And the Sky Full Of Stars

George Will waxes rhapsodic about astronomy, particularly the massive new Keck telescope in Hawaii, in tomorrow's WashPost.

Notes Will:

"We are curious people," says Keck Observatory director Frederic Chaffee matter-of-factly. "And the universe is an amazing place." The most amazing things in it are the curious creatures. They have evolved literally from stardust, becoming conscious beings capable of building -- indeed, their glory is that they are, in a sense, incapable of not building -- mountaintop telescopes, silhouetted against the edge of the atmosphere, searching for clues as to how all this started and how it will end.


I agree with Will's awe over the incredible technology that allows us to look ever further into the Universe. But it's well past time to take tne next step and stop just looking out at the stars and go there already!
Another Reason to Get Rid of Saddam

Diane at Letter From Gotham has this to say about Saddam Hussein:

Opponents of a proposed invasion of Iraq claim that Saddam may be brutal, but he is rational, and therefore his removal from power is unnecessary, because he knows that he will never have the capacity to challenge the United States seriously. One false move, they say, and he’s history. Saddam knows that.

There’s a very simple refutation of this, which is: not all rational people come to the same conclusions when faced with the same facts. Take a look at the history of science. Scientific discovery is made up of rational people who come to very different conclusions regarding the evidence. Only after long intellectual battles are scientific truths admitted. Why should the “real world” of politics and resources be any more peaceful than the rarefied realm of scientific discourse? (Answer: it isn’t.)

It is quite possible for Saddam Hussein to conclude that the United States could be severely damaged by a series of nuclear detonations in American cities. It would be absolutely rational for Saddam to conclude that he should string the world along while arming terrorist organizations whose sole purpose is to do just this. He would be thoroughly justified in believing that the US reaction would be to scurry around hysterically and mount an ineffectual military response.

He would be absolutely wrong to believe this. We would wipe him out in short order. But it wouldn’t be irrational for him to come to the wrong conclusions, and--we can't afford to test this thesis.


The plotters of the September 11 attacks may well have believed something similar; and given our response to the first WTC bombing in '93, and the embassy bombings in '98, and the complete lack of response to the USS Cole bombing, they had some evidence to back up that belief.

Every day we delay dealing with Saddam will only encourage that belief further, and will only lead to more attacks on us.
More Outside Reading

Head on over to Rand Simberg's blog; he's got a couple of really interesting articles up there this morning. One discusses the Constitution and the Supreme Court generally, and the second is about the Electoral College.

Good stuff; check it out.
More On North Carolina and the Koran

Check out this article by Eugene Volokh about the UNC/Koran debate.

I'll stand by what I said earlier: it's not so much studying the Koran that's the problem, but picking a single book - which, as Jeff Durkin points out, is a study of the Koran as literature rather than a historical or religious analysis of it, and only the earlier-written parts of the Koran at that - is not the way to go about it.


No Strike

The owners and players of Major League Baseball reached an agreement today, ensuring that there will be no work stoppage.

From the initial reports, it looks as though, with public opinion mystifingly against them, the players, more or less, gave in.

I'm glad they're going to keep playing. But I don't like that the owners "won". They've been, as I've said here many times, dishonest straight through this whole negotiation, and that hasn't changed one bit.

One thing the new agreement doesn't apparently include is a requirement that teams benefitting from revenue sharing and the luxury tax invest that money in the team. So it's probalby going to go directly into the profits of the owners; as ESPN.com's Ray Ratto said:

the teams that don't try now aren't going to try any harder now that the business has been made safer for the cheap, the lazy and the pathologically incompetent.

That includes San Diego owner John Moores, who publicly stated that he was willing to lose both the remainder of this season and next season to get a better deal; and Tom Hicks of Texas, who paid $100 million more than anyone else offered to Alex Rodriguez (but Rodriguez is routinely cited as a villain in this whole mess as "the highest paid player in baseball" - anyone who'd turn down $252 million dollars if they offered it to you, please raise your hands, OK?) but who whines about George Steinbrenner's free-spending ways; and on and on and on...

I hate to keep harping on this, but the general trend of public opinion ("those greedy overpaid players!") is flat-out wrong, and its the result of a lot of propaganda and deception on the part of the owners, and it pisses me off to no end. Not because I feel sorry for people who are making, on average, 50-100 times my annual salary, but because their position is the right one.

Anyway, it's done now, so there's no more reason to write about the business of baseball. At least we can get on with the business of watching the Yankees win another pennant, and making up for last years World Series loss by bringing the wirld championship back to the Bronx.
I Hope They're Happy

Jeff Durkin passed along this story, about th refusal of some African countries to accept U.S. food aid because it includes genetically modified foodstuffs.

There's an organized campaign by environmental groups:

"They are using big-time, very well-organized propaganda the likes of which I have never seen before" in 12 years of American-led famine-relief efforts, said (U.S> Aid Administrator Andrew) Natsios, who could not persuade the Zambians to accept U.S. food aid.

