Sunday, January 31, 2010

The Last U.S. Veteran of World War I

I was unaware that any U.S. WWI veterans were still alive, but just saw a story at CNN about Frank Buckles -- the last survivor. According to his Wikipedia entry, he enlisted in the U.S. army at age 16. That was in 1917.  He turned 109 today. Happy birthday Mr. Buckles! 

Robert Gibbs on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed

White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said today that KSM is "likely to be executed after being tried and convicted." Apparently even the Obama administration recognizes that the trial is completely unnecessary. There's no question about Khalid Sheikh Mohammed's status as a high-ranking Al Qaeda member, and one of the lead planners of 9/11. As a terrorist enemy of the U.S., he should have received a summary execution years ago, after he was no longer useful as an intelligence source.  Here's the reaction at Instapundit,
This statement, from an official White House spokesman, seems a bit indiscreet. Certainly if the goal is to impress the rest of the world with the fairness of our civilian judicial system, official statements that treat conviction and execution as near-certain would seem to undercut the whole point of the exercise.
If that's the goal, it's a useless one. Most people knowledgeable about the United States already know how our civilian judicial system works. Some of them are probably even aware that it wasn't designed to apply to foreign enemies, let alone hostile alien terrorists captured in wartime circumstances. Most of those with anti-American tendencies will refuse to believe that a fair trial was actually fair, no matter how it is conducted. They won't be impressed with our justice system regardless of how many lawyers we give to terrorists, or how far we bend over backwards degrading our constitutional rights by granting them to our enemies. There's even less reason to pander to foreign anti-American opinion, than there is to accommodate our own fools and other terrorist rights supporters. 

More on Chinese Arrogance.

Yesterday I wrote a post called "Chinese Arrogance." And today I see an article in the Washington Post called, "China's strident tone raises concerns among Western governments, analysts." The article details the arrogant and outright obnoxious behavior of China toward other countries, and speculates on what it means for the future. 

The communist rulers of China, like most oligarchs & dictators throughout history, respect strength and see appeasement and compromise as weaknesses to be exploited. Some countries by virtue of their size, weakness, or proximity to China may have to tolerate Chinese bullying and intimidation. The U.S. does not and should not. The best way to make this clear to the Chinese is to give them a message in a language they understand. Chinese representatives should be told explicitly that the U.S. does not take orders from China, and that any attempts to sanction U.S. companies will be answered with retaliatory measures. Approve the F16 sale to Taiwan, and quietly let it be known to the Chinese, that their attitude and attempts at intimidation convinced us that the sale should go through. 

HOT5 Daily 1/31/2010

1. "Smoke and Mirrors Giving Way To The Rube Awakening" Rubes being those who actually believed Obama's nonsense.

Representative Sample: Why does our President often seem to reason like an antagonist straight out of Atlas Shrugged? Maybe it has something to do with the fact his advisers have less private sector experience than any President… well, ever, apparently.

2. "Some thoughts on the letters of Paul." From an atheist viewpoint.

Representative Sample: there is no reason to think that Paul, when he sat down to write those letters, believed he was writing the infallible, inerrant, word of God. Paul surely did think his doctrines were straight from God, but then so do most believers. But surely Paul thought he was written a letter to some specific people trying to give them advice and guidance. He was merely sending a letter.

3. "Muslim geography" What is Muslim geography? It's sort of like creation science. 

Representative Sample: it’s clear to anyone who isn’t a flat-earther (and that’s not as unpopular in Islam as you might expect) that Mecca can’t be at the centre of the Earth. Balmy as the Saudi summer is, it falls somewhat short of the 7,000°C temperature at the planet’s core.

4. "European exceptionalism"An interesting perspective.

Representative Sample:In all of history, it would be hard to find anything comparable in terms of pacifism, godlessness, equality, leisure for the masses or public provision of services.

5. "Coming clash in the Americas" Given its utterly clueless approach to Honduras, what are the odds that the Obama administration will doing anything to advance U.S. interests in Latin America?

Representative Sample: As it turns out, if events continue on their present course, it might not be too long before many in the region start to see the Bush presidency as a golden era of engagement with the United States.

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

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Dept. Of Justice Dropping Witchhunt Against Bush Lawyers

Frustrated by their inability to get the highest members of the Bush administration, such as Dick Cheney and George W. Bush himself, terrorist rights supporters have focused on easier targets: former administration lawyers John Yoo and James Bybee. Although unable to criminalize their legal advice, they've been pushing a Justice department investigation, and hoping for professional sanctions. But apparently it won't happen.

Bush administration lawyers who paved the way for sleep deprivation and waterboarding of terrorism suspects exercised poor judgment but will not be referred to authorities for possible sanctions
The "poor judgment" verdict is a highly debatable opinion, but it should end the attempt to ruin the careers of these men for political purposes -- at least at the federal level. The hysterical outrage from the BDS crowd should be pretty amusing.

Chinese Arrogance

China is upset that the U.S. has dared to sell $6 billion in defense equipment to Taiwan against Chinese wishes -- as if the U.S. has to ask permission of China before concluding an arms deal with its allies. China is going so far as to make threats of retaliation.
the Chinese side has decided to suspend planned mutual military visits," Xinhua quoted the ministry as saying. The Foreign Ministry said China also would put sanctions on U.S. companies supplying the equipment. ... Beijing was "strongly indignant" about the arms sales to Taiwan and warned that they would have a "serious negative impact" on U.S.-China cooperation
China is even threatening to
sanction businesses in the districts of congressional lawmakers known to be backers of Taiwan.

Just about every time we talk to the Chinese about issues important to the U.S., such as human rights, specific concerns of U.S. business within China, intellectual property issues, and anything relating to the internet, we are told not to interfere in China's "internal affairs." They are completely uncooperative on other major foreign policy issues, such as the Iranian situation, and have been of minimal use with regard to North Korea. There's some evidence that they've been conducting cyber attacks against the U.S. They may be a major trading partner and financial investor in the U.S., but they need economic ties with America just as much as we need our connections with China. Nothing about our relationship requires that the U.S. put up with the obnoxious arrogance of the Chinese regime. Chinese protests about Taiwan should be met with the clear and unmistakable response that we will sell our allies whatever, and however many weapons we wish, and that China has absolutely no say in the matter -- they will not be permitted to interfere with our affairs. A good start would be the immediate approval of F16 sales to Taiwan.

The only silver lining for China in Friday's announcement was that it did not include the sale of 66 F-16 C/D fighters to Taiwan. But that does not mean the Obama administration has rejected Taiwan's request for the advanced fighters to replace its aging air force. The Defense Department is drawing up a report on the air power balance between China and Taiwan that could be used to push a decision.
Expedite the sale, and send China a message that arrogant attempts to intimidate the U.S. will only be counterproductive. 

HOT5 Daily 1/30/2010

1. "Strategery Behind Dem Attacks On The Sup Ct" Maybe. Or it could just be the usual demonization of corporations.

Representative Sample: Why the sudden slew of attacks on the Supreme Court, specifically Justices Alito and Roberts, by leading Democrats?

2. "The thing about taxes" Higher taxes are not the answer.

Representative Sample:We need to promote business and wealth creation -- wealth creation means good jobs. If a state has a friendly, low-tax or no-tax business environment, it will prosper, take in more revenue and it will pay out less in expenses for social programs.

3. "Daily Gut: Osama’s Green Plan!" Once again Bin Laden sounds quite similar to a typical left-wing Democrat. 

Representative Sample: what’s entertaining about this latest message isn’t that Osama wants to have sex with goats (we knew that already), but how his environmental message fits so seamlessly with all that relentless blather heard at the Copenhagen climate conference.

4. "Bayonets Hit the Mark" Bayonets may not be used often, but can still be effective.

Representative Sample: Based on an after-​​action report found at this link, the intimidation factor of the bayonet and the surprise such a charge caused among the enemy used to engagements at a distance were pivotal.

5. "Bob, Carol, Ted & Alice, Inc." How polygamous marriage might work in practice.

Representative Sample: Science Fiction conventions are a great area to come up with speculative legal situations and really stretch and apply the current law to new and unusual situations. One of the big questions I came across was a question about plural marriage.

