Monday, April 30, 2007

Habitual Liars

No, not politicians, though that was a really good guess. I hate cigarette smoke as much as anyone, but I think I hate lying commercials even more.

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The Happy Chains of Individualism

After the 2006 elections, I posted a list of what I want from my government and its leaders, summarizing with:

I want leaders who encourage individualism in self reliance, self control, self defense, and self expression.

America is a nation founded on the principles of limited government. It was a new and radical plan, successful thus far only because it has relied on one fundamental truth: a free people who know that they are responsible for their own well-being and who have an ownership stake in their country will work harder and fight harder than a people who are mere subjects to the will of the State or a King. They will be free to exercise their creativity, and creativity harnessed to unity is unstoppable.

An implicit foundation for the above is individualism, and its four bases as stated above - self reliance, self control, self defense, and self expression - must be the province of each citizen if the nation is to endure. Yet only the last, self expression, seems to have popular currency. Nationhood itself is under attack, as those loyal to transnational groups see internationalism as the way out of strife among nations.

There are some today who, like Marx a century and a half ago, see the world in terms of a struggle among groups. Individuals, to the collectivists, are only valued as parts of the groups to which they belong. Their reliance is on the group, their control is an exercise in group leadership, their defense a shared struggle against the other groups, and their self expression is valued only to the extent that it promotes group values. Collectivists give lip service to the value of each individual, soon belied by the systematic eradication of any action or thought which strays from those approved by the group.

The self reliant culture of the young expanding America has become a culture of adolescent porcine uncertainty over whether to suckle from the teat or to gorge at the trough of government.

In some not-too-distant future, if we allow the flame of individualism to be extinguished by the pall of collectivism, we will know why: people became less willing to rely on themselves alone to achieve their dreams.

For it is insufficient to demand the right to free expression while at once demanding that someone else supply for us our needs and protect us from all misfortune. The Nanny is the Tyrant's wicked stepmother: we cede to the government the power to protect us from bad luck, and then from poor decisions, and then from all risk, until finally we must ask government for permission to do things which it ought not dare take control.

Virtue as an ideal, and the many virtues that were formerly upheld as prerequisites for respectability, has been replaced by the ideal of Fame. We see the famous and infamous as icons of success, the example we would be wise to follow. Glamor, not wisdom, is seen as the benchmark of a life well lived.

Ignoring virtue leads to a lack of self control. Unable then to control ourselves, we either find it frightening to undertake our own defense or we wickedly enjoy the condition that others cannot defend themselves. In either case, the government steps in to separate the wolves from the sheep, and finds itself with ever more wolves, and ever more sheep.

At the bottom of every social ill is a failure of individuals to rely on their own ability, to control themselves, to defend themselves and those for whom they care, and to insist that their government step aside. Undo the individualist foundation and the nation will fall, because a collectivist people, loyal to their groups, will have neither a stake in the nation nor the will to defend it.

If an ideology comes along that violates any of the four principles, it shows itself to be incompatible with all of them, and Americans should stand against it.

But if individuals are free to care for themselves, to succeed or fail, to defend themselves and to speak the words they choose, they will take on the bonds of loyalty, which are the strongest bonds of all.

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A Million Stand Up

A million people in Turkey protest against any hint of Islamic fundamentalism in their government, even if it's just the President's wife wearing a head scarf in the Presidential Palace.
That is how you defeat jihad. Common, ordinary people insisting, publicly and en masse, that God may rule their hearts, but religious zealotry will not rule their land.

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Sunday, April 29, 2007

Stealing IMAO's Game

Fred Thompson doesn't do magic tricks. Magicians do Fred Thompson tricks.

The Chicoms have not invaded California, because Fred Thompson has slept there.

Fred Thompson's gaze is known to purify water.

Fred Thompon's voice delays the onset of menopause.

When Fred Thompson takes a shower, the water doesn't get Fred Thompson wet. Fred Thompson makes the water dry.

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Friday, April 27, 2007

The Magic of Diversity

It is a tenet of the diversity movement that variation of individuals within a group makes the group better. Every team, committee, or board must be formed with diversity in mind. The magic of diversity will lead to better decisions, avoid groupthink, and save us all. The trouble is that most often the wrong kind of diversity is chosen, and the magic turns to madness.

When we speak of diversity, what is it that we mean? There are several types of diversity: biological, random, natural, racial or type, or geographical. There is skill diversity; educational, opinion, viewpoint diversity, and so on. It is a mistake to conflate any of these types of diversity, or to assume that one kind necessarily implies another.

As Justice Clarence Thomas said in a BusinessWeek interview:

I've thought a lot about these things, and I've spent the bulk of my life, beating my head against a wall, trying to get people to see that they can have their grand theories but, in the end, you can't impose them on other people's kids. How many kids do you have? They're different, aren't they? If your kids are different—and they're all yours—what about just some kids who happen to be different shades of black, different degrees of Negro? They're all from different family settings—some two parents, some no parents, some raised by grandparents. Come on. How can you just all of a sudden treat them as all the same?
Suppose you were creating a team of ten people, and your goal (hypothetically) were to have three people with dark skin, three with blond hair, three females, four above a certain height, and three in each decade of age ranging from 20 to 50. To get this diversity, you could look at their resumes and have them submit by email answers to questions about nuclear physics, Central Asian history, and field hockey. That would let you select a diverse set of opinions and knowledge, which would then yield a chance of successfully getting the physically diverse group you are after.

What's that? Silly, you say? The obvious way to make sure to get the exact mix of physical attributes you needed would be to ask the people for their physical attributes, and ignore altogether their knowledge of flower or India's glorious past, since that has nothing to do with your needs.

But we see the reverse employed: to achieve a goal of certain knowledge and skills on a team, members are chosen for their physical or even educational diversity, in the hopes that somehow they will have the needed abilities. It would be far better to pick people with the needed skills and experience levels, and not worry about their irrelevant characteristics. They may not look different, but they will be as different as they need to be.

And even if the goal is opinion diversity itself, and not any specific set of skills, knowledge, or beliefs, using racial or other physical diversity to achieve opinion diversity relies on stereotyping. As Justice Thomas notes, a physically homogeneous group of people probably will not think all alike. Conversely, it is quite possible to find people of different physical descriptions who will have very similar views.

The key failing of using physical diversity as a proxy for viewpoint diversity is that it introduces unrelated variables, and we don't know what those variable are. There is tremendous, unknowable variation within what we call "races", and the difference in viewpoint between any two people of a given race might be greater than the difference between either of them and someone of another race.

So are diverse teams really better? A committee, team, or other group is tasked collectively with performing a project no one of them alone could do. A team requires therefore a range of skills. The skills of the team members must mesh together to accomplish the team goal. Choosing people for "diversity" yields random skill sets, and unknown skill levels. To believe that diversity implies meshing requires magical thinking: it will just somehow work.

Diversity should be a natural byproduct of choosing the right people for the job. Insisting on doing it some other way belies the belief that diversity aids the team, showing it to be an end in itself. Diversity in that case is not the source of any strength, but an exercise in bureaucratic phoniness.

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Obama to win by Affirmative Action?

Is white guilt going to propel Barack Obama to the White House?

I don't think so. Or rather, I hope Americans haven't taken some notion that it's time we had a president who was Black enough, a woman not named for an explorer, probably not gay but certainly metrosexual, a flaming monogamist, or rumored to be omnipotent.

One would hope people would still want someone who had a proven record of executive leadership, experience in government and industry, and a nice dog.

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Thursday, April 26, 2007

Who is Legislating Morality Now?

I hate racism. My parents raised their children not to see other people for their race, wealth, or outward appearance, but to treat everyone the same. The idea of using violence against someone because of they are different is difficult for me even to consider. Hate someone for their their religion or sexual orientation? How silly. Even sillier is hating someone for their race or gender, something over which they have no control.

The Congressional majority appears to be filled with race-baiters and fearmongers. Unfortunately, they aren't content merely to stir up trouble, like other race-baiting fearmongers. No, these folks want to assert federal authority to prosecute based on their perceptions of your perceptions. What race-baiting fearmongers think you are thinking will become the standard by which your actions will be judged.

The standard drumbeat from the left for years has been that the right is ... I won't use the phrase involving throats ... trying to pass laws to legislate morality. As if anyone ever tried to pass a law they considered immoral. But now, a veritable stampede of House Democrats are trying to turn people into non-racist, non-sexist, and otherwise legislate their version of morality.

