Friday, July 31, 2009

Stimulus Money and Old Bridges

Yesterday I posted a response to one of Stephen Walt's questions about why people don't want to spend money on repairing bridges. I mentioned that money supposedly intended for bridges and other infrastructure is often wasted on pork projects. Today CBS News has an article up illustrating what I was talking about: "Stimulus Cash Not Fixing Dangerous Bridges." Remember this?
President Obama urged Congress last winter to pass his $787 billion stimulus package so some of the economic recovery money could be used to rebuild what he called America's "crumbling bridges." Lawmakers said it was a historic chance to chip away at the $65 billion backlog of deficient structures, often neglected until a catastrophe
But now that they have the money, most states have found other things to do with it. With the exception of Virginia and South Carolina, which are actually using stimulus money to repair old bridges, most states are still neglecting them, despite all the propaganda from the Obama administration and Democrats in the run-up to the passage of the stimulus. According to CBS News, even including VA and SC, bridges being repaired account for
less than 1 percent of the more than 150,000 bridges nationwide that engineers have labeled deficient or obsolete. Of those, more than 39,000 are considered the worst, rated poor in at least one structural component and eligible to be replaced with federal money.
And people actually wonder why many of us are highly skeptical of big government domestic spending programs.

HOT5 Daily 7/31/2009

1. "The President's Warped Foreign Policy" Rushing to judgment/action without having any knowledge -- that's pretty much Obama's policies, foreign & domestic, in a nutshell.

Representative Sample: fallout from President Obama's castigation of a Massachusetts police officer could damage the credibility of a leader who speaks boldly about complex foreign policy matters without showing comprehension of the underlying issues.

2. "O-Bomba Poll Crash!" Significant poll data showing that people may be beginning to wake-up about Obama.

Representative Sample: The damage is done to the Health Care proposal from the President and the liberal old guard in Congress, and to their credibility overall. The polls coming out this week are probably just the beginning of a slide that will continue through Thanksgiving.

3. "When Will Obama Take Responsibility For Being President?" When blaming everything on Bush stops being politically expedient? No, he'll just find someone else to blame.

Representative Sample: More and more people are realizing they elected a petulant, high maintenance version of Britney Spears. He can dance to the tune, he sounds fine in the recording studio, but, he doesn’t write his own material, he tends to go off the reservation, and he lip synch’s. Total fake.

4. "Why Not the Killer Drones?" The future of air warfare?

Representative Sample: future hunter/killer drones which lie in wait for traditional jet fighters on a mission, like eagles who can spot their prey from great distances. Some claim that such computerized weapons can never replace trained pilots nor duplicate his reactions, but considering the speeds and accuracy of modern weapons when response time to a missile attack is down to mere seconds, we don’t see any other way for aircraft to survive except for the robots to take charge.

5. "The List: World's Biggest Military Boondoggles" Links to an interesting Foreign Policy article.

Representative Sample: The Bulava can carry up to 10 nuclear warheads, each with a 150-kiloton yield. It was created in part to modernize the sea-based arm of Russia’s nuclear arsenal, but mostly to restore the country's pride and self-confidence after the political and economic instability of the 1990s. The missile’s only downside may be that it just doesn't work.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Stephen Walt Has Questions

In a article called "Musings," Stephen Walt poses 10 questions/observations of things related to politics that he finds "baffling." I thought I'd see if I could assist him with some answers.

1. I've never really understood why plenty of smart people think the United States still needs thousands of nuclear weapons (or ever did). I'm familiar with the abstract theology of nuclear weapons policy and I don't favor total nuclear disarmament, but the case for an arsenal of more than a few hundred weapons eludes me.  The most obvious answer is redundancy and survivability against a first strike. But his question brings up another. Why do people like Stephen Walt think it matters much whether the U.S. has thousands of nuclear weapons or a few hundred? 

2. I'm still puzzled by why Americans are so willing to spend money on ambitious overseas adventures, and yet so reluctant to pay taxes for roads, bridges, better schools, and health care here in the United States.  This is a pretty obvious one. Many people consider foreign policy and the use of the military to be legitimate/necessary uses of government power. Secondly, most people who pay attention understand that taxes that supposedly go for roads and bridges actually often get wasted on other far less important pork projects. And throwing government money at schools and health care doesn't make them better, and can make them worse.

3. I don't understand why many people think invoking God is a compelling justification for their particular policy preferences, and why they assume that this move is a trump card that ends all discussion.  I understand why they think that -- because of their religious beliefs -- but I'm with Walt in disagreeing with them.

4. I'm equally baffled by when someone invokes "history" to justify a territorial claim and assumes that this basis is unchallengeable.  How many people actually make that assumption? If someone makes an argument based on history they are probably doing it A) because they believe it, or B) in a cynical attempt to justify their position.

5. I do not understand why Americans are so susceptible to the self-interested testimony of foreigners who want to embroil us in conflicts with some foreign government that they happen to dislike.  This should be blatantly obvious, especially to a political scientist like Walt. If the testimony of foreigners seems to coincide with U.S. interests and reinforces ideas that we already have, why wouldn't we be susceptible to it?

6. I certainly don't get the business model that informs the content of the Wall Street Journal's op-ed page. The rest of the newspaper is an excellent news source, with reportage that is often of very high quality. The editorial page, by contrast, is often a parody of right-wing lunacy  The editorial page, like most editorial pages of major newspapers, sometimes has good op-eds and sometimes bad. Calling it a "parody of right-wing lunacy" is just ridiculous, about as accurate as calling the New York Times editorial page a parody of left-wing lunacy. Walt attacks the Washington Post too, basically demonstrating that he's biased against any major newspaper that might occasionally publish a right-wing editorial. We can't have that. Plus he spouts his usual nonsense about "neoconservatives," revealing that point six shouldn't be taken seriously.

7. A related point: I can't figure out why newspapers aren't hiring more bloggers to write columns for them on a regular basis.  That's actually an interesting question. I'm not sure of the answer.

8. In an era where the United States is facing BIG problems at home or abroad, it is both puzzling and disheartening to observe the amount of ink and airspace devoted to the Skip Gates arrest, Michael Jackson's demise, or the "birther" controversy. People always complain about sensationalized reporting of celebrities and other unimportant issues. But they get reported because unfortunately the majority of people want them reported on.

9. I don't understand why academics defend the institution of tenure so energetically, and then so rarely use it for its intended purpose (i.e., to permit them to tackle big and/or controversial subjects without worrying about losing their jobs) Because most academics don't welcome the controversy, attention, and outright hostility from those who oppose their views that would come if they did what Walt suggests? There are some who do, but most people probably don't think it's worth it.

10. I'm both amused and annoyed by the highly intrusive security procedures that now exist at airports, which are almost certainly not cost-effective...I'll concede that additional screening is probably preventing a few additional incidents, but I question whether the extra expense and inconvenience is ultimately worth it. Does anyone like our current system of airport security? But that's what happens when the heavy hand of government bureaucracy takes defensive measures against terrorism -- one of the many reasons that we should remain on the offense against terrorism, something that Walt typically opposes.

Protecting the "Rights" of Convicted Foreign Terrorists

Richard Reid, British citizen and Al Qaeda member, is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison for attempting to blow up an airliner. He was imprisoned under a set of special rules called, "Special Administrative Measures (SAMs)," which are

security directives, renewable yearly, issued by the attorney general when “there is a substantial risk that a prisoner’s communications, correspondence or contacts with persons could result in death or serious bodily injury” to others.
Reid sued to have these removed, claiming that "SAMs violated his First Amendment right of free speech and free exercise of religion." Naturally his lawsuit is supported by useful idiot organizations like the ACLU & the Center for Constitutional Rights, which are working diligently on behalf of foreign terrorist enemies of the U.S. Lest anyone think that's an unfair comment,
In January, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Colorado issued a statement saying that conditions at supermax are “simply another form of torture” worse than Gitmo which “make a mockery of ‘innocent until proven guilty.’” Last month, the ACLU filed a civil lawsuit mirroring Reid’s religious rights claim on behalf of two terrorism inmates held at the Communications Management Unit inside a medium security prison in Terre Haute, Ind.

Instead of protecting the rights of Americans, they are working to assist our enemies. These are not mere suspects, but actual convicted terrorists. Which side are they on?

