Archive for June, 2005

Steyn on burning flags

Mark Steyn (05jn27) offered his thoughts on the flag burning ammendment in Fireproofing fuse. It got a lot of people thinking that maybe the ammendment was a bit of a reach.

And maybe a few would feel as many of my correspondents did last week aboutridiculous complaints of Koran “desecration” by U.S. guards at Guantanamo — that, in the words of one reader, “it’s not possible to ‘torture’ an inanimate object.”

That alone is a perfectly good reason to object to a law forbidding “desecration” of the flag. For my part, I believe if someone wishes to burn a flag, he should be free to do so. In the same way, if Democrat senators want to compare the U.S. military to Nazis and the Khmer Rouge, they should be free to do so. It’s always useful to know what people really believe.

That’s the point: a flag has to be worth torching. When a flag gets burned, that’s not a sign of its weakness but of its strength. If you can’t stand the heat of your burning flag, get out of the superpower business.

It’s the left that believes the state can regulate everyone into thought-compliance. The right should understand the battle of ideas is won out in the open.

When someone desecrates a symbol, the intent is to create offense. Making such behavior illegal just raises the stakes of the offense and clarifies that is indeed achieving its desired goal. In other words, burning the flag is one of those things like a kid throwing a tantrum. Its success is in the attention it gains. It is contemptible behavior stimulated by an attempt to gain something from someone more potent and powerful. It pushes limits and creates the dilemma between personal responsibility for reasonable behavior and social enforcement of responsible behavior.

Perhaps, the exposure of irresponsible behavior is a good goal. This is a realization that the irresponsible person is irrelevant. It is the other people in society that need to learn about issues and views and reasons. If you trust these others, then you know that they will see the irresponsible behavior as representing unsound ideas and form more effective and appropriate conclusions using that knowledge.

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Escape from reality

Diana West, in Twisted ‘tolerance’ discusses the problem of inordinate sensitivity leading to absurd judgment. The topic is the case of an Autralian minister sentenced for highlighting Koran passages that are not complimentary to the idea that Muslim religion is one of peace and tolerance.

As Robert Spencer, author of “Islam Unveiled” (Encounter Books, 2002), has pointed out, at another point in the trial the Australian judge was affronted that Mr. Scot had said that “the Quran promotes violence, killing and looting.” Mr. Spencer wrote in FrontPageMag: “In light of Quranic passages such as 9:5, 2:191, 9:29, 47:4, 5:33 and many others, this cannot seriously be a matter of dispute. Muslims have pointed to verses in the Bible that they would have us believe are equivalent in violence and offensiveness, or have claimed that the great majority of Muslims don’t take such verses literally; but it takes a peculiarly strong resistance to reality not only to deny that such verses are there, but to charge one who pointed them out with religious vilification.”

Mr. Nalliah, who plans to visit Great Britain to campaign against a similar vilification law now under consideration in Parliament, calls Victoria’s shockingly totalitarian statute “sharia law by stealth.” And so it is. In outlawing criticism of Islam — which, so far, is the effect of the law — Victoria has not only codified a peculiarly strong resistance to reality, it has also adopted the practice of sharia-ruled states. This makes for a startling spectacle — a free people placing a muzzle on speech, a limit on faith and a damper on inquiry. Douglas Wood lost his freedom at gunpoint; Danny Nalliah and Daniel Scot lost theirs by court-ordered political correctness. We know who rescued Mr. Wood; who will save the pastors?

What to connect with this? How about the ruckus centering on profiling terrorist suspects in airplane passengers? Or the FEC considerations to regulate web logs that might involve political commentary? Or the flag burning ammendment?

The idea of free speech is being pushed to absurd limits and matters of intellectual integrity and a speaker’s responsibility are being shoved aside. The result is harmful for everyone.

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Most people want a security from uncertainty. They want a refuge. They want to be able to survive independant of others. This security is one reason why property ownership is held dear. When someone can take your property from you, your security is diminished. This happened to Susette Kelo as described in Your castle no more (Edward Hudgins, Washington Times 05jn27).

In this case the city council of New London, Conn., decided to condemn and take the homes and businesses of a number of citizens, including the Derys and Susette Kelo, who filed the case, in the name of economic development.

Now the Supreme Court has undermined fundamental private property rights by ruling, in effect, that governments can pretty much seize property for any reason they see fit.