Jeff's comment on this (with which I agree):

The actions of these groups are typical of the Left. People - real, living people - mean nothing to them. All that matters is their ideology, their precious, utopian schemes for a better world.

I say: if they don't want our food, let them starve. If the governments of Africa are too careless of the lives of their citizens, or too stupid, to take our food, and if the people there continue to allow themselves to be led by murderous kleptocrats, it's their own damn fault.

And if the environmental lobby is so opposed to biotechnology that they'd rather see millions of people starve to death, well, every one of those deaths will be on their heads as well. I hope they see the faces of starving African children they're helping to kill every night in their nightmares.
Good Question

Eric Fettmann of the New York Post writes today about the anniversery of September 11th, in a column entitled "Where's the Anger?"

It's a good read, but this paragraph stood out for me:

I've seen conservatives rage for years about Bill and Hillary Clinton. I've seen liberals who still can't discuss the 2000 elections without uncontrolled fury. Why don't we still feel the same way about bin Laden?

That is an excellent question, and I'd love to know the answer myself.
Misplaced Priorities

Nick Kristof writes in today's Times about "the most dangerous hatemonger in America", Matt Hale, head of the World Church of the Creator (an openly, and proudly, racist and anti-Semitic organization).

I have no love for these people, and they are unquestionably evil and a danger.

But the "most dangerous"?

How about some of the fine folks who ran the Rally for Reparations? Every bit as hateful - and worse, they are granted a modicum of respect, at least by the media and the Democrats. You'll recall that they were selling, among other things, "Kill Whitey" T-Shirts at that lovely event, and that was far from the only inflamatory activity going on there.

As noted, I'm not dismissing the threat of white supremacists; but they, at least, get no public respect - everyone except for their fellow supremacists despises and reviles them. They do not have representation in Congress; their rhetorical leaders are not treated with kid gloves (as is, say, racial arsonist Al Sharpton).

But of course that's irrevelant to Kristof. His point is to, again, show that we're just as bad as the Muslim extremists that we're currently at war with, and that's, very simply, crap.
Can't They Get Their Stories Straight?

I know, I know...we bash the government all the time here in the Empire.

But there's a reason.

Today's example is the quick 180 that was done on international flight restrictions on September 11th.

A policy banning flights from international airlines from New York and DC airports and airspace on September 11th went public, created a furor, and had to be rescinded by the Administration.

Putting aside the merits of the policy (is it really a good idea to announce it in advance so that any potential terrorists can alter their plans accordingly? Why target foreign airlines when all the planes in the September 11 attack last year were from American airlines? Etc, etc, etc.), is it too much to ask that on matters like this, that the powers that be coordinate their efforts so as to avoid such sudden and embarrassing reversals?

Apparently so.


This Is Cool

Go here. Watch. Watch again. Be really, really impressed. Repeat as necessary.

And then wait extremely impatiently until 2003 when it's going to be released.
Fair Weather Friends?

Jeff Durkin points out this article from today's Washington Times, concerning recent statements from some of our allies regarding Iraq, and their lack of enthusiasm for removing Saddam Hussein.

Jeff disapproves of this:

Nations that have had a history of violence, oppression and genocide are scolding us for wanting to remove a dangerous dictator from power and liberate Iraq for the Iraqi people. These statements - and others like them from other leaders around the globe - show how alone we really are. We are alone in our respect for democracy. We are alone in our valuing human freedom. We are alone in our desire to make a better world for everyone. We are alone in wanting to use power for good, not ill. Sometimes, you have to be alone.

There's more...check it out.

So Much For Democracy in Washington DC

It seems that the WashPost editors don't really believe in it. In an editorial this morning, the editors comment on the upcoming DC Democratic primaries. Of Delegate Eleanor Holmes-Norton and Council Chairman Linda Cropp, the Post opines:

Both incumbents, as testament to their outstanding records of service and strength among the voters, are running unopposed in their party primary. In addition, Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton faces only nominal opposition in the Nov. 5 general election, and Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp will enter that contest unchallenged as well. That is as it should be. Mrs. Norton and Mrs. Cropp are highly deserving of reelection.

They well may deserve reelection (not being a DC resident, my interest in those races is, at best, academic). But is it really a good thing that there isn't anybody willing to mount even token opposition to either of them?

"That is as it should be"? It's one thing to endorse a candidate, but quite another to say that the candidate is so good that there should be no opposition whatsoever.

It also doesn't speak well for the Dictrict's Republicans. Can't they scrounge up a warm body or two to stick on the ballot? Maybe that 2,000 signature rule that so troubled the Mayor did them in, too. Maybe there aren't enough Republicans in DC to get the required 2,000 names...
Well, I Agree

Blogger Josh Kraushaar rips irritating WashPost writer (I guess that's redundant, isn't it?) a new one for his truly idiotic column yesterday.

