Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Bundling Bungled Edicts

The FCC made some ominous comments about how cable companies should be offering their product this week.

      Responding to calls from conservative groups for tighter standards for decency in broadcasting, the chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission has raised the option of allowing pay television viewers to pick their own channels, setting up a potentially costly brawl with the cable and satellite industries.

      Chairman Kevin Martin offered the option in a speech to the Senate Commerce Committee on Telecommunications and Transportation, reversing a well-established FCC position that favored bundling channels as the most cost-effective option for consumers.

      The so-called à la carte programming option is a pay-per-channel plan in which consumers would pick the channels in their cable package. That approach could replace the basic and expanded bundles now offered by cable and satellite TV operators.

Let me start by saying that I’ve been hoping that someday cable companies would offer channels a-la-carte so I could get the stations I want without the threat of channel surfing through dozens of meaningless and crappy stations.

However I have a hard time believing that having the feds call the shots is going to be healthy for the cable industry.  I also don’t think it will solve all the conservative fears about decency in broadcasting.  After all, can’t you just switch the channel, or get technology to keep your kids from watching it?  Or not get cable!  It’s not like power you know, you don’t NEED it.

Democratic struggle roundup

There is so much going on in the world it is sometimes hard to keep up with it all.  I read at least one site that is trying, but even he is focusing on actions having to do with Democratic struggle.

So here’s my Publius pundit roundup.

Egypt just had a second round of elections to fill up their parliament.  This is significant because you can only run for president if your party has at least 65 members in that body.

Mubarak’s ruling party is still in a majority, but the Muslim Brotherhood, which is an extremist group, has 76 seats.  The other reformist parties have a combined 10. 

Kirk Sowell argues that we need to remove any aid or financing we give them and get tough.  That oppositions parties are having such a hard time is from the government suppressing opposition.  They MB election wins are because they are running as independents and not under the MB party banner (which was outlawed in Egypt).

They are having elections in Venezuela again too.  This time all the opposition parties pulled out of the election, leaving Hurricane Hugo’s party as the only game in town.  They did this out of protest of Chavez’s rigged election practices. 

There were also some riots and general mayhem around the country.

The election results in Bolivia are around the corner.  Evo Morales just might win the presidency, and Carlos Alberto Montaner argues that the drug trade will find a haven there, Brazil will be adversely affected, the state might actually break up, fall into civil war (and take Chile with it).  Either way, the possibility exists that if Morales wins, the South American continent will be shaken.

Alvaro Vargas Llosa argues that Bolivia is in this fix because of Bolivian petty dictators who nationalized their countries and refused to see the light on opening up their markets.  Underlying this is the “enabler.”  The US propped up these petty “tinpots” in the name of political stability.

Honduras just had elections, and the incumbent president was defeated.  More on Honduras later.
Costa Rica chooses free trade!

Argentina slides further off the economic deep end.  The left leaning president down there, Kirchner, fired off all the last moderate economic advisors he had and appointed Chavez-type leftists.

Elections are probably not on the level in Armenia, where opposition boycotted the constitutional vote, and Chechnya, where the winners were handpicked by Putin and lots of the voters look like Russian soldiers.

Don't rescue me!

Bloomberg puts a big headline on this article about an anti-war Christian organization.  It seems that they had four of their workers in Iraq kidnapped by “insurgents” and Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) blamed the United States for the kidnappings, because they invaded the country in the first place.

      Kimberly Prince, a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams, said in a telephone interview from Chicago that the group doesn't want U.S.-led military forces to attempt to free the hostages.

So much for taking care of your own.  I respect that others, including other Christians, have opinions that differ from my own concerning the way our government operates.  It’s just embarrassing, that’s all.

Update: Glenn Reynolds responds:

      InstaPundit strongly supports the use of violent force to save lives of its workers (er, that's me), readers, advertisers, or unrelated onlookers should they be kidnapped, held hostage, or caught in the middle of a conflict situation. The use of grossly excessive or gratuitous violence, while not exactly encouraged, isn't exactly deplored, either.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Canada Falls

Here’s something that doesn’t happen in America ever, or even in Canada that often.  Due to our electoral system the President and members of congress are elected and serve their term and that’s it.  They can be impeached, but that is a difficult process.

However, in Canada all it takes is a vote of no confidence from the parliament and the Prime Minister is gone.  Just like that our frozen neighbors to the north have no leader, and must choose one in the next month.

This follows months of scandal and indictments.  In case you hadn’t been following it.

Darwinian Fundamentalism 101

I’ve talked about Intelligent Design and it’s relationship to Darwinism before.  A friend passed along this interesting blog that talks about Darwinian Fundamentalism.  The approach is sound, I think.

      I am a macroevolution agnostic. I used to accept evolutionary theory. Then I looked at the evidence. It became clear to me that macroevolutionary theory is built more on a priori philosophical assumptions than on evidence. Microevolution, on the other hand, is supported by the evidence. The distinction between the two is critical and is largely ignored, or not understood, by the mainstream media and general public.

For sure.  Microevolution being small changes in a species that changes the color or texture of their fur, gives them added resistance from disease (see last post) or some other minor adjustment.  Macroevolution being the change over time of one organism, say a fish, into another, like you.

