Saturday, July 31, 2010

Deport the Protesters

The Wall Street Journal has an article up called, "Young Illegals Out Themselves, Daring To Be Deported."

young illegal immigrants in caps and gowns entered the Hart Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C., and began sit-ins in the offices of several senators. Twelve soon returned to the atrium, where they formed a circle around a banner reading "Undocumented and Unafraid." Refusing to be moved, the students were arrested by Capitol Police... a similar protest by a separate but allied group was taking place at Lafayette Square in front of the White House. These students went a step further. Openly announcing their immigration status and giving their full names just across the Mall from Immigration and Customs Enforcement headquarters
According to the article, ICE will not initiate deportation procedures against these protesters, fearing the reaction.

As anyone reading this blog knows, I have significant sympathy for illegal aliens, support expanding immigration, and favor a path to citizenship for those who entered illegally but are now working and not causing trouble. But in my opinion, every single one of those protesters, and any other illegal alien who acts in similar fashion, should be immediately deported. It's the height of arrogance and obnoxious behavior to illegally enter a country, openly declare that you've flouted the laws of that country, and dare the authorities to deport you -- as if you are somehow in the right. That's exactly the type of behavior -- an arrogant attitude of entitlement -- that generates widespread disgust with illegal aliens. It tarnishes the majority who just want a better life. Instead of rounding up people working quietly at restaurants, cleaning services, landscaping and other service occupations, our immigration enforcement agencies should target people like these students in Washington, DC. 

The protests this month are most significant not because of any direct influence they may have on lawmakers, but because they are drawing other young people with illegal status out into the open, undoing the chilling effect that legal vulnerability has long had on illegal immigrants' political activism.
Let's restore that chilling effect. Deport them all.

HOT5 Daily 7/31/2010

1. "Science Turns Authoritarian"" An interesting argument about why science has lost credibility with some people.

Representative Sample: science is not losing its credibility because people no longer like or believe in the idea of scientific discovery, but because science has taken on an authoritarian tone, and has let itself be co-opted by pressure groups who want the government to force people to change their behavior.

2. "Polling Conservative Bloggers On Race, Jesse Jackson, the NAACP, & False Accusations of Racism" Views from the right.

Representative Sample: Right Wing News emailed more than 260 right-of-center bloggers and asked them to answer 11 questions about race.

3. "Reading terrorists minds about imminent attack" A new form of lie detection.

Representative Sample: Imagine technology that allows you to get inside the mind of a terrorist to know how, when and where the next attack will occur.

4. "The Counselor, The Mosque, and the Burqa" Some good points

Representative Sample: I read with interest the news story about the young Christian woman who was blocked from a graduate school program in counseling because her religious scruples would prevent her from counseling gays.

5. "How Much Socialists Steal" A graphic breakdown of who pays taxes.

Representative Sample: It's a graphic

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

Friday, July 30, 2010

Things Few People Know About

Did you know that the U.S. just completed its first-ever military exercise with Cambodia?
The recently completed US-Cambodia military drills, known as "Angkor Sentinel 10", involved 1,200 soldiers from 23 countries and were ostensibly part of Washington's Global Peace Operations Initiative, a program run jointly by the US Department of Defense and State Department to help train global peacekeepers against insurgency, terrorism, crime and ethnic conflict.
According to the article, although it had token multinational participation, it was primarily a U.S.-Cambodian affair. The U.S. has been providing funding and training for the Cambodian military since 2006. Along with military assistance, the U.S. is also providing economic aid.
Washington is currently one of Cambodia's largest donors with more than $72 million in assistance this year focused on health, education, economic development and government accountability. The US donated $65 million in 2009.
The whole article is interesting reading, and provides many more details, including the controversial nature of U.S. involvement with the Cambodian armed forces, which don't exactly have a sterling reputation. In the view of Clifford McCoy, the author, U.S. aid to Cambodia is part of a contest for influence with China. The quest to buy friends continues. 

HOT5 Daily 7/30/2010

1. "Round One Masque for the "Ground Zero Mosque"" One of the better articles I've seen on the NYC mosque controversy.

Representative Sample: Moslems have as much right to erect Islamic cultural and religious centers as do members of any other religion; we have freedom of religion in America. But that does bring us to the other side of this controversy: How far does religious liberty extend? And must we treat every religious institution with exactly the same degree of scrutiny as all of the others, or can we discriminate on the basis of actual behavior?

2. "Say it after me: “If Bush had said this…”" There would probably have been calls for his impeachment.

Representative Sample: if Reagan, either of the Bushes, Clinton… or any modern president had said that, there would be huge demonstrations and race hustlers such as Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton would be calling for his resignation. If it were said at a Tea Party or put on a sign, it would be taken as proof that the Tea Parties are just a racist front.

3. "The Truth About Scientology (Infographic)" Scientology vs. reality in graphic form.

Representative Sample: It's a graphic.

4. "Farms: On the Moon? Quite Likely" Could we grow food for other space exploration missions?

Representative Sample: Apollo-era research suggested that plants would grow fine in moon soil, and that it was safe for food crops. But there just wasn't enough to do thorough field testing (literally and figuratively) with what we found on Earth's satellite.

5. "Six reasons why you won't upload your mind" Just in case you had plans to do so. Links an interesting article and comments on it.

Representative Sample: I agree that our understanding of human consciousness and how it supervenes on brain activity is at a primitive stage, and there's no sign that it's improving at the rate needed. The lack of sufficiently powerful hardware is not the real issue: the deepest problems would remain even if we had infinite computing power available.

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

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Karzai Has a Point

I haven't exactly been a big fan of Afghan President Hamid Karzai, but today he raised a valid point regarding the conduct of the war.
"The war against terrorism is not in the villages or houses of Afghanistan... but in the sanctuaries, sources of funding and training (of terrorism), and they lie outside Afghanistan," ... "It is a different question whether Afghanistan has the ability to tackle this," he said in response to a question about Pakistan support for the Taliban and why the conflict was dragging on. "... but our allies have this capability. The question now is ‘why they are not taking action’?"
It is extremely difficult to defeat an insurgency if the insurgents have safe havens and support outside the country where they are fighting. We are hitting them with the drone assassination program, but although a deadly form of harassment and disruption, that alone isn't going to eliminate their Pakistani bases. It is arguable that the Taliban can never be defeated until and unless Pakistan fully joins the fight on their side of the border. Half-measures against some Taliban elements are just not going to get it done. There are many problems with Karzai, but he's put his finger on one of the main issues.

HOT5 Daily 7/29/2010

1. "Democrat Party unveils cute, fuzzy mascot to distract liberals from its unblemished streak of domestic, economic and foreign policy blunders" Long title, amusing article.

Representative Sample: "Look at that insurance company's caveman and lizard ads. Or that f***ing duck! A duck! It increased sales like a gazillion percent for them."

2. "Andrew Sullivan Attacks Me Without Bothering to Consider What I Wrote Yeah, that's a surprise. For those wondering why I even bother linking takedowns of an obvious fool like Andrew Sullivan, it's because he has a large readership and people actually take him seriously. I know it's hard to believe.

Representative Sample: There is something in diplomacy between war and appeasement. It is called carrots and sticks, costs and benefits, quid pro quo. Cameron's speech was a mess because he abandoned that principle and resorted only to simple-minded flattery. Middle Eastern peoples--Muslim or otherwise--know what that signals: weakness, which invites ridicule and aggressiveness.

3. "Exclusive: Google, CIA Invest in ‘Future’ of Web Monitoring" And people get upset when I refer to the "right" of privacy as imaginary.

Representative Sample: America’s spy services have become increasingly interested in mining “open source intelligence” — information that’s publicly available, but often hidden in the daily avalanche of TV shows, newspaper articles, blog posts, online videos and radio reports.

4. "10 Things About Turning 40" Some of these ring true. Others are a bit out there.

