< link rel="DCTERMS.isreplacedby" href="http://davejustus.com/" >

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Albania stands with U.S. in Iraq

Fatos Tarifa, the ambassador of Albania to the United States, writes in The Washington Times:

Unlike people in other countries in Europe and elsewhere, the Albanian people have not forgotten what it is like to live under tyranny and repression. The Albanians for more than 40 years were held in thrall by the repressive forces of the communists, living like prisoners without rights in their own country. It was to the United States that freedom-loving Albanians looked for inspiration during those dark years, and the Americans have not let us down. ... The surprise is not in Albania's decision to send more troops to fight for freedom in Iraq. The surprise would have been if Albania did not.
(via Jay, a commenter on this touching post but the Anchoress.) I don't post this from a 'look how great we are' point of view. The sort of faith shown by the Ambassador and the old Italian man in America humbles me and makes me want to make sure we live up to the expectations they place on us. We are not a perfect nation, but we are a good nation and we certainly are a powerful nation. Those two factors give us a great responsibility.

New home

Michael C has moved Of the Mind off of blogger. Check out his new site.

Flat Sales Tax

George F. Will writes about replacing all other taxes with a flat sales tax:

The power to tax involves, as Chief Justice John Marshall said, the power to destroy. So does the power of tax reform, which is one reason why Rep. John Linder, a Georgia Republican, has a 133-page bill to replace 55,000 pages of tax rules. His bill would abolish the IRS and the many billions of tax forms it sends out and receives. He would erase the federal income tax system -- personal and corporate income taxes, the regressive payroll tax and self-employment tax, capital gains, gift and estate taxes, the alternative minimum tax and the earned income tax credit -- and replace all that with a 23 percent national sales tax on personal consumption. That would not only sensitize consumers to the cost of government with every purchase, it would destroy K Street. 'K Street' is shorthand for Washington's lawyer-lobbyist complex. It exists to continually complicate and defend the tax code, which is a cornucopia from which the political class pours benefits on constituencies.
He goes on to offer a number of compelling reasons why this is a very good move economically. It certainly would be simpler, which is my first priority for tax reform.

Let's stop drugging kids

This San Francisco Chronicle Op-Ed about psychiatric medication for children and teens and it's connection with issues like suicide and school violence is very interesting reading. I have long been concerned with the amount of psychiatric medication being prescribed, especially for younger people. I don't think we know enough about the effects of such treatments.


Washington Post:

The hardest challenge in the state capital these days is to locate anyone who will defend the way California has drawn its legislative and congressional district lines in the past decade. In this the largest and most influential of the 50 states, there are 173 major political subdivisions: 80 seats in the state Assembly, 40 in the state Senate and 53 in the U.S. House of Representatives. In 2002 exactly three of them changed parties. In 2004 none did. This Soviet-style conformity was no accident. It was the result of a carefully negotiated deal between congressional Republicans and the legislature's Democrats to guarantee each side against any political losses. Similar deals have been cut in many other states, which is one reason the House, which was designed by the Constitution to be the most sensitive barometer of short-term changes in the country's political climate, now has become the most rigid and inelastic part of the federal government. ... Democratic Assembly Speaker Fabian Nuñez, perhaps the sharpest of Schwarzenegger's partisan critics, told Post reporter Dan Balz and me, "It is not in the best interests of democracy to have legislators drawing their own districts. We have to move [that power] to some neutral party." ... Despite the remarkable silence of the opposition, the Schwarzenegger plan could still fail. Most of the Republicans in the House delegation have urged the governor to abandon the idea because they are comfortable with their current safe seats and their House seniority. At a meeting in Washington, they told him that their powerful committee chairmanships were assets to the state and worth protecting. He told them to take a hike, but it remains to be seen if the public is as stirred by the issue as Schwarzenegger is. The first polls on an initiative to shift the line-drawing to judges showed only lukewarm support, and similar efforts sponsored by Republicans have failed in this Democratic state. But no governor has campaigned on the issue as Schwarzenegger will. He is convinced that the districting deal has created the polarized legislature and made compromise on budgetary and governance issues all but impossible. Each party now plays only to its hard-core supporters, and the pragmatic center goes unrepresented.
In my opinion California redistricting is the single most import domestic issue happening in politics in the nation. It eclipses social security and a balanced budget easily (not to mention steriods in baseball.) It is our democratic revolution. Hopefully California, and then the rest of our nation, will follow in the footsteps of much of the rest of the world and make our politicians once again accountable to the people.

Terri Schiavo dead

Miami Herald:

Few people know with certainty whether Terri Schiavo would have wanted to die or to prolong her life. But finally, at least for her, the question is moot. The nation and the world tracked Schiavo as her life ebbed after the fiercely disputed removal of her lifeline: a feeding tube. It nourished her for 15 years, ever since a crippling heart attack struck when she was far too young, robbing her brain of oxygen, leaving her immobilized and unable to feed herself, speak, or, courts concluded, think. In the end, the massive brain damage Terri suffered at the age of 26 was just one of the tragedies of her life. How it ended up tearing apart her family was another. To the very end, Bob and Mary Schindler fought desperately to keep her alive, and exhausted every legal remedy. Their bitter rival, always, was Terri's first great and only love, her husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo, who never wavered from his insistence that she never wanted to live that way.
RIP Terri.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

For Zimbabwe

If your read nothing else today, read this normblog: For Zimbabwe It cannot be excerpted. (via Instapundit) Gib has also had quite a few good posts on Zimbabwe recently.

The end of the Empire?

Niall Ferguson has written a sobering Foreign Affairs article that is well worth reading. It parallelscurrent events with events preceding WWI. I am going to have to think more about this, how signifigant the parallels are and what differences there are as well. It is also unclear what we should do if the situations are in fact very similar.

National ID Cards

This Op-Ed by Senator Lamar Alexander, Much as I Hate It, We Need a National ID, is a must read for anyone who is interested in this issue. His final paragraph as a teaser:

I still detest the idea of a government ID card. South Africa's experience is a grim reminder of how such documents can be abused. But I'm afraid this is one of the ways Sept. 11 has changed our lives. Instead of pretending we are not creating national ID cards when we obviously are, Congress should carefully create an effective federal document that helps prevent terrorism -- with as much respect for privacy as possible.
Beyond the obvious needs of immigration and protection from terrorists there is a much more prosaic reason for supporting a nation ID card. Identity theft. I think a very strong Libertarian case can be made that one of the responsibilities of government, in line with providing rule of law and enforcement of consequences, is providing citizens a secure and verifiable means of establishing their identity. A person's identity is perhaps their most private possession and it seems to me that the Government should provide protection for that possession.

Abuse of Ecosystem Threatens Earth

Sci-Tech Today:

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MEA) predicts an increased risk of abrupt collapses in nature that could spur disease, deforestation or "dead zones" in the seas. Sudden changes in water quality, the collapse of fisheries and shifts in regional climate are other likely features of our over-use of resources, it warns.
It doesn't take a genius to realize that use of resources at unsustainable rates can't last forever.
"At the heart of this assessment is a stark warning," said the 45-member board of the MEA. "Human activity is putting such strain on the natural functions of Earth that the ability of the planet's ecosystems to sustain future generations can no longer be taken for granted."
So what is the solution? Strict conversion to an anti-capitalist platform advocated by many leftist environmentalists before its too late? Not so fast. Check out this TCS Article which talks about this report, and also the conclusions of how to solve the problems, which have been much less reported on.
Now that's what I call shocking and almost unbelievable, that 1,300 scientists from 95 countries, working under the auspices of the United Nations, seem to have drunk the free market Kool-Aid. The end result of this years-long investigation is that us free market tree hugger and greenie types are actually correct in our contention that it is not the presence of markets, or the failure of markets, that leads to the devastation, it is the absence of markets. Just as we have had to, in centuries gone by, work out a system of laws that allows markets to flourish, thereby leading to the most efficient usage of resources, so now the task is to do the same for those areas of life where there are no markets. In water, pollution, fishing quotas, tropical forestry, in, in fact, all those sectors where we face the Tragedy of the Commons.
I don't think that pure privatisation will solve all environmental issues, but it can solve a lot of them.

Lebanon Update

The New York Times:

Opposition parties gained ground on Tuesday in their struggle to push aside the country's pro-Syrian government, with both the prime minister and the chief of the country's powerful military intelligence agency signaling their intention to quit. Prime Minister Omar Karami, who resigned last month and had spent the intervening weeks trying to form a new government, postponed an expected announcement today that he would quit. Mr. Karami, who led a pro-Syrian government until public demonstrations forced him out, lost all hope of persuading the opposition to join him in a new government, his spokesman, Osman Majzoub, said. But Mr. Karami said after a scheduled meeting with the Lebanese president, Emile Lahoud, that he would step down only after political consultations later this week. Mr. Karami's pending resignation appeared to clear the way for opposition leaders to try to form a government on their own, one that would try to ensure that nationwide elections are held by the end of May.
It is starting to look more and more likely that a peacefull transition to democracy will take place. Good for them!