Is Democracy like Sex?

Conversely, are special interest groups like parasites?  Take a look at this great article by the esteemed Professor Glenn Reynolds for the Vanderbilt Law Review where he ponders those questions and responds that the unpredictability and chaos of Democratic systems is not a bug, it’s a feature.

Monday, November 28, 2005


 When reading blogs during the day, I often read Instapundit first, or only.  Mostly this is because he is the most prolific and general, and will post on a variety of subjects.  I also appreciate the level of detachment he has to the subjects.  Opinionated, but not personal or partisan (although occasionally it slips in.

He usually has a running theme going on.  I found that War efforts and attitudes is a common one, and today is no exception.  (All links are care of Instapundit).

Democrats are finally saying that the best course for the war effort is to gradually withdraw troops as the Iraqi security forces grow and gain experience.  Really?  You mean like Bush has been pushing for the last two years?

Troops in Iraq continually see things differently than we do here in the USA.  Why is that do you think?   Glenn Reynolds thinks it’s a Reverse Vietnam.

Bruce Willis wants to make a pro-war film about Iraq.

And a useful Urban Legends buster about the war.

Throw Phil Collins out

Bush unveiled his program for border security and illegal aliens.  It looks similar to what he has been proposing since the election.  I note that it’s not as extreme as giving current illegals amnesty, nor is it as harsh as sending all illegals back immediately.

There are some aspects of it that I like.  I like that employers will be targeted and punished to a greater extent if they hire illegal aliens.  Also that there will be more of an effort to release the detained illegal in their country of origin (even their hometown?) as opposed to right across the border. 

However, they are talking about lots more money to do this, and I wonder how that money is going to be spent.  Also, while there isn’t absolute amnesty, the plan calls for a temporary amnesty for all illegals that come out of hiding and register.  They will be sent back out of the country after 3 years automatically and then they can re-try to get back into the U.S.

I have been disappointed at how Bush and the Republicans have been spending money lately.  However, this is an issue that needs some sort of action, so I’m tentatively behind Bush on this one.  However, I’m sure that’s not my final answer.

Climate Busting Conference

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving.
The UN climate conference begins in Montreal.  The article says that there will be about 10,000 people attending.  I’ve been to conferences where there were over 10,000 people before and what I want to know is, what is the environmental impact of transporting, housing temporarily (in posh hotels no doubt), and feeding that many people for 10 days?  Keep in mind that the feeding part is going to be mostly restaurant fare, and all the waste that implies.

All that for what gain?  Will anyone really care in 10 years if the US doesn’t sign?

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

What makes the economy tick?

Some people think that they know what makes the economy tick, or some think that they know what to look for when evaluating where an economy is going.  But everyone who says that has a different set of indicators when compiling their analysis. had an article that laid out the Democratic Party’s indices, which they claim are to test the waters of small business health.  But when you are looking at Health care costs, retirement and savings, Employee compensation, you are evaluating the health of the employment market, not the small business market.

As Jeff Cornwall, Belmont Univ. Center for Entrepreneurship, points out, some of their other indicators don’t tell you much about small business health either.

      Many of the factors that they load into their index are macro economic variables that have never been shown to really have much a direct impact on small businesses, including balance of trade and federal deficits. While there may be legitimate reasons to be concerned about these types of measures, there is no evidence that they have any direct impact on small business start-ups or growth.

      Other variables that they include are inconsequential or even meaningless for small business:
      - They include the Russell 2000 index, which is a measure of stock prices of smaller public companies. The vast majority of small businesses employ fewer than 20 people and they are not publicly traded.

      - They include venture capital activity. While this is an interesting factor for some discussions, VCs fund only a small fraction of one percent of businesses.

      - They include a broad measure of commercial credit, rather than the more specific measure of small business credit reported by the SBA that most recently showed a 5.5% increase in bank funding of small business.

      Probably the most important reason to be skeptical about the Democrats' SBI is what it does not measure. The cost/scope of regulation and tax rates have been proven in studies from around the world to be the two most important predictors of entrepreneurial activity. While the Democrats' SBI does include cost of regulations as one of their seventeen variables, they do not include a single measure related to taxes or tax rates.

      Why don't the Democrats want to include tax rates in their index? Could it be that it does not fit their agenda?

I noticed one thing in the article Cornwall linked to.

      With a perfect storm of rising interest rates, energy prices, and health care costs, the health of the nation's small-business climate is at an eight-year low, according to Congressional Democrats.

      Combined with the impact of hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma, these conditions have "hindered the ability of entrepreneurs across the country to start and grow their businesses," Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.) said in statement.

Hurricanes hinder the ability of entrepreneurs from starting and grow businesses?   If you view the market as static, then this might make sense, but the market, and the small business world is very dynamic, and a hurricane might hit the market of a particular area hard, but open and free markets are designed to come back from things like that on their own.  Free Enterprise minded people will look upon events like that as opportunities, and lacking any official or devious inhibition, they will create jobs and investment on their own.

Which brings me to my point, that the only two things that “hinder” small business development in this country are un-ethical anti-competitive strategies by large corporations, and the government.

Not in that order.

Protest Jimmy

Gateway Pundit rounds up several different protests.  They all have a common target though: Jimmy Carter.

