Monday, July 31, 2006

Obviously, Only Catholics Have Standing To Assess The Believability Of Catholicism

I don't think so. Do there exist parallels to such sophistry in other fields of endeavor?

Uncommon Descent:

Are challenges to Darwinian theory from those outside the discipline legitimate?

I would argue that, indeed, they are.

In a previous UD thread, Tom English made the following comment:

I have seen a number of brilliant and highly educated people do abysmally stupid things when they stepped outside their domains of expertise. Computer scientists make abysmal biologists. Journalists make abysmal biologists. Philosophers make abysmal biologists. Theologians make abysmal biologists. Mathematicians make abysmal biologists. Physicists make abysmal biologists.

I would argue the following: Darwinian theorists do foolish things when they step outside their domain of expertise. They are generally not competent mathematicians, computer scientists, chemists, philosophers, theologians, or physicists. Yet, they make sweeping claims of incontrovertible fact that impinge upon all these disciplines, and then expect immunity from challenges from those with expertise in those disciplines.

The essentials of Darwinian theory are actually quite trivial and easy to understand. But are they true, and do they hold up under scrutiny from those with expertise in the disciplines upon which the theory impinges?

Gulliver's Travails

Mark Steyn:

No one can argue with U.S. military superiority. America has the most powerful armed forces on the planet. The Pentagon is responsible for 40 percent of the world's military spending, and outspends the next 20 biggest militaries combined. It's responsible for almost 80 percent of military research-and-development spending, which means the capability gap between it and everyone else widens every day.

So why doesn't it feel like that?

In Iraq, the leviathan has somehow managed to give the impression that what previous mid-rank powers would have regarded as a little light colonial policing has left it stretched dangerously thin and bogged down in an almighty quagmire. Even if it were only lamebrain leftist media spin, the fact that it's accepted by large numbers of Americans and huge majorities of Europeans is a reminder that in free societies a military of unprecedented dominance is not the only source of power. More importantly, significant proportions of this nation's enemies also believe the spin. In April 2003 was Baby Assad nervous that he'd be next? You bet. Is he nervous now?

We live in an age of inversely proportional deterrence: The more militarily powerful a civilized nation is, the less its enemies have to fear the full force of that power ever being unleashed. They know America and other Western powers fight under the most stringent self-imposed etiquette. Overwhelming force is one thing; overwhelming force behaving underwhelmingly as a matter of policy is quite another.

So even the most powerful military in the world is subject to broader cultural constraints. When Kathryn Lopez's e-mailer sneers that "your contribution to this war is limited solely to your ability to exercise the skillset provided by your liberal arts education," he's accidentally put his finger on the great imponderable: whether the skill set provided by the typical American, British and European education these last 30 years is now one of the biggest obstacles to civilizational self-preservation. A nation that psychologically outsources war to a small career soldiery risks losing its ability even to grasp concepts like "the enemy": The professionalization of war is also the ghettoization of war. As John Podhoretz wondered in the New York Post the other day: "What if liberal democracies have now evolved to a point where they can no longer wage war effectively because they have achieved a level of humanitarian concern for others that dwarfs any really cold-eyed pursuit of their own national interests?"

That's a good question. If you watch the grisly U.S. network coverage of any global sporting event, you've no doubt who your team's meant to be: If there are plucky Belgian hurdlers or Fijian shotputters in the Olympics, you never hear a word of them on ABC and NBC; it's all heartwarming soft-focus profiles of athletes from Indiana and Nebraska. The American media have no problem being ferociously jingoistic when it comes to the two-man luge. Yet, when it's a war, there is no "our" team, not on American TV. Like snotty French ice-dancing judges, the media watch the U.S. skate across the rink and then hand out a succession of snippy 4.3s -- for lack of Miranda rights in Fallujah, insufficient menu options at Gitmo.

Our enemies understand "why we fight" and where the fight is. They know that in the greater scheme of things the mosques of Jakarta and Amsterdam and Toronto and Dearborn are more important territory than the Sunni Triangle. The U.S. military is the best-equipped and best-trained in the world. But it's not enough, it never has been and it never will be.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

The Grand Strategy?

Fascinating, highly speculative post by Varifrank, who envisions:

In 1982, Israel went into Lebanon but in the way they went about it, they ended up just pushing the enemy north. They paid for that strategy with a long occupation of Southern Lebanon and out of that, the creation of Hezbollah. The enemy was bruised, but it was not destroyed. Once again, the enemy had been allowed to retreat from the battlefield. In the Arab world, this is considered a victory. In the Arab world, what we would consider an outright defeat is considered an honor.

I’m not saying I understand it myself, I’m just saying that our values and theirs don’t line up, so try to look at events of the day through their lens when you interpret what they are doing and why they are doing it. To them, survival alone means they won. Real defeats rarely happen, because when the going gets tough, they just pretend to be civilians and melt into the background and pretend that they were all “saved by Allah”. It would be like fighting the Nazis at the Battle of the Bulge, only to have them strip off their uniforms and pretend to be Belgian farmers if they were captured.

I said to myself at the beginning of this action that I would give anything to see a real battlefield defeat, but that it was much more likely that someone would step in at the 11th hour and get a ‘ceasefire” that would once again hand the terrorists a victory and leave the Israelis hollow for their efforts.

But that was 12 days ago, and frankly things certainly appear to have changed. For the first time in my life, Arabs that kill Israelis are not being given the cover of “peace missions” and “cease fire” calls for “dialog” for their actions. Arab terrorists have started a war, and they have for once – gotten exactly that in return. And I have to say as revolting as war is, I find this fact to be downright refreshing. Finally, starting a war has consequences beyond who sits on what side of the negotiation table. Finally starting a war might mean that you will lose! What a concept! (It certainly takes all the fun out of it, doesn’t it? – which is precisely why I think the President is following that idea. Terrorism isn’t any fun if it doesn’t get you what you want, but instead costs you everything you have. The first step towards ending terrorism is to stop making it pay as a strategy for engaging the enemy. )


The trick for the Israelis it seems, is keeping Hezbollah in the right frame of mind. Keep them thinking that they might just beat the Israelis this time. Keep them right up next to the border.


The Israelis have been preparing the battlefield since the very beginning of this action. Don’t for a second start kidding yourself into thinking that they are following some slapdash half assed “ war by a little bit” strategy because they haven’t. Their actions have been taken with the greatest deliberation.

They know exactly what they are doing.

In my opinion, they are going for ‘all the marbles’ this time. Israel cannot and will not accept an enemy on its border that can and will fire missiles into its population. This time they are explosives, what happens when they are chemical and biological weapons?

An enemy that has pledged to commit genocide against them is not someone who any Israeli, or any Jew of any sort is going to negotiate anything with.


In my opinion what Israel wants at this point in the war is an overconfident enemy committed to a course of action. They want as many of Hezbollah south of Sidon as is possible, and they want them to bring as much of their resources as they can lay their hands on with them.

Just picture General Custer riding down on the camp at the Little Big Horn saying;

“Come on boys we’ve caught them napping”.

Only this time, The Israelis are the Sioux, and Sheik Hassan Nasrallah is General Custer.

My belief is that the Israelis will strike heavy from the Golan going north at breakneck speed with the largest movement of armor since the 6 Day War. Just prior to that, the Bekaa will be hammered into utter oblivion by the air. I think what we’ve seen so far is small “test” shots to determine targeting information for the area.

Just short of the Bekaa valley, the Israelis will pivot and rapidly move west towards Sidon. They will cut every bridge, every road, every goat path between the south and Sidon. They will let Sidon sit north of their lines. Once the perimeter is complete, once the reach the Mediterranean, where they will be re-supplied by their Navy who will already have established a beachhead for re-supply, they will release troops from the south who will move quickly up the coastline to cut off any remaining retreat into Tyre.

Tyre will be a disaster, but it will also be Hezbollahs grave, just as Beirut was the grave of the PLO.

At this point – I estimate roughly 4 days after the start of the Armored column from the Golan, the end is inevitable. Hezbollah and the world Arab press will scream like banshees at the humanitarian disaster that will be Southern Lebanon, but what they really mean is once again an Arab army is being defeated wholesale by the hated Zionists.

Once the Israeli tanks move north in large numbers, we will know that the end for Hezbollah is only 7 to 14 days away. I think Israel will be near Bekaa before most people figure out what’s going on and by then it will be too late to do anything about it.

There will be no “cease fire” this time. There will be no retreat to save the honor of the Arabs this time. Those that think that Israel is going to lose, or that Israel looks weak or any of you other “armchair generals” who think that Israel is a spent force and isn’t quite as good as the Armies of the 1960’s and the 1970’s, I must now remind you of something that many people seem to have forgotten about the Israelis.

You see, the other side in this war has promised genocide for Israel. Israelis have historically had but one thing to say to anyone who ever says such a thing;

“Never again”...

In war, things are never quite as they appear to be. Pay close attention, but remember that everything you see happening is not necessarily what is going on.

Evolutionary Dead Ends

Mike Gene:

[F]or the purpose of this blog, let us imagine that their thesis is completely valid – there is no God and natural selection simply shaped our brains such that we are predisposed to accept the God delusion. Such a reality is a sad place for Dennett and Dawkins.

