Monday, May 31, 2010

Everybody Draw Mohamed Day — or, you’re not the boss of me

Bookworm sums up the way I feel about this whole issue.

Bookworm Room » Everybody Draw Mohamed Day — or, you’re not the boss of me

It’s a good idea, quite obviously, because modern Western society is predicated on free speech. Admittedly, there are gradations to that free speech, with America standing at the pinnacle of what is allowed and protected as an ordinary part of civil discourse. Speech becomes increasingly more regulated as one travels through other Western nations. Nevertheless, any nation that stands on the shoulders of the Enlightenment gives a nod to the importance of freely expressed ideas and information. When we give up free speech, we give up a significant part of our identity.

Lately, though, European nations and American TV stations have willingly abandoned any semblance of commitment to the notion of free speech. And what’s really dreadful about this practice is that it’s not even driven by the traditional rationale for speech restriction, which is to protect the ruling party from internal challenges to its control. Instead, this is a purely fear-based abandonment. It has nothing to do with principles or power. It is, instead, a craven desire to avoid screaming mobs wielding sharp swords.
Sam Harris, in what is probably the most worthy article the Huffington Post has ever published — and one that I strongly urge you to read — gets to the heart of the matter. After discussing (1) Geert Wilder’s martyrdom at the hands of the Dutch political class for his film Fitna, a film that reveals how closely Islam tracks on Mohamed’s incendiary rhetoric, and (2) Kurt Westergaard’s life in hiding thanks to the very first Mohamed cartoons, Harris explains how Islam is gaming the West:
Wilders, like Westergaard and the other Danish cartoonists, has been widely vilified for “seeking to inflame” the Muslim community. Even if this had been his intention, this criticism represents an almost supernatural coincidence of moral blindness and political imprudence. The point is not (and will never be) that some free person spoke, or wrote, or illustrated in such a manner as to inflame the Muslim community. The point is that only the Muslim community is combustible in this way. The controversy over Fitna, like all such controversies, renders one fact about our world especially salient: Muslims appear to be far more concerned about perceived slights to their religion than about the atrocities committed daily in its name. Our accommodation of this psychopathic skewing of priorities has, more and more, taken the form of craven and blinkered acquiescence.

There is an uncanny irony here that many have noticed. The position of the Muslim community in the face of all provocations seems to be: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we will kill you. Of course, the truth is often more nuanced, but this is about as nuanced as it ever gets: Islam is a religion of peace, and if you say that it isn’t, we peaceful Muslims cannot be held responsible for what our less peaceful brothers and sisters do. When they burn your embassies or kidnap and slaughter your journalists, know that we will hold you primarily responsible and will spend the bulk of our energies criticizing you for “racism” and “Islamophobia.”
When we play into this Islamic game — “We, your resident Muslims, promise to live up to our putative reputation for peace as long as you don’t exercise those of your freedoms that put us in a killing rage” — we give up the essence of who we are. We are no longer the heirs of Voltaire and the Enlightenment, of the Founders and the abolitionists. We are no longer free people. Instead, we are slaves to our fears, with our lives increasingly constrained by the random and irrational demands of small subsets of our western societies.

Ask us to be sensitive. Ask us to respect your beliefs. For the most part, we will.

Tack on "or else" and you abandon civilized society, and forfeit any right to the protections thereof.

Gaza Blockade Violence News You May Have Missed

David Bernstein at The Volokh Conspiracy calls readers' attention to Gaza Blockade Violence News You May Have Missed: would be easy enough to miss what I found to be the most relevant information, from the Washington Post:“Short video clips broadcast on various television stations showed demonstrators clubbing the navy personnel with metal bars and showed at least one soldier firing.”

Although Bernstein has his doubts about the wisdom of a blockade, he notes:

UPDATE: Reuters: “Greta Berlin, a spokeswoman for the Free Gaza Movement that organized the convoy, said: ‘How could the Israeli military attack civilians like this? Do they think that because they can attack Palestinians indiscriminately they can attack anyone?’” Here’s a hint, Ms. Berlin: when you try to run a naval blockade, and then attack the blockaders with weaponry, “civilians” is not an apt description.

Allison Kaplan Summer (via Instapundit): “Israel appears to have stepped directly into a trap of a carefully planned suicide mission dressed up in the clothing of a humanitarian effort.”

When paintballs weren't enough


Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:


via Power Line by Paul on 5/31/10

According to this report, which Scott linked to below, the Israeli commandos who were attacked as they boarded the Marmara initially used paintball rifles, the kind used to disperse minor protests, to fight off the attackers. The commandos also had hand-guns, but were told they should only use them in the face of life-threatening situations. According to the same report, the commandos kept shouting, "don't shoot, don't shoot" even as they were attacked.

When the paintball rifles proved ineffective, the Israelis reportedly used stun-grenades. These too had little effect. According to the same report, the Israelis resorted to using their handguns only after the attackers seized one commando, wrested away his handgun, and threw him down from the top deck to the lower deck, 30 feet below. At that point, the commandos began shooting at the legs of their attackers.

Noah Pollak is outraged that the israelis boarded the boat armed with paintball guns, and, to be sure, there is a "bring a toy gun to a knife fight" quality to the story as reported. Noah writes:

Armed with the proper equipment, the naval commandos could have done precisely what they are trained to do -- take command of a ship decisively and with great speed. This can only be done when the men boarding the ship are able to immediately neutralize their opponents and establish complete control.

On the other hand, if the Israelis had immediately neutralized their opponents by shooting them before the attacks had clearly put the commandos in danger, they would be susceptible to rational claims (as opposed to the claims that have been lodged) that they vioatled the concept of "proportionality." That concept, though invariably misused by anti-Israelis, should not be entirely without force.

It does seem that the IDF miscalculated the intensity of the resistance they were going to face from the fighters on the Marmara. The IDF's assessment was correct as to five of six boats, but not the sixth. In these situations, five for six isn't good enough.

If the report cited above is accurate, this looks like another instance of the IDF erring on the side of trying to avoid bloodshed, perhaps in the hope of avoiding condemnation, and ending up with both the bloodshed and the condemnation.

SCOTT adds: Via Daniel Halper's round-up at the the Weekly Standard blog, I find that Melanie Phillips lucidly explains what happened here: "This was an Ismalmist terror ambush."

JOHN adds: Phillips' account assembles the most detailed information I've seen so far. For a broader assessment of the flotilla's purpose, see William Jacobson:

The flotilla was organized by the Islamist government in Turkey to aid Hamas with the goal of opening up shipping channels for Turkey's new friend, Iran, to ship more and better weapons as it is doing to Hezbollah in Lebanon. Iran is busy turning Lebanon and Syria into one large missile launching pad against Israel, and a southern base in Gaza will complete the encirclement of Israel for the coming crisis over Iran's nuclear program.

The Europeans on the ships were cover, and the placement of an 18-month old child on these ships was the utmost cynical use of a human shield.

If getting humanitarian supplies to Gaza really was the goal, this flotilla was not necessary. The supplies would have been off-loaded in Eqypt or Israel and then shipped in by land after being checked for hidden weapons.

And that is the rub, only sea-based shipping would provide Iran with the mechanism for almost unlimited armament of Hamas. There is a limit to the quantity and size of missiles and other armaments which can be smuggled through tunnels from Egypt. That is why the sea blockade must be broken for Iran to get what it wants.

This video, shot from a helicopter overhead, shows some of the violence on board the Mavi Marmara:

A last observation: the action against the ships was not a "raid," as it is generally being described. Israel and Egypt have imposed a naval blockade of Gaza, and Israeli soldiers were enforcing the blockade. They directed the ships to dock at an Israeli port rather than continuing into Gaza; when the ships refused to do so, they boarded the ships to take control and steer them into the Israeli port. Which is what they did, once the violence on one of the ships had been put down.

This is what happens when you have a blockade. If you allow ships to sail past without boarding them, it isn't a blockade. So if the blockade is legitimate, then Israel's action in boarding the ships was legitimate. And the blockade is certainly legitimate, since terrorist supporters shipped rockets and other armaments into Gaza which were used to attack Israel.

The flotilla has nothing to do with "humanitarian" purposes, as humanitarian supplies are routinely shipped into Gaza by land. It has everything to do with Israel's enemies trying to bring the blockade to an end so they can resume shipping weapons into Gaza.

