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Saturday, December 31, 2005

In with a bang 

It seems that NATO may be planning a strike against Iran's nuclear fascilities. Looks like the beginning of 2006 may be very interesting...

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Happy New Year 

May 2006 be better than 2005.

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Want to be disgusted? 

Read some of these posts, possibly some of the funniest stuff I've ever read on the internet...and the grossest.

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Poker With Dick Cheney 

This may be old, but it's ingenious and still funny.

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Quote of the Day 

You can blame one of Daniel Drezner's commentors for this groaner that I really enjoyed:
You can call me Aaron Burr, from the way I'm dropping Hamiltons

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Bush's New Years Resolutions 

Looks like 2006 will be an ambitious year for the President...

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Supreme Humour 

An analysis of the wit of each Supreme Court justice has been done, although the study is admitedly very imprecise:
The simple notation "[laughter]" does not, moreover, distinguish between "a series of small chuckles" and "a joke that brought the house down." Nor, Professor Wexler said, does it separate "the genuine laughter brought about by truly funny or clever humor and the anxious kind of laughter that arises when one feels nervous or uncomfortable or just plain scared for the nation's future."

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Heed the Call of Cthulhu 

Have you read H.P. Lovecraft?  If not, you should.
Cthulhu for President--Don't settle for the lesser evil.
I for one hail our new flying-octopus overlord…

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Why our soldiers have died? 

I would have used the word Liberty, but this is still brilliant none-the-less.

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Geekery 

One day I’m going to be like Stephen Green and build one of these, while drinking…

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Media Bias Awards 

If you don’t think there are some very radical, very biased leftist elements in the MSM, check out these ‘highlights’ from 2005, they might change your mind.  Although if you think there is no bias, I doubt anything could change your mind.

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Terrorist PR Problem 

Muslims that support Islamic terror, even passively, tend to stop doing so when their brethren are blown up by Islamic terrorists.  And since the terrorists have been blowing up a lot of fellow Muslims, they’re suffering a PR problem that is really hurting their operation.

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Friday, December 30, 2005

Impressive 

The world needs more people with the moral clarity, and physical courage, of this kid.

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Brilliant 

Murtha redux:
So, yes, bring forth Rep. John Conyers’ articles of impeachment.  It should be Speaker Hastert’s first order of business in the new year.  Rush it to the floor for a vote a la Rep John Murtha’s demand for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq.  And when the motion is overwhelmingly defeated, perhaps then we can put all this nonsensical talk about impeachment behind us and finally focus instead on the nation’s future.
Via Instapundit.

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Pay should compare to power 

I agree wholeheartedly with these sentiments:
in the end, talent goes where the money is, and if we want talented people in public service, we ought to be prepared to pay them more. They may very well make the extra money worth our while by saving us money through better policies and management skills. And as mentioned before, people who are paid a lot of money are under a lot of pressure to deliver the goods. When they fail, the consequences are often severe and just. I don't mind in the slightest having the Sword of Damocles hang over the heads of public officials. It's not good to rely exclusively on fear as a motivator, but it would be silly to ignore the motivating factor altogether.

It seems silly to me to make people choose between wealth and serving their community and country.  Why don’t we remove the dilemma, and pay people that we invest with great power and responsibility pay comparable to such power?

Clearly, the answer is that we’re generally unthinking and cheap.  We’d rather get mediocre public servants and politicians and have lower taxes, than pay slightly more taxes or, God no! have slightly less spending for government entitlements.

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Success seen as failure 

I like to go on about how the average person's lack of historical knowledge is pathetic, but in fact it seems that it can even be dangerous to the health of the republic:
What explains this paradox of public disappointment over things that turn out better than anticipated? Why are we like children who damn their parents for not providing yet another new toy when the present one is neither paid for nor yet out of the wrapper?
One cause is the demise of history. The past is either not taught enough, or presented wrongly as a therapeutic exercise to excise our purported sins.
Either way the result is the same: a historically ignorant populace who knows nothing about past American wars and their disappointments — and has absolutely no frame of reference to make sense of the present other than its own mercurial emotional state in any given news cycle.
VDH goes on to list many forgotten events in history that make Iraq look like a nice Sunday picnic, and even points out that our inner cities can be very, very violent, but imperfection in Iraq is seen as failure, instead of an unchangeable characteristic of real life and not idealization. I agree. History provides perspective, and perspective is necessary to evaluate situations well and make good decisions. Without perspective decisions are based on little more than emotion, and that's not a good way to run one's life, let alone a nation.

Mr. Hanson concludes with a call for people to see more clearly and have not only some perspective in world history but to even just remember how dramatically expectations have changed in the last four years due to our great successes abroad:
The result of this juvenile boredom with good news and success? Few stop to reflect how different a Pakistan is as a neutral rather than as the embryo of the Taliban, or a Libya without a nuclear-weapons program, or a Lebanon with Syrians in it, or an Iraq without Saddam and Afghanistan without Mullah Omar. That someone — mostly soldiers in the field and diplomats under the most trying of circumstances — accomplished all that is either unknown or forgotten as we ready ourselves for the next scandal.
Precisely because we are winning this war and have changed the contour of the Middle East, we expect even more — and ever more quickly, without cost in lives or treasure. So rather than stopping to praise and commemorate those who gave us our success, we can only rush ahead to destroy those who do not give us even more.
Read the whole thing. And remember, imperfection and tactical failure does not mean that overall success has not been achieved in a large part, both in Iraq, Afghanistan, and more.

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Raiding the Icebox 

This is a very, very funny article (doesn’t the title make that obvious?) that talks about past US contingency plans to invade Canada, and how this meme has persisted in popular culture in both countries.  You must read it, why would you not want to laugh?  Eh?

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Bellwether Indeed 

The Economist recently did a piece on Ohio politics, with an emphasis both on local issues and on what Ohio means to the national Republican party.  It seems to get things mostly right—the GOP in Ohio has sputtered, but the Democrats are so disorganized and lacking a message or a plan that appeals to most people that it doesn’t matter.  That seems to get the national scene about right as well.  Ohio as a bellwether seems to still be true.

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The book isn't always better 

On novels and film adaptations of them.  Thinking about such topics is important nowadays when Hollywood can’t seem to come up with many original ideas, and instead makes either sequels of previously-done movies or adapts books to the big screen.

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Investigation into NSA leak launched 

Excellent. I hope several reporters and their sources go to jail for leaking and disseminating classified information, which is all clearly illegal under the Espionage Act.

UPDATE: Fitzmas does come more than once a year...

Another UPDATE: This column proposes some strategies involving how the President can shut down this NSA story once and for all and eliminate any ambiguity involving either the importance of secrecy in signals intelligence and in the importance of the executive having the power to operate secret searches on foreign agents.

One more UPDATE: This seems related--on the illusions in the democratic party that have persisted since Watergate, and why it hurts them.

Last update...maybe: Reasons why the law in surveillance at least needs to be modified--what we're doing isn't really within the scope of what a warrant's purpose is.

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Thursday, December 29, 2005

America and Empire 

This is a surprisingly insightful and non-political article from the Guardian on Empire in history and the current foreign policies of the US.

And this blogpost points out, correctly I think, that the US ever since manifest destiny took hold and we conquered from sea to shining sea, has been an Empire.  As the article points out, no one in the US really wants to admit this, but it’s true—at the very least, discounting the system of worldwide military bases and client states America has built up in the last century, the US is a great example of a land empire.

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This makes me want to cry 

And I don’t normally grow melancholy when I read statistics…  Literacy levels among college graduates have sharply declined over the last ten years, according to the study cited in this article.  ‘Read and extrapolate from complex texts’ is the skill only 30% of graduates have.

Geeze, I do that for fun.  I whip out the Brothers Karamazov and Machiavelli, for example, and read and write about them because I like to, and know that doing so makes me more intelligent (and not to mention will improve the skills I need to be a professional historian).  So, according to this, I can only relate to about a quarter of the people in the US, and the rest will be clueless about why thinking is fun.  Sickening, this is…    

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The Yield Curve has Inverted! 

Run, head for the hills!  The economists are jumping into the sea like lemmings!  (Actually, this article refers to them as wildebeests…)

Anyway, this news about the yield curve inverting (it only inverted briefly, and is back to being flat) stands in stark contrast to the great productivity numbers.  Perhaps the great increase in productivity is what’s keeping the economy in such great shape even when other indicators don’t look so hot.  Since productivity growth is at a fifty year high, that seems like it might be true, at least somewhat…

Besides the serious stuff, I think it’s clear that I found those Slate articles amusing.  They are well written, as far as economics articles go.

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Ten Worst Britains(?) 

This list is a bit ridiculous, simply because in one thousand years of history, a country can amass a whole host of bad people.  Still amusing, though.

