Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Telltale Signs

Found this in a Fark photoshop thread.

TRUE! nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why WILL you say that I am mad?
With apologies to Edgar Alan Poe.

OK, What The Hell Is Up With Blogger?

The posts are appearing down at the bottom of the blogroll. I can't see anything wrong with the HTML.

UPDATE: OK, I have even tried changing the template and the problem persists. Evidently this is not something I did. Grr.

Undemagoguing Guantanamo

According to the Washington Times (Registration Required):

Two Democratic senators just back from reviewing U.S. detention facilities and interrogations at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said they saw no signs of abuse and said it would actually be worse to close the facility and transfer the detainees elsewhere.

"I strongly prefer the improved practices and conditions at Camp Delta to the outsourcing of interrogation to countries with a far less significant commitment to human rights," said Sen. Ron Wyden, Oregon Democrat, who toured the U.S. facility along with Sen. Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat.

The two Democrats were joined on the trip by two Republicans, Sen. Jim Bunning of Kentucky and Sen. Michael D. Crapo of Idaho.
This is good news on a number of levels. First, I am glad to see that there are members of the Democratic party that are willing to go against party talking points to get at the truth. I am especially impressed with the senator from Oregon, who must be under a considerable amount of pressure to toe the liberal line.

More important, though, is the assertion that there is no evidence of abuse. I have effectively stopped reading Andrew Sullivan because of his increasing hostility to the Religious Right, but I consider his warnings against failing to address the allegations of widespread abuse to be absolutely correct and to date largely unanswered. (Greg Djerejian of Belgravia Dispatch has similar criticisms but without the hostility.) This bipartisan report goes a long way toward reassuring me of the generally moral character of US conduct.

But what of the supposedly credible evidence that such abuse did occur? Well, I have been unsuccessful in finding primary sources on the subject, and the reportage seems to be somewhat contradictory when it isn't based on hearsay. But, supposing for the sake of argument that the reports are valid and the abuse did actually occur. Is it possible that the public pressure and investigation has caused those responsible to clean up their act? If so, I suggest that this is the best result we can reasonably hope for. A democratic and open society does not produce perfect men, but it does restrain their ability to do wrong.

Still, none of this should detract from the necessity to fully investigate such charges. We can't become complacent when dealing with charges of such gravity. But I fully recognize the difficulty of getting the facts straight when dealing with a hostile group that is religiously committed to the idea that infidels are not owed the truth.

Update: In looking over Sullivan's and Djerejian's blogs to see if they had reacted to this news, I noticed that they are both discussing something called a Conscience Caucus:
Greg's sin is to be pro-war and anti-torture, making him a member of the fledgling "conscience caucus" of pro-war, right-of-center writers who oppose the Bush administration policy of allowing abuse of prisoners if "military necessity" demands it.
I guess you can count me in that group, although I am not clear that this abuse is an actual policy. But I am certainly uncomfortable with some of the rhetoric that conservatives have been using to justify these practices. Greg posts that he will be giving more details on the subject when he gets back from vacation. I will be very interested in what he has to say.

Thursday, June 09, 2005

Oil, Israel and Conspiracies

Meryl Yourish finds this article funny:

More than two decades ago, John Brown grew mesmerized by an evangelical preacher's theory that the Bible hinted at a major oil field deep beneath Israel's soil.


Two months ago, Brown's Zion Oil & Gas Co. began drilling a deep well near Kibbutz Maanit, 25 miles north of Tel Aviv, a site that lies at the intersection of faith and science.

Brown, 65, cites a passage from Genesis that quotes Jacob telling Joseph that God will give him "blessings of the deep that couches beneath," which he believes refers to oil.

The passage says the blessings will be on "the head of Joseph," which Brown reads as the geographic location in ancient Israel occupied by the tribes of Manasseh and Ephraim, Joseph's sons. Maanit falls within that area.

Zion's geological experts say previous wells drilled in the area showed the site has good potential for oil, Brown said.