ONE MORE: This video shows even better the viciousness of the terrorist sympathizers who masqueraded as "peace activists."

On cue, Catherine Ashton, the EU's high representative for foreign affairs, has called on Israel to end its "counterproductive" blockade of Gaza. Which was always the point.

The blockade evidently is counterproductive to Hamas, which is why the terrorists and their allies in Europe and elsewhere are trying to force Israel to end it.


Things you can do from here:


Barak: No humanitarian crisis in Gaza, and Israel will defend itself

If this is starvation, send in Jenny Craig!


Sent to you by Karl via Google Reader:


via Jihad Watch by Robert on 5/31/10

Gaza fruit market.jpgStarving in Gaza

Bravo. Jihad Flotilla Update: "Mideast: Flotilla; Barak, No Humanitarian Crisis In Gaza," from ANSAmed, May 31 (thanks to Insubria):

(ANSAmed) - JERUSALEM, MAY 31 - There was no humanitarian crisis and nobody is dying with hunger in the Gaza Strip, where the real problem is the fact that control of the territory is in the hands of a terrorist organisation (Hamas), said Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak today. He made his remarks in a press conference, hastily organised after the high number of victims that fell when a flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists was boarded by the Israeli navy off the coast of Gaza. The reason for the isolation of Gaza, he continued, is to keep weapons and terrorists from entering this area. Israel, Barak added, is determined to defend its sovereignty. (ANSAmed).


Things you can do from here:


Useful Idiots at Sea

J.E. Dyer at Commentary comments on Useful Idiots at Sea.

Ed Morrissey at Hot Air has a very good summary of points about the Hamas-backed attempt to break the maritime blockade of Gaza on May 31. The summary includes links on the Turkish “aid” group, Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), and its associations with the Muslim Brotherhood and all the usual suspects of Islamist terror (including the Millennium bombing plot in 1999). There is convincing video footage of the fight mounted by the peace activists – using knives, metal pipe, handguns, stun grenades, and incendiary devices – against the Israeli commandos boarding M/V Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ferry used as the flotilla’s flagship. Probably the best compliment I can give Ed’s post is that it doesn’t adopt the credulous, pro-activist editorial perspective of virtually all the mainstream media outlets.
Flotilla spokesmen told Islamic media repeatedly in the weeks before the attempt that their purpose was to break the blockade. Israel, of course, regularly allows aid convoys into Gaza; the Israelis offered to accept the humanitarian cargo in Ashdod and have it convoyed into Gaza over land. But IHH leaders stated that they hoped to widen the rift between Israel and Turkey by inciting Israel to take military action against the flotilla.

The Israelis advised Turkish and European envoys beforehand of their intention to use naval forces to prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza. The outrage now being shown by European politicians certainly isn’t based on surprise at the course of events; the Israelis did exactly what they said they would do. In fact, some reports suggest that European governments joined Israel last week in pressuring Greek Cyprus to prevent the departure of flotilla participants who were using Cyprus as a staging area. In the days since Mavi Marmara’s departure from Istanbul on May 22, Europeans have been watching the flotilla’s dilatory progress much more closely than Americans have. The truth about the dramatic climax off Gaza on Monday is that the whole event has unfolded in slow motion – and with the full cognizance of all the relevant governments.

From a military operational perspective, it seems to have been a tactical error that the Israeli commandos didn’t go in with sufficient force. I doubt they’ll make that mistake again. If they had conducted the boarding on the premise that it would be “non-compliant” (the U.S. military term), they would have been prepared to stabilize the situation at the outset with the threat of deadly force. In conditions like the ones the commandos faced today, that usually means actual force is less likely to be necessary.

But in the end, what matters to Israeli national security is that the flotilla participants were armed and determined to break the blockade. As long as Hamas rules Gaza, the territory’s sea access is a major vulnerability for Israel and has to be controlled. Repeated attempts have been made in the last few years to deliver weapons from Iran to Hamas by sea (see here, here, here, here, and here); Israel can’t permit the coastline of Gaza to become the path of least resistance for weapons deliveries.

Ten Questions About ‘The Grand Jihad’

Michael Walsh interviews Andrew McCarthy at Big Journalism. Ten Questions About ‘The Grand Jihad’ For Author Andrew McCarthy.

Q. Why did you write this book? Surely, you’re overstating the threat to the American way of life from radical Islam.

Q. You open with the memorable moment when President Obama bowed to the Saudi King. Although you dismiss the notion that Obama is some kind of “Manchurian Muslim,” why else would he do such a thing? In fact, why is he so loath to speak out against any Muslim, anywhere, if on some level he does not share either religious or cultural sympathies with them?

Q. The heart of your book is the argument that the Left and Islam have made an alliance of convenience, sharing a common enemy, which is classical Western civilization. Some dismiss this idea with the riposte that the Left will suffer as much if not more than anybody under Sharia Law. How do you answer them?

Q. To what do you attribute the MSM’s reluctance to explore these questions? Does the “narrative” of the First Black President outweigh everything else? Are they lazy? Complicit? Some combination of all three?

Q. Why are Americans so slow to pick up the concepts of dawa and jihad?

Q. Discuss the role of Political Correctness in our apprehension, or lack of it, of Islam.

Q. Isn’t one of the problems that we continue to think in terms of nation-states, whereas Islam disdains such a concept in favor of the ummah?

Q. What’s it going to take for us to wake up? If and when an American city is nuked will we even fight back? Or will the lawyers and the JAGs find legalistic excuses for inaction?

Q. Is there a Martel, a Sobieski or a Kitchener on the horizon, or have we arrived at the Spenglerian end of western power?

Q. There must be one bright spot, right… Right?

The answers are at the other end of the link. :-)

MSM Trots Out Usual ‘Peace Activists’ Meme

From Big Journalism: MSM Trots Out Usual ‘Peace Activists’ Meme To Characterize Today’s IDF-Palestinian Clash.

The Old Media is already misreporting the bloody incident off the Gaza coast between a flotilla of Muslim “peace activists” and the Israeli Defense Force. They are, of course, making Israel out to be the bad guys and while it is regrettable that anyone had to get killed in this incident, the fault lies with the armed “peace activists,” not Israel.

That’s right, these are supposed to be peace activists, yet they had armed themselves with bats, metal bars, and slingshots with marbles as projectiles and later firearms that they had hidden on their craft. Why isn’t anyone in the Old Media asking why peace activists are arming themselves?

In fact, the first Israeli troops that boarded the flotilla were only using non-lethal weapons — paintball guns — but this did not stop the Muslims from assaulting the troops with the metal bars, bats and slingshots. The troops did have handguns, but it is reported that as they boarded they were yelling to each other “don’t shoot, don’t shoot.” It is clear that they intended to turn the boats around with as minimal force as possible in order to ensure world opinion that Israel wants to avoid bloodshed when she can.

The Muslims had other ideas as they swarmed the first troops giving vicious physical blows. One soldier was thrown from the top deck 30 feet to a lower deck causing severe injuries.

After being physically attacked for some minutes the troops were finally given the go-ahead to use live fire. Firing at the legs of their assailants so as not to kill, the troops opened fire. It was then that the so-called “peace activists” broke out their own firearms and began shooting back and the melee became general.

Some peace activists, eh?

In fact, they aren’t “peace activists” at all. One of the groups involved in this flotilla of boats bringing supplies to Hamas is the Turkey-based IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi, IHH, “humanitarian relief fund”).

According to the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center website, the IHH has been known to provide logistical support and funding to global jihad networks and is closely linked to the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas’ parent movement. Because of its funding support of jihad and Hamas, Israel outlawed IHH in 2008.

And these are the people involved in this flotilla of boats attempting to run the blockade that Israel has put around Gaza to prevent money and weapons from getting to the Palestinian Authority and into the hands of the terror group Hamas.

But immediately we get headlines around the world that put the onus on the Israelis. Let’s look at some of the immediately accusatory headlines, shall we?

* Gaza ship attack analysis: Israel’s bad timing – UK Telegraph
* Sweden: Israeli raid ‘completely unacceptable’ – The Swedish Wire
* Israel is lost at sea – Financial Times
* The Israeli Attack – Joe Klein, Time Mag.
* UN Council Calls Emergency Meeting on Israel Clash – Bloomberg Businessweek
* White House ‘Working to Understand’ Israeli Attack – ABC News
* Israeli commandos storm aid flotilla, killing 9 and sparking protests – Associated Press
* And from the left-wing blather source, Huffington Post, we get this little gem: Israel Attacks Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

Notice how it’s all Israel’s fault? It isn’t the falt of armed “peace activists”? It isn’t the fault of terror supporters trying to break a blockade?

