Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Saturday, November 30, 2002

EIA Update

I have some comments on the latest EIA Communiqué:

Teaching Geography. At the age of eight I could find Madagascar, Vladivostok, and the Gulf of Aden on the map. Ever since I started thumbing through my mom's World Book Encyclopedia, I developed a fascination with maps. A lot of kids don't share that fascination, but there's all sorts of exotic animals, exotic architecture, breathtaking natural scenery, etc. that do capture their imaginations. Anybody of average intelligence who grooves on Godzilla or Pokémon can be taught in five seconds how to find Japan on the map. Early geography instruction should be conducted in two steps: 1) describe and show pictures of the cool stuff in this world; 2) whip out the map and show where that cool stuff is. Teach them about stuff they care about first, and they'll be more capable and more willing to move on to stuff that doesn't especially draw their interest.

The same system should be applied to literature. Take it from someone who didn't find out that reading can be fun until he entered his twenties.

Anti-War Resolution. The California Federation of Teachers issued a resolution regarding Iraq:

WHEREAS, the United States and Britain have been bombing Iraq on a virtually continuous basis since the end of the Gulf War,

This is true.

WHEREAS, the Bush administration has presented no credible evidence that Iraq has intentions of harming the citizens of this country or that Iraq presents a threat to the United States, and

Here's your evidence. By their very nature, dictators that survive getting stomped while attempting conquest hold long grudges against the one(s) who did the stomping. Saddam Hussein is still alive, and so is the US. His very existence is a threat to the US. The existence of his WMD program enhances that threat.

WHEREAS, the Bush administration is seeking any pretext to overthrow the government of a sovereign nation, in violation of international law, and

Overthrowing sovereign nations is morally justified if the nations in question are murderous regimes. The Iraqi government murders its own people, as Jay Manifold illustrates, and is sufficient cause in and of itself to liberate Iraq. If Bush were looking for any pretext, he could have cited this one the day after his inauguration.

WHEREAS, a war with Iraq would require the redirection of vital resources and funds to a destructive, senseless, and illegal goal

CTA has not demonstrated what it perceives the goal to be, much less whether or not it is destructive, senseless, or illegal. (One would hope that it's destructive - to Saddam.)

while further strengthening an administration that has restricted the civil liberties of its citizens, and

So what? WWII strengthened the same FDR administration that stomped the stuffing out of our economic rights with redistributionist policies. Does that mean that our participation in WWII was unwarranted?

WHEREAS, this administration is using the so-called War on Terrorism to distract the American people from the vital issues they confront,

What evidence does CTA have of such intentions? Witnesses? Wiretaps? Vulcan mind melds? What arrogance, demanding evidence from Bush regarding his claims about Iraq and positing no evidence of its claims about Bush.

THEREFORE, be it resolved that the California Federation of Teachers goes on record as strenuously opposing the Bush administration's march toward war with Iraq
AND be it further resolved that the California Federation of Teachers urge its members and affiliates to get involved with organizations working toward stopping the Bush administration's march toward war with Iraq.

Nobody in this country is marching toward war with Iraq. Iraq started one with the US - and all other victims of terror - when it opened up the terrorist training facility at Salman Pak. (Incidentally, a biological warfare facility is also located there.)

Quote of the Week. Mr. Sturrock is trying to merge eight separate teachers' unions into one, and wants the final product to be "free of baggage" - the sort of union that would be created if "there were no teacher trade unions in Scotland and [union organizers] were starting afresh." Perhaps Scottish education should rid itself of the baggage that teachers' unions represent.

A Snapshot From My Vacation

Got back a day early - decided to do that big drive in one day instead of two.

I spent Wednesday morning tooling around the Vicksburg National Military Park before driving down to Hattiesburg to see the relatives. Imagine the irony of this scene: I am driving through the site of the southern flank of General Grant's siege works, and this is playing on the radio:

Some folks inherit star spangled eyes
Ooh, they send you down to war, Lord
And when you ask them, "How much should we give?"
Ooh, they only answer More! more! more! yoh
It ain't me, it ain't me, I ain't no military son, son.
It ain't me, it ain't me; I ain't no fortunate one, one.

Tuesday, November 26, 2002

A Year Of Thanksgiving

(Well, five and a half months worth.)

This will be an annual tradition on the blog: links to past stories about things for which we should be thankful:

I'll be spending Thanksgiving with relatives in Mississippi, so there won't be any posting until Sunday or Monday.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

From Nigeria To Lebanon

Tacitus (found via InstaPundit) links to a Times Online story about recent attacks in Lebanon, which included the shooting death of 31-year-old Bonnie Witheral:

She worked for the Christian Missionary Alliance, which runs a school and a health clinic and serves mainly Palestinians from the nearby Ain el-Hilweh refugee camp.

According to local reports, the church had received a series of threats by extremists warning it to close its mission and leave.

If the killings in Nigeria (which have mushroomed since my post on the topic) seem barbaric, consider the depth of evil that this attack represents. A Muslim local considers that a woman's affiliation with Christianity is so heinous that even though she brings needed medical services to people of his own faith she must die.

Sometimes we in America don't know how good we have it here.

Cut Out Statism!

Earlier this month Samizdata's Adriana Cronin reported the proliferation of posters encouraging British citizens to report "hate crimes" to the authorities. I made up a little poster of my own, which Samizdata has displayed here. First person other than the astute Jay Manifold to guess correctly the location in the poster's backdrop will get their name mentioned in the blog.

