Alan K. Henderson's Weblog


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Saturday, March 29, 2003

Yes, Iraq Really Is A Totalitarian Hellhole

A human shield discovers the truth (via InstaPundit).

Random Thought

If President Bush is a dictator, as some of his more apoplectic critics profess, then why can't he get any of his judicial nominations passed?

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I Can See Clearly Now That The LASIK's Come

I took a leisurely 2-mile walk down to Dr. Tylock's Thursday morning, with a stop at a nearby donut shop. Ordered two of what looked like a hot-dog-sized pig-in-a-blanket. Signed some papers. Got lots of drops put in my eyes; the ophthalmological industry is certainly doing its part to prevent rising ocean levels. Took a Valium - I'm told it relaxes ya, but I couldn't notice any change in my physical or mental state.

Went under two lasers, The first one, the Intralasik, cuts the initial flap in the cornea. Most doctors use a specialized scalpel for that incision; Drs. Tylock and Boothe have the only two practices in DFW that use the Intralasik. (My eyes were judged to be too sensitive for the scalpel, anyway). When the Intralasik presses on the eyeball, you can see those weird checky patterns that show up when you rub your eyes hard enough. The second laser does the corneal shaping. Keeping locked onto the little orange light can be a bit tricky - because the cornea is actually moving during the procedure. I highly recommend that anyone who has never had major dental work (and actually needs it) to do so before a LASIK session - having laser beams shot into your eyes at close range is far more comfortable than any dental drill. I wonder if laser dentistry is in the foreseeable future...

Went home at roughly 1PM. Took a prescribed sleeping pill, slept for nine hours. For the first 24 hours, close-up activities like computer work and reading were off-limits, but TV was okay. Finally got around to watching my Mouse Hunt video in the wee hours of the morning. Jay Manifold had recommended the flick once. Pretty good comedy. I bet that a lot of Third World women (and maybe a few New World men) would like to slap the chick who said she couldn't stand living in the middle class. Don't know how Jay's grey tabby would react to the cat-chasing-mouse scene. Liked the ending.

At the Friday morning checkup, my sight was officially ruled 20/20 with the right eye. The left eye suffers from both amblyopia ("lazy eye") and strabismus (crossed eye); it can be brought to a state where sight is no longer blurry, but the amblyopia itself cannot be corrected without major advances in treating the optic nerve and perhaps the brain itself. At any rate I will never have depth perception or even know what it is until I meet Jesus. I do have slightly superior left-side peripheral vision, though.

Visual clarity will be affected by a few days of swelling. I'll be taking three different types of drops through Tuesday: an antibacterial agent (ofloxacin), an anti-inflammatory compound (prednisolone acetate), and lots of Refresh Plus "artificial tears" (carboxymethylcellulose sodium). I can already read the credits on a 25" TV from twelve feet away.

Next followup is Thursday.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

Last Post For A Few Days

I'll be leaving the apartment in about an hour to catch the DART bus to Dr. Tylock's. (That's Dallas Area Rapid Transit - "rapid" as in faster than a goat cart.) Will be getting a bite to eat near the clinic before heading down there. No computer work allowed in the first 24 hours. I'll play it safe and give it up for 48 hours worth of Lent.

To all the Iraqis crying for freedom - may the Special Forces be with you.


More eyedrops. Less than ten hours to go. In the meantime, I'll update the permalinks.

All AgitProp, all the time... "A place where I can jot down a few current affairs musings, write down some thoughts (all of them really deep, no doubt), and vent my spleen randomly." Paul Jané lives in Montreal. He is not a fan of Prime Minister Jean Chrétien or CNN, and he appreciates free speech more than Tim Robbins.

Daghtator Blog "fighting the EUnuchs from within." Anti-idiotarian blogger Dagh Nielsen (pic here) lives in Copenhagen, Denmark. His leaderhead features pics of political leaders from the axes of "Civilization" and "the Enemy." (Wonder whose face will eventually replace Saddam's? Gerhard Schroeder?) Dagh reports those massive war casualties :-) and the massive support for the war among Danes. And check out this post on pacifists. Disclaimer: one post has a work-unsafe pic.

NZ Pundit "Flailing moral scolds, authoritarian lefties and their dullard media apologists since 2002." Now all of the Anglosphere has a flag on the blogroll. The site is shared by two New Zealanders. NZ Pundit (Gordon King ) has the majority of posts; click where it says "I NEED WORK" for bio/resume. He recently posted photographic evidence of Bush's leadership, and reported NZ Prime Minister Helen Clark's differences with the US. and Craig Ranapia posts under "Other Pundit" - no apparent bio. He relays a call for tax reform from director Peter Jackson. At a different site he wrote a handy guide to New Zealand Politics that's well worth the read.

The Truth Laid Bear "A bear, the world, and a strong urge to hibernate." Don't let the name fool you - NZ Bear is a Californian. The blog with the best website design, in my opinion. NZ Bear ponders certain risks in the Iraq War regarding surrenders and the presence of reporters.

Update: The accent over the "e" in Jané has been added.

Wednesday, March 26, 2003

A Song For The Next Pro-War Rally

Huw Raphael has the lyrics.

