Friday, December 31, 2004

Math-Geek Jokes From Derbyshire


These are the best ones:
Q: What's huge, white, swims in the ocean, and has only one side?
A: Moebius Dick.

Q: How many number theorists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
A: This is not known, but it is conjectured to be a prime number.

Q: How many light bulbs does it take to change a light bulb?
A: One, if it knows its own Goedel number.

Q: Why did the chicken cross the Moebius strip?
A: To get to the same side.

***Excuse for not doing math homework:
---I could only get arbitrarily close to my textbook, I couldn't reach it.

***Set-theoretic campfire song:
Aleph-null bottles of beer on the wall
Aleph-null bottles of beer,
You take one down and pass it around,
Aleph-null bottles of beer on the wall...
I made up my own little joke back in the day. Not a math joke, but a stoner joke:

Me: "How many stoners does it take to screw in a light bulb?"
You: "I don't know, how many?"
Me: [pause, look of recognition that you just said something] "What."

Otay, that's it for this blog in 2004! Happy New Year!

Dorm-Room Stoner-Think

Lileks is very philosophical today. The column goes many places. I liked this little bit:

"Yes, hon."

“Why did God have to be born first?”

Out of nowhere, that. I swear she’s telepathic.

“So he could make everything.” That should do it! Next subject!

“But who borned God?”

“I don’t know.”

“You don’t?” This is a surprise, since I know everything. In the course of the day I have explained the origins of dirt, seeds, leather, crayons, bagels and tin. What am I supposed to say? “We don’t know, because our brains really aren’t capable of getting that part, anymore than Jasper can understand how cars work; it’s enough for him to know that they move. Of course, this could all be an echo of some ancient coping mechanism that ascribed the inexpicable manifestations of natural forces to a patriarchal, interventionist superbeing who demanded slavish obedience from the brutish, mewling meatbags he had created, and smote them when the mood took him. That’s what some would say. That’s too easy, by my lights. Either one requires faith; it depends what you want to have faith in.

Instead I just said:

“I mean God just is.”

“Oh.” Pause. “There are hundreds of skeletons in the town, and they’re all inside us.”

What Kind of God

Would allow a tsunami? Opinion Journal has published a reflection.

As a Christian, I cannot imagine any answer to the question of evil likely to satisfy an unbeliever; I can note, though, that--for all its urgency--Voltaire's version of the question is not in any proper sense "theological." The God of Voltaire's poem is a particular kind of "deist" God, who has shaped and ordered the world just as it now is, in accord with his exact intentions, and who presides over all its eventualities austerely attentive to a precise equilibrium between felicity and morality. Not that reckless Christians have not occasionally spoken in such terms; but this is not the Christian God.
The Christian understanding of evil has always been more radical and fantastic than that of any theodicist; for it denies from the outset that suffering, death and evil have any ultimate meaning at all. Perhaps no doctrine is more insufferably fabulous to non-Christians than the claim that we exist in the long melancholy aftermath of a primordial catastrophe, that this is a broken and wounded world, that cosmic time is the shadow of true time, and that the universe languishes in bondage to "powers" and "principalities"--spiritual and terrestrial--alien to God. In the Gospel of John, especially, the incarnate God enters a world at once his own and yet hostile to him--"He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not"--and his appearance within "this cosmos" is both an act of judgment and a rescue of the beauties of creation from the torments of fallen nature.

Whatever one makes of this story, it is no bland cosmic optimism. Yes, at the heart of the gospel is an ineradicable triumphalism, a conviction that the victory over evil and death has been won; but it is also a victory yet to come. As Paul says, all creation groans in anguished anticipation of the day when God's glory will transfigure all things. For now, we live amid a strife of darkness and light.

When confronted by the sheer savage immensity of worldly suffering--when we see the entire littoral rim of the Indian Ocean strewn with tens of thousands of corpses, a third of them children's--no Christian is licensed to utter odious banalities about God's inscrutable counsels or blasphemous suggestions that all this mysteriously serves God's good ends. We are permitted only to hate death and waste and the imbecile forces of chance that shatter living souls, to believe that creation is in agony in its bonds, to see this world as divided between two kingdoms--knowing all the while that it is only charity that can sustain us against "fate," and that must do so until the end of days.

I look at all of this in several ways. Number one, this world is not the Happy Ending, and we shouldn't be shocked when it doesn't act like it. The Happy Ending (Heaven) is something we should thirst for and strive to reach.

Number two, the bell tolls for all of us. Suffering isn't additive in such a way that a huge body count in a single event makes the world a more evil place. If suffering worked that way, wouldn't we be able to say "better that one extra person die today, than that 100 million painfully stub their toes", assuming the pain of death is less than 100 million times as intense as the pain of stubbing a toe? One person can only experience one person's worth of suffering (which includes empathy and grief for the suffering and loss of others). No one, except for God in his omniscience, has any direct experience of "collosal cumulative suffering". No single merely human person feels the weight of all suffering in the universe. We should be just as incensed at the fact that a single particular person can lose his youthful vitality, growing old, senescent, feeble, and infirm, and eventually dying in great pain, as we are about these huge disasters. Death on any scale is an outrage that cries out to God for redemption.

Third, Eternity gets the final Word. All's well that ends well. If God ultimately achieves the glorious victory of a new Heaven and a new Earth, where "every tear is wiped away", and allowing St. Paul to say "I consider the present suffering to be as nothing compared to the glory that awaits us", then in the grand scheme, there is no injustice being done.

Finally, if it does all seem like a horrific injustice, where God must be some sort of evil, tyrannical, uncaring SOB for letting it all happen, maybe he deserves some sort of severe punishment. Maybe we need to tie Him to a post, flog Him, spit on Him, ridicule Him, shove a crown of thorns on His head, make Him stagger under the weight of a cross, nail Him to it, and jeer at Him as He dies. Maybe that would even the score...

Christians Are Ruining Christmas for Everyone

Okay, we're only in Day 7 of the 12 Days, so it's still Christmas (we moderns have an odd tendency to celebrate Christmas all during Advent, which isn't Christmas, and doesn't start on All Saint's Day, and then to ignore Christmas for 11/12 of the time it's actually here). So I claim the right to link to this, which I'd overlooked previously.

Christians Ruining Christmas for Everyone

The folks here at Seattle Hemp Products are all in a titter over the holidays. There will be no tittering in my cubicle this year, though. As chairman of the company's morale committee, I've been charged with the dreaded task of planning an office "holiday party" that is both festive, and inclusive of all people of all faiths.

Except Christians. In past years, we've had problems with Christian extremists going nuts and wishing people a "Merry Christmas" despite being strictly warned not to, so we decided to exclude them entirely from this year's event. I had a cunning and quite hilarious plan to issue bogus invitations with phony dates and locations to any suspected Christian employees, but CEO Tony "Sherm" Sherman nixed it. Too risky, he said. Some clever Jesus freak might get wise to the scheme and crash the party. They might start singing "Christmas Carols" or mention Christ - a clear violation of the Separation of Church and State. So we all agreed it would be best to simply fire the Christians rather than risk them ruining anybody's Christmas.

I put human resources diva Christina Draper in charge of refreshments, provided she change her first name to something less offensive. Teena suggested we go potluck, but that never works because everyone always brings corn chips and twinkies. A few bad apples might even bring religiously-themed food, such as christmas tree cookies or egg nog, and then all hell would break loose. So after weighing the risks and costs, I decided to scrap the food this year. If anyone is hungry, there's a Denny's right across the street.

Entertainment posed another problem. We hired a lounge singer one year, but he freaked out in the middle of Bob Seger's "Hollywood Nights" and spontaneously segued into "O Holy Night". Several non-Christian employees were seriously offended before we were able to tackle the bastard to the ground and toss him out of the building. So no entertainment, either. Thanks, biblethumpers, for sucking even more joy out of the hoilidays!

Gone also is the traditional, yet highly offensive, arrival of Santa Claus and gift exchange portion of the evening. I can't begin to list all the religious connotations regarding jolly ol' "Saint Nick". So instead of Santa arriving on his "sleigh" and passing out presents to all the employees' children, I thought it would be neat to have a homeless person stagger in, lay a guilt trip on everybody, and then pass out. The boss put a kibosh on that one as well, unfortunately. What if the bum turned out to be a Christian? In his drunkeness, he might start proselytzing to the kiddies. They might get weird ideas into their heads. They might start voting Republican and beating up gays. So with heavy heart, we agreed to ban children from the party altogether for their own safety.

Lastly, and most importantly, was what to name the event. "Christmas Party" was out of the question for obvious reasons. "Holiday Party" implied that there was a holiday to celebrate, which pointed a gnarled finger right back at Christmas. So after much deliberation, we all agreed on "Mandatory Staff Meeting".


Via James Taranto, we have this satire, which is pretty close to the truth. I think it's pretty pathetic the way the press uses the word "fetus". It sounds like some kind of disease or tumor. I guess that's the point. Anything to avoid use of the word "baby". "Fetus" is to "Baby" as "Untermenschen" is to "Jews"?