Hu's On First

Abbot and Costello meet foreign policy, as blogged by Joanne Jacobs.

(Discovered via Neolibertarian News Portal.)

Saturday, November 23, 2002

Speaking Of Search Engines...

Here's some of the search phrases that are directing people to this site:

Vulcans as Catholics
Limbaugh convicted of murder in Missouri
october 2002 email address of investors in oman
Star Wars "Nigerian spam"
Can Amtrak recover from its economic woes?
"Eye in the Pyramid" "George W. Bush"

Time To Update The Blogroll

Apologia. "Commentary on religion, politics, morality, education, the arts and anything else I can think of." William Luse has no apparent bio, but his musings on the formation of his blog can be found here. Recent posts discuss faith and astrophysics, an episode of The Practice, and assorted news items.

Doxos. Huw Raphael is an Orthodox blogger living in San Francisco. More info available in an extensive bio. In recent posts he quotes C. S. Lewis and comments on the holiday season (be sure and follow the link to the 2002 Planned Parenthood Holiday Card) and the weird Yahoo! and Google search phrases that people find his site through.

Sofia Sideshow. "Russian Mafia, Hollywood Producers, Post-Communists, Dancing Gypsies, Vile Corruption, Femme Fatales, Ancient Monasteries, Irish Bars, Chinese Food, Wild Dogs, Bitter Coffee, Biting Cold, Circus Freaks, Strongmen, Films to Produce, Lessons to Learn, and Axes to Grind. Nestled between Turkey and the Balkans!" The first of my permalinks to a blog in a former Warsaw Pact nation. Blogger "jkrank" has no bio available, but I discovered in the responses to this message that he used to live in Corpus Christi; I am a Class of '78 alumnus of Richard King High School myself. He writes on film industry activities in Bulgaria, stuff that would offend the former Communist authority, and stuff (and more stuff!) that would offend our former Vice President. This post on Lord of the Rings is worth reading.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Free Speech Rocks!

The top song on the German pop charts is "Der Steuersong" (The Tax Song) by Elmar Brandt. A Reuters story reports that this Gerhard Schroeder impersonator parodies the chancellor's record of "broken election promises, higher taxes and a never-ending squeeze on government services." Schroeder denies the accusations, but he shouldn't complain. In one week the song sold 350,000 copies. He should be thankful for the tax revenues this lampoon will generate.

The English translation of the lyrics is here.

(Courtesy of Samizdata.)

A Tale Of Two Countries

The scene: Nigeria. Last Saturday, ThisDay, a newspaper in the northern city of Kaduna, published a column by Isioma Daniel that challenged the claims by Muslim protestors that the upcoming Miss Universe contest scheduled to be held in the capital city of Abuja on December 7 is an affront to Islam. "What would [the prophet] Muhammad think? In all honesty, he would probably have chosen a wife from among [the contestants]." The newspaper printed a brief retraction Monday and a lengthier one Thursday. Rioting broke out in Kaduna, killing over 50 and injuring over 200, with at least 10 churches burned. The newspaper's regional office in Kaduna was burned. Rioters looted shops and lit bonfires.

The scene: the United States of America. In 1988, MCA/Universal releases Martin Scorsese's screen adaptation of the Nikos Kazantzakis book The Last Temptation of Christ. Condemnation of the film is widespread among the Christian community. The segment of the film that receives the most attention is the portrayal of a "love scene" between the Messiah and Mary Magdalene, which is part of a vision sent to Jesus by Satan to tempt him to step down from the Cross. Many who scoff at the protesters act as if this were the only objection, failing to note that this dialog spoken from the film Jesus doesn't exactly jive with the Gospels: "I'm a liar. A hypocrite. I'm afraid of everything. I don't ever tell the truth - I don't have the courage!" A critique including passages from both the film and the book can be found here. This reviewer captures the essence of the most crucial objections to the film (emphasis in original):

A Jesus who commits sins — who even thinks he commits sins, who talks a great deal about needing "forgiveness" and paying with his life for his own sins; a Jesus who himself speaks blasphemy and idolatry, calling fear his "god" and talking about being motivated more by fear than by love; who has an ambivalent at best relationship with the Father, even trying to merit divine hatred so that God will leave him alone — all of this is utterly antithetical to Christian belief and sentiment. This is not merely focusing on Jesus' humanity, this is effectively contradicting his divinity.

You know the rest. Widespread protests. No deaths. None injured. No looting. No buildings destroyed.

Like I said before, America has the most peaceful ideological discord on the face of the Earth. Remember that this Thanksgiving.

I Am An International Hate Criminal

On July 3, I posted this:

One anti-desecration law will serve as legal precedent for the passage of others. If nonspeech can be banned because of its message, speech can be banned, too. Proposals to curb "hate speech" and perhaps even criticism of the government will soon follow. Imagine what that would do to the Internet. (If the International Criminal Court ever gets bored and starts mulling over the definition of "mental harm to members of the group" - which one of its chief governing documents lists as an activity that constitutes genocide - we may not have to imagine for too long.)

Looks like somebody other than the ICC is taking the first step:

Last week, the Council of Europe approved an addition to a controversial computer crime treaty that would make it illegal to distribute or publish anything online that "advocates, promotes or incites hatred (or) discrimination."