According to Dennett and Dawkins, millions of years of evolution have shaped human beings to be religious. If an alien species were to study humans, religious expression and belief would, in essence, be part of the human phenotype. And thus we see the first dimension of Evolution’s cruelty to Dennett and Dawkins. In their quest to rid the world of religion, they have chosen to do battle with human nature. But not only do they struggle against something that evolution has produced, they appear doomed because they are still struggling against evolution.

According to Miles:

Fertility rates in the relatively secular blue states are 12 percent lower than in the relatively religious red states, according to Philip Longman in the March/April issue of Foreign Policy. In Europe, a similar correlation holds. As Longman writes: "Do you seldom, if ever, attend church? For whatever reason, people answering affirmatively . . . are far more likely to live alone, or in childless, cohabitating unions, than those who answer negatively." For the most secular cultures in the world, Longman predicts a temporary drop in absolute population as secular liberals die out and a concomitant cultural transformation as, "by a process similar to survival of the fittest," they are demographically replaced by religious conservatives.

A reproductive differential of this sort, of course, does not prove the truth of the patriarchal religion that Longman sees positively correlated with it, and Daniel C. Dennett would be the first to point this out. But the sense of siege that haunts the eminent philosopher's "Breaking the Spell" may owe something to a background anxiety that though his side, the skeptical side, may have the best arguments, it is dying out anyway.

In fact, Longman gets more specific than this:

So where will the children of the future come from? The answer may be from people who are at odds with the modern environment — either those who don't understand the new rules of the game, which make large families an economic and social liability, or those who, out of religious or chauvinistic conviction, reject the game altogether.

Today there is a strong correlation between religious conviction and high fertility. In the United States, for example, fully 47 percent of people who attend church weekly say that the ideal family size is three or more children, as compared to only 27 percent of those who seldom attend church. In Utah, where 69 percent of all residents are registered members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, fertility rates are the highest in the nation. Utah annually produces 90 children for every 1,000 women of childbearing age. By comparison, Vermont — the only state to send a socialist to Congress and the first to embrace gay civil unions — produces only 49.

Does this mean that the future belongs to those who believe they are (or who are in fact) commanded by a higher power to procreate? Based on current trends, the answer appears to be yes. Once, demographers believed that some law of human nature would prevent fertility rates from remaining below replacement level within any healthy population for more than brief periods. After all, don't we all carry the genes of our Neolithic ancestors, who one way or another managed to produce enough babies to sustain the race? Today, however, it has become clear that no law of nature ensures that human beings, living in free, developed societies, will create enough children to reproduce themselves. Japanese fertility rates have been below replacement levels since the mid-1950s, and the last time Europeans produced enough children to reproduce themselves was the mid-1970s. Yet modern institutions have yet to adapt to this new reality.

Current demographic trends work against modernity in another way as well. Not only is the spread of urbanization and industrialization itself a major cause of falling fertility, it is also a major cause of so-called diseases of affluence, such as overeating, lack of exercise, and substance abuse, which leave a higher and higher percentage of the population stricken by chronic medical conditions. Those who reject modernity would thus seem to have an evolutionary advantage, whether they are clean-living Mormons or Muslims, or members of emerging sects and national movements that emphasize high birthrates and anti-materialism.

And thus we see Evolution’s Final Act of Cruelty imposed on Dawkins and Dennett. Rather than get distracted by arguing whether they are correct, consider, at least for this moment, what it means if they are correct. Evolution has given Dennett and Dawkins a reality where they do not “fit” - the majority of their fellow species believe in some form a religion. Evolution has shaped the human brain to be religious and evangelistic efforts of Dawkins and Dennett are not going to undo the blind watchmaker’s handiwork - religious circuitry that exists within in our brains. Then comes the ultimate insult. Even if it is possible to “secularize” a population, this appears to be a fleeting, transient transitional phase. The fecundity of a population full of Dennetts and Dawkins plummets and this population finds itself with an inferior fitness compared to a population of Falwells and Robertsons. Evolution itself ensures that the religious mindset will persist. It’s been doing so for millennia.

And therein may lie the most cruel irony of evolution. While it may make it possible for Richard Dawkins to be intellectually fulfilled, it also means that Dawkins, from an evolutionary perspective, embraces a world view that is maladapted to his biological essence and thus is nothing more than another evolutionary oddity whose lineage is a dead-end.

Friday, July 28, 2006

Not Technically Part Of The United States

The interview that Stephen Colbert did with Eleanor Holmes Norton is a must see. Very funny, and she gave as good as she got.

Messing With Wireless Access Thieves

Via Peeve Farm. Some geek-style messing around. In my younger days, this is precisely the type of thing I would've cooked up.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

50 Lessons Learned

Steven Plaut has a good list at NRO, introduced thusly:

It occurs to me that now would be as good a time as any to sum up everything that has been learned about the Middle East conflict — that is, everything that the Israeli government and chattering classes have refused to learn for the past two decades...

Matteo And Monica Have Gotten Engaged!

Regular readers know that my blog is more of a "corkboard outside the office door" than a personal diary. But some things need to be shared. We got engaged yesterday! The future Mrs. Matteo is my lovely girlfriend, Monica. We had our first date back in March, 2005, and became a couple about a year ago. She's a wonderful Catholic girl from a big eastern Oregon farm family (she has 8 brothers and sisters). It's been so much fun courting her!


Matteo Before Monica

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Matteo With Monica

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Wednesday, July 26, 2006

More Good Stuff From Bill Whittle

Another great essay. As an instrument-rated pilot, I especially liked this section:

I like to fly. Lots of reasons, but here’s one of the best: there is a moment during an instrument departure when – just for an instant – your head breaks out of the clouds but your body still feels engulfed in the mist. For those amazing few seconds you have a real, stationary frame of reference, and the sensation of brightening whiteness, followed by that incredible rush of speed as you punch through the top of the cloud deck, and the cotton turns to a blur as it roars past your ears…well, that’s worth the work it takes to do such things.

On the last day before my Instrument checkride, I departed from Santa Monica airport with my flight instructor to my right and my gorgeous pilot girlfriend in the back seat. We were given a clearance to climb to 4,000 ft. out to an intersection called SADDE. I expected we’d pop right out of the thin marine layer in a few seconds, as we usually did. But nooooo. This was several thousand feet thick – and dense. I can tell you in all honesty we could not see the wing tips ten feet away. It’s like the windows were painted white. Flying on instruments is just like regular flying, only you can’t see anything.

So barreling through the air at about 180 mph, I began my right turn towards SADDE. A glance down at the Turn Coordinator, a nice standard rate turn to the right, airspeed’s good, the engine seems happy…and then I notice that the Attitude Indicator – also known as an Artificial Horizon and my main view of the world outside – is showing me in a turn to the left, and increasing – fast.

Turn Coordinator showing right turn…Artificial Horizon showing one to the left. And in that instant, I felt something grab me by the toes. It was the sharp, tearing claws of panic, working their way into my shoes. I’ve had two engine failures in my flying career, and both of them were immediately followed by this same sick feeling. That fear has to be stepped on right now. If you start thinking about the hundreds of JFK Juniors I’ve read about and all the airplane wreckage scraped off mountainsides like the one I was approaching, then you are already most of the way to being dead.

Craig, we got a problem here. That was what I said, if in a vocal pitch that only dogs and flight instructors could hear. The turn coordinator and the AI are telling me different things!

He turns and looks at me calmly. Bummer!, he says casually, showing why the vast majority of CFI’s are not killed in training accidents but rather choked to death, found with finger-shaped bruises to the left side of the neck.

Then he gave me the best piece of advice I have ever received.

Kick its ass, he said. And that was it.

But that was all I needed to hear. God damn right! I’ll kick its ass!

That’s a decision you make…a decision to not be ruled by fear and panic. It is a decision to take all of those hard-wired instincts that have brought us so far – the fear of falling, the rising desire to just call for help then curl up in a ball – and put them away. Forget what the seat of your pants is telling you: that’s an express elevator down to an NTSC report with your name on it. The Attitude Indicator shows a turn to the left. Turn coordinator shows a turn to the right. But! Both the heading indicator and the whiskey compass also show a turn to the right. The A.I. – my only intuitive look at the world outside – is lying to me. I force myself to realize it is outvoted. We’re not turning left, like the little airplane wings on the little horizon in the little picture. We’re turning right.

This is the essence of training: the ability to do the right thing, not the instinctive thing. It is the voluntary placement of the human above the animal, the cerebral cortex above our reptile brain, which can be very LOUD in times like these. It is, in the end, a call to trust: trust your instruments, trust your airplane, trust your training and ultimately to trust yourself. This willing shift, this prying the claws of emotion from the inner voice of reason… this is the very essence of civilization. Trust what thousands of people have literally given their lives to teach us, even if it goes against instinct, survival and fear. Trust... It’s what makes the whole thing work.

Meanwhile, I need to notify Air Traffic Control that we’ve got a problem.

Socal approach, Experimental One Echo Foxtrot has a failed attitude indicator.