Back to the Reid and the lawsuit. Without even waiting for legal action to run its course, the spineless Obama Justice Department caved in to Reid's demands after he went on a 58 day hunger strike. The SAMs have been removed. This is yet another illustration of why the idiocy of terrorist rights supporters is so dangerous to the country. It's not enough for them to claim that suspected foreign terrorists have "rights" that need to be respected. Now they want to protect the supposed rights of even convicted terrorists, and argue that reasonable prison restrictions amount to "torture."

Richard Reid is not a U.S. citizen. He is a confirmed member of Al Qaeda and has been convicted of an attempted act of terrorism. He has, or should have no rights whatsoever. Any lawsuits filed on his behalf should be rejected out of hand, and the lawyers censured for wasting the court's time. And rather than caving in to demands as a result of a hunger strike, Reid should have been encouraged to starve himself to death -- saving the U.S. the cost of his continued imprisonment.


Commenter erikm has pointed out that the op-ed used the quote from the ACLU of Colorado in a misleading fashion. That quote is an ACLU objection to the transfer of terrorist suspects from Guantanamo to Supermax facilities, and not a comment on the Richard Reid situation. On the other hand, I stand by my contention that the ACLU is acting as a useful idiot organization for our enemies. Unlike many on the right, I appreciate the necessity and usefulness of the ACLU to protect the rights of Americans, particularly those who have no other recourse or people to speak for them. But the ACLU's stated mission to "defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country," has been perverted into an attempt to extend U.S. constitutional rights to foreign terrorist enemies -- the harm of which threatens and diminishes their other good work.

HOT5 Daily 7/30/2009

1. "FRUM IS BEING TOO KIND" A great take-down of Obama Derangement Syndrome, which has infected part of the right.

Representative Sample: this kind of paranoia and hysteria about Obama’s agenda is being fed by the need of many to be part of a great drama where our heroes on the right must save the Republic from its enemies. In short, the Levins, Limbaughs, and the rest of the pop conservative brigade who are standing up and screaming “Fire” in a crowded theater because some idiot lit a cigarette, are turning their listeners into a bunch of 11 year old drama queens.

2. "PROTECTION SOURCES" Hillary, actually standing up for U.S. intelligence?

Representative Sample: It's reported that La Clinton has told British FOREIGN Secretary Mr Bean (aka David Milipede) that America would consider cutting security co-operation with the UK if a British court releases information about a former Guantanamo Bay detainee, Mohammad Binyam.

3. "India, Pakistan, INS Arihant and the Security Dilemma" The strategic implications of India's new nuclear submarine.

Representative Sample: Although India has been quick to declare that the INS Arihant is a deterrent weapon system, a second-strike capability, this may not be the case against all its potential targets. An important part of the 'utility' of a strategic weapon system is the target set it is applied to.

4. "Sliding Head First Off the Water Slide of Reality"The NYC nanny-state takes on the horrible threat of dangerous-looking waterguns and antique-replica flintlocks.

Representative Sample: Imagine where we’d be if instead of policing toy stores for improperly painted toys, the authorites were, call me crazy here, out trying to catch actual criminals. But that’s not all. We have yet another example of New York City slipping head first off the water slide of reality

5. "Will the Iraq war change how scholars study the Middle East?" Interesting question.

Representative Sample: Graduate programs in political science and Middle East Studies have already begun to see a steady flow of applicants back from Iraq (including, among many others, my research assistant from last year). I expect that over the next decade, this will turn into a flood as smart, young veterans look to put their experiences into a broader perspective and to apply their hard-won granular knowledge to broader academic and policy problems

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Winning in Afghanistan

You don't find too many upbeat articles that talk about winning in Afghanistan these days. But there's one in today's Wall Street Journal by Bing West. After going over a list of things that have gone wrong, West writes the following:
Regardless of these shortcomings, there will be progress over the next year. Gen. David Petraeus, the theater commander, knows how to defeat an insurgency... As he did in Iraq, Gen. Petraeus wants to recruit local forces to protect their own villages. That will expand the Afghan forces to 300,000 and stabilize the situation...A year from now, coalition forces should be able to gradually withdraw, replaced by robust support and adviser units embedded in Afghan security forces. We shouldn’t make this a NATO war, allowing the Afghans to stand back. We’re outsiders, no matter how many schools we build or cups of tea we drink.
I agree that the key is getting the Afghans to fight their own war, but his predictions appear wildly optimistic. And then there is this:
Afghan forces will need $4 billion a year for another decade, with a like sum for development.

West is in Afghanistan now and has a great deal of experience with the country. I hope his optimism is justified. But is there any reason to have faith in the Afghan government, with its minimal control of the country, its factional infighting, and its endemic corruption? Isn't it more likely that instead of an effective 300,000 man fighting force, the Afghan military will remain an organization where only selected units actually do much fighting? Is it reasonable to expect our billions in aid to be used wisely, rather than siphoned off by corruption, or wasted on things peripheral to the war?

Few people predicted the dramatic turn-around in Iraq. Can a similar near-miracle occur in Afghanistan? Let's hope so. But at this point I remain skeptical.

What About All the Renters?

The administration is pressuring banks (again) to "help" borrowers and try to prevent foreclosures, according to the Washington Post.  
After a series of meetings with top banking executives, Treasury Department officials said they want lenders to modify 500,0000 mortgages by Nov. 1. Since the program, known as Making Home Affordable, began in March, it has recorded about 200,000 loan modifications.

Every time I see a story about the government interfering in the mortgage market on behalf of homeowners I think: what about the renters? If you rent a home or apartment and lose your job, or have other major financial difficulties, that's just too bad. If you can't pay the rent, you'll be out the door looking for a cheaper place -- assuming you can find someone to rent to you after being delinquent on your previous rent, and probably having a bad credit rating. 

I'm actually surprised that the government's blatant favoritism toward homeowners hasn't become a political issue. I'm not advocating government intervention to help renters, but why are government handouts to homeowners -- many of whom have greater resources than most renters -- ok, when renters are left to fend for themselves?

HOT5 Daily 7/29/2009

1. "Good Food, Bad Food" Why is there so much conflicting or outright incorrect information about nutrition?

Representative Sample: most nutrition claims are based on bad science. Many of them are unproven and a surprising number have actually been disproven by well-controlled, double-blind clinical studies.

2. "Private Warfare: The Series" Is a new television show an indicator of things to come?

Representative Sample: Warfare, as our jihadi enemies demonstrate, is not a monopoly of governments. Why should Westerners with tremendous wealth be any different in regard to a desire to defend our society if pushed far enough

3. "100 is not such a big deal anymore!"Making it to a hundred years old is becoming much more common.

Representative Sample: With the recent news of the loss of the oldest man who was 113 when he died, attention is being paid to the fact that more people are living to 100 than ever before. By the middle of this century there will be approximately 6 million persons who are 100 or older.

4. "Lessons from German military vehicle history" Pretty interesting analysis.

Representative Sample: We could draw the lesson that dedicated military vehicles are probably not that good as they seem to be. Another possible conclusion is that requirements-driven development way be inferior to the diversity of the commercial vehicle portfolio.

5. "Mixing Science and Politics (and Economics)" Just about any time Michael Shermer, a libertarian atheist, writes anything on Skepticblog, the left-wingers are all over him for daring to depart from leftist orthodoxy. This is his response.

Representative Sample: Why is it okay for liberal atheists to stick it to religious believers and twist the knife slowly, but when it comes to getting your own (political/economic) beliefs challenged, that’s off limits — NOMA (nonoverlapping magisterial) for science and politics? I don’t see how they are different in principle.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Bathroom Tasering

Another day, another unnecessary tasering by police. This time it occurred in Alabama. A disabled man, deaf and with the mental capacity of a 10 - year old, was sick, and locked himself in the bathroom of a Dollar General. He was in there over an hour and store workers called the police, since they didn't know why someone was occupying the bathroom for that long. 

When police arrived, they tried to get in the stall but the man didn't respond. So they broke it open, pepper-sprayed him, and then tasered him. Their excuse for tasering a man in a bathroom stall -- he had an umbrella. Really. A police spokesman actually said that "officers were justified in using force against Love since he had an umbrella."

"The officers really worked within the limits of our level-of-force policy," he said. "We had no information about who this guy was."
Their level of force policy is a complete joke. You have multiple officers versus one unarmed guy in a bathroom stall, who according to the report did nothing other than try to keep the door closed. Even if the man wasn't disabled in any way, there was no need to taser him. 

Once again we see that a police policy on tasers, this time that of the Mobile PD, protects police officers instead of the public. As I've written before, if multiple officers can't subdue a single unarmed man without tasering him, they don't belong on a police force -- period. 

