Sunday, February 28, 2010

No One Has Done More to Discredit Climate Change Science than Al Gore

If you want to understand why so many people reject the idea of global warming, or even believe that it's a deliberate hoax, look no further than Al Gore. (Ann Althouse has a good summary of his latest.) Most people are not scientists, are generally pretty ignorant of science, and don't have the time or desire to become amateur experts on the global warming issue. They go by what they see. And one of the main things they see is Al Gore. 

When people see Al Gore they see someone who is a religious zealot to the point of being unhinged, not a person promoting a scientific idea. He's not someone who presents evidence fairly, recognizes and answers reasonable objections, and gives a scientific viewpoint. Instead he preaches the most extreme sort of doomsaying, and condemns unbelievers. Look at his words in the New York Times.

From the standpoint of governance, what is at stake is our ability to use the rule of law as an instrument of human redemption. After all has been said and so little done, the truth about the climate crisis — inconvenient as ever — must still be faced.
"Human redemption"? What kind of nonsense is that? Al Gore rails against the imaginary triumph of what he calls "market fundamentalism," as if our massively regulated economy is anything like a true free market, and calls for extreme global regulation in order to "protect human civilization as we know it." Naturally this will all have to be done by force, for our own good. Al knows best.

It is clear that like many on the left, Al Gore doesn't appreciate the fact that he has to put up with dissent. He wants people do to what they are told by the government, accept an imaginary consensus and completely unproven solutions, turn over their money, and shut up.

Some news media organizations now present showmen masquerading as political thinkers who package hatred and divisiveness as entertainment. And as in times past, that has proved to be a potent drug in the veins of the body politic. Their most consistent theme is to label as “socialist” any proposal to reform exploitive behavior in the marketplace.
That sounds like something a typical communist functionary might have written back in the 1970s Soviet Union. All he needs is a reference to the running dogs of capitalism.

Every time Al Gore speaks, more people reject global warming. They may not know anything about the science involved, but they are rightly repelled at the sight of a self-righteous, hysterical, exaggerating, dishonest former politician, telling them they have to submit to big government to avoid "unimaginable calamity." When a spokesman for any idea, no matter how credible the evidence behind it, comes off as an unhinged religious lunatic out for power & control, many people will  reject the idea he's pushing.  If I were a climate scientist who was convinced that climate change posed a major problem, the last thing I'd want is Al Gore out there making my position look like a religious movement based on hysterical Chicken Little fears, or raging against the free market, and giving credence to everyone who thinks the whole thing is just a socialistic, power-grabbing hoax.

HOT5 Daily 2/28/2010

1. "By Way of Deception thou Shalt Make War" This is pretty much my opinion on the Dubai assassination.

Representative Sample: Viewed within the many actions against the "war on global terror", there is now one less arch-terrorist among the living. No one in his right mind should cry over the demise of this mastermind in murderous terrorism.

2. "Atlas, Shrugging" Examples of why I don't have a mystical veneration for "the law."

Representative Sample:These are just three examples of the way that laws are written so that everybody violates laws every day. They reminded me of a passage in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged where Dr. Ferris from the State Science Institute is talking to Hank Reardon about his illegal sales of his metal.

3. "MOST CONSERVATIVE, LIBERAL IN CONGRESS ANNOUNCED BY NATIONAL JOURNAL" Always interesting, as these ratings are often used during campaigns.

Representative Sample: 1. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) 1. Jim Inhofe (R-OK)

4. "Ten rules for writing fiction" Pretty interesting if you've ever attempted fiction, or have any aspirations.

Representative Sample: Never use a verb other than "said" to carry dialogue. The line of dialogue belongs to the character; the verb is the writer sticking his nose in. But "said" is far less intrusive than "grumbled", "gasped", "cautioned", "lied".

5. "Ukraine may become world's sixth biggest arms trader" Major surge in Ukrainian arms deals.

Representative Sample: The output of Ukrainian defense plants grew by 58% in 2009, which would unable Ukraine to rank as the world's sixth largest arms trader

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

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Murderous Superstition

Uganda has been in the news lately for its barbaric new anti-gay law, pushed by Christian extremists. But that's not the only major problem there caused by religious belief and superstition. There are now rising numbers of human sacrifices taking place throughout the country.
Children are disappearing, victims of human sacrifice. ... belief, that burying a child's body parts will make you rich, is, police say, being promoted by some traditional healers, known locally as witch doctors
From the reaction, this isn't a case of a few incidents.
Two thousand officers have been trained to tackle the hideous crime, forming the Anti-Human Sacrifice Task Force, equipped in part by the U.S. government.
Is there anywhere in the world where U.S. taxpayers aren't paying for something? Well, at least this time it's a worthy cause.  Who would have thought that in 2010 there would be a need for a task force to prevent human sacrifice? This line in the story also caught my attention.
Police are visiting churches and mosques, trying to crush the growing belief in the power of child sacrifice.
They are going to people promoting superstition in order to attack even worse superstition. In between demonizing homosexuals and supporting their execution, mainstream religions in Uganda can take on the problem of human sacrifice. After all, human sacrifice is bad unless God orders it. 

HOT5 Daily 2/27/2010

1. "Be Proud of The Party of NO" I strongly agree. Blocking terrible ideas from the administration & its allies is exactly what the GOP should be doing as the minority party. 

Representative Sample: this country was founded on saying NO to bad ideas. NO to Taxation without representation, NO to the stamp act, NO to the King, NO to tyranny, NO to subjugation.

2. "Excellent James Corum Piece on Obama Foreign Policy" Links a good article.

Representative Sample: Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are apparently clueless about some of the most basic aspects of foreign policy: supporting one’s friends and fencing in one’s adversaries.

3. "10 questions every creationist must answer…" Some good ones.

Representative Sample: If you expect your critique of evolution to be given equal time, make sure that you’ve put in as much work on the topic as the person you’ve approached. And I mean on the topic. Exclusively read Ken Ham does not qualify. I mean text-book biology.

4. "Obama’s Ignorance A Liability" This story is all over the right side of the blogosphere, but still worth highlighting. Obama simply does not know what he's talking about on many subjects.

Representative Sample: If Sarah Palin had said this, it would have been regarded as just more proof that she was unqualified to be Vice President (which is pretty easy, actually; according to Biden). In the meantime, this is what we’re stuck with in the Oval Office.

5. "Ask Nanny State!" Funny but too close to reality.

Representative Sample: Each week, syndicated columnist Nanny State publishes her favorite anecdotes depicting hapless individuals in need of more government attention, assistance, succor and programs.

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

Friday, February 26, 2010

Yet Another Example of UN Stupidity

The UN is finally thinking about getting around to removing sanctions on Iraq. What sanctions you ask? The sanctions put in place to punish Saddam Hussein after he invaded Kuwait back in 1991. Saddam and his government were of course removed by the U.S. invasion in 2003, and Saddam himself was executed back in 2006. According to Iraq, the sanctions, which have never been lifted, are costing it $24 billion a year.

The U.S. has been pushing to lift the sanctions for obvious reasons. Here we've been pumping billions  into Iraq, while at the same time it's been languishing under penalties designed to punish a regime long out of power. The UN Security Council agreed to "review" the restrictions. But here's a statement from the current president of the council, a Frenchman

such a review would come only after Iraq's safeguards against acquiring weapons of mass destruction are demonstrated to be sufficient.
Hey moron, Saddam is long gone, there's a 100,000+ U.S. troops sitting in Iraq, and the country is no longer a threat to anyone. There's absolutely no reason why normal trade with Iraq shouldn't be resumed.

The UN may be worse than useless for solving international problems, but it's great at exacerbating existing ones. It's nice to see that the U.S. is pushing for the removal of sanctions on Iraq, but they should have been gone years ago. 

Obama Administration to Meet With Atheists

Not Obama himself -- apparently atheists don't rate direct presidential contact -- but unnamed "administration officials" will meet with the Secular Coalition of America.

