Saturday, October 31, 2009

Candid Interview With President Obama - Part 3: The Economy

This is a continuation of an Unreligious Right exclusive, an interview of President Obama by John Maddup. If you missed them, see parts one & two. Please keep in mind that the president was speaking off the record.

Maddup: Let's turn to the economy. I see that you are now claiming that the stimulus created large numbers of jobs. Where do those numbers come from? 

Obama: Umm, we kind of made them up. Not exactly, there were all sorts of calculations and such. Those numbers are our best guess, at least until we find a way to come up with a different number that looks better.

Maddup: So is it fair to say that you really aren't sure that the stimulus had much effect?

Obama: No, that's not fair. But it might be true. I can tell you one thing though.

Maddup: What's that?

Obama: Any failure of the stimulus is all the fault of Republicans.

Maddup: Why?

Obama: Because we needed to spend even more money. The more the better. Ask Paul Krugman. So if the stimulus didn't work, it must have been too small. And you know who is responsible for that: the GOP. 

Maddup: What about the deficit?

Obama: What about it?

Maddup: Aren't you worried that your policies are increasing the deficit at an incredible rate?  

Obama: Who worries about the deficit? It's just not important. And fixing it is a bad idea. Really bad. 

Maddup: I don't understand sir.

Obama: People like government programs. They don't like fixing the deficit.

Maddup: Could you elaborate, Sir?

Obama: There are two ways to cut the deficit, right? We can raise taxes, or we can cut spending. Do either of those things sound like political winners to you?  

Maddup: But all the money from those programs has to come from somewhere. Aren't we mortgaging our country for future generations?

Obama: Future generations? Do you think they are voting in 2012? I'll let you in on a little secret about money.

Maddup: What's that, Mr. President?

Obama: We have this thing called the U.S. Mint. It actually prints money. Think about it. We can just print more money if we need it. And you think I should cut my throat politically to worry about the deficit? No way, no how.

Maddup: But haven't you talked about how your big expensive initiatives are actually going to save money and cut the deficit in the long run?

Obama: [hearty laughter] Come on, John. You don't think I'm stupid enough to really believe my own propaganda, do you?

Maddup: [laughs] No, sir. Of course not. I was just kidding around.

Obama: Good one, John.

Maddup: Why don't we move on to something else?

Obama: Fire away.

[End Part Three]

HOT5 Daily 10/31/2009

1. "The Dead Vote and Jobs Are Saved, Praise Obama" The administration apparently thinks it can just make up anything and people will believe it.

Representative Sample:The porkulus program has created or saved at least 650,000 jobs, according to a report released by the Obama administration on Friday. Hmmm.

2. "Halloween is 'dangerous' says the Pope as he slams 'anti-Christian' festival" Apparently the Pope is as big of a nut as Pat Robertson. Although at least he didn't mention "demonic candy." 

Representative Sample: The Vatican attempted to put a brake on the growing popularity of Halloween yesterday, branding it anti-Christian and dangerous.

3. "Honduran government caves into US pressure, agrees to Zelaya’s restitution" An Obama foreign policy success -- too bad it damages U.S. interests.

Representative Sample: envoy for Latin America Thomas Shannon went to Honduras to twist arms: his position was that the November 29 elections would not be recognized unless Zelaya was returned to power. I guess nothing ensures democracy like restoring to power the guy who did his outmost to undermine democracy, at least in Shannon’s eyes.

4. "Rigged In Advance" I'm not in favor of preemptive conspiracy theories. But corruption during the election wouldn't be surprising -- give that the state government is riddled with corruption, starting at the top. The post has some good points about what should be done.

Representative Sample: You want trust in government? Start with clean elections. Then stop the patronage. Then start showing some fiscal accountability. Then some fiscal responsibility. Yeah, I’m dreaming. But until all of those things happen, and continue to happen for several years, then both sides of the aisle are lying crooks in my book.

5. "Health-care Moochers & Looters" An opinion guaranteed to produced sputtering hysterical outrage among liberals.

Representative Sample: these two groups have, over the past 50 years, come very close to destroying the USA. This health-care bill is their crowning glory. If they pass it, the USA will be on life support. Throw on cap & trade and we are dead.

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

Friday, October 30, 2009

Arguing About Spanking

I've been having a pretty intense argument over spanking with Angie at Angie the Anti-Theist. She's an extremely passionate spanking opponent, whereas I think mild spanking is harmless. Since I've already written enough for a long post, I thought I'd just link the comment thread if anyone is interested.

Candid Interview With President Obama - Part 2: Afghanistan

This is a continuation of an Unreligious Right exclusive, an interview of President Obama by John Maddup. Part one can be found here. Please keep in mind that the president was speaking off the record.

Maddup: Where are you on Afghanistan? Are you going to support the McChrystal plan, or go in a different direction? 

Obama: I wish I knew. Cheney says I'm "dithering." Of course I am! I don't have the faintest idea what to do. You know military affairs aren't my thing. Damn that Bush for sticking me with this mess!

Maddup: But Mr. President, with all due respect, you've been president for almost a year now. Isn't it fair to ask why it's taking you so long to come up with your own plan, or to decide between various recommendations?

Obama: Well, John, since I'm being completely honest here, I just don't want to make a decision. I can't see any upside. No matter what I do, I'm going to get blasted by someone. I'd rather focus on health care, or doing the real work of foreign policy, like talking to all of our enemies.

Maddup: I know that as you say, military affairs aren't your thing, but what does your gut instinct tell you?

Obama: It tells me to get the hell out of there as fast as possible. But I can't do that. You know I said all those things about how important Afghanistan was during the campaign. Sure it was just to bash Bush over Iraq, but unfortunately people remember it. I'm not committing political suicide.

Maddup: What about the Biden plan? At least that would cut down on the troop levels.

Obama: You know, I gave that some thought. But there's a problem. 

Maddup: What's that?

Obama: I hate to say this, but you have to consider the source. When has Joe Biden ever been right about anything? The guy is a total flake. Could this be the one time he actually has a decent idea? I don't know if I can take that chance. After all, we are talking about my political future, and my legacy here. I don't want to be the guy that screws up Afghanistan worse than Bush.

Maddup: I see your point. So what are you going to do? 

Obama: I'm going to give it more thought, but I'll tell you what I'm leaning toward, some sort of half-measure.

Maddup: A half-measure?

Obama: That's right. Look, you've got this counterinsurgency idea on the one hand, and the counterterrorism option on the other. Why not do a little of both?

Maddup: Isn't that what we are sort of doing now?

Obama: Well, yeah. But we would do it differently. There'd be a whole new plan. Give something to everyone. That way I can get a little support from each side, instead of massive criticism from one side.  

Maddup: I see. Do you think we should move to a new topic?

Obama: Please, I hate talking about Afghanistan. [Mutters something unintelligible about Bush]

[End Part Two]  

HOT5 Daily 10/30/2009

1. "Not improving upon closer acquaintance" The more you see of Obama, the less there is to like.

Representative Sample: Now that we've had a year or so to get to know our president, are there any among us who like him more than we did before the election?

2. "Getting What They Wanted" Surprise! Europeans still critical of America even with Obama in charge. 

Representative Sample:  I guess they'll always be waiting for us to do something or to stop doing something. When they lack the military power to control their own destiny beyond their borders, they'll always complain about America

3. "Liberalism is not Neutral and not a Shield" UN surprised to find itself the target of terrorist attack.

Representative Sample: The UN adheres to universal values, such as respect for the rule of law, democracy, human rights, access to food for all. Sadly, many in the UN (and many of its supporters) are blind to the fact that these are liberal and Western values

4. "Поехали! Russia Plans Atomic-Powered Spaceship" Where's ours?

Representative Sample: this new spacecraft — which will have a preliminary design by 2012 — is supposed to help Russia maintain its edge in space, and possibly allow travel to the Moon or Mars.

5. "Japan Completes Testing of the First Missile Defense AEGIS Destroyer" Naval missile defense in Asia.

Representative Sample: In this test, the Japanese navy Ship was cruising off the coast of Kauai in Hawaii, intercepted a ballistic missile target launched from the island.

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

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Candid Interview With President Obama - Part 1: Health Care

The Unreligious Right has obtained an exclusive transcript of an unusually candid interview with President Obama, conducted by veteran reporter John Maddup. According to Maddup, the only explanation for Obama's surprisingly straightforward answers was that the president began by saying,

Look, I'm sick of political speech today. You ask whatever you want, and I'll tell you how I really feel. Seriously, I know this is off the record anyway.

