Friday, December 31, 2010

No HOT5 Today

It will return tomorrow.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

HOT5 Daily 12/30/2010

1. "Don’t Buy Politico’s False Choice on Nuclear Power" Does nuclear power require big government?

Representative Sample: The premise of the piece is that conservative plans to jump start nuclear power plant construction conflict with Tea Party plans to shrink the size and role of the federal government since today’s nuclear power industry is dependent on federal loan guarantees.

2. "Top 5 myths of the separation of church and state" One of the better articles I've seen on this topic.

Representative Sample: despite pride in our democracy, the Constitution and Bill of Rights that guarantee our fundamental liberties, we are similarly misinformed about our rights under the First Amendment generally and religious liberty in particular.

3. "Is China’s military a paper tiger or a real tiger?" I would call it a partially-grown tiger cub -- dangerous, but still has quite a ways to go before reaching the full power of an adult tiger.

Representative Sample: With enough time, diligence, and money, China can fix its problems with training, equipment maintenance, and engine manufacturing. None of the input factors, especially money, are limiting in China’s case, a marked contrast with most other countries

4. "Using Google to Tell Real Science from Fads" I was unaware of the Ngram Viewer until I read this article.

Representative Sample: Google offers a handy analyzer, the Ngram Viewer, which anyone can use to test an idea. A case in point: Yesterday, the social psychologist Rob Kurzban argued that the tool can distinguish between genuine scientific theories and intellectual fads.

5. "What Possible Purpose Does America Serve In Weakening Its Nuclear Arsenal?" Good question and good points.

Representative Sample: Arms control policy seems based on the notion that the mere fact of military strength makes war more likely. It runs on the same thinking of gun control advocates, who feel that the mere existence of guns in our society makes our society more violent and dangerous. Both arguments are specious, I think.

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

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Amazing Artwork

Over at I noticed a post called, "Taking camouflage to a new level." It's about Chinese artist, Liu Bolin. If you haven't seen his work it is definitely worth checking out. Without knowing anything about his pieces, you'd think the photos were just digital special effects. They aren't. Here's one example above. The man in the picture is real, but painted to camouflage him to the point of near invisibility. There is a gallery of his work at Eli Klein Fine Art.

Laughing at the Left - Fox News Hatred

One of the funniest things about the left is their over-the-top hatred of Fox News, which dares to be the only right-of-center news channel. Liberals like to pretend that Fox doesn't do actual news reporting, and is merely some sort of right-wing propaganda outfit -- thus the common disparaging nickname "Faux News." I was reading through various left-wing blogs for amusement, and came across an article at The Mahablog, one of my favorite spots to see what some of the most clueless left-wingers are writing about. This caught my attention.
rejoice that we just had the strongest holiday sales season since 2006. That’s something you’ll never hear on Faux News.
Really? Does Fox News deny the reality of holiday shopping numbers? I spent 30 seconds on Google and found this article. From the story:
Strong sales in the coming week would build on the highest-spending holiday season since 2007, which was a record year.
Is the Mahablog author just too stupid to check whether Fox covered the story before writing that line? I doubt it. Instead, as a left-winger, that blogger is comfortably situated in an echo chamber where everyone knows that Fox News isn't a real news organization, just a GOP propaganda machine. This is yet another example of why I laugh any time some liberal starts whining about Fox News. Most of them have no idea what they are talking about, and get their information about Fox from actual propaganda outfits like Media Matters.

HOT5 Daily 12/29/2010

1. "Next Year's Wars" Trouble spots to keep an eye on.

Representative Sample: Across the globe today, you'll find almost three dozen raging conflicts, from the valleys of Afghanistan to the jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the streets of Kashmir. But what are the next crises that might erupt in 2011? Here are a few worrisome spots that make our list.

2. "HuffPo op-ed: How a liberal can defend Israel" It doesn't happen too often, but a liberal gives a strong defense of Israel.

Representative Sample: Sometimes, it's the seemingly small things, the things that many may not even notice, or just take for granted, or perhaps deliberately ignore, lest it spoil their airtight thinking.

3. "Investing in Assange" Major publishers financing an enemy of the U.S.

Representative Sample: These publishers deserve, at the very least, considerable opprobrium for throwing a lifeline to the odious Julian Assange, an Internet vandal pursuing, by his own admission, an anti-American agenda. They should certainly be in the sights of the Justice Department as it contemplates legal action against Assange.

4. "Portugal's Drug Peace" What's happened in Portugal since it decriminalized personal drug use?

Representative Sample: The number of regular users held steady at less than 3 percent of the population for marijuana and less than 0.3 percent for heroin and cocaine - figures which show decriminalization brought no surge in drug use.

5. "Worst Lawsuit of 2010" Choose from a variety of ridiculous lawsuits.

Representative Sample: An Oregon man claims in a lawsuit Idaho police destroyed the mystical powers of a medicine bag when they opened it during his drunken driving arrest in August.

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

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How About We Stop Paroling Violent Career Criminals?

You'd might think basic common sense would prevent the release of a dangerous serial offender. Consider Dominic Cinelli.
Cinelli’s parole records show a checkered past: a rehabilitated junkie who started shooting heroin at 14, he was a career criminal who at one point was serving three concurrent life sentences for several armed robberies, armed assault with intent to commit murder, assault and battery with a dangerous weapon, and unlawful possession of a firearm.
A lifetime of crime, three life sentences, yet he was paroled in 2009. On this past Sunday night Cinelli and some accomplices robbed a jewelry store. A police officer intervened as they were attempting to leave, leading to a shoot-out which left both Cinelli and the officer dead.
It was the first and last time in 34 years of public service that Woburn police officer John “Jack” Maguire, 60, a married father, had fired his gun on the job. He planned to retire in October.
Maguire should be alive today. A major reason he's dead is because fools decided to release someone who committed crimes serious enough to receive three life sentences. Our jails are full of non-violent drug offenders, and other criminals without a history of violence. If we need to let people out to alleviate overcrowding, how about we focus on them and leave the violent felons safely behind bars?

Diplomatic Stupidity - Hillary Edition

One of the main benefits of the New START treaty -- possibly the only benefit -- is its effect on maintaining decent relations with Russia. After pushing hard for the treaty, the administration, along with some European allies, turned right around and damaged relations with Russia for no good reason.

If you haven't followed the case, Russia just convicted a major oil tycoon, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, of theft and money laundering. Critics of the Russian government at home and abroad see it as a politically-motivated prosecution. It may well be. But what does it have to do with the U.S.? For some reason Hillary Clinton issued a statement on Monday "saying the oligarch's conviction raised 'serious questions about selective prosecution - and about the rule of law being overshadowed by political considerations.'" She also said that "the case had a 'negative impact on Russia's reputation for fulfilling its international human rights obligations and improving its investment climate.'"Britian and Germany took similar positions. Naturally the Russians were not happy.

a foreign ministry spokesman in Moscow said: "Judgements about some kind of selective application of justice in Russia are without foundation." He added: "We are counting on everyone minding his own business – both at home, and in the international arena."
This case is a prime example of diplomatic stupidity in action. How Russia prosecutes cases against Russians is clearly an internal matter for that country. The Russian spokesman is correct. By interfering in Russia's internal affairs the U.S. gains absolutely nothing. Making a public statement criticizing Russia is entirely counterproductive. Not only does it invite other countries to critique how the U.S. applies its own laws, but it does nothing to help Russians such as Khodorkovsky. By making such a statement, Hillary Clinton has practically guaranteed that Russia will take a hard line in support of its own legal system. The bottom line is that A) it's none of our business, and B) intefering is not in the interests of the U.S. So why interfere?