The Arrogance of Theists

One of the slurs commonly leveled at atheists by theists is that we are arrogant. But there are few people who display more arrogance than certain theists, particularly Christians who believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. 

I recently had an e-mail argument with a family member concerning the Exodus story. He had sent me some photos supposedly of chariot wheels found in the Red Sea, and insisted that this "proved" the Exodus story. I pointed out all the problems with that theory, questioned the credibility of the source he was relying on, and noted that archaeologists have found no evidence of a mass movement of people from Egypt such as described in Exodus. Here's the type of response I received:

1. You are too blind to see the obvious.

2. Archaeologists can't be trusted because they hide evidence that supports the Bible.

3. The Bible has been proven true over and over again. Anyone questioning the accuracy of the Bible is just in denial.

This type of theist has no problem asserting that he knows better than professional archaeologists and historians about issues pertaining to their own fields. In addition, since he's a creationist, he also feels qualified to dismiss all the work of multiple branches of science. He knows better than all of them, because he knows the TRUTH. Therefore their specialized knowledge and lifelong bodies of work can just be dismissed out of hand, when they conflict with his preconceived notions formed by religious belief. How arrogant is that? An atheist would have to work pretty hard to achieve anything like that level of arrogance.

HOT5 Daily 7/28/09

1. "The Small Business Solution" The GOP should focus its economic efforts on promoting small business.

Representative Sample: there is much to be said for shifting the attention of federal help from leviathans like General Motors, whose unions make them uneconomical and whose large corporate salaries make them convenient whipping-boys in the public media, and instead making the spread of entrepreneurial spirit the primary focus of all plans to make our economy grow.

2. "Deterrence" The reality behind talk of extending a "defense umbrella."

Representative Sample: Why do the same liberals and “progressives” who react with horror to any suggestion of conventional military action often speak so glibly about “nuclear umbrellas” and “massive retaliation”–phrases that in reality refer to the killing of millions of people? I think it is partly because they feel sure that these things will stay in the realm of words and never become part of the realm of reality.

3. "A Word To The “Birthers”" Short but to-the-point advice. Unfortunately reason is wasted on conspiracy-theory nuts.

Representative Sample: Barack Obama is from Hawaii, he’s the president, there is no “smoking gun” here and you need to get off of this before you further ruin your credibility.

4. "Prioritized lives" Long but interesting article on healthcare.

Representative Sample: advances in science, safe food production, healthcare and prosperity have allowed people, worldwide, to live longer, healthier and wealthier lives

5. "Little Known Provisions of HR3200" These may be made-up, but the real provisions are almost as bad.

Representative Sample: The Federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will be setting up a network of "national nannies" who will be coming to everyone's home to make sure they eat their vegetables and get to bed on time.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Desperate to Prosecute Someone

Some terrorist-rights supporters have grown increasingly desperate for show trials regarding Bush-era interrogations. Today there is an op-ed in the Washington Post called "Beyond the Pale," which advocates prosecuting CIA operatives for supposed abuses. After spouting the usual nonsense, the article summarizes its conclusions as follows:  

some acts, including the violent deaths of detainees at the hands of U.S. personnel, must be investigated and addressed by law enforcement.
Once again we get the ridiculous notion that a secret intelligence organization, specifically designed to carry out illegal actions, needs to be investigated by "law enforcement." This is typical unthinking legalism in action. Dirty wars involving operations against terrorist enemies who follow no laws will always result in abuses. An organization such as the CIA operates under its own set of rules, which are not (and should not be) the same as the military, law enforcement, or other different organizations. If CIA operatives violated their own rules, they should have been disciplined by that organization, and for all we know, some of them were. The idea of having a legal investigation in order to find and prosecute individual CIA agents for things they supposedly did to foreign terror suspects during wartime is simply insane -- I don't know any other way to put it. We might as well just close down the CIA entirely, which I suspect is the ultimate goal of many terrorist rights supporters. If they can't shut it down they want to cripple it. I love this passage in the Post op-ed:  
The task before Mr. Holder is not an easy one. If he authorizes an investigation, he could be accused by some of criminalizing policy differences with his predecessors.

Really? I wonder why? Maybe because that's exactly what he'd be doing, along with inflicting massive damage on our first line of defense against future terrorist attacks. 


It's not often I agree with Glen Greenwald about anything, but here's the title of his latest at Salon:  "The Washington Post endorses Abu Ghraib scapegoating for torture." Greenwald may be one of the premier supporters of terrorist rights, and a useful idiot for our enemies, but even he can see the stupidity of prosecuting low-level CIA agents. Scapegoating is exactly the right term. If the policies of the Bush administration were actually the hideous crimes that people like Greenwald imagine them to be (which of course they were not), the people who should be held responsible are those at the top, not low-level operatives who may have committed technical violations of administration guidelines. 

HOT5 Daily 7/27/2009

1. "Obama's new rule: When the math doesn't work, reject math and shoot the messenger" I don't know if I'd call it a "new" rule. Seems like standard procedure for the administration.

Representative Sample: When the math behind Barack Obama's health care plans doesn't work, Obama attacks math. Now, he doesn't do it directly. He gets Peter Orzsag to debase his intellect for Obama's political ends.

2. "Diplomacy 101 from Joe Biden" Even mainstream foreign policy analysts notice that Joe Biden is a complete idiot.

Representative Sample: I'm pretty sure, however, that part of "smart power" is not being gratuitously insulting to fellow members of the nuclear club. Maybe, just maybe, they'll take this kind of dumbass statement personally. 

3. "Choosing Freedom Over a Strict Religious Life" Interesting story about a girl who left the ultra-Orthodox community in Israel.

Representative Sample: It’s extremely courageous for Sarah to come out as an atheist when you consider the strict world she’s leaving behind. She is refusing to have an arranged marriage at a young age, she is refusing to have a quiverfull of children, she is refusing to wear mandatory headgear, and she is refusing to obey any rabbi.

4. "The Flying Tigers of Afghanistan" A-10s in action.

Representative Sample:They trace their heritage back to the famous Flying Tigers of WWII's war-torn China. In homage to the storied Airmen of the past, the 74th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, deployed from Moody Air Force Base, Ga., still has the iconic sharks face painted on the front of their A-10 Thunderbolt II's, lovingly nicknamed the "Warthog.

5. "Myths of American Health Care" The non-existent healthcare "crisis." Links to another good article.

Representative Sample: Despite the massive regulation and control of American health care, the remaining market element is still able to delivery world class health outcomes.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

India Joins Nuclear Sub Club

Today India became only the sixth country to launch it's own nuclear-powered submarine, joining an exclusive club alongside the U.S., Russia, China, France and the UK.  INS Arihant (which means "Destroyer of Enemy") is the first of a planned class of five vessels. Armament will include 12 nuclear-tipped ballistic missiles, dramatically increasing India's nuclear deterrent capability and ability to retaliate after a first-strike.

HOT5 Daily 7/26/2009

1. "Victory – An Obsolete Concept?" The importance of victory.

Representative Sample: wars end only through defeat and victory; if you don't win a war you lose it. In today's world, I call for a U.S. victory over radical Islam and an Israeli victory over the Palestinians. This emphasis on victory fits into a long line of military analysis.

2. "The Funny Thing Is, Obama Could Easily Have a Health Care Bill, If..." If he actually wanted to compromise.

Representative Sample: He would get most of the Republicans, all of the Blue Dogs, and a third or more of the liberals who don't want to destroy their own president; that adds up to a minimum of 230 in the House and at least 55 in the Senate, in both cases likely more. The die-hards on both Left and Right could vote against it to satisfy their constituents, but it would still pass

3. "With Friends Like This..." Faith & Atheism. Unfortunately, the difference has to be explained over and over again.

Representative Sample: there seems to be a new one every week, a Christian who claims atheism is a kind of faith. So let's parse this nonsense and explain again the chasm of distinction between belief and non-belief.

4. "Is Barack Obama An American Citizen?" Not in Birther World. Everything depends on what reality you inhabit. Pretty amusing article.

Representative Sample: While traditional adherence to quaint philosophic concepts might make it appear that the evidence overwhelmingly favors the conclusion that Barack Obama is a United States citizen, it is clear that this cannot be the case so long as we don’t pay any attention to the idea that there is an objective reality.

5. "Stuck On Stupidly" Interesting perspective on the Gates incident.

