Thursday, January 29, 2009

Obama feeling the heat?

It's been all over the news today.  President Obama likes his house warm.  Warm enough, according to his senior adviser, that "You could grow orchids in there."
The Anchoress notes that although Obama spent a few years in Hawaii, he's been exposed to colder climes, and should have had at least some time to adjust.
For my part, I'll simply note the meaning of the Latin word "orchid", and state that he does, indeed, have orchids.

Torture convention

Eric Posner posts at the Volokh Conspiracy, addressing rebuttals to his position on Section 7 of the Torture Convention.
Bottom line:

Section 7 of the Convention Against Torture thus is not judicially enforceable. Could it not still be a "law" that binds the president? It could be; no court has resolved this question, no doubt because the question could never appear before a court in the first place. However, there are strong reasons for doubting that the president, and hence, the attorney general, have any constitutional obligation to "take care" that a non-self-executing treaty be enforced. It is a generally accepted proposition in foreign relations law that the president has the authority to terminate international treaties. President Carter did just that when he terminated a treaty with Taiwan, an act that led to a famous Supreme Court non-decision in 1979 that left his act undisturbed. Such a power cannot be reconciled with a constitutional obligation to take care that treaty obligations be enforced. Presidents also violate treaties. Consider President Clinton's military intervention in Serbia in 1999, in violation of the UN Charter. Treaty violations at the orders of the president—and the U.S. has a long history of them—also cannot be reconciled with a constitutional obligation to take care that treaty obligations be enforced. Perhaps one might argue that President Carter and President Clinton violated their constitutional duties and hence their oaths as well, as did many of their predecessors and successors. But given the long history of presidential discretion in this area, it is a bit late to make this argument.

Violations of international law

David Bernstein, writing at the Volokh Conspiracy:

One thing that's clear from the recent Gaza conflict is that to many leftists, "violations of international law" is simply shorthand for "a country is engaging in military action that I don't approve of."

A case in point is a statement, via Brian Leiter, by self-styled "American Jewish progressives" (some of whom, I note, seem to assert their Jewish identity only when its useful for bashing Israel) on Gaza. The statement claims that Israel acted "with little or no consideration for human rights or the laws of war."

As usual with such statements, not a single documented violation of the laws of war is mentioned. Say what you will about the wisdom, or even morality, about the IDF's actions in Gaza, the idea that it acts "with little or no consideration for the law of war" is absurd. Not only does the IDF have strict internal rules promulgated by its version of the JAG, but it knows it has the entire international left breathing over its shoulder, looking for any violations of rules that could be exploited for propaganda purposes.


In any event, I'll lay down the challenge to the signators of the statement that one should issue whenever one sees similarly ignorant statements: Precisely what "laws of war" do you claim Israel violated in Gaza, what is your evidence for these violations, what treaties or legal precedents can you cite to support your claim, are you aware of legal authorities that disagree with your interpretation of international law, and under what legal theory is Israel bound by whatever particular international law principle that you are purporting to apply (e.g., if you are citing a treaty that Israel specifically declined to be a party to)? Comments are open below for the signators. [UPDATE: One more: Specifically, what could Israel have done differently in Gaza that would lead you to acknowledge that it had complied with the laws of war. If the answer is, as I suspect for many signators it would be, "not go into Gaza to begin with," then obviously we can go back to the first sentence of this post."]

I may have to save that challenge for use elsewhere.  Of course, it won't be answered, any more than my question to one pipsqueak asking where the cited "war crime" had ever been defined as a "war crime" when Israel wasn't involved.  (For example, this pipsqueak called cried "War Crime!" and "Collective Punishment!" when Israel shot back at Lebanon.  Where else has shooting back in a war ever been called a "war crime"?)

Intelligent Design

Some reviews are posted at Little Green Footballs:

After the Dover case, Of Pandas and People was so thoroughly discredited that the Discovery Institute was forced to throw their energies into promoting a new textbook, Explore Evolution, a strategy that's behind their recent activities in Louisiana, Texas, and other states. Biologist John Timmer reviews this "atrociously bad" book in detail for Ars Technica: A biologist reviews an evolution textbook from the ID camp.


In a review of two recent books on "intelligent design," Professor Jerry Coyne of the University of Chicago (a frequent opponent of creationists) tackles one of the most challenging philosophical problems driving the conflict between creationism and evolutionary science, and concludes that there is no way to reconcile science and religion. I'm not sure I agree with that conclusion, but there's much here to think about, and I'd like to see Ken Miller and Karl Giberson respond to Coyne's critique.


CIA interrogations and morality

Also in The Corner, Marc Thiessen writes:

Several readers have questioned whether, even if the CIA program did in fact save lives, using these techniques crosses a moral line. I don't believe it does—any more than I believe going to war when national security requires it crosses a moral line or puts us at odds with our principles.

Those who oppose this program are preaching the moral equivalent of radical pacifism. Pacifism holds that killing is always wrong, therefore war—official killing by the state—is always wrong as well. This is both noble and naïve. Standing against this view is the Judeo-Christian tradition of "Just War" theory, which holds that there are circumstances under which war is permissible and indeed necessary, and ways in which it can be ethically conducted.
The same holds true for interrogations. There are circumstances under which coercive interrogations are both permissible and ethical—and the CIA program meets these just war standards.
First, the program is limited. We use enhanced interrogation techniques as a last resort, and on only a few individuals who have unique information about planned mass casualty attacks, and who are withholding that information.
Second, the program is restrained. Of the many thousands of people captured in the war on terror,  less than 100 were taken into the CIA program. Of those, only a third ever had any enhanced interrogation techniques used on them. And of those, only three—three—were subjected to waterboarding. The CIA uses the least coercive method necessary to get information.
Third, the program is necessary. The individuals being questioned are often the only source of the information we need—there is no other way to find out what these terrorists are plotting and planning.
Finally, the program is for a moral purpose. We do not use these techniques to extract confessions or punish individuals for wrongdoing. We use them as a last resort, to get information needed to protect society and the lives of the innocent.
So not only is this program necessary, it is moral and it is ethical. We can defend it not just on pragmatic grounds, but on moral grounds as well.

Dennis Prager has, as one of his mottos, "No act is always wrong".  That is, pretty much no matter what act you may imagine, there are also imaginable circumstances which make that act morally justifiable. 
Indeed, I'd say that for every act, there is a possible -- albeit very low probability -- set of circumstances that make that act morally demanded.  It would be immoral to act otherwise.

The moral dimension of torture

Let's assume we are talking about a coercive method that undeniably is torture—say breaking fingers. Let's also say the interrogator has been entrusted with the well-being of a community. And finally, let's say we are certain a captive is culpable in a plot to bomb a city, he knows when and where the imminent bombing is to take place, and he won't tell interrogator. If the interrogator begins breaking his fingers, he will almost certainly give up the information and lives will be saved.

If I am understanding you correctly, you're saying: If it's torture, it's torture, and it can't be justified, period. But what about the interrogator's moral obligation to the people he has been entrusted with protecting? If he does nothing, hasn't he violated that obligation? Can he be justified in that dereliction because acting would cause him to torture? If so, why does the morality run only in one direction—how is it that refraining from inflicting excruciating but non-lethal pain on a culpable terrorist is the more moral choice than refraining from doing what is in one's power to save the innocent people one has sworn to protect?

One pipsqueak who seems to advocate exactly that position has asked me, "How would you feel if you were the one being 'interrogated' in this fashion?"  

Well, I wouldn't like it, but then the police can treat me in any number of ways, perfectly legally, that I wouldn't like, even without a trial and conviction.  And of course, after a conviction, the penal system can do a great deal to prisoners, perfectly legally.

