Saturday, January 31, 2009

Cutting Defense in Wartime

Remember back a little while ago when  Bush was president? For much of his administration Democrats were constantly complaining, with some justification, that the military was overstretched. Some went so far as to say that the military was broken by extended deployments and its worldwide commitments. While running for president, Obama called for expanding the Army, one of his few good ideas. So now that he's president we should see a big expansion in the military, right?  No, wrong.

From a report yesterday:

The Obama administration has asked the military's Joint Chiefs of Staff to cut the Pentagon's budget request for the fiscal year 2010 by more than 10 percent -- about $55 billion
This report may not be correct, I haven't seen any confirmation yet.  But let's assume that it is, other Democrats have called for defense cuts. The whole idea behind the stimulus is that government spending will boost the economy. We can spend billions on pretty much anything, and supposedly that's going to help. So why would we want to cut the military, even just considering economic reasons? The military employs millions, and generates huge numbers of jobs in the private sector.

Isn't it amazing that we can waste money on every ridiculous pork project imaginable, supposedly to benefit the economy, but we need to cut defense. Let's just ignore the fact that we are still involved in two wars. Why is it that the only spending Democrats ever want to reduce is military spending? It would be different if the administration was recommending across the board cuts in federal spending. In that case the military would be a reasonable target. But the situation is exactly the opposite; it's pushing massive federal spending in almost every other area. Aside from demonstrating yet again how weak Democrats are on defense, this proposal makes no sense given their own economic theories.

HOT5 Daily 1/31/2009

1. "Economists Say Stimulus Has No Bang" Interesting pictures make this different than the typical economic article.

Representative Sample: the truth is that all this Keynesian theory stuff had been pretty much discredited by economists until its resurrection by Democratic politicians in the last six months.

2. "Beware of urgent pragmatists" The downside of pragmatism.

Representative Sample: What's "true" will now be judged by the helpfulness of an action, yet time, cause and effect will conveniently be pushed aside in the rush to be helpful.

3. "Obameter" A way to keep track of the endless promises and assertions of politicians.

Representative Sample: I find it to be extremely important to keep policy makers and enforcers accountable for their words, deeds, and promise. 

4. "The ‘F’ Word"  That would be freedom. It has certain risks involved. 

Representative Sample: One of the major drawbacks of political correctness is its multitude of contradictions. Because it is based on state-sponsored authoritarianism rather than dispassionate reason

5. "Germany Tells Obama to Slow Down"  Pot vs Kettle?

Representative Sample:A ngela Merkel, has warned Obama against protectionism. She says that giving bailout money to the auto industry was not a good idea

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

Friday, January 30, 2009

Coal-to-Liquid Loans in the Stimulus

The Vine, an environmental blog at The New Republic, has a piece up attacking provisions for coal-to-liquid plant loan guarantees in the stimulus. They call it "The Senate's Insane Coal Idea." Their argument is that coal-to-liquid plants are big polluters, and that liquified coal produces more emissions than gasoline. I find their objections silly, and another example of why we shouldn't listen to environmentalists when making any sort of serious decisions.

I oppose the stimulus outright, but if we must have it, this provision isn't any worse than most of the garbage contained within it. The Vine article acts like we are just going to start pumping out liquid coal and be burning it like crazy. We aren't. We need alternatives to oil, and this is a possible alternative. Who cares if it is too dirty at the present time. If we don't develop it, we'll never find out if it can be made into a cleaner technology. Dismissing technologies out of hand because of prejudice based on current conditions is what's insane.

Bring Back the Death Penalty for Treason

The New York Times reports that CIA traitor Harold Nicholson, convicted and imprisoned in 1997, has continued to pass secrets to Russia from behind bars. Apparently he used his son as a go-between. This man was a CIA station chief who chose to betray his country for money. Why is he still alive?

Here you have a guy who was an important CIA officer. He deliberately became a spy for another country. He escapes execution and doesn't even get sentenced to life in prison. Instead of just serving out his time, he tries every method possible to contact the Russians. When other efforts fail, he recruits his own son from behind bars. Nicholson is an unrepentant traitor who found a way to continue selling out the U.S. from his jail cell. What does he have to do to get himself executed?

HOT5 Daily 1/30/2009

1. "Bailout? Or Rip Off?" Ripoff. Bonuses for Wall Street financial firm employees.

Representative Sample: what great performance warranted this kind of bonus money? The fabulous condition of Wall Street? The outstanding profitability?

2. "We've Got To Do Something Stupid, And We've Got To Do It Right Now!" Official motto of the U.S. Government since the fiscal crisis began.

Representative Sample: There are plenty of smart things we could do today--like an immediate cut in business taxes, or eliminating capital gains taxes entirely on investments made before 2011

3. "Bow down before the Maha Rushie"Another voice on the right who's tired of Rush Limbaugh and his followers.

Representative Sample: According to Limbaugh, if you disagree with him -- no matter what the reason -- you're not sufficiently conservative, and you must be brought back into line. 

4. "Remote Controlled Rhino Beetle"  Will insects be drafted to help fight the war on terror?

Representative Sample: our favourite architects of military weird are funding quite successful research to remotely control a rhinoceros beetle.

5. "Behind the crickets"  "Windfall" losses are ok, just not profits.

Representative Sample: Remember the fuss about "windfall profits" the oil companies were "making" back in the day under BushCo™?

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

Thursday, January 29, 2009

John Yoo reacts to Obama's Orders

Former justice department official John Yoo just published an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal criticizing Obama's orders involving the closure of Guantanamo and the restriction of CIA interrogations. This article will inspire howls of rage among left-wingers, since they view Yoo as the evil torture lawyer who facilitated the evil Bush administration's torture policies -- what they tend to refer to with ridiculous hyperbole as the "torture regime."

Yoo makes some good points, the most important of which is that
Obama is returning America to the failed law enforcement approach to fighting terrorism that prevailed before Sept. 11, 2001.
Unfortunately, I think he's correct about that. Yoo goes on to argue in favor of pretty much every Bush administration policy regarding detainees and interrogation. I disagree with him on a number of matters. For example, I think his argument goes way too far in maintaining that we won't be able to get any good intelligence without coercive techniques.  But I think it's admirable that he has the courage to continue to defend unpopular positions. 

So far I've seen only one major left-wing site reacting to the op-ed, Think Progress. I skim it occasionally, and it's not exactly a bastion of rational thought. Their post entitled, "Torture Lover John Yoo Excoriates Obama For Banning Torture," does little more than personally attack Yoo for supposedly loving torture -- completely ignoring the fact that people like Yoo don't believe many of the techniques in question even constitute torture. But there was one notable statement.
numerous intelligence experts and real interrogators agree that, far from being “the most effective intelligence tool,” torture simply doesn’t work.
This factually untrue assertion that "torture simply doesn't work," sometimes backed by a simlar appeal to authority logical fallacy, is repeated over and over, especially on the left. That's one reason I have posted several articles on torture and will be posting more.

Congratulations to House Republicans

In an amazing show of unity yesterday, House Republicans voted unanimously to oppose the gigantic pile of wasteful spending mislabeled as a stimulus package. Since they can't block it, their votes were merely symbolic. But it's nice to see Republicans actually acting like Republicans for a change, especially after many of them caved on the bailouts.

HOT5 Daily 1/29/2009

1. "'Hope and Change?' Not for tyrants" It's early yet, but the signs aren't good for foreign policy under Obama.

Representative Sample: the thugs and tyrants of the world - especially in the middle east - can breathe a sigh of relief now that Obama is in charge of American foreign policy:

2. "Top IDF reserve officer: Israel passed up 'historic opportunity' to wipe out Hamas" Instead they settled for another half-measure.

Representative Sample: we should have expanded our operation. We were on the move and they were at the breaking point

3. "The Drumbeat of "Humanitarian Intervention?" Will this type of intervention return during the Obama administration? Let's hope not.

Representative Sample: In recent years, the many people of a liberal persuasion suggested that it would have been perfectly appropriate to engage in an armed invasion of Myanmar/Burma on humanitarian grounds

4. "French Frigate FLOREAL Captures Nine More Pirates"  Viva La France!

Representative Sample:  Includes pictures and bad English translation of French naval report.

5. "Snow daze: In which I agree with Barack Obama"  Me too. Not exactly a major issue, but one that resonates with parents.

