Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.
--C.S. Lewis--

Wednesday, December 31, 2008

The Israeli/Palestinian Conflict

I don't say much about it, because let's face it, after 60+ years, there is very little that hasn't been said. However, this much needs to be repeated everywhere it can right now. Yes, both sides have been guilty of doing lousy things to one another at various points. And we can argue about which things, and who has done more of them, until we are all another 60 years older. But, the bottom line is that Israel is not currently wrong, nor are their current actions "disproportionate". People seem to forget that their actions cannot simply be weighed against the inaccurate rockets lobbed over the border by the barbarians currently running Gaza. Seen solely in that light, one might be able to argue that this is an overreaction. However, there are a few other points that need to be kept in mind. For example:
-HAMAS WANTS TO DESTROY ISRAEL. This point seems to be lost on a lot of people. If you need some clarity, do a word search through Hamas' charter. You'll see gems like this: "Israel will rise and will remain erect until Islam eliminates it as it had eliminated its predecessors." "Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims. 'Let the eyes of the cowards not fall asleep.'" "After Palestine, the Zionists aspire to expand from the Nile to the Euphrates. When they will have digested the region they overtook, they will aspire to further expansion, and so on. Their plan is embodied in the 'Protocols of the Elders of Zion', and their present conduct is the best proof of what we are saying." Would we really tell any other nation in similar circumstances that, simply because their enemies are not currently strong enough to destroy them, they must bide their time and not fight back until their enemies ARE strong enough to mount an existential threat?
-HAMAS WAS VOTED IN BY THE PALESTINIAN PEOPLE, WHO SIMPLY ALLOW THEM TO PLACE ROCKETS AND WEAPONS IN THE MIDDLE OF CIVILIAN AREAS. The Israelis were foolish enough to withdraw and allow the Palestinians to try out democracy. This resulted in Hamas coming into power. These same "innocent" Palestinian people (you know, the ones celebrating 9/11), sit by as Hamas locates their weapons in the middle of civilian areas in a deliberate attempt to create Palestinian civilian casualties. Israel responds by attempting to minimize casualties among these willing human shields, and is criticized in this attempt, while Hamas' deliberate targeting of Israeli civilians is ignored. Go check the AP wire, or "moderate" civil rights groups like CAIR. You'll find plenty of condemnation of Israel, but not much regarding the Hamas rocket attacks that spawned the Israeli reprisal.
-ISRAEL IS A TINY STATE AMIDST NATIONS INTENT ON DESTROYING IT. Let's count the wars aimed at conquering Israel, shall we? In 1948, Israel declares it's independence, and is immediately converged on by no less than four neighbors, merely for deciding to exist. In 1967, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria, with aid from Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Algeria were again at war with Israel. There was a further war with Egypt in 1969, and another invasion in 1973. Then there were also the two wars in Lebanon in 1982 and again in 2006. All of these wars were the result of invasion attempts or cross-border terrorism. Meanwhile, only one war, the Sinai War, was a result of Israeli aggression. Even this war has to be tempered by the realization that Egypt was attempting to strangle Israel by cutting off supplies through the Suez canal.

The bottom line is that we expect Israel to do something no other nation would do. Respond to cross-border rocket attacks deliberately targeting their civilians that are merely one part of a wider attempt to wipe their nation off of the map, supported by the local population, who willingly act as human shields, and their useful idiots worldwide, by killing no more than the same number of people Hamas killed and not hurting a single one of the civilians standing in the way of their rockets despite Hamas' best attempts to guarantee that the terrorists and civilians are impossible to tell apart. If any other government in the world acted that way, their citizens would vote them out in a minute for not caring about their safety.


It's cute in an I'd-scream-like-a-little-girl-if-this-thing-wandered-into-my-backyard kind of way.

Does That Include Orange?

Apparently, the Palestinian nutters demonstrating in Manhattan are anti-juice. What did juice ever do to them?

Do It Yourself Jerry Brown!

California is suing the federal government for regulatory changes made to the Endangered Species Act. While I'm not qualified to assess the changes themselves (although I am qualified to beg that Dems retire the hackneyed "Republican War on Science" theme. Please tell John "stem cells will make the lame rise and walk" Edwards to sit on his hands before you have the temerity to criticize my party on science, thank you.) I was particularly intrigued by this line. "The new federal rules, he said, could put California's threatened and endangered wildlife in greater jeopardy and could ultimately cost the state more to protect plants and animals on California's Endangered Species List." Since when have Californians been unable to protect California wildlife on their own? Really, we need a DC beurocracy to safeguard plants and animals living in our state? Why should the largest and richest state in the country be going and whining to the feds in the first place?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Who Throws A Shoe Anyway?

