Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Muslim MasterCard

An Islamic financial firm in Toronto is launching a new credit card for Muslims, called the iFreedom Plus Mastercard. It circumvents the Islamic religious proscription against paying interest.

holders load up their card with cash in advance, up to $6,000. Each purchase draws down on the account without accruing interest.
They make money on charging 95 cents per transaction, and from the membership fee of $50 for two years. Since it uses your own money in advance, there is no need for a credit check.

It may be targeted at Muslims, but it sounds like a pretty good idea that might appeal to a wider spectrum of people. It appears to be an improved version of a secured credit card. The fees are pretty low, and there's no interest. They should market it to everyone, not just Muslims. There are plenty of people out there with lousy credit that have trouble getting a regular card, and who  could probably benefit from this product.

HOT5 Daily 3/31/2010

1. "Liberals Are Mostly Not Exactly Like Terrorists" This is a must-read.

Representative Sample: So are liberals just like terrorists? Now, most people, when asked that question, would immediately answer, “Why, yes, of course.” All the obvious parallels are there. Both terrorists and liberals have an utter disdain for the average American, hate America and wish to destroy its freedoms, hate all our military interventions in the Middle East, dislike Israel, are suspicious of American patriotism, and are foul smelling. Plus, Americans would feel much safer if both were locked up somewhere in Cuba.

2. "Theodore Dalrymple on Self-Esteem vs. Self-Respect" This article would probably damage the self-esteem of people with low self-esteem.

Representative Sample:Self-esteem is, of course, a term in the modern lexicon of psychobabble, and psychobabble is itself the verbal expression of self-absorption without self-examination. The former is a pleasurable vice, the latter a painful discipline. An accomplished psychobabbler can talk for hours about himself without revealing anything.

3. "Unruly Clients: The Trouble with Allies" We have some troublesome ones. Links a good article.

Representative Sample: the episode highlights a central flaw in American security strategy: reliance on allies whose perceptions, priorities, values, and objectives tend to be quite different from our own

4. "My Top 5 Cyber Fallacies" Misperceptions about cyberwarfare.

Representative Sample: This fallacy paints China as the number one adversary in anything having to do with cyber conflict in spite of the fact that there isn’t a shred of historical evidence to prove it. The Peoples Republic of China has never engaged in military operations utilizing its IW capabilities against another nation state.

5. "The Widening Vortex of Catholic Scandal" The latest direct connections with the pope.

Representative Sample: Lately, it seems that no matter how often I write about the ever-widening story of Roman Catholic bishops and the Pope protecting child molesters, new details keep bubbling up that demand another update. Well, I'm happy to oblige.

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

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Nuclear Weapons: The First Use Option

The U.S. nuclear posture review is coming up, and Selig Harrison, director of the Asia Program at the Center for International Policy, has an op-ed in USA Today arguing that we should abandon our current policy and adopt a "no first use" pledge. This is a foolish idea based on at least two false assumptions.

Harrison asserts that a right of first use is "is incompatible with the goal of non-proliferation." This is obvious nonsense. It's completely delusional to assume that countries like Iran and North Korea primarily want nuclear weapons out of fear of a U.S. nuclear first strike. There are many reasons countries might seek to acquire such weapons, and one of the main ones is that the possession of nuclear weapons is a strong deterrent to conventional attack. Rogue states fearing attack or invasion, and facing the overwhelming conventional power of the United States, have a clear reason to want nuclear weapons. Their reasons have little or nothing to do with whether or not the U.S. retains the option to strike first with nuclear weapons.

The article also appears to rest on a fundamentally mistaken underlying assumption that is common on the left when considering weapons of any kind -- the idea that the weapons themselves are the problem. In my view, the whole notion of nuclear proliferation as an evil that must be fought, is misguided. The problem isn't the weapons, it's the states which possess them. Should we be worried about nuclear weapons in the hands of Britain, France, or other allies of the U.S.? What if Switzerland decided to build nuclear weapons? Would that be in any way similar to the threat of nuclear weapons in the hands of Iranian mullahs? Pretending that nuclear proliferation in general is the problem, instead of rogue state possession of nuclear weapons, is a common error in perspective. 

U.S. nuclear weapons, just like other weapons in our arsenal, should be employed in accordance with U.S. interests. It is possible that a situation might arise where we might need to strike first with nuclear weapons. We can't foresee the future. Constricting U.S. strategic options by making some sort of pledge is both stupid and dangerous -- especially since the supposed benefits of such a pledge are based on false assumptions and delusions.

reaffirming the right of first use would say, in effect, that the United States has no apologies for Hiroshima and Nagasaki and is ready for a repeat performance whenever and wherever it chooses.
That's exactly what we should say.

HOT5 Daily 3/30/2010

1. "Obama Administration “Focused Like A Laser” On Absolute Nonsense" They don't have the slightest idea about what to do regarding the economy.

Representative Sample: One of the primary tell-tale signs that liberals are just not mentally capable of dealing in the real world is their fascination and distraction with silly feel-good ideas. In order to convince themselves they are as relevant as the real movers and shakers in the world (a group of which I am not a member) they boil life down to simpleton concepts, solve some inane and useless aspect of this fantasy world, then pretend anyone who doesn’t get their brilliance is evil incarnate.

2. "Obama’s Foreclosure Plan Another Abomination" For Obama, the answer to every problem is more big government interference. And people wonder why he's viewed as a socialist.

Representative Sample: I have to wonder if Democrats even bother to consider the consequences of their actions. In the aftermath of their policies they wring their hands and wonder why businesses fail to respond as they’d hoped. The answer is simple: The fear and uncertainty liberal politics creates is one of the major causes of corporate reticence to invest while they are in office. And now this.

3. "The Big Lie and the Grand Distraction: How Dems use Racebaiting Lies to Distract from No Jobs and Dem votes for Viagra for Sex Offenders" Race baiting/false accusations of racism have long been a staple of the left. 

Representative Sample: Desperate Dems want to change the subject and don't mind lying or provoking violence to do so!

4. "Is the Vatican scandal really about the abuse of power?" A good analysis.

Representative Sample: the problem is not petty gossip. The problem is the Pope and the church hierarchy of which he is not only the head, but also a revealing symptom. He may well be a moral and deeply spiritual man. But over decades, while some in the church have succumbed to temptations of the flesh, the Pope and other leaders may have fallen just as damagingly to those associated with power. They have been corrupted by it and in turn they have corrupted an organization that exists only through the moral authority they systematically compromised. As a result, the Church faces one of its greatest crises of the modern era. 

5. "Obama and Honduras: still tryin’ to bring Zelaya back" Obama administration refuses to let it go, and continues acting against U.S. interests.

Representative Sample: Washington’s bullying is two-pronged. First is a maniacal determination to punish those involved in removing Mr. Zelaya. Second is an attempt to force Honduras to allow Mr. Zelaya, who now lives in the Dominican Republic, to return without facing any repercussions for the illegal actions that provoked his removal.

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

Monday, March 29, 2010

HOT5 Daily 3/29/2010

1. "The other side of Obamacare: Bend over and take it" More on what is in the bill.

Representative Sample: These days bad politicians like Bush and Obama push through massive laws with intricate clauses, publish them at the last minute, push them through under "urgency" and pretty much guarantee that no one knows precisely what they are voting for. Obama promised transparency in legislation but then Obama made all sorts of promises that reneged on almost immediately.

2. "Diversity in the Newsroom" Only in certain areas.

Representative Sample:if reflecting the community is essential, why are race and gender the only categories to be considered? Alexander doesn’t mention sexual orientation. Does the Post have gay (and lesbian and bisexual and transgender and questioning…) journalists in the correct proportions? And how about ideological diversity?

3. "ECONOMICS AND TAXATION 101, AKA: "BARSTOOL ECONOMICS"" Things most Democrats just don't get.

Representative Sample: It's one of the simple pieces of timeless wisdom and application that clearly explains the stupidity and greed of the "soak the rich" and class-hatred mindset. It should be revisited and "redistributed" to remind us how of how taxes and economics work in the real world. The "more you make, the higher percentage they take" approach (aka: Karl Marx's "progressive" income tax), punishes success and rewards non-productive behavior as this real world example shows..

