Monday, February 27, 2006

Driver’s training - relearning to blog

As I mentioned earlier I have grown fed-up with the blogging client I was using to create my posts. The final straw was the loss of a post that had taken me about an hour to put together, all because of both some unresolved performance issues and due to some truly none-too-bright assignment of hotkeys. The specifics don’t matter. The bottom line is that I’m using a new tool to blog.

Getting used to the interface is always a bit of a learning curve. What would make most folks laugh is that the interface I’m having to get used to is a WYSIWYG screen. Being an old code hack from back in the day when “windows” was defined solely as a glass-filled aperture in the side of your house, I blogged literally in raw HTML code. The layout of the posts was completely done using the various tables and tags found in HTML 1.1. Most people don’t even look at the source code their blogs use to render on the screen. For the past 3 years, I’ve never written a blog in anything but.

This new tool is Anconia RocketPost and it’s pretty nice. There are a lot of the features I can’t use but that’s a function of using Blogger as my blog space. One of these days I might pick up and move from there but for now it’s working OK. RocketPost uses a very “MS Word” kind of interface so I would guess most folks would be immediately at home. The only thing that’s very different from the way I used to do things is in how it handles quoting. Previously, I’d provide the link to the source material and then do a quote indented on both sides. RocketPost provides a very fast quoting method whereby you literally copy the source text, then immediately copy the source URL. With both of those on the clipboard, you press “control-q” and the quoted block appears on the screen with the word “Link” following it. The link provides the hyperlink back to the source code. I’ve looked at the effort required to change that and have decided it’s not worth the time. We’re all just going to have to get used to it.

In any case, please bear with me as I get used to this thing and get back up to speed. Thanks!

Fighter Ace Robert L. Scott dead at 97

Robert L. Scott, WWII fighter ace and author, died today. He was 97. Scott wrote the immortal work “God Is My Co-Pilot” telling the tale of his adventures in the air. He was a member of the famous Flying Tigers, flying a P-40 Warhawk in the China/Burma theater of the war. He is credited with 22 kills and retired from active service as a Brigadier General.

"High Flight"

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of - wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov'ring there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue
I've topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew -
And, while with silent lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Godspeed, General Scott.

Thoughts on the ports deal

With the offer by Dubai Ports to accommodate both a delay for additional review and the addition of what amounts to an American holding company to insulate the operations in the US from the UAE-based company executives, this whole issue has cooled off considerably. I trust this incident will lay to rest any arguments remaining that all Republicans and conservatives are nothing more than “yes-men” for the President?

One of the arguments advanced in defense of the original deal was that anyone standing in opposition to it was only doing so because it was an Arab company. Some came right out and slapped the “racist” label on such folks while others merely left the accusation hanging in the air. To make such an accusation is to belittle the very real concerns based upon the actions and associations of the UAE with regard to terror groups in the past. That’s not to mention the verifiable presence of people there who are - shall we say? - sympathetic with our enemies’ goals and methods. I think it’s quite easy to be more concerned about this transaction than one would be were the company Australian and not be racist.

That said, I have some questions for the people who are opposed to this deal:

  1. What does Dubai Ports have to do to be able to complete this deal, in your eyes? Is there a set of conditions they can meet to win your approval?

  2. Are you advocating that any foreign firm currently under contract at one of our Nation’s ports be subject to the same conditions? If so, and they fail to meet them, are you prepared to lobby as aggressively for their removal?

It would be nice to have a reasoned debate on this topic, given that it’s an important one. I would like to point out, however, that the Bush Administration seemed tone-deaf to the aggitation this deal caused. Were I on the President’s staff, I’d be asking the committee who approved this deal in the first place what they were thinking in doing so without notifying the White House well in advance. It’s just not that hard to see that such a deal would carry with it an emotive content. The deal, properly explained away from the induced hysteria that the initial “they’re selling our ports to Arabs” reports caused, would have been far more easily understood. I think it would have generated less opposition. An explanation in advance of those reports would certainly have avoided the Republican backlash in Congress.

The President himself only made matters worse by stepping up and threatening a veto, the first one of his tenure. How, exactly, did he expect Congress to react? I think they reacted in a completely predictable manner and the President should have seen it coming.

I guess we’ll wait for the completion of the re-review and go from there.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Testing Anconia RocketPost (Updated)

Testing out this new posting application. Wish us luck.

After spending almost an hour on a post regarding the Dubai Ports deal the application I was using to write it managed to choke and wiped out said article. Printed word cannot convey the machine-murderous thoughts I have spent the last 3 minutes desperately trying to avoid enacting,


After spending almost an hour on a post regarding the Dubai Ports deal the application I was using to write it managed to choke and wiped out said article. Printed word cannot convey the machine-murderous thoughts I have spent the last 3 minutes desperately trying to avoid enacting, so I'll just say this:


I'll try again later, folks. I'm too pissed off to write. Anyone have a favorite post editor they'd like to recommend?

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Still here...

Sorry for the light posting but I've been in training classes all week. When I get home I'm pretty well spent, so writing has been a low priority. I should be back in the saddle after today's classes. The port operations sale, a variety of gun laws being pressed in the Virginia State legislature, the ongoing efforts by the MN Dems to supress free speech, and many more items have my attention. I'll be posting my thoughts on each in turn.

Monday, February 20, 2006

MN Dems feverishly working to supress speech

In yet more proof of their "free speech for me but not for thee" attitude, the Democratic Party of Minnesota is actively engaged in open attempts to supress the speech of supporters of American policy regarding the Iraq theater of the war on terror. This includes the bizarre assertion by the chairman of the MN Dems calling a Lt. Colonel in the US Marine Corp "un-American" for supporting that policy.

Power Line has been covering this pretty well, given that it's local politics for them. One wonders what's going through the heads of the Dems up there. Would they support an ad equating our sitting President with Hitler, one of the 20th century's worst nightmares? Sure! Hey, you may not like it or agree, but freedom of speech guarantees the right to speak even when it offends. Would they applaud an ad alleging that same President lied through his teeth to take us to war? Absolutely! Yeah, they may not have proof, but that's just an indicator of how the President is covering things up so well.

But allow some vets and their families to privately pay for an ad to broadcast their perspective, backed up by the fact that they have actual, first-hand experience on the topic? Outrage! Un-American! Untruthful! Lies!

OK, I get it. They're offended somehow. Rather than actually take to debating the issues they've got problems with, however, they're trying to force the television stations who accepted the ads and the payment for transmitting them to pull them from the air. That, ladies and gentlemen, is attempted supression of free speech, no matter how you want to spin it. They claim the ads are lies. Where? What, specifically, is untrue about what was said on those ads? You won't find those answers here, folks, because no answers have been given by the Dems up there. And un-American? How so? (Aside from the monstrous crime of taking a position the Dems oppose.) Again, you won't find an answer to that here because they don't have one up there.

Please, don't take my word for it. Click on this Power Line post and follow the link within to take you to a recorded interview with Lt. Col. Bob Stephenson, one of the "un-American" soldiers involved with the ads. Judge for yourself and then ask what else the Dems would like to supress.

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Pressing on past the breakdowns

Blogging has been light for me the past couple of days. The reasons are work-related (some) and due to my attempting to read a new book. Since reading is one of my lifelong loves, that last statement is a bit of shocker for any who know me. That's going to require a bit of an explanation.