The coalition's board includes such controversy magnets as authors Salman Rushdie ("The Satanic Verses") and Christopher Hitchens ("God Is Not Great"), as well as Michael Newdow, the Sacramento, Calif., doctor who argued against allowing the words "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance before the Supreme Court, but didn't prevail.
When I read the headline, I wasn't particularly thrilled. I'm extremely skeptical of any group claiming to represent atheists -- since we are so diverse and only all agree on the no gods proposition. It really irritates me when atheists as a whole are seen or portrayed as just another left-wing lobbying group -- since there are a significant minority such as myself who are definitely not on the left. With that in mind, I was somewhat happier after reading the details -- and when I saw Hitchens name. The agenda for the meeting covers three topics, two of which I can give my whole-hearted support to the Secular Coalition, and partial support on the third. Particularly this one:
Coalition members plan to use Friday's meeting to advocate closing federal loopholes in the law that governs medical neglect. They say that officials in any state should be able to remove sick children who need medical treatment from homes in which parents believe in faith healing as easily as they could intervene on behalf of other children.
Although I believe in parental rights,I don't think those rights should extend to letting children die because religious superstition prevents medical treatment. The coalition also opposes "faith-based" government funding, as do I. Finally, the Secular Coalition will raise the issue of proselytizing in the military.
coalition activists have concerns about proselytizing in the military and a rise in the military's evangelical culture. They want the Department of Defense to give protected-class status to nonbelievers, as it does to members of minority religions.
That sounds like a bad idea. Non-belief is not a religion and should not be treated as such. What we do need to do is to make it clear and unmistakable that coercion cannot be used to push religion, or favor one religion over another within the military. 

HOT5 Daily 2/26/2010

1. "Ultimately, somebody has to pay the bill" You'd think this would be obvious.

Representative Sample: The politicians can Kabuki dance for the rest of their lives and the reality is that somebody is going to have to pay that $2.26 trillion tab. With all the talk, all the plans, all the rhetoric, all they are really discussing is how to divide up the $2.26 trillion. If you are young and healthy, you probably don’t want to spend $7,439 for health insurance each year. If you are sickly, you might think that is a fine deal. Still, the bill will have to be paid.

2. "The GOP Could Win the Hispanic Vote" But we have to actually put some effort into it.

Representative Sample: noisy advocacy of border closing and rigid enforcement of impractical and inflexible immigration regulations are popular vices of conservatives expressive of unattractive emotional impulses and representative of unsound political reasoning.

3. "Compare And Contrast: Obama's Allies-Last Sovereignty Announcements" Obama slaps Britain (and Israel) in the face again.

Representative Sample: Just out of curiosity, if Obama was trying to detonate all of the US's traditional alliances - what would he be doing differently?

4. "War Gaming Iran" One bad scenario.

Representative Sample: With diplomacy failing and precious intelligence just received about two new secret Iranian nuclear facilities, Israel launches a pre-emptive strike against Tehran’s nuclear complex. The strike is successful, wiping out six of Iran’s key sites and setting back its suspected quest for a bomb by years.

5. "Vote Ackbar!" Avoid traps.

Representative Sample: students of Ole Miss are voting on a new mascot to replace their old one, Colonel Rebel. The leader in voting, apparently, is Admiral Ackbar from Star Wars.

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

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Do It For the Species

A new study of fruit flies in the UK has implications for all animals, including humans. Apparently females having sex with multiple partners benefits the species.
promiscuous females of a species may be the key to that species' survival. ... The reason is that when females partner with fewer mates, the likelihood that they'll have all-female broods rises.
So the next time someone starts to turn you down, remember to point out that the survival of the species may be at stake.

HOT5 Daily 2/25/2010

1. "Extreme Opinions Regarding the Future of Our Military" I largely agree with Boot here.

Representative Sample: Give Arquilla props for “out of the box” thinking — as well as for demonstrating why it usually makes sense to stay in the box. The “Afghan model” he cites has been found wanting since 2001 — a few Special Forces troopers could help overthrow the Taliban but couldn’t keep them down

2. "When It's Necessary and Desirable To Assassinate Terrorists" Makes some excellent points.

Representative Sample: There is a cliché when talking about counter-terrorism to the effect that getting a specific individual doesn’t matter as there is always someone to replace him. But in terrorism, as in other aspects of life, there are more effective and less effective individuals.

3. "Religion and Atheism in the 2000s" An interesting survey.

Representative Sample:The first decade of the third millennium since the time of Jesus has passed. What happened for religion and atheism in this past decade?

4. "Don't negotiate with the Taliban"Links an interview with an Afghan warlord.

Representative Sample: Throwing his formidable weight behind the surging opposition to Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s backroom entreaties to the Taliban, Rabbani warned that any hint of political concessions to the Pashtun-based terrorist movement could provoke Afghans to take up arms against their own government.

5. "Where China is investing" With graphic.

Representative Sample: Sub-Saharan Africa is the biggest single region for investment for the Chinese. (Plus, $36.4 billion is a lot of investment in a region whose total GDP is $744 billion.)

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

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

What's Wrong With This Headline?

Skimming through the news, I came upon a wire story called, "Atheism book found in home linked to fire suspect." The "fire suspect" is suspected of burning down a church. Here's the first line of the story.
Investigators have seized books on demons and atheism as well as rifles and knives from in a home linked to one of the men charged with setting an east Texas church on fire and suspected in a string of similar blazes.
Further along there's some more detail.
Investigators ... discovered paperback books titled "Demon Possession" and "The Atheist's Way,"
So apparently a guy who burned down a church happens to have one book on atheism, and another on demon possession -- two things that don't exactly go together. So what does the AP choose to highlight? Why is the atheist book more significant than the book on demon possession (assuming either has any importance at all)? It's almost as if someone is trying to imply that atheism caused him to burn down a church. Why doesn't the headline read, "books on atheism and demon possession found in fire suspect's home"? Am I reading too much into what may have been just an attempt to put up a shorter headline? Maybe. But I'm not particularly sensitive or easily offended, and I found it annoying. It's pretty likely that some people will read just the headline and jump to the conclusion that an atheist was burning down churches -- as if that's naturally something atheists might be prone to do.

HOT5 Daily 2/24/2010

1. "GOP Leaders Build New Home for Moderates" A new think tank.

Representative Sample: There is no doubt that the American Action project will have a tough time breaking into the D.C. scene. Carving out an audience in a city that already has five big think-tanks (AEI, Heritage, CATO, Brookings, Center for American Progress) will take considerable work, as the AA teams will face considerable difficulty in finding technological and policy niches that aren’t already filled.

2. "Afghanistan: Marines forced to call lawyers before approving airstrike" Legalism run amuck.

Representative Sample: Thanks to Obama’s new rules of engagement and the ever increasing hand-cuffing of our troops ability to fight a war, this comes as no surprise. We predicted this months ago. Next we’ll see soldiers forced to leave the battlefield in order to testify at trials for accused terrorists

3. "Pleading "Muslim" Now Legitimate Defense Against the Death Penalty?"Anyone of any minority religion in the U.S. could make the same ridiculous argument.

Representative Sample: A lawyer in Arizona says prosecutors should not seek the death penalty in a case where a Muslim man murdered his own daughter in an honor killing .... because he's a Muslim??

4. "Thai military chief defends use of magic wands" Using "dowsing rods" to detect mines. Sounds like a short, explosive career path.

Representative Sample: Antiscience kills. You might think that dowsing rods are a cute diversion or at worst a waste of money, but in fact believing in them is leading directly to the deaths of hundreds if not thousands of people across the world.

5. "Interesting diagram of Islamic organization in North America" Shows the various connections.

Representative Sample: It's a graphic.

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

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Jobs Bill Silver Lining

Some on the right are understandably annoyed that new GOP Senator Scott Brown, along with four other Republicans, broke ranks and voted for the president's new jobs bill. But I see a silver lining, from a tactical perspective. The jobs bill, although another example of throwing money we don't have down a hole, is relatively minor in the great scheme of things -- as minor as $15 billion can be. The Republican support for the bill could actually be useful later on.

The fact that Brown and other moderate Republicans supported the bill undercuts the administration's campaign to paint the GOP as purely obstructionist partisans. It demonstrates that some Republicans are willing to work across the aisle with the president. The jobs bill might be a bitter tidbit to swallow, but it pales before the giant piles of garbage the president and Congressional Democrats want to ram down our throats. When the time comes to fight the revived health care monstrosity, the climate bill, or another "stimulus" spending spree, moderate Republicans like Scott Brown will have stronger credibility in opposition. They'll be able to say that they were willing to support the president and work across the aisle, but that these one-sided, partisan pieces of legislation are unacceptable. If the moderates remain firm in blocking the biggest, most damaging elements of Obama's program, their caving on smaller pieces such as the jobs bill will be well worth it.The fact that the president can't even get the support of moderate Republicans, with a proven record of bipartisanship, will help illuminate the radical nature of Obama's proposals and might be a significant factor in mobilizing public opposition.