4. "God, Sex, and the Orgasm" The orgasm as an argument for the non-existence of God.

Representative Sample: why did God make our sex drive so strong? Why didn't he make the the orgasm less pleasurable? The pleasure of the orgasm is just too strong as it is. We all know this. With an evolutionary hypothesis this is what we'd expect to find, for our sex drive is good for the survival of our species. But under a theistic hypothesis it makes no sense.

5. "Big Brother Is Here" And getting bigger.

Representative Sample: Imagine if during the beginning of the Iraq war, several American companies came out against the war publically, explaining how they believed too many soldiers lives would be lost, and the cost of the war would affect their businesses. Then imagine that the Republicans immediately demanded that the top executives of these companies come to Capitol Hill and explain their dissent..

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

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Libertarian Purity Test

An interesting quiz to find out how libertarian you are. My score was 39 out of a possible 160, which, according to the quiz means:

Your libertarian credentials are obvious. Doubtlessly you will become more extreme as time goes on.
Hmm. A better description for me would be: you have some libertarian positions. See how you score.

h/t Thoughts on Freedom

Ben Stein Defends Government Workers

Speaking on CBS, Ben Stein gave a strong defense of government workers against what he sees as unfair demonization by fellow conservatives.  
There is a basic assumption among many of us conservatives that bothers me. Basically, the assumption is that if a person is a government employee, then he or she is lazy and shiftless, a parasite just eating up tax dollars without doing anything. 

"Bureaucrats" is what the sneering expression usually is.

Stein goes on to point out that government worker do important jobs, and include people like cops, firefighters, and CIA agents, who are generally popular with conservatives.
Let's take our conservative noses out of the air and stop sneering at the people who serve us in the civil service. We would be awfully sad if they were gone, even the ones in the Department of Motor Vehicles.
Much of what Stein says is true, but he's beating a strawman. When people complain about "bureaucrats," they don't mean cops, firefighters, teachers and CIA agents. And for the most part, they are complaining about the system and how the government conducts business, rather than about the individual people involved. Praising government workers as necessary and valuable is every bit as big a gross over-generalization, as is demonizing them. Many government agencies, from the federal level, right down to local boards, have well-earned reputations for inefficiency, poor service, and horrible relations with individual members of the public they are supposed to be serving. Stein's comment about the DMV is idiotic. Most people would certainly not miss all the regulation and nonsense that involves even the most basic dealings with those state agencies -- at least the ones I've been to. Somehow I think I could manage to operate a vehicle just fine without the assistance of anyone at a department of motor vehicles.

There are plenty of good people serving in government jobs. I actually deal with government workers on a daily basis, and the vast majority of the people I come into contact with are as friendly and helpful as anyone in a non-government position. But they have to operate under the constraints of the inefficiency, maze of rules and regulations, and sheer stupidity that characterizes much of how our government entities do business. When someone receives good service from a government agency, you probably won't hear him railing against "bureaucrats." But the poor reputation of bureaucrats doesn't come from some sort of conservative prejudice -- as Stein seems to think -- but from the real world experience of people who see how much money the government spends, how many workers they hire, and how inefficiently the government conducts its business.

HOT5 Daily 3/28/2010

1. "The Unintended Consequences Of ObamaCare: A Lesson In Incompetence" And they wonder why people are angry.

Representative Sample:We are witnessing the most cynical and dishonest behavior at work in a Congress in decades and the incumbents in the Democratic party will certainly pay for their witless, cowardly and irresponsible actions. The fools in the White House, where the lease extends beyond 2010, are ecstatic with their insolence

2. "Africa: The Anarchy Gravy Train" Excellent article on one of Africa's major problems.

Representative Sample: The mandates that the UN has operated on, are terrible. You must work to end wars, and that takes violence of action. You do not send in peacekeepers to somehow bring stability during an active war. The war must end, and that only happens after one side has broken the will of the other. Or you destroy the leadership of that other side.

3. "Democracy and Freedom" Two different things.

Representative Sample: Simply implementing the "Will of the People" is no more noble, true, or decent than the will of a kind and wise autocrat: democracy has no value at all, except to help keep us free.

4. "British: Special Relationship with America is dead" I'd call it dying instead of dead. But Obama has been working hard to finish it off. Links UK article.

Representative Sample:With a president who doesn’t even like America very much and has taken on the goal of undermining American exceptionalism, is it any surprise that we cannot maintain any type of a close relationship with any nation in the world?

5. "Pop Quiz: "Smart" Diplomacy Edition" "Smart" diplomacy looks a lot like kow-towing to our enemies, while treating our allies like dirt.

Representative Sample: A year ago, I would have chalked this up to a new administration and an inexperienced President who hadn't yet found his footing. But today? This, apparently, is his footing.

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

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Top 10 Things I Hate About Driving

I've done quite a bit of driving the past week, so this topic came to mind. These aren't in order, and I've probably forgotten some.  

1. Double parking. It's bad enough when delivery trucks do it, although at least they have a good reason. But when some idiot blocks a lane so he can go into a convenience store or whatever, I always hope someone will plow into their car -- preferably a large truck that will completely destroy it. If I were a traffic cop, double-parkers would get tickets the instant I saw them.

2. Oblivious pedestrians. It's amazing how many people just stroll right out into traffic, often with their children. They do this even when road conditions are bad, making it harder for cars to stop quickly.

3. Unnecessary lane closures. No work is being done, there's no apparent problem with the road, yet a lane is closed. Result = bottleneck causing big traffic jam. Unnecessary lane closures often occur at the worst possible times, such as rush hour.

4. Unnecessary cops. Hey, I think I'll just sit on the side of the highway with my lights flashing and create a big traffic jam. There's no accident, nothing going on, but all the traffic will slow way down to see what's happening and because they are worried about the police.

5. Trucks. There are almost too many things to mention about why I hate driving with trucks. Trucks driving at high speed in horrible weather conditions. Trucks refusing to change lanes when I'm merging onto the highway. Trucks pulling up alongside and then turning on their turn signals to come into my lane. Trucks driving side-by-side and blocking the road. Being between a truck and a wall. Trucks that have debris flying off of them that hits my car. 

6. Eternal road construction. Why does it take five years to fix certain stretches of highway? Why are certain areas always under construction that never ends?

7. Traffic lights with no sensors or different settings. It's always fun driving through a largely empty city at 1am, yet having to stop and sit at every block because the traffic lights are still set on their normal daytime timers.

8. Unsynchronized traffic lights. This is particularly annoying when combined with #7.

9. Places with no parking. I know this can't be helped in certain areas, but it's no fun at all when you are in a hurry, can't find a spot, and have to loop around the block and go through more lights and deal with one-way streets.

10. One-way streets. Again, I know these are probably necessary, but I hate them. At the place I am currently working, if I park in front of the building I need to go thru two lights and two stop signs just to get to the back of the building.

HOT5 Daily 3/27/2010

1. "The Error-Ridden Obama Middle East Policy" And error-ridden is a nice way of putting it.

Representative Sample: What must friends and foes think, after all, when we abandon our ally, when we ignore violent provocations, when we water down to thin gruel any response to the mullahs, and when we ignore the human-rights atrocities throughout the Muslim World? They see, sadly, the reality of the Obama White House

2. "Jimmy Carter Was Better than This (Why can’t Democrats embrace a free energy market?)" Maybe because they don't believe in the free market.

Representative Sample: Democrats today seem to want to fly in the face of reality by espousing phantom sources of energy and working at cross purposes with American interests

3. "The Seven Most Awesome Quotes from President Obama's Health Care Victory Speech in Iowa" See if you can spot the disconnect.

Representative Sample:It's a series of graphics

4. "The Politics Of Race And Deceit" The left in action.

Representative Sample:Make no mistake. This is all part of a plan to marginalize the people opposed to the radical agenda of the left.

5. "Rightwing goes Metal, even hardcore Punk" Times have changed.