Josh says pretty much everything that needs to be said, so I'll just say: go there and read it.


Why Washington Didn't Make the Cut as an Olympic City

As you may have seen in the news yesterday, the U.s. Olympic Committee narrowed down the field of cities seeking the right to compete for the 2012 Olympics down to two: San Francisco and New York City. Washington DC and Houston were eliminated from the running.

Houston's dismissal is obvious: summer in Texas is a horrifying prospect - as awful as DC summers are, it's got to be about a million times worse down there (as Civil War general Philip Sheridan once said, "and I think it probably still applies: "If I owned Texas and Hell, I'd rent out Texas and live in Hell").

Why was Washington, which seemed to have a good chance to make the cut, eliminated? Well, Ken Ringle of the Washington Post was shocked that our Nation's Capital was not selected:

...we have a flawless city government, peerless traffic flow and a friendly, united and bias-free populace known for its self-discipline and accountability. What more could they ask?

Obviously there would be crowds with the Olympics. That would mean police help. Could we possibly have a more keen-minded, efficient police force than the one that searched for Chandra Levy?

Was it the convenience of spreading events to venues 50 miles apart and involving 30 political jurisdictions that doomed our bid? It shouldn't have -- the Capital Beltway alone is an Olympic event.

Something like that...
Those Lying Jews

Well, so says the Arab League, anyway. I wish I could say that this came as a surprise, but of course it doesn't.

The Arab League is slated to participate in a symposium in Abu Dhabi, which organizers say will expose Israeli "lies and exaggerations about the Holocaust"

This lovely event:

aims at disclosing many historical, political fallacies promoted by Israel and Zionism through different means especially the spread of fibs and exaggerations regarding the so-called Holocaust."

In addition to Jewish lies about the "so-called Holocaust", the event's organizers (one of whom is the current Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates):

also asserted that it was "Jewish activities" which had "agitated European hatred against Jews."

But if there wasn't a Holocaust, why bother to explain European hatred against the Jews? Oh, right...it doesn't have to make sense. I forgot.

And we're expected to try and work with the barbarians who make up the Arab League and grant them respect why again, exactly?
Not Quite Right, Tommy

Tommy Friedman weighs in, after the fact, on the controversey over the University of North Carolina's assignment to incoming freshmen to read a book about the Koran.

Note, Tommy: the problem that many people have with the assignment is not that students were assigned to learn about Islam or its holy book. It was that only one book, with a definite agenda, written by an extremely liberal and pro-Islam author, was assigned. And that the book discusses none of the parts of the Koran that are being used to incite or justify violence.

I think that, had a more balanced book, or several books, been assigned, there would have been much less furor over this. YOr if it had been assigned as one part of a larger exploration of world religon and culture, instead of an assignment only about Islam for all the incoming freshmen. Oh, and if UNC wasn't an extremely PC environment to begin with, a little more slack might have been given them in this matter.

But why bother with the facts, Tommy? It's not as if they matter or anything, right?

And Tommy displays his attitude towards another issue with this offhanded comment:

I discovered the other day that my 17-year-old daughter, who is a 12th grader at a Washington-area public high school, was reading Genesis, Luke, Psalms and Job as part of a summer assignment for her A.P. English class. I'm glad. I wish she had also been assigned the Koran.

Hey, Tommy? You know what? As her father, why don't you ask her to read it yourself? And discuss it with her? You do know that parents are actually allowed to do that, don't you? You aren't required to completely abdicate any role in the upbringing of your child to the state, despite what the Democratic Party tells you, you know.

The Prince, Updated, and Other Musings

Check out Charles Austin's latest commentary; he discusses the applicability of Machiavelli to the situation in which we find ourselves today vis a vis Iraq:

Therefore, the Romans, observing disorders while yet remote, were always able to find a remedy, and never allowed them to increase in order to avoid a war; for they knew that war is not to be avoided, and can be deferred only to the advantage of the other side; they therefore declared war against Phillip and Antiochus in Greece, so as not to have to fight them in Italy, though they might at the time have avoided either; this they did not choose to do, never caring to do that which is now every day to be heard in the mouths of our wise men, namely to enjoy the advantages of delay, but preferring to trust their own virtue and prudence; for time brings with it all things, and may produce indifferently good or evil.

And in rebuttal to all those who want to rely on organizations like the UN and EU to talk our way to a solution – from Chapter 12:

The chief foundation of all states, whether new, old, or mixed, are good laws and good arms. And as there cannot be good laws where there are not good arms, and where there are good arms there must be good laws, I will not now discuss the laws, but will speak of the arms.

Machiavelli then goes on to explain why nothing except an army composed of armed citizens can protect the state. Mercenaries and auxiliary forces, e.g., UN or coalition forces, cannot be depended on or trusted.

He's also got some choice words for Kathleen Knnedy Townsend of Maryland. He notes that, regarding the current mess over her handling of money intended for a ciminal justice project, the saintly Kennedy said this:

My job is to worry about policy. I'm not responsible for all the things that people do in the office.

