Sunday, May 31, 2009

Abortion Provider Killed in Kansas

By now everyone probably already knows that Dr. George Tiller, a doctor who provided controversial late-term abortions, was shot dead while in church. A suspect is in custody. According to CNN, Tiller was previously wounded by a radical pro-lifer back in 1993. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that whoever killed him is not an atheist.

I've been skimming through the blogosphere reaction. Predictably, many are already jumping to conclusions. Some on the left are trying to smear the right in general with the blame. Andrew Sullivan is actually trying to link Bill O'Reilly to the killing. I must have missed where O'Reilly called for Tiller to be murdered.  I guess if some whackjob ever kills a former Bush administration official we can blame Sullivan. On the right, at least in some comment sections, there is some disgusting celebration of the doctor's death -- along with sentiment that even if the murder was wrong, he had it coming. 

It's also worth noting that the same people constantly whining about "fearmongering" with regard to threats of terrorism, have suddenly changed their tune. Now they are worried about "the terrorist threat posed by religious right extremists." Spreading exaggerated fear is fine as long as it serves their political purposes.


Little Green Footballs has posted some evidence that the suspected killer was indeed an anti-abortion extremist. I know, big surprise.

Turks Hate Atheists More Than Jews

According to a new study which apparently asked Turks who they would or would not want as a neighbor, 75% said no to atheists. Tied with atheists are "people who drink alcohol." So basically if you are an atheist who drinks alcohol, you'd be a real pariah in Turkey. Jews were second in the most did not want as neighbors category, with 64% not wanting to live near them. 

The Uighurs Again

The Obama administration isn't willing to go along with the nutcases who think we should release Guantanamo prisoners into the U.S.  The administration
asked the U.S. Supreme Court Friday to reject a request for a hearing from 17 Chinese Muslims currently being held at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, arguing they have no right to come to America despite a district judge's orders

The whole idea of releasing them into the U.S. is completely insane. These people have been held prisoner by the U.S. for years. If they weren't enemies of our country before, they certainly now have a good reason to hold a grudge. Fortunately, it appears that the Obama administration is more responsible than many of its supporters. It is busy shopping the Uighurs to various countries, but finding no takers. 

There is a very simple solution to the Uighur problem. These individuals are wanted by China. We don't need to find another country to take them. Just send them to China. This is a win-win situation for the U.S. We get rid of them, and at the same time we are able to do a favor for China. Plus it costs us nothing. Problem solved.

More Apologies

This time from Japan. The Japanese ambassador to the U.S. apologized for the treatment of prisoners of war taken when they captured the Philippines during World War Two.
"We extend a heartfelt apology for our country having caused tremendous damage and suffering to many people including prisoners of war, those who have undergone tragic experiences in the Bataan peninsula the Corregidor Island, Philippines and other places,"
He was speaking to 73 survivors of the Bataan Death March. Maybe the veterans appreciated it, but I find these types of apologies for past events completely pointless. The current government of Japan bears little relation to the Imperial Japan of World War Two. Such apologies are unnecessary and meaningless.

HOT5 Daily 5/31/2009

1. "Staying on Message: Conservatives Should Play Offense, not Defense" Some good advice.

Representative Sample: the far Left continues to substitute insults for serious debate. They regularly accuse conservatives of hypocrisy, racism, homophobia, and indifference to the poor and unemployed. They ascribe selfish and venal motives to those who support limited government and maximized opportunity.

2. "Obama: Do As I Say, Not As I Do"  An interesting perspective on the Sotomayor nomination.

Representative Sample: With the nomination of John Roberts, Senator Obama clearly stakes out is position favoring judicial activism. He said that in 95% of the cases following the Constitution is fine. The other 5% of the time judges should feel free to re-write the constitution.

3. "Beheading and crucifixion in contemporary legal practice" Sometimes barbaric Saudi practices actually serve a useful purpose.

Representative Sample: In Canada, when a man molests and murders a child our intellectual superiors explain we are all to blame. The offender is then either i) sent off to be rehabilitated and granted tenure in a social science program

4. "What Is It That Former Russian Communists Understand That American Liberals Do Not?" Article in Pravda sees the U.S. going Marxist.

Representative Sample:This commentary in Pravda, the former official newspaper of the Soviet Communist Party has the leftward slide in the U.S. nailed!

5. "What past President does Obama most closely resemble?" Easy question.

Representative Sample:This essay provides some haunting similarities between Obama and one of our more interesting presidents, one whose election reveals much about how modern America differs from our past.

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

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Death Toll in Sri Lanka

According to the latest reports
MORE than 20,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final throes of the Sri Lankan civil war, most as a result of government shelling, an investigation by The Times has revealed.
Essentially the Sri Lankan army just blasted its way to victory with little regard for civilian casualties. Since the Tamil Tigers were mixed in with the civilian population, there wasn't really any way to distinguish between civilians and combatants. Interestingly enough, despite complaints by humanitarian organizations and some western governments,
Sri Lanka was cleared of any wrongdoing by the UN Human Rights Council after winning the backing of countries including China, Egypt, India and Cuba.
What are the chances of a similar verdict from the UN investigation of Israel's Gaza operation. which killed far fewer civilians?

HOT5 Daily 5/30/2009

1. "How Faddish Leftism Kills: Part 2,658,893" Stupidity over genetically-modified food.

Representative Sample: In the developed world the anti-GM hysteria is nothing more than an effete affectation of upper income pseudo-intellectuals who use expensive, hand grown foods as status-generating conspicuous consumption. It does little harm and possibly some good in separating miseducated fools from their money 

2. "Only Nixon could go to China: Reconsidering “Why Obama Foreign Policy Scares Me”’"  It would be even scarier if it wasn't overshadowed by his far worse domestic policies.

Representative Sample:While it’s naturally too early to draw final conclusions, the initial result of Obama’s “sustained, direct, and aggressive diplomacy” (whatever that means) has been just as much a failure as a student of International Relations 101 would expect. Peace through strength is still important, and human nature still applies in the 21st century.

3. "Epicurus' World" Most important finding of modern science? It's roots in ancient Greece.

Representative Sample: Atomic theory is now so well-established, and so widely accepted, that it's easy to forget how controversial a notion it originally was. In fact, atomism was once synonymous with atheism, and it was the bête noire of Western religion not just for centuries, but for millennia.

4. "Obama Holds Israeli Helicopters and Weapons Integration Hostage, Benefiting Hamas and Putting Civilians at Risk" Spineless talk with our enemies and sanctions on our allies, that's Obama foreign policy.

Representative Sample: In a move that a cynic might note may be designed to save their $900 million investment in Hamas, the Obama Administration has stepped in to block the sale of six Apache helicopters to Israel and also stopped the integration of the Spike missile system with the Apache's millimeter wave radar.

5. "The Hidden Finances of Insurgency" Where does the money come from?

Representative Sample: I’ve been openly skeptical of the claim that opium cultivation in an of itself is “driving” the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. For one, it assumes a direction of causation that is merely stated and never argued; for another, it creates the impression that, if only there were no opium, neither would there be a Taliban.

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

Friday, May 29, 2009

Christian Science Monitor Agrees With Me?

This has got to be a first. A few days ago in my post on the North Korean situation, I said that we should make the North Koreans understand, in no uncertain terms, that we would utterly annihilate their country should they misuse their  nuclear weapons. Amazingly enough, it appears that the editorial board of the Christian Science Monitor agrees with me.  
It would be hard to imagine President Obama ever standing only a few feet from the North Korean border and warning its leaders that if they ever used nuclear weapons, "it would be the end of their country."
That's what president Clinton told them back in 1993, and the Monitor argues that Obama needs to do the same.
Tough talk against an enemy is sometimes needed simply to reassure America's allies that the US will live up to its defense promises. Those commitments include its unique role to provide nuclear deterrence, or promised retaliation, if an ally is attacked.
I rarely agree with the Monitor on foreign policy, but this is an excellent article.

