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Saturday, April 16, 2005

Jihad Comes to Nebraska?

The headline in the local paper is alarming: "Group: UNO textbooks distributed in Afghanistan contributed to terrorism." Have jihadists taken over the University of Nebraska at Omaha? Not quite.
Lincoln Journal Star Online: By SCOTT BAUER (AP) - "Textbooks promoting violence and jihad that were created under the guidance of the University of Nebraska at Omaha and distributed in Afghanistan contributed to the terroristic culture that led to the Sept. 11 attacks, a peace group told the university's Board of Regents Friday.

Nebraskans for Peace asked the university to study the work of UNO's Center for Afghan Studies and to strengthen ethics policies that would govern work of the center.

Paul Olson, a member of the statewide peace organization and also an English professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, told the regents that evidence he has collected indicates that actions of the Afghan Studies program appear to violate written and unwritten principles of the university, such as violating human rights.

Textbooks created and distributed by the center in the 1980s and 1990s were adopted by the Taliban for widespread use in Afghan schools, Olson said. Those textbooks promoted violence and jihad, Olson said, in apparent violation of regents policy that prohibits departments from providing educational materials violating recognized human rights protections.

'We provided the violence-laden propaganda to the Taliban-era Afghan children,' Olson said. 'The 9/11 terrorists emerged from this context.'"
You don't have to live in Nebraska to suspect that a group calling itself "Nebraskans for Peace" might have a few screws loose, but if you lived here you'd know they do. Recently, the organization ran a campaign to repeal a law granting tax benefits to companies that create jobs in the state. While one can argue whether such a law is justified or effective, the connection of that law to "peace" remains a mystery.

The whole premise of the group is that the world would be a peaceful place if only we could just restrain the warmongering USA. Blaming the US for the emergence of the Taliban "explains" why we "deserved" to be attacked on 9/11: The "justice of roosting moonbats."

The Center for Afghan Studies at UNO was established (before the Taliban) as a bridge between the US and Afghanistan. As the article points out, the American universities participating in the creation of the text books were not involved in creating content for the books. Content was determined entirely by Afghans, as mandated by the Congress and the State Department. All these books were created before 1990, and current books are created by President Karzai's administration.

If an organization with some credibility in opposing terrorism, such as Jihad Watch, were making such charges against the UNO center or the program, one would have to take them seriously. Nebraskans for Peace has no credibility on this topic, or any other for that matter.

Mae Magouirk Recovering

We wrote previously about the case of Mae Magouirk, the grandmother who was being starved and dehydrated to death in a Georgia hospice for 12 days. Her brother and sister, A.B. McLeod, 64, of Anniston, Ala., and Lonnie Ruth Mullinax, 74, of Birmingham, protested the killing, which was being done at the behest of Magouirk's granddaughter.

After an internet firestorm began to develop, Magouirk was airlifted to a hospital in Birmingham, AL, for treatment that doesn't involve starvation. Deprived of her "right to be dehydrated to death against her express wishes," Magouirk is actually getting better. WorldNetDaily has a follow up on the case:
"However, relatives say it appears Magouirk is pulling through, despite her aortic dissection and the starvation and dehydration she endured from March 28 to April 9 at Hospice La-Grange, where she was placed by her granddaughter.

In her living will, Magouirk stated that fluids and nourishment were to be withheld only if she were either comatose or 'vegetative,' and she is neither. Nor is she terminally ill, which is generally a requirement for admission to a hospice.

McLeod told WND the two women visited yesterday in Magouirk's room, and 'Ora Mae recognized [Ruth Mullinax] and they laughed and chatted briefly together.'

In an e-mail, Ken Mullinax provided further details of yesterday's meeting, quoting remarks his mother, Ruth, made when he visited her at UAB early this morning.[...]"
The granddaughter, Ruth Gaddy, had tried to block McLeod and Mullinax from visiting their sister or talking with doctors about her condition, but relented. Lonnie Ruth Mullinax's son, Ken, is still barred by Gaddy from seeing his aunt, as he refused Gaddy's demand to promise to "never to talk to the media again or communicate in any way with Internet bloggers." Good for him.

Comedian Ron White Endangers Thousands

Lincoln Journal Star Online: "Lincoln police will issue ticket for comedian's on-stage cigar - By The Associated Press - The company that manages the city's Pershing Center will be cited by police after comedian Ron White violated the city's smoking ban during a performance last week. Police Chief Tom Casady said SMG of Philadelphia will get a $100 ticket.