HOT5 Daily 12/28/2010

1. "The Founders Were No Libertarians" My immediate thought was that it depends on how you define libertarian, but for the most part I agree.

Representative Sample: The Founders believed in carefully delineated federal powers either broad (Hamilton) or limited (Jefferson, sometimes) but all believed in a more powerful state than libertarians purport to believe in.

2. "When spending more doesn’t help…spend even more?" If you believe that you might be a Democrat.

Representative Sample: you can spend all you want on education. Double it. Triple it. Or cut it in half. And the kids who go home to crappy environments will still have a worse chance of getting a good education, and the kids who go home to good environments will still have a better chance.

3. "It Looks Like You're Writing a Logical Fallacy" Pretty good.

Representative Sample: Dealing with dimwitted debate? I decided to make something that might come in handy.

4. "Apocalyptic Economics" There's a lot of that going around.

Representative Sample: there is a long line of apocolyptic literature out there in multiple fields. The environment is going to collapse and we’re all gonna die (except for smart people like you who listen to us). We have reached peak oil flow and soon the world will run out of petroleum and we’re all gonna die (except for smart people like you who listen to us).

5. "Unions, Lenin, and the American Way" Interesting article with many good points.

Representative Sample: The only real choice before us, therefore, is not between economic inequality and economic equality, but between two types of economic inequality.

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

Monday, December 27, 2010

Religious Belief Doesn't Actually Make You Happier

That's the essential claim of a new study just published in American Sociological Review. According to the research, which covers main Christian groups, the beneficial effects of religion are actually based on its social club aspect, rather than religious belief itself.
"Our study offers compelling evidence that it is the social aspects of religion rather than theology or spirituality that leads to life satisfaction," ... friendships built in religious congregations are the secret ingredient in religion that makes people happier."
This sounds reasonable but I think you need to compare results with non-religious people who also have a structure of close friendships somehow comparable to those existing among members of religious congregations. I'm skeptical that religious belief itself has no major effect. We know the power of things such as placebos. It seems likely that strong faith, regardless of its validity, might also have effects on a person which could be positive.

HOT5 Daily 12/27/2010

1. "Be careful what you ask for..." Unintended consequences. You'd think this would be obvious, but unfortunately it isn't to many.

Representative Sample: health care as a right leads to government rationing of health care. If that is what you want, fine. But do not be fooled by snake oil salesmen in Congress or the White House who say otherwise. If you believe that health care is a right, you cannot and will not have the care you want or need.

2. "Christmas is Still a Religious Holiday for Majority in U.S." I'm skeptical. Many people pay lip service to the religious element. But regardless of its religious nature, it is also a secular holiday in the U.S.

Representative Sample: According to Gallup, 51% of Americans surveyed consider Christmas a "strongly religious" holiday, over 60% attend religious services, and 78% say that they take time to reflect on the alleged birth of Jesus.

3. "'Communists found progressive pastors to be "the biggest suckers of them all."'" Useful idiots -- Cold War edition, and not even a bit surprising.

Representative Sample: They cynically, contemptuously targeted the Religious Left. They knew that Religious Left Christians agreed with them on certain sympathies--workers rights, wealth redistribution. The communists exploited that trust, sometimes invoking the language of "social justice," to enlist liberals in their petitions, marches.

4. "The Amazing Power of the Placebo" They work even if you know it's a placebo.

Representative Sample: Science can sometimes be very counterintuitive. Sometimes more questions are brought up than are answered. And this is exciting because in those instances when we didn’t expect the results,

5. "Gulf focuses on military might" Arms race.

Representative Sample: Between 2000 and 2008, Oman and Saudi Arabia spent more of their GDP on the military than any other country for which data are available

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

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Israeli Foreign Minister Makes Mistake of Stating the Obvious

One of the last things you want to do when conducting diplomacy is tell the unvarnished truth -- which is one of the reasons that the publication of U.S. State Department secrets was so damaging to U.S. foreign policy. The Foreign Minister of Israel, Avigdor Lieberman, recently made the mistake of stating the obvious with regard to Turkey, and caused a rift with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Netanyahu is trying to patch up relations between Israel and Turkey in the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara incident. In time-honored diplomatic fashion, Netanyahu is attempting to forge a compromise whereby both sides save face.
Envoys of the two countries held rapprochement talks in Geneva this month. Israeli officials say they broached a deal that would entail them expressing “regret” for the ship violence and paying damages to those bereaved or hurt, in return for a Turkish commitment to indemnify navy personnel against lawsuits.
Basically Israel is offering a non-apology apology in return for the Turks backing off. But here's Lieberman.
“I think the matter of an apology borders on chutzpah or beyond,” Mr. Lieberman told Israeli diplomats in a speech attended international media. “If anything, we are waiting for an apology from the Turkish government, and not the other way around.” ... “If anyone should apologise, it should be the Turkish government to Israel over cooperation with terrorist elements, support for terrorism, support for the IHH, Hamas and (Lebanese) Hezbollah. There will be no (Israeli) apology,” Mr. Lieberman said.
Lieberman is correct. By rights, Turkey should apologize to Israel for assisting an attempt to break its blockade. I wrote basically the same thing when the incident occurred. But I'm not the foreign minister of Israel. Unless Israel wants to increase hostility between the two nations, some sort of compromise would be preferable. Expressing "regret" for violence is not really an apology, since you are regretting that violence occurred at all, not taking responsibility. Getting the Turks to accept such a gesture would actually be a diplomatic victory, cost nothing, and probably benefit Israel overall. Lieberman clearly lacks the diplomatic skill required for his office.


We are getting a white day after Christmas instead of Christmas. I was hoping there would be less snow this winter than last, but we are off to a bad start. It looks like we are going to get around a foot in the first major storm of the year.

HOT5 Daily 12/26/2010

1. "Santa Lives!" Santa apologetics.

Representative Sample: Nonbelievers insist that that makes two more persons, so really Santa is five persons in one, and they mock us for our irrationality and inability to do basic math. But they are the ignorant ones. For clearly according to Scripture (Christmas Carol 9:21, 18:11, and 24:8) the three Ghosts are really temporally santificated incarnations of one and the same Ghost, and thus they, too, are three persons in One Being, and thus are One, and thus Santa is three persons in One, not five. Obviously.

2. "The citizen armies of America" And that's not even counting all of us who have guns and don't hunt.

Representative Sample: Over the last two months, the eighth largest army in the world – more men under arms than Iran; more than France and Germany combined – deployed to the woods of a single American state to help keep the deer menace at bay.

3. "Hypothetical Holidays: An Imaginary Gift List" Gifts for world leaders.

Representative Sample: For Barack Obama. A copy of Machiavelli's The Prince.

4. "Bring on the Draconian cuts" If only we'd actually get some.

Representative Sample: The higher education bubble is America’s current economic boondoggle and, I guarantee you, it is going to bring great pain if it is allowed to grow until it bursts. It needs to be deflated now.

5. "Three Cheers for Holiday Lighting! (“let it glow, let it glow, let it glow”)" Celebrate the benefits of energy use.

Representative Sample: Energy consumption is good—no, make that wonderful–for comfort, convenience, cheer, and even celebration. May one and all in good conscience enliven this holiday season with lights aplenty.

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

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

I hope everyone is having a good one.