Representative Sample: I would hope Sgt. James Crowley thinks long and hard before he goes to the White House for that beer with President Obama and the “renowned” Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Laughing at the Left - Again

Once again I was skimming through the left-wing blogosphere. A post at Hullabaloo caught my attention. It's called, "The Frenzy Begins." The post is a classic example of how a number of leftists inhabit their own little world completely divorced from reality, where everyone who sees things differently is either an evil "wingnut" or a delusional fool. Just look at this passage:  
can I just ask if those of you who are older than 35 or so are getting that strange familiar feeling? You know the one, where the media are suddenly hostile to the president, the Democrats are running for the hills and the country is confused and doesn't know what to think? The one where cable news gets obsessed with manufactured wingnut sh*tstorms designed to distract and diminish the president's stature and sap his political capital just when he needs it the most?
Let's start with the media being "hostile" to the president. Yeah, they are real hostile. Apparently a two-minute absence of loving adoration counts as hostility. And what has been manufactured, let alone by "wingnuts"? Here's what happened back in the real world. The president 's healthcare reform has bogged down primarily because of problems within his own party, and inherent difficulties with the whole idea. Then, at a news conference, the president made an ill-advised comment about the Gates incident. None of that was in any way "manufactured." But no, Digby senses a vast conspiracy.
It shouldn't be surprising to anyone that we are seeing a rather sudden attention being paid to race. First, our black president nominated a Hispanic woman to the Supreme court. That got the right wing noise machine all hyped up about "reverse discrimination" a concept which began seeping into the mainstream almost immediately. Then we suddenly have a lot of attention being paid to the Birthers, out of the blue. It's not like they haven't been around for a while, but on the heels of the Sotomayor discussion, we are hearing a whole lot about them --- and their claims are being aired over and over and over again on mainstream TV (even as they are being refuted.) Hmmmmm.
Wow, I'm convinced. It's all a big conspiracy to derail the president. How could I have missed it? And who is behind it? Those evil racist wingnuts of course. It's all a big racist conspiracy because Obama is black. No, really.  
we are seeing the veil of racial tolerance among the Villagers slipping.
It's not really clear exactly who she means by "Villagers," apparently normal people who aren't left-wing conspiracy theorists but not the shadowy right-wing enemy either. They must be the  ones deluded and manipulated by the evil "right-wing noise machine" that controls and directs everything from behind the scenes.
You can feel the Big Money, the right wing noise machine and the Village all starting to find their collective voice and take control.
Oh no, not Big Money! (Nevermind that tons of big money interests support the president and healthcare reform). I could go on, but you get the idea. Keep in mind that despite being a conspiracy-theory nut, Digby is actually a major left-wing blogger. Many on the left really see the world in this fashion, where evil right-wing conspirators hatch their nefarious racist plots to undermine all that is good. And the poor unthinking masses fall prey to their machinations. 

HOT5 Daily 7/25/2009

1. ""Moderate" Palestinians Hold Conference, Demand Endless Warfare Against Israel" For some reason we give these people lots of money, and think they deserve a state of their own.

Representative Sample: I'm curious though: does anybody know if "armed struggle until the total annihilation of the Jewish State" falls under the "legitimate Palestinian aspirations" that the Obama administration says it "won't abandon?"

2. "Afghan War Losing Civilian Support Abroad" What? With Obama president? I thought everyone liked the U.S. again and would help us out.

Representative Sample: Pressure from the public and opposition politicians is growing as soldiers' bodies return home, and a poll released Thursday shows majorities in Britain, Germany and Canada oppose increasing their own troop levels in Afghanistan.

3. "Indonesian Muslim Cleric: Terror against non-Muslims justified; defends Ritz Carlton/Marriot attack" Even thinking about opposing Islam justifies killing you.

Representative Sample: “But the problem is we don’t know for sure that the victims weren’t involved in the fight against Islam. Even the thought of fighting against Islam is involvement. Everyone that thinks like that is allowed to be killed.”

4. "The Most Important Down-select of All" A problem for any country considering a major U.S. arms purchase.

Representative Sample:There are all kinds of neat fighters for India to select for the Medium Multi-Role Combat Aircraft (MMRCA) competition. If one only looks at the features of each fighter and what kind of industry offsets are available from each competitor, one is missing the most important quality of all.

5. "Crazy Ivans ... or, what Russian Su-35 pilots will do for a buck" Unclear if it's real or not. Amazing if true.

Representative Sample: Here's how it goes: A Russian movie company hires two Sukhoi pilots to film a couple of stunts. The pilots agree to take off without a canopy.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Apologists for Evil

Pat Condell on left-wing apologists for Islamism. It's worse there in the UK, but we have a significant number of the people he's talking about here in the U.S. too.

Top Taser Incidents

ABC News has an article up called "Top 7 'Shocking' Taser Incidents." I missed a couple of these incidents. Probably the worst one ABC covers is when cops tased a disturbed, suicidal man in Brooklyn while he was out on a ledge, causing him to fall to his death. Hey, let's prevent him from committing suicide by shocking him so that he topples off a ledge -- brilliant. The other particularly idiotic incident was when a hospital security guard -- an off duty cop -- tasered a man holding his newborn baby, causing the baby to fall. Does basic common sense disappear when people get hold of tasers? What did he think would happen to the baby after the man collapsed from the shock? Naturally the hospital defended the guard, saying that "proper procedure" was followed. They might want to rethink that procedure.

Unfortunately for anyone that pays attention to taser incidents, the seven highlighted by ABC are just the tip of the iceberg. There are actually plenty that are much worse than some of the ones mentioned in the article.

HOT5 Daily 7/24/2009

1. "Wolves in Conservative Clothing" Why are liberal politicians reluctant to forthrightly advocate big government, increased taxation, and other left-wing policies?

Representative Sample: Whether it is Barack Obama promising to cut 95% of Americans’ taxes, instead of admitting that he wants be expand the government’s role in redistributing wealth, or the Democrats’ support of the misnomer Employee Free Choice Act, which removes an employee’s right to a secret ballot in union elections, liberals always disguise their leftist agendas with conservative talking points.

2. "Turkey: Heading for a showdown" The religious vs. the secular.

Representative Sample: the ruling party is now moving more decisively to assert political authority over the military. On June 26, a late-night legal maneuver without support from the opposition led to passage of a law that will allow army personnel to face trial in civilian (rather than military) courts.

3. "Vegan activists turn to courts in bid to scare people away from meat consumption" It's probably just as likely that being a vegan causes cancer.

Representative Sample: The Cancer Project is an offshoot of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a vegan group that has engaged in, according to, “20 years of animal rights propaganda disguised as medical advice”

4. "Ah! But they did it with Élan!" Oops. That's a pretty big screw-up.

Representative Sample: The French Army were branded ‘imbeciles’ today after an artillery exercise caused a massive fire which destroyed dozens of houses and left hundreds homeless.

5. "Integral Fast Reactor (IFR)" If it works environmentalists will find reason to oppose it.

Representative Sample: He is talking about a type of nuclear reactor (still a fission reactor not the utopian fusion type) that yields 100-300 times as much energy for the same amount of fuel when compared to todays nuclear reactors. It could operate without any need for mining for several hundred years because it can be fueled using the worlds accumulated nuclear waste that conventional reactors have been piling up for decades.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Students Who Study Abroad

The Times of India has an interesting story pointing out that India is number two in the world in the number of it's students who go and study abroad.  Here are the top five with numbers:

1. China 421,000

2. India 153,500

3. South Korea 105,300

4. Germany 77,500

5. Japan 54,500

21% of all "mobile students" come here to the U.S., more than to any other single country. China and India are the two most populous countries, so it isn't that surprising that they would export many students. But I'm not sure what explains the high numbers from Germany and South Korea. South Korea has a population of less than 50 million, so proportionally it exports more students than any of the other top 5.

Obama & the Gates Arrest Incident

My first impression:  Obama would have been best served to keep his mouth shut about an incident he didn't have all the details on, although it's understandable that he reacted as he did. I'm not black, but I've worked with and talked to enough African-Americans to know that black men get harrassed by police in certain areas -- particularly in upscale predominately white neighborhoods. But Obama's not just some guy -- obviously.  As the president he needs to think before sounding off on a local incident. 

Since I'm not the president, there's no contraint on my opinion. I just read one of the latest accounts. It's difficult to know for sure what to believe, and I'm always skeptical of police claims, but this officer appears fairly credible. From his statements it seems that Professor Gates was an obnoxious jerk who greatly overreacted to the situation. He should have been glad the police were looking out for his house and calmly explained that he was the owner. That would have been the end of it. Instead, he verbally attacked the cop and kept on when told to stop. But I'm not sure why it was necessary to arrest him. From what I understand, Gates had already been identified as the homeowner before his arrest. Unless he actually got violent, why not just ignore his insults and walk away? The whole thing seems to have been completely unnecessary on both sides.