And now she wants to be Maryland's Governor to get the authority to order the peasants around without worrying about the responsibility for good and efficient government. After all, it's her intent that counts, not how the government of Maryland functions. Right?

Charles, you obviously don't get it! She's a Kennedy! By definition, nothing she does can possibly be wrong. You should be grateful for the priviledge of being allowed to vote for someone of her magnificence! How dare you criticize her! Don't you know your place? She's a Kennedy, above criticism, or law, or anything else...


What Do They Think of Us?

Yet another Guardian columnist weighs in on what's wrong with America.

John Sutherland comes to the conclusion that the problem is all those:

Bible-bashers threatening hellfire and fat guys with silly hats, twanging geetars, fu-manchus and pony tails, serenading purty gals, Chevy Tahoes, bars duskily lit by Budweiser neon, and the "real" values of red neck and blue collar.

Of course. It's all those horrible uncultured rednecks, listening to that evil Toby Keith song ("Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue").

Christopher Johnson at Midwest Conservative Journal pointed this one out, and he does an excellent job of taking Mr. Sutherland to task.

I'm not going to be quite as eloquent as Chris was. I think that anyone whose view of America is as simplistic, and as stereotyped, and as contemptuous as Mr. Sutherland's is can just go and fuck off, in plain English.

There's no nicer way to say it, and no point in trying; Sutherland and his ilk despise America, and everything about this country, and are not worth any of our time or effort to rebut.
They Never Shut Up, Do They?

The former Narcissist-in-Chief is still at it.

He's stumping for the Democrats, speaking yesterday in Memphis. He hit all the old, familiar themes, as well as showing that his arrogance and tangential-at-best grip on reality have not been diminished by almost two years out of office:

"Whatever they can do to advance the interests they represent, they will do," Clinton warned. "There were a lot of days I woke up in the Oval Office and there were things I could have done with the power of my office that I did not do because it wasn't the right thing to do."

Like what? Setting the IRS on career White House staff as a pretense for firing them so that your friends could be hired instead? Renting the Lincoln Bedroom, selling access to trade missions and Presidential pardons for campaign cash?

No, wait, he did do that, and a lot more.

Clinton said that under the current administration, since Sept. 11, the poor and middle class have been asked to make sacrifices, but people such as him get tax breaks.

"I'm making a lot of money now. You know what my sacrifice is? They want me to expend the energy necessary to open the envelope containing my tax cut. They want to give me a tax break cut with your Social Security money and your Medicare money - and it's wrong. It's not right."

As Rachel Lucas pointed out on her site, when taxes are cut, it's not taking money away from anyone. It's simply taking less money away from the taxpayers who get the cuts!

Unless, of course, you're a Democrat and you believe that all money belongs to the government, and it's only at their sufferance that you're allowed to keep some of it.

Title IX MAdness

PostWatch has a very good article about Title IX and how it's adversely affecting men's college athletic teams.

Title IX, of course, is the law that forbids sex-based discrimination in college sports (among other things). Which is a noble thing, and one with which no reasonable person can disagree. How it's being applied, however, is less noble. It's become a quota game:the proportion of slots for female athletes must match the female populaton of the school, and if not, men's teams are cut until the proportions are balanced. The problem with that is apparent, as PostWatch describes:

Remember, that's what happened at Brown several years ago. There were around 90 unfilled slots on women's teams, and the school still was forced by the government to cut men's teams under its interpretation of Title IX. Why? Because the quota that matters isn't the number of opportunities you offer, but how many female athletes actually participate. This means the size of men's rosters is held hostage to whether or not the school has a lot of female athletes. It has nothing to do with whether those women want to be athletes.

He's got a lot more there; check it out.
Why We're Not at the "Earth Summit"

We can be thankful that our President did something right - he refused to attend the farcial Earth Summit in Johannesburg.

The usual suspects have showed up in force there, and are attempting to turn this conference into a repeat of the embarrassing Durban conference on racism (what is it about international conferences in South Africa, anyway?). As this article points out, the Palestinians and their radical allies are trying to use a conference on sustainable development to, of course, beat on Israel:

Palestinians are trying to collect thousands of signatures on a petition demanding that Israel free Barghouti and South Africa close its embassy in Tel Aviv and freeze its diplomatic ties with Israel. The petition also calls for supporting Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and the Aksa Martyrs Brigades.

The Jewish National Fund, the only Israeli non-governmental organization exhibiting at the conference, has been under consistent attack by Palestinian demonstrators and Muslim local radio on political grounds.

The PA has its own booth some 15 meters from the exhibition void of any environmental information, adorned with a banner reading "Viva Intifada." At the booth Palestinians are handing out anti-Israel newspapers and keffiyehs with a map of Israel on the back that says "Palestine."

