Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Right-wing Nutcase Alert

John L. Perry, writing in Newsmax, seriously suggests that military intervention may be necessary against President Obama to carry out "a bloodless coup to restore and defend the Constitution." And that's not the only crazy thing he writes in the article. The whole thing is a litany of hysterical exaggeration and outright lunacy. Here's an example,

Military intervention is what Obama’s exponentially accelerating agenda for “fundamental change” toward a Marxist state is inviting upon America. A coup is not an ideal option, but Obama’s radical ideal is not acceptable or reversible.

Unthinkable? Then think up an alternative, non-violent solution to the Obama problem. Just don’t shrug and say, “We can always worry about that later.”

Insane conspiracy theories and extremist rhetoric against the president were common from the left during the Bush years. Now that Obama is president, the whackjobs have come out of the woodwork on the right. There has always been a lunatic fringe on both sides, and the left's was front and center under Bush. After having to constantly deal with ridiculous conspiracy theories, assumption of evil motives, and hysterical idiocy of all sorts, it is extremely annoying to find the same type of noxious garbage now being shoveled by people on the right.

People like John L. Perry are the best friends possible for Obama and liberal Democrats. They allow the administration and its supporters to paint all opposition as irrational right-wing extremism, based on hatred and fear. That makes it far easier to dismiss legitimate criticism and override opposition. Every sane person on the right needs to speak out and condemn Perry's poisonous and borderline treasonous ravings. And as for Newsmax, I strongly support free speech and freedom of the press, but how about exercising  some basic editorial judgment? Is that too much to ask?

HOT5 Daily 9/30/2009

1. "Hands Off Honduras" Excellent article on the Honduran situation.

Representative Sample:The United States government, along with the rest of the Western Hemisphere's governments, is so worked up about returning ousted Honduran President Manuel Zelaya to power that it hasn't thought through the long- or even medium-term consequences of its threats and demands.

2. "The Top 10 Craziest Things Ever Said During a U.N. Speech" I'll bet it was pretty hard to narrow it down to ten.

Representative Sample: ''Were Kennedy not a millionaire, illiterate, and ignorant, then he would obviously understand that you cannot revolt against the peasants.''

3. "Progressive Claptrap" Another area where there's a lot to choose from. But in this case he's talking about leftist nonsense about capitalism.

Representative Sample: the so-called progressives never tire of beating the long-dead horse of capitalism. Are they so ideologically blind that they cannot see how governments at every level have intervened and intervened again until they have displaced or distorted every element of the economic order that might once have contributed to its capitalist character?

4. "UN Human Rights Council obsession with Israel" You'd think attacking Israel was a fundamental part of the UN charter.

Representative Sample: The Goldstone report’s assertion that the Israeli courts cannot be trusted is as dishonest as it is insulting. Israel’s legal system holds its army to account at least as thoroughly as any in the free world. Israeli courts have scrutinised previous military operations, and mistakes or wrongdoing have been punished at the highest levels

5. "ONE HECK OF A HIGH FLYING WOW FACTOR. TAKE A LOOK AT THIS." An amazing accomplishment.

Representative Sample: Must hand it to the guy. Brilliant. I’m looking for words and having trouble I am so overwhelmed. No kidding. I think this has a WOW factor of about a million. Took 11 years and he had to learn another language as well. Talk about determination and enterprise and patience.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Church & State in India

India's supreme court has issued an interim decree banning new construction of "places of worship" in public places. A blog at the Times of India had an interesting response. The writer, Rajesh Kalra, argues that religion already interferes so drastically with public life in India that the supreme court directive will have little impact.  
When wedding processions block the entire thoroughfare, causing immense hardship to the common man, they flout the rules. When I am subjected to loud music and noise throughout the night because some people are trying to make their prayers heard by organising a "jagrata" (overnight music sessions to please gods and goddesses), it intrudes into public space, thus flouts the rules. When the administration shuts down the national highway that links Delhi to Haridwar because the "kanwarias" - devotees of Shiva who walk on foot from Haridwar with Ganga water to their hometowns hundreds of kilometres away - are on their annual pilgrimage and are also scared that they would end up in a spat with motorists, it flouts the rules. This list goes on. It seems any part of the country can be turned into a religious place at will, so why bother constructing!
And he asks an excellent question, which some religious people ignore.
We all have the freedom to follow our religion, but does it have to happen in a way that it creates hardship to others?
The problem is that many people following their religious practices are only worried about themselves and their fellow believers. The thought that they might be greatly inconveniencing others probably doesn't even occur to them, or if it does, they think they should be accommodated. Religion is big on demanding accommodation, but usually resistant to making similar allowances for those of different or no faiths.

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Honduras is caught in an unenviable situation. Despite at least arguably replacing its president in accord with its own laws, its actions were labelled as a "coup" by the rest of the world. The new government is completely isolated and under tremendous pressure. Even though it did the U.S. a favor by removing a Chavez ally, the incompetent Obama administration turned on Honduras, removing the one source of support that the country probably thought it could count on.

After the ex-president snuck back into Honduras, the Brazilian government committed an open act of aggression by hosting him in its embassy, and allowing him to incite insurrection -- a situation that is still ongoing. Yesterday the Honduran president overreacted by declaring a state of emergency, and suspending civil liberties. Although his actions were understandable, taking those measures just lent credence to those who want to pretend that his assumption of power was the equivalent of a military coup. But late yesterday, those measures were reversed.

In an extraordinary televised news conference Monday evening, Mr. Micheletti asked for “forgiveness from the Honduran people” and said he would ask the Supreme Court to lift the decree “as quickly as possible.”
This is yet more evidence that the Micheletti government presides over a functioning democracy that the U.S. should be supporting, not undermining. Honduras is planning to hold elections, but the U.S. and others are threatening to reject the results in advance. It's unclear how the situation will play out. The Honduran government has very few options. 

HOT5 Daily 9/29/2009

1. "Stop Allowing The Left To Set The Rules" Good idea. Their ridiculous charges of racism should be met with open laughter.

Representative Sample: "Take Back America!" is now on their list of racist terms we protesters are not allowed to use. Again using their psychic powers, the Left claims the protesters are really saying, "Because the president is black, lets take America back"! This is totally absurd. "Take Back America" refers to the hijacking of our freedoms, liberty and culture by an out of control administration.

2. "Obama Doublespeak Glossary" Translating the president.

Representative Sample: Engagement — a combination of unilateral concessions and America-bashing abroad.

3. "Our goal is reasonable, not minimal, deterrence" Obama's naivete and weakness vs. the real world.

Representative Sample: Obama's calls for the United States and Russia to lead the way toward global denuclearization are "idiotic," said one tart-tongued Russian defense analyst.

4. "Obama Fiddles While Afghanistan Burns" Plenty of talk, not much action. It just doesn't seem to be a priority.

Representative Sample: Remember that Mr. Obama made these bold and typically self-congratulatory statements six months ago, sounding like he actually knew the difference between his posterior and a hole in the ground. 

5. "American Taxpayer Money Spent on Eradicating Hebrew-Language Signs" I'd say this is unbelieveable, but it's just another example of the utter stupidity found among our foreign aid programs.

Representative Sample:So much for the prospects of normalization, harmonious peace, or a Palestinian population content to live side-by-side with Israel.

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

Monday, September 28, 2009

The U.S. is the Best Place for Muslims to Live

That's the thesis of an interesting article in the Christian Science Monitor. Here's one of the key passages,
In the majority of Muslim countries the government is an intrusive enterprise with eyes and ears everywhere. The result is bleak. Countries reward only sycophants of the "divine" state. Muslims feel stifled by the encroachments of the establishment and lack of religious tolerance. If a man or a woman wanted to organize a protest against the government to gain the right to practice their religion more openly or be politically active against the status quo, may God help him to escape from the wrath of the state.
At a time when America-bashing is prevalent, even from some of our own people, it's nice to see an article recognizing that the U.S. is one of the most tolerant places on earth. Americans, for the most part, accept a wide-range of cultural & religious practice and a huge amount of diversity, especially from people who are otherwise friendly, or even non-aggressive. As the author points out, even if discrimination does occur, in the U.S. there is recourse to correct it. The whole thing is worth reading.

