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Saturday, April 02, 2005

Party Identification in the Blogosphere

SobekPundit has an interesting post based on, oddly enough, an observation initially posted on The Daily Kos by Oliver Willis. If you want to read the original, here's the link. If visiting Kos makes you feel unclean, you can read Sobek's blog, which includes pretty much the entire Kos post and some good analysis. Here's the key part of Willis's post:
"'I've found this to be a remarkable phenomenon. In the blogosphere, you have almost a reverse dynamic to that found in the media. Overwhelmingly liberal bloggers identify themselves directly as Democrats. Yes, there are many who see the party as the lesser of two evils, and in their hearts would prefer Dennis Kucinich or Ralph Nader, but overwhelmingly I've found bloggers on the left have no problem saying 'yep, I'm a Democrat' (I obviously count myself among that group).

'But among bloggers on the right, it always seems that great pains are taken to make it clear that they are 'independents' or 'libertarians' - these are people who usually endorse much of the GOP agenda and reliably vote for Republicans - and they don't identify as 'Republican'. Yes, there are some like GOPBloggers who identify with the party, but that was essentially a recent development.'"
We are not certain Willis is right about left-bloggers being more likely to self-identify as Dems than right-bloggers are to self-identify as Repubs. However, it fits roughly with our observations, if one considers only the one-dimensional aspects of political views. For the purposes of this discussion, we'll take it as "Truth."

We are registered as Republican, and have no trouble saying that. We rarely find a Democrat we can consider voting for, so over the years our non-Republican votes have gone mainly to Libertarian candidates. Even so our profile says "libertarian conservative" not "Republican." We haven't previously "come out" as a Republican in this space, so, perhaps we are the kind of "right-blogger" that Willis is speaking of.

In our view the Republican Party is more intellectually diverse and more commited to individual liberty than the Democratic Party (although we're sure Willis would disagree). However, party affiliation in the US is by nature only one-dimensional. Thus "libertarian conservative," or for that matter "conservative," describes a personal perspective more precisely than does "Republican." So this is not "hiding" our true political leanings, but defining them more clearly. To a significant extent this is less necessary for Democrats than for Republicans.

Another aspect is that there are an ever-increasing number of "not-Democrats." They are repelled by the Democratic Party, but many are for one reason or another not (yet) comfortable calling themselves Republicans. Ex-Democrats include Roger L. Simon, Zell Miller, and our friend, Steve. Steve describes himself as "a Democrat suffering from severe cognitive dissonance," but it's clear from his writings he's a proto-Republican.

Realizing you are not a Democrat or an ex-Democrat is not enough by itself to make you a Republican. On the other hand "not-Republican" is practically the definition of Howard Dean's "Democratic Wing of the Democratic Party" today. John Kerry ran the quintessential "not-Bush" campaign, and even among his supporters it was hard to find anything they actually liked about him aside from "not-Bushness."

Last, but not least, we should recognize that Willis's views of who is "rightwing" is skewed by his own views. Sixty to eighty percent of the US political universe is to the right of The Daily Kos, so naturally Willis will define the views of what he sees as "left-bloggers" narrowly and "right-bloggers" broadly. Note that he says there are "many" who "in their hearts would prefer Dennis Kucinich or Ralph Nader." Consider the crowd you are running with when "many" prefer Dennis Kucinich for anything.

Poisson d'Avril: Exploding Trees

Yesterday's "All Things Considered" on NPR was an April Fool's Day special report. New England Suffers Maple Woes:
"April Fool's: New England Suffers Maple Woes-- by Robert Siegel 

All Things Considered, April 1, 2005 · A downturn in the maple syrup market is having harmful side effects for trees in northern New England. For the first time in decades, the maples are remaining untapped, with sometimes-dangerous results."
According to a specialist in "aboreal thermodynamics" the pressure builds up, causing the trees to explode. We're sure that more than one earnest NPR listener was taken in by this joke. Great fun.

Do They Read These Bills Before Voting?

Reason: "Unintended Consequence (3/28)
Ohio lawmakers swear they didn't mean to force people to get a license to sell things on eBay. But that's just what a recently passed law will do. The law was intended to regulate online auctions. But as written, it requires anyone selling on eBay to use a licensed auctioneer or become an auctioneer. To become an auctioneer one must serve a one-year apprenticeship to an auctioneer and attend classes, among other requirements. The Senate already voted to change the law, but the House hasn't yet approved the changes."

