Friday, November 20, 2009

Obama: Honorary Black Belt

This is a joke, right?

Even President Obama himself during his just-concluded trip to Asia admitted that he was surprised to receive the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this year without actually producing any peace.
And out of the Seoul sky, President Lee Myung-bak hands over to the American leader a tae kwon do outfit. And then Lee, who practices tae kwon do himself, presents Obama with a coveted black belt. After zero long years of study.

You know things are bad when even the L.A. Times is snarking. I hate to say it, but Michael Moore was ahead of his time. We do indeed live in fictional times.

Cal Thomas: Conservative Clairvoyant

Clairvoyant isn't really the word I want, but I can't think of a better one. Soothsayer? Oracle? Prophet? Maharishi? Even my thesaurus is at a loss for words. The fact is the man sees things a lot more clearly than most people I know. Since "clear sighted" is the French etymology of clairvoyant, I guess I'll just have to stick with that.

Case in point: his current article on Sarah Palin concisely states something that has been bothering me for ages.

The victim thing is getting old. Conservatives have a significant presence in virtually every venue they like to denounce. That includes government (though not this one) and especially the media. Talk radio rules and the rulers are conservatives. Fox News Channel dominates the ratings. The conservative presence in academia lags, but there are universities that do not revise American history and mock religious values. Movies? There are some with solid conservative principles, such as Sandra Bullock's latest film, "The Blind Side." Will conservatives go see it, or are they more comfortable denouncing "Hollywood"? How about reinforcements for those conservatives already "making it" in the mainstream media?

I think he over-emphasizes the importance of talk radio, since liberals still dominate TV and that remains the top cultural/political gate-keeper. Fox may have the best ratings, but they don't have a majority of the audience: they are still outnumbered by the major networks plus CNN and PBS.

But on the whole, Thomas is correct that this discrepancy should not be a subject of whining and defeatism, but an opportunity to rise to the challenge. As I've said numerous times before, we're better than they are, we're smarter than they are and, doggone it, it just doesn't matter if they like us.

Victimization plays well with the conservative base and that's a problem. If conservatives don't rise from the muck of feeling excluded, disrespected, ignored and mocked, they will continue to suffer all of these things. There is nothing like proving the worth of your ideas to put the mockers in their place. Victimization can raise money, sell books and get one face time on TV, but it doesn't advance the ball.


Palin's optimism is refreshing. If she can sharpen her intellect, in three years she won't be mocked; she will be feared.

This is conservative optimism at its finest. The evidence of her newly released book does not give me much confidence that Palin will take this sage advice, but there is still time to prove me wrong. I love Sarah Palin, but I trust Cal Thomas.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

A Chivalrous Enconium for George Bush

From HillBuzz a blog of gay Hillary supporters:

Thank you former President George W. Bush and former First Lady Laura Bush

If you have been reading us for any length of time, you know that we used to make fun of “Dubya” nearly every day…parroting the same comedic bits we heard in our Democrat circles, where Bush is still, to this day, lampooned as a chimp, a bumbling idiot, and a poor, clumsy public speaker.


Well, we told you before how much the current president, Dr. Utopia, made us realize just how wrong we were about Bush. We shudder to think what Dr. Utopia would have done post-9/11. He would have not gone there with a bullhorn and struck that right tone. More likely than not, he would have been his usual fey, apologetic self and waxed professorially about how evil America is and how justified Muslims are for attacking us, with a sidebar on how good the attacks were because they would humble us.

Honestly, we don’t think President Gore would have been much better that day. The world needed George W. Bush, his bullhorn, and his indominable spirit that day…and we will forever be grateful to this man for that.

As we will always be grateful for what George and Laura Bush did this week, with no media attention, when they very quietly went to Ft. Hood and met personally with the families of the victims of this terrorist attack.


The Bushes went and met privately with these families for HOURS, hugging them, holding them, comforting them.

If there are any of you out there with any connection at all to the Bushes, we implore you to give them our thanks…you tell them that a bunch of gay Hillary guys in Boystown, Chicago were wrong about the Bushes…and are deeply, deeply sorry for any jokes we told about them in the past, any bad thoughts we had about these good, good people.

You may be as surprised by this as we are ourselves, but from this day forward George W. and Laura Bush are now on the same list for us as the Clintons, Geraldine Ferraro, Stephanie Tubbs Jones, and the other political figures we keep in our hearts and never allow anyone to badmouth.