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It's the productivity, stupid. 

Read this article about why our economy seems to be in fabulous shape.

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Pranks 

I’ve never participated in a really good prank, sadly.  At Chicago we’ve done a lot of goofy things—building a trebuchet just for the fun of it one finals week a few years ago was amusing, and Scav Hunt is always great fun (the lists were always ingeniously written, check out the preceding link for examples).

However none of that compares to some of the pranks in this article from The Economist in terms of ingenuity or hilarity.  I just have to post two that I liked the best:
For the most impressively elaborate pranks, however, go to a university campus. Take thousands of bright young things with too much time on their hands, itching to achieve, amuse and misbehave, and splendid acts of delinquency will follow.
The best colleges strive to out-prank one another. Students at Yale scored a big victory during last year's football match against Harvard when they passed out pieces of paper to thousands of fans on the Harvard side of the stadium. The fans were told that, when held up, the bits would spell “Go Harvard”. In fact they spelled something else (see photo that opened this article).
What the gullible Harvard students spelled out in giant Crimson letters was “We Suck”.  Ahhh, genius.  There’s a picture of this spectacle at the Economist article.  Now, another:
But the scene of what many consider the best-ever engineering prank was that other academic Cambridge, in England, where, one morning in 1958, the town awoke to see an Austin Seven van on top of the Senate House building. After weeks of preparation, a group of mechanical-sciences undergraduates had pushed the van, wheelbarrow-like, minus its doors and back wheels, into place, then hoisted it using a derrick of five 24-foot scaffolding poles, 250 feet of steel wire, 200 feet of hemp rope, pulley blocks and hooks, planks, and even sacking to protect the building. Once the vehicle had been dragged to the top of the sloping roof, the doors and wheels were re-fitted.
The world's media rightly applauded the prank. It was breathtakingly ambitious, requiring both brains and brawn in prodigious quantities; the planning was meticulous (the dozen or so students involved were split into sub-teams, including one comprising two pretty females to distract curious passers-by); and it created a spectacularly surreal sight that could be seen across town. The perpetrators were particularly pleased that what took them under three hours to do took the Civil Defence Force four days to undo. The dean of the college from which the prank was launched sent the ringleader a case of champagne.
Ingenius, and absolutely hilarious.  There are several other really good ones listed in the article that are good for several good laughs, so be sure to read the rest of the article.

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Poll done on NSA Issue--most people support wiretapping Al Qaeda 

I meant to post this yesterday, but forgot.  I’m glad to see it appears that most Americans agree with me on the NSA listening issue.  Now some responsible politician needs to translate this poll into momentum for repealing FISA.

For more on the political consequences on this and other smears attempted by the Democrats, see this post.  I agree that several months of all-out political assault by the Dems against the President and Republicans having yielded losses and not gains for the Democratic party in terms of public support really doesn’t bode well for Democratic success in the 2006 elections—I’m just waiting for all those quotes about us losing in Iraq so we need to pull out now by Howard Dean, Pelosi, et al being used in some devastating TV and radio adds by Karl Rove, who is a genius.

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Ten Worst Americans in History 

This is a great series of blogposts by the Captain at Captain’s Quarters—just scroll down for the whole list.

I particularly like his post on Jimmy Carter, rated as the tenth worst American of all time (for an explanation of the criteria used to divine the list, see this post).  The Captain really makes a compelling case that Mr. Carter was midwife to most of our troubles in the world today—from North Korea to Iran to the non-state Islamofascist terrorists.  Nicely done, Mr. Carter.  Being feckless has never really done anyone any good, and certainly hasn’t worked for you, yet you still continue to be feckless.  Here’s the text of the Captain’s post on Carter, which I think deserves the emphasis of quotation:
I would normally leave off any contemporary political person until they had passed away, as their lives still might provide some kind of merit. However, after a promising beginning of his post-presidential career of building houses for the homeless, Carter has inveigled himself into so many foreign-policy crises and made them exponentially worse that it’s becoming more and more difficult to believe it isn’t done with purpose. His efforts to defuse the North Korean crisis deflected what had been until then a rather effective strategy by Bill Clinton to use a military threat to stop Pyongyang from producing nukes. After Carter jumped into the negotiations uninvited – violating the Logan Act – Carter’s prestige within his party and the US forced Clinton to accept the ridiculous Framework agreement that allowed Pyongyang to go nuclear within months. Carter has done the same with Haiti as well, and has traveled the globe to support many a leftist dictator or autocrat as long as they opposed American interests.
But the real reason Carter winds up here at #10 is because he singlehandedly almost lost the Cold War and allowed the start of the Islamofascist terror war during his single term in office. His naiveté in dealing with the Soviet Union, captured perfectly by kissing the jowled cheek of the Soviet dictator Leonid Brezhnev, led him to believe that worldwide Communism was here to stay and that we could do nothing about it. He also assured Americans that we had nothing to fear from the Soviets, who really weren’t bad guys – right up until they invaded Afghanistan. Even then, his response in boycotting the Olympic Games of 1980 has to remain one of the most embarrassing examples of displayed impotence in our nation’s history.
The winner in that category, however, also belongs to Carter. In November 1979, after pulling his support from the Shah in the highly strategic nation of Iran and watching him fall to an Islamist uprising, the same nutcases sacked our embassy in Teheran, an undeniable act of war. Instead of giving an ultimatum for the return of our embassy and the release of our diplomatic staff, Carter sat for 444 excruciating days, doing little except pleading publicly for mercy. He staged one – one! – military response to the crisis months later, which failed miserably. The failure to act not only allowed the rickety Khomeini government to survive, but gave Islamofascism a tremendous boost of prestige throughout the Middle East. It also allowed Iran to become a center for the funding and direction of terrorist activities for the past three decades, a legacy that has finally engulfed us since 9/11.
Other administrations have made their own mistakes in remaining blind to the threat of Islamist terror, but Carter played midwife to it and enabled it to survive when he had every opportunity and a perfect casus belli to kill it in its cradle.

If one wants to take our current position in history into consideration, I’d rate Mr. Carter much higher on the list, and probably as number 2 on the list of worst Presidents—only James Buchanan, probably the man more responsible for bringing about the Civil War than any other, edges Mr. Carter out (and even then I almost want to put Mr. Carter ahead simply because there was much good that came out of the Civil War).

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The Potato Nik 

I’ll have to try making one of these.

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FISA Redux 

This article lays out what I did the other day—that FISA is unconstitutional and is an attempt by congress to usurp the POTUS power to manage intelligence collection involving foreign powers, an attempt which endangers our security and liberty.  The executive is simply better at keeping secrets than congress—a fact known and praised at the signing of the Constitution itself.  This article is an absolute must read.

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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

The Conservative Mind 

Here’s an interesting article on Conservatism that one should read.

UPDATE: The above-linked piece provoked a lot of discussion. Here's a blog post that attempts to track this discussion, which occured at several different blogs.

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Discrimination Ignored 

If you exchanged the places where blacks and whites appeared in this article, there’d be a national outcry.  Instead, it’s another news story no one pays attention to.  This is a great example of how political-correctness has gone awry.

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The Education Gender Gap 

If you haven’t been paying attention, you should know that it’s men that are greatly outnumbered at college nowadays, not girls.  While that’s good for young men (full disclosure—like myself, heh), since this means they can more easily find dates that are smart and attractive (although at elite institutions, since there is a large and highly competitive applicant pool, the gender gap isn’t as bad as at other schools—I believe it’s still near 50/50 at Chicago in the college), it’s probably not in the best interest of society at large to have a massive education inequality between the sexes (that’s one thing feminism did teach us, although why those same people aren’t sticking up for men I’ll never know—well, I guess it could be that many feminists were less enlightened than they claimed, and as their current hypocrisy demonstrates).  You should check out this article, which besides laying out the stats argues some policy points such as that the Department of Education should stop pretending that girls are at a disadvantage in the education system nowadays —a belief at complete odds with the statistics (thus the article argues the feds should stop enforcing Title IX).  A very interesting article.

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Classical music blogging 

I’ve been getting a lot of enjoyment out of this disc lately.  If you want some un-mozart for your solo piano listening needs from the classical era (although these pieces were composed for harpsichord origionally), you should give the very well-priced Pletnev discs a whirl.

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Public Schools are Unconstitutional 

That's the opinion of one pundit, at least, and his claim really isn't farfetched at all:
Paulsen thinks public education is an unconstitutional condition because it forces people to choose between religious education or free education-- in other words, that school vouchers (or nothing) are constitutionally demanded. I was never able to figure out why Robert Cover thought public education presumptively unconstitutional.
That seems to be more in line with "Congress shall make no law" than what we currently have, although I know the Supreme Court would make up some argument hinging on "compelling state interests" to ignore the First Amendment. I wouldn't be the first time *points at Campaign finance 'reform'*

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Trouble having a baby? 