Thursday, December 30, 2004

Tsunami Diary

I've found a pretty comprehensive diary by a guy who was in Phuket when the wave hit. Pretty riveting. Read from the bottom. Also, this blog site is just about number one in traffic now. A college undergrad who'd been blogging for a couple of weeks decided he'd collect links to tsunami videos as they became available, and quickly became blog site number one on the internet (400,000 views yesterday)...

Matthew 11:16

Sort of fits the occasion. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
"To what shall I compare this generation? It is like children who sit in marketplaces and call to one another, 'We played the flute for you, but you did not dance, we sang a dirge but you did not mourn.' For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, 'He is possessed by a demon.' The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, 'Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is vindicated by her works."

See also, this.

Good Stuff From The Anti-Chomsky

Sometimes when I read Victor Davis Hanson, it feels like it did when I used to read Chomsky, except, you know, for the insane part.

Sometime around the 1980s, the Right saw the demise of the Soviet Union as an opportunity to evolve beyond realpolitik to promote not just anti-Communism but grassroots democracy, coupled with free-market globalism from Eastern Europe to Latin America and Asia. In contrast, the hard Left stayed in its knee-jerk suspicion of the West and continued to give a pass to authoritarians from Cuba to Iran who professed socialism, thinking that the world was a static zero-sum game in which somebody's gain spelled another's loss — oblivious that real wealth could be created by a change of mentality and technology and not mere exploitation.

As the old politics lie in ruin from hypocrisy and incoherence, the Left needs to get a new life. Here are a few more suggestions:

* Remember that multilateral inaction — whether in the Balkans, Rwanda, or Darfur — is often calculated, selfish, and far more lethal to millions than risky interventions like removing the Taliban and Saddam.

* Quit idolizing Europe. It was a far larger arms merchant to Saddam than was the United States; it supplied most of Dr. Khan’s nuclear laboratory; it financed much of the Oil-for-Food scandal; and it helped to create and tolerate the Balkans genocide. It has never freed any country or intervened to remove fascism and leave behind democracy — silly American notions that are to be caricatured except when it is a matter of saving Europeans.

* Stop seeing an all-powerful United States behind every global problem. China is on the move and far more likely to disrupt environmental protocols, cheat on trade accords, and bully neighbors. The newly expanded Europe has a larger population and aggregate economy, stronger currency, and far less in trade and budget debts than does the United States — and is already using that economic clout for its own interests, not global freedom from dictators and autocrats.

* Don't believe much of what the U.N. says anymore. Its secretary general is guilty of either malfeasance or incompetence, its soldiers are often hired thugs who terrorize those they are supposed to protect, and its resolutions are likely to be anti-democratic and anti-Semitic. Its members include dozens of nations whose odious representatives we would not let walk inside the doors of the U.S. Congress. The old idea of a United Nations was inspiring, the current reality chilling.

* Stop seeing socialists and anti-Americans as Democrats. When a Michael Moore compares beheaders to our own Minutemen and laments that too many Democrats were in the World Trade Center, he deserves no platform alongside Wesley Clark or a seat next to Jimmy Carter or praise for his pseudo-dramas from high Democrats. Firebrands like Al Sharpton and Michael Moore are the current leftist equivalents of 1950s right-wing extremists like the John Birchers. They should suffer the same fate of ostracism, not bemused and tacit approval.

* Ignore most grim international reports that show the United States as stingy, greedy, or uncaring based on some esoteric formula that makes a Sweden or Denmark out as the world's savior. Such "studies" always ignore aggregate dollars and look at per capita public giving, and yet somehow ignore things like over $100 billion to Afghanistan and Iraq or $15 billion pledged to fight AIDS in Africa. These academic white papers likewise forget private donations, because most of the American billionaires who give to global causes of various sorts do so as either individuals or through foundations. No mention is made of the hundred of millions that are handled by American Christian charities. And the idea of a stingy America never mentions about $200 billion of the Pentagon's budget, which does things like keeping the Persian Gulf open to world commerce; protecting Europe; ensuring that the Aegean is free of shooting and that the waters between China, Korea, Taiwan, and Japan are relatively tranquil; and stopping nasty folk like the Taliban and Saddam from blowing up more Buddha monuments, desecrating Babylon, or ruining the ecology of the Tigris-Euphrates wetlands.

Action and results, not rhetoric and intentions, are what matter. Cease blaming others for declining popularity. There is neither a Karl Rove conspiracy nor an envisioned red-state theocracy. No, the problem with our Left is what killed the dinosaurs: a desire to plod on to oblivion in a rapidly evolving world.

There are also good insights about China becoming way more of a cause of ecological nightmares for the Gaia idolaters (my words, not Hanson's), than the US ever will be.

They Preach 'Nuance', But Do They Practice It?

The blog Page1of3 has a post which examines two different views of the electricity situation in Iraq. The two views, taken together, give a nuanced and interesting picture of what is really happening, which is sort of a 'bad news', 'good news' situation. Page1of3 reflects that the press is only interested in pointing out the 'bad news' half of the equation, which in the grand scheme, is really the lesser half, and, really, I think, far less interesting than the big picture.

No Principles, Just Preening Superiority

Thomas Sowell has a great column today.

The government will allow you to risk your life for the sake of recreation by sky-diving, mountain climbing or any number of other dangerous activities. But it will not allow you to risk your life for the sake of avoiding arthritis pain by taking Vioxx.

There is no principle behind such differences in government policy. No one has to show that some particular medication is more dangerous than some particular recreation in order to get the medication banned while the recreational activity is allowed to go on.

Businesses that conduct dangerous recreational activities are not being denounced for "corporate greed" by making money at the risk of other people's lives. But such charges are flung around regularly about pharmaceutical companies -- and are taken seriously in the media.

The sad fact is that many issues that are argued as if they were matters of principle are in fact only matters of attitude. We are used to hearing denunciations of "unsafe" drugs, cars, water, and various other things that crusaders and the media happen to have singled out.


One death in a boxing ring will set off loud demands to ban that sport but hundreds of deaths from boating accidents will elicit no such response. Nor are such gross double standards confined to safety issues.

Americans will be denounced for greed and materialism by people from countries where individuals do not donate nearly as high a percentage of their incomes as Americans do, nor volunteer a fraction as much time to philanthropic causes as Americans do. Moreover, there will be a chorus of Americans on the left echoing the foreign charges.

Politicians who give away the taxpayers' money to social programs will be lionized in the media for their "compassion." But many businessmen across the country, who each donate millions of dollars of their own money to help the less fortunate, get no such praise, if they are mentioned at all.

Facts don't matter to those for whom principles don't matter, however loudly those principles may be proclaimed. Many so-called "thinking people" do remarkably little thinking.


That vision casts them in the role of wiser and nobler people -- defenders of the downtrodden, protectors of the environment, advocates of peace and opponents of war. There is always some crusade that requires their superior wisdom and virtue to be imposed on others.

Particular attitudes towards particular things that happen to be in vogue among those who wrap themselves in the mantle of chic virtue serve as a badge of identity, showing who is one of the special Us rather than the more ordinary Them.

This is heady stuff and they are not going to give it up for anything so mundane as facts or logic or principles. The best that the rest of us can do is to stop calling their ego trips idealism.

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Even A Stopped Clock

I saw the below cartoon in the paper edition of National Review. I searched for the artist name on Google and found that he's a San Francisco Chronicle cartoonist. Most of his cartoons seem to be seriously tired, lame, liberal foolishness, but I liked this one (click to zoom):

Click to Zoom

Excellent Comment

A liberal writer named James Wolcott said:
I root for hurricanes. When, courtesy of the Weather Channel, I see one forming in the ocean off the coast of Africa, I find myself longing for it to become big and strong--Mother Nature's fist of fury, Gaia's stern rebuke. Considering the havoc mankind has wreaked upon nature with deforesting, stripmining, and the destruction of animal habitat, it only seems fair that nature get some of its own back and teach us that there are forces greater than our own.

To which a commenter replied:

That is so deeply offensive that I can scarce think of a comment capable of expressing my revulsion. But let's try. Please excuse the rant.

It's amazing to me that the "left" (how outmoded and meaningless these distinctions are) have evolved into the most uptight, anti-rational, superstitious and piously moralistic bunch since the Puritans walked the wild forests of America (though I hesitate to make the comparison, since the Puritans accomplished great things). The "left" may joke and titter and wheeze about "fundy Christian wingnuts" but find someone lecturing you about your immorality, your materialism, your sinful pride, your lack of spiritual value and, most likely, they will be driving an old Volvo with the radio tuned to "Pacifica" and a GEORGE BUSH IS A LIAR bumper-sticker on the fender. Your average lefty is quicker to take offense than a blue-haired old presbyterian; they are constantly monitoring everyone for signs of racism, sexism, colonialism, anti-animal hate speech. They will criticize your car, your house, your synthetic fiber sweater, your swear words, your cigarettes, your sandwich, your choice of grocery bag, your skin color (if it is in the dusky pink range). Life to them is a laundry list of strictures, taboos and lamentations. They hate science, they fear Christianity, they think heterosexual porn is rape, they believe in magic, aromatherapy, tribalism; they scream about Bush killing children but fail to bat an eyelash at the consequences of "pro-choice". They cringe in disgust and embarrassment at the "black and white" moral distinctions of Bush (and Reagan in his time) when he speaks of the "axis of evil", yet no one uses the word evil more than leftists when describing the Bush Administration, capitalism, America, Israel. They mock and scoff at the president's religiosity, yet speak in reverential tones of Gaia, Buddha, Wicca, Yoga. And on and on.