Thus we have a situation in which, unlike under socialism, individuals can still hold title to their own property. But unlike a free-market system, they do not own their property by right. They hold it at the discretion of political authorities who can yank it away at a whim. This is the economic principle of the classical corporatist or fascist regime.

The response has been at the state level where several legislatures have undertaken to limit this court given right to usurp personal property. But the Kelo case is not the only one worthy of concern. The Ten Commandments decision is also a property rights issue in deciding when and where a person or community can post something that might be inferred to be religious. Another recent decision about file sharing services hits property rights as well.

The line to be drawn is the intrusion of the society (government) in the affairs of others. How should property be defined? How should it be protected? When does the government intervene to promote its own affairs? When does it intervene to protect the property of its citizens? You’d think this would be an easy line to draw. The recent SCOTUS decision reminds us all of the history of feudalism, Markism, socialism, and communism and the fact that respect for property rights of the individual are hard won and hard kept.

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Incrementalism for drastic action justification

What is, or should be, so much of a concern about comments such as those offered by ‘Turban’ Durbin? Victor Davis Hanson nails it in his column Hitler, Hitler, everywhere (Jewish World Review June 23, 2005 / 16 Sivan, 5765)

As a result, the bar is lowering. In today’s climate, Alfred Knopf has already published a novel about killing the president. Charlie Brooker writing in the Guardian in London prayed for another Lee Harvey Oswald to take out George W. Bush. Comedians, New York plays and art exhibits also bandy about assassination.

Each time a public official evokes Hitler to demonize the president, the American effort in Iraq or its conservative supporters, cheap rhetorical fantasy becomes only that much closer to a nightmarish reality where the unstable, here and abroad, act on the belief that America really is Hitler’s Germany.

We will all soon reap what the ignorant are now sowing.

In the past this phenomenon has been visible in the names we have used for our enemies. Look at the slang for the Japanese or Germans in WW II or for the VC in the Vietnam war. First is to minimize stature of the enemy in your mind by using names that diminish. Then construct evil behaviors to condemn. Pretty soon you will be talking yourself into a state where action becomes justified, then warranted, then necessary. When the bar gets lowered as the action gets more severe, then you know there is a problem.

The key is being able to measure the height of the bar. We see gross mismeasures being applied in grievous ways. The Durbin Gitmo allegations being so far from reality is one. WMD as the single reason for war is another. The ‘Bush Lied’ mantra is another. The nomination fillibuster rationalization is another.

Calling it ignorant is perhaps too kind.

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it all sounds so nice …

The critics, who are currently enjoying an increase in support from the right, of course couch their radical stance in terms of due process, as if what they are asking is the most ordinary thing in the world.

“What we are seeing today,” said William Barr last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee, “is an extreme … effort to take the judicial rules and standards applicable in the domestic law enforcement context and extend them to the fighting of wars.” Mr. Barr is referring to the current effort to treat Guantanamo detainees like American criminals, with full access to our courts. We agree with the former attorney general that “nothing could be more farcical, or more dangerous.”

If the critics are right, and detained terrorists have an inalienable right to access U.S. courts, then they have created a new standard — one which has no precedent in the Geneva Conventions, the Constitution or U.S. history. Even worse, as Mr. Barr suggested, it is a standard that would effectively make victory in the war on terror impossible.

Last year the Supreme Court acknowledged that this war is different, and that determining a combatant, legal or otherwise, is not as simple as it used to be. Lower courts are divided on how to interpret this decision, but the fact is that every Guantanamo detainee has had a chance to contest his detention as a combatant before a military tribunal. It’s enough for now just to note that this is beyond what the Geneva Conventions require for a POW.

“Not good enough,” insist the critics, who want nothing less than full constitutional rights bestowed on foreign enemies of the United States. The Geneva Conventions do not acknowledge such a right, the Constitution does not acknowledge such a right, so why would this administration acknowledge such a right?

[No court access for Gitmo terrorists (Washington Times Op/Ed 05jn22)]

Does it make a difference if you capture someone bearing arms against your soldiers in combat who is dressed as a civilian or sweep up men, women, and children you just suspect of not liking you? To people like Durbin, it appears not as this is a primary difference between the population of Guantanamo prisoners and the prisoners in the gulags and concentration camps.