Tuesday, March 29, 2005


Immigration is becoming a big issue. Michelle Malkin has started The Immigration Blog, which is focused on this issue. I addition the Minuteman Project is drawing a lot of attention to the issue as well. So I thought it would be interesting to state my thoughts on immigration. First off, I do believe it is important to enforce our laws. I hate any laws that are rarely enforced or enforced on at 'prosecutors digression'. I think that any system built on such a foundation is a recipe for abuse. So we should either enforce our laws or change them to something we are willing to enforce. That is a blanket belief I have and it applies especially well for immigration. One fact that is important to remember is that a lot of people who are agitating for increased immigration control are, to put it bluntly, racists. This certainly doesn't mean that everyone in that camp is, but many are and that is a key thing to remember. Much like anti-war protesters are publicly tied to the fringe communists that make up the heart of that movement, immigration reformers are tied to racist groups and individuals. This means anyone who is for immigration reform for other reasons needs to make an extra effort to disavow the fringe elements. Personally I don't think that immigration is a bad thing. I view it as a huge tool for economic growth and a great way to attract the talent of the world to our nation. I think that the number of legal immigrants we allow should be drastically revised upwards and the process should be simpler. While I deplore the fact that we have around 10 million illegal immigrants in this country now, I strongly believe that the only way to justly deal with that situation at this point is to grant those people amnesty. We simply are not going to deport them, and keeping them in a limbo status only feeds the disreputable elements of our society that prey on these people. In conjunction with granting those people amnesty and increasing the legal immigration quota, we should increase our border security, develop a policy of deporting any new illegals, develop a process of cooperation on this between federal, state and local entities, and most importantly crack down hard on those who employ illegal aliens. This last will probably involve raising penalties and increasing the documentation requirements for employment. Implementation of a Federal ID card (yes, I can hear you Libertarians scream) may be necessary and something I think would actually be a positive for citizens as well. There are a few issues that I think get dragged into the immigration debate that really have no business being there. A big one is the idea that the number of illegal aliens represents a security threat with the idea that if illegal Mexican immigrants can get in, so can Al-Qaida agents. This is probably only thinly true. The routes a decently funded terrorist will take to enter our country are probably not the same as a poor Mexican will. While many legal immigrants of course get through, quite a few a caught and sent back (granted, to try the next day) and thus these methods which function on principle that if you try enough times you will succeed are unlikely to be attractive to terrorists. More likely a terrorist who was trying to sneak in (if they would even bother with that, the 9/11 terrorists entered legally) would choose a different method. The illegal narcotics smuggling routes would be far more attractive for example.

Progress in Kyrgyzstan

Xinhua - English:

The upper house of Kyrgyzstan's previous parliament agreed on Tuesday to cede power to the new parliament elected in February's disputed polls, ending a cut-throat battle for legitimacy between the two legislatures. Lawmakers of the previous upper house agreed to suspend work, one day after a similar move by the outgoing parliament's lower house, in a positive move towards fostering political stability inthe central Asian nation after nearly a week of lawlessness. Interim leader Kurmanbek Bakiyev, the former opposition leader elected prime minister by the new parliament on Monday, welcomed the move. 'You have taken the right and historic decision. I hope your decision will bring calm,' he said. Bakiyev, one of the opposition leaders in the election-triggered nationwide protests in the past month, on Monday called on voters and political parties to accept the new parliament as a legitimate legislature saying it will be 'in the interest of the whole nation.'
Very interesting. It seems as thought they have earned a chance for a real democracy. It will be interesting to see if they, and the other places struggling for the same goal, will be able to keep it. A democracy is more than just voting, and a lot more than just a single vote.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Libertarian Politics

I have mentioned in the comments in a few sites the split between small government Conservatives/libertarians and the religious right which are the primary factions that make up the Republican Party. Historically, when the Democrats held most of the reigns of Federal Power, the two factions were very amicable. The religious right and the small government people both wanted to stop the Democrats from enacting most of their agenda. However, for the their reasons for opposition were very different. The Religious Right has their own agenda that they would like to see enacted while the advocates of smaller government were more or less against any agenda being put into place regardless of its purpose. This schism is become much more visible now that the Republican Party is firmly in control of the Presidency and the Legislature. If the Democratic Party continues to fail electorally this split will become more and more pronounced. The right side of the blogosphere lately has been fairly busy with this schism, which has been highlighted by the Schiavo affair. Bill Quick has put up a list of his reasons for disagreeing with the Bush Administration, some of which I agree with and some of which I don't, and put out a call for suggestions on how to wrest control of the Republican Party from the social conservatives. I think that this is an interesting idea, and certainly worth exploring. First though, a complete understanding of the nature of the problem is important. The Republican Party is not dominated completely by either of these factions. Currently there is a good deal of give and take. George Bush epitomizes this by being, I think anyway, pretty clearly in the center of his party on most issues. He is of course a politician, and that means on issues he doesn't feel strongly about he panders when it is expedient, and while I don't entirely like that I am enough of a realist to accept that we will never reach a utopia that consists of politicians who don't pander. The Republican Party today though does still have a strong small government/libertarian tilt. I would say that it is more social conservative than libertarian, but it is something like 70/30 in terms of policies. I consider the Democratic Party for the most part to be fundamentally opposed to small government concepts so trying to change it's ideology seems futile (although convincing individual Democrats remains feasible. That means a libertarian minded individual should be hesitant to abandon the Republican Party altogether, especially as our governmental system will naturally coalesce to a two party system. So the proper goal of someone who shares my philosophy should be to alter the ideological focus to be more libertarian minded. Understanding the challenges this poses is critical to success in this endeavor. The first challenge is that individuals who desire less intrusive government are a minority of the population. In truth, considering our numbers, we are probably fortunate to have the influence we do. This fact prescribes some tactics, such as demeaning ones opposition or acting as though one's preferred positions had some sort of electoral mandate. The second challenge is that it is always easier to organize and inspire people to be for something specific than against doing something in general. While I prefer a small government it is difficult to be as passionate about that principle, especially when it relates to a specific issue, than someone who desperately wants something done. Specific libertarian issues can be an exception to this (gun control is notable) but that activism doesn't tend to crossover to a broader libertarian activism. Many people who are strongly against Gun Control don't place any importance on keeping the government out of medical entitlements as an example. Additionally, small government advocates are quite naturally individualist in nature, making building an organization even more difficult. This seems to make building an activist core, a counterpart to MoveOn.org for example, a difficult proposition. This second factor largely explains why the religious right has more influence on the Republican Party than small government advocates, although I estimate the population of the two groups is roughly equal. Small government advocates do however have certain strengths to draw on. The most significant is a body of philosophy dating back hundreds of years. Conservative and Libertarian think tanks have continued to expand upon this philosophy. This factor is largely responsible for the numbers and influence this ideology can claim. Given these realities, it seems the best way to build greater consensus for a small government is to continue with what works. It seems to me that well developed arguments aimed at convincing people who feel differently, one at a time if necessary, will be more effective than any sort of flashy new organization or loud calls for creating a new party. The number of libertarian minded bloggers seems to be a natural platform for this sort of campaign, indeed that is all ready largely happening but I think a few specific things should be kept in mind. First, it is important to understand where those who disagree are coming from. For the most part, social conservatives and liberals have desirable goals in mind. Many of the desires of both groups would indeed be nice to have. The trouble is that the costs (in a variety of senses) are too prohibitive or the means inevitably corrupt a desired end. Explaining this requires time and patience not castigation and anger. A good deal of the libertarian thinking over the past several decades has focused on opposing the liberal agenda, to good success. A similar tactic aimed at convincing the religious right would likely be successful as well. Second, we need to always be sure to deal with where we are, not where we wish we were or what the situation would be in an ideal sense. Immigration is a good example of this. No matter what would be desirable, there is simply no way that 10 million illegals are going to be deported. Any solution with that as a component is useful only as fantasy. Philosophically exploring the ideal can be useful, but demanding it instantly as policy is generally not useful. Once again, patient slow progress is the key. Lastly, it is important to remember not to let the perfect be the enemy of the good. This is especially true when dealing with intra-party politics. A scorched earth all-or-nothing attitude will only result in hardening opinions and weakening ones overall leverage. The prescription drug entitlement may be an example of this. For years there has been broad agreement and powerful lobbying for Federal support for prescription drug support. Given that reality, the Bush plan was probably as good as it was going to be from a libertarian perspective. That doesn't mean we have to like it, but keeping in mind what the realistic options are and being willing to compromise for the best of a range of bad options makes us useful political players rather than irrelevant ideologues. So this is my solution for tilting the balance of power in a more libertarian direction. An army of individualists evangelizing for smaller government and limited powers, one person at a time if need be. It isn't flashy or exciting, but I think it workable. Adding in the power of the blogosphere, with its natural focus on individual efforts and ability to aggregate influence without a command and control structure and I think we have a winning combination. If our ideas are right our influence will grow.