Friday, December 24, 2010

No HOT5 Today or Tomorrow

Taking off for Christmas. HOT5 will be back on the 26th.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

HOT5 Daily 12/23/2010

1. "Info Wars (Of Another Sort)" An interesting facet of the Korean situation.

Representative Sample: Iran's Stuxnet infection also influenced the strategic calculus in Pyongyang. As a key supporter of Tehran's nuclear effort, it's a good bet that North Korean scientists have received detailed briefings on the worm--and its impact on Iranian nuclear facilities. That information was undoubtedly relayed to Pyongyang, prompting defensive assessments of DPRK nuclear complexes. Given the level of interaction between the two countries, there were probably fears of similar, crippling attacks against North Korea's nuclear infrastructure.

2. "Reapportionment: Policy Matters" Good detailed analysis.

Representative Sample: The reapportionment numbers were not only hugely consequential for the makeup of the next Congress and the durability of the Republican majority, but even a cursory look at the state-by-state numbers one sees the clearest possible vindication of conservative ideas at the state level.

3. "Why Religious People Are Scared of Atheists" Looks at the issue of why the mere existence of atheists offends the religious. Some good points, but I think part of the analysis misses the mark.

Representative Sample: there's a huge difference between making a case for why your religious views are correct... and getting offended, insulted, and martyred over the mere fact that some people disagree with you. Making a case for your position is one thing. Trying to stop other people from making their case is quite another.

4. "More Countries Invest In Marine Forces" Everyone wants marines.

Representative Sample: Theater commanders will say the benefits of a mobile force of marines, operating with naval support and dedicated air and ground assets, cannot be overstated, especially in an era of asymmetric warfare and littoral operations. So effective is this model of rapid light infantry that even landlocked Paraguay has a battalion of marines.

5. "Fading Faith: America’s secular shift" Evidence for the rising tide of secularism even in America.

Representative Sample: quietly, under the radar, much of America slowly is following the path previously taken by Europe. Little noticed, secularism keeps climbing in the United States.

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

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

HOT5 Daily 12/22/2010

1. "The Poisoned Fruits of Appeasement Come Home to Roost" Appeasement breeds aggression. How many times does it need to be demonstrated?

Representative Sample: Israel has already learned the lesson that the more land it withdrew from and the more concessions offered, the more militant, confident, and intransigent the other side became. That's why nowadays those demanding even more concessions--if there is some real cost or risk involved--are going to be ignored if at all possible.

2. "After DADT: Military Still in Left’s Crosshairs" The downside of the DADT repeal: calls for enforced political correctness to silence those who disagree.

Representative Sample: This is the consequence of liberal thinking on “progressive issues”: those who continue to contest, or even question, the progressive view of things will be expelled from government.

3. "Recording the Police" Something that should be legal.

Representative Sample: Being able to record the police is one of the best ways to ensure that the police are held accountable for their actions.

4. "What Happens at an Exorcism and Why It Should Worry Us" Another form of abuse, this time disguised as help.

Representative Sample: how much training does it take in order to become ‘proficient’ in bullying, manipulating, and terrifying and further brainwashing an already troubled individual into first believing that their troubles are due to a demonic possession and secondly that their lifestyle had allowed the possession to occur in the first place.

5. "Don’t Expect Soda Tax to Curb Obesity" No kidding. Nanny-state taxation does little other than raise prices. But that won't stop people who love raising taxes from advocating more.

Representative Sample: Such taxes have been proposed as a means to induce healthier consumption, and to cut down on costly related diseases like diabetes in the process. But the new study, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, suggests it’s actually the middle class that would shift behavior the most, picking up only a modest health benefit.

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

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Kissinger Was Right

The release of Nixon era tapes involving comments by Henry Kissinger has unleashed a torrent of condemnation, including plenty from the right. I'm going to use this post at Right Wing News, which includes excerpts from Christopher Hitchens, as a prime example. Here's what Kissinger said, while discussing with Nixon an appeal from Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir for the U.S. to pressure the Soviet Union to allow Soviet Jews to emigrate.
The emigration of Jews from the Soviet Union is not an objective of American foreign policy. And if they put Jews into gas chambers in the Soviet Union, it is not an American concern. Maybe a humanitarian concern.
For this comment, made during a private foreign policy discussion with the president, Kissinger is being labeled a "despicable," "evil" anti-Semite. Hitchens thinks he should be shunned.
Henry Kissinger should have the door shut in his face by every decent person and should be shamed, ostracized and excluded.
In my opinion, these attacks on Kissinger are ludicrous. Let's look at some excerpts from the linked post.
How can a Jew, who escaped from the Holocaust and had relatives who did not, knowingly turn his back on his fellow Jews who are being murdered in another country?
The U.S. Secretary of State's job should be to advance the foreign policy interests of the United States. It is not, and should not be his job to allow the plight of people of the same ethnicity and religion, no matter how sympathetic, to trump his focus on American interests.
What could be more evil than an elitist, Americanized Jew who sits fat and satisfied in safety and in a position of power where he could help, who would not move heaven and earth to get Jews to safety?
There's nothing at all evil about it. That wasn't his job, and it isn't the job of the U.S. to help everyone in the world who needs helping. By expressing his opinions on the foreign policy interests of the United States, he was giving exactly the type of advice a U.S. president needs to hear more of.
This is an endorsement of a second “Holocaust,” which thankfully did not take place. Kissinger fancies himself to be practicing “Realpolitik.” He is nothing but a preening opportunist.
It was obviously not an "endorsement" of anything. Kissinger wasn't advocating Soviet atrocities against Jews, he was merely pointing out -- correctly -- that doing anything about such a hypothetical event was not in the U.S. interest. The U.S. wasn't going to war with the nuclear-armed Soviet Union on behalf of Soviet Jews.
I agree with Christopher Hitchens about Kissinger’s rightful place in history and society given this final revelation of anti-Semitism. There must be consequences in history. Henry Kissinger should be made persona non grata everywhere.
There was nothing at all anti-Semitic about Kissinger's comments. And Hitchens has allowed his hatred of Nixon and Kissinger to color his usually more rational analysis. Saying that Kissinger is an anti-Semite because he didn't think intervening to help Soviet Jewry was in the U.S. interest is flat-out idiotic.

The reaction to the Kissinger tape illustrates that many people are clueless about how foreign policy is conducted, what realism means, and that the interests of a state are often different from personal interests. Having leaders who put aside their personal attachments such as ethnic or religious solidarity, and coldly and rationally calculate policy on the basis of U.S. national interests is a good thing. We have far too few such leaders directing our foreign policy. There is also a strong element of hypocrisy present in this criticism. What if President Obama advocated a policy of massive help for Africans because he has African ancestry and relatives living there? Many places in Africa are in desperate need greater than that of Soviet Jewry. Would the same people condemning Kissinger for putting the interests of the U.S. above sympathy for Soviet Jews applaud Obama for doing everything possible to help suffering Africans? Somehow I doubt it. The foreign policy of the United States should be directed at advancing U.S. interests. Although I don't agree with all of his decisions and opinions, Kissinger understood that. He's being condemned by fools who in large part don't even understand why their outrage makes them look foolish.