The Additional Protocol to the Convention on Cybercrime, signed in that bastion of liberty known as Budapest, Hungary, criminalizes:

...acts of a racist and xenophobic nature committed through computer systems..."racist and xenophobic material" means any written material, any image or any other representation of ideas or theories, which advocates, promotes or incites hatred, discrimination or violence, against any individual or group of individuals, based on race, colour, descent or national or ethnic origin, as well as religion if used as a pretext for any of these factors.

The jihad for criminalizing "hate speech" is rooted in several fallacies:

  • Hate crime legislation ignores the true cause of criminal violence. The goal is to get rid of that which feeds hate, which is regarded falsely as the root cause of such violence. Not all people who hate are willing to express their hatred criminally, and not all such people hate their victims. What separates the former from the latter is that the latter are willing to use their selfish desires, hateful or not, to justify murder, assault, and robbery of those who are perceived to be in the way of their desires. Liking people and respecting their rights are two separate issues; hate crime targets the wrong one.
  • Speech crimes create vocal dissident classes that disrupt domestic tranquility. This sentiment is also expressed here. We fought the Cold War to keep Western Europe from becoming a place where people have to constantly watch their every word in fear of the iron fist of the government crashing on their lives, and now Western European leaders are gravitating toward that bleak dystopia. People who are free to speak their ideas do not reach the boiling point like those voices are oppressed. An energetic dissident class makes business-as-usual very difficult for governments, as Alexandr Solzhenytsin and Harry Wu demonstrated. Sometimes dissidents breed civil war, as Vladimir Lenin demonstrated.
  • Many humans have biased beliefs regarding the definition of "hate." This is common in politics. One person will believe that the beneficial nature of a particular policy (such as Social Security) is so obvious that the only motivation one can have for opposing it is hatred toward the intended benefactors. Simple criticism is also misinterpreted as "hate." People say that such-and-such personal activity or psychological orientation or ideology is bad, and are often accused of hate. Some of those people do hate. Some do not hate but simply want to be protected from the perceived social backlashes that such-and-such creates. Some care about those they criticize and wish to steer them away from whatever it is that is perceived to be unhealthy.
  • Speech crimes exacerbate conflicts between groups. Because of the previously described biases, any State that institutes speech crimes will inevitably warp the definition of "hate" to favor one set of constituencies at the expense of another. Major American universities, the most polarized places in the country, are the textbook example of this phenomenon. The polarization is exacerbated because different groups are held to different standards. "Minorities" and less traditional groups have one set of standards, "majorities" and more traditional groups have another. "You're not a victim of [group]ism because you belong to the wrong [group]." One side effect is that speech codes can encourage totalitarian impulses within the favored group.
  • Because many people have warped views on hate, any expression of belief is liable to eventually incite hatred in somebody. This is the logical fallacy that places this blog within the official definition of "hate speech." I have called for the elimination of monarchy in the Arab world. I have denounced praise for suicide bombers. I expressed my opinions on the Catholic priesthood scandal. I stated my opposition to flag-burning amendments, going so far as to compare them to speech codes like the ones the Euroweenies want to adopt. I accused both of the major opposing factions of being wrong on sodomy laws. I lambasted Democrat demagoguery and Republican spinelessness. I criticized both 19th-Century Protestant and 20th-Century Leftist rulership of the schools. And I haven't even gotten to September yet. There is no hate in anything I write here, but there is plenty of criticism, and many people in this world would use such criticisms to justify their preexisting hates, whether of those I criticize or of the foes (myself included) of those I criticize.

For many, controversial debate in an atmosphere of civility is no problem. The Far Left of American academia and the European intelligentsia don't care. They are paranoid that people like me who are willing to approach taboo or otherwise delicate subjects on culture and politics indirectly threaten society. They fear that the failure to suppress certain criticisms will somehow encourage lynchings of the objects of those criticisms, and that those criticized will be "criminally hurt" by the knowledge that there are actually people in this world who do not share their views. These delusional Utopians overestimate humans' emotional fragility, and underestimate our ability to keep disagreement from breeding hate and to keep hate from breeding criminal assault. This is not an asylum filled with fragile shells of human beings who must be protected by an omnipresent nanny state from anything and everything that might hurt their feelings. We the people of the Earth live for the quest of individual meaning and purpose in an atmosphere of political liberty, not to live forever in a womb micromanaged by bureaucrats. Life under freedom means that the vast majority of us are way too busy living our lives according to our own decrees to be distracted by the evil lure of assaulting our neighbors.

Update: Samizdata contributor Natalie Solent reports that in the UK Telegraph columnist Robin Page has been arrested under hate speech charges. The Telegraph story reads:

Mr Page said yesterday: "I urged people to go on the [pro-hunting] march and I urged that the rural minority be given the same legal protection as other minorities. All I said was that the rural minority should have the same rights as blacks, Muslims and gays.

"What is wrong with that in a multicultural society? I said nothing that could possibly be interpreted as racist."