Putting someone in a cage, in isolation, for 23 hours a day would be a violation of human dignity if it were done to an innocent person. Yet we do it systematically to the worst criminal violators. Subjecting someone to a cavity search is a violation of human dignity, yet it is routinely done in various security contexts—especially when especially dangerous prisoners are transported from place to place. We draw these contextual distinctions all the time. We put people to death by lethal injection; we don't draw-and-quarter them. Surely it cannot be that these limitations and restraints make no moral difference, can it?

And indeed, a prisoner who objects to any of these procedures can be forced to endure them, using whatever tactics (including "pain compliance" -- another term for "torture") may be required. 

Diane Medved Blog

Link found in her post on marriage and gender differences.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

That antarctic warming

Read the report at the Senate EPW committee web page. Including this quote:
UN IPCC lead author, Dr. Kevin Trenberth, who is not in any way a climate change skeptic, said of the study, "I remain somewhat skeptical… It is hard to make data where none exist." Echoing Trenberth's analysis were several other scientists.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Climate change

Glen Meaken at the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review:

One year ago, I believed that man-made global warming was true, with temperatures rising dangerously due to increasing levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in our atmosphere.

I also believed that a consensus of the international scientific community supported these conclusions.


Then I began some real research on the topic.

I quickly discovered three critical things:

• First, the Earth has experienced significant warming over the past 18,000 years that has nothing to do with human activity.

• Second, more recent temperature variations demonstrate that there is little or no correlation between levels of atmospheric CO2 and temperature.

• And third, there is no "consensus" among scientists on climate change.

Is it a plot?

Dafydd at Big Lizards thinks he sees a pattern:

John Hinderaker has (yet another) excellent piece up on Power Line; this one views more-in-sadness-than-in-anger the not so recent phenomenon of the wanton and tendentious politicization of ostensibly party-neutral cultural congregations, such as classical concerts and sporting events. He concludes the post thus:

My only contribution to the discussion is to note that this is nothing new. Years ago, I attended many more cultural events than I do now. During the 1980s, I was a season ticket holder at Minneapolis' Guthrie Theater. Over time, I became deeply offended by the fact that no matter what the play, whoever put the program together would find a way to work in an attack on the Reagan administration. The last straw was when I went to King Lear at the Guthrie. It was an excellent production, but my enjoyment of it was ruined by the fact that the program was turned into an anti-Reagan tirade. I wasn't even much of a conservative at the time, but the inappropriateness of the whole thing was too much for me.

I didn't "boo loudly," as Glenn [Reynolds] suggests; I just quit going. I wonder how many millions of conservative and mainstream Americans have stopped supporting cultural organizations because of this sort of wanton left-wing politicization.

I don't know whether John feigns naïveté here for dramatic purposes, but it's perfectly clear to me that driving conservatives and other antiliberals out of the arts and other cultural events is precisely the goal at which the Left aims with great deliberation.


I have my own dreadful experience of just such a phenomenon, which I thought I had written about here at some length but can't seem to find. Some years ago, I attended the retirement party for my favorite teacher, whom I will simply call Fitz, at my old junior high school. Fitz was a math and science teacher, shaggy-haired and reliably absent-minded, and nearly everybody who had him as a teacher loved him.

His retirement party was held in a public park and attended by at least 1,500 people, including current and former students and their families. Lots of what is now called middle-school age children in attendance.

The other teachers in the special program in which Fitz taught got up to deliver encomiums, including one teacher from long after I matriculated on to high school and eventually university. This teacher -- I never met him and cannot now remember his name (nor would I want to do) -- allegly taught history and politics; but this was a simple retirement party for a math and science teacher. Nothing prepared me and a number of other attendees for what was to come.

Touching only momentarily on things related to Fitz, this other fellow chose not to linger. Instead, amidst what should have been a Fitz speech, he launched into, I rib you not, an obscenity-laced tirade against George W. Bush and his administration, the Iraq war, Republicans in general, conservatives in particular, and specifically, religious conservatives in a string of venomous personal attacks, using language more suited to a muleteer or a dockwalloper. It went on and on, occasionally punctuated by the lemming-like applause from similarly slope-browed products of consanguineous marriage who thought the venue perfectly appropriate for Democratic demagoguery of the brass-knuckle variety.


And don't think for two consecutive seconds that his rant was spontaneous; if you're anxious to give that bipedal toadie the benefit of the doubt, first buttonhole David Horowitz and ask him what he thinks (not Horowitz the consumer advocate but Horowitz the former editor of Ramparts and leftist agitator turned conservative agitator). This is deliberate. This is planned. This is the visible wake of a subaqueous leviathon conspiracy to drive antiliberals out of every sphere of public life, until we can speak our minds, or even exist, only in caverns and catacombs, like the Jews and early Christians in ancient Israel under the bootheel of the Roman Empire.

Exploring Evolution: a review

Lenny Flank has published his appraisal of the book, Exploring Evolution in the Debunk Creation mailing list.  It's a long one, so I won't repost it here.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Rush v. Obama

Articles linked from Rush Limbaugh's website:

NY POst:

WASHINGTON -- President Obama warned Republicans on Capitol Hill today that they need to quit listening to radio king Rush Limbaugh if they want to get along with Democrats and the new administration.

\ "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done," he told top GOP leaders, whom he had invited to the White House to discuss his nearly $1 trillion stimulus package.

Rush responds at the NRO Corner:

There are two things going on here. One prong of the Great Unifier's plan is to isolate elected Republicans from their voters and supporters by making the argument about me and not about his plan. He is hoping that these Republicans will also publicly denounce me and thus marginalize me. And who knows? Are ideological and philosophical ties enough to keep the GOP loyal to their voters? Meanwhile, the effort to foist all blame for this mess on the private sector continues unabated when most of the blame for this current debacle can be laid at the feet of the Congress and a couple of former presidents. And there is a strategic reason for this.

And the London Daily Telegraph:

Mr Obama has told Republicans in Washington to stop listening to the right-wing talk show host Rush Limbaugh, risking a new culture war with conservative voters.
He then told them to break free of the confrontational mindset epitomised by Mr Limbaugh, the highest paid talk show host in America. "You can't just listen to Rush Limbaugh and get things done," Mr Obama said.

After the euphoria of his inauguration, Mr Obama's team have been handed a cold dose of political reality. A series of controversial policy decisions, mistakes and unforeseen events has brought home the difficulty of bridging the divisions in Washington.

As Captain Ed notes:

George Bush never attacked Keith Olbermann, Chris Matthews, or other voices of the rabid Left by name. If he ever went on the attack against the left-wing media, he kept the attack general and broad, rather than specific. Bush may not have been the most media-savvy of our modern presidents — in fact, he may have been the worst at it since Nixon — but he knew enough about his office to understand that part of its strength would keep him somewhat above the partisan-pundit fray. Obama hasn’t figured that much out yet.

Thanks to this attack, Rush not only has his own megaphone, but he gained everyone else’s for a brief time. He became a national story, gained national coverage, and in general got a million dollars’ worth of free publicity.

What a Rush!

Barack Obama wants Republicans to stop listening to Rush. I wonder how many will find that has the same effect as being told not to think of pink elephants.

As I am sure everyone who follows politics knows by now, Barack Obama in a private meeting with members of the Republican party told them that if they want to work with him to get things done then they need to stop listening to Rush Limbaugh. In calling out Rush, Barack Obama has told the country and the world that he considers Limbaugh a threat. Ed Morrissey highlights it perfectly:
One doesn't make points at all about bipartisanship by explicitly attacking another partisan voice, no matter how much one disagrees with it. By naming Rush and attempting to sideline him, Obama lifted Rush's profile and practically anointed him his opposition. It demonstrates that Obama still has no sense of his office, nor of "post-partisanship", regardless of his endlessly empty rhetoric on the subject...

Anytime a man in a position of great power attacks someone with significantly less power, it lessens the greater man and raises up his opponent. The American President is, thanks to the office, the most powerful man in the free world. If he's worried about any political pundit so much that he has to attack him personally, it shows weakness, which is exactly what Obama cannot afford.

