Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Abortion hypothetical

Here's an interesting topic, at Patterico's blog:
Suppose the technology existed to safely remove a fetus from a womb at any gestational stage for incubation elsewhere until birth. If such "no-death abortion" was available to any woman who wanted it, would most abortion rights supporters stand down?

I'm especially interested in what abortion rights supporters have to say, because I've always thought that their position is based on opposition to forced pregnancy ("Keep your laws off my body").

Patterico mentioned having raised a similar question to a couple of women, one pro-choice, another pro-life.  The pro-choice woman absolutely did not accept the "no-kill abortion" described above.

Conservatives and Science

David Frum has a four parter on his Diary at NRO:
In response to this letter:

New blog



The Washington Post featuires an article, Citizenship 2.0:
Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported an important effect of the 2008 presidential campaign: For the first time, traffic at left-leaning political Web sites overtook traffic at right-leaning competitors. The Drudge Report and Free Republic had the largest number of unique visitors in September 2007, but in September 2008, that honor went to the Huffington Post.
These websites represent more than just websites.  In many cases, they represent tools for putting people in touch with each other, and different tools reach different sets of people with different effect.

There are basically two kinds of influential political Web sites: sites that use a top-down hierarchy, whereby a central organization develops a message and disseminates it using social-networking technology, and sites that use a Wikipedia-type method, in which thousands of individual users contribute content and drive the message. This latter approach is exactly the opposite of conspiratorial.

The earliest and most powerful right-leaning Web site, Free Republic, used the non-hierarchical method. Free Republic developed innovative Internet architecture to build a sort of Wikipedia of citizenship, a do-it-yourself kit for spreading messages and connecting them with local, face-to-face activism. The site's discussion lists -- which have global reach -- are fed by participants and connected by those participants to a plethora of state message boards organizing real-time, boots-on-the-ground political action. The influence of the site reflects the power of self-organizing social phenomena, not a conspiracy.

What is the effect of using these tools for political campaigns?
What will these successes mean for the future of our politics? In Federalist No. 10, James Madison argued that the geographical scope of the new country -- even with just 13 states -- would prevent the development of nationwide factions. But the Internet has eradicated barriers of geography, enabling much more effective factional organization than the Founders could have imagined. This is what Clinton was really marking when she complained about the "vast right-wing conspiracy."
Indeed, in 1994, Newt Gingrich managed to "nationalize" the Congressional elections, by proposing a "Contract With America" on which all Republican congresscritters would run.  This created a national faction where separate races had been the norm.  We may see a lot more of this.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Melancholy elephants

...was the title of a story by Spider Robinson.  Its premise was that we needed to decline to extend copyrights on works indefinitely, because sooner or later, everything worth producing would be produced, and it would be impossible to be creative without infringing on someone's copyright. (How many different possible one-measure pieces of music are there?)
Bruce Schneier looks at another reason why we need to be able to forget -- at least officially -- casual "ephemeral" conversations.
We chat in e-mail, over SMS and IM, and on social networking websites like Facebook, MySpace, and LiveJournal. We blog and we Twitter. These conversations -- with friends, lovers, colleagues, members of our cabinet -- are not ephemeral; they leave their own electronic trails.

We know this intellectually, but we haven't truly internalized it. We type on, engrossed in conversation, forgetting we're being recorded and those recordings might come back to haunt us later.


Cardinal Richelieu famously said, :If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." When all our ephemeral conversations can be saved for later examination, different rules have to apply. Conversation is not the same thing as correspondence. Words uttered in haste over morning coffee, whether spoken in a coffee shop or thumbed on a Blackberry, are not official pronouncements. Discussions in a meeting, whether held in a boardroom or a chat room, are not the same as answers at a press conference. And privacy isn't just about having something to hide; it has enormous value to democracy, liberty, and our basic humanity.

We can't turn back technology; electronic communications are here to stay and even our voice conversations are threatened. But as technology makes our conversations less ephemeral, we need laws to step in and safeguard ephemeral conversation. We need a comprehensive data privacy law, protecting our data and communications regardless of where it is stored or how it is processed. We need laws forcing companies to keep it private and delete it as soon as it is no longer needed. Laws requiring ISPs to store e-mails and other personal communications are exactly what we don't need.

Rules pertaining to government need to be different, because of the power differential. Subjecting the president's communications to eventual public review increases liberty because it reduces the government's power with respect to the people. Subjecting our communications to government review decreases liberty because it reduces our power with respect to the government. The president, as well as other members of government, need some ability to converse ephemerally -- just as they're allowed to have unrecorded meetings and phone calls -- but more of their actions need to be subject to public scrutiny.

But laws can only go so far. Law or no law, when something is made public it's too late. And many of us like having complete records of all our e-mail at our fingertips; it's like our offline brains.

In the end, this is cultural.

Indeed, this calls up another short story, this one by Isaac Asimov: "The Dead Past".  In this story, someone (re)invents a viewer that will display past events, going back a few centuries at most.  The sting in the tail, and the reason why the government has been monopolizing the technology so vigorously, is that the past also includes what has just now finished being the present.  If you can view events one second in the past, that's tantamount to spying on someone right now. Anywhere in the world.  Whether you've gotten permission or not.
This invention was placed in the public domain before the inventors had these facts pointed out to them.  The result was the absolute death of privacy.  Celebrities would be living in literal fish bowls.  Your only hope for privacy was obscurity, and everyone had at least one person who was interested in "looking in" on his private affairs.
Eventually, I suppose, the culture would adapt to this degree of transparancy, and whatever was observed through this viewer would be weighed against what would be seen if the viewer were turned upon anyone else -- the story ends before this period of adjustment had even started.
But with more and more of our lives winding up in databases or on the Web, we may find ourselves in the Dead Past -- make that the Transparent Present.  Anyone with access to the right databases and servers may be able to construct a detailed picture of our activities -- better, perhaps, than we're capable of remembering even in theory.  Surveillance systems can already potentially follow us every moment we spend outside our homes, and given behavioral modeling, may even be able to infer details about our private lives.
Cardinal Richelieu famously said, "If one would give me six lines written by the hand of the most honest man, I would find something in them to have him hanged." When all our ephemeral conversations can be saved for later examination, different rules have to apply.
If our casual conversations can be dragged into court to impeach our testimony in some legal action, how long before we see the casual conversations of judges and prosecutors dragged into those same cases to argue for recusal?  If six lines are enough to hang an honest man, maybe six lines will be enough to disqualify an honest judge.
The future will be here before you know it.

Accommodating jihad?

A review of Stealth Jihad:
What if Christians demanded the following:

1. If anyone around Christians at work or school eats pork then they would get fired or severely chastised because we believe that scarfing down pig really offends God (and of course his people). ...

2. All public schools must have several regularly scheduled 15 minute breaks throughout the school day for Christians to roll out their TBN prayer rugs and pray for revival....

10. Make students in the public school system who don't believe in Jesus memorize portions of the Gospel of John, adopt Christian names and shout in the classroom, "I love Jesus, yes I do. I love Jesus. How 'bout you?!"

Would any of points 1- 10 tick you secularists, atheists and agnostics off?

If Christians ever attempted any of the above they would be righteously ridiculed, castigated and condemned by the MSM, school administrators, cartoonists, talk radio, the blogosphere, Rosie, the coven on the View, religious leaders, the ACLU, Alec Baldwin and president elect Barack Obama. All of the aforementioned people would land on our crotch firmly with both feet. Heck, Christians can't even say "merry Christmas," cheer on traditional marriage, or champion the life of an unborn baby without being called Hitler, haters of humanity and intolerant bigots of other people's values.