HR 1592, like all thought crime laws, would make some crimes more illegal if you're thinking certain illegal thoughts while you commit them. It also extends the Federal hate crime definition to include sexual orientation and gender.

Motive is always a dispositive factor in finding a person guilty or not guilty of a crime. The same physical action can be considered

  • A crime
  • Not a crime for reason of self-defense
  • Not a crime for reason of insanity
  • A reckless accident
  • An unforeseeable accident, or
  • An act of heroics
depending on the motivation for the action.

Suppose two men argue over something -- a poker game, a girl, or a seat on the subway. Things get heated, and one of them calls the other an ethnic or sexual slur. Their argument becomes a brawl, and soon it escalates into a kill-or-be-killed battle.

Now, at this point, one of them is guilty of using physical violence, while the other is guilty of a hate crime. But which one? The one who used the ethnic slur merely used words.
Sticks and stones
May break my bones,
But words will never hurt me.
But the one who responded to the ethnic slur is filled with hate, and is committing a crime based on the perceived or actual race of his victim. Or maybe it was all about the poker game and testosterone. Tough to tell, isn't it? Are their actions really any different?

Hate crime laws aim to make certain crimes more strongly punished than other crimes, depending on the thoughts behind the motivation. While it's often difficult enough to judge whether someone intended to commit a crime or was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time, that's a simple matter compared to deciding whether someone was motivated by greed, blood lust, hunger, or some kind of group hate.

Suppose it was some of all of those?

Suppose a person commits a crime that is 90% intended to acquire enough money to buy a nicer stereo, but has the added benefit of showing some member of a protected group a "lesson". Is that still just as bad as if the entire motivation were motivated by group hatred?

What about a fellow who harms someone of a different race, motivated 99% to protect himself, but oh, there was a tiny bit of racial animosity stirred up by the very need to defend himself. Is his self-defense invalidated because he had illegal thoughts in the heat of the battle?

Since these laws are not enforced equally, they violate the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection.

The logical generalization of hate crime laws is to make sentences proportional to the level of group animosity that motivated the crime, regardless of the group or the crime. Democrats ought to love that, since they make their living keeping people labelled and divided into groups.

Maybe if we stop paying so much attention to the color of people's skin and what they do behind closed doors, we'll start to get along a little better.

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Condi to Waxman: Nunya

(Also at The Minorty Report)

Henry Waxman (D-MysteryVan) issued a subpoena to Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice seeking questions about Iraq, yellow cake, and Niger. Rice has indicated she will refuse to comply with the subpoena on several grounds, including relevance, pestering, and Consitutional issues.

Rice said she respected the oversight function of the legislative branch, but maintained she had already testified in person and under oath about claims that
Iraq had sought uranium from Africa during her confirmation hearing for the job of secretary of state.

"I addressed these questions, almost the same questions, during my confirmation hearing," she said. "This is an issue that has been answered and answered and answered."
Subpoenas are regularly refused or quashed. If a subpoena is issued but sent to the wrong address, or to the wrong person, or if responding to the subpoena would be a giant hassle for nothing, or for a variety of other reasons, subpoenas sometimes need not even receive a response. If a witness is just going to exercise their Fifth Amendment right and not answer any questions, it's better to simply ask the court to quash the subpoena.

Congressman Waxman is using the subpoena to advance a political agenda, and is abusing his power in the process. He is attempting to distract the Administration with silly, inapposite questions in an effort to appeal to the far left wing of his party. There is no reason for Secretary Rice to answer further questions on this matter, and she should continue to say that.

What part of "No" does Waxman not understand?

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Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Support Democracy In Iraq

Simon has a new campaign:
Power and Control: I Support Democracy In Iraq

There are several levels of democracy a nation can employ, and several forms a democratic government can take. Supporting democracy in Iraq does not mean insisting, or even hoping, that Iraq form a nation similar to that of the United States or any other country.

Democracy also doesn't necessarily imply respect for human rights, although it tends to do that. Respect for human rights doesn't necessarily imply democracy, even though all people have the human right to self government on some level. A wise autocrat, for instance, takes the will of the people into account, especially the will of those most affected by a given decision.

To paraphrase Churchill, democracy is not perfect, but it's the best we can do so far.

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Gross Receipts Tax Losing Support in Illinois

Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (D-Handbasket) had two problems.

His first problem was that the State of Illinois had been having trouble paying its bills for several years. Schools were complaining about inadequate concierge service in faculty lounges. Gild work in some school board restrooms was wearing completely away, allowing the brass under the cheap gold plating to become tarnished when students could no longer be taught how to polish it. And the teachers have also had to endure the endless complaints from whiny State employees, whose pensions have not been fully funded any time in recent memory.

The Governor's second problem was that he didn't know how to best go about addressing the woefully undertaxed nature of the people of Illinois. They were just not willing to give as the Governor knew they should. And while they complained a bit, only a few elderly people a month were losing their homes when they couldn't pay their property taxes. An income tax increase would be electorally risky, and the State Legislature had been forced to grant gaping loopholes in the corporate income tax structure to keep ungrateful employers from fleeing under cover of night to nearby Indiana or Wisconsin.

Yet his plentiful taxing options didn't stop there. He could choose user fees on the vast amount of air covering the State, the sunlight pouring over it, and the rain slowly eroding it into the Gulf of Mexico. But the key was to make sure he didn't get blamed for raising taxes on voters, or at least, not by the majority of them.

His solution was bold: he would tax every transaction! It would be a hidden tax on those evil corporations. Whenever money changed hands anywhere in the State of Illinois, the government would take its cut. The Gross Receipts Tax could be used to pay for a massive expansion of Illinois government. And the best part was, in order to tax every transaction the Governor would need to know about every transaction. A huge new bureaucracy would be his to command, an information-gathering and enforcement arm that would let him put an end to the pesky charade of reelection campaigning.

Except that would not be enough. The GRT would not be used simply to balance the State's unbalanced budget, but to pay for another massive expansion, this time to supply a huge unmet need for medical paperwork. Everyone 3% more Illinoisans would get free less expensive medical care insurance. A new matching 3% payroll tax, a penalty on those employers who pay their workers with money instead of insurance paperwork, and a plan to sell the State Lottery would also be needed. Oh, how the paper would fly.

However, almost no one is buying it. People from all walks of life in Illinois are seeing the GRT for the regressive, economic poison that it is, despite Governor Blagojevich's hateful class-warfare demagoguery. Mom and pop would not lose their home to property taxes, because they'd never make enough to buy one.

Completely missing is the debate over whether gold plating in school board lavatories is really needed, when the State has to sell off assets and borrow money with bond issues to pay current expenses. Rather than debating where to liposuction away the State excess spending in the face of budget shortfalls, the Governor is demanding more for his plate.

It is possible that the Governor knew this plan would fail all along. Now that he's played the heavy, he can bravely struggle against that mean old General Assembly as they force an income tax increase on him. What a guy.

At least he's not charging us to breathe his air.

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Harry Reid Must Resign

Harry Reid declared the war in Iraq lost when he knew, or should have known, that it was not.

What did Harry know, and when did he know it? When did he realize he'd have to backpeddle, and has that back-pedding caused him to lose the trust of President-in-Law Pelosi?

There is a cloud over the Senate Majority Leader, a cloud which can only be erased by the Senator's resignation from that post. While he may keep his lucrative Senate seat, he belongs in the back row, away from anything sharper than a balloon.

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Silver Bullet Syndrome

After the VaTech massacre, there have been calls for more gun control, calls for teaching self-defense, calls for calls for censoring video games, and lots of complaints about campus security. Panicky, unrealistic charges sprang up saying implicitly that campus police should have known who committed the first two murders and explicitly that they should have "locked down" the campus in response to what their evidence said was a domestic dispute.

Since the lunatic was a student who lived on campus, under a campus lockdown he could simply have gone back to his own dorm and done the same thing he did at Norris Hall.

It has come out that the campus security and counseling staff knew or suspected that the lunatic was a lunatic, there have been calls for whisking away all such people to padded cells, whether they like it or not.

The human brain is a complex piece of organic machinery, with a delicate and powerful interaction between mental process, biochemistry, and cell growth. Thought patterns actually influence the physical layout of the brain. The subtle chemical balances vary from person to person, such that what might be a harmful combination for one is not for another. Further, the chemistry is offset by experience and training: a person with a tendency to believe his own opinions are facts, such as myself, can through training come to value the opinion of others. That's all hypothetical in my particular case, of course. Haha. Yes, you're right, not a laughing matter.