Representative Sample: After 39 years of not being 40, I decided to give it a try. Being two score is unlike anything before it so I feel it would be prudent to warn you about a few things…

5. "Hamas Cracking Down On Un-Islamic Panties" Lingerie shops not allowed to display lingerie.

Representative Sample: This will not do much to bolster the assurances of Western academics and journalists that – contrary to deceit-soaked Zionist propaganda – Hamas is actually a secular civil society movement.

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

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Government Motors in Action

I've been reading the stories today about GM's new electric car, the Volt. It's another prime example of the government in action. According to just released information, a low-end Volt will cost $41,000. That's right, 41k for a car that goes only 40 miles on its battery charge, before needing a gas generator to go another 340. Also, you have to plug it in each night for several hours -- cost of electricity unknown. This is the wonder car that the Obama administration has been spending billions to help fund. Why would anyone actually buy one?

First of all, it's not even as cost-effective as the competition. Nissan's Leaf is all-electric, goes 100 miles on its charge and costs around 8,000 less. Second, why spend 41 grand for a brand-new, unproven vehicle design, when there are already better options if you want to blow money just to make a statement? Why would you buy this overpriced first-generation product when you can buy a Toyota Prius with its proven design? Here's an excellent comparison of Volt vs. Prius. Neither are cost-effective vs. normal gas-powered cars, unless you drive a huge amount, but the Prius is clearly a better option. 

Today, you can lease a Prius for $199.00 per month, while a Volt lease will soon cost $350.00. ... since you can buy two Prius hybrids for the price of one Volt, there isn’t even a reason to compare purchasing cost-effectiveness. When it comes to purchasing, the Prius is a far better deal. Moreover, the battery pack on the Volt will probably not be as reliable, long term, as has been the much cheaper Prius battery pack.
Also, as the same article points out, even after a decade of production, hybrids have less than 3% of the market. Most people just aren't willing to waste extra money in order to pretend they are being more environmentally conscious. So why are we blowing taxpayer money funding this sort of GM product?

HOT5 Daily 7/28/2010

1. "Against Evil" Richard Perle responds to revisionist history about Ronald Reagan.

Representative Sample: Beinart is not alone in confusing a tough, deliberate application of American power to achieve American ends with the bellicose reckless abandon that he seems to think is the essence of a "conservative" foreign policy. Indeed, it is a common liberal conceit

2. "France Declares War on Al-Qaeda...9 Years Too Late" Yeah, it's about time.

Representative Sample: France is a potential hotbed of Islamic fundamentalism. The French have a huge Arab population, one of the largest in Europe. Their Arab minority is also poor, uneducated, and therefore, quite pliable to outside rhetoric. They have long been blind to the threat.

3. "Venezuela: Haven for Terrorists?" Unfortunately yes.

Representative Sample: There are 80 easily verifiable terrorist camps inside Venezuela, which the OAS declined to investigate. But besides harboring terrorists and five top FARC leaders, there’s a disturbing sense that FARC has penetrated Venezuela’s government at the highest levels

4. "Poking China in the Chest" It deserves a few pokes for aiding and abetting North Korea's behavior.

Representative Sample: After backing down on initial plans to operate George Washington in the Yellow Sea as part of the initial round of US-RoK exercises in response to the sinking of the Cheonan, State and Defense seem to have come back with a counterpunch that will no doubt knock policymakers in Beijing off balance.

5. "Flying Spaghetti Monster, the game" Touch people with his noodly appendage and convert them.

Representative Sample: It's a game.

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

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Deporting Gays to Iran

The Obama administration has been bending over backwards to avoid deporting Guantanamo prisoners to countries where they might be mistreated.  That's why we didn't sent the Uighurs to China, even though the Chinese wanted them and it would have been to the U.S. advantage diplomatically. But for some reason, that same administration is scheduled to deport a gay Iranian illegal immigrant back to Iran -- where openly gay people are killed. You'd think this would be a clear case for asylum. There's no question that Iran persecutes homosexuals. But that's not how our bureaucracy operates. 
Abdollahi's case for asylum is not cut and dry: As an undocumented U.S. resident for twenty years, he missed the one-year window of opportunity by law to proactively apply for protected status. He now faces the more difficult task of appealing defensively before an immigration judge.
This man, aside from being gay, has been in the U.S. for twenty years. His parents brought him here when he was four years old. Why is this someone who needs to be deported, let alone to a country that might kill him for his sexual orientation? Is there any better example of the insanity of our immigration laws and bureaucracy? Rather than fighting deportation, Abdollahi should be on a fast-track to U.S. citizenship

It's Only 2.6 Billion Dollars

From the front page of the Washington Post comes yet another story about just how well our government manages money. The Defense Department spent $2.6 billion dollars of Iraqi oil money, and has no idea exactly what it was spent on. Even for the Defense Department, 2.6 billion is a fair amount of money, more than half the cost of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.

Now you might be tempted to think something like, oh well, it was just Iraqi money anyway. But at the bottom of the article, after reviewing assorted fiscal mismanagement and incompetence in Iraq, the Post points out something else.

The United States also has spent more than $50 billion in taxpayer money for reconstruction projects in Iraq.
If the Pentagon can't account for $2.6 billion, what are the odds that this $50 billion was spent wisely?

Some Decent Liberals

Back in December I made fun of a post on a liberal blog called, The Confluence. I happened to see a link to the same blog at Memeorandum, underneath the latest Journolist story involving Trig Truther speculation of the Andrew Sullivan variety. I was expecting it to be downplayed, or somehow turned into an attack on the right or Sarah Palin in typical leftist fashion. But I found something different. The person posting on the story, dakinkat, was pretty appalled by the behavior of the Journolist hacks.
A bunch of snooty men (and a few women) talking about a woman and a difficult pregnancy with a challenging outcome in the most inhumane way possible. No, make that the most uncivil way possible. Oh, I don’t know, it just all came out mean and creepy to me. ... Didn’t these folks have lives outside of Journolist? This is seedy journalism parodying itself.
This sentiment is echoed and amplified in the comments. I thought it was worth a post to note that at least some liberals react like decent human beings to the slimiest attacks on Sarah Palin and her family. Another reminder that it is possible to dislike Palin as a politician, without resorting to deranged hatred that gives rise to disgusting personal attacks and conspiracy theories.

HOT5 Daily 7/27/2010

1. "Why Foreign Policy Still Unites Conservatives" A good response to recent criticism.

Representative Sample: What Heilbrunn fails to grasp is that his desired foreign policy (and President Obama's) is at odds with the views of the American public. Americans don't accept that the United States is in decline. They like the idea that there is something exceptional about their country. They have no problem with cutting deals with countries like China and Russia, but they want their President to make sure that we get the best deal possible and only cede as much as necessary.

2. "Is the Supreme Court Conservative?" A nice debunking of a simplistic analysis in the New York Times.

Representative Sample: the claim that “all” (or even most) judicial decisions can be assigned an ideological value is simply laughable. Are all decisions favoring criminal defendants, unions, and people claiming discrimination or civil rights violations ”liberal” while those favoring prosecutors, employers, and the government “conservative” (as the scholars who maintain the database maintain)?

3. "Who would be a Nazi?" Links to an interesting article from 1941 discussing what type of people would become Nazis.

Representative Sample: This essay is dated but very pertinent today. Dorothy Thompson is just a name to most who are younger than I am but she had things to say that still speak to us 70 years later. Of course, Nazis are extinct, at least in the classical sense. They survive, however, as a type. This is as up to date as a guide to personality as it can be.

4. "The New Face of the IDF" The first Arab woman combat soldier in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Representative Sample: Jozef does not distinguish between Jew, Arab, Muslim or Christian – in as much as the katyusha rockets from across the border do not make the same distinction either. For her they are all equal; they are all Israelis. And so too is she.

5. "Japan to Build More Submarines" Japan has maintained a force of 18 submarines since 1976. Now it is going to increase that number by two.

Representative Sample: It would appear that between the North Koreans latest trouble making and the People’s Republic of China’s submarine penetrations into Japanese waters, that an arms race in submarines may have begun in Asia. After all, the best weapon against a submarine is another submarine.