HOT5 Daily 9/28/2009

1. "Obama Concedes American Power For Progressive Utopia" Naivete or worse?

Representative Sample: One could question the naivete of this President as he makes such impotent and utopian comments but the reality is that Obama’s conciliatory remarks are a direct embodiment of his belief that America has for decades been an evil power that did more wrong than right in the world. It has been left to Barack Obama to concede the error of our ways and transform America’s role in the roll of nation’s to that of a weakened power

2. "Tomgram: Ann Jones, Us or Them in Afghanistan?" An interesting first-hand look at what's really going on as we tried to build an Afghan army and security apparatus.

Representative Sample: You have to wonder about the wisdom of rushing out this half-baked product. How would you feel if the police in your community were turned loose, heavily armed, after three weeks of training? And how would you feel if you were given a three-week training course with a rubber gun and then dispatched, with a real one, to defend your country?

3. "Open Thread: Submit Your Deconversion Story" Post yours or read others.

Representative Sample: Are you an atheist who's broken free of religion and wants to tell the world your story? If so, I want to hear from you!

4. "Quasi-Fiction Iran & nuclear weapons.

Representative Sample: It's a series of graphics.

5. "Barack Hussein Obama : Dangerous Naivete ?" Another blogger who thinks Obama's policies go beyond naivete. I'm not sure. I think he really is that clueless and naive about foreign policy.

Representative Sample: Obama's record of offending and snubbing America's allies and cozying up to long time enemies is so unblemished as to constitute a reliable pattern. It is hard to believe that President Obama has not enacted a major realignment in foreign policy.

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

Sunday, September 27, 2009

More Legalism, This Time in Canada

Canada's public safety minister spoke out today against the legalistic efforts to cripple anti-terror measures.  

he fears for the government's ability to fight terrorism in light of "an increasingly complex legal environment" in which judges are no longer deferring to the government in its efforts to deport foreign suspects.
Instead of taking precautions against suspicious foreigners, new interference by the courts grants extensive rights to alien suspects, preventing the government from taking action to protect national security.

We see that same attitude here in the U.S. among terrorist rights supporters. It rests on what I consider the false notion that the rights of a state should also extend to foreign residents, in defiance of both traditional practice and common sense. One of the principal roles of government is to act against foreign threats, and to protect the security of the nation and its people. Non-citizens present in a state are there, or should be there, at the pleasure of the host state. In a situation in which a non-citizen is suspected of being a threat, the state should err on the side of protecting its own citizens, not the alien. The idea that a judge can block the government from deporting a non-citizen deemed to be a threat, perverts the role of government and places the interests of an alien above the interests of the citizens it is supposed to serve.

Testing Torture

One of the problems with discussing torture as an interrogation technique is that it is almost impossible to get any sort of objective analysis of its efficacy. Torture is usually done in secret, and even declassified reports don't necessarily give the whole picture. Attempts at scientific study are therefore done second-hand using an incomplete data set.  Whenever I see a purported study of torture, I rhetorically ask, how many people did they torture? Experts, most of whom don't actually qualify as experts on torture, tend to see things from their own biased perspective, and often ignore contrary evidence. Obviously we can't torture people just to study the results. Or can we?

Since waterboarding is usually physically harmless, it is legal to perform if someone agrees to it and signs the necessary releases.  Several journalists have allowed themselves to be waterboarded, including Christopher Hitchens. Here's my proposal for a simple test of the efficacy of waterboarding at extracting accurate information.

Assemble a volunteer group of test subjects. Each subject would be paid for participating. A time limit would be set such as one week, or whatever was medically safe, as would the number of waterboarding sessions per day. Before each session one team of researchers would supply the subject with an easy to remember password. The interrogation team would have a password protected laptop for which they did not know the password, which would be known only by the subject. (It would be changed each time for each subject). The interrogation team would use waterboarding in an attempt to extract the correct password, and the subject would attempt to resist.

Here's the twist. To encourage resistance the subjects would be paid an additional fee every time they successfully held out. The person resisting the longest without giving up the correct password would receive a huge prize, say ten million dollars. If more than one person made it to the time limit they would split the prize. A reward of that magnitude would be the closest possible simulation of a life & death need to protect information.

The results of such a test would be meaningful only for waterboarding, and only for its effectiveness in obtaining simple, easily confirmed information. But they'd still be a more objective measure of a torture-technique's effectiveness than anything else that's out there.

It might also make a good reality television show, say "Torture Island."

HOT5 Daily 9/27/2009

1. "Why Should We Trust This Administration?" Good question.

Representative Sample: I’ve heard this administration talk about fiscal restraint. I can’t deny that. Still, I haven’t seen anything that can be viewed as proof that this administration is serious about getting spending under control.

2. "Wanted: Defender of American Interests" You'll have to wait for a new administration.

Representative Sample:  Obama plainly embodies that mindset of liberal elites. America is flawed. America has no distinct message or values, and its interests are entitled to no more weight than Belgium’s or Cuba’s. It’s wrongheaded to assert our national interests. We should be seeking consensus and righting the great wrongs that America has done to other nations.

3. "Good Medicine For Little UAVs" Medical technology adapted for use on UAVs.

Representative Sample:A team of U.S. Navy engineers and scientists in the Weapons Division here modified an arcane medical technology to produce highly accurate Video Correlation Targeting.

4. "What if author bios were brutally honest?" Pretty amusing.

Representative Sample: Augustine Cornington has been teaching at an obscure state school for two decades, lying in the tall grass, waiting for her archnemesis to make a mistake in print. This book review is her chance to completely eviscerate him. 

5. "Happiness and Purpose Without God" Belief in God not necessary for either.

Representative Sample: atheists feel pretty much the same as everybody else. We feel happy and sad, excited and bored, nervous and peaceful, ashamed and proud, lonely and connected, horny and disgusted, transcendent and confused and small and breathless.

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

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Castrating Pedophiles

Poland just passed a new law requiring chemical castration for pedophiles. Any criminal
convicted of raping children under the age of 15 years or a close relative would have to undergo chemical therapy on their release from prison.

There's not much detail in the report. The "close relative" qualifier is pretty vague. Assuming the law is actually restricted to adults raping children, and doesn't apply to statutory rape, I don't see a problem with it. It's nice to see a European country cracking down on one of the worst types of crimes for a change.

According to the article, human rights groups are criticizing the law. When they aren't busy whining about the treatment of terrorists, or demonizing Israel, I guess they find time to worry about protecting child rapists.

HOT5 Daily 9/26/2009

1. "Is the Left-Wing Hoping for Violence?" I doubt it.  It's probably just hysteria.

Representative Sample: In the absence of any actual right-wing plots being uncovered, why do left-wing politicians and bloggers keep playing the violence card? Are they hoping for some idiot to do something stupid so that they can use it for political purposes?

2. "'Village' of white German al-Qaeda insurgents discovered" Apparently there aren't enough terrorists in the Middle East. They need to import some from Europe.

Representative Sample:  Muslims from Britain, Sweden, and now Germany are reportedly fighting against NATO troops in Afghanistan. Recently investigators have discovered a village in Waziristan, near the Afghan border, which is full of white muslim converts.

3. "What Did the President Know?" Come on now. Why should we expect reality to deter Obama from his wishful thinking?

Representative Sample: Disclosure of the Qom facility suggests that Tehran selected its course long ago. That reality begs some rather inconvenient questions, for the current and previous occupant of the White House. Exactly when did we discover the Qom complex, determine its function and elect to persist with pointless diplomatic efforts?

4. "Ralph Peters’ Very, Very Bad Advice" I link Peters frequently, along with those who view Afghanistan in similar fashion. Here's someone who strongly disagrees.

Representative Sample: The reality is that General McChrystal is trying to implement the only strategy that will work in Afghanistan, and that is a counterinsurgency strategy. Anything else — including the so-called counterterrorism strategy — all but guarantees the collapse of the Afghan government while ensuring the continued and indefinite presence of al-Qaeda in neighboring Pakistan.

5. "Can I Get a Homeopathic Remedy Instead of a Malaria Inoculation?"An interesting exchange with a homeopathic retailer.

Representative Sample: the question I was wondering was, would a homeopathic retailer be prepared to write a prescription for a homeopathic anti malaria remedy to a random customer who came in off the street wanting to use the remedy in place of conventional science based medicine.

