Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Censoring Art that Offends Religious Sensibilities

GOP Congressional leaders successfully forced the the removal of a controversial video that was part of an art exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution's National Portrait gallery. Why? Here's Representative and soon to be House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-Va), who called it,
an "outrageous use of taxpayer money and an obvious attempt to offend Christians during the Christmas season."
The art in question showed"Jesus on a crucifix covered in ants." Let's imagine that the gallery hosted some art that Muslims found offensive, such as any image of Mohammed. Would the same GOP congressmen be up in arms about that? I doubt it. (Although instead there would be Democrats trying to censor it.) From what I saw in the article, I personally think the art in question is a pile of garbage. But art is highly subjective. I also oppose federal funding for the arts. But once you do provide federal funding, it's crazy to censor displays because of the tender sensibilities of religious people. That should apply to any religious group, including the Christian majority.

And is this really an issue that needs to be of concern to our congressional leaders? Don't they have anything better to do than work to prevent Christians from being offended by some exhibit in a museum? Instead of threatening to cut funding because they don't like an art display, they should cut funding because it's unnecessary and something we can do without in this budgetary environment. Here's an idea. How about if Christians don't like the art they just don't patronize the museum during that exhibit? Why do they need government involvement?

Religious people do not have a right not to be offended. And they don't need big government intervention to protect their feelings. The same GOP congressmen who will rail about big government and nanny-statism on other issues, have no problem telling an art museum what art it can display. You don't think the museum is worthy of funding because of the quality of its art exhibits? Fine. Kill the funding. But micro-managing art displays from Capitol Hill is just ridiculous, and goes directly against the principles of small government the Republican party stands for.

HOT5 Daily 11/30/2010

1. "When Will Liberals Acknowledge What the Arab World Already Knows?" They won't.

Representative Sample: there is an irony in all this: WikiLeaks is the instrument that most confirms the conservative view of the world (as J.E. Dyer argues here). Now that most of the Arab world has confirmed what neo-conservatives have said about Iran, how long will it be until liberals finally do?

2. "Won't You Please Hug a Terrorist ?" A good look at the psychology of appeasement.

Representative Sample: Because what terrorists need most is appeasement. Appeasement is apparently Muslim Prozac. Give them enough of it, and they'll no longer want to behead us or blow us up. Or so the politically correct theory goes. And there you have our international affairs in a nutshell.

3. "Democrat Group Wants To Eliminate Social Security For The Wealthy" Something that actually makes sense from a Democratic group?

Representative Sample: At the very least, shouldn’t we reduce Social Security to a safety net program rather than an unsustainable government pension system?

4. "Chinese Gamer Plays MMO on 80,000 Square Foot Screen" A new record.

Representative Sample: The man apparently had to pay for the privilege of gaming on the huge screen, with a guesstimate putting the figure at about $15,000 for the quarter of an hour long session.

5. "Bill's Wide Receiver Tweets to God After Dropping Ball" I guess his reasoning is that if you can thank God for winning, you can blame God for letting you make a mistake that costs your team the game.

Representative Sample: Johnson was reluctant to accept responsibility for the gaffe, posting on his Twitter account post-game that it was in fact God’s fault.

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

Monday, November 29, 2010

Even Hillary Clinton Understands that Wikileaks is an Enemy of the U.S

Here's the Secretary of State,
``This disclosure is not just an attack on America's foreign policy interests,'' Mrs. Clinton said, ``it is an attack on the international community: the alliances and partnerships, the conversations and negotiations that safeguard global security and advance economic prosperity.''

``It puts people's lives in danger, threatens our national security and undermines our efforts to work with other countries to solve shared problems,''
As I've been arguing, Wikileaks is not a journalist organization, it's an enemy entity targeting the United States. Hillary Clinton is claiming that it is also an attack on the mythical "international community." It isn't. The target is clearly the U.S. But the secretary is obviously attempting to build international support for suppression efforts aimed at Wikileaks. With that in mind, casting the attack as an assault on the international system of diplomacy is a reasonable tactic.

But words aren't enough. The Obama administration is big on talking. In fact, it puts great faith in diplomacy, "engagement," and so-called "smart power" or "soft power." The Obama approach to foreign policy -- even more than most -- is directly undermined by leaks which reveal candid assessments, gamesmanship, private conversations and all sorts of other information which diplomats and leaders expected would never see the light of day. Like other leaks, it reinforces the perception that the U.S. government simply can't be trusted to keep secrets secret. When you know someone can't keep a secret, you naturally become much more guarded and wary in your conversations.

Some have attempted to dismiss this leak as much ado about nothing, or at least see the concern as overblown. I'm one of the first to cry "much ado about nothing" in many cases, but this isn't one of them. Anyone who knows how foreign policy and diplomacy operate has to understand the serious damage of these leaks. Hillary Clinton is exactly right when she calls the Wikileak's action an attack. But recognizing an enemy attack is one thing, responding to it effectively and eliminating the possibility of future attacks is another. Let's see if the Obama administration does anything beyond talk.

HOT5 Daily 11/29/2010

1. "Wikileaks Completes Obama's Transformation Into Jimmy Carter" Impotence against repeated attacks.

Representative Sample: The Wikileaks folks trot the globe with impunity and funnel documents to the press at will, for the purpose of damaging U.S. relations with other countries, our war efforts, and our intelligence capability. And we do almost nothing about it.

2. "Wikileaks as a Foreign Terrorist Organization" Further discussion about this legal option for retaliating against Wikileaks. 

Representative Sample: I am hearing from sources tonight that the letter by Rep Peter King is being taken quite seriously by the leadership in the State Department and the Justice Department, and this is an "all hands on deck" evolution at State to come up with options as of Monday morning.

3. "Libs call for — wait for it — cuts in defense" What else is new? Spend more on everything else and cut defense.  That's been liberal policy since Vietnam.

Representative Sample: Never mind that two-thirds of the budget is entitlements — we must cut defense and soak the rich.

4. "Maritime Security: US Navy Using ‘Q-Ships’ And Somalis Guilty Of Piracy In Historic Trial" I, along with a number of others, advocated using Q ships against Somalia pirates. Apparently the U.S. is doing so. Now if only we'd also start executing pirates and destroying their bases. 

Representative Sample: the target this time was the U.S. guided missile frigate Nicholas, disguised to resemble a cargo ship. Navy gunners fired back, and by dawn, commandos had captured five Somalis.

5. "Where is the lefty outrage?" Left only concerned about exposure of U.S. secrets if the exposure can be used for political purposes against Republicans. Otherwise, it's a good thing or something to be downplayed.

Representative Sample: Remember the lefty “outrage” over the outing of Valerie Plame? Remember how the New York Times reported on the “outrage” for months and months? 

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

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Wikileaks Launches Another Attack on the U.S.

As everyone probably knows by now, Wikileaks, an organization working with U.S. traitors to reveal classified information, has exposed a vast number of secret U.S. diplomatic documents.  
some 11,000 are classified “secret,” 9,000 are labeled “noforn,” shorthand for material considered too delicate to be shared with any foreign government, and 4,000 are designated both secret and noforn.

Many more cables name diplomats’ confidential sources, from foreign legislators and military officers to human rights activists and journalists, often with a warning to Washington: “Please protect” or “Strictly protect.”

If you read through the NYT article and others, you can see the scope of this information, which reveals all sorts of things that could damage U.S. relations with numerous countries, and render the conduct of U.S. foreign policy far more difficult. What Wikileaks has done is nothing less than a direct assault on the United States. The release of these documents has the potential to be more damaging than many types of terrorist attack. There should be no question that Wikileaks as an organization is a clear enemy of the U.S., and it should be treated as such. Instead of tolerating these attacks and doing little beyond issuing a condemnation, the U.S. government should do everything within its power to destroy Wikileaks, as it would any other non-state entity launching attacks on the U.S. It's time to stop tolerating this enemy that has repeatedly acted with impunity against us.