In other words, they are as wrought out, blinkered and dangerously conflicted and superstitious as your average Puritan (or probably closer to your average medieval peasant), yet they call themselves progressives and call everyone else fundamentalists, warmongers, fascists. Freedom is slavery.

The end result of stewing in this murky broth of half-truth, projection, fear, and mis-education? A man sitting in Manhattan at the dawn of the 21st century, writing on a weblog about poorly-understood prehistoric deities taking delight in the destruction of sinful man's hubris-saturated civilizations. Vive Memor Lethi Fugit Hora. Pride goeth before the Fall. It almost makes you want to laugh, if you weren't crying.

Beautiful Argument

I love (for real, no sarcasm in this post) this kind of reasoning.
When Logos came to our solar system from a galaxy far, far away to study the decline of American Civilization, he found our tendency to make life or death political decisions based on emotion to be profoundly fascinating. He analyzed many aspects of our society, but on no issue was our dislocation from reality more acute than on the separation of church and state.


An impartial observer of this sort would first be struck by the obsession we have with purging every remnant of religious expression from our public sphere. Why, with the frenetic sense of urgency with which we pursue this course of action, you would think the task was one of isolating some new virus that threatened to wipe out mankind. Of course, Logos would find no constitutional basis for such a complete rending of our religious traditions, but those of us who have read the Constitution already know it doesn’t exist. Anyway, one way or another, the law eventually takes the shape of the morality of its creators.

Logos first may ask a very simple question: if these ideas really have been handed down by God, the Creator of the Universe, don’t you have an obligation to infuse your every institution, including the public ones, with them? Have you not then been enjoined to inculcate children with them, in as well as out of school?

Of course, I don’t have to tell you what the response will be. An army of naysayers will utter something to the effect of: “Well, you may think God is these ideas’ progenitor, but not everyone agrees with you. Many people believe they are simply man-made.”

Ah, yes, such an obvious answer, and the final word. End of discussion.

Except, you see, there’s one minor detail that it overlooks. For Logos will respond, “If they are man-made just like the secular ideas, why do you distinguish between the former and latter? Why do you insist that these man-made ideas that we call “secular” are grist for the public mill, but these man-made ideas that we call “religious” cannot be. If they’re all man-made, wherein lies the difference?

This is how you put the secularists in a box, for they will be trapped. In either case, there is no justification for excluding religious ideas from the public square. It transforms the debate from “Do they deserve equal status with secular ideas or lesser?” to “Do they deserve equal status with secular ideas or greater?” If these ideas are simply man-made, then the distinction between them and secular ones is a false one, ergo they enjoy equivalency. If, however, these ideas originated in the Infinite Mind, then they must take precedence in all things over mere products of limited minds.

One frailty of limited human minds, however, is that they often cling to old, mistaken ideas long past the time when they should have been disabused of them. So, alas, the debate wouldn’t end there. The next tactic might be to claim that these “man-made ‘religious’ ideas” are offensive to many who don’t hold them.

But Logos, steeped in reason, has the answer to that too. Quite simply, offense cannot be given, it can only be taken; what is offensive is very subjective. And I’m sure that liberals can understand this. After all, they’re the first ones to use the argument that what constitutes offensiveness is completely subjective when, for instance, defending pornography against those who would censor it. Be that as it may, however, the fact is that traditionalists find many secular ideas that are foisted upon them and theirs to be deeply offensive. For instance, multiculturalist, feminist, radical-environmentalist ideas, and notions about the rectitude of homosexuality, are often the stuff of indoctrination in public schools. Some of you may agree with some of these ideas, but that’s irrelevant. Logos’s point is that they are as deeply offensive to some people as religious fervor is to the most ornery atheist.

So, religious ideas cannot be stricken based upon their origin or a garden-variety offensiveness argument, but the opposition still has one card to play...

Score Another One For The Blogs

The Dinosaur Media loses another fight. Instapundit has the best roundup I've seen on it. In the roundup, he links to Kerry Spot, who also has a good entry on the subject.

Here's an introductory teaser:
DON'T THESE GUYS HAVE EDITORS? The Star Tribune's Nick Coleman has an end-of-year meltdown in which he savages the Power Line guys. Compare his hysterical column with the measured responses here and here and it becomes plain that Hugh Hewitt's point is right: Lots of bloggers are just better writers than lots of people with cushy column sinecures at monopoly papers.

Eloquence, Even In Befuddlement

Jonah Goldberg, in The Corner:

First of all, why do we have to call them tsunamis? Yes, I know tidal waves -- or tsunamis -- have nothing to do with the tides. But tsunami means "harbor wave" and last I checked a tsunami need not show up in a harbor to be a tsunami.

Second, I would like more clarity on this 500 MPH wave thing. I'm very reluctant to bring this up because A) I don't know a lot of physics and B) I don't want a deluge of email from people who do (I've learned the hard way that engineers and physicists are relentless emailers of technical information given the slightest provocation) and C) my wife has already called me a dork for thinking about this as much as I have. But am I crazy for thinking that the mainstream media has conflated two kinds of "waves" into one?

Here's my question: Does the actual, specific, ontologically exact column of water making up the tsunami-wave travel for the full thousand miles all the way to shore or does the shockwave do the travelling? Everytime I think about it I conclude it has to be the shock wave and not the actual water column.

By illustration: if I line up three (or, theoretically, three thousand) soccer balls so that they are touching in straight column and I kick one at one end into the next ball over, that kicked-ball will barely move. But the third soccer ball will go flying because the force transferred (think of those desktop space-wasters with the knocking balls suspended by string).

So isn't that what happens with the tsunami? The shock wave travels through the water, not the particular water molecules that were once 1,000 miles away right? I mean if the water immediately around the focal point of the quake had been died yellow would you be able to see a wall of yellow water moving through the blue ocean for hundreds of miles until it washed up on shore?

I know this might be hair-splitting but I'm genuinely curious. And if it's not a shock wave but the actual specific water molecules, then what happens to the water it moves through?

I will be monitoring email closely for a short amount of time. Please watch this space for a plea for no more emails on the subject, once I have my answer.

Looks like he got some answers.

Phoning It In

The Kerry Spot reacts to a WaPo opinion piece, specifically this excerpt:
Scores of thousands of people, many of them paid (how else do you squander $200 million?), knocked on millions of doors during this campaign. The Democratic-leaning canvassers left information, repeated a canned sales pitch and moved along. They did not engage the people in real conversation. They did not listen to their concerns. They did not recruit real volunteers to work on their own blocks. They did not take the time to find out which pastor or rabbi was a leader in an area and which congregations people attended. They were progressive salespeople with a high quota of contacts and no time to relate, who disappeared from people's towns and lives the very moment, on election night, that they learned the sale had not been made.

It was as if they had never been there. And in a way, they never were. These two tendencies — celebrity worship and quick-hit canvassing — betray the central problem at the heart of the Democratic Party's political culture. The party has no time or patience for the complex work needed to listen to Americans, to understand their range of views and positions, and to engage them on their deepest interests. Even worse, many in the hierarchy of the Democratic Party have contempt for ordinary Americans — for their red faces and moderate churches and mixed, often moderate, views.

No amount of money can solve this problem. No think tank has the answers. No rising senatorial star can save the day. And no Hollywood hero can substitute for the fundamental changes the Democrats need to make to contend for the large, pivotal middle of the American electorate.


Letter to the San Francisco Chronicle:
Editor -- I'm wondering what would happen if the United States redeployed all the Iraqi-based troops to Asia to assist in attempts to find and identify victims, to help staff hospitals and clean the water to prevent diseases, to help in the cleanup and rebuilding efforts.

I wonder what Iraq would do if the world spotlight was moved to Asia and Iraq was no longer front-page news. I wonder if Osama bin Laden thinks he is bigger news than the tens of thousands of victims of one of nature's largest disasters.

I wonder if the morale of our servicemen and servicewomen and their families would be brought to new heights by knowing they were helping to alleviate some of the pain from a disaster of devastating proportions.

Here is a chance for the world to unite and for politics to be set aside in order to help a part of the world torn apart by this tragedy.

Walnut Creek

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

A Black Hole Of Bias

I'm surprised any light at all got out from the event horizon of a particular paragraph of a Tom Shales column in the Washington Post. Scylla and Charybdis fisks this paragraph. The bias density is just unbelievable. A nicely done presentation by the blogger.

Found this via The Anchoress.


Belmont Club has a short roundup of some facts about the tsunami, including an animation showing that it hit most of the worst disaster spots within 30 minutes of each other, plus the surprising text of the tsunami bulletin itself.

