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Thursday, July 20, 2006

Quote of the Day 

Only a crisis - actual or perceived - produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around. That, I believe, is our basic function: to develop alternatives to existing policies, to keep them alive and available until the politically impossible becomes the politically inevitable.
--Milton Friedman

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Moving the Stem Cell Goal Posts 

Once again, the President has reminded me why I voted for him, summarizing nicely the backward behavior of the minority of Congressmen, and explaining his opposition the stem cell bill:
It makes no sense to say that you're in favor of finding cures for terrible diseases as quickly as possible, and then block a bill that would authorize funding for promising and ethical stem cell research. At a moment when ethical alternatives are becoming available, we cannot lose the opportunity to conduct research that would give hope to those suffering from terrible diseases, and help move our nation beyond the current controversies over embryonic stem cell research.

The most aggravating feature of this debate is how much it has been an argument about the wrong things. To begin with, there's a lot of talk of the "potential medical miracles" that are being quashed by this veto. Give me a break. Those proponents of embryonic stem cell research speak of one set of potential recipients as victims, while opponents rightly point out that the embryos are the victims themselves, not those who are afflicted by a disease that they would have whether or not the bill passed. Stopping that avenue of research doesn't suddenly make leukemia more fatal, or cause scores of citizens to suddenly contract alzheimer's. It will make a lot of human beings suddenly dead; just not the ones who can vote yet.
Perhaps more disappointing, and troublesome in the long-run, is the way in which"stem cell" has become synonymous with "embryonic stem cell." While embryonic stem cell research may hold possibilities, the truth is that the only substantive developments to this point have come from non-embryonic stem cells. In fact,embryonic stem cells have yet to yield a single treatment, therapy or cure. That's right: 0. Not only do adult stem cells hold the same potential as embryonic, as demonstrated by a 2001 study, but they are already being utilized, and have been for some time. Research on grown and/or altered brain cells to treat Parkinson's began in the 80's, and bone marrow cells have been for decades. Proponents of this bill, who pull at the heart strings of grieving relatives and kind-hearted Americans, would have you believe that this research is irrelevant, or non-existent. To do so is to truly overshadow the "medical miracles" all around us.

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Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I think I've seen this movie 

Beware the giant yellow jacket nests...

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Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Thank you, Bill Clinton et al. 

Chinese espionage threatens the arsenal of democracy...

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Our Own "German Ideology"? 

Explain to me how this intoxicating swill is any different than the raw emotion that Marx appealed to?--it says all of the right things rhetorically, given its targeted audience, but makes no points at all on what a successful incarnation of it would appear to be in reality.

That piece is the work of a poet, and not a philosopher. It speaks some important truths, but it also intoxicates the reader with emotion removed from reason. Since the author seems to not follow up with reason and wisdom, he is thus a dangerous fool.

Even though Plato was being sarcastic when he had all the poets expelled from Socrates' Republic, he was making a very valid point with that sarcasm. Poets are dangerous. Especially this variety, that talk of truths without considering them with reason.

I sincerely hope that such unhinged populism does not take off in this country. That will be the true road to the death of our Republic and the return of tyranny.

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Our Own "German Ideology"? 

Explain to me how this intoxicating swill is any different than the raw emotion that Marx appealed to?--it says all of the right things rhetorically, given its targeted audience, but makes no points at all on what a successful incarnation of it would appear to be in reality.

That piece is the work of a poet, and not a philosopher. It speaks some important truths, but it also intoxicates the reader with emotion removed from reason. Since the author seems to not follow up with reason and wisdom, he is thus a dangerous fool.

Even though Plato was being sarcastic when he had all the poets expelled from Socrates' Republic, he was making a very valid point with that sarcasm. Poets are dangerous. Especially this variety, that talk of truths without considering them with reason.

I sincerely hope that such unhinged populism does not take off in this country. That will be the true road to the death of our Republic and the return of tyranny.

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Headline of the Day 

Rumsfeld as Rambo?

It's even funnier if you imagine his grin being caused by his savoring the deaths of our enemies (not very far-fetched at all, I think).