But Islam can.

Of course, this is all a perfectly unreasonable parallel to draw with Islam.
It says right here.

Alan Colmes leaves Hanny and Colmes.

AllahPundit has a poll to ask who should replace Colmes.
I vote for Tammy Bruce.
And "Hannity and Bruce" has the same meter as "Hannity and Colmes".

Nor any drop to drink

From High Country News in Utah:

All Mark Miller wanted to do was wash some cars and water the grass in front of his new car dealership.

As the proprietor of Utah's first LEED-certified, environmentally friendly car dealership, Miller wanted to minimize his reliance on water from Salt Lake City's public utility. So his extensive remodel of the building included two large new cisterns designed to capture rainwater for irrigation and car washing. But Miller was surprised to learn that trapping water on his own roof would be illegal.

"The state said no," he explains. "In order to use the system, we had to have an existing water share. It's ludicrous."

Miller is not the only water-conscious Westerner to run afoul of the region's prior-appropriation doctrine. Conservation advocates, including many utilities, have embraced the idea of using water collected from roofs, and stored in cisterns or rain barrels, to reduce reliance on dwindling surface water or groundwater supplies. Yet in Utah, Colorado and Washington, it's illegal to do so unless you go through the difficult -- and often impossible -- process of gaining a state water right. That's because virtually all flowing water in most Western states is already dedicated to someone's use, and state water officials figure that trapping rainwater amounts to impeding that legal right.

Why didn't the LA DWP think of that? All they did was steal the water rights from the Owens Valley.

Gender analyzer online

Nasty trolls are one thing... But this is much more concerning.
Today's sick and twisted attack on this blog actually came in the email from fellow conservative Jules Crittenden.
Jules went to http://www.genderanalyzer.com/, plugged in http://www.julescrittenden.com/ to see if it could determine the gender of his blog's writer, and it came back with... strong indicators that http:/www.julescrittenden.com is written by a man (95 percent).
Then I read this...
Gatewaypundit... girly blogger at 54 percent.
What?!! That's F-n bullsh*t!
UPDATE: Paula added this on Jules' stupid gender test:
Hmm, this is kind of funny. Gender analyzer guessed there was a 53% chance that my sewing blog was written by a man but is quite gender neutral. That just strikes me as hilarious. 'Cuz, you know, sewing is such a manly pastime.

Media bias on Prop 8

Don Feder at Boycott The New York Times writes:

Here's what [the New York Times, ] the paper that makes all the news fit its agenda forgot to mention:

  • Same-sex marriage was never part of the California Constitution. It was forced on the state in May, by an edict of the same court now being asked to rule on the legality of Prop. 8.

  • Despite massive opposition by the mainstream media (The New York Times included), the initiative passed by a vote of 52% to 48%.

  • In 2000, 61% of California voters approved Prop 22, a statute limiting marriage to a man and a woman. The Court swept this aside with its mandate, necessitating the amendment.

  • With the passage of ballot questions in California, Arizona and Florida this year, voters in 30 states have enacted constitutional bans on gay marriage, by an average vote of 68%.

  • Those demonstrations by opponents of Proposition 8 the paper mentioned in passing are often aimed at the Mormon (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) and Catholic Churches and are frequently violent. In San Francisco last Friday, the police had to intervene to save a group of Christians who were set-upon by homosexual militants. In Palm Springs, an elderly woman holding a pro-Prop 8 sign was physically assaulted and had a cross ripped from her hands and trampled by the mob.

Today's story is a continuation of The New York Times' partisan coverage of the entire Prop. 8 campaign. In evaluating The Times' coverage of any issue, what's not reported is as important as what is.

In other news, rain is wet!

Alexander Burns at Politico.com writes:
Media bias was more intense in the 2008 election than in any other national campaign in recent history, Time magazine's Mark Halperin said Friday at the Politico/USC conference on the 2008 election.
"It's the most disgusting failure of people in our business since the Iraq war," Halperin said at a panel of media analysts. "It was extreme bias, extreme pro-Obama coverage."
Halperin, who maintains Time's political site "The Page," cited two New York Times articles as examples of the divergent coverage of the two candidates.
"The example that I use, at the end of the campaign, was the two profiles that The New York Times ran of the potential first ladies," Halperin said. "The story about Cindy McCain was vicious. It looked for every negative thing they could find about her and it case her in an extraordinarily negative light. It didn't talk about her work, for instance, as a mother for her children, and they cherry-picked every negative thing that's ever been written about her."

The story about Michelle Obama, by contrast, was "like a front-page endorsement of what a great person Michelle Obama is," according to Halperin.

Bad arguments against prop 8

J.G.Thayer looks at some anti-Prop 8 arguments that don't do their cause much good at all.

Holder on Gitmo

From Powerline:

Cliff May (via the Wall Street Journal) calls attention to this statement from 2002 by Eric Holder, Obama's nominee for Attorney General:

One of the things we clearly want to do with these prisoners is to have an ability to interrogate them and find out what their future plans might be, where other cells are located; under the Geneva Convention. . .you are really limited in the amount of information that you can elicit from people.

It seems to me that given the way in which they have conducted themselves, however, that they are not, in fact, people entitled to the protection of the Geneva Convention. They are not prisoners of war. If, for instance, Mohamed Atta had survived the attack on the World Trade Center, would we now be calling him a prisoner of war? I think not. Should Zacarias Moussaoui be called a prisoner of war? Again, I think not.

The salient point about this quotation is not that it's from Holder, but that it's from 2002. The view that we had better extract information from the high-value Gitmo detainees and should not be precluded from doing so by the Geneva Convention was widely held in the period shortly following 9/11. And no sane person with hopes of one day becoming the nation's chief law enforcement official would have publicly advocated a position different from the one Holder set forth.

It will be interesting to hear what he has to say now.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

A libertarian defense of social conservatism

Randall Hoven at The American Thinker writes:
Social conservatism is taking a beating lately.  Not only did it lose in the recent elections, it is being blamed for the Republican losses.  If only the religious right would get off the Republican Party's back, the GOP could win like it is supposed to again.  I beg to differ.
I have no problem with "social conservatives" or the "religious right" and their supposed influence on the Republican party.  I base this not on the Bible or historical authority, but on the love of liberty and the evidence of my own eyes.
Among many other points, he writes:
Gay Marriage

I am not dead set against gay marriage.  I'm mildly against it, but if it comes to an honest vote in my state and passes, I can live with that.  But so far, every single time the issue has gone to a popular vote, the people voted it down.  The only reason it is legal in two states right now is because of the courts in those states; a mere handful of robed Merlins made the decisions.

I also think it a bit risky to redefine such a fundamental institution that has been defined as between one man and one or more women in every successful civilization I know about, for the last 6,000 years or so.  How about we use federalism and the states as laboratories before we dive head-first into opaque water on this one?
Hear, hear!