Do we treat people captured bearing arms against our soldiers in foreign lands the same way as people hunted down by police for committing crimes against citizens? There seems to be many folks who think we should.

What is particularly pernicious in these matters is that those who accuse the US President of acting like Stalin or Hitler or Pol Pot are the ones who are covering up such distinctions, exagerating allegations of abuse, ignoring existing oversight, ignoring any effective references for measuring behavior, and even making misleading or false statements to attempt to lend credibility to their views.

The accusers make their accusations with the utmost aplomb. They make falsehoods and misrepresentations and distorted analogies as if they were “the most ordinary thing in the world” for someone to do. These are not ordinary circumstances and the decisions to be made are not those faced in day to day affairs. How we approach the Global War on Terror must be faced with better intellectual integrity. We cannot place 3000 deaths and massive destruction in New York City as “the most ordinary thing in the world” and just pretend we can leave it to be ignored in the history of ordinary events. Unless, of course, we indeed want to allow such events to be just an ordinary and usual event in our lives.

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Frist et al describe the problem with Durbin’s message

Thanks to Hugh Hewitt for this copy. Hugh also notes that The Minneapolis Star Tribune says “Durbin was spot on in his assessment of Guantanamo. That’s why he was so roundly attacked. He told the truth.”

When you compare the newspaper’s views with that of history, such as described below.

“June 20, 2005
The Honorable Harry Reid
Minority Leader
U.S. Senate

Dear Senator Reid:

We call upon you to encourage Senator Richard Durbin, the Senate Democratic Whip, to apologize for and withdraw his remarks made on the floor of the U.S. Senate on June 14 likening the men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces and other U.S. Government civilian employees defending America’s freedom to “Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime—Pol Pot or others—that had no concerns for human beings.” Such language and comparisons are inappropriate, unwarranted, disrespectful, and dangerous.

Referring to one person’s characterization of treatment of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Senator Durbin said:

“When you read some of the graphic descriptions of what has occurred here [Guantanamo Bay] — I almost hesitate to put them in the Record, and yet they have to be added to this debate. Let me read to you what one FBI agent saw. And I quote from his report:

‘On a couple of occasions, I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water. Most times they urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18-24 hours or more. On one occasion, the air conditioning had been turned down so far and the temperature was so cold in the room, that the barefooted detainee was shaking with cold . . . . On another occasion, the [air conditioner] had been turned off, making the temperature in the unventilated room well over 100 degrees. The detainee was almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently been literally pulling his hair out throughout the night. On another occasion, not only was the temperature unbearably hot, but extremely loud rap music was being played in the room, and had been since the day before, with the detainee chained hand and foot in the fetal position on the tile floor.’

“If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime — Pol Pot or others — that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners.” (emphasis added)

Such hyperbolic, insensitive, and inaccurate statements should not be spoken on the Senate floor. As numerous Senators collectively noted on the Senate floor on June 16, such statements:

· Tarnish the U.S. Senate as an institution by making comparisons of U.S. actions taken against the Nation’s enemies and in accordance with U.S. and international law, i.e., the Geneva Conventions, to those of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Pol-Pot, who slaughtered tens of millions of innocent civilians, mostly women and children, for reasons such as racism and political ideology.

· Insult and demoralize the overwhelming majority of U.S. soldiers and civilian employees honorably defending America.

· Exacerbate the terrorist threat against Americans by providing “evidence” of what they claim are reasons for attacking us. (The Arab media were quick to publicize the criticisms.)

· Are unproven and part of a legal investigation being conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Defense.

· Deny due process legal rights to those alleged of committing abuses (by presuming guilt upon the accused party).

On June 16, Senator John Warner (R-VA), seeking to clarify the “Nazi” reference as well as to obtain a formal apology from him, engaged in floor debate with Senator Durbin and said:

“I go back on my own recollections [of] those three examples the Senator used. I don’t know what interrogation took place. Perhaps if we go into the sinews of history there were some, but what the world recognized from those three examples the Senator used, they were death camps — I repeat, death camps — where, as my colleague from Kentucky very accurately said, millions of people perished. It is doubtful they were ever often asked their names.