HOT5 Daily 7/23/2009

1. "15 Mideast problems that won't go away after Israel and the Palestinians cut a deal" And he probably left out a few.

Representative Sample: 11.  Anti-U.S. and anti-Western terrorism not associated with Israel but with the promotion and expansion of Western cultural values and perceived global inequalities

2. "Data on 250,000 Medieval Soldiers" Some pretty amazing historical work.

Representative Sample: A team led by Dr. Adrian Bell and Prof. Anne Curry, with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council, have put up a stunning new database of military service records of medieval soldiers serving from 1369 and 1453

3. "Juan Cole represents all that is wrong with policy debate in our country" And some things wrong with academia. Good rant.

Representative Sample: So what is a Leftist to do in this situation? Blame Israel and the Jewish control of America? Check. Blame Bush and Cheney? Call it a GOP conspiracy? Check and Check. Dr. Cole is mad, you see. Really mad. So he is forced to bring out the big guns.

4. "World Politics Review: Mercenary Air Forces Underpin Afghanistan, Africa Operations" Eastern Europe: prime supplier of aerial mercenaries.

Representative Sample: The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s left thousands of former military helicopters scattered across the former Soviet republics. With the steady expansion of military and humanitarian operations in the Balkans, the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa over the past two decades, these abandoned helicopters found a new role.

5. "One Iraq, at least for now, Joe Biden notwithstanding" Good post about Iraq.

Representative Sample: Pretty much every American who has ever declaimed on Iraq -- including, by the way, me -- has been substantially and profoundly wrong at some crucial juncture, but we need to remember the extent and recent proximity of Joe Biden's own wrong call because he actually appears to have some influence in the current administration. Hard as that may be to believe.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Hillary on Iran

At an event in Asia today, Secretary of State Clinton talked about the nuclear threat from Iran and North Korea. With regard to Iran she said that the U.S. would,

consider extending a “defense umbrella” over the Middle East if Iran does not heed calls to halt its nuclear weapons program.
She later clarified that there was no change in the administration's policy of pretending that it can talk Iran out of its nuclear program.

Some have pounced on her remarks. Niles Gardiner, writing in the Telegraph, says she's "sending the wrong signal."

There is very little evidence to suggest the United States under Obama is actively seeking to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions through a credible threat of force. Nor has there been a sustained effort to significantly strengthen international sanctions against Tehran. The Clinton/Obama approach to the Iranian nuclear issue is flawed, weak and far too trusting in the intentions of a vicious adversary.
All true. But my take is different from Gardiner's. Clinton's statement, assuming it is backed by Obama, appears to be an acknowledgement of reality. The U.S. is not going to talk Iran out of its nuclear program, or get rid of it with international sanctions. And any sort of direct U.S. military action is highly unlikely and probably counterproductive. Barring an Israeli nuclear first strike, the complete collapse of the regime, or some other major unforeseen change, it appears that Iran will most likely achieve the nuclear capability it is working toward. A policy of deterrence is the only viable option. Maybe it's a bit too soon to be putting it forward publicly. I'm sure the administration wants to keep up its pretense that talks could solve the problem. But overall, Clinton seeming to understand that talk won't get the job done is a good thing. It seems to indicate that at least the administration isn't bent on deceiving itself about Iran.


There was a recent report in USA Today's religion section about de-baptism, atheists having satirical ceremonies to renounce religious faith. Here's a comment from someone who participated in a de-baptism:  

"It was very therapeutic," Gray said in an interview. "It was a chance to laugh at the silly things I used to believe as a child. It helped me admit that it was OK to think the way I think and to not have any religious beliefs."
You need a ridiculous ceremony to do that? Here's something that's "therapeutic" for me: calling out idiots for their idiocy.

In my opinion the whole idea of de-baptism is idiotic on multiple levels. First, it indicates weak-mindedness. The people participating in these events don't seem too confident about their atheism. According to the article, some have actually written their former churches trying to get their names taken off baptismal records -- as if it actually mattered. Second, it it gives credence to those who accuse atheism of being a religion or just a psychological rejection of God, two common theist attacks. And finally, it just makes atheists look bad. It's an unnecessary attack on a Christian sacrament that should be meaningless for an atheist, and it helps feed the impression many have that atheists are hostile to religion and religious people. But above all, it's just stupid.

HOT5 Daily 7/22/2009

1. "Stop Subsidizing the Palestinian Authority" We'd be better off just burning the money.

Representative Sample: As we have seen long before Barack Obama became president, the United States and the rest of the international community (mainly other Western democracies) were subsidizing a Palestinian regime that combined anarchy with tyranny. But the Obama Administration’s policy will probably be worse.

2. "Solar eclipse pits superstition against science" Charlatans take advantage of natural event to capitalize on superstition.

Representative Sample: Indian astrologers are predicting violence and turmoil across the world as a result of this week’s total solar eclipse, which the superstitious and religious view as a sign of potential doom.

3. "About those czars" Links to a site that has an in-depth look at Obama's czars.

Representative Sample: Obama has now added to his roster more czars than ever ruled all of Russia through its long history. But who are these people? Terresa, at Noisy Room, decided to find out. Without exception, it makes for very disturbing reading.

4. "Taliban Fighters Attack Outposts in Burkas" The Taliban strengthens the case of those who want to ban burkas.

Representative Sample: Afghan and U.S. forces repelled a coordinated Taliban assault in two major cities in eastern Afghanistan today as suicide bombers armed with rocket-propelled grenades and assault rifles attacked government installations and a US base in the cities of Gardez and Jalalabad.

5. "The "Irreversible Collapse"" Russia's grandiose naval ambitions shattered by drop in oil prices. What are the strategic implications?

Representative Sample: The solution? Play to your strengths, which in today's Russia are (a) Its ICBM force, and (b) U.S. willingness to cut its own strategic arsenal.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

7 Wonders of the World

I stumbled across an article today and found that voting is currently underway to select the top seven natural wonders of the world. You can vote for the finalists here. It's a pretty interesting list of nominees. I voted for:  Grand Canyon, Galapagos, Dead Sea, Bay of Fundy, Amazon, Angel Falls, and Great Barrier Reef.

Justifiable Taser Use

I've written a number of posts about incidents where in my opinion police use of tasers was unjustified and unnecessary. But here's one where the police officer appears to have been justified, and the negative consequences were the fault of the suspect.  In Australia a man ran toward a policeman carrying a lighter and a bottle of gasoline. When he refused to stop, he was tasered. Apparently since he had been sniffing gas and was covered with fumes,  the taser caused him to burst into flames. The cop helped put the flames out despite being attacked by a bystander.

This incident is an example of where a taser is a reasonable option, despite the unfortunate consequences. It's unreasonable to expect a cop to disarm someone with a bottle of gasoline and a lighter, a potentially lethal combination. But at the same time there is no major threat until the person gets close enough. Rather than simply shooting him, a taser gives the cop an intermediate option between lethal force and putting himself at extreme risk. Unfortunately the rules for taser use tend to be very loose in most jurisdictions.

HOT5 Daily 7/21/2009

1. "Predicting Iraq's Future" Some interesting speculation.

Representative Sample: Here's what I expect: First, the American presence in Iraq will wind down faster and with less Iraqi coordination than expected.

2. "Blessed If You Do, Blessed If You Don't" Another common argument that any atheist will hear over and over from theists.

Representative Sample: It's the "Look at the wonderful things that happen -- therefore there has to be a God" argument. When someone recovers from a serious illness, when someone gets the perfect job right in the nick of time, when someone finds the earring they lost... it's given as proof of God at work.

3. "Waxman-Markey: An Exercise in Unreality" More on the terrible climate change bill.

Representative Sample: The devil is in the details, as it is often said. Waxman-Markey’s devil is monstrously big, and it begins qualitatively, not only quantitatively, by setting up the machinery of control that would politicize energy for an open-ended future.

4. "Obama: African-Americans "More Rooted in American Experience" "Obama not quite as "post-racial" as advertised.

Representative Sample: Obama explained that some Americans are "more fundamentally rooted in the American experience" than others.

5. "Almost Under the Radar: FBI Agent Arrested After Guns He Sold Were Tied to Mexican Cartels" Let's hope there aren't too many more FBI agents like this one.