[Begin Transcript]

Maddup: Ok, Mr. President. Why don't we start with health care? What do you think of the current version of the bill?

Obama: [Laughs] Well, John, like most Americans, I don't have the slightest idea what all is in that bill. Even most of the people in Congress haven't read the whole thing. You think I'm going to read it? Like I have that kind of time. Please.

Maddup: But sir, how can you support reform if you aren't clear on the details?

Obama: It's very simple. First, I do know that this bill will increase the role of the federal government. Naturally, as head of the federal government, I'm strongly in favor of any expansion of government power. Who wouldn't be? Second, if we pass this bill, I'll get credit for doing something to solve a major problem. People want their government to do something. Passing a big piece of legislation makes it look like we are on the job, taking care of the public, and not just sitting around.

Maddup: But what if it doesn't solve the problems? What if it makes them worse, or creates new problems?

Obama: That could happen. But if it does it'll be the fault of Republicans.

Maddup: How's that? They aren't writing the bill.

Obama: Exactly.

Maddup: I don't understand, Sir. 

Obama: Let's see if I can explain. Democrats control Congress, and of course I'm the president, so you'd think anything that went wrong would be our fault, right? Wrong! We control Congress, true. But Republicans can block things. Plus we have those conservative and moderate weasels in our own party; but let's focus on the GOP. If it weren't for the GOP I could do what I really want, and that's to just nationalize the whole health care system.

Maddup: So you would like to have single-payer national health insurance?

Obama: Of course! But I can't get it because of the GOP. If this bloated monstrosity of a bill screws things up it will ultimately be the fault of Republicans.

Maddup: Ok, Mr. President, I think I see where you are coming from now. Thanks for the explanation.

Obama: No problem, John. One other point I should mention. No matter what else happens with this bill, if we get it passed it will increase government control over health care, as I said before. That's a first step to single-payer. You've got to take a first step before you can reach the finish line. Oops, sorry about that. I slipped back into political speech mode there for a second.

Maddup: That's ok, sir. I know it must be hard to turn it off. Before we move on to other issues, let me ask you one final question regarding health care.

Obama: Hit me.

Maddup: What do you say to those who already have good insurance, and are worried that reform will actually lower the quality of their policies, increase costs, and cause their taxes to rise?

Obama: I say, come on now. When has more government ever lowered quality and efficiency or increased costs? Let's be serious. Who doesn't think that government insurance bureaucrats won't do a better job than private insurance bureaucrats? As for taxes, since when are higher taxes a bad thing? I know I have to pretend to be against higher taxes, but the higher the taxes, the more money we have to work with. And that's a good thing.

Maddup: Alright, Mr. President. That about wraps up the health care issue. Let's turn to another topic.

[End Part One] 

Congress Wasting Time Yet Again

With massive and complicated health care and climate change legislation on the table, two ongoing wars, the national debt piling up at a record rate, and an economy still losing jobs, you'd think Congress would have plenty of substantive issues keeping it busy. But what is the House Judiciary Committee up to? That's right, it's holding hearings regarding concussions in the National Football League.

Even some on the committee itself recognize the idiocy of involving Congress in the business of the NFL.

"Football, like soccer, rugby and even basketball and baseball, involves contact that can produce injuries," said Rep. Lamar Smith, R-Texas. "We cannot legislate the elimination of injuries from the games without eliminating the games themselves."
But naturally there was a Democrat available to reject basic commonsense in favor of government intrusion into areas it doesn't belong. Isn't there always?
"Young children, often encouraged by parents and coaches, attempt to imitate what they view as the noble behavior of their football heroes, gladiators," said Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga. "This behavior is clearly dangerous, and a refusal to recognize and respond to this danger is reckless and irresponsible."
We need government involvement with the NFL for the children, and because people are too stupid and childish to figure out things for themselves. We need our big nanny, the federal government to guide and protect them. 

HOT5 Daily 10/29/2009

1. "Does the Government Think You’re Stupid? Or a Child?" Yes and yes. And so do people who advocate bigger government.

Representative Sample: if the modern welfare state teaches us anything, it is that we must be cocooned and protected as if we were a newborn babe, or prevented from harming ourselves because we're too stupid to know any better. It's not enough that government warn us that the stove is hot. They must put on oven mitts for us and then place a 10 foot high sign in front of our face telling us not to touch anything.

2. "War Crimes?" Someone is always ready to condemn almost any act of war as a "war crime." Another example of why the laughably named UN Human Rights Council can't and shouldn't be taken seriously.

Representative Sample: They can, as would have the previous administration, stick with their claim that the UN’s Human Rights council has absolutely no jurisdiction or say in the issue (something I happen to agree with) and risk being branded “war criminals”, or they can capitulate to the “legal” argument and submit justification for using these weapons in combat against terrorists

3. "Turkey: An Ally No More" An ally of Israel that is. 

Representative Sample: Implicit in this strategy is a distancing of Turkey from the West in general and Israel in particular. Although not presented in Islamist terms, "strategic depth" closely fits the AK party's Islamist world view.

4. "Bad driving may have genetic basis, UCI study finds" Sounds like a good excuse when you get pulled over. Listen officer, I couldn't help it. I have bad driving genes.

Representative Sample: People with a particular gene variant performed more than 20 percent worse on a driving test than people without it -- and a follow-up test a few days later yielded similar results. About 30 percent of Americans have the variant.

5. "Another Brick" An interesting analogy.

Representative Sample: A worldview is not some kind of coherent whole, it is not something that can be easily summed up by 1 “ism” word. Each of us has assembled their view over the years piece by piece. 

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

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Demons and Reason Inside the Bubble

Over at Pharyngula there is a post up ridiculing belief in demons entitled, "They really are that crazy." Although I don't believe in demons or other supernatural beings, I don't find belief in demons particularly crazy given other mainstream religious views. Almost all believers of various sorts believe in an invisible human soul or spirit that exists separate from the purely physical body. If you already believe in spirits, it isn't that great of a stretch to postulate disembodied spirits, some of which may be malevolent. After all, they are all invisible anyway. 

Once you start with a foundation of certain irrational beliefs, other seemly more irrational beliefs are actually quite rational inside the bubble of that particular world-view. For example, let's suppose you really and absolutely believe that God created the world in six days.  Unfortunately for you, if you are truly intellectually honest and educated, you realize that the evidence simply does not support your belief. But that's what you believe through faith, despite its irrationality. Given that worldview, it is not irrational to conclude that God must have faked the fossil record and made the universe appear older, just to test peoples' faith. You aren't denying the evidence, or pretending that it supports a six day creation, you are recognizing it that it doesn't and coming up with a reason why. You are reasoning inside the bubble of an existing irrational world-view.

All-out Attack on Counterinsurgency Strategy

Ralph Peters has been writing provocative articles about Afghanistan for quite awhile, and his latest, "Blood for nothing," is an all-out attack on the counterinsurgency strategy advocated by General McChrystal and others.  Here are some key excerpts,
Our soldiers are dying for a fad, not for a strategy. Our vaunted counterinsurgency doctrine is the military equivalent of hula hoops, pet rocks and Beanie Babies: an oddity that caught the Zeitgeist.
He argues that we are "throwing away soldiers' lives for theories that just don't work." Peters blasts the proponents of counterinsurgency,
Our counterinsurgency (COIN) theory -- hatched by military pseudo-intellectuals and opportunists -- has no serious historical basis. It ignores the uncomfortable lessons of 3,000 years of fighting insurgencies and terrorists. Its authors claim Vietnam and Algeria as success stories.
But what about the success in Iraq you ask?
As for the claim that COIN worked in Iraq, it's nonsense. First, Iraq ain't exactly out of the woods. Second, what turned the tide against al Qaeda was . . . al Qaeda. The troop surge helped, but wasn't decisive. We were blessed with enemies so monstrous they alienated the Iraqis they claimed to champion -- and the Iraqis turned against the foreign terrorists.
So what does Peters recommend?
This time around, Vice President Joe Biden happens to be right: We have to focus on destroying our true enemies -- al Qaeda -- and not on naive efforts to turn Afghanistan into Montclair, NJ. Republicans need to stop and smell the ruins of 9/11.
He concludes by asking for top generals to speak out,
Killing our nation's enemies always makes sense. Sacrificing our troops for the Pentagon's equivalent of Beanie Babies is despicable. Won't a single four-star general stand up and be counted?
Read the whole article. One thing I love about Peters is that he pulls no punches. I wish Colonel David Hackworth were still alive. I would love to hear his take on the debate over Afghanistan strategy.