HOT5 Daily 2/23/2010

1. "Old Wine in New Bottles Still Tastes Like Vinegar: Obama Unveils Health Plan!" Smells as bad as ever.

Representative Sample:This morning the White House released their new and improved health plan promising so much but delivering only the same old big taxes, big spending, big government solutions that the American people have overwhelmingly rejected.

2. "Needed: An English-Democratic Party Dictionary?" Words and phrases have different meanings when spoken by Democrats.

Representative Sample: the language may seem to be English, in reality, they speak a different language, the language of the Democrats in DC. To understand exactly what they are saying, Americans need an “English –Democratic Party Dictionary. Here is a sampler of some of the most important words and phrases that cause confusion

3. "Why are coups always led by colonels?" Good question, and good answers.

Representative Sample: So what gives? Why aren't the generals the ones kicking out the countries' regimes? I have a few thoughts.

4. "Legal News: U.S. Lawmakers Push To Phase Out Wartime Contractors–In The Middle Of A War?" Democrats are just full of bad ideas, this time assisted by independent Bernie Sanders.

Representative Sample: this idea of ‘phasing’ out wartime contractors in the middle of a war is just stupid thinking, and dangerous. There is absolutely no way in hell that today’s strategists and war planners will say that ‘removing all wartime contractors in the middle of a war’ is a good idea.

5. "Redesign Hot Dogs? Huh?" I saw this story and was going to write about it, but he beat me to it.

Representative Sample: The leading group of pediatricians in the United States is pushing for a redesign of common foods such as hot dogs and candies, along with new warning labels placed on food packaging, to help curb sometimes fatal incidents of child choking.

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

Monday, February 22, 2010

Stop Pretending We Can Avoid Civilian Casualties

Despite bending over backwards, hampering our own operations, creating greater risk for our soldiers, genuflecting to Afghan president Karzai, and putting a huge emphasis on avoiding civilian casualties, the inevitable occurred again today. An air attack by U.S. helicopter gunships killed 23 civilians, including women and children, who had mistakenly been identified as insurgents.

This accident illustrates yet again why pretending that we can avoid civilian casualties is a bad idea. We are making promises that are simply unrealistic given the nature of warfare. Accidents are going to happen, and civilians are going to keep dying, no matter how many precautions we take. General McChrystal issued a video statement and said,

“I have made it clear to our forces that we are here to protect the Afghan people. I pledge to strengthen our efforts to regain your trust to build a brighter future for all Afghans.”
Issuing such a statement is a terrible idea. We are feeding the mistaken impression that we can realistically do much more to minimize civilian casualties. If we keep spinelessly apologizing, and keep pretending we are going to do better, the Afghan reaction is going to be even worse the next time we inevitably screw up and kill a bunch of civilians. And then there is Karzai, who certainly isn't helping
Karzai’s office said in a statement that the president “reminded the NATO commander that the issue of civilian casualties was a major hurdle against an effective war on terror and it must stop.”
I can think of few people less qualified to pontificate on how to fight an "effective war on terror" than this corrupt, ineffective leader who is little more than a glorified mayor of Kabul. Karzai owes his position, and probably his continued existence to the U.S. and NATO forces. Instead of providing free enemy propaganda about civilian casualties, it would be nice if he was actually working on our side in an attempt to mitigate the impact of such accidents. But no, he'd rather inflame the situation.

Civilians die in wars. Intelligence is frequently mistaken. Targets get misidentified. And in the circumstances of the Afghan War, it is often difficult to tell friend from foe. Let's stop pretending that we can do much more to minimize civilian casualties, and stop obsessing about them. It's pointless and counterproductive.

Why Israel Probably Won't Attack

Yesterday, a news story ran about a new Israeli drone that can reach Iran, and there has been increased speculation that Israel will strike to destroy the Iranian nuclear program. I may be wrong, but I think the odds are against an Israeli attack. Here's why.

First, and most importantly, the Iranian nuclear program is not an easy, localized target. It is dispersed in multiple locations throughout the country, and probably hardened to resist attack. The Iranians are well-aware of the possibility of attack, not just from Israel, but from the U.S. I don't overestimate Iranian defensive abilities, but they will do whatever they can to protect those sites. Even poor efforts could be significant given the range from Israel, and the necessity for a sustained air campaign. The military difficulties involved in destroying the Iranian program are daunting, even for the U.S., which has far greater resources than Israel.

Second, Israel has to weigh the costs of a preemptive strike against the benefits. And finally, it has to consider the costs and benefits of not attacking, but of pursuing a policy of defense & deterrence instead. For the first equation, it is the possible cost of not attacking that is most dramatic and often emphasized. That risk is that Iran will not only acquire nuclear weapons, but use them against Israel, or provide them to terrorist proxies. This is rightly seen as an existential threat to Israel. But how serious is that risk? It is extremely unlikely that an Iranian or terrorist first strike would be able to eliminate Israel's nuclear deterrent, especially given the probable location of some nuclear weapons on Israeli submarines. If any significant Israeli nuclear force remains intact after an attack, Iran would suffer a devastating nuclear response, possibly great enough to make a first strike on Israel equivalent to Iranian national suicide. How likely is it that Iran is willing to risk national suicide in order to destroy Israel? Should Israel operate on the basis of what is probably an extremely small risk factor?

If an Iranian nuclear first strike is deemed so unlikely, and I think it should be, then it is also unlikely that the benefits of an Israeli attack outweigh the costs. The probable costs are huge. An Israeli preemptive strike clearly does not have the backing of the Obama administration. How will Israel's greatest ally and protector react to an Israeli policy that not only goes against the direct wishes of the U.S. government, but also might plunge the region into war, destabilize Iraq, divert U.S. attention from Afghanistan, drive up the price of oil, and incur all sorts of other disastrous potential consequences? And that's not even considering the possible direct cost of Iranian retaliation against Israel itself -- all for an attack that most experts think will be able to do no more than delay the Iranian nuclear program.

In contrast, a policy of defense and deterrence seems to offer a far better cost-benefit calculus. By maintaining the capacity to retaliate with overwhelming force, combined with the degree of protection offered by its developing multi-layered missile defenses, Israel should be able to deter any Iranian nuclear attack. For this reason I think it is unlikely that Israel will strike Iran. In order to attack, fear of the worst-case scenario, a suicidal Iranian regime that launches a first strike, has to take precedence over a cold cost-benefit analysis. That's always possible. It may be that Israel will decide that no matter the consequences, no matter if all they are able to achieve is a delay in Iran's nuclear aspirations, that they simply can't risk a nuclear Iran. I know there are people who see things that way, both here and in Israel. I guess we'll have to wait and see.

HOT5 Daily 2/22/2010

1. "Can Anyone Explain, Including Obama, The Obama Administration’s Policy or Plan’s for Dealing With Iran?" I'm going to take a wild guess and say more empty talk.

Representative Sample: Sooner rather than later the great community organizer himself will have to step up and make a decision, a decision he will be held to. This not going to be like the health care debate were he can blame congress for 90% of whats taken place. Obama will own this issue regardless of his desire not to do so.

2. "Health Summit A Manufactured Political Crisis" Probably an accurate analysis.

Representative Sample: What Obama needs to pass his health care restructuring bill is a good political crisis. One in which he can stand there and proclaim, as he did with the stimulus bill, that we are on the edge of a catastrophe.

3. "There’s Probably No …" Includes an excellent graphic.

Representative Sample: When spelled out in clear friendly letters, even the most credulous of believers can suddenly see the irrationality of their previous ways and have been immediately happy to adopt a more enlightened and scientific worldview.

4. "When the going gets tough, the tough appoint a commission to study ways to solve the problem" Why take responsibility when you can pass the buck?

Representative Sample: What is needed is not yet another commission; what is needed is an absolute [insert slang term for the sphincter here] who doesn’t care whether some people get hurt, but who is willing to cut spending, not with a sharp, little knife, but a half-dull and bloody axe.

5. "Fill'er up -- with algae." Links an interesting article.

Representative Sample: If the claims are true, this might be the first "biofuel" to actually make any economic sense.