One Echo Foxtrot, roger. Do you wish to continue the approach?

No sir. What I’d really like is for someone to get a really big f***ing ladder and get us out of this mess.

Affirmative, One Echo Foxtrot will continue inbound on the ILS to Burbank.

One Echo Foxtrot, roger.

It’s much, much later that I wonder how and why the human animal – which when you get right down to it should really only need enough brainpower to make a sharp stick to throw at a gazelle – has enough reserve neuron connections to build a civilization so complex that a hairless ape like myself can chase a set of white needles across a four-inch instrument, while hurtling blind a mile up in the air at 150 knots without leaving nail and bite marks on the plexiglass. But, somehow, that’s what I did.

A few minutes later, I could see a patch of ground directly below, and then, after a little more needlework, we popped out beneath the layer. There, dead ahead, were the flashing approach strobes…Burbank Airport, right where those damn little white needles said it would be. Truth to tell, I was actually slightly to the left of the runway centerline, and Craig, my mute flight instructor in the seat next to me, was slightly to the right of it. That is a hell of a feeling, coming home to civilization, to an airport beacon right where it was supposed to be, to leave death up in the grey soup just this once with a weird, indescribable, clearly paradoxical mixture of burning pride and deep humility.

How many people were there with me that day? Not just the obvious two – Dana and Craig, whose support kept my monkey brain in the back of my head to return to throw pooh another day. How many guys were watching me on radar, keeping me separated from far, far better men and women who do this in their sleep up there? How many people did it take to make the instruments, to mine the silica for the glass, to tap the rubber for the wires? Who laid the asphalt on the runways, who built the filaments in the approach strobes, and who attached the ceramic tips to my spark plugs? And how many millions of other unseen connections had to be made to allow me to do, routinely, and on a middle-class salary, what billions of dead men and women would have given a lifetime to taste – just once. In those few minutes I just told you of, I stood on the shoulders of millions of my brothers and sisters, not the least of which were two sons of a preacher from Dayton, Ohio – now long dead but with me in spirit every day. I was atop a pyramid of dedication, hard work, ingenuity and progress, following rules written in the blood of the stupid and the brave and the unlucky.

I had tossed myself a mile into the air and landed safe in this Web of Trust.

Maximal Geek-Out

Ace Of Spades highlights an amusing Star Trek/Monty Python musical pastiche. Quite amusing if you've seen every episode of the 60's series as many times as I have, and can recognize which episodes each of the scenes of merriment comes from. So, you know, Big Fun, is all I'm saying.

Just Plain Disturbing

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See Right Wing News for the explanation.

Update: The Anchoress says:

For some reason, Hillary - who is an attractive woman - here looks like the love child of Jimmy Carter and Eleanor Roosevelt, but wearing the breastplate usually associated with Brunnhilda in Die Walkure!


Either way…no, this bust does not do it for me. Uh-uh. Anytime a woman is sculpted to look like Jimmy Carter, that is not a good day in that lady’s life.


I have to say, if I were Hillary, I would be working very hard, and very fast to get rid of this image and to do all I could do to keep people from saying, “Oh, Hillary is just Jimmy Carter with boobs…”

Nothing could sink her ambitions faster. And since the picture is out there…it may already be too late. For the next two years, you’ll see that picture and “Jimmy Carter with Boobs” everywhere. Associations are important. A thought is a thing.

What have I always told you…nothing is static, everything is always in flux. Assume nothing, because there are no foregone conclusions. And never, ever forget, that sometimes it’s the strangest, most unpredictable things, which have the most lasting and intense impact.

A Non-Momentary Lapse Of Reason

James Taranto:

In an op-ed in today's New York Times...Dukakis [writes]

If we are really serious about turning back the tide of illegal immigration, we should start by raising the minimum wage from $5.15 per hour to something closer to $8. . . .

Millions of illegal immigrants work for minimum and even sub-minimum wages in workplaces that don't come close to meeting health and safety standards. It is nonsense to say, as President Bush did recently, that these jobs are filled by illegal immigrants because Americans won't do them. Before we had mass illegal immigration in this country, hotel beds were made, office floors were cleaned, restaurant dishes were washed and crops were picked--by Americans.

Americans will work at jobs that are risky, dirty or unpleasant so long as they provide decent wages and working conditions, especially if employers also provide health insurance. Plenty of Americans now work in such jobs, from mining coal to picking up garbage. The difference is they are paid a decent wage and provided benefits for their labor.

However, Americans won't work for peanuts, and these days the national minimum wage is less than peanuts.

This is illogical. If the problem is that illegal immigrants are willing to work at subminimum wages, raising the minimum wage is the opposite of a solution. It would only enhance their competitive advantage over native Americans and legal immigrants.

Yes. Why, if we raised the minimum wage to $10,000/hr, I'm sure that every single worker in the country would be working "above board" and not "under the table"! It's fool-proof!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Great Analysis

Shrinkwrapped has a post entitled "The Danger of Fantasy in International Affairs". Great writing and analysis with excellent links.

Top Ten

Ace of Spades gives us Top Ten Ways In Which Keith Olbermann Alleges Bill O'Reilly Is Just Like Hitler.

Guns Don't Subdue Attackers, People Do

How typical.

Wrong, Wrong, Wrong

This Dennis Prager column contains the following litany (as an aside to the main topic):

I believe the Left has been wrong on virtually every great moral issue in the last 30 years.

During that period, it was wrong on the Cold War -- it devoted far more energy to fighting anti-communism than to fighting communism.

It was wrong for attacking Israel for its destruction of Saddam Hussein's nuclear reactor.

It was wrong on welfare.

It was wrong in its demanding less morally and intellectually from black Americans than from all other Americans.

It was wrong in advocating bilingual education for children of immigrants.

It was wrong in generally holding American society rather than violent criminals responsible for violent crime.

It was wrong in imposing its view on abortion on America through the courts rather than through the democratic process.

It was wrong in teaching a generation of men and women that men and women differ because of socialization not because of innate sex differences.

It was wrong in reducing sex to a purely biological and health issue for a generation of young Americans.

It was wrong in identifying "flag waving" with fascism.

It was wrong in supporting the teachers' unions rather than students and educational reform.

It was wrong in allying itself with trial lawyers and blocking tort reform.

It was wrong in blocking the military from recruiting on campuses and teaching a generation of young Americans that "war is not the answer" when war is at times the one moral answer.

It was wrong in arguing that America is not based on Judeo-Christian values, but on secular ones like Western Europe.

It was wrong in advancing multiculturalism, which is an extreme form of moral relativism that holds all cultures morally identical and which is a doctrine designed to undermine American national identity.

In just about every instance, one could say that the Left was foolish, the Left was naive, the Left was wrong, even that the Left was dangerous. But in all of those cases, one could imagine a decent person holding any or even all of these positions.

But we now have a bright line that divides the decent -- albeit usually wrong -- Left from the indecent Left...

To Whom Does The Death Of Innocents Accrue?

It seems to me, that if someone poses a serious and active threat to others and must be subdued or eliminated through the use of force, and such use of force results in the death of innocents (even when all reasonable precautions have been taken), then the moral evil of the death of those innocents accrues not to the defenders (the police, the Israeli army, the SWAT team, or whomever) but to the aggressors (Hezbollah, hostage takers, hijackers, or whomever). It appears that this is far too advanced a concept for the leftist mind to grasp.

James Taranto:

Complaining Without Context

CNN's Cal Perry delivers an emotional report from Tyre, Lebanon;

Standing in front of this 8-year-old boy lying in a hospital bed, the "conflict in the Middle East" and the "cost of war" seem endless and suffocating. His pain cannot possibly be imagined as he shakes uncontrollably in and out of shock. He has blood coming from his eyes. . . .

His name is Mahmood Monsoor and he is horribly burned. In the hospital bed next to him is his 8-month-old sister, Maria--also burned.

Their family, Perry reports, was "fleeing the fighting--trying to get north, waving white flags, when an Israeli bomb or missile slammed into their car." Two other siblings are in surgery, their father was killed, and their mother is hysterical:

The city of Tyre has been enduring stories like this for more than a week. Buildings are crumpled; those who have not left are hiding in basements. Those who dare to pack into cars run the risk of ending up like the Monsoor family. Some who move north die on the road. Some stay in basements, and die there. Others hope against hope that the bombs will fall elsewhere--missing them.

Politics creeps into the ward like the blood that runs on the floors. "Clearly he is Hezbollah," says one of the doctors outside the room--sarcastically referring to 8-year-old Mahmood, whose screams can be heard from the hallway. His screams now blend with the wails of his mother, matching the baby's cries.

Perry concludes by suggesting an equivalence between Israel and Hezbollah:

Today, as I finish I am sitting in the same spot and the shells are still falling. Hezbollah rockets are firing toward northern Israel. I can imagine another reporter, in another flak jacket, standing over an 8-year old Israeli boy.

For the context that Perry misses, we turn to Ha'aretz's Ze'ev Schiff:

We can say without a doubt that the war of attrition against the city of Haifa and its residents is a tale of two cities: Tyre in Lebanon versus Haifa in Israel. The Hezbollah unit deployed in Tyre and its environs has been bombarding Haifa with Syrian rockets and upgraded Iranian-made Katyushas. If this unit is not destroyed, it will continue to target Haifa.