Strange Times

WBAP talk show host Mark Davis just read a great listener email. It goes something like this:

We live in strange times, when the top rapper is white, the top golfer is black, the tallest guy in the NBA is Chinese, the Swiss hold the America's Cup, the French accuse the Americans of arrogance, and the Germans don't want to go to war.

Going Under The Laser

Tuesday morning I went in to the Tylock Eye Care & Laser Center getting tests for eligibility for Lasik surgery. The eye charts in Hebrew, Greek, and Arabic behind the lobby counter were a nice touch. (Sigma! Mu! Epsilon! Uh...v12 = v12 + vCS12 - 2v1vCS1 cos j1!)

The exam started with corneal mapping. I looked into three different mapping devices, one of which has a swirly hypnotic pattern that looks like an Austin Powers backdrop. After that, a standard eye exam (Mene, Mene, Tekel, Upharsin!), followed by an anointing with pupil-dilating eyedrops and yet another eye exam. (!)

The final verdict: I'm eligible. I go in at 10 AM Thursday morning. The actual surgery lasts only moments, but the prep takes 2-3 hours. The bill will be $3600 plus $52.88 for an eyedrop prescription. For those who feel so inclined to fund the cause of elective surgery, I have added a PayPal icon to the site. I'm not too fond of the big gaping space between the Rumsfeld quote and the Estonia salute, but I'll tweak the website layout later.

Update: There, that looks a lot better.

Monday, March 24, 2003

Oscar, Shmoscar

I stopped caring about the Oscars a long time ago. Yes, the Academy Award does have a better track record of honoring actual talent than the Nobel Peace Prize. But the award doesn't mean as much as it used to. The industry is losing touch with what the customer wants to see on screen, and the people responsible for that decline are the same ones who decide who gets the gold statuette.

Some films offend, and some simply bore people to death. (And some do both.) My beef is with those filmmakers who never strive (or are incapable of striving) for excellence; they may go a notch or two above mediocrity, but that's it. (The music industry also suffers from such lackluster performance.)

The 75th Academy Awards tweaked some interest because of the recent antiwar hysteria coming out of Hollywood. From what I've read, Steve Martin appears to have done a great job as host. I've seen no reports of him reveling in the sort of divisive political humor that Whoopi Goldberg grooved on when she hosted. Oscar night is about movie stars, as were Steve's jokes - see here for the ones Yahoo liked the best.

The highlight was a loud antiwar rant by Michael Moore, which got even louder as the orchestra tried (unsuccessfully) to drown him out. Steve delivered a great one-liner as Moore went backstage: "The Teamsters are helping Mr. Moore into the trunk of his limo."

At FrontPage Magazine, Mike Dunnagan masterfully dissects Bowling for Columbine, the fraudulent diatribe that won this year's Oscar for Best Documentary. If I were to treat Moore's words as he treated Charlton Heston's, I could take one of his screeds and portray him as saying, “Virtually NO ONE in America…has said this war is wrong, that it is a SIN…we love…War.” But I won't :-)

Sunday, March 23, 2003

Hillary Clinton Flunks History

NewsMax reports that Hillary Clinton wants the war budget withdrawn:

"Under any objective assessment of where we stand in the world right now, this budget should be a nonstarter. It should be withdrawn from the floor," the nation's leading Democrat complained.

Raising her voice to a near-shout, Mrs. Clinton urged, "Every one of us should be saying, 'My goodness, we have higher obligations. How can we keep faith with those young men and women who are on the front lines for us?'"

Like the soldiers who were left to die without proper support in Somalia? Like the soldiers whose ballots were rejected by the Democratic Party of Florida?

And while Clinton continues to insist that she backs the U.S. military, she argued that rising defense costs could hobble the economy for future generations of Americans.

"We are in danger of being the first generation of Americans to leave our children worse off than we were," predicted the New York Senator. "No generation of Americans has ever done that. We are about to do that."

Oh really? Didn't the Civil War bring a lot of devastation to an entire generation? Didn't your history books teach about the Great Depression?

You're making the same predictions that your precious Democratic leadership made about Reaganomics. The predictions didn't come true; he launched an expansion that even the Bush-Clinton tax hikes couldn't stop. (No, I haven't forgotten G. H. W. Bush's Democrat appeasement.) And Reagan had a much more expensive foreign policy than Dubya - the Soviet empire vs. Iraq.

Get your greedy little hands out of my wallet!

Friday, March 21, 2003

Well, He Does Have Experience Chasing After Guys Named Muhammad

Washington DC's Chief Moose has been called to active duty.

Okay, I've done my obligatory warblogging. Back to domestic issues.

Wednesday, March 19, 2003

The Bible, Theocracy, And Troublesome Laws

Back in December, Andrew Sullivan asked a question (scroll down to the heading "Clarification"):

One of the things that befuddles me about some Christian fundamentalists is why they don't call for public executions of homosexuals. They say they believe in the Bible literally. And Leviticus clearly calls for the death penalty for sodomy. So why do they refuse to follow the Bible? Or are they cafeteria fundamentalists?