Well, it seems that the odds of you having a boy are greater than having a girl.

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On Darwinism 

Of the three great secular faiths born in the 19th century—Darwinism, Marxism and Freudianism—the second died swiftly and painfully and the third is slipping peacefully away. But Darwinism goes from strength to strength. If its ideas are right, the handful of dust that evolution has shaped into humanity will rarely stray too far off course. And that is, perhaps, a hopeful thought to carry into the New Year.
This article argues that Darwinism and 'survival of the fittest' may not be so morally reprehensible and violent as it seems on first blush.

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A causal relationship between churchgoing and wealth? 

People who go to church often seem to be wealthier than those who do not:
Jonathan Gruber, an economist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, claims that regular religious participation leads to better education, higher income and a lower chance of divorce. His results* (based on data covering non-Hispanic white Americans of several Christian denominations, other faiths and none) imply that doubling church attendance raises someone's income by almost 10%.
A very interesting article.

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Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Western Music and Modernity 

This is a great article. Here's the beginning setup:
It is possible to modernize without Westernizing? This is the dream of despots around the world. Leaders as diverse as Mao on the Left and Khomeini on the Right seek a high-growth economy and a powerful military -- without the pesky distractions of democracy, the rule of law, and the whole notion of the pursuit of happiness. They welcome American medical and military technology but reject its political philosophy or popular culture. Technology shorn of cultural baggage is their ideal.

Sad for them, fully reaping the benefits of Western creativity requires an immersion into the Western culture that produced it. Modernity does not exist by itself, but is inextricably attached to its makers. High rates of economic growth depend not just on the right tax laws, but on a population versed in the basics of punctuality, the work ethic, and delayed gratification. The flight team for an advanced jet bomber cannot be plucked out of a village but needs to be steeped into an entire worldview. Political stability requires a sense of responsibility that only civil society can inculcate. And so forth.

Western music proves this point with special clarity, precisely because it is so irrelevant to modernization. Playing the Kreuzer Sonata adds nothing to one's GDP; enjoying an operetta does not enhance one's force projection. And yet, to be fully modern means mastering Western music; competence at Western music, in fact, closely parallels a country's wealth and power, as the experiences of two civilizations, Muslim and Japanese, show. Muslim reluctance to accept Western music foreshadows a general difficulty with modernity; Japanese mastery of every style from classical to jazz help explain everything from a strong yen to institutional stability.
The fact that I love classical music just makes the article even more fun to me.

Now, however, despite my biases, I think that it makes a lot of sense that western modernity was created in a certain cultural climate, and it can't exist without that cultural climate. That doesn't mean that a new form of modernity can't arise, but despots attempting to emulate the western mode without adopting western culture (artistic and political) are really just beating their heads futilly against the wall.

Oh, and if you were wondering if this article has current topicality--it does. Iran's President recently banned all Western music from the country.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Reflections on Iraq and the Journey of the Magi 

Its funny how the little things about the holidays are always the most interesting. I've always found the three kings to be the most fascinating aspect of the Christmas story, and this year was no exception. Perhaps its because we're supposed to identify with them: three men who believed, with only a faint sign and their faith in God to guide them, and followed. They brought gifts and gave of themselves, even though they knew that if it was truly the God they sought that was laying in the hay, their gifts would be of no consequence. Or perhaps its because they were very nearly the first Christian martyrs. Had Herod had his way (say that five times fast), the Christmas story, and the Bible, would be a much more brisk read. Earlier tonight at dinner, I saw for the first time a much more urgent message in this timeless story. Passing the near-scalding plate of fish to my brother and reaching for a glass of brandy, my Dad ceremoniously raised his hand and brought silence to the Christmas Eve table. "Here's to the Armed Forces," he choked, with sudden and obvious emotion,"Fighting over there so we can do whatever we want over here. God Bless 'em."

It's not all that hard to imagine a Christmas in Iraq, although it's considerably more difficult to imagine having to actually endure one. I drove to midnight mass in a car that is probably more comfortable, and spacey for that matter, than many soldiers' living quarters. Yet, there must be a certain satisfaction that can only belong to those who have brought the true joy of Christmas to a world that has seldom known it. Our military, our own three kings, have traveled across the world bearing much more oils and precious metals. They carry with them the shining torch of freedom, casting light into the once dark places of the world. How little seem the trivial concerns of the Christmas season when compared with the thought of never seeing your family again for daring to vote, or voice your opinion, or any opinion. I can't imagine the joy of receiving a gift such as that for Christmas, let alone being able to give it.

In his masterful and breathtaking poem The Journey of the Magi, T.S. Elliot leaves the reader to ponder whether Christmas is significant for the coming of the savior, or the giving up of self that is the ultimate call of the Christian life. That so many have given of themselves already is only a testament to the veracity and importance of the cause for which we now battle. There are few causes greater than human freedom, and in that sense our soldiers do God's work this Christmas Eve. Not as crusaders, for they seek not to eradicate, but as Magi, journeying to a land far away, even as many around them question their very cause, to give of themselves for something far greater than any of us. God Bless them indeed. And Merry Christmas.

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

FISA is enangering our liberty--it must be repealed 

If this is true, than the FISA process is clearly broken, and it just points out why Congress shouldn't be trying to infringe on POTUS (President of the United States) powers by introducing impeding processes.

I've been over why what the President did is already okay, but this just shows that he had ample reasons not to jump through Congress' hoops, even if that might have been more politically expedient. National security is above politics. I'm glad at least the President sees that.

This article at the Weekly Standard lays out why FISA is broken very well. The article confirms that FISA probably stopped us from detecting the 9/11 plot, and it goes even farther in saying that we weren't able to detect a Chinese spy leaking our nuclear warhead designs because of FISA. Read the whole thing, but here's a great excerpt:
the Federalist would argue during the ratification debate that "energy in the executive is a leading character in the definition of good government" and that "decision, activity, secrecy and dispatch" were qualities only a unitary and independent executive could provide.

It's no surprise then that it is precisely these qualities that we see in President Bush's decision to go around FISA in the wake of 9/11 and to order the National Security Agency to conduct warrantless surveillance of emails and calls going back and forth from suspected al Qaeda operatives abroad to the United States, and vice versa.
...
The Founders, in the words of The Federalist, did not think it was wise or even possible to set a "limitation of that authority which is to provide for the defense and protection of the community." At the end of the day, a government has to do what is necessary to protect itself and its people. Yet, at the same time, the Founders believed in limited government. How did they square the circle? When it comes to the conduct of war, the history is pretty clear: They expected presidents to do what was required to secure the country's safety. But they did anticipate that Congress would play the role of Monday--morning quarterback: exposing malfeasance when called for, adding or cutting off funds when necessary, passing laws to regularize the exercise of executive discretion without undermining it, and, in the face of truly egregious behavior, being ready to impeach a president.

Obviously there is no neat solution to the problem of power and responsibility. However, as Winston Churchill said about democracy itself, the system of discretion and oversight the Constitution establishes is the worst possible solution-except for all others that have been tried.
The law is inhibiting the ability of those we have chosen to protect our nation from foreign threats to actually carry out their duties, and with disasterous consequences (the China matter especially--we really don't need China gaining military parity with us).

This law and court is clearly a blight endangering our liberty.

Warrants for domestic spying on citizens in criminal matters. Good, great. Warrents in national security matters clearly seem to be not so good. The stakes are quite different, and of a much greater magnitude, in national security matters. Instead of dealing with the liberty of once person, we're dealing with the security now and in the future of the entire nation--something which our individual liberty depends on.

Thus, I say more spying on foreign agents and terrorists. It's in our best interest--in fact, our liberty depends on it.

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The Paranoid Style In American Liberalism 

This piece by William Kristol really demonstrates the ridiculousness of many liberals involving the balance between liberty and national security. I especially like how Mr. Kristol points out that the comparison between the Bush Administration's strategy against Al Qaeda and South Africa under apartheid is many degress of magnitude appart. Read the whole thing. And then be sad, because he's not being unfair at all in that piece. Elements of the left have become farcical, so merely reporting accurately what they say and do is damning by itself.

When they lose the midterm elections (because regular Americans fortunately have common sense--they aren't blinded by unreasonable partisan hatred of a degree which I cannot put my head around) I bet the Democats will wonder how that happened. And I'm sure very little substantive self-analysis will occur of their policies, beliefs, words, and actions.

If they would merely look at themselves and become responsible, it would be better for everyone. However, I fear that until the baby-boomer generation stops being the dominant cohort in the Democratic party, they will continue to harbor deranged fantasies and paranoia that inhibit their ability to be responsible and think clearly.