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

Monday, July 26, 2010

A Useful Reminder About the Nature of the Enemy

France confirmed today that Michel Germaneau was murdered in Mali by a local Al Qaeda affiliate. He wasn't a soldier, and intelligence agent, or some other arm of the French government. He was a 78 year-old "humanitarian volunteer." He was kidnapped purely because of his nationality, and murdered in retaliation for a failed rescue attempted.

These are the types of terrorists the U.S. is currently fighting -- people who think nothing of kidnapping & murdering harmless old humanitarian workers. It's something to bear in mind the next time some useful idiot bleats about such terrorists having "rights" under international law, or calls actions taken against them "war crimes."

HOT5 Daily 7/26/2010

1. "The Case of Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer" Very long but interesting if you've followed any of the recent back & forth, or if you ever read Walt. 

Representative Sample: Walt and Mearsheimer have made seminal contributions to the field of international relations scholarship, and thanks in large part to their teachings, I consider myself a realist in viewing international affairs. But realists can disagree, and when it comes to Walt and Mearsheimer, they have wholly abandoned the realm of realist theory–not to mention a great deal of other respectable intellectual real estate–when it comes to discussing Israel, the Israel lobby, and the Middle East.

2. "The logs of war: Do the Wikileaks documents really tell us anything new?" It appears I'm not the only one asking that question and reaching similar conclusions. 

Representative Sample:  I'd say that so far the documents confirm what we already know about the war: It's going badly; Pakistan is not the world's greatest ally and is probably playing a double game; coalition forces have been responsible for far too many civilian casualties; and the United States doesn't have very reliable intelligence in Afghanistan.

3. "85 Years Later, And Little Has Changed" For some people scientific evidence will never be able to compete with religious beliefs, no matter how absurd.  

Representative Sample: An article on the 85th anniversary of the Scopes Monkey Trial states what we all know: that much of the country still hasn't accepted evolution. While it's true that "intelligent design" has been created as a pseudo-middle ground philosophy, the debate hasn't really changed

4. "The "Colonialism" Bogeyman Should Be Just About Dead" I wouldn't go that far, but some good points here. 

Representative Sample: So many Third World countries went through spasms of coups, counter-coups and coups to counter the counter-coups, and on and on, all the while holding fast to the myth that the colonial era was still the cause of all their dysfunction. Pakistan is only one of a multitude of poster children that illustrate the fruits of that game.

5. "German MG-42 machine gun, including what it is like at the receiving end" A video that gives you a small taste of what Allied forces had to go up against in the European theater during WW2.

Representative Sample: It's a video.

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

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Much Ado About Nothing: Afghanistan Edition

If you go to the Guardian website you'll see a sensational front page piece called, "Afghanistan: The War Logs." According to the paper a "massive leak of secret files exposes the real war in Afghanistan." The Guardian is all excited and happy about leaks of classified information that they think undermines the war effort. 

A huge cache of secret US military files today provides a devastating portrait of the failing war in Afghanistan
Really? Let's look at some of the things they cite.

coalition forces have killed hundreds of civilians in unreported incidents So what? It's well known that the accidental killing of civilians causes ongoing problems with the Afghan government. It's not at all surprising that the coalition would try to keep some incidents quiet. It's just a smart thing to do.

Taliban attacks have soared and Nato commanders fear neighbouring Pakistan and Iran are fuelling the insurgency. This is supposed to be startling classified information? Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention knows that Taliban attacks are on the rise, Pakistan is playing both sides, and Iran is meddling.

a secret "black" unit of special forces hunts down Taliban leaders for "kill or capture" without trial. That's a good thing. The only bad thing is that the existence of such information has been revealed to the press by various useful idiots for our enemies.

the US covered up evidence that the Taliban has acquired deadly surface-to-air missiles. Ridiculous use of the term "covered up." There could be all sorts of reasons why the U.S. would rather not publicize such information.

the coalition is increasingly using deadly Reaper drones to hunt and kill Taliban targets by remote control from a base in Nevada. Another big, so what? Everyone has long been aware of the U.S. drone assassination program. 

the Taliban has caused growing carnage with a massive escalation of its roadside bombing campaign, which has killed more than 2,000 civilians to date. Again, is this something that's supposed to be surprising or shocking?

The Guardian makes a big deal of various civilian casualty incidents. As with most anti-war types, they ignore the forest for the trees. Civilian casualties happen in all wars, and they are unavoidable in wars against an enemy that wears no uniforms, hides amongst the civilian population, and deliberately attempts to maximize civilian casualties. If anything the US and other coalition forces should be praised for their extreme efforts to minimize the loss of life among civilians -- to the point that they imperil the safety of their own forces. But as usual, the U.S. and its allies get no credit. No matter what steps we take, no matter how far we bend over backward to limit civilian casualties, it will never be enough to satisfy those that would rather put out propaganda benefiting our enemies.

Stay of Execution?

Anyone reading this blog for any length of time knows that I'm a strong supporter of the death penalty. Executions should be carried out faster, and there should be more of them. On the other hand, I think the death penalty should be reserved only for those who are clearly & unmistakably guilty. If there is any significant doubt about guilt, we should err on the side of allowing the criminal to live. Consider the following case featured on CBS News.  

Jeffrey David Matthews was convicted 16 years ago of murdering his uncle during a break-in. His aunt survived to testify against him, and he got the death penalty. He's on YouTube asking for a stay of execution.  According to the article, here is the evidence against him. 

  • accomplice said he pulled the trigger
  • stolen medicine from his aunt's home was found at his home
  • clothing matching his aunt's description of the murderer's outfit found at his home
  • he told others he was thinking of robbing his relatives
  • and most importantly, the murder weapon, which someone loaned him, was found at his home.

That's some pretty damning circumstantial evidence. But there are other factors that create doubt.

  • the accomplice recanted and now says another unnamed person was the murderer
  • the police officer who arrested him thinks he isn't guilty and didn't get a fair trial
  • there is no DNA or fingerprint evidence connecting him to the murder
  • he has two witnesses giving him an alibi that weren't called during trial

Even for as big a death penalty supporter as I, that's just too much doubt for me to sign off on his execution. In my opinion, if this article is substantially correct, the governor of Oklahoma should stay the execution. Jeffrey David Matthews may be a criminal low-life who deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison. And it's certainly possible he really is the murderer. But the evidence of his guilt is just not clear enough to warrant taking his life, and possibly making an irreversible mistake.

HOT5 Daily 7/25/2010

1. "Time to be bored with race" He probably speaks for many people, with all constant accusations and counter-accusations of racism constantly going on. 

Representative Sample: I have noticed of late that the moment someone starts talking about race, whether in person or, even more so, on television, my mind wanders and I start to feel very sleepy.

2. "Common values do not mean common interests" Makes some good points. 

Representative Sample: One of the popular misconceptions in international relations is that countries which share common values automatically possess common interests. It’s an attitude that is not only flawed historically but also dangerous as an influence on contemporary policy

3. "The Grenade Goes High-Tech" Flying, guided grenades.  

Representative Sample: Unmanned technology is getting into everything, even the lowly grenade. Missile house MBDA's US arm has unveiled TIGER - Tactical Grenade Enhanced Range - which is basically a 1lb warhead with inflatable wing, electric propeller, autopilot and camera attached.

4. "The Animal Connection" An interesting hypothesis that interaction with animals led to the evolution of human language. 

Representative Sample: Anthropologist Pat Shipman has written a paper and an upcoming book hypothesizing that our relationship with animals was a key component of recent human evolution. Working with animals, she argues, evolved out of our knowledge of animals as prey and predators. Our ancestors intently learned about the animals in their environment, so that they could better hunt prey and avoid becoming prey themselves. 

5. "Troops See Return on Investment in Iraq, U.S. General Says" A positive outlook on Iraq.