During the Clinton and Bush years we had a useful program known as extraordinary rendition, which President Obama foolishly shut down -- at least as far as we know. If, like many of Bush's policies, we are still doing something similar, this would be an ideal way to deal with some of the key enemies running Wikileaks. They could simply disappear, with the side benefit that interrogation might yield information regarding which traitors in the U.S. are supplying them with documents. If that isn't possible, there should be a strange rash of fatal accidents and random murders among top level members of Wikileaks. Other options should also be explored, such as legal measures, cyber warfare, disruption of financing and anything else either covert or overt that can be used to destroy the organization. 


Republican Congressman Peter King of New York appears to essentially agree with me -- although naturally he can't be quite as specific about actions we might take.

"I am calling on the attorney general and supporting his efforts to fully prosecute Wikileaks and its founder for violating the Espionage Act. And I'm also calling on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to declare Wikileaks a foreign terrorist organization," King said on WNIS radio on Sunday evening.

"By doing that, we will be able to seize their funds and go after anyone who provides them help or contributions or assistance whatsoever," he said. "To me, they are a clear and present danger to America."

HOT5 Daily 11/28/2010

1. "The Real Lessons of the Korea Crisis: It Explains How The World Works Today" Outstanding article. 

Representative Sample: If an ideological, ambitious dictatorship knows that by threatening war and conflict, by using military force, or threats, or terrorism, it can get whatever it wants then it will do so.

2. "Is the media leftist or statist?" Mostly both. 

Representative Sample: Radley Balco at Reason has a theory that the media which tends to support the left of politics is not so much leftist, but statist. This is a plausible proposition considering the point that the left are inherently inclined towards big government, there is the possibility we are simply confusing the issue.

3. "God is NOT great." So weak that he apparently needs religious fanatics to do his dirty work for him.  

Representative Sample: God needs to recruit kids like that to blow up infidels? Why doesn’t he just do it himself, if he’s so great?

4. "Can we get an investigative exposé on the local mosque this guy attended?" Good idea. And if it isn't under surveillence yet, it should be. 

Representative Sample: I look forward to those journalists who will dig into this guy's life and what it is that motivated him.

5. "'Today the Sun, Tomorrow the Stars?' Weird-But-True Legal Claim" Woman in Spain now owns the sun.

Representative Sample: The folks who've staked their claims to nearby real estate may show a profit - after balancing lawyers' fees with whatever they get from Lunar Development Corporation, Martain Plains Industries, or whatever outfits doing the actual work are called by then.

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

Saturday, November 27, 2010

HOT5 Daily 11/27/2010

1. "Another Homeland Security Overreach: DHS Starts Seizing Websites" Homeland security = protecting us from copyright infringement. 

Representative Sample: In the aftermath of 9-11, when the creation of DHS was being debated, would your opinion have been swayed if you knew that, within just a few years, the proposed agency would be seizing websites peddling fake purses?

2. "The Law of Unintended (But Wholly Predictable) Consequences: Medicare Cuts Edition" Thiings we didn't need to worry about in the rush to cram a health care bill down our throats. 

Representative Sample: So now that we passed it, and we are beginning to see what is in it, how does it look? Do you think maybe we should have figure out what was in it, before we passed it?

3. "The Next Provocation" Waiting for what North Korea will do next.  

Representative Sample:  there are signs that Pyongyang may be preparing to up the ante once again, by conducting the nation's third nuclear test. Preparations at North Korea's primary test site were reportedly underway in late October, and were continuing a "brisk pace" as recently as last week.

4. "Robots to rescue wounded on battlefield" The rapid advances in robotics are pretty amazing. 

Representative Sample: The BEAR can be controlled remotely by a motion-capture glove or specially-equipped rifle grip. A warfighter could use the equipment to guide the robot to recover a wounded Soldier and bring him or her back to where a combat medic could safely conduct an initial assessment.

5. "The dreaded Alpacalypse!!" Beware.

Representative Sample: It's a graphic.

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

Friday, November 26, 2010

Ceiling Cat Believer

HOT5 Daily 11/26/2010

1. "What to Do About North Korea" I often disagree with Walt, but this is a pretty good analysis. 

Representative Sample: we want to let Seoul take the lead in responding to this attack (while letting them know that we have their back), because we want our Asian allies to start taking more responsibility for their own security.

2. "Red China: The Master Behind the Curtain of the Hermit Kingdom" Making the case that China is part of the problem, not the solution. 

Representative Sample: So far, as in each and every other instance of the last decade, including the sinking of a ROK Navy frigate this past Spring (with the loss of 46 sailors), China’s response has not substantively altered. Once again, intransigence regarding their North Korean allies.

3. "Restraining South Korea" I don't think this is the case, but it could be.  

Representative Sample: clearly this is designed to be an alternative to a military response by South Korea. We would never have agreed to send a carrier into those waters if it coincided with a South Korean air strike against the North Korean artillery units responsible for the barrage.

4. "The Descent of the Left" Leftist magazine hates libertarians. 

Representative Sample: Anytime anyone says anything libertarian, spit on them. Libertarians are by definition enemies of the state.

5. "America’s New Victim Group: “The 99′ers”" Because nearly 2 years of unemployment benefits just aren't enough.. 

Representative Sample: Why are they victims? Because the jerk Republicans think that after nearly two years of unemployment benefits it might be time for these people to, you know, find jobs.

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

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Happy Thanksgiving

No HOT5 today. It will return tomorrow.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Obama and North Korea

I'm going to resist the urge, already cropping up among some on the right, to bash President Obama over the current situation with North Korea. In fact, I think that his statements of resolute support for South Korea, combined with the current show of naval force, and diplomatic efforts directed at China comprise a reasonable response at this time. I've written a number of posts about North Korea, (which can be found by clicking the "North Korea" label below), that outline my views on U.S. policy toward that country. I'll quote myself here,

North Korea doesn't need to be "engaged" or talked to; it needs to be contained & deterred. Our diplomacy in that regard should be directed at China, with the intention of making it very clear to the Chinese that we expect them to maintain a certain degree of control over their insane client state. As a rational actor, we expect China to prevent the insanity of North Korea from spilling over its borders. As long as they keep Kim Jong Ill on a short leash, there will be no need for U.S. involvement - a win/win for both the U.S. and China.
If we do talk to North Korea it should be in a language that it understands: clear, unmistakeable threats. As I've written before, we should do everything possible to make the North understand that if it starts a war it will not be a limited conflict, and we will use the full power of the United States against it -- which would include directly targeting and killing the communist leadership and destroying North Korea as a political entity. This should also be conveyed to China in the strongest possible terms.

I have no confidence in the president to carry out a realistic policy of containment with regard to North Korea. But so far he appears to have reacted well to the current crisis. It is not the job of the U.S. to fight South Korea's battles for it, or to take the lead in responding to an attack on South Korean territory. This isn't 1950. South Korea is now a powerful state in its own right. It has to decide how best to respond. Unfortunately, the best time for a response has now passed. In my opinion the South should have delivered a serious message immediately after the attack, not just counterbattery fire, but air strikes against the North Korean artillery that bombarded South Korea. In other words, they should have made it clear that agression would be met by overwhelming force. That's the sort of thing dictators understand. It may be that South Korea's artillery fire inflicted major damage and wiped out the North Korean batteries, in which case the response was appropriate. We don't have enough information to know.

But what to do now becomes much trickier. A punitive strike of some sort on North Korea after the fact will not go over well with China, and will allow North Korea to pose as a victim for those who choose to see it that way. And from the U.S. perspective, we don't need to get dragged into an unnecessary regional war, so it is in our interests that the South doesn't act recklessly. I'm not sure at this point what can be done that hasn't already been done. 

HOT5 Daily 11/24/2010

1. "Yeonpyeong - Navy Notes 24 Hours Later" Informative post regarding the Korean situation. 