Quake in Sumatra


Officials in Thailand and Sri Lanka report that residents are evacuating coastal regions in the Indian Ocean after an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of at least 8.2 struck off the coast of Indonesia Monday. In Thailand, thousands of people in the six provinces affected by the December 26 tsunami were moving to higher ground or 2 km (1.25 miles) inland, the governor of Phang Nga province said. Sri Lanka also issued a warning that the earthquake may spawn a tsunami that would reach Sri Lanka's shores by about 3 a.m. Tuesday (4 p.m. ET Monday) and urged those living in low lying areas to move to higher ground.
The good news as that they are issuing a tsunami warning this time. The bad news of course is that this region doesn't need any more devastation.

Friday, March 25, 2005

This is somewhat embarrassing...

Ultimate Gamer!!
GM says drop 2d10, aanndd... you roll 91% !
What, are you a first generation gamer? Did you own the brown box?! Whatever you do in your spare time, gaming seems to be your job. Either you looked up the answers or you're the best of the best, the type that makes other gamers strive to know more. Just don't let the knowledge overwhelm the newbies, it tends to push them from the hobby. We all bow before you. You are the living nat 20, congradulations. I'm going to flee the scene now ;)

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 96% on dice
Link: The Real Gamers use Dice Test written by luminasita on Ok Cupid
Unfortunately it is accurate... (via Emily)

Transhuman Ethics

I have been thinking a lot about transhumanism lately, partly as a result of some of the current news stories, and partly because of some of my recent reading material. The ethical quandaries of the future are doubtless going to make our current debates seem trivial indeed. I tend to side pretty heavily on the side of technology and freedom on these issues (I am one of the few people I know who doesn’t see anything wrong with reproductive cloning for instance) but the ethics are interesting and certainly worth looking at. It is certainly not inconceivable that we will be able to regenerate or replace brain matter in the not too distant future. I doubt though that we will be able to make it exactly like it was previous to sustaining damage however. If we could ‘repair’ Terri Schiavo for example, but she would not have her previous memories or personality should we? Must we? How different can a person be and still be the same person? How much choice should we allow a person to have about using this sort of technology? The steroid debate is also interesting to me. We generally accept that athletics can legitimately be improved by technology. Certainly there are numerous sports in which world records are set, and the records are considered legitimate because of improved technology. When it comes to improving our bodies through technology however we become very concerned. Leaving aside the dangerous side effects of steroids, why it is considered fine to break a world record in track because of better shoe design, but not because of better leg design? I expect that future advances will make it possible to make such improvements in human design with little or no negative side effects. Should these possibilities be embraced or shunned. In the question of mental performance and mental states the questions become even more complex. Currently there are many people who take Prozac and other drugs to regulate their moods. Should be embrace technologies that mimic, or improve on these effects through genetic re-engineering or biomechanical intervention? How much change is too much? What if we could increase IQ at the cost of lifespan? What if we could increase both? Should we make these choices for our children or leave that up to nature or God or chance? I expect that lifespan increases over the next century will be dramatic, possibly even reaching effective immortality. Obviously this will cause some interesting societal disruption, but beyond the direct negative effects, are their moral reasons to eschew this type of technology? Should we demand that all people live as long as they can (a culture of life) or should we let them choose? If we eliminate the quality of life arguments we currently have (through cellular repair, etc.) what other arguments for shortening our potential life remain? Is choosing to not undergo cellular repair the same morally as putting a bullet in your head? Is it a sign of mental dysfunction that calls for mental reengineering? I expect that these questions, and others, will dominate much of our public discourse over the next century.

Taiwan's Right to Freedom

Frank Chang-ting Hsieh, premier of the Republic of China (Taiwan), writes in the Washington Post:

Tomorrow, hundreds of thousands of Taiwanese will take to the streets in our country to peacefully express their opposition to China's most recent threat to the freedom of Taiwan. This month the National People's Congress passed a so-called 'Anti-Secession Law' that threatens the use of military force against our country. The demonstrators will mobilize to oppose the idea that China has a 'right' to use force to subjugate the people of Taiwan -- and they will protest the notion that some 2,900 unelected and unaccountable Chinese 'parliamentarians' have the right to determine the future of the 23 million people of Taiwan. The escalation in China's campaign of intimidation is especially perplexing because it comes after a period of improvement in cross-strait relations. For example, direct charter flights between Taiwan and China have been resumed after a long hiatus. Indeed, for the past five years my government has been offering one olive branch after another to Beijing.
I believe strongly that we must support Tiawan's independance from China. Perhaps someday the slow process of change that is occurring in mainland China will have gone far enough for peaceful reconciliation. That day still seems a long way away to me though, and reunification by force is not something we should allow to happen.

Syria's nightmare and Iraqi heroism

Chicago Tribune:

His new Middle East neighborhood cannot make Syria's dictator Bashar Assad very happy. Turkey is democratic to his north. A million Arabs vote in Israel to the south. Palestinians are near civil war to establish democratic rule--their own terrorists more a threat to the newly elected Abu Abbas than are Israeli tanks. Iraq to the east is settling down under its new autonomy, forging through blood and fire the Arab world's first true democracy. Lebanon is now afire with anti-Syrian sentiment, equating its occupation with the last obstacle to a democratic renaissance. Beyond Syria's borders, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's announcement that he may be forced to act as if he will hold real elections is not welcome to Assad. Nor is the strange behavior of once-kindred Col. Moammar Gadhafi and all his unexpected talk of giving up forbidden weapons and letting Westerners back into Libya. When Wahhabist Saudi Arabia promises municipal elections, or Afghan women line up at the polls for hours, then the world has been turned upside down. Syria's worst nightmare is not an American invasion, but an Arab League that is dominated by nascent democracies.
Iran isn't too happy about that outcome either. I have been advocating for a need to fundamentally alter the middle east since the evening of 9/11. First with my friends in conversation and later on this blog. I expected it would be at least a decade before our efforts in Afghanistan had a positive influence elsewhere and that it would be about five years for Iraq to recover and grow enough to make any sort of a difference. Apparently, I was wrong. Numerous 'external' events have helped shape the fact that this has been a quicker process than expected. The Orange Revolution in the Ukraine, although not an Islamic revolution, had a powerful impact. Other events beyond Iraq and Afghanistan have contributed as well. Ironically though, one of the reasons that Iraq and the Iraqi elections have had a quicker impact than I expected was the fact that the insurgency has been more prolonged and worse than I counted on. Yes, thats right. The insurgency in Iraq has made Iraq more of a positive influence on the region quicker than I expected. Originally I was counting on the success that democracy brings. Some of that would have been the rights of the people and having the ability to vote for your government, but a lot of what I was counting on was economic freedom and success. That takes time to manifest. Michael Moore's minutemen in Iraq though have been forced to target Iraqi's in an attempt to stop the progress of democracy. They have also forced the Iraqi's to make a choice and to fight for their freedoms. In the process the insurgents have been striped of their legitmacy and, perhaps even more signifigantly, the people of Iraq have shown that they don't have to accept that sort of thuggery. They have fought for their freedom, many directly and others by the bravery of going to the polls on Jan. 30th. Rather than just being given a democracy and then showing how good a democracy can be, they have earned a democracy in their own right. They have destroyed the notion that Arab people's do not want to govern themselves and exposed the rulers of other Arab nations as the self-centered thugs that they are. This doesn't mean I am glad that the insurgency has been so protracted. It does however give a silver lining to an otherwise dark cloud. I predict that for years people throughout the Arab world will look on the true martyrs in Iraq as heroes.

Photos of Kyrgyzstan Revolution

Some great photos here. The lack of hot protest babes is worrying though...

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Not sure how I feel about this one...

The Clergy
Enjoy your life as a....79!!!
You're not one who particularly ENJOYS taking risks, but then again, it's not really in your job description. What your duties DO entail are manipulating the populace into whatever you what, and they'll go for it, because, let's face it, the church is NEVER wrong! Not a bad deal!

