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The Therapy Sessions
Saturday, January 31, 2004

Campaign Finance Illusions

Sometimes it is important to put things in perspective.

The entire electoral process in 2000 - the total cost of the House and Senate races added to the cost of the presidential election - was $300 million.

A gasp in horror might be appropriate here, until you consider that America spent $15 BILLION on pet food in 2000.

But it was impossible for the media to put that $300 million in perspective. They screamed about the buying of the electorate. It was assumed that money could buy elections, and that voters were easily swayed by sly TV commercials crafted by masters of spin.

In a nutshell: money buys support! It was so obvious that people have never bothered to wonder if it was true.

Blinded by this assumption, Congress passed (and our jackass president signed) Campaign Finance Reform. The bill was created by career politicians, and it was made to protect their careers. By unfairly complicating the fianances of anyone who would dare to run against sitting politicans, it protected the power of incumbency.

I was surprised the Democrats enthusiastically backed this bill, because the bill practically guaranteed that both the Senate and the House would remain in Republican hands for the next decade. Watching this Democrats applaud its signing was like watching somebody make a breathtakingly stupid move in a chess match.

But money does not (necessarily) buy support. A test case: how much money would be required to make Dennis Kucinich president? The answer is that no amount of money could get such a man elected.

Money is important, no doubt. But the candidate and the issues that matter more. Donors are drawn to candidates who they think can win, and they send money (which is not much different than volunteering time) to support candidates they like.

This is what Howard Dean did. Leftist activists liked his message, and by raising money on the internet, he had more money than all of the other candidates combined going into the Iowa caucuses.

Forty million dollars - one fourth of what Bush spent on the ENTIRE presidential election in 2000 (!) - bought Dean third place in Iowa, and second place in New Hampshire.

Kerry - who couldn't make payroll for his staff in early January - won both states.

And now his finances are improvingly rapidly.

Support - from the voters - brings money.

Kerry will win the nomination without much trouble now, because the voters have spoken. I predicted this last summer:
Assuming no else jumps in, it’s going to come down to Kerry against Dean, and Kerry will win because the Democrats are smarter than they get credit for. Dean is a foreign policy lightweight and in the post-911 world, that's never going to fly. If the Democrats really want win (and I think they do), they’ll pick Kerry. I predict that after this summer of Dean rapture, they will come to their senses and begin to get serious about Kerry.

I've come really close to changing my mind, and throughout much of December I was ready to concede my error. But Kerry's win vindicates my central reasoning: a simple faith in the intelligence of the voters (even Democratic voters). I'll be the first to admit my predictive powers aren't that good, but hey, it's fun to try (and sometimes you get lucky).

My next prediction: I don't think we'll hear much about Kerry after November. His opportunistic past will come back to haunt him, and I don't think he will be successful in diverting the voters' attention away from foreign policy - which is Bush's (only) strong suit. Kerry's past support of truly dumb ideas like the nuclear freeze will make for very interesting reading.

The US hasn't elected a sitting Senator to the presidency since Kennedy and the reason is clear: senators leave paper trails smelling of bad legislation.

Kerry will probably be gone after 2004. But Campaign Finance Reform will be with us for many years.

That is until Congress gets the itch to reform it further.

Friday, January 30, 2004

When will the roadrunner learn?

From Iowahawk.



Painted Desert, Arizona - Undaunted by his latest 6000 foot plunge yesterday from Widowmaker Pass, local roadrunner predator Wile E. Coyote vowed to "redouble my efforts to follow the Acme roadmap process."

"It is crucial that we look past the violence, the plungings, the telephone wire slicings, boulder crushings, and bowling ball mishaps of the past," he said, emerging from his 12 foot coyote-shaped impact crater at the bottom of Deadman's Gorge.

Dusting himself off while emitting accordion noises, Coyote added, "I personally pledge to work with the representatives of Acme to explore every option - whether it is jet powered roller skates, iron birdseed and giant magnets, or industrial rubber bands - that will finally end the cycle of piano-flattenings. The pursuit of this goal is too important."

Thursday, January 29, 2004
From Iowahawk:
Bush Country Faces Grim Shortages of Latte, Galleries

[ed. note - via Andrew Sullivan, Sridar Pappu at the NY Observer reports that the NY Times is putting on their pith helmets for a dangerous safari to explore the conservative jungle. It prompted me to pull out this old piece that I wrote for CNS in August 2001. For a related piece, see In New York, Scrappy Local Newspaper Struggles For Survival.

Extra note to Times staff who stumble upon this: Bwana! Raita Winga place danja danja, bad mojo! Me makey good guide boy, two dolla!]

Crawford, Texas - As the relentless midday Texas sun broils overhead, Beverly Bowers makes her monthly four-mile trek to the Crawford Craft Fair and Flea Market, her only protection the six-zone air conditioning system of her 1999 Chevrolet Suburban.

Bowers, 56, will spend the next two hours scouring the bric-a-brac, refrigerator magnets, Beanie Babies and Hummel porcelain, searching for a treasure with which to decorate her aesthetically modest, if sprawling, ranch house. A gaudy wide-eyed 'Precious Moments' ballerina figurine catches her eye, and she pauses to admire it.

As I point out the ironic similarities between the grotesque piece and the deliberately kitschy mega-sculpture of Jeff Koons in his pre-Ciccolina ouvre, Bowers gives me a quizzical glance.

"Who's Jeff Koons?"

Haute Cuisine, Drag Shows Noticeably Absent

While shocking, Bowers' question underscores the growing cultural underclass in America; a voiceless society deprived of even the most basic access to transgressive sculpture, conceptual performance spaces, experimental cuisine, cutting-edge urban fashion, or drag queen pageants.

For most members of the Washington and New York media, their existence had, until recently, been only a vague rumor. But a jolting reality awaited those consigned to this remote hamlet to cover the working vacation of President George W. Bush.

E.J. Dionne of the Washington Post described a common experience of the visiting press. "When I arrived in Crawford, I had a sudden craving for a quick brioche and mineral water, and set out in search of a decent Belgian patisserie," he recalled. "Two hours later, the horrible truth dawned on me. In Crawford, there are no decent Belgian patisseries."

Panic stricken, Dionne said he began asking for help from local passers-by.

"I kept asking them, 'where can I get a brioche? Where can I get a brioche?', only to see blank stares," he recalled. "Finally, one man in a pickup truck said he hadn't heard of that brand of beer, but offered me a Shiner Bock."

It was a scene that would be constantly repeated throughout the first weeks of the Bush retreat; dozens of panicked media professionals wandering the streets of Crawford, searching in vain for alternative weeklies, gallery openings and Peruvian-Vietnamese tapa parlors, only to be met with blank stares and offers of free beer. The experience stunned many.

Primitive Accommodations; Making Do

"I spent at least three hours yesterday hailing a cab, with no luck," noted Frank Bruni, the New York Times' White House correspondent. "I guess I'll just have to take the subway."

"I thought three years living in a rural backwater like Seattle, Washington would prepare me for the primitive conditions of Crawford," added visibly shaken Slate correspondent Bryan Curtis. "That was before I spent six straight mornings without a venti double mocha skim latte."

His eyes welling, Curtis described how he was forced to survive on 89-cent coffee from the Chevron Gas Mart.


Oh Kerry...so very...uh...principled?

Kerry's tough on national security. Yeah right. He sounds more like politician everyday.

This sounds like a future Bush campaign ad:
Kerry actually stood on both sides of the first Gulf war, much like he did this time around. Consider this "Notebook" item from TNR's March 25, 1991 issue, which ran under the headline "Same Senator, Same Constituent":

"Thank you for contacting me to express your opposition ... to the early use of military force by the US against Iraq. I share your concerns. On January 11, I voted in favor of a resolution that would have insisted that economic sanctions be given more time to work and against a resolution giving the president the immediate authority to go to war."

--letter from Senator John Kerry to Wallace Carter of Newton Centre, Massachusetts, dated January 22 [1991]

"Thank you very much for contacting me to express your support for the actions of President Bush in response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait. From the outset of the invasion, I have strongly and unequivocally supported President Bush's response to the crisis and the policy goals he has established with our military deployment in the Persian Gulf."

--Senator Kerry to Wallace Carter, January 31 [1991]

Tough. Principled. John Kerry.