Criticize their policies academically and intelligently and discuss the Bush presidency in historical and political terms…but you mess with the Bushes personally and, from this day forward, you’ll answer to us.

Read the whole thing, then, when you are done, read this earlier post, written on teh ocasion of Obama's inauguration, which they referenced above (warning: it's long). There are a lot of qoutable bits in that piece, but this is probably the best summary:

After we watched the 747 formerly known as Air Force One wing into the air and bank right towards Midland, Texas this afternoon, we were struck by just how bizarre it is that a bunch of Democrats who positively hated this man eight years ago were proudly a little teared up to see him off to retirement. That’s a fairly good measure of a man right there, if he can, without knowing or trying, change strong opinions of him in the most unlikely of places.

These expressions of praise are truly mature and civilized -- not to mention well-written and gramatically correct. Even in the passages where they criticize Bush's policies and lost opportunities (which criticisims are spot-on, by the way) they present a balanced and reasonable analysis that puts most media writing to shame.

I have seen HillBuzz quoted here and there by the conservative sites I frequent, but I never really paid much attention to them. On the whole, I cannot endorse their preference for Clinton over Obama because I see both as distortions of the Democratic party and wish they would go away. (In my dreams, John McCain/Rudy Giulliani would be on the D Ticket and Fred Thompson/Tom McClintock would be on the R, but I digress....) In trying to educate myself a little about their site I found out that they supported Clinton in the primaries then switched to ... McCain/Palin for the general. It takes some guts to walk away from the Gay Left (as Andrew Sullivan has noted on multiple occasions) and their account of the process is thoughtful and well worth reading. Obviously, I don't agree with many of their political stances, (though their article on Gay Marriage emphasizes some points that I have also tried to make), but I find this attitude of civility and even-handedness refreshing. To close, here is a quote from the comments on the January article, along with a response by HillBuzz:

Tammy Says:
You see, hillbuzz guys?
A lot of conservatives feel the same way that you do, and they’re not full of hate.
Can’t say the same thing about the Left after hearing that President Bush was Boo’d when he was introduced.
Can you possibly teach your side manners?
I will show you the utmost respect if you do.
I’ll show you respect even if you don’t, but could you pass the word on?

hillbuzz Says:

We try every day. It’s a promise we made when the Left treated Hillary Clinton so badly during the primaries, then did the same to Sarah Palin.

You can criticize a politician’s policies, achievements, and other choices — but name calling won’t be tolerated. Irrational hate won’t be tolerated. And no party deserves blind loyalty.

And if you want to attack a woman and call her sexist names and think you are going to get away with it — you’ve got another thing coming. That’s our mission from here on out.


(Via: Alphecca)

Friday, October 09, 2009

Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize

Breitbart has the story:

President Barack Obama won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for "his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples," the Norwegian Nobel Committee said, citing his outreach to the Muslim world and attempts to curb nuclear proliferation.

The stunning choice made Obama the third sitting U.S. president to win the Nobel Peace Prize and shocked Nobel observers because Obama took office less than two weeks before the Feb. 1 nomination deadline. Obama's name had been mentioned in speculation before the award but many Nobel watchers believed it was too early to award the president.


Rather than recognizing concrete achievement, the 2009 prize appeared intended to support initiatives that have yet to bear fruit: reducing the world stock of nuclear arms, easing American conflicts with Muslim nations and strengthening the U.S. role in combating climate change.


The committee chairman said after awarding the 2002 prize to former Democratic President Jimmy Carter, for his mediation in international conflicts, that it should be seen as a "kick in the leg" to the Bush administration's hard line in the buildup to the Iraq war.
So, basically, he won the most prestigious award on the planet for ... not being George W. Bush? The Nobel cartel's credibility had already been careening down Cynical Street but it just took a sharp left on WTF Avenue.

(Via: Hot Air where AllahPundit asks "Am I Awake?" A good question considering that even the Onion is stunned into silence.)

UPDATE: Cafe Press is full of congratulatory merchandise from Obama's supporters. I am officially starting a Proud Non-Recipient counter-protest.

Update: Ann Althouse has pretty much dedicated the day to this topic. "Integrity, why start now?" More posts here, here, here, and ... oh hell, just keep scrolling.