Representative Sample: the US will do exactly what they did following the Cheonan attack - shift the pressure China. I think it is pretty clear the inability of China to address North Korean following the Cheonan incident cost China considerable credibility in the region this year.

2. "Thank the Founders for slow government" Excellent points. 

Representative Sample: It was a conscious choice to design a system that would make rapid and radical change extremely difficult. The end result being that Americans have to feel really, really strongly about something for an extended period of time in order to impact the election of enough officials to make substantial changes.

3. "What Is Atheism To You? Conversations With Craig the Christian 1" A good discussion of atheism.  

Representative Sample: Atheism has no belief system, same as science and math. If you read the definition for a belief system, it’s the opposite to what an atheist comes to understand. A belief is an opinion without proof. It’s faith. It is the antithesis of logic and evidence.

4. "Tuesday Map: The world rearranged by population" If you haven't seen this, it's pretty interesting. 

Representative Sample: it's a graphic.

5. "The Rights of Women in Islam" Propaganda vs. actual views.

Representative Sample: Two weeks after I started blogging in January of 2006 I wrote Muslims have no Sense of Humor. But after looking at the poster at the top of this article declaring that Mohammed believed in women's rights, I laughed so hard I almost passed out.

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

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

UN Votes for Suppressing Free Speech and Against Condemning Killing Gays

Two UN votes in the past two weeks demonstrate yet again why the UN represents no source of moral leadership whatsoever, and is worthy of no respect. Last week the General Assembly passed its regular condemnation of "extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary executions," which is pretty funny in and of itself, since many of the countries doing the condemning are the same ones carrying out the executions. But this meaningless resolution went too far for some nations, who successfully removed language condemning killing based on sexual orientation.
Morocco and Mali introduced an amendment on behalf of African and Islamic nations that called for deleting the words "sexual orientation" and replacing them with "discriminatory reasons on any basis."
They are willing to condemn other killings even while continuing to carry them out, but they can't even give lip service to the idea that people shouldn't be murdered over their sexual orientation.

And today there was another UN vote. This time it voted for a resolution calling on states to provide "protection" against "vilification" of religion. Morocco once again took the lead. Reuters notes that support for the resolution was lower this year, but it still passed. There's your UN General Assembly: taking action to remove any condemnation of killing people for being gay, while trying to suppress well-deserved criticism of Islam. Oh yes, and there was this noteworthy passage, just in case anyone was wondering if Islamic states even grasp the concept of free speech. 
Islamic states say such resolutions do not aim to limit free speech but to stop publications like those of the Danish cartoons showing the Prophet Mohammed

The Wages of Appeasement

If we needed a reminder about the consequences of appeasement, today's latest act of war by North Korea is a good example. When you tolerate numerous acts of hostilities by a rogue state, including allowing it to get away with sinking one of your warships without significant consequence, don't be surprised when its leadership feels confident in firing artillery into your country. At least this time South Korea struck back with its own guns, albeit in a fairly minor way.

For years, U.S. and South Korean policy toward the North has been essentially one of appeasement and wishful thinking. At the same time, both have supported limited economic sanctions, which while doing nothing to negate the North Korean military threat, created even more hostility. Now the threat has increased and is backed by an unknown number of nuclear weapons. Time and time again North Korea has been allowed to get away with hostile acts, to the point where it has to believe it can do pretty much whatever it wants, and that the South and its U.S. ally are too afraid of war to respond with anything more than empty talk and economic sanctions. Its belligerence has paid off before, forcing negotiations and even agreements which brought direct aid to North Korea.

Although appeasement can delay war, it tends to breed more aggression, confirming the aggressor's views of its enemies as weak and irresolute. But at some point the aggressor is going to miscalculate and go too far, and there will be a war. Hopefully it won't happen now, but it's only a matter of time unless there is a drastic change in policy toward North Korea.

HOT5 Daily 11/23/2010

1. "Could Stuxnet Mess With North Korea’s New Uranium Plant?" Let's hope so.

Representative Sample: While U.S. officials are trying to figure out how to respond to North Korea’s unveiling of a new uranium enrichment plant, there are clues that a piece of malware believed to have hit Iran’s nuclear efforts could also target the centrifuges Pyongyang’s preparing to spin.

2. "Brazil unveils massive navy buildup plans" Is there a big naval threat to Brazil we don't know about?

Representative Sample: Officials said the navy was working on plans to build or incorporate in its fleet at least 26 submarines, six of them fueled by nuclear power. Last year Brazil signed strategic cooperation contracts with France that includes joint production of nuclear-powered submarines.

3. "Most hate crimes target blacks or Jews" Something to keep in mind the next time you hear hysterical nonsense about some sort of wave of anti-Muslim sentiment.

Representative Sample: From a new report by the FBI, there were 8,336 hate crimes reported last year — less than 5,100 of them were crimes against a person (the rest were property crimes).

4. "Support for gun control plummets" Good news. Links to latest Gallup poll.

Representative Sample: The latest Gallup data shows that, from 1990 to present, support for stricter gun laws fell drastically, from 78% to 44%

5. "Is marriage obsolete?" I guess it depends what exactly you mean by obsolete. But I think it's surprising that so many would answer yes.

Representative Sample: 4 in 10 say marriage is becoming obsolete

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

Monday, November 22, 2010

TSA Internal Security vs. Aggressive Intelligence Gathering

I haven't commented on the furor surrounding the latest TSA regulations. I no longer have to fly very often, and I don't have a problem going through the so-called naked scanners. But reading all the outrage brings me back to something I've written about before: the dynamic between offense and defense in counterterrorism.

One of the reasons I support aggressive offensive measures (which some find offensive) against terrorism, is that the alternative involves greater defensive efforts. Airport security is probably the most visible and annoying anti-terrorism defense. It's important to remember that the latest TSA regulations were put into place in the aftermath of failed terrorist plots. If you think the TSA is trampling on the rights of U.S. citizens now, imagine what is going to happen if there is a successful major terrorist attack. Counterterrorism involves a combination of offense and defense. But the more restrictions we place on our offensive efforts, most of which are conducted outside of our borders, the more we raise the chances that we will have to rely on greater defensive efforts. Defense means internal security. And internal security means infringing the rights of Americans with ever more intrusive regulations and inspections.

Those who argue in favor of giving rights to foreign terror suspects, placing all sorts of restrictions on intelligence agencies such as the CIA, and treating hostile non-state terrorists as common criminals are directly attacking the offensive side of our efforts to prevent a terror attack on the U.S. That's a great idea if you like more internal security and less freedom.

No HOT5 Today

It will return tomorrow.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

HOT5 Daily 11/21/2010

1. "The Left’s new narrative?" Evil Republicans want to destroy the economy in order to win in 2012. 

Representative Sample: Steve Benen as a bit of a lightweight when it comes to political analysis. But he can be counted on to faithfully repeat the left’s talking points, or absent that, come up with some off the wall theory (sometimes involving conspiracy) to try to explain and demonize the right. A recent wig out involves a vast conspiracy of right-wingers who want to see the economy stay sickly for political purposes.

2. "What Strategy in Unmatched Fury?" Is there a strategic purpose behind Chinese belligerence?

Representative Sample: If I could understand the PRC’s strategy from a realist perspective, I would be more comfortable with it. But I don’t understand what China has going for it with this strategy — which seems closer to North Korea more than anything else.

3. "'Defend the Humanities'--A Dishonest Slogan" Interesting article on one of the problems afflicting our university system.  

Representative Sample: "Defend the Humanities" is a most attractive flag to sail under. The trouble is that for those who are now using it, it is a flag of convenience only, and a deeply dishonest one. For the conception of the humanities set out above is despised by those who now ask for our help in saving the departments they run. Long ago, they took aim at it, defeated it and abolished it, and that is precisely the source of their present troubles.

4. "MANOEUVRE WARFARE" Nice concise article article on military theory. 