While it was regrettable that anyone had to get killed, one wonders why “peace activists” were so heavily armed, were so immediately violent, and have supported terrorism in the past? Worse, why is the Old Media placing all the blame on Israel? It’s all of a piece with the immediate condemnation that Israel receives no matter what she does.

See the original for links to videos and headlines.

Commentary » Blog Archive » Nice Guys Finish Last

So intent were the Israelis on avoiding casualties, they went in armed with paint guns: Commentary: Nice Guys Finish Last

The intent, of course, was to show that Israel wished to avert escalating the confrontation and merely sought to bring the ships to port, transfer their cargo to Gaza, send the “peace activists” home, and bring this mini-drama to a close. But the results were catastrophic.

Instead of proving Israel’s good intentions, the commandos found themselves unable to take control of the terrorist blockade runners, who knew, of course, that any bloodshed and violence that followed the Israeli boarding party would be laid at the feet of the Israelis. Armed with the proper equipment, the naval commandos could have done precisely what they are trained to do — take command of a ship decisively and with great speed. This can only be done when the men boarding the ship are able to immediately neutralize their opponents and establish complete control.

But the Israeli commandos obviously could not establish complete control. They fast-roped into an ambush and were beaten and stabbed. Would this have happened if they had real guns in their hands? Probably not.

War on Israel

Pamela Geller comments on: The Jihad Flotilla and the Media War Against Israel

Today’s incident on the Gaza jihad flotilla was an act of war – but not by Israel. The tsunami of Jew-hating propaganda from the jihad-loving media has already begun. The international media, predictably, is spinning the story as if it were all Israel’s fault, saying that the IDF killed innocent civilian humanitarian workers on a flotilla headed to Gaza to bring aid to the starving people there.

In reality, none of that is true. This was an act of war against Israel. The people in Gaza aren’t starving, and the “humanitarian aid workers” on the flotilla were actually Islamic jihadists who attacked the IDF first. It was a planned attack — by Hamas and the hardline Muslim groups. Hamas supporters planned an armed assault, which included the murder of captured Israeli heroes. They almost succeeded.
In the information battlespace, the jihadis can count on the complicity of the subdued, Islamophiliac press. They can physically attack Israeli troops and count on the corrupt media to package any act of Israeli self-defense as an aggression. Then this repackaging will lead to international condemnation, United Nations Security Council resolutions, and further delegitimization of Israel.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pointed out that the flotilla jihadists attacked first, and that the Israeli soldiers “had to defend themselves, defend their lives, or they would have been killed.” He explained:
What we want to prevent coming into Gaza are rockets, missiles, explosives and war materials that could be used to attack our civilians. This is an ongoing policy and it is the one that guided our actions yesterday.
But no one was listening. His truth doesn’t fit the media narrative. The media would much rather listen to J Street (the J is for “jihad,” not “Jewish”), which is using the jihad flotilla incident to call for annihilation of the Jews: they’re asking our decidedly anti-Israel president to impose the jihadists’ “peace” plan “forcefully” upon Israel.

No lives to be saved

Eugene Volokh looks at San Jose State's decision to suspend blood drives. San Jose State University Continues to Suspend All Blood Drives on Campus.

Why? Apparently based on the view that the FDA’s ban on donation by men who have had sex with men since 1977 violates the school’s antidiscrimination policy.

But it seems to me that, regardless of that, suspending a practice as worthy and lifesaving as blood donation because of disagreement with the policy strikes me as showing a massive lack of perspective. I wrote about this with regard to the exclusion of military recruiters in 2002, and the arguments strike me as even more apt here, so let me adapt and repost them:

“Perspective,” my New Shorter Oxford Dictionary says, is “a mental view of the relative importance” of things.
When I’ve made this argument about military recruiting, some people have responded “Well, we wouldn’t let a law firm interview if it discriminated against gays; why should we let the military do so?” Yup, that’s right, the military, it’s just another bigoted law firm, people who run blood drives are just another bigoted government agency. Jones & Smith, the U.S. Army, blood drives, same difference. That’s what the logic of antidiscrimination-above-all tells us.

But perspective reminds us that those institutions that protect our lives deserve slightly more accommodation — yes, even despite what we may see as their vices — than institutions that don’t. And any morality and any symbolism that fails to keep this proper perspective is not a morality or symbolism to live by.


Betsy Newmark titles her post Jumping to Conclusions. What's more interesting is the conclusions that are jumped to.

...our leaders should also be super careful about not going on TV and making assumptions that they can't possibly know in the early stages of the investigation.

Here is what Mayor Bloomberg said on CBS
Bloomberg later told CBS Evening News Anchor Katie Couric that the suspect behind the bombing attempt could be a domestic terrorist angry at the government who acted alone.

"If I had to guess 25 cents, this would be exactly that. Homegrown, or maybe a mentally deranged person, or somebody with a political agenda that doesn't like the health care bill or something. It could be anything," he said.

"There is no evidence here of a conspiracy, there is no evidence that it's tied into anything else. It looks like an amateurish job done by at least one person," he told Couric.
How would Bloomberg know that there was no conspiracy?

And why throw out there the possibility that it was a mentally deranged person or give as an example that it might have been someone who "didn't like the health care bill or something?" Why throw out there such musings in the first place? And how convenient that the example he chose was a conservative who didn't like Obama's agenda.

The culprit turns out to be a naturalized citizen from Pakistan. Who'd have imagined it?

Norton Juster declares the only way back from the Island of Conclusions is to swim through the Sea of Knowledge. But there are those who can swim all day in the Sea of Knowledge and emerge perfectly dry.

Death Panels in action

From John Goodman's health blog at NCPA" Avoiding the Cure

Fact 1: “[A] molecule, called a peptide, blocks the metastasis of melanoma to the lungs and other organs…[and] also blocks angiogenesis, the creation of blood vessels that sustain metastatic tumors,…at least in lab animals.”

Fact 2: “Metastatic cancers…account for some 90 percent of all [human] cancer deaths.”

Fact 3: No one is trying to develop a version that humans can take.

Fact 4: “The chance of FDA approval for a newly discovered molecule, targeting a newly discovered disease mechanism, is a dismal 0.6 percent.”

Source: Newsweek

I'd say it's more like "Aborting the cure". In this case, the "death panel" doesn't tell people they can't have this or that treatment, it decrees this or that new treatment stillborn. And if the odds are long enough, people don't try.

"She's Asking for it"

Some time in the last century or so, "she was asking for it" quit being a valid defense on charges of assault. But it seems it's still a defense when the woman is "being uppity" toward Muslims. John Hinderaker comments at PowerLine.

Ayaan Hirsi Ali is one of the great heroes of our era. Born a Muslim in Somalia, she was subjected to genital mutilation at age five. Her family fled to Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia and Kenya. After her father ordered her to marry a stranger, she sought political asylum in the Netherlands and eventually was elected to the Dutch Parliament in 2003.

Hirsi Ali became a feminist spokesman for women who are oppressed in Islamic societies. She wrote the screenplay for Theo van Gogh's film Submission. Van Gogh was murdered in Amsterdam by a Muslim extremist who shoved a knife into his body with a note that said Hirsi Ali was next.

That made Hirsi Ali too hot to handle for Dutch authorities, so she made her way to the United States, where she now lives and continues her fight on behalf of oppressed women around the world.