The difference, of course, is that Hezbollah is deliberately targeting civilians in Haifa, whereas Israel is accidentally harming civilians in the course of protecting its own people from a violent threat. In fact, Hezbollah is deliberately endangering civilians in Tyre, too, by using them as human shields:

In one known case, a bomb struck a basement and killed those inside. Later, it turned out that of the 32 casualties, mostly dead, 11 were armed Hezbollah militants. The basement served Hezbollah and civilians that sought cover. In the current fighting there is no alternative but to convince the citizens of the city to leave, and make it easy to do so. But it is unclear whether Hezbollah will allow the evacuation of civilians from Tyre.

Israel, unlike Hezbollah, is constrained by human decency. By using civilians as shields, Hezbollah hopes to limit the Jewish state's military options. Hezbollah wins either way, since if Israeli strikes do hurt or kill civilians, the international media, including CNN, depict this as the result of Israel's, rather than Hezbollah's, brutality.

A report like Cal Perry's, in other words, provides Hezbollah with an incentive to endanger Lebanese civilians further. CNN, then, must bear some degree of moral culpability for the suffering of Lebanon's population.

Update: Coincidentally, John Hawkins has created a quiz based on this very concept.

Does Theodicy Explain The Idiocy?

James Taranto:

John Kerry and the Problem of Evil

The Detroit News goes out for a drink with a visitor from the east:

U.S. Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who was in town Sunday to help Gov. Jennifer Granholm campaign for her re-election bid, took time to take a jab at the Bush administration for its lack of leadership in the Israeli-Lebanon conflict.

"If I was president, this wouldn't have happened," said Kerry during a noon stop at Honest John's bar and grill in Detroit's Cass Corridor.

Now, our first thought when we read this was: Yeah, if Kerry were president, he wouldn't spend his days moping around some bar in Detroit. But then we realized that's not what he meant. He meant that if he were president, Hezbollah wouldn't be waging war on Israel. Just like, as John Edwards said in 2004, "we will stop juvenile diabetes, Parkinson's, Alzheimer's and other debilitating diseases. . . . People like Chris Reeve will get out of their wheelchairs and walk again."

If Kedwards have the power to eliminate war and disease, why don't they use it? This is the age-old problem of evil:

Why does [John Kerry] allow evil? If He is all powerful, then He should be able to prevent it. If He is omnipotent and does nothing about evil, then we suspect that there are limits to His goodness, that there is something wrong with Him, that He is not all good. Perhaps He has an evil streak, or is truly malicious and we are merely His toys--expendable and counting for nothing.

Or perhaps, like Al Gore, he doesn't exist.

Monday, July 24, 2006

The Common Cause Of Leftists And Jihadis Stems From That One Seldom-Mentioned Deadly Sin

Envy. Shrinkwrapped examines the shared dynamic.


Tribal societies manage envy in two ways.

1) They maintain a small elite which is insulated from the masses (by religious or social convention and control of organized violence, ie power) and the masses are maintained at relatively similar levels of poverty. This diminishes the disparities which fuel envy.

2) They direct the envy outward toward other tribes. This is one of the reasons the fantasy of the noble savage who lives in peaceful harmony with the environment and with others, is such nonsense. Tribes cannot be pacifistic; they must be war-like since their internal cohesion relies on externalizing their aggression.

From almost the time Abraham entered into the Covenant with God, the Jew has functioned as the ideal "other" tribe upon which to project one's envy.


Using Jews as a way to manage envy has continued to be the modus operandi of the Arab world. If anything, the problem had become exponentially more difficult with the founding of the state of Israel. Since the founding of Israel, the disparity between the accomplishments of the tiny Jewish minority in their midst, and the enormous mass of Arab and Islamic peoples surrounding them, has grown by leaps and bounds. This despite the Muslim world being blessed with the possession of a large percentage of the world's energy reserves.


In the West, communism was an attempt to rescue the tribal system from the growing disparities of unconstrained capitalism, which threatened to increase envy to such a degree as to threaten the existing order. Communism would have worked if it did not have the capitalist success by which to compare itself. After all, what was communism, in practice, except the establishment of a new tribal society based on a small cadre of elites monopolizing assets while enabling shared deprivation for the masses (with the Utopian promise of abundant goods and services for everyone just as soon as the system could become established and start to work properly.) The purest form of communism arguably was the Khmer Rouge, who were so committed to equality for everyone that anyone with any special skills was put to death. Death certainly puts an end to envy; everyone is exactly equal once dead.

The Welfare State, Socialism-lite, has been the democratic compromise response to the tendency of unbridled capitalism to lead to new elites with monopolies of power and goods; by offering a safety net to all, all could be encouraged to strive for riches. This allowed "normal" envy to be managed by the possibility of achieving success for most people. As a corollary, wealthy liberals often feel the need to pursue class based policies in order to minimize the imagined envy of the poor for what they have. If they feel they are not truly deserving of their wealth (because it was inherited, or because they were privileged or lucky) it makes them even more fearful and determined.

This is precisely where the left and the Islamists intersect. They both believe in managing envy by using the tribal template. They are both terrified of a future in which they cannot compete and in which they may lose their privileges. They have differing, and mutually exclusive, ideologies, but they agree on the basic problem and the basic solution, which is why so many on the far left have found a home in alliance with radical Islam...

A Fun Thing To Do

I laughed out loud several times during this Colbert Report interview with Florida Rep Robert Wexler (D). Colbert is a comic genius.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Worth One Thousand Words

Found here.

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Almost All Outta Gum

Loss of patience probably doesn't mean what the leftists think.


Some in the West, including domestic political opposition, think that the loss of patience by the West translates primarily into retreat, withdrawal, and a return to reliance on diplomacy. That may be a serious misreading of the public attitude. We believe that, for a substantial part of the American public, loss of patience puts them in a far more lethal frame of mind. The overwhelming support in Israel of Ehud Olmert’s swift and total effort to obliterate Hezbollah might also reveal something about the mindset of Americans. VDH:

[some good quotes from Hanson piece]


We believe that anti-war cadres in America have deluded themselves into a seriously wrong analysis of the mindset of much of the American people, which is just fine with us — the problem comes because these anti-war types mug for the cameras and announce their views to the enemy via the MSM, encouraging America’s foes to try even greater depredations to wear out the stamina of the man in the street. The anti-war cadres and the MSM hence give temporary aid and comfort to the enemy, goading him to miscalculate and persist in his barbarity. If the result of such aid and comfort is the American version of Israel’s — 100x more powerful than Israel’s strikes against Hezbollah — those anti-war fools may turn out to be responsible for far more killing and suffering — when hell is finally unleashed — than would have taken place if America had presented a unified face to the world in the first place.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Islam Is Not Medieval

American Thinker piece tells why calling Islam "medieval" would actually be an undeserved compliment, and also looks at how the word "medieval" is often used as an anti-Christian insult.

Bad Writing Contest

Good for some amusement.


"I know what you're thinking, punk," hissed Wordy Harry to his new editor, "you're thinking, 'Did he use six superfluous adjectives or only five?' - and to tell the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement; but being as this is English, the most powerful language in the world, whose subtle nuances will blow your head clean off, you've got to ask yourself one question: 'Do I feel loquacious?' - well do you, punk?"


It was a day, like any other day, in that Linus got up, faced the sunrise, used his inhaler, applied that special cream between his toes, wrote a quick note and put it in a bottle, and wished he'd been stranded on the island with something other than 40 cases each of inhalers, decorative bottles, and special toe cream.


Gripping his six-shot Colt Python with 8-inch barrel and Royal Blue finish, and tightening the straps on his Paratec Speed 2000 parachute, Jake leaped from the left aft hatchway of the tumbling, green-and-silver, twin-engined Embraer Lineage 1000, which had seating for nineteen passengers.


Words cannot describe the exquisite loveliness of the brilliant azure sky with its cerulean striations of periwinkle, cornflower, and cyan.


The steam rose off his sweaty red flannel shirt like cotton candy on a cardboard cone, if cotton candy were transparent in a misty sort of way and didn't actually stick to its cone, but instead rose upwards something like steam rising off a sweaty flannel shirt in the twilight of an early winter Vermont afternoon.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Jew Hatred And Psychosis

Good post at ShrinkWrapped explores Arab/Islamic delusionism as a common form of clinical psychosis writ large.


The young woman I described used the Jews as her explanation for her emerging severe psychiatric disturbance. While it helped her preserve some false self-esteem for a time, it also made it impossible for her to accept the help that she so desperately needed. She identified all Doctors as part of the Jewish conspiracy and as a result could not accept their medication. She would even attack those who could help her (as with the policeman who brought her into the hospital for her second admission.) Without her needed medications, she suffered frequent and worsening psychotic episodes; her life deteriorated apace until she was finally left homeless, friendless, and estranged from those who loved her.