Representative Sample: The ultimate aim of any war is to locate, identify and overwhelm the enemy with fire or to annihilate the enemy in order to force an end to hostilities and/or to restore the political balance. When an enemy’s armed forces are destroyed, his political machine is not left with too many options.

5. "The UAV Game" It will be interesting to see what develops.

Representative Sample: In terms of UAV technology, we are at the equivalent of early World War I aviation. The first airplanes had a reconnaisance mission that was sometimes augmented by the odd grenade being chucked out into enemy trenches. It wasn’t long before two of these machines had a chance encounter, and one pilot pulled his sidearm in the vain attempt to force the other down. It wasn’t far from that to the Vickers gun, heat seeking missiles and the AIM-120.

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

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pope Faces Reality on Condoms

The Vatican finally decided to recognize the reality that condoms are effective in fighting the spread of AIDS. After fighting a rear-guard action against condom use, receiving massive criticism, and coming up with all sorts of reasons why condoms are actually bad, the Pope has changed his mind.
it is acceptable to use a prophylactic when the sole intention is to "reduce the risk of infection" from Aids.
While he will restate the Catholic Church's staunch objections to contraception because it believes it interferes with the creation of life, he will argue that using a condom to preserve life and avoid death can be a responsible act – even outside marriage.
This is a major change from the church's previous absolutist position opposing all condom use. As the article points out,
The move by Pope Benedict is particularly surprising because he caused controversy last year by suggesting condom use could actually worsen the problem of Aids in Africa.
I've had little but criticism for this pope, but he should be commended for having the courage to realize that his previous position needed to be changed.

HOT5 Daily 11/20/2010

1. "Obama's Peace Process to Nowhere" Nowhere except maybe to harming our relationship with Israel for the benefit of our enemies.

Representative Sample: Obama's departures from sensible policy would be easier for him to defend if the return were sufficient. But the premise of the U.S. offer -- that within 90 days the Israelis and Palestinians can conclude a preliminary agreement on borders, rendering the settlement issue moot -- beggars belief.

2. "NO CHANCE FOR A NEW START" There's no need to rush into a treaty just so the president can claim a largely meaningless foreign policy accomplishment.

Representative Sample: Obama’s unseemly haste in this regard has more to do with politics, his own miserable standing in the polls, and his desire to make history rather than satisfying even those GOP senators who would be inclined to vote for New START.

3. "The Economist on the Austrian School of Economics’ Relevance in Explaining the Current Crisis" Links to a good article. It's always useful to point out that there are economic perspectives other than the Keynesian one that is often rammed down our throats as if it were the final word.

Representative Sample: policymakers seem to show a lot less interest in the economic ideas of the “Austrian school” led by Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, who once battled Keynes for intellectual supremacy. Yet the more you think about recent events, the odder that neglect seems.

4. "My own contribution to the War on Christmas" X-mas cards with an evolutionary theme.

Representative Sample: It's two graphics.

5. "The Pleasure and Danger of Augmented Reality" I remember when this was merely science fiction.

Representative Sample: Augmented reality adds an information layer on top of everything in front of your eyes. How? By making you wear glasses that have tiny video cameras in them. These cameras “see” the world on your behalf and livestream it to the inside of your glasses. You feel like you’re watching the world through transparent glasses, but in fact you’re seeing a movie of the scene in front of your eyes.

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

Friday, November 19, 2010

4 Year-Old Boy Finds 4 Million Dollar Treasure

The BBC reports that a four year-old boy in Britain using a metal detector for the first time found a 16th Century gold pendant worth approximately four million dollars. Last year there was an even more spectacular find in the UK where a man with a metal detector located a huge hoard of over 1300 pieces of Anglo-Saxon treasure. This should be great news for British metal detector sales which will probably experience a big surge.

HOT5 Daily 11/19/2010

1. "Lord Ismay, Restated" An interesting look at differing perspectives on NATO.

Representative Sample: The first NATO Secretary General, Lord Ismay, stated the organization's goal was "to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down".

2. "Chinese Role Evolves In Defense Exports" Will there be a surge in Chinese military exports?

Representative Sample: Even though the nation ranks as the second biggest military spender globally, it is not among the top 10 ­exporters or importers of military equipment. The latter situation stems partly from an arms embargo imposed by the West after the 1989 Tiananmen Square ­uprising.

3. "The Extraordinary Claims Campaign Hits Canada" Yet another atheist ad campaign, this one north of the border.

Representative Sample: It's a graphic showing one of the ads.

4. "Rare earth mineral news" Despite Chinese dominance of rare earth mineral extraction, apparently the U.S. has major untapped resources.

Representative Sample: China supplies pretty much the entire world with rare earth minerals, elements that are used to manufacture vital electronics and computing parts, because it’s been doing so very, very cheaply for a long time. Recently the nation has used its rare earth monopoly as an economic bludgeon, most notably against Japan and the United States.

5. "Scientists Trap Antimatter Atoms For First Time" No antimatter engines or missiles yet though. Links to interesting article.

Representative Sample: We might someday learn why there's so little antimatter in the universe, and why antimatter atoms are rarely found. Will that have any practical application?

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

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dumbest Short Post I've Seen on the Ghailani Case

Over at the misnamed "Moderate Voice," there is a post up titled, "This Just In: Torture Still Doesn't Work. The System Still Does." Before get to the post itself, the title is an example of why I regularly post examples of torture working to extract accurate information. There are far too many ignoramuses like the author, Shaun Mullen, who not only believe that torture doesn't work but actually pretend that their uninformed belief is an established fact.

Mullen's main point is that the civilian criminal justice system worked just fine for trying a terrorist, because the government managed to get a conviction on a single count -- despite the horrible use of torture that damaged the case. As you might anticipate, this conclusion shows minimal logical reasoning ability.
Much of the crucial evidence against the U.S. embassy bomber had been thrown out because it was coerced through torture, a salient fact lost of Liz Cheney and other Bush Torture Regime apologists
How clueless do you have to be to even write this passage? First of all, there was no such thing as a "Bush Torture Regime," except in the minds of anti-American propagandists, Bush Derangement Syndrome sufferers and their enablers. But more importantly, those opposing the use of civilian courts do so exactly because they oppose giving the rights of American citizens, including applying civilian evidentiary rules, to foreign enemies of the U.S. The fact that a known terrorist might have escaped conviction because evidence had to be excluded, strongly supports the arguments of those who oppose granting civilian trials to those for whom they were never intended, and who do not deserve the rights of American citizens. But Mullen is apparently just too clueless to grasp that concept.
Senator Lindsay Graham spoke for the torch-and-pitchfork brigade in bemoaning the Ghailani trial

“We put our nation at risk by criminalizing the war,” he said without a hint of irony.

That's because what he said wasn't at all ironic unless you choose to deliberately misinterpret his words. Pretending that foreign enemies of the U.S. are the same as common criminals, giving them the rights of U.S. citizens, and trying them in civilian court does indeed put our nation at risk. It creates the very real possibility that we will either have to let a known terrorist walk free, or utilize some sort of extra-legal procedures to keep an acquitted individual confined. For some reason that possibility doesn't seem to bother terrorist rights supporters.
The irony, of course is that the justice system isn’t broken, as the Grahams and Cheneys believe. Rather, the trial is proof that it works.
This is a strawman and a particularly dumb one at that. No one is claiming that the American legal system is broken. The argument is that the civilian legal system is not an appropriate venue for dealing with foreign terrorists. This trial proves nothing one way or the other. But the fact that the government was able to get a conviction on only a single count, is evidence that using the civilian court system might not be such a great idea. Just because we got lucky this time, and didn't have an acquittal based on thrown-out evidence, doesn't mean it couldn't happen.

HOT5 Daily 11/18/2010

1. "Rethinking Objectives in Afghanistan" The case for reaching some sort of deal with the Taliban. I'm skeptical, and I don't think we can turn the clock back in Afghanistan. But he makes some good points.