HOT5 Daily 10/28/2009

1. "But-But-But…Booooooooooosh!" But the media isn't biased, oh no. Just Fox.

Representative Sample: Josh Gerstein poses the interesting question vis-a-vis Mr. Obama’s comportment; that is, “What if Bush had done that?”

2. "Matthew Hoh resigns over Afghanistan" An example of doing the right thing when you are an official who strongly disagrees with policy.

Representative Sample: I applaud this man for having the courage to stand up and dissent. Some may knock him, but not sane thinking Americans, who see things through the long lens

3. "2010 Defense Authorization Bill reaches nearly $700 billion"Another bloated monstrosity.

Representative Sample: A bill with this type of price tag associated with it is nearly unfathomable. More than that, it is unsustainable and counterproductive to our national security.

4. "Invisible Forces" Easy to debunk, but you still hear the God/wind comparison trotted out.

Representative Sample: God isn't nearly so helpful. We haven't yet found a way to measure God that he shows up on. He doesn't do cool Tesla purple arcs of electricity (they are sooooo pretty)** and we have entirely non-supernatural explanations for lightning. 

5. "Israeli-Turkish Relations Straining Defense Ties" Israel now has to think twice before concluding arms deals with Turkey.

Representative Sample: Observers are reacting with varying levels of alarm to these developments, but some clear signals are evident in the defense trade. Defense News’ “Israel-Turkey Rift Derails Defense Trade” discusses some of the impacts, which are serious.

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

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pointless Attack on Nativity Scene

As an atheist, I strongly support challenging serious religious attempts to intrude into areas where they don't belong, such as efforts to teach creationism in school. But sometimes certain atheists or atheist organizations attack religion when it is completely unnecessary and counterproductive. In such cases, the only result is to make atheists look like anti-religious bigots, determined to root out even innocuous religious tradition and display, and to make atheists an even more hated minority than we are already. 

For sixty-three years, there has been a privately maintained nativity scene erected on a public road median in Warren, Michigan. Last the year the Freedom From Religion Foundation protested the scene and had it removed. This year the owners of the scene were denied permission to set it up, as the township adopted the FFRF's contention that it violated constitutional separation of church and state. Now the Thomas More Law Center is suing the township claiming that the nativity scene owners' first amendment rights have been violated.

The FFRF does some good work. Here is a list of some accomplishments from its website:

Winning the first federal lawsuit challenging direct funding by the government of a faith-based agency
Overturning a state Good Friday holiday 
Winning a lawsuit barring direct taxpayer subsidy of religious schools
Removing Ten Commandments monuments and crosses from public land
Halting the Post Office from issuing religious cancellations
Ending 51 years of illegal bible instruction in public schools

What do most of those things have in common? They were attempts by government to directly support religion, violating the establishment clause. In contrast, this case, and some of the other monument removal cases, rely on an extremist interpretation of the establishment clause, which basically holds that the government can't have anything whatsoever to do with religion -- even indirectly. The government of Warren, Michigan didn't set up a nativity scene on public land, it merely granted permission for private individuals to continue a long-standing tradition. It harms no one, and the idea that it violates church/state separation is ridiculous. It would be different if Warren had rejected other religious displays, and was only allowing the Christian one. Then the township would clearly be promoting Christianity to the exclusion of other religions. But there are no allegations in the FFRF's letter that indicate such was the case.

By attacking such traditional displays the FFRF is doing no good and much harm, making atheists look petty & extremist. Such frivolous actions undermine their work on serious church/state issues. If I were donating to the FFRF, I would be angered to know that my money was being wasted on such nonsense.

HOT5 Daily 10/27/2009

1. "The Rest of Waxman–Markey: Caveat Emptor!" A look at some of the major provisions of the massive economy-wrecking bill.

Representative Sample: cap-and-trade takes up no more than 30 percent of its pages. The rest of the telephone-book-sized HR 2454 detailed new regulations, wealth transfers and taxes whose aggregate adverse impacts may well surpass those of cap-and-trade.

2. ""You Can't Disprove Religion": Three Counter-Examples" Outstanding post that takes on theistic evolution, the concept of a human soul, and the notion of a sentient universe.

Representative Sample:  want to point out that even these beliefs are in direct contradiction of the vast preponderance of available evidence... almost as much as the obscure cults and the rigid fundamentalist dogma.

3. "Argentina: The war against the media" Obama isn't the only one attacking the media. 

Representative Sample: Mrs. Kirchner and her husband have decided that they lost because of bad press coverage. They are especially upset with the Clarin media company, which though once a supporter, is now an outspoken critic.

4. "Happy birthday web browser" Remember the internet before web browers?

Representative Sample: Well, technically happy birthday almost two weeks ago on October 13. The browser turns 15

5. "Obama Tries to Scale Back Government Flood Insurance"Obama, trying to reduce a government program that isn't defense-related? I know, it's hard to believe.

Representative Sample: the program has simply drifted along for more than three decades with only a handful of significant changes. The Obama administration, however, has shown a willingness — albeit a cautious one — to begin moving the program in the right direction.

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

Monday, October 26, 2009

New Torture Research

A new study at Harvard University examines the impact of torture on on the perceptions of those listening to it as it occurred, or listening to recordings after the event. Normally I'm highly skeptical of such studies, and I always ask: how many people did they torture? But in this case they actually did something that simulated mild torture, having the subject's hand immersed in ice water. The study produced some interesting mixed results.
Participants in the study met a woman suspected of cheating to win money. The woman was then "tortured" by having her hand immersed in ice water while study participants listened to the session over an intercom. She never confessed to anything, but the more she suffered during the torture, the guiltier she was perceived to be.
But conversely,
When participants in the study only listened to a recording of a previous torture session—rather than taking part as witnesses of ongoing torture—they saw the victim who expressed more pain as less guilty.
You could draw various conclusions from this research. The article concludes by stating,
the mere fact that someone was tortured leads observers to think that the truth was found.
But that's only one part of the picture. You could also conclude that more distant observers, reviewing the results of a torture session, are more inclined to see the victim as innocent, or possibly be more objective in assessing the results.

Turkey: Friend of Iran

A little while ago, Caroline Glick published a controversial article called, "How Turkey Was Lost to the West." It can be summarized with the following excerpts:
Once the apotheosis of a pro-Western, dependable Muslim democracy, this week Turkey officially left the Western alliance and became a full member of the Iranian axis. ... Turkey is lost and we'd better make our peace with this devastating fact. But if we learn its lessons, we can craft policies that check the dangers that Turkey projects and prepare for the day when Turkey may decide that it wishes to return to the Western fold.
Although some dismissed her analysis as exaggerated, alarmist, or merely reflective of a hardline Israeli position, the Guardian has a story up today that lends weight to her conclusions. The Turkish Prime Minister states categorically of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, "There is no doubt he is our friend," while at the same time criticizing European states such as France and Germany. As the Guardian puts it,
Friendly towards a religious theocratic Iran, covetous and increasingly resentful of a secular but maddeningly dismissive Europe: it seems the perfect summary of Turkey's east-west dichotomy.
Turkey, long a loyal and valued U.S. ally, severely damaged that status by its behavior at the outset of the Iraq War. By blocking U.S. deployment through its country at the last minute, it essentially rammed a knife into the back of America, disrupting U.S. invasion plans and causing numerous problems. By that act Turkey demonstrated that it can no longer be trusted as a U.S. ally. It is also in the process of destroying its well-established strategic cooperation with Israel, in favor of cozying up to its enemies. And as the U.S. works to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, what is the position of our "ally" Turkey?
"Iran does not accept it is building a weapon. They are working on nuclear power for the purposes of energy only."
That's Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, spouting Iranian propaganda. The Guardian notes, 
Erdogan's views will interest US foreign policy makers, who have long seen his AKP government as a model of a pro-western "moderate Islam" that could be adopted in other Muslim countries.
It's obviously past time for a reassessment.