Brown is not the first prospector to combine faith and science in the search for Israeli oil. Other Evangelical oilmen, though few with Brown's financing, have tried their luck here, with no success.

Last year, Tovia Luskin, an ultra-Orthodox Jew, began drilling about 15 miles south of Brown's site, inspired in part by the same "deep that couches beneath" Biblical passage.
OK, I admit this is pretty damn silly. The idea that the Bible could be used as a guide to oil prospecting is the sort of superstitious nonsense that could only occur to a fundamentalist and gives the rest of us a bad name.

But what really interests me in this article is the following passage:
In a Middle East rich with petroleum, Israel has struggled with little success to find deposits of its own for more than 50 years. Large oil companies' reluctance to work here and risk angering major Arab oil producers has hindered exploration, as have unfavorable geological conditions. [emphasis mine]
So the Arabs are putting pressure on major oil companies not to do business with Israel? Shouldn't the International Conspiracy of Jewish Bankers be doing something about this? Or the Americanmilitaryindustrialcomplex? How about Dick Cheney?

Seriously, though, I'm always amazed at how the crazy conspiracy theories correctly identify the problem but get the players wrong. There is an oil consipiracy in the middle east but it isn't us who are running it.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Aid for Africa (Again?)

Several conservative bloggers seem genuinely impressed with the Live8 campaign to End Poverty in Africa:


It struck me that Geldof, like Bush, saw establishing democracy as central to solving problems. And there was none of the Bush-related cynicism one normally expects to hear. How can Bush take the lead pushing for democracy in Africa when so many people in other G8 countries are derisive about his efforts in Iraq? No such thing was said. Geldof acted as if such a thought did not exist. He thinks Bush is perfectly positioned to take the lead.
(OK, she's not a conservative, but she isn't a lefty either and she's generally pretty reliable.)

It ends up that Bob Geldof, the organizer or Live 8, has a real plan for tackling poverty in Africa (real, in that it involved free trade and competition in parts of it) and hopes the blogosphere can use some of its influence in pushing towards the means needed for the end. The conference call should be up as a podcast a little later, and I'll urge you all to listen to it. I hope to get you more information soon (that was my main suggestion during the conference call was to have a place to link to where things are explained as well as Sir Geldof explained them himself), and, perhaps, you'll see more of the blogosphere talking about this.

To say that I was impressed would be an understatement. Geldof is an extraordinarily knowledgeable guy. Equally important, he is not soft-headed about Africa's problems. He emphasizes free markets and the need for political reform, which should be, and according to Geldof will be, a condition of the assistance that he advocates. Another important point, I think, is that he talks eloquently not only about the appalling conditions in some areas of Africa, but also about the striking progress being made in areas where political tyranny or upheaval have made such progress impossible. While I am no expert on Africa, I know that there are a lot of important, under-reported positive stories coming out of that continent.

Citizen Smash:
Overall, I'm happy to report that much of my skepticism was unwarranted. In case you haven't noticed, Geldof hasn't produced much music in the past 20 years. Instead, he's devoted his life to fighting hunger and poverty in Sub-Saharan Africa, and it shows -- Sir Bob really knows his stuff. And while he is clearly trying to reach out to a wide spectrum of people, he didn't pull any punches when it came to criticizing those who waste, embezzle, or squander public money (at one point, he casually mentioned that both Prime Minister Berlusconi of Italy and French President Jacques Chirac would be in jail for corruption if they weren't leaders of their respective nations). I was impressed.

Here's the clincher: Geldof wasn't asking for donations. He admits that food aid and even debt cancellation, while helpful, are of limited utility in the long run. Instead, he's asking us to start a converstation about how to stimulate long-term development in Sub-Saharan Africa. "This isn't Live Aid 2," the website reads, "LIVE 8 is about justice not charity."

Little Green Footballs:
Despite my skepticism (rock stars with causes, oh boy), I was impressed with Geldof's knowledge of the situation, and by his group's ideas to make sure that whatever aid is generated will not simply be pocketed by corrupt African dictators. Ultimately, the vision seems to be to promote freedom and reform on the African continent. Geldof said, "Robert Mugabe will not be included."