This comes after his “certification” of the election results in Venezuela last year, vindicating Hugo Chavez’s latest presidential bid, despite massive voter intimidation and countless charges of election fraud.

One wonders if the Carter Institute is just following good business practices.  I mean who decides what third party gets used to monitor elections?  Doesn’t the government of the country in question have something to say about that?  So if your target clientele are governments run by fascist or socialist dictators, then your objective is to appeal somehow to those potential clients.  What better way than to certify the re-election of one of their buddies.

Truly, I don’t believe what I’m saying.  The reason that Carter has so much authority, it seems, to be able to get away with giving the thumbs up to corrupt governments is that people of the left persuasion still believe in him.  There’s nothing that I really can point to in order to dispel this thinking.  Jimmy really could be an honest, trust worthy guy, personally.  However, in that case he has the nativity of a 6 year old when it comes to foreign policy and electoral corruption.

Friday, November 18, 2005

WMD still unaccounted for

Frontpage has this interesting interview with Bill Tierney, former military intelligence officer, who worked at Guantanamo and in Baghdad.  He was also an weapons inspector for UNSCOM in Iraq.

Money quote:

      FP: Ok, so where did the WMDs go?

      Tierney: While working counter-infiltration in Baghdad, I noticed a pattern among infiltrators that their cover stories would start around Summer or Fall of 2002. From this and other observations, I believe Saddam planned for a U.S. invasion after President Bush’s speech at West Point in 2002.

Powerline notes that this period was immediately preceded by Bush’s West Point Speech and Senator Rockerfeller’s private visits with middle east leaders where he let slip that it was his opinion that Bush made up his mind to invade Iraq just after 9/11 in 2001.  Seeing as Rocky was a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee at the time, I’m sure they took this seriously.

It means that Saddam might have been preparing for a US invasion as early as 8 months before the actual conflict.  He could have waged his bets that the US really wouldn’t invade or that he could hold them off if they did, he could have considered using his illegal weapons against the US if they invaded, or he could work on hiding the weapons out of country.  He seems to have wisely chosen the last option.

I say wisely with the caveat that the other two options would have been monumentally stupid.  Option one was a long shot in either case, and option two would have confirmed to the world everything he had been trying to hide for 10 years.

Since intelligence found weapons with serial numbers indicating that they had at one time been in Iraq in Belgium, and then quite a few Iraqi Scud missiles in Sudan in 2004, I would think that option 3, above, was actually put into effect, and you can reasonably argue that Saddam did, in fact, have WMD contrary to UN mandates.

Google Earth follow up

John Hanke, Product directory for Maps and Earth at Google, responded to the French report that I mentioned the other day.

      Does Google Earth ever censor or alter any data due to military or security concerns?
      "To date, we haven't made any changes to data."

      What about the incident regarding the White House grounds reported in the French study?
      "It was a USGS data set and in that data the USGS pixellated three areas. We had that data up for about a year and we recently pushed out some higher resolution data for about 40 cities, including Washington, D.C., from a private vendor, Sanborn. We did not make alterations to the prior data set."

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Viewing Ayn Rand's world

I just finished reading an exciting (not) book by Ayn Rand called Atlas Shrugged.  You might have heard of it.  For those of you who haven’t, it is a 1000+ page tomb that encompasses all that Rand believed as a philosophy of life and economics.  It had an interesting story, but was filled with dry speeches by the main characters that ended up saying the same thing over and over again.  If any of you end up reading it and get through the 60 page oratory by the main hero of the tale, I congratulate you.

Rand’s main philosophy is a Libertarian extreme position, where everything economic and social is out of the hands of the government, with that official body only handling military protection of the country and the protection of individual freedoms.  Her antagonists in the book were what she referred to as “Looters.”

A looter is someone who wants the benefits of material wealth without producing anything for it.  I.E. government redistribution of wealth to those in need would be seen as a looter activity.  The decree that no one can own their own ideas or means of production so that all may have the benefit of your knowledge and productivity is a looter concept.

More often than not her characterizations were well outside the reality of how people think.  The protagonists were unreal in their abilities and attitudes.  They were too perfect, and the refuge of fiction allowed them to get away with Rand’s philosophical ideals without reality causing problems.

Her antagonists were deaf, dumb and blind, operating in a United States in which, it seemed, there were so few people who believed in free enterprise and capitalism that the looters were able to run the country into the ground in just a few years. 

As much as I criticize the book, I do hold to Rand’s theories of economics.  To a large extent she was right about the way the economy works.  I would add an addendum to her theory about government in that it should also protect the environment, where appropriate, and watchdog businesses that stifle free competition by market manipulation and muscle.  As much as Rand was right, that people should be allowed to profit from their efforts, she was clueless to basic social psychology and the spiritual state of man-kind.  Left to themselves without social borders, people are generally selfish and will bend and break the rules to get what they want.  It’s called sin, and we are all guilty.