Representative Sample: Security, infrastructure, governance and other aspects of a fully functioning, sovereign nation are coming into sight in Iraq in such a way that servicemembers, many of whom have deployed there before, are seeing the fruits of their labor,

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

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Islamic Idol

I read with amusement an article in the LA Times about a popular Malaysian reality television show called "Imam Muda" (Young Leader). Since they are picking a religious leader, no women participants are allowed, of course. 

With its blend of doctrine and drama, it is a natural fit for Malaysia, a Southeast Asian nation that has tried to defend its Islamic traditions while welcoming high-tech industry and Western culture. ... The producers say they want to find a leader for these times, a pious but progressive Muslim who can show that religion remains relevant to young Malaysians despite the influence of Western pop culture.
It's on an "Islamic-themed" channel. The winner gets $6,400, a trip to Mecca, a car, a laptop and a dream job: "prayer leader" at a major mosque. Losers get beheaded. No, just kidding. But the winner also gets a chance to study religion in Saudi Arabia. That's a great idea. Send your young religious leader to Saudi Arabia where he might become radicalized and develop contacts with Islamic extremists. 

 Maybe the Catholic church could rip-off the concept and restructure it to pick new priests. Winner gets a trip to Rome, a job as a priest at a famous cathedral, and free counseling to avoid young boys.

HOT5 Daily 7/24/2010

1. "Still Waiting For Apologies" The utter hypocrisy of the left.

Representative Sample: And while we're at it, how about some apologies for all the false allegations by Frank Rich, Paul Krugman, Charles Blow and numerous left-wing bloggers claiming that health care protesters were violent, and falsely linking the Tea Parties to the Amy Bishop shooting, the IRS Plane Crasher, the Fort Hood attack, and the Pentagon shooter.

2. "Where is the Pentagon report on the Chinese military?" Five months overdue for some reason.

Representative Sample: It's not unusual for the report to be delivered late, but now that it is extremely late this year (it was due March 1), GOP senators are asking the Pentagon why.

3. "Saudi Man's Son Possessed By Genie" You have to watch out for those genies. Maybe the Saudis can borrow some exorcism experts from the Vatican.

Representative Sample: A Saudi man chained his son in the basement because he believed the man was possessed by a genie. An evil genie. An evil female genie.

4. "Forging a Greater Switzerland" From the what the... is this for real? files.

Representative Sample: The article below reads like a hoax: The SVP has proposed that Switzerland annex ethnically compatible adjacent regions of France, Germany, Austria, and Italy, and thereby increase its population by 243%.

5. "Tasty and Tasteless All at Once" Sorry, I had to link this.

Representative Sample: Leave it to another Watt to look at all the roadkill up and down the motorways and figure out how to use them as bottles.

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

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Idiocy of Tom Tancredo

From all appearances, the GOP is poised to capitalize on the country's disgust with Democratic governance and retake one or both houses of Congress in November. The last thing we need are nuts like Tom Tancredo railing about Obama being a "dedicated Marxist who lives in the White House," calling him "a dedicated enemy of the Constitution," and pretending there is any reason for his impeachment. Here's another sample of Tancredo.
the greatest threat to our Constitution, our safety and our liberties, is internal. Our president is an enemy of our Constitution, and, as such, he is a danger to our safety, our security and our personal freedoms.
This is ridiculous hyperbole. Obama's view of the Constitution is in line with probably 40%+ of the county. I don't agree with Obama about very much, but saying he's an internal enemy, and a greater danger to the country than Al Qaeda is insane. As of later this year, Obama may be constrained by GOP control of one or both houses of Congress. By 2016 at the latest, he'll be out of office, hopefully in 2012. Tancredo's hysterical nonsense is almost exactly the same type of garbage we heard from the left during the eight years of the Bush administration.

Tancredo's idiotic call for impeachment helps Obama and the Democrats. It alienates moderates and independents, and assists the left in linking the GOP to fringe lunatics consumed with hatred for the president. If Tancredo wants to strike a blow against Obama and Democratic control of the government, the best thing he could possibly do would be to shut his mouth, and quietly support GOP efforts in November.

HOT5 Daily 7/23/2010

1. "One Person’s Oil Addict is Another’s Intelligent Consumer" Some perspective on the whole issue of oil.

Representative Sample: there is a new litmus test for energy illiteracy, namely the claim that America is ‘addicted to oil.’ Those stating this are either being less than honest (politicians and special interests) or have failed to comprehend either addiction or economics.

2. "No, Israel Is Not About to Attack Iran Now, Here's Why" A good analysis.

Representative Sample: there are an increasing number of voices in the Israeli political, military, and intelligence establishment arguing that Israel should not wage a preemptive attack on Iran at all for a variety of reasons.

3. "Evangelicals Take Aim at Liberty" Liberal ones this time.

Representative Sample: There seems to be this move by the Left to invoke the Bible to justify their big governmentalism. Now I personally think they are firmer ground than free market types who think that a book rooted in primitive tribalism can support their views. But I have to ask the Left why they are bothering.

4. "Obama Accidentally Signs Pledge to Wear Silly Hat Buried in 2,000-Page Bill Nobody Read" Pretty amusing.

Representative Sample: After President Obama signed yet another 2,000-page bill that no one has read, White House officials conceded the legislation contains a provision that was snuck into the bill that requires the President, at his next press conference, to wear a "silly hat consisting of not less that a dozen brightly colored ribbons, three bows, and a large papier-mache pineapple."

5. "Going to Peace With the Army You Have" The State Department plans to field its own private army in Iraq.

Representative Sample: While I would hope that we and the Iraqis negotiate a new deal to allow our military personnel to remain in Iraq after 2011 to perform needed duties, right now there is no agreement and so our State Department is making plans to deal with this reality.

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

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Taxing Gold Coins Equals Healthcare Reform

It does if you are a tax and spend Democrat. Yet another feature of the health care law monstrosity hit the news today -- the bill no one bothered to actually read all the way through before it became law.
every time a member of the public sells more than $600 worth of gold to a dealer, Piret said, the transaction will have to be reported to the government by the buyer.
Throughout the debate, opponents repeatedly argued that the bill was not about health care reform, but about extending big government control over a large portion of the U.S. economy. The more we know about the new law, the more they are proven correct. What do taxes on the sale of gold coins, or new 1099 requirements have to do with health care? Nothing. 
This provision, intended to mine what the IRS deems a vast reservoir of uncollected income tax, was included in the health care legislation ostensibly as a way to pay for it. The tax code tweak is expected to raise $17 billion over the next 10 years, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation.
More taxes and more spending. That's what the Democratic party is all about, their lies to the contrary not withstanding. Knowing that the public in general strongly opposes most new taxes, Democrats can't admit their love of tax hikes. Instead they must find ways to create new ones by burying them in gigantic bills that are rammed through on party-line votes. Yet another reason to vote Republican.

HOT5 Daily 7/22/2010

1. "Fire, Ready, Aim" Administration incompetence on display. 

Representative Sample: The Sherrod incident is the latest in a long line of shoot from the lip misfires from the Obama administration, from the president on down. Here is a review of some of the more egregious of them.

2. "Journolist Equals Liberal Fascism" Excellent points. 

Representative Sample: We always knew that most liberal journalists were biased. Now we know that many of them are dishonest -- and that, like their leftist forbearers in the Soviet Union, they reserve unto themselves the right to lie and to cheat to further their political ends.

3. "Der Joürnolist: The Media Scorecard" The collusion of left-wing propagandists and mainstream liberal journalists to manipulate news coverage is a huge story -- or it should be. Who is actually covering it?  

Representative Sample: All you need to know about Der Joürnolist can be gleaned from Dougie's exclusive Scorecard. Here's who you can trust -- and who you can't. Here are the folks reporting -- and not reporting -- on Der Joürnolist Scandal

4. "The malicious use of pharmaceuticals: An under-recognized form of child abuse" Parents drugging their children. A new study looks at this type of abuse.

Representative Sample: motives for the abusive use of drugs generally are varied, and can include punishment, amusement, or a wish for a break from childcare responsibilities.