Representative Sample: When the Attorney General and President told us that Americans were responsible for Mexican drug cartel violence, I guess we should have pressed them on just how close to the issue they were.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Obama Administration Does Something Right

There's been plenty to bash the administration for lately, but it deserves credit for advancing U.S.-India relations. Secretary of State Clinton's visit has paid off. India & the U.S. today announced a new agreement that will "pave the way for greater defence cooperation." The Indian Prime Minister is now scheduled to make a state visit to the U.S. in November.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the new deal "could bring American defense contractors and power companies billions of dollars in business." Despite failure to agree on climate change measures, and assorted details, the Obama administration in general, and Hillary Clinton in particular, should be commended for pushing forward and securing an important agreement with India. There was some fear that the Obama administration would neglect India in its focus on Pakistan. It's good to see that hasn't happened.

Insanely Early Polling for 2012

We've only had six months of Obama, so it's time to see how he matches up against potential GOP candidates in 2012. If this polling means anything at all -- highly doubtful -- then the latest Rasmussen numbers look good for Republicans. Rasmussen has Obama & Mitt Romney in a dead heat, with Obama polling only 6% higher than Sarah Palin if she were the GOP candidate. Those are actually pretty surprising numbers to me. Maybe people are starting to wake up about Obama. Or it could be a meaningless snapshot.

Public Polling Polling has Obama looking a little better against potential Republican candidates.

He's up 48-42 on Mike Huckabee, 50-42 on Newt Gingrich, 51-43 on Sarah Palin, and 49-40 on Mitt Romney.
Still, I would call those good numbers for the GOP, given the horrible beating Republicans have taken in the last couple of cycles. And both PPP & Rasmussen have Obama's approval rating down at 50%. Is Obama's unmerited popularity really waning? Let's hope so.

HOT5 Daily 7/20/2009

1. "Shocker: Over Four Decades Government Health Care Spending Has Grown Faster Than Private Spending" What, Obama is delusional about big government "controlling costs"? No way!

Representative Sample: The proponents of government health care keep telling us that we need government health care to to control health care costs. The problem is that the government has done an exceedingly poor job of controlling the cost of the government health care we already have.

2. "The Leave No Terrorist Behind Act" Hearts bleed for Zacarias Moussaui at TIME Magazine.

Representative Sample: If TIME Magazine ever decides to get out of the fake journalism racket, it would probably be a seamless transition to get into the goalpost moving business.

3. "Pascal's Wager" If you are a Christian, before you make the mistake of using Pascal's Wager in an argument, watch this video. Anyone else, just watch for fun.

Representative Sample: It's a video.

4. "If You Trust That Bridge..."A house Democrat with an actual good idea. When's the last time that happened?

Representative Sample: US House Representative Artur Davis (D-AL) recommends that if Congress plans to create a public health insurance option, its members should be forced to use it

5. "WHY CONSERVATISM SUCKS RIGHT NOW" Rick Moran points out a lunatic on the right (the founder of Free Republic). Naturally that causes some commenters to label him a liberal who just can't see the pure evil of Obama.

Representative Sample: There will always be a certain portion of both the right and left who are basically nuts. The hysterically exaggerated dangers of a Bush putsch were written about endlessly by the left for 8 years. Now it’s time for righty crazies to crawl out from under the rocks and dark places where they’ve been hiding to make conservatism look like an ideal home for kooks, paranoids, and other unbalanced denizens who inhabit a creepy reality of their own making that bears little resemblance to the real world.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Did You Know You Are Helping Sheepherders in Botswana?

That's right. The U.S. just gave a grant to a  organization representing a community of 1500 in the Kalahari Desert. The grant is "designed to help the group’s members raise themselves out of poverty" and to "empower them to become competitive in the wool trade." That's mighty nice of us isn't it? When I saw this story I first thought that it must be some charitable organization at work.  But the charity is us.  The US African Development Foundation is a government agency with an annual budget of over 30 million dollars. I wonder how many people know that some of their tax money is going to help people raise sheep and market wool in Botswana? 

If you object to U.S. tax money going to help Botswanans rather than Americans, look on the bright side. These people probably really need it, might even be grateful, and aren't our enemies. At least it isn't more money going to the Palestinians. If we have to hand out U.S. tax money like candy to foreigners, wouldn't it be great if we could take that entire 900 million in Palestinian aid and distribute it instead to poor African farmers & herders struggling to better their lives? At least it would be put to better use than buying rockets, AK-47s, building tunnels, and teaching children to hate Jews.

Joe Biden, Truthteller?

James Lileks has a good article up in the New York Post about Joe Biden, our bumbling, loudmouth vice president. Lileks argues that the vice president's various gaffes reveal what the administration is really thinking, and that Biden is just letting the truth slip. It's an interesting theory that runs counter to conventional thinking, which just boils down to Biden being an idiot who can't keep his mouth shut, and who blurts out the first thing that comes to mind. In contrast, Lileks sees Biden as an idiot that can't keep his mouth shut who blurts out the truth -- against Obama's wishes. Politicians are never supposed to tell the unvarnished truth as they see it. The article is pretty amusing and definitely worth reading.

Joe Biden and his antics serve as a prime example of why I laugh at many of Sarah Palin's most extreme critics. Assorted leftists and others pretend to be horrified by the thought that Palin might have been vice president. Yet most of these same people actually voted for an incompetent, clueless buffoon: Joe Biden. 

HOT5 Daily 7/19/2009

1. "Own goal" Did North Korea's missile tests actually help the U.S.?

Representative Sample: Secretly, U.S. officials informed on missile defenses were pleased, for two reasons.

2. "Armed Ship Crews Will Not Escalate The Pirate Problem" You'd think that might be obvious, but not to the International Maratime Organization.

Representative Sample: Looking at the threat, the United Nation's International Maritime Organization, in a move certain to protect the safety of pirates only, has decided to flatly reject any suggestion of arming merchant seamen

3. "International Women's Day in Afghanistan" What's wrong with this picture?

Representative Sample: A non-Muslim will immediately see the irony of Afghan women gathering to celebrate the achievements women have made in the last few hundred years and this image of so many 'independent-minded' Muslim women.

4. "New sensors enforce hospital staff hygiene" Maybe there should be a version for restaurant employees too.

Representative Sample: It's a little like a Breathalyzer, but for hands. Each time they soap up, health-care workers will have to pass their hands under a detector located by the sink. If the hands pass muster, a wireless signal coming from the worker's badge will set off a green light on the sensor.

5. "Public Outrage Of The Day" I wonder how many similar government programs go unnoticed?

Representative Sample: Sometimes we think we don't have the power to stop an out-of-control government and its irresponsible spending.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Obama Intelligence Agency

According to various reports, the Obama administration is thinking about creating a "special unit of professional investigators." Since the U.S. can no longer use some of the methods that prevented another attack for eight years, we need something new. The Unreligious Right has received an advance copy of the top ten rules the Obama Intelligence Agency (OIA) will operate under.

1. No harsh language. Suspected terrorists must be addressed properly and treated with respect at all times.

2. Keep hands to self. Do not invade suspect's personal space.

3. All interrogations must be conducted in climate-controlled rooms optimized for the comfort of each particular detainee. 

4. Comfortable chairs must be used -- for the suspects, not you. Interrogators are free to use a stool, a folding chair, or just stand.

5. Religious lunatic suspects must be supplied with their particular holy book. Said holy book may only be handled with permission, and handling must follow whatever guidelines are provided by the particular religious lunatic being interrogated.

6. Pursuant to item 5, any request for accommodation made on the basis of religion, no matter how idiotic or unnecessary it may appear, must be honored.

7. All suspects must get a full, restful eight hours of sleep before any interrogation. Sleep number beds will be provided to help them feel rested and prepared for questioning.

8. All questions must be supplied in advance and pre-approved by detainee lawyers.

9, There will be a mandatory 15 minute break for every hour of interrogation. Healthy snacks and beverages of choice will be provided to detainees. Interrogations on weekends, holidays, holy days, or outside normal business hours are of course strictly forbidden.

10. Always remember, be polite and don't do anything that might cause offense. You will be personally liable for any lawsuits, and you may be prosecuted.

HOT5 Daily 7/18/2009

1. "Mommycare, nosiness, and the Army: Our Obamariffic future" The first casualty of government healthcare:  freedom.

Representative Sample: When people pay for everybody else's stuff, people inevitably feel as though they can tell others what to do. What justification does the government use to single out cigarette smokers for higher taxes? Smoking costs the "system" money. Seat belts? Hospital costs.