Contrast that with the behavior of the Arab legions who so hate Israel and the Jews. Rather than spend their energies trying to build their own societies, they devote their lives to destroying their imagined enemies. One of the great ironies has been that when the Israelis finally gave in to despair and began to build the fence to separate themselves from those who hate them so much, the Palestinians complained that the Israelis were preventing them from earning a living.

The Arabs have a choice of facing their own dysfunction and struggling to join the modern world or continuing to blame the Jews for all that ails them. One course leads to a chance of a better life; the other leaves them nearly friendless, homeless, and isolated.

As with a paranoid patient, the delusions, unless confronted (in a patient with medication), spreads and poisons all relationships; their delusions contaminate their own ability to think and adequately evaluate reality. The Muslim Jew-haters are becoming increasingly bizarre in their beliefs, unable to evaluate the impact of their own behavior, and more and more isolated. Their delusions spreads. They convince themselves the Americans are colluding with the Jews to threaten them. They convince themselves that they can destroy the Jews and the Americans. The misinterpret restraint as weakness and convince themselves that their own bravado represents strength. All who do not support them then become agents of the enemy, which causes them to attack those who might help them. As their house collapses around them, they voe to keep fighting, to use the most vile means to kill their enemies, even while their behavior discredits them and alienates their neighbors and friends.

Like the patient I described, they will end up homeless, in tatters, with no friends, no jobs, and no prospects, all in obeisance to their delusions of persecution and grandeur.

Once a person has been infected with paranoid anti-Semitism, the treatment is extremely difficult and often to no avail. Once a society has been infected with paranoid anti-Semitism, they may well be untreatable. Israel is offering the Arab a chance to repudiate their hatreds and begin to build their own society; if they cannot see their own responsibility for their plight, there is no hope for them and they will eventually be ground into dust.

The ShrinkWrapped post links Gagdab Bob at One Cosmos, who says:

It is actually not difficult to tell when one is on the receiving end of projective identification. That is, you suddenly feel is if you are unwillingly being enlisted into someone else's psychodrama, and being forced to play a part. The person acts toward you as if you have the qualities they have projected into you, and may well goad you into responding in ways that confirm to the projector that you actually have those qualities--that they aren't projections at all. If any of my readers are married, you probably don't need any further explanation.


Although he doesn't use the term, Lee Harris's excellent book Civilization and Its Enemies describes the phenomenon perfectly. First, he points out why the process is invisible to us. That is, people who have gone through the "civilizing process" forget that this took millennia, and have no understanding of those who have not completed the human journey. They "forget how much work it is to not kill one's neighbors, simply because this work was all done by our ancestors so that it could be willed to us as an heirloom.”

Just because we as a nation no longer have enemies that we need to primitively project our bad qualities into, we are fooled into thinking that we actually have no enemies, or that if we do, there is some rational, logical, "root cause" that can explain it--that if we are only nice enough, or compassionate enough, they will come around. But as Dr. Sanity or ShrinkWrapped will confirm, this is completely ineffective with projective identification, because the projector emotionally needs you to have the qualities they are projecting...[T]he Islamists need Israel or America to be the source of all evil in the world...

In reality, an enemy is someone who regards you as an enemy, whether or not you deserve the title. We clearly had an enemy for twenty or thirty or seven hundred years before 9-11, not because Islamists were our enemy, but because we were their enemy. We couldn't see it because it was a completely irrational process, based on projective identification. But with sufficient provocation, we have finally been enlisted into the Islamists’ psychodrama, taking on the role so vital to their psychological equilibrium. In other words, we are not their enemy because we are evil--because we have done anything in the real world, such as placing our soldiers on Saudi territory, or supporting Israel. Rather, as Harris points out, we are evil because we are their enemy.


First, there is an obvious psychological need for the projective fantasy, or it wouldn't be there to begin with. As Harris explains, a fantasy ideology such as Islamism is not a rational response to the world arrived at in a logical, sober manner. Rather, like "Leftism," it is a transformative belief, meaning that its primary purpose is to psychologically transform the person who believes the fantasy. And believing the fantasy is an end in itself--it has no purpose other than to make the fantasy seem like reality. Therefore, the real reason for 9-11 wasn't actually to bring down western civilization. Rather, it was to further the fantasy by getting us to play along with it. There's no way to reason with these psychologically unsophisticated abduling banjo-pickers and nonlocal yokels.

Iranically, what this means is that, even though we have no real enemy and the Islamists have only a make believe one, because of projective identification we end up with a real enemy. However, underneath it all is a fantasy that we must nevertheless eradicate, and the only way to do that is to bring a little thing called reality to the Islamic world. In the coming days, let us pray that the Jews, who have long been instrumental to the cause of human post-biological evolution (”three thousand years of beautiful tradition, from Moses to Sandy Koufax,” in the words of Walter Sobchak) will successfully introduce a little reality to the psychotically evil fantasists that surround them. Oddly enough, it's what they're begging for. Why not give it to them, good and hard? It's the empathic thing to do.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Vader Sessions

Well done. H/T Ace of Spades, who describes it as "Darth Vader's dialogue replaced by wildly inappropriate dialogue by James Earl Jones in other movies." Indeed.

80 Words? Here It Is In 21.

John Hawkins:

Chuck Schumer is complaining that the Democratic Party can't explain what they stand for to the American people.

"We don't have 80 words" to sum up the Democratic agenda. We don't have eight."

Conservatives generally have no problem explaining what they want to do, although Republicans often fall short of their ideals once they get into office. The reason Democrats have problems doing the same thing is because they're just not honest about what they believe. It's actually pretty easy to explain the Democratic agenda:

Cut and run in Iraq, impeach Bush, raise taxes, amnesty for illegal aliens, create more government programs, and support gay marriage.

See? It wasn't hard at all to sum up all the Democrats' major priorities in just 21 words.

But since the Democrats continuously try to run on fake agendas they either don't care about or don't believe in, they've taken something that should be extremely simple for any politician to do and made it hard. The fix is to either run on their actual agenda -- and lose in most of the country -- or change the agenda to remain competitive.

But as long as they're still fumbling around in public when they're asked to take a stand, you'll know they're still being dishonest.

Combat Diary

From an Israeli F-16 pilot.

It begins:

Wednesday 1000

Returning back to my base from a routine practice mission. Taxiing back to the parking area, I hear "Zanek" (Jump) on the radio. What? I asked myself. Everything was calm when I took off, just one hour ago. By the time I get out of the plane, I hear the roar of the heavy takeoffs. And then another roar, and another. There is something different in the sound of a combat takeoff with a full load of bombs: the takeoff is long, the planes are heavy, the afterburner is used longer - not the light and quick training takeoffs. Something is definitely happening, I say to myself...

Monday, July 17, 2006

Disproportionate Response

Good post.


The “D” word came up again today in the news. This time it was the Lebanese prime minister who said it.


If you could cut through all the Kofi-speak to the heart of the matter, what do you think would be a “proportionate” response to the provocations Israel has endured? Do the Israelis have to fire Qassam rockets into Gaza at Hamas? Do Jewish kids have to strap on bomb belts and blow themselves up in Ramallah?

Do Israeli commanders have to get on the phone to UN headquarters and clear their orders with the General Assembly before having their subordinates carry them out?


As someone recently said, it’s like a bank robbery — when the call comes in that three men are robbing a bank, then the cops can only send in three patrolmen to stop them.

Or imagine that you’re woken up in the middle of the night by a burglar in the living room. You grab your twelve-gauge and creep down the stairs very quietly. But when you flip on the light and surprise the burglar, he’s armed with only a knife! What do you do? Why, you drop the shotgun, rush to the kitchen, and rummage through the drawers for a knife. And not just any knife — it has to be no longer or sharper than the one the burglar has!


I say, “To hell with all that! Bring on the Disproportionate Response!”

As an American, I recognize my constitutional right to take whatever measures necessary to protect myself, my family, and my home. If someone comes after my wife and child, tearing him limb from limb would not be disproportionate. If I showed mercy, and subdued him by other means, that would be my prerogative. But I am in no way required to.

It’s the same for Israel. Personally, I think the Israelis have shown remarkable restraint in the face of intolerable provocation. They not only bend over backwards — and take extra casualties — to avoid hurting civilians, they rush the enemy wounded to Israeli hospitals and give them the best treatment Western medicine can provide.

Based on what’s been done to them, they’d be justified in clearing Lebanon and Gaza of people and paving both places over. They haven’t; but that’s their prerogative.

I don’t think Israel’s enemies have seen even the beginnings of “disproportionate”.

Update: Michael Poole comments that James Taranto had a good quip regarding proportionality: "Some have criticized Israel for not responding proportionately to the attacks, but we'd counsel patience. After all, the Israelis aren't done yet."

Michele McNally Fest

Here's the NYT slideshow containing the "whose side are you on?" sniper picture that's been getting lots of discussion (see today's HotAir, for example). There are photos from lots of different news events, complete with editor Michele McNally's breathless, self-congratulatory, and (let's be frank) asinine comments. "What a moment!"