Sullivan refers to the portion of the criminal code of theocratic Israel that most people find troubling: that short list of nonlethal crimes that carry the death penalty. Most if not all of the offenses in this category are:

One key misconception about the Bible is the assumption that Christians must follow all commands given to the Jews in the Old Testament. If this assumption were correct, then Christians would be obligated to reinstitute the sacrificial system, the codes regarding ritual cleanliness (the kosher law being among them), and the Judaic theocracy itself. One does not have to reach such absurd conclusions to misunderstand the proper Christian response to the various provisions in Mosaic law, however.

The absence of animal sacrifice from the modern church should be obvious to all Christians: Jesus was the final sacrifice, the only one that had any eternal value. The "cleanliness" laws symbolized Israel's spiritual separateness from the rest of the world; Israel was called to occupy a small corner of the world and influence it from there. Under Christianity the mission changed to that of spreading throughout the world to influence it; ritual cleanliness therefore became moot.

That leaves two issues: the portion of the Law of Moses that constitutes its civil code, and the concept of theocracy in general.

Why were the five "troublesome laws" placed in the Law of Moses? Historically, governments have almost always regarded three classes of crimes as capital offenses: murder, sedition, and treason. Murder is the willful taking of human life without due process. Incitement to rebellion against the State and conspiracy with a foreign power to undermine or overthrow the State, in a sense, constitute attempts to "kill" one's own government. The level of punishment for violation of the Fifth Commandment suggests that the Law of Moses values parental authority at least as much as State authority. (Interestingly enough, there appears to be no call for capital punishment for those who curse the priests - that would make ancient Israel unique among theocracies.) Under a theocracy, religious activity directed at spiritual beings other than the patron deity, or otherwise in violation of the State's prescribed rites, rebels against the authority of both the State and the deity. And collaboration with an enemy spiritual being is much more explosive than collaboration with an enemy State.

Technically, any activity the patron deity opposes amounts to insurrection. Not all offenses are punishable by death under Mosaic law. One must conclude that those actions classified as capital crimes threaten God's purposes more intimately than those that carry less severe punishments. God created humanity to live in fellowship with Him and with each other. The greatest threat to the relationship between God and human and to that between parent and child are both the same: rebellion to authority, which includes disobedience to parents and practice of false religions.

Trust and fellowship are also vital to relationships. The Fourth Commandment was instituted for at least four reasons: to give the people a regularly scheduled time of refreshment, to commemorate creation, to demonstrate trust in God by sacrificing one-seventh of one's waking time, and to establish a special day dedicated solely to fellowship with God. Violation of the Sabbath is, in part, a failure of trust in God's provision and a rejection of His fellowship.

That leaves the capital sexual sins. Just to clear up an old myth: The Judeo-Christian claim is not that sex is bad but that sex should not be blasphemed. Judaism and Christianity value sex as the vehicle for the most emotionally and spiritually intimate relations two human beings can share, and only in a monogamous relationship can this intimacy reach its greatest potential. The closest nonsexual relations one normally experience is with one's parents and siblings; the sexual crimes in Lev. 10, 11, 12, and 14 affect such relationships almost as severely as they affect a marriage. Homosexuality is traditionally understood as a rejection of one's natural sexual identity, with dysfunctional effects on both same-sex and opposite-sex relationships (refer to the National Association for the Research and Therapy of Homosexuality for research data that supports the traditionalist model). Bestiality is rejection of one's identity as a human being; it removes from sexuality true intimacy, that emotional and spiritual bonding that only sentient beings can experience, reducing sex to mere sensory stimulation.

Why did God establish a theocracy in Israel? This question cannot be answered fully, but a partial understanding is sufficient for the purposes of this essay. Mosaic law served, in part, to instruct humans on their inherent sinfulness and their inability to achieve true righteousness by their own works. Layman's translation: no person perfectly understands or perfectly desires what God wills; this causes a rift between God and individual, and the individual lacks the power to seal the rift. The sacrificial sin offerings foreshadowed the "perfect sacrifice" I mentioned earlier. It should be obvious that a government with such mission objectives can't be a secular one.

Are Christians commanded to institute theocracy? No. Jesus gave no specific instructions regarding the formation and structure of governments. Political principles can be deduced from His teachings, however. Jesus' scolding of the leaders for their abuses of power reveal two: rule of law and equality under the law. The Old Testament reveals a third: punishment must be of no greater severity than the crime (Ex. 21:23-25).

Are Christians allowed to institute theocracy? Jesus' teachings produce two political commandments, one for the citizen and one for the State. The citizen is obligated to give to the State that which belongs to the State (Matt. 22:16-21). Duly constituted government authority must not be usurped. Taxes are owed in payment for services rendered by government. Forms of punishment are owed when the citizen commits a crime. The people were not commanded to give to Caesar that which is not Caesar's, however. Since the biblical prohibitions against theft are universal, the State may not take that which rightfully belongs to God or the individual.