What’s interesting is that after finishing the book, while reading the news and other blogs, I am now noticing that there are many instances of “looter” thinking in politicians and world leaders.   Take France for instance:

      Chirac continues to rely on the cumbersome burden of the state instead of the potential of the markets by creating 50,000 new civil service jobs for youths from poor neighborhoods. This is not new thinking. Every time France has an employment problem, the state fills the gap but never solves the problem. Why not deregulate small business and labor, lower taxes, and encourage trade ties with the countries that these immigrants originate and maintain connections with? It would provide ample opportunity and naturally decrease the unemployment rate, leading to greater prosperity and less unrest in the lower fringes of French society.

When the government creates 50k new jobs, where is the money to pay for those jobs coming from?  From taxes.  Where do taxes come from?  From working individuals, employed by private industry.  Did the industrial and service (i.e. tourism and the like) increase it’s output to generate the extra taxes that will pay for these jobs?  No.  Taken to the extreme, the more a government continues to add programs and jobs to it’s payroll, the more burden the taxpayer has to hold.  Eventually there is a breaking point.

Rand was from Russia and lets note that Soviet Russia reached that breaking point long before the wall in Berlin came down.  People were starving.  Society broke down, and they are still paying for it.

Example 2:

      The Pension Stability and Transparency Act, approved 97-2, would require companies to fully fund traditional pension plans, which provide retirees with a monthly check based on salary and years of service. Such plans are under-funded by as much as an estimated $450 billion.

This is exactly the kind of thing that Randian economics would frown on.  Congress is constantly tinkering with the market and how private companies do business.  Where does it end?  Rand thinks she knows.

Blogger Freed!

Egypt releases blogger from custody because of public outcry.  Witness the power of the Blogosphere!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Google Earth

Interesting article on a report done by a French company called EADS Fleximage on Google Earth.  They were studying it’s impacts and uses for defense and security.

Interestingly, Google has not seen the report yet.
I recall, while attending a conference for a large GIS vendor, hearing lots of talk, some excited some fearful, about Google Earth and what it means to the GIS community.  It’s not replacing the traditional GIS (yet) because it can’t do mapping or analysis very well or at all.  However it’s use as a cheep (free for now) viewing device for simple datasets is unprecedented.

      According to the study, the immediate success of Google Earth can be attributed to two factors: "the unusual accuracy of the images" and "the software's great simplicity of use[,] enabling everyone to intuitively fly over the globe." As for the former, it is not clear what the authors mean — especially since they later bemoan the low resolution of much of the imagery for areas outside the United States and Europe and the inaccuracy of the tiling.

I agree, and I would add that one of it’s strengths is the speed at which it downloads the data to your PC.  Lightning faster than the software I use, which is only trying to get it from a local server as opposed to the internet.  Which is not a reflection of our local network, which is run pretty well.

The article points out that there were anomalies in the accuracy of certain areas.  I.E. when they tested geographic data with known accuracy, there was a significant shift in Google Earth.

However, the part of this article that caught my attention was this:

      The study discusses the question of whether images of buildings and installations of high military value should be censored or altered and who should do so. It shows the grounds of the U.S. Naval Observatory, in Washington, D.C., where the Vice President's residence is located, blurred in Google Earth — and images of the White House altered.

So if you are looking around on Google and notice something unusually fuzzy, or blurred where you know there is obviously something there, it might be the government.

      It also shows a mysterious square patch in the middle of nowhere, in Nevada. Since the coordinates appear at the bottom of the image, you can go look for it and formulate your own theories about this: 37 degrees, 48' 17.04" N, 115 degrees, 59' 33.55" W.

I looked.  Not sure what they are talking about.  If it’s that white patch just north of there, could that be a salt like deposit?  Or is it a nuclear dump facility?  Best part:

      However, the study then goes on to raise the issue of what should be done in the face of the continually accelerating technological evolution in the field of satellite imagery. "Is making these images available really dangerous? The image itself does not really represent a threat; rather, it is the analysis that can be carried out on it which could represent a danger. ... Censoring Google is not the solution." Moreover, it points out, censoring generates curiosity. Ultimately, then, the study argues, the best solution to real or perceived threats of satellite imagery to national security is... "camouflage, while this is possible." To bolster this claim, it shows images of a camouflaged military airport in China. However, besides not showing the coordinates, the authors seem to miss the irony: they are displaying a military airport, which can be clearly identified as such by the shape of the planes on the tarmack, to make the point that it cannot be identified because the buildings have camouflaged roofs!


Bad doctrine

OK, this is really sad.  And truly bad doctrine.  Is this site for real?  If so it’s another maddening reason why non-Christians have such a hard time taking Christians seriously.

More defending Bush

Do not miss this summary of the strategic overview of the war by Tigerhawk.  He is updating something that Steven Den Beste wrote a couple of years ago right after the invasion.  It details the motivations and tactics of the terrorists and of the US, and sets up arguments as to why invading Iraq was a sensible thing to do.  It’s long and exhaustive on this point, but it doesn’t even cover some other good reasons for taking Saddam out of power, which deserve their own lengthy treatment.

Via Winds, we also have these other great essays on the war and the stakes we face. 

There’s a lot of good argument for the war and the job we are doing over there, and it’s pretty crappy to see that, not only have Democrats who originally thought Saddam was a nasty character and dangerous but are now lashing out with unsubstantiated criticism, not some Republicans have started to get nasty with the President about the war.