Representative Sample: If our initial intervention stemmed from the attacks, should not follow-on decisions, such as whether to speak to the Taliban about reconciliation, relate directly to the al Qaeda fight? If we want to destroy al Qaeda, does our current strategy of isolating the Taliban -- which has a far greater penetration of Afghan society and provincial life that we or the Kabul government ever will -- make sense?

2. "Is American Exceptionalism Back in Vogue With the Left?" No, not with most. But there are always exceptions.

Representative Sample: Prosperous as we may be, we must not lose sight of the fact that our prosperity is the result of our commitment—precarious at times, but sustained nonetheless—to property rights. As Calvin Coolidge noted more than 80 years ago in a speech commemorating the Declaration of Independence: “We live in an age of science and of abounding accumulation of material things. These did not create our Declaration. Our Declaration created them.”

3. "This Holiday Season, Consider Atheism!" Although I approve of the messages, I continue to think that these ad campaigns are mostly a big waste of money and effort -- and sometimes counterproductive.

Representative Sample: atheist groups are launching a new ad blitz, with ads extolling the virtues of atheism on billboards, buses, trains and print media. Significantly, atheist ads are also hitting the airwaves for the first time ever - thanks to a $150,000 donation from the Stiefel Freethought Foundation, which is underwriting a TV ad campaign by the American Humanist Association.

4. "Map of the New World Order " Links to a map designed to offend everyone.

Representative Sample: It's a link to a graphic.

5. "A dark horse in the quantum computing race: the dark exciton" This article made me aware of the existence of the dark exciton -- or any exciton for that matter.

Representative Sample: An exciton is a quasiparticle that consists of an electron and a "hole," or a empty spot in an atom's electron collection. When the spin of the electron and the hole align in opposite directions, the pair is called a bright exciton.

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

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Big Government Goes After Caffeinated Alcoholic Drinks

In the latest ridiculous food police -- in this case drink police -- episode, the FDA has given preliminary notice of its intent to ban caffeinated alcoholic beverages such as Four Loko. The FDA says it isn't an outright ban, but
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Wednesday told makers of caffeinated alcoholic beverages that the caffeine in their products has been deemed an "unsafe food additive," and the drinks can no longer be sold in their current form.
If they can't be sold in their current form, that's essentially a ban. This particular do-gooder ban, like most, makes no logical sense. Caffeine is obviously not an "unsafe food additive," as it is in countless products. And apparently the FDA has never heard of rum & coke, bourbon & coke, or any other alcoholic drink & coke. And then there are the high caffeine energy drinks such as Monster and Red Bull that are regularly combined with vodka or other hard liquor. There's no point at all in banning the sale of Joose for supposed safety reasons when you can legally mix Red Bull & vodka. The manufacturers of these beverages are being unfairly singled out, and their profit centers attacked, all because of a hysterical overreaction by big government types who think they should run every one's lives for their own good.

No HOT5 Today

It will return tomorrow.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

"Feminizing" the Medal of Honor?

I was skimming Memeorandum and came across one of the more bizarre articles I've seen in awhile. Bryan Fischer, writing at a blog called "The Moral Liberal," argues that the Medal of Honor has become "feminized" because we aren't awarding it to people for killing the enemy.
we used the think of our boys storming the beaches of Normandy under withering fire, climbing the cliffs of Pointe do Hoc while enemy soldiers fired straight down on them, and tossing grenades into pill boxes to take out gun emplacements. ...That kind of heroism has apparently become passe when it comes to awarding the Medal of Honor. We now award it only for preventing casualties, not for inflicting them. ...So the question is this: when are we going to start awarding the Medal of Honor once again for soldiers who kill people and break things so our families can sleep safely at night? I would suggest our culture has become so feminized that we have become squeamish at the thought of the valor that is expressed in killing enemy soldiers through acts of bravery.
How many things are wrong with this argument? Let's see. First, it's idiotic. The reason the majority of Medal of Honor's (MOH) are posthumous is that they are often awarded for amazing acts of self-sacrifice, such as falling on a grenade. This is not something new. In what way is throwing yourself on a grenade to save your comrades "feminine"?

By his use of "feminized" as a pejorative, Fischer takes an idiotic argument and combines it with misogyny. But not only is Fischer's argument a blend of stupidity and misogyny, it's also factually incorrect. Here's part of the MOH citation for Sergeant First Class Paul Smith, for actions during the Iraq War.
Sergeant First Class Smith quickly organized a hasty defense consisting of two platoons of soldiers, one Bradley Fighting Vehicle and three armored personnel carriers. As the fight developed, Sergeant First Class Smith braved hostile enemy fire to personally engage the enemy with hand grenades and anti-tank weapons, and organized the evacuation of three wounded soldiers from an armored personnel carrier struck by a rocket propelled grenade and a 60mm mortar round. Fearing the enemy would overrun their defenses, Sergeant First Class Smith moved under withering enemy fire to man a .50 caliber machine gun mounted on a damaged armored personnel carrier. In total disregard for his own life, he maintained his exposed position in order to engage the attacking enemy force. During this action, he was mortally wounded. His courageous actions helped defeat the enemy attack, and resulted in as many as 50 enemy soldiers killed, while allowing the safe withdrawal of numerous wounded soldiers.
Like many MOH winners, Sgt. Smith not only sacrificed his life, he inflicted major casualties on the enemy. In other words, unlike what Fischer believes, part of the reason Smith won the MOH was because he effectively killed the enemy. It seems clear that Fischer has never bothered to read through the MOH citations available online. If he had, maybe he could have saved himself the embarrassment of posting such a ludicrous column.

HOT5 Daily 11/16/2010


Representative Sample: In "The Feminist Politics of Islamic Misogyny", Phyllis Chesler offers a cogent explanation of why today's leftist feminists turn a blind eye toward the treatment of women under Islam

2. "Government's New Mission: To Boldly Go — Nowhere" The primary mission of government agencies is bigger government. 

Representative Sample: Mission-scope creep, familiar to many within the Washington area, is little known outside the Beltway, but is the cause for much of the federal government’s ancillary spending. Within government agencies, the core mission is often complicated and difficult to achieve. Over time, some federal agencies have shifted their employee’s efforts to areas that, while personally rewarding to federal employees, do little to advance the agency’s core mission.

3. "Boy Gamers Less Likely to Toke, Girl Gamers More Likely to Brawl" New study on the impact of video games and the different effects on boys and girls. 

Representative Sample: A cross-sectional survey of over 4,000 high school students appeared to show a split in how playing videogames might impact boys versus girls.

4. "What do you do with dumb debates?" Sometimes the idea is just radical as opposed to dumb, but otherwise these are good points.

Representative Sample:  If there's a crisis somewhere, inevitably someone will suggest the use of force even if it's wildly inappropriate, and someone else will suggest that the United States just withdraw its influence completely and immediately, even if it's wildly impractical. If it's dumb, it goes on Page One! 

5. "Castro’s America-Trashing Talking Points Sound Like MSNBC" Completely unsurprising if you pay attention to the left.

Representative Sample: If there’s one thing I learned in life, it’s that when a despicable character actually shares your opinion, it might be time to reevaluate said opinion.

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

Monday, November 15, 2010

HOT5 Daily 11/15/2010

1. "Liberals Reveling in Self-Delusion" Every time they lose an election the mantra on the left is that it was because they just weren't left-wing enough. 

Representative Sample: This theory is no doubt comforting to liberals, who would of course prefer not to believe that the country roundly rejected their policies at the polls. It is probably also necessary for them to spout this theory out loud, for the sake of keeping the troops motivated for 2012. Unfortunately for them, it is completely contradicted by all the available evidence.

2. "The civilizing effects of capitalism" Contrasted with interactions with the state. 