In 1997 I was attending college again. In the last set of classes before getting my degree I was required to take a course titled, "Logic." No real mystery, there: the degree I was seeking was for computer information systems. When I arrived at the class, however, I found that this particular class had nothing to do with programming, circuit design, or anything else attached to the information systems field. This was "Logic" - with a capital 'L' - of the type practiced and refined by the likes of Plato and Socrates. The application of reasoned, rational, and structured thought to a given proposal or argument. I recall very clearly the professor warning us of several items regarding this class.

First, it was going to be difficult. The vast majority of people, he said, make no use of real logic in the bulk of their lives. While they might have common sense and be able to smell a bad argument when they encounter it, actually refuting it with logic is beyond the ability of most people we would run into in our lives. That included the population of our class, he said. What he meant was that many of us in that class would turn out to be unwilling to expend the effort necessary to employ the lessons that would be taught. He made it very clear that he was expecting to lose a third of the class as the quarter progressed. (He was wrong, by the way. We lost slightly more than half by the end, the highest "student mortality rate" I've ever seen in a class I was attending.)

Second, he told us that those of us who finished would be astonished at the poor quality of argumentation that had been surrounding us our whole lives. Family disputes around the dinner table, friendly and not-so-friendly debates at the student union or coffeehouses, and anywhere any discussion of politics was held would illuminate this lack of rational thought process in so much of our conversations.

Finally, he told us that those who completed the class would be unable to actually sit and listen to policitians or political pundits any more without shaking our heads in amazement that anyone bothered to listen to these aforementioned clowns.

He was 100% correct on all counts. I aced that class and it wasn't easy. But it was likely the most valuable class I ever took in college. If I had anything to do with it, I'd make it a required course for every degree in higher education. The lessons learned are difficult to apply, however, in an environment where people are simply unwilling to be rational about the things being discussed. Now, being irrational about religion is to be expected. No one's going to simply prove God's existence - or lack thereof - by debating the issue in front of a whiteboard. You can't make rational assertions about which is better: vanilla or chocolate. That's a matter of taste and personal preference and there's very little logical thought involved in those topics. It almost goes without saying that the matter of love is definitely not in the sphere of logic. It's expected and perfectly OK to not be completely logical about these matters. But about politics and law? There's no wiggle room, there.

All arguments (and by this I mean a proposal submitted for discussion, not a screaming match) consist of premises and conclusions. The premises are statements of fact or previously proven conclusions and conclusions are the points being asserted. Premises are supposed to support their conclusions. The Prime Directive of argumentation and logic is this: If the premises are true and the argument's construction is valid and you intend to be rational, then you must accept the conclusion. That's a very high bar for acceptance, mind you, because if any of the premises used to prove the conclusion are not verifably true, then the argument being pressed is not conclusive and may, therefore, be dismissed. That's not to say what's being alleged is necessarily wrong or untrue, it's just that the argument to the contrary isn't compelling. The allegation is no more than opinion and conjecture. And you know what they say about opinions...

So last week I picked up a copy of the new James Carville / Paul Begala book "Take It Back." The book purports to be a roadmap for Democrats who want to take back the houses of Congress, the White House, the country, the future, and whatever else most of the leftist Democrats are complaining we Republicans have "stolen." I bought the book for the same reason I bought other books by Carville and various left-wing authors: I'm interested in what they have to say. Unlike most of the Democrats I personally know, I take the time and effort to actually listen to and consider the viewpoints of my opponents. Carville might be dead wrong on a lot of what he says - and I have come no where near forgiving his juvenille and ludicrous performance opposite John O'Neill of the Swift Boat Vets in the 2004 campaign - but he's not completely stupid. A lot of people on the left hang on his every word so it's important to know what he's saying. Call it "knowing your enemy" if that makes it easier.

What's not easy is trying to continue reading a book that builds on classically invalid and unproven conclusions beginning on paragraph 8. Without a shred of evidence, Carville and Begala launch right into the tired and useless diatribe of "Bush Lied" and "Bush Stole the 2000 Election." Both of these screeds have been shown to be the unsubstantiated hogwash they are time and time again and yet, right here in a book published in the last couple of months, they make the assertion as though it's graven-in-stone fact. These assertions are used as further premises in proposing further conclusions and calls for action.

Every conclusion or assertion that descends from either of these is equally invalid and equally useless in rational debate. That doesn't stop them. As I mentioned over a year ago, the crowd that buys into this crap knows full well that they have no proof of any of this but they don't care. They don't need proof because they've become so insulated from opposing thought that their echo chamber is all they hear. And when repeated baseless assertion is all they hear, it becomes unnecessary for them to even think about proof. Carville and Begala are just 2 of the higher-profile enablers that keeps the Democrats from engaging in rational thought and discussion. So long as that's true, rational thinkers may continue to dismiss any assertion they make and their reaction to that is what marginalizes them with the majority of voters. (Yes, the majority. Check out the results from the 2004 election.) Their continued reliance on what amounts to calls of "You're a liar! You're a creepy liar!" makes reading their book a real chore. I am attempting to press on, but they're making it a real fight.

I intend to blog on the actual content of the book when I finish it. Under normal circumstances, with a reasonably written book, this would be over in a couple of day. Slogging through this irrational quagmire of a book is going to take longer. Hang in there, folks. I'll make it as soon as I can.

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Navy suspends flight ops on USS Kennedy

The US Navy has suspended operations on the USS Kennedy citing concerns over faulty equipment on the 38-year-old ship. The move drew immediate fire from the likely sources: the representatives of the State where she's based:

::::::::U.S. Rep. Ander Crenshaw said he was told by Navy Secretary Donald Winter that the carrier was being taken out of operation because faulty equipment could endanger pilots attempting to land on it.

"I greeted that information with surprise and skepticism in terms of the timing," said Crenshaw, whose district includes the carrier's base at Mayport Naval Station near Jacksonville.

Florida's two U.S. senators also weighed in.

"We need to repair the JFK as soon as possible, so we're not reducing our carrier fleet from 12 to 11 in a time of war," Sen. Bill Nelson said in a statement.

In the meantime, Nelson said another carrier should be moved from Norfolk, Va., to Mayport "so all our other carriers aren't sitting ducks in one port."

And so all those employees and contractors sitting on their hands in Mayport will have something to keep them employed, perhaps? That's just a wee bit too transparent, Senator. So, wanna call up Senator Warner of Virginia and ask him to figure out which Virginia employees and contractors will lose their jobs since the carrier they're servicing is being moved to Florida?

My gut instinct, however, tells me Nelson's right about simply dropping the number of carriers in the fleet. Senator Warner, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, has introduced legislation to repeal the mandate Congress passed pegging the number of carriers at 12. A study performed by the Navy concludes they can do with 11. My thought on the matter, however, is that it takes a very, very long time to build one of these guys. If the US gets into a shooting war with an enemy possessed of nukes and the ability to deploy them tactically over water the first thing they're going to aim at is the nearest carrier group. Those ships are strong and well defended but they're not strong enough to sail out the other side of a nuke strike. And while simply taking out several of our carriers won't completely cripple our capabilties it would certainly put on hurt on us. We'd have to ramp up building carriers quickly and, with the slide in shipbuilding capacity that's been going on over the past 40 years, that's not something that's going to come up quickly, either.