Rock 'Em, Sock 'Em Robots

No child of the 70's could fail to enjoy this Cox & Forkum cartoon.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Sophistry Leads To Stimulating Discussion

Pretty good discussion going on a Telic Thoughts in response to this post:

Science and God
by MikeGene

PZ Myers has a quote from J.B.S. Haldane that he admires:

My practise as a scientist is atheistic. That is to say, when I set up an experiment I assume that no god, angel, or devil is going to interfere with its course; and this assumption has been justified by such success as I have achieved in my professional career. I should therefore be intellectually dishonest if I were not also atheistic in the affairs of the world. And I should be a coward if I did not state my theoretical views in public. - J.B.S. Haldane

Who can argue with a brilliant scientist who has lab evidence that God does not exist? Just imagine – J.B.S. Haldane was always justified when he assumed God would not interfere with his experiments. Now we see the “scientific” understanding of God - if God exists, he should have been goofing with J.B.S. Haldane and messing up his experiments to prevent Haldane from becoming a success!

Haldane as success = God does not exist.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Darned Funny

I actually saw this on television years ago (serendipitously, since I almost never watch tv), and serendipitously, I have stumbled on it again on YouTube.

Geneva For Thee, But Not For Me

Instapundit highlights a very good point:

READER STEPHEN CLARK has a question:

A simple question asked in the context of recent events and prior discussions of the Geneva Accords: Why hasn't the International Committee of the Red Cross demanded access to the Israeli soldiers taken in Gaza and in northern Israel? The same could be asked for any other relevant organizations as well as governments who've recently been concerned with the treatment of non-uniformed combatants.

Certainly the soldier taken into Gaza is the responsibility of the quasi-Palestinian state and surely deserving of Geneva protections. Hezbollah while not a state or quasi-state has at least as much stature as Al Qaeda and it seems that the international community believes that Geneva extends to Al Qaeda's representatives; so, why would it not also extend to uniformed soldiers held by Hezbollah which, I believe, has declared itself to be at war with the state of Israel.

Because, of course, the Geneva Conventions only apply against Israel, and the United States, never to their benefit. You can look it up.

posted at 07:40 AM by Glenn Reynolds

Friday, July 14, 2006

In The Event Of The Rapture, This Blog Will Not Be Updated

Title of this post came from a comment to this Ace of Spades post:

End of Times: Strategic Think-Tank Predicted Iran May Attempt Biblical/Koranic Apocalypse Scenario
– Ace

...which looks a bit like what we're going through right now.

All to plunge the world into "blood and fire and chaos" in order to hasten the coming of the Muslim Messiah.

Gee whiz, I thought that left-wingers hated religious fundamentalists with apocalyptic messiah complex. And yet, so little mention of Ahmadinejad.

See also this interesting Ace of Spades post entitled "Arab's Letter To His Palestinian Brothers: The War Is Over, And Israel Won".

Amusing Picture Of The Day

Found this on Drudge. I guess the baby is a Democrat.

Click to zoom:

Click to Zoom


You'd think representatives of a miniscule 2% minority would think twice before upping the ante with tolerance-destroying tactics such as this:

A group that supports gay marriage, knowthyneighbor, has created a website displaying the names of more than 100,000 signers of a petition that calls for the state Constitution to be amended to prohibit same-sex marriage.

Knowthyneighbor's tactics are controversial, with critics alleging that knowthyneighbor is making the names of same-sex marriage opponents public in an effort to expose or intimidate them. The group's founders say they are simply promoting civic discourse.

The names of 43 Provincetown residents are listed on the website. Most of the petition signers attend St. Peter the Apostle Catholic Church, which serves the Portuguese community and others in town. The Catholic Church has helped lead the fight against same-sex marriage.

One St. Peter's parishioner, Yvonne Cabral, was verbally accosted last Friday by Provincetown Magazine publisher Rick Hines after Hines learned that Cabral signed the petition, according to police.

Police Chief Ted Meyer plans to seek charges of disorderly conduct against Hines, who saw Cabral shopping and loudly called her a ``bigot," according to both Hines and Meyer. Other people who signed the petition -- and subsequently had their names posted on the same website -- said manure has been spread on their properties in recent months, Meyer added.

All parties involved agree that Cabral was shopping and Hines was buying a hotdog when Hines told Cabral that she was a bigot.

Police said the matter was under investigation and declined to provide the Globe a copy of the police report.

The Rev. Henry J. Dahl, pastor at St. Peter's, heard about what happened to Cabral, and about another parishioner who said she felt intimidated after a flier was stuck on her car in the middle of the night with a list of the names of petition signers -- including her own. Dahl decided to call the police chief.

``People who signed the petition, I think they knew what they were getting into," said Dahl. ``There was a certain expectation of knowing that when you make a statement like that, there could be certain consequences that follow."

``But this was a dramatic experience," he said, referring to Cabral's encounter with Hines.

Hines said the matter was being blown out of proportion.

``I knew she signed the petition and I ran into her, and I gave her a piece of my mind," said Hines.

Hines added: ``After being pushed and prodded your whole life for being gay, you run into someone you know sees you as a second-class citizen and it's human to respond. . . . I regret that it happened that way."

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Hi-Ho, Hi-Ho, To Bankruptcy We Go

Charles Hugh Smith has an amusing, cartoon-illustrated housing bubble post called "Welcome To Fantasyland" (you may have to scroll to find it, I couldn't find a link to the individual piece).

FĂștbor, Otra Vez

A letter to the American Spectator:

Reid Collins makes good points about soccer. May I try my hand, as it were, or is that a yellow card?

Having enjoyed playing soccer so much in gym class, I determined to watch as much of the World Cup competition as I could to see if I could awaken some of that zeal vicariously. I couldn't, but at least now I think I know why.

First, the game is just so imprecise!

The very best players in the world managed to:

* Attempt passes that were intercepted about as often as not;

* Attempt head contact with the ball and get only air, about as often as not;

* Attempt shots on goal that went wide left, wide right or high, and I do mean high, almost without exception; and, second;

* Drop to the ground and writhe as if in the throes of flaming death upon contact by an opponent, much, much more often than would the best coached NFL quarterback or a major league batter plunked by a 95 mph fastball in any but his tenderest parts, or any hockey player at any level (this has nothing to do with imprecision, but everything to do with American distaste).

These results are virtually indistinguishable from the results observed on the makeshift "pitch" of McClellan Elementary, circa 1965. In the latter case, fun was had by all except Mr. Rosensteel, who could be observed rolling his eyes in disbelief at the ineptitude (and disgust at the "sissiness") rampant on his treasured playing field, as he waited patiently for the curriculum to dictate a change to instruction in more American and rewarding pursuits, even if that only meant running laps.

Daring not to venture slurs on the athletic abilities of our global community, I can only hazard that the Good Lord (or evolution, if you must) gave us hands for a reason, or reasons. One of those reasons must be to propel a ball of some description toward a goal, however defined or indirect. If He had meant our feet for such a purpose, He (or "it") would have made them prehensile. Even the strictest proponent of evolution must admit that we humans didn't get to the top of the food chain by virtue of anything done with our feet or by using our heads as battering rams.

Compare and contrast the precision of a touchdown pass, an NBA three pointer off a fast break or a slider not quite down and away on a 3-2 count with what was witnessed in the World Cup competition. These are the things Americans want to see. Many of us will even settle for a pitch to the green from deep in the bunker by Tiger Woods, or Tony Stewart threading the needle between the wall and Jeff Gordon. Good Lord, I hate to watch tennis, but it sure doesn't tolerate wildness, and the highlight reel isn't about missed shots.

We want to see strategy, tactics and execution that pay off or have bad consequences. Make a bad pass in soccer and the game drones on. Make a bad shot on goal in soccer and the game drones on, as does the utterly incessant chanting of the apparently hypnotized fans. Do anything but score in soccer and the game drones on, with intercepted passes, missed shots and extra writhing when the lads get distressed in addition to tired.

That brings me to my other point. What's the point of having a ninety-minute game with limited substitution on a field bigger than a football field, when so many games must be decided by shootouts? I have no clue what that's about, but it has to be great for concession sales.

I can also hardly believe that these well-conditioned athletes can't bear the pansy hits that send them into histrionics on the grass. I think they just get tired and milk the so-called "hits" for a break. In sixth grade, guys like that just stayed away from the ball, but at the level of the World Cup, that would hardly do, would it? Would it help to pad these guys more fully?

I could go on with some speculation about how the success of any country's soccer team seems to vary inversely with that nation's war record and leadership in the defense of freedom, but I don't feel like looking it up. However, seeing Italy and France playing for the championship raised the issue in my mind. I stand prepared to be corrected.

Americans aren't used to the imprecise, lollygagging style of soccer. We don't have hours long dinners, months long vacations or siestas at noon. We got to be the most productive nation on the planet by means of strategy, tactics and execution, and we didn't tie our hands behind our backs or reward those with thick skulls, except for boxers. Even then, how many of the great heavyweights have come from the rest of the world?

Sure, put the World Cup on TV. Take the kids to practice and games. Support your local high school or college soccer team. On the other hand, don't feel guilty because you 'just don't get it' about soccer at the 'highest levels'. After all, it looks pretty much like soccer at the lowest levels.