Representative Sample: Markets do this because they encourage us to treat others as equals in that we approach them, especially strangers, most often as traders. They have rights to their property, we have rights to ours, and those rights limit the ways we can interact. But they leave exchange available as a way to get the things we want. The mutuality and reciprocity of exchange both require and encourage us to treat one another humanely, with justice, and as equals. In other words, markets lead us to treat strangers as fully human.

3. "Atheism Is NOT A Belief System" You might think this would be obvious, but apparently it isn't to many.  

Representative Sample: One of the things that irritates me about theists is that because they subscribe to a belief system that involves made up fairy tales, they only feel comfortable if they can claim that atheists subscribe to a similarly unprovable and delusional belief system. It’s the adult version of “So am I but what about you” epithet thrown back in defense when one is accused of something stupid.

4. "Dems extol facts and science but act on ideology" And have a nasty tendency to must make up "facts." 

Representative Sample: In the course of the Obama administration we have seen examples of Democrats in the White House, Congress and across the government pursuing ideological goals that are not only not based on facts and science and argument but actually fly in the face of facts and science and argument.

5. "Senate To Finally Take Up Realistic Jobs Bill! Just Kidding, They’re Pushing A Food Safety Bill" Another gigantic big government regulation bill. Just what we need!

Representative Sample: Well, we all love food safety, right? Democrats couldn’t possibly screw this up, right? It’s not like “high-risk foods would be exempt from safety regulations” or something.

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

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Why Many on the Right Distrust Scientists

There's a post up on the blog Why Evolution is True called, "At least 80% of Republicans are morons." A the blog name may indicate, the author, Jerry Coyne, is a scientist and prominent defender of evolution. What's his rationale for concluding that most Republicans are morons? A Gallup poll found that 80% have a favorable view of Palin. Here's Coyne,
I am unable to imagine, much less sympathize with, a mentality that sees Sarah Palin as a viable politician of any sort.
That must be because, despite your education and knowledge of science, you are a complete idiot when it comes to politics, totally out of touch in your own little echo chamber. I'm no fan of Palin, but it is quite obvious why she's a viable politician, and why she appeals to many people.
And how could one imagine that such a mercurial and unthinking creature could be an effective President?
What are the odds that this guy voted for our minimally qualified, incompetent current leader, Barack Obama? 
It’s impossible for me to say to the Palin-ites, “I disagree strongly with your views, but I respect you as a person.” People with such views deserve no respect.

Coyne is a living example of why many on the right distrust scientists. When certain scientists make political pronouncements and reveal themselves as arrogant, clueless leftists, it naturally fosters distrust among those with differing political views.  This distrust can carry over to science itself. Some people will ask, if this scientist is nothing more than a typical leftist, why should I believe anything he says? He obviously believes nonsense when it comes to politics, so I should also take his scientific arguments with a grain of salt.

HOT5 Daily 11/14/2010

1. "“Quantitative Easing” Equals “$600 Billion Tax Increase”" Stealth tax increase. 

Representative Sample: The only difference from a formal tax is that in this case instead of taxing just American citizens or those doing business in America, it taxes everyone on the planet who holds either dollar bills or assets denominated in dollars. That ain’t cricket. This financial mess is our screwup and we shouldn’t be picking the pockets of the rest of the world to pay for our mistakes.

2. "Obama — a Weak Advocate for Free Trade" Weak leaders tend to provide weak leadership. 

Representative Sample: Obama’s international endeavors are going about as well as his party’s electoral efforts. The latest flop: ”The presidents of the U.S. and South Korea were unable to overcome disputes over cars, cattle and domestic politics, potentially killing the biggest bilateral trade deal the U.S. has taken up in more than a decade.” It is worth examining why the president couldn’t make a deal.

3. "How to win elections by changing beliefs in God" A correlation between beliefs about God and attitude toward government? 

Representative Sample: if you disturb people's sense of control, then they tend to compensate by increasing their belief in a controlling god. In a separate study, he also showed that there's a similar relationship with attitudes to government. What seems to be happening is that, when people lose confidence in their own control, they re-establish their sense of overall control by convincing themselves that some outside agency has control.

4. "Who Can Protect Us From Major Cyber Attacks?" Government not up to the task. 

Representative Sample: a recent post over at TechCrunch, arguably one of the best news sites covering Silicon Valley, indicates that national security officials believe the government is overwhelmed by the prospect of defending the critical network infrastructure that keeps U.S. economy running.

5. "Exposing the Better Business Bureau" The credibility of their ratings is in question.

Representative Sample: The Better Business Bureau has had a reputation of being less than ethical. A group of business owners decided to set a trap for the BBB. 

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

Saturday, November 13, 2010

No HOT5 Today

It will return tomorrow.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Exorcists Wanted!

That's right, the Catholic Church needs more exorcists. It's holding a two-day training conference. Apparently there just aren't enough exorcists available in the U.S. to counter the demonic onslaught sweeping across the country.
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Ill., who organized the conference, said only a tiny number of U.S. priests have enough training and knowledge to perform an exorcism. Dioceses nationwide have been relying solely on these clergy, who have been overwhelmed with requests to evaluate claims.
But the church doesn't advertise these type of events, preferring to keep a low profile with regard to exorcisms. Why?
1999, the church updated the Rite of Exorcism, cautioning that “all must be done to avoid the perception that exorcism is magic or superstition.”
Who would think that an arcane ritual designed to cast-out invisible evil beings was based on superstition? Imagine that. Naturally the church decides what are and are not cases of demonic possession. They're the experts on possession by invisible evil beings.
Signs of demonic possession accepted by the church include violent reaction to holy water or anything holy, speaking in a language the possessed person doesn’t know and abnormal displays of strength.
It's interesting that these invisible evil beings react badly to things that are "holy." What exactly makes holy water holy? Whatever it is, apparently demons can detect it.
The full exorcism is held in private and includes sprinkling holy water, reciting Psalms, reading aloud from the Gospel, laying on of hands and reciting the Lord’s Prayer. Some adaptations are allowed for different circumstances. The exorcist can invoke the Holy Spirit then blow in the face of the possessed person, trace the sign of the cross on the person’s forehead and command the devil to leave.
Again, why on earth would the church worry that people might think such practices are based on superstition? It's just baffling.

HOT5 Daily 11/12/2010

1. "“Job-Killing Environmentalists”" For all the talk about so-called "green jobs," job-killing environmentalists seem to outnumber job-creating ones by a wide margin. Links to a good article.

Representative Sample: Jon Basil Utley lays out “eight areas where the environmental extremists hope to wreak havoc on the American economy.” Behold just how tightly the bureaucratic fourth estate controls and constrains business and industry, creating precisely the kind of centralized control economy we sometimes pretend we’re forestalling

2. "Allah does not exist, and Mohammed was a fraud" PZ Myers is well on the left politically, but as I've highlighted before, he's one prominent atheist not afraid to speak out against Islam and be just as offensive to Muslims as to Christians. I think that's worth noting.

Representative Sample:Walid Husayin has been writing an atheist blog, anonymously, in Palestine. He also mocked gods on Facebook. Now he's been caught — he was spotted posting heretical words on his computer in an internet cafe — and people are very unhappy with him.

3. "Somali Pirates Refuse to Board Carnival Cruise Ships" On a lighter note.

Representative Sample: In yet another public relations setback for the beleaguered cruise ship company, Somali pirates today said they would no longer board Carnival Cruise ships, citing “unsafe working conditions.”

4. "10 Weapons Of The Future That Are Being Developed Right Now " Links to an interesting article.

Representative Sample: The XM-25 is capable of firing up to 25 grenades at any distance that can be predetermined and programmed by the user. This new weapon combines the capabilities of both a gun and a computer in one

5. "“Common Sense Atheism” explained in one cartoon" I like it.

Representative Sample: It's a cartoon.