Wednesday, November 20, 2002

Stanford Law School Invites And Uninvites Terror Suspect

On November 5, Eugene Volokh began a series of posts about a Stanford Law School controversy surrounding its invitation of one Lynne Stewart "to be a Visiting Public Interest Mentor on Nov. 11-12." The controversy? An ABC news story reports that Stewart was under indictment for "allegedly supporting and providing resources for convicted blind terrorist Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman and an Egyptian terrorist organization known as the Islamic Group." In another post, Professor Volokh reveals that Stewart supported Stalin, Mao, and the Vietnamese government for, in her words, "locking up people they see as dangerous." (One wonders what a rousing discussion on the concept of "criminal dangerousness" at a major American law school would sound like.)

In the wake of student protest against the decision, as Volokh writes, a letter written by Dean Kathleen M. Sullivan and forwarded by Associate Dean for Student Affairs Catherine Glaze announced that the invitation would be rescinded:

An invitation was issued to Lynne Stewart by the Director of Public Interest Programs at Stanford Law School to serve as a David W. Mills Public Interest Mentor without full consultation with faculty and senior administrators. Stanford Law School welcomes discussion and promotes rigorous debate on difficult and controversial issues. The student-sponsored "Shaking the Foundations" conference being held this weekend is an appropriate forum for Ms. Stewart and others with various points of view to speak on many issues, including the ethical limits of client representation. However, it has come to my attention that Ms. Stewart has expressed sympathy for and tacit endorsement of the use of directed violence to achieve social change. Therefore I have decided that it is not appropriate to confer the title of David W. Mills Public Interest Mentor to Ms. Stewart, and have today issued a letter to Ms. Stewart rescinding the offer to serve in the capacity of mentor to our students during her visit.

Stanford dropped its invitation for Stewart to participate in the mentoring program, but she was still free to speak on campus. As posted here, Lynne Stewart perceived this as censorship, to which Professor Volokh responded (emphasis and hyperlink in original):

Ms. Stewart, when Stalin and Mao killed, imprisoned, and otherwise persecuted their opponents -- something about which you said, "I don't have any problem with Mao or Stalin or the Vietnamese leaders or certainly Fidel locking up people they see as dangerous" -- that's censorship.

When a law school refuses to give you a special honor, because it thinks you're dishonorable, that's not censorship.

Volokh got kudos from one reader. But an email claiming to be from the Association of American University Professors begged to differ. (Volokh does not believe that AAUP is the genuine source of the email.) It took up the censorship canard, failing to note that the university was not infringing her right to speak on campus but was refusing to give her a particular honor.

Here Professor Volokh links to a Stanford Daily article on the issue, which quotes the statement once made by Lynne Stewart that originally stirred the protests:

I don't believe in anarchist violence but in directed violence. That would be violence directed at the institutions which perpetuate capitalism, racism and sexism, and at the people who are the appointed guardians of those institutions, and accompanied by popular support.

Volokh painted a portrait of a hypothetical attorney named Stuart Linn who is identical to Lynne Stewart in all ways except that he is under indictment for collaborating with violent abortion protesters and that he once stated support for "violence directed at the institutions which perpetuate the murder of unborn children, and at the people who are the appointed guardians of those institutions, and accompanied by popular support."

The prof's consistency check is a good one, but more needs to be said on the subject of "political violence." As an opponent of capital punishment, I believe that deadly force should be reserved for combating crimes in progress and not to be used against those already apprehended. For governments, this means sending soldiers to combat foreigners committing or conspiring to commit violent acts of war against the nation, or to liberate allied nations from tyrannical regimes, and sending police to combat domestic violent crime and conspiracies to do such. Many of my fellow conservatives support capital punishment, and most insist that its application be reserved for crimes of murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Communist regimes like the ones Stewart supports use deadly force against nonviolent dissidents. There is no moral equivalence between the two.

Private citizens may rely on deadly force to defend themselves or their neighbors against immediate deadly threats posed by animal predators or by criminal assaults from private individuals or State officials. They also have the right to seek to overthrow a government that has completely abolished rule of law and due process, or (as with the French Resistance during WWII) to aid and abet a foreign army fighting to liberate their country from tyranny.

(While due process and rule of law still exist in some degree - or, as in Cuba, they do not exist but revolution is impractical - the individual should protest only through civil disobedience. This means a) to resist orders issued by the State under authority it does not rightfully possess, and b) to rescue people from State tyranny by using nonviolent means to deliver them to a place where the State cannot reach them. The underground churches in the Arab and Communist worlds and the Underground Railroad in antebellum America, respectively, illustrate these two forms of resistance.)

Stewart describes neither self-defense nor revolution nor civil disobedience. She and the hypothetical Stuart Linn call for vigilantism, which encompasses three specific situations. Note that all three examples refer to perceived crimes that the vigilante's target committed at a time prior to the vigilante action - not the sort of immediate deadlt threats described earlier.

  1. An individual exacts violence toward a private party or a State official in retribution for activity regarded as a crime by the State. This usurps the State's authority to prosecute and punish criminal activity.
  2. An individual exacts violence toward a private party in retribution for activity regarded as a crime by the individual but not by the State. This not only usurps State authority but also hinders any effort to reform the State's policy regarding the activity that the vigilante wants criminalized.
  3. An individual exacts violence against State officials in retribution for activity regarded as a crime by the individual but not by the State, while no effort to overthrow the government is under way. Physical retribution against a government with no ongoing attempts to remove it from existence leaves the root problems of State tyranny in place.