Blame It On SUV's

I saw somewhere today that a couple of environmentalists have said (with a straight face) that global warming is the culprit for the tsunami. Iowahawk has written a great parody of this kind of thinking.

excerpt in full:
Top Scientists Warn: Sea Gods Angry

Washington, DC - Pointing to the devastating weekend Indian Ocean tsunami that left over 24,000 dead, an international blue ribbon committee of climatologists and ecoscientists today issued a stark warning that man-made pollutants have increasingly "make water spirits angry."

The blunt conclusion prefaced a 2300 page meta-analysis of hundreds of scientific studies and computer models detailing links between human industrial activity and wrathful eco-deities. Entitled "Fire Bad: Fire Very Bad," the report warns that the planet faces additional catastrophies unless drastic regulatory action is taken to appease Earthen-furies.

"Unclean money devils anger sacred water spirit Tai-Waku," explained Martin Knudson of Scripps Oceanic Institute. "He now call angry to son the whale, 'make slap with anger-tails! Bring vengeance-surf to villagers!'"

While most empirical evidence supports the theory of wrathful whale-tail slappings, some scientists are exploring alternative hypotheses for the weekend tsunami. Ecobiologist Jane Geary of UC Santa Cruz points to mounting evidence that the ocean spirit-world may have been driven to gastrointestinal rage by gas-guzzling SUVs.

"Thunder-wagon make smoke cloud of greenhouse gas," explained Geary. "hungry Tai-Waku eat smoke from thunder-wagon, pass giant wind with mighty fury."

Peter Novak, chief science officer of the Sierra Club, dismissed Geary's "Divine Fart" theory, arguing it was more likely that SUVs had triggered the tsunami via a spirit underword sexual encounter.

"Wheels of thunder-wagons wake up Big Earth Spirit-Mother, make to crazy tingle in hairy child-place. She now go to water lair of Tai-Waku, make big angry love on tectonic plate," said Novak. "Big Earth Spirit-Mother say, 'if ocean rocking, don't come a-knocking.'"

Although they disagree on the precise causes of the wrathful spirit world, scientists were largely unanimous in recommending immediate global regulatory action. Remedial steps suggested in the report include ratification of the Kyoto treaty, elimination of automobiles, volcanic altars for virgin sacrifices, creation of a sustainable urine-based economy, and improved faculty dental benefits.

"If not act now, it too late," said report editor Paul Erlich of Stanford University.

Erlich, whose 1978 best seller "Ice Time Come Soon" is widely credited with saving millions of lives by warning of the massive age of glaciation that threatened Earth during the 1980s, said inaction might anger the spirit world further.

"Me not know when Tai-Waku make wrath again," said Erlich. "Me need more grant money."

A Great Joke

This one is short, but says a lot. Via Instapundit.

The Innumeracy Of The MSM

Via James Taranto, an example of media analytical ineptitude. This sort of thing is so typical.
The New York Times, meanwhile, is flummoxed by the math of the disaster:

At least a third of the dead were children, according to estimates by aid officials. . . . The realization began to emerge Tuesday that the dead included an exceptionally high number of children who, aid officials suggested, were least able to grab onto trees or boats when the deadly waves smashed through villages and over beaches. Children make up at least half the population of Asia.

If children make up half the population, then one-third of the dead is an exceptionally small number.

A Tsunami Can't Kill You If You Were Aborted Or Never Conceived

A friend sent me a link to this foolish editorial.

The second lesson is that out-of-control population growth in developing nations is forcing swarms of people to live in flimsy homes in river deltas, tidal flats and other low sectors where they are vulnerable to such events, including monsoon floods. Curbing the population explosion could reduce the number at risk, or at least prevent it from doubling.
Yep. There's no reason whatsoever to live in a village near the ocean or a river. Except for overcrowding.

If there's the slightest risk that you'll be killed in a freak disaster, well, better not to be born at all. It's odd, but I never have seen an anti-population-growth advocate volunteer to start easing the problem by removing himself. P.J. O'Rourke once wrote a book chapter on the "population bomb" worriers. He titled it "Way Too Many of You, Just Enough of Me".

The author of the editorial does not even consider that among the victims were many vacationers from all around the world. If we didn't have leisure time, surplus wealth, and airliner travel, those deaths could have been prevented. So maybe these things should be done away with. For safety's sake. For the children.

Couldn't You Have Had This Epiphany Before The Election?

David Horowitz notes a Thomas Friedman editorial in the NYT. Friedman has figured out that the "insurgents" are not freedom fighters on the side of good.

As the Johns Hopkins foreign policy expert Michael Mandelbaum so rightly pointed out to me, "These so-called insurgents in Iraq are the real fascists, the real colonialists, the real imperialists of our age." They are a tiny minority who want to rule Iraq by force and rip off its oil wealth for themselves. It's time we called them by their real names.

However this war started, however badly it has been managed, however much you wish we were not there, do not kid yourself that this is not what it is about: people who want to hold a free and fair election to determine their own future, opposed by a virulent nihilistic minority that wants to prevent that. That is all that the insurgents stand for.

Indeed, they haven't even bothered to tell us otherwise. They have counted on the fact that the Bush administration is so hated around the world that any opponents will be seen as having justice on their side. Well, they do not. They are murdering Iraqis every day for the sole purpose of preventing them from exercising that thing so many on the political left and so many Europeans have demanded for the Palestinians: "the right of self-determination."

What is terrifying is that the noble sacrifice of our soldiers, while never in vain, may not be enough. We may actually lose in Iraq. The vitally important may turn out to be the effectively impossible.

Well, bloody hell, Friedman! You and your MSM pals have been trying to engineer this for the entire war! Is this epiphany of yours just a momentary thing to crank out a column, or are you going to start supporting the victory effort?

Friedman's insight came from looking at the AP photo of the election workers being executed in broad daylight last week. In the remainder of the article, Friedman goes on to blame the prospect of losing on anyone but the press.

Shattering Ludicrous Stereotypes

Mackubin Thomas Owens examines the whole "one-third of Vietnam veterans are PTSD-afflicted time bombs" myth, which is currently being trotted out again as an argument against the Iraq war. He cites statistics which demolish the "conventional wisdom".

Monday, December 27, 2004

The Blog Revolution

Instapundit has a good post with links, which I'll let do the talking. I started reading the Wired article he links to; that looks good, also.

-----[excerpt in full]-----

I FINISHED HUGH HEWITT'S NEW BOOK ON BLOGS LAST NIGHT, and I definitely recommend it to anyone who's interested in blogs, new media, or public relations.

There's a history of blogs, an analogy between the changes blogs are bringing to the media priesthood and the Reformation (with which I heartily agree) and -- most significantly -- a lot of good advice to businesses, of both the media and non-media varieties, on how they can use blogs to help themselves, and how to avoid becoming, like Trent Lott or Dan Rather, the focus of a damaging "opinion storm." He also catches on (actually, I think Hugh was one of the first to make this point, in a post on his blog) to the importance of what Chris Anderson is calling the Long Tail -- that in the aggregate, the vast hordes of small blogs with a few dozen readers are more important than the small number of big blogs with hundreds of thousands of readers. (Here's an article on that topic by Anderson, from Wired.) I think that's absolutely right, and Hugh has some interesting things to say about it. (And journalists mostly don't get this point at all -- every time I get interviewed it seems that they want firsts, mosts, and biggests, when I keep telling them that the real story of the blogosphere is the day-to-day interaction and writing of a whole lot of blogs).

Cutting to the chase (which is what blogs do, right?): This is the best book on blogs yet, which isn't surprising since it's by a successful blogger who also knows a lot about communications and the world in general. I'm sure it will get a lot of attention within the blogosphere, but I hope that it will get a lot of attention elsewhere, because the people who really need to read it are the people who won't find out about it from blogs. Best quote: "Blogs are built on speed and trust, and the MSM is very slow and very distrusted."

posted at 10:03 AM by Glenn Reynolds

[-----end excerpt-----]

It looks like there's also a good, concise "Year in Blogging, 2004" top ten roundup here.

Biblical Disaster In Modern Times

The 9-country tsunami that has killed somewhere around 24,000 people (and counting) is just incomprehensible. Yahoo News slide show here. Slide show by a vacationer here. The Washington Post has a first-hand report from a staff writer who was vacationing on his brother's little island in Sri Lanka. He was taking a morning swim when the wave came.
As I swam to shore, my mind was momentarily befuddled by two conflicting impressions -- the idyllic blue sky and the rapidly rising waters.

In less than a minute, the water level had risen at least 15 feet, but the sea remained calm, with barely a wave in sight.

Within minutes, the beach and the area behind it had become an inland sea that rushed over the road and poured into the flimsy houses on the other side. The speed with which it all happened seemed like a scene from the Bible, a natural phenomenon unlike anything I had experienced.

As the waters rose at an incredible rate, I half expected to catch sight of Noah's Ark.

Instead of the ark, I grabbed a wooden catamaran that the local people used as a fishing boat. My brother jumped on the boat next to me. We bobbed up and down on the catamaran as the water rushed past us into the village beyond the road.