Representative Sample:The list of aging Hard Rockers identifying themselves as "Republican," now includes Ted Nugent, Sammy Hagar, members of Lynyrd Skynyrd, Alice Cooper, Joe Perry of Aerosmith, Gene Simmons of KISS, Kid Rock, Uncle Cracker, Jeff Hetfield of Metallica, Skunk Baxter of Steely Dan and even Meatloaf.

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

Friday, March 26, 2010

A Useless Arms Control Agreement

Like most such agreements, the latest arms control deal between the U.S. and Russia is virtually meaningless. Here's Obama spouting the usual nonsense.

“With this agreement, the United States and Russia, the two largest nuclear powers in the world, also send a clear signal that we intend to lead,” Mr. Obama said, appearing in front of reporters at the White House to announce the agreement. “By upholding our own commitments under the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, we strengthen our global efforts to stop the spread of these weapons, and to ensure that other nations meet their own responsibilities.”
An arms control agreement between the U.S. and Russia has exactly zero impact on the spread of nuclear weapons. The reduction in the number of deployed U.S. & Russian weapons doesn't have the slightest effect on the nuclear program and aspirations of countries such as Iran. The president's idiotic pronouncement is just another example of one of the main planks of Obamic foreign policy: wishful thinking. 

Here is the practical effect of the new agreement.

According to people in Washington and Moscow who were briefed on the new treaty, it will lower the legal limit on deployed strategic warheads to 1,550 each, from the 2,200 allowed as of 2012 under the previous treaty. It would lower the limit on launchers to 800 from the 1,600 now permitted. Nuclear-armed missiles and heavy bombers would be capped at 700 each. ...  the treaty does not limit the thousands of tactical nuclear bombs and stored strategic warheads each side has.
In other words, its almost completely meaningless. As one expert noted,
“What did we get out of the deal?” he asked. “Nothing that I can see, and I have been doing nuclear stuff, including arms control, since 1981.”
The good news is that at least at first glance, this treaty appears relatively harmless -- and that's always a plus with the dangerously incompetent Obama administration in charge of foreign policy. Politicians love things that they can trumpet as achievements, just to pretend they are actually doing something and making a difference. Much of the time such feel-good projects are actively harmful or have nasty unintended consequences.  If this agreement lets Obama pretend that he's advancing his pie-in-the-sky dreams of ridding the world of nuclear weapons, hopefully he'll be satisfied that's he's doing what he can, and abandon attempts at more dangerous efforts to feed his delusions.  

HOT5 Daily 3/26/2010

1. "Anger, fear, whining and inflaming" One of the better posts I've seen addressing the shameless, hypocritical leftist whining about threats.

Representative Sample: Dissent is no longer the highest form of patriotism, folks – it’s “terrorism”. Please excuse the use of insulting language, but idiots like James Clyburn are the reason the anger in this country remains high and is still building. Loud mouth hacks like this jerk trade in fear and lies and then have the temerity to suggest that it is “terrorism” to react to their abuses by protesting.

2. "Democrats Fan the Flames of Racial Hate with Lies" False accusations of racism are a major weapon in the leftist arsenal.

Representative Sample: It's intolerable to simply allow these racebaiters and liars to continue spreading hate and fanning the flames of racism all to advance their own agenda.

3. "State Department Gives Legal Rationale For Drone Strikes" Obama administration does something right, and basically says screw you to the ACLU and others trying to assist our enemies.

Representative Sample: So far, the Barry admin has pretty much gone with the “it’s war, you jacka**es,” as they rightly should.

4. "Wealth Is Not A Zero Sum Game" And people wonder why many Democrats get accused of being socialists -- exhibit A: Max Baucus' nonsense.

Representative Sample: The idea that a person can be deemed "too wealthy" is absurd on its face. We tell people that they need to be productive members of society. That they need to go to college, get a job, earn a salary and pay their taxes. Senator Baucus is amending that plea: don't get too wealthy, or you'll be ostracized. Don't be too successful, or we'll have to punish you.

5. "The Parable of the Satellite Dish" Excellent article.

Representative Sample: Freedom requires the courage to avoid being stampeded. You should ask more questions about something you are told is an “essential right.” Sober reflection is a hallmark of maturity. A wise State would not require its citizens to act like children.

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

Thursday, March 25, 2010

When Witches Go Bad

As religions go, Wicca is usually pretty inoffensive. Wiccans are a small minority of the population, don't proselytize, and generally don't bother others. But they just got some major bad publicity.

A woman who claims she was going to perform a Wiccan celebration of spring is accused of using a ritualistic dagger to kill a man she invited to the ceremony.
She's claiming self-defense, but police don't believe her story of attempted rape. And apparently her account was inconsistent. 

What are the odds that some Christians will use this incident to reinforce and promote superstition about witches, Satan worship, and human sacrifices? This woman didn't just kill someone, she may have done considerable damage to Wiccans all over, who already have to fight against the superstitious view of witches popular with many Christians.

HOT5 Daily 3/25/2010

1. "When Leftwingers Attack" Things to keep in mind the next time some leftist starts whining in fear about dangerous right-wing extremists.

Representative Sample: the next time some Obama-gargling wanker starts whining about "the violence" he fears will come to him because of his political posturing, remind him where the real political violence in America comes from and where it has always come from. You can do this by handing him a mirror.

2. "Can Congress Regulate Something You Haven’t Purchased Yet To Make You Purchase It?" Of course, since for Democrats the Constitution means whatever they think it should mean.

Representative Sample: they can tax and regulate something that you haven’t purchased that they are making you purchase under tax and commerce clauses that are about things you might purchase but you haven’t purchased but they mandate you purchase?

3. "Rising sea settles territorial dispute" Climate change solves intractable problem.

Representative Sample:Disputes between countries over maritime rock outcrops, like New Moore Island in the Bay of Bengal, are not uncommon. One of the strangest disputes, involving six countries, is over the Spratlys in the South China Sea.

4. "US drone raids could land CIA officers in court: expert" The sheer insanity that can come from blind legalism.

Representative Sample: In written testimony, Anderson told the subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee that officials and legal advisers at the CIA or the national security council who create "target lists" could face possible charges abroad over the drone war.

5. "Mercs vs. Pirates: Deadly Shootout on the High Seas"Armed guards that shoot back at pirates kill pirates and prevent piracy. Not a big surprise, but some people still aren't convinced.

Representative Sample: Hiring armed private security to protect against pirate attack is still considered a controversial move. Companies are concerned about liability and insurance issues, and some security consultancies say that the main job of hired guns is to avoid a deadly escalation in the first place.

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

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Palestinian Glorification of Terrorists

While the U.S. is stupidly picking a fight with our ally Israel over some apartment buildings in its capital, the Palestinians are busy glorifying one of their most notorious terrorists -- and that's saying something, since they've had many to choose from. The Palestinian leadership is renaming a major square in Ramallah after Dalal Mughrabi, described by CBS News as a "militant."

Mughrabi is among the greatest heroes in Palestinian society. Schools have been named after her, and Ramallah, the Palestinian administrative center, recently dedicated a street to her memory. "She is a Palestinian martyr and deserves to be honored," said Ramallah's mayor, Janet Mikhail.

Who is this great hero? What did she do to achieve such prestige among Palestinians? What makes her an inspiration? Well, she and ten others murdered a female U.S. photographer, fired into traffic, hijacked a taxi and murdered the occupants, hijacked two buses filled with tourists, set one on fire, and then had a gun battle with police. The final result: 37 dead Israelis, including 13 children. Mughrabi died also.

A murderous terrorist like Mughrabi is what passes for a hero among Palestinians -- and not just those associated with Hamas. As many others have pointed out, during Joe Biden's visit to the area a dedication ceremony was planned for Mughrabi Square. It was cancelled at the last minute to avoid offending the U.S. But...

a group of activists from President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah movement held an unofficial dedication, and Palestinian officials are pledging to move forward with a formal ceremony in the future.