So there have been calls for all college students to receive mental health screenings.

It's a prime example of the Silver Bullet Syndrome: reacting to a crisis with a solution that may or may not work on a particular instance an intractable general problem. The silver bullet may not kill the werewolf, because you still have to shoot, and hit, the werewolf. Neither gun control, self defense training, locking down a campus, locking up all known lunatics, nor screening incoming college students for mental health are guaranteed to work against the general problem of how to kill the werewolves of a free, dangerous society.

There has always been an unquestionable oddness and questionable mental health of artists and writers, from Edgar Alan Poe to Adolph Hitler, from cartoonists daring to depict a prophet to those sent to Siberia for opposing an evil empire. Liberals should take note that when we give the government a power, it doesn't readily give it up, and the power to imprison those who have done nothing wrong is a dangerous one, indeed.

But it will at least be interesting to see Nannyism duke it out with the menace of drug company profit. Will liberals fall on the side of protecting us from those whose oddness can only be detected with mental health screening, or will their distrust of Big Pharma prevail?

(Somewhere in here, a link to Dr. Sanity would be nice.)

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Friday, April 20, 2007

Muslims Should Pray Only to Convert VaTech Victims

Debbie Schlussel notes, in her usual even-handed way, that there is a dust-up on a Virginia Tech mailing list for Muslims. The cause of this tussle? A female Muslim suggested that Muslims pray for the victims of Monday's massacre. That's what they get for teaching girls to read. They get all kinds of funny Western ideas, like asking God to help someone without an ulterior motive.

The liberal Arabic-language website Aafaq reports that a Muslim student set off a debate when she sent an email to the mailing list of the Muslim Students' Association at Virginia Tech asking the students to pray that Allah have mercy on those killed and wounded in the shooting attack at the university.

According to Aafaq, the dean of student affairs at American International University, Abu Hamza Hijji, responded, writing that Allah the Most Merciful forbids praying for mercy for the non-Muslim dead, or even for the non-Muslim living, and that it is only permitted to pray that they be rightly guided [DS: convert to Islam]. He added that what happened was a sad occurrence, but that does not give Muslims the right to transgress the laws of Allah the Most Merciful.
(Emphasis DS)

Apparently, those who say that God and Allah are the same thing were wrong. Allah appears to be a petty, bloodthirsty hater. Religion of Peace? In the sense that the dead are at peace, I guess.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

Avoiding the Next School Massacre

What happens to make people shoot up a school classroom?

Eric at Classical Values asks why the Virginia Tech students, especially the adult males, didn't fight back.

There are several factors which intuition says probably contributed.

  • From the time kids are babies until the end of high school, they are told that fighting is what bad kids do, and not to do it.
  • Those with the urge to protect others before themselves are in Iraq and Afghanistan, not Southwest Virginia.
  • The cops are always saying not to fight back.
  • It's a gun free zone. He can't possibly have a gun.
  • No one told them to fight back, that they had offensive capability and could fight back.

That last point bears expansion. Have ever had an object, such as a ball, thrown at you when you weren't expecting it, even in a context where you should be? It takes a lot of concentration to deal with it.

Now imagine a college textbook flying at you. You can't catch it with a gun in your hand. A hail of textbooks, pens, cell phones, backpacks, and furniture would be impossible to deal with for an attacker. A group of two or three people picking up furniture and charging the attacker with it would be able to disable him without being killed. If he happened to need a body bag after that, well, better him than the rest.

That's how kids should be trained, from kindergarten, to react to someone who threatens them or attacks their teacher. Fight back, with whatever means you have available.

A school district in Texas tried training like that, but the media controversy shut them down.

Burleson Independent School District (BISD) hired Response Options, a Dallas-based company, to provide general school safety training, which included fight-back training. The latter included encouraging students to throw objects at armed intruders, knock them off balance, make as much noise as possible, lock onto an intruder’s limbs, and try to take intruders down.

Teachers, 650 freshmen, and some elementary school students in the 8,500-student district received the training.

But after a national media buzz, on October 20 the district sent students’ parents a letter stating “BISD does not, nor will we support teaching our students to attack an intruder.”

Instead, they're trained to be helpless targets.

Why should students live with a general background fear, an implicit picture of themselves as victims in waiting? The odds of an attack are very low, after all. For a number that may as well be 100% of students, a classroom attack will never happen. Telling them that if an attack occurs, they are not just allowed but called on to repel it will do more for them than all the counseling and empowerment sessions they could attend. It's real empowerment, not feel good happy talk.

A bit of math: there are 55,000,000 K-12 students enrolled in US schools. Assuming that number holds for 10 years, then each year there will be about 4.25 million different students, or about 93,000,000 students total. Supposing that there will be 930 students involved in school attacks in the next ten years, an outrageously high number, that's 1 in 100,000 (0.001%) or approximately zero.

Compared to the number of kids who will be involved in violent crime not part of a "school shooter" scenario, it's statistical noise.

So why not teach them to fight back? Does not fighting back increase their survival chances, even for the zero percent of them who will be in that situation? Logic says no: killers who come to school have come to leave no survivors. The kids will be killed if they do nothing.

With regard to the charge that we are trained to act with cowardice in the face of a VaTech scenario, the always insightful Mark Steyn writes:

I’d prefer to say that the default position is a terrible enervating passivity. Murderous misfit loners are mercifully rare. But this awful corrosive passivity is far more pervasive, and, unlike the psycho killer, is an existential threat to a functioning society.

The lessons from VaTech are few in number. But we do know that when the targets fought back and became adversaries, more people lived. When they sat nicely or played dead, more people died.

Take your pick.

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One Fiftieth Free

According the the Billings Gazette, Montana Gov. Brian Schweitzer (D) has agreed with the State Legislature: Montana will not be part of a national ID card.

"We also don't think that bureaucrats in Washington, D.C., ought to tell us that if we're going to get on a plane we have to carry their card, so when it's scanned through they know where you went, when you got there and when you came home," said Schweitzer, a Democrat.

"This is still a free country and there are no freer people than the people that we have in Montana."

My regular readers (both) know that I'm either a law-and-order conservative or a stubborn libertarian, depending on the humidity. So things like the Real ID act give me fits.

However, I'm always a Federalist, and I love to see States thumbing their noses (as it were) at the District of Columbia.

So when Maine, Idaho, and Arkansas passed resolutions against Real ID or the National ID card, I was only briefly uncertain about it.

The Real ID Act specifies that to get a nationally recognized ID card, a person would have to prove they were in the country legally and supply a variety of detailed information about themselves. While that seems to be a good idea from an anti-terrorism and immigration standpoint, it falls down pretty quickly when you consider that proving legal status would entail supplying documentation that would be less trusted than the National ID card would be. So by forging primary documents (birth certificate, etc.), an evader would receive an authentic, trusted card. Or two, or three.

In the computer security field, we call that "attenuation of privilege", and it's a sign of poor design to make it part of the system.

The benefits of Real ID are supposedly in efficiency, but the Act requires tremendous record-keeping, and would be a bureaucratic nightmare. Combine your State Department of Motor Vehicles with the Internal Revenue Service, and you get an inkling of how ugly and invasive the monster would become.

And it would never go away.

So thank you, Montana, for taking the lead. I hope other States choose freedom.

(w/t: Slashdot)

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

A Tale of Two Names

Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, or Virginia Tech, or VaTech, is a school which goes by many names.

As we decide how to how to remember the events of April 16, 2007 at the school, it seems to me that names will be very important.

Some names, such as that of Liviu Librescu, deserve to be remembered. Others, such as that of his killer, do not.

Librescu Teaching Hall
Even in his final act of heroism, Librescu taught us the value of personal courage and of sacrifice. His act, and the lives of those senselessly taken, need to be memorialized. Norris Hall, the building in which the major rampage occurred, should be central to that memorial.

I call on Virginia Tech to rededicate that place Librescu Teaching Hall.

The other name, that of his killer, should be struck from our memories. If you have posted it on your web site, remove it. Never mention it again. Let us excise it from history.

This is not denial, a frightful turning away from reality, nor an attempt to hide the cold brutality of the killer. No one should receive glory, even the glory of a three line obituary, for an act such as the one committed that Monday. His acts we can remember for the evil they were. His name deserves nothing.

