July 30, 2004


It is odd that the media which gave us wall-to-wall endless coverage of the Abu Ghraib abuses considers images from 9/11 too sensitive for American viewers. Little Green Footballs does us all a service by reminding us.

Posted by Jeff at 04:41 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

July 29, 2004

What if He's Right?

Here is a fantastic article from Esquire, written by Tom Junod, about George Bush:

The people who dislike George W. Bush have convinced themselves that opposition to his presidency is the most compelling moral issue of the day. Well, it's not. The most compelling moral issue of the day is exactly what he says it is, when he's not saying it's gay marriage. The reason he will be difficult to unseat in November—no matter what his approval ratings are in the summer—is that his opponents operate out of the moral certainty that he is the bad guy and needs to be replaced, while he operates out of the moral certainty that terrorists are the bad guys and need to be defeated. The first will always sound merely convenient when compared with the second. Worse, the gulf between the two kinds of certainty lends credence to the conservative notion that liberals have settled for the conviction that Bush is distasteful as a substitute for conviction—because it's easier than conviction.


We were attacked three years ago, without warning or predicate event. The attack was not a gesture of heroic resistance nor the offshoot of some bright utopian resolve, but the very flower of a movement that delights in the potential for martyrdom expressed in the squalls of the newly born. It is a movement that is about death—that honors death, that loves death, that fetishizes death, that worships death, that seeks to accomplish death wherever it can, on a scale both intimate and global—and if it does not warrant the expenditure of what the self-important have taken to calling "blood and treasure," then what does? Slavery? Fascism? Genocide? Let's not flatter ourselves: If we do not find it within ourselves to identify the terrorism inspired by radical Islam as an unequivocal evil—and to pronounce ourselves morally superior to it—then we have lost the ability to identify any evil at all, and our democracy is not only diminished, it dissolves into the meaninglessness of privilege.


Iraq might be a lost cause. It might be a disaster unmitigated and unprecedented. But if we permit ourselves to look at it the way the Republicans look at it—as a historical cause rather than just a cause assumed to be lost—we might be persuaded to see that it's history's judgment that matters, not ours. The United States, at this writing, has been in Iraq fifteen months. At the same point in the Civil War, Lincoln faced, well, a disaster unmitigated and unprecedented. He was losing. He didn't lose, at least in part because he was able to both inspire and draw on the kind of moral absolutism necessary to win wars. Bush has been unable to do the same, at least in part because he is undercut by evidence of his own dishonesty, but also because moral absolutism is nearly impossible to sustain in the glare of a twenty-four-hour news cycle. In a nation incapable of feeling any but the freshest wounds, Bush cannot seek to inspire moral absolutism without his moral absolutism becoming itself an issue—indeed, the issue. He cannot seek to engender certainty without being accused of sowing disarray. And he cannot speak the barest terms necessary for victory in any war—that we will stay the course, through good or through ill, because our cause is right and just, and God is on our side—without inspiring a goodly number of his constituents to aspire to the moral prestige of surrender.

Michael Totten is looking for the liberal case for President Bush. I think this one may be it.

Posted by Jeff at 07:32 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

I Can Hardly Believe That This is Still an Issue

For some reason, the Democrats are still arguing whether we should fight a war we won more than a year ago. I suspect that their desire is to justify pulling out immediately, should Kerry win the election, by claiming that going to war was wrong, because we did it for the wrong reasons (but if our motives were better, it would have been OK), so retreat is morally requisite, now that we've got our priorities in line.

I know, it's hard for me to hold all of that in my head at one time, too. Thankfully, Donald Sensing does a fine job in showing not only the moral case for the war, but that the President in fact made that moral case.

My hope, oddly enough, is that the Democrats are lying through their teeth (yet again) and don't actually believe that it was a bad thing, but they're willing to say it was if that will help them win the election. At least naked power grabs with no moral foundation are understandable.

Posted by Jeff at 03:18 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 28, 2004

And Now For Something Completely Different

In lieu of another semi-serious posting, I thought it might be cool to occasionally check in on some of what's occupying my private time.

Current songs I'm really digging:
The Reason - Hoobastank
Someday - Nickelback
Again - Lenny Kravitz

Current CD in my car:
none. recently took out The Singles 1992-2003 by No Doubt and have yet to replace it

What I'm reading:
Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein (finally!)

Video Game wasting my life:
EA Sports NCAA Football 2004 for the PS2

Last movie I saw at the theatre:
I, Robot (decent if you go in pretending that you never read the book)

Last movie I rented:
Cold Mountain (good movie - Renée Zellweger's best performance to date; she absolutely stole the show)

Last DVD(s) I bought:
Farscape, seasons 1 and 2 (spending spree!)
Coupling, season (series, for the Brits) 3

TV show I'm watching most frequently:
Gilmore Girls (it's summer rerun time, not much to watch on TV, but still tend to catch this guilty pleasure)

Current celebrity crush:
Kirsten Dunst (too bad she was a Howard Dean supporter. oh well, she's young, still time to figure things out, and if not, well, Mary Matalin somehow tolerates James Carville)

Ok, that's all I can come up with right now.

Posted by Brian at 07:16 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

Tastes Great! Less Filling!

Ok, we can argue about the merits of introducing kids to condoms in school until we're blue in the face, but I'm not interested in that right now. This however goes over the line.

The New Mexico Health Department is standing behind a sex-education teacher in Santa Fe who encouraged ninth-graders to taste flavored condoms.

According to a report in the Santa Fe New Mexican, parent Lisa Gallegos said that when her 15-year-old daughter balked at putting a condom in her mouth, instructor Tony Escudero told her, "Come on, sweetie, have a little fun."

If true, that could constitute sexual harassment and is completely inappropriate.

Also, Gallegos quotes her daughter as saying when a male student expressed his disgust with homosexual activity, Escudero said, "Never say never, because you never know. Someday you might like it that way."

Again, if true, that could constitute sexual harassment and is completely inappropriate. Additionally, doesn't that contradict the theory that you're born gay? Wouldn't he already knew if he liked it that way or not?

But, seriously, isn't the intent of introducing condoms to kids to get them to practice safe sex? I can see the theory (not saying I necessarily agree with it) about introducing kids to condoms, showing them one, even practicing how to apply it, while explaing its merits and liabilities (often glossed over in sex ed), but really, tasting condoms isn't necessary to the function of using them. Encouraging its practice does not seem useful, particularly with the issue being so sensitive to begin with.

Posted by Brian at 06:47 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

I love Forrest Gump. It's easily one of my all time favorite movies. It has a magical quality to it that few movies ever produce. It's funny, charming, sweet and sad. It's one of the very few movies that can make me cry every time I watch it. It's beautiful.

So it was interesting to come across this look back at the film on the 10th anniversary of its release. I was amazed not so much to find someone who disliked the movie, but the reasons for why he disliked it, and why he would devote so much time to complaining about it today.

It's a long piece, but the gist is that Forrest Gump is bad mainly because it's not particularly flattering to the 60's counter-culture/culturists. Also problematic is that the film is not anti-American enough. It ignores all the evil America is responsible for, and because it doesn't dwell on America-hating, it's conservative.