The Evil Power of Christmas Trees on non-Christians

Merely being in a room with a small Christmas tree causes bad feelings among non-Christians, and even causes Christians to feel "guilty." That's the conclusion of a recent Canadian study on the effects of Christmas tree displays.
Researchers at Simon Fraser University in Canada, found non-Christians feel less self-assured and have fewer positive feelings if a Christmas tree was in the room.
They displayed a single 12 inch tree in room and asked the participants, 77 Christians, and 57 "non-believers," to "fill in questions about themselves" with the tree either in or out of the room. It would be pretty interesting to see exactly what questions were asked. Naturally the researchers in question had no problem drawing sweeping conclusions based on their one highly dubious study of 132 people.
I think if people do care about making a whole range of different kinds of people feel included and respected, then we can make some small changes that would go a long way toward creating a more multicultural or inclusive society.
Really? Why don't we examine every single public display, see what kind of transient feelings they inspire and then base our policies off of those results? I know when I see some piece of lousy public artwork I certainly don't feel included. I guess we need to do away with public art. And since when do displays of any kind have to make people feel "included and respected"? Many displays obviously appeal to certain segments of the population and not to others. That's going to happen, particularly in a large diverse country. Without seeing the questions it's impossible to say for sure, but the evidence suggests that these researchers conducted a study looking for a result to support their preexisting biases.

HOT5 Daily 12/21/2010

1. "Do We Still Believe in American Sovereignty?" People on the right do. The left? Not so much.

Representative Sample: our sovereignty is still under attack today, though through less overt means: “International organizations and courts seek to reshape the international system. Nations are to give up their sovereignty and be governed by a ‘global consensus.’ Independent, sovereign nations will be replaced by ‘Transnational’ organizations that reject national sovereignty.” This trend is evident everywhere, and will not be halted without a renewed attachment to the idea of American sovereignty.

2. "MPAC Whitewashes Terror Threat While Condemning Law Enforcement" American Muslim terrorist apologists hold a convention.

Representative Sample: despite false promises to have an "honest" conversation about the role of the Muslim community in the United States, developing strategies to truly combat terrorism were dropped and replaced with a unrelenting campaign blaming terrorism on American law enforcement and so-called "Islamophobes."

3. "How useful is faith for obtaining knowledge?" Not very.

Representative Sample: Is faith sufficient? If you hold a belief in something without evidence deeply, sincerely, and completely, then does it follow that it is true? Or do you require faith and some component of evidence in order to accept something as true? In what ratios do they apply?

4. "Poll: Americans Can't Live Without Broadband" I know I can't.

Representative Sample: High-speed internet came in first as the technology most said they could not live without (28 percent), with email the second on the list (18 percent). Facebook only had 3 percent support among all adults. However, 15 percent of young adults (aged 18-24) said they could not live without Facebook.

5. "We aren’t a religion" A claim often made by the religious.

Representative Sample: I can’t tell you how many times, I have heard religions say that their religion “… is not a religion.” Of course, each denier has their own reasons for claiming not to be a religion, but I don’t care what reason they give because basically it comes down to them simply saying, “Look, we are different than all the rest.”

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

Monday, December 20, 2010

Computer Issues

My computer is failing to start. It sounds like the hard drive died. I'm posting this from my wife's system, but there won't be a HOT5 today. I have a spare hard drive sitting around that I'm going to install and see what happens.


After the computer booted with the spare hard drive I decided to give the old one another try, mainly to see if I could at least move some critical files to a flash drive. I'm really bad about not backing things up until it's too late. When I pulled the old drive I noticed that the head was covered with a dense layer of dust. I cleaned it off, reconnected it, and it started right up. So I'm back in action.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

HOT5 Daily 12/19/2010

1. "Beware The New Guy" The threat from new converts.

Representative Sample: many of the more troublesome members of mosques are recent converts, who were radicalized by what they found on the Internet. These converts, as is the case in many religions, tend to be more energetic in the practice of their newly adopted faith. Many are also looking for a cause, something that will enable them to excel at anything, even at the risk of their own lives.

2. "Monarchist Liberals Fear the Mob" This nails the attitude and behavior of many on the left.

Representative Sample: Liberals have never been too fond of democracy. Even when they win elections, they prefer to treat those victories as "historic events" that are almost supernatural in nature, to avoid dwelling on the fact that what really happened was that the votes were counted, and they racked up more than the other side. Instead they condescendingly describe their victories as a sign that the country has reached a new level of ethical and intellectual awareness. Like a kindergarten teacher handing out gold stars, liberals pat the country on the head (at least the right parts of it) for making the right decision.

3. "Spain: Muslims sue teacher for speaking about ham in class" Hamophobic Muslims.

Representative Sample: According to ”El Diario de Cádiz“, the teacher “is accused of being the author of an alleged crime of abuse of workers, also alleging racist and xenophobic motives. “

4. "Israeli Outsourcing to Palestinians Booms" Economic ties probably far more important to peace than the so-called Peace Process.

Representative Sample: many Palestinians have also warmed to the idea. “I doubt you would find a company who says, ‘I am closed for business‘” to Israelis, said Ala Alaeddin, chairman of the Palestinian Information Technology Association.

5. "Your faith is a joke" Another classic from Pat Condell.

Representative Sample: It's a video.

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

Saturday, December 18, 2010

HOT5 Daily 12/18/2010

1. "Why DADT Has to Go" I'm glad to see voices on the right speaking out supporting the repeal of DADT.

Representative Sample: One way or another, DADT is gone, whether by act of Congress, presidential stop-loss order, or judicial fiat.

2. "The 10 Worst Predictions for 2010" Some pretty bad guesses.

Representative Sample: "More people are going to be put to work this summer." -Vice President Joe Biden, White House briefing, June 17, 2010

3. "Apparently, we don’t understand faith" Debunking another popular religious attack on atheism.

Representative Sample: It seems like every other day I have to read some theist’s article about how atheists are either 1) way too mean, 2) clueless about religion, and 3) completely dogmatic about their non-belief.

4. "Ok, Liberals: are There Any Limits on Taxation?" The implications of an unlimited power to tax.

Representative Sample: If the government’s power to tax is unlimited, then we can tax out of existence anything we like and, of course, tax subsidize in to existence anything we prefer.

5. "Racial Mapping the U.S." Just in case you were wondering about the racial make-up of your area.

Representative Sample: The New York Times has a tool that provides a racial breakdown map of your community. Just put in your zip code.

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

Friday, December 17, 2010

No HOT5 Daily Today

It will return tomorrow.

Another Method of Dealing With Wikileaks

I've made my position on Wikileaks clear in previous posts. In my opinion it's a hostile foreign entity that the U.S. should destroy through covert action. But in reality, there is no chance that the Obama administration will act forcefully to eliminate the threat. At best the administration will be able to impose some legal difficulties on Wikileaks. I'm highly skeptical that it can be shut down through legal action. Given that situation, maybe we should try something else.

Since we know Wikileaks is targeting the U.S., and has already obtained information from a U.S. traitor, why not take advantage of that for our own purposes? The FBI regularly conducts sting operations designed to ensnare terrorists. Would-be bombers like the latest Islamist in Portland put their plans together only to find that their supposed collaborators are actually FBI fronts. It's an effective way to disrupt terrorists before they strike. Something similar could easily be done with Wikileaks.

The U.S. could have another apparent traitor or traitors contact Wikileaks with new troves of classified documents. The supposed traitors would be FBI (or some other agency) agents. The documents would be a mix of real but harmless material, combined with false or altered data. The false data would be disinformation designed to advance U.S. foreign policy goals. This would serve two purposes. First, depending on what information was planted, the U.S. might reap certain advantages before the authenticity of the documents was called into question. Second, if and when the fake documents were discovered to be fake, the credibility of Wikileaks would suffer. It would be revealed as a dupe of the United States. The authenticity of any future document releases from the U.S. would automatically be greeted with suspicion. Idiotic conspiracy theorists around the world are willing to believe almost anything, no matter how crazy. It's even possible that some would start to view Wikileaks as a CIA front and a tool for U.S. propaganda. Discrediting the organization and turning it into a laughing-stock would be almost as good as destroying it.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

HOT5 Daily 12/16/2010

1. "5 Ways to Win the War in Afghanistan" Suggestions worth considering. 