Well, unless Rush actually is the more powerful man. But that can't possibly be true, can it?

You can't buy that kind of publicity.

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Blackfive looks at a letter sent to MaryAnn of Soldiers' Angels Germany.

Help with new years' resolutions

Save $20 on $150 running shoe orders (through 2/23/09)

The Gitmo Orders

From NRO
The executive orders President Obama signed Thursday regarding the detention and interrogation of detainees in the War on Terror reflect an emerging Obama style: What is said is more rhetorical than illuminating—and what is most important is left unsaid.

Take Guantanamo Bay, the oft-maligned subject of the first order. In announcing the closure of the prison there, the president forcefully asserted that he was following through on a campaign commitment. But the order only promises that the facility will be closed within a year—a nonbinding deadline Obama could extend simply by signing another order. That's not exactly the immediate shuttering his antiwar base was clamoring for, and such delay would be intolerable if Obama really believed Gitmo were the travesty he has portrayed it as.
So to summarize: We'd love to close Guantanamo, but we can't right now; we'd love to transfer detainees out of Guantanamo, but other countries don't want them; we'd love to give every detainee a civilian trial, but we don't have enough evidence; we'd love to release the detainees we can't charge with crimes, but our intelligence tells us they're dangerous, so doing so would be irresponsible; and we'd love to stick to the highly civilized, detainee-friendly interrogation practices approved by the Army Field Manual, but every now and then there may be an emergency when something more severe is warranted.


Underneath all the lofty rhetoric, we're gratified to see that this is change George W. Bush could believe in.

Alternative stimulus plans

Over at Marginal Revolution, Alex Tabarrok has some suggestions

1) Investment Tax Credit Unlike traditional fiscal policy an investment tax credit cannot be fully crowded out and it works best when it is expected to be temporary. Cuts in income taxes stimulate the least when they are expected to be temporary. But in contrast, an investment tax credit stimulates the most when it is expected to be temporary because a temporary credit must be used now or lost while a permanent credit gives you the option to wait.

2) A supply side stimulus: The IRS knows how much income that each taxpayer reported last year. So let's cut everyone's marginal tax rate based on last year's income. In other words, suppose that last year Joe earned $66,520 which puts him in a 25% tax bracket. Joe's tax schedule this year will be exactly the same as last year except for every dollar earned above $66,520 the tax rate drops to 15%. We do this for all taxpayers so that each taxpayer has their own schedule and for each taxpayer there is a decreasing marginal tax rate.Note that this plan increases the incentive to work and it doesn't increase the deficit. In fact, the Tabarrok plan increases tax revenues! The key is a marginal tax cut with a different margin for every taxpayer based upon last year's return.

3). A cut in the payroll tax ala Singapore. If employment is down reduce the cost of employing labor. This policy has lot to recommend it because unlike a fiscal stimulus it lets the reallocation process work towards its long run equilibrium. A construction stimulus, for example, pushes people into construction (or keeps them there) when perhaps labor could ultimately be more productive in other sectors of the economy. The payroll tax cut enhances this reallocation effort it doesn't impede it.

4) Don't Panic. This is the policy that has cured most recessions. The do anything and do it now mindset feeds panic. I do think this recession will be longer than average and quite deep, it is a concern that it is worldwide. But recessions are normal and we have unemployment insurance and other assistance programs to help people through tough times. The economy will recover and its very possible to make things worse by trying to make things better.


From the Wall Street Journal
Singapore Pineapple Tarts

Yields about 100 tarts

Quantities aren't exact. My aunts don't use a recipe, and they laughed at me the first 10 times I asked them for this one. The first set of instructions they gave me for pineapple jam was, "Aiyah, you just juice the pineapple, add sugar and then boil, boil, boil!"

For the jam:

4 pineapples
at least ½ kilogram sugar (at least 2 ½ cups, depending on desired sweetness)
2 to 3 pandan leaves* knotted together
1 long cinnamon stick, broken in two

  • Peel the pineapples, dig out the eyes and chop into chunks. Run the chunks through a juicer. Place the pulp in a large wok or pot with a large surface area and heat on the stove. Add the juice until the mixture has the consistency of porridge or grits; add the knotted pandan leaves and cinnamon stick. Bring to a boil and keep it there for a total of three hours, stirring often. Halfway through, taste the jam, and add sugar by the half cup until it is as sweet as you desire. (Note: The amount of sugar needed will vary greatly depending on how ripe the pineapples are.)
  • The jam is done when the pineapple mixture has changed color from bright yellow to brownish ochre and most of the liquid has evaporated, leaving a dense but moist jam.

*Pandan leaves, also called screwpine, can be found frozen in some Asian grocery stores. They are available fresh at and

For the pastry:

375 grams salted butter (3 sticks plus 2 ½ Tablespoons) at room temperature
600 grams flour (about 4 ¾ cups)
4 egg yolks, plus 1 yolk for brushing onto pastry

  • With a mixer on low speed, combine the butter, flour and four egg yolks, mixing for 3 to 5 minutes.
  • Place dough in a cookie press fitted with a disc featuring a circle of diamonds. Press cookies out onto greased baking sheets. Form small balls of dough and press each one into the hollow of a cookie, forming the base of the tart.
  • Beat the remaining egg yolk with ½ teaspoon of water. Brush the rim of each tart generously. Take a scant teaspoon of pineapple jam (more or less, as desired) and form a ball, then press into the hollow of each tart. Pat the sides of the jam to create a small dome.
  • Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 350 degrees, until golden brown. Remove cookies from sheets and cool on a rack.

Friday, January 23, 2009


President Obama has issued an executive order making good on his promise to close down America's detainee facility at Guantánamo Bay, though not as rapidly as his supporters wanted. While activists will hail this as a major step towards dismantling the Bush administration's wartime policies, the Guantánamo they object to exists more as reputation than reality. To many, the name Guantánamo screams "No Due Process!" "Torture!" and "War Crimes!" But Camp Delta is the most humane facility of its type in the history of warfare.

The detainees are given immaculately clean clothes and living spaces. Their meals are balanced, nutritious, and halal—detainees weigh more upon release than upon arrival. They receive the same medical care as our service personnel. And the inmates' religious practices are given great deference, to the point where it works counter to the mission of the facility. To the terrorists, Islam is more ideology than faith; it's an operational code and methodology for promoting cohesion and radical identity. From this standpoint, giving al-Qaeda members copies of the Koran could have the same results as giving Nazi POWs a copy of Mein Kampf. Our indulgent policy in this regard has actively bolstered the terrorists' morale, group solidarity, and ability to resist the legitimate intelligence objectives of the entire enterprise. We knew that it would, but we have let them practice their religion nonetheless.

Stand that against some of the invidious comparisons of the last few years, such as "The American Gulag." Somewhere in heaven Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn is chuckling with a wry smile at the members of the useful-idiot Western intelligentsia who came up with that one. The absurdity—and obscenity—of the comparison is obvious to anyone with even the most limited knowledge of the two institutions. The fact that such charges make effective propaganda is mostly a testament to the propensity of the media to reflexively grasp at the sensational, and of partisan politicians to stoke unwarranted outrage for political gain. The same is true of comparisons to Nazi concentration camps, where inmates tended not to find the kosher option.

White Phosphorus

Max Boot examines one of the popular "war crimes" charges agains Israel -- the use of white phosphorus:

Another bogus charge relates to Israel's use of white phosphorus, an incendiary material that is used in small amounts in smoke shells designed to shield ground operations.  If you are a casual consumer of news articles like this one you would think that by deploying white phosphorous (Willy Pete in U.S. military slang), Israel has committed a war crime. Actually it is a perfectly legal weapon. Here is what, a nonpartisan website, has to say on the subject:

White phosphorus is not banned by any treaty to which the United States is a signatory. … The use of white phosphorus or fuel air explosives are not prohibited or restricted by Protocol III of the Certain Conventional Weapons Convention (CCWC), the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Conventional Weapons which may be Deemed to be Excessively Injurious or to have Indiscriminate Effects, which regulates the use of "any weapon or munition which is primarily designed to set fire to objects or to cause burn injury to persons . . ."