"Forrest Gump" conflates "simple-minded" and "single-minded" and says they're the same: the holy source of all that is good and decent in this world. The mass audience that took the film to heart agreed without articulating it as such, but they didn't have to, since conservative commentators did it for them. Michael Medved told The Philadelphia Inquirer, "For me, the great secret of the film's popularity is that it connects with our tremendous national yearning for innocence, and for recapturing lost innocence."

Medved is correct: There is a bone-deep desire in this culture to not have to deal with the complicated stuff, especially when it sheds unflattering light -- or even threatens to -- on American motives or methods at home or in the larger world. He just thinks it's a good thing, whereas history tends to prove we ignore the past at our peril.

And "Forrest Gump" does ignore, streamline, and steamroll the past, most perniciously in its portrayal of the 1960s counterculture and the people within it. This is what pops out even more clearly on a 10th-anniversary viewing of the film: how absurdly the deck is stacked against youth in general and antiwar activists -- excuse me, hypocritical, girlfriend-beating sleazebags -- in particular. It was all a terrible mistake, says the film, everything from Vietnam until the 1980s, and Forrest's lifelong-love Jenny (Robin Wright Penn) is the martyr who takes the era's sins and consequences upon herself, from drug addiction to death from (sshhh) AIDS. Only Forrest, an Adam blessed to remain without self-knowledge, remains pure of heart and untouched.

Additionally, the movie shows Forrest's best friend dying in his arms in Vietnam, his Lieutenant's legs blown off and Forrest himself wounded. That ain't exactly sunshine and lollipops. It purposely avoids how Forrest really felt about having served in Vietnam. The movie was also sentimental about far-left, anti-war activist/counter-culturist John Lennon.

This article reminds me of why I hate critics. They tend to see every movie/book/piece of art as something lofty and high-minded, viciously satirical, rebellious to societal norms, or some combination of all three. They often read more into things than what is actually there, all in an attempt to look like the smartest person in the room. Sometimes a chair is just a chair - nothing symbolic about it. For example, a local movie critic claimed that Harry Potter practicing magic under his covers at night, in the most recent installment of the franchise, was symbolic of puberty - Harry 'playing with his wand'. Maybe that was the intent, I don't know, but I didn't see it like that (and I think it's disgusting that others do). In the book (and movie as I saw it), Harry had to practice in secret because his Uncle was totally opposed to magic - nothing more. Of course this same critic took the occasion of his Shrek 2 review to blast George Bush on gay marriage.

Forrest Gump is more fantasy than commentary. It's a good story, and really, not much more. The politics of it is largely background noise, seen peripherally through the eyes of a simple man, while he focuses on the truly important things in life: friends, family and love.

Why be so anal in trying to make it seem like so much more?

Posted by Brian at 06:17 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

July 26, 2004

Credibility, Character, Cause

I stopped reading Andrew Sullivan a long time ago, when it became apparent that his reasoning skills were utterly subject to his emotional state on pet issues, so I only heard of Sullivan's endorsement of Kerry second-hand. From Stephen Green's fisking of Sullivan's post, it would appear that Sullivan has fallen into the Leftist meme of "no justification other than WMDs", and it is that which interests me.

There are three good reasons for for one nation to invade and occupy another: legal requirements, moral requirements, and self-preservation. Alternately, these can be stated as credibility, character and cause, for reasons I'll explore below. All three just causes of action were present in Iraq. (Actually, these causes go further, and also apply in cases of individuals doing violence upon one another.)

Legal requirements normally arise out of treaties, especially mutual-defense pacts. If a country has an ally which is attacked, there is generally a legal requirement to go to the aid of the ally. But there are other such cases, and the UN is a fine example. There is international agreement that the Security Council's decisions are binding, and as a member of the UN we are obligated to uphold those decisions.

In any case, legal requirements normally boil down to credibility: if you say that you will do some thing in a given case, you either do it or are held in contempt. France, Spain and the Philippines, to give some current examples, are basically held in contempt by their opponents, and the UN is also widely held in contempt. Without credibility, you cannot use threats to avoid the need for action, and thus future wars become much more likely for nations which bluster but do not act.

Iraq was in violation of a huge number of Security Council resolutions, and the fact that many of the nations that make up the Security Council were prepared to be held in contempt, and to have the UN held in contempt, does not obviate our obligation to act. Given that obligation, and President Bush's desire that the US not be held in contempt, we had a legal cause of action. And, in fact, this is part of the case that the President made, repeatedly, for taking on Iraq. The WMD case was a part of the legal case: it showed that Iraq had violated UN agreements and resolutions they were bound to uphold. Given that many people in the US and abroad have abandoned the moral case for war, and do not care if the US defends itself or not (frequently, they would prefer not), this is the argument which got the most emphasis.

Moral requirements for action arise out of classical liberalism: all people and nations have an obligation, within the extent of their capacity to do so, to help those less fortunate and more in despair than themselves. (There are religious foundations for this view, as well, which is why I believe that the militantly atheistic Left despises any moral structures not built on selfishness: such structures would tend to validate the religions most despised by atheists.) In State terms, a nation has a requirement to act to preserve or restore or create conditions of liberty and representative government in other nations. "Old Europe" has largely abandoned morality in world affairs, and most parts of the world never had it, but it is still a driving force in the US (and has become so in many other first-world nations which, oddly enough, map closely onto the "coalition of the willing" on Iraq).

In other words, this is a character issue: are you big enough to do the right thing even if it doesn't benefit you, and even though you bear the cost in blood and treasure? Would you turn away from Kitty Genovese, or would you step in to stop the attack? Would you overthrow a tyrant who is murdering his people, or let him go on as long as he hands out oil concessions to Total-Fina-Elf? The problem with throwing away morality as a cause of action is that you also have to throw out with it your humanity and empathy: to rid yourself of moral indignation requires becoming sociopathic (France) or opportunistic (the Democrats since at least 1972, and likely since 1964).

In Iraq, the moral reasons for toppling Saddam Hussein were tied to his oppression and tyranny at home, and his repeated invasions of neighboring countries. When people claim that no defensible case was made for war, they generally mean no moral case was made for war. Of course, that's not true: the President did make such a case. The fact that the press by and large ignored it for the easier-to-cover WMD allegations and legalisms does not remove the case. The problem we as a nation have to face is that a large part of our polity no longer believes in the possibility of a moral case for war. Without that, the entire idea of America is in some jeopardy.

The final just reason for undertaking an offensive war is self-preservation. If you know or strongly suspect that someone who has pledged to destroy you is in fact acquiring the means to do so, you can justifiably act to stop them. Self-defense does not require you to absorb the blow first. If you are not prepared to take aggressive action in your own defense, you will eventually be destroyed unless some benevolent outside power chooses to protect you. There is no power to protect the US in international affairs; the UN (frequently nominated for the role) is a debating society, not a reliable means of stopping unjust wars. Self-defense basically comes down to cause: do you have a reasonable cause to attack another nation, on the grounds that failing to do so will result in being attacked yourself?

For example, in 1967 the Israelis, who had been fighting a low-level war of cross-border artillery duels with their neighbors for years, became aware that those neighbors intended to attack Israel. Rather than absorb the blow, Israel acted first, and in six days destroyed the armed forces of all of its neighbors, absorbed some of their territory, and in the process set up the current template for the Middle East.