You might think that would make her a heroine to American liberals, but you would be wrong. For whatever reason, they can't stand her. The latest evidence of this antipathy is Nick Kristof's review of her book Nomad in the New York Times.
She has managed to outrage more people -- in some cases to the point that they want to assassinate her -- in more languages in more countries on more continents than almost any writer in the world today.
That's only the beginning. Kristof goes on to write that Hirsi Ali "is working on antagonizing even more people," even though it "might seem presumptuous to write another memoir so soon." It is easy to see why so many want to kill her, Kristof says, since she is "by nature a provocateur, the type of person who rolls out verbal hand grenades by reflex." Bear in mind that in this case, the "provocateur's" "hand grenades" are arguments that little girls shouldn't have their clitorises cut out, be beaten for no particular reason, or be forced to marry men they haven't met. Is that provocative? To liberals like Kristof, apparently so.
In a recent post, I quoted a refrain from a country song that says, "people are crazy." But in fact, not all people are crazy. It is mostly liberals who are stark raving mad. All the liberals I know claim to be feminists, so how can they support those who mutilate little girls and sanction forced marriages and wife beating?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

The Iron Law of Bureaucracy

according to Jerry Pournelle

Pournelle's Iron Law of Bureaucracy states that in any bureaucratic organization there will be two kinds of people. First, there will be those who are devoted to the goals of the organization. Examples are dedicated classroom teachers in an educational bureaucracy, many of the engineers are scientists at NASA, even some agricultural scientists and advisors in the former Soviet Union collective farming administration.

Secondly, there will be those dedicated to the organization itself. Examples are many of the administrators in the education system, many professors of education, many teachers union officials, much of the NASA headquarters staff, etc.

The Iron Law states that in every case the second group will gain and keep control of the organization. It will write the rules, and control promotions within the organization.

Sauce for the gander?

Dafydd ap Hugh dares to ask about Obama the same question people were asking about Bush after Katrina. Big Lizards:Blog:Entry “Deepest Horizon of Suspicion”

Would President Barack H. Obama be moving more swiftly to put the full weight of the federal emergency system behind stopping and cleaning up the Gulf oil spill -- if the region affected comprised liberal Democratic states? Could the president of the United States be that cold-blooded and vindictive against one particular part of the country, a region he particularly detests because of long-past racism and current conservative leanings?
But at some point, we must ask the fundamental question: Can all the damage inflicted upon our country from the left side of the aisle, over the past century or more, be attributed to mere incompetence? Are the relentless heavy shoves all in the same direction just coincidence piled upon happenstance wrapped with synchronicity? Or at some deeper level, does the Left -- and today, the people surrounding the president or even the Man himself -- intend the consequences they consistently provoke?

James O'Keefe and his lawyer, interviewed

The State has labored mightily and brought forth a mouse.

Curing Ebola

Ebola virus: Scientists discover a breakthrough | Mail Online

A gene silencing approach can save monkeys from high doses of the most lethal strain of Ebola virus in what researchers call the most viable route yet to treating the deadly and frightening infection.

They used small interfering RNAs or siRNAs, a new technology being developed by a number of companies, to hold the virus at bay for a week until the immune system could take over. Tests in four rhesus monkeys showed that seven daily injections cured 100 per cent of them.

The trick is to knock down the virus long enough for the immune system to rally and take up the fight. This approach might work for other viruses as well.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Speleothem temperature records

Willis Eschenbach looks at temperature as recorded in stalactites. In Which I Go Spelunking.

The paper uses “speleothems” to estimate past climate conditions. Speleothems are secondary mineral deposits formed in caves. Stalactites and stalgmites are speleothems, and they come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes.
The speleothems give us a record of what is called the “delta oxygen 18″ (∂18O) value. This value is related to the temperature. The paper does not give the associated temperature values, so I converted them using the relationship described here as:
This is based on the average d[delta]18O/dT relation in modern precipitation (~0.6‰ °C-1), and the water-calcite fractionation that accompanies speleothem deposition (~-0.24‰ °C-1).
Decoded, this means that the change in temperature is equal to the change in ∂18O divided by (0.6 – 0.24), or ∂18O/0.36. Using that relationship, I calculated the temperatures from the various speleothems, and graphed them all with no further adjustment.
This has improved the accuracy of the reconstruction. This is shown by the greater vertical range of the Gaussian average line.

So, what does all this mean? Heck, I don’t know, I’m investigating, not drawing conclusions. A few comments, in no particular order:

• As is shown in the Greenland ice core records, we are currently at the cold end of the Holocene (the current interglacial).

• Recent phenomena (Roman Warm Period, Medieval Warm Period, Current Warm Period) are scarcely visible at this scale. So much for the “uprecedented” nature of the recent rise.

• The polar bears are not in any danger from the recent rise.

• What’s up with the big jump and drop about 12000 years ago? I have not seen that in the ice core records, but it is present in these speleothem records from around the planet. [Update] A number of people have pointed out that this is almost certainly the “Younger Dryas” event. I hadn’t noticed it in the Vostok record, but a closeup of that record shows it.

• The amount of the temperature change depends on the coefficient used to translate from d18O to temperature. So the numbers are likely in the right range, but may be somewhat too large or too small.

Anyhow, that’s my thoughts about what I’ve found out, I welcome yours. I continue with the investigation. It strikes me that I may be able to adjust the conversion factor (d18O/T) to see if that improves the fit of the data … should be interesting. Onwards …

James O’Keefe Gives His Side

Big Government has James O'Keefe's statement. James O’Keefe Gives His Side

Why Obamacare will fail

This is for those fans of Obamacare who think you can legislate cheaper medicine: BBC News - Insulin giant pulls medicine from Greece over price cut

More than 50,000 Greeks with diabetes use Novo Nordisk's product, which is injected via an easy-to-use fountain pen-like device.

A spokesman for the Danish pharmaceutical company said it was withdrawing the product from the Greek market because the price cut would force its business in Greece to run at a loss.

The company was also concerned that the compulsory 25% reduction would have a knock-on effect because other countries use Greece as a key reference point for setting drug prices.

Maybe the Greek government can use its copious spare funds to get into the business of making this drug.

Friday, May 28, 2010

An Interview on Climate with Esquire Middle East

Climate Skeptic received an email interview from "Esquire Middle East" My Interview on Climate with Esquire Middle East. He gives his responses in the interview, and comments on the nature of the questions that were asked.

You may find them interesting, too.

Do you believe that global warming and climate change are a grave problem to the world at the moment ?

  • What gives you reason to believe that global warming and climate change are not really happening?
  • Is there any scientific evidence to support that global warming and climate change is not really that harmful
  • Are most scientists wrong?
  • What do you think is causing temperature changes on a scale never seen before?
  • What did you think to the results of Copenhagen?
  • Why do governments seem so concerned with the issue?
  • If fossil fuels will run out anyway, surely we should move to find alternatives. Why not now?
  • Even if it is not guaranteed that manmade emissions are to blame, wouldn’t it be wise to act anyway? It’s a hell of a gamble to our children’s future.
  • Don’t we have a duty to protect or planet for future generations?(i.e. save it from deforestation, pollution etc)
SOME CONCLUDING THOUGHTS OK, so every one of these questions are probing – they are hitting at perceived weaknesses in the skeptic’s position. Fine, it is good when the media is critical. But compare the questions above to the total softballs lobbed at alarmists.

  • How bad is climate change at the moment?
  • What did you think to the results of Copenhagen?
  • Is it increasing at an uncontrollable rate? Or is there still a chance to reduce climate change and alter its predicted course of events?
  • Do you have any comments on the recent e-mail leak scandal that was publicized?
  • What do you think about the rising levels of climate change skepticism?
  • How could and/or will climate change or similarly global warming affect the Middle East region in particular the Arabian peninsula?
  • What about other vulnerable countries?
  • What can the average citizen do more or less to help reduce climate change and its impact?
  • What do you predict will happen to major cities in the world if the problem of global warming is not addressed immediately?
  • How will an increase in global warming change the earth’s natural weather activities i.e. how will people and animals be affected, ecosystems, the weather….
  • How can we move forward on this issue?
  • Are you confident we can find a solution?
  • What are the chances of a new technology saving us? (for example, carbon capture)
  • Is carbon trading effectively passing the buck? Does it actually help?

Follow the link to read Skeptic's answers.

Christians bomb people every day

According to Tavis Smiley, in any event.
Video at Jihad Watch...

As everyone knows, and as the sober, enlightened and knowledgeable Tavis Smiley tells the venomous Islamophobe Ayaan Hirsi Ali in the video above, more Christians than Muslim blow people up on a daily basis. (Thanks to Bosch Fawstin for the video heads-up.) And I'm sure we'll find evidence of that someday. But meanwhile, here is yet another report of an Islamic jihad attack carried out by Misunderstanders of the Religion of Peace™:

On a daily basis, eh?  OK, what was yesterday's bombing in the name of Christ?
How about the day before?

Things people do while driving...

The latest -- giving birth.