5. "Israel Says Iron Dome Ready For Deployment; IDF Balks at Price Tag" We already subsidized this over 200 million -- that's enough help. It's your country you are defending. Pay for it, and don't expect other countries (ie. the U.S.) to fund it.

Representative Sample: Haaretz says IDF deputy chief of staff Benny Gantz was impressed with the Iron Dome tests, but thinks other countries should pick up the tab for the system, rather than have it come out of the IDF’s budget.

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

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

David Frum's Strange Attack on the Right

In the wake of the Shirley Sherrod incident, David Frum has written an article called, "Shirley Sherrod and the shame of conservative media." Unlike many on the right, I respect Frum and often agree with his political analysis. This time, however, he's way off base. Maybe his association with Andrew Sullivan is affecting his normally strong reasoning capacity. Here's Frum.
By the evening of the 20th, however, conservatives were backing away, acknowledging that an innocent women had been defamed.
He provides links, pointing out that most in what he calls the "conservative media," other than Andrew Breitbart himself, quickly realized that Sherrod had been smeared by a clip out of context, and wrongly fired. So what's Frum's problem with conservative media?
you’ll never guess who emerged as the villains of the story in this second-day conservative react. Not Andrew Breitbart, the distributor of a falsified tape. No, the villains were President Obama and the NAACP for believing Breitbart's falsehood.
I know Frum isn't anywhere near that clueless. The reason Obama and the NAACP are being bashed by conservatives is because they acted rashly -- and shamefully in the case of the NAACP. The NAACP had the full tape of Sherrod's speech, yet they chose to throw her under the bus without bothering to check the accuracy of Breitbart's take. The administration, which at least had the excuse of not having the full story, jumped on the bandwagon and pushed for her firing without making the minimal effort required to ascertain the facts. There's a reason Robert Gibbs had to apologize today on behalf of the administration. The criticism of Obama & the NAACP is completely justified. Frum should be joining it, not pretending is represents some sort of malfeasance by conservatives.

I'm not sure what right-wing media Frum is reading that he thinks Breitbart isn't getting criticism. Even Breitbart's friend, Jonah Goldberg said he should apologize. Many on the right recognize that Breitbart ran a misleading piece that not only undermined his own credibility, but which reflected badly on conservatives by association. Frum seems to believe that if the right doesn't drop everything else and bash Breitbart -- and I'm not sure how much bashing would satisfy him -- then it's somehow evidence of being "narrow-minded."
When Dan Rather succumbed to the forged Bush war record hoax in 2004, CBS forced him into retirement. Breitbart is the conservative Dan Rather, but there will be no discredit, no resignation for him.
Another idiotic argument. Dan Rather worked for a major news organization, supposedly devoted to objective news reporting. Andrew Breitbart is the founder and owner of his own openly, politically-biased media operations. Is he supposed to force himself to resign? David Frum's entire argument ranges from weak & unconvincing, to outright ludicrous. It's articles like these that give credence to his rabid critics on the right.

HOT5 Daily 7/21/2010

1. "The World's Worst Counterterrorism Ideas" Crazy & counterproductive ideas from around the world. 

Representative Sample: For many years, militant front groups in Pakistan were able to take advantage of a loophole in a 1997 anti-terrorism law to hide in plain sight -- so long as they changed their name.

2. "Permanent Record" A good article on the issue of video-taping the police. 

Representative Sample: If police are worried that their actions will be deliberately misportrayed in the media, then instead of banning civilian video-recording of arrests, let the police fight back in the same venue with an honest, untampered video recording.

3. "Not-So-Secret America" This is very similar to my own thoughts on reading the Washington Post "Secret America" piece.  

Representative Sample: Perhaps we're a bit jaded, but our collective response to all of this is a giant...yawn. If you've spent any time in military, homeland security, intel or government appropriations circles since that fateful day in 2001, the "revelations" of the Post series are nothing new.

4. "US Should Show Strength, Not Weakness in Korean Military Exercises" Interesting analysis & argument. 

Representative Sample: Although the robust naval exercises display formidable military capabilities, they are overshadowed by the perception, if not the reality, that the U.S. postponed and then altered its military plans in deference to Chinese objections. Coupled with the impotent U.N. response to North Korea’s attack on the South Korean naval vessel Cheonan, the result is not a show of strength by the U.S. and South Korea, but rather an appearance of weakness.

5. "Majority Of Americans Support Off Shore Drilling, Plurality Support Deep Water Drilling" It would be nice if the support were stronger, but I guess this is as good as can be expected after the huge spill.

Representative Sample: As Obama continues to fight the courts in an effort to ban off shore drilling, the public continues to support the industry:

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

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Left & False Accusations of Racism - Again

As I have repeatedly pointed out, the use of false accusations of racism is a standard left-wing tactic against political opponents.  It's so prevalent that there are probably leftists smearing people as I write this sentence. It was no surprise to read the latest story going through the blogosphere, showing how this smear tactic was employed during the Reverend Wright crisis phase of Obama's presidential campaign.

I sometimes refer to various prominent liberal bloggers as "left-wing hacks," and for good reason. Consider the case of Spencer Ackerman, a shameless, intellectually dishonest propagandist masquerading as an opinion journalist for the Washington Independent.

In one instance, Spencer Ackerman of the Washington Independent urged his colleagues to deflect attention from Obama’s relationship with Wright by changing the subject. Pick one of Obama’s conservative critics, Ackerman wrote, “Fred Barnes, Karl Rove, who cares — and call them racists.”
Advocating a smear campaign against a random conservative pundit for political reasons -- yeah, that's journalism. 

The U.S. has made tremendous progress in race relations, but obviously racism is still a significant problem. There are many instances of real racism taking place all the time. The constant false accusations of racism coming from the left trivialize a serious issue, and make it easier to dismiss real instances. It's bad enough when false smears of racism come from the ignorant fools who make up much of the left-wing blogosphere. But it would be nice if those actually pretending to be journalists held themselves to a higher standard.

HOT5 Daily 7/20/2010

1. "FROM THE JULY/AUG ISSUE: The Soft-Power Fallacy" A good analysis of one of the wishful-thinking components of Obama foreign policy. 

Representative Sample: What Obama is doing, frankly, is pushing for the appearance of short-term economic recovery that’s brought on by dumping huge sums of government money (borrowed from our international creditors) into the economy.

2. "Turkey in Cyprus vs. Israel in Gaza" Comparison illustrates Turkish hypocrisy. 

Representative Sample: This Turkish rage prompts a question: Is Israel in Gaza really worse than Turkey in Cyprus? A comparison finds this hardly to be so. Consider some contrasts

3. "'Stop, Question, Frisk'" This is somehow ok, but the federal government is suing Arizona for having police check immigration status for already stopped individuals.  

Representative Sample: In other words, pretty much anyone the police find suspicious they can and do search. The residents have mixed feelings. They need the police but also fear them, knowing they can be stopped and searched essentially without cause. The tactic's one clear success is in alienating much of the youth in these neighbourhoods.

4. "The coming crusade" Violent Christian backlash against Islam in Africa? Links to an interesting Ralph Peters article. 

Representative Sample: Pushed far enough, Christians will respond -- and it won't be pretty. The African church could become the church-ultra-militant.

5. "China Hides Its Iron Fist" The quiet military build-up against Taiwan.

Representative Sample: By the end of the year, China will have nearly 2,000 ballistic missiles aimed at Taiwan. That's ten times more than there were ten years ago, and 50 percent more than just two years ago.

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

Monday, July 19, 2010

Three-fold Illogical Argument about the Ground Zero Mosque

Naturally I read it on Andrew Sullivan's blog, but it's actually from Charles Johnson at Little Green Footballs.
It should be pointed out (again) that the “Ground Zero mosque” these idiots are ranting about is actually a proposed community center with an auditorium, swimming pool, and restaurants, in addition to a mosque. It would be housed in an existing 13-story building that’s two blocks away from Ground Zero and has no view of the area; there are two very big buildings in between the proposed community center and Ground Zero. Here is an embedded Google Map in which you can clearly see that the idea of this being a “Ground Zero mosque” is a ridiculous paranoid fantasy.