Moderate Muslims vs. Extremists

Back in March in the UK, Muslim extremists protested a parade by British soldiers returned from Iraq. But today twelve of them who preach from a stall in Luton, England were confronted by an angry mob of a couple hundred fellow Muslims who want them to leave town.
Farasat Latif, of the Islamic Centre in Luton, which was firebombed after the protest against the soldiers, said moderate members of his community took action because police had failed to move the group on.
According to the article, the Muslim community there is fed up with the extremist fringe. The radicals have attracted retaliation from anti-Muslim groups, and ordinary Muslim residents are caught in the middle.  Latif said,
'I don't know if they will be back. We have been the victims twice over - from the stupidity of Muslim extremists who metaphorically pour petrol and fan the flames of the right wing extremists.

'This was a peaceful demonstration and we hope they get the message that the law-abiding community is sick and tired of them.'

The Benefits of Being Rich & Powerful

I don't know how many Americans are following the Silvio Berlusconi scandal, so I thought I'd put up a post about it. Apparently the Italian prime minister, who has had a long history of womanizing, has been involved with a 17 year-old (now 18) model. He's 72. That was the final straw for his wife, who is now divorcing him. The whole thing is a big political scandal in Italy, and opposition leaders are attacking him. But surprisingly he's still pretty popular. I doubt any U.S. president could get away with nearly this much. 

Today the Telegraph put up a slide-show of the top 10 women Berlusconi has been involved with. Here's number 3. 

It's good to be the prime minister and richest man in Italy.

HOT5 Daily 5/29/2009

1. "5 reasons why this North Korean crisis is no groundhog's day" Why this crisis is different.

Representative Sample: it’s worth considering how the playing field has shifted (I see five ways that it has), and how this may create a different set of possibilities for the United States and our allies

2. "Lies, damned lies, and Catholics."  Forgery & Christianity.

Representative Sample: There is a precedent for accepting forged documents in Christianity, though, possibly the largest and most profitable fraud in all history. It post-dates the Bible, but still stands as a perfect example of how inconvenient truths can be ignored for the sake of the Church’s “greater good”

3. "Climate activism and the thrilling possibility for totalitarianism" Even those of us on the right that don't deny climate change worry about this.

Representative Sample: why we are so emotional in our objection to climate-change hysteria in the press, it is because we suspect that leftists around the world secretly welcome global warming because its mitigation can justify virtually any regulation or intervention.

4. "the skeptic’s checklist of internet woo" A useful 7 point checklist for spotting pseudo-science.

Representative Sample: One of the best things about the web is how easily and quickly it can disseminate good information to almost every corner of the world. As long as you have electricity, a phone line and a computer, you have access to an enormous wealth of great science and sound facts. But the same ability to educate and inform can be used to promote pseudoscience, quackery and wild conspiracy theories.

5. "Good News: Blasphemy Still Illegal in Netherlands" Lots of freedom, except when it comes to offending Muslims.

Representative Sample: The Netherlands: where you can smoke pot and nail Eastern European whores, but you still can't blaspheme Allah without fear of a jail sentence.

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

Thursday, May 28, 2009

"Proof" that God Exists

Well, I guess we atheists are just going to have to convert. It was fun while it lasted. Some guy who has "extensive education in science, engineering, psychology, music and theology"has proven the existence of God. put out a press release touting his arguments called, "Conclusive Scientific Proof That God Exists And The Bible Is True." And it's not just one proof of God's existence, it's "10 conclusive areas of scientific proof." Because you know if you call something "scientific," it must be so.

But there is also good news. Pastafarians rejoice! He has also proven the existence of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

his proofs are “conclusive” because there are no scientifically provable arguments that can disprove them.
That's all the proof we need. Try to disprove the FSM with science. Can't do it can you? Therefore he exists.

Torture Works in Britain

It seems that many criminals just don't understand that torture doesn't work-- as many torture opponents claim.  In Britain today, three robbers demanded that a homeowner tell them where he kept his money. When he refused they began utilizing proven non-coercive interrogation methods to win his confidence. Just kidding. Actually they tied him up and poured boiling water on him. They left with a "large amount of cash." Torture can be a fast and efficient means of extracting accurate information. Who knew? Only pretty much every criminal violent enough to employ it.

Before the next "expert" pontificates about the ineffectiveness of torture, he might want to take a look at the crime reports and interview a few criminals and their victims.

What's the Point?

Karl Rove has an editorial up at the Wall Street Journal regarding the Sotomayor pick.  Although he admits that she'll probably be confirmed, Rove says that Republicans can "win the argument by making a clear case against the judicial activism she represents." I find that highly unlikely. Everyone already knows that Republicans are against "judicial activism." It's far more likely that the weak Republican leadership we have in Congress will just  manage to look bad if they attack Sotomayor. I'm not sure why Rove thinks the current GOP has the skill and ability to turn a defeat into some sort of victory. This appears to be a no win situation for the Republican party.

No doubt political operatives are busy poring over every word she wrote, and searching for dirt that could derail the nomination. But in my opinion the whole thing is pointless from a Republican perspective. Why start a fight you can't win? President Obama is a liberal Democrat with a Democratic majority in Congress. He's going to nominate liberals to the court. That's a consequence of the election. There is very little the GOP can do about it, especially since he picked an obviously qualified candidate. Even if something comes up that disqualifies Sotomayor, we are just going to get another liberal nominee, possibly someone even worse.

Right now the GOP should be working relentlessly to build alliances with moderate and conservative Democrats to generate effective opposition to the president's domestic agenda. Picking a losing fight against a Supreme Court nominee -- who is replacing a liberal member of the court anyway -- is useless and possibly counterproductive.

HOT5 Daily 5/28/2009

1. "The Future of Iraq, Part II" Detailed article from one of the best reporters covering the Middle East. Read part I also.

Representative Sample: Adhamiyah is mostly Sunni. It was a stronghold of support for Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party regime. More recently, it was a stronghold for Al Qaeda in Iraq. Not until Al Qaeda thoroughly ravaged the place did local residents decide the Americans were the lesser of evils.

2. "Iran Threat ‘Increased Substantially’"  No need to worry. Obama will give them a good talking-to.

Representative Sample: the threat to the United States has “increased substantially” with the recent launch by Iran of a small satellite and the launch last week of a mid-range ballistic missile.

3. "Ten Newly-Discovered Species - Including Bacteria in Hairspray" Hmm, I wonder how God created bacteria that live only in hairspray -- since there was no hairspray around during creation. I'm sure creationists have a good explanation.

Representative Sample: If you look hard enough, you can find just about anything. This year, scientists found caffeine-less coffee plants, tiny seahorses and a 23-inch long bug that looks like a branch, not to mention a strange white slug no one had ever described

4. "What Kind of Conservative ARE YOU??"Amusing quiz for conservatives. I got "Free Marketeer."

Representative Sample: It's a quiz.

5. "The Crimes of the Future" New technology, new ways to commit crimes.

Representative Sample: One of the long time dreams of any criminal is the ability to become invisible. After all, it’s much easier to commit a crime if people can’t see you committing it or, if they do notice the crime, can’t identify the perpetrator. Lucky for criminals, scientists at UC Berkeley are working on an honest-to-Harry-Potter invisibility cloak

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

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Double Standards & Hypocrisy

Left-wingers are attacking conservatives like Newt Gingrich and Tom Tancredo for calling Judge Sotomeyer a racist. The racist charge is based on this statement:

"I would hope that a wise Latina woman with the richness of her experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a white male who hasn't lived that life,"
Her defenders point out that the statement was part of a larger speech, and has been taken out of context. Here's the full speech. Take a look. It definitely doesn't look as bad in context.

Let's pretend that the judge was a white man and he said the following, in similar context.  

"I would hope that a wise white man with the richness of his experience would more often than not reach a better conclusion than a Latina woman who hasn't lived that life,"
The very same people who are now screaming and howling about the evil Republicans taking quotes out of context, would instead be foaming at the mouth with accusations of racism. They would insist that such a statement was incredibly offensive and racist, and disqualified the speaker not just from the Supreme Court, but any public office. Since when have left-wingers ever considered the context before accusing political opponents of racism? Many of them just assume that conservatives are racists. Look at the past presidential campaign and the numerous ludicrous accusations of racism leveled against anyone who dared criticize or make fun of Barack Obama. The left is the last group that should be lecturing anyone about false accusations of racism. 