Representative Sample: Schools in New Jersey cancel classes if the relevant bureaucrat spots a slushball when he peers out his front door. This morning we had two inches of melting snow on the road and schools all over the state closed.

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

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

A U.S. Apology to Iran

Iranian president Ahmadinejad responded to Obama's outreach to the Muslim world by demanding that the U.S.
should apologize to the Iranian nation and try to make up for their dark background and the crimes they have committed against the Iranian nation
Here's my point by point U.S. apology to Iran.

1. We apologize for withdrawing our support for the Shah. He was a valuable U.S. ally, and we should have done everything possible to help keep him in power. We are extremely sorry.

2. We apologize for being stupid enough to believe that you might actually replace the Shah's regime with something better. Unfortunately, our president at the time was one of the biggest imbeciles to ever occupy the office. Sorry.

3. We apologize for not declaring war in 1979 when you attacked our embassy and took U.S. citizens hostage. Again, we had an incredibly weak president at the time and he didn't take your blatant act of war seriously enough. We're sorry.

4. We apologize again for failing to respond vigorously enough to your acts of war, when you mined neutral shipping channels and damaged U.S. warships during your war with Iraq. In hindsight, maybe we should have destroyed all your shipping, bombarded your ports, and seized your offshore islands. Sorry for letting you off too easily.

5. We apologize for failing to respond when your proxy Hezbollah blew up our Marine barracks in Lebanon. Sorry for ignoring your attacks against us.

6. We apologize for allowing you to repeatedly interfere in our war with Iraq without consequence. Sorry for not taking your repeated provocations seriously.

7. We apologize for not uncovering and destroying your nuclear program long before it reached its current state. You'll have to excuse us, our intelligence gathering hasn't been too effective for awhile now.  We apologize in advance for having to destroy your country if you ever use the nuclear weapons you are going to build.

8. We apologize for pretending that Iran is a country we can realistically talk to, and conduct negotiations with, in a civilized manner. Some of us tend to forget that your country is run by backward religious fanatics, who don't respond well to anything other than clear, unmistakable threats. Sorry, we'll try to remember.

9. And most of all, we apologize for not doing everything possible to undermine & overthrow the aforementioned group of fanatical religious barbarians who rule your country. Hopefully that situation will be rectified sometime in the future.

I hope that helps, President Ahmadinejad.

Peanut Butter Crime

The Washington post reports that the FDA has shut down production at the Peanut Corporation of America, the Georgia-based company linked to the recent outbreak of salmonella caused by tainted peanut butter products. According to the FDA, the company
found salmonella in internal tests a dozen times in 2007 and 2008 but sold the products anyway, sometimes after getting a negative finding from a different laboratory.
There are, in my opinion, all kinds of frivolous lawsuits against companies for product defects that were clearly accidental, or simply unavoidable because of the scale of product distribution -- I'm thinking particularly of lawsuits against drug companies. But this is a different case. If the FDA is correct, criminal charges should be filed against those responsible for authorizing the sale of known contaminated products. Lawsuits aren't enough.

HOT5 Daily 1/28/2009

1. "Holocaust Remembrance Day" Yesterday was Holocaust Remembrance Day. If you've ever seriously studied it, and talked to survivors, it's difficult to forget.

Representative Sample: The Holocaust shook the very foundations of modern civilization, calling into question our understanding of humanity itself.

2. "Where religious fundamentalism and religious liberalism meet" An interesting argument that finds similiar errors in thinking among the two groups.

Representative Sample: Some thinking by liberal or moderate believers can be as insensible as those of fundamentalists. While the social toxicity of their beliefs may be nearly nil, their beliefs can still be impervious to reason.

3. "Obama’s Sweet Middle Eastern Nothings" One of the better analyses of Obama's al-Arabiya interview.

Representative Sample: Obama’s personal charisma cannot mask his utter lack of substance on the Middle East. Here’s to hoping that Obama can fix this shortcoming

4. "Stupid Philosopher Tricks"  Twenty of the stupidest statements from famous philosphers.

Representative Sample:  This world is the best of all possible worlds. (Leibniz)

5. "Hands Tied By The Bible"  The Bible and domestic abuse, focusing on an issue raised by a pastor at Rick Warren's church.

Representative Sample: one of its pastors argued that domestic abuse is grounds for separation and counseling, but not for divorce.

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

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

But It Doesn't Work!

I stumbled across this news story from back in November. In England three burglars forced their way into Maurice Nixon's home at gunpoint.
The robbers tied him up, knocked some of his teeth out and pierced his legs with a screwdriver to find out where he stashed his valuables.
Why would they bother with such a thing? Didn't they know that torture is an ineffective method of getting useful information? Haven't they been listening to pundits, bloggers and interrogation "experts"? Why would they waste their time? I guess they were just uninformed and uneducated. Maybe they watched too much television and somehow got the idea torture would work. So what happened? Did they leave empty handed? No, actually they took off with
an unknown amount of cash and jewellery
They needed specific, verifiable information and they got it fast, with torture. Incidents of torture being used to successfully extract secrets have occurred many times throughout history, and similar accounts show up periodically in the news. 

I know it probably seems that I'm beating this issue to death -- no pun intended. But the illogical and factually untrue assertion that torture does not work is repeated endlessly. This is just another example of reality to keep in mind, the next time someone living in their own fantasy world of wishful thinking tries to pretend that torture is always ineffective. Unfortunately, there are some situations where torture not only works, but also may be the fastest and most effective way of extracting certain types of information. If the information in question can be independently confirmed, it doesn't stop being useful simply because the interrogator used a brutal, inhumane method to obtain it.  

HOT5 Daily 1/27/2009

1. "The Judge Who Gave Us Gitmo" An interesting look at one of our more famous legal minds.

Representative Sample: we should take a moment to consider how we stepped into the constitutional anomaly that created Gitmo.

2. "Limiting Free Speech (13): Chilling Effects; Indirect, Covert and Non-Governmental Limits on Freedom of Speech" The many ways in which free speech can be restricted.

Representative Sample: limitations are initiated by governments and usually imposed through force and/or law. There are, however, other types of limitations, taking place in a less obvious manner

3. "Obama's Team Stumbling into Afghanistan Trap" Is rushing more troops into Afghanistan really a good idea?

Representative Sample: More American troops isn't enough to succeed in Afghanistan. What else needs doing depends on why you think the Taliban have gained ground in the past 18 months.

4. "Those Urban Idiots Again"  Making fun of "free-range" advocates and those who take them seriously.

Representative Sample:  Happy? They’re chickens. Chickens have the intellectual power of an acorn.

5. "The Four Boxes of Freedom and a Goodbye"  Wow, I thought I had a pretty cynical viewpoint on things. This writer's doom-laden outlook makes me look like a utopian dreamer.

Representative Sample: The media is so deeply infatuated with Obama, they imagine that Muslims must be, too

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

Monday, January 26, 2009

Just Say No to a Space Weapon Treaty

Reuters reports that the Obama administration will "seek a worldwide ban on weapons in space." This was one of Obama's dumber campaign pledges (and that's saying a lot), and hopefully will be relegated to a back burner and forgotten amidst more pressing concerns. Here is a type of issue that tells you quite a bit about a person's thinking regarding national security matters. If you actually believe that passing a treaty banning space weapons benefits the U.S., you might as well wear a sign saying, "I'm really naive and can't be trusted with national security."

Most of the countries that might be a threat to the U.S. in space cannot be trusted to abide by any treaty banning weapons. A treaty of this nature will have the following effect: it will restrict the U.S. from developing and deploying effective weapons, and allow potential adversaries to gain advantages, forcing us to play catch-up later on. The very idea that we can or should ban weapons from space is, in my opinion, completely ridiculous. Space is already militarized and we should recognize that fact. The U.S. should be working to strengthen its military advantages in space, as well as identifying and developing defenses to lessen its vulnerabilities. Pretending that we can effectively demilitarize space is the worst sort of utopian thinking. Along with being unattainable, the demilitarization of space is undesirable. U.S. technological innovation is one of our greatest strengths. There is no reason we shouldn't take full advantage of the military opportunities offered by space. And we should certainly not trust our security in this critical area to some feel-good treaty.