While there are no signs or pictures of Mughrabi, the square already has been restored with fresh flowers and grass, and planners say they plan to hoist a large photo of Mughrabi at the site.
The Obama administration chose to ignore all this and instead manufacture outrage over  an Israeli official announcing already scheduled plans to build some apartment buildings in Jerusalem. We insist on pretending that the Palestinians are a legitimate partner in an imaginary "peace process" that consists primarily of Israel making concession after concession and getting nothing to show for it but more abuse. We've done everything reasonably possible to assist the Palestinians, from promoting a state for them, to giving them large amounts of aid, to training their military and security forces. We've done all that despite the fact that a significant portion of the Palestinian population subscribes to Islamist views, is virulently anti-Semitic, and glorifies terrorists like Mughrabi. By almost any measure, the Palestinian pseudo-states are enemies of the United States. But the Obama administration has focused almost exclusively on Israel as the supposed problem with the so-called peace process, to the point that many supporters of Israel believe he's actively hostile toward the Jewish state. 

HOT5 Daily 3/24/2010

1. "That was quick: reports filtering in of health care premiums for families rising $2,400 annually in reaction to today's signing of Demcare bill" Not surprising.

Representative Sample: Gee, you mean the Democrats were lying when they said if you liked your health care you could keep it? And that quality of care would improve? And prices would decline? While adding 30 to 47 million more people? Who'da thunk it?

2. "Why "Life Has To Have Been Designed" Is a Terrible Argument for God" Shooting down one of the most common theist contentions.

Representative Sample: The argument from design explains nothing that evolution can't explain better. It has massive, gaping holes. It has no predictive power whatsoever. And it has not a single scrap of positive evidence supporting it: not one piece of evidence suggesting the intervention of a designer at any point in the process.

3. "Stop the Presses! Obama Nominee Lets Slip Some Common Sense" It doesn't happen often, so it's noteworthy when it does.

Representative Sample: If President George W. Bush hadn't have named Norman Mineta, a Democrat, Secretary of Transportation, we could have had behavioral profiling at the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) years ago, back when it was created in November 2001.

4. "Historic" A photo the makes a useful point concerning the ridiculous overuse of the word by Democrats concerning the health care bill.

Representative Sample: It's a photo.

5. "The two legitimate, constitutional purposes of the federal government" You mean there aren't millions?

Representative Sample: A plain, non-mystical reading of the U.S. Constitution shows that the purpose and function of the federal government can be boiled down to just two principles

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

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Denial of God Fallacy

When Christians are confronted by disbelief, a common counter argument many deploy against atheism is that atheists are in denial about God, or rebelling against him because of psychological reasons. They might know absolutely nothing about the atheist in question, but have little hesitation in pretending to understand how his/her mind works. You can find the latest example of this sort of knee-jerk anti-atheist reaction at Christianity Today.  

So-called philosopher, James S Spiegel thinks he has atheists all figured out. He even wrote a book about it. I question his label of philosopher because his thinking is amazingly shallow, and simply repeats one of the most common anti-atheist attacks used by even minimally educated Christians. He's also apparently arguing based on a series of mistaken assumptions. I wonder if he has ever had any sort of friendly discussion with an atheist, or actually asked any questions to find out why an atheist holds certain views. 

While atheists insist that their foundational reason for rejecting God is the problem of evil or the scientific irrelevance of the supernatural, the Christian philosopher says the argument is "only a ruse" or "a conceptual smoke screen to mask the real issue – personal rebellion"
Atheists do not necessarily have one or two reasons for disbelief. Some have many reasons. And he doesn't even acknowledge the biggest one -- the lack of evidence for the existence of God. It gets worse.
"Atheism is not the result of objective assessment of evidence, but of stubborn disobedience; it does not arise from the careful application of reason but from willful rebellion. Atheism is the suppression of truth by wickedness, the cognitive consequence of immorality.
These are typical assertions without evidence, based on particular assumptions that aren't shared by the people he is attempting to psychoanalyze. Why would a supposed philosopher advance such a ludicrous explanation for atheism? Because like many believers, God is just so obvious to him, that he simply can't understand how anyone could fail to believe. It must be caused by wickedness, rebellion, sin, and disobedience.
God has made His existence plain from creation – from the unimaginable vastness of the universe to the complex micro-universe of individual cells, Spiegel notes. Human consciousness, moral truths, miraculous occurrences and fulfilled biblical prophecies are also evidence of the reality of God.
None of those things makes God's existence "plain." A believer with philosophical credentials should at least be able to understand that many people see things differently, and see a lack of evidence where he sees a mountain. But Spiegel isn't capable of that level of thought.
Spiegel says the atheist's problem is rebellion against the plain truth of God, as clearly revealed in nature.
Again, atheists do not think God is revealed in nature, let alone clearly. We aren't "rebelling" against anything. We simply don't believe in your deity. What you see as overwhelming evidence for God, we see as superstition, an unconvincing & unnecessary attempt to find supernatural reasons behind natural phenomena.

The funniest part of the article is when Spiegel attempts to explain why those evil atheists just don't get it.

"There is a phenomenon that I call 'paradigm-induced blindness,' where a person's false worldview prevents them from seeing truths which would otherwise be obvious. Additionally, a person's sinful indulgences have a way of deadening their natural awareness of God
Here's a guy who lives in a bubble, who views everything through the narrow prism of his religious beliefs. He's incapable of even understanding that people evaluate evidence by different standards, or that others can honestly disagree without having some sort of evil motivation. He's a prime example of "paradigm-induced blindness." Everyone who holds a different view of what he considers "truth" does so because they are sinful and in denial about God. No doubt his book will be a big seller with Christians who want to reinforce their own misconceptions about atheists.

HOT5 Daily 3/23/2010

1. "This Time, Our Sin Wasn’t Apathy" Excellent points.

Representative Sample: the lesson we should take from this isn’t that the American people are stupid, or that we don’t care. It isn’t event that we put the wrong people in charge. It’s that government is not your friend. It serves a different master than the one envisioned by its founders and described in its Constitution. The healthcare bill is all the proof one should ever need to believe in limited government.

2. "Free Obamacare Coupon! Limit one per visit!" Sums it up.

Representative Sample:It's a graphic.

3. "Why Obama's health-care victory won't make him stronger" I often disagree with Walt, but I think he has it right in this article.

Representative Sample: Will yesterday’s passage of health-care reform give a positive jolt to U.S. foreign policy? Is Obama the new “comeback kid,” with new clout at home and a more formidable hand to play abroad? Will he now pivot from domestic affairs to foreign policy and achieve a dazzling set of diplomatic victories? My answers: no, no, and no.

4. "We are defending an aberration in a fighting withdrawal" A little over the top, but not by that much.

Representative Sample: Millions of Americans would prefer not have to worry about taking care of themselves and their families. In exchange for the removal of this worry, they are willing to submit to and become dependent on the state. They voluntarily surrender their liberties and look naturally to the state for their needs. They have become the serfs of the soft despotism of a Leviathan state.

5. "The Ant and The Grasshopper in the Age of Obama" An updated version of an old fable.

Representative Sample:Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while he is cold and starving.

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

Monday, March 22, 2010

Place in History

Jonathan Chait, of The New Republic occasionally writes something worth reading. But in the aftermath of the health care bill, he has written a piece so laughable it must be noted. It's called, "Obama's Place in History." Chait starts off with this...

Let me offer a ludicrously premature opinion: Barack Obama has sealed his reputation as a president of great historical import.
That's not the only thing ludicrous in the article. Before I comment further, one aside. The word "historic" has been beaten to death with regard to the health care bill. In some quarters, historic seems to be used as a synonym for progress. But history is neutral. It's just as possible for something to be historically bad as to be historically good. Ok, moving on.

Chait, a major fan of big government who has been cheerleading the health care bill, concludes that Obama's success in getting it passed is so significant that he "will never be plausibly compared with Jimmy Carter." He's already been compared to Carter, and may be in the future. Even leaving aside the years to come, it is quite possible that historians might draw such comparisons.