It's unrealistic, of course to imagine that everyone would heed my little call, or even that those who do will agree that his name should not be mentioned. I certainly hold no ill feeling for those who wish to use his name. I, however, will not.

But I will continue to hold up the name of Liviu Librescu: holocaust survivor, scientist, teacher, and sacrificial hero.

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The Liberal Error

I've noticed a tendency, a pattern of sorts, among modern American liberals. They seem most often to conflate side effects and cause.

Self Esteem

Liberals love to talk about self esteem, as though low self esteem were its own cause and not simply the mental health equivalent of scurvy. Without achievement, we lack the self esteem to stay away from suicide, drug abuse, and undesirable sexual activity. But just a little self esteem is enough to ward off these potholes of life. Too much self esteem leads to arrogance and sociopathy.

Low self esteem is undesirable, but high self esteem is just as bad. Furthermore, you can't supply the self esteem innoculation with unmerited praise, and the reward of doing a good job is often enough without any praise at all. As Dr. Sanity says,

Our cultural focus on enhancing "self-esteem" has resulted in the near-worship of emotions and feelings at the expense of reason and thought; on emphasizing "root causes" and victimhood, instead of demanding that behavior be civilized and that individuals exert self-discipline and self-control--no matter what they are "feeling".
Healthy, well-adjusted people have moderate self-esteem, but that cannot be given -- it must be earned.


Diversity is not a source of strength in human societies, it is a symptom of it. Unity gives strength, .and people are different enough without foolishly trying to make them more different. A people who are unified is a stronger people. But to be strong, a people must have freedom;. A free people develop diversity. Mere enforced superficial (e.g., racial) diversity does not enhance strength in any way. This topic deserves more treatment, and will be the topic of a future post.

Guns and Violence

Just days before the Virginia Tech massacre, my son's high school English class viewed two videos about the Columbine school schooting. One delved into the actual motivations of the kids who committed the acts of murderous rage, and the other was Michael Moore's Waiting for Columbine. My son identified with the first documentary, saying (and I'm of course translating here from the original teenagerese) that he understood the pain of peer rejection. We agreed that was hardly an excuse to go killing people, but he pointed out that if someone were intent on killing, there's not much that can be done about it. Anyone with a library card can learn how to destroy.

Michael Moore's shlockumentary, on the other hand, he found ludicrous. He took Moore's point to be that if K-Mart had not sold the bullets the Columbine killers had used, they would not have been able to kill. Getting the bullets taken off the shelves would solve the whole problem, he thought Moore to be saying. Knowing as he did the amount of time and thought the Columbine killers put into their rampage, not having those bullets would not have held them back. Guns were their plan B. Plan A was homemade explosives, which failed. Without the bullets, even assuming they couldn't find any anywhere beside K-Mart, they would have come up with some other plan B.

The Columbine rampage didn't happen because bullets were available. It happened because humans ostracize those who are different, and we live in the time of leverage from which there is no return. The bullets were available because we live in a dangerous world, not the other way around.

Now gun control advocates are playing this VaTech massacre for all it's worth, saying that it was caused by the availability of guns. No, it was caused by a lack of guns in the hands of the victims.

Massacres are a result of gun control, not a reason for more of it.

I could go on listing examples in which liberals conflate cause and side effect, such as Global Warming (is the world getting warmer because of the CO2 in the air, or is there more CO2 in the air because the world is getting warmer?), or social justice (to a liberal, life is only fair if the outcome is fair; the conditions are judged by the outcome). However, I'm not really happy with this post, and though I am fairly happy with all of the points made, am not sure I've made my overall case.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Police Cannot Protect You

We live in a world of leverage, in which a small amount of human effort and knowledge can control vast amounts of energy. That energy can be used for good, and almost all of the time, it is. Cranes, jackhammers, SUVs, guns, airplanes -- all of these things have tremendous destructive power. When used appropriately, as they almost always are, they make our lives much better. When used poorly, they give us the power to destroy.

Laws cannot protect you.

There are laws against killing people, laws against stealing, and laws against just about everything someone doesn't like. In places where its illegal to have guns, people still have guns, and people still die. People still kill people, and they always will. Our society works on the premise that people will behave themselves. If they will not, then the American Experiment will be shown a failure.

"You cannot legislate morality" means exactly that: laws change only the law-abiding, and a certain number will always ignore the law when you least expect it.

The police cannot protect you.

There is no guarantee of police protection. There is no service level agreement, nor even an agreement that one neighborhood will be served by police as well as the next one. Police cannot be everywhere. If a person is willing to give up his life, there is nothing the police can do to stop him or her from committing any number of violent acts.

Make no mistake: the police were not responsible for the shootings at Virginia Tech, Columbine, or those by the DC Snipers.

Being a good person cannot protect you.

Evil people bent on killing others make no distinction between who gave the most to charity or who volunteered at the homeless shelter. The level of kindness, integrity, and generosity with which you live your life may not make it into that final conversation -- and there may not be a final conversation. But if there is, there is no reason to believe that anyone already set to kill will be dissuaded by a history of goodness.

Even God cannot (or will not) protect you.

We are all going to die some day. God allows wickedness in the world, including the level of wickedness needed to look into the eyes of and kill, one by one, a group of thirty people.

Only you can protect you.

Only you will be there when your life, or your family's life, is on the line. Only you will be there to see the murderer coming down the hall. Only you will be there. The question is: will you be there, standing in the moment, or will you hide your face and wish it all away?

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Islam's Sycophants

To a certain extent, common ordinary Muslims themselves are placed in the shadow of the bullies. But these sycophants of the bullies are now bullies themselves, using different weapons: those of deceit and political correctness. As Keith Roderick puts it at The American Thinker:

"Islamophobia," coined as a term to describe prejudice and fear against Muslims and Islam, has gained institutional legitimacy. It is now used to fend off criticism of anything negative arising from Muslims or Islam. Less a psychological state of irrational fear, it creates a pseudo-racial classification for Muslims and Islam that allows criticism of, or opposition to it, to be defined as racist. Politically, the language of phobia is being used as a battering ram to weaken security measures and strengthen the radical agenda of Islamists who do not hide the fact that they want to transform the United States into an Islamic country governed by shari'a. These Islamists offer a caveat, that is, they want this transformation to be done without terrorism or violence, using only the political process to Islamicize American society.
Also via the American Thinker, the European Union has drawn up guidelines advising government spokesmen to refrain from linking Islam and terrorism in their statements.

The United Nations (w/t LGF) has drawn up guidelines on how we ought to avoid defaming Islam by not drawing cartoons.

Pardon me. I'll stop drawing cartoons when they stop blowing themselves up.

A February, 2006 article at Islam Online says "blasphemy" should be outlawed

"Because having the freedom without responsibility could lead our civilization to absolute liberalism."

Din said the declaration would allow people and institutions to exercise freedom of expression, but also make them responsible in their actions.

The article concludes:

Rev. Fr. Joseph Chusak Sirisut, director of the Bangkok-based religious and cultural research center in Saengtham College, said there was a similarly insulting cartoon when Pope Benedictus XVI was inaugurated last October.

"Press freedom should not insult religious figures."

Why not? Religious figures don't have any special right not to be insulted. Sort of goes with the gig, I thought.

Toadies, all.

But there is hope. In Minneapolis, the cabbies have to give you a ride even if you're carrying alcohol. I guess my offense at the government telling a cabby they have to carry all fares is less than my offense that Muslims would get special treatment under the law. Thank you, Metropolitan Airport Commission. (w/t to the Captain)

There will be a lot more toadies, and many more chances to tell the jihadists where to go. I'd love to share my predictions, but I have to go buy some pork and look for a cab.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

He should be dead now.

The fellow or fellows who opened fire at Virginia Tech should have been shot dead by some girl who carried a gun in her purse. Instead, he found easy pickings.

And now there will be even tighter restrictions.

And the next time, it will be even worse

Arm yourselves, before it's too late.

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Michele Malkin: Political Ho

Noel Sheppard of Newsbusters highlights an odd bit of non-news that didn't get much airplay. After days of outrage over Don Imus and the insulting 'nappy-headed hos' line, Imus was forced out of his job by the high priests of Political Correctness.

Yet, when the New Black Panther Party leader Malik Shabazz called Fox News contributor Michelle Malkin a “political prostitute” on Thursday’s “O’Reilly Factor,” the media largely ignored the event.