“To say that the allegations of a single FBI agent mentioned in an unconfirmed, uncorroborated report give rise to coming to the Senate and raising the allegation that whatever persons of the uniformed military, as referred to in that report — albeit, uncorroborated, unsubstantiated report — are to be equated with those three chapters in world history is just a most grievous misjudgment on the Senator’s part, and one I think is deserving of apologizing to the men and women in uniform.”

Subsequent statements by Senator Durbin indicate only that he was regretful if people misunderstood his remarks. We do not believe his remarks were misunderstood.

In deference to the Senate as an institution for which we serve and to the millions of men and women currently serving this Nation in uniform and civilian dress for which we owe so much in the War on Terrorism, we ask Senator Durbin to issue a formal apology and strike his remarks from the record.”

Signed by Senators Frist, McConnell, Santorum, Hutchinson, Kyl and Dole.

As illustrated by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, The Durbin Defense League is coming to full throat and flower. The brouhaha is being blamed on a VRWC (vast right wing conspiracy) or an attempt to change the subject or an attempt to divert attention from issues that reflect poorly on Republicans or on media bias (although the MSM has downplayed the issue). Durbin is being plauded for standing up to evil and telling it like it is in their imaginations.

An apology, of sorts, has been offered by Durbin. It remains to be seen if this makes any difference.

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Questions, questions: We want more questions.

Neal Boortz discussed the efforts of the Florida Governor Bush in requesting yet more investigations in the Schiavo affair.

Last week Governor Bush ordered state law enforcement authorities to investigate just what happed fifteen years ago … the day that Terri Schiavo collapsed. There seems to be some issue as to just how long it took Michael Schiavo to call 911 after his wife collapsed. It matters not that medical personnel have testified that if Michael had waited any significant length of time at all Terri would not have survived. If the case can be made that Michael waited too long then the field will be open for all sorts of inferences that Michael actually was the reason that Terri collapsed and is, therefore, a real murderer after all! The big advantage here is that there is no imaginable way to determine just how long it took Michael Schiavo to call 911. Therefore there is little chance that the demonization of Michael Schiavo can be derailed by something pesky like an autopsy that showed no signs of abuse or neglect. It is hoped that this investigation will “leave more questions than it answers.” That way the hammering can continue.

This is the same kind of thing that Senate Democrats are doing with Ambassador Bolton and also with other executive branch nominees. The ‘Downing Street memo’ affair has it going from both sides – the impeach Bush side and the provenance of the documentation side.

There is never enough information. If what you do find out doesn’t support your ’cause’ then you need more information. You need secret and classified documents, you need secret FBI reports, you need more investigation. There are questions to answer. The more we learn the more we find there are additional questions to resolve.

With Schiavo, attacks on the competency of the autopsy are already starting. This is an effort to raise questions about the question solving process as a means to raise more questions.

Missing in much of this is any consideration of implications. How absurd a set of conditions must exist in order to for desired thesis to actually be true? As the research progresses, the absurdity can trend towards conspiracy to support the desired thesis if the facts do not.

There is a need for intellectual integrity in such research. What is a reasonable point to say enough is enough? How are questions weighed to determine if they are frivolous or significant? When is it time to realize that there are dimishing returns in the research and a decision must be made?

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It is a civil war

One of the incidents at the recent faux-committee hearing was the appearance of the anit-Israel conspiracists. This has caused some comment in terms of characterizing the event. It also provided an example for [Mark Noonan] to use to illustrate his worry about the nature of the debate in current vogue.

When I write that we are engaged in a (thus far) non-violent civil war, this is what I’m talking about – there is no way to negotiate away the differences between, say, myself and someone who thinks that we liberated Iraq for oil and at the bidding of Israel. Either my view must prevail in its entirety, or the other side must. When you get to a point in domestic politics where the two sides cannot meet, then you are de-facto involved in a civil war, even if there is no shooting going on.

I’ve said on many occasions in the past that the left must be purged from the Democratic Party if we are to restore political rationality to our nation – only if the left is purged will we obtain a Democratic Party which can actually negotiate outstanding differences. We can negotiate with Democrats who wish for a timetable for US withdrawl from Iraq; we can negotiate with Democrats who want less or more US troops deployed to Iraq: we can negotiate with Democrats who wish for us to place a stronger emphasis on UN action…we can’t negotiate with Democrats under the thumb of leftwingers who think that President Bush misled us into liberating Iraq. Its just not possible.