The first two forms of vigilantism are crimes against formal due process and the rights of the accused. The third violates "just revolution" principles; if a revolution with no chance of success, as illustrated by the Cuba example, is not justified, then neither is a physical act of anti-government vengeance with no attempt at government overthrow behind it. In all cases the vigilante is a criminal despite the innocence or guilt of the target.

Stewart condones violence against "institutions which perpetuate capitalism, racism and sexism, and at the people who are the appointed guardians of those institutions." Obviously, such institutions and their "guardians" include both public- and private-sector entities. Stewart condones criminal assault and murder. No freedom-loving country should allow this monster to practice law.

So when will her supporters start lobbying for Ted Kaczynski to speak at Stanford Law School? He practices what Stewart preaches, after all.

 photo Stewart-Kaczynski.gif

Update: Professor Volokh has just posted Dean Sullivan's latest statement on the matter.

Tuesday, November 19, 2002

While We're On The Subject Of Space Flight...

On this day in 1969, Charles Conrad and Alan Bean (pictured) became the third and fourth humans to set foot on the moon.

Monday, November 18, 2002

A Day In The Life After The Cold War

This morning WBAP host Mark Davis interviewed Tom Stafford, who is plugging his book We Have Capture, his memoirs about his involvement in the space program. The title is taken from the words he spoke during the historic Apollo-Soyuz mission as the two capsules docked. The Apollo craft was manned by himself, Vance D. Brand, and Donald K. Slayton. Valeriy Kubasov and Alexei Leonov, the first human to walk in space, manned the Soyuz.

Stafford mentioned during the interview that Leonov, with whom he had built a close friendship over the years, was coming to America for a visit. (The two are pictured above. See here for an image of the famous "handshake in space.") During the days of East-West conflict, a visit by the most famous cosmonaut next to Yuri Gagarin would be a major diplomatic event. But now that the Cold War is over Leonov is coming over as an ordinary tourist; the two space pioneers are going off on a hunting trip.

Welcome to the New World.

Is That A Missile Silo Under Your Palace, Or Are You Unhappy To See Me?

NewsMax contributor Jack Wheeler exlains how oil exploration technology can be used to find Saddam Hussein's weapons stash.

Sunday, November 17, 2002

Mr. Saddam, This Is The B-1B Lancer, The Most Powerful High-Altitude Bomber In The World. Did I Drop 83 500-Pound Bombs Or 84? Do Ya Feel Lucky, Punk?

Scrappleface unearths the actual wording of the UN's Iraq resolution.

Saturday, November 16, 2002

We're Number Six!

The 2003 Index of Economic Freedom (see rankings here) has gotten attention on several blogs including Neolibertarian News Portal, Samizdata, and Bjørn Stærk.

The index, cosponsored by the Heritage Foundationand and the Wall Street Journal, grades ten economic factors on a scale from 1 to 5, 1 being Commerce Heaven and 5 being Holiday in Hell, which are averaged together to calculate that nation's overall score. The factors are: trade policy, fiscal burden of government, government intervention in the economy, monetary policy, capital flows and foreign investment, banking and finance, wages and prices, property rights , regulation, and black market. These economic indicators are discussed in detail here.

Mr. Stærk points out that the actual score is more important than the ranking. His native Norway is 16 places behind Sweden, but the scores (1.90 and 2.30, respectively) are only .4 points apart. Also disguising the real relationship is the way the rankings are tallied. Luxembourg and New Zealand are tied for third place, followed immediately by Ireland. The Index lists Ireland as being in fifth place, being preceded by four countries - but it has the fourth highest score. The US, with a score of 1.80, is tied with Denmark and also with Estonia, the only former Communist state in the "mostly free" category" (scoring under 2.00). North Korea is the only nation that scored a "perfect" 5.00. Cuba came in second from the bottom at 4.45.

Jay Manifold emailed a comment on two factors other than position that should be considered:

Position is important. See, for example, the recently published 2003 Index of Economic Freedom; I've got a pointer to it in a recent posting on Arcturus. Or for a less controversial ranking (in some circles), the UN's Human Development Index (I've got a pointer to that one out there too, but it's a big honkin' *.pdf; high-speed connection recommended).

But velocity -- movement -- is more important. A country could be in a relatively good position on one or both rankings, but if it's dropping from year to year, that's an indication of serious problems. An example of this would be the heavily-blogged news item earlier this year to the effect that Sweden is now poorer than every state in the US, and that Swedes as a group are noticeably less well off than African-Americans as a group. Twenty years ago, Sweden was noticeably better off than the US by the measures being used in the current comparison. Something has gone wrong (a Swedish acquaintance of mine told me several years ago that "Sweden will end up with socialist levels of taxation and libertarian levels of social services" due to its profligate public policies).

And acceleration, if present, is more important still. Even if a country is getting worse, if it's getting worse more slowly with time, the implication of this analogy is that some force is acting upon it which, if allowed to continue, will halt its decline and eventually improve its condition.

Instapundit has a post on how the velocity factor plays out in Bulgaria.

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

England To Launch Pre-Emptive Strike Despite Many Protests

(Roiters) Under harsh criticism from many sources, Her Majesty Elizabeth I has announced that the Royal Navy will launch a pre-emptive strike against the Spanish Armada, citing Spain's repeated violations of the "no sail zone" off the coast of France and its weapons of mass destruction program.