That's a damn shame for the country, because even if they keep losing elections their erresponsible rhetoric and political obstructionism hurts the ability of those that want to govern responsible from doing so--both republicans and democrats (look at poor Joe Liebermann).

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The Media and the Economy 

How do we know the media has poisoned the public's view of the economy? It's really very simple. Opinion polls show basically that people believe overwhelming that they're doing well financially but the country isn't. And they know for sure their own economic condition. They experience it personally on a daily basis. On theother hand, what they know about the broader national economy comes largely from the media.

And this leads to a sharp dichotomy in the public's take on the economy. In a Gallup poll, 85 percent of Americans expressed satisfaction with the ways things are going in their own lives. But in another Gallup survey, 50 percent said they believe the economy will worsen, not stay the same or get better. And by a roughly two-to-one margin--64 percent to 33 percent in a new AP survey--Americans have consistently agreed that the country is headed in the wrong direction. The wrong track number isn't an exact proxy for negative feelings about the economy, but it is at least a partial reflection.
A good article. There is a story in crisis, there isn't one in prosperity. Thus the media reports the bad and neglects the good. And of course there's always a little spice for liberal partisans to report bad economic news, since that can be used as cannon fodder against the ruling party that they oppose.

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Another humour post 

This one is seasonal and very, very funny.

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What I would buy for Christmas 

Although it's rather late to act on any recommendations for gifts for Christmas, I thought I'd throw this out there anyway.

My last post reminded me that if I had the means to do so, I'd buy a copy of Edward Gibbon's The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire for everyone that I care about. Really, I can't think of a better gift for a literate person if they don't already own a copy. And the Everyman's Library edition is so luxurious and appealing to a bibliophile like me.

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The Decadence of the West? 

I long suspected, and subsequently had confirmed, that the new methods of teaching children were responsible for their incapacity. I could think of no greater disservice to children in a modern society than to leave them semi-literate and innumerate, and began to conceive of teacher training colleges and the Department of Education as an evil conspiracy to ensure that there were a substantial and sufficient number of dependents and hopeless cases to justify an enormous bureaucracy of welfare. No doubt an exaggeration, but a possible interpretation.
The whole article is rather interesting. Here's the main point of Mr. Dalrymple's piece:
Is there then a zeitgeist which affects the West as a whole, almost irrespective or independent of the individuals who live there? Not long ago in Australia, I shared a panel with a woman described as "a social entrepreneur", who had won awards for her pioneering thoughts and efforts. She, too, was part of the great bureaucratic drive to create a substantial class of no-hopers, though she went further that the global recognition teaching method, which at least acknowledges, in theory, that it is desirable for children in modern societies to learn to read. She said that reading and writing were almost obsolete "technologies", and that voice recognition systems were now so advanced that they would be redundant. She said she spoke on behalf of those minorities for whom the culture of reading and writing had never been very important: though to my ears, it sounded like the sovereign method to keep the Abos down.

It is tedious to have to argue against this nonsense, which triumphs by boring its opponents into submission. But my question is, what is the zeitgeist that, like the sleep of reason, has brought forth monsters? It is frivolity without gaiety and earnestness without seriousness: in short, decadence.
Decadence. Why does this remind me of Gibbon and the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire...

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Presidential Succession 

Uhhh... I just noticed that the Secretary of the Treasury is above Defense and the Attorney General in the order of presidential succession. In the past, that may of made sense, but nowadays, the SecDef is certainly the higher position than the SoT. I mean, what does the SoT do now besides be a talking head for economic policies? The Fed chairman is the one that makes the big decisions.

This seems like it should be changed. I know at the beginning of the republic the SoT was more important--because Alexander Hamilton was the man. But now, not so much.

And, while we're at it, we should remove the President Pro Tempore of the Senate from the list. Having the oldest guy of the majority party in the Senate on the list seems to be a mistake.

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"pump up the bass, Qusay" 

That was the random heading I got when I loaded LGF. Quite funny, I think. Let tyrants have their just desserts.

Now, this little bit on jew-hating Iranian television isn't as light-hearted as the above. There are really a lot of crazy, crazy people in Iran. We've got to do something about them before they get nukes...

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What is thy bidding, my master? 

Vodkapundit is right, this picture totally makes the pope look like he's been dabbling in the Dark Side...

Man, I really need to limit the scifi posts around here, lest I kick up the geek level too high. Although, that's probably not a problem because really, who besides geeks would write blog posts about policy, great thinkers, etc? Serious bloggers are really all geeks. Represent!

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Hilarious 

Watch this.

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Friday, December 23, 2005

Krauthammer lays the smack down... (and on Cass Sustein's comments too) 

...on those calling for the President's impeachment because of his asserting executive authority granted by the constitution to conduct wiretaps of suspected associates of Al Qaeda. About the NSA listenting, Krauthammer states:
only the most brazen and reckless partisan could pretend it is anything approaching a high crime and misdemeanor.
I totally agree. Krauthammer is right that it may not be the best political course not to get more congressional approval for warrentless searches, but just because this is the case doesn't mean the President doesn't have the power anyway. This is a balance of power issue, which is as old as the Republic. The congress and the executive are always fighting in relation to who has the ultimate authority in matters of war. This tussle is good for the nation, but in this case since the President would no doubt be held to account if we were attacked again and there was found to be lapses in security that allowed such an attack (ie, he would be responsible), he must have the power to engage with foreign enemies. (Hatip: instapundit)

UPDATE: Relatedly, here's an interview with Cass Sunstein (Prof. from the UofC, my school btw) on the topic of inherent presidential power involving warrentless searches. He comes down on the side that argues the President does have this power when confronting enemies from abroad. I don't see how any reasonable person can argue congress has the constitutional power to limit the president in this regard. The President of the US has the responsibility to protect the nation and its people from foreign enemies. If he doesn't have the power to go along with that responsibility, that's just plain ridiculous. The phrase that those with the responsibility for results also have to have the power to achieve results is quite wise. Read the whole thing if you don't have a grasp of this issue involving warrenless searches already. Here's a great money quote, though:
I don't think any president would relinquish the argument that the Congress lacks the authority to prevent him from acting in a way that protects national security, by engaging in foreign surveillance under the specific circumstances of post-9/11.
Oh, and the part where Mr. Sunstein (a self-proclaimed liberal, btw) says that press coverage has been horrible and biased--if I can be allowed such a paraphrase--is worth a read as well. Mr. Sunstein says he's been contacted by several major papers, but notes he hasn't been quoted in any stories by said papers on this issue. Could it be because he's asserting the President is doing nothing wrong in this case? The media wants a big story, but Mr. Sunstein is saying this is a mundain issue, which does not sell papers or drive ratings.

Additionally, he points out that the media has been overblowing what the President is doing from wiretapping Al Qaeda people to universal listening. Quite true. This story is manufactured to a very high degree (Mr. Sunstein speculates that this is probably due to an echo from watergate where people think that all wiretapping is bad--although personally I think there is a bit of hatred towards the President driving this story too). It needs to go away so we can focus on real problems. The president is right and justified in his actions. In fact, if he wasn't doing this, I'd say he was derelicting his duty to protect the nation from foreign enemies.

Mr. Sunstein also comments on the illegality of the leaking of classified information--the leaking of the NSA info was very, very probably a federal crime under the espionage act. He says that if national security was compromised because the program will be less effective do to being known now, something should be done about it. I totally agree. Round up the reports that covered the story innitially, and charge them with disseminating classified info if they won't give up their sources. Whoever leaked this needs to go to jail for their crimes.

Oh, and since I never posted to Powerline's great posts arguine in favor of the President's actions, I guess I'll do so here.

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MoDo takes a body blow 

This review of her repetitive columns and her latest trite production in hardcover is relentlessly brutal. Yet, it's not being unfair. It's really only describing her work honestly.

UPDATE: I've now noticed that considering the subject of this post, there might be a double-entendre in the heading. Well, it fits, so I'll leave it. It's not really my fault. It's more the horrible--contradictory, hypocrticial, and really just whory--image Maureen Dowd has constructed of herself that's the problem which allows for the double-entendre.

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Assassination plot against President Bush by Al Qaeda 

I somehow suspect that we won't hear much about the #3 guy in Al Qaeda Abu Faraj Al-Libi being soley focused on killing the President and Pakistan's leader Musharaff...

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Poor Girl 

Wafah Dufour--aka or rather formerly Wafah bin Ladin. She had nothing to do with Osama's evil deeds, yet is tainted by her relation to him... (We know why you're realling posting this, because she's hot.-ed) Well, that clearly makes it more interesting (and is probalby the only reason this story ever came before me--why else would GQ--GQ!--have interviewed her?), but I have sympathy for any innocent person related to an evil maniac (key word, innocent person--if she did anything to help Osama or the attack, to hell let her fall). And anyway, if Daniel Drezner can go gaga over Salma Hayek, I don't see why this post is offensive at all.