The Kennedy is one of the two remaining carriers that operate on conventional power as opposed to nuclear, the other being CV 64 Kitty Hawk. Kitty Hawk is to be replaced by CVN 77 George H. W. Bush. (A ship designation I'm sure will cause much frothing at the mouth over at Kos and other parts of the fever swamp. Of course, we can always just drop the "H. W." and allow the ship to stand for the current President Bush as well, if they'd like that one.) Kennedy is not slated for replacement until the build of CVX 79 which isn't scheduled to be commissioned until 2017. That's a long time...

I recommend caution in arbitrarily removing this capability from our arsenal. Let's be sure we can sustain the loss.

Liberal bias in academia all in the numbers at UMTC

I direct you now to this post at Captain's Quarters where the funding approval and denial results at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities speaks volumes. Check out the table reproduced from one of the conservative students' groups:

(After several attempts that produced a mangled table, I suggest you just click the link for CQ and view it there. It's way too early for me to be stressing about HTML code, here...)

The sheer drop in the funding for the conservative groups coupled with the surge in those of a liberal persuasion strongly suggests there's more than just random forces at work. Captain Ed says it best and you should read it all there.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

If hindsight is 20/20, why are some still so blind?

A couple of weeks ago (today, as a matter of fact) we here in Loudoun and Fairfax Counties held a special election to fill the vacated State Senate seat for the 33rd District. The results, as I mentioned after the election, were not good for Republican Mick Staton. My comments at the time that he won the primary amounted to concerns that he'd have trouble going head-to-head with the Democratic contender. I was right. I've already stated my opinions (as linked) as to what went wrong and where I think the GOP here in northern VA needs to go. 'Nuff said.

Or so I thought.

Today I received a letter from the Staton campaign sent out to all the supporters thanking them for their work. I posted a Staton sign in my yard which was enough for me to get on the mailing list. I appreciate the thanks but the letter has some troubling spots in it. Here's how it starts:

::::::::Thank you for the support you have given me in my run for the 33rd District Senate Seat. While we did not win the race, it does not mean that our run was not successful.::::::::

At the risk of sounding mean, I'm afraid the fact that the GOP candidate did not win does, in fact, mean that the campaign was unsuccessful.

Think about this: The only way for the campaign to have been successful in light of the candidate not winning is for the object of the campaign to have been something other than getting the candidate elected. If the campaign wasn't about getting elected, then it was a waste of time, energy, resources, and - oh, yes - a seat on the Virgina Senate. If the campaign wasn't about winning the election, then why did we run it? Why did we not run a campaign with a candidate whose goal was to get elected.

Unless Staton did intend to get elected, in which case his campaign was a staggering failure, the efforts of all the volunteers being beside the point. More troubling, however, is this:

::::::::We ran a strong campaign with a positive message, and had I the opportunity to do things over; I would not have changed a thing.::::::::

Allow me to get this one straight. With the foreknowledge that he was going to walk into that special election and get his political ass kicked completely around the perimeter of the 33rd District and then carved off and handed to him on a stick, he would have continued to run the campaign in exactly the same way that resulted in one of the worst blow-outs the northern VA GOP has ever seen?

I can hear his core supporters now, raising a chorus of, "Damn Right! We run on Republican principles!" to the rafters. And there's exactly the point I was trying make in my last post on the subject. Knowing what we know now - that the voters here in Loudoun County are far, far more concerned with the day-to-day issues of growth, transportation, and development control than they are on the social agenda espoused by the Republican Party as embodied by Staton's supporters - many in the GOP think we don't need to change. We do. We need to address the issues of the voters squarely and loudly. We need to take control of the debate and we do that by articulating our ideas to handle those issues ourselves rather than let the Dems do that for us. It's far easier to set the tone of your own argument yourself from the word go than it is to convince people that those other guys just misrepresented you.

Mick Staton: I'm glad you're on the Board of Supervisors and I hope you can do some real good there. But we've all got to realize that campaigns such as yours don't win and we've got to make the adjustments to change that outcome.

Saddam's on a hunger strike.

In his latest bid to misdirect attention from the crimes he commanded while he was top dog in Iraq, Saddam Hussein is engaging in a hunger strike to protest the judge, the trial, the court, and anything else that keeps him from the throne where he could continue to kill thousands of his countrymen and threaten the safety of all surrounding nations.

Good. Let him. And just to be sure the various crybaby "human rights" groups don't accuse us of the horrific abuse of keeping someone from starving to death, I recommend that Hussein be allowed to carry this strike as far as it will go. My personal recommendation is that when he finally cracks and asks for food that the Iraqi government take an additional 24 hours to respond to the request. Perhaps a little taste of what he put others through for so many years would be a valuable lesson.

People. It was a hunting accident.

Yes, I know Dick Cheney shot a fellow hunter this weekend. That guy, according to the investigation by the local police, moved ahead of the hunting line without advising Cheney or the other hunters. He was standing where he wasn't supposed to be and moved there without warning anyone else. Cheney swung the muzzle of his weapon in that direction following a game bird and fired, striking the man with birdshot.

It was an accident, folks. An accident. Not an assassination attempt, not a government plot, not an indicator of senility, not an indictment of the war on terror, not proof positive that all guns should be banned from civilian hands, etc, etc, etc. It was a hunting accident. Nothing more. Should the White House Press Corp have been advised within seconds of the incident? Hell, no. The first priority was to the health of the man shot. The second was to investigate what happened. This wasn't an act of State and it wasn't some official event sponsored by the US Government. It was a hunting trip that just so happened to include the Vice President.

The media's oh-so-offended attitude is translating into a frenzy of reporting to attempt to find some way - some angle - to make this a scandal for the Bush Administration. Nonsense! There is no requirement that the VP's office should have called up every reporter in Washington and told them about this accident at all, let alone within some media-dictated timeframe. Since when is it their responsibility to do the investigative part of investigative reporting? If the Press Corp wants to report on something then let them get off their padded asses and do the work necessary to find out about the story.

Maybe then they'd have realized that this was just an accident and nothing more.

We've got a lot of important things to worry about, people. This isn't one of them. Let's try to keep our focus, shall we?

Monday, February 13, 2006

ABA mandates racial admissions policies in law schools even when it breaks the law.

Via Prof.Glenn Reynolds over at Instapundit, we have this lovely little bit:

::::::::Interesting op-ed in the weekend Wall Street Journal, Affirmative Blackmail, by David E. Bernstein (George Mason):

"According to its mission statement, a primary goal of the American Bar Association is to 'promote respect for the law.' In the interest of mandating racial preferences in admissions, however, the ABA is about to order law schools to do just the opposite -- in fact, to violate the law -- and is resorting to blackmail to achieve its end.

"Meeting in Chicago today, the ABA's Council of the Section on Legal Education and Admissions to the Bar will vote on new 'equal opportunity and diversity' standards. If they are approved, any law school that seeks to maintain or acquire ABA accreditation will be required to engage in racial preferences in hiring and admissions, regardless of any federal, state or local laws that prohibit of such policies.....

So, the association that defines the ethics practices of lawyers is telling the schools that train said lawyers that they are required to engage in racial preferences in admissions and hiring if they want to keep that "Approved by the ABA" sticker on their doors, even where such practice is illegal. I can't wait to hear their explanation for this one.

Gore encourages more anti-US sentiment. Again.