The Guantanamo Situation

There has been a lot written recently about the whole Guantanamo issue, after President Obama's decision to close it down. On the left, and among libertarians, the response has been positive, although there is some suspicion about the time-frame and the details. On the right, many would like to keep it open, and in general there is major concern about what to do with the prisoners, and whether it will be handled in a way that will make us less safe. As with many aspects of Bush administration policy, its use of Guantanamo was something that made sense in theory, but broke-down in execution.

What went wrong? The Bush administration rightly viewed these prisoners as special cases. They weren't POW's, and they weren't normal civilian criminals. They were presumed hostile aliens captured during our various conflicts. Their legal status was nebulous and highly debatable. The administration talked about using military tribunals to decide their fate. Again, this sounded reasonable in theory. But in practice, the administration dragged its feet, and basically just held some of the prisoners indefinitely, while foolishly releasing others. By the time they actually got around to military tribunals, it was too late to implement them, and they ran into legal difficulties. The negative publicity surrounding interrogations had turned legal opinion and the courts solidly against the administration. But the problems didn't start there.

No one should have been transferred to Guantanamo unless we were certain they were actually a terrorist. Why waste the resources to move mere suspects all the way to Guantanamo, and to house and feed them, if we were just going to release some later? Suspects and low-level individuals should have been dealt with elsewhere. It was also a terrible idea to interrogate prisoners at Guantanamo using questionable techniques. Again, the theory behind using Guantanamo, was to have a secure facility for holding those too dangerous to hold elsewhere, and to have military tribunals decide their fate. Using it as we did generated massive bad publicity and was totally unnecessary. Those individuals could have been fully interrogated in secret, by whatever means, and been transferred to Gitmo when we were done with them. Normal, completely above-board military interrogations could have continued there if needed. By proceeding the way they did, the Bush administration gave at least some credence to those hysterically shrieking that Gitmo was a form of gulag. They started with good intentions and tried to deal with a difficult problem, but fouled it up -- the story of the Bush administration.

So what now? I think the case is clear that the Guantanamo detention facility is now doing more harm than good. But that doesn't mean that we can't make things even worse. Treating these prisoners as civilian criminal defendants, giving them lawyers, and pretending they have U.S. constitutional rights are all horrible ideas. The only reason we should even consider such measures, is if an individual has the full support of his home country; and it demands that he be accorded certain rights under treaty. Otherwise, trying them in civilian courts will lead to actual terrorists getting free propaganda opportunities, and probably going free through insufficient evidence, or because they were mistreated in captivity. Just because the Bush administration screwed things up, doesn't mean we need to act even more stupidly and release people that are known threats.

There are apparently less than 250 of these prisoners. Obviously anyone we don't think is a serious threat should be set free, and sent anywhere that will take him. Then we have a number of prisoners who are wanted elsewhere. Those who are should be quickly deported. Objections about sending prisoners to states where they will be mistreated should be ignored. For legal reasons, if necessary, we can get some assurance from the government in question that any prisoners will be treated humanely. For example, if we are holding someone wanted in Egypt, we should transfer him there. If he faces torture and execution for prior crimes in Egypt, so be it. Problem solved. Deporting wanted prisoners would get rid of some of them and keep them out of circulation. As for the rest, the Obama administration needs to decide exactly what to do with the rest before it closes Guantanamo. Let's not repeat the mistakes of the Bush administration and proceed in a haphazard fashion without thinking things out ahead of time.

HOT5 Daily 1/26/2009

1. "al-CrayolaIt's difficult to believe this is actually true, but it is. 

Representative Sample: What's the last thing that would come to mind when trying to devise a plan to rehabilitate potential mass murderers?

2. "Teleportation: A Cooler Word than "Quantum Entanglement," it Seems" New advances as science fiction starts to become reality.

Representative Sample: if we want faster, more powerful, computers: there's going to have to be a new technology. This could be it.

3. "Who cares?" Suicide bombing against a civilian bus in Somalia. Nobody particularly cares.

Representative Sample: That Hamas or any other Islamist group regularly uses civilians and civilian institutions as a cover for their actions doesn't seem to bother the Muslim world while shrieks of horror are also absent from the left and human rights groups.

4. "Tolerance in America"  Some good advice here for everyone, especially people who want intrude into things that are none of their business.

Representative Sample:  To do the right thing - and be tolerant and respectful of other people's rights to live how they want to - the only thing you have to do is settle back into your chair

5. "It's called 'projection'"  A quick rebuttal to a particularly silly Washington Post article.

Representative Sample: The media is so deeply infatuated with Obama, they imagine that Muslims must be, too

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

Sunday, January 25, 2009

HOT5 Daily 1/25/2009

1. "Obama Count-Not Even A WeekWhat has Obama done in his first week?

Representative Sample: Sent Robert Byrd and Ted Kennedy to the hospital (OK, not Barry’s fault, but, if Bush can be blamed for everything…..)

2. "Bipartisan Approach, Partisan Aims?" An argument that Obama's outreach to Republicans is a clever political tactic to advance Democratic objectives.

Representative Sample: Obama's meetings with Republicans might be surprising to Democrats who clearly have enough votes in both chambers to pass this bill without much Republican support.

3. "Things Christians Should Know Before Talking to an Atheist" A more militant atheist perspective than mine, but still some good points.

Representative Sample: Atheists do NOT hate your god. How can one hate something that does not exist? Do you hate leprechauns?

4. "Cultural Moderates and the Republican Coalition"  A good article about refocusing the GOP on principles which have wide appeal. Of course this type of argument immediately gets you called a RINO or liberal by the rabid Republican base.

Representative Sample:  Is it possible to be less than conservative on social issues and still be a part of the Republican coalition? Of course it is.

5. "Want to Help Stimulate the Economy? Here is a condom! "  I'm all for birth control, but this just illustrates the kind of garbage that's in the so-called stimulus package.

Representative Sample: Putting the public policy argument aside, what exactly does this stimulate?

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

Saturday, January 24, 2009

US Airstrikes in Pakistan & the CIA

When I saw this report, I immediately thought of Obama's new orders restricting CIA interrogations and shutting down secret prisons. What's the connection between striking targets in Pakistan and restrictions on the CIA? It illustrates, once again, the lack of logical reasoning demonstrated by Obama and by many of his supporters.

Air strikes, no matter how precise, carry a high risk of collateral damage. That is, they tend to kill innocent civilians. Even if they get their target, they often kill or main innocent victims. That's just a fact of life, and is true of many types of military operations. In addition, air strikes are usually highly visible events, that can't be easily concealed. When a U.S. strike kills innocent people it causes a great deal of anger and resentment. It undermines attempts to gain popular support in the area in question, and often produces criticism abroad. Sometimes, through bad intelligence or sheer accident, strikes kill the wrong people entirely, and don't even have the benefit of eliminating any actual targets. 

Obama, and some of his supporters, believe that air strikes such as those used in Pakistan, are a necessary part of the war against terror. They are willing to accept dead civilians, mistaken targets, maimed children, negative world opinion, increased hostility in parts of Afghanistan & Pakistan, and every other drawback that accompanies these air strikes. But the very same people who are fine with these air attacks, whine and snivel at the thought that a few terrorist suspects might be secretly mistreated in secret prisons, run by an intelligence organization operating in secret. They actually argue that the secret operations of the CIA need to be tightly restricted because the bad publicity is so damaging to U.S. counterterrorism efforts. We can't have an intelligence agency using questionable methods in secret.  Oh no, that undermines the very fabric of civilization. But airstrikes, the results of which can be seen on the news, well, they are no problem and should be continued. 

Unfortunately, neither military nor intelligence operations can be conducted according to neat legalistic rules that make everything clean and tidy. If you increase restrictions & constraints, you hamper operations; you don't make them more effective. I'm not sure why these concepts are so difficult for some to grasp.

HOT5 Daily 1/24/2009

1. "Right Wing Behavior--Perhaps its time to try something different?A good look at different conservative tactics.

Representative Sample: The Right has been flailing around, looking for a winning position on ANY issue.

2. ""Sentence First - Verdict Afterwards"" Another analysis of Obama's executive orders, particularly regarding Guantanamo.

Representative Sample: I don't know how we recover from such a catastrophic error in judgment, even if later President Obama eventually realizes what he's done

3. "ABORTION AND VIETNAM: The Twin Obsessions of the Left" I think this argument only applies to part of the left. But it contains some good points.

