Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Laughing at the Left - Imaginary GOP Vote Suppression

There's an entirely predictable article in Rolling Stone called, "The GOP War on Voting." It's hard to read it without laughing out loud.
As the nation gears up for the 2012 presidential election, Republican officials have launched an unprecedented, centrally coordinated campaign to suppress the elements of the Democratic vote that elected Barack Obama in 2008. Just as Dixiecrats once used poll taxes and literacy tests to bar black Southerners from voting, a new crop of GOP governors and state legislators has passed a series of seemingly disconnected measures that could prevent millions of students, minorities, immigrants, ex-convicts and the elderly from casting ballots.
Naturally any good leftist conspiracy theory wouldn't be complete without false accusations of racism. When you read the article you find that the so-called war on voting is entirely imaginary. It consists of, wait for it, requirements that people have proper identification before voting. Isn't that horrifying? The rest of the article rests on the pretense that voter fraud doesn't exist. Since it doesn't exist, we don't need to bother with even the most minimal requirements for identification. Never mind that doing pretty much anything else involving the government requires proof of identity. You have to show an ID just to get into the federal building near where I work. Here in New Jersey, the ID requirements for a drivers license are ridiculously complicated and annoying. But it's just too much to ask that people show an ID before voting. It must be a racist GOP conspiracy to suppress the Democratic vote.

In actuality, the leftists at Rolling Stone want as much voter fraud as possible, because they expect criminals, illegal aliens and anyone else without valid ID to vote Democratic. Since they can't come right out and say that, they have to try and put a new spin on the same tired old propaganda about the GOP suppressing votes.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Dick Cheney's Memoir

Here's a surprise. A retired politician writes a self-serving memoir in which he gives his version of events, while criticizing others. I know, that's just so unusual. But in this case it's Dick Cheney, so the sputtering outrage has already started.

It's pretty funny to read all of the whining, the sniveling about so-called "war crimes," Halliburton, and all the other hatred directed at Cheney. As a general rule I tend to avoid political memoirs, because there are more interesting things to read than packs of lies. But all the attacks on Cheney are almost making me want to read his book. I suspect it will have that effect on a large number of people. Cheney will probably be laughing all the way to the bank as his critics help boost sales.

More Damage From Wikileaks

Since the U.S. has failed to eliminate the threat posed by Wikileaks, it was only a matter of time before it inflicted more damage on U.S. interests.
WikiLeaks has published on the Web nearly 134,000 leaked diplomatic cables in recent days ... the newly published cables included the names of some people who had spoken confidentially to American diplomats and whose identities were marked in the cables with the warning “strictly protect.”
This isn't the first time Wikileaks has callously endangered the lives of people who have worked with the U.S.
Last year, WikiLeaks was sharply criticized by human rights activists for disclosing the names of Afghan citizens who had provided information on the Taliban to the American military.
Supposedly they've been more careful with their publication of stolen files until now. But I guess you can't expect people who solicit treason and publish secrets in an effort to damage U.S. interests to be very responsible. As I've written multiple times before, the U.S. government should be doing everything possible to destroy Wikileaks, a hostile non-state entity that poses a threat significantly greater than many of the terrorists we are killing with the drone assassination program.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hurricane Aftermath

We were prepared for the worst but it wasn't as bad as expected, at least at my house. We had a massive amount of rain and some high winds, but the winds weren't as high as they could have been. There were no thunderstorms either, and we did not lose power. There's still a fair amount of wind, and our power often goes out with little reason, so hopefully our good fortune will continue.

I haven't been away from the house, but apparently this area, Salem County, NJ, had major flooding that caused at least one death and closed roads. Overall though, we were lucky compared to the possibilities that had been predicted.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Outstanding Article on Evolution and Why it Threatens Christianity

I saw that Richard Dawkins wrote a response to Rick Perry on evolution in the Washington Post. Unfortunately the good points are preceded by typical leftist nonsense, which will cause the entire column to be dismissed out of hand by anyone who needs to read it. But today there is a far better article in the same "On Faith" section by Paula Kirby. Here are a couple of excerpts.
Education is about overcoming ignorance - so the idea of allowing ignorance to set the school curriculum and to perpetuate itself by continuing to teach generation after generation information that for the last 150 years we have known to be false, is a shameful betrayal: a betrayal of young people, who put their trust in us and who deserve better; and a betrayal of the very concept of education itself.