Friday, November 21, 2008

E Harmony and same-sex pairings

Jacob Sullum at Reason Magazine comments:

I've never bought the argument that gay marriage—i.e., the government's evenhanded recognition of relationships between couples, without regard to sexual orientation—is a way of forcing "the gay agenda" onto people who object to it. But this coerced agreement, compelling a private business to provide a service it did not want to provide, certainly is. As Michelle Malkin notes, "this case is akin to a meat-eater suing a vegetarian restaurant for not offering him a ribeye or a female patient suing a vasectomy doctor for not providing her hysterectomy services."

eHarmony founder Neil Clark Warren says the company has declined to serve the gay market because the compatibility research on which it relies to match people was done with heterosexuals and may not be applicable to same-sex couples. But even if he decided to focus on heterosexuals because he disapproves of homosexuality, that should be his right in a free society. Potential customers excluded or offended by that choice then would have a right to go elsewhere, instead of forcibly imposing their preferences. Likewise, competitors would be free to take advantage of eHarmony's perceived shortcomings, as they've been trying to do. Speaking of competitors, wouldn't the principle that justifies forcing eHarmony to match gay singles also require gay dating services to match heterosexuals and Jewish dating services to match Christians?

Prop 8 and the Supreme Court

Is Proposition 8 an "amendment" to California's constitution, or a "revision"?
John Hinderaker at Power Line thinks it can't be anything but an "amendment".

It's not likely to happen, though. You can read the parties' filings here. The Petitioners' argument against Proposition 8 is worse than feeble. Their claim is based on the fact that California's Constitution distinguishes between "amendment" and "revision" of that document. An "amendment" can be done by initiative, but a "revision" must be initiated by the legislature and approved by popular ballot. Petitioners assert that Proposition 8 is a "revision" rather than an "amendment."

The problem with that argument is California's Constitution uses the term "revise" only in connection with establishment of a constitutional convention that would have broad authority to change the Constitution. An amendment is anything else:

SEC. 2. The Legislature by rollcall vote entered in the journal, two-thirds of the membership of each house concurring, may submit at a general election the question whether to call a convention to revise the Constitution. If the majority vote yes on that question, within 6 months the Legislature shall provide for the convention. Delegates to a constitutional convention shall be voters elected from districts as nearly equal in population as may be practicable.

SEC. 3. The electors may amend the Constitution by initiative.

I don't see how it can seriously be argued that Proposition 8 is something other than an "amendment," and, at least as far as I've gotten in Petitioners' pleadings, they don't make a serious argument. What the Petitioners do say is that the right to homosexual marriage is so "fundamental" that taking it away can only be viewed as a "revision" requiring legislative enactment. But this argument is completely unsupported by the language of the Constitution.


Thursday, November 20, 2008


E-Harmony has been ordered by a court to cater to people wishing to enter into same-sex relationships. Eric McKinley has won a suit against the matching service.
I don't know Mr. McKinley's taste in men, but this would have been a less predictable case had he attempted to acquire a Muslim boyfriend at, say, singlemuslim.com. Indeed, Mr. Warren and his colleagues at eHarmony might have been better advised to convert to Islam and claim the right to have the case settled by one of the west's fast multiplying Sharia courts, which are (to put it mildly) less antipathetic to "heterosexism".
Thus, we see more one-way tolerance, which will make it harder to win real tolerance.

There'll be more of that in the years ahead. As Michelle Malkin says, the eHarmony settlement is like a meat-eater going to a vegetarian restaurant and demanding a ribeye. The "tolerance" enforcers are jeopardizing the very possibility of any shared societal space. Good luck with that. 

Mob vs. Mob

Mob Activity

Mob Activity
I wouldn't go into the Castro District and sing hymns--but Christians have a perfect right to do so--at least as much right as homosexuals have to engage in sex in the middle of public streets. In the video that Michelle Malkin has on her website, you can hear homosexuals insisting that Christians should not be allowed in "their" neighborhood. Gee, what if Christians said that homosexuals weren't allowed outside of the Castro? That would be fascism! But the reverse is just liberalism at work.

"Furor" over abortion regulation

Riddle Me This...

The Bush administration has provoked a "furor" by promulgating a new rule designed to protect health-care professionals from being forced to perform or assist in abortions, sterilizations, or other medical procedures that might shock their consciences:

The proposed rule would prohibit recipients of federal money from discriminating against doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to perform or to assist in the performance of abortions or sterilization procedures because of their "religious beliefs or moral convictions."

It would also prevent hospitals, clinics, doctors' offices and drugstores from requiring employees with religious or moral objections to "assist in the performance of any part of a health service program or research activity" financed by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Opponents of the new rule offer two main objections:

  1. First, that it's unnecessary and duplicative, as federal law already protects such employees. "Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 already prohibits employment discrimination based on religion, [Reed] Russell said, and the courts have defined 'religion' broadly to include 'moral or ethical beliefs as to what is right and wrong, which are sincerely held with the strength of traditional religious views.'" [Russell is legal counsel to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.]
  2. And second, that it would deny women access to abortions. "[President-elect Barack] Obama has said the proposal will raise new hurdles to women seeking reproductive health services, like abortion and some contraceptives."

Perhaps I'm just being unusually dense today, but -- don't those two arguments completely contradict one another?

If federal law already protects health workers' right to refuse to participate in abortions, some contraceptive procedures, and human research if they have "religious or moral objections;" if that is already the law, and this rule adds nothing; then how can the rule possibly "raise new hurdles?"

I have the distinct impression that in fact, argument number 2 is correct, while argument 1 is simply made up on the spot to try to make the rule appear redundant. The article itself says as much, though not so clearly...

California State Supreme Court vs the People

If the California Supreme Court Doesn't Trust the People...

...Then perhaps it should dissolve them and appoint a new people

As Big Lizards predicted earlier, the California State Supreme Court has agreed to decide several lawsuits that seek to overturn Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment -- on the grounds that it's unconstitutional. The lawsuits advance a novel legal theory of governance by the consent of the governors:

The lawsuits argue that voters improperly abrogated the judiciary's authority by stripping same-sex couples of the right to wed after the high court earlier ruled it was discriminatory to prohibit gay men and lesbians from marrying.

In other words, the voters improperly interfered with the court's right to decide all major moral issues.

Not to mention the fact that Proposition 8 does not "prohibit gay men and lesbians from marrying." It doesn't even mention gay men or lesbians.

Nor does it prohibit anyone from marrying any one (or any group); it only says such marriages will not be "valid or recognized in the state of California." Go ahead and marry a person of the same sex; call yourself married by the lights of your own house of worship; just don't check "married filing jointly" on your IRS 1040 form, unless you're inordinately fond of institutional cooking.

Houses and poxes

The Anchoress writes at Pajamas Media about how gays and Christians are both behaving badly in the fight over Proposition 8.

Reportedly the Christians met once a week to pray and sing on the public corner. Whether they're hoping to "straighten out" gays or simply trying to facilitate encounters with Christ is unclear, but their method is problematic; it's not how Jesus would do it.

Jesus went to the people he wanted to meet and he ate with them — or served them. He fellowshipped and got to know the community in personal and intimate ways. He attracted them with his love and his stability. He didn't stand around singing hymns and praying for them, which might have seemed both separatist and condescending — and therefore off-putting — to the very people he hoped to engage.

The Christians may have unintentionally come off as condescending. We may presume that they would not want a crowd of gays meeting on their curb each week to proselytize. As a Catholic I would take issue with other Christians, no matter how well-intentioned, standing at the curb praying for my redemption based solely upon their knowledge not of me, but of my habits or my religion. Their singing songs for my salvation would come off as sitting in judgment of me. Even if that's not how they meant it.


A willingness to disregard established freedoms of expression and worship in pursuit of new freedoms will ultimately destroy more than it creates. Or, as Pope Leo the Great wrote, "Those who are not good to others are bad to themselves."