Representative Sample: On the surface these two issues don't appear connected at all. But I think they have more in common than you might imagine.

4. "Yes, He Did"  Prominent libertarian is very happy with Obama's first actions. 

Representative Sample:  Obama’s top priority upon taking office was to institute limits on his own power.

5. "Well, I feel safer"  Humorous, sarcastic look at Obama's first national security actions.

Representative Sample: thank you for doing the right thing to ensure our friends in Europe will like us again… it is a small price to pay to sacrifice our safety

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

Friday, January 23, 2009

More On Obama's First Big Mistakes

Over at Wizbang there is a post up that reflects much of what I was thinking when I wrote yesterday about President Obama's extremely foolish decision to cripple the CIA, by restricting it to military interrogation rules, and forcing the closure of secret detainment facilities. Kim Priestap writes

I guess we can take War on Terror off of the Wizbang category list as Barack Obama has determined that we should no longer aggressively pursue our enemies and has put an end to the War on Terror with his executive orders. He insists of course that counter terrorism efforts will continue, but they sound purely defensive. It sounds like he will respond after we are attacked instead of aggressively preventing an attack.
This is in reference to a Washington Post article that says straight out, "Bush's 'War' On Terror Comes to a Sudden End."  As Priestap says, "And to think I actually believed Obama wouldn't do anything rash regarding national security and our safety."

I was fooled also. One of the main reasons I opposed Obama for president, or any liberal Democrat for that matter, was that I believed he simply could not be trusted with national security. I thought his inexperience, his left-wing base of support, and many of his statements indicated that he had a naive view of foreign policy and national security affairs. After his election and some of his appointments, however, my opinion began to shift. It began to look more and more as if I'd been wrong about him, and that he would take a realistic, pragmatic approach and focus his misguided liberal idealism only on domestic policy. No such luck.

Almost everyone agrees that intelligence is critical in fighting terrorism. The U.S. is a large, open society with porous borders. We value our freedoms, and there is a limit on just how many internal security measures we are willing to tolerate. We can't defend everything. Individual terrorists and terrorist groups are difficult or nearly impossible to deter, especially if they are willing to commit suicide. The primary method of stopping terrorist attacks is to discover plots before they can be launched, and to disrupt terrorist networks in various ways. You don't do this by placing a bunch of simplistic restrictions on our main intelligence agency. You don't do it by listening to morons who think terrorists deserve Geneva Convention protections, or even the same rights as U.S. citizens. Most of those who hold those opinions are deluded fools who think the terrorist threat isn't really all that serious, or that unconventional conflicts can be fought according to precise rules and laws.

Intelligence gathering has always been a dirty business that operates outside normal rules and laws.  Intelligence agencies have to deal with counterparts abroad, and unsavory elements of all types. The very nature of what they are doing is often illegal. They cannot be constricted on the basis of what is and is not legal within the United States.  And again, they are not the same as the military and should not be tied to the same restrictions. The very notion that the CIA should have to use the exact same interrogation rules as the military makes no logical sense whatsoever. I'm not looking forward to the Obama administration's next moves. It appears that he is going to be just as weak on national security as many of us feared.

HOT5 1/23/2009

1. "Man – the Last 10,000 Years" A quick and humorous recap.

Representative Sample: 1000 – Inhabitants of the developed world run riot as Y1K bug strikes, wiping out crops and resetting sundials. The Jews are blamed.

2. "God never heals amputees, but science can, part 2" Teenager gets amazing prosthetic arm (with video). Raises questions about the power of prayer.

Representative Sample: You believe that your God heals cancer… why not amputated limbs as well?

3. "Very Interesting Russian "Soft Power" Strategic View" Russian strategic thoughts aimed at the U.S. How can Russia exploit what they view as U.S. weaknesses?

Representative Sample: Russia needs to formulate such a cultural project that, first, develops influence over American intellectuals, and secondly, leverages against the American political system that is out of balance, and split the American artistic and intellectual elite in power.

4. "Debacle in Swat - by Kamila Hayat"  A Pakistani reports on the fall of the Swat valley district to Islamist militants. Reign of terror takes hold.

Representative Sample: they have closed down hundreds of schools, run their own 'Shariah' courts in the area and execute people almost each day at a central square in Mingora.

5. "Unlikely Friends"  Canada, the Canadian Prime Minister and Obama. An opportunity for better cooperation?

Representative Sample: The Body Snatcher aura of watching scores of traditionally anti-American, leftwing Canadians rush to embrace an American president has been, to say the least, nervously fascinating

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

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Obama's First Big Mistakes

The New York Times reports that President Obama will issue executive orders that will not only close Guantanamo, as expected, but also shut down the CIA's secret prisons, and require the agency to use the same rules as the military for interrogation of terrorist suspects. Guantanamo is a complicated issue. I believe there are legitimate arguments that the existence of that facility does more harm than good. It's certainly a public relations nightmare at this point. Moving the prisoners to a different location and revamping the rules for how that type of suspect is handled, might not necessarily be bad things. So I'm not ready to consider closing Guantanamo a mistake yet. I think it depends on exactly how it is handled.

But the CIA prisons and CIA interrogations are far different matters. If the NYT report is correct, Obama's planned actions seem to indicate that he is either going to approach national security policy with a Jimmy Carter-like naivete, or that he has caved in to his left-wing base, despite the needs of national security. The CIA by its very nature is designed to operate in secret. Foreign intelligence agencies, to be effective, sometimes have to engage in borderline, dirty, and illegal actions outside our borders. The idea that there is something wrong with the CIA possessing secret interrogation facilities, is simply left-wing idiocy. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that the CIA has probably maintained some secret facilities for interrogating prisoners throughout its entire history. Why? Because it's an organization that operates secretly. I'm not sure why this basic bit of logic escapes those who are so horrified by these facilities. It is of course possible that Obama simply plans to publicly order their closure, so the government can pretend that they've all been closed, while the CIA continues to operate others in secret. I suspect (and hope) this might be the case, but we can only judge based on available information.

Then there is the ever-debated interrogation issue. I agree with strict rules for military interrogators, and disagree with how the Bush administration handled things. Utilizing borderline interrogation techniques within the military was a bad idea for all sorts of reasons, which I'm not going to recap here. But the CIA is not the military. It is a very different institution, which again, is designed to operate in secret. Spying on friends and allies alike, sometimes requires breaking laws, and doing things that we would not and should not ever permit from domestic law enforcement and other government agencies within the U.S. Restricting how the CIA can interrogate prisoners by tying them to the exact same rules as military interrogators is not only illogical, it is completely idiotic and potentially dangerous to national security. Obama appears to be off to a terrible start on the national security/intelligence front. Given most of his appointments, it appeared hopeful that he'd take a more pragmatic approach. But if reported correctly, these executive orders are a very bad sign. You just can't underestimate the utter cluelessness of the left when it comes to matters of national security. We can only hope Obama's executive orders will be mere public relations ploys, and that the government will permit the CIA to operate as necessary in secret. 

HOT5 Daily 1/22/2009

1. "Shooting Suspects in the Back is BadA minority view on the right about the border guard commutations. Not all of us think those two were some sort of persecuted heroes.

Representative Sample: I despise drug dealers as well. But the suspect's profession doesn't mitigate the decisions made by these two former officers, and in my opinion, they didn't deserve their commutations

2. "Obama’s First Act - Protect The Terrorists In GITMO" Terrorists? I thought they they were are all poor innocent victims of the evil Bush torture machine. I guess I've read too many left-wing blogs.

Representative Sample: Obama thinks he needs to appease the left wing nuts who think terrorists are just wayward people with a reasonable beef against America.

3. "CHINESE INDIAN ARMS RACE HEATS UP" How can this be? Don't they know that Obama was elected president? Where's the hope & change?

Representative Sample: the simultaneous rise of two nuclear superpowers is difficult in the best of times which these times are definitely not.

4. "Garrison Keillor Is An Ass"  Obama-worshipping Keillor thinks Obama is the first president to have been an author.

Representative Sample:  Hey moron, let's try Thomas Jefferson, to begin with. 1782. Notes On The State Of Virginia

5. "My “To Don’t” List for the Right"  What not to do. Good advice for the right, especially our nut wing -- if they'd only listen.  They won't.

Representative Sample: DON’T make it personal. We don’t need another Derangement Syndrome. We don’t need people doing things like emphasizing Obama’s middle name in a derogatory fashion.