Friday, April 01, 2005

al Qaeda's Grand Strategy

TigerHawk has an extensive post on a public lecture he attended on this topic. The speaker was Michael Doran, Asst. Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton. Prof. Doran has many fascinating insights into al Qaeda ideology, its view of history, and how those guide it's strategy, organization, and tactics. Go read it.

Columbia University and Anti-Semitism

Well, the committee investigation anti-Semitism in the Columbia University faculty has released its report. Surprise, surprise: there is "no problem." Steve at A Republic, Madam, If You Can Keep It has some cogent comments.

If we had a child looking at colleges, he certainly wouldn't be looking at Columbia. Come to think of it, we do and he isn't.

UPDATE: Little Green Footballs has press release from The David Project about the whitewash.

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Illness Among Returning Vets

Combat duty is obviously stressful, so it's expected that some returning troops will suffer from mental health problems as a result of their experiences. Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette takes a careful look at the statistics floating around without context and compares them to the figures for the general population. Why are we not surprised that the problem is much less severe than the news reports have suggested?

Fisking Mo Dowd

Rebutting a Maureen Dowd column is not far from shooting the proverbial fish in a barrel. Still, that doesn't mean it can't be fun. Jon Henke at The QandO Blog takes on MoDo's take on the bipartisan WMD intelligence report in "Dowd doesn’t care for WMD Report, makes up her own."

As long as Paul Krugman is still at the NYT, we can't claim MoDo is its worst columnist. As Jonah Goldberg said about MoDo and her Evil Twin:
"Take the two leading liberal columnists at the New York Times, Maureen Dowd and Paul Krugman. As we all know, one's a whining self-parody of a hysterical liberal who lets feminine emotion and fear defeat reason and fact in almost every column. The other used to date Michael Douglas."

Pharm & Faith

Ryne McClaren has a thought-provoking piece on the recent controversy surround the refusal of some pharmacists to fill prescriptions for birthcontrol pills, and particularly the so-called "morning after" pills. It's an issue that pits the rights of the consumer to obtain legal, prescribed drugs, against the rights of the pharmacist to follow his/her own conscience. Ryne's analysis is excellent, so go read that first and come back.

OK. One aspect that Ryne doesn't mention directly is the pharmacist-owner vs. the pharmacist-employee. Our view is that the owner of the store has an absolute right to decide what to stock and sell in that store. This is true whether the decision is based on moral grounds or simply economic grounds (e.g. 'this item doesn't sell well'). Good customer relations, as Ryne said, requires making this choice known to local doctors and patrons in advance, and suggesting alternative sources. This is just what would be done when the non-supply is a pure economic decision.

The pharmacist-employee is a different story, however. Imagine a bartender refusing to serve alcohol or a fastfood employee refusing to "supersize" meals. It is not up to individual employees to decide for themselves which aspects of their work they will or will not carry out (barring any legal issues with the tasks). If a pharmacist, on moral grounds, does not want to dispense the products sold by his/her employer, he can attempt to persuade the employer not to offer that product. Perhaps the employer will be persuaded, or will be able to accomodate the employee. If not, and the pharmacist simply cannot bring himself to dispense the product, he should find another job, start his own pharmacy, or change careers.

Moonbat Zoology

What could bring out more zany characters than an anarchist bookfair? What about an anarchist bookfair in San Francisco? But wait, there's more: Ward Churchill is the featured speaker at the event. Zombie, an amateur zoologist specializing in moonbat behavior, has a full report, including pictures and video, at his site. (Hat tip: Ryne McClaren)

Be sure to scroll down the page about 1/4th of the way to the picture of the 3 naked guys, and read the caption. We've seen quite a few bizarre people and behaviors over the years, but this one is special.

While you're there, be sure to check out the rest of Zombie's site, which includes his chronicles of previous events in the area. If you just want more of the Churchill tour, this is the place.

Two Kofis To Go, Please

From ScrappleFace:
Report Clears Annan: UN Chief Had 'No Clue': by Scott Ott

(2005-03-29) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan receives good news today as the commission investigating the oil-for-food scandal will announce that Mr. Annan had 'no clue' that Saddam Hussein had used the program to buy support for the eventual lifting of sanctions against Iraq.

'Mr. Annan is not implicated in the scandal, since he had, and continues to have, no idea what's going on at the United Nations,' according to an unnamed source who has read a summary of the report. 'There is no evidence that the Secretary-General is aware of the day-to-day operations of the organization. He is completely innocent.'"
... and another:
Kofi Annan Not Aware of Relationship to Kojo: by Scott Ott

(2005-03-30) -- UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan today said that, despite allegations in the Volcker Commission report, he had 'no advance knowledge' of his alleged relationship to his 31-year-old son, Kojo.