Some members of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee wore T-shirts bearing a picture of terrorist Osama bin Laden. Daniel Rubinstein, the vice chairman of the South African Union of Jewish Students, said that when he entered the Barghouti event, the head of the Palestinian committee remarked, "You can smell the Zionists."

This is not really surprising, but it is, as always, appalling.

Thank God the President had the good sense not to attend.
Read This

Check out Norah Vincent's latest commentary on 9/11 and our response to it. Good stuff.

And as long as you're at it, check out this this piece from Vincent about Israel and the Palestinians from last December, in which she says pretty much everything that needs to be said on the subject.
Cry Me a River

E.J. Dionne writes, somewhat sadly, about Andrew Cuomo's troubles in the New Your governor's race. Former golden boy Cuomo, doubly an heir to political dynasties (I thought those were bad, but apparently not if you're a Democrat), has run a terrible race against Democratic opponent Carl McCall.

His gaffes began with criticizing sitting governor George Pataki about his performance in the wake of September 11th, and have gone on from there.

His latest tactic: using the appalling Cornel West to claim that McCall isn't "black enough":

Cuomo did his own black church tour. His companion was Cornel West, the Harvard-turned-Princeton African American philosopher. West's message about McCall was not subtle: "Carl is a decent man, but he is a hesitant brother," West said.

"Philosopher" s awfully generous, but we'll let that pass. However, the rest of it - a "hesitant brother?" Well, if McCall, who actually is black, isn't black enough, why is God's name should black voters turn instead to Cuomo, the wealthy, married-to-a-Kennedy, whiter-than-a-sheet son of a former governor? If we're using racial stereotypes, is not Andrew Cuomo the very definition of "the Man"?


But of course Dionne has to look for the good:

Cuomo's mournful supporters are already talking about what might have been. "He's one of the most idea- and policy-oriented people you've ever met," says New York City Council member Bill de Blasio, a Cuomo supporter who was Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's campaign manager. "But it's been harder to show that side to the public."

We hear the same thing about Al Gore, and about other losing Democratic candidates. They're such great people, with such great ideas, and they just are burning to serve the people, but - cue the violins - nobody can see it!

It couldn't be that they're really soulless swine who - as has been said of the sitting Presdient - were born on third base and believe they hit a triple, who feel they're entitled to political office just because they care so damn much, and they're so much smarter and better than the rest of us - and that shows through, and the voters rightly reject them for the wretches they truly are.

Nah. Couldn't be.
I Know I Should Probably Be Criticizing This, But...

If I were really consistent, I'd be ranting about the news that plans are afoot for a "Macgyver" feature film, but I just don't have the heart.

I loved that show, and as much as I rail against the practice of turning seemingly every TV show into a soulless, big-budget disaster for the big screen, I can't bring myself to be angry about this. I'll gladly pay my $8 to see "MacGyver: the Movie".

At least the original creator of the show, Lee Zlotoff, is going to be the one to write, produce and direct the movie (if it actually happens, that is). That's gotta count for something.


Are These Guys Serious?

The Monkey Boy administration, in a strange twist of fate, is going to court to protect the secrecy of Clinton-era documents.

Specifically, they're trying to keep documents related to Clinton's dubious-at-best last minute pardon spree away from Judicial Watch, which seeks them as part of a lawsuit.

They claim that executive priviledge covers the documents, and that:

covers not only advice given to a president about individual pardons, but also government papers he has never seen and officials he has never talked to, such as the sentencing judge in a particular case.


the Justice Department under Bush is asserting the same privilege to maintain the secrecy of pardon records as far back as 75 years ago. One set being withheld on instructions from the White House deals with the clemency granted Marcus Garvey, leader of the back-to-Africa movement, who was released from prison in 1927 after his conviction for stock fraud.

Presumably, the administration is not doing this out of a desire to protect the former Narcissist-in-Chief and his pardon of - among others - fugitive Marc Rich. It looks like a line in the sand defense of the Executive Branch generally:

Thompson said his ability to advise the president about pardons would be "greatly impaired" if these records were "subject to public disclosure."

White House counsel Gonzales said in his affidavit that he is "aware" that Justice is withholding internal documents prepared "in the course of performing their responsibility" to the president. He said the assistance of officials and staff at Justice is "critical" to the president's exclusive authority to grant pardons.

The Constitution does grant the President absolute power to grant or deny pardons, with no possibility of review or reversal. But I'm not sure that extends to the public's right to know about the deliberative process that led to the pardons (or denial thereof).

Especially when there's a question of whether the pardon was given in return for a bribe, as Marc Rich's arguably was.
It's a Good Start

The Vice President spoke today at a gathering of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, about the necessity of removing Saddam Hussein from power.

Mr. Cheney spoke clearly and forcefully about the many reasons that regime change is necessary, and as soon as possible. He also addressed the counter-arguments, and why they're wrong.

The only complaint I have is that it should be President Monkey Boy himself giving that speech, not the Vice President. But at least it's a start...
And the Debate Goes On

OmbudsGod responds to me and others who took issue with his take on New York radio idiots "Opie and Anthony".