I don’t mean here that criticism of the plan, or of aspects of the plan, that may not have been well thought out, is bad.  I’m just on the President’s side here when he says that a lot of the criticism has been false and unsubstantiated.  People are trying to re-write the history of how this all got started and ignoring facts as they were presented at the time.  I.E. it’s one thing to say that since we didn’t find anything we should re-evaluate what we are doing there, or even that the CIA needs reform.  But to say that Bush fed us a bunch of misinformation leads me to believe the worst about the mental state of the critics.

If you don’t agree with me (and Donald Sensing), you also don’t agree with the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Even so, I don’t think the Senate action taken this week means anything grand.  So the Senate now gets quarterly reports about the state of affairs in Iraq.  Bully.  We’ve just created a few jobs for some office administrators.  The thing that isn’t getting emphasized enough is that the Democratic version of that bill got shot down in flames.  That bill called for a timetable on withdrawing all troops from Iraq, which the President has said time and time again is a bad idea.

Really, what I’m seeing here is some Senators wanting to make the appearance of disagreement with the President, separating themselves a bit, in preparation for a 2008 Presidential election bid.

Update: Hugh Hewitt thinks so too.

Media frenzy

The media is all over Bush these days, and doesn’t seem to let up any when he tries to defend himself.
Indeed, for some people he appears to be “escalating” the bitter war debate.  Since when is defending yourself the same as escalating the conflict?  Oh, yeah, when it’s Israel.

In the mean time, some people just can’t help but prove the President’s point.

The White house is fact checking NYT articles now too.

As long as I’m on the press’ case there’s this article about the Civil Right’s Division of the Justice Department, where some disgruntled lawyers are piping about how hard life is over there because of the administration.  (Quotes are from Powerline)  People are leaving left and right.

      If one reads deep enough into the article, however, one learns that the attrition rate during the five years of the Bush administration (13 percent) is essentially the same as it was during the last five years of the Clinton administration (11 percent). I would have expected a much larger disparity based solely on the high rate at which baby-boom lawyers are retiring these days.

The organization Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law complain that the government isn’t bringing enough cases dealing with “discrimination based on the statistical impact on women or minority groups.”   Although…

      As the Bush's administration's former civil rights chief says, "It's not a prosecutor's job to bring lots of cases, it's a prosecutor's job to bring the right cases." Which the Bush administration seems to be doing. In the next to last paragraph of its piece, the Post quotes a Justice Department spokesman who notes that "the department is on the winning side of court rulings 90 percent of the time compared to 60 percent during the Clinton years."


I also noted that the press is really going after this Willie Pete issue.  I admit I’m torn about the use of White Phosphorus in battle.  If we have other mechanisms that cause smoke for flushing out and protection and all that other stuff, why do we need that variety? 

Anyway, I see this as some other eventual attempt at attacking Bush, even though it really has nothing to do with the current administration.  It’s almost like they are setting up a straw monkey to see how he responds to it.

Update:  Here is A Soldier’s Perspective on how badly the media gets it wrong about WP and how it is actually used in combat.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Randian abortion discussion

Here is one of the most intelligent series of posts about abortion, from a pro-choice point of view, that I have ever laid eyes on.  May I introduce you to:  Jane Gault.

The Darwin Police

A scientist who publishes a relatively obscure scientific journal has been getting harassed by the Smithsonian because of a peer reviewed article on Intelligent Design (ID) he published in the journal.

      Last year, he published in the journal a peer-reviewed article by Stephen Meyer, a proponent of intelligent design, an idea which Sternberg himself believes is fatally flawed.

      "Why publish it?" Sternberg says. "Because evolutionary biologists are thinking about this. So I thought that by putting this on the table, there could be some reasoned discourse. That's what I thought, and I was dead wrong."

Sternberg files an account with the US Office of Special Council because he was afraid of reprisals.

      (Special Council James) McVay declined an interview. But in a letter to Sternberg, he wrote that officials at the Smithsonian worked with the National Center for Science Education -- a group that opposes intelligent design -- and outlined "a strategy to have you investigated and discredited." Retaliation came in many forms, the letter said. They took away his master key and access to research materials. They spread rumors that Sternberg was not really a scientist. He has two Ph.D.'s in biology -- from Binghamton University and Florida International University. In short, McVay found a hostile work environment based on religious and political discrimination.

I’m not really surprised by this.  I’ve been hearing and reading reports of this sort of thing in Universities and other aspects of academia.  Opponents of ID want you to believe that people holding that worldview are religious luddites, but their actions betray their inability to confront the theory of ID in an intelligent manner.  Since this is NPR doing the reporting, I wasn’t surprised to see this sort of statement:

      The Sternberg case is probably the best-documented battle in the war between the vast majority of scientists and a tiny insurgency promoting intelligent design.

Ruining an otherwise good piece of journalism.
So, what other group of people do left leaning media types refer to as “insurgents?”  The bottom two paragraphs of the article do their best to paint the ID movement as a micro fraction of the scientific community, while the truth is that there are a great many Christians and religious people in the scientific arena, and the proportion of those who at lease take ID seriously are greater than NPR would like you to believe by using descriptive terms such as “tiny” for ID proponents and “vast majority” for ID opponents.

Hat tip Instapundit.

Happy Veteran's Day!!