I suppose that makes me a politcal john.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007


Via Deb Schlussel, I pass along this:

Remember, and never forget. It is not merely the Jew who is in peril, but all of us.

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Governor Corzine, Get Well Soon

Governor Corzine of New Jersey shows us how dangerous freedom can be. While the Governor recuperates in critical condition at a New Jersey hospital, we will doubtless begin to hear how important it is to wear our seatbelts. The Nanny State will use his injuries as a club to enforce restraints on us, for our own good.

Let me preface what I have to say by expressing my hope that the Governor's injuries are not as serious as they could be, and the he has a speedy recovery.

A State Trooper carrying Governor Corzine may have allowed the Governor to ride in his vehicle without wearing a seat belt, in possible violation of New Jersey law. A friend of the trooper told a local newspaper about him:

"He's always been very righteous and idealistic, but in a good way. Very moral, lots of integrity," Gonzalez said. "I think he felt like that was his opportunity to contribute."
Perhaps the Governor was in the back seat, as a chauffered passenger would often be, or had temporarily unfastened his seat belt for some reason.


According to several biographies, no one, including his doctors, dared restrain the King of Rock-and-Roll from sticking heroin-filled needles in his arm. Likewise, no one dares tell some ranking politicians, billionaires and radio shock jocks that they must change destructive lifetime habits -- until it's too late.

A high-stakes Wall Street achiever such as Corzine wouldn't be the first governor or former U.S. senator to qualify as an Elvis. In his rarefied view from the front seat -- with its mad dashes to Cabinet meetings, news conferences, fund-raisers, political rallies and talk shows -- a comfortable, belt-less chat with an aide in the back seat can easily be seen as a calculated risk worth taking.

How does all of this fit together?

No matter how serious the Nannies become about wearing seat belts, the Nannies will hold their leaders exempt. To protect us, it seems, those in power must have freedoms the protected do not. And Governor Corzine will be given as the prime example. Rather than simply saying "See, this is dangerous, do it at your own risk", the Nannies will push for even more protection, even more invasion of our inherent right to be stupid, privacy-zealous Elvises.

A life without risk is a life without reward.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Latest Thing

Ever since I can remember, the mainstream media have swarmed from story to story, pouncing on the latest thing everyone else is covering. The always-entertaining Rush Limbaugh dubbed it the "Drive By Media". As Lin Wood said:

It's quiet now, but don't be fooled – another media frenzy is just around the corner. It may take a few weeks or a few months — or maybe just the next slow news cycle — but it will happen again just as it has happened in the past.
But what takes a simple story into a full-on media frenzy? It occurred to me during my vast and detailed research into this topic (means: googling for over a minute) that a new story starts with a comment somewhere, either in the media or on some blog. If it gets any traction, it "has legs", and then can be called a "scandal", a "dust-up", or a "controversy". Sometimes, there can be a dust-up over a story about a scandal.

But what makes everyone pounce on it? What makes a mere "storm of controversy" into the dominant topic for some period of time? I think it happens because reporters want to be relevant, and putting out a story that doesn't go anywhere is seen as irrelevant.

Now, it should also be noted that a story can develop into a "meme" or a "-gate", depending on if it's a myth that fits the dominant media agenda, or a scandal that fits the dominant media agenda. Some stories, such as 9/11 or the 2000 presidential election debacle, have actual business being on the front page for as long as they are.

Let's see if we can list them in order of hysteria:
  1. Story
  2. Dust-up
  3. Scandal
  4. Controversy
  5. Tempest in a teapot
  6. Debacle
  7. Kerfuffle
  8. Circus
  9. Storm of controversy
  10. Firestorm of controversy
  11. Frenzy

JonBenet Ramsey - frenzy
OJ Simpson - frenzy
Valerie Plame Wilson and IV - frenzy
Katrina - frenzy
Dubai Ports World - mere firestorm of controversy

Speaking of Katrina and DPW: the frenzy over Katrina was still nipping away when a media critic or Administration official, I can't remember or find which, asked a reporter on a Sunday talking head show why Katrina was getting such coverage and sucking the air out of everything else. What about the story of Middle Easterners "owning ports" - what about that?

The embarrassed reporter didn't know anything about it. Soon, that story was sucking the air out of every other, including Katrina.

Reporters want to be relevant. I, on the other hand, relish my irrelevancy, since this gig pays the same either way. Maybe I should get a PayPal link or something, so I could join the latest relevancy circus .. or maybe it will just be a kerfuffle that doesn't rise to the level of a circus.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

Hey Pelosi and Reid

We are worth more than peanuts.

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In the Star Trek TV series 1, Captain Kirk remarks in earshot of a Yang tribesman about the plan they'd have to carry out "...If we're going to get our freedom".

'Freedom'? It is [our] worship word. You will not speak it!

Mankind (well, our culture, anyway) seems obsessed with words. Some words are good, others bad. Some words are good if spoken in one circumstance, but bad in another. Some are acceptable if spoken by one person, but a cause for scorn if mouthed by another.

Don Imus knows this now, if he didn't before this month began. He dared breathe some words which many others had spoken before; he's now between underperforming radio shows.

While I was certainly not an Imus fan, barely being aware of his existence, the double standard over the words he used is striking. The high priests of political correctness have come to a consensus. They have a decision. It's clear. We have been told:

"'Nappy ho'? These are our worship words. You will not speak them!"

Now, back to our regularly scheduled media circus.

1 The Omega Glory, from the original series, for those geeky enough to care but not geeky enough to have memorized.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

Don't be Stupid

Now, we've seen a lot of this before, but I've never seen it woven into such a lovely tapestry of clear-headed smackdown. (w/t, Classical Values)

Bill Whittle tells us why:

  • Submarines don't cost $6.98,
  • Chickenhawk is the best argument for war
  • George Bush is not an idiot
  • Iraq is not about oil
and much much more:
  • Yes, Virginia, we did go to the moon
  • Jet contrails are not out to get you
  • And 9/11? Do I really need to say it?

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The Balloon that Would Not Pop

Congress has a valve controlling the ballooning size of the Federal government, and that valve is currently stuck open. The valve is not just the pork that Congresscritters use to buy reelection. The valve is jammed open by the practice of baseline spending, in which the budget for the many Departments and programs of the government is calculated not on what is required, but on the previous budgeted amount. Since there is no incentive for either bureaucrats or appointees to ask for a smaller budget, that amount almost always increases.

When government grows in expenditure, it also grows in authority, sooner or later. If we don't want government to intrude on our liberties, we must not let it spend more money. It doesn't matter if taxes are increased or cut, or if promises to preserve liberty are made. Eventually, a larger government will find a way to extend its power.

Typically, the expansion of power begins by regulating the money being spent. It would be irresponsible use of public funds not to account well for it, after all.

But the way the accounting works usually does very little to account for how the money is spent, but rather is designed to show that it is being spent well. Beneficiaries of government largess are obligated to submit to regular surveys, and as all surveys these are designed to achieve a particular answer: this is a good program, but it needs more money.

Furthermore, the bulk of Federal spending is not "discretionary", which is to say, Congress has effectively put it on autopilot. That means that in order for any Federal program to even stop growing, its loyal proponents have a chance to scream about it to a complicit media. Those who merely want government generally to be smaller have to expend political capital on some particular program which merely costs more than it does good. The proponents of the program often see it as the most important function of government.


It is important to note that advocates of larger government—contemporary liberals, as opposed to classical ones—do not hesitate to advocate expanded government and expanded regulation that is out of proportion to the growth in prosperity and positive liberty. By refusing to stand firm against the contemporary liberal movement, by ceding ground when it does not have to, by adjusting tactics so that classical liberals perpetually fight on the contemporary liberals’ favorite battlefields, the classical liberal movement risks running out of the intellectual energy necessary to keep government small and to increase prosperity and positive liberty.
Our strategy is always to talk about how much government can shrink, in the heretofore vain hope that it will fail to grow as quickly as it otherwise would. Perhaps there's another avenue. But I think the balloon will continue to grow until it meets some constraint. For Americans, that constraint was supposed to be giving the House of Representatives, those Federal politicians closest to the People, the sole power to initiate tax increases. Now that the majority has learned that it can tax the minority, that constraint has turned into a catalyst.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Passive-Aggressive Party

Democrats have cut off their nose to spite their pouty little faces, giving up a spot on the highest-rated news channel, ostensibly to make some kind of point.