UPDATE: From the Corner's Clifford May--a heading for a post on Ms. Dufour: "PUTTING THE “INFIDEL” BACK IN INFIDELITY?"

That's totally not fair, although very clever and funny.

Another UPDATE: One of my commentors has called me a hypocrite for sympathizing "with the family member of a terrorist that killed thousands of Americans in one shot." Well, I am, but I don't see why this is a problem if she had no involvement with Osama or the attacks, and reviles him herself.

Hating innocent people because of their birth is completely unfair, but that's why my commentor evidently things is right and just. Such a view is the real hypocritical one, and bigoted at that.

If 9/11 made blind hatred justified and acceptable, than the terrorists really did achieve more than just a sucker punch against us...

Another UPDATE: There are some amusing comments in this open thread at LGF. I like the meme about how those pictures would make Osama squirm because it's a woman not being modest and subjugated. I hope he sees them and hates them. I certainly don't hate them. Anyone that objects to me liking beautiful women can shove it, really. And she's certainly attractive, and not just on the conventional model sort of way, which makes it even better.

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Bush at 50% Approval 

He should stay on the offensive more often, because it apparently works. He's jumped 15 points in the polls in the last month.

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Battlestar Galactica getting critical attention 

Aside from being named the best television show of 2005 by Time Magazine and being named #3 best by T.V. Guide, the critical body the American Film Institute has announced BG as one of the ten best television shows this year.

Yes, aside from being stunned that any show named 'Battlestar Galactica' could be any good, you should also not be surprised that we here at Maroonblog have interests besides politics and foreign policy. Well, I guess it's not that surprising, but until recently I did used to hate on how bad TV was. Shows like this are making me change my tune.

It'd be great if Battlestar attracted more viewers because of these critical hat-tips. I fervently believe if the show was on network television, it'd be in the top ten for ratings every week (it does lead Friday night on basic cable, which is still pretty good). It'd better get some Emmy recognition this year, the acting is just too good, the cinematography is just too beautiful, and the writing is just too brilliant for it to be overlooked for any other reason than stupidity by those that run the Emmies.

If you haven't seen the show, I recommend you pick up the miniseries (possibly the finest 3 hours of television I have ever seen--it's really like a high quality dramatic movie than several episodes of a TV show) and season one (included together in one package) and the first half of season two. The second half of season one will begin airing the first week of January on Friday night on SciFi.

Really, the show is absolutly amazing in its quality and its dramatic appeal. I couldn't recommend anything more highly than I do this show.

Yeah, I'm a fanboy, but when you're a fanboy of a great piece of art (yeah, the show rises to that level), it's not anything to be ashamed of=) So, if you're interested in keeping up with the show, this appears to be the definitive site to read. Too bad that site is ugly at an unholy level...

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What to do with Saddam... 

...after he's executed? This article ponders that question and also looks at the execution of several different desponts, tyrants, war criminals, and various reviled people in the past. Dare I say it, although it's true--it's a fun read. (you're sick, or at least morbid.-ed) Tell me something I don't know. My love for history drives me to the brink...

More seriously, all of this talk is putting the cart a bit before the horse, since he hasn't been convicted yet (although, like the above article says, his conviction is not in doubt. Personally, as far as dealing with Saddam goes, I think we should have just put him in front of a military tribunal and executed him immediately afer he had no more intelligence value. Trying him the way we are is really a farce when compared to real democratic justice, because we're convicting him under Iraqi laws that were established after the crime. Despite this, I see the logic in letting the Iraqis follow an orderly process similar to a real trial in which they get their well-deserved revenge on the despot. There is certainly value in letting his death at the hands of the people he oppressed wash away the filth of his tyranny on Iraq.

Even though I would have done it differently, this way is fine, even though at times the court resembles an episode of Judge Judy. As long as he meets the hangman/firing-squad soon, either way is satisfactory.

UPDATE:

Now, thanks Daou report readers for checking out my blog. Have a look around, I've there are many posts that are qualitatively much better than this one=)

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France and the US 

We superficially bicker because we, as two nations, are very similar. I'll buy into that.

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Thursday, December 22, 2005

The Japanese Red Army 

An amusing and well-written, although sick and brutal, read. Kind of like watching Kill Bill... (Via The Corner)

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What a great idea 

Light Hanukkah candles in front of Iranian embassies. Genius.

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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Rope-a-Dope 

You see, Karl Rove is a genius. He clearly rules the world in his spare time when he's not hoodwinking democrats or blowing up levies in the Big Easy...

A little (just a tad) more seriously, the above article sums up how the democrats, by playing their cards way too early, have actually made Bush's position much stronger than it was several months ago, and their position very untenable:
Bush now has three gifts: (l) he has an out, in case there's another attack on the homeland (he tried, but his hands were tied by the Times and the Democrats); (2) he has still more sound bites--"We killed the Patriot Act!"--to add the pile that he had already, and (3), he has the chance to draw still more distinctions between the party of force and of public security; and the party that nitpicks, that is too legalistic, and that somehow always gives the benefit of the doubt to the criminal and/or the accused.
Oops...

Really, humour aside, the article does make a good point about the NSA issue. The MSM and democrats have forced Bush to explain that he has been, for several years, working to protect Americans from another terrorist attack, in line with his constitutional responsibilities to those that elected him. It really doesn't seem like a good idea to run with an attack that allows the President to show that he's been doing a good job and been a strong, consistant leader.

Again, oops...

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Related to NSA Listening Issue 

Here's a great article that considers the tension between the freedom of a republic and the need to protect that freedom. Lincoln faced it and explained himself quite well. Bush did a pretty good job also on Saturday. Vigilance and Responsibility sum things up nicely. Read the whole thing, as they say (and I say).

Here's a great quote by Lincoln that's worth repeating, along with a little followup analysis:
"I can no more be persuaded that the Government can constitutionally take no strong measures in time of rebellion, because it can be shown that the same could not lawfully be taken in time of peace, than I can be persuaded that a particular drug is not good medicine for a sick man, because it can be shown not to be good for a well one. Nor am I able to appreciate the danger apprehended by the meeting [of the New York Democrats] that the American people will, by means of military arrest during the Rebellion, lose the right of Public Discussion, the Liberty of Speech and the Press, the Law of Evidence, Trial by Jury, and Habeas Corpus, throughout the indefinite peaceful future, which I trust lies before them, any more than I am able to believe that a man could contract so strong an appetite for emetics during temporary illness as to persist in feeding upon them during the remainder of his healthful life."

The means to preserve the end of republican government are dictated by prudence, which according to Aristotle is, the virtue most characteristic of the statesman. Prudence is concerned with deliberating well about those things that can be other than they are (means). In political affairs, prudence requires the statesman to be able to adapt universal principles to particular circumstances in order to arrive at the means that are best given existing circumstances. For Bush, as well as for Lincoln, preserving republican liberty requires the executive to choose the means necessary and proper under the circumstances.
A very wise man, Lincoln was. We should trust in some of that wisdom now, I think. (and most of us probably do, although unfortunately not many Congressional democrats or management at the NYTs).

Like I said, make sure to read the whole thing. Any article that references Lincoln, the Federalist Papers, Aristotle, and John Locke normally doesn't disapoint, and this one is no exception. Here's the great conclusion to the article that contains a great piece of wisdom:
Today, once again we face the perennial tension between vigilance and responsibility as the United States is the target of those who would destroy it. In all decisions involving tradeoffs between two things of value, the costs and benefits of one alternative must be measured against the costs and benefits of the other. At a time when the United States faces an adversary that wishes nothing less than America's destruction, President Bush is correctly taking his bearing from Lincoln, who understood that in time of war, prudence dictates that responsibility must trump vigilance. In response to criticism of his suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, Lincoln asked, ". . . are all the laws but one, to go unexecuted, and the government itself go to pieces, lest that one be violated?" Lincoln's point is as applicable today as it was during the Civil War. If those responsible for the preservation of the republic are not permitted the measures to save it, there will be nothing left to be vigilant about.


Also, here's an editorial from the WSJ that explains why the president was well within his authority to authorize the NSA to listen in on international phone calls, and why the President having and exercising this power is a very good thing.

UPDATE: The first article contains an apparently famous quote by Justice Jackson in which he said "the constitution is not a suicide pact". Very wise words. Very wise words that made me crack up several times over the course of ten minutes. I'm not sure why exactly, but that wise statement is just freaking hilarious.