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

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Terrorist Rights Supporters and General Petraeus

General David Petraeus was interviewed on Meet the Press today. It's pretty funny to see that the usual terrorist rights supporters -- mostly leftists, have seized on one section of the interview which they think supports their position. For example, here's Spencer Ackerman with a sneering "Open Letter" to Liz Cheney, who supports enhanced interrogation. After noting Petraeus' comments rejecting what he called "expedient measures," in favor of techniques consistent with the Army Field Manual, Ackerman asks

You’re a former deputy assistant secretary of state! You obviously know better than the man who implemented the surge in Iraq. Why don’t you enlighten Gen. Petraeus about all the glories of torture? And since you consider “enhanced interrogation” so necessary to secure the country, perhaps there’s a full-page ad you’ll take out in a major newspaper?
Well, I'm sure Liz Cheney can speak for herself, but I'd like to take this opportunity to fill in Ackerman. I'll start with the obvious. David Petraeus is a high-ranking, serving officer of the U.S. Army. As such, he's hardly going to break with the administration line when asked whether he would prefer to be able use enhanced interrogation techniques. His words on this issue at this particular time are completely meaningless. Enhanced interrogation techniques have already been banned, and the general knows they aren't going to be acceptable -- at least not openly -- under the Obama administration, so why in the world would he say anything other than what he said?

Second, it's pretty funny how terrorist rights supporters like Ackerman love to use the military prestige of a general when his position agrees with theirs. But when a person like General Michael Hayden, former head of the CIA, and in a position to know far more about interrogation and intelligence than the head of U.S. Central Command defends enhanced interrogation methods, well we can just ignore him. I could easily turn Ackerman's silly "open letter" around and ask, who are you, Spencer Ackerman, to claim to know better than a former CIA director? Why should we listen to Petraeus but not Hayden? The words of a serving general like Petraeus carry far less weight than the statements of a retired general who is now free to speak his mind.

Third, and this also falls within the obvious realm, is the use of the word torture. Whether or not many enhanced interrogation techniques constitute torture is a matter of debate. Even waterboarding, which a majority (including myself) agree is torture, is not considered torture by many of those advocating it. Ackerman is just poisoning the well by using the term torture. If someone is arguing for the use of techniques which she herself does not believe are even torture, it's pretty idiotic to use a phrase like "the glories of torture" in reference to her position.

But what about people like myself, who do believe torture should be an option against known terrorists -- including techniques which are indisputably acknowledged as torture? How do we answer what Ackerman portrays as the great, not-to-be questioned wisdom of General Petraeus? Actually, I agree with Petraeus that in most circumstances the military should have nothing to do with questionable interrogation practices, let alone torture. It's important to maintain the honor of the military as a force that offers humane treatment to captured enemies. Compromising the military, having it violate its own rules and procedures, and involving it in the dirtiest side of intelligence gathering were and are bad ideas. But we happen to have an organization that isn't the military. Not only isn't it the military, but it was specifically created to act in secret, to violate laws and rules, and to carry out the dirty business of getting intelligence by means which in most civilian circumstances would be considered crimes. It's called the CIA. The military and the CIA are different entities with different missions, rules, and methods of operation. Attempting to constrain the CIA by restricting it to military procedures is every bit as stupid and shortsighted as corrupting and damaging the military  by allowing it to engage in practices not suitable for its mission and status.

As Ackerman demonstrates yet again, despite the existence of excellent arguments against the use of torture, most terrorist rights supporters rely on simplistic, illogical, emotional screeds that are easily debunked. Ackerman's "open letter" is nothing more than an appeal to authority, combined with poisoning the well, and an ad hominem attack on Cheney as someone who believes in the "glories of torture." Pretty weak stuff. 

Colin Powell -- Still Shilling for Obama

Former prominent Republican Colin Powell appeared on Face the Nation today, and continued shilling for Obama, as he did during the campaign. He said he had , "no regrets" about voting for Obama, claimed the president has "done some things that help the country a great deal," and made the amazing statement that "our financial situation is secure now." What country is he living in? Our financial situation is about as insecure as possible, without actually being bankrupt. 

As usual, Powell had only the most mild of criticism for Obama, and rejected Republican attacks on the president. Back in May I wrote a post called, "Colin Powell Pretends He's Still A Republican." Everything I wrote there applies today.

Colin Powell wants to have it both ways. He wants to support Obama and his policies, criticize the GOP constantly, and yet still claim he's a Republican. What are the chances that Powell will support the GOP nominee in 2012? I'm guessing slim to none. He should have the decency to change his registration to independent or Democrat, and stop calling himself a Republican. ... If Powell actually wanted to help the GOP he'd shut up and keep a low profile.
It's pretty clear that Powell no longer has any interest in supporting the GOP. If he did, he wouldn't be on tv giving Obama political cover on multiple issues. Regardless of what he chooses to call himself, or his nominal party affiliation, Colin Powell is now an independent for all intents and purposes. And he's a committed Obama supporter, even after a year of the Obama presidency.  He no longer has a shred of credibility as a Republican.

Salman Rushdie Slams Amnesty

Most on the right have long been aware that Amnesty International has little credibility, and has allowed itself to be used as a useful idiot front organization for terrorists. But now even some on the left are catching on. Recently, Gita Sahgal, a high official of Amnesty itself, criticized her own organization for its collaboration with an Islamist former Guantanamo prisoner.  Today, Salman Rushdie, who was once defended by Amnesty, has spoken out.
["It looks very much as if Amnesty's leadership is suffering from a kind of moral bankruptcy and has lost the ability to distinguish right from wrong,"
It's looked that way for quite some time. But it's good to see that awareness is rising across the political spectrum.

HOT5 Daily 2/21/2010

1. "What Makes Lefty Run?" Why the left hates and fears the tea party movement.

Representative Sample: The Tea Party front is the worst nightmare of the hard-core Left -- a patriotic, small-government, capitalist popular front. While Tea Partiers are not specifically Republican, leftists realize that GOP leaders (Sarah Palin) and candidates (Scott Brown) are far better positioned to appeal to Tea Partiers than are Democrats

2. "How the Middle East (Often) Thinks: Logic is For The Infidels" We have that sort of thinking here too, but to a much lesser extent.

Representative Sample: If one believes the deity guides the world completely and has set all the rules for human behavior, then all man-made morality, reason or logic are not guides to life or reality but mere illusions.

3. "Who will protect the kids from them?" Christians worried about the supposed threat of gays to children, yet advocating beating kids into submission.

Representative Sample: These Christians say: "The ultimate child motivator is the rod." They say that the smallest infraction should result in a beating with the rod

4. "Metallica in Helmand" Heavy metal and war.

Representative Sample: Most remarkable are the stories of how soldiers and victims of war use heavy metal to deal with the emotional intensity of their experiences. But the spectrum of how metal and battle go together is much broader than that. It reaches from patriotic veneration of military history to outright criticism of war.

5. "US CAIR once again proved connected to terror" One reason people associate Muslims with terrorism is because the most visible Muslim organization in the US is connected to terrorism.

Representative Sample: Muslims in the U.S. are fighting an uphill battle to convince Americans that they are not a hotbed for terrorists. They have an organization that is like a "Union of Muslims" and it's called "The Council on American Islamic Relations" or CAIR, but time and again, it is proved that this organization is itself composed of people connected to Islamic terror.

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

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Lighting that Cigarette Was a Bad Idea

This may have happened before, but I don't remember ever reading a similar story. A man here in New Jersey managed to accidentally burn himself to death. Apparently he was drinking at home last night, spilled vodka on himself and dropped a lit cigarette into his lap. According to the story he had third degree burns over his entire body, so the fire must have spread from his vodka-soaked pants to the rest of his clothes. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that he was probably pretty drunk when this happened. Lighting a cigarette when your pants are soaked with alcohol -- not a good idea.

HOT5 Daily 2/20/2010

1. "It's Amazing.." The impact of a change in leadership.

Representative Sample: The appointment of Mr. Amano--and his clear-eyed reporting on Iran--represent a welcome change for the IAEA. If anything, those wishing to coddle or appease Tehran may have to look elsewhere for cover. The days of Mr. El-Baradei white-washing the Iran file are (thankfully) over.

2. "Falklands crisis now an Australia issue" Argentina may find that it has bitten off more than it can chew -- again.