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 20% on Talents
Link: The Medival Career Guide Test written by alexium on Ok Cupid
(hat tip: Mystic Knight)

Darfur...still a Genocide

Don Cheadle and John Predergast write in the OpinionJournal:

As we sat in a refugee camp in Chad listening to Fatima describe how most of her family was killed by Sudanese government-sponsored Janjaweed militias, we found it incomprehensible that the world could not muster the political will necessary to protect her surviving family members or to hold the killers accountable. Since returning from our visit to Chad and Darfur in late January, we have pored over the rationales the U.S. government has used for its tepid response, and have found no fewer than 10 lame excuses. First, when former Secretary of State Colin Powell famously called what was happening in Darfur 'genocide,' he said we were already doing all we could to counter it. In the six months since he and President Bush used the term, however, not one punitive measure has been imposed on the orchestrator of the atrocities--the Sudanese regime. And as the African Union (AU) struggles to deploy 2,000 troops to Darfur, a region the size of France, the French government recently announced that it will deploy 41,000 police in Paris if it is chosen as the Olympics site for 2012. Doing all we can? ... So what is the real reason why the U.S. has not responded as it should have? The truth is that combating crimes against humanity is simply not considered a national security issue. We don't want to burn our leverage on Sudan in the face of issues such as Iraq, Iran and Syria. The only antidote to this searing truth--the only way the U.S. will take the kind of leadership necessary to end the horrors for Fatima and her people--is for there to be a political cost to inaction. As American citizens increasingly raise their voices and write their letters about Darfur, the temperature has indeed risen. But not enough. We need to make it a little warmer, a little more uncomfortable for those politicians who would look away. Just a few more degrees. Just a few more thousand letters. It is, frankly, that simple.
I have been blogging on this for a long time now. Sadly, there have been no real improvements in Darfur since, although there have been a few hopeful signs that failed to make any difference. There is no excuse for letting this situation continue. (via Vodkapundit)

Can Med-Chem Help With Bird Flu?

Derek Lowe has an interesting post up about what medicinal chemistry could do if Avian flu becomes a human epidemic. Not Much. We have made amazing progress in medicine, but there is a lot we still cannot do. (via Instapundit, who has more thoughts on Avian Flu as well)

Political Prisoner: Fathi el-Jahmi

Physicians for Human Rights:

Citing rapidly failing health and a need for immediate access to better medical care, today Physicians for Human Rights and the International Federation of Health and Human Rights Organisations (PHR/IFHHRO) called on the Libyan government to release prominent political prisoner, 63-year-old Fathi el-Jahmi, on humanitarian grounds. His isolated confinement and sporadic and inadequate medical treatment constitute cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment, the groups said. Mr el-Jahmi has been held at an undisclosed location since his re-arrest in March 2004. In response to numerous reports of his ill health, PHR/IFHHRO sent a Dutch physician and prison health expert, Dr. Joost Den Otter, to evaluate Mr. el- Jahmi’s condition. The organizations have released a detailed medical report ... After many years of opposing the current Libyan regime, Mr. el-Jahmi was arrested for delivering a speech at the Basic People’s Conference in Tripoli in October 2002 at which he called for democracy, national reconciliation, the release of all political prisoners, a free press and a free civil society. At the time, he was charged with “defaming the Leader of the Revolution.” On March 12, 2004, Libyan authorities released Mr. el-Jahmi, following United States Senator Joseph Biden’s meeting with Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi during which he advocated on Mr. el-Jahmi’s behalf. Two weeks later and shortly after Mr. el-Jahmi called for democratic reforms in interviews with the Arabic news channels al-Hurrah and al-‘Arabiya, Libyan security officials forcibly removed him from his home, detaining him along with his wife and eldest son. Since late 2004, when Libyan authorities released his son in September and then his wife in November, Mr. el-Jahmi has been held in isolated confinement with minimal outside contact at an undisclosed location. Previous attempts by international human rights groups to visit Mr. el-Jahmi have been unsuccessful.
While neo-cons have loudly (and justly) claimed success in getting Libya to abandon it's WMD program we should remember that this regime is not one of the good guys. Gaddafi has spared himself a visit from out military, but we don't need to pretend that everything is ok now. Libya should release Fathi el-Jahmi, and the other political prisoners it is holding and begin reforming it's government toward a democracy. That is the only just and desirable end goal.

Secret Storage Area in Iran?

Guardian Unlimited:

Iranian engineers have built a secret underground storage area for use as a uranium enrichment facility in a restricted military area of interest to the U.N. nuclear watchdog agency, an Iranian exile said Thursday. The exile - Alireza Jafarzadeh - said by telephone from Washington that the ``camouflaged tunnel-like facility'' was completed recently at Parchin, a sprawling Iranian military complex about 20 miles southeast of Tehran. An Iranian official who normally speaks freely to the press refused to comment on the record about the report, saying the allegation was not worth responding to. A senior diplomat familiar with International Atomic Energy Agency, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the investigation, said the agency was unaware of such developments. But the diplomat told The Associated Press that if such construction did occur without notification, it would constitute a violation of an agreement by the Iranians to suspend all uranium-enrichment activity.
Iraq taught us that we can't necessarily take such reports at face value. However, if we have to be wrong, I'd much rather err on the side of caution here. Iran wants nukes. Anyone who denies that probably believe's Saddam had no aspirations for WMD. If this report is fake, Iran knows exactly how to prove it is disarming. South Africa voluntary gave up all it's WMD programs several years ago and fully co-opereated with inspectors to prove it had. Iraq choose a different method, and while we were wrong on a lot of the details, it was clear then and has only become clearer that Saddam wanted WMD and had plans to aquire them as soon as possible. I believe that a nuclear Iran is unacceptable. While I hope that Iranian abandonment of nuclear weapons can be achieved peacefully, I would support military action if other solutions fail.

Refugees from North Korea

Fine? Why Fine? has an interesting post up about North Korean refugees.

"If we are so poor," she continued, "it must be because of Kim Jong Il's mistakes," she said referring to North Korea's leader.
Ya think?

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Ok, this is a muscle car

Shelby unveils 450-hp Mustang Cobra:
Performance car icon Carroll Shelby and Ford Motor Co. will unveil the Ford Shelby Cobra GT500, the first Shelby Mustang in 35 years and the most powerful Mustang ever, Wednesday at the New York Auto Show. The 450-plus-horsepower, supercharged, six-speed roadster, developed in conjunction with Ford's Special Vehicle Team, takes its design cues from the muscle-bound Shelby Mustangs of the late 1960s, just as the standard Ford Mustang looks to the same 'muscle car' era.

Blogging and War

Instapundit highlights a column by Austin Bay and also posts reader John Beckwith's thoughts:

As it is, we came pretty close as a society and electorate to giving up last year. If we had, it's hard to see how the Jan 30 elections and and nascent democracy movement in the Middle East would have happened. If blog readers are as influential as some polls indicate, they may have done just enough to turn the tide. I ask because, by last fall, I was getting 90% of my Iraq news from blogs that provided an on the ground perspective from soldiers and Iraqis in theater instead of the major media outlets. This led me to be cautiously optimistic despite the problems we have there. Certainly this affected my vote on Nov 2. I doubt I was alone and I think this was a consequential election.
I doubt I influenced anyone much on how to vote in this last election. Nonetheless, the Iraq war is a huge part of why I started blogging (the biggest part was being required to have an account to comment on Random Gemini's blog and the fact that when I made a blogger account I had to have a blog name at least.) I have strong feelings, and I think some pretty good reasons for those feelings, on how we need to fight the War on Terror and what is the proper course for the Arab world. With an issue this big, it seems somewhat wrong to remain silent. As I said, I doubt I influenced anyone's vote. Perhaps though, I helped give someone an argument that influenced someone's vote. Perhaps I just helped build some understanding between people where otherwise it would not have existed.

Cruel and Unusual

I hadn't planned any more Schiavo posts, but this Washington Times Editorial brings up a good point that I had been thinking, but hadn't mentioned before:

The law, that vital foundation of our civilization, seems incapable of getting to justice of any sort in this sad case. If it is justice to end her life, the law has so developed, that a painless injection would be illegal, while the only legal method — starvation and dehydration to death — would be unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment if it were inflicted on a convicted mass murderer.
I know that there are strong feelings about euthanasia, but I think most of us could agree that it would be better for Terri Schiavo (and others like her) to die of a lethal injection than slow starvation. It seems clear that both are morally equivilant in terms of acting to end a life. If letting her starve is just than lethal injection must be, and if lethal injection is not moral, than neither can her starvation be moral. It is hypocrisy to delude ourselves that one is 'active' and the other 'passive.' These choices are both fully in our control and we are fully cognizant of the effects. The only difference between the two is the time it will take and the (possible) pain the victim will suffer. The editorial makes several other points that are worth reading, although I don't agree with all of them.