'The law says you can't allow smoking,' Casady said Cigars, scotch and Texas-tough talk are part of White's act. During the performance at the Pershing Center, a fan shouted out, asking what it was costing him to smoke the cigar at the center. 'Nothin',' White replied. 'I said if I can't smoke, I ain't comin.''

Casady said White will not be ticketed because 'he's long gone.'"
Well, we can all breathe easier knowing that comedians who smoke as part of their acts will be subject to the full force of Lincoln's Nanny State. Of course, this action comes too late to protect the 8,000 patrons in the audience, each of whom received an estimated 17 molecules of tobacco smoke. The horror! What of these poor innocents and their families? Is there a lawyer in the house?
"The title of White's tour, 'Drunk in Public,' refers to his being charged with public drunkenness after being booted from a bar."
At least Lincoln may have provided White with some new material. He can call his next tour "Smokin' in Public."

Friday, April 15, 2005

Judicial Dance

Best of the Web's James Taranto is off today, so email subscribers to BotW get an episode of Political Diary. The Political Diary column normally requires a paid subscription, so we don't see it often. Here is a portion of today's issue, in which John Fund has some great quotes from Democrats present and past:
"There's nothing in the Constitution that says that there has to be 51 votes for that judge," claims New York Senator Chuck Schumer, the mastermind behind the Democratic filibuster strategy that has so far blocked 10 of Mr. Bush's appellate court nominees. He sang a different tune back in 2000, when he wanted to dislodge some Clinton nominees from the Judiciary Committee before the November election. "I also plead with my colleagues to move judges with alacrity -- vote them up or down," Mr. Schumer said on the Senate floor. "But this delay makes a mockery of the Constitution, makes a mockery of the fact that we are here working, and makes a mockery of the lives of very sincere people who have put themselves forward to be judges and then they hang out there in limbo."

Mr. Schumer had a legitimate point back then about Republican obstructionism, which makes his current turnaround on the issue shamelessly opportunistic. He should know that the Constitution's Advice and Consent clause clearly states that a simple majority of Senators can confirm nominees, and a Supreme Court decision in 1892 upheld that interpretation. That standard is well known and is the only logical answer to why Democrats did not filibuster Justice Clarence Thomas' nomination in 1991.

Back then, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, now the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, flatly rejected calls by outside liberal groups for a filibuster of the Thomas nomination. "The president and the nominee and all Americans deserve an up or down vote" on the nomination, Leahy said. "I am totally opposed to a filibuster."

Mr. Leahy was joined in his opposition by Texas Senator Lloyd Bentsen, who had been the Democratic vice presidential nominee in 1988. In decrying a possible filibuster of Mr. Thomas, he wrote: "As a matter of high priority, the Senate should change its rules so that we can act responsibly, more rapidly and with more certainty on the major issues our nation faces."

Today, rather than face down the more extreme interest groups urging filibusters of judicial nominations, Senate Democrats seem to have abdicated their responsibilities to them. On the Hugh Hewitt radio program both Nan Aron, president of the Alliance for Justice, and Ralph Neas, executive director of People for the American Way, pledged this week to filibuster any conservative Bush nominee to the high court. When asked if he would oppose Mike McConnell, a widely respected judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals who has criticized the Supreme Court's Bush v. Gore decision in 2000, Mr. Neas noted: "Mike was a colleague of mine at the University of Chicago Law School. Lovely individual, but truly extreme on a wide range of issues."

Former Democratic Senator Zell Miller of Georgia told me last year that his former colleagues are incapable of saying no to the liberal groups that want to block any Bush court nominee. But he also said that Republicans are foolish if they believe Democrats will shut down the Senate if filibusters on judicial nominations are ruled out of order. "Senators need to get business done and folks back home will demand they do," he said. "A work stoppage wouldn't last long."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Tax Day: Grrrrr!

Happy April 15 to all. We held off filing the federal return until Sunday of last week, primarily because we owed additional tax. We filed electronically that Sunday, and the next day we received a revised 1099 form from a mutual fund we own shares in. The revision reduced our tax by $2, but required filing an amended return. Grumbling the whole time, we did it.

The change in the federal return triggered a change in the state return of $1 in our favor. Since it would cost more than a dollar to print the revised return and mail it, we decided to let the state keep that dollar. Mrs. Abe is slightly worried we may be arrested for this...