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Bombings in India (Refresh for updates) 

[Update: Thoughts] The death toll continues to rise, and as the numbers come in I think most people realize the scope and importance of this attack. Islamic terror is a global phenomenon, and no matter how much many on the left would like to pretend otherwise, President Bush and the Iraq war didn't invent it, and running out of Iraq and Afghanistan like we did Mogadishu won't solve anything. In fact, India doesn't even have troops in Iraq, a situation that we had recently been trying to change, and I now imagine will change rather easily. India is an important ally, and how they respond to this attack will speak volumes about their commitment to both defeating terror, and burgeoning conflicts in the region that may soon reqire their attention. This is only the latest tragic strike in a struggle against an ideologu so polarly opposite from our own that we must eradicate it completely or face our own demise at the hands exploding trains and hijacked airliners. It is tragic that events like this take place, and I hope that, if anything, it will remind Indians and Americans alike of the stakes of our present endeavor, and the further strengthen our resolve to see out this fight.

Elsewhere, I wonder if I'm the only one who gets the sick joke: the date is 7/11... and the bombings are in India. While a distinctly American connection, I wonder if it was intentional, or if the date simply reflects a fascination with the 11th. Go figure, Joe Biden. If it didn't hurt before, it sure will now.

[Update 1:33 CST] FoxNews reports the new death toll at 147, and says that Indian authorities are seeking the "terrorists" responsible. No surprise there, but I am intrigued by the TV report that they have a suspect in custody.

[Update 1:20 CST] Things seemed to have calmed down a bit, and updates will come only as relevant information becomes available. Casualty numbers have converged around 135 dead, 250+ wounded, which appears to be on the low end of the possible, given how clogged the train system is. As to who is responsible, there are no claims yet
"But suspicion was likely to center on Muslim militants fighting New Delhi's rule in disputed Kashmir, who have been blamed for several bomb attacks in India in the past. " (From Reuters)

[Update 11:13 CST] CNN has Video

[Update 11:10 CST] SkyNews has reported that more than 130 are dead, and they have some pictures up as well. Updates will be spotty until around 1:00 PM CST, due to meetings. Check back for continued updates.



[Update 10:44 CST] FoxNews reports Indian authorities had warning of an attack: "The Indian home minister said on Indian television that authorities had information of an attack but did not know when or where it was to occur...Police were also reportedly carrying out raids across the country following the explosions, presumably in search of suspects."

[Update 10:40 CST] Some thoughts: How will this effect the fragile, but recently calm, India/Pakistan relations? Undoubtedly it will strain relations, but it remains to be seen where the blame lies for the attacks. A Pakistan connection could spark a regional conflagration. Also, will this compel India, previously not a factor, to apply pressure to North Korea, Russia and/or China, responding to new found security concerns? While seemingly unrelated, it doesn't seem out of the question, given India's proximity.

[Update 10:25 CST]The attacks came shortly after the confirmed Kashmir Jihadi attacks in Sringar... they are assumed to be correlated, but no solid information yet... from the amount of damage done to the rail cars, the explosives would have to have been high powered, not the dinky work of a spontaneous amateur attack...this appears to have been carefully planned and executed, especially in light of the earlier attack and the simultaneous nature of the attacks... Indias's transportation grid is a mess anyway, and roads/trains etc. are jammed all over according to the new blog http://mumbaihelp.blogspot.com/... more to come, and please comment any relevant links or information...

[Update 10:00 CST] Horrific... Reuters is reporting over 100 dead (number is 104 as confirmed so far by police), and they have a few unlinkable pictures of the torn trains...

[Update 9:40 CST] Pajamas Media is reporting that CNN has upped the death toll to 40. Meanwhile FoxNews finally has a full story up, but they are lagging apparently. They still quote local news numbers, with 15 dead and 70+ wounded. Still no news on Al-Qaeda/ Kashmiri influence...

[Update 9:36 CST] Reuters is now saying over 30 dead, but the toll is unknown and is sure to rise

[Update 9:25 CST]From the WAPO: "India's CNN-IBN television news, which had a reporter traveling on the train, said the blast took place in a first-class car as the train was moving, ripping through the compartment and killing more than a dozen people...Another CNN-IBN reporter said he had seen more than 20 bodies at one Bombay hospital."

There are reports of bodies sprawled on tracks, and scores of walking wounded (still no pictures beyond screen captures)


[Update 9:15 CST] The only pictures so far are from CNN, and they're bad screen captures from Inian TV. See Below:


[Update 9:10 CST] Nobody seems to be sure exactly how many explosions
have taken place: AP reports 7, CNN is saying 6 and Reuters has at least 4

[Update 8:57 CST] Reuters has a map of the site, and some quotes, but no pictures yet... still no word on responsibility, cause, etc.