Seems former VP and perennial sore loser Al Gore just can't restrain himself from gleefully pointing out what an evil empire America is.

::::::::Former Vice President Al Gore told a mainly Saudi audience on Sunday that the U.S. government committed "terrible abuses" against Arabs after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, and that most Americans did not support such treatment.

Gore said Arabs had been "indiscriminately rounded up" and held in "unforgivable" conditions. The former vice president said the Bush administration was playing into Al Qaeda's hands by routinely blocking Saudi visa applications.

Of course, Gore doesn't bother telling us anything about those "terrible abuses" or point out when and where Arabs have been "indiscriminately rounded up" here. That's immaterial to Gore's "America's To Blame&trade " campaign. That would require that either of those things actually occurred, unless Gore considers denying visas to be "terrible abuses." Pathetic.

A little while later he provides what some are calling details:

::::::::Gore told the largely Saudi audience, many of them educated at U.S. universities, that Arabs in the United States had been "indiscriminately rounded up, often on minor charges of overstaying a visa or not having a green card in proper order, and held in conditions that were just unforgivable."

"Unfortunately there have been terrible abuses and it's wrong," Gore said. "I do want you to know that it does not represent the desires or wishes or feelings of the majority of the citizens of my country."

So, it's "indiscrimate" but only if you're guilty of failing to abide by our immigrations and legal entry laws. Gore is apparently suggesting that we issue someone a visa that expires on a given date but that we never enforce it. Good plan for terrorist, Al, but not so good for the "majority of the citizens of [your] country."

Every time some high-profile leftist gets out there and wildly exaggerates a situation, playing the "abuse" card, it hurts us. It hurts us because there are people in Saudi Arabia today who listened to Gore's remarks - and those like him - and conclude that America really is engaging in a pattern of abuse against Saudi's and Arabs in general. After all, a man who was their Vice President says so, and he would know right? And another citizen of a Muslim country decides America really is the enemy of humanity after all. He tells his friend who tells his brother who tells his sons and so on, and so on, and so on.

All because a man grown small out of his loss of stature can't bear to be responsible for his words. Well, I've got a message to the Saudi's: Al Gore does not speak for a majority of the citizens of our country. You want to know what the stance of the majority is? Listen to the people we elected, not the people we declined to.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

In the Left's crosshairs

There was quite a bit of commentary running around a few weeks ago when the Washinton Post got a first-hand experience in what it's like to be the target of the Left's ire. Seems the Post's Deborah Howell made a bit of an error in being a little overly inclusive when she wrote about the Abramoff scandal currently ongoing. At the time, she said that Abramoff had given money to members of both parties, albeit more to Republicans (which makes sense, as I'll explain in a moment.) The Left side of the blogosphere went barking moonbat on her and started filling up the Post's blog comments with one vulgar ad hominem attack after another. The torrent of abuse became too much for the Post's people to clear from the comments section and, in an effort to keep the paper's blog from turning into the Democratic Underground, editor Jim Brady made the decision to shut down the comments section. This merely enraged the already lunatic Left and they responded as they always do: they heaped invective on Brady by the bucketload.

Such... (ahem) discourse is nothing new to those of us on the Right. Michelle Malkin puts up with a stream of commentary and behavior from the Left so unhinged that she wrote a book on the subject. The Post didn't exactly sit back and flip these people the bird, either, as they should have. They listened to the complaint, which amounted to a vehement denial that Abramoff had ever given a dime to a Democrat. You'll hear that fact touted loud and clear by the Dems in Congress and Howard Dean if you listen for about 30 seconds. It's hair-splitting at its finest - the scandal doesn't involve Abramoff's personal donations, it's the donations he directed his clients to give which did go to both parties, including Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid - but the complaint is, in fact, correct. When the phrase is interpretted narrowly, it is absolute fact that Abramoff never donated a dime of his own money to a Democrat. The Left hopes that by saying that loudly, often, and quickly enough to not let you get a word in edgewise, it will become the only part of the scandal discussed.

Brady noted that Howell's language could have been more clear and, in good journalistic behavior, issued a correction. Brady apparently thought that should have been the end of it, but if he did then he's not paying attention to whom he is dealing with. His correction actually increased the rate and vitrol in the comments and that's when he closed it down.

Today, Brady is talking about the topic in an opinion piece in the Outlook section of the paper. It opens with a pretty catchy summation of the comments directed his way:

::::::::I am a twit without a functioning brain.

I also do not have any [ censored ].

Despite 10 years spent in online media, I really don't understand the Internet.

I am a dangerous ideologue , an enemy of democracy .

At least, that's what I've been told -- in much stronger language -- by dozens of people who have never met me.

Welcome to our world, Jim. Now, we need to get something up front and understood perfectly well, here. This is an opinion piece, not a news story. Brady is under no obligation to be 100% objective here, or to refrain from injecting his personal perspectives into the story as he should be with a news item. I recognize these facts.

I'm a bit perplexed, however, that in all of this he declined to identify even one of the bloggers (he says it was a "handfull" so it should have been easy enough) who put out the rallying cry to go spit vulgarities out all over one of the Post's people, not to mention Brady himself. He doesn't articulate from which side of the political spectrum the hate mail was streaming from, although its reasonable to assume the Left given the particulars of the story. Were this a news story, I would call that lapse journalistic bias given that it's an important part of the story especially for those WaPo readers who don't delve into the blogs themselves. This is an opinion piece, however, so Brady's not required to be fully informative. It would have been a good touch but I definitely sense the attempt on his part to avoid naming names for whatever reason.

Brief aside for Brady: if you avoided telling us who were the spiteful morons behind this incident out of a sense of decorum I commend you, even if the effort is utterly wasted on the aforementioned morons. If you did so to avoid getting another barrage from these clowns then I must ask you if that's not a surrender out of fear? You know they won't respect that and they will do it again anyway, right?

Being a blogger, I don't think I'm surprising anyone when I disagree with his contention that there's no such thing as the blogosphere as a separate entity. He lumps bloggers in with mainstream media and contends there's no distinction there worth noting. The blogs stand opposed to each other sometimes and, he says, the media's exactly the same way. Here's where I have to part company with Brady. I would like to ask him - or any other member of the media - to point out a story in the last 6 months where 1 media agency, whether it's a paper or a TV station, did an investigative report on another media agency to show that agency had hidden facts or argued fallaciously. I can count on my 2 hands the number of stories covered in the media where another media agency's activities were the story. I run out of fingers in about 10 minutes when we're talking about the blogosphere.

The blogs and the media are symbiotic (or perhaps parasitic, as he says) but they are not the same. The rules of etiquette the media has been used to dealing with for decades are not followed in the blogosphere and they need to understand that when they venture into this space. Brady made the right call and he took heat over it from people who don't buy the concept that reasonable people can disagree and admitting a mistake clears the air.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Steele apologizes for stem-cell remark

Actually, the title of the story was "Pol Apologizes for Stem Cell-Nazi Remark", which is a headline that usually manages to grab the attention of American news junkies. The immediate thoughts going through my head as I clicked on the link were 1) who managed to not avoid invoking the Nazis this time, and 2) what did this "pol" actually say? Underlying all that was the fervent wish that politicians on both sides of the aisle would learn to discuss issues without demonizing the other side with Nazi references but that's an old wish for me.