O'Keefe did not attempt to tamper

From Patterico's Pontifications:

It's a court document signed by the Assistant U.S. Attorney representing the Government

(image of document at linked post)

As I noted in a more detailed post below, the Government sought to bury this admission by omitting it from their press release, and attempting to avoid reading it aloud in court when setting forth the factual basis.

I have updated that post to note that I have now obtained the filed version of the document, with the signature of the Government's representative.

Now I think it's time to start asking the U.S. Attorney's Office why they tried to hide this language from the public.

It's also time to ask Big Media why they aren't reporting on this.

Police chiefs on SB1070, yet again

Police chiefs have come out against Arizona's SB1070, saying it will increase crime and make their jobs harder.  The first thing I wanted to know is, what do the rank-and-file police officers think?  They are, after all, the ones who will have to deal with the impact of any such law on a day-to-day basis.

Why not just take the police chiefs at their word?  Police chiefs are political animals.  Even in cases where the job is filled from the ranks of the police force, it will be filled with someone who has the support of the mayor, and thus supports him in turn.  I don't know how free a police chief is to disagree with the mayor who appoints him, and can very likely disappoint him.

"Jack Dunphy", a rank-and-file LAPD officer offers his take at Pajamas Media:

Chief Beck is an honorable man and is — so far, at least — respected within the ranks of the LAPD, but he is also a man who knows where his bread is buttered.  He is an appointee of the mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa, who enthusiastically advocates amnesty for illegal immigrants, and it is inconceivable that Beck would have been named to the job if he could not be reliably counted on to parrot the mayor's opinions on a range of matters, most especially illegal immigration.

Beck was one of several police chiefs in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday who met with Attorney General Eric Holder to discuss the Arizona law. "This is not a law that increases public safety," said Beck, as quoted in the Washington Post. "This is a bill that makes it much harder for us to do our jobs.  Crime will go up if this becomes law in Arizona or in any other state."


It is disappointing to see Beck joining the ranks of alarmists predicting all manner of calamity should the Arizona law take effect as scheduled on July 29.  It is all the more disappointing to see him do so by mischaracterizing what the law says.  The Los Angeles Times reported his statement thus:

Beck said that his officers are guided by a different set of rules than the ones laid out in the Arizona law. For more than three decades the LAPD has followed a policy that prohibits officers from initiating contact with someone solely to determine whether he or she is in the country legally.

Assuming the L.A. Times has accurately paraphrased Beck's statement, we can reach either of two possible conclusions: that he is misinformed on the language of the new law, or he is deliberately distorting the truth to serve a political agenda.  Neither choice is comforting.

It is no doubt true that some illegal immigrants are reluctant to speak to the police, but it has been my experience that they are less fearful of being deported than they are of being retaliated against by criminal gang members, a large number of whom are themselves illegal immigrants.  Yes, the new Arizona law brings the potential for error and even abuse, but that potential exists in every aspect of police work, and we don't ask police officers to ignore violations of the law because they might make a mistake.

My guess is that police officers in Arizona, when armed with this new law, will concentrate their efforts on those illegal immigrants whose criminal predations fall most heavily on their law-abiding neighbors.  Had such a law been in place in Texas a few years ago, Houston police officer Henry Canales might be alive today.  The men accused of murdering him last year, both  illegal immigrants with criminal records, are today on trial in Houston. 

Other Arizona Legislation

From The American Thinker:

When I wrote the report on Less Well Known Legislation from Arizona I focused on this year's legislative session.  But one reader made an excellent comment about a bill that penalized employers who hired illegal aliens to work in their businesses.

Arizona already did this.  The bill was called the Legal Arizona Workers Act. The bill entailed provisions that prohibit knowingly or intentionally hiring an illegal alien.  It also provides for penalties for businesses that violate the law.  The first offense permits up to a 10 day suspension of the business' license and three years probation.  A subsequent offense can cause the business to lose its license permanently.

With typical Mexican government hypocrisy, several Mexican legislators came to Arizona to complain.  The complaint?  "We won't be able to have all the resources to help in case the amount of people are too many people," said Florencio Diaz Armenta. The Mexican government was concerned about a mass return of Mexican nationals. 

The most amazing part of this story: the bill was signed by then Governor Janet Napolitano in 2007.

 Well, she's on record as not having read SB1070.  Maybe she didn't read that one, either.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

News flash from Maggie Gallagher

Newsflash: Sex makes babies.

From the Corner

The police chiefs speak

 Big-City Police Chiefs and the Arizona Law [Heather Mac Donald]

A delegation of big-city police chiefs has announced its opposition to the Arizona immigration law. They claim that SB 1070 will increase crime by intimidating illegal-alien victims and witnesses from cooperating with the police. This standard argument in favor of local sanctuary policies has never been tested empirically by comparing witness involvement in sanctuary and non-sanctuary cities. As Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu, head of the Arizona Sheriff's Association and a supporter of SB 1070, points out, cooperation from illegal aliens is already low.

But the real weakness in the position of the big-city chiefs (who are exquisitely political animals) is the tired nostrum that we need a federal, not a local, solution to illegal immigration. Unless the federal government suddenly starts showing an unprecedented commitment to the issue, you cannot have a federal solution to illegal immigration without also involving local law enforcement. There are simply not enough resources at the federal level to create a meaningful deterrent for intending illegals who have not yet entered the country or a reason for illegal aliens already in the U.S. to return to their home countries.


Hey, everybody!

verb:  treat with contemptuous disregard("Flout the rules")
verb: laugh at with contempt and derision

noun:  the act of displaying something ostentatiously ("His behavior was an outrageous flaunt")
verb:  display proudly; act ostentatiously or pretentiously

Illegal immigrants are not "flaunting the law", they are "flouting the law".  They are different words, and perfectly good ones, in their place.  Learn them.

Flaunting the law would be something like driving at exactly the speed limit in the fast lane of the freeway.

Shut up, Barry!

Jay Tea, again, reminding Barack Obama that Silence is Golden.

As more and more time passes, it becomes clearer and clearer that Barack Obama, as so many of us feared, simply isn't ready for prime time. He not only does not grasp so many fundamentals about being president, but refuses to acknowledge it and has surrounded himself with sycophants who can't or won't tell him when he's wrong.

One of his flaws that keeps getting him in trouble is how he's in love with his own voice, and is convinced that he can get his way on any subject if he can just talk enough about it. That, I am convinced, is at the core of two of his bigger blunders of late.

First up, his placing of Anwar Al-Awlaki, a Taliban leader and an American citizen, on a "hit list" went public. Now, I have no problems with Al-Awlaki's getting sent to his divine reward, but I am uncomfortable with our government deciding that it has the right to kill an American citizen -- even one as openly traitorous as Al-Awlaki -- without any legal due process.


In a similar vein, Obama's showing his amateurness with how the crisis on the Korean peninsula is unfolding. Right now, the best analysts are saying that the first real step in the current tensions was last year, when a North Korean warship intruded into South Korean orders and ignored warnings and warning shots. The South Koreans ended up shooting the hell out of that ship, sending it limping home barely afloat.

Then, this year, the North Koreans apparently struck back, with one of their subs sinking a South Korean corvette, killing 46 sailors.

Now, the traditional way of dealing with this is again sub rosa. A quiet tit-for-tat game would play out -- a North Korean submarine would simply fail to return to port, and South Korean or American anti-sub weapon inventories would be juggled to conceal a shortage. Or a North Korean military facility would suffer a rather spectacular "work accident," and we (the US and South Korea) would offer our sympathies in an exceptionally timely fashion.

But no. Obama (after consultations with the South Koreans, and I strongly suspect who was taking the lead on that -- Obama is exceptionally tough on our allies, while downright obsequious to our foes) decided to make the whole thing public, to announce that we had an open-and-shut case, and take it to the United Nations for adjudication.

Excuse me, Mr. President? There is a huge difference between crimes and acts of war. We aren't prosecuting North Korea. We aren't interested in trying and convicting them. We don't need to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that they did it.

And we especially don't need to try to sway a "jury" at the United Nations. Here's a hint, sir: they don't like us. They might like you, because you seem to agree with them about how terrible the US is (especially during the previous administration), but they aren't going to give us a "fair shake." And they're certainly not going to "convict" North Korea and impose some kind of sentence on the dictatorship.

There's one rule that you don't learn in law school, but you do in pretty much any kind of war-game and in the real world. Ralph Waldo Emerson said it best: "If you shoot at a king you must kill him."