The New York Times > Opinion:

The hungry children and the families dying of AIDS here are gut-wrenching, but somehow what I find even more depressing is this: Many, many ordinary black Zimbabweans wish that they could get back the white racist government that oppressed them in the 1970's. 'If we had the chance to go back to white rule, we'd do it,' said Solomon Dube, a peasant whose child was crying with hunger when I arrived in his village. 'Life was easier then, and at least you could get food and a job.' Mr. Dube acknowledged that the white regime of Ian Smith was awful. But now he worries that his 3-year-old son will die of starvation, and he would rather put up with any indignity than witness that.
I have no love for, and certainly do not support, the racists governments that used to dominate sub-saharan Africa. Most of the current regimes there are not any better, and some, like that of Mugabe, are clearly worse. We should judge leaders on how well they do in caring for their people. The incidental issue of how similar the melanin count is between the leader and the average citizen is not really relevant. Mugabe is black, but he is still a brutal thug and being black is neither justification or excuse for that.

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

My Google News

I posted a while back that when I hit on a customized Google News Page I liked I would post it. Well, here it is.


Environmental Republican delivers a great post in gratitude to the members of our armed forces. I agree with everything he has to say.

The Big Stick

Indiadaily.com :

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt is on the move in Atlantic Ocean and is possibly headed towards the Mediterranean Sea. The convergence of three carrier groups in the corridor of the Middle East will send very strong message to the Syrians and Iranians. There are indications that soon US is moving two more aircraft carrier battle groups to the Eastern Mediterranean Sea and the Persian Gulf. This will spell a formidable strike force for Iran and Syria who are in defiance on issues of Lebanon and Nuclear weapons development. Outbound from Singapore, the USS Carl Vinson is currently crossing the Indian Ocean headed towards Middle-East. This will be the first time since February 2004 that US will have three major carrier groups stationed on and around Middle East. Each of these carrier groups carry nearly 85 aircrafts and is capable of deliver precision-guided munitions. In addition there are anti-submarine aircrafts, airborne-early-warning and rotary-wing aircrafts. Because in the air refueling capabilities these aircrafts can operate from a long distance. The carrier groups are independent and can operate indefinitely. U.S. military air bases in Turkey, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Indian Ocean island of Diego Garcia and the three carrier groups will create a formidable force far superior to any military in the region.
The nickname for the USS Theodore Roosevelt is, very appropriately, Big Stick. I am quite sure that both Iran and Syria are paying attention to this news. I would prefer that the situations in regards to Syria and Iran be resolved without us needing to resort to violence, but a willingness to deploy violence is a more sure route to a peaceful resolution than appeasement. In the case of Iran especially, if they do not abandon their nuclear activities I think we have no choice but to attack, at the very least with targetted air strikes. Some say we should just let Israelis do it, and I think that they would, but that would be counter productive I believe. (via Instapundit and Regime Change Iran)

Good News from the Islamic World

Chrenkoff has another of his good news round-ups up. His opening paragraph is very appropriate:

I'm having a deja-vu to the 1980s, when as a young lad stuck on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain I watched with some bemusement the safe and comfortable citizens of Western democracies rallying for "peace" and protesting aggressive American policies, while around me people were risking if not life than certainly limb and their future marching for freedom, democracy and human rights.
I have mentioned before that two of my heroes are Vaclav Havel and Lech Wallesa. Their analogs are currently fighting for freedom in the Islamic world.

Kyrgyzstan Opposition Takes Control Of Second-Largest City

VOA News:

Opposition protesters took control of Kyrgyzstan's second-largest city Monday, amid increasingly violent unrest over the country's recent parliamentary elections. Some 2,000 protesters took over an administrative building and several police stations in the city of Osh, while others gathered in the city center to call for President Askar Akayev's resignation. The biggest rally was held in the nearby town of Jalal-Abad, where some 15,000 people clashed with police and seized the airport.
The violence is somewhat troubling, although from what I can tell still fairly minimal. It does seem though that change is certainly happening in Kyrgyzstan. Hopefully the leaders of the opposition are wise enough to work to establish a democracy and are not simply trying to change who the thug in charge is.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Terri Schiavo's brain

There has been some controvery about whether sufficient medical technology has been utilized to determine if she is a vegatable or not. This post should, in my opinion, pretty much settle that debate:

There is no way any qualified brain doctor or scientist could look at this image and suggest that significant recovery of function is possible. The fact that we could have all this discussion on the subject is a triumph of politics over science. Tragic for Terri Schiavo, and really for us all.
Click through to see an image of Terri's brain compared to a normal brain. (source for the images can be found here.) This is convincing to me.

Nuclear Power

New York Daily News:

The recent congressional vote for arctic drilling would not have been necessary if we had maintained a commitment to developing nuclear power as an energy source. Of course, in the wake of Three Mile Island, we had a number of setbacks that were unavoidable. One had to expect high levels of hysteria, finger-pointing and inevitable mistrust of industrial information - and with good reason. But we still have to get all of the hysteria and misinformation behind us so that we can seriously reconsider nuclear energy as one way of getting free of Middle Eastern dependence. It is time to recognize what even France understands, which is that nuclear energy is the cleanest, safest and least expensive way to get beyond oil dependency. In our case, we also have hazardous things that happen to economically disadvantaged people through the emissions of coal burning.
Right now, the only practical choice to move away from fossil fuels is nuclear power. Solar power, wind power, bio-energy may all have a place, and may get more useful in the future, but right now nuclear is the only option we have. Nothing else even comes close.

Spend and Spend

Robert Novak:

In a half century of watching Congress, I have never seen anything like the unified Democratic stand against any reduction in entitlements or discretionary spending. Gregg, a flinty New England Yankee not given to exaggeration, called the Senate's action a 'disaster.' For all their lecturing about restoring 'fiscal integrity,' Democrats in both houses of Congress support only tax increases and provide no help whatsoever in cutting spending. But Thursday's melancholy developments show that Republicans, more than a decade after taking over Congress, cannot stand up against spending, either. ... The problem is the mind-set of Smith in talking about needs of "the most vulnerable people in our society" trumping the need to control government spending. Gregg responded to his colleague with blunt language: "It is absolutely critical that this year we address the Medicaid issue and why it is not going to impact any children and why all this 'wearing your heart on the sleeve' language we heard around here is a large amount of puffery." But he couldn't find 49 other Republican senators who agreed with him.
I am sympathetic to the need to care medically for those who cannot afford to take care of themselves. I can possibly even be persuaded that this should be a federal, rather than state, matter. However, we must acknowledge that the cost of these programs does matter. We have to either raise additional revenue or find ways of keeping the cost down. And we must remember that any money spent on this means it is money that can't be spent for other purposes. Medical entitlements are especially troubling, because there is no amount of care that a person would not be willing to spend if they could. Thus it requires some sort of rationing, either by a government entity or by the amount private citizens can afford. There are not easy answers to the debate, but the tendancy of politicians to promise we can have our cake and eat it too is troubling.

The Nuclear Option

Iain Duncan Smith gives some good advice to Politicians here in The New York Times:

I hope American senators will reflect on Britain's experience. Senate Democrats need to consider if their filibustering against President Bush's judicial nominations might eventually carry too big a price. The original filibusteros were Spanish and Portuguese pirates. They demanded a heavy price for releasing hijacked ships. But it was never set too high. For if the price became too dear, the authorities would decide that it was cheaper to eliminate such banditry than to tolerate it. Since Democrats started filibustering the White House's nominations, two sets of Congressional elections have taken place. In both, the Republicans made gains in part because they were able to portray Democrats as 'obstructionists.' The Democrats now have to decide if they have delayed enough and it is time for the Senate's majority will to be expressed. Republicans also need to proceed carefully. Once a guillotine or other minority-limiting power has been introduced, minority rights are never so sacrosanct again. Republicans now bask in the glory of recent advances but, one day, they will be in the minority again. This is a time for parliamentary statesmanship. Britain did not have enough such statesmanship 120 years ago. America needs it now.
I don't think that the 'nuclear option' would be a huge step, it would only effect the advice and consent provision restoring an appointee to require a majority, rather than 60% to be put into office. However, I do think that the filibuster rule as a whole is a very good one (although I would perhaps prefer just a 60% passage rule for laws rather than forcing Senators to speak mindlessly during the process) and this could be a step towards doing away with the filibuster altogether. I can foress that causing problems in the future.