When your go-to political statement is straight out of a bad Mike Meyers movie, you really DO belong in jail. (Yes, yes, I know, Arab culture, shoe=dishonor, etc... It's still lame, get over it.)

Never Mess With A Monkey


When A Child Shows More Sense Than The Adults

I was at the Sacramento Children's Home last night when one of the girls perfectly captured the proper response to half-hearted Christians. The kids were eating dinner when a conversation about God started. (One of the girls was chiding another for taking his name in vain, which is interesting in and of itself given the background of these kids.) A girl asked everyone to raise their hand if they, "Believe in God and go to church." I, along with all the children, raised my hand. The only person who didn't was an employee who was sitting with us. "You DON'T believe in God?" asked the little girl incredulously. "I do, I just don't go to church." the employee replied. "Well, that's weird!" said the little girl firmly. I felt like standing up and clapping for her.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Iraqi Shoe-Thrower

It just goes to show that those who don't have the courage to confront evil men will try to convince themselves of their courage by confronting good men. He finds himself in the company of those moral giants in West Germany who demonstrated against placing missiles there during the Cold War and the college students in South Korea who think protesting against US bases there is more important than protesting the fact that their fellow Koreans up north are forced to survive on tree bark so that their tyrannical leader can drink Chablis.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I Don't Buy It

Since the financial crisis began, I've heard a lot of talk about a rediscovery of traditional economic restraint. The idea boils down to the thesis that, as Americans have to come to terms with empty wallets and reluctant lenders, they will rediscover things like prudence, the value of non-tangible assets, and perhaps even find a renewed respect for values like family, health, and God. The speculations about the economic downturn and it's aftereffects range from the fearful to the hopeful to the hopeful-tinged-with-a-little-sanctimony-for-getting-there-first.

Maybe I'm not the best person to evaluate such a potential sea-change in sentiment. While we are far from the crunchy-con ideal of growing our own food and weaving our own clothing, we are also just as far from the stereotypical consumption-driven American household. Both of us grew up in relatively modest financial surroundings, and we manage our finances with an eye towards our responsibilities to God and a future when we can afford to be a one-income household raising children. (Constantly looking for ways to drop down to one income is a pretty good method for assuring that you'll avoid the trap of consumerism in spite of yourself.) Couple this with the relative job security that both of us enjoy, and I can't really put myself in the place of someone who is staring at the combination of lost income and mounting credit card debt, or the place of a man used to buying the affection of his family with pricey gifts. However, having said all of that, I get the same feeling when listening to all of this talk of a renewed restraint that I got when listening to all of the unity talk after 9-11. For those who may not remember, let's recap.

9-11 came right on the heels of a disputed election, and the impeachment of a sitting president that degenerated into little more than arguments about blue dresses and creative uses for cigars. Whatever your opinion on the merits of the impeachment and election lawsuits, both sides can agree that it was an unhappy time in American politics. Then came a terrible event, but with it, a silver lining. Suddenly the "selected not elected" president had a 90% approval rating, red states loved New Yorkers, Democrats were hugging Republicans, and lions were sleeping with lambs. Unless you were one of that rare breed of curmudgeon who distrust politics without conflict, this situation seemed far more desirable than what preceded it. Countless columns were written about a "new era" in politics. And yet, I could never shed the feeling that it would not last. Sure enough, just fast forward to the 2004 election. Less than three full years later, many of the same columnists were wringing their hands about "Swift-boating" and the dirtiest election in American history. Whether you blame one side or the other, the unity clearly did not last.

Similarly, I have my doubts as to whether or not the fallout from the financial crisis will be any more sustained than the crisis itself. When the stock market starts climbing again, whether that happens in one year, or twenty, will the people who are currently feeling so humbled again think of themselves as masters of the universe? Will they think twice before buying a bigger house than they need or can afford? Only time will tell, but I for one am not betting on a kinder and less consumerist society.