The mutual fund letter was matter-of-fact, "We regret any inconvenience this may have caused." Grrrr!

ScrappleFace, Boxer, and Bolton

"Sen. Boxer Questions Source of Bolton's Mustache

by Scott Ott

(2005-04-12) -- Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-CA, continued her verbal assault on President Bush's nominee for U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. today -- this time questioning the source of Undersecretary of State John Bolton's mustache.

During a withering barrage of rhetorical questions, Sen. Boxer told Mr. Bolton that he needs anger therapy and virtually accused him of stealing the prodigious, light-colored, facial growth from a junior analyst at the CIA."

Separation of Church and State

A few years ago while we were waiting for the crowd to thin out after a U of Nebraska football game, a random woman nearby expressed shock at the actions of a group of players (from both teams). They were kneeling in prayer, right there on the football field, on public property. "How can they do that?" she asked. "Isn't it against The Separation of Church and State?"

As we all know, the Founding Fathers enshrined the "Separation of Church and State" into the Constitution, thus protecting the Republic from religious tyranny. The phrase "separation of church and state" has been repeated so many times for most of us that it has become a sort of national mantra, a Secular Humanist "Hail Mary."

It comes as a surprise to many, evidently including that woman, that the Constitution doesn't mention religion at all, although it does give, "...the Year of our Lord one thousand seven hundred and Eighty seven..." as the date.

No doubt recognizing the unfortunate mixing of church and state embodied in that slipup, the Founders quickly rectified things with the Bill of Rights. Getting right to the point in the First Amendment they wrote:
United States House of Representatives - Amendments to the Constitution: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."
That's it; there is no more. Oddly enough, they still failed to mention that critical "Separation of Church and State" phrase, although it is the "establishment clause" that is said to embody this concept. There it is, though: no official, government-approved religion and no government meddling in religion at all.

There's nothing to suggest that all public traces of religion must be expunged to avoid offending the easily offended. In fact the right to "free exercise thereof" seems to explicitly allow public displays of piety.

We also don't see anything that would prohibit religious leaders from urging belivers to vote one way or another on a particular question. In fact their rights to do so appear to be inalienable.

Prohibiting someone from holding a particular government job based on religious views is also clearly out, even if that job is Supreme Court Justice.

Fortunately we have the ACLU looking out for our right to free exercise of religion by making sure that no one ever has to see it:
American Civil Liberties Union: "The free exercise clause of the First Amendment guarantees the right to practice one's religion free of government interference. The establishment clause requires the separation of church and state. Combined, they ensure religious liberty. Yet assaults on the freedom to believe continue, both in Washington and in state legislatures around the country."
We certainly agree that the ACLU knows a lot about "assaults on the freedom to believe," although we see more of those in the courts than the legislatures. While it is indeed leading this fight, the ACLU is on the wrong side.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Another Bombing for Life

What can you say about Eric Robert Rudolph, who admits to having murdered innocent people out of his perverted notion of Christian faith. A "pro-life murder?" We must have missed the part in the Bible where Jesus tells his followers to set bombs in abortion clinics, gay nightclubs, and the Olympic Games. This guy is lower than the slime on the ocean floor.

Rudolf claims to be a Catholic, but that claim is absurd and obscene. His "faith" is nothing more than a license for him to do what he wants: kill people so he can gain attention. He insults all Christians by claiming to be one.

By pleading guilty to double murder, he escapes the death penalty, unfortunately. We can only hope that he spends the rest of his life rotting behind bars, forgotten like yesterday's garbage. If he ever gets out of prison it will be too soon.
The New York Times: "ATLANTA, April 13 - Declaring himself 'bloodied but emphatically unbowed,' Eric Robert Rudolph on Wednesday issued his first public explanation for a series of abortion clinic bombings and an attack at the 1996 Olympics, gloating that his plea deal with prosecutors 'deprived the government of its goal of sentencing me to death.'

In the 11-page statement, devoid of remorse but rife with anti-abortion and antigay language, Mr. Rudolph said he had originally intended to bomb the Olympics every day to 'confound, anger and embarrass' the government for legalizing abortion, but was foiled by his own poor planning."