2. "Do Atheists Have Less Purpose and Hope?" Less false hope and purpose.

Representative Sample: Atheists have less hope than Christians have in the same way that adults have less hope than young children on Christmas Eve. The adults know that special gifts do not come from a jolly man in the sky with infinite resources. Young children – and Christians – have not yet grasped this.

3. "Snubbing Israel doesn't help the White House" But he'll do it anyway. Weakness toward our enemies and hostility to our friends is the Obama way.

Representative Sample:Despite the endless and baseless propaganda to the contrary, getting tough with the Israelis on settlements or on other elements of the Israel-Palestine agenda will actually do precious little to address our greater concerns in the region while accepting a nuclear-capable Iran because we don't have the will to stop them from getting will damage U.S. interests in great and lasting ways.

4. "An Island People in a Sea of Humanity"An interesting perspective on China.

Representative Sample: In thinking about the rest of the world, westerners often make the major mistake of projecting the freakish ethnic states of western Europe onto the rest of the world. This is especially true of areas that were once part of multi-ethnic empires such as the Middle East (Ottoman), India (Mogul, British) and China. Each of these areas is more ethnically diverse down to the level of individual towns than is Europe

5. "Enemy Of God. Enemy Of Man." There are plenty of nuts on the left. But here's a serious right-wing whackjob. He's predicting a civil war with Democrats, because Democrats are evil. Embarrassing lunacy.

Representative Sample: The Democrat Party is the party of Christ hatred. God hates abortion and sodomy. The Democrats love them. God desires that His laws be taught throughout the public square. Democrats work feverishly to prevent this. In fact, woven through and through the fiber of the Democrats is hatred of Christian morals, charity and decency.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Legal & Necessary

The New York Times has an op-ed today titled, "Illegal, and Pointless." In the course of pushing the same old left-wing cry about investigations into supposed "abuses" under the Bush administration, the Times makes the usual assertions that the BDS crowd pretends everyone should just take for granted. It starts with the first line.

We’ve known for years that the Bush administration ignored and broke the law repeatedly in the name of national security.
Actually, we know no such thing. There is no unmistakable evidence that the Bush administration broke the law at all, let alone repeatedly. Everything it did had an arguably legal justification. Take the CIA assassination program, 
what is overwhelmingly clear is that there was no legal or rational justification for Vice President Dick Cheney’s order to conceal the program from Congress.
This is not just wrong, it's a flat-out lie. The statute indicates that briefing Congress was a judgment call. There was nothing illegal about Cheney's order, and the Times knows this. It's deliberately lying for partisan reasons. Then there is this whopper,
it’s hard to imagine Congress balking at killing terrorists.
Yeah right. It's just so hard to imagine terrorist-rights supporters who hate the CIA -- pretty much every liberal Democrat in Congress -- balking at a CIA assassination program. And there were all kinds of reasons not to brief Congress, among them not having secret information appear in the New York Times -- which has proven repeatedly that it could care less about damaging national security by publishing leaked documents.

The entire op-ed is a pile of garbage that could have appeared in pretty much any BDS-infected left-wing blog. The Times pretends that the Bush administration not only might have broken the law or gone over the line, it just assumes that it did so deliberately over and over again. Naturally it also takes a convenient hindsight view that everything could easily have been done differently. The article is an example of partisan hackery at its finest.

HOT5 Daily 7/17/2009

1. "Dismal, dismal, dismal" The credibility of economists.

Representative Sample: Social scientists are not real scientists; they are simply unable accurately and reliably to predict human behaviour. Nor can economists accurately and reliably predict future developments since they depend on the behavious of, er, humans.

2. "Sotomayor “Feeding The Nation Nonsense” At Senate Hearing" The confirmation hearings are a complete waste of time. Senators making speeches and grandstanding, and the nominee spouting assorted bs.

Representative Sample: every case decided by the Supreme Court could, within the rules of the legal game, be decided in more than one way. A nominee who says that he “will decide every case based on the record, according to the rule of law” is saying precisely nothing

3. "Destroying the CIA" Or at least crippling it -- a prime objective of the left.

Representative Sample: It is the president who is responsible for demoralizing our intelligence community. It is he who can put a halt to the name-calling, the prosecutions, and the politicization of the intelligence community (which is what he said he would do during the campaign). That he has not, is shameful.

4. "Ration" The future of healthcare?

Representative Sample: It's a short video.

5. "Does India need Pakistan to deter China?" I doubt it, but interesting speculation.

Representative Sample:Given the urgency of the situation, it's possible that India is trying to mend its stormy relationship with Pakistanin order to prevent a Sino-Pakistani partnership, or lay the foundation of a containment policy towards to China

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Daniel Dennett on Belief in Belief

Daniel Dennett has an article up in The Guardian called, "The Folly of Pretense." It's pretty short and he doesn't give much support to his argument, but essentially he maintains that belief in belief in God -- in other words the utility of religion -- is unnecessary. He subtitle is "We must not preserve the myth of God – it was a useful crutch, but we've outgrown it."

I'm highly skeptical of this sort of argument. First of all, the subtitle is ridiculous. Who is this "we" that he is speaking of? The vast majority of people in the world have religious beliefs, and many of them are held quite fanatically. I think Dennett greatly overestimates the number of people who just believe in belief and don't actually believe at least some of the tenets of their particular faith. I realize that Dennett is a philosopher, but he seems to be operating in a make-believe world.

His article is an answer to the question: should we believe in belief? But it is nowhere near as clear-cut as Dennett thinks. He cites Denmark as an example of how religion isn't really necessary to have an advanced, peaceful society. But one small country is an unconvincing example. Most people seem to have an innate need to believe in some higher force. Throughout recorded history there has never been a time of no religion. It is nice for we atheists to think that everything would be far better without religion, but there is really no way to tell. It's quite possible that the world might be much worse, despite all the problems religion causes. The absence of religion does not imply rationality. People are quite capable of transferring their religious impulses to dangerous ideologies and leaders. Communism is the most obvious example. Dennet's assertions seem like little more than starry-eyed wishful thinking.

Bad Ideas in South Africa

There's an interesting article at CATO called, "The Zimbabwe-ification of South Africa?" Apparently the South African government is considering expropriating land (ie stealing it from its owners by force), and redistributing it (no doubt to political supporters). Despite the terrible failure and economic destruction wrought by such policies in neighboring Zimbabwe, South African Marxists have learned nothing. Of course if they had, they wouldn't continue to hold Marxist views. Here's a comment by one of the South African ministers pushing such a program,
"It shouldn't be a situation where we can't get land because it's too expensive because it's owned by Americans, by Germans, by other Europeans and people outside this country, and not Africans. . . ." "To redress [the] imbalances of the past," Mr. Nkwinti continued, "the government must have enabling laws that can allow the pace and the price of land acquisition to be in the hands of the state, rather than in the hands of the seller."
This is typical of statists/collectivists everywhere, including here in the U.S. Look at the healthcare debate and you will see echoes of this sort of thinking. We don't like market-generated prices because they just don't meet our ideas of the way things should be. Therefore we will use the power of government in order to artificially force things into whatever mold we think should be best. The authors point out that,
Land expropriation does not lead to justice or prosperity. As the case of Zimbabwe shows, it is a road to economic destruction. South Africa must turn back now before it is too late.
Unfortunately this type of advice, based in reality and on examples of past failures, will likely fall on deaf ears. Ideology, "fairness," and the need to "do something" are just far more important.

HOT5 Daily 7/16/2009

1. "Why The Rush On Health Care?" Because Democrats want to ram it through while they can.

Representative Sample: The urgency about health care legislation today is rooted in political expediency. Unlike the stimulus, where the perception of economic Armageddon was the hammer used to pass the legislation, there is no healthcare crisis.

2. "Pentagon to Ditch Two-War Strategy" We don't have enough money to maintain that type of strategy, but we have enough to waste on every ill-advised domestic big government program Obama is pushing.

Representative Sample: One of the fundamental underpinnings of the U.S. military for most of the last 50 years will soon be scrapped according to a top Pentagon official.

3. "On “Federalism” And “Originalism”" Why are originalists in favor of federalism?

Representative Sample: Something that has always bothered me is why Libertarians and Conservatives, particularly those who expound on the theory of “originalism”, would advocate a return to Federalism.

4. "The Baffling Bureaucracy in the Dems’ Health Care Plan"Big government at its finest -- complete with handy organizational chart.

Representative Sample: It's a graphic.