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

Friday, September 25, 2009

Tough Old Woman Resists Torture

As I've pointed out many times, criminals are well aware that torture can be an effective means of obtaining accurate information -- unlike some who pretend otherwise. Torture has been used throughout history to extract specific, verifiable information such as the location of valuables. Since the advent of ATM cards, that use has been extended to forcing victims to divulge PIN numbers. And torture is often quite successful at producing accurate information in these situations.

But as I've also argued repeatedly, the success or failure of any interrogation technique, including torture, is highly dependent on the particular circumstances, the interrogator, and the interrogatee. Things that work on one person may not succeed on another, and vice versa. In Michigan, eighty year-old Betty Oosterhouse faced a home invasion by a vicious criminal. When he left she was in the following condition:

suffering from severe facial injuries, specifically a cracked jaw and a concussion...[and] her hearing has been affected by the attack
Despite being punched several times in the face, threatened with death, and with a knife at her throat, Mrs. Oosterhouse refused to give up her PIN numbers. 

Whenever I post one of these cases, which usually result in torture succeeding, someone tends to come by arguing that criminals torturing people isn't analogous to an interrogator torturing a terrorist ( ignoring the fact that information is information).  Ordinary people aren't trained to resist, it's only money, etc. But some people take their money very seriously. Some would give up information such as a PIN number at the mere threat of torture; others, like Mrs. Oosterhouse, would rather die. There are all sorts of other variables. Different people respond differently to different types of threats. Whenever someone makes a sweeping statement, such as "torture doesn't work," or "torture produces inaccurate information," it's based on ignorance, wishful thinking, denial of reality, or ideological bias. Reality is much more complicated.

No Surprise in Iran

Wow, Iran has a secret nuclear facility. Who would have guessed? Anyone with the slightest clue has known for years that Iran is attempting to create the capability to produce nuclear weapons. Of course they are concealing aspects of their nuclear program for obvious reasons. Yet we've had to endure a parade of useful idiots telling us that maybe Iran really does just want peaceful nuclear power. We can talk to them. We can make a deal.  You know, all the other nonsense regularly put forth by the appeasement crowd. Will this new "revelation" finally convince them to abandon their naivete and wishful thinking? Will they wake up and understand that the regime in Tehran can't be trusted to abide by any agreement? Probably not. 

An article in the LA Times notes that during the presidential primaries, Hilary Clinton called Obama's position on Iran and other rogue states "irresponsible" & "naive," clear evidence that Clinton has been right at least once on foreign policy. The writer also points out the responses of Obama, Sarkozy, and Brown to the formerly secret nuclear facility. Here's Obama,

Obama warned that unless Iran acts immediately, punishment will be swift. "Iran is breaking rules that all nations must follow," he said.
I'm sure that got a big laugh in Iran. Our enemies aren't scared of the president in the slightest -- and for good reason. Next up, Sarkozy.  
"everything must be put on the table," and that if by December Iran has not reformed, sanctions will be imposed.
No! Not sanctions! No doubt the mullahs are quaking in their robes. And then there is Gordon Brown.
"the international community must draw a line in the sand."
Translation: we are going to do what we do best -- talk.

HOT5 Daily 9/25/09

1. "Afghanistan" One perspective as we consider sending more troops.

Representative Sample: Afghanistan was a conflict launched with limited aims - topple the Taliban and deny Al Qaeda sanctuary at minimal commitment and loss of American life - in response to an attack on the US emanating therefrom. Afghanistan is not fundamentally a strategic asset of geopolitical import.

2. "Water, Water Everywhere - Even on the Moon" Major discovery.

Representative Sample:  At a one ton surface material / 32 ounces water ratio, I don't see 'mining' water from the moon's surface as a practical idea. However, this article discusses how water molecules probably travel - making the existence of 'cold traps' near the poles a real possibility.

3. "Atheism and Self-Definition" The endless need to counter strawman views of atheism & atheists.

Representative Sample: Why, when atheists explain who we are and what we do and don't believe, do so many people respond by saying, "No, that's not who atheists are -- let me explain to you who you are"?

4. "Video: Pentagon’s Cyborg Beetle Takes Flight" Remote bug control in action.

Representative Sample:The creation of a cyborg insect army has just taken a step closer to reality. A research team at the University of California Berkeley recently announced that it has successfully implanted electrodes into a beetle allowing scientists to control the insect’s movements in flight

5. "The Stalin Option" It's for your own good, because they know better.

Representative Sample: The left is anything but liberal - I generally do not use that word to describe the left at all. These are some of the worst authoritarians America has ever produced. They stay out of your bedrooms - mostly - but feel free to mandate what is in your refrigerators, your driveway, your home and your thoughts.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

Rise in Deism?

Steven Waldman at Beliefnet has an article up called, "Deism -- It's Back!" Based on recent studies, he observes that anywhere from 3.5% to 12% of Americans are deists, not necessarily by self-definition, but because of their answers to questions about religious belief -- and that's if you use what he calls a "narrow" definition of deism.

I don't think deism ever disappeared. I would be willing to bet that the number of Americans who are effectively deists has long been much higher than advertised. There are plenty of people who identify as Christian but who don't spend much time thinking about religious beliefs, or take them all that seriously. They have a vague belief in God, but they don't feel any sort of personal connection. From what I've observed, this attitude is fairly common among Jews as well. The religion as seen more as a cultural & traditional practice than a belief system.

It may be true that deism really is on the rise, especially if you use a broad, functional definition. There's such a stigma attached to atheism, and the bonds of tradition and culture are strong. It's much easier for people to embrace a vague concept of God. Deism, even if you don't call it that, is respectable and in line with American tradition. You can attend a mainstream church, participate in all the social aspects of religion, and not have to actually believe a bunch of nonsense. 

A Good Point From the Left

Like many on both left & right, Chris Bowers at Open Left took note of the recent Public Policy Polling survey that found only a minority of Republicans sure that President Obama was born in the U.S., and 25% of Democrats who think President Bush intentionally allowed the 9/11 attacks to take place. Eight percent overall actually think Bush is the antichrist, and ten percent think it's Obama. (I guess Bush retired from the job). 

Bowers points out that birtherism & trutherism aren't analogus and suggests that another question should have been asked of Democrats.

they missed a chance to poll the actual Democratic equivalent of the "birther" conspiracy theories: that Bush stole the 2004 election. Those two conspiracies are equivalent because they deny the legitimacy of the President. Thinking that Bush was involved in 9/11 is more like thinking that Obama has a secret plan to indoctrinate American children with Islamo-socialism.
According to Bowers, and I think he's correct,
belief in the stolen 2004 elections is more widespread among Democrats than Bush having foreknowledge of the 9/11 attacks. It certainly seems extremely widespread within the comment sections of the progressive blogosphere.
I applaud Bowers' intellectual honesty in pointing out that there is even more conspiracy theory nuttery on his side than the PPP poll indicates. Unfortunately conspiracy theory thinking is quite prevalent on both sides of the aisle.

HOT5 Daily 9/24/09

1. "No More Allies" Another look at some of the dangerous nonsense in Obama's UN speech.

Representative Sample: a straightforward explication of a worldview that seeks to redefine international relations along frighteningly utopian lines. It is a glimpse into the ideological stew that has produced the dangerous real-world policies toward our one-time allies that we now see unfolding everywhere.

2. "Bjorn Lomborg talks about climate change policy" A rational approach to climate change? That would be something new.

Representative Sample:  the globe is in a warming trend and that humans are contributing to this. However, instead of running around like a gaggle of headless chicken-littles, they ask that we have a careful look at the consequences and not jump into stupid policy.

3. "Email Of The Day" Links to an entertaining yet all too realistic video from the ACLU.

Representative Sample: it's a video.

4. "White House Strategy Transcript" Secret White House plans revealed.

Representative Sample: Deep inside the White House, in a bunker that hasn't been used since the Johnson administration, Barack Obama and his most trusted aids are gathering together to guide their sinister plan for World domination!

5. "Nuclear Deterrence, Except on Weekends" British incoherence.

Representative Sample: Only Gordon Brown has the strategic vision to believe the nine-to-five working schedule applies to nuclear deterrence. The only way a SSBN is a successful capability is if it is always deployed, and never used. If a country can't meet those two criteria, then you don't have an actual strategy for SSBNs.