That sounds simplistic, but it is also correct. Tearing others down does not build up. Instead of bullying the electorate, the gay community needs to calmly make their case, ask for support, and bring it to a vote as many times as it takes. If the Christians are wrong to proselytize without actually getting to know their neighbors, well, the gays are also wrong to browbeat, intimidate, or ruin others, instead of working within the democratic process.

The Christians at Castro need to remember that Jesus joined others in community. Excusing nothing, he loved others, even in all their faults and — only when asked to — he healed them. He never just said, "Hey, I'm going to whip a little faith on you, whether you want it or not."

Meanwhile, the churches should reconsider their roles in authenticating marriage. Governments issue birth certificates; churches issue baptismal certificates. Governments issue death certificates; churches pray the funerals. Governments issue divorces; Churches annul. Both work within their separate and necessary spheres, serving the corporeal and the spiritual. It is only in the issue of marriage that church and state have commingled authority. That should perhaps change, and soon. Let the government certify and the churches sanctify according to their rites and sacraments.


Some of the comments are interesting.

Rachel Peepers:

Elizabeth Scalia.

So you're a Catholic. And in your mind, that's supposed to innoculate you against attacks when you attack Christians for praying and singing.

I find your article pathetic.

Who are you to judge and determine the right way for demonstrating Christians to act. How do you judge a condescending look? Is that different from a fearful look? Or a pensive look? Or a confused look? Oh, I know, you're talking about condescending actions, like praying. Is the Twilight Zone music the soundtrack of your life?

Then you pulled out the "What would Jesus do, card".

I don't know. Do you? Are you God?

Maybe Jesus would renounce homosexuality. Or maybe he'd offer to marry any gay couple who was there. Not.

Love the sin, hate the sinner about sums up the Catholic Church's stance on the matter.....

Tristan Phillips:

Moral equivalence takes on a special, noxious level when someone tries to cover their own ass by saying they're part of a group they're bashing.

Putting outright physical violence and forcible rape on the same level as praying and singing is particularly vile. Go back to the hole you crawled out of Ms. Scalia, and spend some time really learning about that which you preach about.

Don't try this at home

Or anywhere else, for that matter.  From The Independent:

Chainsaw death was 'carefully thought through suicide'

By Martin Halfpenny, PA

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

A man cut off his own head with a chainsaw in a carefully thought out suicide because he was "irrationally opposed" to leaving his repossessed home, an inquest heard today.

David Phyall, 50, tied the Black & Decker tool to a leg of a snooker table in his lounge with string, taped up the on button and plugged it into a timer, Winchester Coroner's Court heard.

Mr Phyall, who had consumed a small quantity of alcohol but no drugs, then lay down under the snooker table face up and placed the chainsaw against his neck.

A piece of the tool's cardboard box initially cushioned the blades from his neck.

The hearing heard the timer, which is usually used to turn lights on and off, was fixed to start up the chainsaw for 15 minutes.

When it activated, it sliced three-quarters through his neck and across into his right shoulder only stopping from a complete severing when his t-shirt was dragged into the blades.

His elderly parents John and Jean Phyall raised the alarm when they could not contact their son in his ground floor housing association flat in Bishopstoke, Hampshire, on 5 July this year.

Police were called and they broke in asking the parents to stay outside.

Sergeant Mark Carter said he found Mr Phyall in the lounge with blood spattering the walls, floor and a cabinet.

"The electric chainsaw was embedded in his neck. The blade was approximately three quarters through his neck," he told the hearing.

Central Hampshire deputy coroner Simon Burge said to the officer: "It must have been a huge shock to you."

Sgt Carter replied: "In some ways it was sir."

The hearing heard that the block where Mr Phyall had his flat was to be demolished and despite great efforts from his housing association, he had refused 11 offers of alternative accommodation.

Eventually it had gone to court to repossess the property.

At the time of his death Mr Phyall, who had suffered from mental illness and attempted suicide before, was the only person living in the 1960s block with the rest of the properties boarded up.

Recording a verdict of suicide, Mr Burge said First Wessex Housing Group had done all they could to help Mr Phyall but he was "irrationally opposed to moving".

"In the 15 years I have been sitting as a deputy coroner, this is the most bizarre case I can recall," Mr Burge said.

"It is an appalling way to take one's life but that is what happened in this case.

"He thought through how he was going to commit suicide very carefully. He went to a great deal of trouble.

"I think he did it to draw attention to the injustice of his situation."


Wednesday, November 19, 2008

They said Proposition 8 would promote hatred

Blacks and Mormons have been the main targets of the gay activists' anger. Seventy percent of blacks voted against gay marriage in California, so racial epithets were hurled at blacks in Los Angeles — not in black neighborhoods, by the way.
Blacks who just happened to be driving through Westwood, near UCLA, were accosted in their cars and, in addition to being denounced, were warned, "You better watch your back."
Even blacks who were carrying signs in favor of gay marriage were denounced with racial epithets.
In Oakland, California, a mob gathered outside a Mormon temple in such numbers that officials shut down a nearby freeway exit for more than three hours.
In their midst was a San Francisco Supervisor who said "The Mormon church has had to rely on our tolerance in the past, to be able to express their beliefs." He added, "This is a huge mistake for them. It looks like they've forgotten some lessons."
Apparently Mormons don't have the same rights as other Americans, at least not if they don't vote the way gay activists want them to vote.
Nobody is in favor of anarchy. But some people want everybody else to obey the rules, while they don't have to.
What they want is not decisive, however. It is what other people are willing to tolerate that determines how far any group can go.
When the majority of the people become like sheep, who will tolerate intolerance rather than make a fuss, then there is no limit to how far any group will go.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Creator in the Declaration of Independence

People argue about whether the founders of the United States intended to create a secular society. One of the proof texts people point to is the Declaration of Independence, which posits inalienable rights, with which people are endowed by their Creator.
Some of the arguments are extremely bad -- claiming the word "Creator" must refer to God because it's capitalized. This is a bad argument because late 18th Century English had not yet dropped the German habit of capitalizing all nouns.  Thus, from the spelling of "Creator" with capital letters, we may only infer that it is a noun. (Look at the original document, or a facsimile, sometime.)
Eugene Volokh offers this, based on a close reading of the text:
A conversation I had today reminded me of something I meant to blog about: The Declaration of Independence, many argue, contemplates a Creator God, not a God who sets forth rules for human behavior, who judges such behavior, or who intercedes in human events, whether directly or subtly. And this, the argument goes, reflects the general attitudes of the Framers or at least of the political system they wished to establish.

God is thus not just Nature's God and the Creator, but also the "Supreme Judge of the world," to whom people may appeal to judge or witness "the rectitude of [their] intentions," and whose "Divine Providence" is said to "protect[]" them."

To be sure, one can only draw so much from a single historical document; for instance, it's possible that particular references in the document were seen as largely rhetorical flourishes (though I'm not sure that this is so, since my sense is that very many educated Americans of the Framing generation did indeed have a pretty conventional understanding of God as creator, judge, and source of protection). But those who focus on the Creator and Nature's God language in the document do often try to draw something from that one document. And if we look to the document, we see it discussing God as judge and protector, and not just God as creator.

I should note that I say all this as a secular person; it's not that I want the Declaration to reflect this sort of religious sensibility -- I'm just reporting on the sensibility that it appears to me to in fact reflect.

A Knight in Casablanca?