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

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Responding to Stupidity With Intellectual Dishonesty

Dana Milbank of the Washington Post wrote a column called, "Bill O'Reilly's Threats." I noticed the title and was wondering what threats O'Reilly had made. But once I read the column I found that the title is a deliberate lie. O'Reilly, who was apparently offended by something Milbank wrote about Fox News, made a bad joke about Milbank.
On Thursday night, the Fox News host asked, as part of a show that would be seen by 5.5 million people: "Does sharia law say we can behead Dana Milbank?" He then added, "That was a joke."
Bill O'Reilly is a moron for making a joke like that on the air, but obviously he isn't actually calling for Milbank's death. Milbank knows this, of course, but in his column he chooses blatant intellectual dishonesty, comparing what O'Reilly said to the murder of Daniel Pearl, and characterizing O'Reilly's words as
O'Reilly's on-air fantasizing about violent ends for me ... violent fantasies [and] intimidation and violent imagery
What a pile of garbage. O'Reilly's stupid joke was not a threat, not intimidation and highly unlikely to represent actual fantasizing about Milbank's head being cut off by Islamic terrorists. But Milbank pretends that it is, purely in order to paint O'Reilly as an advocate of violence. He actually calls O'Reilly's word's "thuggish tactics." Milbank's column provides hard evidence of why he is an intellectually dishonest hack whose writings about pretty much any subject should be taken with a big grain of salt. 

Religious Nuts Hide Their Children

There is a bizarre story out of York, Pennsylvania. A man and a woman kept their five children hidden away from the "outside world" in appalling conditions for years.
The youngsters, who range in age from two to 13, lived inside an abandoned home at 734 South Duke Street. The home had no electricity, heat, water or functioning toilet. The children were never taken to any medical, dental or vision appointments, and did not receive any type of education. ... there are also no existing birth certificates or records for any of the children. ... The lack of information is one reason the York County Office of Children, Youth & Families couldn't pursue any action when tips came in about the family in 2003 and 2007. Sinhue Johnson refused to cooperate & the children simply couldn't be found.
Why would the parents do such a thing? What's a major reason many people do crazy things? That's right, religion.
[The] York couple told police detectives religion was the reason they hid their five children from the outside world for years.
For some reason the report doesn't identify the religion, or provide any information regarding what practices would cause such behavior. It would be interesting to find out more details.

HOT5 Daily 11/11/2010

1. "The Public Sector Thrives in this Rotten Economy" Big government takes care of its own.

Representative Sample: While the rest of us tighten our belts, those in the public sector thrive. And we get to foot the bill. Federal employees are doing better than ever – at any time in history.

2. "Islam's Ignorant Defenders" Willfully ignorant at that.

Representative Sample: One of the more interesting phenomena of recent times has been the cultural elite's aggressive defense of Islam. Whether they're decrying the alleged "Islamophobia" of their fellow Americans, storming off TV sets, offering impassioned defenses of religious liberty, or offering uninformed theological statements about the religion's alleged true nature, many of our most educated and politically aware citizens are united in outrage.

3. "THIS is what religious oppression looks like" Putting the whining by some Christians here in America in perspective.

Representative Sample: To all the Christians who have persecution complexes due to people simply disagreeing with them, despite being the privileged majority religion in their country... Maybe this will put religious oppression in perspective for you

4. "Chinese Sub Surprises U.S. Aircraft Carrier Battle Group, Surfaces Within Striking Distance of Carrier" Not good.

Representative Sample: No one knew it was there until they could see it with the naked eye

5. "The FDA's 10 Most Terrifying Proposed Cigarette Warning Labels" Because people in America just don't yet know that smoking is bad for their health.

Representative Sample: It's a series of images.

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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Fiscal Commission Co-Chair Report

I read through the proposed reforms suggested by the two co-chairs of the president's fiscal commission. Two things came to mind. First, these ideas are the type of sweeping changes that could actually begin to get the U.S. fiscal situation under control. But second, they are not viable politically. Pretty much everyone's sacred cow get's slaughtered. The chance that a majority of these proposals could be enacted is almost zero. Here's a list of the specifics from the link above, and my quick reaction to each. Overall, I'm on-board with many of the ideas. My comments in [brackets].

Social Security cuts:

  • Index the retirement age to longevity -- i.e., increase the retirement age to qualify for Social Security -- to age 69 by 2075. [People are living longer and working longer. Good idea]
  • Index Social Security yearly increases to a lower inflation rate, which will generally mean lower cost of living increases and less money per average recipient. [yes]
  • "Increase progressivity of benefit formula" -- i.e., reduce benefits by 2050 for middle, and, especially, higher earners, relative to current benefits. [definitely. I would eliminate payouts entirely for high earners.]
  • Increase the Social Security contribution ceiling: while people only pay Social Security taxes on the first $106,800 of their wages today, that's only about 86% of the total potentially taxable wages. The co-chairs suggest raising the ceiling to capture 90% of wages. [Eliminate the ceiling entirely. There's no reason the entire salary of lower earners should be taxed while higher earners escape withholding over 106k]

Tax reform:

  • The co-chairs suggest capping both government expenditures and revenue at 21% of GDP eventually. [not sure about this level]
  • In their first plan, called "The Zero Plan," they suggest reducing the tax brackets to three personal brackets and one corporate rate while eliminated all credits and deductions. Without any credits or deductions (including the EITC and mortgage interest deductions), the 3 tax rates would be 8, 14 and 23 percent. [maybe. I prefer a flat tax for all]
  • In their second plan, they would increase the personal deduction to $15,000, create 3 tax brackets (15, 25 and 35%); repeal or significantly curtail a number of popular tax deductions (including the state and local deduction and the mortgage interest deduction); and eliminate other tax expenditures. [see above]
  • The third plan would force Congress to undertake comprehensive tax reform by 2012 by raising taxes for each year Congress fails to act. [sounds like a bad idea]
  • All their proposals limit Congress to collecting taxes on income made within the United States, reducing or eliminating taxes on American expats and revenues companies earn abroad. [Good idea]
  • They also suggest raising the federal gas tax by 15 cents per gallon. [Terrible idea that will damage the economy. Gas taxes should be lowered].

Medicaid/Medicare cuts

  • Force more low-income individuals into Medicaid managed care. [probably necessary]
  • Increase Medicaid co-pays. [This will definitely hurt the poor badly and keep some from going to the doctor. Small increase maybe, but most who have Medicaid can't afford high co-pays]
  • Accelerate already-planned cuts to Medicare Advantage and home health care programs. [unfortunately necessary]
  • Create a cap for Medicaid/Medicare growth that would force Congress and the President to increase premiums or co-pays or raise the Medicare eligibility age (among other options) if the system encounters cost overruns over the course of 5 years. [not sure about these caps]

Discretionary spending cuts

  • Eliminate all earmarks. [Definitely]
  • Eliminate the Office of Safe and Drug-Free Schools. [Cut way more government offices]
  • Freeze federal worker wage increases through 2014; eliminate 200,000 federal jobs by 2020; and eliminate 250,000 federal non-defense contractor jobs by 2015. [Good idea but even more could be cut]
  • Eliminate subsidized student loans, in which the government makes interest payments while the student is in school. [Definitely]
  • Establish co-pays in the VA medical system and change the co-pays and deductibles for military retirees that remain in that system. [I oppose this. I think we owe our veterans medical care]
  • Eliminate NASA funding for commercial space flight. [Definitely. Commercial space flight should be funded by free enterprise].
  • Require the Smithsonian museums to start charging entrance fees and raise fees at the national parks. [Good idea]
  • Eliminate funding to the Corporation for Public Broadcasting -- which many conservatives suggested in the wake of the firing of former NPR contributor Juan Williams. [Should already be eliminated. Eliminate numerous other grants to the arts].
  • Reduce farm subsidies by $3 billion per year. [or more]
  • Create a Committee to eliminate unnecessary programs to the tune of $11 billion by 2015. [Cut them instead of creating another committee]
  • Merge the Department of Commerce and the Small Business Administration and cut its budget by 10 percent. [ok]
  • End "low-priority" Army Corps of Engineers programs to the tune of $1 billion by 2015. [Sounds good]
  • Cut the State Department's overseas budget by 10 percent by 2015; reduce the proposed foreign aid budget by 10 percent in 2015; and cut voluntary contributions to the United Nations by 10 percent in 2015. [Cut the foreign aid budget by at least 50%. Eliminate all voluntarily contributions to the UN]
  • Eliminate the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, which provides subsidized financing and political risk insurance for U.S. companies' investments abroad. [yes]
  • Cut $900 million in fossil fuel research funds. [ok]
  • Force airlines to increase their contributions to airline security costs and allow them to increase per-ticket security fees. [This would drive up the price of air travel and possibly damage the economy. Not a good idea]