Bruce Springsteen Updated

Noting that Springsteen "came out" last year as an environmentally aware celebrity, Tim Blair re-writes some classic Bruce lyrics. Here he turns "Born to Run" into "Born to Walk:"
"Original Bruce:

In the day we sweat it out in the streets of a runaway American dream
At night we ride through mansions of glory in suicide machines
Sprung from cages out on highway 9,
Chrome wheeled, fuel injected
and steppin’ out over the line
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It’s a death trap, it’s a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we’re young
‘Cause tramps like us, baby we were born to run

New improved Green Bruce:

In the day we sweat it out in the streets ‘cos climate change is melting the ice
At night we ride to Greenpeace fundraisers in a bio-fuel mass-transit device
Sprung from depots out on highway 9,
Hemp-wheeled, full of hippies
and toein’ the envirofreak line
Moby this town rips the cress from your salad
It’s a crap song, it’s an unlistenable ballad
We gotta get loud now we’re old
‘Cause gramps like us, baby we were born to scold"
Tim has two more and the comments on the post chime in with more hilarity.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Shariah TV in Britain

Ahmad, an Iraqi Expat in living Britain, writes about "Shariah TV." We were prepared for the worst, but Ahmad believes it's a good thing. The show is directed at Muslims, and the format is a 3-person panel discussion of questions:
"The reaction and answers from the panel was rather amusing. Imam R was rather radical in his answer, whereas Imam M was moderate and Dr Siddiqui was rational. What happens is that the moderate Imam M would side more with Dr Siddiqui than with Imam R, which was very interesting, you see him changes his moderate answer to be even more logical after Dr Siddiqui gives her view. So, the inquirer often accepts the moderate and logical answer.

One of the questions was, should believing Muslims (non-Muslim can do what they like here) question, criticize and or critique Islam or the Prophet. Imam R said that you shouldn’t, as a Muslim and a believer you should accept it without questions, i.e. blindly and without using your brains. Whereas, Dr Siddiqui made a distinction between criticize and critique; as a Muslim you can critique Islam to get a better understanding and explanations. Another example, a journalist asked if he can work on a programme that deals with pornography or alcohol. As you would expect, Imam R said, NO; Muslims should never work with such programmes because they are Haram; whereas Imam M would answer him by saying that if this is to expose problems in the society, then of course we need that work done and you should do it, but not if you are producing a porno film; which is fair I think.

Another interesting point made was about Salman Rushdie the author of The Satanic Verses (anti-Islam, anti-Prophet novel). The point was, why none of the Mullahs cared to answer Rushdie, yet they didn’t hesitate to issue fatwas decreeing his death. This goes back to the 'criticize and critique' issue; the Mullahs should have responded not by a fatwa, but by a logical answer to show a different explanation. I think they got used to people (Muslims) following them blindly so much, that they expect others to do the same.

What is interesting is that having such a programme would force radicals to become less radical and more rational because in a programme like that they lose the debate and people will follow the logical answer not the close your eyes and follow me answer. This is the kind of programmes that we need in the Middle East, to make people think before accepting what the Imam says, and at the same time it make the Imam think before saying things. These people were caring believing Muslims, yet they did not accept what Imam R told them.

I believe we need programmes like these in the Middle East, where Imams like Imam M and intellects like Dr Siddiqui would interact with an intellectual audience to reach a logical conclusion that enlighten people and reform Islam. Instead what we have in the Middle East is Al Jazeera with either a male presenter or a female presenter with Hijab (even if she doesn’t normally wear one) making a programme where Al Qaradawi gives his views unchallenged, as if he is the law! Why not make it intellectual and bring also people like Dr Siddiqui for example to give a different view, to give rational answers, and an audience to ask questions. We need such programmes to tackle Muslims daily issues in the Middle East in an intellectual approach, not the follow me blindly approach."
Of course, we didn't see the show, but Ahmad raises some good points. It is hard for the radical view of "follow me without question" to stand up to logic and rationality. So putting them in that kind of situation is A Good Thing.

There is more to this post and lots more interesting stuff on Iraqi Expat.

Free Iraqi on April 9

Ali at Free Iraqi has a great post on his feelings on the two year anniversary of the fall of Saddam.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Judicial Filibuster Showdown Nearing

The Senate Minority is continuing to wage an unprecedented filibuster campaign against qualified judicial nominees, who have the votes to be confirmed. These senators, and any who let them get away with it, are denying the plain language of the constitution specifying a simple majority to confirm federal judges.