The Belmont Club has moved

New site for The Belmont Club. If you don't read Wretchard frequently, you should. He offers probably the best War on Terror analysis availble.

Moonbats on Parade

Citizen Smash reports on an anti-war demonstration in San Diego and a counter-demonstration that he was a part of. Interesting stuff. Brendan Steinhauser has some great photos.

How to kill the RIAA

JD Lasica has a post up about OurMedia, a grassroots media organization.

We are in the midst of the greatest boon in grassroots creativity in ages. Tools once available only to a professional elite are now being taken up by everyday citizens. Just as weblogs let millions of people become part of "the media," so too are new tools empowering individuals to create video, audio, playlists and other works of personal media and to share them with a global audience. The personal media revolution is turning multimedia. Digital stories, video diaries, documentary journalism, home-brew political ads, music videos, fan films, Flash animations, student films – all kinds of short multimedia works have begun to flower. Alas, the most compelling ones are scattered across the Web or hidden away on thousands of PCs, laptops and closed networks. These works deserve a wider audience. That's what Ourmedia is all about: Create. Share. Get noticed.
I feel that the key to crafting a proper balance between the rights of creators and consumers in the new digital environment is heavily dependant on those two entities being more closely linked and removing the middlemen, whose role will dramatically change in the new environment. The sooner we can get the record companies out of being the middlemen, the sooner we will be able to build fair rules that work for everyone. I don't know if this particular organization will be huge or not, but something like it is going to change all the rules. (via Instapundit)

DeLorean dies


John DeLorean, developer of a futuristic sportscar that captured the country's attention in the 1980s, has died. He was 80. DeLorean died Saturday at the Overlook Hospital in Summit, New Jersey, from complications from a stroke, said Paul Connell, owner of Desmond and Sons funeral home in Michigan.
No word yet on what effect his death will have on attempts to travel through time.

Schiavo round-up

Here are a few links from my corner of the blogosphere on the Schiavo situation. Random Gemini Weirdness The Probligo Life in a Handbasket Of The Mind Environmental Republican These posts have a variety of opinions on the matter. All I think make very good points and underscore why this is such a difficult situation. In many ways it is a perfect ethical storm. A woman on the edge of being vegetative or now. A husband and parents who pasionately disagree on what she would have wanted. The husband having established a relationship with another woman providing a plausible reason why he doesn't have his wife's interests at heart any longer. Medical doctors who strongly disagree about her prognosis and what should be done. State and Federal Governments intervening in unprecidented ways and with questionable tactics. Update: Volokh Conspiracy has a post up with interesting about what a Federal Case would mean and what the difficulties of such a thing are. I am deeply opposed to any legislation that focuses on a single person. Legislation is for the general case while court proceedings are for determining outcomes on a single case within the guidlines of the general cases established by law.

Palestinian Interior Minstry liniting militant arm


Reportedly, the Palestinian Interior Ministry has started to limit the use of arms by militants. A Palestinian security official who wants to remain anonymous said the Ministry listed the restrictions on arms usage in a written notice sent to hundreds of militants located in the West Bank. The Same official informed that the militants would be allowed to carry a single weapon, and changing the serial number of the weapon would be banned and militants would also have to register the weapon and carry a license from the ministry. The Ministry also demanded militants sign the notice. Israel had demanded Palestinian authorities gather up illegal arms. Leaders of the Al Aqsa Martrys Brigade said they received the notice and that they were talking it over.
Baby steps, but steps in the right direction. I remain hopefull that the new climate in the Middle East will lead to peace between Israel and Palestine. It will take a lot of work, but I think this goal is achievable.

Kyrgyzstan update


Kyrgyzstan's second-biggest city fell to opposition control Monday as protests, some violent, swept across the country's south to demand the resignation of President Askar Akayev. Central Asian Kyrgyzstan has become the latest ex-Soviet republic -- after Ukraine and Georgia -- to be rocked by anti-government protests in the wake of elections judged as flawed by international observers. Police and officials in Osh fled when a crowd of about 1,000 young men armed with sticks and petrol bombs stormed the regional administrative building and police headquarters, setting fire to a portrait of Akayev. Some demonstrators tried to beat up police, who had to be rescued by opposition activists. The city's police chief later told the crowd he had ordered his men to cross over to the opposition.
The government of Kyrgyzstan is ready to start negotiations with the opposition, Abdil Segizbayev, press secretary of the President of Kyrgyzstan, has said on the national television. He emphasized that President Askar Akayev was to determine the format of the talks and the date of their beginning.
Perhaps my previous pessimism about Kyrgyzstan was misplaced. Signifigant things seem to be happening there and the government seems unable to crack down.

Friday, March 18, 2005

More on Terri Schiavo

This article, MSNBC - The time has come to let Terri Schiavo die, pretty much sums up my judgement on the Schiavo case:

We have now reached the endgame in the case of Terri Schiavo. Her husband, Michael, remains unwavering in his view that she would not want to live in the state she is in. Despite the fact that he has been made the target of an incredible organized campaign of vilification, slander and just plain nastiness, he remains unmoved. Even a pathetic effort to bribe him into changing his mind with the offer of $1 million did not budge him. ... We have had a consensus in this country that you have a right to refuse any and all medical care that you might not want. Christian Scientists do not have to accept medical care nor do Jehovah’s Witnesses need to accept blood transfusions or fundamentalist Protestants who would rather pray than get chemotherapy. Those who are disabled and cannot communicate have the exact same rights. Their closest family members have the power to speak for them. The state courts of this country have the power to review termination of treatment cases and have done so with compassion, skill and wisdom for many years. Those who would change a system that has worked — and worked well for the millions of Americans who face the most difficult of medical decisions — should think very hard about whether Sen. Bill Frist, DeLay, Sen. Hillary Clinton, Bush, Sen. John Kerry or the governor of your state needs to be consulted before you and your doctor can decide that it is time to stop life-prolonging medical care.
We have to allow this decision to be made, and we have to have rules on who gets to make this sort of decision. Just because you don't like the outcome doesn't mean it is ok to toss out the rules. (via The Anchoress, who has a very different opinion on this article.) Part of the reason I made this post is to provide a place for any comments from anyone without the personal content of the previous post. I certainly am interested in debate on this issue and don't want anyone to fear offending me.

Congress intervenes in Shiavo case


Members of Congress on Friday stepped up their efforts to keep a severely brain-damaged Florida woman alive, as a deadline neared to have the woman's feeding tube removed. Terri Schiavo was scheduled to have her feeding tube removed at 1 p.m. ET today, under court order. ... A House committee subpoenaed the brain-damaged woman to appear before Congress next week, and Schiavo's family was "hopeful" the brain-damaged woman would make that appearance in Washington, an attorney for her parents said Friday. Meanwhile, a Senate committee issued an invitation for Terri Schiavo and her husband to testify on Capitol Hill. U.S. marshals were expected to serve the House Committee on Government Reform subpoenas at The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast on Friday, attorney David Gibbs said.
Regardless of the merits of this case, I think this tactic is wrong. Congress isn't trying to learn anything or make any law relating to this case, they are simply abusing their subpoena power as a means of by passing the legal system. That is wrong, and it should not be applauded even if you favor the effect that it will have. There is a lot of disinformation and confusion about Terry Schiavo's case. I am certainly not competant to sift through conflicting medical testimony, although the side that says she is 'brain dead' seems a bit more reliable to me. What is more troubling to me is the endless speculation on the motives of those involved. Most of these speculations seems to be grasping at straws as a way of making those who disagree with one side or the other not only wrong, but evil and filled with ulterior motives. I hear that those who want to keep Schiavo alive want her to suffer to are trying to condemn her to a state of endless pain. The invective is even stronger against Michael Schivo who obviously (according to some) doesn't love his wife and just wants her dead so he can get on with his life and collect all that insurance money. I believe quite strongly that both sides in this are trying to do what they feel is best for Terry Schiavo. Absent compelling evidence of this, not mere speculation, I will continue to believe that. This is such a fundamental issue on the nature of life and what is moral that it is pretty much impossible to get any clear, unbiased opinions on the matter, and that most definitely includes opinions from Doctors. I am biased in on this issue as well. Several years ago my youngest brother developed a swift cancerous growth in his throat that swelled up and cut off his breathing. By the time the paramedics arrived he had been without air for 8 minutes or so. He was flown to a local hospital here in Spokane and his condition was stabilized with the aid of extaordinary life saving measures. The next morning, after we were sure he was brain dead, my parents had him taken off of life support and a few minutes later he died. I was there most of that night from when I found out what had happened until after he was dead. Early on he was moving somewhat and his eyes would flutter open, later he was completely comatose. I don't know when he 'died' but I do know he was never going to get better. He was never going to be again. Obviously there are differences between my brother's case and Schiavo's. She is certainly closer to the line than he was. I can look at her case though and feel a certain sympathy. If the paramedics had arrived perhaps a minute sooner my family would have had to face the far more agonizing choice that Michael Schivo had to make. From a purely selfish point of view, I am glad I was able to have closure on this issue. To know that he was dead and not a vegetable forever. Yes, this has made it easier for me and my family to get on with our lives. I also strongly believe that this was best for my brother as well, it allowed him to get on with his existence, whatever that may be. There are many people who believe that even removing someone from extraordinarly life saving machines is wrong, that as long as the body can be compelled by science to maintain a semblance of life we are morally obligated to continue those measures. I respect their right to believe that. I accept their condemnation of my parents choice (which I agreed with) as morally wrong. They can make their own moral judgments. What I cannot accept though, is anyone who condemns my families decision as being based upon our own selfish desires. (update: if anyone wishes to comment more generally on the Schiavo case I have another post about that here. This blog post is obviously very personal, but don't fear offending me because we disagree.