This time the politician is MD Lt. Gov. Steele speaking to the Baltimore Jewish Council. Someone asked him for his stance on stem-cell research. Now, the headline makes you think Steele pounded the desktop and spat out his disdain for his opponents, who must be the reincarnation of the 3rd Reich. Let's see what actually happened:

::::::::Steele had made the remark to the Baltimore Jewish Council on Thursday after speaking about a recent trip to Israel. One of the audience members had asked for his thoughts on stem cell research.

"You, of all folks, know what happens when people decide to experiment on human beings, when they want to take your life and use it as a tool," Steele said in remarks reported by The (Baltimore) Sun.

"I know that as well in my community, out of our experience with slavery," added Steele, who is black. "And so I'm very cautious when people say this is the best new thing, this is going to save lives."

I happen to disagree with Steele about stem-cell research. There's a lot of research to be done that does not involve the "experiment[ing] on human beings" he references. It's highly likely that the comments reproduced in this story aren't the whole thing, of course, so I'm going to be cautious myself. But I can't believe that anyone being serious on the subject could look at these comments and conclude in any way that Steele was calling anyone a Nazi. He clearly feels strongly on the subject and made use of a reference to a common body of understanding in his audience to illustrate his fears of where stem-cell research could go.

The comments also do not belittle the Holocaust in any way. The concern is in crossing the line that the Nazis did those many years ago in deciding to use human subjects in some very, very unsavory and evil experiments. This is also a crux in my parting ways with Mr. Steele - I do not believe that stem-cell research represents such a crossing of that line. Steele apparently does and, therefore, is concerned about how far it will go. In his own words, he's cautious about calling it a good thing.

His apology over the remark was directed at the director of the Council, Art Abramson. After hearing from Steele, Abramson commented:

::::::::"The Holocaust was a unique event in the history of mankind, and the kinds of experiments that were conducted on human beings by Nazis and their henchmen ... are beyond comparison, and I think the lieutenant governor would agree with that," Abramson said.::::::::

Abramson apparently feels OK with Steele's apology. Personally, I don't buy the argument that anything is totally "beyond comparison" but that's a post for another day. I think, this time, the facts of the matter don't support the contention of the headline and I'm pleased that those involved came to an understanding.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Specter wants FISA to judge constitutionality of NSA program.

I note in a radio report and then again in this link that Senator Arlen Specter is drafting legislation to address the constitutionality of the NSA wiretapping program.

::::::::The shift came as Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Arlen Specter, R-Pa., announced he was drafting legislation that would require the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to review the constitutionality of the administration's monitoring of terror-related international communications when one party to the call is in the United States.

It also came as Rep. Heather Wilson, R-N.M., chairwoman of a House intelligence subcommittee that oversees the NSA, broke with the Bush administration and called for a full review of the NSA's program, along with legislative action to update the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The shift they're talking about is the White House's provision of more details on the program and to the full Intelligence committees of both the House and the Senate. Previously, the White House briefed the leaders of those committees and not the full group.

I must question why the White House is to blame for the full Intel committees' not getting all the facts that were imparted to the leaders of both parties and both houses of Congress. Is it unreasonable to provide information to the chairmen and vice-chairmen of a committee and think that, perhaps, those leaders will brief the full committee, if they deem it necessary, at a time and place of their choosing? Perhaps, for example, when said committee meets in session? Aside from the perceived slight on the part of those committee members who didn't get to sit in on the briefing, where's the issue here? Were I a member of that committee, and I found out that my chairmen were briefed on a topic that I felt should have been granted to the full committee, I'd be directing my first ire at the chairmen of the committee who failed to pass it along. The question arises whether the chairmen of the committee were explicitly told by the White House to not inform the rest of the committee. Were I one of those chairmen, I'd politely tell the briefers who made such a request to stuff it, unless they had specific evidence that one or more members of the committee couldn't be trusted.

Speaking of trust, these members of these committees are reportedly upset that the White House obviously feels they can't keep secrets. Are you kidding me? Can you say "Jay Rockefeller?" And that's just the most recent and egregious example. Congress leaks confidential matters like my kitchen collander leaks water, which is to say: very effectively. Still, these committee members hold security clearances and are, I believe, entitled to the information. My complaint is that their complaint seems to lie completely on the White House. They should look a little closer to home.

I actually feel that checking into the constitutionality of the NSA program is a fine idea, but I think Specter is aiming too low when it comes to the court he wants to make that decision. Let's skip all the preliminaries, shall we? Take the issue to the Supreme Court, whose job it is (or should be) to determine whether a given application of law is permissible with regards to the Constitution. Send it over there and argue the case once and for all, rather than several times through long appeals.

And, finally, I agree with Hugh Hewitt on the matter of putting the program to a vote in Congress. Let the members of Congress step up and state whether they are for the program or against so that we, the people, know both where they stand and where we should put our votes next time.

Nerve agent alarm a false one

A security sensor in the Russell Senate Office Building issued a detection warning for a nerve agent on Wednesday night prompting a fast evac and quarantine of about 200 people, including 9 Senators. The alarm has been determined to have been a false one:

::::::::At least nine senators were among 200 people herded into a Capitol parking garage Wednesday night after a security sensor indicated the presence of a nerve agent in their office building. Later tests proved negative.

"Test results have been cleared and all test results are negative, so that's very good news," said Capitol Police Sgt. Kimberly Schneider.

The all-clear came three hours after an air-monitoring sensor indicated a suspicious substance in the attic of the Russell Senate Office Building. It initially tested positive as a nerve agent.

Lawmakers, aides and other personnel were evacuated to the West Legislative Garage shortly after 6:45 p.m. EST as police conducted several other tests before concluding that it was a false alarm.

Thank God.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Egyptian paper published Danish Mohammed cartoons months ago

Linked by such worthies as Little Green Footballs and Instapundit, Sandmonkey has the nail in the proverbial coffin of the "outrage" the Muslim community is showing over the publications of those 12 Mohammed cartoons. Listen to this:

::::::::Freedom For Egyptians reminded me why the cartoons looked so familiar to me: they were actually printed in the Egyptian Newspaper Al Fagr back in October 2005. I repeat, October 2005, during Ramadan, for all the egyptian muslim population to see, and not a single squeak of outrage was present.::::::::

He's got the scans of the paper as it was published that clearly show the cartoons. The entire "outrage" crap is just that: crap. It's Islamofascist theater performed as a propaganda ploy.

With this revelation, every American media outlet should immediately report on the previous publication and display these cartoons for all the American public to see so they can judge for themselves if they were worth the lives they've cost. If the cartoons were OK for a major Egyptian newspaper to publish in Cairo, then everyone on the planet has the right to do exactly that. In keeping with this viewpoint, I present this link to Michelle Malkin's site where you can view those images in their entirety. Alternatively, click this gallery below and go to Human Events Online.

If the "Muslim Street" isn't responsible for the violence... Amir Taheri (linked by Instapundit) says, then what is the acceptable response to the violence from the "Muslim Street's" perspective? Taheri writes:

::::::::But how representative of Islam are all those demonstrators? The "rage machine" was set in motion when the Muslim Brotherhood--a political, not a religious, organization--called on sympathizers in the Middle East and Europe to take the field. A fatwa was issued by Yussuf al-Qaradawi, a Brotherhood sheikh with his own program on al-Jazeera. Not to be left behind, the Brotherhood's rivals, Hizb al-Tahrir al-Islami (Islamic Liberation Party) and the Movement of the Exiles (Ghuraba), joined the fray. Believing that there might be something in it for themselves, the Syrian Baathist leaders abandoned their party's 60-year-old secular pretensions and organized attacks on the Danish and Norwegian embassies in Damascus and Beirut. . . .