The current ‘Turban’ Durbin controvery is of this ilk as well. Several junior Senators have issued a request complaining about the historically inaccurate and US smearning Durbin comments saying that they were elected in part to change the tone in Washington – and Durbin’s comments don’t help them towards this promise.

The filibustering of nominees is another example of confrontational politics. Another is illustrated in the attempt to open debate on Social Security reform.

The key to all of these issues is that there is no seeking for common values. Is the fight against each other becoming more important than our fight against common enemies?

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proper process

Lorie Byrd at PoliPundit

If Democrat Senators really believe that what is taking place in Iraq or at Guantanamo Bay is comparable to what happened in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia, then there are ways to go about building support for investigations and changes in policy. To grandstand on the Senate floor, and engage in the most extreme hyperbole, while dirtying the image of not only the entire administration, but of all U.S. servicemen and women, is not only damaging to the image of America around the world, but dishonors the sacrifices made by the members of the U.S. military.

The prison at Gitmo is one of the most transparent in history. There is an open invitation to legislators on the part of the military for them to see for themselves what it is about. The ICRC makes regular visits. So does the media. Any violation of orders in the treatment of prisoners is promptly investigated. Yet, even this does not seem to be enough.

Amnesty International claimed it was a gulag and then admitted this was a publicity ploy. There is the ‘Turban’ Durbin brouhaha. Now ex President Clinton has joined the prison needs to be closed or cleaned up crowd.

The dishonor is in the dishonesty. It is dishonest to make claims that are just not true. It is dishonest to make analogies that are absurd on their face. It is dishonest to assert a need to clean up what is not dirty. Such dishonesty slanders the country and its actors. As such it is sedition or worse.

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Productivity is more of many intangibles

Nick Schulz has an interview in TCS (How Powerful Is Productivity? (05jn17) with William Lewis, the director emeritus of the McKinsey Global Institute. “His recent book, The Power of Productivity: Wealth, Poverty and the Threat to Global Stability, is based on extensive economic, political and sociological study of thirteen countries over a dozen years conducted by the Global Institute. ”

productivity is the best single measure of what leads to differences in economic performance. Even though GDP per capita is the all-encompassing measure, GDP per capita is determined primarily, almost entirely, by productivity. People basically work in order to have a place to sleep and something to eat and so on and so forth. The huge differences around the world are the efficiencies with which they work — their productivity. So it is the power of productivity that determines what the global economic landscape looks like and because there are such differences, we have quite a number of severe issues that face us today.

what has happened over the last 60 years is that innovations have occurred in retailing and new formats of much higher productivity then these former formats have developed. The most obvious being the so called big box epitomized by Wal-Mart, which has productivity something like five times the productivity of a normal general store of the 1950’s.

But more importantly, you can take the US workforce and train it on the job with sufficiently skilled managers to reach within a hair’s breadth of the highest productivity in world in these industries. That pattern — and of course that conclusion back then coupled with the fact that the US wasn’t behind — really got a huge amount of attention and really undermined the initial economic platform on which Bill Clinton was elected.

And then, sort of the clinching evidence was we then looked at some other industries. We compared the construction industry in the US to construction in Brazil and found that in Houston, the US industry was using Mexican agriculture workers who were illiterate and didn’t speak English. So they were not any different than the agricultural workers who were building similar high rises say in Sao Palo. And yet they were working at four times the productivity.

The no man’s land that the poor countries have gotten into now is that they’ve gone to big governments before they can afford it and before informality [corruption] has been phased out or driven out by high productivity operations, so they have both big government and informality. And that’s a recipe for disaster for the reasons I have explained in terms of the competitive dynamics at the micro level.

There is so much here. Some of the ideas and takeoff points include:

1) The Japan supremacy myth of the 70s’ used as an example of averaging to misleading conclusions and also shows how people pick out things to support false conclusions. (China is now replacing Japan for those who like to promote this myth)

2) The US GDP, as a measure of productivity, also shows how the wailing and gnashing of teeth about the education system is misplaced. The ‘education system’ is producing what it is asked of it: productive workers. But this ‘productive worker’ is not what many seem to think it should be. So the problem is not in the education system but rather in the perceptions of those who don’t understand what is needed for a productive worker.