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

Friday, January 29, 2010

Drone Strikes & Secrecy

I happened to notice an article at MSNBC called, "Secrecy of U.S. strikes in Pakistan criticized." There are some legitimate concerns about the drone assassination program. Are the results worth the collateral damage, the public relations problems, and the destabilizing effects on Pakistan? That's a difficult question to answer. But one thing that shouldn't be in question is the need for secrecy. 

You'll hear many people claim that we need more transparency from the government, that secrecy is dangerous, and that openness is the best policy. What we actually need is far more secrecy, particularly when it pertains to the secret operations of secret intelligence agencies. Many of our problems in the intelligence arena stem from the fact that we have failed to keep secrets. But getting back to the article,

More information about the CIA-run program could help offset opposition in Pakistan and also assuage concerns that the strikes violate international law.
How ridiculous is that assertion? First, opposition in Pakistan has nothing to do with not having enough information. The fact that foreign drones are operating in their country and killing Pakistanis, whatever portion are innocent victims, is going to produce opposition. Providing information that shows that a high proportion of militants are being killed, will simply be dismissed as U.S. propaganda. Second, intelligence agencies such as the CIA are designed in part specifically to violate international law. Obviously assassinating people is going to be interpreted as being against international law. If it is in the U.S. interest to eliminate these targets, international law is irrelevant except for public relations purposes. And that's another reason to maintain as much secrecy as possible.
"I think the main concern for those of us looking at it from the outside is we don't know what the criteria are for the individual decision of whether to pull the trigger or not," said Paul Pillar, a former senior counterterrorism official at the CIA.
Here's someone that should know better. As a former member of the CIA, he should be aware that he doesn't have a need to know. Sorry, Paul. Operational security is far more important than your desire to feel good about the drone assassination program. And then of course there are the usual suspects.
Several different groups, including the U.N. and the American Civil Liberties Union, have pressed the U.S. to reveal who it is killing in the strikes but have so far been rebuffed.
And they should continue to be rebuffed. The ACLU is an open supporter of terrorist rights, and the UN clearly can't be trusted with any sensitive information.
The U.S. government refuses even to acknowledge the drone program in Pakistan
The Obama administration is doing exactly the right thing in refusing to release more details. The less revealed the better. 

HOT5 Daily 1/29/2010

1. "The Disconnected President" Obama & reality.

Representative Sample:It was surreal to watch a politician announce his top priority is job creation, then spend the next hour listing class-warfare enemies. I hope people making less than $250k per year start hiring like crazy, because everyone with a higher income just became a hated enemy of the state. Why, if they work for a large corporation, they shouldn’t even have free speech rights!

2. "TAX FOUNDATION URGES OBAMA TO LOWER CORPORATE TAX RATE" Something that should have been done long ago.

Representative Sample:the president is overlooking the biggest obstacle to job creation: America's high business tax

3. "Debunking The “Gays Are Pedophiles” Fear-Mongers" With video.

Representative Sample: Like clockwork, you can count of major Religious Right leaders to pop up with “gays are pedophiles” in any discussion about LGBT rights. It’s happened routinely in all the various state debates over marriage equality, civil unions, domestic partnerships, etc.

4. "looking for exotic aliens in our solar system" Could there be alien life on Titan?

Representative Sample:Titan, it’s the farthest place humans have ever landed a robotic probe and one of the most intriguing moons in the solar system, resembling a cryogenic version of our own planet when it was still young. Because it has an active cycle of organic compounds, a thick atmosphere, lakes of liquid natural gas and geologic activity, some astrobiologists are wondering if maybe, just maybe, some exotic chemistry could produce alien life

5. "What Not To Name Your Cat" Five names to avoid.

Representative Sample:To assist our hard-working men and women in the blue and whites, I’ve decided to publish this helpful guide to naming your cat. Those of you who’ve already failed, please know that I consider it your duty to rename your pet.

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

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Another Case Against Sanctions

I generally oppose the use of sanctions, which are essentially a projection of weakness. The use of sanctions sends the message that we don't like something, but we aren't really serious about doing anything about it. It's a half-measure that avoids making tough decisions, and allows politicians to pretend they are actually addressing a foreign policy issue. Sanctions on Iran are particularly pointless, since they will be undercut by Russia and China, among others. This week U.S. business groups, such as the Chamber of Commerce and the Foreign Trade Association present another argument against sanctions.
the proposed sanctions "could prohibit any U.S. company from transacting routine business with critical partners from around the globe even if these transactions have no bearing on business" with the Islamic Republic.

"The proposals could have a large impact on the U.S. Export-Import Bank, precluding it from partnering with counterpart agencies abroad to co-finance U.S. exports that have no relation to Iran’s energy sector,"
Apparently sanctions could penalize businesses doing business with businesses doing business with Iran -- if that's not too confusing. I'm not sure if their argument is correct, but it wouldn't surprise me a bit if sanctions had unintended consequences that ended up hurting U.S. business, while doing nothing to stop Iran's nuclear program. 

Quote of the Day

Here's the New York Post editorial on Obama's State of the Union address:
If he can't pare down a 7,000-plus-word speech that says next to nothing, how will he trim his trillion-dollar deficits or deliver on any of his other promises?
The column is short but good.

HOT5 Daily 1/28/2010

1. "“Your policies are increasingly unpopular because they are no good”" Hard to explain it any better than that.

Representative Sample: Start by taking your own promises seriously, rather than treating them as short-term fixes for your long-term drop in popularity. Continue by taking the American people seriously, by acknowledging that their differences of opinion with you on economic policy spring from a genuine place. And finish by doing something no president since Bill Clinton has even tried: Scale back ambitions. Pay as you go. Limit the growth of government.

2. "Exclusive Interview: Chief of Obama’s TelePrompter Advance Team"A talk with a critical member of the administration.

Representative Sample: No one else in the world uses a TelePrompter even to have dinner with his wife, ya know? I would think that once Obama leaves office I'll have to go back to working for ACORN or some Democrat Senator again. It's not like I'll be hurting for cash. I'm just doing this because it is a great opportunity to serve in this historic presidency.

3. "Open Secret" Yet another example of why secret operations should actually be kept secret. 

Representative Sample: Putting the Yemeni government in the position of a puppet with strings being pulled in Washington plays into all the fevered stereotypes of the global jihadi movement, especially that the West is engaged in a lethal shadow war against Islam. Leaving our support clandestine would have at least blunted that criticism, if not entirely forestalling it.

4. "How Atheists Can't Win" Debunks common debating tactics used by theists against atheists.

Representative Sample: Like so many rhetorical gambits aimed at atheists, these "damned if you do, damned if you don't" tactics aren't really valid criticisms of atheism. They really only serve to deflect valid questions and criticisms about religion. But they come up often enough that I want to spend a little time pointing them out.

5. "Obama – The Job Killer" Crippling the space program.

Representative Sample:President Obama wants to end this high tech, common good effort. And for what? The entire NASA budget is less than the nation spends on pizza annually. The DoD blasts through the equivalent funding in 3-4 weeks as NASA spends all year (which means this week, since New Years Day, the DoD just spent what NASA will spend the rest of the year).

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

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

State of the Union Bingo

To go with the checklist, you can also play Bingo during the State of the Union. 

State of the Union 10 Point Checklist

Chances are good that you'll be able to check off a majority of these items after Obama's big speech. If you watch the  State of the Union, or read the transcript, see how many of these apply.

1. Empty promises

2. Attempts to blame Bush

3. Unwarranted self-congratulation

4. Baseless or highly controversial assertions presented as fact

5. Demonization of banks

6. Demonization of insurance companies

7. Hypocritical calls for bi-partisanship

8. Pretense about reducing the deficit

9. Pandering

10. Outright lies

HOT5 Daily 1/27/2010

1. "Leftist ideology cannot solve the nation’s unemployment crisis" But it can make things worse.

Representative Sample:Creating or saving jobs is an elusive goal for this administration because it is blinded by its ideology. There really is no mystery about how to create jobs; it’s just that the way to do it challenges the basic tenets of American liberalism.

2. "Obama In Trouble, Panders To Middle Class" That pretty much nails it.