After a few minutes, the water stopped rising, and I felt it was safe to swim to the shore. What I did not realize was that the floodwaters would recede as quickly and dramatically as they had risen.

All of a sudden, I found myself being swept out to sea with startling speed. Although I am a fairly strong swimmer, I was unable to withstand the current. The fishing boats around me had been torn from their moorings, and were bobbing up and down furiously.

For the first time, I felt afraid, powerless to prevent myself from being washed out to sea.

I swam in the direction of a loose catamaran, grabbed the hull and pulled myself to safety. My weight must have slowed the boat down, and soon I was stranded on the sand.

As the water rushed out of the bay, I scrambled onto the main road. Screams were coming from the houses beyond the road, many of which were still half full of water that had trapped the inhabitants inside. Villagers were walking, stunned, along the road, unable to comprehend what had taken place.

I was worried about my wife, who was on the beach when I went for my swim. I eventually found her walking along the road, dazed but happy to be alive. She had been trying to wade back to our island when the water carried her across the road and into someone's back yard. At one point she was underwater, struggling for breath. She finally grabbed onto a rope and climbed into a tree, escaping the waters that raged beneath her.

Our children were still asleep when the tsunami struck at 9:15. They woke up to find the bay practically drained of water and their parents walking back across the narrow channel to safety.

The waves raged around the island for the rest of the day, alternately rising and receding.

It took us many hours to realize the scale of the disaster, because we could see only the tiny part in front of us. The road from Weligama to Galle was cut in many places. The coastal road was littered with carcasses of boats, dogs and even a few dead sharks. Helicopters flew overhead and loudspeaker vans warned residents to leave low-lying areas for fear of more tsunamis.

My brothers' little island, called Tapbrobane after the ancient name of Sri Lanka, was largely intact, although a piece of our gate ended up on the seashore half a mile away. The water rose about 20 feet toward the house.

We have no water and no electricity and are cut off from the rest of Sri Lanka. It is impossible to buy food. We are existing on cold ham and turkey sandwiches, leftovers from Christmas dinner.

It's a strange thing to read about such a thing in a clean and tidy online newspaper. The writer has no water or electricity, and very little food, yet technology has put his story on my screen, all civilized and polished.

It also occurred to me that the usual suspects will be thinking, "See, WAY more people died in this than did on 9/11, so why the evil war?" To which my response is, "WAY more people died in this than American soldiers (and probably Iraqi civilians) in the evil war, so WHY DO YOU CARE ABOUT THE WAR?!?"

My prayers go out to the victims (and the soldiers, and the Iraqis)...

Where Have All The Flowers Gone?

Michael Barone succinctly examines the stuck-in-the-past reactionary Left. Don't touch that calendar! Leave it at 1935, or 1964, or 1968!

Which Comes First, The Treason Or The Stupidity?

David Horowitz offers a history lesson, inspired by the most recent asinine bloviation from George McGovern. You can read (with some commentary by Ann Althouse) what McGovern's tragically unshut pie hole had to say here. Here's one slice of McGovernite brilliance:
Once we left Vietnam and quit bombing its people, they became friends and trading partners. Iraq has been nestled along the Tigris and Euphrates for 6,000 years. It will be there 6,000 more whether we stay or leave, as earlier conquerors learned.

Here's some of what Horowitz had to say:

Explained McGovern: “Once we left Vietnam and quit bombing its people they became friends and trading partners.”

Actually, that is not what happened. Four months after the Democrats cut off aid to Cambodia and Vietnam in January 1975, both regimes fell to the Communist armies. Within three years the Communist victors had slaughtered two-and-a-half million peasants in the Indochinese peninsula, paving the way for their socialist paradise. The blood of those victims is on the hands of the Americans who forced this withdrawal: John Kerry, Ted Kennedy, Howard Dean, and George McGovern – and antiwar activists like myself.

It is true that Vietnam eventually became a trading partner (“friend” is another matter). But this was not true that it occurred “once we left and quit bombing its people.” Before that took place, a Republican president confronted the Soviet Union in Europe and Afghanistan and forced the collapse of the Soviet empire. It was only then, after the Cold War enemy and support of the Vietnamese Communists had been defeated, that they accommodated themselves to co-existence with the United States.

The “blame America first” mentality so manifest in this McGovern statement is endemic to the appeasement mentality that the “progressive” senator so typifies: “Iraq has been nestled along the Tigris and Euphrates for 6,000 years. It will be there 6,000 more whether we stay or leave, as earlier conquerors learned.”


During the battle over Vietnam policy thirty years ago, Nixon and supporters of the war effort had warned the antiwar Left of the consequences that would follow if their campaign was successful. If the United States were to retreat from the field of battle, the Communists would engineer a “bloodbath” of revenge and complete their revolutionary design. When confronted by these warnings, George McGovern, John Kerry, and other anti-Vietnam activists dismissed them out of hand. This was just an attempt to justify an imperialist aggression, they assured the public. Time proved the antiwar activists to be tragically, catastrophically wrong, although they have never had the decency to admit it.

If the United States were to leave the battlefield in Iraq now, before the peace is secured (and thus repeat the earlier retreat), there would be a bloodbath along the Tigris and Euphrates. The jihadists will slaughter our friends, our allies, and all of the Iraqis who are struggling for freedom. Given the nature of the terrorist war we are in, this bloodbath would also flow into the streets of Washington and New York and potentially every American city. The jihadists have sworn to kill us all. People who think America is invulnerable, that America can just leave the field of this battle and there will be peace, do not begin to understand the world we confront.

Or if they understand it, they have tilted their allegiance to the other side. McGovern’s phrase “as earlier conquerors learned,” speaks volumes about the perverse moral calculus of the progressive Left. To McGovern we are conquerors, which makes the al-Zarqawi terrorists “liberators,” or as Michael Moore would prefer, “patriots.” The Left that wants America to throw in the towel in Iraq is hypersensitive to questions about its loyalties but at the same time can casually refer to our presence in Iraq as an “invasion and occupation.” It wants to use the language of morality, but it only wants the standard to apply in one direction. There is no one-dimensional standard, and a politics of surrender is not a politics of peace.

Friday, December 24, 2004

O, Holy Night

Merry Christmas, everyone. I leave you with this striking image which is featured on the cover of this week's Magnificat. Via Google (search string was "Giotto nativity detail") I found an excellent scan of it here, and fixed it up. It was painted in 1305, almost exactly 700 years ago. Just look at it for awhile. Pretty "wow", huh? That's God on the left and His Mom on the right. If the story is true, it changes everything. And the story is true, so everything is changed...

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The Beginning of The Gospel of John
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.


The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came to be through him, but the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, but his own people did not accept him. But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man's decision but of God.

And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth.

Scrooge and Taxation

One of the greatest economic thinkers of all time was Frederic Bastiat (1801-1850), who refuted "the broken window fallacy". Today, Thomas Sowell (author of Basic Economics) is probably the clearest and most engaging writer about this classical form of economic thinking. I just ran across another writer named Steven Landsburg who I intend to read more of. Here is what he has to say about miserliness, saving, and tax policy. Not that I think Dickens was wrong about Scrooge!

In this whole world, there is nobody more generous than the miser—the man who could deplete the world's resources but chooses not to. The only difference between miserliness and philanthropy is that the philanthropist serves a favored few while the miser spreads his largess far and wide.

If you build a house and refuse to buy a house, the rest of the world is one house richer. If you earn a dollar and refuse to spend a dollar, the rest of the world is one dollar richer—because you produced a dollar's worth of goods and didn't consume them.

Who exactly gets those goods? That depends on how you save. Put a dollar in the bank and you'll bid down the interest rate by just enough so someone somewhere can afford an extra dollar's worth of vacation or home improvement. Put a dollar in your mattress and (by effectively reducing the money supply) you'll drive down prices by just enough so someone somewhere can have an extra dollar's worth of coffee with his dinner. Scrooge, no doubt a canny investor, lent his money at interest. His less conventional namesake Scrooge McDuck filled a vault with dollar bills to roll around in. No matter. Ebenezer Scrooge lowered interest rates. Scrooge McDuck lowered prices. Each Scrooge enriched his neighbors as much as any Lord Mayor who invited the town in for a Christmas meal.

Saving is philanthropy, and—because this is both the Christmas season and the season of tax reform—it's worth mentioning that the tax system should recognize as much. If there's a tax deduction for charitable giving, there should be a tax deduction for saving. What you earn and don't spend is your contribution to the world, and it's equally a contribution whether you give it away or squirrel it away.


Daniel Henninger has an excellent Christmas reflection that has a surprising twist at the end.

James Q. Wilson also has a great essay on religion here.

Who's Doing The Presumin' Around Here?

A nice reflection on theistic belief in Opinion Journal today.

Antony Flew and I found God this year. We had different reactions to the discovery.

Mr. Flew, an 81-year-old professor of philosophy in Britain, had been a leading champion of atheism for the past half-century. He has now hesitantly accepted a version of what's called the argument from design. He says the "unbelievable complexity of the arrangements which are needed to produce life" shows that "intelligence must have been involved."