In a representative republic, the ultimate political authority is the electorate; in theocracy that honor is held by the patron deity. (Yes, God is supreme in republics, as He is everywhere, but He plays an indirect, unofficial role.) A government is not legitimate if it does not have the consent of its supreme official authority, expressed in a fashion which can be verified through observation by the physical senses. The will of an electorate is expressed through a voting system that collects ballots from all eligible and participating voters and accurately counts them. Under the stated criteria, a deity must express consent by performing a blatant miracle with multiple witnesses.

The Pentateuch describes such events surrounding Moses. His authority was "notarized" by twelve plagues (that occur at the exact times he stipulates), a parted sea, a moving pillar of fire, and the daily presence of manna. Moses was alone when he received the tablets of stone with the Law (not just the Ten Commandments) written on them, but he stayed on a (volcanic?) mountain shrouded in smoke for several days; the miracle of his return without choking to death alone was sufficient to put God's stamp of approval on the two tablets. The pillars of fire continued after the Sinai event. If Moses had come down from the mountain - twice - with a bogus set of laws, in light of all the other miraculous trouble God went through it's safe to assume that He wouldn't let that kind of a transgression go unpunished.

What if someone sets up a theocracy without first receiving miraculous "notarization" from the patron deity? Whether their deity (or religious interpretation of the deity) is genuine or not, the citizens have no objective means of determining that the deity plays an active role in its government, endorses the ruling party, or ordered the creation of the theocracy in the first place.

Christianity revolves around a voluntary personal relationship with God. The Bible makes no record of God granting authority to a State to govern that relationship through force. Christian theocracy is therefore a heresy by which government usurps the authority of God over the individual's relationship with Him.

Some might argue that Christian theocracy simply preserves the government that God instituted in Exodus. Never mind that Jesus didn't order this "preservation." A constitution was drafted on Sinai. The first rule of a constitutional government is that it must adhere to its entire constitution. Christian theocrats can claim that Jesus formally amended that constitution with regard to the "uncleanliness" and sacrificial laws, but they can't get around the command to install state priests and require that they all be Levites. How are they going to determine if someone is descended from Levites or not? Maybe they could borrow a Raelian geneticist for the task.

Is capital punishment for acts such as those cited in the "troublesome laws" appropriate for a non-theocratic government? No. As I stated earlier, historically governments have regarded murder, treason, and sedition as capital offenses. Under any form of government other than theocracy, such offenses cannot be regarded as sedition or treason and therefore cannot be punished with the severity reserved for such. (Secular totalitarian governments regard just about any offense as treason, but since they are inherently hostile to rule of law and equality under the law they are illegitimate institutions.)

Is criminalization of acts such as those cited in the "troublesome laws" appropriate for a non-theocratic government? Only theocrats carry the authority to prosecute cases in which God is the sole plaintiff; laws prohibiting religious activity (such as sacrifices to other gods, sorcery) or prescribing such (Sabbath-keeping) are therefore inappropriate for a non-theocratic government. As for the legitimacy of non-theocratic crimes against certain speech (cursing one's parents) and certain consensual sex acts, the Bible is completely silent. Since we are obligated to give to Caesar what is Caesar's, we must determine what Caesar - in this case, the Constitution of the United States - is asking of us. The legal right to curse one's parents is protected by the First Amendment. The Constitution is silent on adult consensual sexual activity - sorry, guys.

End of story? Hardly. The Bible portrays God as one who values the well-being of humanity above all save Himself. Since government is not authorized to regulate the relationship between God and individual, its chief priority must be the welfare of all persons living in its jurisdiction. A government that makes no official mention of God but seeks to maximize the needs of the people serves God by default.

Two philosophies on defining crime are compatible with Christianity. The libertarian view insists that the State has the authority to punish nonconsensual acts of force only. All legitimate crimes are essentially variations of theft - infringements on the rights to "life and physical safety, to one's personal property, to one's freedom to choose and to express one's beliefs, and to one's freedom to choose and to pursue one's interests," to quote the mission statement of the Henderson Prize for the Advancement of Liberty. Consensual crimes are regarded as theft of "freedom to choose and to pursue one's interests."

Adding to this doctrine a second plank, those of the cost-benefit school of criminal law argue that the State may criminalize an activity if criminalization poses fewer costs to society than decriminalization. Noting that freedoms often conflict (I have the right to free speech, but if I am on someone else's property I do not have the right to speak against the owner's will), they pose that freedom to engage in certain consensual activities creates situations that impose on other freedoms. The right to refrain from wearing seat belts, for example, is argued to impose unnecessary financial burdens on insurance companies (and ultimately policyholders) and is therefore a legitimate target for criminalization.

The debate between the libertarian and cost-benefit camps need not be settled to conclude this: Christians must oppose any law that violates the principles of either - and on this basis they must oppose sodomy laws.

The arguments in favor of consensual crimes are a) deterrence and b) protecting society from freedom-sapping influences. The only thing in this world that has less deterrent value than sodomy laws is a UN weapons inspector. As for the second point, forget about whether or not homosexuality is a "freedom-sapping influence." Sodomy laws enhance the influence of gay activist organizations and cultural liberals in general, giving them a valuable and effective PR prop.