Representative Sample:Obama is in trouble a year and a week into his term and he is pandering to the middle class to try and soothe their fears. The Brown victory in Massachusetts was a wake up call and Obama knows he must appease the minions by giving them trinkets or his party will be in very serious trouble come November.

3. "The march of technology brings “The Forty-Year Drone War”" The future of drone warfare?

Representative Sample: new technology affects both the nature of war — and the societies that use them. Today we have taken a large step into the future by deploying unmanned aerial vehicles as flying assassins. We can make only two guesses as to the consequences.

4. "Is there an inherent basic sense of morality shared by all humans?"A look at an interesting new book.

Representative Sample: One of the central claims of nearly all religions is that one cannot be moral without the aid of the religions and some even claim that religions are even the sole source of morality in societies. Evolutionary biologist Marc D. Hauser tackles head on these assumptions in his fine book called “Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right & Wrong”.

5. "Fear the Boom and Bust: A Hayek vs. Keynes Rap" Economics rap duel.

Representative Sample: It's a video.

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

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

No D&D in Prison

It's always amazing to see what kind of nonsensical lawsuits actually make it through our court system.  A convicted murderer in Wisconsin filed a legal action claiming that a prison ban on playing Dungeons & Dragons violated his constitutional rights.

The suit was brought by a prisoner, Kevin T. Singer, who argued that his First Amendment and 14th Amendment rights were violated by the prison’s decision to ban the game and confiscate his books and other materials, including a 96-page handwritten manuscript he had created for the game.
Rather than just being laughed out of court, the lawsuit made its way to a "a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit." Fortunately, they declined to find a constitutional right to play D&D in prison. With the incredibly loose definition of rights pushed by some these days, a contrary opinion probably wouldn't have been that surprising.

Also noteworthy is the idiotic reasoning used by the prison to ban the game in the first place.

Dungeons & Dragons could “foster an inmate’s obsession with escaping from the real-life correctional environment, fostering hostility, violence and escape behavior,” prison officials said in court. That could make it more difficult to rehabilitate prisoners and could endanger public safety, they said.
They actually claimed D&D could lead to "gang behavior." Seriously. The three judge panel basically ruled that even though the prison officials are a pack of morons, they have the ability to regulate what goes on in the jail.
there was no evidence of marauding gangs spurred to their acts of destruction by swinging imaginary mauls, but it ruled nonetheless that the prison’s decision was “rationally related” to legitimate goals of prison administration.
I wonder how much money it cost to figure that out? 

HOT5 Daily 1/26/2010

1. "Obama Proposes New Financial Regulations, Declines to Tell Administration Financial Officials What They Mean" Making it up as they go along.

Representative Sample: Last week, President Obama announced a major new proposal for regulating financial sector activities. The proposal, which is expected to significantly alter the way large financial institutions like Goldman Sachs do business, would... uh... it would... well

2. "Report faults State Department, DynCorp for missing $1 billion" What happened to a billion dollars of tax money? Government has no idea.

Representative Sample:The State Department cannot account for more than $1 billion it paid out to contractor DynCorp to train police during the first years of the Iraq war, in just one example of management shortcomings that have put at risk $2.5 billion worth of money spent on training policemen around the world, according to a damning new report.

3. "The Poisoned Cup of Theodicy" Daylight Atheism consistantly has some of the best examinations of religion/atheism topics. 

Representative Sample:for people in these religious traditions, an entire continent of their inner mental world has to be cordoned off and declared a forbidden zone. Their mental landscape is littered with locked doors, fences of barbed wire, and sternly worded "Keep Out" signs - all delimiting the sphere of dangerous ideas which they're advised never to examine.

4. "Buck-A-Day Biden Has a Plan for the Middle Class"A quick look at some of the proposals.

Representative Sample:The man who has a hard time reaching into his own pocket for more than $1 a day in charity to give to his fellow man, has no problem reaching into your pocket and give the fruit of your labor to someone else. It’s a win-win. It doesn’t cost Joe Biden and it helps him keep getting elected and drawing a salary that you pay for.

5. "Over 100 Russians hospitalized after drinking holy water" Apparently God forgot to take out the harmful impurities.

Representative Sample: While these sorts of studies are fun for giggling at people who hold ludicrous beliefs, they're also useful. People often argue that religion and science occupy different realms of knowledge, and that science cannot test religious claims. That is totally false when religion claims to affect the natural world.

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

Monday, January 25, 2010

This Is Why

There's been some bleating from the usual suspects about a recent poll showing that Americans have a much more negative view of Islam than other religions. I've seen a number of articles implying or stating outright that these poll results show that Americans are ignorant of Islam, unfairly associate mainstream Islam with terrorism, or are outright bigoted. But it's difficult for any rational person to observe what goes on in the name of Islam, and not have a negative opinion of the religion. All you have to do is look at almost any majority Islamic state. Hardly a day goes by when there isn't some sort of incident that illustrates why there is nothing surprising about American dislike of Islam. There's the glaringly obvious example of Iran, the one state in the world actually ruled by Muslim clergy. There's Saudi Arabia, with its oppressive misogyny justified by its interpretation of Islamic theology. There's Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, and so on. And then there are Muslim countries you don't even hear much about, such as Bangladesh. 

"Rape victim receives 101 lashes for becoming pregnant." That's a story from Bangladesh in today's Telegraph.

Her rape emerged after her pregnancy test and Muslim elders in the village issued a fatwa insisting that the girl be kept in isolation until her family agreed to corporal punishment.

Her rapist was pardoned by the elders.

The scum who did this aren't terrorists. They aren't fringe extremists. They are Muslim elders, acting on how Islam is practiced in large portions of countries such as Bangladesh. If you want to understand why many people seem to have a visceral dislike of Islam, whether they are ignorant of the details of the religion or not, look no further than incidents such as this. This type of disgusting treatment of women, and other barbarism is not exactly a rarity. And it is tied directly to how Islam is practiced in certain countries. 

There are plenty of current examples of evil perpetrated in the name of religion, whether Christianity, Islam, Judaism, or other. If this were say the sixteenth century, a case could be made for Christianity as the most odious religion. But at the moment, the misdeeds done in the name of Islam are far and away the most prevalent and egregious. Suspicion and dislike of Islam doesn't have to be based on bigotry, it can be based on reason and observation.

Your Money at Work

Were you aware that you are financing farming in Zambia? You are if you are a U.S. taxpayer. We just loaned 20 million dollars to Zambian farmers.
About 30,000 small-scale farming households, in Zambia, many headed by women, will benefit from a US$20 million loan to the country from the International Fund for Agricultural Development
That's pretty nice of us isn't it? But I guess it's ok, since we aren't in debt, emerging from a major recession, fighting any wars, or currently involved in some sort of massive disaster relief project. We have plenty of spare cash to loan out to anyone who asks for it.

HOT5 Daily 1/25/2010

1. "Terror at the Mall?" One of the better articles I've seen on this topic.

Representative Sample: To combat a swarm of wasps, you don't call up a herd of rhinos. You gather a lot of people with rolled-up newspapers. At this point, our efforts against terror are reactive -- we may well have to endure a mall attack, with casualties possibly reaching the hundreds, before the federal government is forced to rethink its approach. When the time comes, the alternative strategy must be considered.

2. "Most U.S. Union Members Are Working for the Government"Another feature of the ever-growing big government.

Representative Sample: the Dems to continue to use unions as a source of political slush funds while we all pay for it

3. "HAS COIN MADE US LOSE FOCUS?" Let's not make a cult out of counterinsurgency. 

Representative Sample: Effectively countering the insurgency does not require a dedicated COIN army. It requires a conventionally-trained army doing conventional warfare correctly.

4. "Why Atheists Should Care About The Prop 8 Trial" Makes some good points.

Representative Sample: I don’t think I’ve ever met an anti-gay atheist. Human rights are fundamental to humanists, so I’m sure there are many folks out there who do hope that the result of this trial is in favor of marriage equality.

5. "More MiG-29s for Myanmar" Burma is basically a rogue state, and is under international sanctions, but that doesn't stop Russia & China from competing to sell it advanced weapon systems.

Representative Sample: China has close relations with Myanmar, and remains one of its main international supporters, so its presence as Russia’s main arms competitor in Myanmar is hardly surprising. Russia’s MiGs gave it a foothold of its own, and the SPDC regime is also cooperating with Russia to build a nuclear power plant, reportedly a Russian 10-megawatt design

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

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why Ask Religion?