The truth is that Islam has always had a sense of humor and has never called for chopping heads as the answer to satirists. Muhammad himself pardoned a famous Meccan poet who had lampooned him for more than a decade. Both Arabic and Persian literature, the two great literatures of Islam, are full of examples of "laughing at religion," at times to the point of irreverence. Again, offering an exhaustive list is not possible. But those familiar with Islam's literature know of Ubaid Zakani's "Mush va Gorbeh" (Mouse and Cat), a match for Rabelais when it comes to mocking religion. Sa'adi's eloquent soliloquy on behalf of Satan mocks the "dry pious ones." And Attar portrays a hypocritical sheikh who, having fallen into the Tigris, is choked by his enormous beard. Islamic satire reaches its heights in Rumi, where a shepherd conspires with God to pull a stunt on Moses; all three end up having a good laugh.

Islamic ethics is based on "limits and proportions," which means that the answer to an offensive cartoon is a cartoon, not the burning of embassies or the kidnapping of people designated as the enemy. Islam rejects guilt by association. Just as Muslims should not blame all Westerners for the poor taste of a cartoonist who wanted to be offensive, those horrified by the spectacle of rent-a-mob sackings of embassies in the name of Islam should not blame all Muslims for what is an outburst of fascist energy.

All of which is a wonderful sentiment well familiar to those of us who live with the rhetoric of multiculturalism daily. The problem is that those of us "horrified by the spectacle" of the attacks and firebombings and kidnappings and shootings aren't doing any of those things as a reaction to our horror. The issue isn't what to do about those Muslims who realize that not all Westerners have the "poor taste" of the cartoonists in question. The issue is what to do about the raging, murderous mob who do not realize this and who lack the civilized spirit to not burn down buildings and shoot priests. While it's an interesting question to ask just how representative of the Muslim world this attitude is - do those rioting display the attitudes and beliefs of the majority of Muslims or a minority? - it's irrelevant in both the short and long run. Those Muslims who think burning and killing aren't the proper response aren't providing any resistance to those who do and they provide no protection to the Westerners who must now bear the brunt of the rioters' indiscriminate rage.

So what's the appropriate response here? Frankly, if the "Muslim Street" is unable or unwilling to help, then what response do they consider OK? If we start cracking down on the rioters - arresting them, deporting them, and outright killing them, if necessary to protect life and property - would they be accepting of that as a necessary response to protect ourselves? If not, then what - aside from capitulation and conversion to Islam - do they suggest that will stop this violence and continue to allow us to enjoy the freedoms our society allows?

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Liberals disrespect the dead to score cheap shots (Updated for link)

I listened while in the car today to the news reports about the memorial service for Coretta Scott King, noting that former Presidents Bush (senior), Clinton, and Carter were there along with President George W. Bush. As he was during the SOTU, President Bush spoke highly of King praising her life and accomplishments. His father did the same and, while speaking in a very different style, so did Clinton.

Carter and a number of others simply couldn't pass up the chance to take their partisan sniping with them to the podium and make use of a dead woman's funeral to take some cheap shots where they knew decorum from the President would protect their worthless hides.

::::::::The day was not without politically charged references, most notably by former President Jimmy Carter — who has been a staunch critic of Bush administration policies.

Carter invoked the issue of the current wiretapping probe involving Bush by remembering that for the Kings "it was difficult for them then personally with the civil liberties of both husband and wife violated as they became the target of secret government wiretaps." Later, he said that Hurricane Katrina showed all are not yet equal in America, and made a veiled reference to the war in Iraq and the existing government's international strategies.

"We do not have a monopoly on the hunger for democracy and freedom," Carter told the congregation. "[The Kings] overcame one of the greatest challenges of life, to wage a fierce struggle for freedom and justice and to do it peacefully."

The Rev. Joseph Lowery, who co-founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Martin Luther King Jr., spoke directly to the current administration's foreign and domestic policies.

"Our marvelous presidents and governors come to mourn and praise ... but in the morning will words become deeds that meet need?" Lowery asked.

"For war, billions more, but no more for the poor," he said, in a take-off of a lyric from Stevie Wonder's song "A Time to Love," which drew a roaring standing ovation. The comments drew head shakes from President Bush and his father as they sat behind the pulpit.

Classy, folks. Very classy. Lovely of you to remember the occasion for which you were gathered and make the event a celebration of the life of the deceased. I'm sure your Moms would all be very proud. I am confident that both current and former President Bush were having a hard time believing that anyone who would profess to respect the person who had passed on would be gulity of trying to advance their political position while speaking at that person's funeral. Common courtesy is clearly beyond the scope of these individual's capacity. It's low and its inexcusable.

The story I've linked doesn't even do the good Reverend Lowry's comments justice. His full quote:

::::::::Lowery, former head of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which King helped found in 1957, gave a playful reading of a poem in eulogy of Mrs. King.

"She extended Martin's message against poverty, racism and war / She deplored the terror inflicted by our smart bombs on missions way afar," he said.

"We know now there were no weapons of mass destruction over there / But Coretta knew and we knew that there are weapons of misdirection right down here / Millions without health insurance. Poverty abounds. For war billions more but no more for the poor."

That's what passes for "playful" on the planet this Reuters reporter comes from? My ass. It was nothing short of a sneak attack and a vile desecration of a memorial service. Perhaps one day the clueless fools who stood and applauded will see their actions today in support of small, bitter men and women and have a small glimmer of shame and regret. I'm not betting on it, but hey... I have a dream.

Update: I note that Ed Morrissey over at Captain's Quarters feels much the same way.

Sunday, February 05, 2006

Army resolves situation with Yon

I mentioned recently the Army's row with Micheal Yon over the unattributed use of one of Yon's photographs taken while he was embedded with the Army's Deuce-Four. Seems the Army got it together: they've resolved the situation. From Pundit Review:

::::::::What we have here is the ability to communicate! Picking up on a couple of MSM stories, bloggers rallied behind Michael Yon in his copyright battle with the US Army in a major way over the past 24 hours.

Michael was in a stalemate for seven months, getting nowhere, until Boston Herald reporter and fellow blogger Jay Fitzgerald as well as the Southtown Free Press’ Dan Lavoie, covered the story. Their MSM reporting brought this to the attention of the blogosphere. From there, blogs like this one and those listed below picked up the story and started a blog swarm, sending hundreds of emails to those in a position to make the right decision on Michael’s behalf.

From Micheal himself:

::::::::Thousands of readers might have learned about it from Jay Fitzgerald’s piece in Tuesday’s Boston Herald. Maybe it was the article Dan Lavoie wrote for last Sunday’s Southtown Free Press, or the press release issued by the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. Or when Kevin Whalen at Pundit Review called for blogger arms in an intransigent dispute with the Army over intellectual property rights. The growing volume of these voices gained the attention of people who could resolve the conflict.