In situations like this, you have to be very careful with how you handle your opponent. You must always leave him a way out, an escape, some way of salvaging something -- until you're ready to finish him off. An enemy backed into a corner is utterly unpredictable, utterly desperate, and will do anything he can to survive. Which is why you don't do that until you've done everything you can to minimize the harm he can inflict.

And I happen to live on the coast the North Koreans will bomb first.  (So, I think, does Jay Tea.)

Doing the job the Feds won't do?

Jay Tea at Wizbang calls it Amendment 10-A.
...of late, with the Obama administration, a situation has arisen that I believe is unprecedented in American history: what should be done when the federal government asserts its supremacy in certain areas, and then not only refuses to act, but forbids anyone else from acting? What should be done when, in the face of a crisis, the federal government demands that said crisis go unaddressed?

We're seeing that play out now, twice.

In Arizona, the state has suffered for years the burdens inflicted by the federal government's refusal to enforce border security and the laws regarding illegal aliens. It's something that has bothered many states, but Arizona has been especially hard hit. Finally, the people of Arizona had enough and passed a law demanding that its law enforcement officials do what the federal government refused to do: to enforce the existing laws on the books.

This sent the Obama regime into a frenzy. They have said, in effect, that it is the policy of the United States to not enforce its laws on illegal aliens, and nobody -- not even Arizona -- could compel it to change. They then went on to say that they might -- might -- be willing to step up and live up to their responsibilities as part of "comprehensive immigration reform," which I interpret as a form of political blackmail: "give us what we always want on this issue, and we might -- might -- just give you a token gesture of enforcement." And in the meantime, they're doing all they can to badmouth and demonize the people of Arizona. It's a variant of the carrot and stick approach, but the stick is a baseball bat with nails driven through it and the carrot is a stick of dynamite painted orange, straight from the Acme factory.

Meanwhile, in Louisiana, the state is getting slowly pounded with oil from the BP oil platform disaster. The Obama administration's response seems fixed around making sure the right people get the blame, not stopping the leaks or mitigating the damage. So Governor Jindal has said "screw it" to the idea of waiting for Washington to get off its asses, and ordering his own state to do what needs to be done to protect itself.

There are two theories in how to resolve situations like this. One solution, the more proper one, is to find some way of compelling Washington to live up to its responsibilities. It could involve finding a compromise, some kind of leverage or inducement to the current administration to do what it simply ought to do, or up and replacing them in the next round of elections. That's in the best American spirit: our system of government has been described as 'institutionalized revolution," and peacefully overthrowing a government that fails to do its fundamental duties is entirely appropriate.

Then there's the other approach: simply tell Washington to lead, follow, or get the hell out of the way. This is a very bad solution, but there are times when it is necessary.


What the Obama administration needs to grasp is that it isn't the actions of these governors that makes it look incompetent. It's their own incompetence that is making them look incompetent. And tearing down others who are actually achieving things isn't an actual achievement.


Border Invasion Pics

...Border Invasion Pics after being tipped off that a Phoenix CBS affiliate had not only used some of his video of illegals entering Arizona, but also gave the impression they planted the video cameras along trails and branded the video with the KPHO logo.
A Vietnam veteran (who will remain anonymous as he's received threats) surely must have better things to do with his time than planting cameras out in the Arizona sun, dodging illegal migrants and/or drug runners, and documenting the failure of the United States government to properly police our border.
Cited at Big Journalism 

About the police chiefs and AB1070

From Big Journalism:  What the MSM Didn't Tell You About Holder and the Police Chiefs

As if we needed one, here's another item showing  bias in the way the mainstream media covers the controversial  Arizona illegal immigration law. Many major news organizations, including, MSNBC, CNN, and USA Today for example, covered a story about a group of Police Chiefs who met with A.G. Eric Holder to register their objections to the Arizona law.

Yes, I wondered about that.  In particular, I was wondering what else they object to -- just by way of establishing a track record.  Do they slant left, right, or down the middle?

At first glance this all seems like a perfectly normal news story, but there was a very important piece of information left out: the meeting was arraigned by the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF) and the police chiefs attending the meeting were members of PERF. (Holder is an "old friend of PERF, he addressed their convention in April). In the rare cases where a news organization mentioned the PERF connection (the NPR story referenced above is the only one I could find) they neglected to mention that PERF is an organization that objects to any enforcement of immigration laws directed at the illegal alien (as opposed to an employer who hires illegals). The Forum describes itself as a "national organization of progressive police executives."


If the reporters had done some legwork they would have found the group is not just against the Arizona law, it is against any enforcement of immigration laws. For example, last July the group protested the federal program that trains local police departments to get involved in enforcing immigration law

Oh.  OK...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

RealClimate: On attribution

Gavin at RealClimate discusses attribution -- the relation of an effect to a cause. RealClimate: On attribution

How do we know what caused climate to change – or even if anything did?

This is a central question with respect to recent temperature trends, but of course it is much more general and applies to a whole range of climate changes over all time scales. Judging from comments we receive here and discussions elsewhere on the web, there is a fair amount of confusion about how this process works and what can (and cannot) be said with confidence. For instance, many people appear to (incorrectly) think that attribution is just based on a naive correlation of the global mean temperature, or that it is impossible to do unless a change is ‘unprecedented’ or that the answers are based on our lack of imagination about other causes.

In fact the process is more sophisticated than these misconceptions imply and I’ll go over the main issues below. But the executive summary is this:
  • You can’t do attribution based only on statistics
  • Attribution has nothing to do with something being “unprecedented”
  • You always need a model of some sort
  • The more distinct the fingerprint of a particular cause is, the easier it is to detect
I’ll go through the details below, but note that it helps enormously to think about attribution in contexts that don’t have anything to do with anthropogenic causes. For some reason that allows people to think a little bit more clearly about the problem.
In the real world we attribute singular events all the time – in court cases for instance – and so we do have practical experience of this. If the evidence linking specific bank-robbers to a robbery is strong, prosecutors can get a conviction without the crimes needing to have been ‘unprecedented’, and without having to specifically prove that everyone else was innocent. What happens instead is that prosecutors (ideally) create a narrative for what they think happened (lets call that a ‘model’ for want of a better word), work out the consequences of that narrative (the suspect should have been seen by that camera at that moment, the DNA at the scene will match a suspect’s sample, the money will be found in the freezer etc.), and they then try and find those consequences in the evidence. It’s obviously important to make sure that the narrative isn’t simply a ‘just-so’ story, in which circumstances are strung together to suggest guilt, but which no further evidence is found to back up that particular story. Indeed these narratives are much more convincing when there is ‘out of sample’ confirmation.

We can generalise this: what is a required is a model of some sort that makes predictions for what should and should not have happened depending on some specific cause, combined with ‘out of sample’ validation of the model of events or phenomena that were not known about or used in the construction of the model.

The incredible shrinking scandal

From "Watergate Jr." to a misdemeanor charge... » Mainstream Media, MSNBC Get Huge Black Eye From O’Keefe and ‘Watergate, Jr.’ - Big Journalism.

James O’Keefe pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor today for his guerrilla-reporting stunt last January in the New Orleans offices of Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu. The charge that he has admitted to, “entering federal property under false pretenses,” is a far cry from the phone-bugging and Watergate Jr. distortions first screamed by the MSM in high-octane hyperventilation mode when the story first broke in January.
Expect much spin today as the left-wing media machine attempt to paint this as a defeat for O’Keefe, Breitbart and the Bigs. But, make no mistake, the bottom line of this story is the media was wrong, they were embarrassed, they provided Big Journalism with its first big victory, and James O’Keefe is free and ready to continue his investigative work in exposing the failures of big government and Great Society programs that are enslaving the poor and downtrodden instead of providing freedom and opportunity to those who need it most.

Update: Patterico says O'Keefe has actually been libeled.

Crossing the line redux

Some people have stated that "Everybody Draw Muhammed Day" crosses the line by gratuitously insulting Muslims. I disagree -- I've stated before that the Muslims crossed the line when they added "or else" to their request that people not make images of Muhammed. Robert Spencer seems to agree in this piece at FrontPage Magazine. Muhammad Cartoons Everywhere

...while the government and media elites in America and Europe have generally rushed to show how willing, even eager, they are to show that they will not cross those red lines, their supine response to this assault on free speech has created a backlash among free people. It is worth bearing in mind the “Everybody Draw Muhammad Day” would never have aroused much interest among anyone if cartoons of Muhammad didn’t arouse Muslims worldwide to homicidal rage and attempts to restrict the freedom of speech.