Clue-proof in liberal land

Oh my God! Like this Bush guy is soooo selfish!
"I'm very concerned about the Bush presidency," (Sarah Jessica) Parker tells the Washington Post. "I'm worried about the kind of cuts he might make in domestic programs that mean something to a lot of people, including members of my family, who depend on certain things from the government."

In previous interviews Parker boasted that, though her own family had once been on welfare, her Hollywood salary now affords her pricey Manolo Blahnik shoes and Hermes bags.

These days she's supposedly worth somewhere in the neighborhood of $30 million.

She shouldn't have to - like - write a check or anything to - like - help her relatives!

As if!

And what "cuts" is she talking about? This jackass is RINO (Republican In Name Only), and he hasn't seen a program in all of Washington that he'd cut!

Once again, from Chris at Sociopathocracy, who is on a roll lately....


Always the temptation of a rich and lazy nation...

From Chris at Sociopathocracy:
James Molyneaux has a stunning column in today's Daily Telegraph. Molyneaux was among the first British troops to arrive at the Bergen-Belsen Death Camp:

My mind has often gone back to our arrival in Belsen as I stood beside my commanding officer, a First World War pilot and a man of great integrity. Before us was a huge mound of bodies near the Jewish quarter of the dreadful huts. My CO asked: "Molyneaux, did you ever think you would see such an example of what one group of human beings could do to another set of human beings?" I innocently replied: "Perhaps this evidence will ensure that it doesn't happen again."

Shaking his head, my CO said: "I hate to think you may be mistaken."

I now admit that I was wrong because I didn't realise that the rewards of tyranny and terrorism would be so great, and that therefore authorities and governments would lack the courage and resolution to stamp out such evils.

Now, the usual response of governments is mere condemnation of an atrocity, describing an outrage as "unacceptable". Next come a string of concessions to the offender, leading to a craven suggestion that the victims must share some of the blame, and then concessions to the demands of the perpetrators.

Opinion formers appear to have forgotten Kipling, who warned of the outcome.

"It is always a temptation
To a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say:
'Though we know we should defeat you,
We have not the time to meet you,
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.'
And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
But we've proved it again and again,
That, if once you have paid him the Dane-geld,
You never get rid of the Dane."

Increasingly, the general public weakens in its resolve. Under the label of moderation, it is fashionable to plead for understanding; to do a Chamberlain and settle for a piece of crumpled paper in the mistaken belief that the word of dictators and terrorists can be trusted. Today, we should reflect on our responsibilities, and those of our governments, to stand up to the prejudice and tyranny that can still, today, lead to genocide. These events happened in my lifetime. They are not lost in the past; they could still happen again today.

There are more Chamberlains than Churchills in our society today.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Home schooled kids doing well?

Horrors! Their teachers never got certified! Where is the NEA?
CNN.com - Home-schooled students head to college

AP) -- Home-schooling advocate Karl Bunday used to get a lot of blank looks when he visited college fairs in his native Minnesota and pitched the virtues of students educated around the kitchen table.

Nearly a decade later, things have changed. "It seems like this time, everybody has heard of home schooling," said Bunday, who operates the Web site learninfreedom.org about "taking responsibility for your own learning."

While exact figures are not available, the number of middle and high school students educated at home is now estimated at between 1 million and 2 million.

Until recently, educators say, home-schooled students mostly gravitated to small, primarily religious colleges. Now, as the movement keeps gaining in popularity, they can be found on many -- even most -- campuses nationwide.

"As the numbers (of home schooled) have increased, and there have also been more admitted to college, they've actually performed quite well," said Barmak Nassirian, a policy analyst with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

Of course they have. Parents have a clear interest in seeing their children do well.

Ten years ago the NEA was arguing that such children would be socially-warped morons, unable to compete with students who had been marinated in modern educational theory.

UPDATE: Kem White comments:
I truly doubt even the NEA would suggest that home-schooled kids would be "socially-warped morons". I guess I'd like to see what you're basing that assertion on.

My oldest son is a high school senior. Five of his six classes are AP. Neither I nor my wife have the academic capability to teach him. And here I mean teach; not just possess the requisite knowledge. Generally speaking someone who teaches for a living is going to be better able to find effective teaching methods for bright high schoolers than some parent who's trying to figure it out for the first time. Throw in the socialization aspects of high school - teams, orchestra, drama productions, student government, dances - and I believe home schooled high schoolers miss out on a lot and are at serious risk of subpar educations. Too much to justify home schooling for high schoolers in my opinion. (Unless the kids already happen to be socially-warped morons when they enter high school, in which case I say leave them home)-K

Fair enough.

The NEA never called home-schooled students "socially warped morons." But the organization was quite strenuous in trying to restrict home schooling, and in attempting to forbid it at the local level.

The NEA views anything that competes with ITS public schooling as a threat (private (particularly religious) schools, vouchers and charter schools...etc).

My view: the more different approaches, the better. Competition benefits everyone.

Home schooling is not for everyone (and it is not for me... yet.). But if some parents want to try it, I trust that they will attempt to do what is best for their children. Even the attempt tells the children that education is important.

Seeing how many children are being failed by traditional schooling, I say "what the hell!"

As for the "effective teaching methods" of modern teachers...I personally believe that there are no shortcuts, and no special methods to learning. Hard work pays off, and mastery of a subject is its own reward. A parent will be more likely to demand mastery than a distracted teacher, and I believe that - if it is attained - outweighs the social advantages of traditional education.

(Lest we forget: the greatest leader our nation has ever known - Abraham Lincoln - was home schooled!)

And that is what we observing: in most cases, home schooled students are not just equaling their peers; they are outperforming them.

Many teachers today are students of things like "educational theory." Many don't even have degrees in the subjects that they teach. How are they supposed to convey a joy of learning, teaching a subject about which they know only the basics?

It is the joy of learning that matters. You can't certify a person to teach such things. The love of learning is infectious, and it is the kind of thing that can easily be passed from parent to child.

Parents - faced with the bleak and stifling curriculum of a local school - should not be denied the option of giving it to their children directly.

It's a matter of having a choice.

We libertarians love choice.


The World Bomb

The Belmont Club:

The liberal sneering at the American failure to find WMD stockpiles in Iraq is like making fun of a man who, having been tested for diabetes, receives a negative result but is told that what he really has is cancer.

The US rightly feared that rogue states were developing weapons of mass destruction but did not have the breadth of imagination to conceive of the extraordinary web of cooperation between Pakistan, North Korea, European arms dealers and the Arabian states, who contributing according to their abilities, solved the problem of the atomic bomb.

We went looking for an Iraqi bomb and found an international one.

The race to prevent rogue nations from acquiring WMDs has already been lost, and the race to keep them from falling into private hands is all but. The most horrifying thing about David Kay's report is his finding that Saddam's weapons were never under his control at all, but in the actual keeping of his minions, who misled him at every turn. The componentry may now be in Syria, where, if Iraq is any guide, they are under even looser custody. If the Saudis have made no secret of their desire to buy nuclear weapons, it is only because they know that these are for sale.

It is safe to predict that the next mass attack on America will involve fission weapon of Pakistani design with a 40Kt yield, charged with uranium purified by Malaysian manufactured centrifuges from a design originally developed by Urenco in the Netherlands and probably paid for by Saudi Arabia. The World Bomb.

And what happens when New York is leveled by such a bomb?

The United States will commit genocide on an unimaginable scale: Islamabad, Tehran, Damascus, Ramallah and Riyadh will be gone. Simply gone. Ten millions of people will disappear in nuclear fire.

The US will make no effort to make better governments for Arabs; it will become national policy simply to kill them.

We have done it before. In Japan, 1945.

This is what "war mongers" like myself are trying to prevent.

"Peace loving" people are trying to act as though Arab rage can be bought off. It is misguided, and to the dictatorial mindsets of our enemies, it smells of cowardice. It is the wrong message to send them. Not for our sake, but for theirs.

We must give the Arabs an alternative to war with us. An alternative route to success. We know it as democratic governance.

It is theirs for the taking.

But there are times in history when an entire culture chooses its own destruction through war.

The Germans and Japanese did it in WWII. The South did it the Civil War. The Palestinians are doing it now.