The dispute over the unattributed and unauthorized distribution of my photographs has been resolved in principle to the satisfaction of the involved parties. The dispute had been exacerbated by Army lawyers, but once the matter was brought forefront and examined by Brigadier General Brooks, Chief of Public Affairs, it was resolved by another more senior Army attorney. At the end of the day, the Army did the right thing. I greatly appreciate the efforts of those involved, including the blogosphere and Brigadier General Brooks, whose determined attention and immediate action removed the obstacle.

Well done, General Brooks. I applaud the Army's action in this regard.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

VDH proposes 3 pillars of foreign policy

Victor Davis Hanson writes another great article speaking of the cold realities of the world that has come to be and what should be our course through it. During the President's State of the Union address, George Bush baldly asserted that America is addicted to oil. (I could have sworn I heard thousands of environmentalist voices shouting, in unison, "No Shit!") Indeed, our demand for energy has advanced almost, if not actually, in a geometric progression. That demand has consequences, both the environmental and political. Each of those are important and neither completely supercedes the other.

Hanson argues that it is this addiction to oil that places us in the dubious position of funding and supporting the failed societies of the Middle East, many of whom are openly hostile to America and her citizens.

::::::::So take the dependency on oil away from Europe and the United States, and the billions of petrodollars the world sends yearly to medieval regimes like Iran or Saudi Arabia, and the other five billion of us could, to be frank, fret little whether such self-pitying tribal and patriarchal societies wished to remain, well, tribal. There would be no money for Hezbollah, Wahhabi madrassas, Syrian assassination teams, or bought Western apologists.

The problem is not just a matter of the particular suppliers who happen to sell to the United States — after all, we get lots of our imported oil from Mexico, Canada, and Nigeria. Rather, we should worry about the insatiable American demand that results in tight global supply for everyone, leading to high prices and petrobillions in the hands of otherwise-failed societies who use this largess for nefarious activities from buying nukes to buying off deserved censure from the West, India, and China. If the Middle East gets a pass on its terrorist behavior from the rest of the world, ultimately that exemption can be traced back to the voracious American appetite for imported oil, and its effects on everything from global petroleum prices to the appeasement of Islamic fascism.

This is common sense. The President said as much during the SOTU and, I was pleased to hear, proposed funding significant research into alternative energy sources in an effort to get us out from under the easy blackmail that importing so much oil allows.

But this isn't enough. Holding us over the oil barrel isn't the only leverage used by and sought by hostile governments. Developing nukes is the Holy Grail for many of these and, as Hanson says far more eloquently, it is in the West's best interest to make sure they don't get them.

::::::::Without nuclear acquisition, a Pakistan or Iran would warrant little worry. It is no accident that top al Qaeda figures are either in Pakistan or Iran, assured that their immunity is won by reason that both of their hosts have vast oil reserves or nukes or both.

The lesson from all this is that in order to free the United States from such blackmail and dependency, we must at least try to achieve energy independence and drive down oil prices — and see that no Middle East autocracy gains nuclear weapons. Those principles, along with support for democratic reform, should be the three pillars of American foreign policy.

I do suggest you read the whole article. There's detail there that lays a far better groundwork.

I know there are those who claim America shouldn't have nukes, either and that to contend that the Middle Eastern countries shouldn't have them is hypocrisy and elitism. I stand by my contention, however, and offer the history of those countries versus ours as justification. As I mentioned in my previous post these countries have no sense of what is a reasonable response to offense. Is there anyone who seriously doubts that if Hamas had a nuke that Tel Aviv would be on fire right now? That whole swaths of Sudan - those occupied by non-muslims - would be vast, uninhabitable nuclear wastelands? We already know Saddam had no issue gassing Kurdish villages. If he'd had a nuke in his arsenal, is there really any question at all that he'd have used it up north?

America has dropped 2 nukes in the 60 years since our scientists developed the technology and both of those were in a declared war that began with an unprovoked attack on our soil. We stood our nuclear arsenal against that of a sworn enemy of liberty for a significant chunk of those 60 years and did so in the cause of keeping ourselves and our allies free and safe from attack. It came very, very close on 2 occasions, but America has always sought other responses to offense than killing, particularly on a mass scale. No one can reasonably make that claim about the Middle Eastern autocracies.

The US State Department would do better to listen to the likes of Hanson and become part of those 3 pillars.

Friday, February 03, 2006

What offends and the reaction to being offended

I've said for years that in any field of human discussion you can find someone, somewhere offended by the stance you take on it. Perhaps you're too broad or too narrow or too literal or too abstract. Whatever your stance, someone's going to think you've said (or not said) something that offends their sense on the topic in question. The reverse of that is equally true: regardless of how many people think a given thing is offensive, there will be some who wonder what the big deal is and view those offended as just a bunch of whiners who need to get a life. The pertinent questions, in my view, are:

  1. Is it considered reasonable by the society in which you live to find such a thing offensive?

  2. What is the acceptable range of response to the offense?

I recall very clearly as a boy that my sister got hugely on my nerves and made all manner of comment to me that was rude, mean, and - yes - offensive. When her taunts got to be too much to bear on one occasion I remember, I took a swing at her. This was an action she immediately protested to my mother who called me to explain. I did. I was confident that what my sister had said was so offensive my mother would agree. She did, but not to the extent of excusing my action in response. In fact, although my sister got told to knock it off, I was the one in the greater amount of trouble. I didn't think that was fair and said so. Mom told me that even though my sister had been offensive, that was no excuse for what I had done.

Even though what had happened was offensive to me and even though my mother agreed that I was justified in feeling that way, being offended didn't justify the level of response.

The Muslim world is - once again - inflamed to the point of mass demonstrations, burning flags and effigies, and generally displaying ill will toward anyone not Muslim over the publication of a dozen or so drawings in a Danish newspaper depicting the Muslim prophet Mohammed. For details on the matter, I'd like to direct you to LGF (multiple posts), Michelle Malkin, or any of the sites they link to. Bottom line, it's against the Muslim religion to portray Mohammed in any way. No drawings, no sculptures, no needlepoint, etc. Anyone doing so immediately draws the effusive ire of Muslims everywhere. Muslims get offended by this kind of action.

The first question I've asked is regarding how reasonable is it to be offended by cartoons depicting Mohammed. Religion is, by its nature, not completely rational or reasonable, so to ask whether it's reasonable to get offended over a violation of religious dogma is a bit of a foregone conclusion. There are a lot of muslims in the world and a lot of them appear offended. This isn't a "gotcha" moment since anyone who's been fairly educated in the precepts of the religion would know this is one of their touchy points. Add to that the expressed reasoning for the paper to publish these cartoons being that the cartoonists believed the threats against them for considering drawing them were, themselves, offensive to the artists and you can't claim that the artists didn't know they were about to do something the Muslim faith found objectionable. So, it's reasonable to conclude that Muslims would be offended by the drawings and the mass of them who feel that way is sufficiently large to preclude blowing them off as just a few fringe people. The only purpose you could have in drawing these cartoons was to purposely poke at the line of offense of those of Muslim faith.

Going out of my way to be offensive is generally not considered a good behavior. I certainly don't like it when people of other faiths and the media purposely express themselves about Catholics in a manner they know is likely to be offensive simply because they feel their freedom of speech allows it. A person's religious faith can be disagreed with but I don't subscribe to the notion that it's completely OK to purposely shove stuff in a person's face when it's highly likely to offend them and simply expect that they have to sit there and take it.