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Tocqueville at 200 

Here's a great piece on what Alexis de Tocqueville (author of Democracy in America) might think today about the accuracy of his predictions made 170 years ago and the state of America, Europe, and the world today. Read the whole thing, the passages on the horrible potential for people's want for equality leading to a new type of despotism in which no talented man can rise to greatness is troubling given certain trends in the expansion of government today. Also, I find the conclusion concerning religion especially thought provoking:
What does their religion — almost entirely Jewish and Christian — add to American civic and political life? you might ask. It grounds Americans' sense of personal dignity in the conviction that each woman and each man is made in the image of the Creator, and is loved by that Creator. It also grounds their fundamental right to freedom of conscience in the knowledge that God made human minds free, and chose to be approached by them based upon the evidence of their own minds, and through their own free choice, not through coercion. For such is the nature of the Jewish and Christian God.

These beliefs have always given Americans confidence in the idea that liberty is universal, intended by the Creator for all humans. Their philosophy of natural rights is backed up by their faith in the God Who addresses them in their liberty. In dark and difficult times, this faith is of quiet but irreplaceable assistance. It gives to Americans a sense that the world has a purpose and a direction.

And also a reliable measure for what is better and worse, progress and decline.

All in all, Tocqueville has a right to take pleasure in getting a number of very important matters right — including a new form of despotism to worry about. Moreover, there are religions and civilizations whose God seems not be committed to liberty and the personal dignity of each. But is that only an appearance? Is it in fact true?

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We may be planning to move on Iran and Syria 

This blog post on Turkey has some evidence in favor of this.

I say let's go.

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Hallelujah! 

A major paper says Bush had the power to listen with the NSA. I have a feeling in another week this story will be dead. Hearings may occur, but they'll find that Bush acted within the law and more importantly he acted responsibly as he worked to protect Americans from international threats--the most important job the US President has.

Mr. Reynolds
has a roundup of relevant posts on this topic. Summary--Bush probably didn't break the law, but if he did, the law was infringing on his constitutional powers and thus is not valid.

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Tuesday, December 20, 2005

On how we're doing in Iraq 

The emminent historian of the middle east Bernard Lewis has some thoughts on this, as reported on by Mr. Nordlinger (yes, him again=):
Frederick Kempe of the Wall Street Journal conducted an amazing interview — an amazingly wonderful interview — with the great Middle East historian Bernard Lewis (a speaker on a recent National Review cruise, incidentally). An article about the interview is on the web for free — here — but the Q&A itself is not, I regret to say. Try to obtain it, is my recommendation.

Anyway, I'd like to quote just one question-and-answer. No, two. Kempe asked, "What is your general view of the situation in Iraq and the Mideast? Are you growing more or less confident of positive change?"

Answered Lewis, "I would describe my position as one of cautious optimism. My optimism derives from events in the Mideast and my caution derives from observing the United States. [Lewis is British, I might note.] The situation in Iraq is vastly better than what you would know from reading the media, which really do often present a misleading picture of what's happening. In many, many ways, Iraqi life has improved enormously ..."

Earlier, Kempe had asked, "If victory [against the terrorists] is so clear, why aren't Americans feeling that way?" Lewis answered, "My specialization is the Middle East and not the Middle West."

Isn't that marvelous?
I'll let that stand for itself, since you already know how I feel about these matters.

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Because People have imperfect memories 

By nature or design? Read this little bit from Mr. Nordlinger's column, to refresh your memory:
Here's what Nancy Pelosi, leader of the Democrats in the House, said after Bush's nationwide address two days ago: "Tonight the president acknowledged more of the mistakes he has made in Iraq, but he still does not get it. Iraq did not present an imminent threat to the security of the United States before he began his war of choice."

Here is what Bush said in his 2003 State of the Union address, before we went into Iraq: "Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent." But "since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions ... If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations will come too late."

Who is the one who doesn't get it? Bush or Pelosi?

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On the Leaker of the NSA Info 

I really, really hope the launch an investigation as to who provided the info. Subpoena the whole NYTs if necessary. I want this persons's ass in jail. Leaking info is at the very least espionage, and at the worst treason. People need to learn that it's not okay to leak classified information, especially of projects that have worked to protect our country. Just because you're talking to a reporter doesn't absolve you of your crimes, reports aren't magical, pseudo-religous priests than can wash away your treason.

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On the NSA listening issue 

Mr. Goldstein explains that, barring a widespread, Nixonian-like spying on political enemies instead of terrorists, Bush probably did not break the law, and, in the unlikely chance that the exceptions in the laws against spying (which are murky and cerainly not as ironclad as some people think they are--you seem to have the right not to be incrimminated by non-supervised government listening, but not necessarly the right not to have them listen at all), his war powers and constitutional authority as the executive put him clearly in the right. Duh. You may not like the guy, that's fine, but manifacturing scandal from genuine efforts to protect the American people (after complaining that Bush was asleep at the wheel on 9/11, no less) is absolutely irresponsible, and really, unpatriotic. Many democrats don't care about the country as much as their own political success. If they did care about the country (or weren't insane, because I suppose they could care but be so nuts that they can't actually take good steps to protect it) they would be stronger on defense. We can disagree on domestic policy, but when facing international threats, domestic policy is a luxury that we are allowed only by having a secure, strong nation.

Given how strong Bush has been in the last month laying out the way things are and setting the record straight, I imagine the frothing at the mouth by extreme congressional democrats will amount to nothing more than some good ammo for GOP television adds in a year. I can really see the calls for impeachment of the President for protecting the American people by Pelosi and others really working as great soundbites...

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Monday, December 19, 2005

"Too much Mozart makes you sick" 

Remember that article that I posted yesterday about the failings of modern literary criticism, that it did not consider questions of our reaction to art, to beauty?

Well, here's an example of similar critical failings: this article fails to consider questions involving aesthetics as it denounces Mozart as historically insignificant, lacking any real political or philisophical motivations behind his music, and as having written only sickly sweet music.

Apparently writing music that sounds good (and by good I mean composed in the classical form os his period music that is unrivaled by his contemporaries) isn't good enough for that author. By no means is Mozart the greatest composer of them all. But he's definately one of the top 5 (I like to list my top five as Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms, and Mendelsohn [although I'm always arguing about who the fifth should be other than M]), I'd say, because he was a genius.
Even though he didn't advance the genre like perhaps he could have given his talent (although maybe he would have if he had lived longer, his later work is definately much more brooding than his earlier stuff), who else had such technical competence in composing as he did in his time? I'm sure other composer would have liked to compose as well as he did, but they didn't have the ability to do so. There is genius in his ability to put together such technically perfect compositions.

But I won't go on. Mozart wrote great music. By no means the best, but also it can't be overlooked like this author thinks it should (overlooked for Shostakovich--ehhh, don't get me started on why most modern music is horid--just because it's intellectual doesn't mean it's good either)

Sheesh. I feel sorry for that poor guy, not liking Mozart. That's like looking at a rose, a simple object of beauty, and not liking it because it has no greater purpose or meaning...

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Time has really declined 

I speak of the magazine Time. They have declared the persons of the year as being Bill Gates, Mrs. Gates (chosen because she married a rich guy, okay...), and Bono. Fine, philanthropy is good, but geeze, I would hardly call their efforts as defining what happened in 2005.

The magazine used to have balls, so to speak. They chose people like Hitler for person of the year. But, I guess I really shouldn't expect much. They chose Rudy Guiliani instead of UBL in 2001, even though Osama was clearly the right choice. What he masterminded defined 2001. Thus, he was person of the year, because of his nefariousness.

Time should have picked either Mother Nature, or the Iraqi people (considering they did vote several times this year and have been getting blown up and into the news all year) for this year. Mother Nature, even though it's a stretch and not even a real person, would have been the best choice, considering we've had the Tsunami and many Hurricanes this year, which made lots of news. Lots more news than Bono and Gates.

Time, bad choice. You've shown your lack of guts. And that you really don't understand what 'person of the year' (of course it used to be 'man of the year') really means. You're turning your own newsmaking creation into a meaningless mess.

And really, who wants to read a boring article about rich people spending their money, despite how good the causes have been? Writing about what really defined the year, the weather or Iraq, would have sold a lot more mags, I bet.

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Sunday, December 18, 2005

Glorious traditions 

We don't have anything like this at Chicago. Is that good or bad? I'm not sure. The antiquarian in me finds something charming about ridiculous costumes for formal occasions.

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Roundup of Bush's national address tonight 

Mr. Reynolds has the links. Watch the video of the speech, it's one of the best Bush has given in years. He covers all the points that need to be hit, and takes credit for the victories that he has helped to win.

And, aside from pointing out that we're obviously winning in Iraq, Afghanistan, and against terrorism and islamic jihadists in general (look, no terror attacks in 4 years), he slaps down the democrats very plainly, by saying that defeatism has politically partisan uses only. And that's always fun to hear.

UPDATE: Out of the many great lines in the speech, here's one I particularly liked: "Our forces in Iraq are on the road to victory, and that is the road that will take them home". Quality, that.