Will the Arabs do it too?


Another dictatorship in retreat

President Hosni Mubarak is adamant that his son will not succeed him. So who will?

CAIRO, Egypt - The bluntness of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's first pronouncement of the new year was designed to quash speculation.

Contrary to rampant rumors, the 75-year-old president said, his younger son, Gamal, a rising star in Mubarak's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), will not succeed him as the next leader of the world's most populous Arab country. The reign of Egypt in the 21st century, Mubarak testily told Egyptian state radio, is not an "inheritance," as is power elsewhere in the Middle East.

The surprise announcement may have also sent a signal that the United States' closest Arab ally reads the Bush doctrine on democracy loud and clear.


Mubarak's dismal government has long been one of the most intractable dictatorships in the Middle East, and it is a disgrace that they are receiving $2 billion a year from us not to fight Israel ("Jimah" Carter didn't believe that Israel's superior military gave it any protection from Egypt).

I think the Bush admistration quietly sent the message that without reform, future aid would be in jeopardy.

Only a liberal would have a problem with that. The US throwing its weight around, threatening dictatorships? That's terrible!


Whale jihad?

Not quite, but it's always wise to be careful when transporting large, dead animals.
Blood and guts of 17-meter long 50-ton mammal splatter sidewalks, automobiles parked nearby

A dead sperm whale being transported through Tainan City on its way to a research station suddenly exploded yesterday, splattering cars and shops with blood and guts.

Certified by authorities as the largest beached whale on record in Taiwan, the 17-meter 50-ton carcass was being transported by a flat-bed trailer-truck to a special research location after National Cheng Kung University officials and security guards refused to allow the whale on campus.

The whale was to be preserved and an autopsy performed at the "Shi-Tsao Natural Preserve" in Tainan County by a team of marine biologists and taxidermists.

National Cheng Kung University marine biologist, professor Wang Chien-ping, was on the scene and said he had he instructed the truck driver to move the carcass so the whale could be used for educational purposes and an autopsy could be done.

The beached whale was found on along a stretch of coast in Yunlin County on Saturday.

"The animal was close to death when someone found it beached on shore on Saturday... Because of the natural decomposing process, a lot of gases accumulated, and when the pressure buildup was too great, the whale's belly just exploded and spilled blood and the innards on the street," Wang said.

Saturday, January 24, 2004

Oh, those funny Iranians!

It's the midnight show at the Tehran Improv and the laughs keep coming!

(thanks to Dale Franks. He has lots of hilarious pictures currently, but I don't have the bandwidth to steal them all from him. Just go there.)


The international nuclear arms market

This should be on the front page of every paper in the country:
Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, personally acknowledged yesterday that scientists from his country appeared to have sold nuclear designs to other nations, probably "for personal financial gain."

He denied that the Pakistani government knew of the sales at the time but vowed that those involved would be dealt with "as anti-state elements."

Musharraf's statement, at a global economic forum here, came after several weeks of delicate efforts to force Pakistan to deal with the scientists, according to diplomats and U.S. officials.

But most Americans will never hear about it. It appears to have some relation to our recent diplomatic victories with Libya, which had some relation to our military victory in Iraq:
Technical documents recently obtained from Libya on its nuclear program, as well as documents relating to Iran's nuclear activities, undercut years of Pakistani denials and appeared to forced Musharraf's hand, diplomats and U.S. officials said.

The documents "have created a situation in which the denials no longer hold up," one senior U.S. official said...

Musharraf continued to insist that there was no government involvement in the sales, portraying the actions as the efforts of corrupt scientists. U.S. officials, however, are clearly skeptical of those claims.

They note that when Pakistan received missile parts from North Korea -- believed to be the quid pro quo for nuclear aid -- a Pakistani air force cargo jet was dispatched to Pyongyang, North Korea, to pick up the parts.

Of course, our European "allies" are involved.
Musharraf told CNN that there were also credible allegations against European nuclear middlemen and other nations, "so it is not Pakistan alone."

And international nuclear arms inspectors are baffled:
... the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, who said that the global black market in nuclear materials and equipment had grown into a virtual "Wal-Mart" for weapons-seeking countries.

ElBaradei, director-general of the agency, the United Nations' watchdog on atomic weapons, said he was astonished by the scale and complexity of the illicit trafficking through which the Libyans obtained material and blueprints for nuclear weapons designs.

"All of that was obtained abroad," he said in an interview during the World Economic Forum meeting in Davos. "All of what we saw was a result of the Wal-Mart of private-sector proliferation.

"When you see things being designed in one country, manufactured in two or three others, shipped to a fourth, redirected to a fifth ... there's lots of offices all over the world," ElBaradei said.

Why am I voting Republican this fall? You just read why.


Freedom of Speech?

PARIS - A well-known French comic will be prosecuted for on-air antics that included dressing up as an Orthodox Jew and decrying an "American-Zionist" axis, the Paris prosecutor's office said Friday.

Dieudonne M'Bala M'Bala's performance, which drew criticism from the French prime minister, came during a prime-time TV show, "On Ne Peut Pas Plaire a Tout le Monde," ("You Can't Please Everybody") on Dec. 1.

As part of the skit, the comic raised an arm and shouted "Isra-Heil!" — a reference to the Nazi slogan, "Heil Hitler."

Prosecutors opened a preliminary investigation Dec. 24 into whether the comic's skit and "incriminating comments" constituted racial defamation.

Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin has said he was "shocked" by the performance, and the show's host, Marc-Olivier Fogiel, apologized for the episode. Several Jewish groups complained.

On Thursday, Justice Minister Dominique Perben said that "justice would be inflexible" if racism is proven.

Well, while it is very interesting that such idiocy can pass for humor in France, one has to wonder where this hate crimes business is going.

I think I'd sum up the American view like this: The man has a right to his opinions - as stupid as they are - and he has a right to voice them in whatever venue he chooses. In the US, this case would go nowhere, and I doubt anybody serious (and that means outside a US academic institution) would prosecute it.

But basic American human rights don't apply in Paris, and the definition of "human rights" is one of the key differences between the US and France.

Whether racism can be "proven" is purely a matter of who does the judging. In some people's opinion, I'm certain that things I say on this website could be considered racist.

I once said - and I still believe - that I would have qualms about taking my seriously ill child to a black doctor. From a purely technical standpoint, I said, I'd prefer an Asian.

I was taken to task by a reader who said that he would be become violent if anyone had uttered such racism in his presence.

So we argued.

I said that I based this observation on my time teaching chemistry at the college level. Many blacks had been obviously hurried along academically. I even admitted doing this myself: I simply wanted them to succeed more than I wanted others to succeed. And I saw this manifesting itself when it came down to subjective analysis of their answers on tests. I was more likely to give a nice black student points for effort, in effect saying "I know what he meant to do here."

It is my opinion that this "moving the goalposts" is common in academia, and that its pervasiveness explains the two-tier academic system we have: black students are, on average, just not as good as their white and Asian counterparts. I doubted that this ended in college, in medical school or in the workplace.

And I had noticed that a good black student was more likely to go to medical school than an excellent white one.

My reader was unpersuaded. I had already committed racial heresy, and now I was trying to justify it!?

I could do nothing to persuade him. In the end I even produced a study (JAMA (1994) Vol 272:9:pgs 674-679) in the Journal of the American Medical Association lamenting the problem: in 1988, black medical school graduates were failing their medical board tests at four times the rate of their white and Asian counterparts.

I repeated myself: if my child's life was threatened, I'd want the hands treating him to be white or yellow. I don't consider this any different than consulting Consumer Reports before buying a car, and finding that one model, on average, requires more repairs than a competitor.

My reader sulked off into the dark recesses of cyberspace. I haven't heard from him since.

I'm certain that my bluntness offended him, but I don't apologize for it. I believe in my heart that all people are equal, but I also know that professionals are made, not born. And the process of making them - in this case, medical school - has confused equality of opportunity with equality of result.

The process has become political: schools say that want to graduate so many black doctors, and they decree it to be so. Behold, we have black doctors!

Unfortunately for the PC police, people like me don't buy it. I think that test results speak for themselves. I don't buy arguments that some people really know test answers, but are just too nervous to put them down on paper.

Will their nerves of steel suddenly appear when my child's life is on the line?