The Muslim world reacts to such offense in a completely predictable manner. They threaten. They terrorize. They seek to use the laws of the societies they condemn in an effort to achieve a status for themselves that they would deny others. They kidnap. They behead. They blow up. Are these reactions within the acceptable range of responses to a non-believer committing an act that a believer considers offensive or sinful?

No. They are not. And like my behavior toward my sister who had offended me, reacting in the fashion they do completely negates their claim to victimhood. In civilized societies when one is offended, one first announces the offense and seeks to resolve that offense with the offending party in a manner consistent with civilized behavior and the law. In the case of a newspaper, that means you write the editor. You call the editor. You write a blog or call in to a radio show or any of the methods used to articulate your point without engaging in violent and unlawful behavior or threat. That is the first move and that is precisely the move the Muslim world didn't make. It's the move they never make. Any offense, no matter how small or how isolated is answered with threats of death and destruction. Such threats are the last thing before actually pulling the trigger on a gun and there are plenty of things to try before one gets there. Bringing suit in a court of law, for one thing. Boycotting and peaceful protest others.

The Muslim world is acting, frankly, like a petulant child in a daycare facility. They want everything, they don't feel the need for restraint or manners, and they have no empathy with the rest of the room's residents. The room in this case is the world and the Muslims need to start getting it throught their increasingly thick skulls that they aren't alone in it. The rest of us live here, too, and we're not going to start doing things the way they want things done simply because they're bullies and violent jerks.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Yon prepping lawsuit against the Army

Sometimes you run into people who resolutely refuse to acknowledge that the military has improved since Vietnam. They still think they're the bumbling morons who get stuck in their rut attempting to justify this or that stupid move and won't adjust regardless of the circumstances. You try to convince them by showing them today's military as it really is today.

Then you run into something like this.

Bar no one, save possibly Bill Roggio, Michael Yon has been the Army's greatest scribe and herald in this war on terror. His embed with the Deuce-Four in Mosul produced some literally Pulitzer-class material. By far, however, Yon is noted for a photograph he took showing a G.I. cradling a dying Iraqi girl after terrorists had blown up a car bomb near a group of children. The image saw worldwide publication and was carried on so many blogs I can't count them all. Time magazine included the shot in thier "Best of" spread for the year. Yon has apparently been trying to get compensated for the shot after the picture had been published and attributed to "Army/AP", neither of whom actually took the shot.

Up to that point, you're looking at a matter of whether Yon could reasonably have been considered on the Army's payroll. The Army lawyer, however, makes one of the most ludicrous claims I've seen yet. He asserts that since Yon signed a waiver of injuries sustained during his embed, and since the Army's failure to compensate him for the photo constitutes "an injury", then the liability waiver means Yon can't sue.

As I saw written in one of the comments over on Mudville Gazette, does this (ahem) lawyer suggest that a landlord could get you to sign a liability waiver for injuries on his property and then punch you in the face with impunity? I'm thinking not. The Army needs to recognize that 1) this lawyer's giving them bad advice and 2) Yon's been the conduit for a huge chunk of the confidence and goodwill the American people have toward them. They need to do the right thing, here, and they need to yank this lawyer's leash. He clearly needs it.

Hat Tip: Mudville Gazette, Pundit Review.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Democrat Mark Herring wins special Senate election in VA's 33rd District

The special election to fill former State Senator Bill Mims' seat in the Virginia 33rd district was held yesterday and the winner was Democrat Mark Herring. It wasn't even close. First things first: congratulations, Senator Herring.

I mentioned just after the Republican primary that I had concerns about Republican Mick Staton's chances and it's obvious I was right to be concerned. Staton had 2 large steamer trunks' worth of baggage perched on his shoulders in this race. The first was a perception that he was more concerned with making things easy on developers here than he was about the quality of life for the residents of Loudoun County. I think that's unfair - Staton has worked very hard as a Supervisor on the Board to get developers to pay for the infrastructure improvements made necessary by their intended developments. In the past, developers might have been required to make the improvements but there was no requirement to make them before they built the new subdivision. Often times the new houses would go up and then the residents of that new neighborhood got to deal with months of road construction getting to and from their new homes. In some cases, the developer would even weasel out of the required improvements completely. Staton's worked to make sure they build the roads and lay the sewer pipes first.

All well and good, but if the voters don't hear that message loudly enough to counter the "he's in the developers' pockets" slogan then it makes no difference.

The second bit of baggage came from being the son-in-law of Dick Black, the former Republican Delegate to the General Assembly who lost his bid for re-election this past November. Dick Black might have worked hard down in Richmond to get badly needed road improvements going up here in the north, but that's not what he's known for. A social conservative that defines that label, Black seemed to be far more concerned with requiring filter software on library computers, pushing the State Constitutional amendment to ban gay marriage (and any other status that might confer similar benefit) and aggressively pushing the agenda of the hard-right of the Pro-Life movement. He's the clown who thought it was a ripping good idea to send out plastic fetus replicas to his fellow Delegates just ahead of a vote on an abortion ban bill. Oh, and that library computer filtering software? The only confirmed incident where a library patron ever pulled up porn on one of the library's computers was when Dick Black brought in a camera crew and pulled it up himself. Hadn't happened before and hasn't happened since.

All of this, added to a sense that our situation of sending $1 in taxes to Richmond and only getting 19 cents back wasn't going to improve, came home to roost last November and Black's butt hit the street. That he purposely used a juvenile technique in an open debate with his opponent, Dave Poisson, and deliberately mispronounced his name didn't help. Bottom line: the voters here had had it up to their eyebrows with Dick Black. Anyone claiming kinship to him philosophically was just dreaming if he thought that would be considered a positive by the voters. Exhibit A for that sentiment is Staton's loss to Herring by a 62-38% margin. (Did I remember to say, "ouch"?)

The question for Republicans to answer at this point is, "What now?" When a member of the current Board can't use that visibility to get past the 38% mark in an election, then there's a problem that needs fixing. It's my opinion that the problem is the heavy-handed reliance on the social conservative agenda to win over the voters. In more than 1 letter to the editor in more than 1 local newspaper residents here complained about Mick Staton being "Dick Black Lite" in terms of his platform. They complained that the issues they wanted fixed were the transportation problems and the disparity in the amount of services they get from the State vs. the money they pay into those services in taxes. The message Mick Staton sent was that he'd go to Richmond and get abortion outlawed while banning gay marriage. Is it any wonder he lost?

Republicans do not have to give up their values but they do need to strongly address the concerns of the people they intend to represent. They need to make certain that voters understand that they're serious about dealing with those issues first. With that understanding in place, then they can address the secondary issues of a social platform. The Republicans in Loudoun County don't do that. One of the reasons I fell out of active participation with the local Committee was the "social conservative issues club" atmosphere infusing everything they did, said, discussed, or proposed. And if you aren't one of them, then you're "one of them." And those folks don't welcome "one of them" in the slightest.

Republicans need to get back to the Party's roots of fiscal conservatism, smaller government, and pro-business attitude. They need to make sure that the public sees these qualities as being the defining characteristics of Republican philosophy, not afterthoughts. Then there's the harder task - the local Committee needs to open the doors to the social moderate side of the Party again. The candidates of the hard-right membership are failing here. Recognition of this fact is crucial and the Committee's strategy must correct for this reality. The rigid social conservatives will not like that, I'm sure. They'll like being locked out of the General Assembly for decades less.