We are pleased to note that Nebraska Senator Ben Nelson (D) opposes the filibuster and is working with the Senate Republican leadership to allow up or down votes on the nominees. We applaud his responsible leadership on this to date. We trust that if/when it becomes clear that efforts to break the filibuster without a change of the Senate rules will not succeed, that Sen. Nelson will make the principled decision. We expect him to support changing the rules to restore the system to what it was for over 200 years.

Unfortunately, Senator Hagel (R) of Nebraska is said to be wavering on supporting the president's lawful power to appoint federal judges. A New York Times article quoted at Confirm Them says:
Lobbying Heats Up on Filibuster Rule Change: "The article identifies seven Republicans who may jump ship: Olympia J. Snowe and Susan Collins of Maine, Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania, John McCain of Arizona, Chuck Hagel of Nebraska, Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island and John W. Warner of Virginia."
It is absolutely essential for the long term survival of our constitution that judges are appointed who will read the document rather than re-write it on a whim. This is the burning issue of our time. We can't imagine any situation in which we would vote for any senator for any future office (president, senator, or dogcatcher), who will not stand up for the constitution against the assault of judicial supremicists.

Search here for information about your senators
Tell your senators how you feel

Searching for Google

We recently began to consider more seriously the question of Google, in particular how to get more googly goodness going for things written here. Three posts here have gotten some traffic from Google: the post about the death of Brennen Bremmer; the one about exploding maple trees; and a few hits for the gorillas in the corn kerfuffle. All told these generated around 100 visitors, with most of them looking for info on Bremmer.

We have done a little behind the scenes to make the site more Google-friendly. Reportedly, html errors on a page reduce the "score" of the page assigned by Google. Changing the DOCTYPE to "transitional" instead of "strict" and checking/fixing/rechecking with html validators rooted out the errors, and there were quite a few. This was a fair amount of work, which we hope was of some benefit. It's hard to say, so far, but it's a leap of faith.

Since these guys were the number one hit of thousands on a Google search for how to improve your Google rank, they must know something. The site is more directed toward regular web sites than blogs, but some ideas cross over well. They have a good list of Rules to Better Google Rankings. The number of sites linking to a page is very important, but these factors are also critical:
In other words here's the things Google looks for before it calculates Page Rank:
1. Finds all pages matching the keywords of the search
2. Rank accordingly using "on the page" factors (proximity between words, frequency, repetition etc)
3. Calculate the relevancy of inbound anchor text

So looking for people to link to your site will only become important if you've got the first three discriminating factors nailed.
The third item leads to:
1. Links that you receive should always have an appropriate description to the page it is linking to.
2. We don't like inbound links that use "More" and "Click Here" to link to us.
3. Inbound links should always be consistent in case as Google is case sensitive and will display different results for upper and lower case URLs. See the consistent case rule for details.
Note that we did not help them by linking to them above with the anchor text "these guys." What the heck, they're already at the top of the heap, and our second link to them in that paragraph will help.

They suggest you get a Googlebar for your browser so you can see: 1) your page rank; 2) the cached version; and 3) who links to you. So we did that for the main page of this blog and the other most important sites in the blogosphere. The results are in the table below. The score, which can fluctuate, is Google's rating of how "important" your page's content is. Interestingly, the page we are quoting here has a score of "only" 4, yet it was the top hit of thousands.

Blog NameScoreLinks to
Don't Let Me Stop You0/100
Grizzly Mama4/10120
A Republic, Madam, If You Can Keep It0/1032
Sysphean Musings0/10544
Plains Feeder0/105
Scylla and Charybdis4/10201
Ryne McClaren: A Weblog5/10911
Roger L. Simon6/1015,000

Not only did Don't Let Me Stop You get a goose egg, there wasn't even a cached version for any of the pages. Well, we never! Perhaps this is a sign that we should stop mucking about with the template? There are links that Google is either ignoring or unaware of, obviously. We know DLMSY definitely has more than zero incoming links, and Plains Feeder has more than 5.

We can also see that while incoming link count is important, it is not the whole story. Grizzly Mama's score is interesting, particularly since the link count is significantly lower than other highly ranked pages. Perhaps Monica and Ryne have some tips for the rest of us. We're all ears (or eyes?). :-)

But seriously, folks, comments from all are encouraged on this post, as we are looking for suggestions. Also, if you would like your blog stats removed from (or added to) the list above, leave a comment or send an email.