Left Attempts to Make Another Term Meaningless

Not long after writing a post in which I noted that certain words and phrases have lost any real meaning, and serve only as indicators about the people using them, I happened across this article at Open Left. Annoyed by pundits on the right decrying "identity politics"in the choice of Judge Sotomeyer, Chris Bowers wants to redefine the phrase by applying it to things conservatives are doing -- none of which have any relation to the long-understood definition of the term. Here's the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy's entry on identity politics.
The laden phrase “identity politics” has come to signify a wide range of political activity and theorizing founded in the shared experiences of injustice of members of certain social groups. Rather than organizing solely around belief systems, programmatic manifestoes, or party affiliation, identity political formations typically aim to secure the political freedom of a specific constituency marginalized within its larger context. Members of that constituency assert or reclaim ways of understanding their distinctiveness that challenge dominant oppressive characterizations, with the goal of greater self-determination.
And here is Bower's idea of what he thinks constitutes identity politics.
"America is a Christian nation." Arguing that American government should be largely based on a particular religious identity is identity politics. 

"Democrats are socialists." Calling an opposing political party "socialists," when even the left-wing of that party is proposing directing only 3% more of the economy to public social spending, is pure identity politics rather than a charge with any intellectual merit. 

"Marriage is between a man and a woman." Given that marriage has taken on numerous forms throughout history, and still takes on numerous forms throughout the world today, this is not an actual historical argument but instead one based on identity preferences. 

Mocking people because of what they eat, including arugula, is pure identity politics. 

Calling America "the greatest nation on earth" is also pure identity politics. If such claims were simply quantitative, ie that America has the largest economy, or the largest military, that would be one thing. However, abstract claims about qualitative "greatness" are entirely subjective and identity based. 

"Traditional values." Oh yeah, that's identity politics, rather than a historical re-enactment.

None of those things have anything to do with identity politics, and some fall clearly into other well-known categories. For example, making fun of people eating arugula is a form of populism. Bowers is attempting to destroy the meaning of "identity politics" by pretending that it encompasses pretty much anything. If just about any political expression can be labeled as identity politics, the term becomes utterly meaningless.

A Word About "Fearmongering"

The word "fearmongering" has seen wide usage among political commentators, particularly those on the left. It's one of those terms that I call a "red-flag indicator." Red flag indicators have little meaning themselves, but often tell you quite a bit about the person using them. Frequently, seeing such an indicator means you can stop reading, because what follows will be nothing but nonsense. For example, use of the words "moonbat" or "wingnut" tells you that the speaker/writer is well on the right or left respectively, and probably preaching to his own particular choir. Even words that used to have specific meaning, such as "neoconservative," are now virtually meaningless because of overuse & improper use, and now serve only as red flag indicators. There are all sorts of these types of words in political speech.

So what does serious use of the word "fearmongering" indicate? Generally it tends to reveal that the person using it is guilty of "stupidity-mongering," or "intellectual dishonesty-mongering." Almost everything labeled as "fearmongering" is simply reasonable concern over things that people are reasonably concerned about. Characterizing such concerns, or calls to take precautions as "fearmongering," indicates a lack of common sense or outright stupidity in some cases. People disagree about the severity of threats, especially ones which are difficult to quantify. But on public policy issues, looking at worst case scenario possibilities is just basic common sense. Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. That's rational policy. 

Now it is true that threats are often politicized and used as a weapon against opponents. This is where the intellectual dishonesty element comes in. Scaring voters is a time-honored political tactic. How many campaigns are there in which one side doesn't say that if their opponent is elected, or the opposition is put/left in charge, things are headed for disaster? This tactic is used at all levels of politics and by all parties. The left & others who assert that the right is guilty of "fearmongering,"are nothing more than intellectually dishonest hypocrites. They are quite willing to scare voters on any issue where they think it will help their side.

The next time you see someone actually use the word "fearmongering" as if it were meant to be taken seriously, ask yourself this. Are they stupid, intellectually dishonest, or both?

HOT5 Daily 5/27/2009

1. "Trying the Same Thing Repeatedly With North Korea Expecting Different Results" Sums it up.

Representative Sample: Some say the definition of insanity is to try the same thing repeatedly expecting different results. That just about sums up the cumulative foreign policy of the last three administrations on dealing with North Korea.

2. "We Need Unpredictability"  Obama scares no one -- well, except fellow Americans worried about his policies.

Representative Sample: there is something missing from most discussions of Bush’s and Obama’s foreign policies: the element of unpredictability. Because Bush launched two invasions in his first term, America’s enemies were never sure that his willingness to engage in foreign adventures was depleted.

3. "GM unveils new Obama-inspired O-Car." Pretty good.

Representative Sample: GM, under the guidance of car czar Ed Begley Jr. unveiled a prototype of the new Obama Car or O-car, an automobile designed by GM (Government Motors) with input from ACORN, labor unions, and the Santa Cruz Women's Study department.

4. "How to Talk to a Liberal If You Really Want to Change His Mind" Useful tips.

Representative Sample: Be aware, though, that, with liberals, personal insults don't stop with the actual person (or his mother). For liberals, the political is personal. This means that liberals will take it as a personal insult, not only if you call them morons, but also if you call their leaders morons.

5. "Survey Says: One in Twelve Gamers Addicted" Depending on how addiction is defined, I could see that number being even higher.

Representative Sample: Problem gamers identified by the researchers were more prone to being socially isolated, at increased risk of depression and more likely to engage in compulsive behavior. Most seemed to play four or more hours per day and preferred MMOs like World of Warcraft. 

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

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

The Sotomayer Supreme Court Pick

Obviously since President Obama was doing the picking, almost anyone he appointed to the Supreme Court was going to be very liberal. The main question was just how bad the pick would be. CNN has a factsheet up on Judge Sotomayer, so you can see for yourself.

In my opinion the GOP should not fight this nomination, bad as it is. They can't stop it, unless some damaging information about Sotomayer emerges, and just it isn't worth the effort. Sotomayer is obviously qualified, and she's replacing another liberal justice. Republicans should just grimace and accept that she's going to be on the Supreme Court. The GOP needs to pick fights it has a chance to win.

What Will Japan Do?

That's one question that should be asked following North Korea's successful nuclear test. There was one interesting story in the aftermath that largely passed under the radar. A member of Japan's governing Liberal Democratic Party is advocating significant changes to the country's military policy.
“North Korea poses a serious and realistic threat to Japan,” former defense chief Gen Nakatani said today in Tokyo at a meeting of Liberal Democratic Party officials. “We must look at active missile defense such as attacking an enemy’s territory and bases.”
Japan has kept a low profile militarily since World War Two, partially because of its constitution, but also because it has focused on economic development and trade under the aegis of U.S. military protection. But here you have a prominent legislator and former defense chief, calling for the country to seriously consider launching preemptive strikes.

Most analysts agree that China is the only country with significant influence over North Korea. It maintains the North as a client state as a counterbalance to South Korea, a U.S. ally. It is unlikely that North Korea could have developed nuclear weapons if the Chinese had seriously opposed it. But China is playing a dangerous game. Does it really want to force Japan's hand? Would a militarily stronger Japan willing to carry out preemptive strikes on potential enemies be in China's best interests?

HOT5 Daily 5/26/2009

1. "How Sex Sells the Loss of Freedom"The left, in favor of sexual freedom, against most other types.

Representative Sample: Only in the area of sexuality does the Left demonstrate a pronounced and consistent preference for individual decision-making. Why? I think it merely a matter of individual and group self-interest.

2. "TIME TO CRANK UP THAT DIPLOMACY !"  Yeah, let's make more deals with rogue regimes. We can trust them.

Representative Sample: More diplomacy, please, since it is working so well with these regimes. (/sarcasm).

3. "Portugal: A Case Study in Drug Decriminalization" It appears to be better than drug criminalization.

Representative Sample:How has that worked out for Portugal? (Keep in mind, about 1 out of 4 people in jail right now in the US are imprisoned for nonviolent drug charges.

4. "Obama: The First Black Jimmy Carter" Hmm. As of now, I'd say better than Carter on foreign policy, but even worse on domestic.