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

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Smart Power Sounds Really Dumb

Joseph Nye, of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, has an article in today's LA Times called, "The U.S. can reclaim 'smart power.'" The article of course implies that the U.S. had "smart power," somehow lost it, and needs to get it back. Just what is this fabled smart power? Well, according to Nye

Smart power is the combination of hard and soft power. Soft power is the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than coercion or payments.
How's that for clarity? Professor Nye notes that polls show
a serious decline in American attractiveness in Europe, Latin America and, most dramatically, the Muslim world.
As you might expect from anyone who actually takes such polls seriously as a basis for U.S. policy, the article goes downhill from there. Here's one silly statement, a sentiment very popular on the left
over-responding to the provocations of extremists does us more damage than the terrorists ever could.
No, actually it doesn't. Anyone with the slightest idea about how much damage even a small nuclear explosion could inflict on the United States, knows Nye's assertion to be pure nonsense. Yet you will hear this sort of ridiculous claim all the time. Someone with his credentials should know better.

He argues that we need a new foreign policy premise instead of the war on terror. Maybe so, it's not like that's exactly a new idea. The war on terror concept has been criticized from various angles all across the political spectrum. But what is his answer? Wait for it. How about "providing for the global good." Yes, that sounds like a great plan, much more sophisticated than the simplistic war on terror stuff. Terrorism is bound to disappear if we just provide for the global good. Because after all, once terrorists see how much good we are doing, they'll repent of their evil ways and join the world community.

Smart power, for Nye, means

investing in global public goods, providing things people and governments of the world want but have not been able to get
Let's see if I have this straight. If we just stop using the military, and start spending tons of money on "the global public good," people around the world will love us and we'll be a lot more effective at fighting terrorism. If we do this we will be exercising Smart Power. If that's smart power, how about we go with dumb power instead.

HOT5 Daily 1/21/2009

1. "Dear President ObamaA good letter to Obama from the center-right. 

Representative Sample: All I ask in return is that you recognize me as a member of the noble, loyal opposition. I do not hate you. I disagree with you. We have different belief systems.

2. "Watching Obama become President" Watching the inauguration from one of the worst hellholes on earth.

Representative Sample: Tears came to my eyes when Obama mentioned in his speech, the countries struggling around the world. At one point he mentioned those who used ‘the fist’ to control and hang on to power.

3. "The Deed Is Done" An article that reflects the attitude of many conservatives.

Representative Sample: today does not mark anything other then the installing of our 44th President. It is what happens in the coming days and months that will determine which direction this country goes in.

4. "Ads that I like #73"  A look back to when "nuclear" & "Iran" in the same sentence was a good thing.

Representative Sample:  around the time that this advertisement appeared in the top atom fanciers glossies – Gerald Ford offered Iran the chance to buy and operate a US-built reprocessing facility

5. "America passes a milestone!"  No, it isn't about Obama.

Representative Sample: It’s a milestone. But to what end does this road lead us?

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

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The New Presidential Limo

I just flipped on the tv and saw the new presidential limo rolling slowly along. That thing is massive and impressive. Some critics have called it ugly, but it didn't strike me that way when I saw it. There's an article about it and some pictures here, with links to more articles.

The Crazy Right and Obama

I spend a fair amount of time ridiculing the left, particularly regarding their insane hatred of George W. Bush. As Bush passes from the scene, and with him (hopefully) Bush Derangement Syndrome, there are already those on the right exhibiting the same sort of unhinged hatred of Obama -- even though he's just now being inaugurated, and hasn't even done anything yet as president. Case in point, well-known nutcase Joseph Farah, founder of World Net Daily. In his endless quest to make the right look bad, Farah has a new column up called "Pray Obama Fails." When I saw this I thought, maybe it's just a sensational title for a critique of Obama's bad ideas, and a hope that his policies can be blocked.  Oh no, it's much more.

Farah's article starts out noting that

Many American Christians believe, as an article of faith, that we are to pray for the success of our leaders.
He then spends the rest of the column demolishing that notion.  Why? Because Obama is evil.  That's right. According to Farah, Obama wants to
change our country from one anchored on self-governance and constitutional republicanism to one based on the raw and unlimited power of the central state.
I guess I must have missed the "raw and unlimited" central state power part of Obama's platform. Farah argues that Christians should oppose this "evil campaign." What about non-Christians? No doubt to Farah we are already on board with evil anyway. 

Farah also says "Obama's agenda is 100 percent at odds with God's." Wow, that's a quite a statement right there.  A hundred percent?  What is God's agenda for U.S. presidents, anyway? I don't remember anything about that in the Bible. I guess that's why we need people like Joseph Farah to tell us. Farah then reminds everyone that the Bible doesn't say we have to support "evil rulers," and calls for "principled biblical resistance" -- whatever that is. So basically his article calls for all good people to resist the evil Obama and his evil plans.

Joseph Farah is a right-wing version of the same type of lunatic that has infested the left side of the spectrum for the last eight years. He can't just disagree with Obama's policies -- none of which have even been implemented yet -- he has to characterize the man and his motives as evil. Every rational person on the right side of the aisle who reads Farah's garbage should cringe at the thought that this guy is on our side. I hope there are others at much larger right-wing blogs than mine who have spoken or will speak out against this sort of idiocy.

HOT5 Daily 1/20/2009

1. "Barack Obama is No Abraham LincolnIn case you were wondering if he was. Interesting points of comparison.

Representative Sample: Lincoln’s view of government’s role, and Lincoln’s principles are a complete opposite of Barack Obama’s.

2. "I WILL MISS THE LEFT’S BUSH DERANGEMENT" I won't, but this is a great post.

Representative Sample: No more George Bush means no more daily dose of liberal derangement about him. And no more liberal derangement about Bush means I will have to find some other avenue that can match the sheer entertainment value of watching

3. "Say Good Night, Dick" Unintentionally hilarious left-wing post that illustrates what HOT5 Item #2 is talking about. Read for amusement only.  Includes good BDS illustration.

Representative Sample: what are your reflections on these last eight horrible years, as our wreck of a country struggles to emerge from the dark machinations of these malicious sociopaths?

4. "It's Official: War on Terror Is the Most Successful Military Campaign In US History"  Massive overstatement based on simplistic false comparisons. The wars aren't even over yet. How to take some good points and turn them into ridiculous exaggerations.

Representative Sample:  The War on Terror has been an amazing success not only in what has been accomplished but in what it has cost in lives.

5. "Why Did the Chicken Cross The Road? - 2009 Version"  22 Pretty funny variations.

Representative Sample: BARACK OBAMA: The chicken crossed the road because it was time for a change! The chicken wanted change!

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

Monday, January 19, 2009

Joining the Military for Money

There's an article in today's New York Times that looks at military recruiting and the impact of bad economic times.  According to the column,

The recession has provided a jolt for the Army, which hopes to decrease its roster of less qualified applicants in the coming year. It also has helped ease the job of recruiters who face one of the most stressful assignments in the military.
With the economy down and unemployment up, some people who ordinarily would not consider joining the military see it as a regular source of income and/or job training. The article gives some personal examples and statements from people who joined primarily because of financial reasons.

Bad economic times may be good for the military and its recruitment goals, but in my opinion joining the military for mainly financial reasons is a bad idea. I went to a military college, spent four years in Army ROTC, and was around numerous people who were either in the military or going in. In the course of that time, it became apparent to me that I was probably tempermentally unsuited for military service. For one thing I like to argue -- a lot, and I dislike following what I consider to be stupid bureaucratic rules -- the kind that permeate many large institutions and all government ones. I doubt I would have done well in the army. If you want to join the military, have some better reasons than needing a job, or you could have  a miserable time of it. And don't join thinking that you won't ever have to see combat, because you never know. The military needs people that want to be warriors, or to support warriors, not people who just want to collect a paycheck and stay safe.

HOT5 Daily 1/19/2009

1. "Possibly President Obama's first foreign policy challenge will come from..." What's going on with North Korea? What will Obama's criteria be for using military force?

Representative Sample: it's not nukes, but a sudden television appearance by a North Korean army spokesman threatening to annihilate the South:

2. "Bailed out banks: Screw you" What's going on with all that bailout money?