People Would Rather Cut Back On Presents For Family Than For Dogs

After all, in a society without a God who created man in his image, we lose all distinction between people and animals. And what human can compete with the unconditional love of a dog? My only comfort is that this article mentions only small-dog owners. I never trusted those folks anyway. Anyone who chooses this over this, or this over this, is a little off to begin with. If we ever lose our jobs or have to cut back, the dog is big enough to go out and get work to pay for his own toys. Heck, we could probably save on groceries by sending him out to hunt the neighborhood's cats...

P.S. For the purpose of this or any future discussions regarding dogs, the Jack Russell Terrier is the only dog breed under 30 pounds that shall be considered by this blog to qualify as a "real" dog.

Jokes About Obama's Senate Seat

They aren't great, but it's a work in progress. Feel free to add your own.

-Comes with a zero interest loan, since that's exactly how much interest Obama has had in it over the past 4 years.
-It's like new. Barely ever used.
-That market downturn has been worse than we thought. Senator Obama paid $10 million for his Senate seat in 2004, but now Blagojevich is struggling just to get $500,000 offers.

-The governor hasn't ruled out a special election...provided that he gets a 10% cut of all election funds raised.
-Finally, Republicans LIKE Patrick Fitzgerald and Democrats are starting to wonder about the guy.
-Further confirmation of the bad economy. Hillary Clinton is turning to work as a secretary rather than keep her Senate seat.

Friday, December 12, 2008

At Times Like This...

...our current death penalty laws seem entirely inadequate.

In Other News, 7 Percent Of Illinois Voters Would Vote For A Dead Cat If It Had A "D" By It's Name

Seven percent of voters, and a full twenty percent of black voters, still approve of Blago as governor. While a part of me wonders exactly what it would take in order for him to lose this remaining support, I have to remember that eight percent of Americans believe Elvis is still alive, so apparently Blago will still retain his current approval rating even from his prison cell.

Reason 4,958 That Physics Is The Ultimate Science

Eat your hearts out biology geeks!

For those too impatient to read the attached article, this is a "Multiple Kill Vehicle". Basically, in the event of an ICBM attack, it hovers there, tracks incoming missiles, and fires off "Individual Kill Vehicles" to shoot the incoming missiles down. Science rules!

Whatever Happened To 36-24-36?

"SHE is the perfect wife, with the body of a Page 3 pin-up and housekeeping skills that put TV’s Kim and Aggie to shame. Her name is Aiko, she can even read a map, and will never, ever, nag.
Sounds too good to be true, doesn’t she fellas? And she is.
Aiko is actually a robot, a fantasy brought to life by inventor Le Trung. Devoted Aiko — “in her 20s” — has a stunning 32-23-33 figure, pretty face and shiny hair. She is always happy to clean the house for “husband” Le, help with his accounts or get him a drink."

Thursday, December 11, 2008

House, MD

I don't usually TV-blog, but I need to get this one off of my chest. For a show that epitomizes the word "formulaic", House has always surprised me with it's ability to do the EXACT SAME THING week after week while somehow remaining fresh and interesting. And yet now, it seems like they just gave up and phoned in the relationship between Drs. Foreman and Thirteen. They've tortured the House/Cuddy relationship since the show's inception, spent an entire season trying to decide if House should get together with his old girlfriend, gave us not one, but two "Cuddy's about to date someone else" fakeouts, and let Chase, well...chase Cameron in episode after episode, but they decide that the two coldest and least emotional characters not named Gregory House should start kissing two episodes after they first notice that the other exists. It didn't even work as a good head-fake the way that the Wilson/Amber relationship did. (After all, I thought Wilson only had eyes for House.) All we got was, "Hey Ice Queen. You're dying. Deal with it. Oh, and here's some medicine. Now let's kiss." Guys, couldn't you have played this one out at least a few more weeks?

The End Of An Era

For those who don't follow the sport, boxing's biggest cash cow, Oscar De La Hoya, was soundly thrashed last weekend by Manny Pacquiao. While the possibility that the much smaller Pac-Man could defeat the Golden Boy always existed, it was discounted by most boxing experts. (This poll for example, had 17 boxing writers siding with Goldie, and 4 for Pacquiao. I'd like to claim that I did better, but unfortunately it isn't true. I did predict a competitive fight, but that was only in order to convince my neighbor to shell out for the Pay-Per View.) The possibility that Pacquiao might not only win, but deliver a brutal and embarrassing one-sided beating to his opponent, never even crossed anyone's mind. However, that's exactly what he did. With names like Barerra, Marquez, Morales, and now De La Hoya notched into his belt, Manny is truly his generation's Mexicutioner.