The report accuses Kojo Annan of deceiving his so-called father and refusing to cooperate with the investigation of his role in the UN oil-for-food scandal as a highly-paid consultant for the Swiss UN-contractor, Cotecna.

'I knew that Kojo helped Cotecna get the UN contract,' said Mr. Annan. 'But I was not aware that he was my blood relative who was raised under my own roof.'"

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Sisyphean Musings: Faking it ...

Sisyphean Musings pulls some threads together in an interesting way. He's musing about "fake news" from the video press release to hidden sources with an agenda.

Hilarious Bit of Photoshoppery

Van Helsing at Moonbattery has a very funny (doctored) picture of Howard Dean.

Some Dare Call It Cruelty

The following is a verbatim extract from OpinionJournal - Best of the Web Today:

"'A Cabot [Vt.] farmer convicted of starving his cows to death has begun serving a reparative sentence imposed by Washington County prosecutors as part of a plea bargain,' reports the Barre-Montpilier Times Argus:
Christian DeNeergaard pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty in January. He received a suspended one-year sentence as well as 30 days of work crew assignment as part of a deal with prosecutors. DeNeergaard, 47, may not own or possess livestock during his year of probation and must also undergo alcohol-abuse counseling.

In October, then-Washington County State's Attorney Tom Kelly said he would seek at least some jail time for animal neglect, which claimed the lives of at least 11 cows.

'We think some jail time is appropriate,' said Kelly in an October interview. 'The cows suffered tremendously.'
Even though DeNeergaard won't be behind bars, every American can sleep easy knowing that we live in a society that does not tolerate a man starving a cow to death."

US to End in 2007

A careful reading of the Koran reveals that the US will be destroyed in 2007, a victim of the Mother of All Tsunami. This is according to Ziad Silwadi, an obscure, Palestinian scholar from a vilage near Ramallah, as reported in the Jerusalem Post (via Best of the Web Today and LGF).
"The tsunami waves are a minor rehearsal in comparison with what awaits the US in 2007," the researcher concluded in his study. "The Holy Koran warns against the Omnipotent Allah's force. A great sin will cause a huge flood in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans."
He's evidently a scholar of American history, as well:
Silwadi said his study of the Koran showed that the US would perish mainly because of its great sins against mankind, including the Native Americans and blacks.

"As soon as the Europeans started arriving in the new world discovered by Christopher Columbus in 1492, they declared a war on the so-called Red Indians, the legitimate owners of the land," he wrote. "Then they began enslaving and humiliating Africans after kidnapping them from their countries and bringing them to America. Millions of blacks were brought to the US and treated with unprecedented harshness. Those who became ill during the journey were thrown overboard to feed the fish."


Explaining his theory about the approaching extinction of the US, the scholar went on to analyze many numbers and letters mentioned in the Koran. He said a careful reading and analysis of words appearing in the Opening and Yusuf suras show that the US will exist for only 231 years.

How did he reach that number? Silwadi said that by combing a number of suras hinting at US sins he reached the numbers 1776 (the year the US achieved independence) and 231. He added the two numbers and the result was 2007, the year when the US is expected to disappear.
Well, there is certainly no disputing that. Thankfully, the odds of this mega-tsunami reaching us here in The Great American Desert appear to be rather small. Those of you on the coasts may want to sell your homes now and begin the move inland.

Tuesday, March 29, 2005

WSJ and Islamic "Moderates"

The Wall Street Journal's Global View (sorry, subscription only link) column by George Melloan is normally good. Unfortunately, it seems ol' George got snookered today by phony "Islamic moderates" in the form of MPAC, the Muslim Public Affairs Council. This passage in Melloan's article was a tipoff that he has been taken in:
Muhammad was a different kind of prophet also in the sense that he was temporal ruler as well, building his political base in Medina and then conquering the Arab city that had once rejected him, Mecca. After his death, in June 632 by traditional account, Arabs rapidly built an empire stretching from the gates of the Mediterranean to the far side of India, spreading Islam as they went. On the whole, they were tolerant of Christians and Jews in the lands they conquered, acknowledging that all three religions claimed the same origins.
It is beyond dispute that Mohammed was indeed "a different kind of prophet" in the sense that he led his gang in battle, personally killed and ordered killings, divided up the victims's wealth with his followers, and made slaves of the wives and children of the victims.