This was the least-made case for Iraq (see above about WMDs being a legal justification, not a self-defense justification), but also the most important. When it was made, it was usually in the context of "draining the swamp". In essence, because we had a legal and moral justification for taking out Iraq, and because we had forces available to do so, we were able to achieve a long-term defense against Islamist terrorism: provide Arab Muslims with an alternative to their generally-miserable lot in life, by creating a culture of dynamism, representative self-government, prosperity and hope where before were stagnation, tyranny, destitution and despair.

This is a long-term project, decades-long most likely, and it will be far from easy to ensure. Yet it is necessary, if we are to eliminate jihadis as a viable political and terrorist force. Iraq is an example, but other tyrannies will need to be brought down for the same reason (notably, Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia). Those will also be long-term projects.

Sullivan would be a lot more credible if he considered such factors as more important than marginal issues.

Posted by Jeff at 12:35 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 25, 2004

Oh, No No No

I'm in the middle of The Wine-Dark Sea (book XVI of the Aubrey-Maturin series by Patrick O'Brian. I will finish all 20 books in the series. We have A Sea of Words - Dean King's backgrounder on Napoleonic naval warfare, British sailor slang and the Royal Navy of the time. And now this? Did I mention I don't have any time?

Posted by Jeff at 11:48 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Glass Hammer

I hold Francis Porretto personally responsible for my current annoyance. You see, I love prog rock, but I have four kids and thus no time to listen to it in peace. But when you get a recommendation like this, you at least have to check it out, right?

So I did. Tragically, they have a single, So Close, So Far, available for download.

So I did. It's good. It's really, really good. Now I have to go buy their album Shadowlands, on which this track lives.

So I did. And if it's as good as the single, they have more albums.

Look, I don't have time for this!

Posted by Jeff at 11:58 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

July 24, 2004

Trophy Wife

At our last anniversary, I told the story of how Stephanie and I met, and of our courtship and marriage. Well, today it's our 12th anniversary, and I still cannot believe how lucky I am to have her.

A year ago, I was working in the job I had to take when the dot com bubble burst and my first company (which provided IT services to dot coms) collapsed. I was making half of what I had been before, our savings had been wiped out in the crash while I was looking for the next contract (that never came), and I was doing a lot of questioning of my goals in life - could I even achieve them? Could I make a company work? Stephanie has always stood by me - through far worse than that - and she came through yet again.

When the opportunity came to start a second company, it was a big risk. We were up to our full complement of four sons by then, and our youngest was only 8 months old. At the same time, it was far from clear last October that the market had really turned around. Starting a specialty IT company in a time of depressed corporate spending - it's only large organizations that need what we do - was hardly a given to succeed. If it failed, we would have nothing to fall back on. We even had to borrow money from Steph's parents to hold us over until the company would start getting paid on the contract. It was touch-and-go for months on end.

There were times when we had no money and frankly I was pretty close to giving up and taking a permanent job. Steph convinced me to keep going, and the company finally started getting paid - and then really took off. It was knowing that she was behind me that kept me going, and it was her encouragement that kept me heading in the right direction. Without that, my second company might well have gone the way of my first, leaving us still worse off.

In the last year she's had to put up with me commuting for two months, and off work for most of one; she's followed me to Chicago so I don't have to commute any more; she's put up with the vicissitudes of a contract that has ever changing goals, locations and end dates and which took months to start paying off; and she's been wonderful about it all.

All of that is on top of being my best friend and the wonderful mother and educator of our sons and a good cook and funny and sweet and .... Well, let's just say that if there's a competition for best wife, I win hands down.

I love you, honey.

Happy anniversary.

Posted by Jeff at 12:01 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)

July 23, 2004

Hopeful Signs for Afghanistan's Future

Michael Ubaldi notes two very good developments in Afghanistan. I have high hopes for the Afghans: while they have a small population, difficult communications, few resources and virtually no money to work with, these same characteristics have been true of many now-successful and now-free nations (including Israel, Taiwan and South Korea). If Afghanistan continues to embrace political and economic freedom, they too could be a first-world nation in this century.

Posted by Jeff at 10:53 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

China and the Gap

Zenpundit has an insightful article on China's role in the world and its possible future. Since I lived in Taiwan when I was young (and was born in Okinawa), the region holds great interest for me. Indeed, I've written about this subject before. I think that Mark underestimates one factor (which I've also written about before): the corrosive impact of private property upon tyranny.

A necessary, but insufficient, condition of Liberty is the ownership of private property. If you cannot own property and dispose of it as you like, then you are unable to ever attain independence from others (the State, your boss or your lord or what have you). Without the independence to choose what you will do, without the possibility of your actions causing offense which offense in turn causes you to lose your livelihood, you are not free. You are not free, because you must constantly tailor your actions to not offend those who have power over you, by dint of being able to deprive you of your livelihood. And of course, once a person has that kind of power over you, it becomes terribly easy to offend them, because they don't have any incentive to not be offended, and every incentive (human nature being what it is) to exercise that power.

However, the mere ownership of property is not sufficient to Liberty. In order to be at liberty to do what you will, you have to be able to dispose of property as you will. That is, you need to be able to acquire, sell or give away, allow to lapse or in any other way manipulate your property. Otherwise, you are at the mercy of those who regulate the way in which your property can be used. They have the power to deprive you of your livelihood by depriving you of the ability to obtain wealth from your property. (Note: in a very real sense, your time is your property as well, and the labor you invest in can create wealth just as the improvement of land can.) Even barely-intrusive regulation has a chilling effect on Liberty, and the more intrusive the regulation the greater the effect.

From these simple observations arises the concept of the free market. A free market is one in which a person may take posession of (and in some cases create) property, use it, give it away, sell it or in any other way dispose of it, and in which no outside entity interferes as long as the transactions are between private individuals. The closer to this ideal a market is, the freer it is. The US once had an almost entirely free market domestically. This is no longer the case, but our market is still relatively free, even compared to Europe or Japan (which are much more regulated, but still freer than most of the world). History provides no example I can find of a country maintaining Liberty (or even representative government) without a relatively-free market; nor is there any country I can find which has had a mostly-free market (even at the level of China today) for 50 years which has not become a free country, with a representative government and respect for the rule of law.

China has not quite taken the fatal step: fully-private ownership of property with the government enforcing property rights and contracts. At present, for example, China will still close down businesses that don't toe the line carefully, and has nationalized small businesses in areas deemed critical to the State. It is possible that China will step away from this path, and back towards more State control, because remaining at a semi-private property level is not sustainable (either the people will demand and be granted more and more power over their property, or they will be increasingly restricted as they use the property in ways inimical to the State).

Given China's embrace of capital markets in both domestic and international affairs, it is likely that they will eventually tip towards fairly liberal personal property rights. At the point they do that, China as a Communist nation is doomed: they will eventually face the demands of the people for individual liberty as well as property rights.