The Syrians Slip Away

This David Ignatius column in the Washington Post about the Syrians, especially the moukhabarat, leaving Beirut along with a brief history of political assassinations in Lebanon is for the most part very good. I did notice a couple of unusual things though.:

The Syrians officially have left Beirut, retreating over the mountains toward the Syrian border. But a few secret operatives undoubtedly are still in the city. And, according to the Reuters news agency, 8,000 to 10,000 Syrian troops remain in the Bekaa Valley in eastern Lebanon. They won't leave without continued, unyielding international pressure. Lebanon has been too rich a prize. And if Syria can't fight its political battles in Lebanon any longer, those feuds may come home -- and tear apart Syria's own fragile stability.
He says that like it's a bad thing. That's a feature not a bug in my opinion. While my ideal solution is a peaceful transition for the entire region (and everyone gets a pony too!) I would prefer some serious chaos followed by a democracy to 'stability.' This bit here seems to leave something out as well:
The brazen murder of Hariri finally broke the curtain of fear and silence. Lebanese braved Syrian troops and marched in the streets by the thousands, in effect reclaiming their capital. Their message was simple: We aren't afraid of you anymore. We would rather die than keep living like this.
While this is very true, as an isolated incident I don't the 'brazen murder of Hariri' alone explains why the curtain of fear and silence has been broken. There is the unavoidable fact that they have witnessed the bravery displayed in Iraq and the Ukraine as well. The idea that yes, the people can resist those who would use violence to control them. And I think the rhetoric of the U.S. President, and the knowledge that if Syria goes to far America might intervene plays a big part as well.

Gateway Pundit: Krygyzstan "Roundup"

There are still some interesting things happening in Kyrgyzstan. I continue to be skeptical that the opposition parties will be able to achieve real reform in the near future. Nonetheless, they deserve our admiration and support. (via Instapundit)

Goss talks torture

CIA head won't exonerate agency of torture - (United Press International):

The new head of the CIA says he is not sure the agency's interrogation methods since Sept. 11, 2001, have conformed to U.S. laws against torture. Porter J. Goss did, however, tell the Senate Armed Services Committee Thursday current CIA interrogation methods were legal and no methods now in use constituted torture, the New York Times said Friday. Meanwhile, the White House defended its secret 'rendering' of suspected terrorists to nations believed to use torture and said safeguards existed to ensure such suspects would not be tortured.
The entire torture story has been sort of hard to follow. I think that is because most of the noise on this issue is generated either by people who think a harsh word is torture or those who think that starting with the toes and working our way up is coddling these people. Our news gives us lots of sounds bites and claims, but very little actual reporting.

Day By Day by Chris Muir

Thursday, March 17, 2005

The Zombie Scenario Survivor Test

Official Survivor
Congratulations! You scored 74%!
Whether through ferocity or quickness, you made it out. You made the right choice most of the time, but you probably screwed up somewhere. Nobody's perfect, at least you're alive.

My test tracked 1 variable How you compared to other people your age and gender:
You scored higher than 85% on survivalpoints
Link: The Zombie Scenario Survivor Test written by ci8db4uok on Ok Cupid

The Morality of Social Security

Dean Esmay posts on Social Security: The Moral Choice. He makes some very good points, but the summation at the end I think is the best:

That is the real question for each and every one of you who opposes moving Social Security to individually owned accounts. Do you really, in your heart of hearts, want to retire on the backs of your children and grandchildren? I didn't ask if you minded supporting your parents or grandparents. I asked you: Do you personally want to retire on your grandchildren's backs? Yes or no? That is not a rhetorical question. I urge anyone who opposes reform to answer that question, directly and without evasion. Because I believe that if you do answer it, and answer it honestly, very few of you will continue to oppose reform.
Read the whole thing.

Andre Norton dies


Science fiction author Andre Norton, who wrote the popular 'Witch World' series of books, died today at her home in Murfreesboro. She was 93. Her death was announced by friend Jean Rabe, who said Norton died of congestive heart failure.
Her Witch World novels were some of my first exposure to the genre. She will be missed.


Dick Morris writes about Gov. Schwarzenegger:

WE'LL never change the Constitution to let him become president, but Arnold Schwarzenegger is conducting a one-man revolution aimed at providing presidential leadership. The East Coast media has missed the full dimensions of the California governor's accomplishments and bold proposals. Together, they constitute one of the most astounding, imaginative and forward-thinking agendas in our recent history.
I don't agree with everything Schwarzenegger has done, but I agree with a lot of it, and some of the things he is doing I really, really agree with, Gerrymandering reform in particular. I think it is very unfortunate that he can't run for President.

Morality and Foreign Policy

This essay essay is a fascinating read. I have some disagreements with the conclusions, which I may post on later if they crystalize properly, but I think the questions raised are very legitimate.

This is cool

Panoramic Photo of Lebanese Protest (via Instapundit)

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Acts of God

Brian at Broken Quanta takes a paragraph I wrote about Intelligent Design last week and expands and explains it beautifully. If you are at all interested in this subject this is a must read.

Please don't throw me in that briar patch, Brer Reid

Democrats threaten shutdown - The Washington Times:

Democrats yesterday said they will halt all Senate business except essential operations and national defense if Republicans use the 'nuclear option' to unclog President Bush's judicial nominees. Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada made the threat in a letter yesterday to Majority Leader Bill Frist, who has said he has the 51 votes needed for a parliamentary procedure that would force the nominees through the Senate on a simple majority vote. 'Of course, Democrats would never block legislation vital to our troops or other national security interests, and we will help ensure that critical government services continue to function for the American people,' Mr. Reid wrote. Click to Visit 'Beyond that very limited scope, however, we will be reluctant to enter into any consent agreement that facilitates Senate activities, even on routine matters,' he said.
I am now officially in support of the Republicans using the 'nuclear option.' Today. (via Powerline)

Glimmers of hope in Iran?

Blogger News Network:

Iran experienced anti-mullah uprisings in its major cities, including Teheran, Isfahan, Abressan Junction and Karaj, on the evening of March 15. The 15th was Chahar-shanbeh Souri, an ancient Persian fire festival aimed at driving out bad luck at the end of the traditional Iranian year (which falls on March 21 this year). The uprisings were sharp but apparently limited in scope. Police cars and trucks were burned, along with effigies of Iran's increasingly unpopular government and religious leaders. Despite demands by the Islamic government that citizens stay home and refrain from observing the fire festival, large groups openly disobeyed the edict, while there were reports of any number of clashes with security forces. This could be the beginning of a real revolution. A year or so ago, an Iranian professor came to an American university to give a talk, ostensibly about his discipline but really he was there to talk to other professors; I had the opportunity to attend. His words were completely loyal to his government and supportive of their every policy - and every single person in the room knew that he was lying. He didn't hate his government the way Freepers hated the Clintons, or the way Deaniacs hate Bush today. He was sick of his government - just absolutely filled to the gills with it. I wondered then how representative that pleasant, mild-mannered man was; I wonder less tonight.
I think it is a question of when, rather than if, we will see a serious, mass pro-democracy uprising in Iran. That will force the regime, much like Syria in Lebanon, to either give in or brutally repress. And brutal repression is much less attractive with George Bush in the White House. I am not sure that the 'when' is now though. I would bet it will be in the next couple of years though. (via Vodkapundit)

Crime and Punishment

Glenn Reynolds has a TCS Article that is a must read. Excerpt:

I"t's been pretty much the same story everywhere else. Where once 'felony' meant things like murder, rape, or armed robbery, now it includes things like music piracy, or filling in potholes that turn out to be 'wetlands.' As the title to a recent book edited by Gene Healy notes, we've achieved the criminalization of almost everything. Which means, in fact, the criminalization of almost everyone, too -- if you haven't been convicted of some felony or other, it's probably because no prosecutor has tried to put you away, not because you haven't committed one, whether you realized it at the time or not.
I think a good start to reforming the system would be getting rid of some of the lower rank drug crimes, as felonies at least. A better start would be decriminalizing marijuana. But, as Glenn points out, the problem of minor moral failings being felonies and things that shouldn't be crimes at all being misdemeanors is common throughout the criminal code.