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

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Obama for UN Secretary-General

Think about it. As Secretary-General of the UN, Obama could give countless speeches to admiring fans, indulge in all sorts of utopian fantasies, talk to anti-American leaders from around the world, criticize Israel, support the Palestinians, and attempt to extort wealth from the U.S. in the service of "world" goals. What's that you say? He's already doing those things? True, but he could do it at the UN where he wouldn't cause any actual damage. And we could have a president that worried about advancing U.S. interests. 

Science Quiz

The Pew Research Center has a twelve question science quiz. You can take it and see how you score relative to others. It's pretty simple, but many people did not score well -- no surprise.

h/t Phil Plait at Skepticblog

Obama's Naivete on Display at the UN

Obama loves to hear himself talk, so it's no surprise that the transcript of his U.N. speech runs seven pages in the New York Times. I won't comment on every bit of the speech, but even if you skim through it, Obama's foreign policy naivete just leaps out at you. Naturally, this type of speech from any president would be filled with high-sounding nonsense, so it might appear that I'm unfairly singling out President Obama. The problem is, he actually appears to believe some of it. Let's look at some excerpts.
the time has come for the world to move in a new direction. We must embrace a new era of engagement based on mutual interest and mutual respect, and our work must begin now.
By this point on page one I'm already laughing.
I have outlined a comprehensive agenda to seek the goal of a world without nuclear weapons.  
Obama actually seems to believe this is possible, which is not only naive, but dangerous.
We have sought -- in word and deed -- a new era of engagement with the world. And now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges.
Again, Obama sounds like he's swallowed his own ridiculous propaganda.
The world must stand together to demonstrate that international law is not an empty promise, and that treaties will be enforced. We must insist that the future does not belong to fear.
How can anyone, even Obama, keep a straight face delivering these lines? Obama could stand to read Eric Posner's article about international law.
In an era when our destiny is shared, power is no longer a zero-sum game. No one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold.

And pigs will fly. I could keep excerpting the speech, there is so much more. The whole thing is a combination of laughable utopian dreaming and dangerous naivete. I just hope that I'm wrong about how much of it he actually takes seriously.

Incidentally, for one of the better articles about Obama I've seen in foreign media, be sure to check out Nile Gardiner's, The UN loves Barack Obama because he is weak.

HOT5 Daily 9/23/09

1. "Peace Process or War Process?" The "peace process" farce and some better suggestions for U.S. policy.

Representative Sample: three points: that past Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have failed; that their failure resulted from an Israeli illusion about avoiding war; and that Washington should urge Jerusalem to forego negotiations and return instead to its earlier and more successful policy of fighting for victory.

2. "Freedom=slavery" Laughing at a left-wing attempt to argue that the left should "reclaim" freedom.

Representative Sample:  Keep telling yourself how “free” you are next time you strap on your government-mandated seat belt to drive your heavily regulated automobile to a garage sale that’s been federally-inspected and sanctioned, or flush your government-approved toilet — the necessary two or three times.

3. "Torpedo Boats In The Solomons Campaign: Littoral Warfare" Interesting historical article.

Representative Sample: the PT boats suffered early from a lack of numbers, lack of radar and faulty torpedoes. Whether they could have sunk more ships will never be known. What is known is that their crews were brave men who undertook a challenging task and did it as well as their equipment allowed them to.

4. "A good argument against mandatory minimum sentences"Short but to the point. Burress' sentence is ridiculous overkill-- and I'm an Eagles fan.

Representative Sample: two years in jail - more than Michael Vick got for sadistic animal abuse.

5. "Why Honduras needs a nuclear weapons program" The Obama administration: spineless toward our enemies, tough on our friends.

Representative Sample: It's clear that to get any respect from the Obama administration, a nation has to brutally suppress demonstrators, illegally pursue a nuclear weapons program (preferably both), or place nuclear weapons next to staunch allies (

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

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

More Taser Abuse

According to CBS News, Merced, California police tasered an unarmed, wheelchair-bound double amputee.

Williams and witnesses say officers tasered the wheelchair-bound man twice, then left him handcuffed on the sidewalk in broad daylight, with his pants down.
I'm sure an unarmed man with no legs in a wheelchair was such a threat to police that blasting him with electricity was necessary. Maybe he tried to run them over.

To add insult to injury, Mr. Williams spent six days in jail before prosecutors figured out that they "lacked evidence to charge him." Don't worry, I'm sure the police will have great excuses about why this tasering was completely justifiable and with their taser use policy.

A New Sign That Obama Isn't Quite As Bad As He Appears

As terrible as Obama appears from the right, there are plenty of indications that he could be much worse. The latest comes in the form of a Guardian opinion piece. When leftist Europeans are whining about being disappointed in Obama, you know he's doing something right -- or at least not quite as bad as he could be.  This made me laugh,

Europe has been increasingly critical of America's failures to live up to its global responsibilities.
Yeah, Europe knows what it can do with its opinion about our "global responsibilities." The author, Steven Hill, indulges in much whining about the U.S. not moving faster on climate change. He complains that Obama isn't giving way enough money.
Europe has announced donations of $2bn to $15bn a year for the next decade to help developing nations cope with climate warming
Just because Europe is stupid enough to give away its money to be wasted by corrupt "developing nations," supposedly to fight climate change, doesn't mean the U.S. needs to follow suit. We give away far too much money as it is.

Hill also complains about U.S. moves toward financial reform. But most obnoxious is his attack on the U.S. political system itself.

Given a vastly unrepresentative senate wielding its anti-majoritarian filibuster, it is hardly surprising that minority rule in the senate consistently undermines majority rule, whether on healthcare, financial industry reform, environmental legislation and many other policies.

Pile on to that an uncompetitive, winner-take-all electoral system, marinated in money and special interest influence, and the sclerotic US political scene is deeply troubling. None of these anti-democratic structural features are going away any time soon.
He might want to worry about his own political system. The UK isn't exactly a model of efficent government. I have no liking for Obama, but the time to really worry is if he is able to satisfy people like Hill.

HOT5 Daily 9/22/09

1. "The Left’s Suicidal Anti-American Impulses On Foreign Policy" Harsh, but still pretty accurate.

Representative Sample: When it comes to foreign policy, liberals are like sheep who have a desperate need to find a wolf and bare their throat to him. You can see a great example of this in Honduras, where Barack Obama is essentially trying to engineer a Soviet style coup to replace a friendly democracy with a socialist dictator who’ll be implacably hostile to the United States.

2. "“The” Scientific Method" Why are engineers overrepresented among scientists who disbelieve evolution?

Representative Sample: The problem comes from assuming that there is one scientific method, or a limited set of methods by which science is done. I know that referring to “the” scientific method is often nothing but a convenient shorthand, not meant to be an accurate description, but it may also reflect an inherent bias. The reality, rather, is that there is a host of methods that various disciplines use under the broad umbrella of science.

3. "President Is Losing Credibility – Fast" And he didn't have much to start with.

Representative Sample: Between being bullied by the liberals in Congress and bullied on the world stage, this young and inexperienced administration is seen more and more as in over its head, and losing credibility fast.

4. "Chicom AFV review" Links to a good look at Chinese armored fighting vehicles.

Representative Sample: It's a series of photos & descriptions.

5. "The "yuck factor"" An interesting idea and a look at why it isn't palatable for many.

Representative Sample: One of those arguments is that the animals we eat are often raised under inhumane conditions where they suffer pain and psychological stress. If we can genetically eliminate pain and stress, then one of the main arguments against meat eating disappears. The logic is impeccable.

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

Monday, September 21, 2009

A Useful Reminder

Many people would have you believe that the U.S. has overreacted to the threat of terrorism, and to potential threats such as a nuclear Iran. Unfortunately the U.S. has to take into account worst-case scenarios. Short of a mass infection by a weaponized virus, nuclear terrorism is probably the worst-case scenario. Iran with nuclear weapons is not a great threat to the U.S. directly, because an Iranian attack would bring annihilation in return. But an Iranian bomb in the hands of terrorists is another matter. 