The only legal restriction on the use of white phosphorous comes from the 1980 Geneva Protocol III Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Incendiary Weapons. Neither Israel nor the U.S. are parties to the convention, but their armed forces nevertheless observe its terms under what is known as "customary international law."

As suggested above, Protocol III allows white phosphorous to be used to create smoke. It doesn't allow it to be used directly against a civilian population. It goes on to say that: "It is further prohibited to make any military objective located within a concentration of civilians the object of attack by means of incendiary weapons other than air-delivered incendiary weapons, except when such military objective is clearly separated from the concentration of civilians and all feasible precautions are taken with a view to limiting the incendiary effects to the military objective and to avoiding, and in any event to minimizing, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects."

I suspect the same sort of thing applies to depleted uranium.  It's OK to use it in munitions to give them added penetrating power, but not to pack it around a warhead in order to create a dirty bomb.  (Never mind that there are other substances much better suited to making dirty bombs.)

Enemy combatants and the Geneva Conventions

The entire question of how to treat terrorist captives rests on a fallacy. People who have never read the Geneva Conventions somehow believe that "enemy combatants" are the equivalent of soldiers. They are not. They are subject to drum-head trial and immediate execution. Unless you are in uniform, or bearing a distinguishing mark such as an armband or other device, you are what was referred to in the conventions as a "Francs-tireurs."

The U.S. and allied military forces have the legal right to try and execute individuals who are caught in arms without the protection of uniform. Similarly, pirates are "against all flags" and are, by international convention subject to similar penalties when caught; ditto slavers.


Executive orders and terrorists

Prairie Pundit looks at Obama's order limiting detainee treatment to the methods described in the Army Field Manual.
Obama is too immersed in the failed lawfare policies of the past. He better hope that Bush has so weakened the enemy that he can't mount a serious attack, because with his new rules the chances of us discovering it are remote.
This is either an elaborate head fake to fool the liberals and the enemy or it is a screw up of untold proportions. Obama did leave himself an out on the CIA interrogations on a case by case basis, but that seems a little too hands on for a President.
Maybe it is an elaborate fake.

Obama, Gitmo, and terrorists

Dafydd at Big Lizards doesn't like the security implications of Barack Obama's executive orders.

Curiouser and curiouser, to continue the Alice references; President Barack H. Obama has just signed three executive orders ordering the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility closed within a year, along with all other "secret overseas prisons" run by the CIA, and banning the use of harsh or undisclosed interrogation techniques. And then, after signing these executive orders, he subsequently "ordered a cabinet-level review" of whether any of this is even possible:


Fortunately, Obama is in deep consultation with important leaders of the military and intelligence communities and following their unbiased advice:

As Mr. Obama signed three orders in a White House ceremony, 16 retired generals and admirals who have fought for months for a ban on coercive interrogations stood behind him and applauded. The group, organized to lobby the Obama transition team by the group Human Rights First, did not include any career C.I.A. officers or retirees. [Why invite the opposition to confuse matters by participating in the discussion?]


I was always skeptical of Paul Mirengoff's belief that Obama doesn't really mean what he proclaims, that we should eschew all of George W. Bush's extraordinarily successful policies to fight terrorism in an insane rush back to the failed policy of Bill Clinton to treat terrorism as just another civilian crime. And I'm still not convinced that Obama is an utter fool: Perhaps in the end, he'll be overtaken by events and be forced to adopt Bush over Clinton. But the madness of these executive orders shakes my normal optimism.

Will it take another 9/11 to awaken the Somnambulant One? Will the Student Prince come to his senses -- returning to the combination of free-market Capitalism and gritty, determined national defense that has served us so spectacularly for so long -- before another few thousand Americans are slaughtered by an enemy who isn't cowed by thirty days detention and doesn't seek plea bargains?

Or will even that be enough? Alas, I suspect that rather than drive us back towards Bush's measured but relentless prosecution of the war against the Iran/al-Qaeda axis, such an attack would so shock the American people that they would demand we use any means necessary to protect our country.


There are lots of mistakes we can make, which will make a "next attack" a lot easier to carry off.  Once it happens, expect all hell to break loose.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Notes on Gaza

David Bernstein has some comments on Gaza, and in particular the "balanced" BBC coverage.
He also spotted some extremely apt comments posted on, of all places, the Huffington Post.

One thing to emphasize: during the Gaza fighting, I could tell you day by day approximately how many Palestinians had been killed, because the media so emphasized this point. I don't have a clue how many Afghans have been killed by NATO's actions in Afghanistan, or by the U.S. and its allies in Iraq. And in those cases, if the media did report casualty figures, they would never conflate the deaths of noncombatants with those of "the enemy." The media consistently reported that "___ Palestinians have so far been killed," as if the deaths of Hamas terrorists were just as regrettable as the death of a child who was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

(FWIW, Hamas claims that only 58 of its fighters were killed, and also claims, absurdly, that it killed dozens of Israeli soldiers. The IDF claims that 3/4 of those killed were "Hamas militants." One difficulty is that besides separating civilians from "militants," one has to separate combatant civilians and non-combatant civilians. A "civilian" who stores Hamas weapons in his house, or goes to the roof of a military target when the IAF warns in advance that they plan to bomb it, may be a "civilian" if he isn't officially a member of the Hamas armed forces, but he is not a "noncombatant.")

Gardner on Theodicy

Evolution Blog looks at Martin Gardner's review of Martin Gardner Bart Ehramnn's new book God's Problem: how the Bible Fails to Answer Our Most Important Question -- Why We Suffer.

Obama on interrogation

DRJ at Patterico's Pontifications writes:

Now that he's President, it appears Obama will implement his campaign promise to have the military guidelines govern interrogation techniques. However, he is also considering expanding the military guidelines to permit more aggressive techniques:

"At least two more executive orders are expected in coming days, according to two Obama officials.

One official said the first will require all U.S. personnel to follow the U.S. Army Field Manual while questioning detainees. The manual explicitly prohibits threats, coercion, physical abuse and waterboarding, which creates the sensation of drowning and has been termed a form of torture by critics.

The second order will set up a study of interrogation methods that could be added to the Army manual, including some that may be more aggressive than those currently permitted."

Obama's governing style is to present himself as bipartisan by appearing even-handed, but this is also an example of how Obama's vague campaign promises did not clarify what he might do as President. Some people may be glad he's willing to consider Bush Administration policies, while others will be unhappy. I think this makes Obama look devious, and we don't need another President in the mold of Richard Nixon.

Obama validates Bush's policies III

Tonight Jon Stewart rightly pointed out that there really are no differences when it comes to philosophy about national security, and he demonstrates it with sequential video clips, comparing Barack's speech with past Bush speeches. I can't tell the difference myself, and I thought as much as I watched B. Hussein Obama's speech today.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Questions for Obama's science guy

Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe:

1. You were long associated with population alarmist Paul Ehrlich, and joined him in predicting disasters that never came to pass. For example, you and Ehrlich wrote in 1969: "It cannot be emphasized enough that if . . . population control measures are not initiated immediately and effectively, all the technology man can bring to bear will not fend off the misery to come." In 1971, the two of you were adamant that "some form of ecocatastrophe, if not thermonuclear war, seems almost certain to overtake us before the end of the century." In the 1980s, Ehrlich quoted your expectation that "carbon dioxide-induced famines could kill as many as a billion people before the year 2020." What have you learned from the failure of these prophecies to come true?

2. You have advocated the "long-term desirability of zero population growth" for the United States. In 1973, you pronounced the US population of 210 million as "too many" and warned that "280 million in 2040 is likely to be much too many." The US population today is 304 million. Are there too many Americans?