Newsbusters relays the quip from Jay Leno:

Well, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and John Edwards as well as a number of other Democratic candidates say they will not participate in a presidential debate next month because the debate is on Fox News and Fox News is biased. Well, how are you going to stand up to terrorists when you're afraid of Fox News?

Conjuring images of obsequious groupies at some pythonesque royal court, Democrats have surrendered before the power of Fox News. ("We're not worthy! Not worthy!") Well, actually, they have surrendered to the supplications spewing from the cyber-orifices of and accumulating in similar dung heaps of the global village. hosted an online petition, to which I will not link:

It's time to take on Fox

The Democratic Party of Nevada just announced plans to team up with Fox News for a presidential primary debate. But Fox isn't a legitimate news channel. It's a right-wing mouthpiece like Rush Limbaugh and the Drudge Report—repeating false Republican talking points to smear Democrats. Sign this petition to ask the Democratic Party of Nevada to drop Fox from the debate.
I will also not bother to debate whether Fox is a "right-wing mouthpiece", except to note that from orbit, Everest and Marianas appear the same height. is so far to the left they couldn't tell a "right-wing mouthpiece" from The Aquarium Channel. Liberals have a lock on the sewer main media, and Fox goes out of its way not to be part of that.

Yet the liberals are indignant that any media would question their assumptions, and would challenge their alleged facts. Who can speak truth to power if the power fails to bobblehead approvingly? Who will do the homework for the candidates, if the media will not?

My message to liberals:

Just deal, already. Try to be grownups. It's hard, but you'll get used to it.

Then again, whining and pouting seem to work.

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Embedded Reporters Considered Harmful

In this Redstate post, Charles Bird relates the story of how Michael Yon, a national treasure working to tell the story of the Iraq war from the battlefield, wants to pick up a weapon and fight along side the unit in which he's embedded. That's a really bad plan, and it highlights the folly of embedding reporters. They can't be objective anyway, so why put them there?

I never liked the idea of embedding reporters with units in a war zone. Probably that's because I never liked the idea of a war covered on TV. Wars should be fought, not televised. The instant a camera crew shows up, the war will be fought for the camera crew, directed for the audience rather than fought to be won.

But the horse is out of that barn, as modern wars are fought in urban areas and with a media front. The other side is going to be fighting a battle on the blogs and over the airwaves, the only question being whether we will show up.

The Geneva Conventions recognize four classes of people in an armed conflict:

  1. Protected combatants
  2. Unprotected combatants
  3. Protected civilians
  4. Unprotected civilians
Protected civilians are those persons in a war zone who, though they may give emotional support to one side or another, give no actual support and do not engage in hostile action themselves. Reporters are in that category. They are not uniformed and do not fight.

It seems odd that journalists, who are certainly as big a target as the classic "radio man", aren't allowed to fight. They ought to be able to defend themselves. Yet since they're

  1. Amateurs
  2. Not subject to military discipline
  3. Not uniformed
for them to take up arms makes them undependable and dangerous at best and war criminals at worst.

That's another reason that embedding reporters is a bad idea. The InfoOps people ought to come from the ranks, same as any other specialty. But it would be even better if there were no specialty at all. The new warrior has to fight with his mind as much as his bayonet.

So the camera crew have to be made part of the unit. Not attached, or embedded, or observing; part of it. What's more, it isn't enough to have one reporter with a unit. Every fighting man should also be trained as a reporter, and expected to give his point of view of the fighting. Everyone we send into harm's way should have a camera to record the action from his perspective, another weapon to use to destroy the enemy and take away his will to fight. When the battle ends, and the enemy claims we failed to shackle ourselves properly, our cameras will tell a different story.

Or rather than simply record the battle, the cameras should relay battlefield information for strategists and tactician to use in directing the fight.

So embedding reporters is the wrong paradigm. We should be sending armies of reporters to the field, armed with a camera and all the modern firepower we can give them. And even if we don't, it's an even bet that the other side will.

[Minor edits after posting]

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Embryonic stem cell research presents an easy expected value problem. An expected value problem is one for which two or more values or outcomes are weighed, when each has a likelihood of occurring. Expected value problems are solved by converting all variables to the same unit of measurement and multiplying each outcome by its likelihood.

Comparing only like terms, we have:

Decision = Prob(life-threatening diseases cured)(number of cured people) - (1)(number of embryo lives destroyed in research)

... where Prob(X) represents the likelihood of X occurring, on a scale from 0 to 1.

So we're being asked to balance the hypothetical cure against the definite death. Roll the dice that some person could be cured by taking the life of another, without that other's consent.

The doctor is correct. When the probability of a cure for some life-threatening disease gets high enough, the number of lives saved will outweigh, in a grisly fashion, the number of lives destroyed to save them.

I ignore the easy straw man argument, that embryonic stem cells have the "potential" to keep aging actresses on screen longer and prolong the careers of aging athletes. But what of old age generally? What if embryonic stem cells hold the fountain of youth?

It's the same expected value. To do the research to find out whether such is possible, human beings have to die.

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King Tolerance Abdicates

It's a tautology to say that people who have different points of view will disagree. Diverse points of view will probably lead to diverse disagreements. It is impossible to have diversity without strife. But when do those disagreements become offensive?

The Tolerance Police are now explaining, in the name of sensitivity, that some points of view are inexpressible. It used to be said that only Intolerance could not be tolerated, which was ironic enough; unsatisfied with that, the tolerators have now come to say that they need not tolerate what they find offensive. King Tolerance, it seems, has abdicated his throne.

Don Imus is a shock jock. He makes his living by saying outrageous things to people who love being shocked by the outrageous things he says. The trouble with shock is that it wears off; eventually the shocking becomes merely unsettling, then conventional. When Imus says (via Newsbusters, their emphasis)

I used to think that all of these things that the administration did were either because of the war criminal Vice-President and that psychopath who was over at the Pentagon, because of them, or because of stupidity. But I really believe, in my heart, that it's arrogance, and maliciousness and mean-spiritedness.
That kind of thing used to be shocking, became merely unsettling, and now serves only to make liberals to bobble their heads in BDS-infected agreement.

Yet Imus's use of racial slurs (which I will not repeat) to talk about a women's basketball team has caused the Reverend Jackson (playing the part of Salome in this metaphor) to call for his head on a platter.

Shock jocks shock. It's their thing. Ignore them, and they'll go away. Above all, don't mention them by name. (Oops.)

But as long as we celebrate diversity, we will be stuck with people who make fun of differences. If you want diversity, and want toleration of your diverse point of view, you'll have to tolerate the ugly, diverse points of view of others.

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Sunday, April 08, 2007

He is Alive!

When the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. And they were saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance of the tomb?” And looking up, they saw that the stone had been rolled back—it was very large. And entering the tomb, they saw a young man sitting on the right side, dressed in a white robe, and they were alarmed. And he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has risen; he is not here. See the place where they laid him. But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going before you to Galilee. There you will see him, just as he told you.” ESV

Either He did that, or the Bible is wrong. Either He did that, or He is untrustworthy.

Jesus is not simply a good man, or a prophet. Jesus was the son of God, or He was incorrect about Himself, being either a liar, a fool, or a nutcase. His statements and actions are not consistent with being any of those.

Those who cannot denounce Him must accept His Lordship.

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Friday, April 06, 2007

Nancy Pelosi Must Resign

For negotiating with a foreign government against the expressed wishes of the President.

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The Darkest Hour

Even when Persians get good press for releasing hostages they should never have had, it is not our darkest hour.

When the Russians, Chinese and the rest of the world turn "realist" in the fight against evil, it is not our darkest hour.

The British, French, Germans, and the rest of Europe are doing their best appeasement -- but it is not our darkest hour.

Our darkest hour has come and gone. It took place on a hill called Golgotha, in a backward outpost of the Roman Empire.

They came to a place called Golgotha (which means The Place of the Skull). There they offered Jesus wine to drink, mixed with gall; but after tasting it, he refused to drink it. When they had crucified him, they divided up his clothes by casting lots. And sitting down, they kept watch over him there. Above his head they placed the written charge against him: THIS IS JESUS, THE KING OF THE JEWS. Two robbers were crucified with him, one on his right and one on his left. Those who passed by hurled insults at him, shaking their heads and saying, "You who are going to destroy the temple and build it in three days, save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!"