While it may in other circumstances simply be obnoxious, or legitimately (not to say to an extent justifying murder) offensive to lampoon someone else’s cherished religious leader, the Muslim reaction to Infidel cartoons of Muhammad is entirely itself responsible for the interest Infidels have in lampooning the Islamic prophet in the first place. If Christians had reacted to Andres Serrano’s Piss Christ or Chris Ofili’s dung-encrusted portrait of the Virgin Mary with the same murderous outrage with which Muslims greeted the cartoons of Muhammad, the West would be experiencing a glut of pictures blaspheming Christ and Christianity.

It is, in the first place, an irresistible human impulse to tweak the humorless and self-important; it can in many cases also be a healthy safeguard against tyranny. The figure that cannot be mocked or ridiculed is the one that holds all the cards, all the power. Opposition, dissent, free exchange of ideas depend upon the ability to cause offense without taking one’s life in one’s hands. That’s why the Muhammad cartoons published last week all over the Internet were not an exercise in obnoxiousness or gratuitous offense. They are, rather, the foremost battleground in the defense of the freedom of speech today. Every newspaper in the country should be printing them today, to show they are not cowed and will defend free speech.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Lead in Washington, DC water

From the Washington Post:

The nation's premier public health agency knowingly used flawed data to claim that high lead levels in the District's drinking water did not pose a health risk to the public, a congressional investigation has found. And, investigators determined, the agency has not publicized more thorough internal research showing that the problem harmed children across the city and continues to endanger thousands of D.C. residents.
The agency acknowledged, however, that its 2004 claim that no children had been found with lead poisoning was "misleading," because it referred to only one part of its study. Another part showed that children living in homes serviced by a lead pipes were more than twice as likely as other D.C. children to have unsafe lead in their blood.


The CDC, which is the nation's principal public health agency, made the confession in a "Notice to Readers" published in an official weekly bulletin Friday. It came a day after a scathing House subcommittee report said the agency knowingly used flawed and incomplete data when it assured D.C. residents in 2004 that their health hadn't been hurt by spikes in lead in the drinking water.

The events represented a full vindication for Edwards. He had embarked on the painstaking, solo investigation primarily because he was outraged that the CDC's original report was being used across the country as a reason to relax concern about lead in the water. Now he has the House report to back up his research.

Libertarians' Disease and Race

Robert Ringer, author of the book, "Winning Through Intimidation" among many others, offers his thoughts on the ant hill, recently kicked over by Rand Paul.

A Minority of One - Again

By Robert Ringer

Wouldn't you know it? I thought I had the minority-of-one issue behind me, and along comes Rand Paul. Of course, I was pleased to find that I really wasn't a minority of one for expressing my views on unionization, but today's article will be far more difficult for even the most ardent liberty advocate to swallow.

When MSNBC's Rachel Maddow asked Rand Paul if he believed that a private business should have the right to refuse to serve African-Americans, he correctly answered, ''Yes.'' But he went on to say, ''I'm not in favor of discrimination of any form.''

To a person who has progressive pudding jammed between his ears, Rand Paul's one-word answer and his follow-up comment contradict one another. You see, a pudding-filled brain cavity makes life simple. If someone believes a business owner has a right to refuse service to an African-American, that means he (the person who harbors such a belief) favors discrimination.

For the person addicted to a life of nonstop sports, junk TV, and Outback Steakhouse, there is little time to intellectualize a serious issue like this. After all, that would require him to reject knee-jerk statements and think through the moral ramifications of the issue.

The real problem is that Maddow asked Paul the wrong question. It was what is commonly referred to as a loaded question. If you're going to be a serious supporter of liberty, you cannot allow yourself to be intimidated into answering loaded questions - i.e., questions based on a false premise or an implied false premise.

Here, the false premise was implied: If a business owner has the right to refuse service to someone, it automatically follows that that someone would be an African-American. It is, of course, an absurd assumption.

What if the owner of the business is an African-American? Like a white owner, a black owner has a right to do whatever he wishes with his business. As I said in my article about the right to fire someone for attempting to unionize a business, the reason he possesses such a right is that it's his business. The same is true when it comes to deciding whom he does and does not wish to service.

Skin color is irrelevant to those who believe in liberty. But to the far left, the so-called race card is like oxygen. For decades, progressives have suffered withdrawal symptoms as race has become less and less of an issue in the U.S. (Ironically, it is a brown man in the White House who has managed to rekindle racial tensions in America through his shameful, nonstop, racially charged rhetoric.)

If you want to discuss the subject of black progress in America, fine. We have millions of blacks who are doctors, dentists, lawyers, engineers, professors, military officers, politicians - even the president of the United States is African-American! So let's all give ourselves - both whites and blacks - a big pat on the back for living in a post-racial era. End of discussion on that topic.

But if you want to discuss another topic - the sanctity of private property - I repeat what I said about unionization. If one believes in the concept of private property - which all sane people of goodwill do - he is obliged to concede that an owner has a right to do anything he wishes with his own property.

As Thomas Sowell has so often pointed out, if an employer refuses to hire or serve people purely on a discriminatory basis, he does so at his own peril, because the marketplace will punish him. For example, speaking for myself, I would never give my business to a company or restaurant that refused to serve people of any specific race or ethnicity, and I think I can safely say that I'm in the majority on that one.

Thus, the free market would sort things out by penalizing the company that practiced discrimination. Legislating morals does not work. What is there about this self-evident truth that the progressive does not understand?

As Sowell has written about for years, blacks made greater progress in escaping poverty before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 than after it was passed. In a 2003 article in Jewish World Review, Sowell stated that more blacks rose into professional ranks in the five years preceding passage of the Civil Rights Act than in the five years after its passage. What a stunning indictment on government social engineering!

While you've got me worked up, I'll add one other thing that caused me a bit of concern when Rand Paul was being interviewed by George Stephanopoulos. After trying to make Paul look bad on the issue of a business owner's right not to serve blacks, Stephanopoulos moved in for the kill and asked him if he would repeal the minimum wage.

Paul fumbled around a bit and tried to explain how a higher a minimum wage causes unemployment. Of course, everything he said was correct, but, even so, his answer should have been a resounding, ''Yes!''

I have great empathy for Rand Paul in this situation, because I know how difficult it can be when you're put on the spot on national television. But my concern is that too many conservatives and libertarian-centered conservatives are still allowing the left to intimidate them into backing off their true beliefs.

This is what concerns me if Republicans do actually take control of the House and Senate in 2010. What the tea parties signify more than anything else is that half or more of Americans are finally ready to hear the truth. And if Republicans are still not ready to give it to them, with boldness and without fear, they will be reviled long after our final liberties are lost.

Let me simplify things with my favorite litmus-test question: ''Do you believe that Barack Obama is a radical?''

Wrong answer: ''Well, I think he's surrounded himself with a lot of people who are radical.''

Right answer: ''Yes!''

But I digress. The question is, am I a minority of one for believing that a business owner has a natural right to refuse service to whomever he pleases?

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Hidden Law

The Hidden Law
W.H. Auden

The Hidden Law does not deny
Our laws of probability,
But takes the atom and the star
And human beings as they are,
And answers nothing when we lie.

It is the only reason why
No government can codify,
And verbal definitions mar
The Hidden Law.
Its utter patience will not try
To stop us if we want to die:
When we escape It in a car,
When we forget It in a bar,
These are the ways we're punished by
The Hidden Law

January 1941


Church, State and Texas Textbooks

Discussed at Big Government: Debating Church and State in Texas

One such example came from Chief Justice William Rehnquist. Writing in dissent in Wallace v. Jaffree while still an associate justice, Renhquist wrote, “It is impossible to build sound constitutional doctrine upon a mistaken understanding of constitutional history, but unfortunately the Establishment Clause has been expressly freighted with Jefferson’s misleading metaphor for nearly 40 years. Thomas Jefferson was, of course, in France at the time the… Bill of rights [was] passed in Congress and ratified by the states. His letter to the Danbury Baptist Association was a short note of courtesy, written 14 years after the Amendments were passed by Congress. He would seem to any detached observer as a less than ideal source of contemporary history as to the meaning of the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment.”