Groucho Marx earns the honor for his way with lawyers:

Abstract: While preparing to film a movie entitled A Night in Casablanca, the Marx brothers received a letter from Warner Bros. threatening legal action if they did not change the film's title. Warner Bros. deemed the film's title too similar to their own Casablanca, released almost five years earlier in 1942, with Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman. In response Groucho Marx dispatched the following letter to the studio's legal department:

Dear Warner Brothers,

Apparently there is more than one way of conquering a city and holding it as your own. For example, up to the time that we contemplated making this picture, I had no idea that the city of Casablanca belonged exclusively to Warner Brothers. However, it was only a few days after our announcement appeared that we received your long, ominous legal document warning us not to use the name Casablanca.

It seems that in 1471, Ferdinand Balboa Warner, your great-great-grandfather, while looking for a shortcut to the city of Burbank, had stumbled on the shores of Africa and, raising his alpenstock (which he later turned in for a hundred shares of common), named it Casablanca.

I just don't understand your attitude. Even if you plan on releasing your picture, I am sure that the average movie fan could learn in time to distinguish between Ingrid Bergman and Harpo. I don't know whether I could, but I certainly would like to try.

You claim that you own Casablanca and that no one else can use that name without permission. What about "Warner Brothers"? Do you own that too? You probably have the right to use the name Warner, but what about the name Brothers? Professionally, we were brothers long before you were. We were touring the sticks as the Marx Brothers when Vitaphone was still a gleam in the inventor's eye, and even before there had been other brothers—the Smith Brothers; the Brothers Karamazov; Dan Brothers, an outfielder with Detroit; and "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?" (This was originally "Brothers, Can You Spare a Dime?" but this was spreading a dime pretty thin, so they threw out one brother, gave all the money to the other one, and whittled it down to "Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?")

Now Jack, how about you? Do you maintain that yours is an original name? Well it's not. It was used long before you were born. Offhand, I can think of two Jacks—Jack of "Jack and the Beanstalk," and Jack the Ripper, who cut quite a figure in his day....

Judicial review, Prop 8, and same-sex marriage

Ilya Somin on the question of how much impact judicial review has had in the question of same-sex marriage:
In recent years, leading scholars such as Michael Klarman and Gerald Rosenberg have argued that judicial review is rarely if ever effective in protecting rights that aren't supported by the political branches of government and majority public opinion. The political backlash against the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's 2003 gay marriage decision has seemingly added fuel to these revisionists' fire.

The crucial point here is that in 29 of the 30 states that passed anti-gay marriage amendments, there wasn't any legal gay marriage anyway. Thus, gay marriage advocates didn't actually lose much in these states. To be sure, the enactment of these amendments may make it more difficult to adopt gay marriage in the future. Rosen emphasizes this point. However, it's important to remember that most state constitutions are actually easy to amend. That's why the anti-gay marriage forces were able to pass their amendments so quickly. In many states, a state constitutional amendment is an only slightly greater obstacle to legal change than a statute. From a pro-gay rights standpoint, the adoption of gay marriage in two states and its near-adoption in California was likely worth the cost of making gay marriage slightly more difficult to enact in some 30 states where it was unlikely to be adopted in the near future anyway.

Moreover, both Just and Rosen undervalue the extent to which the pro-gay marriage court decisions have shifted the parameters of the political debate. With the relatively radical gay marriage option now on the table, other pro-gay rights measures such as civil unions seem moderate by comparison. Thus, civil unions are now supported by the majority of the general public, and even by some social conservative politicians, including George W. Bush. It is difficult to imagine this result coming about so quickly without the pro-gay marriage judicial decisions.

None of this proves that the state supreme court decisions requiring gay marriage were correctly decided. It does, however, show that judicial power is often more potent than the Klarman-Rosenberg thesis suggests. To be sure, courts are unlikely to protect rights that are completely bereft of support elsewhere in society. If not for the liberalization of popular attitudes towards gays over the last 50 years, there would never have been enough pro-gay judges to reach decisions like Goodridge. But although the courts are not completely free of outside constraints, they can indeed sometimes protect rights that are opposed by majority opinion and by the political branches of government. Co-blogger David Bernstein and I tried to outline the conditions under which that might happen in this 2004 Yale Law Journal article criticizing Klarman. Although we didn't focus on the gay marriage battle specifically, many of our points apply to it as well.

One point though:  If there is any validity to the notion that the existence of civil unions served to grease the slippery slope toward full same-sex marriage, this may have the effect of stifling a movement toward enacting civil unions where they don't already exist, and ending them where they do.

Tax protesters

Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy offers the following:
Do you know someone who believes that they don't have to pay income taxes because income taxes are voluntary, wages are not income, or the income tax is unconstitutional? My collegue Jon Siegel has a website that offers remarkably patient and thorough responses that show why these arguments are wrong. The site has been up for a long time, apparently, but I just learned of it today and I figured others might find it interesting or helpful (or just amusing). Jon also has a blog: Law Prof on the Loose.
  UPDATE: In the comment thread, commenter Ex-Fed adds a story of an amusing judicial reaction to tax protestors:
When I was a prosecutor, I had [a tax protestor] who claimed that the United States District Court did not have jurisdiction over him because the courtrooms had American flags with gold fringes, which established that they were admiralty courts and not courts of general jurisdiction. Judge Hupp, God rest him, wryly said "I'll pretend you're a boat."

Monday, November 17, 2008


Obasm (n): The rush of good feeling True Believers experience when their thoughts turn to The One.

GM -- Going Moribund?

Rick Moran at The American Thinker has spotted a piece explaining why letting GM go bankrupt might be the best solution.

President Obama

Jay Tea at Wizbang is not buying in to the campaign of bitterness against Obama.

On a talk show yesterday, I heard the host say that he was about to order a bunch of "Don't Blame Me -- I Voted For McCain" bumper stickers to give out.

I have also heard people proclaiming that "Obama isn't MY president."

Apparently there's already a FaceBook group dedicated to impeaching Obama already. (With the Democrats holding both Houses of Congress AND Joe Biden waiting in the wings, that one won't go far.)

And I can't wait to see the first "1/20/2013" bumper sticker or "freedom countdown clock."

I'll pass on all that.

On January 20, 2001, George W. Bush became my president.

Pending unforeseen circumstances, he will remain my president until January 20, 2009.

At which point, pending unforeseen circumstances, Barack Obama will become my president.

And, pending unforeseen circumstances, he will remain my president until at least January 20, 2013.

Over the next four years, I anticipate criticizing him when I think he is wrong, and praising him when I think he is right.

I also anticipate doing far more of the former than the latter.

In 2010, I fully anticipate voting against whoever he endorses. Further, in 2012, I will most likely vote for whoever challenges him.

Pending unforeseen circumstances, of course.

But he will be, legally and officially, the president of the United States. As a loyal and proud citizen of the United States, I feel that nothing less is my duty.

After all, as we've been reminded so many times over the past years, "dissent is the highest form of patriotism." And nobody damned well better not question MY patriotism when I point out how many of the new president's policies are wrong-headed, foolish, ruinous, and downright dangerous.

Because I expect I'll be doing that a LOT.

Pending unforeseen circumstances, of course.

If things go downhill badly enough, I may well spring for one of the "Don't blame me" stickers.  And I'm sure someone's still selling "Dissent is patriotic" stickers.  But I won't go in for any of those countdown items.
No sense in reminding people too stupid to vote Republican when the election is.

Will locavores save the planet?