The forces of the market are such that no tyranny of the industrial age has survived for more than a few decades with a free market. People who have control of property, and want to use it to create wealth for themselves, increasingly demand to more fully control their property, and thus themselves, and thus their time and resources, and thus their flows of communication (requisite to efficient use of property as a generator of wealth), and thus political power to ensure their property rights are maintained. Eventually the government must become utterly ruthless and destroy the property rights systems (as Communism has done everywhere it has come into control) and many of the people, or they must fall to the demands and possibly revolution of the people who stand to gain much by the exercise of liberty.

I believe that China is on that road, that increasingly China will find itself unable to resist giving more property rights in exchange for more growth, and that this will eventually reach a tipping point. Perhaps, 50 years from now, we will look upon China as we do upon South Korea: a prosperous nation globally interconnected and essentially free. The danger zone is the next two decades, with the central government still unchallenged, the property rights and conception of liberty of the Chinese people still rudimentary, and the increasing power and prosperity of the nation fueling nationalistic forces with much influence in the government and military.

If we can shepherd China through the next 2 or 3 decades without a major dislocation, it is very likely that China will end up as a free and modern nation.

Posted by Jeff at 10:41 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

No Good Fit

Aubrey sums up my political affiliation in one paragraph of a post on one reason why polls are unreliable:

I don’t fit in any political party anymore. I can’t stand the Democrat party. The morality police wing of the Republican party pisses me off so much that the tent really isn’t big enough for them and me at the same time. I fell out with the Libertarian party after 9/11, when they adopted a blame America approach.

That's it exactly.

Posted by Jeff at 02:53 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Stranger than Fiction

Saddam Hussein; infamous for invading neighboring countries, using poison gas on domestic ethnic minorities, torturing and brutally killing domestic opponents, attempting to have George H.W. Bush assassinated, and other such acts; has filed a human rights complaint about his detention. No, really.

Posted by Jeff at 11:24 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Naming the Enemy

One of my name the enemy in this war. According to Mark, the 9/11 Commission report (which I haven't yet read) does so:

But the enemy is not just “terrorism,” some generic evil.2 This vagueness blurs the strategy.The catastrophic threat at this moment in history is more specific. It is the threat posed by Islamist terrorism—especially the al Qaeda network, its affiliates, and its ideology.
Our enemy is twofold: al Qaeda, a stateless network of terrorists that struck us on 9/11; and a radical ideological movement in the Islamic world, inspired in part by al Qaeda, which has spawned terrorist groups and violence across the globe.The first enemy is weakened, but continues to pose a grave threat. The second enemy is gathering, and will menace Americans and American interests long after Usama Bin Ladin and his cohorts are killed or captured.

UPDATE: Wizbang notes a paragraph in my [snip] above, which quite impressed me as well. Since it's come up, I'll post the paragraph as well. It's the 9/11 Commission's take on Islamist terrorism and what we can do about it:

It is not a position with which Americans can bargain or negotiate. With it there is no common ground—not even respect for life—on which to begin a dialogue. It can only be destroyed or utterly isolated.

It's a terrible shame that this report appears to be extraordinarily complete, well-written and balanced, because I still cannot fully credit it: the political shenanigans of the commissioners earlier taints the report. That doesn't mean I won't read it though; just that I will read it more sceptically that I otherwise would have done.

Posted by Jeff at 12:36 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 21, 2004

"Innovations" in Voting

Electronically-tallied voting is very, very useful, because it's quite fast. Texas used to have a near-ideal system: a paper ballot was marked by drawing straight lines to complete arrows, and an optical scanner read down the center of the arrows, synchronized to the location on the page by markings along the edges. It was fast, it was accurate, and it preserved a paper record of each vote.

Most recent voting "innovations" have been pretty bad, though. I include in the list of "bad" - for our Republic - innovations: direct election of pretty much every officer of government, motor voter laws, letting felons vote, letting non-citizens vote, letting people with no other vested stake in society (property, dependent children, corporate ownership, prior service or what have you) vote, not checking IDs against rolls at the polling places, "simplified" absentee balloting (no proof of identity required), lowered voting ages, federal funding of campaigns, campaign finance restrictions, ballot access restrictions and increased regulations allowing technicalities to disqualify legally-cast votes.

All of these fall into one of three categories: they reduce choice in candidates, give people a vote where they will suffer little ill effect if they vote badly, and/or increase fraud/reducing reliability. The current generation of computerized voting machines falls into the latter category, and the first lawsuit attempting to demonstrate this has been filed. (And with the evidence so far, it's looking like November and December, 2004 are going to be every bit as interesting as November and December, 2000.)

Posted by Jeff at 10:45 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Brave Filippinos

To the tune of Brave Sir Robin

Bravely bold Filippinos ran out on us and Iraq
They were quite afraid to die, O brave Filippinos
They were very much afraid to be killed in nasty ways
Brave, brave, brave, brave Filippinos

They were unbelievably scared to be kidnapped by jihadis
And to have their heads cut off and their workers murdered
So now their policy lies in rags and tatters
And MILF is emboldened, brave Filippinos

Their allies pissed off and their enemies funded
And their intelligence mocked and their "bravery" mocked
And their expats ashamed and their funding cut off
And their enemies...
Well that's enough music for now, lads...

Brave Filippinos ran away - No!
Bravely ran away, away - I didn't!
When danger reared its ugly head
He bravely turned his tail and fled - No!
Yes, brave Filippinos turned about
And gallantly they chickened out
Bravely taking to their feet
They beat a very brave retreat
Bravest of the brave, Filippinos

Posted by Jeff at 02:48 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

July 20, 2004

The Noble Pundit

The Noble Pundit is former stockbroker Chris Noble's blog. There is so much excellent content on The Noble Pundit that it's hard to know where to start. To make things easy on myself, I'm only going to post excerpts of items posted between Monday June 2 and today, with the exception of the investing series.

The investing series has 8 parts (so far), covering Fundamental Analysis (picking good investment choices), an addendum to the Fundamental Analysis post, Technical Analysis (deciding when to enter or exit a position), Options, The Economy and the Market, Market Mechanics, Mutual Funds, Asset Allocation, and Bonds. These eight posts have clarified a few concepts I was unclear on, and have simplified my understanding of some other points. I cannot recommend enough that you read the whole series.

Post since Monday include (and this is not an exhaustive list):

Aww. The Palestinians Are Disappointed, which discusses Palestinian reactions to the recent "roadmap" summit.

Something Postive & French???, which provides a link to this Sabine Herold editorial on freedom as a human - rather than a specifically Western - concept. (It's short, but worth reading, and has some real gems in it.)

Media Arrogance Or Military Failure? looks at journalistic navel gazing about the incident during the recent war where a US tank fired on the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad.

Oh, I Feel Much Safer Now looks at Russian involvement in the Iranian nuclear program, and includes this gem: "Giving Tehran a nuclear capability is like giving a drug addict free access to the police evidence rooms. Pretty soon all his friends will be there, everything will be gone and the neighborhood will be a more dangerous place.

Two People In Two States? looks for the source of the Palestinian fantasy that Israel is the source of all Palestinian problems, while the Palestinians themselves are pure and noble. (HINT: It's the guy that tells kids to blow themselves up.)

OK, I haven't even finished through yesterday yet. Go, read.