Remember that 'ignorance' is not an insult, but merely a term for 'lack of knowledge'. Many of the people who protest so vociferously against the teaching of evolution do not understand how overwhelmingly strong the evidence for it is; and many of those who proclaim “But it's only a theory” do not understand that the scientific and everyday usages of the word 'theory' are very different.
She zeros in on why evolution is such a problem for many Christians.
a threat that goes to the very heart of Christian teaching. Evolution means that the creation accounts in the first two chapters of Genesis are wrong. That's not how humans came into being, nor the cattle, nor the creeping things, nor the beasts of the earth, nor the fowl of the air. Evolution could not have produced a single mother and father of all future humans, so there was no Adam and no Eve. No Adam and Eve: no fall. No fall: no need for redemption. No need for redemption: no need for a redeemer. No need for a redeemer: no need for the crucifixion or the resurrection, and no need to believe in that redeemer in order to gain eternal life. And not the slightest reason to believe in eternal life in the first place.
I have heard similar explanations from Christians I've asked why it isn't possible to accommodate their beliefs to scientific reality. To them that reality destroys their beliefs, therefore it can't be real. Instead of rejecting their system of myths, they prefer to reject scientific reality. The whole article is well-worth reading.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What's Happening in Syria?

If you want to read a gripping account of the situation in Syria, take a look at Spiegel Online International's article, "Running from the Ghosts of Damascus."
For two hours, Nabil plays dozens of videos, including images even Al Jazeera won't show, images of heads ripped off, bodies torn to pieces, severed feet, targeted gunshot wounds to the ears, eyes, forehead. There are pictures of severely injured people being given basic treatment at improvised medical stations, which the resistance uses because people are often abducted from hospitals. In one scene, armed men jump out of an ambulance. "Shabiha or security forces," Awad says. "That's happened so often, people are afraid to take the injured to the clinics anymore."
According to the accounts in the article, the main source of terror and repression isn't the army -- although it is retaking control of cities, but the massive regime security forces and secret police, personally loyal to Bashar al-Assad.
the regime's true backbone is the security forces and secret services, believed to employ up to 400,000 people in their network of terror units, all competing to torture and kill. Their creator, former President Hafez al-Assad, managed all members as far down as mid-ranking officers.
If these forces remain loyal, and the army doesn't turn on the regime, Assad has a good chance of retaining power. There are, however, some signs of cracks in his control.
Hundreds of dead soldiers have been turned over to their families with bullet wounds and no further details about their deaths. Another 1,000 or more have deserted. In Deir ez-Zor, a colonel is said to have defected together with some of his troops. The regime is growing increasingly concerned about its own army, says a soldier in Damascus. "Until five weeks ago, you only needed a military ID to pass through checkpoints anywhere in the country," the soldier explains. "Now you have to have a permit for each leg of the trip, or they'll suspect you as a deserter."
If the conscript army decides to turn on Assad, that could bring him down. But so far it hasn't happened.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Effective Missile Defense

The Christian Science Monitor has a report on Israel's "Iron Dome" rocket defense system that credits it with contributing to a cease-fire with Hamas.
A key factor supporting the cease-fire was a new weapons system that allows Israel to protect its citizens and thereby lessen public pressure for swift retaliatory strikes on Gaza.