But in a panel discussion taped in May, Prof. Flew cautioned, "I'm thinking of a God very different from the God of the Christian and far and away from the God of Islam, because both are depicted as omnipotent Oriental despots--cosmic Saddam Husseins." What's more, on the secularist Web site, writer Richard Carrier says he has contacted Prof. Flew and reassures his fellow atheists that the professor is proposing only a "tentative, mechanistic Deism" and continues to deny the possibility of an afterlife.

So that's how Prof. Flew responded to his encounter with the Divinity. Me, I got baptized.


Perhaps the argument for nonbelief most identified with the professor was what he called "the presumption of atheism." Here, atheism is understood in its negative sense: The atheist doesn't assert that there is no God; he simply doesn't accept that a legitimate and meaningful concept of God exists. For such an atheist, the burden of proof lies, as it does in law, with those who make the positive assertion--that is, for those who believe.

The presumption of atheism seems to me to be at the heart of all scientific reasoning about religion. And as I'm someone who loves and believes in science, it was a major stumbling block for me most of my life. After all, why would anyone believe without proof in that for which there is no evidence in the first place?

It was in my re-reading of the Romantic poets William Blake and Samuel Taylor Coleridge that I felt this stumbling block dissolve. What finally occurred to me--what tipped the scales in favor of baptism--was that the presumption of atheism proceeds without respect for the human experience of God's presence. Thinkers like Prof. Flew dismiss this experience because they make the mistake of applying the scientific method of analysis, of taking things apart, to an inner life that can only be known as a whole.

Of course, the human mind can be deceived. But there are some matters in which internal human experience can neither be usefully dissected nor practically gainsaid. One may refuse to accept that there is a meaningful concept of God as one may refuse to accept that there is a meaningful concept of beauty or love. But what is such a refusal in balance with the kiss of your soul mate, or the playing of a Bach cantata, or the overwhelming awareness of God's guidance and care?

When Prof. Flew looks to DNA and the mysteries of creation for God, I propose that he's looking in the wrong direction. Let him, rather, talk to a recovering alcoholic in whom God stands surety for the diseased will, or visit a Salvation Army shelter where God has taught a despairing soul its worth. Let the professor--in the name of experiment--sit in solitude and give silent thanks and feel the almost instantaneous repayment in the coin of vitality and joy. In such situations, I refuse to acknowledge that there is a legitimate and meaningful concept of there being no God. The burden of proof is all on atheism.

Like an art critic who proclaims the genius of a blank canvas and then stands sneering as the millions pass it by for yet another look at the Sistine Chapel, scientific atheism seeks to proceed from nothing when human experience is the only reasonable place to start.

Thursday, December 23, 2004

What You Are Wanting For Christmus?

Found this on Roger L. Simon's site.

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Well, Shoot, Son

Here's a nicely written story (via Instapundit). It begins thusly:
My Christmas quest was simple enough: buy toy cowboy guns for my boys. Caleb and Eli have boots and hats, bandanas and sheriff's badges. But they don't have holsters and guns. Without those critical components, however, you've really just got yourself a Village People costume. We've made do until now with two wooden pistols that were originally designed to shoot rubber bands. But I wanted to get them shiny cowboy guns, the kind that make a little boy's heart race, that turn a bad guy's legs to jelly, and that give a damsel that funny climbing-the-rope-in-gym-class feeling when she sees them strapped around your waist.

So I got up early one recent Saturday, and set out to catch Toys R Us right when they opened. This is advisable if like me you find yourself drawing hysterical conclusions about the future of civilization based on your experiences shopping in malls and driving behind school buses. If you can't find anything nice to say about your fellow man, I like to think, then best just to avoid him.

So I walked inside the Toy Mecca in vain hopes of quickly completing my mission. In this I was working against teams of psychologists and store design specialists all bent on exactly the opposite goal, which is to keep the hapless shopper in the store for as long as there are dollars left in his wallet. I winded my way past rows of video games and Barbie paraphernalia (I think boys might benefit from owning a Barbie doll; every young man should understand what an expensive proposition it is to cohabitate with a narcissistic woman built like a stripper), past noisy electronic gizmos and remote-controlled devices.

But I couldn't find guns. I wandered up and down aisles until I spotted a salesman. "Excuse me," I said, "where can I find cowboy guns?"

"Oh. We don't sell those." He looked at me as if I had just asked him for nipple clamps, or perhaps a Bible. His voice was tinged with the self-righteousness of people who announce to others that they recycle, or that their children attend Eugene V. Debs Elementary because they believe in supporting the public schools.

A Derbyshire Christmas

A very special Derb Radio this month. Christmas carols adapted to the political situation and sung by Derbyshire himself.

Here are a couple, but do listen to the MP3!
God Rest You, Yasser Arafat
(Traditional tune)

God rest you, Yasser Arafat
You've gone to your reward.
We're sorry it was not your fate
To perish by the sword.
But nonetheless we're very glad
Your passing to record.
O tidings of comfort and joy!


The ACLU's Coming to Town
(Tune here)

Oh, you'd better not kneel,
You'd better not pray;
Don't mention the Lord on "Holiday" —
The ACLU's coming to town!

They're making a list
They're checking it twice;
They're gonna find out
Who's mentioning Christ —
The ACLU's coming to town!

Let's have no star or manger,
No crosses, babes, or sleighs;
The Republic is in danger
Till the Boy Scouts let in gays!

Oh, you'd better not kneel,
You'd better not pray;
"Merry Christmas!" is now
"Happy Holiday!"
The ACLU's coming to town!

Pixar Interview

NRO has an excellent interview with a Pixar developer who also happens to be an NRO reader. Well worth the time.

A taste:
NRO:The father of five, I'm something of an expert on animated feature films, if I do say so myself — and Pixar productions are simply and incomparably the best. Your stuff delights my three-year old, my thirteen-year-old, the three kids in between, and their parents and grandparents. How do you guys do it?

Good: Simple. We don't make movies for kids. We make movies for adults, actually ourselves, and then just make sure there's nothing in them that the little ones shouldn't see. The local cineplex is littered with movies made by studios who want to second-guess what the audience wants. We find we get better results by making what we want, and then assuming that there are other people like us out there.

If audiences in general are underestimated, kids really get the patronizing treatment. Two things are often forgotten about kids. One: They have no taste. They will watch just about anything. This is normal and healthy. Taste comes later. Two: They are not stupid! Kids are born intelligent, and there's no good reason to make dumbed-down entertainment for them.

When Commies Weren't So Sensitive

A good essay about how it was in the old days.

Here is a Christmas tale that you might find hard to believe, reading about it in 2004. It is about Christmas time in the early 1950s, at the William B. Hanna public elementary school in Philadelphia.

Every year when December came around, we sang Christmas carols in our twice-weekly assemblies. We sang “Joy to the World,” and “Silent Night,” and “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” and the other carols that were well known to every girl and boy, as well as to their parents, grandparents, and great-grandparents.

But that’s not the part that’s hard to believe. Everyone knows that American children used to sing Christmas carols. Here’s the fantastic part of the tale: My mother, an atheist from a Lutheran background, and my father, an atheist from a Jewish background, never raised any objection to our singing these carols that celebrated the birth of Jesus. And as far as I know, neither did any of the Jewish teachers at that school, of whom there were several.

In fact, we sometimes sang those carols at home, with my mother playing them on the piano.

There’s more: The bible was read at those school assemblies all year long, usually a psalm. My parents did not object, though I believe my mother asked the teachers not to have me read. And more: We sang hymns. I remember the wonderful voice of the man who taught fifth grade booming out the Lord’s Prayer. I remember singing “Holy, holy, holy…blessed trinity.”

I asked my mother what Blessed Trinity meant. She told me it meant Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. That’s what Christians believe in, she said. She didn’t believe it because she didn’t believe in God at all. But she didn’t mind my knowing about what Christians believed, or singing their songs. Since most people were Christian, it would be kind of odd not to know anything about them, like living among a tribe of Indians and never wondering what their rain dances meant.


My parents were communists before being left-wing meant that you had to be offended at everything. They appreciated good music and art and literature, and therefore did not hate the culture that had produced them, which was a Christian culture.

In another article, Don Feder tells why he, as a Jew, supports Christian America.

Sign Of The Times

Coulter opines on the Rumsfeld autopen brouhaha.

An autopen is a mechanical arm that actually holds a pen and is programmed to sign letters with a particular person's precise signature. Imagine a President Al Gore, with slightly more personality, signing all official government letters – that's an autopen. (You can relax now, there will be no more exercises imagining a President Al Gore.)

There are 300 million Americans who have a constitutional right – an actual right, not a phony one invented by Harry Blackmun – to write to government officials. Every government office you've ever heard of in Washington, D.C., uses autopens with abandon.

As president, Clinton sold burial plots in Arlington Cemetery and liberals shrugged it off. What really gets their goat is the autopen. Evidently, the important thing was that every one of those pardons Clinton sold for cash on his last day in office was signed by Bill Clinton personally.