3) That productivity is a matter of structure and management. These start with a society of laws that respect and protect ownership and due process for everyone equally. It then goes to management and the perceptions of human values. Watch the Lord of the Rings DVD extended edition appendices for an excellent example of this, from New Zealand, even.

This seems to tie in with a recent Krauthammer column on immigration integration. What makes the US special is that it integrates immigrants into its culture. They learn the language of the land (English) and its values and its culture. That makes them more successful here than if they immigrated to any other country on the planet. The ability to integrate immigrants is a rather unique US attribute and it is perhaps one of those things that leads to the health and welfare of the country as measured by productivity.

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Sham procedures pretend importance

Dana Milbank describes how Democrats Play House To Rally Against the War (WaPo 05jn17 reg?). This was also on C-SPAN where a ‘witness’ cited “willfully and knowingly” – a phrase repeated with solemnity several times to castigate the President as deceiving Congress.

In the Capitol basement yesterday, long-suffering House Democrats took a trip to the land of make-believe.

They pretended a small conference room was the Judiciary Committee hearing room, draping white linens over folding tables to make them look like witness tables and bringing in cardboard name tags and extra flags to make the whole thing look official.

Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) banged a large wooden gavel and got the other lawmakers to call him “Mr. Chairman.” He liked that so much that he started calling himself “the chairman” and spouted other chairmanly phrases, such as “unanimous consent” and “without objection so ordered.” The dress-up game looked realistic enough on C-SPAN, so two dozen more Democrats came downstairs to play along.

The session was a mock impeachment inquiry over the Iraq war. As luck would have it, all four of the witnesses agreed that President Bush lied to the nation and was guilty of high crimes — and that a British memo on “fixed” intelligence that surfaced last month was the smoking gun equivalent to the Watergate tapes. Conyers was having so much fun that he ignored aides’ entreaties to end the session.

It was a display of the extreme fringe. The danger is that it was held under the wing of the Democrat Party. There is a proper manner to voice one’s concerns and opinions. But this particular method heads towards the pit of sedition instead.

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The British Memos = smoking gun for impeachment?

There are several memorandums from British Prime Minister meetings in 2002 that have been uncovered. These are being used by people such as Kerry as evidence to support pushing for impeachment of the President. Jon Henke’s entry in the Q and O weblog The British Memos: Analysis (05jn16) provides a summary of the claims and what the memos actually say.

Having laid out all the relevant, notable passages from the Downing Street and assorted other British Memos, I want to address some of the inferences and allegations being drawn from them. I’ll take the allegations made by Think Progress

There is a real problem trying to base a “Bush Lied” allegation on Iraq WMD. Using a memo that was a recollection of an impression of someone else’s perceptions brings the scenario to that of a farce. But being farcical does not seem to matter much these days.

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More over the top

Captain Ed notes about those detained at Gitmo:

They are not criminals, and they do not have a right to access the American court system. Their status under the Geneva Convention is that of an unlawful combatant — which technically means that the US could have them shot after a military tribunal. Instead, we have chosen to keep them alive and house them humanely while interrogating them thoroughly in order to save American lives. If that means they get cold, or hot, or have little accidents on the floor, then so be it. That isn’t torture or even abuse.

And Durbin, who should know better, has the nerve to compare American soldiers to Nazis and Gitmo to the extermination camps they ran.

Finally, the analogy to the Japanese internment camps simply boggles the mind.

When will such ignorant or even knowingly false assertions that are harmful to the country and its properly established policies and actions be called to account? The Senator Durbin example shows that such expressions are starting to stir more controversy and debate. There is reason to hope that this will make such rhetoric and behavior more visible and better presented in a proper reference. That is the proper path towards education of the public. And it is when people know and understand that they can respond and act appropriately.

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AP: Speed Limits Enforcement

James Joyner (Most States Let Drivers Exceed Speed Limit) summarized the importance of this AP story concisely.

The Associated Press has learned that highway patrol officers in the United States tend to allow drivers a cushion of ten miles per hour over the posted speed limit before issuing a ticket, something that every single American not employed by the AP has known since they were old enough to drive.

Perhaps if the posted limit had some relation to actual risk, as is the case in Germany for example, people would take them more seriously.

Speed limits are a scapegoat and some folks get into quite a lather about imposing their view of a proper speed on others. This AP story may have been stimulated by just such people. The fact is that many or most of the arguments these people make to support their idea of proper speed limits are falsely based.