And the influence of cultural conservatives - especially Christian ones - diminishes. Many fall into temptation to waste their resources on sodomy laws and other side issues that contribute nothing toward lessening homosexual activity or its acceptance. The common philosophical inconsistency in being willing to criminalize gay sex but not heterosexual unmarried sex, neither of which gets the Mount Sinai Tablet Seal Of Approval, only feeds the multitudinous bigotries against conservatives and Christians.

One must be able to discern between relevant and irrelevant issues and to recognize where common ground does exist despite the many differences. Otherwise, one risks becoming embroiled in unnecessary battles while absent from necessary ones, and fails to recognize genuine opportunities for building bridges. For different reasons, supporting sodomy laws and criticizing "cafeteria fundamentalists" for not making such laws capital offenses are unnecessary battles. One fails to accomplish the desired objective, the other attacks an idea believed to be Biblical by scarcely any Christians (the Chalcedon Institute constituting much of that tiny constituency). The real battles involve conflicting claims regarding human psychology and where they do and do not affect policy in politics and private association.

As for common ground...stay tuned.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

Pro-Iraqi Liberation Song

Inspired by my post on the Dixie Chicks, Blog O'Dob has a parody of Goodbye, Earl that the troops would appreciate.

I wonder if Virginia Postrel, Emily Jones, and Eve Tushnet can sing? Just a thought.

I Didn't Watch The Bush Speech

But I heard about the President's ultimatum that gives Saddam and sons a chance to flee Iraq.

Just what we need - another terrorist strongman for us to hunt down.

If Saddam does make a break for it, and if our government won't go after him like it should - TO KEEP HIM FROM COMING BACK TO EXACT REVENGE AGAINST THE UNITED STATES - then I hope that Mossad or MI-6 or Bruce Willis or somebody will do our government's job.

Saddam in exile? Wasn't Osama bin Laden in exile on September 12, 2001?

No appeasement for blood.

Monday, March 17, 2003

I Would Defect

Jay Manifold describes what the US would be like if it were like the UN:

How legitimate would the Federal government be if only 46 out of 100 Senators, only 200 out of 435 Representatives, and (at best) every other President had gained office through election, while all the rest had been appointed (or assassinated their way) to office?

In Honor Of Saint Patrick's Day

Message to the troops: drink some green beer, toast the Emerald Isle, and drive the snakes out of Iraq!

Saturday, March 15, 2003

Goodbye, Saddam

By now everybody knows of the infamous comment made by Natalie Maines of the Dixie Chicks during a performance in England: "Just so you know, we're ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas."

(Note Guardian reporter Betty Clarke's only response to the remark: "It gets the audience cheering - at a time when country stars are rushing to release pro-war anthems, this is practically punk rock.")

On Thursday, a caller to WBAP's Gary McNamara Show suggested that the Chicks were being inconsistent, stating that the lyrics to their hit song Goodbye, Earl essentially parallel the argument for war against Iraq. Hmm...two women plot to do in abusive spouse...President plots to do in abusive dictator...there could be a little bit of similarity there.

Update: Many C&W radio stations say goodbye to the Chicks.

Goodbye, Jim

Jim Moran, possibly learning from the Trent Lott debacle, has stepped down from his Democratic leadership post.

Friday, March 14, 2003

Sometimes History Ain't Pretty

A little bit of controversy raged in Dallas when "Whites Only" signs were discovered near two water fountains in the Records Building in downtown Dallas. They were immediately covered over, pending a final decision as to what to do with them. Some, particularly the local chapter of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, felt that they should be destroyed. Others felt that they should remain as a memorial to a time that should not be repeated.

For now, the latter side has won:

The [Dallas County] commissioners voted 4-1 after an hourlong debate to approve a proposal by Commissioner John Wiley Price, the only black member of the court, to leave the signs and erect signs nearby explaining their context in the history of the city.

Price said later he did not think the presentation of the signs as history would make people think that Dallas is still a racially divided city.

"I at least want them to have some emotion ... either how they dealt with the past and how far we have come or that they have the responsibility to ensure and make sure that their children and our children never repeat that ugly past," he said in a TXCN interview later.

Price, a longtime civil rights leader, said history cannot be covered up and Dallas must recognize that it is better off now than it was in 1927 when the building was erected. He said he was proud of the racial progress the city has made.

John Wiley Price has a reputation as a race-baiting demagogue and an all-around uncivil guy (just ask Mayor Laura Miller about the latter). But on this issue he stands as the voice of reason. Segregation was part of United States history. Preservation of artifacts of that time, side by side with historical markers, is appropriate.

Commissioner Ken Mayfield disagrees:

"Should we be reminded of that offensive activity in a public, county-owned building?" he asked, bringing applause from civil rights leaders.

You want to talk about offensive activity, Ken? The sixth floor of 411 Elm Street, the very same building where your office is located, reminds us every day of the assassination of a president!

University Hangs On

Concordia International University will stay in business. Mart and Mari-Ann Susi have resigned from their posts in the wake of "an invasion and conference of tax authorities" in the rector's office. Now the staff is working with the government to keep the university going:

So, after some more negotiations with the Ministry of Education, we've been rolling out our plan for a non-profit university. We are going to call this new school "Concordia International University of Europe," which we announced after a meeting of our council today. Members of our board have been negotiating with the landlord to keep the building, and with the utilities to keep the power on.