Representative Sample: Looks like the Argentine government in an attempt to bully its way into potential oil revenues from the Falklands, is going to punish any company with Argentine operations involved with Falklands oil exploration

3. "Sonic Warfare"Probably has all sorts of possible applications.

Representative Sample: bark beetles can be driven out of the pine forests they currently infest if you play digitally-altered sounds of their own chewing back at them through loud speakers. The high-volume sound of themselves drives them away.

4. "Israel quietly floats cheap Littoral Combat Boats (LCBs)"Cheap, low-tech, but useful.

Representative Sample: For duty off Gaza or off Lebanon, these ultra-cheap littoral combat boats (along with their hefty ‘ole mission module) will be a game changer.

5. "Make the PLA Fight For Every Inch of Ground" I had a similar reaction when I read the linked article.

Representative Sample: I think it is fine to prepare for guerrilla war as a last resort. But the idea that the Taiwanese should fight in the strait but basically fold their hand if the Chinese make it ashore in force is folly. The Taiwanese darned well better engage in bloody urban warfare.

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

Friday, February 19, 2010

Smears and False Analogies

As I've noted before, the use of false analogies is extremely common on the left. So it was no surprise to see a common one deployed in the aftermath of the Texas incident where a deranged individual crashed his plane into an building containing an IRS office. Case in point, a Think Progress post by Matthew Yglesias. Before the false analogy, come the typical smears. He starts off by shamelessly and dishonestly trying to pretend that the would-be killer is somehow similar to right-wing tea party types -- who at last word haven't tried to kill anyone, or carried out any domestic terror incidents.

a white guy entranced by an extremely version of Tea Party-style right-populist paranoia
Since Yglesias has no doubt read the dead-man's manifesto, he is well-aware that he was no right-winger, but just a disturbed individual with a weird mix of political views, and a personal grudge against the IRS. Even some intellectually honest left-wingers have admitted as much. 

Yglesias then smears everyone actually concerned with radical Islamic terrorism as a racist. This is a standard tactic on the left, which routinely accuses anyone on the right of racism with no actual evidence. Read almost any leftist rant about our wars or Islamic terrorism and you will see constant references to "brown people," as if we were fighting enemies based on their race. This is extremely common among the anti-American left, which appears to think that as an evil racist nation we are callously slaughtering people because we don't value the lives of "brown people." 

In actuality, people on the right differ over the exact definition of terrorism, just like everyone else, or whether a particular incident qualifies. Yglesias then goes on to put forth his false analogy. He argues that since we aren't overreacting to this incident, we shouldn't overreact to Islamic terrorism either.

It’s smart, then, that as a country we’re responding to his terrorism by trying to avoid counterproductive overreactions. But of course this is also Osama bin Laden’s goal and it’s also appropriate to respond to Islamist political violence in a similar spirit.
Avoiding "counterproductive overreactions" is a certainly a good idea -- although obviously what is an overreaction, or what is counterproductive are highly debatable. But his analogy is not only false, it is idiotic. He is drawing an analogy between the actions of a lone individual angry at the IRS, with Islamic terrorism. The last time I checked, anti-IRS terrorists don't have a worldwide network killing people on a daily basis. They don't have an organization that struck a devastating blow at the U.S., killing thousands of people, and sending us to war. They don't have the support of millions of radical members of one of the world's largest religions, with adherents in numerous countries. They don't have a network of religious leaders and sympathizers who justify their actions and inspire and recruit new members. 

The reason people react differently to acts of radical Islamic terror, than to terrorist incidents by lone nutcases, is that the situations are far different. That should be obvious even to a shallow, dishonest, left-wing hack like Yglesias.

HOT5 Daily 2/19/2010

1. "The Rorschach Test for Evil" An thought-provoking analysis worth reading.

Representative Sample:These people are the very definition of evil. They often reflect some part of every political belief because every political belief has some piece that can be used to justify being selfish and evil. They take only the bad and none of the good from every ideology.

2. "Has anyone else noticed there was just a coup in Niger?" Not until I read this article.

Representative Sample: It's coup season in Africa, apparently, with the third such takeover in just two years. Or that's what it looks like from the first reports streaming in from Niger

3. "Disputing the "Hearts and Minds" Strategy" There are other ways to crush insurgencies. They should at least be given theoretical consideration.

Representative Sample: winning the hearts and minds of a population is a proven strategy for breaking an insurgency--because it has been proven to work. But it hasn't always worked. Shouldn't our forces then also at least discuss other methods of breaking insurgencies?

4. "Social Scientists Under Fire" Speaking of "hearts & minds." 

Representative Sample: The formation of the Human Terrain System was guided by a woman named Montgomery McFate, a Harvard- and Yale-educated civilian anthropologist who became a controversial figure in the insular world of American social science by advocating the use of academics in the Mideast wars.

5. "War in the Falklands Round 2" Argentina has made some recent aggressive moves. Could the situation escalate into another war?

Representative Sample: we come to the recent sparring of words, at least so far, over a major oil discovery off the coast of British controlled Falklands Island that promises to make some extraordinarily rich. Just who that “someone” will be brings us to this present crisis.

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

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Anti-religious Hypersensitivity

Over at the Friendly Atheist, Hemant Mehta has a post up called, "Who Knew Schlotzsky’s Deli Was a Christian Franchise?" Apparently someone went into a deli and got upset because Christian music was being played. He actually wrote a letter of complaint to the corporate website, which referred it to the the franchise owner. The owner, obviously a Christian, was unimpressed by the complaint and essentially told the former customer to get over it. 

I often agree with Mehta's posts on atheist/religious issues, but I think he's way off-base on this one.  

Is it an overreaction? I don’t think so. It wasn’t just one song and it is annoying to hear if you’re not a Christian (hell, it’s probably annoying even if you are).
Yes, it was a huge overreaction. I've been in many restaurants where I wasn't happy with the musical selection being played -- for whatever reason. I didn't write whining complaints to the restaurant, and neither do most people. If it's that annoying, I just go to another restaurant. Writing of the owner's dismissive response, Mehta says
I’m offended by his response…To summarize, Wood is going to continue to play Christian music whether it makes his customers happy or not. Their experience at his restaurant be damned.
I find that laughable. He's not ignoring his "customers" plural, he's ignoring the complaint of one hypersensitive customer looking to take offense.
Wood is allowed to play whatever music he wants to, but playing Jesus music all day long is certainly not the way to draw in more customers. Next thing you know, he’ll be giving discounts to people who bring in church bulletins.
That's a pretty big assumption. Somehow I doubt that Mehta knows more about running that business than the business owner. Giving discounts for church bulletins would probably be quite popular in some areas. 

This kind of individual makes atheists look bad. No one likes easily-offended whiners. Even though I'm an atheist, and the deli owner sounds like a major Bible-thumper, I applaud him for telling off the whiner. Some customers aren't worth having.

HOT5 Daily 2/18/2010

1. "War and politics"And the case of Mullah Baradar.

Representative Sample: Clearly the Afghan War is tinged by more than its share of politics. Even in Washington and New York a political game is being played out. The BBC interviewed the New York Times to ask them why they so readily agreed to hold a scoop on Baradar’s capture at the request of President Obama whereas they vociferously objected to similar requests by President Bush.

2. "President Palin? Five Reasons It's More Likely Than You Think" This article should put a scare into rabid Palin-haters.

Representative Sample:The reality is that Sarah Palin is a serious contender for the 2012 Republican Party nomination. And if things don't get better economically, she may just win the general election as well.

3. "Catholic Sex Abuse in Germany" Here we go again. The Catholic Church and sex abuse just seem to go together. 

Representative Sample: the pattern we're now seeing from abuse victims who've come forward is very much the same as we've seen in other countries - sexual predators among the priesthood whose proclivities were well known to the church higher-ups, but who were quietly shuffled from parish to parish rather than turned over to law enforcement, enabling them to continue preying on innocents

4. "A Scale Depicting Extraordinary Claims" Interesting analysis.

Representative Sample: 1) The larger the claim is then the less likely it is to be true. 2) The larger the claim is then the more evidence is needed to show that it is true. 3) The larger the claim is then the more other things have to be defended such that if any one of these other things are shown to be improbable then the whole house of cards falls to the ground.

5. "Top Ten Reasons Men Prefer Guns Over Women" Pretty funny. The women's version is in the comments.