Fox News Forum also has great commentaary: How to Win the Nobel Peace Prize In 12 Days:
January 20: Sworn in as president. Went to a parade. Partied.
January 21: Asked bureaucrats to re-write guidelines for information requests. Held an “open house” party at the White House.
January 22: Signed Executive Orders: Executive Branch workers to take ethics pledge; re-affirmed Army Field Manual techniques for interrogations; expressed desire to close Gitmo (how’s that working out?)
January 23: Ordered the release of federal funding to pay for abortions in foreign countries. Lunch with Joe Biden; met with Tim Geithner.
January 24: Budget meeting with economic team.
January 25: Skipped church.
January 26: Gave speech about jobs and energy. Met with Hillary Clinton. Attended Geithner's swearing in ceremony.
January 27: Met with Republicans. Spoke at a clock tower in Ohio.
January 28: Economic meetings in the morning, met with Defense secretary in the afternoon.
January 29: Signed Ledbetter Bill overturning Supreme Court decision on lawsuits over wages. Party in the State Room. Met with Biden.
January 30: Met economic advisers. Gave speech on Middle Class Working Families Task Force. Met with senior enlisted military officials.
January 31: Took the day off.
February 1: Skipped church. Threw a Super Bowl party.

Update: Instapundit also has a round-up.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

LAUSD Concedes to School Choice

Ed at Hot Air notes that the L.A. Unified School District " finally got desperate enough to try something new to rescue its schools: private-sector competition."

In a startling acknowledgment that the Los Angeles school system cannot improve enough schools on its own, the city Board of Education approved a plan Tuesday that could turn over 250 campuses — including 50 new multimillion-dollar facilities — to charter groups and other outside operators.
The action signals a historic turning point for the Los Angeles Unified School District, which has struggled for decades to boost student achievement. District officials and others have said their ability to achieve more than incremental progress is hindered by the powerful teachers union, whose contract makes it nearly impossible to fire ineffective tenured teachers. Union leaders blame a district bureaucracy that they say fails to include teachers in “top-down reforms.”

“The premise of the resolution is first and foremost to create choice and competition,” said board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, who brought the resolution, “and to really force and pressure the district to put forth a better educational plan.”
Charter schools are not as good as vouchers, but this is a step in the right direction.

On the other hand, the immediate effect will be that the unions and their fellow-travellers will do all they can to make sure it fails. Then, every time someone tries to promote school choice, they will point to the "failure" in L.A.

I commend the School Board for attempting to do the right thing. But I question whether they or Mayor Villaraigosa have the nerve to stay the course. If not, it will be worse than doing nothing.

Friday, June 12, 2009

New National Anthem?

Ed at Hot Air is conducting a poll based on this article by Michael Kinsley.

Kinsley's criticisms aren't terribly deep, and I have never had problems singing the Star Spangled Banner, but I do agree that it is not terribly appropriate for our national anthem. The Hot Air poll lists some good alternatives (most of which are discussed in Kinsley's article:

Stick with the Star-Spangled Banner
America (My Country 'Tis of Thee)
America the Beautiful
America (Neil Diamond version)
Battle Hymn of the Republic
God Bless America
Stars and Stripes Forever
This Land Is Your Land

I picked America the Beautiful, as it has always been my favorite patriotic song:
O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion'd stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness!
America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev'ry gain divine!

O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years
Thine alabaster cities gleam,
Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!

But really any of those traditional songs would be better than the SSB. (I am not counting Neil Diamond’s America or Woody Guthrie's This Land Is Your Land, as they are both too trite and lacking in spiritual substance. Same goes for Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA, and whatever that song is that Sean Hannity plays.)

My main beef with the SSB is that it is all about the flag, not really about the country. The 4th verses is kind of magnificent, but how many Americans know the 4th verse — or even that there is a 4th verse? And the over-all metaphor of waking up after a night of disaster and discovering that our country is still there isn’t really a big part of the American experience, is it? Unless you count waking up to Ronald Reagan after the long drought of the 60s and 70s, but even that seems kind of atypical.

And if you are going to go for the struggling-through-the-long-dark-night theme, Lift Every Voice and Sing is more meaningful to a large nuber of Americans, though not as well written. Not that there is any way in hell Obama is going to touch that one.

Friday, March 27, 2009

AB357: California Shall Issue Bill

Steve Knight, a CA Assemblyman representing Victorville, has proposed a bill which would remove the "good cause" requirement for obtaining a concealed carry weapons permit (CCW). This would allow CA to join the ranks of "Shall Issue" states (currently 37 out of the 48 states that allow concealed carry). The text of his bill can be found here.