3. You opposed the Reagan administration's military buildup in the 1980s for fear it might "increase the belligerency of the Soviet government." You pooh-poohed any notion that "the strain of an accelerated arms race will do more damage to the Soviet economy than to our own," or that "damaging the Soviet economy would benefit the US." But that is exactly what happened, and President Reagan's defense buildup helped win the Cold War. Did that outcome alter your thinking on military questions?

4. You argued that "a massive campaign must be launched ... to de-develop the United States" in order to conserve energy; you also recommended the "de-development" of modern industrialized nations in order to facilitate growth in underdeveloped countries. Yet elsewhere you observed: "Affordable energy in ample quantities is the lifeblood of the industrial societies and a prerequisite for the economic development of the others." Which is it?

5. In Scientific American, you recently wrote: "The ongoing disruption of the Earth's climate by man-made greenhouse gases is already well beyond dangerous and is careening toward completely unmanageable." An interview you gave to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was headlined “The Sky Is Falling.” Given your record with forecasting calamity, shouldn't policymakers view your alarm with a degree of skepticism?

6. In 2006, according to the London Times, you suggested that global sea levels could rise 13 feet by the end of this century. But the latest assessment from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is that sea levels are likely to have risen only 13 inches by 2100. Can you explain the discrepancy between your estimate and the IPCC’s?

7. "Variability has been the hallmark of climate over the millennia," you wrote in 1977. "The one statement about future climate that can be made with complete assurance is that it will be variable." If true, should we not be wary of ascribing too much importance to human influence on climate change?

8. You are withering in your contempt for researchers who are unconvinced that human activity is responsible for global warming, or that global warming is an onrushing disaster. You have written that such ideas are "dangerous," that those who hold them "infest" the public discourse, and that paying any attention to their views is "a menace." You contributed to a published assault on Bjorn Lomborg's notable 2001 book "The Skeptical Environmentalist" -- an attack the Economist described as "strong on contempt and sneering, but weak on substance." In light of President-elect Obama's insistence that "promoting science" means "protecting free and open inquiry," will you work to soften your hostility toward scholars who disagree with you?

Ipods of war

Prairie Pundit has spotted a "killer ap" for the iPod.

Users can mount their iPod touch to their rifle, and then use the iPod’s touch-screen to tap in details about the wind conditions, ammunition type, distance to the intended target and even the wind speed.
“Unlike other apps, BulletFlight does not output information in table format,” says the application’s iTunes page. “What it does do is dynamically give you the solution you need now to take that shot.”

Worst president in the world?

Commentary magazine blog.

Inauration Day Benediction

I was listening to Rev. Joseph Lowery's benediction today, and this bit kind of stuck in my craw:

Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get in back, when brown can stick around ... when yellow will be mellow ... when the red man can get ahead, man; and when white will embrace what is right. That all those who do justice and love mercy say Amen.

(Emphasis added)

Say what?

Aside from the fact that race relations have improved enormously in the past half-century, look at what's being sought for whom. In Lowry's benediction, he hopes for blacks, browns, and reds to receive some sort of benefit. The yellow need only change their attitudes, but whites need to change their evil ways. Voting a black man into the White House is apparently not sufficient.

(And what's with wanting the "yellow" to be "mellow"? Is he having a flashback to the kamikazes of World War II?)

Creationists attack space science

Linked from Little Green Footballs.

Creationists don't like the fact that the earth is billions of years old, and the universe even older than that. They prefer the whole shebang to have been magic-ed into existence some ten thousand years ago. In order to support this belief, they have to attack any and all science that points to the contrary.

We’ve had several posts about the creationist fanatics in Texas who are trying to push creationism/intelligent design/whatever into public school biology classes, but biology isn’t the only field they’re attacking. Earth and Space Science (ESS) courses are now a target as well, because they deal with scientific concepts like radiometric dating:
The new Earth and Space Science (ESS) course standards (and all other science course standards) will be up for approval before the State Board of Education (SBOE) during January 21-23. Some SBOE members—the seven who are Young Earth Creationists (YECs)—will attempt to make changes to the ESS standards in ways that will damage the scientific integrity and accuracy of the course. In particular, these SBOE members will try to negatively modify or delete the standards that require students to understand the following topics that deal with scientific topics they consider controversial: age of the Earth and universe, radiometric dating, evolution of fossil life, and the origin of life by abiotic chemical processes. These topics are the ones that YECs consider to be controversial; indeed, they are obsessed with them to the exclusion of everything else.

Inauguration chart

Astrologers can make of this what they will...

Obama: Second black US President?

Eugene Volokh links to a post explaining why Barack Obama may actually be the second African-American to be President of the United States.  Who was the first?  Not Bill Clinton, but Condoleeza Rice!

The world court roars

The International Court of Justice ruled unanimously on Monday that the U.S. government violated a duty under international law by failing to stop Texas from excuting a Mexican national last summer.  The Court located at The Hague in The Netherlands, however, seemed to absolve the U.S. Supreme Court of any specific violation even though it refused to block that execution.


The opinions released Monday can be found, in PDF format, here. A press release on the decision is here.  (Thanks to Howard Bashman of How Appealing blog for the alert to this decision.)

Hmmm....  Did the U.S. government have a legal means of stopping Texas?

Obama tortures the point?

Davydd at Big Lizards offers this explanation for Obama's accession to Bush's "torture" policies.

Let's dress the stage: Just before his inauguration, President-elect Barack H. Obama announced that he was poised to ban all "harsh interrogation" of terrorist detainees, based upon the liberal theory that clever interrogation that stays within the bounds of ordinary criminal investigation will uncover all the same information as harsh interrogation -- and do so even quicker!


This is utter madness; why would any terrorist detainee talk if he knew there was nothing the interrogator could do to him if he refused? How does a smart man like Obama justify grafting naive theoretical idiocy onto the necessary hard policy of defending the United States from terrorist attack?

Simple: He doesn't! Instead, in perhaps the most breathtakingly exercise of sanctimonious doubletalk of my lifetime, the incoming administration punctuates their absolute exclamation point with a question mark:

However, Obama's changes may not be absolute. His advisers are considering adding a classified loophole to the rules that could allow the CIA to use some interrogation methods not specifically authorized by the Pentagon, the officials said.

Obama vehemently rejects the "harsh" interrogations of the Bush regime; this gives the incoming administration the cheers and jubiliation from the international community to which the One believes himself to be entitled by birth. And then, on the other shoe, he lets his aides announce publicly that he will actually continue the exact, same techniques that he just condemned.

And what he makes of this is:
...Obama compounds the felony -- by allowing his advisors to openly state, in the name of the One We Have Been Waiting For, that he has every intention of violating his own prohibition whenever keeping it would inconvenience him.

At least one of the following conclusions must be true; all may be true simultaneously:

  1. Barack Obama, and every liberal who fails to denounce him for it, is guilty of situational ethics, a game of moral "conjugation" -- "I am an ethical pragmatist; you cut ethical corners; he or she is a war criminal!"

  2. Obama understands that Bush only did what he had to do to protect the country; yet Obama sees nothing wrong with trashing his predecessor's character, reputation, and legacy for transient political advantage.

  3. Obama has utter contempt for the intelligence of the American people and thinks they'll never figure out his verbal judo move; in fact, he's laughing up his sleeve at his rhetorical end-run around the truth.


Models -- economic and climate

Robert P. Murphy at the Mises Institute looks at models of the economy and the climate. 

In a recent post on the popular blog Marginal Revolution, a reader asked GMU professor Tyler Cowen whether his experience with economic models shed any insight on the promise or pitfalls of climate models. I think the question is brilliant, and (in my immodest opinion) far more interesting than the answer Cowen gave. In the present article I'll attempt to give the question the fuller treatment I believe it deserves.