Many bloggers have big posts on what Veteran's day means to them, or to America.  I don't have much to say.  I hope that all our veterans feel honored on this day.  Coming from someone who's father served in Vietnam and grandfather served in WWII, I'll take this opportunity to say that I honor and respect every man and woman who has ever put on the uniform of a United States soldier and gone into battle to protect what we all too often take for granted.

Thank you!

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Beste is back.

Steven Den Beste that is.  I used to read his old blog with regularity, and it provided some of the best in depth thought and history for the context around world events.  He seems to be posting over at RedState for the time being. 

He made a note about “please show some couth and don’t gush all over the comments.  And how about not sending me email ‘welcoming me back.’”  Just in case there was any doubt it was really him.

To my adoring public

This is scary.  According to this judge, just having your name become a part of general discussions on the internet, i.e. blogs, qualifies you as a public figure, and therefore gives you minimal protection against libel.

      Among other things, Cole said plaintiff Eliza Thomas had become a public figure because there had been "substantial public debate" regarding her and her husband on the internet.

      Thomas claimed First Coast News, a joint operation of two TV stations, defamed her while reporting her efforts to remove the feeding tube from her brain-damaged husband, who is on life support.

      Gabel, who represented the TV stations against Thomas, successfully fought off the defamation suit by, in part, pointing to web coverage of the plaintiff's legal battle over her brain-damaged husband.

      "It's sort of judicial recognition of the importance of internet news," Gabel said. "It shows the power of individuals on the internet."

      Judges often will look at media coverage to see if someone fits the criteria to be a public figure. But in the Thomas case (.pdf), there hadn't been any traditional media coverage; only internet denizens had been involved.

      Bezanson said the judge made a bad decision because Thomas didn't act to inject herself into a public controversy -- one of the criteria for determining a public figure -- but was simply trying to protect her rights.

      "(Someone doesn't) become a public figure just because a newspaper or some part of the media picks (a story) up and makes a big deal of it," Bezanson said.

By that definition, would I be a public figure, just because I operate a blog?

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

International riot update

Publius talks about the French riots:

      As we see here at Publius all the time, governments that fail to address a lack of opportunity all too often face the prospect of high degrees of civil unrest. The difference is that the countries we cover here tend to be considered part of the Third World, whereas France is assuredly more modern. But similar conclusions can be drawn. If France continues to fail, its ethnic French population and the politicians that represent them will increasingly become polarized from its unrestive immigrant population, eventually culminating in much worse than what we have seen over the past two weeks.

The argument I've been hearing is that this is a race riot, like the ones in the US in the 60s and early 70s.  However, the US had already taken action to mitigate that by passing the Civil Rights act in the 60s, but France has no solution to this.  Not good.

Also: check out his posts on the results of the elections in Azerbaijan, where opposition claims fraudulent behavior by the government and are protesting.  What a shock.

Election updates

The measures in California that were supposedly designed to reform the political environment down there got shot down in flames (see last post).  By reform I suppose it could be interpreted as trying to upset the Democratic hegemony in the state legislature.

In related news, the Kansas state Board of Education voted to approve science education standards that treat evolution “with skepticism.”  Also in Texas, the public upheld a ban on same-sex marriage.  And so as some states waltz further to the left, some waltz further to the right.

The Virginia and New Jersey governor races seem to, by the sounds of the press, give Democrats hope.  I however fail to see how electing Democrats to the top state spot, when the gentlemen leaving the post were also Democrats, can be construed as a major victory.  I don’t think the Dems should be over-confident.

In the fine state to our north, Washington had several measures worth looking at.  One was a repeal of the gas tax that the state enacted last election cycle.  The tax was 9.5 cents per gallon.  Considering the price of gasoline these days I’m surprised that measure failed!  But it was close.

It’s also harder to smoke in Washington now, thanks to voters overwhelmingly approving more restrictions on public smoking.

In another interesting twist, Washington had a dose of what Oregonians went through last year with two measures designed to reform the medical malpractice lawsuit arena, one from the trial lawyers and one from the Doctors associations.  Both failed miserably.

Oregon didn’t have any elections this month, but the process is starting to build steam for the elections we will have at the beginning of next year. 

Roguepundit visited the Oregon Elections Division site to see how many initiatives have been submitted this year, and it’s a whopping 96.  Most of which will not get the required signatures.  But he noted that an increasing number of measure are being submitted by congressmen from Salem. 

I know that the initiative process is there because at times average citizens feel like there are important issues that congress fails to address, but when congressmen start using that system instead of the one they are getting elected and paid to use, then you know there’s a problem.

In my county, Multnomah, a temporary tax that was designed to help schools through the early 90s economic doldrums is on it’s way to becoming more permanent.  The mayor proposed that the measure, which would tax income at about half the rate that the old “temporary” tax did, not only include this county, but two of the surrounding counties. 

Now it turns out that those other two counties want nothing to do with the measure.  So Multnomah is alone again in desiring to be only one of the four urban counties in the nation to impose an income tax.  That’s a shame, really, because I think Multnomah is the only place that would willingly enact a local tax on itself, so that adding the additional counties would hurt it’s chance.  And that would suit me just fine.

Also, the push for open primaries begins in earnest.  I already talked a bit about that here.