One of the arguments you will almost always see deployed against relying on rational thinking alone, is that religion deals with big questions that can't be answered by science. Why are we here? What is the meaning of life? Why do bad things happen to good people? And so forth. The problem is that when religion offers answers, those answers aren't based on any evidence, but on the interpretation of holy books, ideas about God, religious philosophical tradition, and other explanations based on faith. If you have an active imagination, you could easily come up with your own answers that have just as much real-world validity -- none.

I was reading some articles about Haiti, and I happened upon "Haitians in the US Turn to Religion for Answers." Because theologians are obviously the best people to go to for explanations of natural disasters.

After last week's disaster, many of New York's Haitians are turning to religion for answers. But spiritual leaders have few to offer in the aftermath of a tragedy so overwhelming and incomprehensible.
Theologians admitting they have few answers is actually a positive step.
One of the questions so often repeated in the last 10 days is why this catastrophe struck a country already struggling under the burden of natural and man-made disasters, from hurricanes and floods to military coups and a string of unstable governments.
The problem with this question is that the question itself shows how religion promotes irrational thinking. Asking such a question implies that the earthquake was either directed in some way (such as the Pat Robertson assertion), or a thinking entity rather than a natural phenomenon. The fact that Haiti was already in pitiful shape has nothing to do with why an earthquake struck. The earthquake wasn't picking on Haiti. If you need an example of a major problem with religion, look no further than the fact that this question is so common. One theologians responds to the question,
He tells people they cannot ask why the earthquake struck Haiti because to do so implies that it should have struck somewhere else, that it should have caused some other country the pain and suffering that Haitians feel now.

Yeah, that's a great response. I guess it's just too difficult to explain that sometimes earthquakes strike along fault lines, that the proximity of the quake to Port au-Prince, and the lack of earthquake-resistant structures is what caused the massive devastation.

As usual with such disasters, a wiser minority question their faith.

"The question that people ask, 'Where was God when my brother was suffering, where was God when my mom or my loved one was struggling to breathe air when these rubbles were falling on top of them. Where was God?' "
Apparently observing and doing nothing to help. But of course theologians see it differently.
God is always there for people who are suffering.
That's great. Too bad he's still just observing and letting them continue to suffer. 

As a final note, when religion isn't offering made-up answers to difficult questions, or ignoring rational explanations for natural events,  it's giving God credit for positive human actions.

the response from the international community is an example of God's love.
Really? It looks more like it's an example of human beings helping other human beings in distress. Somehow God isn't responsible for the bad things such as all the death and suffering that he could have prevented completely if he wished -- being all-powerful and such -- but he is responsible for all the good things that happen, such as people surviving under rubble, or the massive charitable response. That's awfully convenient. It's almost as if God were an imaginary being who could simply be cited as an explanation for anything in particular, depending on one's outlook.

HOT5 Daily 1/24/2010

1. "Obama Plans To Double Down On Stupid" Stupidity brought on by arrogance.

Representative Sample: Do you think Obama will listen? I’d have to say no. His first inclination is to attack, second is to blame. Third is to whine. Listening? Not part of the repertoire.

2. "The threat of focusing on a culture war and ignoring fiscal issues" Fiscal issues allow alliance with like-minded libertarians, other independents, and even some Democrats. Culture war issues are just a big loser.

Representative Sample: there is a set of conservatives who would rather focus on the same culture wars that tired the country during Bush’s reign. Bush pushed “compassionate conservatism”–faith-based initiatives–with little or no regard for the budget.

3. "Don Quixote’s Thought for the Day: Advocating Progress" Progress doesn't mean destroying or damaging the advances we already have.

Representative Sample: the American free-enterprise health care system has has done more to save lives and improve the quality of lives that any health care system ever. The leftists want to destroy this system and replace it with a government controlled system that will stifle the creativity needed to produce the innovations that save lives and improve the quality of life.

4. "Obama: almost as bad as a Republican" Some of Obama's good points. ACLU upset Obama hasn't undermined national security and given terrorists enough rights.

Representative Sample:The ACLU has just issued a one-year assessment of the Obama administration's actions on civil liberties, called "America Unrestored." As the title indicates, Obama has not been all that good for abolishing Bush-era disgraces.

5. "Using supercomputers to explore nuclear energy" Using a computer algorithim to better understand nuclear fission.

Representative Sample: Argonne's UNIC code provides a powerful new tool for designers of safe, environmentally friendly nuclear reactors -- a key component of our nation's current and future energy needs.

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

Saturday, January 23, 2010

A Must-Read About Obama

Check out Conrad Black's column in the Canadian National Post. It's a withering yet accurate analysis of Obama after a year in office. Here are some highlights,
The president has three principal problems. He is well to the left of the public and of what he promised the voters in 2008, and it is an old, passe leftism, that is authoritarian, deviously presented and was discredited in this country decades ago; the sort of nostrums that caused Bill Clinton and others to become 'New Democrats.' He is increasingly perceived as having credibility problems and of being cold, cocksure, narcissistic and intoxicated by what he modestly called 'the gift' of his own articulation. And as president, he has been quite, and quite surprisingly, incompetent.
The funny thing is that many leftists think Obama's problem is that he isn't liberal enough.
this president is bestriding the world as a flake, cow-towing to the Mikado, apologizing for President Truman's use of the atomic bomb, criticizing Roosevelt and Churchill's uninclusive approach to winning World War II, and Churchill and Eisenhower for disposing of the pajama-clad hysteric Mohammed Mossadegh as head of Iran.
And believe it or not, his foreign policy is actually less damaging than his domestic policies. Here's Black on Obama's role in setting a legislative agenda,
instead of sending the Congress completed bills and drumming up public support for them, as legislatively successful past presidents like FDR, LBJ, and Reagan did, he just rolls a Christmas tree into the Capitol Rotunda and invites Reid and Pelosi and their vacuum-cleaner committee chairmen to festoon it with their favorite pork baubles.
That's a great description. And there's much more.

HOT5 Daily 1/23/2010

1. "The top 10 Chinese cyber attacks (that we know of)" Cyber-enemy of the U.S.?

Representative Sample: With all about the chatter about China’s hacking of Google and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s drive to deliver “consequences” to bad actors in cyberspace, it’s worth noting that the problem of cyber attacks either promulgated or supported by the Chinese government is far from new.

2. "Policy Development By Panic" The evidence mounts that Obama has very little idea of what he is doing.

Representative Sample: Obama is vociferously attacking “risk taking,” that very human characteristic at the heart of America’s success. Observing his address, it is evidently something he doesn’t have a good grasp of. It is also very, very obvious that the President does not understand business, or economics, even at their simplest denominations.

3. "A Thought Experiment With Your Religious Friends" I've tried variants of this experiment. The problem is that people are not rational about their religion.

Representative Sample:religion attacks the critical thinking skills of the mind. As Mr. Ray says, it leaves the skill intact for other religions but disables critical thinking about one’s own religion. It really is like a virus of the mind

4. "Only 77% of Investors See Obama as Anti-Business" The other 23% not paying attention.

Representative Sample: Well, he's got three more years to work at it, so I'm sure once 2012 rolls around it'll be closing in on 100%.

5. "Russia Says US Troops Occupy Haiti"As if U.S. actions in Haiti were somehow a bad thing.

Representative Sample: I know you are thinking that no sane person reading these "news" stories would actually believe these allegations, however I want to remind my readers that America is filled with millions of Liberals who have no problems believing that Chavez is not a dictator

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

Friday, January 22, 2010

Money for Haiti

Guess who is putting up the largest share of aid to Haiti? I know, it's a big surprise. Here's a chart based on UN figures.

What are the odds that a large portion of that $106 million from private donors & organizations also comes from the U.S.? And note what's missing from the chart. Where's economic powerhouse China? They've put up a whole $4.4 million. I hope they can afford it. How about India? $5 million. At least they managed more than China. 