In a way, this turn of events has a certain irony to it. Oscar built much of his early career on the bodies of smaller, older, or hand-picked opponents. From the tattered remains of Julio Caesar Chavez to Arturo Gatti and Jesse James Leija, Oscar beat down a lot of smaller men. And yet, in the end, he lost two of his last three fights to little men. Having gotten in that little dig, I will be sorry to see him go. He also found the time to fight a lot of good opponents, and give us some entertaining events. I hope he has the good sense to retire with pride in a sure-fire hall of fame career.

On a related note, will this be the example that finally convinces aging fighters that dropping weight classes is a BAD IDEA? First Roy Jones dropped from heavy to light-heavy to promptly get schooled by Antonio Tarver. Then Chris Byrd dropped from heavy to light-heavy just in time to get knocked unconscious by a virtually unknown fighter. Now De La Hoya drops from middleweigh(ish) to junior middle, and then to welterweight and gets schooled and TKO'd by a guy who turned pro weighing 106 pounds. In all three fights, the men coming down in weight looked flat and lifeless. Remember guys, just because you CAN make a weight, doesn't mean you SHOULD.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

In Fairness To Barack Obama

Despite all the news stories about how his administration is "facing scandal" before he even takes office, it's got to be a good sign when the corrupt, recently-arrested governor of your state is caught on tape saying "F*** him" about your refusal to offer him a kickback.

Tom Friedman Asks A Good Question

Yes, I know this reaction is less than timely. I have a certain reluctance to make political arguments based on horrific situations like the Bombay attacks until at least a little time has passed. There's something unseemly about people who are unable to wait until the bodies are buried before they began homilizing.

Anyway, back to the point at hand. Tom Friedman asks, "Where are the protests in the Islamic world AGAINST terrorism?" We are forever hearing about how the terrorists are giving Islam a bad name, and yet the world's Muslim population is far more concerned with rioting over cartoons, beauty pageants, papal quotations (Taken out of context no less. Set aside the dark irony that they murdered priests in order to protest the characterization of Islam as a violent religion, they were also responding to a speech about the importance of religious dialogue by not bothering to actually listen to the entire speech.), false reports of Koran desecration, and celebrating the 9/11 attacks than it is with actually turning its energies against the terrorists. What are we supposed to think? I don't doubt that the vast majority of Muslims abhor these animalistic attacks, but until they oppose them with the vigor that has been, until now, reserved for murdering nuns and burning churches, the best we can assume of the bulk of the Islamic world is that it lacks courage, and cares more about saving face than honoring Allah. Friedman ends his column by saying, "Because, I repeat, this kind of murderous violence only stops when the village - all the good people in Pakistan, including the community elders and spiritual leaders who want a decent future for their country - declares, as a collective, that those who carry out such murders are shameful unbelievers who will not dance with virgins in heaven but burn in hell. And they do it with the same vehemence with which they denounce Danish cartoons." He's absolutely right, but unfortunately, I'm afraid he had better not hold his breath waiting for it to occur.

It's Official

"MR. BROKAW: Finally, Mr. President-elect, the White House is a no-smoking zone, and when you were asked about this recently by Barbara Walters, I read it very carefully, you ducked. Have you stopped smoking?

"PRES.-ELECT OBAMA: You know, I have, but what I said was that, you know, there are times where I've fallen off the wagon. Well...

"MR. BROKAW: Well, wait a minute.

"PRES.-ELECT OBAMA: ...what can I tell...

"MR. BROKAW: Then that means you haven't stopped.

"PRES.-ELECT OBAMA: Well, the--fair enough. What I would say is, is that I have done a terrific job under the circumstances of making myself much healthier, and I think that you will not see any violations of these rules in the White House."

The press has now been tougher on Barack Obama over his smoking than over Jeremiah Wright, William Ayers, the Born-Alive Infants Act, and his bigoted comments about small-town Americans combined.

Friday, December 5, 2008

In Defense Of Tradition

"We are afraid to put men to live and trade, each on his own private stock of reason; because we suspect that in each man this stock is small, and that individuals would do better to avail themselves of the general bank and capital of nations and ages." --Edmund Burke--

I am watching a History Channel documentary on Einstein, and something struck me. At the same time that arguably the most brilliant physicist of the 20th century (a century of near-miraculous advances in physics) was working on his general theory of relativity, he was also cheating on his wife and making up a list of "rules" she would have to follow in order to be allowed the privilege of remaining married to him. Needless to say, she chose to forgo such a great honor.