We've been working on a university constitution and bylaws, and hope to have them completely hashed out by Monday.

The Ministry of Education is behind our plan, and is looking to give us several million krooni in operating costs so we can pay our bills (including salaries) for the rest of the school year. Another plus is that companies and embassies are inquiring about providing money or equipment to the new university.

Blogroll Fixes

Neolibertarian News Portal has a new name - The Mind of Man. Source of the phrase is cited on the site's leaderhead.

I finally got around to putting in the new URL for Sphaera Ephemeris.

Natalie Solent no longer has dual citizenship in the US and the UK.

Thursday, March 13, 2003

Lingua Franca

I have a thought. Maybe what we need is more, not fewer, American expressions with "French" in them. “French standoff” seems rather appropriate.

Don't forget that there's other countries in the Axis of Weasel, too. "Nazi" is already grossly overused, so that takes care of the Germans. As for Belgium, well, we could use “Belgian waffle” to refer to something other than breakfast...

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

Meanwhile, In Lithuania

Baltic Blog reports that the US has a friend in Lithuania:

If France refuses to ratify Lithuania's European Union (EU) Accession Treaty, Lithuania could apply to become the 51st state in the United States, a Lithuanian MP suggested.

MP Petras Grazulis, a Christian Democrat, made the proposal in response to the recent strong-worded statements by French officials, reported the Baltic News Service.

"I believe such choice would be even safer for Lithuania than NATO membership and bring more economic benefit than European Union membership," reads the statement.

Okay by me.

Concordia International University Estonia Faces Financial Crisis

Scott Abel of Baltic Blog reports that his employer may be shutting its doors permanently. The college faces a 27 million croon debt ($2 million US dollars) due to misappropriation of fund by rector Mart Susi and vice rector Mari-Ann Susi. (Yes, they're husband and wife.) Abel tries to be optimistic:

But if worst comes to worst, I'll have a heck of an article for the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Memo to the Estonian people: if anyone tries to convince you that this episode is proof of the evils of capitalism, remind them of the time when the Communist government misappropriated the funds for all industry. Fraud can't be eliminated, but it can be minimized, the best means for which is a privatized and free market.

Disruptive Apparel, Part Deux

A reader named Jack sent me a story about another school incident involving an antiwar T-shirt:

Green T-shirt

Message posted by the student on an online forum:

I am totally against the war with I decided to wear my anti-war shirt to school.

The administrators told me to turn my shirt inside out and I refused.

I told them that it is my opinion and I should be able to wear what I want.

They however disagreed, and I was suspended for 10 days for wearing an Anti-War shirt.

In my earlier post I stated, in other words, that government shouldn't be in the business of socializing children. Unfortunately, it is, and as long as public schools exist, they must exercise some sort of discipline. Obvious things that should not be tolerated include physically threatening faculty or students, cheating on coursework, and obstructing classroom instruction.

One trend among the schools is the quest to ban things likely to influence student strife - in the T-shirt cases, things with unduly disruptive messages printed on them. Vulgarity is an obvious target. Bretton Barber wore a shirt for which the printer can be sued for libel; he has no legal leg to stand on. The "ANTI-WAR IS THE ANSWER" shirt is another story. It appears that it was banned because it communicated an idea that is not libelous or otherwise criminal but is intensely controversial. I think Tinker v. Des Moines, the ruling that allowed the wearing of black armbands that symbolized antiwar protest, applies here. The ruling states (emphasis added):

1. In wearing armbands, the petitioners were quiet and passive. They were not disruptive and did not impinge upon the rights of others. In these circumstances, their conduct was within the protection of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment and the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth. Pp. 505-506.

2. First Amendment rights are available to teachers and students, subject to application in light of the special characteristics of the school environment. Pp. 506-507.

3. A prohibition against expression of opinion, without any evidence that the rule is necessary to avoid substantial interference with school discipline or the rights of others, is not permissible under the First and Fourteenth Amendments. Pp. 507-514.

Barber's T-shirt promotes libel of a political leader. The green T-shirt carries none of the classic trademarks that schools classify as "substantial interference with school discipline" - no vulgarity, no sexually suggestive material, no gruesome images, no incitement to crime or civil tort. It carries the exact same message as the Vietnam-era black bands that were the subject of Tinker - and contrary to the reporting of CNN, the New York Times, and the Guardian, Vietnam was far more divisive than Gulf War I and II.

One word of advice to students. If a teacher asks you to refrain from bringing a certain something to school, ask politely what specific rule says that the item in question must not be brought on campus. This is to assure that the teachers aren't making up the rules as they go along (which is almost always the case when it comes to religious paraphernalia).

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

Salute To The Troops

Scrappleface wants you to encourage the troops. I dropped in my own sentiment:

"The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden-that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time." - C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

"And he went on, and there was the yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor in his lap. He drew a deep breath, 'Well, I'm back,' he said. THE END." - J. R. R. Tolkien, The Return of the King

For a time you leave behind comforts such as these, risking your lives so that those who have them may keep them, and that those who do not may gain them. Fight the good fight.