The U.S. numbers will go far higher, especially with the major military deployment. According to the administration,

Haiti will require "substantial assistance" from the U.S. and international governments for years to come
You might ask, why is it our job to rebuild Haiti and take care of Haitians? Or you could wonder,  what gives the U.S. government the right to give away huge amounts of U.S. taxpayer money, especially during a recession with the deficit & debt spiraling out of control, and major problems here at home? If you ask those questions you might also notice that you are in a fairly small minority. There's no outcry over aid to Haiti -- pretty much the opposite. For the most part, Americans expect to spend large sums of money doing everything possible to help whenever there is any sort of major disaster. It's something worth remembering the next time some anti-American type starts screeching about the evil U.S.

HOT5 Daily 1/22/2010

1. "Obama Upset First Amendment Applies to Everyone" Democrats think it should only apply to organizations that support the Democratic party.

Representative Sample: how is allowing corporations the freedom to support or oppose candidates a bad thing? 

2. "A Fault Is Not a Sin" It's too bad Hitchens even needs to write an article about this. But he does.

Representative Sample: geological dislocations have no human-behavioral cause. The believers should relax; no educated person is going to ask their numerous gods "why" such disasters occur. A fault is not the same as a sin.

3. "The Distancing Game: How Republicans might be able to save the Obama presidency." I doubt this will happen, but you never know. 

Representative Sample:this presents the President with a unique opportunity. In order to save his administration he may want to turn to the ones who are starting to gain political capital with the American people, the Republicans. Of course, this is very dependent on what kind of solutions the party of the inept can offer

4. "The history of arms branches in Orient and Occident - redux"Along with a nice, concise historical recap, has an interesting call for a new version of light cavalry.

Representative Sample: there's more than just our present structure. Most importantly, we seem to neglect the light cavalry pattern today. The only modern equivalent are our weak and neglected armoured reconnaissance forces. The present small wars-driven interest in light infantry is unlikely to help us to regain the advantages that light cavalry has to offer.

5. "A History to Be Proud Of" It will be interesting to see if this series actually gains widespread use in schools.

Representative Sample: Bennett has produced a series of history books and online curricula for students in grades 8-12, which are being made available this month. Bennett’s books are being lauded across the political spectrum as balanced, informed, and honest.

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

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Obama Admits He's Clueless on Foreign Policy

Not exactly, but he might as well have when he made these statements about the Israeli-Palestinian situation.
"This is just really hard … This is as intractable a problem as you get. If we had anticipated some of these political problems on both sides earlier, we might not have raised expectations as high."
Obama is just now figuring out that the differences between Israelis and Palestinians constitute an intractable problem. It only took an entire year as president.

"I think the Israelis and Palestinians have found that the political environment, the nature of their coalitions, or the divisions within their societies were such that it was very hard for them to start engaging in a meaningful conversation," said Obama. "And I think that we overestimated our ability to persuade them to do so when their politics ran contrary to that."

Look at how he describes the situation. He still appears pretty clueless. A "meaningful conversation"? "Contrary" politics? Who does he even think he's talking about? A couple of factions in the Illinois state legislature? According to the Guardian, Obama "underestimated the political obstacles involved." It's difficult to imagine how anyone with even a basic understanding of the issues between Israelis and Palestinians could underestimate the problems involved in working out any lasting, peaceful solution. 

Bribes Should Be Allowed

...When doing business abroad. The FBI just completed a big sting operation against U.S. weapons dealers.
22 top-level executives, including a senior sales executive at Smith & Wesson, were arrested in what Justice Department officials called the first undercover sting ever aimed at violations of the federal ban on corporate bribes paid to get foreign business.
The ban is called the "Foreign Corrupt Practices Act," and was passed in 1977.
[it] prohibits American citizens and companies — and, since 1998, foreign citizens and companies acting in the United States — from bribing foreign government officials to get or keep business.
In my opinion this law is an unnecessary attack on U.S. industry. The reality is that bribes are necessary in many nations in order to grease the wheels of commerce. The ban damages the ability of U.S. companies to compete, and criminalizes what is normal business practice in many areas of the world. And, as usual with this sort of international do-gooderism, it gains us nothing. There's just no reason for it. If businessmen are violating foreign laws, they can be arrested and prosecuted under those laws. This sting operation by the FBI is a massive waste of resources to address a non-problem. 

HOT5 Daily 1/21/2010

1. "Free Advice, Mr. President" Good advice.

Representative Sample:This is a center-right nation, not a social democratic one on the European plan. The social democratic governance isn’t going to sell well here. I know. This is NOT what you wanted to hear. But it’s what some of us have been trying to tell you

2. "ACOGs and Idiots" I think the military should have taken note and requested verse-free sights, given the constant anti-American propaganda that we are at war with Islam, crusaders, etc. But overall, the post debunks a lot of the nonsense and overreaction surrounding this issue.

Representative Sample: If anyone honestly thinks that tiny print passively notated on the side of a military weapon's sight is equivalent to exhorting people to convert, then they need their tiny minds examined.

3. "16 Sexiest Female Atheists (with pics, of course)" I'm not sure how I missed this post before. 

Representative Sample: It's a series of photos.

4. "A Really Hard Test Really Helps Learning" Something students will no doubt be thrilled to hear.

Representative Sample: the widely held belief that testing serves no purpose other than assessing performance is built on a similar misconception. In reality, testing — whether self-testing or testing in the classroom — can, under the right conditions, better promote learning than can studying.

5. "15 Interesting Facts about Dreams" Some of these don't actually qualify as facts, but it's still an interesting list.

Representative Sample:The most common emotion experienced in dreams is anxiety. Negative emotions are more common than positive ones.

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

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Controversial Muslim Scholars Unbanned from US

The Obama administration, in the person of Hillary Clinton, has lifted the travel ban on Tariq Ramadan of Oxford University, and Adam Habib of Johannesburg University. Although they were banned for alleged ties to terrorism, a state department spokesman said that neither of them "represent a threat" to the U.S. The ACLU, which has been advocating a removal of the ban, is overjoyed.
"The orders ending the exclusion of Adam Habib and Tariq Ramadan are long overdue and tremendously important," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU National Security Project, saying this was "a major victory for civil liberties."

"For several years, the United States government was more interested in stigmatizing and silencing its foreign critics than in engaging them. The decision ... is a welcome sign the Obama administration is committed to facilitating rather than obstructing the exchange of ideas across international borders."

I have no problem with removing the ban. It's unlikely that a couple of academics pose any sort of threat, and the FBI can always keep them under surveillance and arrest them if necessary. If they do have ties to terrorists, watching them might actually provide some leads. Having said that, I find the ACLU's position pretty laughable. 

There's nothing "tremendously important" about whether or not we allow a couple of foreign academics into the country. As for the "exchange of ideas across international borders," we've got plenty of people making excuses for terrorists, and spreading anti-American propaganda right here in the U.S. It's not like we need to import any of those ideas. It's highly unlikely that these two professors have anything in particular to add that hasn't been covered by others. Even if they did, it's ridiculous to pretend that they have to be physically present in the U.S. for their ideas to be heard. And finally, this decision has nothing whatsoever to do with "civil liberties." Neither academic is a U.S. citizen, and the U.S. has every right to determine which aliens it lets into the country. This is just another example of the ACLU losing sight of its core mission of protecting the rights of Americans. 

No HOT5 Today - Power Outage

I'm putting this quick post up from work. Five minutes after my alarm went off this morning, the entire block in my neighborhood suddenly lost power for no apparent reason. All my HOT5 info is on my home computer, so there will be no post today.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A Good Day for the GOP

Various media sources are reporting that Scott Brown has won the special Senate election in Massachusetts. It seems like just yesterday that Democrats were gloating after their underqualified, inexperienced presidential candidate rolled to victory to take total control of the government, with both houses of Congress already in the grip of strong Democratic majorities. Remember all the predictions of doom for the GOP? Yet here we have a Republican winning a Senate seat in the People's Republic of Taxachusetts of all places, the first GOP Senate win there since 1972. Somebody needs to check Ted Kennedy's grave and see how fast he's spinning.

Congratulations to Scott Brown for his amazing upset win, and for showing that the right GOP candidate can compete even in the deepest blue states. And thanks to President Obama and the Democratic Congress for making this possible. Keep up the arrogant attempts to ram through unpopular legislation on a purely partisan basis. Republicans will take all the Democratic help we can get in this year's Congressional elections.