Representative Sample: Obama simply can not talk his way out of the laws of economics. When he forecasts doubling our nations debt over the next 8 year, an addition $10 trillion, there is simply no way to get out from under that massive of a debt, other than monetizing the debt

5. "Why Gitmo isn’t the problem, but the solution" Why keeping them there is better than keeping them here. I know, you'd think that might be obvious.

Representative Sample: Any holding facility for radical Islamic terrorists on American soil would be a target and a potential “rescue mission” for which al Qaeda or its like would delightedly create dozens or hundreds of new “martyrs” from among their own ranks.

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

Monday, May 25, 2009

North Korea as a Nuclear Power

North Korea, a country ruled by a dictator who makes the Iranian mullahs look reasonable & responsible, successfully carried out a nuclear weapons test. President Obama called it "a legal violation that warranted action by the international community." I'm laughing at that, so you can imagine what the North Koreans think. Wouldn't it be nice if North Korea's acquisition of nuclear weapons shocked our naive, appeasement-oriented foreign policy establishment into reality? Maybe they might realize that simply holding talks with hostile dictators, offering them concessions, imposing some minor sanctions, and blathering about international law just aren't effective measures. Maybe they might wake up and understand that countries working on nuclear weapons are going to use negotiations to delay any interference with their program until it's too late to stop it. Maybe they might even realize that offering any concessions, or types of aid to such countries is completely insane. But no, that won't happen.

The same clowns who support such measures will just conclude that we need to talk more, make more concessions, and give more aid. They will learn absolutely nothing.

So what now? Well, for one thing, be glad if you don't live in South Korea or anywhere else within easy reach of North Korea. The U.S. has very few options. We aren't going to launch a preemptive strike against a nuclear power, even if we were prepared to -- which is unlikely. After pretending that we could somehow talk North Korea out of obtaining nuclear weapons, let's not start pretending that we can talk them into giving up the weapons they are now building. It isn't going to happen. The only negotiations the U.S. should conduct with North Korea should be in the form of clear, unmistakable threats. One thing communist dictators do understand is the threat of overwhelming force against which they have no defense. Something like this:

Congratulations on becoming a nuclear power. You succeeded despite our best diplomatic efforts to persuade you otherwise. Take a look at this map. As you can see it's a map of your country. What do all those circles and x's mean you ask? Well, that's what I'm here to talk to you about. The president recently authorized the retargeting of a number of our nuclear deterrence assets. That map shows one possible strike pattern. As you can see we've allotted enough warheads to pretty much kill every man woman and child in North Korea. Actually, we have some extra ones targeted on you also just in case. I'm not here to negotiate, but to give you fair warning that if any North Korean nuclear weapons are used against the U.S., either by North Korea or through a third party, we will respond with massive retaliation. We also reserve the right to respond on behalf of U.S. allies. Have a nice day.

In Honor of Memorial Day

Below is the Medal of Honor citation for First Lieutenant John J. Tominac, won during WW2 action in France. I've read many of the MOH citations from our various wars,and among numerous amazing feats of courage, this one is my particular favorite. If most people saw Lt. Tominac's actions portrayed in a movie, they'd think it was a wildly unrealistic Hollywood production, and couldn't possibly be true. Who jumps onto a burning abandoned tank rolling downhill, and effectively uses a machinegun to force the enemy -- including an armored vehicle -- to withdraw, and then jumps off before the tank blows up? Lt. Tominac, that's who. And that's only one part of the citation. 
in an attack on Saulx de Vesoul, France 1st Lt. Tominac charged alone over 50 yards of exposed terrain onto an enemy roadblock to dispatch a 3-man crew of German machine gunners with a single burst from his Thompson machinegun after smashing the enemy outpost, he led 1 of his squads in the annihilation of a second hostile group defended by mortar, machinegun automatic pistol, rifle and grenade fire, killing about 30 of the enemy. Reaching the suburbs of the town, he advanced 50 yards ahead of his men to reconnoiter a third enemy position which commanded the road with a 77-mm. SP gun supported by infantry elements. The SP gun opened fire on his supporting tank, setting it afire with a direct hit. A fragment from the same shell painfully wounded 1st Lt. Tominac in the shoulder, knocking him to the ground. As the crew abandoned the M-4 tank, which was rolling down hill toward the enemy, 1st Lt. Tominac picked himself up and jumped onto the hull of the burning vehicle. Despite withering enemy machinegun, mortar, pistol, and sniper fire, which was ricocheting off the hull and turret of the M-4, 1st Lt. Tominac climbed to the turret and gripped the 50-caliber antiaircraft machinegun. Plainly silhouetted against the sky, painfully wounded, and with the tank burning beneath his feet, he directed bursts of machinegun fire on the roadblock, the SP gun, and the supporting German infantrymen, and forced the enemy to withdraw from his prepared position. Jumping off the tank before it exploded, 1st Lt. Tominac refused evacuation despite his painful wound. Calling upon a sergeant to extract the shell fragments from his shoulder with a pocketknife, he continued to direct the assault, led his squad in a hand grenade attack against a fortified position occupied by 32 of the enemy armed with machineguns, machine pistols, and rifles, and compelled them to surrender. His outstanding heroism and exemplary leadership resulted in the destruction of 4 successive enemy defensive positions, surrender of a vital sector of the city Saulx de Vesoul, and the death or capture of at least 60 of the enemy.
Unlike many Medal of Honor winners, John Tominac not only survived that particular action, but he survived the war. He remained in the army and went on to serve in Korea and Vietnam, retiring as a full colonel. He died in 1998, and is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

HOT5 Daily 5/25/2009

1. "Remember the meaning of the day" Memorial Day means even more to some.

Representative Sample: It's a photo.

2. "The Latest "Man-Made Disaster""  Minimizing the threat of terrorism is popular in some quarters. Let's hope we continue to catch plots before they take place.

Representative Sample: This Islamic terror enemy is real. They are here. FBI Director Robert Mueller said that he opposes bringing Guantanamo Bay detainees to U.S. prisons because of widespread Islamic radicalization happening in our jails, which also breeds terrorism that is financed and run out of them.

3. "Anti-Atheist Bigotry: Still Socially Acceptable in America" But atheists who object to being demonized are "angry." A response to an earlier piece by Charlotte Allen in the LA Times.

Representative Sample: Saying "I can't stand atheists...because they're crashing bores" is akin to saying "I can't stand blacks...because they're lazy." In both cases, we see false statements applied in generalized fashion to all members of the groups.

4. "Government and the new religion" An interesting perspective on the government as a form of religion.

Representative Sample: the structure of the priests, the warriors and the laiety is still seen in our interventionist state which promotes the idea of esoteric knowledge at the top passed down to the plebians. The common folk are expected to have faith in the wisdom of the liberal priests.

5. "Sword of Freedom: USS Toledo Embark, Part One" A closer look at Los Angeles class attack submarines.

Representative Sample: Unseen and unheralded, the U.S. Navy’s roughly 50 nuclear attack submarines comprise the silent vanguard of our conventional naval power at sea. While speedy corvettes, shallow-water transports and aviation-capable amphibious ships are vital for exploiting the peace — that is, building new alliances and exporting security abroad — submarines are the most important ships for keeping the peace 

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Sunday, May 24, 2009

Colin Powell Pretends He's Still A Republican

Colin Powell was on tv today claiming that he hasn't left the GOP. Here are a couple of his comments.
"Rush will not get his wish and Mr. Cheney was misinformed. I am still a Republican," Powell said, noting that he "voted solidly for Republican candidates" for president for 20 years, spent 10 years of his life serving in Republican administrations and spoke at two GOP conventions.
That's great. We already know he was a Republican.
"You know, neither (Cheney) nor Rush Limbaugh are members of the membership committee of the Republican Party. I get to make my decision on that," Powell said. "And so I will continue to work in a way that I think is helpful to the country and helpful to the party."
Sure, no one can physically expel him from the party. He's free to retain his Republican registration and vote Democratic, other than in restricted primaries. No doubt it's real helpful to the party to have prominent members supporting Democrats for president. Most people Republicans don't think backing Democrats is beneficial to the country-- otherwise we'd just join the Democratic party.
He said the reason he endorsed Barack Obama for president last fall -- a decision that prompted a wave of conservative discontent with Powell -- was he believed Obama was "best-qualified" to lead.