Representative Sample: #8. If you admire a friend's gun and tell him so, he will probably let you try it out a few times.

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

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Imaginary Numbers

The latest line from the administration is that people just don't realize the true greatness and effect of last year's stimulus package. This theme has been picked up by some media outlets. Here's CBS,
President Obama's economic stimulus, which will likely ultimately cost around $862 billion, has in its first year saved or created at least 1.6 million jobs. 

Yet just about the only people who seem to realize that fact seem to be the number-crunchers who put together the data

Polls show that only 6% think the stimulus created jobs. Why? Unlike what CBS reports, the 1.6 million jobs number is not a fact. Not only is it not a fact, it is completely imaginary. It doesn't matter what economic training you have, or how many "non-partisan economic research firms" come up with numbers, no one knows exactly what would have happened had there been no stimulus. It is arguably possible to identify some jobs that may have been created as a direct result of the stimulus, but it is impossible to determine what jobs would have been lost that were not lost. It is even possible that the job situation would be better had there been no stimulus. We simply don't know, because there is no way to look at what would have been. And unlike imaginary numbers, that's an actual fact.

If you want another reason why the vast majority of Americans refuse to believe imaginary numbers, look no further than the words of the administration itself.

On the one-year anniversary of the bill's signing, President Obama said the $787 billion package saved 2 million jobs and helped prevent a "second depression."
According to the CBS article I linked above, multiple economic research firms say that the stimulus saved or created 1.6 million jobs. But for some reason Obama adds 400,000 to just the "saved" total, and then makes a wild, unsupported assertion that it prevented a depression. If the 1.6 million number were actually some sort of fact, wouldn't he stick with that number? He doesn't have to, because it's imaginary. Why not just round it up to 2 million? Next he'll be claiming it prevented half of America from starving to death. When you are making assertions about things that are unknowable, you can use whatever imaginary numbers you want. But don't be surprised when people refuse to believe you. 

HOT5 Daily 2/17/2010

1. "Is Israel-Bashing Anti-Semitic?" Not always, but sometimes its hard to tell since the language tends to overlap.

Representative Sample: In the United States, where pro-Israel feeling runs stronger and the activist left is weaker, the delegitimization project focuses less on Israel itself, and more on Israel's supporters.

2. "Mass Delusion Sweeping Dem Base" That's a pretty normal state for them.

Representative Sample: The Democratic base has convinced itself that the problem is that Obama has not succeeded in passing health care legislation and other items on his agenda. The possibility that their agenda is being rejected by voters never enters their minds.

3. "Mo’ Nukes! Mo’ Nukes!" Let's see how long it takes to actually build some.

Representative Sample:the President’s “system of incentives” is basically a $54 billion-dollar corporate welfare program that he would be railing against if the Republicans had proposed it. This is a big win for anyone who thinks we should have an energy policy that is both environmentally and economically sound. Republicans should be gracious to the President, praise him for his first tenatives steps toward that end, and encourage him to do more of it.

4. "Hitchens - Amnesty has lost sight of its original purpose" A big understatement.

Representative Sample: The tendency of Amnesty's new direction, set a couple of decades ago now, is that it will provide a platform even for Taliban sympathisers, so long as they are willing to rail against human rights violations by the West.

5. "Atheists in Business: The Price of Prejudice" I've been open about being an atheist at three different businesses, so I found this article interesting.

Representative Sample:I've encountered prejudice of all kinds at the state university where I am employed (e.g., race, age, sexual orientation, gender, and atheism). What stands out to me is that most people seem to know that it is inappropriate and try to conceal it, except when it comes to atheists.

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

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Left and the Taliban Capture

It was pretty funny skimming through left-wing blogs today to see the reaction to the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. One of the the big themes is that this shows how effective Obama is against terrorism, supposedly discrediting criticism by people like Dick Cheney. A typical example can be found in the Washington Monthly. Steve Benen is an always entertaining window into left-wing thought. And although usually laughable, he doesn't come off like raving hate-filled loon, like many of his comrades on the left. Here's how he opens up,

The capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban's top military commander, is no small matter. It's a "major victory." Given that Baradar is the most significant Taliban figure to be detained since the war began, and his role in leading the Taliban's military operations, this is a success that may very well pay considerable dividends for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

That may be true. But if you've ever read Benen's stuff before, or paid much attention to the left in general over the last several years, it's hard to read that without laughing at the shameless hypocrisy on display. There isn't the slightest doubt that if this were 2007, and the capture of Baradar had occurred under Bush, that Benen would be telling us how meaningless it was, how it was just a case of "whack-a-mole," that Baradar would just be replaced by someone else, and that the Bush administration was utterly clueless in its management of the Afghan War. But since it occurred under Obama, it's a great victory. 

The thrust of Benen's article is that Obama should exploit the capture for political purposes, that this episode proves Obama is fantastic on national security -- which apparently only involves operations in Pakistan -- and that all criticism is nothing more than "an aggressive misinformation campaign." On the first -- he need not worry. The administration is more than happy to claim credit for just about anything, even the success of a war the President and Vice-President did their best to undermine when they were in Congress. I'm sure they won't be shy in using the capture for political purposes. Regardless of this success, most criticism of Obama on national security is well-deserved, and not affected in the slightest by the capture of a major Taliban figure.  Some on the right -- those willing to be fair to the president -- have already given him credit for his efforts in the Afghan War. That's why he's received substantial Republican support in that area. But national security is about a lot more than Afghanistan and Pakistan. Since Benen no doubt knows this, I'll just chalk up his assertions to the usual intellectual dishonesty. 

HOT5 Daily 2/16/2010

1. "Clinton gets it wrong on Iranian nukes" Is there anything the administration is right about on Iran?

Representative Sample: her assessment of the potential threat to the U.S. does not comport with the evidence on Iran’s ballistic missile programs. Many U.S. facilities and thousands of American personnel are of course already within range of Iran’s short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, which Director of National Intelligence Adm. Dennis Blair recently testified (pdf) are “inherently capable of delivering WMD.”

2. "The tryanny of dreams" The dangers of utopianism.

Representative Sample: Socialist Utopian Robert Owen advocated, what he called" the scientific arrangement of the people." In such Utopian visions people are tools to be used, clay that formed at the hands of the visionary to fit his ideals. It is said that the road to hell is paved with good intentions. The road to tyranny is similarly paved.

3. "Stuck On Stupid, Still" I have a visceral sympathy for this sort of view, but I don't think the overall situation lends itself to a maximum violence solution. Plus there's no way we have the political will in either party to carry out such a policy.

Representative Sample: I’m tired of our spineless government wasting our blood and treasure to fight the most minimal possible conflict. F*** that. Blow the living sh** out of everything and anything until there are no more enemies. Then come home. If this is how this “necessary war” is to be fought, tuck in your ties and bring our guys home. The 5000 years it will take to achieve any semblance of victory this way is not worth the price we will be forced to pay.

4. "O Death Penalty, Where Is Thy Sting?" Death penalty = way too slow and badly managed in almost every way possible.

Representative Sample: If we are to have the death penalty in this country, the system needs to be thoroughly reformed to prevent the gaming of it that has rendered the system absurd. A big part of the problem here, of course, is the duel sovereignty of the states and the federal government. Appeals bounce back and forth between the two justice systems with agonizing slowness.

5. "The raw face of the Death Star moon" That's no moon. Oh wait, actually it is. Includes images.

Representative Sample: Of all the moons in the solar system, Mimas is one of the most recognizable. And new pictures from Cassini show us again just why.

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

Monday, February 15, 2010

Obama's Special Recipe

Are you ready to bake? I hope so, because the Unreligious Right has obtained an exclusive copy of Obama's Special Recipe. Don't worry, it requires no knowledge or experience whatsoever to make. Let's get started. The ingredient list is at the end.

We'll start with a big can of Bush-Cheney Special Blend. That's going to be the basis of our recipe. But first skim some of the unpleasant residue off the top, and make sure you sift out most of the particles of national self-interest. They conflict with many of our ingredients. While you are at it, remove some of the CIA chunks. But make sure you don't accidentally take out any of the incompetence or arrogance. Those are key parts of the blend, and critical flavors for this recipe. 

Now you want to mix in the appeasement. Be generous, you can't have too much. Make sure you use the apology flavored brand. Stir everything together.