Chickens do tend to come home to roost.

As the Washington Post is going to find out.  With all the fervor about the investigation into the unauthorized release of CIA operative information by the current administration, it is setting a precedent, and the CIA is going after the Post for it’s treatment of information that led to a story on CIA “Secret Prisons.” 

So, because journalists hammered so hard on the Plame leak, which wasn’t much of a leak anyway, they are going to see their ability to report on clandestine activities, whether for good or bad, of government organizations severely limited. 

You see you can’t have your cake and eat it too.  People with a definite partisan bent can’t seem to be consistent these days.  Note that the measure calling for a new redistricting plan in California was voted down.  Democrats in California campaigned vigorously against that measure, knowing that it would hurt their numbers in the state legislature.  Who cares if it is more fair, or would allow the people of California better representation. 

Ironically, the Democrats are all for this type of redistricting plan in places like Ohio, where they are the minority party.

Democrats are trying to link the Governator with Bush, trying to use Bush’s latest bad numbers to drive Arnold down.  It would be unfortunate if that strategy is working, considering how liberal Arnold is in comparison to a President who is much more moderate than the left makes it appear.

(HT: Instapundit for all the links)

And then God made Cappuccino...

Mmmmmm, Coffee.  This study is now creating some doubt that caffeine is the culprit causing high blood pressure over time.

      Here's good news for women who love coffee: Drinking it doesn't seem to cause long-term high blood pressure, a study suggests.

      But for some reason, women in the same study who drank colas did seem to have a greater risk of high blood pressure. Researchers were surprised at that and cautioned the study wasn't conclusive.

      Caffeine is a well-known ingredient in both beverages, and has been shown to cause short-term increases in blood pressure. But coffee drinkers in the study were no more likely than abstainers to develop high blood pressure during 12 years of follow-up.

      Previous data on coffee and hypertension is mixed, but there's a common perception that its temporary effects on blood pressure mean an increased long-term risk, said Dr. Wolfgang Winkelmayer, the study's lead author and a researcher at Boston's Brigham and Women's Hospital.

      "We found strong evidence to refute" that belief, the researchers wrote.
      There was even some evidence that women who drank lots of coffee -- four or more daily cups of regular or decaf -- faced a slightly lower risk for developing high blood pressure than those who drank little or none.

      Winkelmayer said that may be because coffee has lots of antioxidants, substances which are thought to help protect the heart and reduce risks of cancer. He said it's unclear how sodas might increase blood pressure.

      The government-funded study is in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.
      Nutritionist Margaret Savoca whose work has linked caffeinated soft drinks with higher blood pressure in black teens, said she suspects caffeine explains Winkelmayer's results for cola drinkers.

      Sodium might also be a culprit, said Dr. William Frishman, chief of medicine at Westchester Medical Center in Valhalla, N.Y.

I wonder if people who drink coffee are more likely to be people who have lots of stress in their lives anyway (not caused by the coffee) and that led to the conclusion that coffee was the cause.

Caffeine is still thought to be an addictive chemical, though, so it’s not some all healing wonder drink now.  I can just see someone making that giant leap after a study like this.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Iranian Hitler

Dan Darling analyzes the current state of affairs regarding Iran.  Are things going downhill?  The election of the mayor of Tehran to the presidency is not encouraging.

      In fact, the new president made clear right after his triumphant election victory, "We did not carry out the Islamist revolution in order to introduce democracy." He hammered his objectives home to the rejoicing followers. "Our revolution seeks to achieve worldwide power," he said, continuing, "I am a pure fundamentalist." He repeats these principles the length and breadth of the country, castigates "Western decadence," promises "the strictest interpretation of the religious laws of Shari'a." Internationally recognized conventions on women's rights are for him "a fatal offense against the values of Islam." This is not so much a devout Muslim speaking as rather one who knows that he is in possession of the one, the pure truth. The masses follow him.

      Within the close circle of his loyal followers, Iran's new state president Mahmud Ahmadinezhad revealed his great vision. It stems from the days of the 1979 Islamist Revolution. Now it harbors within it a new explosive force. "The new Islamic revolution" according to Ahmadinezhad, will cut out the roots of injustice throughout the entire world. The era of the Godless regime, tyranny, and injustice has come to its end," he prophesies. "The wave of the Islamist revolution will soon reach the entire world."

Not good.  Darling outlines the threats from this, including the regime using acquired nuclear power and terrorism as blackmail against western states.  Iran is quickly turning into by far the most dangerous nation on earth.

      For years, according to the findings of Middle Eastern and Western intelligence services, Iranian intelligence services have already worked together repeatedly with Sunni jihad organizations of Al-Qa'ida. "As an Islamist, I go to the Saudis to get money," the Jordanian GID man outlines the current practice of Islamist holy warriors. "When I need weapons, logistical support, or military terrorist training and equipment, I go to the Iranians."

As if there was any doubt that Iran was harboring terrorists.
Really, read the whole thing.

The Cicero author over at Winds of Change ponders.

      Throughout the 1930s during Hitler's rise, the West maintained the hope that appeasement would contain the Nazis in Germany. Chamberlain claimed victory for appeasement in 1938 when he and Hitler signed the Munich Agreement.