Spanish attaché Salvador Alfonso Diego Duarte Alvarez de la Montoya denied that his country posed any threat to England. He stated that the Armada was merely "conducting maneuvers," and that Spain's stockpiles of gunpowder were designated strictly for civilian purposes. He also denied reports that Spain is using plague-infested rats to develop biological weapons.

The French ambassador protested that no link has ever been established between Armada commander Don Alonso de Guzman el Bueno, Duke of Medina Sidonia, and Alexander Farnese, the Duke of Parma. The latter, according to several "enemy combatants" detained at the military prison on the Isle of Man, has been plotting to launch an invasion force from Calais in the Spanish Netherlands. Intelligence sources confirm the accusations. Montoya insists that there is no connection between the dukes.

Several nations, including France, have sent a signed ultimatum to Spain's King Philip II, demanding that he disarm his navy and submit to weapons inspectors. At the behest of France, language stipulating the threat of a unilateral strike by England was left out of the ultimatum.

The attack will be launched nevertheless. From an undisclosed location, Lord Chancellor Sir Christopher Hatton issued a statement explaining Her Majesty's decision. "The risks of inaction are far greater than the risk of action. Some concede that Philip is evil, power hungry and a menace, but that until he crosses the threshold of actually possessing biological weapons or setting foot on English soil, we should rule out any preemptive action. That logic seems to me to be deeply flawed."

Several university professors question the queen's motives. One academic labeled the initiative as a "war for coal." Another accused the queen of "manufacturing another enemy 'to have an identity.'" Yet another insists that she is simply seeking to spread English hegemony. A co-founder of the Opposition to Jewish Return Coalition, which supports the 1492 ouster of Jews from Spain, wrote that "if Philip is a tyrant, Elizabeth created him," and concluded that a war would be a diversion to provide cover for Jewish atrocities in the Low Countries.

Even the Archbishop of Canterbury has aired objections. While recognizing that the Spanish regime is "brutal and violent," he claims that pre-emptive action against Philip could "undermine the society of states." He continued, saying that "Her Majesty risks the lives of hundreds of thousands in a region that could rapidly and uncontrollably spiral down into chaos. We also jeopardize any authority we might have to appeal for restraint in other situations on the basis of international law."

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Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Animal Rights

Suman Palit and Robert Prather comment on Michael Pollan's New York Times column on the animal rights movement. (You may need to fill out a form for a free account to view the article.) Consider this passage:

One by one, science is dismantling our claims to uniqueness as a species, discovering that such things as culture, tool making, language and even possibly self-consciousness are not the exclusive domain of Homo sapiens.

Pollan shouldn't bring up the possibility of science proving the existence of animal self-consciousness if science hasn't gotten anywhere near doing so. What sets homo sapiens apart from animals is our unique capacity for conceptual thought and propositional speech. Animals think and behave purely out of instinct. Their "culture" is collective behavior that is identical to that of all other members within the species of the same gender and subtype (such as drone bees as differentiated from queen bees). Their languages communicate wants for physical objects that they are programmed to want, such as food, water, shelter, physical comfort, and mating partners, and revulsion to physical objects they are programmed to not want, such as predators and physical discomfort. Tools are used purely to address immediate physical-world concerns; chimpanzees, for instance, will use a stick to coax ants into climbing it in order to eat them. Homo sapiens alone thinks philosophically and intellectually. And humans alone think and act as individuals; human behavior is marked by general tendencies rather than being monolithic, which means that people are capable of choosing between alternate behaviors, even those that violate their natural tendencies.

Consider also this:

There's a schizoid quality to our relationship with animals, in which sentiment and brutality exist side by side. Half the dogs in America will receive Christmas presents this year, yet few of us pause to consider the miserable life of the pig -- an animal easily as intelligent as a dog -- that becomes the Christmas ham...We tolerate this disconnect because the life of the pig has moved out of view.

Is it schizoid to regard animals as having different uses? Some animals are interesting to watch. Some animals - the higher mammals - offer a primitive level of companionship. Some taste good. The common belief is that animals are legitimate resources for food and non-food raw materials, and that those not being used for such purposes, usually excepting insects and other lower life forms with no emotional capacity whatsoever, should not be killed, tortured, or made to suffer due to neglect. This confuses many vegans. They insist that any killing of an animal, except in self-defense (although some even object to that, especially if the attacker belongs to an endangered species), is brutal. They don't understand how rational people can adopt the common mindset regarding the treatment of animals.

Could someone explain to me the mindset of Peter Singer? On the one hand, he wants animals to have legal rights equal to that of humans. On the other, he supports active euthanasia of disabled infants:

The debate [at Princeton], sponsored by the university's Bioethics Forum, focused on two main issues: when, if ever, it would be appropriate to kill a disabled infant, and the relative worth of living with a profound disability.

Professor Singer, who was named the university's first Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics a year ago, did not break any new philosophical ground.

His most provocative statement tonight essentially repeated what has led so many of his critics to protest his appointment. And none of what he presented in the discussion, titled "Ethics, Health Care and Disability," seemed to come as much of a shock to his audience, mostly students, or his debate opponent, Adrienne Asch, a professor of ethics at Wellesley College.

"I do not think it is always wrong to kill an innocent human being," Professor Singer told the rapt audience in Harold Helm Auditorium=2E "Simply killing an infant is never equivalent to killing a person."