In the same way the chief priests, the teachers of the law and the elders mocked him. "He saved others," they said, "but he can't save himself! He's the King of Israel! Let him come down now from the cross, and we will believe in him. He trusts in God. Let God rescue him now if he wants him, for he said, 'I am the Son of God.' " In the same way the robbers who were crucified with him also heaped insults on him.

From the sixth hour until the ninth hour darkness came over all the land. About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?"—which means, "My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?"

When some of those standing there heard this, they said, "He's calling Elijah."

Our darkest hour came, and we didn't even know what He was saying.

But we know now that when things look their worst, there are plans at work for our good. Without a rainy day, our food will not grow. Without hardship, we are not tested. And without a Crucifixion there is no Resurrection.

For anyone serving in Iraq reading this today, let me thank you, with all my heart, for descending into hell in my place. I know you will return victorious.

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Thursday, April 05, 2007

The Goracle of Jon Cary

John Kerry has led an interesting life. The trouble is that during much of it, he's been stalking Al Gore.

Gore went to an Ivy League school; Kerry went to an Ivy League school.1
Gore smoked dope; Kerry was a dope.
Gore went to Nam; Kerry went to Nam.2
Gore invented the Internet; Kerry invented cookies.3
Gore ran for the Senate; Kerry ran for the Senate.
Gore ran for President and lost to George Bush, claiming to have been cheated out of victory; Kerry ran for President and lost to George Bush, claiming to have been cheated out of victory.
Gore stumps for global warming; Kerry stumps for global warming.

I'm not sure what's next for Kerry, but if he wants to get an Oscar for a film involving Theresa, let's hope he leaves out the love scenes.


Notes (because documentation is important):

1(Yes, I know Kerry went to Yale before Gore created Harvard. That was the first of many such Kerry tricks, giving the appearance of acting on his own. Quit taking me so seriously.)
2(See, Kerry just couldn't wait to go to Nam and copy Gore!)
3(Yes, I know Gore didn't invent the Internet. He created it. Likewise, Kerry didn't invent cookies. He created a cookie recipe ... well, he created his mother's recipe ... same thing!)

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Here There Be Monsters

The fog of government is ahead, and our charts give us only vague, but frantic warnings. All around are the dead seas of the Nanny State and the rocks of Tyranny. We soon sail into uncharted waters, neither able to see horizon, star, nor shoal, and not even able to sound the depth. Will we becalm ourselves in the Nanny Sea, or dash against the rocks of Tyranny? Neither, if we turn back while we can.

Increasingly, we've bought into the notion of preemption: if something you do increases the likelihood of danger to others (or to yourself), you should be A) barred from doing it or B) found to have intentionally caused whatever calamity happens as a result of your dangerous action.

The War on Drugs keeps us from harming ourselves .. but at the price of a loss of not just the freedom to self-medicate, but the freedom to travel with a large amount of cash on hand. Our property can be taken without trial, on only the suspicion of a police officer whose department benefits directly from the sale of our property at auction.

Our young people are seduced by the glamor of these substances, and by the fun of the party, though they are soon to find neither glamor nor fun when the price must eventually be paid. But rather than simply teach them that, and let the consequences of life serve as a warning, we yield our liberties and spend billions interdicting, prosecuting, incarcerating, and finally supporting people whose only crime is using the wrong substance. No, people should not self-medicate, especially with banned substances. That would be illegal and dangerous.

Drunk drivers are public enemy #1, it seems, for increasing the risk to others. Being drunk behind the wheel doesn't hurt anyone; crashing does. Drunk driving simply increases the risk of accident. But by making the risk itself illegal, we give the government the authority to inspect our bodies when we have not harmed anyone, whether we've been drinking or not. No, people should not drink and drive. That would be illegal and dangerous. But we've allowed the government to have authority it should not have.

Each behavior or product against which we rise up in holy indignation to promote, regulate, or ban, gives government that much more authority in our lives. Each tax increase, each spending increase, each War on Whatever, extends the power of government.

Because when government grows in ways we like, it invariably grows in ways which we don't. And when it grows, it doesn't ever un-grow. At least, not yet.

When government grows in expenditure, it also grows in authority, sooner or later. If we don't want government to intrude on our liberties, we must not let it spend more money. It doesn't matter if taxes are increased or cut, or if promises to preserve liberty are made. Eventually, a larger government will find a way to extend its power.

One effect of the expansion of power is to "regulate" the money being spent. It would be irresponsible use of public funds not to account well for it, after all. But the way the accounting works usually does very little to account for how the money is spent, but rather is designed to show that it is being spent well. Beneficiaries of government largess are obligated to submit to regular surveys showing how much better off they are with the program than before it.

When government grows in the power to regulate business, it grows in the power to regulate our personal lives, as well. A law passed today to keep that other fellow from polluting the air with carbon monoxide (a poisonous gas) will be used tomorrow to regulate the very breath from our lungs. When we give it the power to regulate the breath from our lungs, it will somewhere else grow to tax that breath, to measure it, dole it out, and ration how much we can exhale -- or inhale.

There is a clamor on the left for universal health care. Everyone must be cared for. It's a human right.

What the Nannyists don't realize (at least, they don't say) is that expanding government to take care of us is eventually impossible unless it takes steps to control us. After all, how can we be kept well if we're allowed to do all kinds of dangerous things, like playing in the snow, walking in the rain, or (Heaven forbid) riding a bicycle without a helmet? Civil servants, as Heinlein said, soon become civil masters.

It won't happen this time, they promise.

But it will become a standard talking point that dangerous behavior, as defined by the statistics, raises everyone's taxes, or health insurance, or both. That's not such a bold prediction, since one hears it already, even without universal coverage. When the government is charged with keeping us healthy, we will be protected, controlled, and never again free.

It's something of a chicken-and-egg problem. Are we sailing quietly into a tranquil Nanny State Sea because we want to ban, by legislative fiat, our reckless endangerment by others, or is the call to ban unsafe activity the result of incipient Nannyism?

It can't go on forever. Sooner or later, government must contract. We must come to understand that our position, though not known exactly, is far too close to both the Tyrant's rocks and the Nanny's maddening doldrums. The longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to escape disaster in an orderly — and peaceful — way.

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Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Libertarian SoCons

Over at Classical Values, Eric had a fine post (as if he ever has anything else) before the November elections about Bill Clinton's characterization of the Republican Party as enthralled by the demonized Social Conservatives.

I think there are a lot of libertarian-leaning social conservatives, as odd as it sounds. We understand the clean-room simplicity of libertarian principles, but also that the tidiness falls down in the face of modern reality. There are also a number of issues, namely abortion and drugs, on which social conservatives largely disagree with libertarians.

Americans, by and large, like to think of themselves a favoring small government, personal liberty, and the rest. But the devil in the details here is defining "small" and "liberty". Given the question, e.g., "Should people be able to control what goes into their own bodies?", most people will say yes. But ask them about PCP or Vallium, and they'll start in about endangering others or the protecting the li'l chil'rens. Oh, and don't touch my farm subsidy.

The issue of abortion falls squarely on the question of when life begins, or rather, when the 'fetus', a collection of cells inside a woman, becomes a 'baby', a human being entitled to legal protection. I believe that moment is the instant of conception, but I understand some people disagree. When pro-choice libertarians can see the unborn child as a person whose rights need to be defended, they become pro-life libertarians.

The War on Drugs baffles me. Why the government should care who ingests or injects what, I don't understand. I think I'll cover what people do when they're on drugs, addiction, and other issuesf an upcoming post (unless the black helicopters prevent it).

A big problem for the Libertarians is Islamic terrorism. The Libertarian philosophy, being a creature of Western lineage, doesn't have room for jihad. Libertarianism can't abide by efforts to root out terrorism with privacy-crowding methods, nor with taking the fight to the terrorist's home turf. Libertarians are left with the plan of sitting around waiting for some jihadist loser to blow himself up.

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Shall Not Be Infringed

Tyrants and Nannies have something in common. Neither one wants you to own a gun, because neither one wants you to be free of their power.

It seems to me that most governments in the West are trending toward Nannyism. They operate on the principle that it is the government's duty to protect the citizen (including those in the military) from harm, even self-induced harm. In the East, the trend is to tyranny (hey, it's a blog, I can overgeneralize if I want). By contrast, the American Founders believed that the people were to protect themselves, and must be free in order to do that.