A nuclear bomb detonates in a U.S. city and a terrorist group claims responsibility. Nuclear forensics identifies the bomb as having a 60% chance of being Iranian in origin. Iran denies all responsibility. What do we do? And what exactly would happen if a nuclear weapon went off in a large American city? It's useful to consider the stakes when thinking about such issues. The following article from details the effect of a 150 kiloton device exploding in Manhattan. Read the whole article, but here's a chart summarizing the effects:

Distance from 
ground zero (mi.) Population     Fatalities      Injuries       
0 - 0.4                   75,000            75,000         0                   
0.4 - 1.0                400,000         300,000     100,000       
1.0 - 1.5                 500,000         220,000     220,000      
1.5 - 2.5                 1,500,000      235,000     525,000      
2.5 - 4.0                500,000 0      0                    30,000 
Totals                    2,975,000       830,000     875,000     
A 150kt bomb is a significant weapon, but even a much smaller one would be devastating.
A relatively small bomb, say 15-kilotons, detonated in Manhattan could immediately kill upwards of 100,000 inhabitants, followed by a comparable number of deaths in the lingering aftermath.
I would prefer that we did everything reasonably possible to minimize the chances of such an occurrence. 

HOT5 Daily 9/21/09

1. "Foreign Policy: Good Will = Nothing. Surprise!" A good round-up of Obama's foreign policy ineffectiveness.

Representative Sample: Who doesn’t prefer to negotiate with someone who wants to be your best friend, so that they can clean your clock before you realize what hit you? I take that back, liberals didn’t see it coming and they never do.

2. "PrisonCare" Government health care managment in action. California government this time.

Representative Sample: over the last eight years, costs for California's single-payer prison health care system -- controlled by Democrats for decades and heavily laced with unions at every level of government -- have increased more than four times

3. "ACORN, Kanye West and the Hierarchy of Multiculturalism"A theory that makes a fair amount of sense.

Representative Sample: Political correctness has been slowly rotting the establishment media to its core, to the point where few professional journalists would dare launch a serious investigation into the exalted Association of Community Organizers for Reform Now. Why? Simple: according to the tenets of political correctness, the racial makeup of the communities being “organized” automatically confers the presumption of moral superiority upon ACORN.

4. "When is a tax increase not a tax increase?" Calling taxes by other names is a penchant of government at all levels.

Representative Sample: When Obama says it isn’t, that’s when. In Obama’s new order, you will be mandated to purchase health insurance whether you believe you need it or not. If you don’t buy insurance, the IRS will forcibly collect funds from you to cover your insurance.

5. "Anti-Jediism." Jedi claiming discrimination just like Muslims.

Representative Sample: Daniel Jones, founder of the religion inspired by the Star Wars films, says he was humiliated and victimised for his beliefs following the incident at a Tesco store

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

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Theologians Defend Theology

The faith section of the Winnipeg Free Press has an article up today called, "Everyone can use a little theology," by  John Longhurst.  The article is a reaction to a recent letter to the editor attacking theology and agreeing with Richard Dawkins that it's a useless subject.  Longhurst invited theologians to reply, and the article excerpts several responses. 

First up is a the pastor of "St. Benedict's," apparently a Catholic, who quotes St. Anselm. He gives a pretty vague defense of theology, essentially saying that people of faith need "'words about God' ... to speak of what it means to be human."

Then we have a professor of theology & ethics at Providence Theological Seminary.  He puts forth the ever popular religious notion that we mere humans can't understand reality. Trusting science and reason is a "myth." I found that pretty amusing.

theology is of great help. It unsettles the notion that our world is what we make of it

Translation: let's not be bothered with actual facts and evidence. We should rely on religion instead. Next up is a professor of theology at Regent College. He goes for the full blown "theologists speak for God" approach.

Theologians tell us exactly what God promises to us, what God requires of us, and of what God warns us.
Apparently they talk to God all the time. He also throws in a gratuitous shot at Richard Dawkins, basically saying  he's going to hell because he didn't pay attention to theologians.

Last but not least is a professor of theology at the University of Winnipeg. He appears to subscribe to Stephen Jay Gould's nonoverlapping magisteria position.

"Scientists and theologians start with different materials but both use human reason to sort those materials into something that we can understand with the minds that we have been given."
The problem is that theologians are working with irrational material. That's why attempts to rationalize faith eventually break down. The author summarizes with these lines:
So, who needs theology? Maybe we all do, if we accept that theology is about asking the big questions about the world in which we live and what our purpose in it might be.
Obviously it doesn't take a theologian to ask "big questions." And there is no reason to assume that we have any purpose at all. Anyone can speculate about such things without relying on religious myth. Needless to say, I find these defenses of theology none too impressive.

Excellent Article on International Law

Eric Posner has an article at Foreign Policy that serves as a useful corrective for those who take international law too seriously. As the subtitle states, "Governments respect international law only when it suits their national interests. Don't expect that to change any time soon." And that's a good thing. International law that doesn't serve our national interests should be interpreted in a way that does, or ignored if necessary.

Posner takes on common arguments/myths about international law and refutes them. The entire article is outstanding and I'd highly recommend it to anyone. I'd like to highlight his final point. Emphases are mine.

"International Law Is a Worthy Goal."

Not at all. Some might argue that even if international law is not currently effective, improving it is nonetheless a worthwhile aspiration for the international community. But international law should be looked at as a worthy means, not an end in itself. In some circumstances, it can be useful to build international cooperation on key issues. But the view that international law is an end in itself -- which I have dubbed "global legalism" -- is based on a false picture of international relations and can lead to wasted time and effort devoted to constructing legal institutions that won't work. Although many academics are global legalists, state leaders, of all ideological persuasions, are not.

The Nuremberg trials -- ironically one of the sources of global legalism -- were thought necessary for punishing the Nazis and were surely justified, but they also violated international law, which at that time did not hold leaders criminally responsible for launching invasions of other countries or even for crimes against humanity. The illegal military intervention in Kosovo stopped ethnic cleansing and, for a time, the wars that racked the Balkans. Not all violations of international law are good, of course. But the tendency of global legalists to treat international law as a talisman, more often than not, interferes with the kinds of international cooperation that actually advance the global good.
I've attacked blind legalism countless times. It's nice to see someone writing for Foreign Policy that understands that international law is a mere tool, not an inviolate diktat from heaven.

HOT5 Daily 9/20/2009

1. "Military Impatient With Afghan Strategy" Far from having a strategy, it appears that the administration is more or less just winging it in Afghanistan.

Representative Sample: conflicting messages are drawing increasing ire from U.S. commanders in Afghanistan and frustrating military leaders, who are trying to figure out how to demonstrate that they're making progress in the 12-18 months that the administration has given them.

2. "They will mobilise if we leave…and if we stay" Speaking of Afghanistan... Whatever we do, the enemy will use it for propaganda.

Representative Sample: Militant Islamists are skilled at turning most Western foreign policy behaviour into a propaganda victory and finding ever more reasons to fight. They are not just the result of grievances, they are a movement forever searching for grievances

3. "Obama Criticism Flow Chart" Wondering whether or not your criticism of Obama might be racist? Just consult this handy flow chart.

Representative Sample: It's a graphic. 

4. "There Is No God-Shaped Hole" According to religious apologists, being an unbeliever should leave and emotional void that only God can fill. Evidence suggests otherwise.

Representative Sample: From what we know of human psychology, or from the personal experience of many happy and contented atheists, this is no surprise. But it does provide us with some concrete, rather than anecdotal, data to vanquish the apologists who implausibly claim that, over billions of lives throughout thousands of years of human history, members of their particular sect are the only ones who have the true key to happiness.

5. "Great Gun commercial." This one speaks for itself.

Representative Sample: It's a video.

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

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Obama Tells the Left to Shut Up About Racism

Well, not directly, but he does emphatically reject their ridiculous notion that almost all criticism of his administration is based on racism. And he directly refuted that claim by Jimmy "America's Worst ex-President" Carter. Here are a couple of excerpts from the New York Times (which for some reason buried the story on the "health" tab of their "Money & Policy" section).
“Are there people out there who don’t like me because of race? I’m sure there are,” Mr. Obama told CNN. “That’s not the overriding issue here.”
Obama understands that race isn't the main issue.
he did not believe his race was the cause of fierce criticism aimed at his administration in the contentious national debate over health care, but rather that the cause was a sense of suspicion and distrust many Americans have in their government.