HOT5 Daily 10/26/2009

1. "Why the left isn't socialist" Similar but different.

Representative Sample: just because they are reconciled to the survival of capitalist enterprise doesn't mean they have to like it. And the sentiment that capitalism is evil emphatically survived the failure of state ownership.

2. "Preserving the American Nuclear Deterrent" It's main enemy? Obama's dangerous naivete and utopian thinking.

Representative Sample: the nuclear peace of the last 60 years has perhaps dulled the sense of urgency that ought normally reside in discussions of high nuclear politics. Should the administration carry out its repeated pledges to make dramatic unilateral cuts in U.S. stockpiles, our country's national security might well face new extreme dangers.

3. "Aegis Battleships Misused in Drug War" Why are billion dollar warships serving as offshore patrol boats? 

Representative Sample: For the job currently performed by the Ticonderoga supercruisers and Burke superdestroyers, chasing down smugglers in motorized skiffs or pirates in speed boats and dhows, we see the same function performed adequately, perhaps better by 1000 ton offshore patrol vessels.

4. "Obama in talks with wildfire" Engagement.

Representative Sample: It's a video.

5. "Dictator or NFL coach?" Take the quiz.

Representative Sample: links to a quiz.

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

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Another Ridiculous Argument Against the Death Penalty

It's too expensive. Only the government could make executing criminals more expensive than keeping them in prison for life. It's a prime example of government efficiency in action.
The number of death sentences handed down in the United States has dropped from roughly 300 a year in the 1990s to 115 a year more recently. Executions are falling off at the same rate, the report says. 

In the meantime, some 3,300 inmates remain on death row.
The reason the death penalty is so expensive is because we don't actually execute people, except in tiny numbers, primarily because we are rightly concerned with making mistakes.
"[T]he death penalty is turning into a very expensive form of life without parole," said Richard Dieter, DPIC executive director, in a statement. "At a time of budget shortfalls, the death penalty cannot be exempt from reevaluation alongside other wasteful government programs that no longer make sense."

Here's an idea. Instead of pretending that there is something inherently wrong with the death penalty that makes it too expensive, how about we change its application to make it more efficient and less costly? I know, what a radical idea.  As the article notes,

Some officials may be tempted to try to cut capital-punishment costs, notes the DPIC report, but many of those costs reflect Supreme Court-mandated protections at the trial and appeals-court levels. "The choice today is between a very expensive death penalty and one that risks falling below constitutional standards," the report says
This could be avoided by taking two steps. Step one, restrict the death penalty to criminals who are clearly & unmistakably guilty. There are certain criminals whose guilt is beyond a shadow of a doubt, and for whom a trial is merely a formality. Those individuals are the only ones who should be sentenced to death. If there isn't rock-solid, indisputable proof of guilt, the death penalty should not be applied, regardless of the crime.

The second step is to remove all of the delays slowing down application of the death penalty. The reason for those protections is to avoid accidentally executing the innocent. If we have far tighter restrictions on who can be given the death penalty in the first place, those protections become unnecessary, and criminals can quickly and inexpensively receive the executions they deserve. Let's fix the system instead of just throwing it out.

A Smaller Minority

As an atheist, I fall into a small minority of Americans. And as a right-wing atheist, I'm a minority of a minority. But there is always a smaller minority. I recently came across a site called, A Conservative Shemale. I think she definitely has me beat in the minority conservative category. It looks like an interesting site that posts regularly. Check it out.

HOT5 Daily 10/25/2009

1. "Clod Warriors" A look back at the Cold War and the left's love affair with communism.

Representative Sample: there are many educated fools who still deny the evil in the system they love. No amount of evidence will sway them. We'll always be the bad guys in their tales of the Cold War.

2. "Another Piece That Shows We Are All Felons" Did you know you are a criminal?

Representative Sample: I wrote a few weeks ago about how we all are probably guilty of breaking laws every day. Well, here is another piece that shows it is even worse than breaking a few minor laws. You are probably a felon just waiting to be prosecuted.

3. "Sunday Funnies" Good cartoon. 

Representative Sample: It's a graphic.

4. "Your crazy is showing." Yet another reminder of why I laugh whenver anyone on the left whines about crazy right-wing hatred of Obama.

Representative Sample: The Left’s hatred of the Cheneys and the Bushes is unbelievably irrational, almost homicidally hateful (assassination porn, anyone?), and sickeningly emotional. When I talk to a seemingly normal person who then launches into a froth-inducing tirade as soon as Bush is mentioned, I am always shocked by the visceral nature of their hatred for the 43rd president.

5. "Socialism is the Best Disinfectant" Hydrogen Barackside.

Representative Sample: It's a graphic.

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

Saturday, October 24, 2009

The Pro-Rape Smear

Not content with making false accusations of racism against political opponents, or fabricating quotations, the left has smeared anyone opposing the Franken amendment to the defense appropriations bill as "pro-rape." Never mind the actual reasons they are against it, or the fact that the Obama administration itself opposes it

Kathleen Parker takes note of this smear campaign in today's Washington Post. She points out that Republican senators opposing the amendment felt that it was

overbroad and might not be enforceable. The latter possibility was raised by the Defense Department in a letter to senators, saying that the Pentagon or its contractors "may not be in a position to know about such things. Enforcement would be problematic."
More details on problems with the amendment can be found here. But as Parker writes, the smear artists don't care about the details.
It's far more entertaining to insist that Republicans, instead of objecting to a potentially bad law, don't mind if women get gang-raped. Legal wrangling is not for sissies in Twitter World.
She's actually being generous. Rather than not caring about the details, most of those behind the smear campaign are intellectually dishonest scum exploiting the issue of rape for political purposes. Many of the same people falsely accusing Republicans of being pro-rape, are the same types constantly whining about "hate speech," "hate radio," and the supposed dangers of intemperate language coming from the right. But calling people "pro-rape" because they have objections to an amendment is just fine -- typical leftist hypocrisy in action.

HOT5 Daily 10/24/2009

1. "Mainstream Media Confronts The Monster It Created" A glimmer of hope that the press has begun to wake up?

Representative Sample: Hopefully the mainstream media now realize that they created an executive branch monster by serving as sycophants for Obama. That monster -- or some Republican equivalent in the future -- could just as easily turn on any one of the mainstream news organizations as Obama recently turned on Fox.

2. "Democrats Flip-Flop On Raising The Debt Limit" No matter how much Republicans spend, Democrats always want to spend more -- one of the many reasons not to vote Democratic.

Representative Sample: Republicans spent like there was no tomorrow and yet the Obama Administration has managed to outspend them. Obama’s deficit for this year will be 1.4 TRILLION dollars, nearly twice the deficit of Bush’s last year in office.

3. "52 Weeks, 52 Religions" Someone who just can't get enough religion. 

Representative Sample: For 52 weeks, I’m setting out to visit 52 different religions. Christian to Muslim, Buddhist to atheist, I’m going to attend their services, discuss faith with their leaders, and bring it all back to you.

4. "In Israel, a Key Test of Obama’s Retooled Missile Shield" At least we are doing something useful, in contrast to the worthless talks with Iran.

Representative Sample: This week, the United States and Israel kicked off a major air-defense exercise that will test scenarios including coordinated missile barrages launched from Iran or from Syria, as well as shorter-range rocket attacks by Hezbollah or Hamas.

5. "Dems in Congress have no clue about the constitutional basis of their power" Why should they? To them the constitution means whatever they think it should mean.

Representative Sample: the majority think they have the power to make the purchase of a product a “condition of lawful residence in the United States” (in the words of the Congressional Budget Office, which notes that such a move by Congress is unprecedented).

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

Friday, October 23, 2009

How About Minding Our Own Business for Once?

The U.S. is urging Sri Lanka to carry out a war crimes investigation of actions taken during its long civil war with Tamil separatists.  
The appeal by Stephen Rapp, the U.S. ambassador at large for war crimes issues, came hours after his office presented Congress with a detailed account of alleged atrocities during the conflict that suggests both sides may have violated international law and committed crimes against humanity.

Why is the this any of our business whatsoever? Why do we even have an ambassador at large for war crimes? Does Congress have nothing better to do than to hear reports about what went on in a civil war in Asia? You might think we had enough to worry about with our own wars.