America got along just fine without this wall for 158 years, and even afterwards. It’s only been in recent years that it has been twisted into a secularizing influence in our society.

These are historical facts. Children should be taught facts in history class.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Peak Everything?

Ronald Bailey at Reason Magazine writes:

When you really need something, it's natural to worry about running out of it. Peak oil has been a global preoccupation since the 1970s, and the warnings get louder with each passing year. Environmentalists emphasize the importance of placing limits on consumption of fossil fuels, but haven't been successful in encouraging people to consume less energy—even with the force of law at their backs.

But maybe they're going about it all wrong, looking for solutions in the wrong places. Economists Lucas Bretschger and Sjak Smulders argue that the decisive question isn't to focus directly on preserving the resources we already have. Instead, they ask: “Is it realistic to predict that knowledge accumulation is so powerful as to outweigh the physical limits of physical capital services and the limited substitution possibilities for natural resources?” In other words, can increasing scientific knowledge and technological innovation overcome any limitations to economic growth posed by the depletion of non-renewable resources?
Stanford University economist Paul Romer has observed, "Every generation has perceived the limits to growth that finite resources and undesirable side effects would pose if no new recipes or ideas were discovered. And every generation has underestimated the potential for finding new recipes and ideas. We consistently fail to grasp how many ideas remain to be discovered. The difficulty is the same one we have with compounding: possibilities do not merely add up; they multiply.” The above examples show that while the production of physical supplies of resources may peak, there is no sign that human creativity is about to peak.

Everyone's asking for "papers" these days

Byron York wants to know... What America is Michael Gerson living in?

The effect of the new law, he argues, will be bad for everybody:
It makes it harder for illegal immigrants to live without scrutiny -- but it also makes it harder for some American citizens to live without suspicion and humiliation. Americans are not accustomed to the command "Your papers, please," however politely delivered. The distinctly American response to such a request would be "Go to hell," and then "See you in court."
Which leads to the question: What America is Gerson living in? No, we are not confronted by actors with heavy German accents demanding our papers. We are instead confronted routinely by people of all stripes asking to see our driver's license. When we board an airplane, we are asked to produce a government-issued photo ID, usually a driver's license. When we make some credit- or debit-card purchases in department stores, we are asked to produce a driver's license. When we enter many office buildings, both private and government, security guards often ask us to produce a driver's license. When we go to doctors' offices and hospitals, we are asked to produce a driver's license. When we check into hotels, we are asked to produce a driver's license. When we purchase some over-the-counter drugs, we are asked to produce a driver's license. If we go to a bar or nightclub, anyone who looks at all young is asked to produce a driver's license. And needless to say, if we have any encounter with police or other authorities, we are asked to produce a driver's license.

Some situations involve an even higher level of scrutiny. When we get a new job, we are asked to provide not a driver's license but a passport or birth certificate to prove citizenship. In other situations, too: When I renewed my District of Columbia driver's license last year, I had to produce a passport to prove citizenship, even though it was a valid, unexpired license I was renewing. And in many places, buying a gun -- a constitutionally-protected right -- involves enormous scrutiny.

And York also comments on the law itself:

Has anyone actually read the law? Contrary to the talk, it is a reasonable, limited, carefully-crafted measure designed to help law enforcement deal with a serious problem in Arizona. Its authors anticipated criticism and went to great lengths to make sure it is constitutional and will hold up in court. It is the criticism of the law that is over the top, not the law itself.
Critics have focused on the term "reasonable suspicion" to suggest that the law would give police the power to pick anyone out of a crowd for any reason and force them to prove they are in the U.S. legally. Some foresee mass civil rights violations targeting Hispanics.

What fewer people have noticed is the phrase "lawful contact," which defines what must be going on before police even think about checking immigration status. "That means the officer is already engaged in some detention of an individual because he's violated some other law," says Kris Kobach, a University of Missouri Kansas City Law School professor who helped draft the measure. "The most likely context where this law would come into play is a traffic stop."
But what if the driver of the car had shown the officer his driver's license? The law clearly says that if someone produces a valid Arizona driver's license, or other state-issued identification, they are presumed to be here legally. There's no reasonable suspicion.

Is having to produce a driver's license too burdensome? These days, natural-born U.S. citizens, and everybody else, too, are required to show a driver's license to get on an airplane, to check into a hotel, even to purchase some over-the-counter allergy medicines. If it's a burden, it's a burden on everyone.

Althouse calls out the Washington Post

Ann Althouse went to the trouble of looking up the document the Washington Post criticizes. If you're going to criticize the new social studies curriculum adopted by the Texas Board of Education, you'd better quote it.

Or at least link to the text. And if you choose to paraphrase and not even link, and I have to look up the text myself, and your paraphrase is not accurate, it is my job to embarrass you by pointing that out.

Let me embarrass the Washington Post. Below, the material from the WaPo article, written by Michael Birnbaum, is indented. After the indented part, I've located the relevant quote from the Board of Education text, found here. (I'm searching 3 PDF documents: Economics with Emphasis on the Free Enterprise System and Its Benefits Subchapter A. High School; Social Studies Subchapter B. Middle School; Social Studies Subchapter C. High School.)

JustOneMinute looks at NY Times coverage, as well.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Samizdata quote of the day

Samizdata quote of the day

I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.

- Groucho Marx

Junk DNA is still junk

Part of the series, "Blogging on Peer-Reviewed Research" at The Panda's Thumb:

The ENCODE project made a big splash a couple of years ago — it is a huge project to not only ask what the sequence of a strand of human DNA was, but to analyzed and annotate and try to figure out what it was doing. One of the very surprising results was that in the sections of DNA analyzed, almost all of the DNA was transcribed into RNA, which sent the creationists and the popular press into unwarranted flutters of excitement that maybe all that junk DNA wasn't junk at all, if enzymes were busy copying it into RNA. This was an erroneous assumption; as John Timmer pointed out, the genome is a noisy place, and coupled with the observations that the transcripts were not evolutionarily conserved, it suggested that these were non-functional transcripts.
I felt the same way. ENCODE was spitting up an anomalous result, one that didn't fit with any of the other data about junk DNA. I suspected a technical artifact, or an inability of the methods used to properly categorize low frequency accidental transcription in the genome.

Creationists thought it was wonderful. They detest the idea of junk DNA — that the gods would scatter wasteful garbage throughout our precious genome by intent was unthinkable, so any hint that it might actually do something useful is enthusiastically siezed upon as evidence of purposeful design.

Well, score one for the more cautious scientists, and give the creationists another big fat zero (I think the score is somewhere in the neighborhood of a big number requiring scientific notation to be expressed for the scientists, against a nice, clean, simple zero for the creationists). A new paper has come out that analyzes transcripts from the human genome using a new technique, and, uh-oh, it looks like most of the early reports of ubiquitous transcription were wrong.

Here's the author's summary:
The human genome was sequenced a decade ago, but its exact gene composition remains a subject of debate. The number of protein-coding genes is much lower than initially expected, and the number of distinct transcripts is much larger than the number of protein-coding genes. Moreover, the proportion of the genome that is transcribed in any given cell type remains an open question: results from "tiling" microarray analyses suggest that transcription is pervasive and that most of the genome is transcribed, whereas new deep sequencing-based methods suggest that most transcripts originate from known genes. We have addressed this discrepancy by comparing samples from the same tissues using both technologies. Our analyses indicate that RNA sequencing appears more reliable for transcripts with low expression levels, that most transcripts correspond to known genes or are near known genes, and that many transcripts may represent new exons or aberrant products of the transcription process. We also identify several thousand small transcripts that map outside known genes; their sequences are often conserved and are often encoded in regions of open chromatin. We propose that most of these transcripts may be by-products of the activity of enhancers, which associate with promoters as part of their role as long-range gene regulatory sites. Overall, however, we find that most of the genome is not appreciably transcribed.
So, basically, they directly compared the technique used in the ENCODE analysis (the "tiling" microarray analysis) to more modern deep sequencing methods, and found that the old results were mostly artifacts of the protocol. They also directly examined the pool of transcripts produced in specific tissues, and asked what proportion of them came from known genes, and what part came from what has been called the "dark matter" of the genome, or what has usually been called junk DNA. The cell's machinery to transcribe genes turns out to be reasonably precise!