Here's the complete text, with a video. Watch it, or read it. The speech is excellent. It's exactly the kind of thing a good president does.

Another UPDATE:

Here's a great piece on the absence of historical perspective in media reporting. I've been complaining about that for a long time. We've lost 2100 men and women in Iraq in over three years. There have been many days of war in American history where we have lost many multiples of that in one day of combat (and even in some days of peace as well--ie 9/11). Read the whole piece.

That article above refers to this one here, which is an amazing little piece. Here's one great line out of many that should provide enough reasons for you to read the whole thing as well:
Utter ignorance of history enables any war with any casualties to be depicted in the media as an unmitigated disaster.

If we we had lost 2000 people in Iraq and had achieved none of our objectives, than that would be worth decrying. However, we've had tremendous success in Iraq instead. While the fact that war demands a price in blood is something one may complain about, such complaints belong in philisophical treatises and fantasies of the mind. The world one lives in is much different than the world one wishes one lived in.

If one wants to engage with the world, than one has to face the tragedies of the world the best one can. One cannot disengage from reality. Complaining that life isn't perfect, and using it as an excuse to claim that we're losing a war, is foolish in the strongest sense of the word. We're paying a price in blood, but can one think of a better use for such sacrifices than bringing freedom and greater safety to a part of the world that has seldom known either and also helping to secure our own cherished liberties and security? What we're doing is worth it. I challenge anyone to tell me otherwise with their own good name and reputation behind such a statement.

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Iraq is not like Vietnam 

It is becoming increasingly an article of faith that the insurgency in Vietnam is similar enough to the insurgency in Iraq that we can draw useful lessons from the one to apply to the other. This is not the case. The only thing the insurgencies in Iraq and Vietnam have in common is that in both cases American forces have fought revolutionaries. To make comparisons or draw lessons beyond that basic point misunderstands not only the particular historical cases, but also the value of studying history to draw lessons for the present.
Amen, brother.

Mr. Kagan goes on to explain in detail why Iraq is not like Vietnam. Read the whole thing.

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More on coping with multiculturalism 

From Salman Rushdie:
When we, as individuals, pick and mix cultural elements for ourselves, we do not do so indiscriminately, but according to our natures. Societies, too, must retain the ability to discriminate, to reject as well as to accept, to value some things above others, and to insist on the acceptance of those values by all their members. This is the question of our time: how does a fractured community of multiple cultures decide what values it must share in order to cohere, and how can it insist on those values even when they clash with some citizens’ traditions and beliefs?

The beginnings of an answer may be found by asking the question the other way around: what does a society owe to its citizens? The French riots demonstrate a stark truth. If people do not feel included in the national idea, their alienation will turn to rage. Chouhan and others are right to insist that issues of social justice, racism and deprivation need urgently to be addressed. If we are to build a plural society on the foundation of what unites us, we must face up to what divides. But the questions of core freedoms and primary loyalties can’t be ducked. No society, no matter how tolerant, can expect to thrive if its citizens don’t prize what their citizenship means — if, when asked what they stand for as Frenchmen, as Indians, as Britons, they cannot give clear replies.

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Problems with Literary Criticism today 

Lindsay Waters writes:
literary critics are devoted to saving the world, not to saving literature for the world, and to internecine battles that make little sense outside academe.

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Saturday, December 17, 2005

Popular toys of the last 100 years 

The historian in me delights in such articles.

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Barbary Pirates and Today 

Examining the similarities between those Muslim's of the 18th century that engaged in jihad before western colonialism or oil interests were present illuminates how armed conflict is unfortunately built into the foundation of much of maintream Islam. And if you say I'm crazy or a bigot, read this article and then get back to me. When moderate factions either call for jihad or are complacent about it, than jihad is not radical, it is mainstream.

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The Laffer Curve 

Guess what? Bush's tax cuts in fact did not lower the taxes payed by the rich. His tax rate cuts actually stimulated the economy and increased the amount of taxes payed to the government. See for yourself. Apparently, tax cuts do stimulate the economy, and actually increase government revenue at the same time because of the resulting increase in economic activity. Imagine that...

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Quote of the Day 

"Democracy, immigration, multiculturalism. Pick any two."

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Fallacies of Argument 

Here's a handy little reference of many, many fallacies of argument, that you might find useful to have around. I have.

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Friday, December 16, 2005

Interesting fact of the day 

John Scalzi, UofC alumn and author of Old Man's War, a book that I like a great deal, happens to be related to Lincoln's assassin John Wilkes Booth. Here's an amusing read on that subject.

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On our current state of affairs 

America is doing very well, says VDH, and he's right on the facts.

One on specific point he mentions, I'm glad to see that I'm not the only one that thinks our efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan have made our military better than it was before:
The military isn’t broken. Unlike after Vietnam when the Russians, Iranians, Cambodians, and Nicaraguans all soon tried to press their luck at our expense, most of our adversaries don’t believe the U.S. military is losing in Iraq, much less that it is wise now to take it on. Instead, the general impression is that our veteran and battle-hardened forces are even more lethal than was true of the 1990s — and engaging successfully in an almost impossible war.
Battle-hardened veterans are always good to have. What other nation in the world has an army of battle-hardened veterans? Any? I can't think of one.

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Israel justified in nuclear pre-emtive strike against Iran? 

Glenn Reynolds thinks so, in light of what the Iranian president has said over the past months about the desctruction of Israel by Iranian weapons.

Given what Iran has said, I have to agree with Mr. Reynolds. Doing so would be in the best security interests of Israel, since they could defend themselves against any conventional attacks by neighboring states just fine. However, I'm sure the world shunning of Israel that would occur (more than what shunning is now given by Europe and the Middle East) would be a bit of a problem. But that reaction would be unfair, because if any other modern nation was faced with total annihilation, they would take whatever steps were necessary to save themselves, even if it involved a nuclear first-strike.

I say go for it, Israel. You'd be doing the world a favor by litteraly sending the Mullahs in Iran back to the stone age.

Is that hawkish? Yes? It's sad the Iranians have been so foolish as to have brought us to this point. Any nuclear attacks that occur by Israel are Iran's fault and no one elses.

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Thursday, December 15, 2005

F-22 Goes Operational 

Oh yeah... Makes me drool and wish I had went to the Air Force academy instead of Chicago.

The raptor is so good, it can defeat 8 F-15s single-handedly in massive dogfight. That's so far beyond anything else in the world it's not even funny.

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History in the making 

I don't have much to add to what's being reported in the blogosphere about the Iraqi elections. I do sympathize with what I heard one host on Fox news say about the elections: "We win, we win, we win, we win". The reality is pretty close to that. Too bad we still have to worry about Iran and Syria...

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A reason why McCain amendment is bogus 

It nullifies the primary reason for the geneva convention--to give an insentive to soldiers that practice warfare that limits harm to civilians. The insentive is to be treated humanely when captured. Here's thoughts from James Schlesinger via Rich Lowry:
Further, he says because of the McCain amendment, “We are going to extend Geneva rights to terrorists. That’s what we fought off in the Reagan Years in Protocol I. Now we’re going to legislate it.” This is absurd. “It’s appalling,” he says. And he makes a basic point: “The purpose of the Convention was to protect civilians. These people blow up civilians and we’re going to treat them as POW’s—it’s directly contrary to the Geneva Convention.”
Yep, we're giving the same protection to guys who blow up civilians as we give to soldiers that practice limited warfare and treat their POWs humanely. That makes alot of sense.

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"Anybody Who Doesn’t Appreciate America Can Go To Hell" 

Awesome. I love democracy in action.

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Health insurance should be like car insurance 

Mandatory, and only to cover catastrophic cases (a policy with a $10,000). Given that I only go to the doctor once or twice a year, paying two to three thousand dollars a year in premiums is ludicrous. Thus I opt out of the system. And I'm not alone, other healthy people don't pay into the system either. Most people who do are those that will get more money out of the system than they pay in (old people and to a lesser extent new familes with young children). So where does the money come from to pay for the system? Premiums spiral up every year, more people opt out because it's not in their financial interest, and thus premiums go up again. Health insurance as it is currently constructed is in a death spiral.

I summarize this article, which makes a lot of sense.

And, those of you that say let's have a state system, remember that even with our current system we still pay more per capita on health insurance than any other country. And, because anyone can pay for any procedure they wish, or opt into health insurance, Americans have access to more specialists, advanced medical equipment, and surgery than any other country. Yes, that's right, our system in which healthy people aren't covered is still the best.

Now, if I had to pay $500, or something like that, for catastrophic coverage, I'd do that. Because anything less--regular appointments, I can pay out of pocket and save money compared to the current system.