He says:

What I am objecting to is government censorship of content. It is clear that Opie and Anthony were fired because the station feared losing its government-controlled broadcast license and receiving a fine. The Catholic League could have used some other means to seek redress for their grievance that didn’t involved government censorship, but they chose to use the coercive power of the state to silence Opie and Anthony.

I'd argue at least some of this. First, the Catholic League appealed to the state; they didn't "use" its power. They have every right to take advantage of the laws as they stand to protest to the FCC. The Catholic League does not have the power to make the FCC pull the license or fine the station in question, only to file their protest in the first place.

I'd also argue that it was at least as much the bad press as the threat of a fine that induced the station to fire the idiots. It's pretty much the same thing as the Bill Maher situation - it was not censorship, but a business decision, that took him off the air.

That's another point; the moment that any performer on an advertiser supported station becomes more trouble than they're worth, they'll be fired, and censorship is not at all the word for that.

OnbudsGod also says:

If the government is allowed to censor the content of speech based on its being deemed offensive by the FCC, then there is no principled reason why the Government cannot impose similar speech codes on newspapers, magazines and other venues.

This has always been true; obscenity (as it's legally defined) has always been been subject to regulation by the FCC.

And again, even though it was only a misdemeanor, the two idiots did still goad the couple into committing it, and aid them in the commission of it.

And finally, although OmbudsGod is correct to point out that I misued the concept of "commercial speech", I still say that there is a distinction between artistic or political speech, designed to make some sort of point (which he argues that the St. Pats stunt was - "a challenge to the public order"), and speech that has no purpose other than to titillate the adolescent (mentally and/or chronologically) listeners of Opie and Anthony's vapid little show, and to drum up some publicity for them.

Especially because the St. Pats couple was only one part of the contest they were running; there were other couples in other public places. It was not something designed to be sacrilegous in order to make some kind of statement about the Catholic Church or somesuch.

Better Late Than Never

This went around the Blogosphere already last week, but it's still worth commenting on. "It" is the Open Letter From a Canadian, which begins thusly:

Dark, evil operations run rampant in the secret corners of your government institutions. A dubiously constituted government pursues war at will anywhere on earth, discussing nuclear options that become points for cheerful chatter over lunch. Your military and intelligence agencies employ terrorist tactics around the globe even as they insist that such tactics are necessary in the fight against terrorism.

You have become a nation of monsters, America. Hypocrites. Murderers. Fools.

It goes on like that, combining specific charges with generalized attacks on America, encapsulating pretty much every criticism that we've heard from abroad - and from some here at home - in one big, angry screed.

I'm not going to pick it apart, because there isn't any point. Some of the charges (the Bush administration may have carried out the 9/11 attacks itself; the FBI murdered JFK, etc) aren't worth answering, and some of them are articles of twisted and paranoid faith that there's no point in answering (the old "a cabal of international bankers secretly rule the world" thing, again).

Some of the lefty blogs out there, while dismissing the more paranoid elements of the letter, have latched on to it as a "wake-up call" that we should take seriously; that even if not everything in the letter is accurate, some of the things there are valid complaints (if stated somewhat hysterically) that Europeans and others have been making for a while now, and we really ought to listen to them already.

Obviously, I don't agree with that.

Are there things to criticize the U.S. for? Sure. Are we hypocritical in our international relations at times? Sure. Has our government done truly horrendous things, both abroad and at home, both in the past and right up to the present day? Sure.

Because our givernment is run by human beings (well, kind of, anyway). Who are flawed, and imperfect, and sometimes venal and corrupt, and sometimes err with the best intentions, and sometimes find themselves in dilemmas where there are no good answers, only degrees of bad. As with every single other nation in the history of the planet.

But is the U.S. less bad than most other governments? I think so. Have we done less bad things, and more good things, than most other governments? I think so.

That doesn't justify the bad, or explain it away, or obviate the need for criticism. But the fact is, for all our supposed arrogance, we are nowhere near the unilateralist monster that some critics would like to believe us to be. We've been discussing an attack on Iraq for several months already; they've been a thorn in our side for a decade, deliberately provoking us - and other than occasional strikes against anti-aircraft defenses, we've held our hand. Hardly the behavior of the out of control rogue colossus.

And while we do have troops in several countries as part of the war on terror, we've shown more restraint, and more concern for civillian casualties, than perhaps any other military force in history.

The problem is that many of our critics begin from a place of opposition; they don't like the fact that we are very powerful, and they are not. Everything we do is viewed in the worst possible light; there's little if anything we could do, short of disbanding our military entirely, that would improve the opinions of our critics.

Similarly, if you believe that, essentially, banks and corporations ae evil, and that Big Oil is more or less all-powerful, then you accept as a matter of faith that:

earth-friendly technology already exists to once and for all end dependence on oil, coal and nuclear energy from huge, out-of-control utilities and corporations.