Iraqi Assembly Convenes

The New York Times:

Seven weeks after Iraqis defied insurgent threats to take part in the country's first free election in decades, members of the constitutional assembly convened here today for the first time, even as a series of explosions shook the heart of the capital. The meeting, which lasted about an hour, was called even though leading politicians had failed so far to form a coalition government. The members of the 275-seat newly elected National Assembly walked quietly into the heavily fortified convention center on the west bank of the Tigris River, with little pomp but with a solemnity indicating they understood the gravity, and the immense hardships, of the task ahead of them. The largely ceremonial meeting adjourned after the assembly members took their oath of office soon after 1 p.m., without even taking the first formal step toward putting together a government: electing a president, two vice presidents and a speaker of the assembly. The members stood up together in the auditorium and raised their right hands as the head of the judiciary council charged them with upholding the country's newfound freedoms, among other duties. As a body, they represented the diverse nature of Iraqi society, with clerics in black turbans seated alongside Western-educated men in pinstripe suits and women in full-length robes.
They have a lot of work to do, and it will no doubt be difficult to find compromises that work and build a nation that will be strong and secure. I believe they are up to the task though. Good luck to the Iraqi Assembly! (Isn't it interesting that the NY Times just has to remind us in the firsrt paragraph that their is still violence in Iraq.)

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Failing Highschools

The New York Times:

While the problems of low achievement and poor high-school graduation rates are clear, however, their solutions are not. The reformist governors, for example, want to require all students to take a college-preparatory curriculum and to meet more rigorous standards for graduation. These steps will very likely increase the dropout rate, not reduce it. To understand why, you have to consider what the high schools are dealing with. When American students arrive as freshmen, nearly 70 percent are reading below grade level. Equally large numbers are ill prepared in mathematics, science and history. It is hardly fair to blame high schools for the poor skills of their entering students. If students start high school without the basic skills needed to read, write and solve mathematics problems, then the governors should focus on strengthening the standards of their states' junior high schools. And that first year of high school is often the most important one - many students who eventually drop out do so after becoming discouraged when they can't earn the credits to advance beyond ninth grade. Ninth grade is often referred to by educators as a 'parking lot.' This is because social promotion - the endemic practice of moving students up to the next grade whether they have earned it or not - comes to a crashing halt in high school.
Social promotion always was a huge mistake. The rest of the article is good as well and deserves reading. I believe though, that our mistakes with education are more fundamental than that. Before I go into my preferred system though, I'd like to direct you to this post by The Anchoress and this related post of her 15 yo son's opinions as well as this post by Joseph Marshall. They discuss in what highschools should be teaching, what are the minimums we feel our students, as future members of society need to know. Some of what they say I agree with, and some of what they say I don't but these posts serve very well to illustrate my main point. My belief is that we have failed kids primarily by trying to build one size fits all schools. Different kids learn stuff in different ways and failing to realize that is, in my opinion, a huge mistake. I would envision lots of smaller private schools for both primary and secondary education that have the ability to create custom environments for different learning styles as well as different focuses. Competition based on results (rather than beurocratic manuevering) would weed out failing schools. This entire program would be funded by a voucher system with additional contributions from parents if desired. I would demand, as a tax payer, some basic guidlines that any school would have to meet to be eligible for the vouchers. And yes, these would have to be administered through standardized tests. But they would be very basic. Probably just literacy and core math skills (yes the old 3 R's.) For the rest, the parents, students and schools can determine what is important to them, and what method is most appropriate to achieve those goals.


Amir Taheri askes some import question in this The Australian column:

Why are so many Westerners, living in mature democracies, ready to march against the toppling of a despot in Iraq but unwilling to take to the streets in support of the democratic movement in the Middle East? Is it because many of those who will be marching in support of Saddam Hussein this month are the remnants of totalitarian groups in the West plus a variety of misinformed idealists and others blinded by anti-Americanism? Or is it because they secretly believe that the Arabs do not deserve anything better than Saddam Hussein?
I don't have an answer to these questions. I wish I did, because I think these virulent Anti-War protesters are the tip of the iceberg of a larger culteral shift that needs to be confronted (not with force, with ideas.) My evidence for this is how easily the seem to find allies, people who perhaps arn't willing to go as far in their condemnation, but are willing to include them. Certainly not everyone who was anti-war is in this category. There were are variety of valid reasons to oppose the war in Iraq. The balance of pro vs. con seemed to me to favor intervention, but I can certainly understand someone weighting the different factors another way and coming to a different conclusion. What I don't understand are those people who seem to desperately long for totalitarianism, and those who claim to hate totalitarianism, but stand should to shoulder with those who do everything they can to promote it.

Don't get mad...

This The New York Times article has some fun examples of ways to get revenge for some of the little annoyances we all have to deal with every day. (via Dead Parrot Society)

Karl Rove: Evil Genius

John Zogby has an interesting article in the OpinionJournal on the politics of Social Security reform:

Why would the president risk his political capital on a plan that appears doomed to failure? I think the answer lies well beyond the politics of any single reform plan. And the president may end up a winner if his call for personal accounts ultimately fails. After all, he has raised a serious issue that needs attention--the very solvency of Social Security--which Democrats have never touched. Huge majorities of voters understand that the current system is in trouble. He will, at the very least, get credit for trying to reform the program previously referred to as the 'third rail of American politics'--even if he achieves more modest change than he now proposes. But there is a much bigger picture. The president's real prize would be a significant realignment in party politics. It has been no secret that Mr. Bush and Karl Rove have their sights set on a political realignment not experienced since FDR built a coalition of urban ethnics, liberal ideologues and Southern conservatives under the Democrats' big tent. Like the New Deal, the president's 'ownership society' is a compelling new vision and veritable redefinition of a society less dependent on government largess, of a middle class more independent and more capable of securing financial security on its own.
I haven't counted out George Bush getting social security and personal account passed into law. The number of people who have underestimated him in various ways is legion, so I am going to hedge my bets. I think though that win or lose, the battle over social security will end up being a long term powerful victory for the Republican party. People will remember that one side had an idea, and the other side had only the means to stop an the idea from being tried. I think also the willingness to touch the 'third rail' will resonate as showing courage and conviction, something that Republicans already have a pretty good handle on and Democrats seem to need more of from a PR standpoint at least. Read the entire Zogby article, lots of interesting stuff about the 'investor class' as well. (via Powerline)

Calif. Ruling Sets Up Gay Marriage Fight

ABC News:

A judge has opened the way for the nation's most populous state to follow Massachusetts in allowing same-sex couples to tie the knot, but both sides in the debate predicted a vigorous court fight first. San Francisco County Superior Court Judge Richard Kramer ruled Monday that while withholding marriage licenses from gays and lesbians has been the status quo, it constitutes discrimination the state can no longer justify. 'The state's protracted denial of equal protection cannot be justified simply because such constitutional violation has become traditional,' Kramer wrote. 'Simply put, same-sex marriage cannot be prohibited solely because California has always done so before.'
This will obviously lead to some pretty epic court battles and some heated pasions on both sides. I stand by my belief that gay marriage should be made legal, but by the legislatures not by courts. I think the court battle is bad for everyone involved.

Very good news

VOA News:

Witnesses say Syrian intelligence agents in the Lebanese capital have begun evacuating their headquarters, one day after a massive protest in Beirut aimed at ending Syria's military presence in the country. Syrian agents were reported loading equipment onto pickup trucks under the supervision of Lebanese police. On Monday, hundreds of thousands of protesters in Beirut held the biggest anti-Syria rally since last month's assassination of former prime minister Rafik Hariri. Lebanon's opposition blames Damascus and Beirut's pro-Syrian government for the killing, but both deny involvement.
Getting the Mukbaret out of Lebanon is probably more important then getting the Syrian Army out.