Representative Sample: right now, the massive amount of money flowing into Kabul is fueling the conflict. In a bizarre way, both the Taliban and the Afghan government currently have an interest in perpetuating this conflict: Both parties are making millions of dollars from the aid and development money saturating the country. These funds are distorting incentives and presenting ample opportunities for kickbacks, bribes, and other forms of corruption.

2. "Why I Want More People to Be Rich" Having more rich people is a good ting. 

Representative Sample: Your higher level of spending on goods and services will almost certainly increase the market for whatever I produce. Your increased saving and investment will lead to more capital and more inventions and almost certainly allow me to produce more within an hour’s worth of work.

3. "Apophatic Atheists" Links to an interesting article which is countered pretty effectively in the comments of this post.  

Representative Sample: atheism need not be a definite position. Atheism is about belief, not knowledge. So one can be agnostic atheist, meaning one doesn’t claim to know whether or not gods exist, but one doesn’t believe gods exist.

4. "Duck and Cover!" Pessimistic speculation on why the Obama administration is reviewing what's best to do in the event of a nuclear attack. 

Representative Sample: It’s a blast from the past, it is. I’m old enough to remember “duck and cover”, and for a while there fallout shelters were the “in” thing to have in a fancy new house. The Civil Defense trefoil could be found in all kinds of cellars and the lower floors of strong buildings, and people treated the situation alternately as being a remote risk and an inevitability.

5. "Unreasonable Requests For Religious Accommodation" No matter how stupid they are, if they're based on religion there's someone who thinks everyone has to accomodate them.

Representative Sample: This man, who was convicted of drug possession is a health nut. Hey, if you want to stay healthy, why don’t you quit the drugs?

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

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Knife-Wielding Criminals Meet Gun Owner

Right on the heels of my recent post about self-defense shootings in Kansas I happened upon another incident report, this time in Georgia. Two men attempted to rob a man at knifepoint in a parking lot. Unfortunately for them -- particularly for one of them -- their intended victim had a handgun.
a shopper was getting out of his car when he was attacked and held at knifepoint by two male suspects. ... Investigators say he struggled with the two men and was able to fire a weapon, killing Williams. According to the report, the robbery victim told a deputy "This guy tried to rob me and I shot him."
The man was injured during the struggle, but apparently not seriously. He's alive and un-robbed, thanks to the fact that he had a gun handy. Guns get quite a bit of bad publicity any time some nut goes on a shooting spree. But the fact is that guns are also routinely used in self-defense throughout the country. Many of the incidents garner little attention except for a mention in local news sources. And any day some violent criminal picks the wrong victim and ends up in the morgue is a good day in my book.

And here's a note for any pro-criminal apologists who have foolish sympathy for the poor attacker who supposedly didn't deserve to die for just a mere theft attempt... People like the shooter in this incident, and the apartment residents in the other, don't have the luxury of examining their options and trying to assess the motives of criminals. If someone breaks into your house, or grabs you and tries to put a knife to your throat you have to make an immediate decision under tremendous pressure. You don't know whether the criminal is simply going to take your money and go, or whether he's the type that doesn't want to leave any witnesses to his crime. If he's in your house it's even worse, because if you have a family, they are also at risk. In these situations a gun is a tremendous benefit to self-defense. It gives the weaker, the elderly and the outnumbered at least a fighting chance against a potentially lethal criminal, who may himself be armed with a firearm or other weapon. As I mentioned in the previous post, the fact that criminals in America have to fear being shot by their potential victims is a good thing.

HOT5 Daily 12/15/2010

1. "Conservatives Demolish Democrats During Mid-Terms & This Is What We Get? More Spending, More Pork, And More Class Warfare" Pretty much. It's just another example of the GOP as only the lesser evil.

Representative Sample: We took more seats away from Democrats then we have in four decades and this is what we get? There was a reason Conservatives demolished the Democrats last month and this deal WAS NOT IT. In fact it was the exact opposite. The tax rates going up would be disastrous for this economy and no one wants that. We had the leverage in this deal….but gave it away.

2. "Obama’s war on drilling is also a war on the poor" That's ok, as long as environmentalists are happy.

Representative Sample: The number of jobs destroyed by the ban is staggering, not to mention the loss of revenue to the federal government and the fact that it will make us more dependent on foreign oil. But the worst thing is what it’s doing to the poor in America. It’s devastating.

3. "The afterlife of Sayyid Qutb" An interesting look at an Islamist theorist and his continuing impact.

Representative Sample: Why has the Muslim Brotherhood's new leadership made a point of bringing to the fore aspects of Qutb's ideology? What aspects of Sayyid Qutb's discourse do they find appealing and/or politically useful?

4. "Israel general drops missile defense bombshell" Yet another example of why telling the truth and politics are often incompatible.

Representative Sample: Eisenkot's uncompromising statement did nothing to ease a spate of dire warnings by political and military chiefs in recent weeks that Israel's cities, particularly Tel Aviv and its densely populated environs, will be major targets in any new conflict.

5. "Lawmakers Grill Navy On New LCS Plan" As well they should.

Representative Sample: Despite the changes, McCain said, program costs escalated, leading to cancellations and an overall restructuring. About six years and $8 billion into the program, the Navy only has two ships, two partially completed ships and a raft of cancellations

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

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Don't Break Into Apartments in Topeka

For the second time this month, a home invader was shot dead by a resident while breaking into a Topeka, Kansas apartment. Each incident was ruled self-defense, and no charges were filed. That's two less criminals roaming the streets and looking for places to rob. There's no telling what might have happened had those apartment residents been unarmed. Unlike in some countries where self-defense is penalized and the populace disarmed, would-be home invaders in the U.S. have to fear being shot. That's a good thing.

Torture Works Again

Yet another criminal has demonstrated that torture can be an effective tool for extracting accurate information. This time the criminal in question used starvation and dehydration to break his victim over a period of six days, leaving the poor man, Neil Varley in this condition:
malnourished, dehydrated and suffering from kidney failure after he was deprived of food and water during his ordeal
So what did this torture accomplish? In addition to forcing the victim to write out checks, the torture also extracted some accurate information.
Police later recovered CCTV of Kizajev using Mr Varley's bank card to top up his mobile phone and withdraw cash.
As in previous cases, torture was used to obtain a PIN number, a type of specific, verifiable information. Unlike some people who claim to be experts on interrogation, criminals are well-aware that torture can be a viable tool for getting accurate information from a reluctant prisoner. Like all interrogation methods, success or failure depends on the who is asking the questions, the subject, the information in question, and various other factors that may differ in each case.

HOT5 Daily 12/14/2010

1. "Serious" Despite what Nancy Pelosi thought.

Representative Sample: Here’s something that politicians of both parties at the federal level are going to have to accustom themselves to: They can have good ideas born of the noblest intentions that serve laudable public policy goals that are not constitutional

2. "On the death of a wise man" Nice article on Richard Holbrooke. Even if I disagreed with him on policy, I always viewed Holbrooke as someone worthy of respect.