Grade Obama at CBS News

CBS News has an online poll up where you can grade Obama's first year from A to F in major policy areas, and then give an overall grade. Here are the current overall grade results:

A: 11.54%
B: 12.00%
C:  7.71%

D: 25.45%
F: 43.31%

I gave him a D overall. As bad  as he is, I think he could be even worse. Thus the D.

HOT5 Daily 1/19/2010

1. "The subtleties of interrogation nothing like 24" Links to an article that should be must reading for anyone who wants to argue about "enhanced" interrogation.

Representative Sample: as enhanced techniques are applied, CIA interrogators like Harry would ask detainees questions to which the interrogators already know the answers — allowing them to judge whether the detainees were being truthful and determine when the terrorists had reached a level of compliance. Hayden said, “They are designed to create a state of cooperation, not to get specific truthful answers to a specific question.”

2. "A Little Too Close to the Battle in Kabul" A vivid report from a first-rate war correspondent. 

Representative Sample: The scene shifted quickly, like a movie reel sped up: The suicide bomber, stopped from entering Afghanistan’s Central Bank, burst into pieces at its footsteps. Six surviving gunmen, who had wanted to follow their comrade inside, dashed instead into a shopping center and let loose from the rooftop with rifles and grenades.

3. "See anything about this in your local paper" Israeli response to Haitian disaster.

Representative Sample: Despite its small size, Israel sent a large contingent of highly-trained aid workers to quake-stricken Haiti. Two jumbo jets carrying more than 220 doctors, nurses, civil engineers, and other Israeli army personnel, including a rescue team and field hospital, were among the first rescue teams to arrive in Haiti.

4. "Professors are ‘liberal’ cuz conservatives made them that way" An explanation.

Representative Sample:anyone weighing their career options doesn’t just look at their own interests and strengths, they also assess their chances in that particular career based on the people who are already there. If a non-leftist and/or religious student is observing, daily, the clannish, hyper-political intolerance of the people in charge of “educating” him/her, s/he might be hesistant to pursue career in academia where their success is dependent on people already hostile to them

5. "MIT: Unusual snail shell could be a model for better armor" Tanks with snail-pattern armor?

Representative Sample: the shell of the so-called "scaly-foot" snail is unlike any other naturally occurring or manmade armor. The study suggests that its unique three-layer structure dissipates energy that would cause weaker shells to fracture.

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

Monday, January 18, 2010

Kill the Pirates

There's actually a major newspaper with the courage to publish advice that should be obvious. I was surprised to see the title, "Put Pirates to the Sword," in today's Wall Street Journal.  Believe it or not, it is actually written by lawyer, Sandeep Gopalan at the National University of Ireland. Here are a few key excerpts,
Prosecution can only be a small part of the fight against piracy. The main weapon has to be ruthless force.
For some reason we've forgotten the lessons of centuries of anti-piracy operations.
confusion over the legal authority to use lethal force has emboldened pirates.
Exactly. Pirates aren't stupid. They understand risk vs. reward. Currently the risk of death, or even imprisonment is small, while the potential rewards of piracy are high.
Naval officers and others need not hesitate to use lethal force against pirates: The United Nations Security Council passed resolution 1851 in December 2008 authorizing states to take "all necessary measures—that are appropriate in Somalia, for the purpose of suppressing acts of piracy." This resolution was issued under Chapter VII of the U.N. Charter and should serve as a sufficient legal basis to kill pirates. Further, the law of self-defense ought to cover the use of lethal force against pirates boarding ships armed with lethal weapons.
If basic common sense, tradition, and results aren't enough, there's even a legal argument to be made.
It is regrettable that the failure of the legal system to bring pirates to justice effectively has created a perverse incentive to kill rather than prosecute. Until Somalia has a legal system capable of convicting pirates, killing them is the only option.
Gopalan's recommendations are so blindingly obvious, and have been made by plenty of others, that it is almost certain they will continue to be ignored.

Crazy Prisoner Release

Mehmet Ali Agca, who shot and wounded Pope John Paul II back in 1981, was released from a Turkish prison today. He also killed a man back in 1979 and is a still a raving lunatic. He had this to say upon his release,
"I proclaim the end of the world. All the world will be destroyed in this century. Every human being will die in this century." ... "I am not God and I am not the son of God. I am the Christ Eternal,"
A murderer, attempted assassin and complete nutcase -- just the kind of person who should be roaming free. I guess the Turks are trying to compete with the UK in the legal stupidity olympics.

Education in Pakistan

What about it, you may ask? Why is this of interest to an American? You are going to pay for it, that's why.
The United States plans to spend USD 200 million this year on education in Pakistan, the U.S. Agency for International Development's largest education programme worldwide, it said. 

The idea is to improve the capacity of Pakistan's fledgling civilian-led administration, and to promote trust between the two nations, the report said.
And believe it or not, this is being touted as an anti-terrorism measure.
With a curriculum that glorifies violence in the name of Islam and ignores basic history, science and mathematics, Pakistan's public education system has become a major barrier to US efforts to defeat militant groups thriving in the country, Washington Post quoted American and Pakistani officials as saying.

Yeah, I'm sure the public education system, no matter how bad, is a main reason fanatical, extremist Muslims turn to terrorism. No doubt a U.S.-assisted curriculum will work wonders to solve the problem. Let's hope they won't be importing leftist American teachers to portray the U.S. as responsible for many of the world's ills.

This program is part of our overall $7.5 billion aid package to Pakistan. Apparently with so much money to give away, we just weren't sure exactly what to do with it all and decided to experiment. It's also unlikely that the Pakistani government, which was up in arms about all the strings attached to aid, would actually allow us to meddle with their public education in any substantive way. This is just more U.S. taxpayer money thrown down a hole.

HOT5 Daily 1/18/2010

1. "Voting Democrat Causes Cancer" Every bit as accurate as most Democratic propaganda.

Representative Sample: Voting Democrat is associated with over 150,000 cancer deaths every year, according to the Hoven Institute for Studies Just as Valid as Studies Cited by Democrats.

2. "What’s Wrong With God?" The incoherence of theism. 

Representative Sample: The list of God’s proposed attributes is indeed a lengthy one. For discussion purposes the focus will be on Omnipotence, Creatorship, Omniscience, and Eternality

3. "The 2009 Invisible Pink Unicorn Awards" for outstanding achievement in atheism.

Representative Sample: Next up is a special award for Most Disgusting Religious Product of the Year. Without a doubt, it's a Hindu-inspired Cow Urine Soda called "gau jal", or "cow water."

4. "Llamas, airborne" Israeli secret weapon, the llama?

Representative Sample: Last week I spent a day in the Galilee with the chief llama trainer of the Israeli army.

5. "Estimating when the Soviets could produce a nuclear weapon"How accurate were those estimates?

Representative Sample: Leslie Groves -- who knew something about building a bomb -- testified in front of Congress that it would take them twenty years. In 1948 many Kremlinologists were saying "five to ten years,"

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

Sunday, January 17, 2010

France & Brazil Whining About U.S. Operations in Haiti

France and Brazil are complaining about U.S. control of Toussaint L'Ouverture airport in Haiti. As usual no good deed by the U.S. goes unpunished. In the chaos after the earthquake, the Haitian government formerly transferred control of the airport to the U.S., obviously recognizing that someone needed to take charge, and that the U.S. was in the best position to do so. But the French and Brazilians aren't happy because some of their aid flights have been diverted to the Dominican Republic. Never mind that the damaged airport has a low capacity, that flights have to be prioritized, and that unorganized relief efforts aren't going to do much good. They've chosen to take offense at U.S. leadership. The Brazilian reaction:
Brazil, which saw its leadership of the UN peacekeeping mission as a calling card of its burgeoning influence, was also indignant when three flights were not allowed to land. The foreign ministry reportedly asked Hillary Clinton to grant Brazil priority over chartered flights. Nelson Jobim, the defence minister, said Brazil would not relinquish command duties and suggested it, not Washington, would continue to lead UN forces.
Yeah, because Brazil's influence is just more important than actually getting relief efforts organized. Brazil has so much experience leading massive international relief efforts. I'm sure they'd be much better suited for leadership than the U.S. And then there are the French.
Paris complained the airport had become a US "annexe"
Instead of working with us, recognizing that the Haiti is right in our backyard, the French would rather whine, snivel and cause problems. I guess that's something you can always count on no matter what the situation.