If I still worked for a university, I could be fired for writing those words. These words would be considered hateful, hurtful or derogatory. It is ridiculous, and universities are on a collision course with the Constitution.

Hate crimes laws are more subtle. In the US (unlike in France), a person can not be easily tried for something he says (there are exceptions made in cases of libel, threats and incitement).

But hate crimes laws try to treat people differently based on their views. It is end run: If a racist commits murder, he does extra time for his unpopular views, if it can be proven that he killed because of his bigotry.

Of course, only a scrupulous person would be troubled by that "if" clause. Fortunately, there are many of them.

Who can judge what is in a man's heart when he commits a crime?

For the sake of argument: A KKK member comes home one day to find his wife cheating on him. The angry husband kills her lover with a shotgun. He is certainly guilty of murder. Does it make any difference if he killed a black man or white one ? Who can look into his mind and KNOW he would have spared a white man he caught in bed with his wife, while killing a black man in the same situation?

No one can know these things.

Hate crimes advocates argue these are quibbles for special cases.

But every legal case is a special case. That's why we have lawyers.

There is a reason why justice is protrayed as blindfolded woman holding scales: it should not make such value judgements. After all, murder is murder. There can be extenuating circumstances (like adultery) that may explain a person's behavior, and they may justify a more lenient penalty. But we can't read people's minds.

Hate crimes give the mob the power to persecute criminals for their unpopular ideas. Aren't criminals entitled to same protections of the law as everyone else? My liberal friends are fond of reminding that they are.

I do wish they would speak up for a criminal's freedom of thought, because France is not too far away from where we are now: The French don't just stop with criminals.

They have given the mob the ability to prosecute ANYONE for their unpopular ideas.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Dean's losing it again

Thanks to Bike Crazy. And to Q and O for getting me there.


More BBC silliness...

As an exercise in grass-roots lobbying, Today (BBC Radio 4's morning program) asked its 6 million weekly listeners to propose a new law for the new year. A labour MP, Stephen Pound, was drafted to front the bill when it was all over.

More than 10,000 new laws were suggested over the course of a couple weeks. Of those, five were short-listed and voted on via email and telephone by some 26,007 respondents. The results, as one wag put it, "blew up" in the face of Today's producers and presenters.

Clearly expecting some sensible law mandating fat-free potato chips or renewed efforts to save the ruby-throated thrush of Upper Equatorial Guinea, the organizers were obviously aghast when the winner, with 37 percent of the vote, was a law allowing homeowners to use "any means" to defend their property from intruders...

...The winning law quickly became known as "Tony Martin's Law" after the Norfolk farmer who spent nearly four years in jail for killing a 16-year-old burglar who had broken into his home...Tony Martin, in a far-from-unusual act of gall, was sued for lost wages by a second burglar he merely winged.

But after he heard the result, the Labour politician appeared to withdraw his support, arguing: "This bill is unworkable," as it "endorses the slaughter of 16-year-old kids."

Mr. Pound was apoplectic. The bill was "unworkable," he said. "I can't remember who it was who said 'The people have spoken - the bastards,'" he quipped.

Radio 4 later insisted that the remark, a paraphrase of Mark Twain, was tongue-in-cheek, but in the next breath he said his enthusiasm for direct democracy was dampened by the experience.

The people! What a bunch of unenlightened brutes! Who cares what they think?

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Yeah, that'll work...

Just when you think you already read the stupidest thing in the world, a powerful new contender comes along:
Country May Decriminalize Theft for the Hungry

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) - Thou shalt not steal, say the Ten Commandments, but it might eventually no longer apply if you are starving in Venezuela.

The poor, oil-rich nation is considering decriminalizing the theft of food and medicine in cases where a thief is motivated by extreme hunger or need.

Supreme Court Judge Alejandro Angulo Fontiveros told Reuters on Wednesday that the so-called "famine theft" clause should be part of a broad penal code reform measure for humanitarian reasons.

"This is a guide for judges to avoid injustice," said Fontiveros, who is in charge of drafting the reforms. "They lock up for years a poor person who lives in atrocious misery and what they need is medicine."


Is this the best you can do, George?

Oh boy. We fiscal conservatives are leaping for joy now:
Bush to Propose Sharp Reduction in Budget Growth (emphasis mine)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Under fire from fiscal conservatives over record budget deficits, President Bush will propose limiting overall growth in spending not connected to defense or homeland security next year to less than 1 percent, administration officials said on Thursday.

At the same time, Bush will propose boosting homeland security spending by approximately 9.7 percent in his fiscal 2005 budget, which will be sent to Congress on Feb. 2, officials said.

A less than 1 percent cap on non-defense, non-homeland security discretionary spending would be the tightest budget proposed by Bush so far. That compares to projected growth of around 4 percent in the same discretionary programs in the current 2004 fiscal year.

Get that? A "sharp reduction" in growth. Yippee!


Too fast, too furious....

(This started as a comment in Q and O)

We are making noises like we are going to have an election in Iraq before they have a constitution.

Not too bright.

Where are the checks and balances in the new Iraq? Individual rights versus state rights? Is it simply going to be majority rule? Are there going to be any protections for Iraq's many minorities?

We are moving too fast, and the sharks smell blood in the water. If we continue along this path, we may find ourselves fighting with the ELECTED government of Iraq about some terrible things it wants to do. It will be mob rule against an occupying power.

I say slow down: Democracy must be constrained.

One of my biggest worries about Iraq was summed by Thomas Friedman before the war: was Saddam the way he was (ruthless and cruel) because Iraq is the way it is (terribly divided against itself)? In effect, did Saddam HAVE to be cruel to keep his fragmented nation whole?

I strongly supported the war, and I still do. But I have wondered about the aftermath for a long time. I don't have the answers, and I believe that no one really does. We are in uncharted territory here.

We are trying to maintain a nation state that is itself an unjust European carve-up. It is hard to see Iraq as one nation: it is at least three. But we want to keep it whole, because we do not want a civil war (otherwise I would be all for splitting the nation up into three).

We ought to, at the very least, impose some kind of guidelines before we begin this process, and we should not fear being heavy handed about it. The government must not act in the interest of any one group, and ought to act in the service of all of them. We must insist that all Iraqis - male and female would be treated equally in the new Iraq. There should be protections for private property, and insistence on the rights of assembly and speech. We should make it clear that the US will act as the protector of this provisional government until a true constitution can be written.

I think we will be there a long time, and I have always said that. I think that is a good thing. American troops have a sobering effect on Iraq's wretched neighbors.

Douglas MacArthur pretty much wrote the Japanese constitution in 1947. And though he was great student of Japanese culture, he did not care a bit what the Japanese thought of his document. Japan was a defeated nation, and no one thought it was fertile ground for democracy (However, it was homogenous, unlike Iraq).

It is clear that Saddam was very effective at keeping his enemies divided, and it is equally clear that anyone who had a national appeal was a competitor and was killed.

As George Will puts it, Iraq is only three people away from being a succesfull democracy.

Unfortunately, those three people are George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

How it will all turn out? I don't know.

But I do know that 5000 Iraqi children aren't dying each month, and I also know that Saddam will never threaten the region again.

America made good on the terms of 1991 Gulf War ceasefire, which Saddam violated - to the cheers of our enemies.

But I dream of a grand slam: A stable Iraqi democracy.

That would be the best weapon we could hope for in the war on terror.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Bush keeps spending!

This looks like a nice fat target for a veto. But don't count on it from this president:
Spending bill nears Senate approval

WASHINGTON - The Senate seemed prepared to approve an overdue $373 billion spending bill by next week after Democrats said yesterday that they would no longer stall the bill over rules on food labeling and other issues.

90% of this bill is lard: it gives $2 million to set up a golf education course, for example. Another million or so to Philly's "Please Touch" museum - probably enough to get old Arlen Specter to vote for it.

I mean, it is sponsored by Maryland's Paul Sarbanes - one of the biggest spenders in Congress - so it has to be a turkey!

Bush's domestic policy sucks. He is spending more than Clinton! But I have the knowledge that all of the leading democratic contenders would be worse on spending:
If the policy agenda of any one of the eight candidates were enacted in full, annual federal spending would rise by at least $169.6 billion (Lieberman) and as much as $1.33 trillion (Sharpton). This would translate to a yearly budget hike of between 7.6% and 59.5%.