Though not fool-proof, the "Iron Dome" missile-defense system shot down about 20 militant rockets in recent days before they landed in Israel cities. That provided a window for mediators from Egypt and the United Nations to step in and calm the situation.
Iron Dome achieved a 93% success rate even though it has only deployed two of the fifteen batteries planned for defense against the Gaza terrorist attacks. For once the U.S. is getting its money's worth from some foreign aid, since Israel is essentially field-testing missile defense technology applicable to U.S. systems under actual hostile conditions.
Experts say the technology of Israel’s anti-missile interceptors – which also includes the Arrow II missile for Iranian ballistic rockets – is based on the same concepts as the US-conceived Star Wars missile defense program.
The other benefit, as the article emphasizes, is that effective defense against rockets lessens the need for immediate Israeli retaliation. This is important, since alone among states, Israel is expected to absorb rocket attacks against its cities without taking any serious retaliatory measures. When it takes even minimal measures against Gaza, its actions are called "excessive force" by Israel-haters and their useful idiots worldwide, and it comes under tremendous pressure to refrain from doing things necessary to protect its citizens. Even though it should have the right to use whatever force necessary to eliminate the terrorist threat from Gaza, Israel's unique position makes this rocket defense system even more significant than otherwise -- at least until Gaza terrorists find a new preferred method for targeting Israeli civilians.

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Anti-Science Canard

Whenever there is a Republican candidate who doesn't believe in evolution, is skeptical of global warming, or opposes things like embryonic stem cell research, political opponents label him/her as "anti-science." There's a prime example at the Bad Astronomy blog, where Phil Plait recently hyperventilated about Rick Perry.

To say I am not a fan of Rick Perry, Republican Presidential candidate, is to seriously underestimate my antipathy toward him. He is anti-science in almost every sense of the word, and his stance on nearly every issue on which I’ve heard him speak is the exact opposite of where I stand.
That's a good way to make people disregard anything you might have to say since you admit extreme bias. But back to the anti-science claim. Let's take the common case of disbelief in evolution.

Unfortunately a lack of belief in evolution is a mainstream position in the U.S. According to a Gallup poll in 2009, a majority of Americans reject evolution. Does this mean that more than half the country is "anti-science"? Of course not. Being ignorant of important areas of science makes you ignorant, not anti-science. Then there is the religious angle. The reason so many Christians (and Muslims) have a problem with evolution is because of religious belief. Most Christians readily accept science that doesn't directly conflict -- as they see it -- with their religion. (Obviously there are Christians that have accommodated their beliefs and accept evolution -- I'm not talking about them.) I believe that most scientists would agree that evolution is a complex scientific topic, and is not intuitive. Poor science education, general ignorance, and religious belief opposing evolution are also abetted by an entire industry of professional creationists. For those better educated religious people who reject evolution but might feel uncomfortable about it, there are a whole bunch of pseudo-scientists out there feeding them on the notion that evolution is bad science imposed by a rigid academic orthodoxy. In short, it is easy to reject evolution. And it is entirely possible to be "pro-science" overall, while rejecting those parts of science which conflict with your beliefs.

Ignorance regarding certain aspects of science makes you ignorant, not anti-science. Calling someone who rejects evolution or global warming anti-science, is about as stupid an overstatement as labeling abortion supporters as pro-death, or opponents as anti-women. No doubt the oil industry, which relies heavily on science and technology,would be amazed to learn that Rick Perry is anti-science. I'm pretty sure that someone as smart as Phil Plait knows the difference between being opposed to science, and being ignorant in major areas. Unfortunately extreme dislike of political opponents often results in intellectual dishonesty, or an inability to separate analysis from emotional responses such as name-calling.

The Libyan Situation

CNN has live updates of the changing situation. The key questions right now are, where is Gaddafi, and will he accept defeat? According to reports his son, a leading spokesman for the regime, was captured Sunday and most resistance in the capital has collapsed. It looks like the rebels have won. But does Gaddafi retain enough military strength and support to continue fighting? Ideally he'll be captured, killed or flee the country and go in to exile.