UPDATE (7/20/2004): How odd. I deleted some comment spam from this and closed comments, and MT nicely changed the post date to today. I don't know the original date, so it'll just stay out of sequence, then.

Posted by Jeff at 10:19 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Go Boom

Here is something interesting: the view from an F-16 taking out what looks to be about a platoon of insurgents in Falluja.

Posted by Jeff at 06:52 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

We Have Always Been at War with Oceana

Presented without comment.

Posted by Jeff at 02:58 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 19, 2004

Spiralling Downwards

Steven Den Beste wrote about the likely outcome of the Israeli wall: a Palestinian civil war.

Belmont Club has collected a lot of recent evidence that shows that a Palestinian civil war may be beginning.

The "international community" continues to be an active antagonist of the Israeli/Palestinian situation, rather than a force for resolving it.

Posted by Jeff at 05:04 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 18, 2004

Blood in the Water

After November, it is going to be an interesting spectator sport watching the Democrats self-destruct.

If Kerry wins, especially if the Democrats are able to gain control of the Senate or (less likely) the House, there will be a period of calm and celebration. But this will be followed by the Kerry administration fighting all of the myriad factions in the Democrat Party which will by trying to get theirs while the getting is good. In particular, a weak foreign policy team and an agenda-driven domestic policy team - the Clinton administration without Clinton's leadership or political skills - will pull the administration apart in factional infighting, making it almost impossible for a President Kerry to actually govern. This is not a good thing.

If, in the more likely case, Kerry loses, and the Democrats fail to gain either the House or the Senate, the spasms will be immediate and gory. It is normal for Democrats to eat their own, but in this case there will be what amounts to a factional war in the Democrat Party, with the DLCers (the Clinton wing) and the radical Leftists (the various activists) turning their focus (at least for a while) from bashing President Bush to blaming each other for the party's defeat. This will be followed by an even more strident campaign four years later. This also is not good, primarily because the Republicans will grow fat, dumb and happy with a virtually assured 8 years in the White House and no reasonable opposition domestically (name-calling is not reasonable opposition). During this period of war, we need at least two, and preferably more, serious parties in contention.

In either case, though, it's going to be bloody factional warfare in the Democrat Party for the next couple of years. Turn on C-SPAN and grab a beer; it's going to be a long show.

Posted by Jeff at 09:01 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

How Many Ways to get to What You Want

Francis Porretto has a brief post on his blog Eternity Road, and a more developed essay at the Palace of Reason, which together address anarchy as a form of human governance in (respectively) international and US contexts. The former got me thinking about this topic (admittedly, that's not hard since political systems and structures is a particular interest of mine) while the latter got me to post this.

Anarchy is very appealing to idealists, because it is undeniable that in anarchy there is absolute freedom: if there is no one to coerce your behavior, nor to forbid it, then you can do what you want, according only to your own moral decisions. Who will stop you from dancing naked in the streets - even if you are ugly and decrepit and smelly - if there is no one with more authority than you? Who indeed...

Anarchy is inherently unstable among humans, for the same reason that Communism fails: humans have an inherent drive to improve their positions, and very few of us have the ability to control that drive when the opportunity presents itself to improve our positions at the expense of others - particularly others we don't actually know. In an anarchy, there is no controlling power. As a result, your ability to dance naked in the streets is not constrained by any constituted authority, but by anyone at all who is annoyed by you and capable of stopping you. Similarly, in an anarchy you must always be prepared to use armed force to defend your property because anyone could at any time come to take that property for himself.

The inevitable result is that an anarchy first compels individuals to arm to protect themselves from thugs, then thugs to form gangs, which evolve into tyrannies of various kinds. Communism does the same thing, because everyone is theoretically equal, but only a few wield the power of the State to use armed force, and thus you know in advance who the armed gang will be that forms the tyranny.

Basically, absolute freedom is impossible, because someone will come along to take that away from you, unless you cede to some group the ability to protect you from thugs, which cession itself imposes restrictions upon your absolute freedom. The US was an experiment: how close can humans get to anarchy without slipping into tyranny?

The Continental Congress set up a system initially which gave all power to the individual States, and that failed because there was no central system with enough power to act, thus coming dangerously close to societal breakup over interstate rivalries. The solution - the brilliant solution - envisioned by the Constitutional Convention was to give the Federal government power to regulate relations between individual states, and between the United States collectively and other States. In every other case power was devolved explicitly to the States (see amendment X to the Constitution), and if the States individually did not exercise that power, to the citizens of the States.

There was but one flaw in their system: the Founders never envisioned that the people they put in control - propertied elites, to be blunt about it - would elect to remove themselves from power, or act against their own self-interest. And yet they did, in response to the Progressive movement of the latter decade of the 19th century. The result was the two fundamental checks to government power - limited finances and limited power - were destroyed with amendments XVI and XVII respectively. Since that time, the United States has moved further from the most possible freedom consistent with good social order, towards more dependence of the individual on the Federal government.

So the question arises: how can one create a society which is as free as possible, without having the tendency to slide into tyranny? I think there is a way, and it's close to the original US Constitution in wording, though somewhat different in basis.

Assume that sovereignty is vested in each individual person, rather than each individual State, and that certain powers are granted by individuals to the various levels of government above them. This could be done with no almost no changes in wording to the original Constitution. However, there is a fundamental difference: if sovereignty is vested in the individual, then a supermajority of individuals would be required to give powers to cities, a supermajority of cities to give powers to States, a supermajority of States to give powers to the Federal government, and a supermajority of national governments to give powers to international governing bodies. As such, the Federal government could not arbitrarily arrogate powers to itself, because those powers inherently belong to a lower-level organization or to individual citizens.

Structurally, this would require a change in the court system - a weakening of precedent or a limitation of the effect of rulings to the defendants in a particular case - but would not require any other changes in the basic structure of government laid out in the Constitution.

Would it work? Well, it's impossible to be certain without trying it, but I think it's logically sound.

Posted by Jeff at 12:40 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

July 17, 2004

Eleanor Clift's Leftist Polemics

Mark notes this Newsweek editorial by Eleanor Clift. It's really a review of yet another book claiming Republicans are venal, racist and possibly evil (you can find dozens of such books in any bookstore in Chicago, I assure you) - preaching to the hard-Left faithful, in other words. The interesting thing about this editorial to me is that, in calling for the Republicans to stop their "culture war" - by which she means appealing to decent values - Clift makes a naked appeal to class warfare ("blue-collar workers in economically depressed regions who should be Democrats vote Republican" and "the Democratic Party is more in tune with the economic interests of these left-behind workers" and "Howard Dean challenged Southern voters to move beyond the cultural symbols of a Confederate flag on the back of their pickup truck to identify their economic self-interest, which is better represented by the Democratic Party").

For a certain period of time, starting with the Great Depression and ending in the 1980s as that generation began dying out and as the US moved away from a primarily industrial economy towards a service-based economy, this kind of semi-Marxist appeal worked for the Democrats. It's interesting that Clift has no new ideas on how to appeal to a large part of America; all she is left with is calumny and slander and shaking her head in sadness.