Ron Bailey at Reason Magazine has a piece on the dubious merits of eating locally.
...for some activists, eating local foods is no longer just a pleasure—it is a moral obligation. Why? Because locally produced foods are supposed to be better for the planet than foods shipped thousands of miles across oceans and continents. According to these activists, shipping foods over long distances results in the unnecessary emission of the greenhouse gases that are warming the planet. This concern has given rise to the concept of "food miles," that is, the distance food travels from farm to plate. Activists particularly dislike air freighting foods because it uses relatively more energy than other forms of transportation. Food miles are supposed to be a simple way to gauge food's impact on climate change.

So just how much carbon dioxide is emitted by transporting food from farm to fork? Desrochers and Shimizu cite a comprehensive study done by the United Kingdom's Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) which reported that 82 percent of food miles were generated within the U.K. Consumer shopping trips accounted for 48 percent and trucking for 31 percent of British food miles. Air freight amounted to less than 1 percent of food miles. In total, food transportation accounted for only 1.8 percent of Britain's carbon dioxide emissions.

In the United States, a 2007 analysis found that transporting food from producers to retailers accounted for only 4 percent of greenhouse emissions related to food. According to a 2000 study, agriculture was responsible for 7.7 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. In that study, food transport accounted for 14 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with agriculture, which means that food transport is responsible for about 1 percent of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

Food miles advocates fail to grasp the simple idea that food should be grown where it is most economically advantageous to do so. Relevant advantages consist of various combinations of soil, climate, labor, capital, and other factors. It is possible to grow bananas in Iceland, but Costa Rica really has the better climate for that activity. Transporting food is just one relatively small cost of providing modern consumers with their daily bread, meat, cheese, and veggies. Desrochers and Shimizu argue that concentrating agricultural production in the most favorable regions is the best way to minimize human impacts on the environment.

Local food production does not always produce fewer greenhouse gas emissions. For example, the 2005 DEFRA study found that British tomato growers emit 2.4 metric tons of carbon dioxide for each ton of tomatoes grown compared to 0.6 tons of carbon dioxide for each ton of Spanish tomatoes. The difference is British tomatoes are produced in heated greenhouses. Another study found that cold storage of British apples produced more carbon dioxide than shipping New Zealand apples by sea to London. In addition, U.K. dairy farmers use twice as much energy to produce a metric ton of milk solids than do New Zealand farmers. Other researchers have determined that Kenyan cut rose growers emit 6 metric tons of carbon dioxide per 12,000 roses compared to the 35 tons of carbon dioxide emitted by their Dutch competitors. Kenyan roses grow in sunny fields whereas Dutch roses grow in heated greenhouses.


Desrochers and Shimizu demonstrate that the debate over food miles is a distraction from the real issues that confront global food production. For instance, rich country subsidies amounting to more than $300 billion per year are severely distorting global agricultural production and trade. If the subsidies were removed, far more agricultural goods would be produced in and imported from developing countries, helping lift millions of people out of poverty. They warn that the food miles campaign is "providing a new set of rhetorical tools to bolster protectionist interests that are fundamentally detrimental to most of humankind." Ultimately, Desrochers and Shimizu's analysis shows that "the concept of food miles is...a profoundly flawed sustainability indicator."

Well, I for one practice local eating.  Everything I eat or drink is grown or produced on my home planet.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Obama a unifier, just like Reagan?

Apparently, that's what some are saying:

He was a college professor with strong political opinions--two marks against him right there--but even so he seemed to be a very smart man. Like all but 17 of America's college professors, he was an Obama supporter. He had noted my skepticism.

"But don't you see Obama has the potential to be a unifying force," he said. "He could bring the country together, the way Reagan did to win the Cold War."


I spent a lot of time during the Reagan years in faculty lounges, on college campuses, with men and women just like this professor, and I don't remember Reagan as a unifying force. Just about everybody I knew hated him--really couldn't stand him, with a teeth-grinding, skin-crawling disdain. Even beyond the leafy lotus land of higher-ed, he was acknowledged by admirer and critic alike as a "polarizing presence." Weekend after weekend, protesters swelled our great cities and hoisted placards calling him either a psychopath or a buffoon (they could never decide which). His foremost political adversary, Tip O'Neill, said he "had ice water for blood." His landslide reelection victory in 1984 was impressive, but even then, at the zenith of his presidency, more than 40 percent of voters wanted to give him the boot. For that matter, his victory in 1984 wasn't as big as the victory recorded in 1972 by Richard Nixon. Now there was a unifying force.

Only in retrospect has Reagan been tagged as a twinkly, grandfatherly presence, a firm but gentle leader who transcended ideology and brought us together to defeat the Soviet Empire. Things didn't go so smoothly at the time. In his dealings with the Soviets, for example, Reagan was hampered at every step--first by liberals for being too rough, then by conservatives for being too soft. The firing of the air traffic controllers, the huge tax cuts of 1981, the huge tax hike of 1982 (in the middle of a recession!), the nuclear freeze movement, aid to the contras and to the mujahedeen, the "three million" homeless, budget cuts, the invasion of Grenada, the Iran-contra scandal and the subsequent calls for impeachment--the real story of the Reagan years is a story of endless contention, much of it bitter, wrenching, and, to a squeamish public, unpleasant to watch.

Speak the truth, then leave

That could be the motto of the social sciences, according to Steve Sailer:

People are always putting down the social sciences, saying they aren't real sciences. When an astronomer predicts a solar eclipse, it happens. But when a social scientist predicts something, how often does it come true?

Well, it depends how unpopular the social scientist cares to be. You don't even have to be a scientist. For example, it's easy as pie to make accurate predictions about school test scores. You just have to be willing to put up with little things like being denounced as evil and getting fired. The problem with the social sciences is that there's little demand for social scientists. What there's a huge demand for is social shamans who can lift the curse of the evil eye.

For example, last year there were complaints about admission to the "gifted" programs in New York City public schools. Admissions were done in a kind of haphazard fashion with some parents better able to game the system than others....

Klein came up with the idea of using a standardized test and accepting only students who scored at the 95th percentile nationally or higher into gifted programs. What a brilliant concept! Why didn't anyone in New York think of that before! Surely, that couldn't cause any political problems!

Half Sigma immediately blogged in 2007:

I'm trying to figure out what this is changing. Without any affirmative action, the gifted classed will be dominated by Asian kids, and blacks and Hispanics will complain that they are being discriminated against.
...it turns out that in a lot of NYC neighborhoods, almost nobody is at the national 95th percentile or above. Who could have imagined that? Apparently nobody in Joel Klein's office ... Of course, they could have just read Half Sigma's blog, but understanding how the world works is evil, so who would do such a thing?

It would appear that whites (and miscellaneous) make up 48% of the new gifted class accepted meritocratically while making up only 17% of the total kindergarteners. Under the more haphazard old system, whites made up only 33 percent of the gifted classes.


These results are all straight out of La Griffe du Lion 101, but it constantly comes as a big surprise to people like Joel Klein.

But, of course, now that Obama is in, we have Hope and Change, so everything will be different Real Soon Now.