If we assume that Gaddafi is finished and the rebels will be able to establish a new government, that raises more questions for the U.S. First, when will our involvement end? Will we, as usual, decide that we need to give Libya huge amounts of aid to help rebuild the country? And second, what type of government will emerge? In my opinion our intervention was unnecessary and not in the U.S. interest. However, if a decent friendly or even neutral government takes over, one that removes Libya from the column of nations we need to worry about, the operation will have achieved positive results. Although it isn't hard to do better than Gaddafi, it is unfortunately also possible that the new government will be dominated by Islamists, or be in other ways as bad or worse as the dictator it replaces. Other than just supporting the rebels, I'm not sure what exactly we are doing to try and produce a positive outcome. Right now we are in wait and see mode.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Obama on Vacation

As usual whenever a president goes on vacation, he takes criticism, usually from political opponents.
some Americans say it is not appropriate for the president to leave the White House when financial markets are plummeting and unemployment remains high. ... Criticism of the trip is not limited to Mr. Obama’s political opponents. Some Democrats are expressing concern about the appearance of the president taking a vacation in an affluent resort area while millions of Americans are out of work.
GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney made it an issue, saying that the president should release his supposed economic plan before going on vacation. I have a different opinion. I'd like to see the president take a vacation for the rest of his term. He can relax with the family, play a bunch of golf, maybe even do some campaigning. The last thing I want to see Obama doing is working, and coming up with "solutions" to the country's problems.

I know Mitt Romney is just trying to score some cheap political points, but why in the world would he be interested in hearing an economic plan from an administration that is part of the problem with the economy? Unless the plan involves the resignation of the president or a bunch of his top advisers and appointees, we can do without hearing it indefinitely. Any Republican should be cheering when the president goes on vacation, because when he's off relaxing, he isn't actively doing any more damage. Have a great time on vacation Mr. President, and don't hurry back.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

"Smart Power" Isn't Smart or Powerful

Hillary Clinton made the laughable claim that the U.S. is employing "smart power" with regard to Libya and Syria. With all the focus on President Obama's miserable handling of domestic policy, it's always worth reminding people that this administration is almost as clueless when it comes to foreign affairs. Here's Clinton on what she thinks we are doing in Libya.
Libya was a study in the use of "strategic patience," whereby the United States resisted the impulse for immediate intervention and instead helped to build support for the country's nascent opposition, which the U.S. now recognizes as Libya's legitimate government. She said the unprecedented NATO-Arab alliance protecting civilians on the ground was a key result of the tactics of smart power.
Here's what we are actually doing in Libya. Despite already being involved in two wars, fighting Islamist terrorists across the globe, and mired in an economic mess, we decided to intervene in the Libyan civil war. This intervention was completely unnecessary, particularly given that Britain and France were already going to intervene. Not only did we do so anyway, but we created a terrible precedent at the UN by signing on to a resolution that could easily be directed against America in the future. In addition, once in the war, we refused to win it by taking the obvious action of trying to eliminate Gaddafi. We are basically helping prolong a civil war, wasting money, and keeping forces tied down in yet another open-ended commitment. If that's a smart use of American power, I'd hate to see a dumb one.

In Syria, we are doing essentially nothing. In my opinion that's actually pretty smart. But it has nothing to do with exercising some sort of power. We are refusing to employ our power at all. Hillary Clinton even thinks it would be going too far if we called for Assad to step down. And then there's this gem from the Secretary of State that demonstrates yet again how Obama's foreign policy is based primarily on naivete and wishful thinking.
"I think this is smart power, where it is not just brute force, it is not just unilateralism," she said. "It is being smart enough to say you know what we want a bunch of people signing out of the same hymn book and we want them singing a song of universal freedom, human rights, democracy, everything that we have stood for and pioneered over 235 years."
Brute force is an actual application of power. It can be smart or it can be dumb. It depends how and why it is employed. Doing things unilaterally is sometimes necessary and can also be smart, and in American interests -- which aren't exactly a priority for the Obama administration. What is "universal freedom" supposed to be? Maybe it's the same thing as "a universal set of values and interests."
"The United States stands for our values, our interests and our security, but we have a very clear view that others need to be taking the same steps to enforce a universal set of values and interests,"
There is obviously no such thing as universal values or interests. But Clinton wants to "enforce" them somehow. Hopefully we can replace the Obama administration with one that at least grasps the basic fact that different states have different interests, and that values vary wildly across the globe.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