But really, it's typical of her ideologically-based blindness on political implications in general. For example, she has recently argued that Kerry picked Edwards because he "needs someone to make the campaign more fun" (as if 9/11 never happened) and in another bizarre polemic that attacking Iraq "emboldened Iran and North Korea, regimes far more dangerous to U.S. interests", as a result of which "the Iranian nuclear program is much further along than we realized, and the mullahs are in a strong position, having just rigged their own election" (as if the Iranians and N. Koreans weren't working on those programs well before we ever elected George Bush).

Well, Eleanor, don't let the door hit you on the way out of power. Oh, wait, you guys are already out of power. From the looks of these "thoughts", you'll be there for a long time.

Posted by Jeff at 09:26 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

July 14, 2004

Leftist Hero Discredited

Largely ignored during news of last week's Senate Intelligence Committee report that criticized CIA pre-war intel was this story about Bush critic Joseph Wilson.

Former ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, dispatched by the CIA in February 2002 to investigate reports that Iraq sought to reconstitute its nuclear weapons program with uranium from Africa, was specifically recommended for the mission by his wife, a CIA employee, contrary to what he has said publicly.

Wilson last year launched a public firestorm with his accusations that the administration had manipulated intelligence to build a case for war. He has said that his trip to Niger should have laid to rest any notion that Iraq sought uranium there and has said his findings were ignored by the White House.

Wilson's assertions -- both about what he found in Niger and what the Bush administration did with the information -- were undermined yesterday in a bipartisan Senate intelligence committee report.

Wilson, who was all over television being fawned on by the "mainstream" media for his allegations attacking the Bush administration's case for war in Iraq, lied about his wife's involvement in his being sent to Niger by the CIA, lied to the Washington Post about documents he "saw" while in Niger, and lied in saying that his trip laid to rest any question of Iraq trying to buy uranium from Niger.

Whatever will CNN do now?

Posted by Brian at 05:08 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Terrorism's bad, but faith is worse?

In case you missed it, former Labor Secretary Robert Reich recently wrote an article for The American Prospect. Without a subscription you can go here to see Reich rant about the "religious right".

It was recently reported that the Bush campaign had e-mailed members of the clergy, soliciting help in identifying "friendly" congregations that would do the campaign's bidding in their areas.


When questioned about all of this, Steve Schmidt, a spokesman for the Bush campaign, said, "The campaign wants people of faith to participate in the political process." Clearly, the Bushies want more than this. (snip) ... the Bush campaign wants religious groups to enter the political fray...

Ok, the Bush campaign wants to get groups who have memberships that will vote for him to help his re-election efforts. Shocking huh?

Oh, but they are religious groups, mustn't have that. After all these are tax-exempt organizations (all the parts I snipped delt with this aspect). Ok, Reich, I could buy that if I weren't an idiot. The only problem is the many years I've watched Jessie Jackson, your old boss Bill Clinton, Al Gore and numerous other Democrats stump in black churches, trolling for votes and campaign help. Believe me, we will see Mssrs. Kerry and Edwards making at least one trek to a black church before election day as well. Yet, nary a peep of protest have I heard from you Mr. Reich nor the left in general. It seems the only problem lies in the fact that these worshippers will vote for Bush.

The reason, of course, is that the ground troops of the Bush campaign are America's religious right

Point proven, thank you for that Mr. Reich...

-- mostly right-wing evangelical Protestant churches, but also right-wing Southern Baptists,

Isn't the latter one of the former?

anti-abortion Catholics,

What, Catholics who believe in a tenet of their faith? Scandalous!

and even a smattering of extreme pro-Israeli and anti-Arab Jews.

Ah yes, a little anti-semitism to wash it all down with. It all comes back to THE JOOS!

For George W. Bush, firing up the troops means firing up "friendly" right-wing congregations...

The nerve!

Oh, but it gets better...

The great conflict of the 21st century will not be between the West and terrorism. Terrorism is a tactic, not a belief. The true battle will be between modern civilization and anti-modernists; between those who believe in the primacy of the individual and those who believe that human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority; between those who give priority to life in this world and those who believe that human life is mere preparation for an existence beyond life; between those who believe in science, reason, and logic and those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma. Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism itself is not the greatest danger we face.

Now Reich could have defined the enemy as the ideology and culture that fuels radical Islam as opposed to the methods they employ, but that's not what he did.

No, the enemy is:

anti-modernist - I agree, but I wonder from the tone of Reich's screed if we use the term to mean the same thing. I think he may be going with a European intelligentsia definition that holds no room for religion in true modern thought.

those who believe that human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority - Most people/cultures believe human beings owe their allegiance and identity to a higher authority. Funny, most Hindus, Buddhists, Wiccans, etc. aren't carrying out terrorist acts against Americans. People who employ the tactic of terror to kill Americans are our enemy. Those people right now happen to be Islamic extremists, not simply believers in a higher authority.

those who believe that human life is mere preparation for an existence beyond life - largely covered in the previous paragraph

those who believe that truth is revealed through Scripture and religious dogma - Again, pretty much see above. It's funny that some people believe science, logic, and reason cannot coexist with religious faith. I have faith in a higher authority, yet I don't see how that is contradicted by science (which neither proves nor disproves my beliefs), reason or logic. Is it illogical and unreasonable to believe in some mysterious force that created what is, to believe what we cannot see or prove? Yes, probably. But isn't it equally illogical and unreasonable to believe in an extraordinary amount of particular scientific occurances, against all logical odds, creating what is?

Terrorism will disrupt and destroy lives. But terrorism itself is not the greatest danger we face. - What an astoundingly illogical conclusion. Terrorism destroys lives, but religious faith is more dangerous. Again, if Reich were differentiating between terror as tactic and ideology that begets terror that would be fine, but that's not what he's doing. He's lumping all religious believers into the category of greatest danger. That is pure religious bigotry.

Mr. Reich, I fit the category of your definiton of enemy. But, despite your utterings, I don't have any desire to kill you. I cannot promise you the same indifference from my enemy.

Posted by Brian at 04:13 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (4)

July 13, 2004

Afghanistan's Choice

This New York Times article (you can use BugMeNot to avoid the registration) talks about Afghanistan's President, Hamid Karzai, listing the prevalence of private militias as a greater threat to Afghanistan's security and future than the attacks by Taliban and al Qaida remnants. Afghanistan has largely been forgotten in the West, but it is an interesting example of our problems and opportunities in the Terror Wars.

From the American strategic point of view, our main interest in Afghanistan is to prevent its use as a terrorist base. This does not require representative government to take hold, nor any real level of political freedom for the Afghans. President Karzai, though, realizes that Afghanistan is at a crossroads:

Mr. Karzai, who has largely governed through consensus, met with Afghan and international officials later Sunday to lay out a new strategy.

The United Nations, NATO and the United States-led coalition are involved in Afghanistan, training the police, augmenting the army and providing security for the elections. Mr. Karzai is counting on that process to continue to improve his government's standing.

His leadership over two and a half years, with heavy American backing, has rested largely on accommodation with various forces, an approach he defended Sunday. But his frustration, and that of his top ministers, seemed acute.

Asked to rate his government on how well it had achieved its goals, Mr. Karzai offered the barely passing grade of D. He said that corruption remained rampant and that the failure of the disarmament program was a source of keen anxiety among the people.