Historians will see this health care bill as a masterfully crafted piece of legislation.
That's possibly one of the dumbest things Chait has ever written. He goes on to rave about how great the bill is, making all sorts of unsupported assertions. I seriously doubt historians are going to see the complicated mess that is this reform bill, which was forced through by sleazy parliamentary tactics, unable to attract the support of a single member of the opposition, barely enacted, and facing multiple lawsuits, as any sort of "masterfully crafted" legislation -- just the opposite. 
Republicans have spent a year chortling over the inevitable collapse of Obama, and they seem to cling even more tightly to that fantasy--"Incompetence"? "Out of his depth"?--as it slips further away.

Chait is the one living in a fantasy world. The entire process involved in the health care reform bill has further demonstrated Obama's incompetence and lack of experience. Chait is blinded by his Obama-worship. The fact that Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the Democratic leadership barely saved Obama from a crushing defeat -- despite having an overwhelming Democratic majority in both houses of Congress, is not exactly a sign of Obama's greatness. And if the health care bill helps lead to a major Republican revival in 2010, that repeals significant parts of the legislation, even this narrow victory is going to look pretty hollow.

It's entirely possible that Republicans will gain control of the House in November and block any further domestic progress, unemployment will stay high, and Republicans will win the White House in 2012. Yet he's already left his imprint on history.
So what? Every president leaves an "imprint on history." So far Obama's is more like a stain.


HOT5 Daily 3/22/2010

1. "Worth Reading: Advice to War Presidents: A Remedial Course in Statecraft" Looks like a provocative analysis.

Representative Sample: American statecraft has been haunted by three spirits of obfuscation and unseriousness since around 1900: Liberal Internationalism, Realism, and Neoconservatism. Codevilla sums up the three: “As Liberals think that all well-administered peoples are alike and Neoconservatives that all democrats are alike, Realists think that all “moderates” are alike.” 

2. "Stratfor: “Jihadism: The Grassroots Paradox”" What exactly is Al Qaeda now?

Representative Sample: Whatever al Qaeda was in 2005, what remains after 4 years of pursuit by the US and its allies, by every possible means in every corner of the globe?

3. "Losers" No, it isn't about health care.

Representative Sample:Anti-war protesters are still upset that we won in Iraq. While they are too late to reverse our victory in Iraq, they hope to lose in Afghanistan as a consolation prize

4. "Affirmative Atheism"Coining a new term.

Representative Sample:There is a lot of noise made about “New” Atheists, “militant” atheists, “fundamentalist” atheists and “angry” atheists. All of these are, in my agnostic opinion, prejudicial and false.

5. "When Freedom Fails: The Myth of Decolonization" Interesting article that I partially agree with.

Representative Sample: Holland and France saw the inherent dangers in decolonization of their Caribbean lands and instead made their peoples equals, at least under the law. The British generally did the opposite, and the results have not been pretty.

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

Sunday, March 21, 2010

A Bad Day for U.S. Freedom

The latest word is that the health care monstrosity will pass. If so, this is one of the worst days for American freedom in quite awhile. Not only is it a massive expansion of government power, a further attack on what remains of the free market in health care, and a huge spending spree we can't afford, it actually forces people to buy something they don't want. This bill is a prime example of why I vote Republican. The GOP has many problems, but Republican congresspeople of all stripes united to oppose this bill. There are plenty of big government Republicans. But there is no chance that the Republican party and a Republican president would ram through a big government bill against the will of the people, and without the support of a single Democrat. Only Democrats are that committed to expanding state power over pretty much all aspects of life. In our supposedly representative government, the representatives of a single party overroad the clearly expressed will of the country in the service of their state-worshipping ideology.

So what now? Over at Big Government, there is a good article that explains that the fight isn't yet over. The unconstitutional provision that forces people to buy insurance will be challenged in court.

In a matter of hours after House passage of the Senate Bill, the state of Virginia will file suit in federal court. The Commonwealth will be joined in the suit by a dozen other states. I expect a flood of additional lawsuits. The suits will be based on the provision that requires every American to purchase health insurance. (This is how the Dems ‘crack down’ on the insurance industry; by requiring everyone to buy its product?) Because this is an individual mandate, virtually every American has standing to file suit against this provision. Also, it is in direct conflict with state law in at least two states, Idaho and Virginia.

It's hard to say what will happen in the courts. I'm not normally a big fan of lawsuits, but these will be well-justified. Overall though, this whole process should be a wake-up call for Republicans, and anyone who opposes bigger government -- including those who were stupid enough to vote for Obama thinking he was some sort of moderate. Republicans need to understand that no lie is too blatant, and no tactic too underhanded, for Obama and the Democrats. If they are willing to force this bill through without regard to popular opposition, they are capable of anything. The GOP should do everything conceivable to block Obama's legislative agenda. Instead of being the "party of no," they should be the "party of hell, no." Start digging through parlimentary procedure rules and find new ways to bring Congress to a crawl. Get us to November so we can throw the Democrats out. 

I have no illusions that a gigantic new expansion of government power can be repealed. But if Republicans can regain control of Congress, it might be possible to eliminate some of the most odious provisions. That's about the most we can hope for.

HOT5 Daily 3/21/2010

1. "White House Ignores Iran’s Help to Al-Qaida in its Passion over Jerusalem Apartments" Obama: committed to attacking Israel while appeasing Iran.

Representative Sample:In the same testimony which created lots of discussion regarding remarks on the Israel-Palestinian issue, General David Petraeus, head of the U.S. Central Command, revealed a bombshell story that has been ignored: Iran is helping al-Qaida attack Americans.

2. "This Healthcare Plan: A Dr. Seuss From Beyond The Grave Tale" Outstanding.

Representative Sample: It's a series of graphics.

3. "Intended Consequences."Thanks to all the morons who helped give us a Democratic president and Democratic majority.

Representative Sample:Today, Ways and Means Republicans released a new report detailing how the Democrats’ health care bill vastly expands the responsibilities of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and strengthens the heavy hand of the IRS in dealing with taxpayers.

4. "Visualizing Obama’s “New Kind of Politics”" A chart explains how it works.

Representative Sample:It's a graphic.

5. "British Man Scores Victory For Jedi Everywhere" Fighting anti-Jedi discrimination.

Representative Sample:A British man was being harassed by the employees of Jobcentre Plus--an "unemployment centre"--for wearing a hooded sweatshirt. But Jobcentre Plus has since apologized after discovering the sweatshirt was an important element of the man's religious attire

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

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Wow, a Few Insults and Slurs

I checked Memeorandum to see if anything significant had happened with the health care bill, and instead found leftists hyperventilating about slurs and insults hurled at Democratic members of Congress. You might think people were being lynched. For example, Josh Marshall at Talking Points Memo, normally one of the more rational types on the left, titles his post "Menacing."

Far worse happens pretty much any time some prominent conservative attempts to speak on a college campus, but now leftists are upset that congressmen trying to ram through an unpopular bill, using extremely questionable tactics, are getting yelled at. It's just so scary. Of course if these were Republican congressmen being verbally abused by anti-war protesters, or some other leftists, then there'd be no problem. 

HOT5 Daily 3/20/2010

1. "Why You Should Oppose Obamacare: 32 Quotes From Democrats" Too bad Democrats don't care what the American people think. They know best.

Representative Sample: I decided to put together a series of quotes from Democrats. If Dems won't believe me about how bad this bill is, how crooked the process is, the lies that were told to promote it, how it funds abortion, and how much hypocrisy and broken promises were involved in getting to this point, maybe they'll believe other Democrats.

2. "So Many Lies, So Little Time" Leftists were always whining about Bush lying. Obama has probably lied more in one year than Bush in eight.

Representative Sample: Firedoglake, which stands almost alone in exposing Obamacare from the left, has put together a very useful chart of all the lies (embed below). These lies are lies regardless of whether one approaches the monstrosity known as Obamacare from the principled left or the principled right.

3. "Saudi Arabia condemns TV host to death for “sorcery”" Things the Saudis do when they aren't busy punishing women for being raped.

Representative Sample: If you’ve ever spent time reading tarot cards, playing with a Ouija board, or working for a psychic hotline, I suggest you avoid Saudi Arabia as a travel destination.

4. "Preliminary Design Of Free Electron Laser Weapon Completed" Seaborne lasers.