US Marines Training in Israel

There's an interesting post at Elder of Ziyon about a US/Israeli joint military training program.
As part of the ongoing cooperation between the Israeli Defense Forces and the US Armed Forces stationed in Europe, a company of US Marines came to Israel for a month of intensive training at IDF facilities and alongside IDF soldiers. Dividing their time between the Adam Base in central Israel and the Tze'elim Base in the south, the soldiers trained in urban and cautious warfare, reconnaissance, and at various shooting ranges.
The Israelis have built an entire mock town for urban warfare training. According to Israel Today, this facility has been used extensively by U.S. forces training to go to Afghanistan and Iraq.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The GOP's Top Three Contenders

There's a front-page article at the LA Times site that identifies what it calls the GOP's "Top Tier" of candidates: Michelle Bachmann, Rick Perry and Mitt Romney. It's still very early and things might change radically, but as of now I agree with the article's premise. Here are my premature thoughts on them as candidates, both for the nomination and the general election.

Michelle Bachmann I think Bachmann has a shot at the nomination, but that her chances fell dramatically with the entry of Perry. On the other hand, I think Bachmann's status as a "true conservative" is rock-solid. If Perry falters, or starts to be seen in a more negative light among the GOP faithful for whatever reasons, Bachmann might surge in front of him.

As for the general election, I have my doubts that Bachmann can win. The demonization has already begun in the media, and her religious and strong social conservative views are going to be a turn-off for many independents. Unlike Perry, she can't balance that out by pointing to her record as the governor of a state with economic success. Her strength there is mainly in the form of ideas and principles, rather than many concrete actions. Like candidate Obama, she's underqualified for the presidency. There are going to be many people who don't want to risk seeing another inexperienced president flounder incompetently for four years. I think Bachmann is a dark horse at best -- at least for now.

Rick Perry. He just got in, but right now I think Perry is the favorite for the nomination. First, he's a governor. Like Romney he has the executive experience and record to run on. Second, unlike Romney, he isn't seen as a squishy Republican too close to things like Obamacare. Third, barring some sort of drastic changes before the election, the economy is the number one issue. Perry can point to actual results from his policies in Texas. I think he's acceptable to the base, certainly more so than Romney, and the perception that he has a better chance to win should give him the edge over Bachmann. But it's real early for him. There's no doubt that Democrats and the Democratic-biased media (and probably GOP competitors too) are already frantically digging for things that damage Perry. As we learn more, his position could change dramatically.

My first impression is that Perry is a strong candidate in the general election. But I see one big problem. Bush Derangement Syndrome is still strong in the U.S. Is it too early to elect another GOP governor from Texas that can be painted as Bush-like? It might be. If he gets the nomination I expect a full-on effort from Democrats to portray him as another Bush, but even worse. I can see that strategy working to keep Obama in the White House.

Mitt Romney. Romney's advantages in the nomination are his money and the possibility that the GOP establishment might decide that it's his turn. But his base support is weak. Many hardcore Republicans do not view him as very conservative. On the other hand, he's tested as a candidate. It's unlikely that any scandal or other disqualifying revelation is going to knock him out of the race. He might get it by default as the most solid, serious candidate. He might also get the nomination by the John McCain path, winning big in open primaries and gaining unstoppable momentum, especially if Bachmann, Perry and some of the lesser candidates split the hardcore GOP vote.

Of the three I think Romney is the most electable in the general election. He projects competence and leadership in contrast to Obama, and is fairly moderate and able to appeal to independents fed-up with the last four years. I don't think he's a lock to win though. Obama isn't good at much, but he is good at raising money and getting elected. Whichever GOP candidate emerges is probably in for a tough fight.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Dutch Idiocy on Piracy

Back in November, the Dutch navy caught five Somali pirates in the Gulf of Aden. The had hijacked a yacht, and kidnapped a South African couple. The victims are still missing. After they were found guilty of these actions, a Dutch court sentenced them today. So what does piracy and kidnapping get you in the Netherlands? How about "up to 7 years" in prison? Wow, that should serve as a great deterrent to piracy. No doubt Somalia pirates are quaking with fear over the possibility that they might be intercepted by the Dutch navy. They might face up to seven whole years in prison. Oh wait, that was only for two of them. The other three got even shorter sentences.