Representative Sample: He created a shop in the State Department that was a prototype of how the U.S. government should be run. It brought together people from every agency into one unified team that defied the old maxim of government that "where you sit is where you stand."

3. "“The Wisdom of Repugnance”" Why the "yuck factor" isn't necessarily a good basis for law.

Representative Sample: social practices that violate various taboos can be revolting even if on reflection the taboos prove mistaken. Accounts of historical attitudes towards interracial sex and marriage, for instance, suggest that people in the past have found that “yucky.”

4. "Averages" Good points.

Representative Sample: the differences matter — and in many situations the actual spread of values is much more important than an average (which can be very misleading).

5. "Wanted: Space Strategy" We need to pay a lot more attention to space in general.

Representative Sample: the Secure World Foundation’s National Space Strategy Project seeks the establishment of a space strategy taking into account the nation’s military, civilian government and commercial space needs in a way that reflects the county’s overall strategic goals

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

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's Not Racism It's Religion

That's the argument of a group of Israeli municipal rabbis who signed a religious ruling barring renting or selling apartments to non-Jews.
The rabbis defend their ruling. It's not racism, it's halacha -- Jewish law -- that prohibits allowing Gentiles a foothold, Rabbi Eliyahu told Israel Radio: "We've seen what happens in mixed towns, our girls are tempted and this leads to assimilation." "We don't want this happening in Safed or anywhere else," he said. Rabbi Dov Volpe was blunter. "State laws contravening halacha count as dust," he said, making clear that the Torah trumps democracy.

This type of discrimination, along with the idea that religion is the highest law, is common in many Muslim countries. But the Jewish state isn't immune either. It's always worth pointing out that religious fanatics of any stripe, whether Jewish, Muslim, Christian or otherwise, tend to share some similar beliefs. Their religious beliefs trump the law and rules of the society they live in. If their actions and statements appear bigoted, they aren't. They are just following their religion. Does that mean that their religion itself is partially based on bigotry? They tend to avoid that logical progression. And if you point it out they'll accuse you of being the bigot instead, or of trying to repress their religious freedom.

Fortunately, unlike some Muslim countries where far worse, such as killing people who convert from Islam, is the right and proper thing to do, many Israelis are not happy with religious leaders promoting discrimination. 

others want more than just pens taken from the rabbis -- they want their jobs. Many of those who signed the decree serve as municipal rabbis, their salaries funded by taxpayers. The Haaretz editorial calling for their dismissal was only one of many. "Racism at the expense of Israeli citizens," its headline said.

HOT5 Daily 12/13/2010

1. "If radical Islamic bombers ever become competent, the West could have a problem" Yes. In general we've been very lucky since 9/11. 

Representative Sample: When those who would kill you declare war on you as these killers have, you have two choices – fight the war or surrender. You can’t decide not to participate. It doesn’t work that way

2. "The Top 10 Economic Myths of 2010" Missed some, but a pretty good list.. 

Representative Sample: Like a magician creating an illusion, the news media, Treasury Department and General Motors pulled one over on taxpayers in early 2010, or at least they tried to. The bailed-out auto company issued a highly misleading advertisement claiming, "We have repaid our government loan, in full with interest, five year ahead of the original schedule."

3. "The Progressive Assault on the Electoral College" The left's dislike for the electoral college and continuing desire to destroy federalism is yet another indication that we need to keep it.  

Representative Sample: The Electoral College was a way to protect the voice of small states from the tyranny of the majority. What the progressives want to do is to follow up what they did with the seventeenth amendment. Instead of having fifty-one election districts for president, represented by the states and the District of Columbia, they want to have one election district consisting of the entire nation. Why not then abolish the state boundaries and the states themselves?

4. "Clausewitz vs. Sun Tzu" Links to an interesting article/debate. 

Representative Sample: The US military could use more Sun Tzu; it is far more Clausewitzian in the perspective of the officer corps than it is “Sun Tzuite”, but the armed services are not the Children of Clausewitz. Not even the US Army. We’d probably be better off if the American military was more thoroughly one or the other in terms of strategic culture than the industrial age, bureaucratic, ad hoc, legacy thinking non-strategic hodgepode that currently prevails.

5. "Video: Metrodome Roof Collapses" If you aren't a football fan and somehow missed this, check it out. It would have been very bad had this happened during a game.

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, December 12, 2010

HOT5 Daily 12/12/2010

1. "And Everybody I Know..." Good analysis. 

Representative Sample: The not-so-secret truth is that liberalism isn't a reality based community, it's an unreality based community, viewing the world through the lens of dogma, and using grouping to reinforce those beliefs internally, and clique strategies to bully their 'inferiors' into going along. Their "grass-roots" consist of often for-profit versions of those cliques using insider access and disproportionate access to wealth to enforce their reality on everyone else.

2. "Getting It Right." I think this sums up the reaction of many in the GOP rank and file to the tax deal with Obama. 

Representative Sample: you’re going to come to us and convince us that spending another 250 billion dollars is somehow going to translate to lowering a deficit that, were it a reactor, would be bleeding lethal radiation? The end result will be the same if we, you and I, don’t stop it.

3. "New START Treaty Implicitly Limits Missile Defense" Despite claims to the contrary.  

Representative Sample: The above referenced paragraph of the New START treaty sets a dangerous trap for future missile defense deployments. The current U.S. plan is to deploy increasingly capable defenses in a series of phases to meet what is expected to be a proliferating threat from the likes of Iran, North Korea and Syria. But the language in the New START treaty suggests that any expansion of current missile defenses could challenge the viability and effectiveness of strategic offensive forces

4. "Clinton Refuses to Leave White House" Pretty amusing.  

Representative Sample: twenty-four hours after former President Bill Clinton appeared at the White House to endorse President Obama’s tax plan, Mr. Obama is “still looking for the right way to ask him to leave,” an aide confirmed today

5. "The conservative case for Wikileaks" Even though I disagree and think this article is based on a number of false assumptions, it's worth noting that not all conservatives want Wikileaks suppressed.

Representative Sample: the worst hypocrisy throughout this controversy has been in conservatives reflexively defending the government and attacking WikiLeaks. Since when have conservatives believed that Washington should be able to shroud any action it likes in secrecy and that revealing government’s nefarious deeds is tantamount to treason? Isn’t it government officials who might secretly work for corporate, ideological or transnational interests — and against the national interest — who are betraying their country?

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

Saturday, December 11, 2010

HOT5 Daily 12/11/2010

1. "Progressives and Capitalism" They don't understand it. 

Representative Sample: most progressives would profess to desire iPod’s and cures for cancer. But they want these without the incentives that drive men to invent them, and the disruption to current markets and competitors and employees that their introduction entails. They want to end poverty without wealth creation, they want jobs without employers, they want cars without unemployment for buggy whip makers. When it comes to actual, real-world legislation, progressives will nearly always embrace predictability and egalitarianism over innovation and growth.

2. "The Next Missile Crisis?" More on the Iran-Venezuela situation. 

Representative Sample: what is Mr. Obama prepared to do if Iranian missiles (or even missile components) are detected in Venezuela? We're guessing that Caracas and Tehran already have a cover story for that contingency, claiming the missiles are part of some space research project. North Korea made similar statements before testing its TD-1 and TD-2 long-range missiles and a few western observers actually supported that position, saying that Pyongyang had a "right" to a space program. Will the president follow a similar position when Venezuela and Iran make similar claims?

3. "The Liberal Media and Their Double Standards with Regards to Europe's Policies" Unsurprising.  