It's time to make our special syrup. It combines three key ingredients that really reflect the signature of this dish. Whisk together the empty talk, naivete, and wishful thinking. When they are well-blended, add the syrup to the mix. Stir. 

Season the mix with a liberal dose of foolish internationalism. That will also counteract any of the national self-interest you might not have gotten out of the Bush-Cheney Special Blend. Throw in a couple of tablespoons of incompetence. I know there's quite a bit in the Bush-Cheney stuff, but we need more. Stir vigorously until everything is well-mixed.

Good news, you are now done with the filling. Set it aside while we work on the topping. It's important to note that this topping will only sit on a small part of the overall dish, because its flavors offer a strong contrast. Mix together the national self-interest, war, reinforcements, and offensives. Bind the whole thing together by adding in the assassination. Form the topping and set it aside.

Grease up your baking dish with a double-thick coating of blind legalism. Use the whole can if necessary. Pour in the filling. Place the topping on the right side of the dish. Bake for 4-8 years.

List of Ingredients

For the filling

Large can of Bush-Cheney Special Blend
1 bag of appeasement -- apology flavored.
1 cup empty talk
1 cup naivete
1 cup wishful thinking
about a half cup of foolish internationalism
2 1/2 heaping tablespoons of incompetence

The topping

1 teaspoon national self-interest
3 tablespoons war
2 teaspoons reinforcements
1 teaspoon offensives
1/4 cup of assassination. (Drone brand works best in this recipe).


1 can of blind legalism.

Laughing at Hillary & Obama

It's hard not to laugh when reading front page news today about Hillary, Obama & Iran. It's a carnival of foreign policy cluelessness. Here's Hillary,
“We see that the government in Iran, the supreme leader, the president, the Parliament, is being supplanted and that Iran is moving towards a military dictatorship.”
From this quote it appears that Clinton actually thinks the current government has some sort of legitimacy, and that we should worry about it being supplanted, as if it were just some normal state rather than a theocracy that conducted a sham election, and is currently engaged in a vicious repression of dissent.
she reiterated that the United States had no plans to carry out a military strike against the Iranian government.
Yeah, that's real smart. We are trying to pressure them on their nuclear program, but let's tell them that the only thing they actually fear isn't going to happen.
Her comments on Monday underscored the Obama administration’s determination to single out the elite corps as a way to curb Iran’s nuclear program.
Translation: They don't have the slightest idea what to do. Appeasement hasn't worked, and they are looking for some narrow way to impose sanctions and pretend they are actually doing something.
“We have bent over backwards to say to the Islamic Republic of Iran that we are willing to have a constructive conversation about how they can align themselves with international norms and rules and re-enter as full members of the international community,” Mr. Obama said in a news conference last Tuesday. “They have made their choice so far.”
Yes you have. And it was pretty stupid. How about waking up? Obama still hasn't figured out that Iran isn't worried about the so-called "international community." Their entire policy toward Iran is a big joke, and they still don't get it. 

HOT5 Daily 2/15/2010

1. "If The Tree of Global Warming Fell In The Living Rooms of The American Press And No One Reported It Would It Make A Sound?" For some reason the latest major developments are going underreported in the U.S. press. 

Representative Sample: An open request to the British Press. In addition to absolutely kicking the arse of your counterparts in the American unofficially state-run media on the subject of so-called “climate change” – your next story should be about how and why they have ignored this story completely.

2. "India: Terror Returns After Brief Quiescence" Could it be home-grown?

Representative Sample:This blast could be the handiwork of Indian Mujahideen terror group who has definitely a strong base in the city. Remember, the media wing of IM is based in the city. But surprisingly, even though the wing used to alert media with press communiqué before or after the blasts, nobody from IM has taken the responsibility so far.

3. "E. Palo Alto Cop Advocates Killing 2nd Amendment Supporters" Another cop we don't need on anyone's police force.

Representative Sample: If the detective really did say that, he needs to be fired. Perhaps he should try being a little more sensitive to the Second Amendment before trying to hide behind the First. Understand that it is not his opinion that is problematic, but the expressed intention to abuse his authority and desire to kill someone that isn’t breaking the law or endangering others.

4. "Physicists play Lego with photons" Pretty amazing.

Representative Sample: by manipulating a mysterious quantum property of light known as entanglement, they are able to mount up to two photons on top of one another to construct a variety of quantum states of light -- that is, build two-story quantum toy houses of any style and architecture.

5. "Fundamentalists vs. Liberal Christians" I've made some of these points repeatedly. Apparently even some atheists on the left feel the same.

Representative Sample: Religious liberals, as compared with fundamentalists, have no coherent theory or worldview. They are all over the place in picking various bits they like while ignoring the parts they don't care for. This results in an incoherent mosaic of ideas slapped together without any sort of unifying principles. Much like the "New Age" perspectives many Christians love to criticize, liberal religion offers no theory to understand or evaluate.

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

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Foreign Praise for U.S. Global Power

Here's something you don't see everyday, a foreign newspaper editorializing in favor of U.S. "global dominance." It comes from The Australian, in the person of Foreign Editor, Greg Sheridan, who draws a number of conclusions from the recent U.S. Quarterly Defense Review.  Sheridan rejects the popular notion of major U.S. decline, and argues that U.S. dominance will continue for the foreseeable future. And he thinks that's a good thing. I agree, but it's unusual to hear that perspective from a non-American, even from closely allied countries.  Here are some key excerpts:
The defence budget and the QDR are critically important because they indicate that Barack Obama is determined to keep the US as the world's No 1 military power, and one that can carry out all the global responsibilities that Americans normally sign up for.
Normally we hear complaints about U.S. "arrogance," and even "imperialism." Sheridan points out that U.S. power is the basis of Asian security for countries such as Australia.
The network of US treaties -- the San Francisco system -- has been the bedrock of Asian security since World War II, and it has allowed for Asia's economic miracle. ... Only the US can provide the framework of security that has kept the Asia Pacific stable, and incidentally provided for Australia's security, over the past several decades. No other power can do it physically, politically or morally, especially not China.
He concludes,
Obama's defence budget and QDR demonstrate that the US has not lost the taste for global military leadership. For which we should all give thanks.
The whole thing is worth reading, as a welcome breath of fresh air in an atmosphere often polluted by anti-Americanism.

Public Prayer

Many atheist criticisms of religion in general, and Christianity in particular, often hit familiar themes. But occasionally someone brings up a good point I haven't seen before. Mark at Proud Atheists has an excellent post up called, "'I’ll Pray For You'." He notes that the Bible specifically instructs people to pray secretly, and condemns forms of public prayer as hypocrisy. Yet numerous Christians feel free to ignore these instructions.

Liberal forms of Christianity do not adhere to biblical literacy, and basically pick and choose from biblical teachings. This is also true of the largest conservative Christian denomination, the Catholic Church. Its practices are founded on tradition and church teaching. The Bible is important, but in a subsidiary role. If you doubt this, here on Saint Valentine's Day, see if you can find the biblical doctrine of Catholic sainthood. So maybe we should give those Christians a pass on violating biblical instructions on prayer. But what about the huge numbers of evangelical Protestants, especially here in the U.S.?

Many evangelical, fundamentalist, and conservative Protestant Christians venerate the Bible as the literal word of God. The basis for their faith itself is Sola Scriptura, it rests on scripture alone. Millions of these believers are so convinced of the divine authority of the Bible that they reject multiple branches of modern science in favor of the Genesis creation myth. The Bible's words guide their thinking all sorts of areas, such as in their hostility to homosexuality. But for some reason, these same conservative, Bible-believing Christians, are among the worst serial public prayers around. Not only do they refuse to obey biblical instructions to pray secretly and unobtrusively, but they hold prayer meetings & prayer breakfasts, demand that students be allowed to pray openly in public schools, and get offended at the suggestion that public prayers at school events such as football games might not be a good idea. Worst of all, some of them even preach on television and pray in front of millions of viewers, making their prayers as obnoxiously public as possible.

The Bible calls people who offer up public prayers "hypocrites." What should we call people that take their belief in Biblical literacy to ridiculous extremes, yet refuse to obey clear, simple Biblical instructions on how to pray?

HOT5 Daily 2/14/2010

1. "What Conservatism Is Not" Not Teddy Roosevelt. 