French-bashing from the 12th Century

The Telegraph has an entertaining article up about a recently translated poem by Andrew de Coutances, an "Anglo-Norman cleric," writing between 1180 and 1194.  He describes the French as, among other things,
godless, arrogant and lazy dogs... cowardly...heretics and rapists
He also disparages their eating habits, greed and gluttony. Here's one noteworthy stanza from the translation,
The English went on the attack, 

And the French defended like cowards, 

They gave up at the first onset 

And shamefully ran away.
The next time you see someone refer to the French as "cheese-eating surrender monkeys," or use some other insult to the national character of France, just remember that it's part of a long tradition going back over 800 years.

HOT5 Daily 1/17/2010

1. "Haiti: Looting, Lawlessness, and People being Human" An interesting perspective.

Representative Sample: When I read about "looting" following a major disaster, I take the news with a grain of salt. If I were living in a town where many or most of the buildings had been knocked flat, there was no power, and my household's supply of food was running out: I might "loot" the grocery that's nearby. Particularly if the folks who worked there were dead.

2. "A Charter of Kumbaya" The latest attempt to pretend that religion is inherently positive, but has just been perverted by extremists.

Representative Sample:The myth that all religions are basically the same—and basically benign—is a nonsense that could only flourish in a society that has little knowledge of the past and, for that matter, of the nature of religious belief. Naturally it’s an idea that is being actively peddled in both Europe and America today.

3. "Expand American Territory of Navassa Island to make Haiti a U.S. Protectorate?" Just what we need, another failed state for us to practice nation-building.

Representative Sample: The calls are increasing for greater longterm commitment to Haiti from the United States. The calls are coming from across the political spectrum. The Proctorate issue has even been raised, with more and more columnists, diplomoats, government officials and even private citizens calling for Haiti to fall under U.S Protectorate status.

4. "Japan’s Flip-Flop" But what about Obama's new "engagement" with Asia? Could it have just been more empty talk?

Representative Sample: Washington and Tokyo have cooperated closely for 50 years. But if the two nations want to see another 50 years of friendship, as Clinton suggested this week, short-sighted policy just won’t cut it. On the other hand, continuity in policy supports alliances and international confidence.

5. "For some people, BDS remains a serious disease" Understatement of the month. BDS is an amazingly persistant disorder. I'm not sure there is any cure.

Representative Sample: On Wednesday, President George W Bush will have been out of office for a full year; I would have thought that Bush Derangement Syndrome would have died a natural death by now, but apparently I was wrong about that.

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

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Holy Trumpet Lawsuit

South African soccer fans often make noise with an plastic trumpet instrument called the vuvuzela. (See video of vuvuzelas in action.)  But a religion called Shembe claims it as its "holy instrument." They object to rowdy soccer fans defiling their holy trumpets, and have filed a legal action to stop it from being played at World Cup games. The World Cup organization disagrees, and says that
the noise is an important part of South Africa's footballing culture.
What's a sporting event without spectators finding ways to make loud obnoxious noises? Who will win the battle of the holy trumpet?

Talk of Useless Sanctions Against Iran

The Obama administration has accepted the failure of its chatting with theocrats policy toward Iran -- sort of, and is looking at applying a favored half-measure: sanctions. There was actually previous talk about "crippling sanctions" -- whatever they are -- but now the emphasis has shifted to "targeted sanctions" -- better known as useless sanctions. As the Christian Science Monitor points out, the shift has much to do with China, which has demonstrated a "lack of enthusiasm" for sanctions. 

For reasons of its own, it is apparent that China doesn't particularly care whether or not Iran gets nuclear weapons. According to the article,

China might eventually be persuaded to go along with sanctions against members of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps involved in the nuclear program, Katzman suggests, but would almost certainly oppose any measures aimed at succoring the opposition to the Iranian regime. China regularly opposes any action it deems to be international interference in another country’s domestic affairs.
As one expert put it,
from what we’re seeing it’s pretty clear this [sanctions] process is going to be very gradual.”
That's a nice way of saying completely useless.

HOT5 Daily 1/16/2010

1. "Extraordinary US military central to Haitian relief efforts" Something the U.S. won't get any credit for from the usual suspects. Details military relief efforts.

Representative Sample: Too many view our military as just a war machine, filled with young men and women they believe to be anxious for the taste of blood. It is instances like this that should shake the very foundations of their perspectives. Were it not for their readiness for battlegrounds… possessing the talent for building communications stations and emergency facilities where there is nothing… any relief effort by the world would merely result in inefficient chaos, despite all good intent.

2. "Brits: The US is failing Haiti ? again" Links to leftist British journalist attacking the U.S. over Haiti and trying to blame Bush. BDS & anti-Americanism often go together.

Representative Sample: if the country is a failed state today, partly run by the UN, in so far as it is run by anybody, then American actions over the years have a lot to do with it.

3. "There Are Only Two Types Of People" Collectivists and individualists.

Representative Sample: I am really starting to believe people are born with their brains already wired for collectivism or individualism. Then you get into the nature versus nurture argument. I think it is possible that an individualist born into a collectivist family will spout the collectivist line for quite some time, but eventually his/her individualism will "come out of the closet". Same for the reverse situation.

4. "Safer" What makes us safer now than in 2007?

Representative Sample:aren't all of these events bad? Do they not all lead to further nuclear instability? Do they not bring us closer to a dreaded nuclear exchange?

5. "The Legal Blog Watch 5-Point Checklist for Bank Robbers" Tips for stupid bank robbers.

Representative Sample: Here are five important points for bank robbers to keep in mind

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

Friday, January 15, 2010

EU Terrorist Supporters in Gaza

A group of European terrorist supporters is calling for the prosecution of Israeli officials for so-called war crimes. At first glance this is nothing new, just a bunch of left-wing European nuts who hate Israel and support Hamas. But these people are actually members of the EU parliament.
The high ranking delegation which includes 60 parliament members of 12 European countries
Their spokesman is a member of the British Labour Party. He described their visit to Gaza as
"a message of solidarity with Gaza to end the Israeli siege."

Here in the U.S. we have terrorist rights supporters, who believe that the U.S. constitution applies to foreign terrorists. That's bad enough. But at least here we don't have too many people, at least in prominent positions, who are outspoken supporters of terrorist organizations. There aren't any delegations of U.S. congresspeople visiting Pakistan, hanging out with the Taliban, and calling for prosecution of U.S. "war criminals."

The reason Gaza is under siege is because it is ruled by Hamas, a terrorist group devoted to, among other things, anti-Semitism and the destruction of Israel. Unlike Israel, Hamas deliberately targets civilians, glorifies the death of any Israelis, and does their best to perpetrate acts normally considered war crimes. Yet for some reason, a group of Europeans is in Gaza supporting Hamas, spreading their propaganda, and attacking Israel. Not surprisingly there were no calls for prosecution of Hamas war criminals, or condemnation of Hamas for launching rockets at Israeli cities. 

HOT5 Daily 1/15/2010

1. "A Bit of Realism Please?" With all the sympathy for Haiti, it takes guts to make this argument -- even though he's right.

Representative Sample: We have far more pressing problems at the moment and the government has no business wasting Americans’ money on a tiny country of no value to us that has essentially no chance of recovery.

2. "Who Designed the Designer?"An atheist attacks a common atheist debating point.

Representative Sample: Today I want to kill one of atheism’s sacred cows. I want to kill one of atheism’s most popular and resilient retorts.

3. "Winning Already"A positive outlook on Afghanistan. 

Representative Sample: I've always been puzzled by level of worry that even war supporters express over our chances for victory in Afghanistan.

4. "Another way our world is changing, while we pay attention to trivial things…" Our brains and technology.

Representative Sample: We have no idea the effect on the deveopment of personality and consciousness of having music piped into one’s ears many hours per day. We’re performing the experiment, the results of which might prove surprising (for good or, more likely, ill).

5. "Using nanotech to attack cancer" I remember when this kind of thing was only in science fiction. Links to an interesting article.