(Link found courtesy of Q and O)


WMD paranoia...

Uh oh. The IAEA is concerned:

Colonel Muammar Gadafy of Libya has been buying complete sets of uranium enrichment centrifuges on the international black market as the central element in his secret nuclear bomb programme, according to United Nations nuclear inspectors.

The ease with which the complex bomb-making equipment was acquired has stunned experienced international inspectors. The scale and the sophistication of the networks supplying so-called rogue states seeking nuclear weapons are considerably more extensive than previously believed.

No, No, No! You guys at The Guardian aren't towing the party line! Bush is paranoid about a WMD non-issue!

Friday, January 16, 2004

Proving campaign finance assumptions wrong

The underlying assumption of the wretched McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Law was that "special interests" find candidates they like, plow money into their campaigns and make them unbeatable.

In other words, support follows money: people are just sheep, and their votes are easily herded into position by spin doctors and political TV ads. Based on this preconception, Congress thought it was a jolly idea to regulate political speech (who cares what the Constitution says about such things?).

After all, the people had to have a chance to be heard!

On the assumption that support follows money, John Kerry seemed unbeatable in early 2003. He had the funds (and a fortune to tap), a lead, name recognition and many leading Democrats had endorsed him. He was the party's candidate.

Then came Howard Dean. Dean raised more money than anyone - using grassroots internet fundraising techniques.

It seemed - for a few seconds - that reformers might admit their error and correct it: Hey! Maybe candidates get money because people feel they are saying the right things and have a good chance of winning?

Nah, the talking heads just kept making assumptions. The newest was that Dean - with his funds - was now unbeatable. With his money lead, he would be able to buy support.

People are just sheep, right?

Then along comes this: Race Tightens in Iowa and Dean Looks Beatable.

Somehow, the reformers will spin this as proof that more reforms are needed.


I was waiting for this....

2003 ties as world's second-hottest year.

The summer of 2003 was the coldest I have ever experienced. It rained every other day, I was glad I didn't take out a membership at the local pool, and I don't think we ever turned the AC on (I wonder if that still works?).

I know that all those things could be true and the rest of the Earth could still compensate by being hotter than normal (I hear Europe had an American summer this year, btw), but really.

Here's prediction: 2004 will the hottest year ever!

Outside right now it's about two degrees Farenheit.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Futile Gestures

WASHINGTON — Hand-held cell phone use while driving will be illegal in the nation's capital starting on July 1 and a ban is soon to be signed into law in New Jersey.

The Washington, D.C., city council last week followed New York state's 2001 lead and passed a ban on the increasingly common practice. On Monday, New Jersey's legislature gave final approval to a bill prohibiting drivers from using hand-held cell phones. Gov. James E. McGreevey is expected to sign it.

The new prohibition is part of the increasing attention being paid to the dangers of cell phone use while driving as well as other distractions such as putting on makeup, eating and changing CDs.

Everytime you make a law, you make a criminal. These types of laws would make a criminal out everyone at one time or another.

I hate the dick who almost gets into an accident while jabbering on his phone.

But he could just as easily cause an accident munching on a donut or lighting his cigarette.

Throw in the fact that these laws are pretty unenforceable and you might just think politicans are stupid.

Hey, there's a thought!


Why do they hate us?

It's really very simple:
(The countries of the Arab world) are complete failures. Their economies are disasters. They make no contribution to the advance of science or engineering. They make no contribution to art or culture. They have no important diplomatic power. They are not respected. Most of their people are impoverished and miserable and filled with resentment, and those who are not impoverished are living a lie.

They hate us. They hate us because our culture is everything theirs is not. Our culture is vibrant and fecund; our economies are successful. Our achievements are magnificent. Our engineering and science are advancing at breathtaking speed. Our people are fat and happy (relatively speaking). We are influential, we are powerful, we are wealthy. "We" are the western democracies, but in particular "we" are the United States, which is the most successful of the western democracies by a long margin. America is the most successful nation in the history of the world, economically and technologically and militarily and even culturally. ...

We're everything that they think they should be, everything they once were, and by our power and success we throw their modern failure into stark contrast, especially because we've gotten to where we are by doing everything their religion says is wrong. We've deeply sinned, and yet we've won. They are forced to compare their own accomplishments to ours because we are the standard of success, and in every important way they come up badly short. In most of the contests it's not just that our score is higher, it's that their score is zero.

They have nothing whatever they can point to that can save face and preserve their egos. In every practical objective way we are better than they are, and they know it.

From USS Clueless.

Tuesday, January 13, 2004

A lesson in how to defeat terrorism

From Jim Malone and Eliot Ness:
Malone: You said you wanted to get Capone. Do you really wanna get him? You see what I'm saying is, what are you prepared to do?

Eliot Ness: Anything and everything in my power.

Malone: And THEN what are you prepared to do? If you open the can on these worms you must be prepared to go all the way because they're not gonna give up the fight until one of you is dead.

Eliot Ness: How do you do it then?

Malone: You wanna know how you do it? Here's how, they pull a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send on of his to the morgue! That's the Chicago way, and that's how you get Capone! Now do you want to do that? Are you ready to do that?

They attack your cities?

You destroy their governments, and replace them with friendly ones.

They kill your people?

You kill their leaders.

Al Qaeda understands the war we are fighting.

And they also understand that they are losing it.


A Palestinian Loss?

Haven't heard much about terror attacks in Israel in the last few weeks?

Neither have I. (The attack on January 13th was the first since Christmas). And check this out:
Hamas said it sent a woman for the first time because of growing Israeli security "obstacles" facing its male bombers, Reuters reported. Hamas spiritual leader Sheik Ahmed Yassin said the use of a female bomber was unique, but added that holy war "is an obligation of all Muslims, men and women."

I don't want to jinx matters, but it appears - contrary to the claims of its critics - the wall is working:
With the thud of tons of concrete hitting soft earth, Israel worked yesterday to build a 25-foot-high wall on the edge of Jerusalem.

The wall, running down the center of a main road in the Palestinian neighborhood of Abu Dis, separates thousands of residents from Jerusalem, a city they consider home.

The towering new wall replaces a far shorter divider that had slowed, but not stopped, the flow of people and goods between the West Bank and Jerusalem in this area.

It is part of a barrier Israel is building around much of the West Bank with the stated aim of keeping out Palestinians responsible for suicide bombings that have killed hundreds of Israelis in the last three years.

Palestinian leaders have reacted with anger to the building of the barrier, a line of walls, trenches, fences and razor wire that snakes through parts of West Bank land that Palestinians claim for a future state.

Although Israel says the barrier can be moved if the sides negotiate a peace treaty, Israel's critics say it is in effect creating a new border that gobbles up almost half the West Bank and cuts it off from Jerusalem.

Along its path, the barrier has cut Palestinians off from their fields and schools, their hospitals and businesses.

Too bad.

The Palestinians are raging as much as ever, and Hamas and Hezbollah keep threatening. But fewer attacks are taking place.

The Palestinians tried to use terror to force Israel's hand, and the Israelis have responded in the only logical way they could. And it is working.

Arafat will soon lose this bargaining chip (terror attacks won't be reduced to zero but the reduction in frequency will make them irrelevant) and he will face his people. They'll ask how he managed to LOSE land to Israel.

Arafat better get a good answer.

Terror won't pay. (It didn't exactly pay off for Al Qaeda either).



Give 'em hell, Howie!

Dean Drubs Gramps Groin

Oelwien, Iowa - Taking issue with a voter's request that he be "more neighborly" with President Bush, Howard Dean kneed the elderly man in the nards at a Town Hall meeting here Sunday.

Dale Ungerer, a retiree from nearby Hawkeye, Iowa, had berated the former Vermont governor for nearly three minutes during a voter information forum at the Oelwein Rotary Club, accusing Dean of "negative mean mouthing," "anger" and "tearing down his neighbor."

"Well now I've got a question for you -- shut the fuck up," said Dean, tearing off his apron and hurling a pancake skillet as he rushed the unsuspecting man.

Protesting that "nobody accuses me of that shit and gets away with it," Dean cornered the man against a shuffleboard table, kneed his groin, and then hit him with his walker.