It occurred to someone (who obviously has the best interests of America at heart!) that among the letters Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sends out there must be condolence letters to the families of servicemen who died for their country. So liberals are in a lather that those letters were signed by autopen.

On the bright side, this is the first war America has been in where the number of casualties is small enough that it would even be theoretically possible for a Defense secretary to sign each condolence letter personally. When Democrats were running the Vietnam War, letters of condolence often began, "To whom it may concern" and were addressed to "occupant."

Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Be Not Afraid, I Am With You Always

Another really great Advent reflection by The Anchoress.

She's also got a roundup of great links here and here.

12 Steps To A Better Life

Dissecting Leftism offers hope for those who want to change. The piece is called "Overcoming Leftism: A 12-Step Program"

Given the difficulty in bringing lefties into the light, I thought it might be helpful to provide them with a 12-step program that could make it easier for a successful transition into reality. As conservatives, we have to remember that we can only be supportive to lefties in this program. They cannot do it alone, but we also cannot do it for them.

The Program:

Step 1: Admitting that you’re a lefty

This is the first step for every lefty on the way to recovery. It is important to understand that you’re not “progressive,” “moderate,” or “enlightened.” You’re a lefty, and you need to be honest with yourself about that fact.


Step 4: Take a college level economics class

I’ve always defined a Socialist as someone who’s never taken an economics class. Most Socialists I’ve spoke with would have a hard time balancing their check books, let alone explaining the simple concept of supply-and-demand. It’s time to flush your complete ignorance of basic economics down the toilet and understand how the world actually functions. This concept will be very important for the next steps that involve communism, facts about corporations, and the inefficiencies of government.


Step 8: The earth is not your “mother,” and she’s not dying

The time has now come to stop your donations to Greenpeace, The Sierra Club, and every other EnviroNazi organization to which you belong. Face the reality that the earth, society, and our environment are better off today than ever in recorded history and that they are continuing to improve. I realize that many of you tree huggers will have a very difficult time letting go of the Douglas Fir on this one. I would suggest reading The Skeptical Environmentalist by Bjorn Lomborg. Mr. Lomborg is a former member of Greenpeace and is currently a statistics professor at a university in Denmark. He set out to prove the world was in bad shape and ended up surprising himself by proving the exact opposite.

Step 9: Stop smoking the wacky tobaccy

Okay, some of you might need to enter another 12-step program to complete this step. Marijuana is distorting your sense of reality, and you need to stop using it. Besides, you’ll save a fortune on snacks.

Paranoia Will Destroy Ya

Captain's Quarters fisks a Village Voice article.

Rick Perlstein in the Village Voice writes a very convoluted essay that both chides the Democrats for spewing insane conspiracy theories about the 2004 election, and at the same time spins an even more ludicrous paranoid fantasy about why Democrats keep losing elections. He wants Democrats to shut up about what he sees as trivialities and easily-explainable happenstances and instead focus on the eeeeeevil genius of Karl Rove:

It's possible that their vindication will come, that what's already being referred to as the "vote fraud community"—the allusion is to the "JFK assassination research community"—won't disappear up its very own grassy knoll. But the charges producing the greatest heat online often turn out to have the most innocent explanations. The recount isn't amounting to much, either. Last week the Franklin County Board of Elections did discover one extra vote for Kerry—offset by the extra vote they found for Bush. The irregularities volunteers have pointed to in the recount process itself are often picayune.

In many Americans' minds, it's not too hard to imagine, this will all be received as further evidence of the activist left's irrelevance. Which would, in fact, be a tragedy. For elections in America are indeed broken, badly, and vulnerable to fraud. That fact is not politically neutral: The problems in America's election system have advantaged the Republicans, in significant and consistent ways.

If the Democrats had a Karl Rove—a cunning master strategist who thinks so far in advance that he wins new wars before the other side even wakes up to discover there's been a fight—setting up an election reform movement might be the first thing he would do. It just wouldn't look anything like the reform movement we have—so uncoordinated, strategically unsound, and prone to going off half-cocked that it may end up hurting the crucial cause it seeks to help.

This article, in itself, amply demonstrates the Left's irrelevance. Perlstein writes this essay as if our election system transformed itself in 1992 from perfection to fatally flawed, with all the flaws running in favor of the GOP. That's hogwash. The electoral system we have now is the exact same system that kept Democrats in power for over four decades -- until their stridently socialist message started coming through loud and clear. Perlstein does not produce a single example of an electoral-system change to support his reasoning that the system favors the Republicans. All he can do is allege that Karl Rove and the Republican party somehow -- he doesn't explain how here, either -- game the system to GOP advantage.

The Future Lies Ahead

Found this via Ace of Spades. A very nicely done speculative flash "documentary" from 10 years in the future, which details the evolution of publishing. Googlezon versus Microsoft versus the New York Times. From the tone, it looks like everyone loses...

Update: Tiemann had a lot of interesting stuff to say after watching the same "documentary", as well as some brilliant thoughts about the relative uselessness of video as a blogging medium.

This Is Amusing

Ground crew gets his groove on sending a Navy jet to taxi.

Understandable Fears

Excellent column by Michael J. Totten, examining a for-them rational fear of democracy amongst Iraqis.
Few Americans lose sleep when their party doesn't control the White House or Congress. Democrats aren't happy with the re-election of George W. Bush, and who could blame them? But no one with any sense in their head worries about Republican death squads kicking down doors in the night. Liberals won't be frog-marched out of their homes, won't be interned in camps, and certainly won't be machine-gunned into a ditch. It's so easy for us to forget. There are few things less dangerous in the world than losing an election in the United States.

Democracy doesn't entitle 51 percent of the country to lace up their jackboots and stomp on the faces of the 49 who were vanquished. But a deformed illiberal "democracy" could, in theory, mean that. Americans did once worry about the tyranny of majorities. The separation of powers and the establishment of individual rights were put into place as pre-emptive correctives.

We'd be fools, though, if we thought people with no experience with consensual government aren't haunted by fears of elected mobs -- especially in a place like Iraq.


Some are just plain scared to death of democracy. It makes perfect sense if some think it's a zero-sum sucker's game, that what empowers the Shi'ite majority threatens the Sunni Arab minority. (And it had better not come to that, not on our watch.) They figure it's safer to stand against Americans than face a sovereign Iraqi Shi'ite-majority government with a memory of history and a chip on its shoulder.

They're the biggest potential obstacle to the election's legitimacy. If enough people in the Sunni Triangle boycott the vote as a bloc (it is there that opposition to the coalition's military presence and the interim Iraqi government is fiercest), whatever government does come to power will be limping right from the start. Iraqis don't need a high voter turnout; many of our own elections had turnouts of less than 50 percent. What they need it a broad turnout so the elected government is seen as legitimate everywhere.

We have two seemingly-contradictory tasks on our plate: fight the guerillas and terrorists while at the same time convincing the majority that if the system breaks down, if their constitution doesn't protect them, we will. We're not in Iraq to oppress any minorities. We're their protector of last resort.

Those who wish to martyr themselves should step right on up because we're there to help. But we'd rather help them be free. They must understand: it is so much safer to lose an election that to meet the Marines on the battlefield.

Obdurate, Not Moderate

Right Wing News points out that it wasn't "moderates" who put the Republican Party where it is today.

Whitman was a bit more strident in her comments,

"The main focus of Whitman's book "It's My Party Too: The Battle for the Heart of the GOP and the Future of America," is on her desire for moderate Republicans to regain control of the party. The more conservative wing of the party has claimed much credit for Bush's re-election.

"A clear and present danger Republicans face today is that the party will now move so far to the right that it ends up alienating centrist voters and marginalizing itself," Whitman writes in the book, obtained Friday by The Associated Press. The book is to be released by The Penguin Press in late January.

Whitman says fellow moderates, such as former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, were instrumental in Bush's re-election win, often campaigning with him in battleground states.

The role of moderates is to bring the party back to its center, she says.

"It is time for Republican moderates to assert forcefully and plainly that this is our party, too, that we not only have a place but a voice, and not just a voice but a vision that is true to the historic principles of our party and our nation, not one tied to an extremist agenda," she says."

Before I respond to Arnold & Whitman, let me make it clear that moderates certainly play an important role in the GOP. Arnold, Rudy, and to a much lesser extent, John McCain, were assets during the 2004 election cycle. Moderates help keep the GOP competitive in more liberal states, and of course, neither the GOP nor the Dems could win national elections without moderates putting them over the top. So moderates do certainly have a role in the GOP.

That being said, moderates are not the driving force in the Republican Party; to the contrary, they played a relatively minor role in the success of the Party compared to conservatives. Let me break it down for you like this: in my view, there are three men who have been most responsible for the GOP's success: Reagan, Gingrich, & Limbaugh.

Reagan was an enormously successful, popular President. He rebuilt the military, got the economy rolling, broke the Soviet Union, and really helped turn the GOP and the country around after Vietnam and Watergate. Of course, Reagan was a conservative, not a moderate.