It's pretty impressive to combine three silly, illogical arguments in one short paragraph. First, Johnson pretends that a religious worship site that includes other major features ceases to be a church, and is now a "community center." There are plenty of Christian mega-churches in the U.S. that have similar features to the proposed Islamic center in New York. So do even small religious sites. Down the street from where I live is a Catholic church; it has a large separate building called a parish center, in which they often hold community-based events. But guess what, it's still a Catholic church. Regardless of what other attractions it has, the proposed mosque is still a mosque. 

Second, Johnson would have us believe that it's a "ridiculous paranoid fantasy" to call a mosque sited two blocks away from Ground Zero a "Ground Zero Mosque." Why? Because it's a whole two blocks away, and separated from the site by a couple of buildings. Really? Is that supposed to be a serious argument? Apparently in Johnson-world,  if it isn't located exactly right square on top of Ground Zero, no one can call it a Ground Zero Mosque -- because we never name things for major locations they are close to.  Maybe he should contact United Nations Apartments there in NYC. According to booking information, the apartment complex is located 5 blocks from UN Headquarters. Five blocks! What kind of insane person thought he could name it for the UN when it's a whole five blocks away?

And finally, recent polls indicate that roughly half of NYC opposes the Ground Zero Mosque. According to Johnson, that half of the city is made up of people engaging in a paranoid fantasy. That's a pretty funny assertion coming from someone who is apparently unaware that churches can have major ancillary structures & functions, and that building complexes are often named for significant landmarks that are more or less nearby.

HOT5 Daily 7/19/2010

1. "Tell me again how we are going to get a smaller government in November" Yeah, chances of reversing the growth of government are pretty slim, even with a big GOP win. 

Representative Sample: It's a chart, and a link to another article.

2. "Power… Unlimited Power" Speaking of big government. 

Representative Sample: The Obama Administration now argues that the power of the Federal government is limited to… pretty much whatever it can get away with.

3. "Differences in Democracy" Big differences that make what is called "democracy" in many places unrecognizable compared to how the West views it.  

Representative Sample: “Democracy” in the third world is in many respects different from the liberal Western-style democracy that can be found in the developed countries. Absent are the concepts of private property, human rights, and other civil liberties found in the Western world.

4. "Why Judges Matter" Some good points. 

Representative Sample: Of all the powers assigned to the President, perhaps none is more important than his ability to pick judges for the federal bench. After all, chief executives come and go, but many of their judicial appointees linger for years--even decades--after the President has left the White House.

5. "Microfinance: Back to the Drawing Board" A new study finds that benefits have been exaggerated.

Representative Sample: microfinance, has been put on a pedestal by development economists thanks to its high repayment rates and ability to provide capital and growth where it used to be nonexistent. But recent research links its success with national economic growth, suggesting it only succeeds in economies that are already beginning to bloom.

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

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Writing Analysis

There is an interesting site that analyzes your writing and tells you which famous writer is closest to your style. A few paragraph clips from my posts gave varying results,  so I dug up some real long ones and used them. After three long posts were pasted in, my result was the same each time. 

I Write Like by Mémoires, Mac journal software. Analyze your writing!

h/t Forever In Hell

HOT5 Daily 7/18/2010

1. "Say No to Ground Zero Mosque" Pat Condell's take. 

Representative Sample: It's a video.

2. "Another Stimulus Boondoggle" More imaginary numbers. 

Representative Sample: Given that the national unemployment rate barely budged after the enactment last year of the president’s initiative aimed at financing “shovel-ready” state and local governmental projects, how, exactly, is a second federal stimulus bill supposed to jump-start an obviously stagnant national economy?

3. "The NAACP, Wrong From the Start" Not politically correct, and a useful corrective to those who think they have to genuflect before the NAACP.

Representative Sample: The NAACP has always been a bunch of collectivists and statists. It's true that some members of the NAACP fought real evils, sometimes risking life and limb. But the name alone is enough to demonstrate that the organization has been collectivist of the racial variety from its beginning.

4. "Why Do We Deny Teachers Basic Constitutional Rights?" Teachers fired for expressing innocuous opinions online. 

Representative Sample: We in the U.S. enjoy many rights, one of the most important of which involves the right to free expression. As long as we do not incite violence or encourage others to engage in serious criminal acts, we are free to write what we wish and to speak our minds. Well, not exactly.

5. "15 Sexy Scientists (with pics, of course)" Hot, highly-educated women. And check the comments, they're pretty funny -- some typical whining by the easily offended.

Representative Sample: It's a series of pictures.

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

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Republican Loyalty Quiz

While reading other blogs I came across references to some amusing quizzes. First up, the Republican Loyalty Quiz.  Here are my results: 

Your score is 7 on a scale of 1 to 10. You are a solid Republican. You are not as fiercely ideological or uncompromising as others in the party, but nonetheless remain a reliable supporter. If you could have your way, you'd like to see Republican leaders take a slightly more pragmatic approach on certain issues – and dial down some of their nakedly partisan and bitterly divisive rhetoric.
That actually sounds like a pretty decent description.  And just for fun, I tried the Democratic Loyalty Quiz.  It's basically a mirror image of the other one, and not surprisingly, I got 3 out of 10, with the exact same description.

h/t Blond Sagacity

HOT5 Daily 7/17/2010

1. "Pakistan, More Time Bomb than Ally" Exactly. 

Representative Sample: Will we wake up and disentangle ourselves in time? Our strategic relationship with Islamabad is deemed necessary because of the logistical pipeline that flows through Pakistan (hint: smaller footprint makes Pakistan less valuable) but it is analogous to the guy who remains married to his wife who is a habitually violent, bipolar, crack addict because she stays home and watches the kids.

2. "Pigs Fly: ACLU Defends Gun Rights" Hopefully this will be the start of a new trend. 

Representative Sample: In what may be the first time, the ACLU says, it is advocating on behalf of a gun owner to get his weapons back. And they’re doing so free of charge.

3. "Liberal debating styles on the interwebz" Some good examples of common tactics.  

Representative Sample: I've been around the Intertubez for a while, and I've noticed some trends from the leftist side of the house. Those unable to construct an argument will invariably use one of the below techniques, mostly involving ad hominems and well-beaten strawmen.

4. "Online Life Is Real Life" Interesting perspective. 

Representative Sample:  are these virtual experiences and venues any less valid or effective than those that happen in person? Look at all that we accomplish through virtual avenues: raising funds and awareness for global causes; connecting people who can change the world from thousands of miles away; spreading knowledge and ideas to those who may not have access to them otherwise; and, on a personal note, helping people like me learn how to see the world and my place in it in a totally new way. The online world brings change, freedom, and so much more.

5. "The Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense" Impressive work.

Representative Sample: It's a graphic.

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

Friday, July 16, 2010

Pakistan Leads the World in Porn Searches

Despite its relatively low percentage of internet users compared to major industrialized countries, Pakistan leads in various categories of porn searches according to Google Trends.  
Pakistan is "top dog in searches for 'horse sex', since 2004, 'donkey sex' since 2007, 'rape pictures' and 'rape sex' since 2004, 'child sex' between 2004 and 2007 and since 2009, 'animal sex' since 2004 and 'dog sex' since 2005".
I wonder if the fact that a significant part of the population subscribes to a particularly nasty version of Islam that promotes honor killings, forced marriages & punishment for rape victims, and the general subjugation of women has anything to do with the popularity of searches for rape & child sex porn. But I'm not sure what might explain the number of searches for various types of bestiality. 

HOT5 Daily 7/16/2010

1. "Majority Math" A nice analysis of what the GOP might expect to gain in November.