Representative Sample: when the electorate of such a country votes to institute a strong conservative policy over the objections of its political elite, the media's fascination with the European everyman evaporates.

4. "Everyone Hates Ethanol Subsidies. Why Can't We Get Rid of Them?" Good question. 

Representative Sample: ethanol subsidies are opposed by just about everyone: researchers, environmental activists, free market wonks, and newspaper editorial writers across the ideological spectrum. Even Al Gore has come out against them.

5. "France Gets German Troops, a Postwar First" On much different terms than the last time they were in Alsace.

Representative Sample: Troops in Germany's 291st Infantry Battalion started moving into a French military base in Illkirch, near Strasbourg, in April, but Friday marked their authorization to take up arms, said French Defense Ministry spokesman Laurent Tesseire. About half of the planned 600-troop deployment is in place.

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

Friday, December 10, 2010

Majority of Americans Favor Prosecution of Wikileaks

A new poll indicates that 70% of Americans recognize that Wikileaks is harming the U.S.
Americans overwhelmingly think that WikiLeaks is doing more harm than good by releasing classified U.S. diplomatic cables, and they want to see the people behind it prosecuted, according to a new McClatchy-Marist Poll.
A large majority of Republicans, 81%, see Wikileaks as harmful, and even 58% of liberals agree that it is doing more harm than good. 59% of Americans overall support prosecution of Wikileaks members. Only a delusional 22% see the leaks as positive. It would be interesting to find out how many support violent covert action against Wikileaks, as I and others on the right have advocated.

HOT5 Daily 12/10/2010

1. "Venezuela to Host Iranian Missiles Capable of Hitting U.S" When you have a weak leader, enemies know they can threaten you with impunity. (As far as I know, this report comes from one German source, so it may not be accurate.) 

Representative Sample: In addition to the joint military base, Venezuela is also likely going to be the route by which Iran acquires advanced surface-to-air defense systems. Previously, Russia was going to sell 5 battalions of S-300PMU-1 air defense systems to Iran. That deal was scrubbed because of sanctions and instead Russia offered the system to Venezuela.

2. "Obama On Tax Cuts: Read My Lips, Or Triangulation?" A pretty good analysis. 

Representative Sample: If Obama becomes as politically adept as Bill Clinton (and there is absolutely no evidence to show that at this point in time), this could be Obama’s beginning of a triangulation strategy: make Republicans and Democrats look like novices and children, and show himself above the fray, looking out for the best interests of the American people.

3. "Eugenics Has Become Personal" A new and improved eugenics? Yeah, I'm sure it will be all as good as this naive writer suggests.

Representative Sample: Biotechnological enhancement will be different from the old eugenics in all sorts of obvious ways. It will, first of all, really work by transforming nature or as part of conscious and volitional evolution. It won’t be another ridiculous effort to consciously direct merely natural or impersonal evolution. It will also be directed toward what’s best for every human person.

4. "Why Are We Wasting Time on Nuclear Talks?" Because we have an administration whose foreign policy is based on empty talk and wishful thinking. That's what they do.

Representative Sample: Why is the United States still actively seeking to engage in nuclear talks with North Korea? North Korea’s nuclear program is about regime survival, prestige, self-sufficiency and national defense. Pyongyang has made the strategic decision that it is in the country’s national interest to acquire and maintain nuclear weapons. The West has absolutely nothing North Korea wants.

5. "Communism’s Persistent Pull" Unfortunately the world is full of ignorant, idealistic fools.

Representative Sample: Even today, when the horrors of communism are known to everyone, social democrats the world over continue to denounce and undermine private property rights and seek to replace them with some form of collectivized property. Since the late nineteenth century, most intellectuals have been hostile to private property rights and have advocated, if not outright communism, at least some “third way” closer to it than to a regime of full-fledged private property.

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

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The War on Solstice

The Freedom From Religion Foundation has a pretty amusing article up called, "Solstice celebrated long before Christmas."
Long before the star over Bethlehem and the eight days of Chanukah and certainly Festivus, there were solstice celebrations. So why aren't we freethinkers complaining about the War on Solstice and the theft of our winter holiday by religious folks like Bill O'Reilly?
Here's FFRF co-president Dan Barker, referring to the group's controversial solstice signs,
“Most people think December is for Christians and view our solstice signs as an intrusion, when actually it’s the other way around,” ... “People have been celebrating the winter solstice long before Christmas. We see Christianity as the intruder, trying to steal the natural holiday from all of us humans.”
Personally, I think the FFRF's holiday campaigns, especially trying to get harmless nativity scenes removed, are largely pointless and counterproductive. I wrote about one of last year's efforts here. In my opinion Christmas is as much as secular holiday in America -- if not more so -- as it is religious. I view even religious trappings such as nativity scenes as harmless mythological symbols akin to Santa, elves, reindeer and other things we associate with Christmas. But I did find the FFRF's argument about Christians stealing solstice not only essentially correct, but also entertaining. And the solstice cards are pretty nice.

HOT5 Daily 12/9/2010

1. "The Left-Wing’s Primary Challenge Bluff" Nothing more than bluster. Most people with the slightest clue on the left know that the chances of getting someone even more liberal than Obama elected are approximately zero.

Representative Sample: They’re bluffing. Left-wing Democrats are muttering about a primary challenge to President Obama in 2012. Some propose Howard Dean, others Russell Feingold.  The president shouldn’t worry overmuch.

2. "Innovation’s Darker Future: Biosecurity, Technologies of Mass Empowerment, and the Constitution" If you need more things to worry about. 

Representative Sample: Using gene-splicing equipment available online and other common laboratory equipment and materials, a molecular biology graduate student undertakes a secret project to recreate the smallpox virus. Not content merely to bring back an extinct virus to which the general population is now largely naïve, he uses public source material to enhance the virus’s lethality

3. "How Do You Solve A Problem Like Muhammad?" Why are so many terrorists named Muhammed? What could be the common thread?  

Representative Sample: For the umpteenth time since 9/11, a guy named Mohammad (or a variation thereof) has been arrested on terrorism related charges.

4. "The Protected Class?" Public sector workers. 

Representative Sample:  if you properly account for both retiree health coverage and pension benefits, the 4 to 11 percent salary penalty reported for state/local workers is easily pushed into pay premium territory, in some cases significantly so. In California, for instance, a 20 percent public-sector pay premium is not hard to imagine.

5. "SpaceX's Dragon: Getting Closer to Commercial Service" With pictures.

Representative Sample: The Dragon spacecraft is shaped like a gumdrop, isn't the sleek single-stage-to-orbit ideal spaceplane that we may see someday: but it's here, and it works.

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

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Demonizing the Rich

The pseudo-Marxist demonization of the rich has long been a staple of Democratic Party political tactics, as we've seen in the latest wrangling over extending the Bush tax cuts. Even Republicans engage in it from time to time. Why? Because it resonates with many people. Almost everyone has at least one stereotypical rich person they despise, whether it be someone who makes millions and is famous for being famous, an incompetent CEO who runs his company into the ground and walks away with a golden parachute, an overpaid under-performing athlete, a greedy corrupt politician, or whoever. The list goes on. Envy is a natural human emotion. People tend to be jealous of those who have far more, especially if they feel that the wealth is somehow undeserved. But the latest round has gone even further than usual, with Democrats defining anyone making over $250,000 a year as wealthy, and the repeated use of the term "working Americans" for those who make less -- as if they are the only ones working hard.