Unlike most of his clueless left-wing supporters, Obama apparently understands that his policies would be under major attack if he were the whitest white person in America. The president may be naive and weak on foreign policy, and ignorant of economics, but he knows a political loser when he sees one. The left-wing screams of racism have been so constant, and so ridiculous, that most of America can't possibly take them seriously. No doubt Obama also understands that massive overuse of the race card not only diminishes its effectiveness as a weapon, but also raises racial tensions and makes it more likely that real instances of racism will be downplayed.

Ever since Obama was elected, it seems that whenever I criticize him for some action,  he turns right around and does something I have to praise him for -- and vice versa. The president deserves serious credit for speaking out on this issue and repudiating the poisonous nonsense of his race-obsessed followers.

HOT5 Daily 9/19/2009

1. "The Last Black President" I think his points apply more to Obama supporters & the left in general than to the president personally. I don't hold the president responsible for the constant false accusations of racism.

Representative Sample: If the public had realized that, by voting for a man who promised to move us beyond race, they would be slathered with the stigma of racism every time they raised a questioning hand on an issue, we would now be having these vocal fights over HillaryCare, not ObamaCare.

2. "Muslim teen sues Abercrombie& Fitch" U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is actually suing in support of wearing the hijab.

Representative Sample: Maybe I should sue Hooters for not hiring me because I’m a male, or maybe I should sue CAIR for not hiring me cause I’m a non-Muslim.

3. "Damage Control" Weakness breeds aggression. I'm not sure his proposal is a good idea right now, but the rest of his analysis is dead-on.

Representative Sample:I don't want a war with Russia. But I think we're more likely to get a war by giving Russians with aggressive tendencies a reason to think they can get away with war. Let's not give them reason to think eastern NATO is outside of our defense perimeter.

4. "Hope & Change" No matter how bad things are, they can always get worse. 

Representative Sample: It's a graphic.

5. "Jesus Is Not A Suitable Contraceptive" Good title.

Representative Sample: It turns out preaching conservative religion does NOT work in preventing teen pregnancies. Actually quite the opposite would be true. You can look at how religious a state is overall and use that as a pretty good indicator for how high the teen pregnancy rate is.

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

Friday, September 18, 2009

Israeli Missile Defense

There was an interesting article in the Washington Post today about Israeli missile defenses. Those defenses take on  greater importance with the spineless, appeasement-oriented Obama administration in charge, and the recent International Atomic Energy Association revelation that Iran may already have the capability of building nuclear weapons. According the the Post, Israel is

steadily assembling one of the world's most advanced missile defense systems, a multilayered collection of weapons meant to guard against everything from the shorter-range Grads that have been used to strike Israeli towns such as [Ashkelon] to intercontinental rockets.
The article speculates that the existence of these Israeli defenses lowers the chances that the country will launch a preemptive strike against Iran. One system, Arrow, is already operational, and a second, Iron Dome, is scheduled for deployment next year.

Israel is caught in a real strategic dilemma. Ideally, given its size, its best defense against nuclear attack is preemption. But Iran's nuclear program is too advanced, and too decentralized to be eliminated by the type of surgical strike Israel favors. Any attack would bring massive and possibly unforeseen repercussions. Israel's relationship with the U.S. is the worst it has been in a long time, and no one there in their right mind is counting on support from Obama. And the U.S. clearly opposes an attack. Launching a preemptive strike, with all the dangers and drawbacks, only to achieve a delay in Iran's nuclear program, is not a favorable risk vs. reward calculation. The only preemptive attack that makes sense is a first strike with nuclear weapons, which could utterly destroy Iran's nuclear program and also cripple its ability to respond. But even for a country facing a possible existential threat, it would incredibly difficult to make such a decision.

It's not hard to see why a layered missile defense combined with deterrence appears to be Israel's default method of dealing with the Iranian threat. It's one thing for Iran to plan a first strike, attempting to decapitate Israel's nuclear arsenal and destroy the country, calculating that they can survive whatever retaliation the shattered country can muster. But if they can't be sure their own strike will even penetrate a missile defense system, even leaders motivated by religious lunacy might think twice.

A nuclear Iran is a dangerous threat to the U.S., but a deadly one to Israel. If I were an Israeli I'd be in favor of as many layers of missile defense possible, building more nuclear weapons, and deploying them to large numbers of survivable delivery platforms.

HOT5 Daily 9/18/2009

1. "After Metternich and Kissinger, Dr. Phil?" Even Rothkopf, who likes Obama, is getting tired of his utterly spineless foreign policy.

Representative Sample: One message that seems to have been sent by the Obama administration thus far: If you challenge us, we will reward you. If you abuse us, we will reward you a lot. But don't think we're going soft. Beware: If you are a friend or a needed ally, we will punish you. (Or is that three messages?)

2. "World bank wants to tax us" Us too. Just say no.

Representative Sample: they talk about spending billions upon billions to keep the temperature from rising more than 2 degrees. They don’t mention anything about guarantees that spending 99 billion will stop the temperature from rising or that a certain amount is enough. 

3. "Ballistic Missiles: The Ostrich Defense" Except that real ostriches are smarter about defending themselves than Obama.

Representative Sample: this unrequited concession will only weaken America’s bargaining position on multiple issues. It is especially disquieting, however, that the administration has chosen to justify the decision as it has. The justification itself is logically weak, on even the most cursory inspection,

4. "Putting Faith in its Place" A useful video.

Representative Sample: It's a video.

5. "One Cheer for Obama's Foreign Policy" Pipes identifies one positive sign with regard to the Middle East.

Representative Sample:The Obama administration has established an alarmingly naïve and dangerous record on Arab-Israeli issues, leading me to worry about spectacular policy failures ahead. But it has initiated one innovative and positive policy deserving high praise.

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

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Saint's Relics Energize Atheist

Matthew Parris at the Times Online has a pretty funny article about the relics of St Thérèse of Lisieux, (a 19th century nun and Catholic saint), which will go on tour in England and Wales -- well, funny for non-Catholics at least. Here's Parris,
Just when my disbelief was flagging — not for want of certainty but out of weariness with banging on — comes a report that energises me with anger. ... Does balanced reporting require neutrality even towards the self-evidently preposterous? Would a conference of the Flat Earth Society get giggle-free treatment on the news?
He calls for atheists to speak out,
For pity’s sake, closet atheists of Britain, come out! Don’t “respect” this credulous folly! Don’t let the madnesses of these faith minorities go by default! Stop our politicians kowtowing to nutters!
I also found this question pretty amusing.
How can bishops sanction this paganistic nonsense?
Why does he even need to ask? Where would the Catholic church be without all sorts of ritualistic, traditional nonsense? If they wanted to have just the bare bones version of Christian nonsense, they'd be Protestants.

Obama Scrapping Missile Defense Plans

President Obama can never do something right without following it with an ill-advised action. Just the other day, I was congratulating the president for the successful operation in Somalia. But today, reports indicate that Obama will abandon our missile defense plans in Eastern Europe.

The White House will shelve Bush administration plans to build a missile-defense system in Poland and the Czech Republic, a move likely to cheer Moscow and roil the security debate in Europe.
This action is yet another example of Obama's inexperience and naivete in foreign policy matters, one of the many reasons that someone with his minimal qualifications should never have been elected president.
The U.S. will base its decision on a determination that Iran's long-range missile program hasn't progressed as rapidly as previously estimated, reducing the threat to the continental U.S. and major European capitals, according to current and former U.S. officials.

So that means we are going to wait until it actually is a serious threat before deploying defensive measures. That's some brilliant national security thinking -- about what I'd expect from a Democrat.  But let's pretend that the administration's lame explanations for abandoning hard won plans for missile defense in the region are actually accurate, instead of just fables covering its obvious preference for empty talk and wishful thinking over concrete security measures. Instead of scrapping deployment unilaterally, why not at least use it as a bargaining chip to extract some serious concessions from the Russians? Instead, Obama is just going to project his usual weakness, hand Putin a victory on a silver platter, alienate our friends in Eastern Europe, and demonstrate yet again that we can't be trusted to follow through on security arrangements.

HOT5 Daily 9/17/2009

1. "The Utlimate Democratic Failure" Democrats can't even convince liberal Republicans to support their flawed health care reform proposals.