Existing law authorizes the sheriff of a county, upon proof that the person applying is of good moral character, that good cause exists, and that the person applying satisfies any one of certain conditions, as specified, to issue a license for the person to carry a concealed handgun, as specified. This bill would delete the good cause requirement, and require the sheriff to issue the license if the other criteria described above are met.

The bill is currently in the Public Safety Committee for review. I wrote the following letter to each of the members of the committee.

I am writing to encourage you to support AB357 titled "An act to amend Section 12050 of the Penal Code, relating to firearms." This bill would remove the unnecessary, unfair and subjective requirement of showing "good cause" when applying for a permit to carry a concealed weapon.

The current requirement of showing "good cause" is unnecessary because the law already provides that the applicant must be "of good moral character" and "is not prohibited from possessing firearms". Both of these criteria allow the chief law enforcement officer to investigate the applicant and screen out those individuals who cannot be trusted to use their freedom responsibly. The requirement of showing "good cause" does nothing to reduce crime or increase public safety. Out of 48 states that allow concealed carry, 37 do not have such unnecessary restrictions. These "Shall Issue" states have some of the lowest crime rates in the country. According to the FBI, Right to Carry states had 24% less violent crime in 2007 than other states. AB357 would eliminate this unnecessary requirement and allow law enforcement to focus resources on keeping communities safe.

Furthermore, the requirement is unfair because it places the burden of proof upon law-abiding citizens to show that they have a special need to exercise a fundamental right of self-defense, which has been recognized for centuries. Despite the fact that the California Constitution acknowledges the rights of defense of life, protection of property, and pursuit of safety in its Section I, many officials do not consider such self-defense sufficient as "good cause". This means that people who may live in high-crime areas are unfairly deprived of the right to defend themselves away from their homes unless they have been personally attacked or threatened, in which case it is often too late. Yet statistics show that many attacks can be prevented when victims are armed. The US Justice Department found that 34% of felons were scared away by armed victims and another 40% avoided attacking altogether because they feared that the victim might be armed. AB357 would promote public safety by ensuring that the right of self-defense was equally available to all law-abiding citizens.

Finally, the subjective nature of the current law disadvantages those who reside in counties or cities where the chief law enforcement officer has unusually restrictive views about what constitutes "good cause". This places law enforcement in an unfortunate, adversarial relationship with those who are generally their strongest supporters. Furthermore, many crimes are prevented by holders of concealed carry licenses, often without a shot being fired, which greatly reduces the burden on law enforcement. AB357 would benefit both law enforcement and law-abiding citizens by removing the subjective, time-consuming process of reviewing "good cause statements" and restoring a co-operative relationship among those who are natural allies.

Historically, anti-concealed carry laws were enacted because everyone was presumed to have the right to carry weapons openly and only criminals were thought to have a need to conceal guns. However, we no longer live in the Wild West and many now realize the advantage of having a population where the criminals do not know who is armed. John Lott, in his book More Guns, Less Crime has definitively shown that crime rates go down dramatically when "Shall Issue" laws are passed. Please join Assemblyman Steve Knight in supporting AB357 and making California a "Shall Issue" state.

Here are the email addresses of the members of the Public Safety Committee:

Jose Solorio
Curt Hagman
Warren Furutani
Danny Gillmore
Jerry Hill
Fiona Ma
Nancy Skinner

You can also go here to send a comment to Steve Knight in support of his bill. Just look him up on the list and hit the comments link next to his name. The system will allow you to select the bill you want to comment about and check a box for support or oppose. I am sure that will help him win support for the bill.

If you live in a district represented by an assembly member not listed above, be sure to tell them you support the bill as well. Click on the "Find My District" button on the Assembly's web page.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

San Diego Bans JROTC Shooting Class

As I have noted before gun safety classes ought to be mandatory for all U.S. citizens, starting in the at least in the teen years. (Prior to Junior HS, kids should have Eddy Eagle-type safety classes that do not involve handling actual guns.) This should be obvious to everyone, but especially to the guns-are-inherently-scary crowd. In no other public health subject do these folks recommend an abstience-only approach. Chad Baus makes a similar point at greater length in a recent article on the USCCA web site (registration required).