[Update] Fox News has some information up,


CNN is reporting 6 explosions at train stations in Mumbai... I believe there were reports some time ago that India had recieved threats... stay tuned for updates[Update 9:15 CST] The only pictures so far are from CNN, and they're bad screen captures from Inian TV. See Below:

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Monday, July 10, 2006

The sound of settling 

While I usually defer to Jason's somewhat consistent ability to post a quote of the day, after reading Matthew Scully's critique of stare decisis I couldn't help myself. He writes, concerning "the Constitution's knock and announce requirement." :
This requirement was found hiding in the Fourth Amendment in 1995, still panting heavily from a 206-year chase in which it had eluded legal minds before then.

The stinging sarcasm of this brilliant line of prose aside, the recent trend of activists judges to pack nonsensical, imaginary clauses into the constitution like Microsoft bloat-ware is hedging on dangerous. Last week's decision to afford constitutional rights to non-citizens, and de-facto treaty status with al-Qaeda, in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld(pdf warning) comes immediately to mind, but it is only the latest in a string of decisions that have expanded the role and scope of the constitution.

Who can forget 2003, when the Court ruled that Brown v. Board, and constitutional equal protection, do not apply in "narrowly tailored situations, effectively keeping alive overt racial discrimination in college admissions. Later that year, reversing the 1986 Bower's v. Hardwick,the court ruled that the constitution allows for the sanctity of the bedroom, a decision that Scalia sharply criticized as the court "departing from its role in assuring, as neutral observer, that the democratic rules of engagement are observed." Indeed, the supreme court seems much less concerned with insuring the constitution is adhered to, and much more interested in forcing the constitution to adhere to a given agenda.

Tracing the phenomenon of the "magical, growing bill of rights" to Roe v. Wade, the classic example, it's easy to glean the origins of modern judicial activism in the so-called "implied right to privacy." Taking the Constitution in the context of the American Revolution, which was amusingly sparked over taxes and gun-control, it's not hard to see why the founders designated some areas as off-limits to government. But even an extremely careful, dare I say liberal, reading of the Constitution reveals that the only enumerated rights to so-called privacy appear in the realms of religion, firearm ownership, consenting search and seizure, public speech and private thought. And while it is tempting to pretend that the 4th and 5th amendments protect all manner of activities, the document clearly reads otherwise:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
(emphasis, clearly, is mine)

As Justice Scalia rightly points out, it is left to other branches of government to determine what constitutes reasonable cause for crossing this threshold. The constitution makes no suggestion that some other, unenumerated realms of personal behaviour are simply off-limits to scrutiny entirely. The kinds of blanket protections issued by rulings such as Lawrence, and the profound social costs of absurd contentions like Hudson v. Michigan, are exactly the sorts of judicial over-stepping that were meant to be avoided by the constitution. Checks and balances, Mr. Kennedy, work both ways. The whole thing leaves me wondering: at what point will the constitution render itself ineffective by virtue of an implied right to disregard implied constitutional rights?

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Saturday, July 08, 2006

US Economy Booms 

Apparently the US economy, over the last 11 quarters, has, at the high end, grown by 50% of the total size of the Chinese economy (both measured by GDP). Not bad, and better than what happened under Clinton. Yet, the press doesn't seem to be writing the hyperbole it did only a short 6 or 7 years ago. Odd, isn't it?

UPDATE: Also, the Federal Deficit is decreasing dramatically, and should be down to 2.5% of GDP by the end of this year. That's a nice healthy level of deficit (especially if you remember at the end of WWII the Federal Deficit was 30%+ of GDP).

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Friday, July 07, 2006

Why Europe isn't cold and Labrador is 

The real story. And no, the answer is not the Gulf Stream like everyone thinks.

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

Quote of the Day 

It’s probably better to have him inside the tent pissing out, than outside the tent pissing in.
--Lyndon B Johnson, in reference to J Edgar Hoover.

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Wednesday, July 05, 2006

What's So Great About America? 

Dinesh D'Souza offers a few answers.

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Freedom, Liberty and Iraqi Baseball 

I suppose it's a disappointing critique that I have to ask at all, but has it finally gone out of fashion for (almost) grown men to cry in public? Not that it matters much, since I'm fairly confident that I was among the large minority at Wrigley Field anyway, by virtue of my wearing a shirt with a collar (now there's a sight: someone at the game other than the shortstop who has his shirt tucked in). Monday nights being half-price, and the promise of fireworks without the requisite 6 hour commute on public transportation being too good to pass up, I hustled out of work a few minutes early, hopped on the Red Line, and found myself watching my childhood favorite Orioles embarrass the hometown Whitesox.