Representative Sample: the banks are taking taxpayers' money and thumbing their noses at the politicians who gave it to them

3. "Kennedy’s Healthcare" Points out that differences between liberals & conservatives on healthcare are not just utilitarian.

Representative Sample: Free, reduced, or “access” to healthcare at any cost is bad for freedom

4. "The GOP is asking "What do we do NOW?""  Four suggestions for the Republican party.

Representative Sample:  Republican leadership has got holes in the bucket that are leaking everywhere. So what do you do to stop the bleeding?

5. "Czarina Pelosi's Power Grab"  The concentration of power by Nancy Pelosi. 

Representative Sample: In the opening volleys of the 111th Congress, Pelosi has created her own personal fiefdom.

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

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Obama Says Nice Things about Bush

This should drive the Bush-hating leftwingers crazy.  Here's Obama:

“If you look at my statements throughout the campaign, I always thought he was a good guy" [AND]“I mean, I think personally he is a good man who loves his family and loves his country. And I think he made the best decisions that he could at times under some very difficult circumstances.”
Obama demonstrates yet again that he's far more rational than many of his supporters. He realizes that just because Bush was incompetent in many areas, that doesn't mean he acted out of bad motives, or is the type of evil monster he's portrayed as among much of the left.

h/t Ann Althouse

Should the U.S. Invest in Canadian Oil?

There was an interesting op-ed Saturday in Canada's National Post entitled, "U. S. needs Alberta's oil sands." According to the authors

For an investment of at least US$200-billion, the Americans, Asians or both could underpin projects that would guarantee the production of about four million barrels a day of non-OPEC oil from the oil sands.
They argue that the oil sands currently aren't viable with private investment, and need a large injection of government support. That sounds strangely familiar. Since the bulk of their oil production goes to the United States, they make a case that the U.S. should provide the needed investment.

I'm not sure of the exact details of the situation, and I'm inherently skeptical of any call for government investment in industry, let alone foreign industry. But if 200 to 300 billion or so could really guarantee us four million barrels a day from Canada, I'd rather spend the money there than on most of what is contained in the bloated, wasteful stimulus package, or on more bailouts. Naturally of course, it won't be an either/or situation, since increased spending never seems to be offset by spending cuts in other areas.

HOT5 Daily 1/18/2009

1. "Historectomy" Muslim historian defaces priceless historical documents.

Representative Sample: In all the cultures where Islam has become ascendant, the Muslim authorities have attempted to rewrite the history of the conquered land

2. "How Not To View Science" An excellent 10 minute video about science.

Representative Sample: video explaining how science can only be judged with supported evidence, not emotion or ignorance.

3. "Why is the left consumed with the end of ‘White America’?" Response to an article in the Atlantic called, “The End of White America?”

Representative Sample: White America is despised, mocked, attacked and even hated. The supposed reasons are unfounded, misguided

4. "What to remember before talking to Iran"  Good advice for Obama.

Representative Sample:  every U.S. administration since 1979 has reached out to Iran in one way or another

5. "The Art of WMDs"  Artistic photos of nuclear weapons and delivery systems. 

Representative Sample: if the fusion of art and war worked through the medium of rhythm and rhyme, why not extend it to say -- hauntingly beautiful photos of the US strategic arsenal?

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

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Nutcase Leftist Accuses Bush of Supporting Mugabe

I was skimming through left-wing blogs and came to D-Day, where I noticed a post entitled, "History's Greatest Monster: Bush authorizes arms shipments to Zimbabwe?" This is yet another prime example, as if we needed more, of the effect of BDS on logical reasoning. According to the nutcase blogger, "George Bush has apparently decided to embolden a dictator, and possibly strengthen him with arms, bringing to the world more evil and death." What is the basis for this seemingly insane allegation? Well, apparently arms are being smuggled to Zimbabwe from the Congo, according to a UN report. There is speculation that elements within the Congolese military may have sent some arms intended for the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to Zimbabwe. Bush signed a memo authorizing "defense articles and defense services" to the SADC. That's it. Yes, there's nothing else. So let's recap.

Arms are being smuggled into Zimbabwe from Congo. Some of the arms may be weapons intended for the SADC.  Bush authorizing any defense support for the SADC means that American weapons might be smuggled into Zimbabwe sometime in the future. Therefore Bush is an evil monster who has decided to provide support for Mugabe. Yes, that's right. It makes perfect sense if you are an unhinged leftist who thinks Bush is the source of all evil. Despite the fact that the U.S. most definitely does not support Mugabe in any way, and has been steadily calling for his removal, this moron equates speculation about possible future third party weapon smuggling, to support for the government of Zimbabwe. 

HOT5 Daily 1/17/2009

1. "Sri Lanka is beating the Tigers through military force, not negotiation." A recent example to keep in mind the next time some clown says insurgencies can't be defeated.

Representative Sample: For all those who argue that there’s no military solution for terrorism, we have two words: Sri Lanka.

2. "But in Theory..." Did waterboarding and other borderline techniques produce good intelligence? Opponents say no. This post examines their theory.

Representative Sample: physical observation appears to indicate that waterboarding, the putative "torture," in fact yielded reliable and even vital intelligence; but appearances can be deceiving. Theory proves this cannot be, so logic dictates we must throw out the observations as obviously flawed.

3. "Clausewitz, On War, Book I: War is a Buffet. Eat Up."A look at Clausewitz that's a lot more interesting that just reading On War by itself.

Representative Sample: War, subject to unequal distributions of power, passion, chance, and friction, offers a wide range of fare to the discriminating policy maker of taste.

4. "Soldier receives Aussie's first VC in 40 years"  Only the 97th Australian to ever receive it, an elite group.

Representative Sample:  awarded the top military honor in the British Commonwealth on Friday for risking his life to save a wounded interpreter and injured soldiers during an ambush in Afghanistan.

5. "Five Days Left, But the Hate Continues"  Yes, you'd think Bush was getting ready for a third term. 

Representative Sample: You've got to wonder when the left is going to give up its addiction to Bush hatred, and how they're going to cope with the fact that his presidency is over.

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

Friday, January 16, 2009

Why Paul Krugman Should Stick to Economics

Krugman has obvious credentials on economics, not least of which is a nobel prize. So no matter how much you disagree with him, he at least has to be taken seriously when he writes about economic issues. But as a political pundit, he's just another clueless leftist. Case in point, his latest column in yesterday's New York Times entitled, "Forgive and Forget?" Not suprisingly, Krugman echos the left-wing cry for political prosecutions aimed at the exiting Bush administration.  Is Krugman talking about the torture issue?  Oh no, there's much more. He's on board with the entire BDS spectrum.

 the Bush administration’s abuses extended from environmental policy to voting rights. And most of the abuses involved using the power of government to reward political friends and punish political enemies.
Apparently Krugman is unaware of the spoils system in politics. It's been with us since the founding of  the Republic.  We need to investigate the Bush administration for enivronmental policy?  Really?

Read Krugman's entire article if you want to see what passes for thinking among the irrational left.  It's a great example, and Krugman is much more coherent than most.  His entire argument can be boiled down as follows. Everything the Bush administration did that he disagrees with is either an actual violation of the Constitution, or a potential violation, and therefore needs to be investigated. If it isn't investigated, Obama will be allowing people to get away with crimes. And the next time another Republican administration is elected, more crimes will occur. Krugman only uses Republican examples, apparently completely oblivious to his own partisan hackery. 

Leftists like Krugman have been whining and sniveling throughout the Bush administration about the supposed destruction of the Constitution, and the irreparable damage that Bush was doing to the country.  Of course the Constitution provides a remedy for presidents who abuse their power.  It's called impeachment.  Democrats did not impeach Bush, even after they gained control of Congress.  Why? Because most rational people recognize that Bush's actions weren't anything like their ridiculous left-wing characterizations.  If Bush had really been grossly abusing his power, to the extent Krugman and others believe, he would have been impeached. In reality, the Bush administration, like many before him, did a number of things that could be interpreted as unconstitutional or illegal, but they operated close to the line. They always had a legal argument for what they were doing, no matter how flimsy. There was no single act flagrant enough to warrant impeachment. The left couldn't make an effective impeachment case against Bush when he was in power.  Now that he's out of power they want revenge, plain and simple.  