That is why we have the Second Amendment to the U.S. Constitution:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed
Gun ownership is a check on the encroaching power of government, in at least two ways. First, it makes government less necessary by giving the police less work to do. Conversely, without the ability to defend one's person, family, and property, the ineffective protection of government is in greater demand. Secondly, gun ownership gives overzealous police another variable to consider before they abuse their authority.

If people misuse their guns, they should be punished accordingly. Using a gun in a crime should be a compounding factor in sentencing.

During the 2006 election cycle, one of the treats for me was the way Diana Irey put her beliefs into words. On the Second Amendment, she doesn't disappoint, reminding us of the duty we owe each other:
Freedom isn't free. Our country has a long and dignified history of personal responsibility and accountability. For generations, our ancestors have lived in a country where they were free, and able, and expected to defend themselves, their families, and their homes. I believe that it is important that we maintain these rights for ourselves, and for generations to come.
I don't care what gun ownership does for the crime rate. What does it do for the freedom rate?

I don't care what it does for hunting, except to tell me who I want at my back when the deer sign hits the fan.

There are those who say that the Militia is an antiquated concept, obviated by the modern Reserve system and standing army. They say, therefore, that since a well-regulated militia is no longer used, the right to keep and bear arms is no longer necessary.

In Parker v. District of Columbia (pdf), the Appeals Court noted that the Constitutional guarantee of the right to keep and bear arms applies every citizen, not to the hunter or the off-duty policeman alone, and not only to those registered in the Militia. That no one is registered in the Militia is immaterial; its Reserve successor occupies its place in the logic.

We are all responsible for our own defense, and that of our neighbor, and of our country. In this rapidly changing world, you never know when we'll be called upon to exercise the duty to which Mrs. Irey, and the Founders, have called us.

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Tuesday, April 03, 2007

When Torture is Good

From the desk of Jane Galt, comes this:

I'd rather be waterboarded than put in the general population of a high security prison. It is entirely possible that life at Guantanamo is more bearable than life at San Quentin, and no, that is not a defense of Guantanamo.
She goes on to add, as she must, that torture is bad and wrong.

But is it? Or is there a time when torture is in season?

Imagine a time in the near future when we have invented a weapon so powerful that it could cause the Sun to nova, destroying our planet. Perhaps it's a scheme to divert a moon-sized object into collision course with the Earth, to satisfy the apocalyptic vision of a brilliant but misunderstood Muslim postal worker. Undoubtedly, any means necessary to save the human race, including the torture of one unhappy camper, would be acceptable.

Suppose, then, there were a nuclear bomb ticking away in the middle of a major metropolis -- or the town where your family reunion is being held. The fellow who planted it turns himself in to police in the next town over the horizon, believing that a jail will be a lot safer for him than anywhere else in a few hours.

If torturing that one fellow will save the lives and secure the liberty of millions (and of your family), would it be OK? To me, there's not much question that it would.

So if it were a conventional bomb, like the one Timothy McVeigh exploded outside the Oklahoma City Federal Building, would it have been acceptable to torture the bomber to stop that bombing?

We could continue the slippery slope down to the life, or injury, of one person, or even to some injury to property or the environment. While we would find torture acceptable to prevent some circumstance, there is a line below which we would not. Somewhere between racial annihilation and spitting on the sidewalk we would say no, it's unacceptable to torture to prevent that crime, but perhaps not a spree of such crimes.

But why is that? We believe that torture is wrong because of an emotional and philosophical reaction against it, but that emotion comes from several different directions.

First, torture is associated with the evil tyrants of history and malevolent prison guards, who have used it to punish as much or more than to gain information. We, the enlightened, don't want to be like them, and that ideal manifests itself in an emotional response: torture is bad.

Torture is inflicting pain on someone who can't fight back, an activity which repulses normal people. We are generally much happier taking a paternal or pastoral attitude toward prisoners. Even if we must treat them harshly, we don't want to treat them cruelly.

But probably the best reason to avoid torture is that torturees lie. People will say anything to make the pain stop even for a moment. The torturer often wants to hear a particular answer, and the torturee can sometimes figure out what to say. Torture is properly seen therefore as an unreliable means of gathering information.

So back to our imminent disasters. Why is torture acceptable to avert them, and how do we know where to draw the line? There are several principles we can see.
  1. Time pressure: there's a deadline which will pass without torture
  2. Balance: harm to the torturee will prevent greater harm to others
  3. Specificity: the question is known, but the answer is not
  4. Verifiable: the information needed can be quickly verified (or refuted) without torture
Torture is only acceptable when we must act quickly to obtain specific answers which can be checked without resort to torture, but cannot be obtained otherwise. If you disagree, you are welcome to your integrity, but I am not willing to accept the consequences of preserving your clear conscience.

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Monday, April 02, 2007

Why Elections Matter

Via Volokh Conspiracy:

Supreme Court Decides "Global Warming" Case: The Supreme Court handed down its decision in the "global warming" case, Massachusetts v. EPA, and it looks like a significant victory for environmental interests. Stevens managed to keep Kennedy on board, so it was a 5-4 ruling that will make the EPA go back and reconsider the petition to regulate greenhouse gases.

So now the full power of the EPA will be unleashed on greenhouse gas emissions. Hopefully the Administration has still can supply some rational influence on the bureaucracy.

Speaker-In-Law Nancy Pelosi is off to Syria, to negotiate with the terrorist regime there. Then again, at least we know that when all the cards are on the table, she won't blink.

Before she left on the trip, the Speaker-in-Law put through a pointless piece of legislation, "The Code Pink Appeasement, Pork, Peanut, and Spinach Salad Act of 2006". The Act ties funding for the Iraq war to both a timetable for withdrawal and various welfare handouts to farmers and their Congressional panderers. The bill is pointless, since the President announced that he would veto it. Nevertheless, she rushed it through before she left. Now funding for the troops will have to wait while Aunt Nancy pretends to be relevant while prostrating herself before the Syrians. Probably the sensitive and caring meat handlers will decide whe wouldn't bring much at auction, and will send her back.

November 4, 2008 cannot arrive soon enough.

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Return them, or die.

That is what the British government should tell Iran.

They should say, "We do not care if they were in your territorial waters. You will put them back where they were now, or you will no longer have the means to govern yourselves."

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I am John Doe

(I don't usually repost entire articles, but this is a great idea from Michelle Malkin -- title is link there)

Dear Muslim Terrorist Plotter/Planner/Funder/Enabler/Apologist,

You do not know me. But I am on the lookout for you. You are my enemy. And I am yours.

I am John Doe.

I am traveling on your plane. I am riding on your train. I am at your bus stop. I am on your street. I am in your subway car. I am on your lift.

I am your neighbor. I am your customer. I am your classmate. I am your boss.

I am John Doe.

I will never forget the example of the passengers of United Airlines Flight 93 who refused to sit back on 9/11 and let themselves be murdered in the name of Islam without a fight.

I will never forget the passengers and crew members who tackled al Qaeda shoe-bomber Richard Reid on American Airlines Flight 63 before he had a chance to blow up the plane over the Atlantic Ocean.

I will never forget the alertness of actor James Woods, who notified a stewardess that several Arab men sitting in his first-class cabin on an August 2001 flight were behaving strangely. The men turned out to be 9/11 hijackers on a test run.

I will act when homeland security officials ask me to "report suspicious activity."

I will embrace my local police department's admonition: "If you see something, say something."

I am John Doe.

I will protest your Jew-hating, America-bashing "scholars."

I will petition against your hate-mongering mosque leaders.

I will raise my voice against your subjugation of women and religious minorities.

I will challenge your attempts to indoctrinate my children in our schools.

I will combat your violent propaganda on the Internet.

I am John Doe.

I will support law enforcement initiatives to spy on your operatives, cut off your funding and disrupt your murderous conspiracies.

I will oppose all attempts to undermine our borders and immigration laws.

I will resist the imposition of sharia principles and sharia law in my taxi cab, my restaurant, my community pool, the halls of Congress, our national monuments, the radio and television airwaves, and all public spaces.

I will not be censored in the name of tolerance.

I will not be cowed by your Beltway lobbying groups in moderates' clothing. I will not cringe when you shriek about "profiling" or "Islamophobia."

I will put my family's safety above sensitivity. I will put my country above multiculturalism.

I will not submit to your will. I will not be intimidated.

I am John Doe.

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