And there's no argument that can really dissuade folks who believe that from their view that there's a 100 MPG carburetor, or a car that runs on water, or some other magical solution that would render the oil companies impotent if only the good people could wrench it away from their vile clutches.

That's the problem with this whole letter, as well as the idea that it's really the words of a friend who's saddened and angry at how we've changed. I don't believe it is. I think it's the words of someone who hates us, and who has done so for a long time, and whose view of everything we are and all we do is colored by that hatred.

But check it out and decide for yourself...
Yes, It's All About Justice

Check out this article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on last week's reparations rally/march/debacle on the Mall here in Washington (found via The Blog From the Core and Susanna Cornett at Cut on the Bias).

The article talks about the organizers of the event:

Key event organizers — Viola Plummer, Yvette Kelley, Coltrane Chimurenga and Roger Wareham — have worked together for years. They were convicted 17 years ago on charges related to plotting a jailbreak in New York for two members of the Black Liberation Army who had been convicted of murdering a Brinks guard and two police officers in a $1.6 million robbery. It is well worth remembering that last year, Chimurenga and Jimmy Carter's Cabinet member, Andrew Young, became the paid lobbyists for Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe's ferociously anti-white dictator.

Felons, and a lobbyist for Robert Mugabe. That's wonderful.

Mugabe, as we all know, is currently in the process of starving his own people via a policy that's not dissimilar to Josef Stalin's agriculture policies of the 1930's, or Mao Tse-Tung's in the 1960's, if on a smaller scale. And a paid employee of that man is one of the organizers of this lovely reparations event.

There's a lot more, all in the same vein. It's all appalling; the entire reparations movement is about dividing the country, about stoking racial hatred, and about personally enriching a small, contemptible cadre of black "leaders". It's pretty much just disheartening beyond the ability of the language to adequately express.

More Money Is The Answer, I Guess

That's what the delegates at the Earth Summit in Johannesburg this week want, from the wealthier nations of the world.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, called on Sunday for an end to "global apartheid" between a rich minority of prosperous consumers and the mass of suffering poor.

Um...the reason the rich are rich is that they live in civillized societies, with strong and (relatively) uncorrupt institutions, run by people who are, to at least a minimal degree, held accountable to their populations.

And the poor are poor because, for the most part, they live in thugocracies run by hideous kleptocrats who have basically zero concern for their people, and avoid accountability by the expedient measure of arresting or killing anyone who speaks out against them.

The rich nations have been given trillions of dollars to the poor nations, and it has, mostly, been squandered, or stolen (Yasser Arafat, billionaire, comes to mind here, for one example).

But of course the answer is to give yet more money to these same kleptocrats, because that will make all the difference this time.

Oh, and Mr. Mbeki? You might want to go read some history. The vast majority of humanity has always been poor. They've always led subsistence-level lives with little or no hope of anything better, living and dying at the whims of a relative handful of hereditary rulers. The difference now is that there are hundreds of millions of (relatively) rich people living better lives in the developed world; and the undeveloped world remains undeveloped and poor because it's leaders are unwilling to do what's necessary to improve their own societies, and would rather shout slogans, ratchet up envy and hatred, and beg for handouts.

Sorry, no thanks.
Check It Out

Another great piece from Rachel Lucas - this one on why she despises Al Gore (and why any rational person ought to feel the same way she does). Give it, and the other good stuff at her site, a look.
Congress? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Congress!

At least, the Monkey Boy Administration appears to think they don't. According to this article in today's WashPost, the Administration believes that it does not need Congressional approval for an attack on Iraq.

The argument seems to be that the 1991 resolution approving the use of force is still valid, since Iraq has not complied with the conditions of the cease fire agreement that ended the Gulf War.

I disagree. I'd personally like to see an actual declaration of war (I know, I know, it'll never happen). I generally have very little love for the Congress, but since the declaration of war is one of its actual, enumerated Constitutional responsibilities, it would be nice to see our Senators and Representatives actually carry out their duty.

That may seem contradictory with earlier statements in this space arguing that Iraq's noncompliance with the cease fire is sufficient justification for an attack. I believe, however, that justification under international law and Constitutional authority to use military force are two entirely separate things, and that the Constitutional question is far more important than whether or not we're justified under international law anyway.


Good Luck To Him!

It seems that the "person of interest" in the Anthrax investigation, Dr. Steven Hatfill, is considering suing the New York Times, and specifically columnist Nick Kristof, for "malicious lies" written about him over the past few months.

Kristof has been one of the leading voices in the campaign against Hatfill (and against any consideration of even the possibility that the attacks might actually have been perpetrated by a foreign enemy). Hatfill claims that many of the specific claims made by Kristof (including a claim that Hatfill failed three separate polygraph exams; Hatfill says he only took one, and passed it, and also that neither Kristof nor anyone else at the Times contacted him to check their facts) are untrue.