Representative Sample:"The Free Electron Laser will use a ship's electrical power to create, in effect, unlimited ammunition and provide the ultra-precise, speed-of-light capability required to defend U.S. naval forces against emerging threats, such as hyper-velocity cruise missiles,"

5. "Obama’s New Year’s Iran Bot – Same Time Next Year" Repeating the same failed policies. 

Representative Sample: If it’s Nowruz (Iran’s new year), it must be an Obama-offer-for-dialogue. Every year at this time, our President seems to make a new offer of engagement with the mullahs on the nuclear issue, coupled with a “stern” warning of sanctions if they don’t comply.

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

Friday, March 19, 2010

Good Riddance

Murderer and rapist Paul Warner Powell was executed today in Virginia, in a well-deserved use of the electric chair. He was convicted way back in 2000 for murdering a sixteen year old girl, and for raping and attempting to murder her fourteen year old sister. There was no question of his guilt. After his first conviction was overturned,
Powell wrote a taunting letter to prosecutors detailing the crime. He was convicted again in 2003.
He should have been executed years ago, but bettter late than never. 

HOT5 Daily 3/19/2010

1. "You Lie! CBO Report On Health Care Merely Garbage In, Garbage Out" Calculations based on imaginary numbers are meaningless.

Representative Sample: Of course, the Democrats can claim deficit reduction in the CBO's numbers because the Congressional Budget Office merely calculates the data they are given; they do not weigh in on whether those figures are arrived at by honest data or data which has been manipulated.

2. "CAIR Seeks to Censor Books on Radical Islam" Not surprising.

Representative Sample:The latest instance of CAIR’s duplicitous behavior is the campaign being conducted by its Philadelphia branch to censor a series of textbooks on The World of Islam for young readers, produced by Mason Crest Published in partnership with the Foreign Policy Research Institute, an independent think tank. They are particularly angry with one of the ten books in the set titled Radical Islam, which deals with the threat from Islamist groups.

3. "The Top 10 Good Things About Being Godless" Pretty amusing.

Representative Sample: Obviously, some of those items are tongue-in-cheek, some are debatable, and some are very serious. Before commenting on any of them, check out how Zuckerman defends each item in the actual piece, since he goes into quite a bit of depth.

4. "Dark Flow: This Universe on the Move?" Cosmology is both difficult to comprehend and fascinating.

Representative Sample:What's really bothersome, I think, about dark flow is that it shouldn't exist. Sure, things like planets, stars, and clusters of galaxies move in relation to each other: but all those (relatively) small things should average out to zero. That Big Bang microwave radiation is - or should be - a sort of stationary reference. Everything we observe is a sort of debris from that cosmic explosion.

5. "Death by human stampede" More common than you might think.

Representative Sample:Over the past 30 years, stampedes have killed at least 7,000 people and injured another 14,000.

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

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Al Qaeda Civil Liberties Union

If you go to the main ACLU website and look under the the section called "Our Work," here's the header:
The ACLU is our nation's guardian of liberty, working daily in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties that the Constitution and laws of the United States guarantee everyone in this country.
That's what a civil liberties organization should be doing, and in many cases, local branches of the ACLU do exactly that. But the national organization is looking more and more like not just a useful idiot for our enemies, but an actual enemy itself. It has consistently been attempting to promote expansive rights for hostile alien terrorists -- not just suspects, but known, self-proclaimed terrorists. That's bad enough. But with the terrorist rights promotion, you can write it off as foolish but well-intentioned. In the minds of ACLU types, and other civil libertarians, degrading the U.S. Constitution by granting the rights of U.S. citizens to stateless terrorist enemies somehow protects the rights of Americans. But today we have this:
The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit demanding the U.S. government prove its legal basis for targeted drone attacks overseas
Given the situation on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, the drone assassination campaign, regardless of its drawbacks, represents the core of our offensive strategy against the Taliban & Al Qaeda in the area. These attacks have absolutely nothing to do with the rights of Americans, and should have nothing to do with the ACLU. By filing this lawsuit, the ACLU is deliberately attempting to undermine a major part of the U.S. war effort.  It is basically acting as a legal front for the Taliban and Al Qaeda against the United States.

The Tolerant Left

h/t American Power

HOT5 Daily 3/18/2010

1. "Cognative dissonance: If the private sector can’t afford it, how can the public sector?" Because the government is a magic, money-printing, cure for all ills -- if you are a Democrat.

Representative Sample: Where does this belief come from that government has the means to finance what the private sector can’t and that it must step up and do so when it comes to health and financial security? 

2. "Powering Down" Shutting down power plants in energy-strapped California.

Representative Sample:The only possibility we as a nation have to overcome our very serious debt problems and to restore anything like full employment is to grow our way out of the problem. The Democrats’ war on energy is one of the primary threats to such growth

3. "Why the health care debate is boring" Short but accurate.

Representative Sample: For those committed to the left or right, the health care debate is all about ideology.

4. "AQ-Iraq's counter counter-insurgency manual"An interesting look at Al Qaeda thinking.

Representative Sample: Call it the jihadist version of David Petraeus's FM 3-24, a counter-counterinsurgency manual and a frank lessons-learned analysis by an adaptive and resilient organization which has not given up in the face of setbacks. How does al-Qaeda in Iraq's umbrella organization hope to rekindle the spark of jihad?

5. "Where Videogames & The Military Collide" Upcoming conference to focus on the use of video games for military training.

Representative Sample: It’s not often that a conference features speakers as diverse as Sims creator Will Wright and Joint Forces Command boss General John Mattis, but when the symposium focuses on promoting the use of videogames in the Department of Defense, such an odd pairing makes sense.

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

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Power of Television

Back in September I wrote a post called, "Testing Torture." In it I suggested that waterboarding could be used to study the efficacy of torture as an interrogation technique -- given that people are willing to volunteer to be waterboarded. At the end, I jokingly suggested that it could even be done as a reality television show. Today I noticed an AFP story called, "Contestants turn torturers in French TV experiment." It doesn't study torture per se, but rather the power of television to influence behavior.
Game show contestants turn torturers in a new psychological experiment for French television, zapping a man with electricity until he cries for mercy -- then zapping him again until he seems to drop dead.

"The Game of Death" has all the trappings of a traditional television quiz show, with a roaring crowd and a glamorous and well-known hostess urging the players on under gaudy studio lights.

But the contestants did not know they were taking part in an experiment to find out whether television could push them to outrageous lengths, and which has prompted comparisons with the atrocities of Nazi Germany.
Eighty percent of participants obeyed instructions to shock the victim repeatedly until he appeared to die -- despite his screams and protests. Although some experts question the methodology, the study concludes that
"The questioners are ... in the grip of the authority of television," said Jean-Leon Beauvois, a psychologist who took part in the documentary. ... "When it decides to abuse its power, television can do anything to anybody," said Nick. "It has an absolutely terrifying power."
Cynical individual that I am, I am not particularly surprised by the results. When you look at the things people do to get on tv, or on reality shows, it's not hard to believe that contestants would be willing to torture and kill someone as part of a television program -- although it would be nice to think that the number of such people wouldn't be as high as eighty percent. 

HOT5 Daily 3/17/2010

1. "The fake U.S.-Israel crisis: Obama's flawed response to an ally's gaffe" This article is a nice way of saying that the Obama administration's foreign policy with regard to the Middle East is totally incompetent.

Representative Sample:The bigger message that will be unintentionally have been delivered to the world at the end of all this is that the United States is willing to get fierce with its friend Israel over a perceived insult but that we are likely to remain ineffective in the face of self-declared Iranian enemies' efforts to destabilize the entire Middle East with nuclear weapons

2. "Could 'reform' drive doctors out of medicine?" Doctors not thrilled with more big government involvement in health care.

Representative Sample:The New England Journal of Medicine cites interesting poll numbers on the reaction of physicians to proposed federal legislation that would greatly expand the government's role in medicine.

3. "The China Syndrome Counterpunch" Why China's ownership of U.S. debt isn't as dangerous as it might seem.