      In March, 1939, Hitler invaded Czechoslovakia, in spite of the Munich Agreement. This date is largely recognized as the point at which appeasement was no longer viable -- that only force could counter fascism. And then a few months later, Hitler invaded Poland, and World War II began in earnest.

      Throughout the first half of this decade, appeasement has been the weapon of choice to counter Iran's nuclear ambitions. In addition, Europe's handling of its burgeoning Islamic immigrants for the past few decades -- corralled into dreary welfare cities -- has been another kind of appeasement, meant to assuage the passions of Muslims in places like France, the Netherlands, England and Germany.

      So this week I am wondering: Is November, 2005 similar to March, 1939?


Abortion notification

The Armed Liberal notes that there is going to be a proposal to limit abortion in California for minors.  Minor girls will have to get permission from a parent or guardian or, failing that, a juvenile court.  AM seems to agree with the premise of the idea…

      One of the reasonable regulations on gun ownership says that minors may not buy guns, or in many states, possess them without an adult's presence.

      I don't think that's a bad thing. And yes, I know about the idyllic days when kids would bring their 30-30 to school on the opening day of deer season.

      Similarly, I'm a strong supporter of some core right to abortion - probably not including late-term abortions. But I'm troubled at the idea that a girl who cannot get her ears pierced (or here in L.A., her bellybutton pierced) without Mon or Dad signing off can go to a clinic and have an abortion with no adult supervision or involvement except by the abortion provider.

He actually is leaning against it, saying that he would support that kind of thing if the legislature passed it, but it doesn’t seem like the kind of thing to raise to the level of referendum.

But, considering the make up of the current Californian legislature, do you think that’s ever going to happen?  If the vast majority of Californians agree with you and considers it an important issue, but the legislature would NEVER pick it up, why wouldn’t that make a good reason to raise it by initiative law?

This kind of thing could get interesting, as the makeup of the SCOTUS changes with Bush nominations, and one of these laws is bound to be brought to that level.  The current nominee, Alito, made a judgment in a case regarding a law that required a wife to alert her husband when she was getting an abortion.  He argued in favor of the law.  I think this kind of thing is similar.  Considering the social and legal bounds of immediate family, I don’t know how you can say that this sort of restriction isn’t just.

The REAL French opinion of America

Sounds like the French have the same problem over there that we do over here.

      Three examples do not necessarily tell the whole story, but the fact that all three of these things happened spontaneously and most unexpectedly, when combined with my total experience in France, tell me that the notorious French anti-Americanism is centered in the incestuous mindset of the bureaucrats who all came out of the same school and in the media, who here, just as in the U.S., have a symbiotic relationship with the political left.

This is after the American living in Paris describes several spontaneous conversations with French folks who think Bush did the right thing.

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Who is Jay Sekulow?

Every other week or so I get an Email from an organization called the American Center for Law and Justice.  I was originally interested in this group because they had a show on a Christian radio station, which was designed to help callers with legal advice.  Jay Sekulow was the host.

Now I get these Emails that detail what Mr. Sekulow is doing nationally to try and subvert the liberal agenda in one form or another.  The language is always fatalistic, as in if we don’t succeed, the rights of Christians will vaporize.  It is always followed with a statement like this.

      This is why we need your help today.  We are already hard at work, but the preparation for a Supreme Court case of this magnitude is complicated and involves extensive research and several moot courts between now and November 30th.  It is also extremely expensive.

I guess legal work at the highest levels is expensive.  I wonder how expensive it truly is, however.  Now comes this.

      But there is another side to Jay Sekulow, one that, until now, has been obscured from the public. It is the Jay Sekulow who, through the ACLJ and a string of interconnected nonprofit and for-profit entities, has built a financial empire that generates millions of dollars a year and supports a lavish lifestyle — complete with multiple homes, chauffeur-driven cars, and a private jet that he once used to ferry Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia.

So I guess he doesn’t need my money all that bad.  I was to understand that this was a Christian organization fighting for righteous causes, but I have to wonder about the motivations of a man who asks for money from common people while living in apparent opulence. 

While I am not against people living this way from money that they have earned by producing something valuable for sale to the public, all his money is coming from donations that people have made for the purpose of a cause that he has outlined. 

Since this is a Christian organization, and as a Christian I have a moral duty to say something (Matt. 18), I’ll say this:  Mr.  Sekulow, I don’t think that you are representing the faith well, and I encourage you to evaluate your own faith and lifestyle and ask yourself if Christ would approve.

Capitalism <> Democracy?

This report about how China is cracking down on dissenters in the wake of the multi colored revolutions last year from Publius is interesting.

      You might be able to see this in the context of almost all of Donald Rumsfeld’s trips to China, in which he tells the government that it needs to democratize as it economically liberalizes. The major problem here is that as economic pressures open up Chinese society, the government keeps trying to close it in order to maintain power.

      Yet while this is certainly a problem, the Chinese government in general is so corrupt and so inefficient with regards to its duties that certain inequalities are surfacing that threaten to turn China completely backward.

I have heard it said by some that capitalism and democracy don’t need to exist together for either to work.  They routinely point to China as the example of an authoritarian state that is doing well economically because of the liberal economic policies of the last two decades.  However, the statement above might indicate that the relationship was only temporary.