Treating Obama like Bush

A comment at Samizdata:

Some of the comments that we got yesterday after the Community Organiser from Chicago was elected were wonderful. Here is my personal favourite:

First, demonize him and ascribe his motives to evil and malfeasance, not just policy differences. We should proclaim often and loudly that he is not our president, that he stole the election and he has no mandate. We should repeat false stories about him, no matter how crazy or wrong, until they are accepted as common wisdom. We should create lies and urban legends to smear him and demean him. We should ridicule any verbal slips or gaffes, and ascribe them to his native stupidity and intellectual vapidity. We should accuse him of every sin and crime under the sun and attempt to have him impeached for policy differences, which we should call crimes. We should undermine any programs he wants to pass by misstating their goals and content. We should take quotes out of context to make him seem ridiculous and to make him seem mean-spirited. We should repeat often that he doesn't care about people who aren't the same race as he is, and that he is only out for his own kind. We should claim that he is going to try to force a coup and take over the country by force. We should claim he's going to lock up any dissenters. We should loudly scream about losing our rights and interfere with his speechs and disrupt any gatherings of his party. Our politicians should cynically misstate his policies to make him look bad.

Update: one or two commenters are outraged by this and the words "native stupidity" have prompted at least one commenter to accuse me of being a racist in putting this paragraph on the blog. For goodness sake: the whole point of the comment was that it was written by a very bitter man who understandably feels that it is time that Obama should be attacked in exactly the same way as was Bush, who after all has been constantly attacked for being stupid, for his Texan drawl, whatever. What is sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander.

I don't normally respond to comments by adding to my original posts, but in this case I think it is necessary to lay down a marker to all those Obama supporters out there who might get twitchy when their hero gets any flak: criticism of Mr Obama is not some form of disguised racism. If the Democrats and their cheerleaders in the MSM spend the next four years trying to ward off all criticism of their man as racist, they will demean the genuine examples of racism that still exist. Further, they will, either unwittingly or not, harm racial harmony in the US and elsewhere. They will also deserve our contempt.

Of course, Obama won't get this treatment.  His opponents are 99% decent folks, and the press is on his side.

Anti Prop 8 ad

Linked from Powerline:

Proposition 8 blues

From Powerline:

Across the country today, homosexuals demonstrated in reaction to the passage of Proposition 8 in California, a constitutional amendment that reads, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." The ballot amendment was precipitated by a California Supreme Court decision that granted homosexuals the right to marry.

To my knowledge, prior to the last decade, homosexual marriage has never been recognized by any society in human history. Here in the United States, no legislature has ever voted to establish homosexual marriage. So I think that gay activists make a serious mistake when they try to demonize everyone who opposes their agenda as a "scary bigot."


On a personal level, I have a lot of sympathy for Mr. Merrill. But his framing of the issue–people pass laws that take away rights–expresses what I think is the illogical approach taken by most gay leaders. In fact, what gays are trying to do is create a brand-new right, a right that has never existed before, to homosexual marriage.

The problem faced by the gay marriage movement is that most people are opposed to gay marriage. Seeing this as a mere inconvenience, gays have sought "redress" in the courts, and some liberal state supreme courts have obliged, finding gay marriage to be, on one theory or another, a "civil right." California's Proposition 8 and similar measures have arisen solely in response to such rulings. They don't "take away rights," they restore the status quo ante with respect to "rights" that were never democratically recognized in the first place.

The value of gay marriage is mostly symbolic: homosexuals want their fellow citizens to approve of their lifestyle. Currently, there seems to be a pretty good chance that this will happen before long, for better or worse. But such acceptance is more likely retarded than advanced by the activists' strategy of litigation plus demonstrations.

Bad climate data

From Betsy Newmark:
John Hinderaker of Powerline points to this story of an incredible mistake by NASA. In its ongoing efforts to raise concerns of global warming, NASA recently reported that October 2008 was the hottest on record. However, in order to reach that finding, they had to make a mistake that any high school student would know enough to avoid.
So what explained the anomaly? GISS's computerised temperature maps seemed to show readings across a large part of Russia had been up to 10 degrees higher than normal. But when expert readers of the two leading warming-sceptic blogs, Watts Up With That and Climate Audit, began detailed analysis of the GISS data they made an astonishing discovery. The reason for the freak figures was that scores of temperature records from Russia and elsewhere were not based on October readings at all. Figures from the previous month had simply been carried over and repeated two months running.
Oops. Not an error that gives you confidence in NASA to perform its other functions. It reminds me of the 1999 NASA blooper, one of the worst math mistakes in history, when the the Mars Climate Orbiter when the Orbiter had to be destroyed and we lost $125 million because NASA was using metric units and the contractor, Lockheed Martin, was using English units.
That's about as elementary a mistake as copying a column of data twice. People make mistakes. However, it is a reminder to us to be extra careful before we totally change our economy around in response to the climate predictions that such scientists are putting out. It also demonstrates the value of such skeptics as US meteorologist Anthony Watts and Steve McIntyre to provide a cross-check of the official data that is being used for those predictions.

Eleven reasons to oppose the bail-out

At least to oppose bailing out the Big Three automakers, from Countercolumn:
1. It would be illegal under the WTO laws we agreed to.
2. Detroit should have made better cars.
3. Detroit's workers priced themselves out of all reason.
4. Counterparty risk. Goldman Sachs and dozens of other financial institutions relied on AIG to make good on any number of transactions. Had AIG collapsed entirely, they threatened to destroy entire industries.  Toyota, Honda and Hyundai have no similar reliance on Ford or GM. If GM should fail, the rice burners stand to GAIN market share.
5. Detroit's PR people are arguing all they need is a "bridge loan." But I don't see the path to profitability - ever. If it's a "bridge loan," it's a "bridge to nowwhere."
6. This is largely a battle over pension funding.
7. The Big 3 have been on notice to improve their offerings for some time.
8. The labor unions made their bed, tying up company productivity with stupid union practice over stupid union practice, and by restricting the free market for labor.
9. If we have 25 billion available, why not use it to buy equity stakes in the Big 3 and then transfer ownership directly to the unions? Would they be happy with that deal? Why or why not?
10. If it's a bridge loan they need, why is no private lender willing to make the loan? Answer: Because repayment is not secure.
11. Those plants and workers don't just vanish into thin air. They could be sold to the rice burners, or to new enterprises. If not, then the lack of salvage value is an argument AGAINST a bailout, not FOR it!


A piece at the Business & Media Institute looks at the fairness of the left's "fairness" plans.

Fair's fair, right? Not always – especially in the new America that dawns January 20. That's when the Obama administration takes over and they have bold plans for making America a fairer place to be.


The Democratic platform Obama supports has 30 separate references to fairness in some form or another. Obama wants a "fair economy," "fair trade," women to get "fair pay," to make "sure that workers get their fair share," and to restore "fairness to our tax code."

Free language courses

Clayton Cramer had been looking for cheap or free material for studying German during long commutes.
The Foreign Service Institute has them.  And in many other languages, too.
Courses are available in:
Amharic Arabic Bulgarian Cambodian Cantonese
Chinese Chinyanja Finnish French German
Greek Hausa Hindi Hebrew Hungarian
Igbo Italian Kituba Korean Lao
Luganda Moré Portuguese Romanian Russian
Spanish Sinhala Swahili Swedish Thai
Turkish Twi Vietnamese Yoruba

What?  No Klingon???

Obama and Gitmo

From Captain Ed Morrissey, here:
I noted that Barack Obama's team has started hinting that they will move back towards John McCain's position on interrogation techniqiues.  Now supporters of Obama who have criticized the Bush administration's position on indefinite detention have begun rethinking that policy as well:

"You can't be a purist and say there's never any circumstance in which a democratic society can preventively detain someone," said one civil liberties lawyer, David D. Cole, a Georgetown law professor who has been a critic of the Bush administration.