Mr. Karzai said the struggle with the warlords would be decisive, suggesting that his government and society were at a turning point.

Afghanistan has almost no natural resources of note, and very little infrastructure to exploit what it has. But that was also true of Israel in 1948, and look how far they've come. If President Karzai succeeds in bringing political freedom, representative government, and robust property rights (there's some cause for hope) to Afghanistan, we may see in 50 years a relatively prosperous and peaceful country. Not only will we have met our goals, we would have exceeded them, and we would not need to keep an ongoing effort in place. If Afghanistan does not become politically and economically free, we will still be able to prevent the reemergence of Afghanistan as a base for terrorism, but it would take a continuing effort to ensure that this remained true.

Posted by Jeff at 09:39 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Orson Scott Card on Media Bias

Orson Scott Card has an Opinion Journal editorial on media bias. Here's the conclusion:

What makes the liberal bias in the mainstream media so pernicious is that they deny that they're biased and insist that their twisted version of events is "reality," and anyone who disagrees with them is either mentally or morally suspect. In other words, they're fanatics. And, like all good fanatics, they're utterly convinced that they're in sole possession of virtue and truth.

In the editorial, Orson Scott Card takes one issue of one newspaper, chosen at random, and pulls out examples of implicitly biased articles, pointing out the ways in which each is biased. While the examples are not "best of breed" because of the limited sample, it's an interesting way to see the prevailing editorial opinion of journalists in general.

Posted by Jeff at 09:17 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 09, 2004

The Hard Hats

I hope we don't look back on 2004 as we look back on 1968. I don't want to see the riots or the hatred or the disintegration. I don't want the aftermath. I'm afraid that Jim is right, and I really hope he's not.

Posted by Jeff at 03:24 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 07, 2004

Game. Set. Match.

Best answer ever:

When a reporter noted that Edwards was being described as "charming, engaging, a nimble campaigner, a populist and even sexy" and then asked "How does he stack up against Dick Cheney?" the president immediately responded, "Dick Cheney can be president. Next?"
Posted by Brian at 05:27 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

Mexican Soldiers Interrupt Marine's Funeral

Mexican soldiers, concerned about the ceremonial (non-firing) rifles carried by US Marine escorts at the funeral of Marine Juan Lopez, as he was being buried with military honors in his birth town of San Luis de la Paz, Mexico, interrupted the funeral and ordered the pallbearers to return to their vehicle. (They refused.) [hat tip: Apostablog] One begins to see a pattern developing in Mexico.

Of course, I don't really blame the Mexicans for being afraid: two of our Marines, armed with rifles that don't fire, could probably take their whole army.

Posted by Jeff at 04:50 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

July 06, 2004

Three Words

Target rich environment.

Posted by Jeff at 04:12 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

The Trouble with Anonymous Sources...

Well, the NY Post apparently got burned by an anonymous source, and headlined the wrong person for Kerry's VP candidate pick. Of course, if an anonymous source really did burn the Post, the Post can burn back: they can name the source in their correction. That source would then no longer be trusted by any reporters, and it would be clear that the Post will only respect your desire to remain anonymous if your tips are true.

Actually, that would be a good plan for the entire "news" industry: if you are going to use unnamed sources, you should name them if their tips are wrong. It would certainly cut down on waging political wars through the media. Which, come to think of it, is likely not what the media wants to happen: they benefit (in advertising dollars) even from blatantly false information that is sensational enough.

Posted by Jeff at 11:31 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Amazing SpaceShip One Pictures

Via Due Diligence, here is the best set of SpaceShip One flight images I've yet seen. All of these are from the first SpaceShip One flight to actually get into space.

Posted by Jeff at 10:37 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

July 05, 2004

What if he's got a Pointed Stick?

France is stating that it would "probabl[y]" use its nuclear arsenal to defend its neighbors against outside attack. (hat tip: Little Green Footballs) It's unclear, though, how France would defeat an uprising of armed Muslims, which is a possibility in much of Europe in the next decade or two; using nuclear weapons against an insurgency is not possible without essentially committing suicide. What will Europe do to defend itself, should the US decline to do so?

OK, it's likely that this message was aimed at Arab states seeking nuclear weapons, but wouldn't it be a lot easier in that case just to not sell them the means for making nuclear weapons?

Posted by Jeff at 06:16 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (3)

Note to Self...

Don't get Mindles Dreck annoyed at me. This post demolishes just about every common Leftist trope the Democrats are spouting these days, in a thoroughly convincing manner.

Posted by Jeff at 05:27 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 04, 2004

Kill Them All

Apparently, 10 Democrats in Congress want to call in UN election monitors in the next Presidential election. (hat tip: Peeve Farm) I have two thoughts:

  1. Clearly, the Democrats want to throw doubt on this election, as they did on the last one, so that if they lose, they can claim that it is because the process is flawed, rather than themselves. However, it is the Congress, of which these - people is too strong a term - are a part, which is charged with ensuring the integrity of the process. If they do not feel that they can do so, they need to be removed from office. Further, they need to be dragged through the streets behind a car to show others that destroying the oldest representative government in the world will simply not be tolerated; and it is the case that deliberately calling into question the concept of our elections is intended to call into question the concept of our elections.
  2. Powder blue helmets are an easy target.

I'm too angry to write more, so I'll leave it at that.

Posted by Jeff at 08:16 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (2)

We Hold These Truths to be Self-Evident

I believe the Declaration of Independence to be the most beautiful and amazing political document ever written. The Declaration is the foundation of the American system: while we could completely rewrite the Constitution, the new version would not be accepted if it did not live up to the ideals expressed in the Declaration. Indeed, we fought a bitter civil war to uphold those ideals over a Constitutional flaw (allowing slavery as a political compromise to form a single nation), and the Constitution lost - as it should have in this case.

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.--Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Posted by Jeff at 10:15 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

July 03, 2004

A New Birth of Freedom

July 3, 1863 was the last day of the battle of Gettysburg. On one side were forces dedicated to the proposition that a body politic should be able to decide its morality and policies for itself, without the interference of those who do not directly represent it; on the other side were forces dedicated to the proposition that all men were created equal. Some 48,000 men were made casualties in the defense of these two noble ideals. In November of that year, President Lincoln gave the Gettysburg Address, at the consecration of a cemetary for the dead from that battle:

Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation or any nation so conceived and so dedicated can long endure. We are met on a great battlefield of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of it as a final resting place for those who died here that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do. But in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate, we cannot hallow this ground. The brave men, living and dead who struggled here have hallowed it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth.

Posted by Jeff at 10:05 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

July 02, 2004

A Most Uncivil Spat

Economics, when you boil it down to its essence, is about the allocation of scare resources. Politics, similarly, is at its heart about the gathering of support for one's faction (which, incidentally, is why the Founding Fathers were doomed in their attempts to create an Athenian political model - and for that matter why the Athenians were doomed in the end). In other words, politics is operable in any set of people where power (whether direct or because of reputation) is at stake, not just when dealing with government. ("Office politics" is not an analogy, but a statement of fact.)