Representative Sample: I'm hearing a lot of noise from people on the right and libertarian side of the aisles that "the dems are going to lose everything this election and we can undo everything Obama has destroyed yaaaay!!!!" Yeah... No. Not Gonna Happen.

2. "Afghanistan: Graveyard of Empires?" How accurate is that cliche?

Representative Sample: I've been a student of history for most of my life and this business of Afghanistan being the "Graveyard of Empires" has always struck me as a bit short on knowledge of the long trail of Asian history. So I went looking. Here's what I found

3. "Pimp My Failed Policy: $20 Million Spent On Pro-Stimulus Signs" I guess the sign makers were stimulated.

Representative Sample: The federal behemoth can’t practice efficiency because it’s antithetical to its nature. Couple that with the fact that the people who advocate for greater federal action are also the least likely to ever seek accountability and it’s already a disaster before the ingredients are even mixed.

4. "History of Nuclear Testing" Interesting graphic animation.

Representative Sample: It's a graphic.

5. "Contrast: Starship Troopers, Airmobility and Light Infantry" I can't resist science fiction references.

Representative Sample: science fiction can be an interesting lens to look at present defense debates. One of the more interesting contemporary examples of this is Robert Heinlein’s novel Starship Troopers.

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

Thursday, July 15, 2010

UK Atheist Calls for a Debate with the Pope

Geoffrey Berg, author of "The Six Ways Of Atheism," has challenged the Pope to debate the existence of God during his visit to Britain.
It is very appropriate for the Pope (who is also a noted theologian) to argue the question of whether God exists at all upon a visit to the United Kingdom as the United Kingdom has historically generally led the way in rejecting religious belief in terms of the leading freethinkers who have lived here.
Berg argues that since the Pope often attacks atheism/secularism, he should welcome such a debate.
Rather than just complain about the growing secularism in the world, as he and his predecessor have tended to do, isn't it time he debated the core case that God simply does not exist which actually leads to secularism?
Although the chances of the Pope accepting such a debate are slim and none, it would definitely be interesting to see him take on a prominent atheist in a formal debate. Unlike the ridiculous calls to arrest the Pope when he visits Britain, Berg's challenge makes sense. The Pope is a theologian, he wants to persuade people to accept Christianity, and such a debate would probably be a high profile event where he could put forth his best arguments in favor of the existence of the Christian version of God. He should accept the challenge. But I'd be willing to bet he'd rather just continue demonizing atheists, instead of engaging in reasoned debate.

Assorted Thoughts on Illegal Immigration

Illegal immigration is not a big issue for me because I have a middle position. The extreme positions on both sides are simplistic, and those who adopt them tend to ignore any evidence that undercuts their often fanatically held beliefs on the subject. 

Last night while I was driving around working, I caught bits and pieces of an NPR discussion/debate on illegal immigration. I didn't hear the introductions, but on the anti-illegal side was some state senator (I think), with an ACLU representative taking the pro-illegal position. The senator portrayed illegals as basically an evil horde of invaders who depress American wages, suck up social services, and commit crimes. The ACLU guy refused to even use the term "illegal alien" -- since of course we can't offend people who commit illegal acts by labeling them illegal -- but referred to them repeatedly with the ridiculous euphemism "undocumented workers." To him, illegals are all great people who help the U.S. economy. Both guests referenced only cherry-picked data that supported their own preconceived notions. The ACLU individual, as is typical on the left, basically accused those who disagree with his position of racism. The senator overemphasized a few sensational crimes committed by illegals as evidence that they represent a lethal criminal threat to American citizens.

In reality, illegal immigration has both benefits and costs, neither of which is easy to quantify. It is obvious that most illegal immigrants come to the U.S. to find work, and make up part of the workforce. By working, by purchasing goods and services, and by paying indirect taxes, they clearly contribute to the economy. At the same time, however, they impose costs, particularly in terms of social services like medical care. The actual cost-benefit ration probably depends on each region in question, possibly right down to each individual locality. As for crime, although most illegals come to work, as with any population, a small minority are prone to criminal behavior (not counting the crime of illegal immigration itself). For every wave of immigrants that enter the U.S., some will be criminals. But this applies to both legal and illegal immigrants, which undercuts the crime argument as a factor in keeping out illegals -- unless one opposes all immigration. Again though, it depends on locality. If an area has a particularly high number of criminal illegal aliens, obviously that area is going to view illegal immigration as a major criminal import problem. 

Illegal immigration is both a problem and a benefit. Which side outweighs the other depends  on your outlook, the statistics you choose to accept, and where you live. If you own an office building cleaning service in New York, staffed with hardworking illegal immigrants who do a good job for low wages, your perspective is probably quite different from a property owner in Arizona whose land is constantly trespassed on by illegals. 

HOT5 Daily 7/15/2010

1. "The Immorality of the Moral High Ground" Many excellent points. 

Representative Sample: We can't win the War on Terror so long as we hold to liberal definitions of the Moral High Ground. We can't even begin to really fight it. What's worse, is that not only does this warped understanding of morality result in more American deaths, it results in more deaths of both fighters and civilians on the enemy side.

2. "How to Boost Productivity" Cut dead-weight. 

Representative Sample: Fire the parasites. In any large company there are platoons of compliance auditors, lawyers, "efficiency experts" and "strategists." To justify their salaries these professional obstructionists generate reams of rules, regulations, workflows and quality assurance processes that provide a value added hovering at about zero.

3. "Why Christians did finally turn against slavery?" An interesting and somewhat convincing theory.  

Representative Sample: I would even go as far as to say that many or even most of the true big permanent changes in human history have in fact been caused by changes in prevailing zeitgeist.
The rising zeitgeist often gets often a practical implementation in some new form of formal ideology.

4. "When do we pull the plug on a country?" Is Haiti a viable country at all? It's kind of late to be asking that. 

Representative Sample:the profile of the Secretary of State has recently undergone a silent revolution, a far-reaching overhaul of the profile that has been silently accepted by both Democrats and Republicans.

5. "Obama Admin Claims Porkulus Created 3 Million Jobs" More imaginary numbers.

Representative Sample: President Obama and members of his administration must think we’re all stupid. Or they’re simply desperate now that he and his party are sinking like stones in the polls.

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

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Internet Lifeline Reconnected

The move is finally over, and as of 7 pm our internet service was reconnected. Regular posting will resume. Sorry about the interruption.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Still Cut-off

I spent the weekend moving and am now at work, which is relaxing in comparison. Both my son and I have had extreme internet withdrawal symptoms. Since we had internet/tv/phone all from Comcast, we are pretty much cut-off and out of touch. It takes going a couple days without internet access to realize how much you rely on it for all sorts of things -- such as checking the weather before going to work. I have the cheapest basic cell plan I could get, so unfortunately I can't do that on my phone without paying ridiculous added fees. I'll be glad when things are back to normal.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Moving - No Posts This Weekend

I'm in the process of moving, and my internet service is about to be turned off at home. Unless Comcast has an earlier opening, I won't have service in the new place until Wednesday the 14th. I'll probably be able to do some posting from work, but there won't be any posts tomorrow or Sunday. I'll try to post an update on Monday night.

HOT5 Daily 7/9/2010

1. "Institutional Bailouts: All Regulation, No Reform" Why the financial reform bill is a bad idea. 

Representative Sample: How do you fix a problem? Well, in Washington, there is a sure-fire solution to any crisis: pass reactionary legislation without knowing what is in it to show you really “care” about the problem. Then, claim the problem is solved. Wait until the next crisis. Repeat.

2. "THE WAGES OF IDIOCY" A good response to various whining over people being fired for stupid public statements. 

Representative Sample: The lesson of all these cases of media malpractice? Don’t make a public idiot of yourself. If you feel the need to prove yourself to be a clueless, partisan git, try old fashioned diary writing. At least that way, you’re guaranteed to stay off the internet.

3. "The Paper Greenwald" An amusing & accurate takedown. 