"Welcome to MY neighborhood," he said as the retiree slumped to the floor.

"What's that? You wanted to say something else?" asked Dean. "I didn't think so."

Campaign spokesman Emily Reese expressed hope that the episode would help silence further questions about Dean's emotional fitness for office, "at least in public."

From Iowahawk.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Silver Colorblindness

Well put:

By most indexes, life has improved beyond the dreams of even very recent generations. Yet many Americans, impervious to abundant data and personal experiences, insist that progress is a chimera...

American life expectancy has dramatically increased in a century, from 47 to 77 years. Our great-great-grandparents all knew someone who died of some disease we never fear; as recently as 1952, polio killed 3,300 Americans. Our largest public health problems arise from unlimited supplies of affordable food...

The typical American has twice the purchasing power his mother or father had in 1960. A third of America's families own at least three cars. In 2001 Americans spent $25 billion -- more than North Korea's GDP -- on recreational watercraft.

Factor out immigration -- a huge benefit to the immigrants -- and statistical evidence of widening income inequality disappears. The statistic that household incomes are only moderately higher than 25 years ago is misleading: Households today average fewer people, so real dollar incomes in middle-class households are about 50 percent higher today. Since 1970 the number of cars has increased 68 percent and the number of miles driven has increased even more, yet smog has declined by a third and traffic fatalities have declined from 52,627 to 42,815 last year. In 2003 we spent much wealth on things unavailable in 1953 -- a cleaner environment, reduced mortality through new medical marvels ($5.2 billion a year just for artificial knees, which did not exist a generation ago), the ability to fly anywhere or talk to anyone anywhere. The incidence of heart disease, stroke and cancer, when adjusted for population growth, is declining.

The rate of child poverty is down in a decade. America soon will be the first society in which a majority of adults are college graduates.

Easterbrook, while arguing that happiness should be let off its leash, is far from complacent. He is scandalized by corporate corruption and poverty in the midst of so much abundance. And he has many commonsensical thoughts on how to redress the imbalance many people feel between their abundance of material things and the scarcity of meaning that they feel in their lives. The gist of his advice is that we should pull up our socks, spiritually, and make meaning by doing good while living well.

His book arrives as the nation enters an election year, when the opposition, like all parties out of power, will try to sow despondency by pointing to lead linings on all silver clouds. His timely warning is that Americans are becoming colorblind, if only to the color silver.



Man bitten by snake he is accused of stealing

GREENWICH - A Gloucester County man accused of stealing two snakes from a Franklin Township pet store was bitten by one as he drove home, police say.

The tiger pythons were not poisonous, and the 20-year-old man, whom police would not identify, did not seek treatment for the bite to his groin.

Friday, January 09, 2004

A Didactic Critique of Articulation Methodologies in the Pseudo-Intellectual Paradigm: a Pedagogic Approach.

No, I'm just kidding. I would never write like that. But there are people who do, and they do it all the time.

And they get far more credit for being intelligent than they actually deserve. These people have arguments over nothing, using incomprehensible jargon.

And they get paid for it.

They say things like this:

The essential paradigm of dialog is creating partially situated identities out of actual or potential social reality in terms of canonical forms of human contact, thus renormalizing the phenomenology of narrative space and requiring the naturalization of the intersubjective cognitive strategy, and thereby resolving the dialectics of metaphorical thoughts, each problematic to the other, collectively redefining and reifying the paradigm of the parable of the model of the metaphor.

If you caught yourself nodding approvingly as you read that paragraph, it may be too late for you.

People who use such language are hiding something.

I would wager that they are hiding the fact that they are - in fact - stupid.

Yes, they're out there: stupid people.

Stupid people used to be easy to identify; they spoke slowly and they made little sense.

But they learned. They learned "triple word score" words to act intelligent.

And like viruses, they took over the humanities departments of our universities, creating even more stupid people.

In modern times, spotting a stupid person has become harder than ever. Stupid people have found their way into all sorts of (formerly) respectable jobs. Human resources departments, government agencies, fluffy academic "disciplines, newspaper pressrooms and university administrations are packed to the gills with stupid people.

And they don't even know they're dumb.

But how do normal people know?

Listen for the words! There are certain words that normal people rarely use - if ever. Normal people don't use them because normal people realize that words shouldn't bludgeon potential listeners. Normal people don't try to impress others by expressing simple thoughts in clotted incomprehensible jargon.

I was once an English major (alas, it is true). Here some words I've found that stupid people use with regularity. When someone talks to you and uses several of these words, chances are good that they are a member of the stupid club. If you "understand" what they are saying, they assume that you are stupid too.

This list is by no means exhaustive (please suggest more), but it is starting point. Good luck.


matrix (not the movie)

Thursday, January 08, 2004

Yeah Right!

Woman Drops Claim to Winning Lottery Ticket
CLEVELAND — A woman said through tears Thursday that she lied about losing the winning ticket for a $162 million lottery prize awarded to another woman.

Elecia Battle (search), 40, of Cleveland, is dropping her lawsuit to block payment of the Mega Millions (search) jackpot to the certified winner, said her lawyer Sheldon Starke.

"I wanted to win," Battle said. "The numbers were so overwhelming. I did buy a ticket and I lost. I wanted to win so bad for my kids and my family. I apologize."

Battle had filed a police report saying she lost the ticket, possibly when she dropped her purse outside a convenience store. The lottery declared Rebecca Jemison, 34, of suburban South Euclid, the winner on Tuesday.

Battle said she wanted to use the money to help her family and recently laid-off Cleveland police officers.

This woman doesn't know when to stop lying!

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

A Cool Blog

Joe Kelley has a great blog, but I especially like the graphic:


Thought Of The Day

Two wrongs don't make a right.

But three lefts do.

(UPDATE: Alright, alright...this is my wife's great thought.....)


A Real Hero

(From Boots and Sabers)


More Geezers, Coming Up!

God help us:
While no human is known to have lived more than 122 years, researchers envision a day in which 150 is not unreachable. The most ambitious microbiologists aren't satisfied with that; a few have whispered the belief that human cells - the building blocks of our bodies - can be coaxed and kept alive for, oh, maybe 500 years. The mind boggles.

The stomach turns. Especially considering this:
Just for the record, the Congressional Budget Office recently issued a report telling us what everyone already knows: The federal budget is drifting into a future of unprecedented tax increases, huge deficits or both. This is no secret, because the great driving force of change is the impending retirement of 77 million baby boomers and their heavy claims on federal retirement programs. But in Washington, the CBO's irrefutable conclusion won't produce any noticeable reaction, because there's already a clear bipartisan policy concerning the future: Forget about it.

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Another Kneeslapper

Hillary Clinton Regrets Gandhi Joke
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton apologized for joking that Mahatma Gandhi used to run a gas station in St. Louis, saying it was "a lame attempt at humor."

Well, yeah.
The New York Democrat made the remark at a fund-raiser Saturday. During an event here for Senate candidate Nancy Farmer, Clinton introduced a quote from Gandhi by saying, "He ran a gas station down in St. Louis.

If Dick Cheney had made this clever quip, how much furor would there be?


The Lessons Of Barbary

Dale Franks led me to this (thanks be unto him):
For those who think it is always wiser to put together an international panel of negotiators to try to talk foreign enemies into being nice, I present to you our Arab war.

The one 200 years ago. The one in which diplomacy failed miserably. The one in which Europe refused to help. The one we conducted alone. And won. The Barbary Wars.

Talk about forgetting the lessons of history. One of the first ones we learned 200 years ago was that "diplomacy" and "multilateralism" sometimes must end and direct action must begin. Back then, pirates from the North African states of Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli routinely plundered and seized our ships, demanded ransoms for captive crews or sold our sailors into slavery. European shipping routinely suffered the same fate.

Europe's answer was "let's negotiate," which meant sitting down with some pasha and asking him how much money he wanted to leave them alone. Then forking over millions. Thomas Jefferson thought that approach ridiculous, inviting never-ending blackmail. As the American minister to France, he strongly urged a multinational alliance to "reduce the piratical states to peace." Pick them off one at a time "through the medium of war," so the others get the message, and they'll give up their piracy too. Some European powers were "favorably disposed," as Jefferson said, to a joint operation. But guess who had reservations? France. (No kidding, you can't make up this stuff). France, because of its own interests, was suspected of secretly supporting the Barbary powers. So, the plan collapsed in favor of a policy of continued "negotiations" (read: appeasement)--meaning supplicating the blackmailers to tell us how much money they wanted for the ransom of ships and sailors and for annual tributes.