Meddling in the internal affairs of Sri Lanka is not only pointless, it is clearly not in the U.S. interest. By accusing others of war crimes, when we have no involvement or interests, we invite other countries to examine our own conflicts and accuse us of war crimes. The civil war is over. How the Sri Lankan government deals with the aftermath, and whether or not it wants to conduct any investigations, should be up to Sri Lanka. The U.S. constantly invites problems by interfering in the affairs of others where it has no actual interests.

Human rights groups and political analysts have accused the Obama administration of failing to confront Sri Lanka more forcefully over reports of indiscriminate shelling of displaced civilians as it moved in to crush the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.
Not only should the administration not have confronted Sri Lanka "more forcefully," it should not have confronted them at all. The U.S. is not and should not be an agent of human rights groups, many of which are often inimical to American interests.

HOT5 Daily 10/23/2009

1. "Bullies’ Overreach" Obama's desperate attempt to silence criticism.

Representative Sample: As surely as Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton allowed their personal flaws to erode the office of the presidency, Obama seems bent on allowing his own flaws (thin-skinnedness, hubris) to do potentially grave damage to the office as well. And over what? Not some grand policy matter or some key personnel matter, but over the desire to exclude a news network that has criticized him.

2. "“Why Don’t We Fix the Two Public Options We Have Now instead of Creating a Third One?”" Then we wouldn't be able to create a gigantic new government bureaucracy.

Representative Sample: That sensible — and hopefully not rhetorical — question was posed by Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) on National Public Radio

3. "Skepticism, belief revision, and science" Some interesting points.

Representative Sample: If you did believe that skeptics should only believe conclusions which are reached by scientific methods, that would be a belief that is not reached by scientific methods.

4. "Fighting The Wrong War" Are we targeting the right enemies in Afghanistan?

Representative Sample: in Afghanistan, the Taliban are not the main enemy; the drug gangs are. Without the drug money, the Taliban become a troublesome Pushtun faction, not a mercenary military power that seeks to run the entire country again.

5. "TV boycott suported by… Tommy Smothers" Penn Jillette finds out first-hand that  leftists only believe in free speech if you agree with them.

Representative Sample:I remember when the Smothers Brothers were for free speech. 
I guess the only speech Tommy Smothers supports now is yelling at people he disagrees with.

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

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Have a Year and a Half to Spare?

Looking for something to do? How about spending 520 days isolated with five other people in a simulated Mars mission?
The crew will follow a programme designed to simulate travel to Mars (250 days), a 30 day Mars surface exploration phase and travel back (240 days). They will live and work in a facility in Moscow, which has been specifically designed for the needs of these simulations.
You'll have plenty of room in your 3 square meters of living space. It would be interesting to know exactly what this mission will pay, but I could only find the following:
For successful completion of the entire study including training before and follow-up after the isolation, the respective volunteer will receive a fixed compensation that is in line with international standards for participation in clinical studies.
I hope it's a large amount.

New Jersey Governor's Race

Here in New Jersey, for a while it looked like there was a good chance to get rid of corrupt & unpopular Democratic governor John Corzine. Republican Chris Christie led in the polls for months, but now Corzine has closed the gap. The current RCP average actually has him up by a tiny amount. How did this happen?

From what I have seen, Christie basically sat on his lead while Corzine did everything possible to claw his way back into position to win. There has been a non-stop barrage of Corzine attack ads hammering Christie. I can't even remember seeing a positive Corzine ad. Christie's response ads have, in my opinion, been late, weak, and insufficient in number. I don't even watch that much television, but I've probably seen five Corzine ads for every one of Christie's. Plus the NJ Education Association has been running ads attacking Christie.

If Corzine pulls out the win, it will be yet another example that negative campaigning works -- even though people claim not to like it.  As of now, it looks like Christie may have blown an excellent chance for a GOP victory. 

Mixed Feelings About Cheney's Latest

Former Vice President Dick Cheney gave a long speech last night at the American Enterprise Institute. As usual, he defended his administration's record on national security policy, and sharply criticized the Obama administration. Every time Cheney gives a speech, I react with mixed feelings.

The first thing I always think upon hearing Dick Cheney is, where were these vigorous defenses of Bush administration policy during the Bush administration? Cheney continues to point out the obvious -- although the Bush Derangement Syndrome crowd tries to pretend otherwise -- that regardless of its many faults, it successfully defended the U.S. from any follow-up terror strikes after 9/11. I'm not going to go through the speech point-by-point, because I've addressed almost all of Cheney's arguments before. Most of the criticism of the Obama administration is well-aimed and effective. But the biggest problem is that it comes from Dick Cheney.

I understand why Cheney feels the need to speak out, given the Obama administration's ridiculous and continual attempts to blame any problem on Bush. But every time Cheney speaks, he reminds people about the Bush administration, helps keep BDS alive, and gives new life to Obama's strategy of blaming the past.

Obama and the Democrats have slipped in the polls primarily because of their inability to do anything about the economy. As long as job losses continue, and people see the economy languishing, Democrats are going to get most of the blame -- because they are now in charge. The health care debate has mobilized a significant number of independents to join with Republicans in opposing the administration. They are opposed to Democratic policies, but they are not and were not fans of the Bush administration. In my opinion, now is not the time to go on the attack regarding national security policy, at least not an attack led by former members of the Bush administration. 

HOT5 Daily 10/22/2009

1. "The White House Doesn’t Want You To See This" The stimulus in action.

Representative Sample: At some point, thoughtful people will reject President Obama’s wisecracks about not following the “failed policies of the last eight years” because they’ll judge President Obama on his economic failures. They’ll notice that his economic accomplishments will consist of, in his eyes, the failed stimulus bill.

2. "Which Religion Should I Follow?" A handy flowchart helps you make your decision.

Representative Sample: it's a graphic.

3. "What the Limbaugh Quote Hoax Really Tells Us" Nothing good.

Representative Sample: what does it portend for American non-leftists that a wide and powerful swath of the American left apparently believes it quite credible that a major media figure with an audience in the tens of millions looks back fondly on slavery and approves of political assassination?

4. "The Demonization of Israel (and America) on US Campuses" With examples. Unfortunately this is all too common.

Representative Sample: In many cases, academic leftists, many with roots in the Middle East, have joined with traditional American leftists, anarchists and radical Islamists in order to bring an anti-Israel, anti-America, anti-Jew message to college campuses to the point where many Jews do not feel comfortable asserting their Jewish identity on campus. 

5. "Why Was He Ever Released from Gitmo Again?" I'm guessing stupidity.

Representative Sample: Yousef Mohammed al Shihri was repatriated to Saudi Arabia in November 2007 along with thirteen other Saudi citizens. At least several of them have returned to al Qaeda’s ranks. One of those who rejoined al Qaeda is Said Ali al Shihri, who has become the deputy chief of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula

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

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Hate Crimes Legislation

Yesterday I read a post about a vicious gay-bashing incident that happened earlier this month. (More about the incident here.) The Human Rights Campaign is using the incident to promote the current hate crimes bill. Although I strongly support gay rights, I oppose hate crimes legislation because in my opinion it is useless, unnecessary, and potentially harmful.

Labeling certain crimes as "hate" is useless. It does nothing in particular to protect victims. It is classic "feel-good" legislation, promoted to make people feel as if they are doing something. Feel-good legislation not only satisfies the political need to "do something," it also serves as a good way to avoid considering measures that might actually have an effect.

Hate crimes legislation provides harsher punishment, but even that appears to be unnecessary. If you look at convictions for people who committed hate crimes, such as the murder of Matthew Shepard, you find that they already got maximum sentences. I find it interesting that the left, which mostly supports hate crimes legislation, usually opposes mandatory sentencing and anything which limits judicial discretion. But for some reason, restricting judicial sentencing options is just fine when it comes to hate crimes.

How can you tell if someone has committed a hate crime? Sometimes it is obvious. But much more often it is not. What is to stop overzealous prosecutors from adding hate crimes charges to otherwise ordinary offenses? Let's say I'm out and I get into an altercation with someone. I overreact, get into a fight, and end up charged with assault & battery. The prosecutor discovers that I'm an atheist, and that the victim was a Catholic.  They go through this blog and cherry-pick out all the articles I've written that criticize the Pope and the church, and decide that I attacked the victim because I'm an anti-religious bigot. Suddenly I'm facing hate crime charges. Think this couldn't happen? Then you have a lot more blind faith in our legal system and prosecutors than I.