What Went Wrong in Economics

Professional climatologists are aware of the analogy between economic and climate models, and they (correctly) point out that the social sciences are far less susceptible to mathematical description and computer simulation than are the natural sciences. Even though there are some loose joints in climate models, they are still built up from the laws of physics. In contrast, there is nothing analogous in a macroeconomic model, especially a "hydraulic" Keynesian one from the 1950s. Even the tautologies from microeconomics — such as the fact/postulate that a consumer maximizes his utility subject to his income — weren't in the earlier macro models. To put it in other words, macroeconomists had (and continue to have) a lot more leeway or degrees of freedom when constructing their models, compared to the climatologists.

Having conceded that there is more of an "idiot check" on climate models, we should still remind ourselves of what went wrong in the economics profession. Climatologists shouldn't comfort themselves by saying, "Well gee whiz, our PhDs don't do anything that sloppy!" What happened in economics was that pioneers such as Paul Samuelson and Kenneth Arrow showed how elegant economic models could be. Sure, some of the wisdom of the old school "verbal" economists was lost in the translation, but oh, how rigorous and precise was the new approach! Although government funding certainly had something to do with the transformation, I think some Austrian economists underestimate the seductive power of formal modeling, and how a rising generation of the brightest (and mathematically adept) economists were drawn to the work of Samuelson, et al.

In essence, economists came up with their models, and their computers could draw charts with a precision of umpteen decimal places, and economists decided the precision in the calculated result must translate to accuracy in the underlying theories. He continues the discussion with climatology.

What May Have Gone Wrong in Climatology


My current job requires me to at least familiarize myself with the typical climate scientists' case for anthropogenic (a fancy term for "manmade") global warming. The deeper I get into the literature — especially when reading their responses to skeptics — the more analogous I think the situation is to the episode in economics sketched above. Richard Lindzen, for example, thinks that the cutting-edge models do not correctly model certain processes in the atmosphere at the "micro" level. Orthodox climatologists concede the point, but then challenge Lindzen to tweak their models in order to come up with a better simulated fit with historical observations (on temperatures, rainfall, etc.). Thus far Lindzen has been unable to do this, because the fastest computers would not be able to run a simulation of the entire world, at a scale small enough to capture the effects Lindzen points to, and obey all the laws of physics.[1] What has happened (it seems to me) is that even the latest generation of climate models necessarily make some heroic simplifying assumptions, in order to render the model tractable. Lindzen isn't accusing the modelers of being lazy. Even so, he maintains that their models are still crude and give very misleading results. The connection between the work of Paul Samuelson and, say, Israel Kirzner should be obvious.


Anchoress on Inauguration Day

A festival of links from the Anchoress...

Christopher Hitchens on Bush's legacy

Christopher Hitchens writes in Slate Magazine that he's not sorry Bush beat Gore and Kerry.

In Oliver Stone's not very good but surprisingly well-received film W., there is an unnoticed omission, or rather there is an event that does not occur on-screen. The crashing of two airliners into two large skyscrapers isn't shown (and is only once and very indirectly referred to). This cannot be because it wouldn't have been of any help in making Bush look bad; it's pretty generally agreed that he acted erratically that day and made the worst speech of his presidency in the evening, and why would Stone miss the chance of restaging My Pet Goat?


We are never invited to ask ourselves what would have happened if the Democrats had been in power that fall. But it might be worth speculating for a second. The Effective Death Penalty and Anti-Terrorism Act, rushed through both Houses by Bill Clinton after the relative pin prick of the Oklahoma City bombing, was correctly described by the American Civil Liberties Union as the worst possible setback for the cause of citizens' rights. Given that precedent and multiplying it for the sake of proportion, I think we can be pretty sure that wiretapping and water-boarding would have become household words, perhaps even more quickly than they did, and that we might even have heard a few more liberal defenses of the practice. I don't know if Gore-Lieberman would have thought of using Guantanamo Bay, but that, of course, raises the interesting question—now to be faced by a new administration—of where exactly you do keep such actually or potentially dangerous customers, especially since you are not supposed to "rendition" them. There would have been a nasty prison somewhere or a lot of prisoners un-taken on the battlefield, you can depend on that.

We might have avoided the Iraq war, even though both Bill Clinton and Al Gore had repeatedly and publicly said that another and conclusive round with Saddam Hussein was, given his flagrant defiance of all the relevant U.N. resolutions, unavoidably in our future. And the inconvenient downside to avoiding the Iraq intervention is that a choke point of the world economy would still be controlled by a psychopathic crime family that kept a staff of WMD experts on hand and that paid for jihadist suicide bombers around the region. In his farewell interviews, President Bush hasn't been able to find much to say for himself on this point, but I think it's a certainty that historians will not conclude that the removal of Saddam Hussein was something that the international community ought to have postponed any further. (Indeed, if there is a disgrace, it is that previous administrations left the responsibility undischarged.)

Monday, January 19, 2009

Bush's legacy

Bruce Anderson at The Independent:

It is not difficult to make the case against George Bush. There have been mistakes. But in their abuse of him, many of his liberal critics demonstrate their own weak hold on reality. In trying to belittle him, they merely reveal their own littleness. George Bush is a much more considerable figure than the caricature version. As he has set great events in motion, it will be impossible to judge his Presidency for many years. It is not impossible that history will offer a partial vindication.

The outgoing President did have one problem, especially in Europe. He may have finished off his father's war against Saddam Hussein. He was not able to avenge his father's defeat at the hands of the English language. Although some of George Bush junior's speeches will rank high in the annals of political oratory, once he was without a text, he often went adrift. But this was not due to lack of ability.

Early on, a friend of mine on the National Security Council went to a Bush Cabinet meeting. He had heard the reports that George Bush was a constitutional monarch with Dick Cheney as his prime minister, so he was interested to see what would happen. He watched as Mr Bush ran proceedings like a strong chief executive, while Mr Cheney did not say a word.

But it all comes back to the Iraq War, which was a tragedy, for a reason worthy of a great tragedian. It was fought in a spirit of excessive idealism. After 11 September, the US Administration asked itself one repeated and agonised question. Why do these people hate us? The Bush team came up with their answer: because they live in failed states, which offer their young no hope in this world and thus leave them open to the temptations of fanaticism and a better deal in another world.

Baghdad was one of the foremost cities in the Muslim world. Iraq was a rich country with a large educated middle class. Yet it had become a police state and many of its ablest people had fled into exile. Moreover, Saddam had been trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. We could not be certain that his quest had failed. So should we wait until the certainty of a mushroom cloud? It seemed that all the routes to progress in the Middle East and safety in the West led to Iraq.


And of course the comments are revealing.

[info]raffred wrote:
Monday, 19 January 2009 at 03:50 am (UTC)
No doubt, Mr Bush has served some, as they say you can't please all and so on., twisting Mr Bush in to something good is impossible! Alas there will be two truths availible, fact will remain unimportant. But only the true profiteer can know the true fact of his leadership.
Is Bruce Anderson Delusional?!?
[info]sheikjabooti wrote:
Monday, 19 January 2009 at 04:18 am (UTC)
Looks like Bruce is trying to rewrite history. So many mistakes Bruce you should be ashamed.
Frist "Saddam had been trying to acquire weapons of mass destruction. We could not be certain that his quest had failed". If I recall weapons inspectors had been in Iraq for some years, turning the place upside down. As we all know from the Iran, North Korean and Syrian experiences, WMD, in particular nuclear weapons cannot be manufactured without common knowledge. It was quite clear the country had no significant WMD capability.
Secondly, Powell the only reasonable member of the Bush administration was the only one who had a clue about Iraq. He knew that any invasion and occupation would take in excess of 400k men. The fact that Bush sidelined him displays unequivocally what a poor leader he was.
Bush blundered his way through 8 years of poor policy and wayward leadership. Like several billion other people I will be glad when he finally retires to ponder the death and destruction he brought to the world.
[info]tonysmyth wrote:
Monday, 19 January 2009 at 10:17 am (UTC)
'Iraq - It was fought in a spirit of excessive idealism'?? No Bruce, it was fought for control Iraq's oil and to dominate the Middle East.
'one unfortunate side effect of the war on terror: Guantanamo'. One!! Bruce go and write fore the Telegraph, or maybe a some National Front publication. You'd be right at home there. Your articles get worse as each week passes.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Obama continues Bush Policies III

This deals with the question of interrogations.