When Jefferson became president in 1801, he finally could do something about it himself. He simply refused Tripoli's demand for a tribute. That provoked Tripoli to declare war on us, as if this young, upstart pup of a nation had any right to stand up for its principles. Jefferson's response was a no-nonsense piece of clarity.

He sent a squadron of ships to blockade and bombard Tripoli. The results of these efforts were somewhat mixed. But on Feb. 16 of this year, we will celebrate the bicentennial of Lt. Stephen Decatur leading 74 volunteers into Tripoli harbor to burn the previously captured American frigate, The Philadelphia, so it could not be used for piracy.

It was considered one of the most heroic actions in U.S. naval history. The next year, Marines bravely stormed a harbor fortress, an act now commemorated in the "Marine Corps Hymn" with the words "... to the shores of Tripoli." Eventually, Morocco, seeing what was in store for it, dropped out of the fight. And the threat of "regime change" in Tripoli led to a treaty of somewhat dubious benefits for the United States.

Demonstrating the need for perseverance and patience, a series of victories in 1815 by Commodores William Bainbridge and Decatur finally led to a treaty ending both piracy against us and tribute payments by us. We even extracted monetary compensation for property they seized from us. Meanwhile, Europeans, continuing their multilateral, diplomatic approach, kept paying and paying and paying.

Americans are different. In a good way.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Classic Reading

The Virgin Blowhard

I was sitting on the john yesterday (is that TMI?) reading my latest Men's Health magazine.

Virgin Airlines founder Richard Branson was interviewed and claimed that the United States would be more productive if employees had more time off. He asserted that with more downtime from work, we'd be better able to come up with more creative ideas and products.

I couldn't wait to jump up off the can and run to my computer to look up comparative GDPs around the world.

While I don't doubt that Mr. Branson has done something right to attain the level of financial success he has, someone should straighten him out on his ideas about time off and productivity levels.

As this chart illustrates, the United States ranks number one in the world with a Gross Domestic Product of $10,400,000,000,000 compared to Branson's UK at $1,520,000,000,000.

Now, to be fair, the US has a considerable population advantage over the UK (290m v. 60m). But, the per capita GDP gives the United States an even further lead over the UK.

Yet, workers in the United Kingdom, Sweden, Austria, France, Spain, China, and Ireland, among many others, are guaranteed paid vacation days by law - many up to 30 days.

Unlike the socialist nations of Europe, American legislators have thus far resisted temptations to limit our productivity by mandating vacation days. Though, there has been some discussion of doing it.

I'm certain that Mr. Branson employs numerous people in America. Surely he's not waiting for legislators to create mandatory vacation laws here to implement his more vacation = more productivity theory. He doesn't need a law to offer his employees more time off.

Or, is he a hypocrite who advocates it, but wouldn't implement it unless everyone else did? But, by his assertion, if he gave his employees more time away from the office, he'd have an edge over businesses that only allowed the standard (but not legally required) two weeks.

It's appropriate that I read this on the john, because Richard Branson is clearly full of ...

(Thanks to Joe Kelley)

Sunday, January 04, 2004

El Guardian Is Back

The Belmont Club takes on the Guardian, which tries to claim that recent diplomatic breakthroughs with Iran, North Korea and Libya have taken place because Bush is now focusing on diplomacy and not war (like the Europeans advised all along).

The object of a good Leftist upbringing is to instill the correct standpoint, viewpoint and method so that the well-bred Marxist is never mislead by the obvious. That up is down and down is up requires education to perceive. Albert Camus and George Orwell went wrong and left the Party precisely because they thought they could trust their minds. It is a mistake that Guardian subscribers seek never to repeat.


Inquirer Bias

Degrees of separation

Last week, U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft finally bestirred himself to do a proper thing.

He recused himself personally from involvement in an investigation of whether Bush administration officials leaked the name of a CIA agent to a syndicated columnist.

I'm not a big fan of John Ashcroft.

But the Inquirer coverage of him drips with such seething contempt as to render it unreadable.

Who is more heavy handed? John Ashcroft, a man who is restrained by the oversight of the media and the people of the US?

Or the Philadelphia Inquirer which prints such drivel as unbiased analysis and accepts no criticism?


A Sign Of The Times

Dispute over marshals canceled flight

A dispute between the British pilots' union and the British government over armed marshals -- not security concerns -- led to the cancellation of Friday's British Airways flight from London to Washington, a Bush administration official said Saturday...

...The British government recently announced it would require armed undercover marshals on some international flights.

The union opposes the rule, saying flying with armed marshals is dangerous. The group says the money should instead be spent on improving ground security.

Armed marshalls are more scary than terrorists? Why don't we ask the PASSENGERS which they would prefer to have aboard?

This is typical of the type of garbage that floats over from Europe. Guns are scary and uncivilized. Hijackers are something we should get used to.

And this from the Brits? Did they just get used to the IRA?



A BA flight to Washington was cancelled at the last minute yesterday after an intelligence tip-off that a woman suicide bomber planned to blow up the plane over the US capital.

It was the third day running that a major security scare had hit the afternoon Flight 223 service from Heathrow to Washington.

US security services told Scotland Yard the woman - almost certainly linked to al-Qaeda - intended to hide eight to 12 ounces of plastic explosive in her vagina.



Foreign Aid Reform

Something more for Dean to scream about:

WASHINGTON - A revolution in U.S. foreign aid, rewarding countries for how they govern, is finally ready to get under way, almost two years after first promised by the Bush administration.

The program will favor countries whose governments are judged to be just rulers, welcoming hosts for foreign investment and promoters of projects to meet their people's basic health and education needs.

Corrupt police states need not apply.

We should have started doing this the minute the Cold War ended. It has the potential to be a useful carrot-and-stick, leading many nations to better governance.

I say we should not be giving any aid whatsoever to Egypt. Jimmy Carter's great payoff to Egypt's crooked authoritarian government has made us very unpopular with the Egyptian people.

Saturday, January 03, 2004

"A Dying Art"

Go Peter Jennings!

“Saddam Hussein may have been, or may be, a vain man, but he has allowed himself to be sculpted heavy and thin, overweight and in shape, in every imaginable costume – both national, in historic terms, in Iraqi historic terms – in contemporary, in every imaginable uniform, on every noble horse. The sculpting of Saddam Hussein, which has been a growth industry for 20 years, may well be a dying art.”

– Jennings during ABC’s live coverage at about 10:45am EDT on April 9, shortly before U.S. Marines helped cheering Iraqis topple their former dictator’s statue.

“This week we were surprised to see several hundred artists and writers walking through the streets of Baghdad to say thank you to Saddam Hussein. He had just increased their monthly financial support. Cynical, you could argue at this particular time, but the state has always supported the arts, and some of the most creative people in the Arab world have always been Iraqis.”

– ABC’s Peter Jennings in Baghdad, concluding the January 21 World News Tonight.

Come on Peter! I say Hitler did more for the arts than Saddam did!


Now That's Sick

So, of course, I had to share:

Yes, the boil bears a striking resemblance to NYT's Paul Krugman! (Otherwise, the doctor would have seen no medical problem on this healthy young woman!)

Get it off me, Doc! Use the scalpel!
(Thanks to Curmudgeonly and Skeptical)


Forgetting JFK

Very true:
If the Democrats do indeed nominate Mr. Dean and make the Dean tax the underlying economic message of their party, that would be good news for Republicans, but awful news for sound economic policy making in Washington. It will signal once and for all that the Democrats have gone off the deep end on economics and no longer believe a word of John F. Kennedy's message of 40 years ago that higher tax rates "will never produce enough revenues to balance the budget, nor enough jobs" to put Americans back to work.

How clear could this lesson be? JFK's and Clintons win elections. Teddy Kennedys (like Mondale, Dukakis, Gore v2.0 (after v1.0 (Tennesee's Favorite Son) had been thoroughly marinated in Washington's Democratic Party), Kerry and Dean) lose.