Yeah right. In what universe is Obama better qualified than John McCain? There's all kinds of reasons Powell could have given for supporting Obama, but that's the best he can come up with? And if you are the type of person who simply chooses to support whoever you think is the best person regardless of party, what does that make you? That's right, an independent.  

Colin Powell wants to have it both ways. He wants to support Obama and his policies, criticize the GOP constantly, and yet still claim he's a Republican. What are the chances that Powell will support the GOP nominee in 2012? I'm guessing slim to none. He should have the decency to change his registration to independent or Democrat, and stop calling himself a Republican. I agree with his comments that the GOP should be a big tent, moderate and inclusive. But that message is meaningless & counterproductive coming from Powell. All it does is cause the party base to ask -- rightly -- why they should listen to someone who supports Obama. If Powell actually wanted to help the GOP he'd shut up and keep a low profile.

Echoes of the Past

Britain and Spain had a recent clash over Gibraltar, which has been a British possession since the War of the Spanish Succession, ended by the Treaty of Utrecht in 1713.

ROYAL Navy warships have again clashed with Spanish vessels trying to invade British waters in a tense stand-off, it emerged yesterday.

Spain claims possession of the territorial waters around Gibralatar, and apparently the EU has exacerbated the situation by "moves to hand responsibility for the environment around the Rock to Spain."

It's just bizarre to see an naval confrontation between Britain and Spain in 2009. 

HOT5 Daily 5/24/2009

1. "To preserve and continue civilization" All too true.

Representative Sample:Todays western world when faced with danger from the barbarians, does not head out there with guns drawn and blades gleaming in the sun to meet the barbarian. We are taught otherwise. We close our doors, we call someone, who will then call someone else to tell them that we are about to get invaded, violated and pillaged; they may call someone else if they are too busy

2. ""Mr. Libertarian" P.J. O'Rourke discusses what exactly constitutes Torture"  Excerpts & links to the full O'Rourke article.

Representative Sample:Mistreatment of al Qaeda members and their friends and hangers-on is something I number among my moral concerns. But it's number 1,000,000,001.

3. "Crush your enemies. Drive them before you. Hear the lamentation of their women." How Sri Lanka defeated the Tamil Tigers.

Representative Sample: Ignore the "international community".

4. "Friday Photo: Don't mess with Belarus" What the?? Who  came up with this activity?

Representative Sample: It's a graphic.

5. "More on Varyag + news from Brazil" For those who haven't noticed what China has been up to lately.

Representative Sample: the important part is that Jobim is going to China this fall to basically finalize a deal that will allow Chinese naval pilots to train from Sao Paulo.

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

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Torture Works Yet Again

Ronald Christian was sentenced to 107 years yesterday for torturing & killing another man in Alaska. Among other things, Christian wanted the victim's PIN numbers for his ATM and bank cards. Apparently unaware that torture doesn't work -- as many torture opponents like to pretend -- Christian tortured the victim for information before he killed him.
After the slaying, Christian used the victim's credit and debit cards to get money through an ATM, buy gasoline and shop at Wal-Mart and other places
It sounds like he might have gotten some accurate information on those PIN numbers. I know I'm beating this to death -- no pun intended -- but nonsense about torture not working is repeated time and time again. It may be painful for some to admit, but torture can be quite effective at extracting accurate information -- especially when that information is specific and verifiable.

Follow-up on Evil Atheist Regimes Argument

After I posted about it yesterday, I did some further thinking and something occurred to me. If you are a theist who wants to make that argument, weak as it is, why bring Hitler into it at all? Someone is bound to point out that he wasn't actually an atheist. Making an obviously false assertion right up front isn't a good way to convince anyone.

Are the horrors of Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot & other communist regimes just not bad enough without adding Hitler? I mean, depending on how you calculate, Stalin & Mao each have Hitler beat in sheer numbers of people killed. So the next time you trot out the evil atheist regimes show how bad atheism is argument, why not just leave Hitler out of it? That way we atheists can focus on demolishing your main thesis.

HOT5 Daily 5/23/2099


Representative Sample:The former CIA officials want Americans to understand that the terrorists were water boarded to get intelligence as quickly as possible to stop further attacks from happening. One former CIA official summarized, “there were emergency circumstances, post 9-11. There was no time to build a relationship.”

2. "Atheism, science and the lack of obligation"  Some good observations about what atheism doesn't mean.

Representative Sample: beyond implying the rejection of religious creation stories, atheism does not provide further guidance as to what to think about the manner in which the universe came in to being. Unlike the vast majority of religions, atheism isn’t a belief system. 

3. "Liberty University Plays Censorship The Lefty Way" Left upset that the shoe is now on the other foot.

Representative Sample: only now is this an issue of interest to the liberal and faux moderate blogosphere. Conservative student groups — including those at public universities — have been targeted for years for harassment, theft, vandalism, and other forms of discrimination. The reasons for the abuse has consistently been the dissent of those conservative groups from liberal ideological hegemony

4. "Far Right Repulsed Center In Purity Wars - Self Destructed GOP" Examining the results of a recent Pew Research study.

Representative Sample: Way to go true conservatives. You did for conservatism what Clinton did to liberal Democrat control of the Congress. Pat yourselves on the back!

5. "Is Cheney winning the debate for the GOP?" I wouldn't go that far. But he's holding his own.

Representative Sample: Who would have thought Cheney would be good for the GOP? This new development comes weeks after GOP leaders and strategist said that too much Cheney was disastrous for the GOP. 

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

Friday, May 22, 2009

Most Irritating Attack on Atheism?

Hugh Kramer at LA Atheism Examiner lays out what he considers "The single most aggravating argument against atheism." His top pick is that "Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot were atheists, therefore atheism is responsible for mass murder." That's definitely a good one, but I have a different choice. For me the single dumbest, most annoying attack is that atheism requires just as much faith as believing in God. Even though refusing to believe in something you see no evidence for takes zero faith, you will see this argument from theists all the time. How can you reason with people who don't even understand the meaning of the word "faith"?

Morality & Torture

Laurence Vance has an article up at called, "The Morality of Torture," in which, among other things, he asks questions of those who support torture. Since I strongly support torture as an option for known terrorist leaders, I thought I'd answer some of his questions. [numbers are mine]

If it is morally permissible to torture a suspected terrorist in an attempt to gain information that may save American lives, then:
[1]Is it morally permissible to torture a suspected terrorist who is a child in an attempt to gain information that may save American lives? If not, then why not?
[2]Is it morally permissible to torture a suspected terrorist who is a woman in an attempt to gain information that may save American lives? If not, then why not?
[3]Is it morally permissible to torture by any means a suspected terrorist in an attempt to gain information that may save American lives? If not, then why not?
[4]Is it morally permissible to torture a suspected terrorist even if it results in his permanent disability in an attempt to gain information that may save American lives? If not, then why not?
[5]Is it morally permissible to torture a suspected terrorist even if it results in his death in an attempt to gain information that may save American lives? If not, then why not?

[6]Is it morally permissible to do any of the above if it may save just one American life? If not, then why not?

My answers: 2-6 yes. 1, probably not. We recognize that children aren't held responsible for their actions in the same way as adults.  Subjecting a child to extremely harsh treatment like torture is a different matter than doing so to an adult.

Vance continues:

what about torturing American citizens who might know about American lives being in jeopardy? Is it morally permissible to torture a suspected terrorist who is an American in an attempt to gain information that may save American lives? If not, then why not?
No. American citizens have Constitutional rights which should not be violated by their own government. Hostile alien terrorists have/should have no rights. They are a different category by definition. Vance goes on to pose more extreme questions about torturing Americans citizens. All can easily be answered by the same statement I gave above.
I don’t think that many Americans who say that torture is justified under certain circumstances if it may save American lives really believe what they are saying.
He might want to rethink that. Some of us have very specific, well-thought out reasons why we feel torture is sometimes justifiable. And I guarantee him that we believe what we are saying. Vance then unveils the huge strawman that is often used by torture opponents.
If you really want to get a terrorist to talk, there are ways to do it without laying a finger on him. Here is one: Take his wife and son and, in front of him, rape her, crush the boy’s testicles, and sodomize them both. That will get him talking more than anything you could ever do to him. If the end is gaining information that may save American lives, then why not?