Society has determined (after seeing enough homes and apartment complexes burn to the ground because little Johnny was playing with matches) that it cannot be left to parents alone to teach children not to play with matches.
Society has determined (after seeing enough children experience the horrible victimization of sexual abuse) that it cannot be left to parents alone to teach children what to do if they are touched inappropriately.
Society has determined (after seeing enough children on the sides of milk cartons and WalMart bulletin boards) that it cannot be left to parents alone to teach children what to do if a stranger attempts to lure them into their car.
Society has even determined (well, at least our President did when he was an Illinois State Senator) that it kindergartners need to be given sex education.[2]
I simply cannot understand why a society that has decided that parents cannot be trusted to provide the "proper" education on issues like fire safety, sexual abuse, abduction, and even sexually transmitted diseases, is perfectly comfortable leaving the issue of gun accident prevention up to parents.
The NRA has been promoting a safety program for children in grades K-3 since 1998. The Eddie Eagle GunSafe® Program tells those youngsters to "Stop! Don't Touch! Leave The Area! Tell An Adult!" if they find a gun.

So, with that in mind, what the hell are the folks in San Diego thinking?
A group of San Diego teenagers successfully convinced the San Diego Unified school board yesterday to dismantle the district's Junior ROTC air-rifle program. The on-campus program has been training young cadets how to shoot for decades.
The district's Junior ROTC air-rifle marksmanship program has a long and distinguished history in the San Diego Unified District. But now the program has been shot down. That's the result of a one-year, student-driven effort.
The program first came under fire last year when JROTC officials introduced air-rifle shooting ranges on the campuses of Lincoln and Mission Bay high schools.
Students, teachers and parents were outraged. Many didn't realize on-campus shooting practice even existed in the district.

As noted in this article, the program is thoroughly concerned with safety (almost to the point of paranoia):
They argue that their instruments, .177-caliber air rifles, shouldn't be classified as weapons because they don't use bullets propelled by gunpowder, but pellets projected by compressed air.
Students are allowed to handle the rifles under close supervision and only after logging a perfect score on a qualifying test. Less than 10 percent of the 1,845 ROTC students make the cut, said Jan Janus, who supervises the district's ROTC programs.
The best shooters, like Elizabeth and Monica, compete on teams, testing their aim in three positions: prone, standing and kneeling. The discipline requires stillness and concentration, coaches contend, and women often excel at it.
“Despite what some of our opponents think, we're not out there training gang members to knock off 7-Elevens and do drive-by shootings,” Janus said.

This is far worse than the brainless "zero-tolerance" policies that other schools have enacted -- protecting their students from the dangers of t-shirts, crayon drawings and chicken fingers -- because this destroys a program that could actually teach someone about gun safety.

The latter article concludes with this optimistic thought:
Another Mission Bay High ROTC member, Zachary Warden, said a classmate has launched a petition drive to challenge the board. One of Andrew's ROTC advisers, Mark Vizcarra, suggests that critics have awakened “a sleeping giant” in the form of students, parents and ROTC backers who will want marksmanship reinstated.

Let's hope so.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Islam: What the West Needs to Know

James M. Kushiner posts a review of Islam: What the West Needs to Know at Mere Comments.

It was a rational and non-hysterical inquiry into the history and teachings of Islam. Major interviewees from inside Islam: Bat Ye'or, Walid Shoebat, Abdullah Al-Araby, plus Serge Trifkovic and Robert Spencer. It made a pretty compelling case for viewing Islam as much more than a religion but really a political/religious ideology for world domination.

Here is my response:

I am not familiar with Serge Trifkovic but the other four names on the list are all either apostates from, or Western critics of, Islam. Not that that makes them wrong, but it is hard to get an accurate picture when all the voices are from one side of the debate. Unfortunately the advocates of Islam are uniformly more ideological, which make me despair of ever getting a straight story on this crucial subject. Perhaps the post-modernists are right and there really is no straight story, only a mass of competing ideologies, but I can't quite bring myself to believe that. Even if pure objectivity is impossible, its pursuit is still worthwhile.