Representative Sample: One fear that obsesses too many folks is that the People's Republic of China, a.k.a. Red China, "owns" a scandalous chunk of our national debt in the form of U.S. Treasury bonds; and that they will somehow be able to use these holdings to force us to dance to the tune they pipe, turning America into a Chinese vassal state.

4. "America's Shiny New Palestinian Militia" We're paying $100 million a year to arm and train our enemies.

Representative Sample:"The stupidest program the U.S. government has ever undertaken" – last year that's what I called American efforts to improve the Palestinian Authority (PA) military force. Slightly hyperbolic, yes, but the description fits because those efforts enhance the fighting power of enemies of the United States and its Israeli ally.

5. "Stunner: Census Bureau Already Way Over Budget" When do government programs ever come in on budget or under budget?

Representative Sample:This is what happens when you farm out the census to community organizers. The money goes down a rathole and nobody has any explanation.

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

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Pro-Intelligence Veto

The president is threatening to veto the 2010 intelligence authorization bill. According to the Washington Post, the administration objects to
a provision that would force the administration to widen the circle of lawmakers who are informed about covert operations and other sensitive activities.
I do plenty of Obama-bashing here, and link many articles harshly critical of the president, but he deserves credit when he actually takes a positive step -- or at least threatens to. The last thing we need is to inform even more people about covert operations.  If anything, we should reduce the number of people who have access to such sensitive information. The whole point of "covert" operations is that they are conducted secretly. That's why they are called "covert." We already have major problems keeping secrets -- a problem compounded by an irresponsible press that will quickly print any leak, especially ones that might undermine U.S. military & intelligence efforts. The more people who know about secret operations, the greater the chance that someone will reveal information. Here's administration spokesman, Office of Management and Budget Director Peter Orzag.
the new requirement would "undermine the president's authority and responsibility to protect sensitive national security information." ... Orszag also opposed a Senate bill provision that required notification of "any change in a covert action," which he described as setting up "unreasonable burdens" on the agencies, particularly the CIA . The House bill also requires notification of intelligence "significant undertakings," a term that Orszag described as "vague and uncertain."
The administration should be commended for refusing to sign on to a bill that will impose further restrictions on intelligence gathering, and make it even more likely that secrets will be exposed. Let's hope that if this bill passes, the president carries through on his threat and vetoes it.

HOT5 Daily 3/16/2010

1. "If Democrats Cared About Health Care…." Oh they care. They just think everything is better with more big government.

Representative Sample: If Democrats really cared about health care we wouldn’t be talking about the 9,000 pages (give or take) of taxes, fees, mandates, fines and entitlements contained in their three health care packages. It’s insane. They aren’t looking to improve health care in America, they’re looking to expand the nanny state to the point where they fundamentally and permanently transform the relationship between the people and the government.

2. "Keynesian Economics, Exposed; Godwin’s Law, Broken" The curse of Keynesian economics.

Representative Sample: What Keynes did was to give license to government today, to borrow from tomorrow — and the consequences be damned. And there’s nothing a politician likes to hear better than that he can buy votes from Paul, using Peter’s money, without Peter ever being the wiser. Because if you follow the Keynesian example, Peter hasn’t been born yet.

3. "why i’m not “out of the atheist closet”" Interesting perspective.

Representative Sample: one of the questions I tend to get is whether I just want to sign up with Richard Dawkins’ Out Campaign and officially brand Weird Things as an atheist science blog since quite a few of its readers identify as atheist or agnostic and many of those who vehemently disagree on my points will automatically declare that I’m an atheist anyway. But while I really do have a soft spot for many atheist ideas, I won’t be putting the big, red vowel in the sidebar anytime soon for a number of reasons.

4. "US Government presents four boats to Ghana Navy" Did you know you were buying Ghana patrol boats? 

Representative Sample: The United States (US) Government on Saturday, presented four speed patrol boats to the Ghana Navy, to help ensure maritime safety and security.

5. "Chinese Women in Space" China continues to expand its space program.

Representative Sample: The announcement serves as a reminder, not only that China’s interest in manned space is unabated, but that its manned space program is a function of the military, not civilian, authorities. This would suggest that the PLA retains its interest in space

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

Monday, March 15, 2010

Contractors Helping Kill Terrorists

The New York Times ran a big story about it today.
Under the cover of a benign government information-gathering program, a Defense Department official set up a network of private contractors in Afghanistan and Pakistan to help track and kill suspected militants
That sounds like a good idea. Too bad we couldn't keep it secret.
The official, Michael D. Furlong, hired contractors from private security companies that employed former C.I.A. and Special Forces operatives. The contractors, in turn, gathered intelligence on the whereabouts of suspected militants and the location of insurgent camps, and the information was then sent to military units and intelligence officials for possible lethal action in Afghanistan and Pakistan, the officials said.
In my opinion, this is exactly the sort of thing we should be doing, but unfortunately, Furlong is now in trouble.
Officials say Mr. Furlong’s operation seems to have been shut down, and he is now is the subject of a criminal investigation by the Defense Department for a number of possible offenses, including contract fraud.
If you go through the long article, it appears that Furlong's operation led to enemy deaths. That's a good thing. Unfortunately he apparently stepped on some toes at the CIA. This is just speculation on my part, but I'd be willing to bet that someone got upset that an outsider was running a valuable intelligence operation and decided to shut him down. If Furlong's operation did provide significant information that enabled us to target terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan, he should be commended and promoted, not prosecuted. We need people who can find creative ways to produce useful intelligence. And as usual, we need to do a far better job of protecting the secrecy of our operations. 

HOT5 Daily 3/15/2010

1. "Universal Insurance Policy" Keeping troops in Iraq.

Representative Sample: I'll have more confidence if the president negotiates a pact with Iraq's new government that continues to allow American combat brigades (regardless of what they are called, like the new "advisory and assistance brigades" (BCTs with more advisors in them) that are replacing our brigade combat teams) in Iraq after 2011.

2. "How Quick They Forget: A Short History of U.S. Policy and Israeli Construction in East Jerusalem"A useful review.

Representative Sample: Israelis are used to this pattern: give a big concession and a few months later that step is forgotten as Israel is portrayed as intransigent and more concessions are demanded with nothing in return. Here is a short history of this round:

3. "What Would Yoda Do?" What is a "real" Christian?

Representative Sample: “Christian” is an arbitrary human group designation that is used with different (implicit) definitions by different groups. Since none of those groups has accepted authority to establish a (or the) correct definition, and since “Christian” does not (as we used to believe) refer to anything divine or supernatural, it follows that there can be no final, ultimate, “correct” definition.

4. "Tax ‘Em Until They Flee, Then Tax ‘Em Some More!" The practical consequences of trying to squeeze the wealthy.

Representative Sample:One of the practical problems with the boilerplate “tax the rich” strategy is that the rich are not stupid. When taxes in one state rise to an unacceptable level, they move to another where the tax rate is more to their liking.

5. "I Should Click on worm.exe_racist, Right?" Links to an amusing site.

Representative Sample: This actually made me LOL.

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

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Dumb Comment of the Day

I rarely comment on the comments on other blogs. But I was reading a post over at Proud Atheists, and saw the following comment that illustrates an attitude all too prevalent on the internet:
I’ve been following your website for quite some time now and I have been extremely offended by the things you say and the way you say them. I would like to send you a few emails privately because i would like to try to turn your “beliefs” around. If I don’t receive a reply from you I will just have to assume that your convictions are not concrete and you’re not confident enough to discuss these issues with me. If you feel as though you can put up a good argument, I’d enjoy the challenge.
Thank you for your time,

What is wrong with this individual? Why are some people always deliberately looking to take offense? Is it just a fun thing to do? If you are a religious person and read a blog called Proud Atheists, The Unreligious Right, or some other blog that clearly and openly proclaims itself as writing from an atheist perspective, it should be pretty obvious that religious beliefs are not going to be treated with a great deal of respect. They might even be mocked and sneered at. Speaking for myself, and I suspect for quite a few other atheists, I am tactful in how I discuss religious issues with people in person. When I interact with other people face to face, I'm not looking to offend them, hurt their feelings, or stomp on their cherished beliefs -- unless provoked by their attitude and attacks. But online, on my personal blog, I'm not about to pretend to have some sort of respect for religious beliefs that I find silly, stupid, or dangerous. No one is forced to read blogs they don't like, or that have a sharply different perspective they find offensive.