We don't need hate crimes legislation. What we do need is strict enforcement and harsh punishment of actual crimes, not the thoughts behind them. If you attempt to beat someone to death, it shouldn't matter whether or not it's because he's gay, or because you just felt like killing a random stranger. In either case you had no mitigating reason for your crime. One shouldn't receive any different punishment than the other.

HOT5 Daily 10/21/2009

1. "Afghanistan 2011: Three Scenarios" Interesting analysis.

Representative Sample: question -- "How does this end?" -- has been one I have been asking myself in light of the current policy debates on Afghanistan. Accordingly, I sketched out three scenarios -- most dangerous, most likely, most desired -- and tried to imagine how U.S. policy decisions might bring each about.

2. "Ten for Ten: Rasmussen's New Numbers Show Republicans Ahead on All Ten "Trust More" Issues" Poll round-up.

Representative Sample: Some big shifts here in the GOP's favor.

3. "Women at War" Making the case for women in combat.

Representative Sample: At least twelve countries around the globe allow women to serve on the front lines. Why are the U.S. and the UK behind the times? Or, should our role remain limited on the battlefield?

4. "The Internet is Re-Wiring your Brain….in a Good Way" The internet is actually good for you.

Representative Sample: The results suggest that searching online may be a simple form of brain exercise that might be employed to enhance cognition in older adults

5. "Behaving badly in the plague" What would happen if a black death style epidemic struck the world today? Links to an interesting article. The post criticizes it, but I think the article is more accurate than not.

Representative Sample: He downplays the variety of ways that people respond to severe and prolonged crises. Some people panic; some remain calm. Some get aggressive; some remain passive. Some isolate themselves; some reach out to family, neighbours, friends and community. Some struggle against fate; some resign themselves to fortune.

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

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Obama & Human Rights

Bret Stephens has an article in today's Wall Street Journal called, "Does Obama Believe in Human Rights?" In it he makes the argument that the president is basically unconcerned with advancing human rights, and sees that issue as interfering with his policy of engagement. I've been extremely critical of Obama's foreign policy. In my view, engagement appears to be a euphemism for naivety, pointless talk, wishful thinking, and appeasement. But I have to take issue with the logic behind Stephen's criticism of Obama on the human rights front, particularly this assertion,

It also takes a remarkable degree of cynicism—or perhaps cowardice—to treat human rights as something that "interferes" with America's purposes in the world, rather than as the very thing that ought to define them.
I find that position remarkably obtuse. The primary purpose of the U.S. government is, or should be, to advance the interests of the United States and its people, not to promote human rights for the rest of the world. I'm not sure how Stephens can deny that promoting human rights could sometimes interfere with American interests. There are numerous examples, of which China is an obvious one. How does it serve U.S. purposes to attack China on human rights at the possible expense of valuable economic ties? Is it the primary purpose of the U.S. to help people in China achieve more rights? If it is, it shouldn't be. I don't want a president who thinks helping the people of China is more important than maintaining relations that benefit America.

I have no problem with the U.S. promoting human rights when it makes sense to do so. Often such an emphasis correlates with our foreign policy goals, and is therefore a worthy aim. But the U.S. government shouldn't be a purely altruistic entity that puts human rights above all else. It's a national government, not a human rights organization. If the promotion of human rights clashes with American interests in a particular case, then the issue of rights should take a back seat. Bret Stephen's notion that human rights should "define" America's purpose in the world, is every bit as naive and dangerous as any of President Obama's ill-conceived foreign policy ideas.

HOT5 Daily 10/20/2009

1. "US Losing Space Race" Overly pessimistic and ignores successes, but still makes important points.

Representative Sample: It isn’t just commercial communications satellites and space exploration where the US is fading. A string of enormous and nearly complete failures in developing intelligence satellites has left the administration and Congress exceedingly wary of funding new programs

2. "Why Left Wing Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism" This is a broad-brush, but it definitely applies to part of the left.

Representative Sample: it has become a commonplace attitude on the left to presume that Israel has no right to defend the lives of its citizens, because those lives are somehow inferior to those of their attackers. It is of course not a new attitude, only an old attitude coming to the fore among the left once again.

3. "Limbaugh calls for public option" No, not for healthcare.

Representative Sample: Rush Limbaugh called for a public option today, stunning supporters of the talk radio firebrand.

4. "Tell me again about how gay people are treated equally?" One glaring example of why gay marriage rights are necessary.

Representative Sample: The Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami, Florida, refused Janice Langbehn and her children the right to visit her dying life partner, Lisa Pond, solely on the grounds that – get this – she was “in an anti-gay city and state”. 

5. "Type A Limited God" Why was God is such a rush when he created Earth?

Representative Sample: If you believe in the Book of Genesis in the Old Testament, which is the foundation of Judeo-Christian faith, I think you have to come to the conclusion that God has a Type A personality and is a touch less than omnipotent.

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

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Latest in Piracy

Somali pirates have captured a Chinese cargo ship in the Indian Ocean, 700 miles from Somalia. According to the "naval spokesman for the European Union's anti-piracy force," the naval patrols in the region are forcing the pirates to move further out to find targets. Wow, what a great success. Basically they've succeeded in annoying the pirates, and increasing their travel time. Good job. Rarely has so much naval power been assembled for so little result. 

You have to wonder when some country is going to get tired of this and actually take effective actions, instead of just ignoring the lessons of history and trying to put a band-aid on the piracy problem. The Chinese currently have three warships in the region. Is there any chance they might retaliate against suspected pirate bases in Somalia? A British analyst quoted in the report thinks the Chinese will probably take a cautious approach, and avoid endangering the captured crew, but he isn't sure. As he points out,

"We've never seen so many Chinese citizens captured at a time when Chinese ships were in the region."
Somalia piracy will continue as long as it is profitable, and the rewards outweigh the risks. Naval patrols can't be everywhere at once, and there are just too many targets to cover.  I wouldn't be at all surprised if piracy increased and spread to other countries, since it is clear that no one has the stomach for stamping it out.

Rift Between Atheists?

NPR's Morning Edition had a story today called, "A Bitter Rift Divides Atheists." You can listen to the piece or read it at the link. Essentially, it argues that there is a division between atheists who want to openly attack and ridicule religion, and those who favor treating the religious with more respect, and focusing primarily on thoughtful critiques of religion. In my opinion, calling this a "bitter rift" is a major overstatement, which also gives the false impression that atheism forms some sort of cohesive movement.

Atheism isn't a movement or an organization. It isn't a religion to be divided by a schism or rift. The only thing all atheists agree on is that they don't believe in gods. Opinions on how atheists should approach criticizing religion varies wildly, and depends on each circumstance in question. For example, I often find atheist attacks on religion pointless and counterproductive. In my opinion, expressing open hostility and contempt for religion, when it isn't necessary, simply makes believers hate atheists, and gives credence to those that think atheists are close-minded, anti-religious bigots. But it all depends on the circumstance and the venue. Sometimes an aggressive religious message or claim deserves an equally harsh atheist response.

Being an "in-your-face" atheist while talking to a believer will likely get you nowhere. But in more impersonal formats, such as online, or in publications, I think ridicule of religion and religious beliefs have a place. If I'm talking with a believer (assuming he is behaving in a decent fashion), I'm going to listen to his arguments and attempt to counter them in a respectful manner, pointing out why I feel that they lack any evidence supporting them. I don't have to respect his beliefs in order to be tactful and respectful of him as a person. But if I'm writing about his religion, rather than addressing him personally, I will be much less constrained.

HOT5 Daily 10/19/2009

1. "Can't Be All That Bad" Islamic terror supporting regime suffers terrorist attack. What a shame.

Representative Sample: More than five fewer Revolutionary Guard members gone to their virgins in the sky is a good thing, no?

2. "UK Commander Challenges Goldstone Report" British colonel debunks the UN report on Israeli "war crimes."

Representative Sample: based on my knowledge and experience, I can say this: During Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli Defence Forces did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare.

3. "' The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers.'" Speaking of ridiculous "war crimes" charges. You can't fight wars with lawyers.

Representative Sample: If troops are to be sent into battle then civilians should--must--trust those troops and their commanders to get on with the job and to behave in accordance with military traditions and regulations. To give lawyers the last word is a recipe for disaster and defeat.

4. "The New Left Gospel: Quotations from #liberalbible" Some of these are pretty good.