Representative Sample: A big mistake many conservatives make today is to confuse the the means of achieving the progressive vision of society with the ideology of progressivism itself. In part, this can be blamed on the failure of our public education system

2. "What I Would Do If I Were Cheney" Good advice.

Representative Sample: Instead of slamming Obama, I’d answer every question with a quiet smile: “Well obviously rhetoric gets heated on the campaign trail. But President Bush and I are very pleased to see that our successors have recognized the essential rightness of our actions and that they are continuing them in every essential respect.”

3. "The Pending Implosion Of Liberal Socialism" Sounds good, but implosions tend to do a lot of damage.

Representative Sample: For too long, too many have seen government as superior or in competition with ‘the markets’ – in other words the rest of us outside government. Government should be the servant of the people and their markets, not the enemy. We have let government use the bogey of ‘big business’ to ally with ‘big business’ to keep the average people constrained and stagnant.

4. "Infidelaphobia"A much better term than "Islamophobia," which is most often used as a smear against legitimate criticism of Islam.

Representative Sample: Frankly, I've occasionally been an accidental observer of female bottom-shelf events and it's never resulted in thoughts of infidel hygiene and public health risks.

5. "New Punctuation Mark Denotes Sincerity" Pretty amusing.

Representative Sample: A graphic design firm has introduced a new punctuation mark intended to denote expressions of sincerity in a similar way to the use of quotation marks to indicate irony.

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

Saturday, February 13, 2010

HOT5 Daily 2/13/2010

1. "Things We Dare Not Do (and What That Says About Society)"Makes a number of excellent points.

Representative Sample: When did the idea that paid security forces are not allowed to use force to fulfill their basic duty become the rule that must be obeyed? The guards’ failure to act is an abomination and an abdication of their manhood. Yet they do not deserve the blame; rather, our system that is dominated by the ever-present fear of being sued in court is what created the circumstances that forbade them from interfering on Baker’s behalf. Such is duty and chivalry in the age of the liberal trial lawyer.

2. "Lisbon Treaty Already Undermining U.S. National Security" Unfortunately not a surprise.

Representative Sample: Following the introduction of the EU’s Lisbon Treaty, the European Parliament has claimed its first scalp thanks to the increased powers bestowed upon it by the Treaty; and it has a distinctly anti-American flavor.

3. "What would've happened if...?" Interesting counterfactual historical speculation.

Representative Sample: 1920s: British returned soldiers, embittered by the "stab in the back" from the politicians who surrendered to Germany, form the kernel of a mass fascist movement. In the mid-1930s, a charismatic war poet, backed by the army and the people, seizes power as "Lord Protector"

4. "Turtleism in the Age of Reason" Turtleist apologetics.

Representative Sample:In years past, our faith in Our Almighty Turtle was dismissed as a blind faith as if the number of Turtleists itself did not prove the existence of the Turtle. However, we are here to assert that our faith is based on real evidence, and it is the Aturtleists who are dependent on faith in science and a misguided logic. I, for one, don’t have enough faith to be an Aturtleist.

5. "Israel Upgrades Its Antimissile Plans" For obvious reasons.

Representative Sample: given the urgent need to meet the growing ballistic missile threat from Iran, IAI is pressing ahead with the Arrow-3 antiballistic missile, the development of which is being funded partly by the U.S.

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

Friday, February 12, 2010

List of Obama Nicknames

One thing you can say about Obama is that he's inspired all sorts of nicknames, some very creative. I started to make my own list, but Brain Shavings has "The Pretty Darn Exhaustive Obama Nickname List." Check it out. They left out some that I've seen, such as:

Chairman Zero

The Socialist Savior

The Marxist Messiah

The Moonbat Messiah

The Black Jimmy Carter

and for Star Wars fans, one I saw back during the campaign:

Admiral Barackbar ("It's a trap!").

Obama's name just lends itself to being turned into nicknames -- even for his followers, such as:





and Obami.

Some of the nicknames may be Obamanible, but expect new ones. It'll be an Obamanation until at least 2012.

HOT5 Daily 2/12/2010

1. "Another Approach to Iran" I'm not wild about this approach, but it can't be any less successful than Obama's empty talk. 

Representative Sample: While the Obami fritter away time, dreaming up new excuses to do nothing on Iran, more responsible officials are moving forward. Today, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas and Sam Brownback, R-Kansas announced legislation to support the Iranian opposition’s efforts to take down the regime of Ali Hoseyni Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

2. "Obesity A National Security Issue?" There's no area of life which isn't an issue for the government -- if you are a Democrat.

Representative Sample: Michelle Obama has taken on the issue of childhood obesity and while this is certainly an issue that effects many children one has to wonder where it becomes an issue for the government. What children eat and how they are fed is a matter for parents, not the nannies in government.

3. "Do religions really prevent crime?" Apparently not, since we've always had both religion and crime.

Representative Sample:The religious claims of heavenly surveillance cameras are in real life generally accepted only by those who would follow the rules anyway and even part of them they will occasionally forget this thing in moments of passion or fury.

4. "Obama: “fierce advocate” for the free market" He's not just incompetent, he's delusional too.

Representative Sample:Takeovers of the financial, banking, and automotive sectors – and proposing a takeover of the healthcare industry – which would amount to the government controlling over 50% of the economy, and he considers himself a “fierce advocate for the free market?

5. "Putin Orders Obama Not to Defend America" Is more appeasement on the way?

Representative Sample:Is Barack Obama prepared to walk away from an equally bad deal with Vladimir Putin? I worry that he is so desperate for a treaty that he'll accept any treaty, even a bad one, rather than finish his term empty handed.

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

Thursday, February 11, 2010

The Congo War

Nicholas Kristof has an article in today's New York Times called, "The Grotesque Vocabulary in Congo." The title refers to two terms used to describe things that happen in the seemingly endless war.

“autocannibalism,” ... describes what happens when a militia here in eastern Congo’s endless war cuts flesh from living victims and forces them to eat it. ... Another is “re-rape.” The need for that term arose because doctors were seeing women and girls raped, re-raped and re-raped again, here in the world capital of murder, rape, mutilation.
This is what real war crimes look like, as opposed to ridiculous charges over whether the treatment of some terrorist constituted torture. Kristof thinks the U.S. needs to do something about the Congo War -- as if it is somehow a U.S. problem.
isn’t it time for the U.S. to lead a major, global diplomatic push for peace?
No, it most definitely isn't. One, because it isn't in the U.S. interest. Two, because we are not currently in a good position to do anything about it. And three, because a "push for peace" in Congo would be useless. Let's consider Kirstof's four point plan:

1. Pressure on Rwanda to stop funding its pet Tutsi militia in Congo. Good luck with that. Even if successful, that wouldn't stop the conflict.

2. An international regime to monitor mineral exports from Congo so that warlords do not monetize their militias by exporting minerals through Rwanda, Uganda and Burundi. Oh please. Anything with the word "international" in it is not going to work effectively.  Corruption in Africa is endemic. There have already been similar attempts to restrict imports and exports. 

3. A major push to demobilize Rwandan Hutu fighters and return as many as possible to civilian life in Rwanda or settlements in Congo or Burundi. That should be coupled with a crackdown on leaders in Congo and those who direct action from Europe and the United States. Would that help if it were possible to accomplish? Maybe a little. But the conflict in Congo would continue.

4. A drive to professionalize the Congolese Army and end the impunity for murder, torture and rape, starting with the arrest of Jean Bosco Ntaganda on his warrant for war crimes. Completely unrealistic. "Professionalizing" the Congolese Army is far easier said than done -- ask the people training the Afghan army -- and aid directed to that purpose is almost certain to be misused. And arresting an individual for war crimes is pointless and nothing more than a drop in the bucket.

Rather than a "push for peace,"a more likely solution for stabilizing the Congo involves far greater violence and mass killing, where groups like the Lords Resistance Army are destroyed, their leaders killed, their followers slaughtered in great numbers, and the remainder terrorized into submission. As long as there are multiple factions, strong enough to fight and kill their enemies, but too weak to effectively control the country, the war is probably going to continue. Getting the U.S. more involved in the Congo is a terrible idea. In Afghanistan we already face a similar situation on a somewhat smaller scale. And there is no end in sight to that conflict. The last thing we need is a massive nation building project in Africa -- because that's what it would take, another war directed by the U.S., involving more and more U.S. troops, and an incalculable amount of money and other aid.