Since speed can be so easily measured in what appears to be an objective manner it is an attractive enforcement option. This, in turn leads to misuse. The best option to control this misuse is to contest any and every speeding ticket. Just pleading not guilty and requiring the state to produce witness and evidence will up the ante. A bit of research or even obtaining knowledgable legal representation can have more of an impact towards keeping the government honest.

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Horse-and-plow farming

USA Today carried a story about how horse-and-plow farming is making a comeback. It is a good example of the need for careful reading. The small farm on the Amish mold is a hobby. The article makes it sound as if it will be the future of all farming. Fuel prices and machinery are sneered at. Hubris abounds. So do questionable assumptions.

The article mentions that a two horse and farmer team can help plow about an acre and a half a day. A horse needs about an acre for the hay to feed it for a year. The farm in the story has 9 horses. That’s nearly ten acres needed to feed just the horses. You start to get out of the small farm regime fairly quickly at that rate.

The comment “It takes a certain personality. It’s a craft, not a science” supports the idea that this type of farming is a hobby and completely ignores the role of the land grant institutions and what has been learned to increase safety, productivity, and health of farms.

As is usual in this corner of the ideological universe, conspiracies are called into play.

Horse farming was common until the end of World War II, Miller said, when the government and manufacturers started promoting mechanization to soak up the surplus industrial capacity.

What drives the hobby is the self sufficient longing. People do not want to have to depend upon others. They want to be in total control and independent. They are insecure about the rest of society and its existance. This is the ‘Whole Earth Catalog‘ and 60’s hippie mantra. The sad part is that they can’t just enjoy their hobby and extol its vitues. No, instead they have to bash and trash those who do not think the way they do and try to pretend they are better than others.

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Who’s pushing the draft and why?

Captain Ed has a point:

Still, college students should note that one party keeps talking about drafting them into involuntary service, and not even for the noble purpose of defending their country or making their families more secure. Only one party keeps using their freedom as a pawn for their political needs. Students should ask themselves if that party really represents their best interests after all.

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Schiavo illustrates that even facts don’t matter for some

Sean Hackbarth’s entry in The American Mind provides a synopsis of the autopsy report and comments with some good links.

The report exonerates the husband and the legal system and disputes many of the allegations made by the parents. Schiavo had lost nearly half her brain mass including those areas needed to see. There was no evidence of abuse.

But that is not enough for those on the parent’s side. They refuse to accept the autopsy findings and seek to find loopholes or other rationale for their views. They completely bypass the real issues at hand and wallow about in the mud of emotion. The issues that need to be clarified and rationally discussed include the following.

1) Who speaks for those who cannot speak for themselves? Is a husband really one with and for his wife? What criteria should society use to render asunder the marriage vows?

2) How much should society value life using what criteria? The fact is that resources do have limits. When resources are used for one then they cannot be used for others. Where are the limits? How to we determine where the line is?

3) What is death? If half of your brain is gone and you cannot function, are you still alive?

There are many falsehoods being used as givens in this debate as well. One example is that the manner of Schiavo’s death was “cruel” or worse. This flies in the face of the fact that her death was via a process she imposed herself and caused her condition to exist because intervention prevented final death. It also flies in the face of the many seniors whose main health problem is a failure to eat and drink sufficient for their needs.

The issues are important. They will become more important as the population ages and we are faced with health cost limitations on care. The process used in this case was carefully formulated with much consideration and the husband, the courts, and other state agencies did follow that process. Those who dislike the outcome in this case need to go back to that process and how it was formulated and start their own process of change, if that is what they really think is needed.

However, they should probably avoid the kind of silliness the House of Representatives recently illustrated in exempting book and library record searches in Patriot Act provisions. This was a knee jerk ‘keep em happy’ solution to a problem that didn’t exist.

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Medical Marijuana

Steve has quite a take on the medical marijuana issue in his entry Medical Marijuana: It’s Bogus, Dude

So what’s the agenda here, dude? It’s pretty simple, actually. As with any liberal issue, incrementalism is what it’s all about. The legalized pot folks made great strides back in the 70s and as a former regular dope smoker, I was all for it. In Alaska in the 70s, where I lived and was aware of the laws, it was legal to walk around with as much as an ounce of pot on you. I know that’s the way it was in a few other states as well. In the 80s and early 90s, things changed a little bit — liberal pot laws were tightened up. With this backslide, the pro-pot groups had to regroup and the strategy changed from legalization of pot to legalization for “medicinal uses”. The idea is to get their foot in the door (as they have in 13 states) with the “medicinal uses” strategy and expand from there to a push for full legalization.