Not clear enough for the hard headed Democrats.

George Will hopes (as do I) that Bush re-election with a stronger Republican majority in both the House and Senate may be very good news for the future:

When you turned the page on the calendar Wednesday night, the first page of 2004 should have had printed - in large letters, in red ink - this insomnia-producing warning: "DEMOGRAPHY IS DESTINY AND IT IS NOW JUST FOUR YEARS BEFORE THE DEMOGRAPHIC DELUGE - THE BEGINNING OF THE RETIREMENT OF 77 MILLION BABY BOOMERS..."

...Howard Dean could be the catalyst of a conservative legislative majority which, although probably evanescent, might be emboldened to begin coming to grips with this:

The Baby Boom generation is twice as large as the generation it follows and 50 percent larger than the one that is following it. By 2030, the nation's population will be older than Florida's is today. Unless there are politically difficult changes, such as raising the retirement age, there will be twice as many retirees as there are today...

To begin dealing with all this, President Bush needs two things. One is the emancipation from re-election concerns that comes with a second term and the 22nd Amendment foreclosing a third. The other is an enlarged legislative majority to work with before he begins to be, after 2006, a seriously lame duck.

One can only hope.


They Know. They Just Know.

Airliner Crashes Into The Red Sea

Emergency crews have found wreckage from a chartered Boeing 737 airliner carrying 13 crew and 135 French tourists that crashed into the Red Sea shortly after taking off from the Egyptian seaside resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh today.

A statement from Egypt's Aviation Ministry said the crash was an accident.

No need to investigate. Nothing to see here. Move along.

Here are the facts as they now appear: The plane crashed after it was turning back toward Sharm el-Sheikh. Tony Blair just happens to be staying in a hotel in Sharm el-Shiekh. No distress call was sent (a pilot turning back to the airport doesn't tell the tower he's coming back?). Witnesses said they heard an explosion. Egypt says the crash was a result of technical fault on the airplane, but the pilot said nothing about this and the black boxes have not yet been analyzed. The plane had recently passed a safety inspection.

That doesn't sound the least bit suspicious to me.

Concluding something before an investigation has begun is a clear sign of whitewash. How can they rule out the possiblity of sabotage? The possiblity of a struggle in the cockpit? Why the radio silence? Planes don't usually explode for no reason, but they frequently explode when a bomb goes off in them. Is it entirely a coincidence that the plane was leaving Sharm el-Sheikh?

The French also say that this was clearly a technical problem with the plane. They are as eager as the Egyptians to have that be the case.

Non! Non! We are progressive in our relations with the Arabs! We can not be victims of terror! Only the Americans can!


Specifics Needed

'EU could have averted war'

A politically united Europe could have prevented the war on Iraq, according to European Union Commission President Romano Prodi, quoted in an interview published on Friday in the Italian daily La Repubblica.

"If Europe had been present and united, I believe, we would not have seen the war on Iraq," Prodi said, adding "Then we would have managed to find a solution to preserve the peace."

These Europeans are precious: so ignorant of their own decadence and amorality.

If only they could have "preserved" Saddam's peace! As if there was a chance of that anyway!

Saddam (like Stalin) killed more people and caused more misery in "peace" than he ever did in war (5,000 dead a month - every month - during the "peaceful" nineties, by the UN's own count).

The Europeans still naively believe that there is nothing worse than war.

The mass graves of Iraq say otherwise.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Hangover Helper

New Year's Day. What an appropriate day to reveal an new hangover cure to the world! (Thanks to Grouchy Old Cripple)

What a sadistic bastard! My brain hurts!


Bear With Me...

Why I Am a Democrat

I sometimes hear the question, "Why are you a Democrat?" and frankly, I have to laugh. Laugh and laugh, because perhaps this person may tire of my laughing, and he will eventually wander off. Sometimes I ponder seriously when I hear this question, because I'll look around and around and there's nobody there asking the question. Why am I a Democrat?

I am a Democrat because I believe everyone deserves a chance. And if necessary, a second chance. And if, by the eighth or ninth chance, this guy needs another chance, I mean, come on. This guy is due.

I am a Democrat because I believe in helping those in need. All of us, you and I, have an obligation to those less fortunate. You go first, okay? I'm a little short this week.

I am a Democrat because I believe in the equality of all people, regardless of their race. That is why I think we should give free medical degrees to minorities because, well, duh. Like any of those types are going to make it through medical school.

I am a Democrat because I fervently believe in tolerance. Tolerance is critical in our diverse society, and if you have a problem with that, mister, then I will inform the authorities and I bet that after a few hours in their "special room" you too will agree that tolerance is critical.

I am a Democrat because I believe that we should take our noses out of other people's bedrooms. I say we move the noses to their banks and storage sheds and scout troops, and so forth.

I am a Democrat because I hold sacred freedom of the press, as well as freedom of the TV and freedom of the movie. Where I draw the line is freedom of the talk radio, and don't even get me started about that damn Internet business.

I am a Democrat because I recognize that education is important. Very, very, extremely very important. We must increase spending on education and enact important education reforms, such as eliminating standardized tests. Because we can never hope to measure this beautiful, elusive, important thing we call education.

I am a Democrat because I believe in the separation of church and state. We must stop the religious extremists who want school-sanctioned prayers. Now, you tell me - with all that chanting and praying and incense-burning going on, how can our kids concentrate on the big condom-and-banana midterm?

I am a Democrat because I believe in the rights of women, be they lawyers or housewives or skanky interns. For too long women have been the victims of discrimination, and we must target programs to help these women, and also the various people who have descended from women.

I am a Democrat because I believe in women's right to choose. I mean, not a church school or a tax shelter, or something like that, obviously. Let's be reasonable.

I am a Democrat because I believe in the rule of law. Or, at least, lawyers. Because hey, according to my attorney, I could have been on the Number 7 bus when it crashed yesterday. As far as you know.

I am a Democrat because I believe a healthy economy depends on good jobs at good wages. So fork 'em over, you fat bastard boss man.

I am a Democrat because I believe the government should step in to create good jobs when that fat bastard boss man moves my good job to Mexico. Hey, I know! Maybe we can take all the money that boss man spends on non-job-creating stuff, like solid gold yachts and mink spats, and use that money to create jobs.

I am a Democrat because I fear the power of giant unrestrained monopolies, such as Microsoft, Nike, Parker Brothers, Univac and the Erie Canal Company. The government must wage an unrelenting, all-out war to crush these scary monopolies to a pulp before they get too powerful.

I am a Democrat because I believe in a strong military. Strong, yes, but caring and thoughtful too, and ready to face new challenges. A military that enjoys long strolls on the beach, cuddling in front of a warm fire, unafraid to show its vulnerable side. Must be NS/DDF.

I am a Democrat because I believe there is too much violence in society, especially in our schools. To avoid another Columbine tragedy, we should have mellow "rap" sessions with at-risk teens, such as the Goths. The violence will only end after the teen Goths see that we adults really care, and are "hip" to their groovy teen Goth scene.

I am a Democrat because I believe in campaign finance reform. Sadly, our politics are dominated by advertisements, paid for by the contributions of giant corporations. All too often, these drown out legitimate grassroots opinions, like the kind heard on TimeWarner-AOL-CNN, TimesCorp, or Disney-ABC.

I am a Democrat because I believe in public support of the arts. By "the arts," I of course mean those things made by, or excreted by, an artist of some sort. It is especially important that art be provocative and take controversial stances, like opposing Jesse Helms, and so on.

I am a Democrat because I believe in the environment and conservation. For instance, we must raise the price of gasoline, like they do in Europe, to increase conservation. If we don't, there will soon be a big gas shortage, and this will mean higher gasoline prices for you and me.

I am a Democrat because I detest greed. Especially the sickening greed of those who struck it rich in the 1980s, and greedily refuse to give me any of their stuff.

I am a Democrat because I... hey look! A new episode of Survivor! Geez, I hope they don't vote off Jenna, she's my favorite.

Actually, I am not a Democrat (and not much of a Republican either). I got this from Iowahawk.

Very well said.


Oh Bummer!

Great headline: New Year is cancelled.

The computers barely realized that time didn't end in the year 2000, and now we have to explain this.

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