Hatred of Bush is what drives calls for investigations and prosecutions, not any desire for justice. The same imbeciles who make hysterical, exaggerated claims of the supposed damage Bush inflicted on the country, want to inflict actual permanent harm to our entire political system. They want to start a new tradition. Once the opposing party gains power, it immediately starts a series of investigations and prosecutions of the defeated administration. It should be obvious that this is a terrible idea. People like Krugman don't care.  They want their revenge for the supposed crimes, most of which are actually just policy differences. Look at Krugman's laundry list of things he thinks should be investigated.  If this tradition takes hold, I guarantee that any Republican administration will be able to come up with their own investigation list for any outgoing Democratic one.  Fortunately, it appears that Obama is a lot smarter than Krugman when it comes to politics.


HOT5 Daily 1/16/2009

1. "And Dana Priest Was Mysteriously Unavailable For Comment...." Where was all the outrage on the left when Clinton did some of the same things Bush was doing?

Representative Sample: look for all this to disappear down the memory hole as we call for show trials of the evil Bush administration for things the previous administrations all did when we were not at war.

2. "First Presidential Act in a Bad Economy?" If McCain had won and were doing the same, the usual suspects would be howling.

Representative Sample: There has been little outcry over the hefty price tag so far — unlike four years ago

3. "Entropa" Czech Republic commissions interesting new sculpture for the EU.

Representative Sample: The occasion: The Czech's turn as holder of the European Union "presidency". Not everyone is happy with the result.

4. "When client states lose their patron"  Iceland wants a new ally?

Representative Sample: During the Cold War, Iceland was a small but significant outpost of the North Atlantic Alliance. Occupying a key geographic location in the GIUK gap

5. "Disproportionate Response: By The Media, Protesters, Bloggers, Etc."  Why does Israel get so much negative attention? 

Representative Sample: OK, you are anti-Israel and you are reading this blog right now and you are saying to yourself, "What do you mean by giving Israel too much attention?" 

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

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Good Advice From Bob Woodward

Bob Woodward has an great article up in the Washington Post called, "10 Take Aways From the Bush Years." Unlike the BDS crowd, Woodward's criticisms of Bush have generally been harsh but fair.  In this article he offers ten lessons for the new president, based on Bush's failures. Most of his points should be required reading for any world leader, not just Obama.  For example, a couple of them deal with making sure your key advisors form a team, are all following the same gameplan, and that administration policy is clear and decisive.  This was one of Bush's worst failings.  As Woodward says,
Bush wound up with a team of back-stabbers with long-running, poisonous disagreements about foreign policy fundamentals.
A couple of other points essentially warn against the dangers of relying on yes-men and being unwilling to apply or allow healthy skepticism to your own policies. The entire article is excellent. I read through it nodding my head the whole way at how well Woodward nailed some of the key failings of the Bush presidency.

HOT5 Daily 1/15/2009

1. "More than three million dead" And more are still dying.

Representative Sample:I hadn’t realized the death toll was that high. Another estimate puts it at 5.4 million.

2. "Money, It’s a Crime: Ben Bernanke and the Bottomless Bailout" The never-ending bank bailout

Representative Sample: Isn’t this partly why so many of us were against the bailout, at least in principle, from the start?

3. "U.S. Military Warns Of Potential Sudden Collapse of Mexico" Mexico's stability is in question.  What should we do?

Representative Sample: I recommend we annex Mexico, after all, we annexed California, and look how well that has turned out

4. "The Body of a Greek God"  Interesting look at Greek religion and its perceptions of gods

Representative Sample:  Ancient and particularly archaiac Greek polytheism- which is really what we are talking about here- is a very different beast to modern religion.

5. "Left-wing fascism: an infantile disorder"  Differing UK leftist attitudes toward Israel. 

Representative Sample: it is encouraging to know that there at least remain some Marxists prepared to defend secular principles.

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

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

The Torture of Qahtani - Points to Consider

There is much comment throughout the blogosphere about Convening Authority of Military Commissions, Susan Crawford's conclusion that

the U.S. military tortured a Saudi national who allegedly planned to participate in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, interrogating him with techniques that included sustained isolation, sleep deprivation, nudity and prolonged exposure to cold, leaving him in a "life-threatening condition."
A much more extensive account of his interrogation was published in Time back in 2005.  Before commenting on this case, I believe these points should be kept in mind.

1. Qahtani was no mere suspect picked up on minimal evidence. Rather, the evidence is overwhelming that he was a direct participant in the 9/11 plot, and would have been the 20th hijacker. Even Judge Crawford agrees.

2. Qahtani was a possibly critical source of information in the aftermath of 9/11. Any judgment on how he was interrogated should be made with that in mind.

3. He was highly uncooperative while in custody, as the Time account illustrates.

4. Standard interrogation techniques were used first, then more coercive ones. According to Crawford, the overall long-term effect of the interrogation is what she considers torture -- not any particular individual techniques. That is an extremely subjective definition of torture. Using her definition, I could almost certainly make the case that a large percentage of our domestic prison population is being tortured.

5. The purpose of interrogation was to gain information needed to protect the country, not to convict Qahtani in court. The implications for later criminal prosecution were of far lesser concern than national security. They are now a problem, but protecting the U.S. outweighed those concerns at the time.

6. We will probably never know exactly how effective these techniques were and whether useful information was obtained -- unless we get specific examples that can be proven.  Those who supported their use will claim to have achieved results, those who opposed will say otherwise.

Was this a situation where the U.S. was justified in bending or possibly breaking its own laws in order to gain information vital to national security? I'm not sure. In my opinion this isn't a clearcut case like that of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, a known leader of Al Qaeda. On the one hand the evidence is overwhelming that Qahtani was part of the 9/11 plot. But on the other he wasn't a leader, or a member of the Al Qaeda inner circle.  What kind of information would we expect a terrorist foot soldier to have? What were we looking to extract, and was harsh treatment that can be construed as torture the most effective way to get it? I doubt those questions can or will be answered.

My heart doesn't bleed for this terrorist and his suffering while in U.S. custody. In my opinion, he should have stood trial at a military tribunal, and if & when convicted as part of the 9/11 conspiracy, he should have been executed. But this whole situation appears to be yet another illustration of the incompetent, haphazard fashion in which the Bush administration has handled almost everything. If the administration believed Qahtani had critical, time-sensitive information worth torturing him for, then they should have decided immediately to authorize extreme measures. The fact that they took their time, and gradually ramped up the pressure, indicates that they were just frustrated and fishing for information, rather than acting on pressing national security concerns.

HOT5 Daily 1/14/2009

1. "Does monetary policy still work?" Interesting analysis.

Representative Sample: if the government can identify good Keynesian policies, these can be funded without pushing up the interest rate on government securities

2. "Americans Abandon Christianity, Study Shows" Christianity in decline in the U.S.?

Representative Sample: More than half of Americans no longer consider Christianity as the nation's main religion while one in three Christians say "Jesus sinned while He was on earth," a new study claims.

3. "The Left’s Obsession With Guantanamo" A nice rant with some good points.

Representative Sample: I don’t think the Left wants justice. I think they want America to be hamstrung in a war they don’t believe exists.

4. "SWAT Team Takes Down a Pair of PS3 Gamers"  Their game got a little too realistic.

Representative Sample:  two gamer buddies were playing an unspecified PlayStation 3 title with the sound cranked up to 11.

5. "1759: The Tavora family"  Each blog post details an execution that happened on that day in history.

Representative Sample: The peers of the realm were summoned to witness their fellow blue-bloods so nauseatingly dispatched

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

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Stimulus Mania

Spurred by fear of disaster, fueled by panic within the government itself, we rushed to pass a massive financial bailout of highly dubious value. Almost everyone now agrees that it has numerous structural and oversight problems. For example, what are banks actually doing with the money they got? Who cares; let's just give them the other 350 billion. Now there is a rush to pass a stimulus package, based mainly on the notion that the government has to do something about the economy, and that it can actually help. Some already worry it won't be big enough -- the government needs to spend even more money. We call it a stimulus package, as if everyone agreed that it will really stimulate the economy. But that isn't the case. Many think it will be yet another example of wasteful government borrowing & spending, and a bloated pork project that will do more harm than good. Somewhat surprisingly, the Chicago Tribune has a good editorial up called, "The Stimulus Rush." As the editors point out
From the public debate on the need for fiscal stimulus, you would think the only open question is what form it should take. In fact, among economists, there is a good deal of uncertainty and doubt over whether fiscal policy holds much promise.
The article sounds a cautionary note for those who think we should just slap something together as fast as possible. They ask the new president to show
1) that fiscal stimulus has a good chance of paying off and 2) that the spending will be done wisely
Good ideas, but also highly unlikely. Much more likely is that a stimulus will be rammed through Congress backed by dire warnings of doom if it isn't passed. Anyone daring to object to the idea of a stimulus, or the economic theory behind it will simply be dismissed as a crank.