Why not? Because we make a distinction between the guilty and the innocent. Torturing a known terrorist is not morally equivalent to torturing the innocent. His argument is not only a strawman but illogical. No one supporting torture of terrorists is making an unrestricted utility argument. We can argue in favor of imprisoning criminals because it deters crime. That doesn't mean we have to support imprisoning their innocent relatives too, because it would deter crime even more. All arguments favoring torture are restricted in scope. 

And how credible is information obtained via torture?

That's a different topic, which I've covered extensively before. Information is information. It can be good or bad.

even if credible information could be obtained through torture, it is still immoral, barbaric, and un-American.

It's not immoral. See how that works? He says it's immoral; I say it isn't. Questions of morality are based on opinion. How about barbaric? Sure. So what? War in general is barbaric. How about un-American? Nonsense. Torture has been used at various times throughout American history and will be used again. Many things that go on within our own prison system could be characterized as torture. There's nothing un-American about it. The rest of his article is basically an ad-hominem against anyone who disagrees with him or his foreign policy views, so it can safely be ignored.

U.S. Ship Saved From Pirates

There was another piracy incident today involving a U.S. merchant ship, this time in the Gulf of Aden. Fortunately, three Canadian naval helicopters, along with an Italian one, intervened. The pirates were forced to surrender and taken prisoner by the Italians. Hopefully they won't just be released.

Ideally the helicopters would have just sunk the pirate boat. Apparently it fired an RPG at another merchant ship, so it was clearly identified as a pirate. If NATO naval forces would simply start sinking pirate boats caught in the act, the pirate problem would quickly diminish. Captured pirates should of course be hanged, but I know we're just too civilized to do that anymore. We'd rather release them, provide them with unwarranted legal "rights," or even allow them to sue their captors. But in any case, U.S. thanks are in order to Canada and Italy for their intervention and protection of an American vessel.

HOT5 Daily 5/22/2009

1. "Cheney Wins" More on the Cheney speech.

Representative Sample: Dick Cheney, grown-up, speaks with force and clarity at the American Enterprise Institute.

2. "NOT SOCIALISM: GANGSTERISM"  A more appropriate characterization of the Obama administration?

Representative Sample: What Obama is doing is much, much different and on a scale that makes Bush look like a presidential power grabbing piker. The incredible amount of debt he is piling up has a purpose; to ensure federal intervention in the economy for the foreseeable future.

3. "New Chick Tracts" This type of Christian propaganda has been around since I was little. Here's the latest.

Representative Sample: Links to the actual tracts.

4. "Death by technology" What do current cuts in certain defense programs mean for the future?

Representative Sample: Gates, the supposed visionary of irregular warfare, is now making the past's mistakes once again: He is assuming that today's combat challenges -- think IEDs in Iraq circa 2006 -- will also be tomorrow's threats.

5. "Lindsey Graham, Loser" Another good response to Graham's libertarian-bashing.

Representative Sample: It's not just that the free market, limited government, social tolerance voters (a swing vote that accounts for up to 20% of the electorate) deserves more respect from the Republican Party - it does - but that Lindsey Graham and many other Republicans don't seem to realize the position of weakness they are in.

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

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Dick Cheney's Big Speech

I've been a harsh critic of Dick Cheney, and am on record as wishing he would shut up and go away. But after this latest speech, my opinion is changing. I strongly endorse much of what he said. These are things that need to be said by a prominent national politician willing to stand up and say them, rather than just minor anonymous bloggers like myself. How we protect the country is more important than politics. If Cheney is the only one willing to put himself out there, then so be it.

Having said that, I have a couple significant points of disagreement with the speech. Rather than cheer the parts I liked, I'll focus on the weak spots. Although not part of the speech itself, my first thought was: why didn't we hear speeches like this when the Bush administration was in power? Where were the point-by-point detailed rebuttals of attacks then? Why did it take until 2009 for Dick Cheney to effectively defend the policies of his administration? But on to the specifics of the speech. Referring to the release of interrogation memos, Cheney said,
somehow, when the soul-searching was done and the veil was lifted on the policies of the Bush administration, the public was given less than half the truth. The released memos were carefully redacted to leave out references to what our government learned through the methods in question. Other memos, laying out specific terrorist plots that were averted, apparently were not even considered for release. For reasons the administration has yet to explain, they believe the public has a right to know the method of the questions, but not the content of the answers.
With little regard for national security, the Obama administration released only memos which cast the Bush administration in a bad light. Cheney rightly objects to this blatant political hatchet job, but his remedy is ill-considered. If you are going to argue that releasing classified memos damaged national security, it doesn't make sense to ask for the release of still more memos, even if those memos support your position. By doing so, Cheney puts the justification of his policies above national security -- just as Obama did.

The former vice president also said,
The administration seems to pride itself on searching for some kind of middle ground in policies addressing terrorism. They may take comfort in hearing disagreement from opposite ends of the spectrum. If liberals are unhappy about some decisions, and conservatives are unhappy about other decisions, then it may seem to them that the President is on the path of sensible compromise. But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed.
This is a nice soundbite, but it's fundamentally illogical. There is always a middle ground. The Bush administration position itself was a middle position between those on the right who would have taken much more aggressive measures against terrorism, and everyone to the left. The middle may shift to the left or right, but it always exists.

Finally we come to one of my strongest disagreements with Cheney over the issue of torture.
Torture was never permitted, and the methods were given careful legal review before they were approved. Interrogators had authoritative guidance on the line between toughness and torture, and they knew to stay on the right side of it.
I absolutely despise this weasel-like argument even though I understand why he made it. In my opinion, a defense of Bush administration interrogation policy should not rest on legalism or hair-splitting definitions of what is or is not torture. The rest of his speech already made the case for why extreme measures were necessary for individuals like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. I know it will never happen, and I said this about Bush also. But what Cheney should have said was,
If you want to call it torture, call it torture. We ordered it because given the circumstances and our best analysis of the situation, it was necessary to extract intelligence critical to protect the United States. A terrorist like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed is entitled to no rights or legal consideration, especially during wartime. I wouldn't hesitate to order waterboarding again. And if waterboarding hadn't worked, I would have considered stronger measures.

Obama & Kerry, Eager to Hand Money to Pakistan

Not content with spending enormous amounts of taxpayer money here at home, the Obama administration is determined to give billions to Pakistan with minimal strings attached. Congress isn't so sure, but the Congressional effort to cave in to Pakistani demands is led by none other than John Kerry. Despite the fact that many Democrats and Republicans alike want tough conditions on Pakistani aid, Kerry doesn't.

Former Presidential candidate John Kerry is leading the effort to dilute the benchmarks in the bill, arguing that make it too tough or rigid will not allow Washington to achieve its goals. But the House leadership is insistent that Pakistan has to be called to account and there should be no free lunches, as promised by President Obama.
Handing more money to Pakistan should not be one of our goals. Even with conditions, the odds are that Pakistan will find a way to misuse the funds. Ed Royce, Republican from California, spoke in favor of exercising some basic common sense.
"For far too long, Pakistan has taken US assistance with one hand, while undoing US efforts to bring stability to Afghanistan with the other. For far too long, Pakistan has been receiving US aid to fight terrorism, while keeping its army aimed at India. This legislation lays down an important principle -- that Pakistani actions will have consequences
If we are going to give $7.5 billion to Pakistan at any time, let alone in the current economic climate, is it really too much too ask that the country be forced to meet certain benchmarks & conditions? Instead of kowtowing to Pakistani objections, the U.S. should have given them a firm take it or leave it

The Bronx Bomb Plot

By now everyone probably knows about the arrest of four men who planned to blow up New York synagogues and shoot down military planes. Fortunately the FBI was on the job and caught them in a sting operation. Unfortunately the existence of such a plot is not particularly surprising. The July 7, 2005 London bombings were carried out by home-grown terrorists. There will likely be other plots. Radical Islam, terrorism, and hatred of Jews all go together. As the NYC police commissioner noted,
“They stated that they wanted to commit jihad. They were disturbed about what was happening in Afghanistan and Pakistan, that Muslims were being killed. They were making statements that Jews were killed in this attack and that would be all right — that sort of thing.”
I'd be interested to know if the FBI learned of this plot through the surveillance of mosques -- something that has been controversial. It shouldn't be. It's too bad that peaceful Muslim Americans have to suffer increased scrutiny because of radical terrorist-supporters and actual terrorists, but that's just the way it is.