5. "Notes to a Christian Professor" It shouldn't be necessary to explain the same basic concepts about atheism & atheists to theists over & over, but unfortunately it is.

Representative Sample: Let’s be clear on this: Atheists don’t believe a god exists. That’s very different from claiming that one absolutely, positively doesn’t exist. I don’t believe in a god for the same reasons I don’t believe in unicorns, Santa Claus, and ugly-looking-Swedish-people.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

How Bad Will Health Care "Reform" Be?

At the moment it looks like some sort of health care legislation will probably be enacted. Republicans probably won't be able to muster enough votes to block it outright.  Their best bet at this point would seem to be finding ways to minimize the damage. But there will be damage.

Higher taxes, more red tape, and of course less freedom will be inevitable results. Democrats and their allies on healthcare issues don't have the slightest concern about personal freedom. Are you young and healthy, and simply don't want to pay for health insurance?  Too bad. Democrats are going to force you to buy it whether you want it or not. After all, they know what's best for you, and you are going to do it or else. Your small business can't afford to provide health benefits? Again, too bad. Do it or close down. The government knows what's best for you.

Since there is already major government involvement in healthcare, I'm not opposed to tweaking the system, strengthening the safety net in certain areas, and enacting certain other reforms that might eliminate some problems. But any kind of sweeping overhaul of the type under discussion will almost certainly make things worse, cause many unintended consequences, and cost far more than estimated. The idea of healthcare reform is driven primarily by ideological positions, not a cautious & careful plan of incremental changes. Chances are good that we'll end up damaging the best things about our current system, while simultaneously creating all sorts of new problems.

Pentagon Resists Nanny State Advice

In a surprising turn of events, the Pentagon has decided not to ban smoking in war zones. Despite a study by the Institute of Medicine which argued that "any tobacco use while in uniform should be prohibited," the military rejected the advice. With nanny statism and other forms of do-gooderism running rampant, it's nice to see that the Pentagon refused to cave in.

HOT5 Daily 7/15/2009

1. "The Islamofascists are the Fascists, Not Geert Wilders"A good debunking of the left's attempt to create a false linkage between resistance to Islamization and neo-Nazism & fascism. 

Representative Sample: Although it opposes mass immigration, especially from Muslim countries, the Party for Freedom wants its immigrants to assimilate into Dutch society and enjoy the benefits of democracy and liberty. The party also ran on an essentially libertarian platform of defending women’s rights and protecting gays from street violence perpetrated by Muslim gangs

2. "Lessons Learned the Hard Way Should NOT Be Repeated" Most of today's Democrats never learned them in the first place.

Representative Sample: that's the key elemement which raises concern with Obama. His whole life he has been surrounded by people who are either indifferent or hostile to American exceptionalism and who never really had much of a problem with totalitarian regimes like the Soviets.

3. "You're welcome" An Iraqi thanks America. It's pretty sad that there are plenty of foreigners who have a more positive view of the U.S. than a segment of our own population.

Representative Sample: America gave the lives of 4,000 of its people to Iraq’s land to instill security and democracy, while the Arabs sent us their filthy mercenaries who mercilessly murdered, bombed, and slaughtered the Iraqi people.

4. "Powerful Ideas: Military Develops 'Cybug' Spies" Drafting the insect world into service.

Representative Sample: Instead of attempting to create sophisticated robots that imitate the complexity in the insect form that required millions of years of evolution to achieve, scientists now essentially want to hijack bugs for use as robots.

5. "Political Jokes & Funny Quotes (46): Capitalist Hell and Communist Hell" Pretty amusing.

Representative Sample: A man dies and goes to hell. There he discovers that he has a choice: he can go to capitalist hell or to communist hell. Naturally, he wants to compare the two, so he goes over to capitalist hell. There outside the door is the devil, who looks a bit like Ronald Reagan.

To submit a blog post for HOT5 Daily, please e-mail me at Put HOT5 in the subject.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Palin's Op-ed: Right Message, Wrong Messenger

The climate change bill is one of the most dangerous pieces of legislation to come through Congress in a long time. Aside from being an economic destroyer that will raise taxes on everyone, it massively extends the reach and power of the federal government. In many ways it is a attack on personal freedom far worse even than Democratic healthcare proposals. As such, defeating it should be a top priority for the GOP.

During the presidential campaign, the one area in which Sarah Palin seemed to have a fair amount of policy knowledge and expertise was on energy. Her op-ed pretty much states the obvious, but doesn't even scratch the surface of all the problems with the cap and tax bill. Even so, I see that some on the right are glad to have her speaking out on the issue. I'm not.

Palin lacks credibility with most people outside the hardcore GOP base. Republicans cannot defeat this bill alone. They desperately need the support of moderate Democrats. Having a polarizing figure like Sarah Palin leading the fight against cap & trade could be counterproductive. Are moderate Democrats going to want to be seen as allying with Palin on policy? Somehow I doubt it. Palin taking the point on this issue will give the left ammunition to pressure moderate and conservative Democrats to toe the Obama line. This issue is too important. Republicans would be best served to work quietly behind the scenes with reasonable Democrats to kill the bill in the Senate.

10 Things that Are OK for Democrats but not Republicans

1.  Lying.  Most of the Democrats hyperventilating about the supposed lies of George W. Bush are strangely unconcerned with lies by Obama and other Democrats. That's because lies from Democrats are either no big deal, or necessary to guide the public in the right direction for its own good.

2.  Spreading Fear.  We heard quite a bit about "fearmongering" from Democrats outraged that the Bush administration, especially figures like Dick Cheney and Karl Rove, was using concern with national security for political purposes. We still hear that same charge every time a Republican points out how Obama's policies are weakening the U.S. and making us more vulnerable to a terrorist attack. But what about spreading hysterical fear about environmental disaster in order to ram through a massive expansion of government power? Well, that's no big deal. How about scaring people about economic collapse? Healthcare? It's ok when Democrats do it.

3.  Executive Power.  Remember how Democrats were so concerned about the Bush administration increasing executive power? Now that the Obama administration is in power, any increase is quite alright. While I'm writing this Obama has probably appointed a couple more "czars."

4.  Calling Opponents Un-American, Un-Patriotic, or Traitors.  Democrats are hypersensitive to the slightest implication that any of their actions or views could be seen as un-american, un-patriotic, or treasonous. Any comment by a Republican that could in any way be interpreted as such a slur is greeted with extreme outrage. But Democrats have no problem openly calling Republicans un-American, un-patriotic or traitors. Ask Paul Krugman and Henry Waxman. And then of course there were the eight years of accusing the Bush administration of everything under the sun in the most graphic terms possible. But that's ok. It's only bad when Republicans do it.

5.  Illegality.  Even now Democrats are oh so upset at the possibility that illegal actions might have been committed during the Bush administration. Nevermind that the president was trying to defend the U.S. in wartime, and that his actions all fell within legal gray areas. We have to protect the "rule of law"! But what about when a Democratic president blatantly commits perjury in office to protect himself from the consequence of his own idiotic lack of judgment and reckless behavior? Well, that's just lying about sex. No big deal. What about when President Obama appoints multiple people who cheat on their taxes to high office, including the head of the treasury no less? No problem. After all, they are Democrats. Strict adherence to the law is only important for Republicans.

6.  Politicizing Science.  Isn't it amazing how this is no longer a problem now that Democrats control the government? Using only scientific views that support your policies and suppressing opposing ones is now a good thing.

7. Disenfranchising Voters. The slightest hint that Democratic voters might have been intimidated or otherwise deprived of their vote is an outrage. Even the fact that some are too stupid to fill out a ballot properly is an intolerable case of disenfranchisment. But any allegations of disenfranchisement or voter intimidation involving Republican voters can be dismissed out of hand. Who cares?

8.  Racism & Sexism.  Racism and sexism are only bad when Republicans are doing it (even if only imagined). In fact, we need to parse every word of any Republican for racist & sexist implications.  But if an outspoken Republican happens to be a woman or a minority, sexist and racist attacks are quite alright. 

9.  Conspiracy Theories.  Conspiracy theories held by Republicans are clearly ridiculous, such as the many involving Obama.  But what about conspiracy theories about the Bush administration, Dick Cheney, the "vast right-wing conspiracy," and other Republicans? Well, there might be something to those.

10. Hypocrisy. This should go without saying. Democrats delight in accusing Republicans of hypocrisy at every opportunity, despite being massive hypocrites themselves. But of course like everything else on this list, hypocrisy is ok if you are a Democrat.