Olmert & Rice

There's been a fair amount of discussion in the blogosphere regarding this story.  To summarize, Israeli Prime Minister Olmert publicly bragged that he forced Condolezza Rice to abstain on the UN ceasefire resolution that she helped draft. He did so by going over her head directly to President Bush and convincing him to order Rice to abstain rather than vote in favor, as she had planned to do.

When I read this I thought it revealed three possible things about Olmert: A) he's an idiot, or B) he has terrible diplomatic skills, or C) he's an idiot with terrible diplomatic skills.  I'm not sure what he hopes to achieve by putting out this information.  If his story is true, it's the kind of thing you keep secret and later write about in your memoirs. Even if he has a personal vendetta against Rice, she'll be gone soon anyway.  Why the need to attack her now? By making his claims, Olmert gives credence to U.S. critics who believe that Israel has too much influence over U.S. foreign policy, and accomplishes nothing other than causing embarrassment to Israel's greatest ally and supporter -- in a time of major crisis no less. Maybe there is domestic Israeli political angle here that I'm missing, but I'm not sure what's so important that it could justify tweaking the nose of the U.S. government.

HOT5 Daily 1/13/2009

1. "The Limits of Soft Power" Why effective soft power requires plenty of hard power.

Representative Sample: With a finite industrial base, our capacity to rebuild hard power assets - especially in ships and aircraft - will take decades once it has been re-purposed

2. "Daniel Pipes: Israel's Strategic Incompetence in Gaza" Pipes' damning analysis of the Israeli leadership's strategic priorities and vision.

Representative Sample: Jerusalem's profound strategic incompetence continues and heightens the failed policies since 1993 that have eroded Israel's reputation, strategic advantage, and security.

3. "intelligent designer wanted, apply within" Some things to think about if you believe that life has an itelligent designer.

Representative Sample: Earth is one of countless planets orbiting trillions of trillions of stars scattered across tens of billions of light years. And that’s only as far as we can see

4. "Human Rights Maps (41): Global Peace Index" A "peace" map that demonstrates that peace can mean pretty much anything, depending on how you define it.

Representative Sample: The Global Peace Index, created by the Economist Intelligence Unit, is based on 24 indicators measuring peace inside and outside of a country.

5. "Obama Continues The 'Torture' Backpedaling" Obama leaving his options open?

Representative Sample: Obama will ban waterboarding specifically. Much more quietly he will allow other CIA "enhanced" techniques.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Oops, forgot about Al

Liberal blog Newshoggers has a short post up laughing at Joe the Plumber, and at the speculation that he'll run for the Ohio Senate GOP nomination in 2010. I agree that nominating him would be pretty silly.

Newshoggers then says that Joe's nomination would signify that

the descent into willful, proud and defiant Know Nothingism will be complete for the Republican Party

Yeah, this from the party that actually nominated a clown like Al Franken for Senate.  At least Joe the Plumber's nomination is only speculation.

The Tale of Ham & Izzy

Once upon a time there were two families who both claimed the same small piece of property. One was the Paul family, the other Jude. Their claims to this property were ancient, going back thousands of years. Ironically enough, for much of history, neither family owned the property. Richer, better-connected investors controlled the land and members of the two families lived there as tenants. 

About sixty years ago things changed. The property owner at the time was a rich real estate magnate named Britney. For various reasons, Britney decided to divest herself of the property, and to split it between the Paul and Jude families. This is where Izzy enters the picture. The Jude family accepted Britney's arrangement, and a young member of the family, Izzy, took possession of his slice of the property. But the Paul family rejected this situation outright. They claimed all of the property and were unwilling to tolerate Izzy as part-owner. The other neighbors backed the Paul family. Like the Pauls, the neighbors, especially Egbert, Sy, and Jordie, were strongly prejudiced against Izzy and didn't want him in the area. They and the Paul family initiated a violent property dispute with Izzy. But young Izzy was surprisingly resiliant. He turned the tables on everyone, and in the course of the dispute, he seized part of the property controlled by the Paul family. The rest of the Paul family property was grabbed by Egbert and Jordie.  Even though Egbert & Jordie supposedly supported the Paul family, they didn't trust them.

The Paul family couldn't get over this loss. They vowed vengeance on Izzy and refused to get on with their lives. In the meantime, Izzy did an amazing job improving his property, and making it the finest piece of land in the area, despite its small size. He won yet another property dispute with his neighbors. Then, nineteen years after he had first taken ownership, Izzy saw that all his neighbors were plotting against him yet again. He decided to strike first. This time he won a spectacular, lasting victory in the dispute. He took control of multiple adjoining properties, two of which are particularly relevant to this story. One was the West Riverfront section, taken from Jordie, and the other the G Block, formerly held by Egbert. The Paul family lived in these areas, so now the Pauls became unwilling tenants of Izzy.

The Pauls were horrible tenants for Izzy. They caused constant trouble and finally Izzy had enough. The biggest problems were on the West Riverfront section. Although he wouldn't release the section entirely, Izzy decided to let the Paul family run it, albeit with restrictions. The Pauls placed one of their members, Fatima, in charge. Some years went by and Izzy continued to have problems with the smaller G Block part of his holdings. The Paul family there was a constant source of irritation. So finally, just a few years ago, Izzy decide to try a simliar arrangement as with the West Riverfront. This is where Ham enters the story.

The Paul family couldn't agree on who should control G Block, but the G Block branch decided on Ham. Now Ham was a particularly obnoxious, violent member of the Paul family, who hated Izzy and the entire Jude family even more than most of the Pauls. So naturally Izzy decided that if Ham were going to run the G Block, there would have to be very tight restrictions and limitations. Ham of course found this intolerable. Rather than try to make the best of a bad situation, Ham decided on violence. His problem was that he didn't have any really effective weapons. But he found a solution. He came right up to the property line with Izzy's main land and started throwing rocks. All he had were small rocks and most of them missed. But a couple of them hit Izzy and stung him. Ham started digging for more rocks and found some heavier, more threatening ones. He also improved his strength so that he could reach Izzy from further away. And he hid his best rocks all through the G Block, so Izzy couldn't find them. Then one day he assembled a collection of his best rocks, moved up to the property line, and started raining rocks on Izzy. Izzy ducked and dodged and most of them missed, but one or two hit. Izzy decided he could take this no longer. At some point one of Ham's rocks would do serious damage. So Izzy pulled out his pistol and shot Ham.

Ham's now in the hospital in critical condition, and Izzy is searching the G Block. Despite the fact that Izzy clearly acted in self-defense, most people in the neighborhood and in other lands think Izzy should be arrested. They ignore Ham's actions, the entire history of the property, and blame the whole situation on Izzy. A minority support Izzy and think Ham got what he deserved, and feel that he's lucky to be alive at all. There is not yet an ending to this story.

HOT5 Daily 1/12/2009

1. "What is essential is invisible to the eye" A look at the tactical problems facing the Israeli Army and Hamas fighters.

Representative Sample: In the 64 odd years since the Second World War ended [the] nature of protective armor has changed from physical to information barriers.

2. "Ayn Rand’s "Atlas Shrugged": Novel or Prophecy?" Randian reality?

Representative Sample: the central themes of Ayn Rand’s massive book are playing out even now in Washington D.C. as an incompetent government hurries to create massive new legislative programs

3. "Search engines contribute to medicine" Pretty interesting.

Representative Sample: search algorithms used in digital communications can help scientists identify effective multi-drug combinations

4. "What we have become."  Reflections on the BART shooting that contains some good points, unfortunately.

Representative Sample:  By now, people also understand that there is a certain asymmetry to these situations. If you put your hand on a police officer, there will be dire consequences.

5. "The Madoff Scandal--Get Ready for More" How many more ponzi schemes are out there?

Representative Sample: I really think it could just be a matter of time here, before we see a few more Bernie Madoffs.

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