Ed at Captain's Quarters was live-blogging:
Believe me, we all understand the skepticism -- perhaps Geldof most of all. We know this will be a tough sell, even to ourselves. I want to see the specifics before I go running around mindlessly supporting it. However, I think we need to ask ourselves where we want to see Africa in twenty years, and what needs to be done to get it there.

Even John Hawkins at Right Wing News had good things to say about Geldof (though he is unconvinced about the program):
He said nice things about the Bush administration, seemed appreciative of the help America is giving, thinks Robert Mugabe is a hopeless tyrant, talked a lot about accountability in Africa, seemed to have a fairly good grasp of the political landscape in America and Africa, and generally came off as exactly the opposite of the airy headed, sniping liberal, rock star you'd expect.

Still -- while my opinion of Geldof improved considerably, I'm an enormous skeptic on Africa. Sure, we can always do something, feed hungry people, give a certain amount of aid, forgive debts, but -- the reality is that the problems Africa has are on a scale that simply can't be fixed by the West.

So, what to make of all this optimism? Well, it strikes me that much of it comes from the marketing skill of Joe Trippi who has evidently figured out how to talk to conservatives and is training Geldof. I don't yet see evidence of anything concrete that would make conservatives happy. The only two proposals on the table -- doubling government aid and canceling debt -- are actually antithetical to the free-trade ideal that has everyone singing. And even that is couched in leftist terms of "trade justice", presumably to avoid scaring off the base.

The enthusiasm probably stems from the simple fact that we have finally found someone who speaks our language. And this is no small thing. When you have been alone in the dark for a long time, the faintest light or the most distant sound of a human voice can be a joyful thing. Most of the respondents expressed continued skepticism, but it is only natural to hope that someone who actually talks about free-trade and democracy as vehicles for social renewal might actually be able to make a difference.

And one, small, final point: if the Aid Crusaders are starting to realize that they need our input, is it possible that we may be winning the war of ideas that we have been fighting for the past quarter century? Too early to tell, really.

But, here's hoping.

Update: A different kind of Aid for Africa.

Potential Terrorists Caught Near State Capital

Two Islamic leaders and a father/son team was arrested by the FBI in Lodi, CA:

Federal agents searched the homes of two Islamic leaders in Lodi, California, and have made four arrests since Sunday, part of an ongoing terrorism investigation, according to the FBI and witnesses.

Two of those arrested are top Muslim leaders in Lodi, including one who publicly condemned the September 11, 2001, terror attacks and issued a declaration of peace with Christian and Jewish leaders in Lodi three years ago.

The other two were a father and son, identified as 47-year-old Umer Hayat and 22-year-old Hamid Hayat, who allegedly lied about the younger man's attendance at an al Qaeda training camp in Pakistan, according to an FBI affidavit unsealed Tuesday evening by a federal court in Sacramento.

Both Hayats are charged with "making false statements of material fact within the jurisdiction of the FBI," the affidavit says. Both are U.S. citizens; Hamid Hayat was born in California, it says.

The affidavit says the younger Hayat confessed to attending the camp, which he said was run by al Qaeda, in 2003-2004 while he was in Pakistan ostensibly to attend a madrassa, or school, his grandfather ran.

According to the affidavit, Hamid Hayat was on a U.S.-bound flight that authorities diverted because his name was on a "no-fly" list. In interviews afterward, Hayat initially denied attending the camp.


"Potential targets for attack would include hospitals and large food stores," the document says.


The two local Islamic leaders in Lodi -- Muhammed Adil Khan and Shabbir Ahmed -- were detained on immigration charges and will face an immigration hearing, FBI Special Agent John Cauthen said.

The Department of Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement said the two were in custody on "administrative immigration violations for violating their religious worker visas" and there is not a set date for their hearing.

