerous as the illegal profits from drugs and the routes and methods of drug smuggling can both be easily co-opted by terrorist organizations. I think that using drugs is a bad idea. It is a stupid thing to do and has many health risks. Doesn't mean it should be illegal though. The government has no business protecting a citizen from himself, although I have no problem with drug education (although I doubt this is a federal responsibility) We are in a real war, the War on Terror. It is past time to give up our fake wars.

Reform in the Middle East

Washington Post:

Drowned out by the bombings in Iraq, and the debate over whether the staging of elections there is an achievable goal or a mirage, the Bush administration's democracy initiative for the rest of the Middle East creeps quietly forward. In neo-realist Washington, it is usually dismissed -- when it is remembered at all -- in much the same way that, say, national elections in Afghanistan were once laughed off. The unpopularity of the Bush administration and the predictable resistance from the dictatorships of Egypt and Saudi Arabia are cited as proof that the region's hoped-for "transformation" is going nowhere. And yet, the process started at the Sea Island summit of Group of Eight countries in June is gaining some traction -- sometimes to the surprise of the administration's own skeptics. A foreign ministers' meeting in New York two weeks ago produced agreement that the first "Forum for the Future" among Middle Eastern and G-8 governments to discuss political and economic liberalization will take place in December. Morocco volunteered to host it, and a handful of other Arab governments, including Jordan, Bahrain and Yemen, have embraced pieces of the process.
Yeah, the progress is slow, but it appears steady. These reforms, or at least the beginings of a reform movement, are likely to have a profound effect in the Arab world. This part here is especially interesting to me:
"A voice is beginning to emerge that wasn't there before," says Carl Gershman, the president of the National Endowment for Democracy, who attended a meeting of Western and Middle Eastern civil society groups alongside the recent foreign ministers' gathering. "Most of these people are unknown, they are faceless, but there are a surprising number of them, and the number is growing. They see that they have an opening, and they want to take advantage of it."
I believe that right now In Saudi Arabia and Syria there are analogs of Lech Wallesa and Vaclav Havel. Like their predecessors they have a tough road ahead of them, but I think they have a real shot at succeeding, especially if the U.S. continues to support their efforts. I also expect that someday they will say the same sort of things about George W. Bush that Wallessa and Havel say about Reagan.

Movie Review: Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow

I went to see Sky Captain last night with a couple of friends and I absolutely loved it. Definately one of the best movies of the year as far as I am concerned. If you like the old pulp sci-fi novels or comic books you will probably love this movie, if you don't well, you probably won't get it at all. This is probably the funnest time I have had in a movie in a long time, I had a grin on my face the entire time and broke out laughing on several occasions (something I don't commonly do.)

RIP Christopher Reeve


Actor Christopher Reeve, the star of the "Superman" movies whose near-fatal riding accident nine years ago turned him into a worldwide advocate for spinal cord research, died of heart failure, his publicist said. He was 52. Reeve went into cardiac arrest Saturday while at his home in Pound Ridge, New York, then fell into a coma and died Sunday at a hospital surrounded by his family.
He truly was a Superman.

Sunday, October 10, 2004

dit dit dit dah

This post by Varifrank sums up my fears about John Kerry and the war on terror.

Another way of looking at things

Andrew at Caffeine Dreams has put up a very well thought out post about why a change in Presidents or at least a change major positions in a Bush administration might be very helpful to the war in Iraq. I have some disagreements with him (read the comments on his post for details) but it is something worth thinking about. Go check it out.