If you have to travel in the areas where Somalian pirates operate, you'll just have to take your chances, since no state is willing to take the actions necessary to suppress piracy. At least some nations, such as the U.S. and Spain, are willing to hand out harsh sentences to captured pirates.
In similar cases this year, a U.S. court in Virginia sentenced five Somalis to life in prison and a Spanish court in Madrid sentenced two convicted pirates to 439 years each.
But apparently the Dutch are still blindly adhering to some archaic law written during a time when a 7 year prison term was much more like a death sentence.
Prosecution spokesman Wim de Bruin said the sentences were in line with Dutch law, which provides a maximum 9-year term for piracy and 12 years for a pirate captain. The 17th-century law against sea robbery has not been revised since modern pirates began plaguing the sea lanes off Africa’s eastern coast.
Maybe they should have addressed those sentencing rules before they decided to bring Somali pirates back and try them in the Netherlands.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Some Good Points ... From a Socialist?

I was reading posts on Planet Atheism, an aggregator of atheist sites, when I noticed one about the London riots written by Anna Johnstone. I've never been on her blog before, and was surprised to see forthright condemnation of the rioters, and points that would normally be made from the right. Despite being a self-described socialist, Johnstone apparently doesn't buy into the cult of victimization the pervades the left. Instead of excuses for the rioters, there was the following:
These rioters are NOT freedom fighters of any kind regardless of what they claim to be! They are an insult to the idea of a free society. As a socialist I am disgusted with the lot of them and have been seriously considering my stance on corporal punishment over the last couple of days.
She writes about her own strict upbringing in contrast to kids allowed to run wild.
I now believe that my parents actually did know what they were doing and I thank them for it. They were preventing my brother and I from turning into the sort of selfish, greedy animals committing these vile acts in our major cities. They didn’t let me grow up thinking that the world owed me anything.
And when was the last time you heard this much sense from the left?
I was taught that a social safety net was just that: a safety net. It’s there so nobody who falls on hard times has to starve or go homeless and it should not under any circumstances be abused or in any way taken for granted or relied upon as an indefinite source of income especially if we are able to work.
There's more.
I am getting rather sick and tired of hearing how ‘Austerity measures’ have led to these riots: they haven’t. This began as an outraged cry over a bungled arrest. What has happened since is completely unrelated to said shooting. The violence and destruction which has followed is in no frame of the rational mind, neither proportionate or appropriate.
Now granted, she does attribute the mindset of the rioters to "a left-over bi-product of the Thatcherite brand of ‘Individualism‘ and her despicable policy of ‘there is no society,'" which I found pretty funny. She might want to read Max Hastings' much more convincing argument. But overall the post is right on the mark. I will return to her blog to see her thoughts on other topics.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

More on Shooting the Rioters

In the previous post I called for the police to shoot rioters who use firebombs against the police, or who set fire to occupied buildings. John Hawkins at Right Wing News agrees, although he goes much further.
Many people think of defense of a nation as the very first job of government, but there’s actually an even more basic task that the government has to fulfill: Maintaining order.

In extraordinary situations, when you have widespread breakdowns of public order and shops are being looted, cars are being burned, rocks and bottles are being thrown at police, and civilians are being murdered in the street, if the government can’t quickly re-establish order using normal means, it’s completely justified in using lethal violence to do it

I think lethal police response should be more selective, but I agree with his view of the responsibility of government. And he makes a key point.
you may say this is unfair to thugs in the street, but we should be much more worried about the lives of innocent people who are being assaulted and property owners whose livelihoods are being unfairly destroyed.
Exactly. This attitude tends to separate the right and the left, and is one of the many reasons I will always be on the right. When I look at a riot, my sympathy is with the people being assaulted, the owners of the cars being destroyed, the families left homeless when their buildings burn, the shopkeepers who are robbed, and all the other victims. The last thing I worry about are the feelings and rights of the scum doing the rioting.