I imagine that something as simple and commonplace as a Major League Baseball game must be astonishing to a first-time observer, particularly one who doesn't come from the background of commonplace excess and supersized proportions. A lot of thought is given on the Fourth of July to the immigrant experience, and more generally to the many pleasures, small and large, that we as Americans enjoy, and certainly baseball is mentioned in many of them. That we take it for granted is natural, there are more than 150 games in any season, and most Americans will attend at least one in their lifetime. Perhaps the miracle of this country is that we can be so aloof in the presence of such feats of engineering as sports stadiums, so un-astonished that we routinely gather in numbers nearing 6 digits and no one is trampled, or knocked off by an IDE or a stray round. Baseball will need a while before it gets a real foothold in Iraq, I would imagine.

Far off in Iraq, probably with fireworks of a different sort, it's likely that the soldiers and sailors commemorated the 4th in their own way (for whatever reason, Chicago did their celebrating on the 3rd, but the point remains). It is a perplexing place to be I imagine, a soldier in combat on such a day. Perhaps it is a reminder of why you fight, but I can't imagine they need much of a refresher course. It's a shame the same can't be said for the people for whom they fight. Pete Mehlman, pontificating about the coming construction of the "Freedom Tower" in New York, makes the absurd comment that "New York already has a Statue of Liberty. Liberty, freedom - synonyms, no?" I must object, and upon further reflection, adamantly so. The very essence of this war, what makes it both unique and imperative, is the distinction of the two. Paul Hartman writes that
"Freedoms are things that people EXTRACT from their government; Liberty is less derivative, more formative; a thing GRANTED by the people to the people in common...Freedoms end when they encounter a contrary freedom of another person. You are free to smoke, until you encounter my freedom not to inhale your smoke. Liberty lacks that distinction: my liberty never contradicts or limits yours."

In our War against terror we are dealing with an adversary who is hell bent not only on destroying the freedoms that define our modern way of life, but more fundamentally on destroying the sense of liberties that make such a way of life possible. Baseball games, with their raging drunks and scantily clad female fans, must certainly enrage Osama types, but not nearly as much as the idea that this is not only a part of our culture, but commonplace, accepted, and occasionally celebrated. To paraphrase, shamelessly, I realize this is elementary stuff, but sometimes it needs to be said.

The outcome of Sox game was a welcome surprise, being a Baltimore fan at heart, and the post-game pyrotechnics were surprisingly well put together, complete with a slew of patriotic tunes. The combination proved remarkably moving, at least for me. I am occasionally surprised by the sorts of events that can trigger memories of September 11th, or a surge of pride for our troops, and unleash a well-spring of entropic emotion. The rockets did glare that night, much to our collective delight in the stands, but the backdrop only served to remind me, yet again, that in a conflict with terrorists of such a foreign state of mind, we are in many ways living on borrowed time. That men and women are dying every day to stave off the next tragedy, or to prevent it all together, seems somehow larger than life, yet it is the very essence of liberty and freedom diverging once again. They forego many freedoms afforded to Americans, and are subjected to terrible conditions, arduous endeavors, torture or worse. Yet the liberty with which they are instilled, the fundamental human liberty that is uniquely recognized in the founding documents of our country, can never be taken from them. In fact, it seems to shine all the brighter as they trudge into the unforgiving dark, knowing all the while that we are behind them, albeit some distance away, seeing only the glow of the rockets and the distant thunder. And it is that which I celebrate on July 4th, and which admittedly still causes at least one grown man to cry.

Happy Fourth of July.

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Monday, July 03, 2006

This is awesome. 

The conservative's answer to fair-trade coffee.

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A Congressman in the know 

Ted Stevens of Alaska has some cogent thoughts on how the Internet works. Who would have guessed...

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Superman and America 

The difficult, never-ending burdens of power...

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Timely Ruminations 

This was written about Memorial Day, but it deserves attention this week as well. Read the whole thing.

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Sunday, July 02, 2006

Wow 

A veteran of WWI meets with Prince Charles. The vet was born in 1896!

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Marvel vs DC 

The never-ending battle (although, to unmask myself, everyone knows Spidey is the best of them all, with Cap being a close second).

I think that America's interest in comic books and super heroes represents something fundamentally good about us...

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