The standard for libel cases is "actual malice" - the writer/publisher must have known the claims made were untrue or had reckless disregard for the truth or falsehood of the claims. Hatfill might well have a good case here; more power to him if he does.

It would be gratifying to see the Times, and especially its oh-so-clever editorial columnists, taken down a peg or two. We can only hope...
Yes, This Is The Answer

Check out this column from Michelle Malkin (via Jeff Durkin).

It concerns an effort by the great and progressive State of California to deal with a growing menace to its citizenry: home schooling.

...the state's hostile education department is tightening the screws on enterprising parents who have taken the initiative and turned their family rooms into classrooms. State Deputy Superintendent Joanne Mendoza wrote in a July 16 memo to all school employees that without official teaching credentials, these parents no longer can file required paperwork that would authorize them to home school their children.

Thus, Mendoza concludes, home-schooled children not attending public schools would be considered "truant" by local school districts-making their parents vulnerable to arrest and criminal charges.

The education department's Nanny State view is that parents may be allowed by the government to "supplement" their own children's education with tutoring at home, but "not substitute the education with
uncredentialed home instruction." Local districts are following the cue. Sonoma County and San Diego
school officials are distributing memos that declare home schooling illegal.

Of course, there are lots of teachers in the public schools who are teaching subjects they aren't experts in: Malkin cites research showing that, nationwide, 24.2 percent of teachers are teaching subjects they have neither a college major or minor in (27 percent in California).

I'm not going to bash teachers; the vast majority are good, hardworking, dedacited people. It's the unelected, unaccountable bueraucrats (like " State Deputy Superintendent Joanne Mendoza") who are the real problem.

One anecdotal example: an acquaintance of mine is a teacher. She was scheduled to teach history in the upcoming school year, which she does have some background in. She spent the summer preparing and studying to be ready for the beginning of school. She was told two weeks ago that things have chanced, and now she'll be teaching math instead, a subject she doesn't like as much or is as knowledgable in, or had done any prep work for. Why? Internal bureaucratic politics.

That's the problem. And it's one reason people turn to home schooling. There are others, of course, and the bureaucrats and the NEA bitterly oppose them all:

Mocking home schoolers as fringe radicals and religious extremists, meddling with their teaching materials, and forcing them to beg public school officials for permission to educate their own children wasn't enough to defeat the growing movement. So now California's educracy has adopted a new motto: If you can't beat 'em, criminalize 'em.


Jeff's comment on this, in part:

In the struggle to produce functional, thoughtful citizens, the public school system - not the concept of public schools nor every teacher, but the system that is top heavy with administrators and ossified unions keeping teachers who shouldn't be flipping burgers in classrooms - is the enemy.

Again, exactly.

Yeah, It's All Just Cultural Imperialism

It seems that the evil reach of American mass produced culture is stretching forth it's vile hand again. This time it's in Oaxaca, Mexico, where there's fierce opposition to a proposed new McDonalds franchise.

The NY Times article paints the issue as a conflict between yucky, cultureless, soulless corporate food versus the noble, traditional, priceless ways of "slow food" and history in Oaxaca.

"This is the center of our city, a place where people meet, talk politics, shop and spend time," said Francisco Toledo, 61, a native Oaxacan and perhaps Mexico's best-known living artist. "It's a big influence on art and creativity. And we are drawing the line here against what the arches symbolize."

What do they symbolize, exactly?

"...Fast food's unnatural. The people who make it are incompetent. And McDonald's belongs in the United States, not our zócalo."


But here's the thing. Whatever else you can say about McDonalds, they're not a stupid company. And they're not in the business of wiping out indigenous culture just for the sake of doing it. They don't just open franchises randomly. They open them where it makes business sense to do so. They must believe, presumably based on market research, that there will be enough customers in Oaxaca to make the new franchise profitable.

Of course, the opponents don't want to hear that. They want to just ban McDonalds from their town. The article doesn't mention whether the opponents tried to, say, buy up the proposed site themselves, to "protect" it from the evils of American fast food.

Because it isn't enough that they don't like it. They don't want anyone else to have the choice to patronize McDonalds. If fast food really is as out of step with the local culture as the opponents claim; if McDonalds really does belong in America and not in Oaxaca, they the new franchise won't make money, and it will have to close, and the opponents will have won.

Again, though, they obviously don't want to put it to the test.

And if McDonalds does go into Oaxaca, and the new franchise is successful in spite of the opposing voices, it will be pointed to as yet another example of big, brutish, bullying American imperialism, another way we're trying to make everyone be like us.

Which is crap. Because nobody's going to be forcing customers into that McDonalds, or any other, at gunpoint. We don't make people in other countries eat at our fast foot outlets,. They choose to go there, or not, as they see fit.

If Michael Corleone Ran Our Foreign Policy, It Would Probably Look Something Like This...

Courtesty of Samizdata (found via Instapundit), this article definitely puts the "real" back in realpolitik. Check it out...