Rioting Scum Continue to Rampage Thru London

In an extremely belated and underwhelming response, police in London are warning that they are going to use plastic bullets against rioters. They should have been using real bullets on the first night to kill the firebomb throwers. People who attempt to set others on fire, or who set fire to occupied buildings are attempted murderers. Those observed in the act of such attempted murders should be shot on sight by police, or anyone else. Since the UK has largely disarmed its people, and stripped away the effective right of self-defense, it falls to the police to maintain order and protect the public from these rampaging gangs of human scum. From what I've seen in British news reports, so far they've done a miserable job.

While driving to work yesterday I heard an NPR report on the riots. Their reporter interviewed a woman whose apartment complex was set on fire. She told how while she and her family were fleeing for their lives, their home destroyed, looters were laughing and stealing rugs from a shop on the ground floor of the building. As I've written before about mob violence, these sorts of situations are one of the few times that excessive police force, which would normally be police brutality, is actually called for to restore order. People who act as part of a violent mob or gang, who commit acts of arson, and who think the chaos they've caused is an excuse to appropriate other peoples' property are predatory vermin that needed to be suppressed as quickly as possible with overwhelming force. When a government fails to do so in these situations, its lack of action encourages more vermin to crawl out of their holes and take part in the feeding frenzy.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Not Being Run Over by Tanks

This picture is from an article by Kelly McParland in the National Post. The caption reads: "Thousands of protesters march in Israel. Notice how they're not being run over by tanks."

The caption was my favorite part of the article, but the rest is good too.

I’ve been scouring the web sites of fearless critics of Israel — attention-grabbing authors, union bosses, self-righteous leftwingers, NDP deputy leaders, flotilla supporters etc. — for signs they are putting their famed organizing abilities to work to focus international outrage on the Syrian regime via marches, protests, demonstrations etc. And praising Israel for its democratic response to a national crisis.

Can’t seem to find any. Odd. But I’ll keep looking.
Good luck with that.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Myths About Mormons?

The Washington Post has a regular feature called "Five Myths." The problem with this column is that many of the myths they are supposedly debunking are not actually myths. The latest is about Mormonism. Let's see if these myths are really myths.

1. Mormons practice polygamy. 0 for 1. The author herself admits that polygamy is still part of Mormon theology, and still practiced by "ultra-orthodox splinter groups." Obviously most Mormons are not polygamous, so saying Mormons practice polygamy is misleading and a major overstatement. But it is technically correct that some Mormons do, and therefore not a myth.

2. Mormons aren’t Christians. 0 for 2. This is obviously not a myth. Whether or not Mormons are considered Christians depends entirely on opinion. In my opinion, although Mormonism has similarities to Christianity and is an offshoot, it is its own religion. It is different enough from Christianity that it is perfectly reasonable to argue that Mormons are not Christians.

3. Most Mormons are white, English-speaking conservatives. 1 for 3. Finally, an actual myth. The author notes that fewer than half of Mormons live in the U.S., and that the LDS church has grown substantially throughout the world.

4. Mormon women are second-class citizens. 1 for 4. The author goes on to point out that women are in fact second-class citizens in the LDS church.

It is true that mainstream Mormonism does not accord women equal status with men. The worldwide LDS Church chain of command — including all positions of clerical, institutional and fiscal authority — is entirely male. Women cannot hold the lay priesthood shared in by men age 12 and older. The church’s Proclamation on the Family declares that men “preside” over the household. Unequal gender language is also a part of Mormon temple worship and marriage ceremonies.

But she dismisses all that by claiming that well, Mormonism does include some "progressive" elements favorable to women. Sorry, not a myth.

5. A Mormon president would blur the line between church and state. 1 for 5. We haven't had a Mormon president, so whether or not any particular Mormon would blur the lines of church and state is unknown. This is an argument that probably doesn't apply any more to a Mormon than it does to a member of any other religion, and depends on the individual in question. But it isn't a myth.