Representative Sample: Blessed are the appeasers...for they shall inherit the Nobel Peace Prize 

5. "When people stop believing in God... they go mental?" A look at an interesting study.

Representative Sample:A lot of people these days are moving away from traditional religions into various kinds of 'New Age' beliefs. Are they really more delusional than the religious - and how do they compare to atheists, for that matter.

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

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Boycott the NFL? Get a Grip, People

Some conservatives, justifiably outraged by the smear campaign against Rush Limbaugh, are blaming the National Football League, and saying they won't be watching pro football anymore. See this article for example.  Although even non-Limbaugh fans like myself were disgusted by the leftist tactic of generating false quotes designed to smear him as a racist, blaming the NFL and refusing to watch is a ridiculous overreaction.

The NFL is a big business with a history of problems with racial issues, particularly in its hiring practices, and already has its share of controversies on a regular basis. Like most large business operations, it has the spine of a jellyfish when it comes to dealing with something controversial that can be easily avoided. What possible reason would the NFL have for welcoming an incredibly polarizing political figure like Rush Limbaugh as an owner? Why would they want to do anything to incur the wrath of racial grievance mongers like Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton? It's just not worth it.

Blaming the NFL for making an intelligent business decision is idiotic. There's minimal upside to having Limbaugh as an owner, and a massive downside. The ire of Limbaugh supporters and conservatives in general should be directed where it belongs -- at those responsible for the smear campaign.

Leftist Clown Calls Fox News Un-American

Normally, leftist insane seething hatred for Fox News is merely another amusing illustration of hypocrisy, intellectual dishonesty, and an the overall inability to tolerate dissent, characteristics that dominate the left in general. I wrote about the left and Fox News briefly back in June, so I won't repeat everything I said there, but I'll just quote this passage.
One of the funniest things about leftists is their constant whining and sniveling about Fox News, and their inability to distinguish individual shows from general news coverage. If you watch standard news ticker type coverage on Fox, it is very similar to what you get on CNN. Fox slants Republican just as other channels slant Democratic, but it's basically a right of center approach. Fox News is no more extreme right than MSNBC is extreme left.

The Obama administration has been on the attack against Fox, and liberal hack Jacob Weisberg felt compelled to weigh-in, writing an article in Newsweek called, "The O’Garbage Factor." The subtitle is, "Fox News isn't just bad. It's un-American." Speaking of garbage, Weisberg, you might remember, is the same individual who basically smeared all McCain voters as racists, writing at Slate before the election. That piece should have destroyed any claim of his to credibility, but if it didn't, this one in Newsweek should do the trick. He actually makes the unbelievably laughable argument that Fox News has politicized the media, destroying the "century-old tradition of independence" of the press. Where has this clown been? The media has been politicized for my entire lifetime. The major television networks, and most of the big newspapers have long been staffed with people who, in the vast majority, are either Democrats, or favor Democratic policy positions on most major issues. During the lastest election and beyond, we had repeated demonstrations that most of the mainstream media was in the tank for Obama, who received the most uncritical coverage, and the least investigation of probably any presidential candidate in history. The reason Fox News has become so successful, is precisely because it offers an alternative slant that leans right. But having one network that gives a voice to Republicans and others on the right is one too many for Weisberg.

There have been innumerable ridiculous attacks on Fox News from the left. But rarely have I seen one that is either as shamelessly intellectually dishonest, or as utterly clueless as Jacob Weisberg's. It's also worth noting that leftists whined and cried constantly during the Bush years about having their patriotism questioned -- even when such questions were well-deserved. But now that Obama is in power they have no problem calling opponents un-American or treasonous.

HOT5 Daily 10/18/2009

1. "THE DIFFERENT REALITY INHABITED BY THE CONSERVATIVE BASE" A pretty good analysis. Although it would be worth noting that the left-wing base also inhabits an alternative reality.

Representative Sample: I don’t think their vision of what government should be is realistic or even desirable. Noonan has articulated a reality that is simply denied by many on the right. A “terrain” that is “thick with federal programs” and includes state and local governmental entities cannot be dismantled without huge dislocations, pain, and catastrophic results.

2. "33 Minutes’ and the Importance of Missile Defense" Includes a good pro-missile defense propaganda video trailer.

Representative Sample: A missile is fired from the a distant nation, heading for your city; in only 33 minutes or less, that missile will find its target. Such is the premise of the Heritage Foundation’s aptly named documentary, “33 Minutes.” The film covers the history missile defense and more importantly discusses the nuclear threats that face our nation today.

3. "RANDOM THOUGHTS ON COUNTERING AN INSURGENCY (Part 4)" Random but on the mark.

Representative Sample: 3. To conduct effective hearts-and-minds campaigns, the area needs to be stabilised. That means it must be free of insurgents – and kept that way. Without security there can be no stability. Without stability, there can be no effective hearts-and-minds or development.

4. "8ak: India’s Border Build-Up" Not the Pakistani border, the one with China.

Representative Sample: India is responding by building roads, railways and infrastructure on the Chinese border. It was reported that 5 civil airports in forward areas will be transferred directly to the Indian armed forces. 

5. "A Warning Against Democrats – From the Grave!" Someone who really hated Democrats.

Representative Sample: It's three photos.

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

Saturday, October 17, 2009

HOT5 Daily 10/17/2009

1. "The American People Don't Want Obama's Grand Transformation" But that won't stop Democrats from trying to force it on us anyway.

Representative Sample: Obama promised the American people that he would transform America, which at the time sounded uplifting and positive, but what the American people are seeing now is a transformation that is terrifying them. Obama's policies take those decisions people have made for themselves to the government.

2. "Liberal’s Stimulus Plan An Abysmal Failure" Of course they think it's because we didn't waste enough taxpayer money.

Representative Sample: Here we sit 8 months later, with unemployment and underemployment creeping ever higher, and the Democrats are trying to pat themselves on the back for a job well done.

3. "BREAKING: Barack Obama Cedes Alaska Back to Russians" Pretty amusing, and it does fit with the Obama foreign policy approach.

Representative Sample: In a bold and unexpected stroke of unilateral diplomacy, President Barack Obama has ceded Alaska back to Russia, ending over 140 years of American possession of the territory and 50 years of Alaskan statehood.

4. "A Peek Into Britain’s Islamic Future" Let's hope not. Islamic extremists do their best to help make Geert Wilders' case.

Representative Sample: Geert Wilders has done a singular service for the UK: by drawing the more zealous members of Britain’s Muslim community out into the open, he offered the British public a glimpse into their own future.

5. "Russia And India Discuss Decade Of Defense Ties" Can Russia continue to dominate the Indian arms import market?

Representative Sample: Washington, Berlin, Paris and London also are increasingly vying for lucrative shares of India's defense spending -- the prize being the multibillion competition for 126 Medium Multirole Combat Aircraft (MMRCA). But there are several other upcoming procurements for which Moscow also will have to jockey.

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

Friday, October 16, 2009

The UN Anti-Israel Council

The laughably misnamed UN Human Rights Council has just approved a report accusing Israel of "war crimes" in its Gaza operations. The text of the resolution reluctantly admits to some war crimes by Hamas also, but only because an additional clause was added after their omission came under criticism. 

Many of the UN operations are little more than an international joke, and the so-called Human Rights Council is no exception, as the following quote illustrates:  

The council, led by a coalition of Arab states, voted 25-6 to approve the report

The mere fact that there are Arab states on something called a human rights council renders any report it produces meaningless. What Arab states have ever exhibited the slightest concern for human rights? That's not even considering their incredible bias against Israel and support for Hamas. Most Arab states don't even recognize Israel's mere right to exist. Having them judge it is beyond ludicrous on many levels. Noted human rights paragons China and Russia are also on the council, and voted for the resolution.

When a country is forced to fight a terrorist organization that obeys no rules of warfare, deliberately targets civilians, blends into and hides amongst its own civilian population, and does everything humanly possible to maximize the number of civilian casualties, atrocities and events that appear to be war crimes are bound to happen. Unlike Hamas, which celebrates atrocities and attempts to create them, Israel investigates its own forces, has an open society based on the democratic process, an independent judiciary, a free press, and everything necessary to deal with situations in which elements within its military may have crossed the line. Rather than attacking Israel, human rights organizations should be congratulating it on its incredible restraint. There are not many countries in the world that would tolerate a weak, hostile, terrorist-ruled country on their border that regularly launches rockets at their cities and commits all sorts of other provocations. Many countries, probably the vast majority, would react with an all-out invasion, doing whatever was necessary to crush resistance, and simply rolling over the piles of bodies and rubble.