Defense spending cuts:

  • Double the number of defense contractor positions scheduled for elimination from 10 percent of current staff augmentees to 20 percent. [sounds good]
  • Reduce procurement by 15 percent, or $20 billion. [There have to be these sorts of across the board cuts, no matter how painful they are]
  • Eliminate the V-22 Osprey program. [probably necessary]
  • Cancel the Marine Corps' Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle program. [yes]
  • Halve the number of F-35 Joint Strike Fighters in favor of F-16s and F/A-18Es. [yes]
  • Cancel the Marine Corps F-35 program. [yes]
  • Cancel the Navy's Future Maritime Prepositioning Force. [maybe]
  • Cancel the new Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV), the Ground Combat Vehicle, and the Joint Tactical Radio. [not sure about these cuts.]
  • Reduce military forces in Europe and Asia by one-third. [Forces in Europe should have been reduced long ago]
  • Send all military children based in the U.S. to local schools. [sounds reasonable]

Prime Candidates for Execution

In a town in Georgia four men beat another man to death for absolutely no reason.
It began with a brawl outside a house party. A woman hit a man, and the man refused to strike back, saying he wouldn't hit a girl. Instead, he vowed to attack the next male who walked by, even if that person was a random stranger.

That's when 18-year-old Bobby Tillman happened to approach a group of four partygoers , who swiftly stomped, kicked and punched him to death while dozens of bystanders watched. "He had nothing to do with anything," said Tommy Wheeler of Douglas county sheriff 's department . "They just decided he's the one. And they killed him."
If this story is accurate, the four individuals who did this are human garbage that should be swiftly executed. There is no good reason to permit them to live any longer than the time needed for a trial. If clearly guilty, there is no good reason for lengthy appeals, or any of the other nonsense that makes the death penalty so difficult to carry out. Those who commit such senseless acts of murder should be quickly executed. They won't be of course, but they should be.

HOT5 Daily 11/10/2010

1. "In response to Steve Walt" With Bush back in the news, there has been another flare-up among Bush Derangement Syndrome sufferers. This article does a nice, concise job of debunking Walt's BDS-infused analysis of the Bush presidency.

Representative Sample: my fellow Foreign Policy blogger attempts to blame Bush for just about everything that went wrong in the last decade, while crediting Bush with nothing that went right. One suspects that Walt might even hold Bush responsible for the Texas Rangers' recent loss in the World Series

2. "Food Nazis Invade PA Schools" The war on sugar.

Representative Sample: Just when you thought it was safe to enter a Pennsylvania public school, the food Nazis have goose stepped in. It’s a veritable assault on sugar. It’s a blitzkrieg on baked goods.

3. "Did CAIR Tip Its Hand in Oklahoma?" It tipped it's hand long ago, but for some reason many still like to pretend that it's a legitimate representative organization for Muslim-Americans.

Representative Sample: why is CAIR so quick to jump to the defense of shariah law in the US? After all, this is supposedly a "moderate" organization, right? Never mind their roots back to the Muslim Brotherhood (another organization that claims to be "moderate", but is also the parent organization of Hizbollah, Hamas and even Al-Qaeda.) The bottom line is that CAIR is now in the position of going through legal contortions to defend the idea of shariah law in America.

4. "India Aims High With Satellite Technology" A new military power in space?

Representative Sample: A number of Indian-built military satellites with surveillance, imaging and navigation capabilities are planned for launch in the next few years, to both keep “a watch on the neighborhood and help guide cruise missiles” should the need emerge

5. "Astronomers find giant, previously unseen structure in our galaxy" Speaking of space... a new discovery.

Representative Sample: NASA’s Fermi Gamma-ray Space Telescope has unveiled a previously unseen structure centered in the Milky Way — a finding likened in terms of scale to the discovery of a new continent on Earth.

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

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

No Prosecutions for Keeping Secrets Secret

The Justice Department announced today that there will be no criminal prosecutions of CIA officers who destroyed interrogation tapes.
After a closely watched investigation of nearly three years, the decision by a special federal prosecutor is the latest example of Justice Department officials’ declining to seek criminal penalties for some of the controversial episodes in the C.I.A.’s now defunct detention and interrogation program.
Those tapes should have never been made in the first place, and those who destroyed them rightly recognized that they'd be a bonanza for anti-American propaganda should they become public.
Mr. Rodriguez [the key CIA officer involved] had argued that “the heat” agency officials would take over destroying the tapes “is nothing compared to what it would be if the tapes ever got into the public domain.”

Mr. Rodriguez told another top C.I.A. official that if the images were disclosed “out of context, they would make us look terrible; it would be ‘devastating’ to us,” an e-mail said. The tapes showed hours of interrogation of the two detainees, including the infliction of a technique called waterboarding that simulates drowning.
Details of CIA interrogation tactics should have remained secret. It's bad enough that so many details were released to the public as it is. But actual video would be even worse. Rodriguez and his associates should be commended for their actions, not investigated for prosecution. As his attorney says,
Rodriguez is “a hero and a patriot, who simply wanted to protect his people and his country,”
As I've pointed out many times before, intelligence agencies do all sorts of ugly things for national security purposes, many of which would be illegal if done in any other context. That's why we have restrictions on what the CIA can do inside the U.S. The very idea that we would prosecute a CIA officer for making sure that information damaging to America remains secret is crazy, and is typical of a blind legalistic attitude found among those who think nothing of crippling U.S. intelligence gathering capabilities. Fortunately even the Obama Justice Department has enough sense not subscribe to such an idea.

HOT5 Daily 11/9/2010

1. "Ten Commandments for the Next Two Years" Good advice. 

Representative Sample: 4 Avoid Arrogance - The last thing the Republican Congress needs to do is act like Obama. A certain amount of triumph was okay, but gloating and arrogance should be avoided. Because the public is watching. The Obama Administration will act childishly, but reciprocating in kind, particularly around crucial budget negotiations would be disastrous.

2. "Why All The Talk About Cutting Defense, Social Security, And Medicare?" Cut the luxuries instead of the necessities. 

Representative Sample: What is the first thing a family does when money gets tight? Does he sell the car and the house? Does he quit paying his credit card bill? No, he does not. The car gets him to work. The house shelters him. The debt is required. Those are the last things a person cuts because they’re needs and obligations.

3. "ATHEIST MYTHS DEBUNKED" These are pretty good.  

Representative Sample: 5. ATHEISTS ARE SENT BY SATAN TO TEMPT GOOD PEOPLE FROM THE RIGHT PATH: No, we tempt people from the right path purely for kicks.

4. "What Travels Faster Than the Speed of Light?" Why we need a warp drive. 

Representative Sample: the only viable way of breaking the light barrier may be through General Relativity and the warping of space time. However, it is not known if negative matter exists, and whether the wormhole will be stable. To solve the question of stability, you need a fully quantum theory of gravity, and the only such theory which can unite gravity with the quantum theory is string theory

5. "Unseating an Incumbent President" A look at historical precedents.

Representative Sample: How likely is it that an incumbent president will be stripped of his position? What will it take? Some say it’s a very difficult task, yet it has occurred rather often. Under what circumstances? A short survey of twentieth-century presidential politics may offer some clues as to the feasibility that Barack Obama will be a one-termer.

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