Monday, November 11, 2002

Remembrance on Veteran's Day

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Sunday, November 10, 2002

Another Sign Of The Growing Western Influence In Iran

"I want these vermin [Hawkeye and B. J.] hung! I want them buried in anthills, their bodies smeared with honey! I want them drawn and quartered, and then I want the pieces arrested!" - Charles Emerson Winchester, in the episode "A Night at Rosie's" on M*A*S*H.

NewsMax reports the recent criminal conviction of university professor Hashem Aghajari, for "insulting the Prophet Mohammed" by stating that "clerics' teachings on Islam were considered sacred simply because they were part of history, and questioned why clerics were the only ones authorized to interpret Islam." His sentence?

Iran's judiciary, which is opposed to reforms proposed by [the politically moderate President Mohammad] Khatami, did indeed sentence Aghajari to death ... and eight years in jail, 74 lashes, a 10-year ban from teaching, and exile to three remote Iranian cities for eight years.

David Ogden Stiers was unavailable for comment.

Saturday, November 09, 2002

And Now For A Fisk Of My Own

Andrew Sullivan names his latest Begala Award Nominee (third post from top). Derrick Jackson offers up what is presumably the top ten things Republicans stand for:

  1. Tax cuts. Washington must cease and desist from its extraconstitutional duties and must return the portions of our incomes that are funding such activities.
  2. Guns. The chief deterrent to violent crime and robbery is an armed public that demonstrates a willingness to stomp the stuffing out of private-sector thugs in self-defense against assault, murder, and plunder. As a deterrent police rank second to common citizens only because they are fewer in number; they serve to pursue those criminals that that their victims cannot or choose not to apprehend.
  3. Bombs. The chief deterrent to foreign attack is an armed American government that demonstrates a willingness to stomp the stuffing out of public-sector thugs and other foreign entities in self-defense against assault, murder, and plunder.
  4. Oil. It's our chief power source - of course we should care about oil. If the Pleistocene Liberation Organization environmentalists didn't have so much entrenched power, we'd have clean, efficient nuclear power plants taking up a greater percentage of our power sources, and we'd be drastically reducing our radioactive waste by recycling all of it into usable reactor fuel.
  5. Big business. Republicans care about businesses, period, not just big ones. (Ever heard of the National Federation of Independent Business, Derrick?) Impeding their profitability impedes their ability to create jobs and pay taxes. The Democratic leadership wants to punish success and create jobs and tax revenues at the same time. See also #1.
  6. Old boy networks. Walter Mondale and Frank Lautenberg were on the ballot, and Derrick Jackson chastises the Republicans for this? Hey, show me a political party without old-boy networks, and I'll show you a political party that has less political clout than Lyndon LaRouche.
  7. Privatization. Privatization of what? He probably means Social Security and public education. The former is a transfer of wealth from one generation to another; all SSA taxes fund current stipends, which means no proceeds are invested. On top of that, for most of its history SSA taxes were used to pay for general government expenses by elected officials who hypocritically act shocked when private-sector retirement plans are looted. As for my thoughts on public education, read my past essay "School and State," parts One, Two, and Three.
  8. Plundering the earth. When people harp on "plundering the earth," this is generally an accusation of reckless disregard of the environment while obtaining natural resources. The PLO (see #4) means something much more radical by this phrase, regarding any harvesting of resources in a wilderness area as "plunder." Both anti-business bigotry and PLO attempts to keep the vast majority of Earth off-limits to humans must be fought. Since people take better care of their stuff than other people's stuff, privatization of more of Earth's resources would make the planet cleaner (see #7).
  9. Pillorying and padlocking the poor. He must have the poor confused with James Traficant. But seriously folks...This represents a chief prejudice among the ranks of the Left. Liberals believe that their policies will naturally bring about certain results that are beneficial to, amog others, the poor. One such example is the belief that raising the minimum wage increases real incomes in the long run. Conservatives argue that the beneficial effects of such hikes is temporary, and that in the long run unemployment increases in minimum-wage sectors as hiring becomes more expensive to employers. Many liberals assume that such arguments are a smoke screen, assuming that conservatives think the liberals are right about the long-term effects of their policies, opposing them only because they don't care about the people for whom the policies were designed. Derrick Jackson is one of these bigots.
  10. Party-line votes. The most bipartisan issue there is in politics. Dems and Reps alike want to protect their ballot oligopoly from the Greens, Libertarians, etc.

Thursday, November 07, 2002

A Post-Election Fisking...

...of Michael Moore, courtesy of Tim Blair.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

The Man In The Moon

Jay Manifold uncovers a conspiracy.

Anarchy In The UK

Joyce Lee Malcolm reports on the exploding violent crime rate in England and the role stringent gun control plays in this trend. Note the following comment:

A government study for the years 1890-92, for example, found only three handgun homicides, an average of one a year, in a population of 30 million. In 1904 there were only four armed robberies in London, then the largest city in the world. A hundred years and many gun laws later, the BBC reported that England’s firearms restrictions "seem to have had little impact in the criminal underworld." Guns are virtually outlawed, and, as the old slogan predicted, only outlaws have guns. Worse, they are increasingly ready to use them.

Sounds to me like gun control is having a huge impact in the criminal underworld - just not the impact the authorities are looking for.