Saturday, March 08, 2003

Catching Up On Some NewsMax Stories

The human shields are going home:

Instead of protecting schools and hospitals, he revealed, the human shields were ordered by Iraqi officials to deploy around strategic military targets such as power stations, oil refineries and water purification plants.

"The human shields strategy will not work under these circumstances. The level of trust is not present now," the peace activist complained to the Telegraph.

This should tell the peace activists two things. First, the Americans aren't likely to bomb hospitals; none were bombed during Gulf War I. Second, Saddam values military over health care.


You haven't seen much of it on the news or in Yahoo's search results, but pro-war rallies are bursting out all over America. The Seattle area is having them every Saturday at a different military base; March 8 at McChord Air Force Base, March 15 at Camp Murray/Fort Lewis, March 22 in Bellevue, Wash. The post mentions several others scheduled for the near future.


NewsMax reports Hillary Clinton's flip-flop on Iraq. In the past she sided with the Axis of Weasel, calling for the inspections to do the job; now she "supports Bush."

I did a little surfing and found something interesting on the US Senate website: Floor Speech of Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton on S.J. Res. 45, A Resolution to Authorize the Use of United States Armed Forces Against Iraq It's a magnificent work of fence-sitting. She ultimately voices support fr the measure, but not without parroting Axis of Weasel sentiments that the UN has to approve it first. And get a load of this:

We and our NATO allies did not depose Mr. Milosevic, who was responsible for more than a quarter of a million people being killed in the 1990s. Instead, by stopping his aggression in Bosnia and Kosovo, and keeping on the tough sanctions, we created the conditions in which his own people threw him out and led to his being in the dock being tried for war crimes as we speak.

So why in the heck did we attack Serbia in the first place? And if factors other than that war brought down Milosevic, then why does your husband think the war was a success?


First Dr. Laura, now Mike Savage. Gay activists want to prevent Savage's premier on MSNBC. Maybe this explains why liberals make up such a tiny percentage of the blogosphere: so many of them prefer censoring over fisking.


Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Ohio, compares terrorists to our Founding Fathers:

"If you think back to our founding as a country, we are a country of revolution," Kaptur told the Toledo Blade.

Many religious people who had fled repression in other countries helped America "cast off monarchical Britain" in 1776, she said, such as the patriot militia Green Mountain Boys.

"One could say that Osama bin Laden and these non-nation-state fighters with religious purpose are very similar to those kind of atypical revolutionaries that helped to cast off the British crown," the 11-term Toledo Democrat claimed.

What Kaptur doesn't understand is that there are good religious purposes and there are evil religious purposes. The Founders fought for the cause of individual liberty. Islamoterrorists fight for the cause of totalitarianism. The Founders fought to separate from England, and sought reconciliation with the British afterward. Islamoterrorists fight to wipe countries they don't like (namely, the US and Israel) off the map. Get the picture?

While Republicans were quick to condemn Trent Lott for his infamous faux pas, the typical Democrat response to Kaptur's comments has been: no comment. For some reason, those scenes in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where King Arthur responds to danger by yelling "Run away!" are stuck in my head.


The Salman Pak terrorist training camp makes the news again:

Former CIA Director James Woolsey offered bombshell testimony this week in a lawsuit brought by the families of World Trade Center victims that implicates Saddam Hussein in the 9/11 attacks.

The one-time Clinton administration intelligence chief described what he said was a conspiracy between al-Qaeda and Baghdad. As evidence he offered accounts from Iraqi defectors who have described a Boeing 707 jet parked on the ground at the terrorist training camp Salman Pak. The plane, the eyewitnesses insist, was used as a hijacking school prior to 9/11.

Since 1995 Saddam's most elite terror operatives had allegedly used Salman Pak to train al-Qaeda recruits to overcome U.S. flight crews using methods employed on 9/11, according to London's Observer newspaper. In November 2001, dozens of other reports, including several in the New York Times, covered news of Saddam's Salman Pak hijacking school based on the defectors' accounts.

Friday, March 07, 2003

Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor, Your Huddled Masses Yearning To Be Free - And Anyone Who Messes With Them Gets It

 photo ArmedLiberty.jpg

I found this image via Inscrutable American, who found it via Asparagirl. The latter railed against...
...The Lysistrata Project, an effort by anti-war activists to encourage female chastity as a way to protest the war. The project of course assumes that all women are anti-war and all men are pro-war, and that furthermore the only way for women to make their political opinions known is to withhold sex, and further still that any woman would actually want to do that. It also implies that the best way that today's women have of influencing their worlds is not through their writings, speeches, jobs, money, or votes, but through their ability to have or not have sex, and that the sex will be solely with men, who are of course the real powerhouses in our society when it comes to shaping world events.
The real argument against this whackball movement is that Iraq already committed acts of war by reneging on its surrender terms and, based on the testimony of Iraqi defectors, has a terrorist training base; they report witnessing hijacking drills taking place on a Boeing 707 located on the site. The only way to stop the war is to stomp the Iraqi government. But this argument is completely lost on the so-called peaceniks who deny that Iraq has attacked or abetted attack against the US since Gulf War I.