People think they are entitled to health care whenever they want it without having to pay the cost for that health care. That is fiscally unfeasable. Thus, the options are either a nationalized system where we pay 50% income tax at the minimum to support the system (and get less care because everyone will always want to see the doctor because they're paying so much every year even when they aren't sick), or a plan like this one. I prefer a plan like this.

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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

A bunch of Jack-***'s? 

I love it when the democrats show their true, foolish colors.

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2005 

Lileks sums it up very nicely, because we all love satire.

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Vioxx litigation bad 

Glenn Reynolds and I agree that suing drug companies because there was a flaw in the drug they didn't know about is wrong. Especially when much of the harm that was caused by the drugs was due to doctors perscribing the cox-II drugs to people who should of just been taking tylenol--vioxx its ilk was meant for people prone to ulcers that needed pain relief every day, not the general masses without ulcer problems or a good chance of getting an ulcer.

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Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Re: Tookie, Justice and Revenge 

[Note: Please see the original post here]

Well Jason, first I would like to note that this topic seems to be a reoccurring one, as it has appeared several times before on Maroonblog: Once surrounding Star Wars and once again when I reviewed Batman Begins. Second, I think it is interesting that you frame the question the way that you do: "Why isn't killing Tookie for revenge just?" It is a different approach to the question, since I was pondering whether killing Tookie at all is just. The point of contention to me is that revenge, by its very nature and definition, supersedes and usurps the demands of justice. We frown on the vigilante who kills the murderer on his way to the courtroom, not because he didn't perhaps deserve to die, but because we recognize that this is not the manner in which he should have been brought to justice. While justice may seem to encompass revenge, revenge cannot conversely encompass justice. Killing for revenge implies the emotional demands of the individual, angry and slighted, outweigh the moral and legal norms that bind out society and govern the concept of "balancing justice" you alluded to. Killing for revenge alone is no more "justice" than undo mercy and clemency is. As Douglas Kern put it so well:
"Mercy is not a good unto itself. Mercy is a counterbalance, a brake against justice as it brushes up against the edge of vengeance. Evil wreaks harm that ripples far, far beyond the intended harm of the evil act itself. Justice permits the doer of evil to be held accountable for every iota of harm that ensues as a result of the evil act, and that reckoning can be terrible indeed. Mercy requires men to punish evil with only the minimum degree of punishment and retribution consistent with justice, so that repentance and reconciliation may restore the evildoer to society, and so that the vengeful spirit of victims may be allayed. But notice: mercy requires the minimal degree of punishment consistent with justice."
(the emphasis is mine)


He agrees that the "vengeful spirit" must be allayed to some extent, but only in the sense that reciprocity should fit the crime, and function to the betterment of the the victim, society, and if possible the criminal. That he repeatedly remarks on "the minimal degree" is no coincidence either: It is only in the most extreme cases that the death penalty is even granted in California. Justice is about atonement Jason, not Revenge. Killing Tookie only came about because his actions demanded such recourse from our standard of justice, not because of the feelings or actions of a vengeful third party. As well it should be.

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Interesting fact of the day 

355/113 = 3.14159, which is the first seven digits of pi. That's more than enough digits for most applications when you must plug a value into pi.

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Is Revenge Just? 

I think is some cases, yes. And certainly even if you disagree, revenge is built into the concept of justice that our society has adopted. And, personally, I think that revenge in some cases is acceptable. Is just. See the comments to this post on Tookie by Andrew for a bit more.

Maybe Andrew, since you say that justice isn't about revenge and then go on to list other reasons, you can tell me why revenge isn't acceptable, especially in cases where we have a base of facts that is beyond reasonable disputation?

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Monday, December 12, 2005

"Took(ie)" for a ride 

At last, it seems, the rollercoaster ride through the California justice system has come to a halt. Having resisted the urge to comment on the Tookie debacle long enough, the Governator's decision to refuse clemency has provided me with the perfect opportunity to lay down a few thoughts. Not surprisingly, they can be encapsulated well in Arnold's own words:
"Without an apology and atonement for these senseless and brutal killings, there can be no redemption."
(the emphasis is unfortunately mine)

In the weeks leading up to his final appeal, and finally to the day of his execution and refused clemency, there has been a sudden surge of interest in the case, and particularly in Stanley "Tookie" Williams himself. With a conviction nearly 25 years ago, and a process of appeals that borders on obscene, it seems only now that the "peace, love and good feelings" crew has opted to get involved. They are noticeably absent from the trial process, and seem to have little to say for the victims of Williams' horrific crimes. Instead, as is often the case among that particular group, they have struck up the cause of saving Williams' life from a racist and corrupt death penalty (in their own words). As usual, more attention is being paid to Snoop Dogg than to the victim's family. The usual Hollywood types have emerged from the ideological woodwork to engage the disinterested public, produce soundbytes and hang out with Jessie Jackson and Jamie Foxx.

The LA County District Attorney has produced a point by point retort to the latest cause celebre, but I am particularly disgusted by the argument being made about his supposed "redemption" while behind bars. As Governor Schwarzenegger noted himself, Williams has indeed sought to speak out to the youth against gang violence, and apologized for the violent ways of the gang he helped to found. Yet he has not apologized once, or even taken responsibility, for the brutal killings for which he was convicted. If he committed the crimes and is in fact a changed man, why not heart-felt and teary-eyed confession? And if he's innocent, then how could he have "atoned" for a crime he didn't commit? If every criminal who faced certain justice could get off the hook by writing a children's book, we wouldn't have much of a justice system left. What's more, those who trumpet his "death row conversion" seem to ignore his dubious record of disciplinary infractions while behind bars. Convenient how his redemption only got going when he had run out of options. I can't really say I find shower fights, assault, attacking people with "chemicals" and threatening police officers to be particularly "atoned" behavior. But to those who are always willing to accuse the system and "the man," words always speak louder than actions. When in doubt, heart strings and Hollywood eh?

25 years ago, Williams was convicted by a jury of his peers. For the subsequent decades, every level of the judiciary has upheld that conviction, and sentence, and the compelling body of evidence, and Williams' own words have only strengthened the case against him. Justice isn't about revenge, and in this much the "Save Tookie" crowd is right. Justice is about redemption, and balance; but without atonement and true retribution, clemency is not justice. We should not look upon taking any life lightly, but SaveTookie is wrong: the true injustice would have been for Schwarzenegger to play the role of the divine and redeem a man who has not redeemed himself. At some point, justice and the law must be carried out, lest they be rendered irrelevant. Stanley Williams will be executed for four brutal murders, and at last put an end to a saga that has raged on far too long. May God have mercy on his soul.

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Massacre in China 

[Update: While on the topic of dismissing the gradually less relevant realists, check out the Condi Editorial from today's WaPo. While her focus is Iraq, not China, she makes several interesting points, the most important being that the concept of stability and status quo is not acceptable in a post 9/11 world, and in fact the spread of democracy is working. It's no stretch to apply the same thought process to China, where the hunger for democracy is no less vicious.]

"We are not allowed to buy food outside the village. They asked the nearby villagers not to sell us goods," the woman said. "The government did not give us proper compensation for using our land to build the development zone and plants. Now they come and shoot us. I don't know what to say."

Despite what the left would have you think, the woman quoted above is not in Iraq. She's in China. In a stunning display of how little has changed since 1989, Chinese police opened fire on villagers protesting the seizure of their land. None of the media outlets have a lot of information yet, and the casualty count ranges from 2 to 20. Fox News reports that protests have been on the rise in this region of China, due to rampant corruption, the recent land seizures and "a yawning wealth gap."

Not only do events like this highlight the growing unrest in China, they also seem to weaken realist theories that indicate a coming US-Chinese conflict. It is difficult to imagine that China will be able to maintain the economic gains of its delicate, "pseudo-capitalist" society, so long as it continues to trample human rights and deny the freedoms necessary to a functioning free-market system. Lew Rockwell, a man I don't often agree with, has an excellent article on why much of Africa is stuck in a cycle of poverty, and among the obvious factors he notes many of the countries lack any "rule of law, private property rights, and independent judiciary and limited government." Sound familiar? Well, it should. China has one of the worst records on human rights (here from human rights watch, and here for 2008 Olympic "watch"), the government controls the media and the market, and the fact that the protests involved land seizure should say enough in itself. It will soon become apparent that China cannot reap the benefits of a free society without succumbing to the desire for true human freedom that such societies unfailingly breed. The US will not go to war with China any time soon, especially if today was any indicator. China will go to war with itself.

Perhaps the only positive side to today's tragedy is that the Communist media chokehold failed utterly in containing news. The Great Firewall of China is a valiant effort, but the free flow of information made possible by the internet, and the blogosphere in particular, has once again failed to be slowed. Hopefully international outrage at what transpired will help fuel democratic movements in China. If you ask me, or this guy, they're long overdue.

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