Obama has promised that the US will never waterboard detainees, or subject them to other aggressive interrogation techniques.

Unless he has to.

When McCain was asked what he would do in the "ticking time bomb" situation, where we have in our custody a terrorist with knowledge of plots in progress that may kill Americans, his response was that in that case, he would expect the President to do whatever was necessary. That is exactly the position Obama is now taking: we won't torture detainees. Unless, of course, we need to!

All of this might make some kind of sense if you assume that the Bush administration had a nasty habit of hauling terrorists (or Democrats, maybe) off the street for no particular reason, and waterboarding them. In fact, though, a total of three top-ranking al Qaeda terrorists were waterboarded, in the period shortly after September 11 when there was good reason to believe that they had knowledge of plots that were still active. This was exactly the "ticking time bomb" scenario where McCain has explicitly admitted, and Obama now implicitly agrees, "torture," or harsh interrogation tactics anyway, may be necessary.

In short, Obama's posturing is meaningless and politically motivated. His policy will not be any different from President Bush's; he is just trying to score cheap political points. Obama is no dummy, and is acutely aware of the Bush administration's extraordinary record of keeping us safe from terrorist attacks over the last seven years. He knows that his approval rating will sink like a stone if he exposes Americans to mass murder because of a foolish consideration for the comfort of terrorists. If and when the time comes, he will act exactly as George Bush did.

(Also noted at Instapundit.)

Torture and the NRE

From the Anchoress:
Obama: No tortureexcept maybe when its' necessary. Never forget that in 2002 Nancy Pelosi and other Democrats were briefed on torture and some of them wondered if waterboarding would be "enough". It was later apparently decided that the best thing to do with waterboards was beat President Bush over the head with them as "a moral issue" until they got into power, at which point, they could, potentially, be used to glean information from terrorists, again. Because, as my friend Dick Meyer writes, "the moral issues related to torture are not a slam-dunk." And, as we've seen often and often, if Democrats do what Republicans do, it's usually acceptable.
NRE (n) Not Republican Exception

Just a wee reminder, because everyone always forgets: Rendition began under President Clinton - something perhaps Leon Panetta should talk about at his confirmation hearing. So did the policy of regime change in Iraq begin under President Clinton in 1998. Same year President Clinton declared that Saddam had nukes. We really need better intelligence.

Newspeak -- new and improved!

Hat tip: Steve Sailer, citing Across Difficult Country:
The deranged babblings of an SPLC apparatchik inspired me to coin the word hatefact. Hatefacts are unquestionable facts about immigrants, blacks, women, homosexualists, et al., that the SPLC and those sharing its ideological inclinations deem "hate" or "hateful" to mention.
And while he's on the subject, he offers this from 1984:
... the speculations which might possibly induce a sceptical or rebellious attitude are killed in advance by his early acquired inner discipline. The first and simplest stage in the discipline, which can be taught even to young children, is called, in Newspeak, crimestop. Crimestop means the faculty of stopping short, as though by instinct, at the threshold of any dangerous thought. It includes the power of not grasping analogies, of failing to perceive logical errors, of misunderstanding the simplest arguments if they are inimical to Ingsoc, and of being bored or repelled by any train of thought which is capable of leading in a heretical direction. Crimestop, in short, means protective stupidity.

The Dalai Lama and GWB

The Dalai Lama has some thoughts on terror, and on GW Bush.
The Dalai Lama, a lifelong champion of non-violence candidly stated that terrorism cannot be tackled by applying the principle of ahimsa because the minds of terrorists are closed.

"It is difficult to deal with terrorism through non-violence," the Tibetan spiritual leader said delivering the Madhavrao Scindia Memorial Lecture here.

He termed terrorism as the worst kind of violence which is not carried by a few mad people but by those who are very brilliant and educated.

"They (terrorists) are very brilliant and educated...but a strong ill feeling is bred in them. Their minds are closed," the Dalai Lama said.

He said the only way to tackle terrorism is through prevention.

The head of the Tibetan government-in-exile left the audience stunned when he said "I love President George W Bush." He went on to add how he and the US President instantly struck a chord in their first meeting unlike politicians who take a while to develop close ties.
(Hat tip: Kim Priestap at Wizbang, who notes)
The Dalai Lama's views on fighting terrorism are more in line with conservatives' views than with the mushy brained, arrogant, no nothing celebrities who cling to the Dalai Lama's robes. Many conservatives oppose a variety of President Bush's policies for a variety of reasons, but we admire him nonetheless, especially for his commitment to protecting America and defeating terrorism.


(Hat tip: Cheat-Seeking Missiles)
Armed and Dangerous offers a take on a doctrine he calls "suicidalism".
al-Qaeda didn't create the ugly streak of nihilism and
self-loathing that afflicts too many Western intellectuals. Nor, I
believe, is it a natural development. It was brought to us by
Department V of the KGB, which was charged during the Cold War with
conducting memetic warfare that would destroy the will of the West's
intelligentsia to resist a Communist takeover. This they did with
such magnificent effect that the infection outlasted the Soviet Union
itself and remains a pervasive disease of contemporary Western
intellectual life.

Consider the following propositions:

  • There is no truth, only competing agendas.
  • All Western (and especially American) claims to moral superiority
    over Communism/Fascism/Islam are vitiated by the West's history of racism and
  • There are no objective standards by which we may judge one culture
    to be better than another. Anyone who claims that there are such
    standards is an evil oppressor.
  • The prosperity of the West is built on ruthless exploitation of
    the Third World; therefore Westerners actually deserve to be
    impoverished and miserable.
  • Crime is the fault of society, not the individual criminal.
    Poor criminals are entitled to what they take. Submitting to
    criminal predation is more virtuous than resisting it.
  • The poor are victims. Criminals are victims. And only
    victims are virtuous. Therefore only the poor and criminals
    are virtuous. (Rich people can borrow some virtue by identifying
    with poor people and criminals.)
  • For a virtuous person, violence and war are never justified. It
    is always better to be a victim than to fight, or even to defend oneself.
    But "oppressed" people are allowed to use violence anyway; they are
    merely reflecting the evil of their oppressors.
  • When confronted with terror, the only moral course for a Westerner
    is to apologize for past sins, understand the terrorist's point of
    view, and make concessions.

These ideas travel under many labels: postmodernism, nihilism,
multiculturalism, Third-World-ism, pacifism, "political correctness"
to name just a few. It is time to recognize them for what they are,
and call them by their right name: suicidalism.

Transition -- a study in contrasts

Paul Hollrah at the New Media Journal writes:

At approximately 12:30 PM on Tuesday, January 20, 2009, the first members of Barack Hussein Obama's official staff will walk up the sidewalk from the parking area between the White House and the Old Executive Office Building and enter the north entrance of the west wing. They will find the offices neat and clean, the desks and file cabinets all empty, the supply cabinets well stocked, the floors and carpets freshly cleaned, and telephones, computers, and FAX machines all in place and in working order, ready to be put to use.


When Obama, himself, enters the White House following the inaugural parade, he will be better prepared to begin serving than any president in history. His predecessor, George Bush, has seen to that. The president and every departing member of his staff have leaned over backward to make the transition as smooth and seamless as possible. Bush has even gone so far as to ask the Congress to release the remaining $350 billion of the $700 billion in Toxic Asset Recovery Program (TARP) funds so that Obama can have a pot of money to spend immediately... and later place all the blame on George Bush when it turns out to be money wasted.