(Via Michelle Malkin)

Update: The above story does not explain how the two clerics are related to the Hayats. According to this local report they met with Umer Saturday but are not being charged with criminal activity. Rather murky. (Via My Pet Jawa who has much more.)

Maybe They Really Don't Know What "Is" Means

Pastorius is tracking Astute Blogger who notes that the left is becoming increasingly caught up in its own metaphors:

Powerline - and others, notably DISSECTING LEFT and this blog - have noted that the Left seems to continually use analogies and metaphors instead of deductive reasoning and rational arguments. I have described this as the "IS/AS Conflation" because it is typically most obvious when someone treats an analogical comparison ("that man sings like a bird") as if it had an ontological verity (that man who sings like a bird is a bird. OR: "The USSR had secretive prisons known as gulags; Gitmo is LIKE a secretive prison; therefore Gitmo IS a gulag."

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Some Gals Have All the Luck

I've always wanted one of these. Don't really have a use for it, but I think they're cool.

(I don't know what I'd do with one of these either, though it has nothing to do with firearms.)

The Return of Shame

A couple of months ago I agreed (in principle if not every detail) with this lady's practice of publicizing married men who were soliciting her for sex on an adult dating service. This practice is similar:

Images of men convicted of soliciting prostitutes will soon be joining professional athletes and product placements on city billboards here.

Beginning this month, some billboards will be updated to show the photos of "johns" - men convicted of soliciting sex - with the headline "How Much Clearer Can We Make It?"

The measure is part of a "shaming campaign" to crack down on prostitution.

"We're warning everyone: Next time, the image won't be blurred," City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente said at a news conference Wednesday, where city officials stood under a 10-by-22-foot billboard with the images of four convicted men intentionally blurred so they could not be recognized.

The billboards will only show the images of those convicted of soliciting sex, De La Fuente said. Most persons arrested for soliciting sex - a misdemeanor - ultimately plead guilty to a lesser infraction of disturbing the peace and serve little, if any jail time.
Well, that last bit seems a little wimpy, but it's a step in the right direction.
(Via La Shawn Barber)

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Definitive Post on the Filibuster Question

I got too involved in real-life concerns to expand my thoughts on the filibuster before it ceased to be a live issue. Story of my life, really. Fortunately Prof. Bainbridge was more on the ball:

Lots of my fellow conservatives are seriously exercised by the compromise reached by the Senate moderates on judicial nomination filibusters:


Will somebody please get these folks some cheese to go with their whine? I find these reactions not only short-sighted but also surprisingly unconservative. They reflect a willingness to put possible short-term partisan gain (and I emphasize the word possible) over both principle and long-term advantage.


The filibuster is a profoundly conservative tool. It slows change by allowing a resolute minority to delay - to stand athwart history shouting stop. It ensures that change is driven not "merely by temporary advantage or popularity" but by a substantial majority. Is it any wonder that it has usually been liberals who want to change or abolish the filibuster rule?
There is much more and it is all good. Don't miss the lovely quote from Russell Kirk that I ellided for space considerations.

Some of my lack of motivation to blog recently has been due to depression over the fact that people I respect have been so willing to abandon conservative principle in favor of partisan advantage. I am glad to note that Bainbridge is still on the same side.

(Via: Andrew Sullivan)

Full Disclosure: I should mention that when I say "some of my lack of motivation", I really mean a small portion. Most of it is just plain, old-fashioned sloth.

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

California Textbook Page Limit

It would be difficult to make up a story about public schools that was more absurd than this story from the Sacramento Bee (Registration Required):

Lawmakers voted Thursday to ban school districts from purchasing textbooks longer than 200 pages.
The bill, believed to be the first of its kind nationwide, was hailed by supporters as a way to revolutionize education.

Critics lambasted Assembly Bill 756 as silly.
Silly doesn't even begin to describe it. As the Center for Local Liberty notes:
The bill would exclude The Federalist Papers, the Bible, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, innumerable classic novels, just for starters.
Maybe therein lies the explanation?

(Via Captain's Quarters)