Representative Sample: A concerted fan of genocide apologist and pro-terrorist intellectual Noam Chomsky, Greenwald appears to have adopted several Chomskyite qualities as his own, most notably a fervent belief in his own moral rectitude, an equally fervent belief in the moral corruption of everybody else, a complete refusal to entertain the possibility of being wrong, and a studied yet passionate indifference to his own ignorance and hypocrisy.

4. "Resistance Land" A Hezbollah theme park. It sounds like a good bomb target.

Representative Sample: On a hilltop overlooking Israel's former occupation zone in south Lebanon, Hezbollah has built what the international press has dubbed the Shiite militia's "Disneyland." Mleeta, Hezbollah's new "Tourist Landmark of the Resistance," is designed to celebrate the party's long war against Israel.

5. "Israel Reassesses Defense Options" Somewhat technical, but interesting.

Representative Sample: Israel is exploring the integrated use of manned and unmanned aircraft to attack defended air space. Aerospace designers hint that they are looking at stealthy UAV designs as well as at faster, higher-altitude and larger aircraft. There also are suggestions that programs in cyber-operations and network and electronic attack are under intense study as potential tactical weapons that can strike at expended ranges.

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

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Unfounded Assumptions About Obama & Afghanistan

There's a provocative article in The New Republic by historian Andrew Bacevich, called "Non-Believer." Bacevich advances a theory that goes something like this. George Bush was an incompetent idiot, but he went to war in Iraq because he firmly believed he was doing the right thing. Obama is smarter and more competent, but he's escalated the war in Afghanistan even though he doesn't believe in it. He's waging war there because he's too cynical and gutless to get out. It's hard to know where to start in pointing out Bacevich's many extremely dubious assumptions.  Let's start with this one. After describing Bush as a "well-intentioned fool," Bacevich writes about Obama.
Barack Obama is anything but a fool.
Really? Maybe if you ignore all the evidence of his presidency. 
Much as Iraq was Bush’s war, Afghanistan has become Obama’s war. Yet the president clearly wants nothing more than to rid himself of his war.
That's a pretty big assumption. Interestingly enough, it's shared by many on the right.  
Obama has prolonged and escalated a conflict in which he himself manifestly does not believe.
Is there any way to know whether or not that's actually true? Again, that's a huge assumption that claims unwarranted insight into the president's brain. Bacevich provides no evidence for his position, other than a single meaningless line spoken by Obama.  The actual evidence clearly contradicts such a view. Obama took a ridiculously long time to reevaluate U.S. strategy for Afghanistan. After that time, he signed on with the counterinsurgency (COIN) school of thought, which specifically required an escalation of U.S. forces, and even more nation-building efforts. He went with General McChyrstal, a leading proponent of that strategy, and in large part adopted his recommendations. Those are not the actions of someone who "manifestly" does not believe in the war effort. Bacevich's assertion is ludicrous, which is why he has to pretend to some special insight into what the president is secretly thinking.
Yet the expectations of change that vaulted him to the presidency went well beyond the issue of priorities. Obama’s supporters were counting on him to bring to the White House an enlightened moral sensibility: He would govern differently not only because he was smarter than his predecessor but because he responded to a different—and truer—inner compass.

People who actually believed such nonsense -- and presumably that includes Bacevich -- have no business referring to anyone else as fools. Bacevich was apparently completely clueless about Barack Obama before the election, and now he claims special knowledge of his inner thoughts. 

Obama doesn’t want to be in Afghanistan any more than Benjamin Netanyahu wants to be in the West Bank. Yet like the Israeli prime minister, the president lacks the guts to get out.
Maybe he doesn't want to get out because once he became president, he was forced to face reality, and forced to recognize that a precipitous withdrawal from Afghanistan would be a major strategic defeat for the U.S. Maybe as president, with all the information and advice at his disposal, he feels that he can no longer adopt the simple-minded viewpoint of naive and ignorant anti-war types. But Bacevich prefers to believe that Obama really thinks the way he does, but is cynically prolonging the war purely for political purposes. His entire article is a typical example of imputing bad motives to those you disagree with politically.
The question demands to be asked: Who is more deserving of contempt? The commander-in-chief who sends young Americans to die for a cause, however misguided, in which he sincerely believes? Or the commander-in-chief who sends young Americans to die for a cause in which he manifestly does not believe and yet refuses to forsake?
What's contemptible is a professional historian who can't tell the difference between his own assumptions and assertions and facts. 

HOT5 Daily 7/8/2010

1. "Why Muslims Hate America" A good response to the blame America first crowd that thinks there'd be no problems if we just appeased radical Islamists. 

Representative Sample: If Americans left every single place where Muslims are the majority, if America threw every single Jew out of Israel, if we took our troops out of every country in the world, there would still be things that anger Muslims.

2. "Reality Check: What Must Be the Case if Christianity is True?" 30 extremely improbable things most Christians believe. 

Representative Sample: 3) There must exist a perfectly good, omnipotent God, who created a perfectly good universe out of a desire/need to glorify himself by rewarding in heaven the few human beings who just got lucky to believe by being born at the right time and place, and who will condemn to hell those who do not believe.

3. "Speechless" Given that it's the Obama administration, I didn't find it too surprising.  

Representative Sample: Ironic as it was, I was stunned. Apparently, our Government is now fully in the business of prosecuting law enforcement.

4. "Just when does a child become an adult?" Apparently not until age 29 in Ohio. 

Representative Sample: My flippant answer is that liberals never become adults. The crap life throws at you is always someone else’s fault, and someone else’s responsibility.

5. "Baptists urged to fight for church-state separation" Baptists who believe in the separation of church & state.

Representative Sample:The Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty ( is one religious organization that understands the need for and fights to maintain a secular government, standing at a distance from religion . . . the only way all Americans can have true religious liberty.

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Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Sarah Palin & Defense Spending

There's a story up at the Washington Post by Foreign Policy's Josh Rogin called, "Palin makes exception for military spending." Rogin writes that Sarah Palin is trying to prevent the tea party movement from supporting deep cuts in defense spending.
Sarah Palin is waging a battle inside the "tea party" movement to exempt defense spending from the group's small-government, anti-deficit fervor. ... There's growing concern among Republicans ... that national security spending ... could fall victim to the tea party's anti-establishment, anti-spending agenda.
When I saw the title of the story, my first thought was, why shouldn't she make an exception for military spending? National defense is one of the primary, and arguably the preeminent, functions of the federal government. There's no reason to automatically lump defense spending in with other far less justifiable government expenditures. On the other hand, if your goal is to get the deficit under control, let alone begin to slash the federal debt, there's no way you can exempt the massive military expenditures from potential cuts.

Democrats such as Barney Frank are currently proposing defense cuts. The problem with such proposals, is that Democrats almost always want to cut defense only -- while blowing ever more money on less necessary government expenditures and raising taxes to spend even more. Defense cuts should be on the table, but only as part of across the board reductions in federal spending.

Sarah Palin represents the opposite extreme from the typical Democratic position of cut defense while taxing and spending. Hers appears to be a reflexive and simplistic defense of military spending, regardless of arguments in favor of certain cuts. For example, here's Palin.
"Secretary Gates recently spoke about the future of the U.S. Navy. He said we have to 'ask whether the nation can really afford a Navy that relies on $3 [billion] to $6 billion destroyers, $7 billion submarines, and $11 billion carriers.' He went on to ask, 'Do we really need . . . more strike groups for another 30 years when no other country has more than one?' " Palin said. "Well, my answer is pretty simple: Yes, we can, and, yes, we do, because we must."
Her answer is simple alright, too simple to consider possible less expensive alternatives. There are naval blogs, such as New Wars, that regularly address such questions, so I'm not going to get into the technical details. But if Sarah Palin is going to address military issues in a substantive way, she needs to get away from knee-jerk defenses of defense systems simply because they are already in place. Big & expensive is not always the best way to go. If we can get more combat power and force projection from a collection of smaller, cheaper vessels than a single nuclear carrier, that type of option should be under consideration. And no vessel in the fleet should be exempt from cost/benefit analysis.