It's also a fact that those with no skin in the game often cannot understand why certain disputes break out, and how they come to diverge from their apparent original point with such ferocity - sometimes to the point that the original positions end up reversed! Hint: it's about power, either direct power (such as the government has) or reputation (in most private spheres) or even perks (such as in large corporations). It's also sad to see factional struggles break out in a group to which you are much attached.

I'm not going to comment on the specifics of the dispute between AJ Drew and Ray Buckland, for three reasons: I don't know enough about it, I don't know enough about AJ Drew in general, and I owe a great deal to Ray Buckland (whose big blue book was the first book on Wicca I read, and whose later writings were very influential on my religious development). I do want to say one thing though: it's pretty crass for one to take out a domain name with the other's name just to criticize the other. Not quite up to Godwin's law standards, but certainly most uncool.

And, so far as I can tell, someone needs to remind these guys of the rule of threes.

Posted by Jeff at 11:23 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Five Minutes can Save Soldiers' Lives

There is a bill which has been referred to the Senate, HR 4323, which would provide the Defense Department with the ability to rapidly acquire equipment needed to prevent deaths in a combat zone. (Hat tip: BLACKFIVE) This would not cost any money, since it applies to money already budgeted; would not be allowed except to provide equipment which, had it been available, would have saved a life that was instead lost; and essentially consists of allowing the SecDef to bypass contract competition, setasides for minority contractors, and a formal requirements process. In other words, this incredibly-short bill would, at no cost, strip away a lot of red tape that is keeping our soldiers inadequately equipped for some situations.

Please, please, call Senator Warner (armed services committee) or your Senators to let them know that this bill is badly needed now. And be polite and respectful when you do.

Here is the bill's full text:

HR 4323 RFS


2d Session

H. R. 4323


June 15, 2004
Received; read twice and referred to the Committee on Armed Services


To amend title 10, United States Code, to provide rapid acquisition authority to the Secretary of Defense to respond to combat emergencies.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


(a) IN GENERAL- Chapter 141 of title 10, United States Code, is amended by adding at the end the following new section:

`Sec. 2410p. Rapid acquisition authority to respond to combat emergencies

`(a) RAPID ACQUISITION AUTHORITY- The Secretary of Defense may rapidly acquire, in accordance with this section, equipment needed by a combatant commander to eliminate a combat capability deficiency that has resulted in combat fatalities.

`(b) PROCESS FOR RAPID ACQUISITION- Not later than 30 days after the date of the enactment of this section, the Secretary of Defense shall develop a process for the rapid acquisition authority provided by subsection (a) and submit to Congress a detailed explanation of the process, including procedures to be followed in carrying out the process. The process shall provide for the following:

`(1) A requirement that the process may be used only to acquire the minimum amount of equipment needed until the needs of the combatant commander can be fulfilled under existing acquisition statutes, policies, directives, and regulations.

`(2) A goal of awarding a contract for the equipment within 15 days after receipt of a request from a commander.

`(3) In a case in which the equipment cannot be acquired without an extensive delay, a requirement for an interim solution to minimize the combat capability deficiency and combat fatalities until the equipment can be acquired.

`(4) Waiver of the applicability of all policies, directives, and regulations related to--

`(A) the establishment of the requirement for the equipment;

`(B) the research, development, test, and evaluation of the equipment; and

`(C) the solicitation and selection of sources, and the award of the contract, for procurement of the equipment.

`(5) Such other procedures or requirements as the Secretary considers appropriate.

`(c) WAIVER OF CERTAIN STATUTES- For purposes of exercising the authority provided by subsection (a) with respect to equipment, laws relating to the following shall not apply:

`(A) The establishment of the requirement for the equipment.

`(B) The research, development, test, and evaluation of the equipment.

`(C) The solicitation and selection of sources, and the award of the contract, for procurement of the equipment.

`(d) LIMITATIONS- The rapid acquisition authority provided by subsection (a) may be used only--

`(1) after the Secretary of Defense, without delegation, determines in writing that there exists a combat capability deficiency that has resulted in combat fatalities; and

`(2) to acquire equipment in an amount aggregating not more than $100,000,000 during a fiscal year.

`(e) SOURCE OF FUNDS- For acquisitions under this section to be made during any fiscal year, the Secretary may use any funds made available to the Department of Defense for that fiscal year.

`(f) NOTIFICATION TO CONGRESS AFTER EACH USE OF AUTHORITY- The Secretary of Defense shall notify the congressional defense committees within 15 days after each use of the authority provided by subsection (a). Each such notice shall identify the equipment to be acquired, the amount to be expended for such acquisition, and the source of funds for such acquisition.

`(g) COMBATANT COMMANDER- In this section, the term `combatant commander' means the commander of a unified combatant command with authority for the conduct of operations in a specific area of responsibility or who otherwise has authority to conduct operations at the direction of the President or Secretary of Defense.'.

(b) CLERICAL AMENDMENT- The table of sections at the beginning of such chapter is amended by adding at the end the following new item:

`2410p. Rapid acquisition authority to respond to combat emergencies.'.
Passed the House of Representatives June 14, 2004.





Posted by Jeff at 01:40 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

Edging Towards Socialist "Utopia"

So, the People's Democratic Republic of King County, Washington want to make it so that you can't use your land as you see fit. (I don't suppose that you'll be allowed to pay only 10% of your property taxes, since you can only build on 10% of your land? Nah, that doesn't serve the common good at all.)This taking is unconstitutional by any reasonable reading. Sadly, the Supreme Court apparently can't read.

Amendment V

No person shall be [...] be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Posted by Jeff at 11:49 AM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

July 01, 2004


Michael King notes an unprecedented test of naval deployment capability planned for the next few weeks: seven of our twelve carriers will deploy at one time to the South China Sea. This is more carriers than have been used at one time in any American war since the Korean War. Put in perspective, that is in the neighborhood of 350 aircraft - more combat-ready aircraft than any but a handful of the world's air forces can deploy - and seven mobile bases for them.

I think we are trying to make a point - either to China or North Korea (or both).

Posted by Jeff at 11:04 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (1)

Farenheit 9/11

I make a promise not to post about Michael Moore's latest dropping, Farenheit 9/11, then I find things that make me crazy about it and I have to post anyway.

The thing that bothers me most about this film, sight unseen, is how it keeps being called a documentary. By that standard, Triumph of the Will was a documentary, too. (Note: I'm not saying that Farenheit 9/11 is a glorfication of fascism, nor that Michael Moore is a Nazi.) Actually, that's a fortuitous comparison, as both films are rank propaganda.

Compare Triumph of the Will to Farenheit 9/11 (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 coming soon)

As propaganda, Moore's film is brilliant. But a documentary? Um, no.

UPDATE: I'm not the only one comparing Moore to Leni Riefenstahl.

Posted by Jeff at 07:43 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)

I Cannot Pretend/That the Heartache Falls Away

Here is a heartbreaking post on surviving 9/11. (Hat tip: Little Green Footballs) It's from a woman whose boyfriend was at the World Trade Center on 9/11, and lost his wife in the attack. If you think this is a "pretend" war, or that the war is about oil, or that the attack is in the past and should be forgotten, then you should certainly read this.

Posted by Jeff at 04:56 PM | Link Cosmos | Comments (0)