Morever, the Christians and Jews (actually any non-Muslims) in the conquered territories were not treated with "tolerance" as Westerners of today understand it. They were offered three choices: 1) convert to Islam; 2) submit to rule by Muslims and live as "dhimmis;" or 3) be killed. Dhimmis were (are) allowed to live as second class citizens. They had (have) to pay a special tax. They were fully subject to Sharia law, but did not have the same legal rights as Muslims. They could not hold any government positions. They had to be appropriately submissive and deferential to Muslims to show that they knew "their place."

Robert Spencer of DhimmiWatch has a complete rundown on MPAC and a thorough critique of Melloan's article in his post, Dhimmitude at the Wall Street Journal: the Journal touts MPAC.

Blogging and the FEC

This Cox and Forkum cartoon, Here's Looking At You,05.03.24.HeresLooking-X
shows their views on the threatened regulation of "blog-speech" by the Federal Election Commision. They also have a good blog post on the issue at the same link.

Thank goodness we have McCain and Feingold to protect our elections from the evils of ... er, uh, expressions of opinions by individual voters. Well, anyway it stopped the big money interests from buying political influence... except for and the other "527s." Well, at least it was a cleaner campaign and cost less... Ummm. Nevermind.

We also enjoy the fact that the pajama-clad blogger is evidently lefthanded and using an "eye-Mac." But seriously, folks, bloggers from all four corners of the political spectrum should be able to agree that government regulation of internet, political speech is simply unacceptable. We are today's versions of the "pamphleteers" of the 18th century, the very core of freedom of speech and freedom of the press.

Unicameral Blogger

The Lincoln Journal Star has an article about members of the Nebraska legislature ("Unicameral") using the internet to communicate with constituents. Most approaches are fairly conventional: email newsletters and web sites. There is an exception, however:
About five years ago, State Sen. Philip Erdman [Bayard, 47th District] began posting a daily column on his Web site, describing what is going on in the Unicameral from his perspective. He called it keeping the folks in his part of the state informed about his views and what the Legislature was up to.

Now they call it blogging. Erdman is likely the only state senator who blogs, with a daily personal report, though a few other senators offer weekly columns, written in the first-person blogging style, and sent out through e-mail or posted on a Web page. More Session 2005 stories

Erdman's daily report, which also goes out by e-mail to several hundred constituents, friends, and interested people, is a brief synopsis of the bills being debated that day, with a touch of Erdman perspective and humor.


Erdman was blogging before he had heard of the word.

 "I wanted to give real time information to constituents," using the technology that was available," he said of his daily journal.

Erdman types out his blog daily, usually at the end of the day, while he sits at his desk on the legislative floor. He sends it out through an e-mail list, and a friend posts it on his Web site.

"These are just flat out my thoughts on what we are doing. They aren't flippant, but they are candid," he said.
Here is a link to Sen. Erdman's blog. He's pretty good about posting something every day. The site doesn't allow comments on the posts, although an email link is provided. A search function would be nice, as it will not be easy to find a particular topic after the fact.

Sen. Erdman, if you are reading this, feel free to copy and modify the "Google Site Search" applet from this site for your own use. Keep up the good work.

Monday, March 28, 2005

Swedish Muslims Call For Terror Attacks Against Sweden

Fjordman of Norway gives us a glimpse into the culture war raging just below the surface in Sweden. Despite Sweden's grovelling embrace of dhimmitude, it is not enough for those "radical minority" jihadists. In a thread on a Swedish-Muslim board, several posters call for terrorism against Sweden for "supporting" the "war against Islam." This post from a jihadi (living in Sweden) particularly caught my eye:
Why should you not be allowed to call Sweden Darul Harb (the House of War)? Ulama have stated many times that every state that does not judge according to sharia, and does not have a pact with the Muslims or are paying the Jiziya is a part of Dar ul-Harb, which is allowed to attack and their wealth permitted for all Muslims. Why not follow the example of what our Mujahid brother in Holland did with that pig Theo van Gogh? That brother's action really made a difference in the world, and because of it the Muslims now enjoy some respect and eminence among the kuffar.
What can you say about someone who thinks the brutal, senseless murder that disgraced Muslims everywhere resulted in "some respect and eminence?"

Meanwhile, Swedes remain unwilling or unable to standup for their own culture for fear of being "intolerant." What will happen when they finally wake from their slumber and see the reality of their situation?