Think about that. Einstein was so brilliant, that his general theory of relativity is difficult for trained physicists to understand fully, even now, 90-odd years after it was introduced. He was smart enough to create an entirely new idea so complex that the average smart person cannot even understand it AFTER it's explained to them. And yet he apparently knew less about women and marriage than your average teenage boy.

The point is this. No one knows everything. I'm constantly amazed by all the dumb decisions made by otherwise smart people. If people have big, and obvious blind spots, why not societies? We know, after all, that people have a tendency towards group think. The German populace of the first half of the 20th century was as educated and intelligent a population as any the world had ever seen, and yet they fell under the spell of Nazism. Why then should we not believe that a single generation of people is prone to the same faults as single individuals, no matter how educated or intelligent that generation or person may be? Tradition, societal values, the prejudices of the past, or whatever else you wish to call them, have developed for a reason. They are the painful experiences and lessons of lifetimes beyond measure, accrued painfully in order to give future generations a measure by which to operate.

This tradition is not flawless, as slavery surely shows us. But doesn't tradition deserve to be given the benefit of the doubt? And yet, in the last 50 years, we have rejected tradition and its values more fully than any other generation in history. We respect education more than experience, intelligence over wisdom. Our rewards so far? Higher rates of illegitimacy, crime, and mental illness. Widespread unhappiness, pernicious consumerism, and a disregard for obligations and responsibility. Faith is slowly, but inexorably being sqeezed out of the public arena. How much longer can we stay detached from the wisdom of the past before we go completely over the edge?

The "Right" To...

Often in politics, we hear talk of rights. The "right" to health care, the "right" to housing, etc. Rights talk has a very strong resonance in the American political psyche, because that's the basis on which our country was founded. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." The Lockean idea of natural rights pervaded much of the founders thinking, and so is still a powerful concept today. We see it in the writings of men like Madison and Paine.

The problem comes when we forget that natural rights are inherently limited. They have to be, because if they were not, they would inevitably impose on the rights of others. The classic example is that, while a man has a right to swing his arm, that right ends where another man's face begins.

So, here's a question to consider the next time you hear someone refer to health care or some other program as a "right". How does this perceived "right" impinge on the rights of others? Or, maybe a better way to put it, what "duty" goes along with the "right"? For, if I have a "right" to health care, or housing, or marriage, then that means someone else has a duty to pay for my treatment, or build me a home, or marry me. By generously providing me with rights, you are also forcing duties upon others. That's a thought that should bear some consideration next time the "rights" talk begins.

Monday, December 1, 2008

President Obama, I Salute You!

Never let it be said that I am reluctant to give praise when it is justly deserved. President-elect Obama stands as a hero to millions of men forced to walk their wives sissy little furballs for his performance in this interview with Barbara Walters. Speaking as the proud owner of a dog as big as my wife, I have a theory that future historians will be able to directly track the decline of the west by examining the average size of household dogs.

Obama: "Cha Cha?"
Barbara: "It's short for Cha Cha Cha."
O: "What is a Havanese?"
B: "It's like a little terrier and they're non-allergenic and they're the sweetest dogs.."
O: [Face suddenly changes.] "It's like a little yappy dog?"
Michelle: "Don't criticize."
O: "It, like, sits in your lap and things?"
M: "It's a cute dog."
O: "It sounds kinda like a girly dog."
M: "We're girls. We have a houseful of girls."
O [with hand gestures]: "We're going to have a big rambunctious dog, of some sort."

A Bailout Thought

I haven't heard this discussed anywhere, but it seems to be of long-term significance to me. All of the conservative discussion of the bailout is centered around the idea that, by mitigating the costs of risk-taking (i.e. the threat of your company going under), you give companies an incentive to act in a reckless manner, since they suffer no long-term consequences when those risks come back to bite them. But there's another aspect too. If you have a set of circumstances where the government becomes the main entity absorbing the risk, aren't they entitled to a greater share of the reward?

Remember a little while back, there was a lot of discussion about a windfall profits tax on the evil oil industry? One of the most relevant arguments against windfall taxes was that the oil companies take the hit when the price of oil falls (as in the 90's when they were laying off employees in droves), and so have a right to reap the rewards in good times. If it is no longer the case, what's the argument against the government taking a "windfall" down the road?