HOT5 Daily 5/21/2009

1. "The six biggest myths currently confusing policymakers" Some good analysis.

Representative Sample: Solving the Israeli-Palestinian issue is the key to Middle East peace.

2. "A little Military motivation"  Entertaining motivational posters.

Representative Sample: It's a series of graphics.

3. "Shafer Parker, Answered" Answering another attack on atheists.

Representative Sample: Atheists are not "certain" that there is/are no god(s), we recognize that there is absolutely no evidence for the existence of said and live our lives as though there were no god(s) up there (or down there or under there) watching us on some celestial CCTV.

4. "On War #305: The Future is Now" If you don't have enough to worry about, read this.

Representative Sample: In their collective hubris, modern people seem to have forgotten what the plague did. It brought down a whole civilization, the Middle Ages

5. "Why Fewer Murder Cases Get Solved These Days" Examines an interesting study.

Representative Sample: Another finding of note is that, not surprisingly, media coverage can be a double-edged sword. It can focus attention on a particular case but also flood local police departments with so many phone calls regarding alleged leads that legitimate leads prove harder to find and pursue.

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

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Catholic Child-Abuse in Ireland

Ireland's Commission to Inquire Into Child Abuse just released a report after nine years of study focused on "Catholic-run institutions." The results are highly disturbing and a massive indictment of of the church schools.
priests and nuns terrorized thousands of boys and girls in workhouse-style schools for decades - and government inspectors failed to stop the chronic beatings, rapes and humiliation.
Despite the endemic abuse, the people who participated in it will escape any punishment.
findings will not be used for criminal prosecutions - in part because the Christian Brothers successfully sued the commission in 2004 to keep the identities of all of its members, dead or alive, unnamed in the report.
The Vatican had no comment.

Republicans Tend to Support Republicans

Unless you are Colin Powell.  Speaking last night, Powell said,

"Rush Limbaugh says, 'Get out of the Republican Party.' Dick Cheney says, 'He's already out.' I may be out of their version of the Republican Party, but there's another version of the Republican Party waiting to emerge once again," Powell told the crowd.
I hate to tell Colin Powell, but "their version" of the party is the actual Republican party. I guess the imaginary version "waiting to emerge" is the one where prominent party members endorse liberal Democrats for president, and then support them over their own party.

Colin Powell planted a knife the back of the GOP by publicly throwing his support behind Barack Obama. Yet somehow Cheney and Limbaugh are the bad guys for pointing that out. And it wasn't just during the election. Here was Powell referring to the president,

Obama [is]"a transformational figure" who "brings a fresh set of eyes, a fresh set of ideas" at a time the nation urgently needs them. "He has met the standard of being president," he said.
Yeah, Powell really sounds like a Republican doesn't he? Here's a little tip for the general. If you want to been seen as a Republican, how about working within the party, supporting GOP policies, and dropping the sycophantic Obama worship? The reason other Republicans no longer see you as a Republican, is because you voluntarily abandoned the party at its worst hour to join the other side.

The Iqbal Case

The New York Times has an op-ed today bemoaning the Supreme Court's ruling in the case of Javaid Iqbal, a Pakistani citizen. The court threw out his lawsuit against the former attorney general and the FBI director. Iqbal alleges that he was mistreated while in custody.

Unlike what the Times thinks, the court acted correctly. Iqbal is not a U.S. citizen and was arrested after 9/11 on immigration charges. He was also suspected of terrorist ties. He actually pled guilty to some fairly minor offenses and was deported. Iqbal is no innocent victim. He's an admitted criminal alien. Such individuals should have no right to file any lawsuits at all in the U.S., let alone ridiculous suits against high government officials. I guess we don't have enough lawsuits being filed by U.S. citizens. We need to import some from Pakistani criminals.

The Times says,

When people with legitimate claims cannot get a hearing, the whole system of American justice is diminished.
Except that Iqbal doesn't have a legitimate claim. If he did, he would have filed his lawsuit against the people who supposedly mistreated him. What diminishes the American system of justice is allowing it to be used as a weapon against the U.S. by criminal aliens. This case should have been thrown out by the first judge who heard it. The legal travesty here is that such a frivolous suit made it all the way to the Supreme Court.

HOT5 Daily 5/20/2009

1. "Why a “Palestinian Sate” has never happened and never will" Let's hope not.

Representative Sample : the entire peace process — including the two-state solution — is a chimera. Neither side can live with what the other can offer. But if it is a fiction, it is a fiction that serves U.S. purposes.

2. "The GOP needs libertarians more than libertarians need the GOP right now"  Good luck getting the base to recognize this.

Representative Sample: Once the Republican Party gained control of Congress, libertarians and the goals of the Republican Revolution were simultaneously flushed down the commode of win-at-all-costs politics.

3. "Faithist Memes, Religious Privilege, Victimization, and Bad Arguments" Five weak theist arguments you will hear repeatedly.

Representative Sample: According to the followers of this meme, by challenging their points, it’s offending their beliefs. Thus, they’re the victims. So, obviously, they should just have their way and that way no one will be offended!

4. "The rise of private policing in the U.S." Unlike the postion of the post, which is negative, this could be either good or bad, depending on how it is handled. It's not as if public policing is exactly abuse-free.

Representative Sample: some cities are actually pushing to give private security forces the power of arrest. What transparent union-busting. These cities don't want to pay pensions and benefits to real police officers, so they're falling back on disposable rent-a-cops.

5. "Kinder, Gentler GWOT" A good response to an interesting New Republic article.

Representative Sample: Wow. Howbout that New Republic. So Bush was justified by prior precedent all along, and his policies have been legitimized by Obama’s adoption of them.

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

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Left-wing Nonsense about Torture and Iraq

Assorted left-wing blogs are pushing a conspiracy-theory that the Bush administration was torturing terrorists in order to create a false link between Iraq and Al Qaeda. Their child-like attachment to this fantasy isn't at all surprising. Left-wingers have long pretended that Bush pushed a link between Saddam and Al Qaeda, and that this was a major part of how the administration "deceived" the public into supporting the Iraq War. The huge list of actual reasons for war wasn't enough. But leaving that aside, this latest theory is if anything even more illogical -- and that's saying a lot when we are talking about the left. 

Obviously the Bush administration was interested in possible connections between Al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein. There would be no reason not to question prisoners about that issue. And yes, if such a connection could have been established, it would have greatly strengthened the Bush case against Iraq. Left-wingers look at that, jump on a few unsubstantiated allegations, combine them with their intense belief that the Bush administration was pure evil, and come up with a conspiracy theory. But there's one slight problem: no such connection between Saddam & Al Qaeda was established. Were the conspiracy theory actually true, the Bush administration could easily have created a strong Saddam-Al Qaeda link. Even the most clueless left-wingers know that torture is quite effective at forcing confessions. If the Bush administration were the evil entity the left thinks that is was -- a so-called "torture regime," it could have tortured confessions of an Al Qaeda-Iraq link out of plenty of prisoners. It could have used those statements as proof of a connection, and actually (rather than in the minds of leftists) sold the war against Iraq as a war against Al Qaeda too.

But of course that didn't happen. The Bush administration did not torture false confessions of a Saddam-Al Qaeda link from prisoners. It didn't happen because U.S. interrogations were done in order to extract information thought necessary to protect the country. Most rational people understand that, whether they agree with the interrogation methods or not. But much of the left is completely irrational when it comes to anything involving the Bush administration, and has been for years.

Why I am Pro-Choice

Abortion has been in the news again lately, with the controversy surrounding the president's speech at Notre Dame, and the Gallup poll indicating a public opinion shift toward the pro-life position. It occurred to me that I've never written about why I hold a pro-choice position.

My views on abortion have nothing to do with Roe vs. Wade. In that decision the court found an imaginary right based on the non-existent right to privacy. In my opinion there is clearly no right to abortion in the Constitution, and the only reason it is a Constitutional right today is because of government fiat. So why do I support it anyway?