Now one could argue that the are far worse things than smoking a joint or taking a couple hits off a pipe or bong. But with all the troubles we have in our society these days with the vices that are legal — booze and gambling, etc — the last thing we need to do is add legalized pot to the mix. And that’s where we’re headed when we head down the bogus “medicinal marijuana” road. Don’t buy it, dude.


The issue in the latest Supreme Court decision, which upheld federal supremacy, is about using the constituional commerce clause as a means to override state authority in the matter of marijuana legislation. That is an example of just how convoluted the argument has become. Stories from San Francisco make clear that the medicinal pot argument is bogus and it is being met with a convoluted application of the commerce clause in an argument about state’s rights.

The look at Gitmo: create controversy based on allegations then assert it needs to be closed because there is too much controversy.

Is there any way we can get back to an honest argument on the merits?

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It seems an obsession that criticism is evidence of patriotism

You may remember it yourself. An anti-US speil rationalized as being patriotic. Mark Noonan makes a good note about this in his entry Patriotism.

Dean Esmay brings to our attention a very interesting article about the press and patriotism which appears at PressThink – the central part of the story is the claim that CNN’s Bob Franken said that being a patriot is incompatible with being a journalist. I recommend reading the whole thing, but I’d like to take up the theme of Dean Esmay and expand a bit on what is patriotism.

A short definition of patriotism would be that you love your country. A lot of our leftwing friends claim loudly that they do, indeed, love our country – they usually say this after they’ve repeated some slander of our country as a means of excusing their slander…they love our country so much, you see, that they have to retail every bad thing ever said about it. To the left, dissent is the purest form of patriotism. Dean calls them on it, and so do I.

In the marital realm, verbal abuse of the partner is considered just that: abuse. And it often leads to a recommendation of therapy. It doesn’t seem that we have quite got to that point when it comes to matters of self and country.

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Transparency comparison: Media, Bush, and Kerry

Thomas Lipscomb has been on the case about irregularities in the Kerry story and the quest for source documentation to resolve them. In January, Kerry promished to release his records by signing a form SF180. The Boston Globe and LA Times now report this has happened but questions remain. Questions Remain About Kerry’s Military in Editor and Publisher describes the situation.

First is to note that releasing government records, even with a blanket release, is not always so simple a task.

The Associated Press last summer, after chasing documents on President Bush for four years, finally had to sue for injunctive relief to get the U.S. government to release the last documents. The head of the AP, Tom Curley, told me, “This wasn’t the fault of the White House. They were doing everything they could to help us. But without a court order we couldn’t get the last documents.”

This shows just how tenacious the media can be to make sure it has all of the source records – when it wants to be. But, in the Kerry case, the documents are not only not available for everyone to see, even the SF-180 remains undisclosed so that its conditions and caveats remain hidden.

Now that the Boston Globe has in its possession what it claims are Kerry’s “full military and medical records” is the Globe ready to make these much-anticipated records available to the public? Managing Editor Mary Jane Wilkinson replied, “It is my understanding that Kerry will release these papers to anyone else now that he has signed the Form 180. The Boston Globe is not going to make available the papers we have received.”

But “the onus is on the Globe to explain why they are not releasing the records. They at least ought to give the public some reason,” according to former journalism dean and Fordham University Larkin professor Everette Dennis.

And not only, that, but it appears that the Globe is taking a defensive position about its reticence.

And The Boston Globe made several calls to editors at the Chicago Sun-Times, complaining that I was giving them the kind of unpleasant treatment reporters give sources who stonewall on questions about matters they think are of vital public interest. They were right. I was. And those questions got the Globe to admit they had the SF-180 two days later.

This is not a singular incident. The Rather memo problem, the Newsweek Koran flushing problem, and others all illustrate a problem with basic journalistic integrity in qualifying sources. What has changed is that such behavior is now being exposed and the persons responsible are being called to account for their antics.

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