In reality, most people making more than $250,000 a year got that way through a combination of hard work and smarts. Most of them work harder than the poor -- that's why they aren't poor. And if they don't have to work hard now, it's because they spent years working and saving, and now have investments that alleviate the need to work. I've seen this from personal experience. I've dealt with small business owners who also work a full-time job, plus have several rental properties. They make 250k+ but they work all the time, shuttling between business interests. Owner-operators of small businesses work like slaves, especially if they actually want to make any money. I've personally worked many low-end jobs, and from what I've observed, much of the so-called working class doesn't work nearly as hard. The idea that the lower classes are hard-working and the wealthy are not is mostly backwards. It's painful for people to hear and admit that they are where they are because of their own failings and poor decisions, and that the wealthy are rich because they were smarter. It's much easier to demonize them. It's something to think about the next time some politician refers to "working Americans" and implies that only people making less than a certain figure qualify.

HOT5 Daily 12/8/2010

1. "The Progressive War on Federalism" When you worship big government, things that restrict the power of government are obstacles to "progress." 

Representative Sample: The progressives envision a national government that they can dominate and that, in turn, will dominate us. There is no activity over which they do not feel they can or should control. Private property is a panacea, to keep the masses from open revolt, but they really believe that all wealth that is generated belongs to the government except for the portion they permit us to keep.

2. "Obamacare Truly A Disaster" And it hasn't even really gotten rolling yet. 

Representative Sample: Want proof Obamacare is a disaster? Just look at how many people would be losing their good health care if it was actually being enforced

3. "Al Qaeda's M&A Strategy" The current model. 

Representative Sample: much of al Qaeda's growth in the last decade has been the kind of expansion that any American businessman would recognize: They've systematically tried to absorb regional jihadist start-ups, both venerable and newly created, and convince them that their struggle is a component of al Qaeda's sweeping international agenda -- and vice versa.

4. "I Couldn't Have Written It Better Myself" What if today's attitudes toward war/conflict had prevailed after Pearl Harbor? 

Representative Sample: FDR would have threatened negotiations if Japanese aggression didn’t cease immediately and sought sanctions from the League of Nations.

5. "Feeling chills in response to music" Interesting.

Representative Sample: Most people feel chills and shivers in response to music that thrills them, but some people feel these chills often and others feel them hardly at all. People who are particularly open to new experiences are most likely to have chills in response to music, according to a study

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

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Harry Reid Has an Actual Good Idea

According to Politico, Senator Harry Reid wants to add the legalization of online poker to the current tax deal.
Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), as well as several senior congressional sources and gambling lobbyists, confirmed that Reid and his staff have reached out to other Senate offices to try to build support for adding the online poker legislation — a draft of which POLITICO has obtained — to a measure extending the Bush-era tax cuts
Naturally Reid's proposal isn't some sort of principled support for allowing Americans to make their own decisions about how and where they want to risk their money gambling. It's payback to his supporters in the Nevada casino industry. Even so, any effort to lift ridiculous nanny-state prohibitions on gambling should be applauded.

The Ongoing Wikileaks Saga

As everyone probably knows by now, Julian Assange turned himself in to British authorities as a result of his European arrest warrant and will face sex charges filed in Sweden. This could be either a good or bad development. It's possible the charges will stick, he'll be convicted, thrown in jail and essentially discredited as a sex criminal. On the other hand, there is probably a decent chance that there won't be enough evidence for a conviction, he'll walk free, and use the incident to portray himself as a martyr.

Despite the situation with Assange, Wikileaks says it will continue releasing stolen U.S. diplomatic cables. Assange alone is not the problem, and regardless of what happens to him personally, Wikileaks remains a hostile non-state organization engaged in a direct attack on the United States. Along with the Assange situation, there have been some other positive developments. Visa and Paypal have both suspended business arrangements with Wikileaks, and the Swiss closed Assange's bank account. Those are helpful measures, but they don't go nearly far enough.

As I've argued before, Wikileaks has already inflicted significant damage on the U.S. Instead of waiting around for the next attack, the U.S. should take both overt and covert action to destroy this organization. Attacking its finances is well and good, but the U.S. should directly target the key individuals running Wikileaks. It's past time for some of them to start dying or disappearing. Unfortunately it is unlikely that our current president will act beyond the usual strongly-worded statements, and tentative legal tactics. We can wage an extensive assassination campaign in Afghanistan/Pakistan, but we apparently can't act to destroy an enemy that has carried out a successful assault, and caused far more damage than most of the people we are killing.

HOT5 Daily 12/7/2010

1. "Iran Signals Continued Nuclear Defiance Before Geneva Talks" The negotiating charade with Iran continues.

Representative Sample: Tehran has a long history of cynically using diplomacy to undermine the prospects for more sanctions and to drive a wedge between members of the international coalition that seeks to restrict its nuclear program. Get ready for more “Rope-a-Dope” diplomacy as Iran’s intransigent regime seeks to buy more time for advancing its nuclear ambitions.

2. "UNICEF harms children" Not worthy of donations.

Representative Sample: UNICEF has a ready supply of funds from good-hearted, uninformed people. American schoolchildren “trick or treat for UNICEF” without realizing that some of the money they raise will be spent on terrorist training camps, or on lobbying to keep children trapped in horrible orphanages.

3. "the true story of santa" Sounds strangely familiar.

Representative Sample: It's a cartoon.

4. "Pearl Harbor Day – Remembering December 7, 1941, the Day of Infamy" We should also remember the justifiable ferocity of our response. Something many today have forgotten.

Representative Sample: The World War 2 generation is dying off quickly. Our society is becoming more discounted from that era. And yet, so much of our lives today are still wrapped up in the events and consequences of actions during that era. The long reach of history still grips us.

5. "Quick Thought: Unemployment Benefits Stimulate the Economy?" In Democratic fantasy world.

Representative Sample: Go ahead and make the case that this is the compassionate thing to do… but don’t make believe this has anything to do with stimulating the economy any more than the “Stimulus” bill was designed to stimulate the economy.

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

Monday, December 6, 2010

HOT5 Daily 12/6/2010

1. "The WikiLeaks Challenge" Excellent points. 

Representative Sample: THE MOST important question that arises from the entire WikiLeaks disaster is why the US refuses to defend itself and its interests. What is wrong with Washington? Why is it allowing WikiLeaks to destroy its international reputation, credibility and ability to conduct international relations and military operations?

2. "Net job impact of stimulus zero, from SF Federal Reserve study" Even using imaginary numbers, it didn't help. 

Representative Sample: Taken at face value, this would suggest that the stimulus program (with an overall cost of $814 billion) worked only to generate temporary jobs at a cost of over $400,000 per worker. Even if the stimulus had in fact generated this level of employment as a durable outcome, it would still have been an extremely expensive way to generate employment. 

3. "On saying no to the burqa" Even just calling for people to reject it leads to cries of "islamophobia" in Australia.  

Representative Sample: once again we see "Islamophobia" used as a stick to try to deny people freedom of speech. It's appalling, though not unexpected..

4. "Knife Rights Go Big Time?" Getting rid of ludicrous, archaic knife laws is long overdue. 

Representative Sample: If gun control is ridiculous, knife control is ten times so, because most people have more dangerous knives in their kitchen drawer than knives that are typically banned or restricted.

5. "But, I'm no bigot!" Turnabout.

Representative Sample: Instead of discussing the rights of gay people let me discuss the rights of born-again Christians, fundamentalists, or whatever other label you may use for them. Allow me to use their typical arguments.

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