You can't?  That's all we've heard from the close-Gitmo crowd for the last seven years.  Indefinite detention supposedly violates American values, we're losing the war if we adapt to the threat against us, blah blah blah.  Certainly Barack Obama never gave any indication of nuanced thinking along the lines of indefinite detention during the last two years while campaigning for the presidency.  In fact, Obama made the absolutist case that Cole now belatedly rejects in June 2007:

"While we're at it," he said, "we're going to close Guantanamo. And we're going to restore habeas corpus. … We're going to lead by example _ by not just word but by deed. That's our vision for the future.

Now that Obama has to live with these decisions and not simply snipe from the sidelines, the game appears to have changed.

The United Methodist Church and War

Matthew May at The American Thinker looks at the United Methodist Church's opposition to war -- unless it's their war against President Bush.
Denunciation of President Bush has emanated from seemingly all corners of the world. Few individuals or groups have matched the slurs, lies, and outright hatred that have come from officials of the United Methodist Church (UMC), which incidentally happens to be the church of George W. Bush. Official UMC has portrayed President Bush as a war criminal, wicked and wickedly ignorant; an object of derision unworthy of the church and its educational institutions. They have distorted and denied his accomplishments while distorting and denying the teachings of the founder of Methodism in a misguided and dishonest attempt to beat the president about the head for acting incompatibly with the philosophy of the denomination.
During a meeting in November 2001, at Lake Junaluska, North Carolina, the Council of Bishops debated and rejected issuing a public statement explaining the church's teachings on just war theory. Instead the bishops declared their neutrality in U.S. action against Osama bin Laden's organization and the Taliban in Afghanistan. Additionally, language introduced by two of the bishops to specifically request UMC members pray for men and women of the United States military was voted down; rather, the statement offered prayers for "people who have been placed in harm's way and their loved ones."[3] "People" could certainly have meant U.S. military personnel, but it could have also meant Osama bin Laden and his surrogates, no?

Not all of the bishops on the council reflexively ignored the denomination's teachings on just war theory or endorsed the explicit suggestions of other bishops that the United States was complicit "in creating some of the chaos," as did Bishop Ann Shearer of Missouri.[4] Bishop Tim Whitaker of Florida disagreed with such language that amounted to justifying terrorist acts and stale denunciations of American imperialism and oppressive foreign policy as if lifted from an SDS manifesto. Unfortunately, voices like Whitaker's were outnumbered and his ideas and thoughts, while politely considered, ended up on the cutting-room floor.
The United States is described within the Standards as "a sovereign and independent nation, and ought not to be subject to any foreign jurisdiction." As such, the 2004 letter argued that Iraq held the same status and rights as the United States "no matter what anyone's opinion is of its former head of state. Attacking a sovereign nation except in cases of legitimate self-defense is a violation of international law." Also notable was what the letter did not say about Saddam Hussein; that he harbored al-Qaeda terrorists (Abu Nidal, to name one), that he flouted the United Nations time and again, that he presided over murder, rape, and the execution of homosexuals among other acts about which some of us may or may not have an "opinion." In the eyes of the group proffering the petition, Hussein's Iraq and the United States stood on equal footing.

A neat trick, that. Such a formulation ignores that it was not President Bush's "opinion" that Saddam Hussein posed a threat to his neighbors, Israel, and the United States; it was the policy of the United Nations in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War in its various resolutions, which Saddam Hussein continually defied. Randall Hoven thoroughly decimates the left's arguments regarding the reasoning for invading Iraq to begin with here. Mr. Hoven points out that the president was not engaged in "cowboy" antics, but acting upon the written law of the United States as passed by Congress. As he writes: "The invasion of Iraq was arguably the most justified case of military action the US has ever taken in its history, based on national defense, validated intelligence and legal authority, not to mention morality.  Articles of impeachment would have made more sense if Bush had not invaded."

Notably, no such exhortations of repentance for causing violence in Iraq were put upon President Clinton by the United Methodist Church following his airstrikes against "sovereign Iraq" in December 1998, airstrikes that may be plausibly argued amounted to nothing more than an attempt to defect attention away from the House of Representatives voting to impeach President Clinton. On the contrary, the Detroit Annual Conference of the UMC - to cite one example - passed a resolution the following year that read, in part, "Military sanctions are reasonable policy in that they seek to contain the ability to create and use weapons of mass destruction."[5] Apparently it depends on who is ordering the military strikes on "sovereign nations" in deciding who is and who is not acting in defiance of the teachings of the New Testament.

The Founder

What left-leaning United Methodists hope you do not know or recall when they selectively lift passages from the writings of John Wesley in furtherance of discrediting conservatives or anyone else on the question of military action by this republic is that Wesley was a proponent of just war theory.
If a Christian denomination refuses to call true evil by its name yet remains comfortable promoting the idea that those who attempt to destroy that evil in the cause of freedom are worthy of its condemnation, how can anyone take the teachings within that denomination seriously? The United Methodist Church has been unable to get a basic moral absolute correct. History will not look kindly upon the deliberate acts of relativism, hypocrisy, inconsistency, and mean-spiritedness committed by the United Methodist Church on questions of its own theology, morality, and the responsibilities of the state in the face of grave threats and acts of war these past eight years. The shame of such behavior will never be expunged.

There's a lot more.  Read the whole thing, as they say.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Socialist government in action

Larrey Anderson at The American Thinker looks at what life is like in socialist countries.  Life as it may be like if Obama implements his campaign promises:
America's young people helped elect Barack Obama. Way to go kids! This article is for you. Let's take a look at your future.

We won't need a time machine. We will just need to visit Europe and talk to the youth of France, Italy, and Greece. Don't worry. They won't mind. They have plenty of time to talk. They don't have jobs.

Young people in Western Europe tend to sit around, smoke Marlboro cigarettes, drink espresso (and Coca Cola), and (at least until this election) bitch about America.

They have been taught, since their first day in school, that capitalism is evil -- that the government can, and should, provide health care, employment, and eventually, guaranteed retirement benefits for everyone.

In their leisurely conversations when they have finished condemning capitalism, they go on to praise the idea of socialism. They do not praise their own countries. They are not stupid. The health care stinks. (Young people don't care much about that.) There are no jobs. (But there are unemployment benefits.) And the retirement systems are bankrupt. (But old age is way, way, way in the future.)
I had the opportunity to speak with one of these young people alone. Actually, this fellow was not so young anymore. He was thirty-four. He still lived with his parents.

He could not afford his own place. His family was having problems even paying their electrical bills.

The reason the price of electricity was so high was that the "greens" had for years stopped the Italian government from building nuclear power plants.

He drove a taxi a few days a week (the only job he could find). He had a girlfriend but could not afford to marry her. He was not planning on having children. But in the next election, he assured me, a brand new socialism was coming. He started to rattle off the names of the experts he had read in the newspapers (and he had studied in the university) who had told him so.

I felt sorry for him. I had had this exact conversation many times before. He was brim full of hope and change.

Friday, November 14, 2008

How nice for him

Obama has a hobby -- "trying to stay alive".

The CIA says Osama Bin Laden is isolated from the day-to-day operations of al-Qaeda, but that the organisation is still the greatest threat to the US.

CIA director Michael Hayden said the Saudi militant was probably hiding in the tribal area of north-west Pakistan.

Mr Hayden said Bin Laden was "putting a lot of energy into his own survival" and that his capture remained the US government's top priority.

But he warned that al-Qaeda was still spreading in Africa and the Mid-East.