-- Mark Fallert
Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

'What For' Given


We Could Use The Entebbe- Era Israel Again

Good FrontPageMag piece, includes this retrospective about the Entebbe raid:

Thirty years ago on the night of July 3rd and morning of July 4th in 1976, Israeli commandos flew into the heart of Africa to the old terminal building at Uganda's Entebbe Airport and in a lighting operation freed 103 hostages.

Some 250 passengers had been hijacked a week earlier aboard Air France Flight 139 en route from Athens to Paris by the Marxist-Leninist PLO faction, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP). Once in control of the plane, the terrorists diverted the flight to Idi Amin's bloodthirsty dictatorship, after refueling supplied by the already veteran terrorist regime of Libya's Muammar Gaddafi. The terrorists gradually released most passengers, retaining only those with Israeli passports or Jewish surnames plus the Air France crew of Captain Michel Bacos, who refused to abandon any of his charges.

The German and Arabs hijackers – this was a comradely joint project of Baader-Meinhof and the PLO – demanded the release of jailed Palestinian terrorists in an assortment of Israeli and European jails and threatened to start murdering the hostages if their demands went unmet. With the passengers captive in the middle of a seemingly inaccessible African tyranny, there was no reason to suppose anyone, the Israelis included, would have any choice but to cave in.

Instead, only hours before the deadline, Israeli commandos flew the 2,500 miles to Uganda in four C-130 Hercules military transport planes, taking the terrorists and their Ugandan enablers entirely by surprise. The terminal building holding the hostages was stormed, seven of the ten terrorists were killed, along with about 40 Ugandan soldiers, and all but four hostages were safely spirited away. The Israelis neutralized Amin's air force to avoid a catastrophic pursuit by Ugandan pilots, eleven of their MIG jets being destroyed on the ground. All Israeli commandos returned alive but for their field commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Yonatan Netanyahu.

A United Nations Security Council debate had achieved little but it did at least provide a platform for a denunciation against the terrorists and their supporters by Israel's UN Ambassador, Chaim Herzog, while Israel basked perhaps for the last time in international acclaim and sympathy for resolutely fighting terrorism. No international police action had procured the hostages release and no one had been able to offer Israel more than tea and sympathy. As so often before, the Israelis had demonstrated that they relied on no one except themselves to fight for their own.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Medawar, Eden, and Ulam Are Just A Bunch Of Bush Voting Theocratic Morons

Men of their caliber have no place commenting on the feasibility of Darwinian evolution. After all, they don't have degrees in evolutionary biology.

From Evolution News And Views:

Mathematicians and Evolution

As recently highlighted here, mathematics is an academic locale where scientific skepticism of Neo-Darwinism can survive the current political climate! Discovery Institute recently received an e-mail from someone commenting on the Scientific Dissent from Darwinism List where over 600 Ph.D. scientists from various fields agree that they are "skeptical of claims for the ability of random mutation and natural selection to account for the complexity of life." This skeptic of evolutionary-skepticism e-mailer wrote "I'm a mathematician and certainly am NOT qualified to support such a statement. Only evolutionary biologists are qualified to respond here." While the Dissent from Darwinism list does contain individuals trained in evolutionary biology, the question remains "Is the objection valid?"

The truth is that mathematics has a strong tradition of giving cogent critique of evolutionary biology. After all, Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection is fundamentally based upon an algorithm which uses a mathematically describable trial and error process to attempt to produce complexity. Population genetics is rife with mathematics. In fact, one criticism of the alleged transitional fossil sequences for whales is that they represent evolutionary change on too rapid a timescale to be mathematically feasible. It seems that there is no good reason why those trained in mathematics cannot comment on the ability of the Neo-Darwinian mutation-selection process to generate the complexity of life.

One of the best known mathematical forays into evolution was the 1966 Wistar Symposium, held in Philadelphia, where mathematicians and other scientists from related fields congregated to assess whether Neo-Darwinism is mathematically feasible. The conference was chaired by Nobel Laureate Sir Peter Medawar. The general consensus of many meeting participants was that Neo-Darwinism was simply not mathematically tenable.

The proceedings of that conference, Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution (Wistar Institute Press, 1966, No. 5), reports various challenges to evolution presented by respected mathematicians and similar scholars at the conference. For example, the conference chair Sir Peter Medawar stated at the outset:

"[T]he immediate cause of this conference is a pretty widespread sense of dissatisfaction about what has come to be thought as the accepted evolutionary theory in the English-speaking world, the so-called neo-Darwinian Theory. ... There are objections made by fellow scientists who feel that, in the current theory, something is missing ... These objections to current neo-Darwinian theory are very widely held among biologists generally; and we must on no account, I think, make light of them. The very fact that we are having this conference is evidence that we are not making light of them."

(Sir Peter Medawar, "Remarks by the Chairman," in Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution (Wistar Institute Press, 1966, No. 5), pg. xi, emphasis in original)

Various scientists, including some mathematicians, proceeded to comment about problems with Neo-Darwinism:

"[A]n opposite way to look at the genotype is as a generative algorithm and not as a blue-print; a sort of carefully spelled out and foolproof recipe for producing a living organism of the right kind if the environment in which it develops is a proper one. Assuming this to be so, the algorithm must be written in some abstract language. Molecular biology may well have provided us with the alphabet of this language, but it is a long step from the alphabet to understanding a language. Nevertheless a language has to have rules, and these are the strongest constraints on the set of possible messages. No currently existing formal language can tolerate random changes in the symbol sequences which express its sentences. Meaning is almost invariably destroyed. Any changes must be syntactically lawful ones. I would conjecture that what one might call "genetic grammaticality" has a deterministic explanation and does not owe its stability to selection pressure acting on random variation."

(Murray Eden, "Inadequacies as a Scientific Theory," in Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution (Wistar Institute Press, 1966, No. 5), pg. 11)

"[I]t seems to require many thousands, perhaps millions, of successive mutations to produce even the easiest complexity we see in life now. It appears, naively at least, that no matter how large the probability of a single mutation is, should it be even as great as one-half, you would get this probability raised to a millionth power, which is so very close to zero that the chances of such a chain seem to be practically non-existent."

(Stanislaw M. Ulam, "How to Formulate Mathematically Problems of Rate of Evolution," in Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution (Wistar Institute Press, 1966, No. 5), pg. 21)

"We do not know any general principle which would explain how to match blueprints viewed as typographic objects and the things they are supposed to control. The only example we have of such a situation (apart from the evolution of life itself) is the attempt to build self-adapting programs by workers in the field of artificial intelligence. Their experience is quite conclusive to most of the observers: without some built-in matching, nothing interesting can occur. Thus, to conclude, we believe that there is a considerable gap in the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution, and we believe this gap to be of such a nature that it cannot be bridged within the current conception of biology."

(Marcel Schutzenberger, "Algorithms and Neo-Darwinian Theory," in Mathematical Challenges to the Neo-Darwinian Interpretation of Evolution (Wistar Institute Press, 1966, No. 5), pg. 75)

These are potent arguments from academics qualified to assess the mathematical ability of a random / selective process to produce complexity. While evolutionary biologists and other types of biologists can yield many insights into evolutionary biology, scientists other than biologists, such as mathematicians, are most certainly qualified to comment on the feasibility of Neo-Darwinian evolution.

Well, no, they're obviously not. They have not undergone peer review and passed muster with the folks at Panda's Thumb, and Talk.Origins.

The Utter Horror

Joel Stein has an unwanted flag planted on his lawn (in fairness, it's definitely uncool of the real estate agent that did this).

Lileks has some fun with Stein's column:

On a related note, as long as I’m feeling screedy: It’s the hapless and jape-free Joel Stein, writing about finding a flag planted on his lawn. (Via Villianous.) It’s called “Eek! A flag on my lawn,” which suggests that the entire column was dictated from a chair on which Mr. Stein stood, shifting from leg to leg in panic. Anyway, he dithered about how to dispose of the flag, until

my wife, Cassandra, got sick of this conversation. So she plucked the flag out of our planter and threw it away, not even in the recycle bin. This is a woman who hates both political parties.

I’d say she hates a bit more than that. We continue:

It threw me into a moral tizzy. Why didn't I want a flag in front of my house? Why didn't I ever have one before?

Substantial moral issues rarely manifest themselves in a tizzy, but we are in Eek! Territory. In any case, he probably didn’t want a flag in front of his house because he regarded them as the rightful property of gray-haired buzz-cut men named Ed with watermelon bellies and white T-shirts who gave Joel a friendly nod, but always made him feel as though they knew he couldn’t tie a decent knot, and only shined his shoes for funerals.

Would it be wrong to, late that night, assume that my next-door neighbor would enjoy two flags outside his house?

If a blunter axe ever split an infinitive, I’ve never seen it. We learn next the mysterious origin of the contagion; it’s from a realtor with a name that’s feelin’ fresh:

Massengale told me that in the town she grew up in near St. Louis, most people kept a flag up all year. Even though I've seen tons of neighborhoods that do this, I've never actually lived in one. I've also never lived in a neighborhood that had those flags reminding you of the holidays and seasons.

Those flags.