Mass Transit

Andy at The Inspector just started his blog. He's warm, earnest and a fellow Mac user, and we find him quite charming. Andy feels strongly that mass transit is a good thing. In his blog about it, he linked to our previous post on the subject and left a friendly comment. Our comment on his blog ran a bit long, so we decided to reproduce it here for posterity:
Certain things are required for mass transit to be practical; the first of which is high population density. The NE corridor from DC to Boston is the only place in the country where intercity rail is close to viable. Even Chicago - NYC is impractical by train, and going anywhere from my town (Lincoln, NE) is a joke.

I commuted from Norwalk, CT, to Stamford, CT, for 15 years on I-95, and it was a bad drive on the good days. As bad as that 25 mile roundtrip was, MetroNorth was worse. It would take twice as long most days to get to the station and park, wait for the train, get to Stanford, get to work from the station and do the same in reverse in the evening. Not flexible, not cheap, not convenient, not practical.

Major metropolitan areas, e.g. Boston, NYC, San Fran, etc. may be able to attract a significant number of riders for local systems, particularly where owning/operating a car is almost impossible. Bad roads, no parking, high insurance are enough to persuade some to ride the trains and forego a car.

Even in these, most favorable cases, the systems are not able to take in enough from fares to cover operating expenses, let alone capital costs (track, cars, repairs). If they were private companies that had to make money, it might be different, but most fervent advocates of mass transit don't believe privatization can work. Inevitably, it comes down to calling for non-riders (local or national) to subsidize riders. I have yet to hear a convincing argument that this is either fair or needed.

Why is mass transit widely used in Europe and Japan? Answers: very dense population in the cities; short distances between cities; terrible city roads and traffic; extremely high car and gas prices; large expenditures of tax money to subsidize the systems.

A Kofi Break?

If you are wondering why Kofi Annan is suddenly "depressed" and considering resignation from his position as UN Secretary General, remember the next installment of Paul Volcker's report on the Oil for Food Scandal is due this week. See Roger L. Simon for a sneak peak.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Genocide in Darfur

In the free, online version of the Wall Street Journal Don Cheadle and John Prendergast argue for the US to take immediate action to stop the slaughter of innocents by the Sudanese government-sponsored Janjaweed militias. Mr. Cheadle was nominated for an Academy Award for his performance in the film "Hotel Rwanda." Mr. Prendergast is an adviser to the International Crisis Group. They are highly critical of the "lame excuses" offered by the US for the failure to stop the killing.
OpinionJournal - Featured Article: "So what is the real reason why the U.S. has not responded as it should have? The truth is that combating crimes against humanity is simply not considered a national security issue. We don't want to burn our leverage on Sudan in the face of issues such as Iraq, Iran and Syria.

The only antidote to this searing truth--the only way the U.S. will take the kind of leadership necessary to end the horrors for Fatima and her people--is for there to be a political cost to inaction. As American citizens increasingly raise their voices and write their letters about Darfur, the temperature has indeed risen. But not enough. We need to make it a little warmer, a little more uncomfortable for those politicians who would look away. Just a few more degrees. Just a few more thousand letters. It is, frankly, that simple."
We agree that the US goverment should take the lead in stopping these atrocities. It's interesting, however, that there is no serious suggestion in the article of any prospect of the "International Community" taking action. In fact the UN and the Europeans are quite happy to argue semantics about whether it is really "genocide" or not, since a declaration of genocide would require actions. China and Russia are actively opposing any US movement to end the killing through pressure on Sudan.

We saw a suggestion somewhere else that the US simply invade Darfur and hold a referendum on secession from Sudan, followed by democratic elections for a popular government. Such a government would probably welcome US military bases, and these would be a great strategic asset.

This approach neutralizes the "... combating crimes against humanity is simply not considered a national security issue," argument by aligning the two objectives. Of course, some may not find this a benefit. In some quarters any "taint" of national interest fatally undermines the case for military action.

Winning the War on Terror

TigerHawk has a link to a very optimistic article about disarray in the ranks of al-Qaeda. The article, by Amir Taheri, was reprinted in the Morocco Times, but it came originally from the New York Post. Taheri sees breakdowns in al-Qaeda in command and control, recruiting and finances.

The jihadis are not winning the "hearts and minds" of the Iraqis. Iraq and other Islamic countries are finding democracy and freedom a more attractive vision than Islamicist tyranny.