Attacks on Israel by the UN, various human rights groups, and the pack of useful idiots that support them, serve no productive purpose. Their anti-Israel bias of condemning a democratic, civilized state trying to defend itself, while downplaying the crimes of a barbaric terrorist regime is blatantly obvious to anyone not automatically hostile to Israel. The only thing those attacks will do is to convince more people in Israel to ignore outside criticism, and give credence to those who advocate loosening restraints on military operations. Why put your own forces at greater risk with restricted rules of engagement when you get no credit for it anyway? Why stop at limited objectives out of concern for civilian casualties, when lunatics start screaming "genocide" when you kill less than 1500 people? Eventually a Sri Lankan-style operation is going to look much more attractive. 

HOT5 Dailiy 10/16/2009

1. "Shocker! Obama Pentagon to Bury Bush Doctrine" Preemption doesn't go well with appeasement.

Representative Sample: If there's one thing leftists hate more than anything else about the foreign policy of George W. Bush, it was the administration's bold willingness to use force in defense of American interests.

2. "Is Debate Between Believers And Non-Believers Inevitably Futile?" Depends on the individuals involved. Long but interesting post.

Representative Sample:It is more prejudicial to write off anyone as so obtuse and impervious to reason that there is no use in talking to them about a given topic. In fact, not only is it prejudicial, it is dangerous, because it risks being a self-fulfilling prophecy that not only leaves someone in error but leaves them to worsen in their errors.

3. "No Sanctuary Cities for Conservatives" On the left's extension of political attacks into the personal lives and livelihoods of opponents.

Representative Sample: A key ingredient is the race card, the false accusation of racism. It worked well for Obama during the campaign, and has been refined over the past nine months as documented here repeatedly. The Limbaugh case is a good example.

4. "Good Athelete, Not a Good Terrorist Hunter" Colorado goes way overboard encouraging citizen paranoia about terrorism, using John Elway as a spokesman. Includes video.

Representative Sample: Given the rarity of terrorists and terrorism planning in this country, hunting terrorists using the list of “signs” in this video would cause people to be wrong about 100% of the time. Americans have much of the knowledge and all the incentive they need to report truly suspicious activity without videos encouraging them to see terrorism in every shadow.

5. "Taliban Strength Nears Military Proportion" More bad news on the war front.

Representative Sample: A recent U.S. intelligence assessment has raised the estimated number of full-time Taliban-led insurgents fighting in Afghanistan to at least 25,000, underscoring how the crisis has worsened even as the U.S. and its allies have beefed up their military forces

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

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Outstanding Summary of the Obama Administration

Conrad Black, writing in the Canadian National Post, has one of the best summary analyses of the the Obama administration to date. On health care,
Instead of following the Roosevelt 1933 formula of squarely acknowledging a crisis and pledging an immediate plan of action with inspiriting calls for solidarity and national effort, he magnified the problems in order to try to create an appetite for a more radical turn to higher taxes and social benefits than the country wanted. ... Obama left it to the Democratic congressional leadership, which festooned every bill with pendulous payoffs to key votes and interests.
On the stimulus,
The $787-billion stimulus plan was a monstrosity of patronage and logrolling. The money that was borrowed (to stimulate, in reality, Democratic re-election prospects) has been taken from purposes that would have stimulated the economy just as efficiently.
On "cap & trade",
The cap-and-trade bill is so loaded with rebates and exemptions that the administration’s own spokesmen acknowledge that while it would sharply raise heating and air-conditioning costs in tens of millions of American homes, it would neither raise federal-government revenues nor reduce carbon emissions.
On foreign policy,
This President has engaged in wholesale, equal opportunity apologies for much past U.S. foreign and military policy success. He has appeased almost all of the world’s most odious and hostile regimes ... Its foreign policy is a high-risk pursuit of appeasement which has few successful precedents, at a time when the U.S. is not strong in the world, and has its economic and strategic credibility to rebuild.
What about Hope & Change?
So far the change is more of the same, only worse. This President has achieved less in his first nine months than any incoming president since Warren Harding
There's much more. It's a must read article. If the presidential election were in 2010 instead of 2012, Black's summary analysis would be a great list of talking points for any GOP opponent.

HOT5 Daily 10/15/2009

1. "Russia reminds us why they are still Russia" Obama's idiocy in throwing away European missile defense without concessions isn't paying off -- big surprise.

Representative Sample: Putin and the gang stuck it to the U.S. by simply moving back the goal post on cooperation and diplomacy and their long line of grievances. It is clear they still remain at odds and show they have no real interest in working with the U.S. as evident from the latest rounds of talks on possibly sanctioning Iran.

2. "The healthcare war against rights" Central planning in action.

Representative Sample: As a nation we are dangerously close to embracing and finalizing the acceptance of an idea which has infected and slowly killed the capitalist system -- individual rights take a backseat to the greater good (whatever that is decided to be by whatever gang is in power).

3. "Rush Limbaugh's Critics are Big, Fat Idiots"I'm not a Limbaugh fan, but making up quotes in order to paint him as a racist is a new low for the left's false accusations of racism campaign.

Representative Sample: None of the false quotes even sounds remotely like Limbaugh in tone or substance, and even more tellingly, none are sourced, a red flag to any competent journalist or blogger in a day and age when such things can be easily falsified on the Internet.

4. "Miracles: fact, fiction or figment of the imagination?" Interesting article, even though it isn't an atheist perspective.

Representative Sample: would the occurrence of miracles really violate the principles of science? And would their non-occurrence really undermine religion?

5. "Delta Flight Diverted After Bitey Bathroom-Hating Bible-Thumper Loses It" As soon as I saw this title I knew it had to be linked.

Representative Sample: "Paul Marchuk III was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest by airport police. He was being held on $20,000 bond."

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

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Something Left & Right Can Agree On

There aren't many things the left & right agree on. But I think we all agree that the Saudis can take their greedy demands and drop dead.
Saudi Arabia is trying to enlist other oil-producing countries to support a provocative idea: if wealthy countries reduce their oil consumption to combat global warming, they should pay compensation to oil producers.
That's right. If countries switch to alternative energy sources and move away from oil to combat climate change, Saudi Arabia thinks we should pay them for their lost revenue. Seriously. They've spent decades squandering their oil wealth supporting a lavish lifestyle, and financing the spread of radical Islam, and now they have the nerve to demand that we pay them if we use less oil. This is one situation where diplomats listening to such insanity should refuse to be diplomatic, and greet Saudi demands with the derisive laughter they richly deserve.

Religious Nonsense Combines With Environmental Hysteria

This potent negative combination is illustrated by an article in the Guardian, in praise of a recent speech by Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. It's an open call to promote environmental hysteria through religious means.
For Rowan Williams the "ecocidal" moment we are experiencing reveals a profound impoverishment of our human lives. We have forgotten what it means to be human. This is a religious issue, not just an environmental one. His speech serves to express a growing tide of religious environmentalism
Try reading that without rolling your eyes or laughing. And there's more!
the "foremost casualty of environmental degradation" is the human soul
Really? Then I guess those of us who don't believe in souls don't have to worry about it.
For many new religious movements the natural world is a sacred space where humans are merely guests at the table. And many theologians urge us to rethink our picture of God – as not so much pie in the sky, but grounded in the earth, present in the world around us
Translation: we should substitute new nonsense for old nonsense.
something has gone wrong in our relationship with the earth and with one another. Although they have diverse ways of expressing it, the assumption is that material solutions cannot be the answer.
We supposedly have a "relationship" with the earth, but material solutions aren't the answer to our relationship problems. No, that doesn't sound like complete gibberish does it?
Perhaps this is why those who find it hard to believe in any God are beginning to recognise the importance of religion in these debates
Oh no we aren't.  
purely political reasoning has never proved a powerful enough force to change habits of a lifetime. Any such change depends on deep transitions of the human spirit that religious people have called conversion.
Let's forget about facts, science, and soberly assessing the problems of climate change and their proposed solutions, and instead make it some sort of religious crusade. Environmental hysteria is hard enough to take seriously without investing it with mystical nonsense.