Representative Sample: Researchers at the National Cancer Institute’s Centers of Cancer Nanotechnology Excellence have developed a “cocktail” of two different nanometer-sized particles that work in concert within the bloodstream to locate, adhere to and kill cancerous tumors.

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

The "International Community"

In the aftermath of Haiti's earthquake disaster we are going to be hearing quite a bit about the efforts of the so-called "international community." Every time I hear or read that phrase it makes me laugh. The word "community" tends to conjure up a vision of people bound by common interests and goals, working side-by-side for the greater good. You might think of a town, where leaders and other townspeople come together and try to work out problems, maybe at a townhall meeting. Sure there are disagreements, factions, and sharply different views of policy, but everyone is in the same boat more or less. The overall goal is to improve the town.

But the international community is sort of like a town where half the people at the townhall meeting are murders, rapists, thieves, gang members and beggars. But for some reason the good citizens pretend that these criminals are equal members of the community who should be listened to, placed on town committees, and treated with respect. The very idea of an international community is a bad joke.

Piracy at a Six-Year High

There were 406 reported instances of piracy in 2009, compared to 293 in 2008. It looks like those "civilized" anti-piracy efforts have been real effective. Over the past year, 1052 crew members were held hostage, 68 injured and 8 killed. Catching and releasing pirates and pretending that they have legal rights just isn't anywhere near as effective as traditionally established anti-piracy techniques such as summary execution and destruction of safe havens. I know that's a big surprise. 

HOT5 Daily 1/14/2010

1. "An Interview with Christopher Hitchens, Part II" Hitchens is always worth a read.

Representative Sample:The existence of theocratic regimes that have illegally acquired weapons of mass destruction, that are war with their own people, that are exporting their violence to neighboring countries, sending death squads as far away as Argentina to kill other people as well as dissident members of their own nationality--the existence of such regimes is incompatible with us. If there is going to be a confrontation, we should pick the time, not them.

2. "Hubris" The baseless arrogance of the Obama administration.

Representative Sample: Must be one of those “words mean what I say they mean” things again.

3. "Man offers his tongue to gods" The power of faith in action.

Representative Sample: A childless Indian man sliced off his tongue as an offering to the god Shiva in the hope of becoming a father.

4. "Corruptocrats Strike Back!" It's how they operate.

Representative Sample: They want to throw around baseless claims of racial prejudice to muddy the waters, instead of worrying about issues of prejudice on their side of the aisle.

5. "UN Raps Taliban for War’s Massive Civilian Toll" How did this report get past the UN's office of anti-American propaganda?

Representative Sample: The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a new report today on civilian casualties in 2009, and the overall picture is grim: Last year was the deadliest yet for civilians, since the end of Taliban rule in 2001. But according to the report, 2009 also saw an overall drop in the number of civilian casualties caused by U.S., International Security Assistance Force and Afghan government forces.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Stupid Move by Israel

Israel's relations with Turkey, once an ally, have deteriorated substantially in recent years, primarily because of the growing Islamist sympathies of the Turkish government. This has led to public recriminations between the two countries, and the cancellation of joint military maneuvers. Israel is justified in being upset with Turkish behavior, but what it did Monday and today was just stupid.

On Monday Israel's deputy foreign minister summoned the Turkish ambassador, and complained about an anti-Semitic tv show running in Turkey. While doing so, he deliberately insulted the ambassador.

The ambassador was forced to sit on a low sofa without a handshake, while Mr. Ayalon explained to local TV stations that the humiliation was intentional.
He explained in Hebrew, so the ambassador wasn't aware of what he was saying. Naturally the Turks were outraged, demanded an apology, and threatened to recall their ambassador. Today the offending minister apologized. But here's what the prime minister of Israel had to say.
The statement from Mr. Netanyahu's office said the Israeli leader "supported the essence of (Ayalon's) protest but distanced himself from the inappropriate style." It expressed concern over the deterioration of relations between the two countries and said the Israeli government would work "to find ways to prevent the continuation of this trend."
In other words, Turkey deserved to be insulted but it was done in the wrong way. I'm sure the Turks will be thrilled with that explanation.

Israel is in a difficult position. It has Hizbollah armed to the teeth in Lebanon, the festering problem of Gaza, and the never-ending farce that is the so-called "peace process." The U.S. is governed by an administration that is less sympathetic to, and more critical of Israel, completely clueless regarding foreign policy, and committed to a policy of naivete and wishful thinking toward the Iranian nuclear program. Israel may at some point have to launch a unilateral strike on Iran, and relations with Turkey are already bad. Why go out of your way to slap the Turks in the face over a tv show, no matter how anti-Semitic it was? I'm not sure what the Israel government hoped to gain by this action. It seems like sheer stupidity.

HOT5 Daily 1/13/2010

1. "Why Can’t Western Policymakers Believe There are Actual Revolutionaries in the World?" Wishful thinking is just more attractive.

Representative Sample:These kinds of ideas, produced by well-paid, highly credentialed and honored “experts” are just nuts, showing absolutely no comprehension of the situation. It is even more daunting coming from people who are mainstream foreign policy thinkers one would expect to know better.

2. "Islamic Intolerance"An interesting look at some of the causes.

Representative Sample: In the last few months, Moslems have attacked Buddhists in Thailand, Jews everywhere, Baha'is in Iran and Christians in Egypt, Iraq, the Philippines, Pakistan, Malaysia and elsewhere. This is not a sudden and unexpected outburst of Moslem violence against non-Moslems.

3. "#118 Skeptics & Charlatans" Tree Lobsters. I just discovered this series.

Representative Sample: It's a cartoon.

4. "If European Countries Became U.S. States....." Let's keep European social democracy in Europe.

Representative Sample: Belgium, Finland, U.K. Germany and Spain would rank in the bottom 20% of U.S. states by per capita GDP, just barely ahead of Arkansas but below Kentucky.

5. "“Interesting Times” and New Developments for Chinese Missile Defense" Implications for U.S. policy.

Representative Sample: Much as China tested an anti-satellite system even as its diplomats claimed that China was not interested in “militarizing space,” it would seem that Chinese concerns about US missile defense developments are more a reflection of concerns about being outpaced by American technological capability than foregoing a capability. Moreover, like the ASAT test, the anti-missile test reflects a steady, ongoing program that has reached a development milestone suitable for testing systems.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hostile Acts Committed by Terrorists Aren't Necessarily Terrorism

In Slate, William Saletan makes what is probably an unpopular argument, but one with which I agree. He attacks the practice of labelling every attack on U.S. forces as terrorism. At a time when words and phrases have become almost meaningless by virtue of broad and contested definitions, such as "torture," and "war crimes," it is good to see someone reject an expanded definition of the word "terrorism."

The bombing of the CIA base, like the November massacre at Fort Hood, Texas, was an act of war. It was also espionage. But it wasn't terrorism. Terrorism targets civilians. The CIA officers killed at the Afghan base, like the soldiers shot down at Fort Hood, were not civilians. They were running a war.
He goes on.
According to the U.S. Code (Title 22, Chapter 38, Section 2656f), "the term 'terrorism' means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents."
The whole article is worth reading.

Why is this important? Along with Saletan's points, consider this one. An expanded definition of terrorism gives credence to those who would label U.S. actions terrorism. It fails to note the difference between those who are arguably legitimate targets, and those who are civilian non-combatants. No American should be happy that CIA agents are dead. But killing intelligence agents directing a drone assassination program is not morally equivalent to blowing up an airplane full of civilians. Those are different categories of targets. It also ignores intent. An attack intended to kill those who are working to kill you is a much different intent than one which intends to kill the innocent, in order to terrorize the enemy in general. 

Where Saletan is wrong is in his attempt remove the label "terrorist" from those who belong to, or are associated with a terrorist organization. If someone voluntarily associates himself with a terrorist organization, it is reasonable to refer to him as a terrorist. But an act of terrorism must be judged independently. The U.S. military is not made up of terrorists. But if the U.S. were to adopt a strategy of eradicating Pakistani villages, deliberately killing civilians in order break the Taliban, the military would be carrying out acts of terrorism. Just as non-terrorists can engage in acts of terror, terrorists can take actions which do not constitute terrorism.