If you read a blog post that you disagree with, why not just respond to the topic at hand and try to make a decent counterargument? Is that really too much to ask? I love this part too,

If I don’t receive a reply from you I will just have to assume that your convictions are not concrete and you’re not confident enough to discuss these issues with me.
And people accuse atheists of being arrogant. All someone has to do is read that comment to know that whoever wrote it is unlikely to have much worth saying. The commenter can't be bothered to respond to the post at hand, takes general offense at the blog and the blog owner's entire existence, and writes a stupid, arrogant challenge to have some unspecified argument about "beliefs." Yeah, that sounds like someone you want to have an e-mail exchange with.

HOT5 Daily 3/14/2010

1. "Top 10 New Beverage-Based Political Groups" Some of these are pretty good.

Representative Sample: In an attempt to counter the Tea Party movement that was initially dismissed but has now taken the left by surprise, a Coffee Party has been started. it is one of many new groups the left has organized to help push the collectivist agenda of the Obama Administration. Here’s 10 more you should know about before you go to the next Tea Party event.

2. "How to Recognise a Logical Phallusy" No, it isn't misspelled.

Representative Sample: It's a graphic.

3. "Small Boats Menace Littorals" Analysis of the small boat threat.

Representative Sample: Regional battles and asymmetric warfare are pushing naval conflicts to the littorals, where a range of tactics that rely as much on numbers for success as firepower are evolving to threaten capital ships. Key to these tactics are small boats

4. "Calvinism (but no Hobbes)" I like it.

Representative Sample: It's a graphic.

5. "Divine Innumeracy: “substitution”?" Christian math doesn't add up.

Representative Sample: Why do sinners remain separated from god after legitimately paying their 3 days of physical and/or spiritual deaths?

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

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Air Force Sergeant Thrown Out for Being Gay

Staff Sergeant Jene Newsome was forced out of the military today after nine years of service, apparently because some police officers, upset over her lack of cooperation in a case involving her wife, notified the Air Force that she was gay.
Last November, police went to staff sergeant Jene' Newsome's Rapid City home to serve an out of state warrant on her wife, Cheryl Hutson. In the process, they noticed an Iowa marriage certificate lying on a table, showing the two women were married.

Despite the fact the marriage had nothing to do with the arrest, officer Jeremy Stauffacher and detective Tom Garinger sent that information to the Air Force, causing the service to discharge Newsome for violating the don't ask-don't tell policy on gay military people.
Regardless of what you think about the impact of permitting open homosexuality in the military, in my opinion there is absolutely no reasonable justification for this action. It is simply wrong. Newsome didn't flout the ban. She served for nine years, and in all that time her sexual orientation was apparently not an issue. But because of this situation, the Air Force throws her out, ends her career and completely disrupts her entire life. That's quite a punishment for doing nothing wrong.

Disgusting & Dangerous Religious Practices

There are plenty of them out there, but this is one I hadn't heard of before. Some guy in Florida and his followers drink the mucus of the giant African snail as part of their religious rituals. Apparently it made the news after some of the participants got sick. 

These snails are one of the nastiest pest creatures around.

Scientists also consider the GALS to be one of the most damaging snails in the world because it is known to consume at least 500 different types of plants. This pest could be potentially devastating to southern agricultural and natural areas because they cause extensive damage to tropical and subtropical environments. GALS are illegal to import into the United States without a permit and currently no permits have been issued.
Not only did these people illegally import a virulent pest that can wreak havoc on agriculture, but they are also risking their lives by ingesting snail fluids.
There are public health concerns surrounding this type of snail because it is known to carry a parasite that can cause serious diseases in humans such as eosinophilic meningitis. These diseases can be transferred to humans by eating raw, undercooked infected snail meat or contaminated vegetables. Humans can also be infected by handling live GALS if the snails' secretions contact mucous membranes of the eyes, nose or mouth.
The article detailing the problems with the snail doesn't mention drinking its mucus. It probably didn't occur to the writers that anyone would be insane enough to do such a thing.  

That's Why We Have a CIA

Georgetown law professor Gary Solis wrote an article in yesterday's Washington Post called, "CIA drone attacks produce America's own unlawful combatants." The thrust of the column is that since the CIA is not part of the uniformed military, their role in hostilities makes them unlawful civilian combatants.

No less than their insurgent targets, they are fighters without uniforms or insignia, directly participating in hostilities, employing armed force contrary to the laws and customs of war. Even if they are sitting in Langley, the CIA pilots are civilians violating the requirement of distinction, a core concept of armed conflict, as they directly participate in hostilities.
This is true, but it's also completely irrelevant as an argument against the drone campaign. It merely states the obvious, and demonstrates why viewing wars through a legalistic lens is pointless and counterproductive.

As I have noted many times on this blog, the main reason countries have covert intelligence agencies, is to conduct operations which are by definition illegal. Most covert operations blatantly violate the laws of whatever country they occur in, international law, and often domestic law -- that's one major reason why CIA operations within the United States are tightly restricted. Saying that CIA actions in killing enemy targets are the acts of illegal combatants is utterly meaningless. Doing illegal things is its mission. Of course CIA operators will be viewed rightly as illegal combatants by enemies.

If captured, the unlawful acts committed during their direct participation makes them subject to prosecution in civilian courts or military tribunals. They are not entitled to prisoner-of-war status.
I seriously doubt any CIA covert operator has illusions on this score. Spies, saboteurs, assassins, and other types of illegal combatants do not, and should not have legal protection -- and have not traditionally, except for "legal" spies with diplomatic cover. 

By viewing the drone campaign as a military operation involving the CIA as illegal civilian combatants, Solis has it exactly backward. The drone campaign is an assassination program aimed at eliminating specific individuals. The military is assisting the CIA in carrying out assassinations. If he wanted to make a legal argument of some relevance, he might reasonably argue that the military shouldn't be openly supporting assassinations. But overall, his article illustrates yet again just how useless legalism is when applied to warfare. Ivory tower debate over laws and rules when applied to warfare has little impact, except to possibly impose more restrictions on those who actually follow rules -- in this case our side. And legalism applied to the actions of an organization designed to operate outside the law is both stupid and dangerous. It's stupid because it ignores the nature and purpose of the CIA, and it's dangerous because it imposes restrictions that cripple the ability of the CIA to carry out its missions.

HOT5 Daily 3/13/2010

1. "Fisking the National Export Initiative" It's nice when even mainstream sources see through Obama's bs.

Representative Sample: My reaction to this idea is the same as my reaction to the rest of the list -- these aren't awful policy ideas so much as completely superfluous. None of them will have an appreciable effect on exports.

2. "Michelle Obama’s Childhood Obesity Project"A good analysis of how a government push for even a worthy goal causes more problems.

Representative Sample: When the federal government declares war on social problems, it almost invariably engages in social engineering, the dangers of which are fourfold

3. "Government efficiency at its finest!" It may be an Australian example, but it's certainly relevant here in the U.S.

Representative Sample: what big government does, just about every time you put them in charge of something, it costs too much, delivers too late and often screws it all up in the process. It doesn't matter who dropped the ball, which department did this or did that, that simply leads nowhere, all our dumb ass needs to figure out is that you shouldn't give them the money or the power to squander and screw it all up in the first place.

4. "Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics (30): Failing to Correct for Inflation" Everyone of this blog's posts about statistics is worth reading.

Representative Sample: when you compare data for the current year, month or whatever with the same data for some period in the past, you may just see inflation rather than actual growth or increases. By adjusting for inflation, you uncover the real growth. You may even discover that growth hides decline.

5. "Some Great Military History" A link to some interesting links.

Representative Sample: Mitch Williamson must be the hardest working mil-blogger out there. You may have noticed a couple of his websites posted here on our regular Sea Link articles, War and Game, plus Cog and Galley. Except that is just the beginning with this prolific author of military history.

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