My position on abortion went from being pro-life with certain exceptions, to pro-choice under limited circumstances, to fully pro-choice -- a position that I've now held for a long time. My shift from pro-life to a limited pro-choice position was a gradual change over a number of years. Basically I came to believe that there is a certain point at which a baby becomes a baby. In my view it was obvious that a fertilized egg was not a baby -- it was a fertilized egg and could be aborted with no moral problem. On the other hand, a baby in the womb one hour from being born was clearly a baby. Killing a late term baby, let alone a partial-birth abortion, looked a lot like infanticide. So for years I felt that early term abortions should be permitted, late term abortions should be prohibited, and middle term situations were debatable either way. But then my thinking took a radical shift.

Rather than just focusing on the baby, I began thinking, what if I were pregnant woman? Once I started looking at it from that angle, I realized that the rights of two people were at stake: the woman's and the baby. But the baby, even a fully-formed viable baby, existed inside the woman. Why should the rights of an unborn baby take precedence over of the rights of the mother, a person that contained the baby within her own body? I could no longer accept the idea that the state should determine what a woman could do with something inside her own body -- even if that something was another human being. It's not that I hadn't heard this argument before. But I had just rejected it out of hand, since I wasn't looking at it that way. But once my viewpoint shifted, my opinion changed to what it is today -- that a woman should have the ultimate decision over what happens to her unborn baby. 

Even though I am strongly pro-choice, to the point that I would support a woman's right to kill her late term unborn baby (and unlike some, I recognize that she's doing exactly that), I don't agree with it in many cases. I think it is clearly immoral to abort a late-term baby without a very good reason, and the decision is morally questionable in many situations other than an early abortion. But ultimately I think that should be the woman's decision to make and live with.


Crippling the CIA

The Washington Post reports that CIA officials are expressing concerns about the conditions under which they now have to operate.  That's not surprising, since we are currently seeing a major effort to cripple the CIA, similar in some ways to the Church Committee back in the 1970s. Most of the people attacking the CIA, and imposing new restrictions on its activities, either don't understand or don't care that the secret arm of the organization exists to carry out illegal activities. As the article notes, "senior CIA officials" are
questioning whether agency personnel can conduct interrogations effectively under rules set out for the U.S. military
It should be obvious that the CIA differs from the military, and that different rules should apply -- as they have in the past. The idiocy of the restrictions and their inapplicability to CIA operations can be seen in the following passage from the Army Field Manual, which the CIA has been ordered to use.
Its section on interrogation bans "violence, threats, or impermissible or unlawful physical contact," without specifying what is sanctioned. The manual also says an interrogator cannot threaten "the removal of protections afforded by law."

Threats are allowed even in civilian interrogations. There's always the threat of jail or other punishment hanging over civilian prisoners who refuse to cooperate. But the CIA isn't even allowed to threaten a terrorist prisoner? How ridiculous is that? And what is "unlawful physical contact"? And it should go without saying that terrorists shouldn't be entitled to any "protections" from the law.

As a CIA officer said, "Will I be in trouble five years from now for what I agree to do today?" That's the attitude that we are fostering at the CIA. Operatives now have to worry more about getting in trouble than doing their jobs.

Another official pointed out that

waterboarding and other harsh techniques "were meant to get hardened terrorists to a point where they were willing to answer questions." That capability, the official said, "is now gone
Why is that capability gone? It's gone because of people who are more concerned with the imaginary rights of terrorists than with U.S. national security. The same people have no clue why we even have a CIA in the first place. Since it doesn't conform to their moralistic and legalistic ideals, they've decided to cripple it.

HOT5 Daily 5/19/2009

1. "Nancy Pelosi Is The Central Issue" Because the main issue is politics.

Representative Sample : The moral high ground, however, is not what is at play in the current interrogation debate. No prominent politician, Democratic or Republican, is willing to sacrifice a city for the sake of moral purity. The same people who decry the waterboarding of the mastermind of 9/11 are silent when Obama orders missile attacks on Pakistan which inevitably cause civilian casualties.

2. "REPORT FROM THE FRONT: PRAGMATISTS HAVE NO SOUL"  That's a moderate being sarcastic. I sympathize.

Representative Sample: I am constantly amazed at the shifting definitions of who or what is a “good conservative” from people who themselves haven’t a clue of first principles and are especially ignorant of politics and governing.

3. "Christianity and Straw Men" Taking issue with Christians who take issue with atheist characterizations of Christianity.

Representative Sample: If you’re an average Christian, you do believe in magic, you do believe you have an invisible friend, you do believe Jesus was a man-god, and you do believe Jesus resurrected and flew off into the sky. Once you admit this, we can have a more honest discussion.

4. "Obama and Netanyahu Meet: What's Next?" Where does the U.S.-Israeli relationship go?

Representative Sample: The meeting on May 18 of two newly elected leaders, Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu, raises a basic question about U.S.-Israel relations: Will this long-standing alliance survive its 62nd year?

5. "What Happens After COIN? The Emerging Sri Lanka Case" Asks some good questions.

Representative Sample:The Sri Lankan government has won the military part of the insurgency, but they now need to win the peace. This is really where pop-centric COIN's going to have to make money, folks. Colombo has not really administered the Tamil-controlled areas for a while.

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Monday, May 18, 2009

Christians Promoting "Witch" Hysteria

CNN reports that thousands of children in Nigeria have been labelled witches, abandoned by relatives, and singled out for abuse.
They are blamed for causing illness, death and destruction, prompting some communities to put them through harrowing punishments to "cleanse" them of their supposed magical powers.
The witch hysteria is being promoted by among others, Christian pastors, who claim to be able to identify witches, and who allow their churches to serve as prisons.
"Children accused of witchcraft are often incarcerated in churches for weeks on end and beaten, starved and tortured in order to extract a confession," said Gary Foxcroft, program director of Stepping Stones Nigeria, a nonprofit that helps alleged witch children in the region.
Another aid worker fighting to put a stop to this abuse points out that
"The role of the international Christian community in this cannot be underestimated,"...""Unfortunately, the fact remains that this belief system is being spread by so-called Christians."
Rather than fighting against primitive superstitions, Nigerian Christians are instead reinforcing them with their own religious hatred & fear of supposed witches.  

Victory for Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has apparently achieved a complete victory in its long war with the Tamil Tigers. The Tiger's leader, Velupillai Prabhakaran, was "shot dead while trying to flee the war zone in an ambulance after the final battle." Although it is still too early to assess fully the implications of Lanka military success, one thing is clear. Sri Lanka was able to utterly crush the rebel terrorist organization only because it ignored international pressure to stop its offensive. There was no ceasefire that allowed the Tigers breathing space to regroup, and no negotiated settlement that would have preserved the organization in some capacity. Instead they were wiped out along with their long-time leader. Sri Lanka did what needed to be done to achieve victory. 

HOT5 Daily 5/18.2009

1. "Protecting Freedom of Navigation: No Longer a Naval Role" That's because it's probably "illegal" now. If something protects U.S. national security or advances American interests, chances are someone thinks it's illegal.

Representative Sample :A few hundred folks in speedboats have stolen freedom of navigation in one of the busiest international shipping trade routes in the world from the international community in an area the size of the Mediterranean Sea, and still the US Navy (in front of Congress no less) is telling the US flagged ships in the industry to solve their security problem themselves.

2. "How words and phrases lose their value"  Another example of something that is getting to be a regular occurrence.

Representative Sample: Through overuse and misuse these words and phrases now mean precisely nothing. Cough in the wrong direction, fascist! Scratch yourself the wrong way, bigot! You get the picture.

3. "Christian Sausage Goes into the Grinder. Again. And Again." Interesting metaphor.

Representative Sample: Does your average twice-born fundogelical Christian dominionist have even the slightest notion just how many different forms of Christianity were around in the first few hundred years of the common era?

4. "Washingtonia" Some good observations.

Representative Sample: This is Washington, all eyes turned inward and increasingly ignorant and careless of the world abroad.

5. "Friedrich A. Hayek's The Road To Serfdom (Comic)"The comic book version.

Representative Sample: it's a graphic

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