Representative Sample: Baucus' failure to get even one of his three Finance Committee pals to go along with his "bipartisan compromise" augurs badly for the Democrats' ability to pick up even a single Republican in the full Senate to gain the 60 votes required for cloture

2. "80% of New Yorkers Must Be Racist" If we go by a left-wing definition of racism.

Representative Sample: New York Governor David Paterson’s approval rate is an abysmal 20%. That must mean that 80% of New Yorkers are racist, at least if your listening to the left’s new narrative..

3. "Are Religious Extremists the Only True Believers?" That's an overstatement, but he has a point.

Representative Sample: Perhaps the real difference between a religious moderate and an extremist is that the extremists consistently behaves as if he or she really believes his or her religion to be true.

4. "Jimmy Carter Opens Mouth, Removes All Doubt" I was going to write something about Carter, but this pretty much covers it. 

Representative Sample: Not content with being America's Worst President, Jimmy Carter has achieved a two-fer by becoming America's worst ex-president. Doing his best to poison American politics while drawing attention to himself

5. "Russia Surpasses Saudi Arabia" The new king of oil.

Representative Sample: Russia has surpassed Saudi Arabia in energy exports for years, thanks to its large exports of natural gas. Now it even surpasses Saudi Arabia in terms of oil exports alone.

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

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Here We Go Again With Iran

Once again people are talking about the U.S. talking to Iran, as if there were a point. The LA Times has an op-ed up called, "The U.S. and Iran: It's time to talk." It's a prime example of the simple-minded naivete that permeates this desire to talk, even when our enemies are clearly unreasonable, unwilling to bend on the issue we want to talk about, and completely untrustworthy.
critics are warning that Iran will use the talks to stall for time to advance its nuclear ambitions and weaken international resolve for economic sanctions.

Maybe so. But even if that is Tehran's plan, Obama must follow through on the offer. He must pursue talks seriously, with the intention of success and not the assumption of failure.

What nonsense. The LA Times is arguing that Obama operate based on wishful thinking, rather than take a realistic approach to Iran. One of two things is likely to happen if the U.S. talks to Iran. The first and most probable outcome is that the impasse will continue. We have nothing we are willing and able to offer Iran that would convince it to dismantle its nuclear program, and we can't trust their illegitimate regime to abide by any agreements anyway. The second likely outcome is some sort of attempt at appeasement by the U.S., similar to Clinton-era agreements with North Korea. In this scenario, we give Iran certain concessions, and they agree to suspend any military aspect of their nuclear program, allow inspections, etc. If the Obama administration is stupid enough to pursue such a policy, the North Korean model will be repeated. Iran will pretend to comply, take whatever we give them, and at some later date obtain nuclear weapons anyway.

There is simply nothing to talk about. Let's stop pretending that we can talk Iran out of a quest that it has spent numerous years and countless resources pursuing. Our policies should be aimed at delaying their program as long as possible through sabotage and other covert means, while preparing to implement a strategy of containment once they finally obtain nuclear weapons. If we do talk to Iran our only message should be in the form of clear, easily understood and unmistakeable threats. We shoud make the leaders of Iran understand in no uncertain terms that Iranian use of nuclear weapons, or the use of Iranian weapons by terrorist proxies, will result in the utter annihilation of Iran as a nation-state. That's the only kind of talk that might do some good -- although they may not believe it coming from the Obama administration.

Rush Limbaugh -- Not Helping

Since Barack Obama became a serious candidate for president, we've been subjected to constant screams of racism from the left. Any time there is opposition to the president, anytime he comes under criticism, any time he is caricatured or made fun of in any way, any time he is treated with disrespect, his supporters have whined about racism. It's just an automatic reflex. It doesn't matter how ridiculous or illogical the charge of racism may be, it will be made if Obama is attacked. In my opinion, no one has done more lately to raise racial tension and poison the atmosphere than Obama supporters and the left in general.

But now here comes Rush Limbaugh acting just like the race-obsessed left. As everyone probably knows by now, there was an incident yesterday where three black high school kids beat up a white kid on a school bus. It's not even clear if race was the main motivating force behind the attack. But Limbaugh seized on the incident to blame President Obama, as if he had anything to do with it. Rush has concocted a crazy theory that goes something like this: All the false accusations about racism from the left, combined with Obama's actions regarding race have created a climate in which white people are seen as the enemy of all that is good in America, and therefore black kids feel justified in beating up white kids. Think I'm exaggerating? Let's go to the transcript.

It's Obama's America, is it not? Obama's America, white kids getting beat up on school buses now. You put your kids on a school bus, you expect safety but in Obama's America the white kids now get beat up with the black kids cheering, "Yay, right on, right on, right on, right on," and, of course, everybody says the white kid deserved it, he was born a racist, he's white.  [AND]...  today it's all based in racism, the criticism of Obama's health care plan or whatever, it's all based in racism and so, if he's going to apologize for America, Obama needs to apologize for the right reasons. White Americans are racists who have created what they call free markets that really just enslave the rest of America and her trading partners. It was white Americans that ran off Van Jones.
This is one of the stupidest and craziest Limbaugh rants ever. He's created a grand conspiracy theory about how white America is under attack because of Obama. He sounds like a mirror image of someone like Reverend Wright. That's right, President Obama is now responsible for a white kid getting beat up by black kids on a school bus. And the sheer illogic of Limbaugh's conspiracy theory actually feeds the left's race obsession. Now they can point to Limbaugh and say, "look, he's so upset by having a black person in the Whitehouse that he thinks the president is responsible for kids beating each other up." However, just because Limbaugh did something idiotic doesn't mean left-wingers shouldn't be called for their hypocritical outrage. 

Here's one example from Obsidian Wings, normally one of the more rational left-wing sites.

This incident is not a run-of-the-mill "Limbaugh said something ridiculous today" story. This is a big deal. Limbaugh was unambiguously racist
If that's the criteria for racism, there are a huge number of racists on the left -- since they do exactly the same thing on a regular basis. Starting well before the election we had people on the left parsing every campaign commercial and trying to concoct charges of racism. Many of the cries of racism were and are every bit as ludicrous as Limbaugh's conspiracy theory.
there's nothing ambiguous about this. It's straight-up George Wallace-style race-baiting. It's an intentional attempt to stir racial prejudices.
But left-wing attempts to smear critics of Obama as racist are just fine.  Yesterday imbecile Congressman Hank Wilson (D of course) said,
people will be putting on "white hoods and white uniforms again and riding through the countryside" if emerging racist attitudes, which he says were subtly supported by Wilson, are not rebuked. He said Wilson must be disciplined as an example.

That's every bit as crazy and inflammatory as anything Limbaugh said. But you don't see the guy at Obsidian Wings hyperventilating about it, do you? Of course not. It's not even mentioned on his site. Race-baiting and stirring up racial prejudices are just fine when done on the left.

But the fact that the left in general is comprised of shameless hypocrites doesn't excuse Limbaugh's idiocy. Everyone on the right should condemn his attempt at conspiracy theory building.  There are all sorts of legitimate attacks to be made on Obama. Blaming the president for school children beating each other up, regardless of their races, is not only stupid, it's downright crazy. Far from helping, Rush Limbaugh is just assisting the left in painting conservatives as deranged, racist lunatics. Thanks a lot Rush.

HOT5 Daily 9/16/2009

1. "Why Do We Have 1,000 Page Congressional Bills?" Good question.

Representative Sample: Who could possibly read over 3,000 pages of legislation and make any kind of intelligent vote on it. I don’t know about you, but I have read regulatory “prose” and after 10 pages or so, I need to take a walk around and get a cup of coffee, just to clear my head.

2. "My Response" To the constant cries of racism.

Representative Sample: Abuse of a word or concept robs it of its power. Once the accusation of racism was devastating, now it’s just annoying and merely signifies that a leftist disagrees with you.

3. "When it comes to Cyber Warfare: Shoot the Hostage" Some solutions that could greatly reduce cyber attacks.

Representative Sample: the best solution, bar none, is to metaphorically “shoot the hostage”, thus denying an adversary of both his weapons (1) malware configured for the Windows OS and (2) his attack platform - the most reliable Internet services companies in the world.