Thursday, March 06, 2003

Disruptive Apparel

Dearborn, Michigan student Bretton Barber got into a little trouble at school:

School officials ordered a 16-year-old to either take off a T-shirt emblazoned with the words "International Terrorist" and a picture of President George W. Bush or go home, saying they worried it would inflame passions at the school where a majority of students are Arab-American.

The student, Bretton Barber, chose to go home. He said he wore the shirt Monday to express his anti-war position and for a class assignment in which he wrote a compare-contrast essay on Mr. Bush and Iraqi President Saddam Hussein

This ACLU statement typifies the reaction from the Left:

"It's a gutsy thing for a high school student to take on a school administration in this way," said Kary Moss, Executive Director of the ACLU of Michigan. "It's obvious that Bretton feels very strongly about this issue and we want to make sure that his ability to express his political opinion isn't hindered in any way."

"I'm hoping that we can resolve this issue without going to court," Moss added. "However, if the school is unwilling to allow students the right to political expression, we'll have no choice."

Mark Davis, WBAP talk show host and editorial columnist for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, has some things to say in his latest column. He begins by asking his readers to imagine if the tables had turned:

Send your teen-ager to school wearing a T-shirt that says, "Martin Luther King Jr. Was Evil" or "Jews Lie: There Was No Holocaust."

Then wait for supporters to suggest that your child was not engaged in the spread of hate but rather in the sparking of vigorous debates.

First, your kid would have been yanked from school so fast that his eyeballs would have popped out.

But just let him (or you) argue that all this does is get people talking about the civil rights era or anti-Semitism, and the shock will be replaced by laughter.

At least the "Jews" T-shirt would have earned kudos from CAIR, Al Sharpton, and Noam Chomsky. But I digress.

The Left heralds the sitiuation as a free speech issue. Mark disagrees.

In the 1960s, students wearing black armbands to protest the Vietnam War won U.S. Supreme Court approval. In the case of Tinker v. Des Moines, the court ruled that students "did not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of expression at the schoolhouse gate."

Well, not all of them, anyway. In the years since, we have properly learned that schools do indeed have the right to establish dress guidelines. Most people have shed the absurd notion that an 11th-grader in a public school has the exact same First Amendment rights as an adult in the outside world.

The student newspaper can be barred from calling for the principal's ouster. Student assemblies can be squelched if they feature racial or religious bigotry.

And T-shirts can be nixed if they are -- here's the tough word -- disruptive.

Well, how exactly does a T-shirt disrupt? Do the words on the fabric leap from the wearer's chest and block the students' view of the teacher and blackboard?

No, but an atmosphere that fails to preserve a sense of order and decorum sends the message that various other behavioral extremes might also be tolerated. That is bad...

This should have nothing to do with whether we agree or disagree with the sentiment expressed. A student wearing a "Clinton is a Pervert" shirt around 1999 or so would have received no argument from me with regard to content, but I would have supported any school banning it.

In short, it's a decorum issue, not a speech issue.

Any institution public or private cannot function properly unless certain guidelines for conduct are established and enforced. Courts operate under one concept of proper decorum, churches another, and professional associations yet another. What definition of "decorum" should schools adopt? It depends on the goals of the school in question. And these goals are - what? It depends on the school's market niche; different types of educational approaches require different frameworks for determining proper discipline.

Public schools operate under the assumption that "one size fits all" - that all children require the same core curricula, and that all must learn to function under the same core social structure. I do not like the idea of the government controlling the flow of information or the flow of acculturation through the schools.

Better be careful with the "decorum" argument. Someone might use it to keep kids from wearing Jesus T-shirts to schools with large numbers of non-Christian students. Or from bringing literature from the Education Intelligence Agency or the Alliance for the Separation of School and State.

Wednesday, March 05, 2003

Misadventures In Apartment Living

Homeowners may have the hassle of dealing with their own maintenance problems, but at least they don't have to deal with those of their neighbors. Not too long ago I had my dining room carpet flooded by a ruptured pipe from next-door, and yesterday, for the third time since I've moved here, the maintenance guy has had to fix a leaking pipe in the upstairs neighbor's bathroom. Fortunately, the drip went right into the sink; unfortunately, the maintenance guy's visit left me with only three hours sleep before I had to leave for work. Hope I can get eleven hours of sleep tomorrow.

I want a day job and a house.

Sunday, March 02, 2003

167 Candles

"When a government has ceased to protect the lives, liberty and property of the people, from whom its legitimate powers are derived, and for the advancement of whose happiness it was instituted, and so far from being a guarantee for the enjoyment of those inestimable and inalienable rights, becomes an instrument in the hands of evil rulers for their oppression."

So begins the Texas Declaration of Independence, drafted on March 2, 1836. If there is any justice, we'll be seeing these words translated into Arabic and Farsi some time in the not-too-distant future, if you catch my drift.

(Link via Jay Manifold)

Bill Clinton Gets Drafted...

...for jury duty.

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