Note: they don’t remind us of the holidays, they exemplify the holiday. And as far as I know, no one puts out a flag on behalf of a season. Not even wabbit season.

In fact, I've always looked down on those places.

That’s the key line, right there. Not because he admits to looking down on people who put up a flag on the Fourth; that’s hardly unusual in the thin moist demographic stratum he occupies. It’s not that they don’t like the flag, necessarily, and it’s not that they don’t enjoy the Fourth, but put the two together and people might get the wrong idea. No, what amused me was the sight of a writer who’d burrowed so far up the aperture of his warm narcissistic cocoon he has no idea how he comes across. I have liberal friends who fly flags without apology or worry, because they’re Americans, because it’s the Fourth, because they love their country, and because they don’t believe that trinity is the property of the other side. Which it isn’t. When it comes to struggling to get the flag on the pole just right, we’re all in this together. But to Mr. Stein, these are people to be looked down upon. Places deserving of a sniff and a snort. Cringe, O Banner-deck’d exurb jingo-huts, at the withering Looking Down Upon, exacted with bone-dry scorn by a professional thinkerator.

Who continues:

If you need semaphore to inform each other that it's going to get hotter in the upcoming months, nobody is putting a magnet school in your community.

I can imagine the patented Hugh Hewitt death-by-literal-interpretation radio interrogation:

HH: My guest is Joel Stein! Joel. you said people put up flags to tell each other that the weather’s getting warmer. Do you really believe that?

JS: Well, no, it was, a joke, maybe not the greatest, although -

HH: But that’s what you wrote. Tell me, why do they put them up on Labor Day? To tell neighbors it will soon get cooler?

JS: Again, no, it was a joke. I suppose they put them up to celebrate socialists getting them a new three-day weekend, or something.

HH: But you think people who put up flags are stupid, because they won’t get magnet schools. Do you think magnet schools should only go in neighborhoods were no one puts up a flag?

JS: Again, Hugh, you’re reading too much into it –

HH: I’m just reading what you wrote. How many houses have to put up flags before you assume the neighborhood is too stupid for a magnet school?

And so forth. He concludes:

So the reason I didn't want to put a flag outside wasn't because I disapprove of our international policies. It was because I didn't want to associate myself with the other people who put them up, and with their unquestioning, tribal, us-versus-them, arrogant mentality. Though I love being American, I don't want to proclaim it as the sole basis of my identity.

I suspect, perhaps unfairly, that “I love being American” is as deep and profound a statement as “I love the warm feeling of freedom I get when I pee in the pool.” Not that he would want public urination in a communal locale to be the sole basis of his identity, of course, but that’s how I see him now: one guy bobbing in the water, alone among many, a private smile on his face, thinking: like I’m the only one.

Hanging a flag is a sign of an unquestioning, tribal, us-versus-them, arrogant mentality, eh? FDR would have stood up from his wheelchair just to walk across the room and slap you silly.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Frisch Incident Summed Up

American Spectator article is as good a quick summary as I've seen.

Going All Nomad

Mark Shea coins a new term in this post:

I wrote that I try to be no more scrupulous than the Church. For this reason, frankly, I also just. do. not. care about so much that vexes Traditionalist types about the liturgy. If it's reasonably celebrated with reverence, I'm not going to get a twisted bowel if the music sucks or there's a banner in the sanctuary. I'm here to worship God, not to go all Nomad and sterilize imperfection.

Star Trek (original series) reference, if you didn't know.

These Aren't The Droids You're Looking For

The Berkeley comedian George Lakoff seems to be of the opinion that politics is really all about Jedi mind tricks. He thinks that Republicans excel at these, and that Democrats need to learn the secret. His latest book attempts to sell the concept: "If you are not free to take your neighbor's money, then are you truly free?" You see, American is all about freedom, and the socialist Dems and their redistributionist thievery is the true essence of this freedom.

Anthony Dick at NRO reviews the book.


Lakoff’s approach to politics makes him a pioneer of what might be called “clinical liberalism.” Instead of engaging conservative arguments directly and seriously on the merits, he treats conservatism as an affliction that needs to be cured. Thomas Frank took a similar approach in his recent book What’s the Matter With Kansas?, in which he essentially took it for granted that Republican policies are bad for most people, and then puzzled over why these people continue to vote for Republicans anyway. One way to resolve this paradox is to divide conservatives into two rough taxonomic categories: the small elite of evil geniuses who spend their days spinning sinister plots, and the masses of ignorant dupes who can be tricked into following them. Conservatives can thus be diagnosed as either evil or stupid — masters of sinister language manipulation, or hypnotized victims of it. In either case, Lakoff wants to conclude, their ideas can be dismissed out of hand.

Lakoff’s latest proposed cure for the common conservative is on display in his new book, Whose Freedom?: The Battle over America’s Most Important Idea. Reading it, one has to struggle mightily to suppress the impression that the author is an intellectual charlatan who specializes in passing off banalities as genuine insights. The book is a conceptual muddle, with a persistent strand of historical inaccuracy; Lakoff’s popularity is an indictment of his admirers.

A few short sentences from the book capture Lakoff’s central argument: “Freedom and liberty are progressive ideas that are precious to Americans. When the right wing uses them, it sounds as if aliens had inhabited, and were trying to take possession of, the soul of America. It is time for an exorcism.” Lakoff is thus claiming that leftists are the guardians of the traditional American idea of freedom, and that conservatives are using their dark arts to try to trick the American people into embracing a new and dangerous definition of freedom.

Lakoff is mercifully clear in explaining what his “progressive” conception of freedom includes: “Freedom is being able to achieve purposes,” he writes, “either because nothing is stopping you or because you have the requisite capacities, or both.” He elaborates with a barrage of italics: “Freedom is the freedom to go as far as you can in life, to get what you want in life, or to achieve what you can in life.” This, he explains, means that freedom has a significant positive component: “Freedom requires not just the absence of impediments to motion but also the presence of access. . . . Freedom may thus require creating access, which may involve building.” What Lakoff is describing, in other words, is a type of “positive freedom,” in the sense that it requires the provision of certain goods and services to citizens to ensure that they have the capacity to achieve their goals. On this view, you aren’t “free” unless you have been provided with what you need in order to be successful.


By the time Lakoff gets to this point, it hardly comes as a surprise that his conception of “freedom” has boiled down to nothing more than a left-wing wish list of big-government programs. As you wade through his book, you steadily develop the sense that it is something quite different from a serious analysis of the concept of freedom. It is instead a how-to guide for left-wing rhetoric — an exhibition of how progressives can manipulate language to advance their political agenda. At one point Lakoff boasts: “You give me a progressive issue, and I’ll tell you how it comes down to a matter of freedom.”

Here Lakoff reveals his grand design: to show his fellow left-wingers how to perfect the very type of sophistry that he claims the Right has used so effectively. In an effort to harness the emotional force of the term “freedom,” he’s willing to twist the word’s meaning to serve his political ends without any concern for the underlying truth: How has freedom actually been understood throughout American history? How do most Americans understand freedom today? What is the most sensible way to define freedom, apart from partisan goals?


The American Revolution was fought in the name of liberty, conceived as a basic type of freedom quite different from the one Lakoff describes. The freedom of the American Revolution was understood as liberty in the negative sense, defined by the lack of external interference and the absence of tyranny. The Founders had no interest in a sprawling welfare state. The Constitution was carefully crafted to limit the scope of government, the powers of which were narrowly defined within a federalist framework. There wasn’t even a provision for a federal income tax — it had to be added by constitutional amendment in 1913.

Perhaps because he is dimly aware of such uncomfortable facts, Lakoff occasionally attempts to account for them by portraying his “positive freedom” as simply a more robust and updated version of the original American ideal — much like the “living Constitution.” But in fact, the Founding Fathers anticipated the possibility of a government powerful enough to provide substantial entitlements to its citizens — and they were adamantly opposed. In 1787 Thomas Jefferson explained that “the policy of the American government is to leave their citizens free, neither restraining nor aiding them in their pursuits.” The Founders were wary of government power because of its coercive nature and its susceptibility to abuse; as George Washington famously wrote, “Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”


People who don’t have food or health care or education have not been deprived of freedom. What they lack is not freedom but material goods and services. This is a matter of vocabulary, not ideology. The court of common word usage simply rejects Lakoff’s claim that being free means having the capacity to achieve one’s aims. It would be wrong, for example, to say that Lakoff lacks the freedom to write an insightful book about politics. What he lacks is the ability.

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Darned Near Not A Parody

Just a shade too daft to appear in Time Magazine rather than The Onion. Maybe in a few more years, though. H/T Mark Shea.

Colbert On Religion


Monumental Ludicrosity

John Hawkins highlights one of the most credulous, downright stupid pieces of experimental reasoning I've ever seen. Might as well say that because you can't get a sunburn from a lightbulb, sunburns are impossible. Or, as a commenter to Hawkins' post said:

I have a toy electric race car which is 1/60th scale. It moves at 20 mph. Hence, it would be very easy to build a full size electric car that travels at 1200 mph. But since such a car doesn't it exist, what I conclude is that oil companies are engaged in a nefarious conspiracy to prevent high performace electric cars from reaching the market.