Next up, there's Newt Gingrich who helped engineer the GOP takeover of the House that we've managed to maintain to this day. Gingrich is a conservative, not a moderate.

Then there's Rush Limbaugh, who was the real pioneer of the "new media". By proving that there was a huge market out there for an alternative to the mainsteam media, he helped make talk radio, Fox, and the right side of blogosphere possible. Sure, it would have probably happened without him, but it may have taken a lot longer. Rush Limbaugh is a conservative, not a moderate.

Name a moderate in the last 25 years who's made half as much of a positive impact for the GOP as any of those three men...go ahead, I'm can't do it, can you?

"This Is Not Multiculturalism. It Is Anti-culturalism"

Yep. More about "Merry Christmas".

Let me begin by saying, "Merry Christmas." And, by the way, "Merry Christmas." Oh, and did I mention, "Merry Christmas"?

Let's just say the "Merry Christmas" backlash has officially begun. After years of politically correct "Happy Holidays," and the annual assault on all things Christian in the public square, many Americans are declining to turn the other cheek.

The MC backlash isn't only for, by or about Christians. It is a quintessentially American revolt against absurdity, the inevitable result of narcissistic, nihilist ninnies pushing too far.


This spirit of mutual respect and generosity is also finding expression among Muslims. Waleed Aly, a lawyer in Melbourne, Australia, and member of the Islamic Council of Victoria, has written that he is more offended by efforts to restrain religious expression than he is by nativity scenes.

"This is where political correctness loses the plot," he wrote. "What purports to inspire tolerance instead inspires hostility and intolerance. ... Denying the Christianity in Christmas or, worse, doing away with it altogether helps no one. This is not multiculturalism. It is anti-culturalism."

Perhaps this yuletide backlash helps explain why I've been hearing "Merry Christmas" more in the past two weeks than I have the past 10 years. Suddenly everybody's saying it, and yes, I'm a perp.

In Washington earlier this month, I made a point of saying "Merry Christmas" to everyone, including cab drivers who were more often than not Muslim or Hindu. Without exception, they swiveled around, smiled and said, "Merry Christmas to you, too!"

Maybe it was just sugarplums doing the rumba in my head, but I could swear I detected appreciation and relief in these exchanges. Appreciation for the freedom that permits such expression and relief that somebody said it without apology.

Jonah Goldberg also chimes in with a nice column of his own.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

What Would Doctor Phil Say?

Mark Steyn illustrates for us the "How is it working for you so far?" ramifications of the anti-Christmas crusade:
The seasonally litigious rest their fanatical devotion to the deChristification of Christmas on the separation of church and state. America's founders were opposed to the "establishment" of religion, whose meaning is clear enough to any Englishman: the new republic did not want President Washington serving simultaneously as Supreme Governor of the Church of America, or the Bishop of Virginia sitting in the US Senate. Two centuries on, these possibilities are so remote that the "separation" of church and state has dwindled down to threats of legal action over red-and-green party napkins.

But every time some sensitive flower pulls off a legal victory over the school board, who really wins? For the answer to that, look no further than last month's election results. Forty years of effort by the American Civil Liberties Union to eliminate God from the public square have led to a resurgent, evangelical and politicised Christianity in America. By "politicised", I don't mean that anyone who feels his kid should be allowed to sing Silent Night if he wants to is perforce a Republican, but only that year in, year out it becomes harder for such folks to support a secular Democratic Party closely allied with the anti-Christmas militants. American liberals need to rethink their priorities: what's more important? Winning a victory over the kindergarten teacher's holiday concert, or winning back Congress and the White House?

Close, But No Cigar

The only thing I can think of that is worse than the government trying to quash all outward manifestations of Christian belief, would be for the government to support liberals in telling us what Christianity is really supposed to mean. Here is a guest column in the SF Chronicle by someone lamenting that we've gone too far, because now only conservative views of religion get adherents, since the liberals are treating it as radioactive. Boo-hoo.

A pretty odd column if you ask me. It ends thusly:
We find it absurd that some people believe in the Biblical story of creation when we smart people know that creation is an evolutionary process. Of course it is. But how many know what the meaning of the creation myth really is? Do we know enough about the Old Testament to understand how this story has influenced literature, art, poetry, music and religion? How many of us liberal intellectuals know about how the Bible as a whole is the basis of Western law as well as Western civilization?

We have a great opportunity ahead of us. We must encourage critical thinking and study of the Bible and religion in schools and universities. Instead of mocking religion, we must make it a source of serious consideration and understanding. Members of religions must support leaders who are intellectually sound and rigorous in their religious teaching. It is time to beef up our understanding of what we are against by being informed about what religion is all about.

With friends like this, who needs enemies? The author is a "retired Episcopalian priest".

Takedown Of An Antihero

Don Feder has the goods on Alfred Kinsey, leftist icon of "liberation". If you don't know the real story on the guy, you ought to read this.

Monday, December 20, 2004

Kobayashi Maru

Cool article about high-tech simulators used for combat training.

FORT SILL, Okla. - It's a sweltering 90 degrees and soldiers Kevin Messmer and Kroften Owen are hunched in a rubble-strewn apartment. Peering from a window to avoid sniper fire, they see a bustling Iraqi city.

Binoculars pressed to his face, Messmer surveys the view and finds what he's looking for just across the river, an insurgent stronghold near a mosque's towering minarets. He whispers coordinates to Owen, who in turns calls them into a radio.

A crackling streak of artillery fire arrives seconds later, shaking the room as the bomb annihilates the target in a thunderous cloud of thick, black smoke.

The mission is a success. Except the mission doesn't really exist.

2nd Lts. Messmer, 24, and Owen, 23, of the 3rd Battalion, 30th Field Artillery Regiment, are among the first troops to use a new breed of military simulator that's part video game/part Hollywood sound stage with a serious dose of theme park thrill.

The apartment setting is all about creating the illusion of urban warfare — in a way that stimulates the senses.

Littered with chunks of brown plaster and other debris, the room is decorated in a decidedly Middle-Eastern manner. A picture hangs sideways on one wall, the smashed remnants of a small vase lie on a small circular table near the kitchen area. Like a Broadway show, walls and other set pieces can be swapped out as the training merits.

Hidden speakers envelop the set, located in a shopping center-sized building, with sound effects both subtle (barking dogs) and earsplitting (bombs). And the window? It's really an oversized display screen showing an artificial cityscape with high-resolution computer graphics.

The so-called "Urban Terrain Module" where Messmer, of Wabash, Ind., and Owen, of Philadelphia, had their multimedia immersion training is a one-of-a-kind facility, part of the Army's Joint Fires and Effects Trainer System, or JFETS.

Across a darkened hallway is the Outdoor Terrain Module. It's a room with a sandy floor on which a parked Humvee faces an oversized movie screen. Soldiers see a computerized desert landscape. In this environment, too, the training is in how to precisely call in artillery strikes.

Since the center went live in September, more than 300 officers have trained at the compound, whose evolution is key to a larger Defense Department strategy to give future members of all military branches the ability to better synchronize artillery, air support and other weaponry on the battlefield.

Come For The Links. Stay For The Cookies.

A very slow news day today in blog land. Just after I shut down blogger, I went over to The Anchoress only to find a couple of great posts. We're talking recipes, and a clever joke, both with a bit of the Anchoress je nais se qua.

This Isn't Rocket Science

It appears that San Francisco will soon have a ballot initiative to ban firearms in the city. What a horrifically awful idea! I've never understood the concept of announcing to the world, "I'm unarmed and defenseless. Let's all be nice." I'd much rather see a more generous and permissive attitude toward concealed carry laws. Think about it. If you were a criminal, would you so much as want to snatch a purse if even 10% of the onlookers might be packing heat? The overall disincentive might be enough to make you find honest work, or something. It seems to me that liberal attitudes toward the military and national defense go hand in hand with their attitudes towards guns. Front Page Magazine has a good column on the gun topic.

Few people remember the school shooting in Pearl, Mississippi that took place in October 1997. Fewer people remember how it ended.

This episode came to a close when Pearl High School Assistant Principal Joel Myrick sprinted a quarter mile to retrieve a personal handgun from his car and confronted the shooter who was unwilling to continue the attack against an armed victim.

Myrick parked so far away from the school to keep from violating federal gun free zone statutes. By the time the shooting spree ended, two students lay dead and seven others were wounded. Myrick's heroic defense of the children at his school was sparsely reported, going mostly unnoticed by the establishment media who were unwilling to report that he used a gun to end the mayhem and murder.

They were also unwilling to ask the hard question - how many children died while Myrick sprinted to his car?

Compare the carnage at Pearl High School with that of the Luby's cafeteria in Killeen, Texas, where a gunman murdered 22 people and wounded 18 others before turning the gun on himself. Among those at Luby's on October 16, 1991, was a woman who was proficient with handguns, but obeyed the law by leaving her legal handgun in her vehicle.

At times she was within feet of the killer and instinctively reached for her gun, which wasn't there. By the time it was over, her mother and father were among the dead.

Once again, the media never asked how many people were killed because the license holder was disarmed.