One of the sources whom I find helpful is Bernard Lewis. The Mohammad he paints is (in my words, not his) essentially a wannabe Moses whose promised land was not Canaan but the entire world. That is problematic, of course, for at least two reasons: 1) Mohammad lacks the authority of Moses and 2) that authority has been fulfilled and superceded by Jesus. But it is worth noting that Mohammad's plan of conquest was law-bound, if not objecitvely lawful, and virtue-centric if not virtuous. The present Jihadist mentality is an aberration characteristic of the 20th century and a variant of the secularism and relativism that have infected the West. It is, in other words, a symptom of the loss of faith that there are objective standards promoted by evolution and Marxism, rather than a logical result of the religion of Islam itself.

Now, one might critique Lewis' characterization by noting that Mohammad was a false prophet and therefor subject to the rule that those that are at war with God will find themselves abandoned to their own destruction. Just as the prophets of Baal began by worshipping fertility and ended by sacrificing their children, so Islam began with the sword and ends with the exploding belt. In this view, the current trajectory of Islam which is at odds with the previous 13 centuries is explainable by the conjecture that God has finally removed his hand of restraint and given Islam over to the fullness of its iniquity. This is plausible, and I even have some sympathy for it, but, not being a prophet myself, I lack the certainty that this is indeed the case.

But it is worth noting that under both of these hypotheses, it is a grave error to promote secularism and a modern point of view among Muslims. The critique that the West is more advanced than the medieval Islam seems dangerously wrong-headed. Perhaps this is because my sympathies are somewhat medieval themselves. I would much rather have a beer with Dante than with George W. Bush (though admittedly in the latter case, it would probably be better beer). But in any case, the advancement of the West I would attribute to the salutary influence of Christianity and it is an influence that our culture is trying its hardest to undo. If Christians continue to promote this sort of chronological snobbery in order to combat the evil of Islam, we may succeed only to find ourselves at war with a united front of Western and Middle-Eastern secularists.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Those of you who do not believe in Hell, please take note...

Exhibit A: Samira Jassam

A WOMAN suspected of recruiting more than 80 female suicide bombers has confessed to organising their rapes so she could later convince them that martyrdom was the only way to escape the shame.

Samira Jassam, 51, was arrested by Iraqi police and confessed to recruiting the women and orchestrating dozens of attacks.

In a video confession, she explained how she had mentally prepared the women for martyrdom operations, passed them on to terrorists who provided explosives, and then took the bombers to their targets.

She is known as "Um al-Mumenin" which, if I am reading that right, translates "mother of all believers". If anyone deserves eternal torment, surely it's this bitch.

Islam, of course, has often been accused of encouraging the abuse of women. There are those who claim that this is a corruption of Islam rather than its truest expression. I confess that I don't know enough to decide on that issue. But clearly there is something profoundly rotten with a system in which women find themselves in a situation where committing acts of mass murder is more socially or religiously acceptable than living with shame for which they bear no responsibility.

Christians often (rightly) critique the secular West for encouraging irresponsible use of sexuality and individualism at the expense of social responsibility. But at least Western women understand that they bear responsibility for their own sins, not those visited upon them by the violence of others. These Iraqi women (and for all I know, Muslim women everywhere) need to hear the news that their sins are atoned only through Christ and that they never need to be ashamed of what they have not consented to.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cato's Analysis of the Financial Crisis

What Didn’t Happen

Some commentators (and both presidential candidates) have blamed the current financial mess on greed. But if an unusually high number of airplanes were to crash this year, would it make sense to blame gravity? No. Greed, like gravity, is a constant. It can’t explain why the number of financial crashes is higher than usual. There has been no unusual epidemic of blackheartedness.

Others have blamed deregulation or (in the words of one representative) “unregulated freemarket lending run amok.” Such an indictment is necessarily skimpy on the particulars, because there has actually been no recent dismantling of banking and financial regulations.
Read the whole thing.

Paglia Mail Bag

Camille Paglia answers her mail. It is almost an affront to quote her since duplication belies the very originality of her prose, but I can't resist highlighting.

On Sarah Palin:

As I have repeatedly said in this column, I have never had the slightest problem in understanding Sarah Palin's meaning at any time. On the contrary, I have positively enjoyed her fresh, natural, rapid delivery with its syncopated stops and slides -- a fabulous example of which was the way (in her recent interview with John Ziegler) that she used a soft, swooping satiric undertone to zing Katie Couric's dippy narcissism and to assert her own outrage as a "mama grizzly" at libels against her family.