4. "Notion That Violence is Animalistic Reduces Support for War" Interesting but I'm skeptical. 

Representative Sample: It suggests one way to curb violent behavior against outsiders — including support for war — might be to emphasize the idea that violence is an expression of instincts we share with our fellow animals. This concept appears to dampen the gung-ho spirit of aggressive militarists.

5. "American Vice: Mapping the 7 Deadly Sins" A pretty clever use of statistics.

Representative Sample: It's a graphic.

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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Self-Defense by the Sword

A student at John Hopkins found an intruder in his garage, and the man attacked him. The student responded by defending himself with what the report calls a "samurai" sword. The result? He cut off one of his attacker's hands, and inflicted a "severe laceration" to his chest, mortally wounding him.  Attacking someone holding a sword -- not a good idea.

I found this report particularly interesting because I've had a few years of training in western martial arts, particularly with German longsword techniques (a two handed Renaissance weapon about four feet long). Anyone that has trained with such a weapon -- which is used differently than a Japanese sword but has some similarities -- knows how vulnerable the hands are to attack. It's not surprising that the intruder had one of his hands cut off. The report implies that the hand-removal was the killing blow.

There wasn't much detail in the report, but I'm assuming that the student must have picked up his sword when he went to investigate his garage. You don't too see many instances of swords being used in self-defense, since carrying them around in normal circumstances tends to be frowned upon. I'd be interested in knowing what type of sword he used, and if he had any training. Not that it's necessary. Assuming the other person was unarmed, or under-armed, even a cheap stainless steel wallhanger can kill. But it's not that easy to land a clean cut capable of severing a hand.

War on Terror Not Over Quite Yet

I often criticize Obama for projecting weakness abroad. But sometimes he gets things right. Yesterday's commando raid was one of those times. According to reports, the president personally authorized the kill order for Al Qaeda leader Saleh Ali Saleh Nabhan. Regardless of my opposition to most of Obama's policies, I have to commend him for green-lighting an operation which successfully eliminated a known enemy of the U.S. 

As I wrote yesterday, it is best to conduct these types of operations deniably and without any confirmation. But the most important thing is that the president believes in deploying special forces to assassinate our enemies. It demonstrates that Afghanistan-Pakistan isn't the only area where he is willing to kill Al Qaeda members.

One other thing to note about yesterday's operation. This action illustrates why I support the use of assassin teams to hunt our enemies. Notice the difference between this raid and a drone strike. Drone strikes because of their nature often kill significant numbers of bystanders, including women and children. It is also extremely difficult to confirm whether or not the designated target was even present, let alone eliminated. In contrast, the use of a team rather than aerial attack allows for clear identification, and far greater precision. Killing the enemy is good. Getting the wrong person, or getting a bunch of innocent people is counterproductive. Wherever possible the use of assassination teams, whether from the CIA or military/naval special forces, should be the preferred method.

HOT5 Dailiy 9/15/2009

1. "What’s the Point of Demonstrating?" Someone at least as cynical as I am.

Representative Sample: I stopped participating in public demonstrations, not because I thought the government no longer deserved protest and petition for redress of grievances, but because I lost all faith in the efficacy of the demonstrations. I was gaining a sounder appreciation of how the state operates, and as my understanding deepened, I found myself unable to suppose that the people who constitute the state have any interest in doing what might loosely be called “the right thing.”

2. "Are There Ethics in the Hebrew Bible?" Is Western culture actually based on "biblical values"?

Representative Sample: this is what much of the biblical “ethics” are -- rules that are imposed and expected to be obeyed. They are good rules because they are divine rules—and gods are good, or at least the god in the Bible. But ethics is about doing what is good because it is intrinsically good.

3. "How Obama’s election has NOT helped “race relations”" Generally using the race card in an attempt to silence criticism isn't great for race relations.

Representative Sample: Many of us predicted it would happen way before he was elected President: Barack Obama has not helped race relations. Before he was elected, scrutiny of him by opponents was treated as “racist” in nature. And not just from conservative opponents.

4. "400,000" Putting criminals in jail lowers the crime rate. Amazing, huh? Links to an interesting article on crime & punishment.

Representative Sample: if it sent people to prison for the same reasons and for the same length of time as in Spain – its prison population would be not 80,000 but 400,000. Not coincidentally, Spain is a country whose crime rate is – yes, about one fifth of Britain’s.

5. "How Atheists View Religion" An interesting analysis.

Representative Sample:  From an atheist perspective, though, whether or not religious belief once served a useful purpose, its time is now past. Our contention is that continued slavish devotion to the superstitions of our ancestors is actively harmful to human civilization

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Monday, September 14, 2009

The Right Way to Launch a Commando Raid

Get in, complete the mission, and get out. No explanations. No identification, just some dead bodies left behind. That's what happened in Somalia today.
Eyewitness Abdi Ahmed said six helicopters buzzed the village before two of the aircraft opened fire. After the helicopters fired, white foreign soldiers in military fatigues got out and left with the two wounded men. 

"There was only a burning vehicle and two dead bodies lying beside it," said Mohamed Ali Aden, a bus driver who drove past the burnt-out car minutes after the attack, some 155 miles (250 kilometers) south of Mogadishu.

Who carried out the raid? No one knows. But the dead and captured were apparently associated with a militant group tied to Al Qaeda. A Pentagon spokesman had no comment -- exactly the right response. Was this a U.S. operation? I don't know. And that's a good thing.


There are reports that a senior Al Qaeda leader, the man behind the attacks on U.S. African embassies in 1998 was killed in the attack.

One of the Innumerable Examples of Why I Strongly Support the Death Penalty

From the UK comes the account of 20-year old Robert Tozer. Three weeks after being released from prison after serving time for assault (2nd offense), Tozer entered the home of 85-year old neighbor Joan Charlton, beat her viciously with a bottle in search of money, tried to set her on fire, and left her to die from her injuries. He was just sentenced to life in prison. We know a life sentence doesn't actually mean life in many cases in the U.S., what about in Britain?

Tozer, who admitted murder and burglary, must serve a minimum of 22 years, less the 90 days he spent on remand.
This guy essentially tortured a helpless old woman to death for money, yet he could conceivably be released from prison at age 42. That sounds like justice, doesn't it? Tozer admits his crime. There's no question about his guilt. He should be immediately executed. There is simply no reason to keep such a person alive, let alone risk having him kill or injure others in prison, or eventually return to society to possibly kill someone else. It's now fashionable in many countries -- and some U.S. states -- to pretend that abolishing the death penalty is a new hallmark of civilization. But preserving the lives of human garbage like Tozer isn't civilized, it's stupidity. And if he kills again, a legal system that elevates the lives of criminals above the lives of their victims will be partially responsible.

HOT5 Daily 9/14/2009

1. "Soggy Cereal" The constant ridiculous racism accusations have already gotten old, and we haven't even made it through one year of Obama's presidency.

Representative Sample: If disagreeing with Obama Care makes you a racist today, will you stop being a racist two years from now when you disagree with, say, taxing the living daylights out of the oil industry? If the premise is that opponents are racists, then the only way for opponents to stop being racists is ... is ... is what?

2. "The Spending Virus" All government programs expand like the spread of a virus.

Representative Sample: every politician attending Obama’s address knows that he was indeed lying when he said his proposed government health-care plan would not cover illegal aliens. Of course it will. Anyone who tells you otherwise is insulting your intelligence..

3. "Is the word god just a placeholder for the question mark?" A look at deism, and why many who might have been deists in the past are now agnostics or atheists.

Representative Sample: Deism was very common among the thinking men of the Age of Enlightenment for whom the complete rejection of concept of God was a bit too much, even if they rejected Christianity, especially because before Darwin they did not have a good explanation for the existence of human race.

4. "Evolution of US Global Confrontation with the Jihadists since 9/11" Interesting analysis.

Representative Sample:The dichotomy within the US government regarding the so-called War on Terror had caused strategic shortcomings. Later, we understood that the American offensive was slowed and halted by the combined forces of appeasers and oil lobbies and by the sheer fear of wider war.

5. "Police Can Legally Take Your Blood Without Warrant" Which also means your DNA.

Representative Sample:  Most people can be found guilty of something on paper if enough data were provided. But that isn’t the whole story. Where does the line get drawn on freedom?.

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