Contrast this transfer of power, from Republicans to Democrats, with the last presidential transition, from Democrats to Republicans. January 20, 2001 was a cold dreary day, rainy and foggy with temperatures in the mid-30s. But the coolness of the day could not compare to the chill that the Bush people felt when they entered the White House that afternoon. According to news report of the day, one of Bush's first acts as president was to order an investigation into what appeared to be "a systematic disabling" of White House communications equipment and a general "trashing" of the White House, the people's house, by members of Bill Clinton's staff.


As news stories described the scene, White House telephone lines were cut and voice-mail messages were rerecorded with lewd and obscene greetings. One Bush staffer's grandmother called from the Midwest and was "horrified" by what she heard on his answering machine.


White House communications were extremely difficult because many telephone lines had been rerouted to the wrong offices. Desks were turned upside down, rubbish was scattered across the floors, file cabinet drawers were glued shut, pornographic photographs and obscene slogans were found in computer printers, and lewd graffiti messages had been scrawled on walls with magic markers. Hundreds of computer keyboards were found to be missing the letter "W". In some instances the 'W' keys had been taped to walls above the doorways, twelve feet above the floor. Others were found attached to the walls with superglue.


Offices in Vice President Cheney's quarters were found in what was described as a "complete shambles." When told of the vandalism, the former vice president's wife, Tipper, confessed to being "mortified" by the actions of her husband's staff and issued a personal apology to Cheney.

The extent of the vandalism was so great that Bush staffers were ordered not to speak publicly about the trashing of the White House by the departing Clinton people.

A video to check out

This was the subject of some interesting reviews at LASFS meetings for a while.

Climate changes

Harold Ambler writes at the Huffington Post:
Mr. Gore has stated, regarding climate change, that "the science is in." Well, he is absolutely right about that, except for one tiny thing. It is the biggest whopper ever sold to the public in the history of humankind.

Torture prosecutions in the near future?

Does Eric Holder's statement mean he's going to prosecute Bush Administration figures for torture?

Eric Posner, writing at the Volokh Conspiracy, doesn't think so. Among other reasons:

3. There are other more mundane reasons that will allow Justice Department officials to persuade themselves not to investigate and/or prosecute that are not connected to politics. Prosecutors prosecute when they believe that they will win. To do otherwise is to waste public resources that could be used to put people in jail. Any experienced prosecutor would engage in the following train of reasoning (even putting aside the immunity provisions in the Military Commissions Act). The waterboarders themselves will testify that they received assurances from superiors and lawyers that waterboarding is not illegal, and that they believed that waterboarding was necessary to protect the nation. The superiors, up to Bush himself, will testify that lawyers assured them that waterboarding is not illegal, and that they believed that waterboarding was necessary to protect the nation. The lawyers will testify that they honestly believed that waterboarding is not torture—it caused “pain” but not “severe pain,” in the language of the statute—and that in any event statutes need to be interpreted narrowly to avoid a conflict with the president’s commander-in-chief powers. The jury will believe all these people and it will refuse to convict or, at best, it will hang, prolonging everyone’s agony. It might refuse to convict because it doesn’t believe that anyone has the requisite mens rea; because it doesn’t understand the law; or because (most likely) it just doesn’t believe that people should go to jail when they are trying to protect the nation and the law in question is confusing or ambiguous.

4. Back to politics. One can easily imagine the defense strategy, which will start by calling to the stand various Democratic senators and representatives who had been informed of the interrogation tactics and did not publicly object to them at the time. The testimony would surely be entertaining, as the politicians would be put in the impossible position of either admitting their moral complicity, which would make the entire trial look like a political show trial designed to punish Republicans but not Democrats, or looking like cowards who knew that the government was breaking the law but despite their oath to the Constitution were unwilling to do anything about it. Do Obama and Holder really want to put leaders of their own party in Congress in this position?

5. Finally, just what is Holder’s position on these issues? Has he really committed himself to anything? What about the all-important issue of executive power (I’ve added emphasis to certain sentences in the transcript excerpts below)?
HATCH: That still doesn't negate the fact that the president may have inherent powers under Article 2 that even a statute cannot vary.

HOLDER: Well, sure. The...

HATCH: Do you agree with that statement?

HOLDER: Yes, there are certain things that the president has the constitutional right, authority to do, that the legislative branch cannot impinge upon.
Holder himself can’t dispute the central premise of the Bush DOJ’s war-on-terror memos; at best, he can say that (in his words) “There’s always the tension in trying to decide where that balance is struck” when the president’s and Congress’ constitutional powers conflict, and that he would have struck it differently. A jury will convict on that basis?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Climate science

Cato Institute has a piece on global warming. At most, there's not a lot of it. Looking at the actual planet – it's real hard to spot.


One interesting point:

Even if we are not religious, I would say that Christianity is the religion we are not if we are Western. Similarly, if one is Japanese, and not religious, Buddhism is the religion one is not, if you get my drift…

Inflation in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe is now issuing $100 trillion notes.

Mere billion dollar notes aren't worth bothering with any more.

Inflation was last reported at 231 million percent in July, but the Washington think-tank Cato Institute has estimated it now at 89.7 sextillion percent -- a figure expressed with 21 zeroes.

When Dilbert featured a series on one billion percent per day inflation in Elbonia, I figured that worked out to an increase of 1 1/8 percent per minute.

I guess the 89.7 sextillion percent is annual. A little bit of math shows the per-minute inflation rate is.....

One percent.

We're still not at Elbonian levels.


The Toronto Star

The Toronto Star takes great pleasure in playing fast and loose with the truth. While it purports to be a news service, the fact that it is no better than any propagandist journal that was ever printed in the Soviet Union is provable. You can point to it. Unlike most papers, this reality becomes obvious upon reading just a few issues. And the more you familiarize yourself with the paper, the greater your disgust at its dishonesty, its falsification of facts and the agenda driven manipulations that grace not only its op-eds, but also its front pages on a daily basis.
Promotion of radically leftist myths at the expense of logic is the central mission of the Toronto Star. We get it. But if that’s the case then be upfront about it. There are many liberal and conservative publications that market themselves accordingly. They do not pretend to be unbiased conveyors of news. Their purpose is to share thoughts and opinions. That would be a hard task for an outfit like the Star that is short on facts and long on insults, diatribes and unsubstantiated pronouncements. But that’s no excuse for it to dress itself up as a news organization.

Bush: A first draft

Yomin Postelnik at American Thinker offers his first draft of the Bush Legacy.

Outgoing CIA chief defends interrogations

Hat tip: Just One Minute via Gateway Pundit

Obama's nominee to serve as the next CIA director, former California lawmaker Leon E. Panetta, is expected to rein in an array of agency activities, including its use of so-called enhanced interrogation techniques.

Hayden noted that the agency had stopped the use of waterboarding more than five years ago, but he argued that the CIA should not be bound by the same restrictive interrogation rules as the U.S. Army.

Responding to critics who contend that harsh interrogation methods produce faulty intelligence, Hayden said that interrogations of key Al Qaeda figures accounted for the bulk of the United States' understanding of the terrorist network and led to a series of successful operations around the globe.

"Do not allow others to say it didn't work," Hayden said. "It worked."

The other shoe drops

Remember the fellow who threw his shoes at President Bush during his last press conference in Iraq? The BBC reported that the fellow was beaten while in custody, suffering broken ribs, a broken arm, and internal bleeding. Now, the AP reports that his injuries, resulting from being wrestled to the floor after throwing his shoes, had healed.

Gateway Pundit quotes Tom W:

An Arab man tossed his shoes at a head of state, and he was not killed; his family was not arrested; the press reported on both sides of the issue; people were allowed to protest in support of the shoe chucker, as is their right; and the Iraqi prime minister did not interfere in the prosecution of the man.

Arabs all over the region have seen that Iraq is now a free country, due to the man who was the target of the shoe throwing.

The shoe chucker did a huge service to President Bush and our troops. He proved definitively that Operation Iraqi Freedom is a success, and the war is won.

Maybe the people in these countries will decide they want some of that freedom.