On the Fairness Doctrine:
If there's anything that demonstrates the straying of the Democratic Party leadership from basic liberal principles, it's this blasted Fairness Doctrine -- which should be fiercely opposed by all defenders of free speech. Except when national security is at risk, government should never be involved in the surveillance of speech or in measuring the ideological content of books, movies or radio and TV programs.

Speaking of fairness, here is her response to an emailer that likens the Global Warming demagoguery to Bush's evidence of WMD in Iraq. Ouch!
In both cases, there are "experts" who tell us that evidence justifying action is undeniable. They say, "The risk of doing nothing is too great for us to do nothing." And as a fallback position they say, "Even if we're wrong, we'll still be doing some good in the world." Kind of makes me think man-made CO2 emissions will turn out to be the biggest case of nonexistent WMD since Saddam Hussein's nukes. Jim Carroll
Wonderful letter! I became a vocal opponent of the onrushing Iraq incursion when I was shocked by the flimsiness of evidence presented by Secretary of State Colin Powell to the United Nations in 2003. Similarly, I have been highly skeptical about the claims for global warming because of their overreliance on speculative computer modeling and because of the woeful patchiness of records for world temperatures before the 20th century.
In the 1980s, I was similarly skeptical about media-trumpeted predictions about a world epidemic of heterosexual AIDS. And I remain skeptical about the media's carelessly undifferentiated use of the term "AIDS" for what is often a complex of wasting diseases in Africa. We should all be concerned about environmental despoliation and pollution, but the global warming crusade has become a hallucinatory cult. Until I see stronger evidence, I will continue to believe that climate change is primarily driven by solar phenomena and that it is normal for the earth to pass through major cooling and warming phases.

Don't miss her insightful comments about gay genes, post-structuralism, and the tongue-lashing she gets for her praise of Titanic. God! I love this woman. Amid the huge quantities of regurgitated bird-seed we are forced to swallow in what passes for our literary culture, Camille never fails to deliver pulsating, live worms. Delicious!

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Top Ten Science Breakthroughs of 2008

Science Magazine lists its top ten picks for greatest breakthrough of 2008. Here is a condensed list of the runners up and the number one pick. [Free registration required]

In reverse order (David Letterman style) they are:

10. Sequencing Bonanza: New genome-sequencing technologies that are much faster and cheaper than the approach used to decipher the first human genome are driving a boom in sequencing.

9. Proton's Mass 'Predicted': The new results show that physicists can at last make accurate calculations of the ultracomplex strong force that binds quarks.

8. Fat of a Different Color: Researchers finally uncovered the mysterious roots of so-called brown fat. Hardly blubber, the energy-using tissue turns out to be one step away from muscle.

7. The Video Embryo: The dance of cells as a fertilized egg becomes an organism is at the center of developmental biology... This year, scientists observed the ballet in unprecedented detail...

6. Water to Burn: Researchers in the United States reported that they've developed a new catalyst that may serve as a first step in finding cheaper renewable energy.

5. Watching Proteins at Work: After studying proteins for more than a century, biochemists pushed the boundaries of watching the molecules in action--and received surprises at every turn.

4. New High-Temperature Superconductors: Physicists discovered a second family of high-temperature superconductors, materials that carry electricity without resistance at temperatures inexplicably far above absolute zero. [This is relative. High temperatures in this case means 56 Kelvin, which is about -360 F].

3. Cancer Genes: Researchers this year turned a searchlight on the errant DNA that leads tumor cells to grow out of control.

2. Seeing Exoplanets: With more than 5 years of observations using the latest technology, astronomers are suddenly busting down the doors to announce candidates for directly detected planets orbiting other stars.

And, the number one scientific breakthrough of 2008 is...

1. Reprogramming Cells: By inserting genes that turn back a cell's developmental clock, researchers are gaining insights into disease and the biology of how a cell decides its fate. [i.e. turning skin cells into stem cells.]

ICR, the principle advocate of Creation Science in the U.S., notes that none of these breakthroughs required a belief in the outdated 19th century theory of evolution:

Each of the breakthroughs came about through quality empirical science, with researchers employing the scientific method to discover how natural phenomena work. It is significant that none of these breakthroughs required an evolutionary framework for any part of their discoveries—not for the development of their hypotheses, not for the testing of those hypotheses, and not for their results or conclusions. If evolution is truly to be regarded as essential to empirical science and a necessary component of science education, then why were its tenets irrelevant, by virtue of their conspicuous absence, to the top scientific discoveries of 2008?