It gets worse. Malcolm reveals a number of cases in which British citizens were convicted for physically attacking assailants in self-defense, and in one instance for using a realistic toy gun to hold off a couple of burglars. Brits are outraged that the law straitjackets the ability of citizens to legally defend themselves. Tony Blair has a solution, though:

Rather than permit individuals more scope to defend themselves, Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government plans to combat crime by extending those "restraints on personal liberty": removing the prohibition against double jeopardy so people can be tried twice for the same crime, making hearsay evidence admissible in court, and letting jurors know of a suspect’s previous crimes.

Mr. Blair, if I am about to be assaulted by some thug with a knife and there's a stray brick within my grasp, that brick will do me a bloody lot more good than any tweak you administer to the rules of evidence, and reinstating double jeopardy only means that I can be tried twice for defending myself!!

Mr. Bush, it's time to get on the British government's case for its human rights abuses. Don't go wobbly. I'd like to visit England one of these days, but not until Parliament decriminalizes self-defense.

First Thought On The Election

Terry McAuliffe underfunded a lot of campaigns by putting most of his eggs in one basket - the Florida basket - and Jeb Bush won by a comfortable margin - 56% to McBride's 43% (with 97% of votes reported). Will he still be the DNC chairman when the sun sets on November 6?

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Today's Election Message

Restore duty and honor in government. Vote Klingon!

The First Henderson Prizes for the Advancement of Liberty

The first awards honor these moments in history:

  • The invention that created the first mass media
  • The publication of two books that pioneered the development of the formal philosophy of liberty
  • The chain of events that contributed directly to the creation of the first nation built on the combination of the following: the Rule of Law, equality under the law for all citizens, decentralization of political power, and election of the highest officers of the State (save the Judiciary)
  • The first peaceful transfer of contested national executive power

The site for the Henderson Awards is here. A permalink will appear on this site soon.

Monday, November 04, 2002

Thy Recliner And Thy Ottoman They Comfort Me

The Daytona Daily News reports the growing trend in churches toward comfortable furniture.

Message to the clergy: people listen to sermons less when they're distracted by physical discomfort.

Yeah, But None Of The Rumors About Me Involve Anybody Named "Sally"

Church and Political Speech

Yesterday, Glenn Reynolds reported the Trojan Horseshoes blog's fisking of a church bulletin board titled All Together now, Church and State! The story revolves around the display and distribution of leftist political literature in a church two days before an election.

The moral of this story is not that churches should not comment on politics. To expect that the law bars such expression is extremely discriminatory - why should the church be the only social institution in the nation with such a speech restriction? To assume that religion has no say over politics is to misunderstand both; religion is intrinsically concerned with ethics, and the issue of the moral obligations of the State is a part of ethics. The First Amendment protects "the free exercise [of religion] thereof;" the State violates this law when it demands that the church stay silent on politics.

Government establishment of a religion occurs when a church is deputized as an arm of the State. A church that passes out political tracts no more becomes an arm of the government than does a lobby organization or political party that engages in such activity. Just ask the Libertarians; their party's been distributing political literature for years, and nobody mistakes the LP for a government agency.

What this anonymous Methodist church did wrong was an affront not to the law but to Christianity. For those of y'all who brought your Bible, turn to the book of Acts, Chapter 17, verses 10 and 11:

As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.

This Jewish community in the Greek city of Berea understood a principle: whatever is spoken within the walls of this religious institution must not be accepted uncritically but must be analyzed in accord with Scripture. Paul was proclaiming a message relevant to a central concern written in those ancient scrolls: the identity and nature of the Messiah. For the Berean synagogue to accept Paul's gospel at face value without consulting its documentation - that Paul claimed to be affirming - would have amounted to the synagogue granting Paul de facto authority over Scripture.

Churches should treat political - and apolitical - special interests the way the Bereans treated Paul: give them a forum, but hold up their message to that church's doctrine. For instance, if First Baptist invites John R. Lott to speak on his research on gun ownership, a sociological issue with political implications, First Baptist should be prepared to explore what the Bible has to say about the doctrinally relevant portion of his message (i.e. the morality of private-sector armed defense of self and others), and for the sake of thoroughness should address what science has to say about the scientific portion (Lott's claims regarding human behavior in relation to the availability or prohibition of weaponry).

The literature reported at Trojan Horseshoes was relevant to portions of Christian philosophy, starting with the question of whether or not socialist programs empower Caesar to have rendered unto himself that which is not his. Political gospels were placed on a church bulletin board, distributed in a Sunday school class, and placed in a church bulletin with no examination of Scripture (or sociological science) to see if what it said was true. That Methodist church acceded church authority to the Children's Defense Fund et al.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Did Wellstone's Plane Crash In A Grassy Knoll?

A lot of people have been commenting on the conspiracy theory of cartoonist and pundit Ted Rall that Paul Wellstone was assassinated. Buffalo State College journalism professor Dr. Michael Niman wonders about such a possibility, too.

Aside from the lack of anything resembling evidence, there's two huge, gaping holes in these speculations:

  • Paul Wellstone was in serious danger of losing the election to Norm Coleman.
  • The last time a candidate for national public office died in a plane crash, his party still wound up winning the election.

If someone had wanted to kill someone in order to swing a Senate election in favor of the GOP, the victim would have been a Republican candidate for a seat likely to be picked up by the Dems.

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