The final tally is 1 clear myth, 4 non-myths.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Islamic Values Apparently Don't Allow Water Fights

A group of people held a big water pistol fight last week on a particularly hot day.
Hundreds of men, children and women in all-enveloping black chadors turned up. They gleefully soaked each other for two or three hours. Pictures showed families enjoying themselves. Finally the park managers turned the taps off and everyone went home. Nobody was hurt. Nobody complained.
But this didn't go over too well with various Iranian guardians of "Islamic values." Mohamad Taghi Rahbar, the chair of Iran's parliamentary legal and judiciary committee accused organizers and participants of "endeavouring to dilute our Islamic values," and warned that organizers would be dealt with "severely." One local official went so far as to describe the activities as "immoral." And people wonder why so many have negative views of Islam. The example of an entire country ruled by Islamic clergy where Islam is used to justify repression couldn't have anything to do with it. It must just be "Islamophobia."

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Staying in Iraq

I've been saying for years that we aren't leaving Iraq any time soon, despite our supposed withdrawal date, and a report from the Washington Post appears to confirm that assumption.
U.S. officials welcomed on Wednesday Iraq’s decision to negotiate with Washington on keeping some U.S. troops in the country into next year ... Iraq’s top political leaders agreed late Tuesday that the Iraqi military needs to continue training programs with U.S. forces, marking the first step in a process that still could take months to resolve.
On the one hand the U.S. has good reasons for retaining a military presence in Iraq, which are laid out in the article. But the problems lie in the details.
Significant details that remain unresolved include the length and focus of any training program, how many U.S. troops such training might require and how Iraqi leaders would formally request and approve a new partnership. Mullen and his colleagues also want legal immunity for any troops who stay behind.
One huge detail not mentioned is who is going to pay for the continuing U.S. presence. If Iraq wants and needs U.S. troops to remain in its country beyond the agreed upon withdrawal date, it should provide the financial support for that presence. With our fiscal situation as it is, we should not continue to maintain large foreign deployments, plus the aid programs that go with them, at our expense.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Sex and Donuts

From the LA Times,
there was more on the menu than lattes and a dozen glazed during the late shift at a Dunkin Donuts in northern New Jersey.

A 29-year-old female is facing prostitution charges after police say she took breaks to provide sex in exchange for money.
I guess it makes sense. Some Dunkin Donuts are open 24 hours, and guys coming in there late at night are probably going to be alone. She probably made more on one of her breaks than she did the whole night working for Dunkin. If we legalized prostitution, late night sex & donut shops might be an effective business model.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bad News From Turkey

The Islamist Turkish government continues to consolidate its power over the military, which has long been a force for secularism in the country. Top military leaders resigned en mass to protest the ongoing purge being conducted by the government.
the country’s top military commanders resigned in protest over the detention of comrades facing coup conspiracy charges. ... [There are] about 250 officers now jailed on charges linked to various alleged anti-government plots dating back to 2003.
Christopher Hitchens has an article about this at Slate. He sees it as the end of an era. As he puts it, the "long, uneven symbiosis between state and nation and army and modernity has now run its course." Regardless of some of the issues regarding the Turkish military, for the most part it has been a friend to the U.S. since the outbreak of the Cold War. Its decline, and the rise of Islamist democracy has been nothing but bad news for the U.S.

Trivial Cuts But No New Taxes

That's my one-line summary of the debt ceiling deal. It's nothing great, but it's the best that could be expected given the political situation. We will continue to borrow and spend ridiculous amounts of money, but we will make some minor cuts over ten years to offset this particular increase in the debt ceiling. Despite all the nonsense about "hostage-taking" and "extortion" from big government types, the House GOP did the right thing in attempting to force some fiscal reform. They didn't succeed, but at least they were able to block new taxes.

There will be no actual cuts to government, no programs closed down, no departments eliminated, or anything else that would indicate a serious attempt to scale back the size of government and its out-of-control spending. In fact, this deal even creates yet another commission to try and agree on part of the cuts specified in the agreement. But at least for now, there will be no new taxes to give the government even more money to spend.