Sunday, March 21, 2004

We haven't forgotten

Sometimes I wonder whether Americans have forgotten September 11th. Not that it happened, certainly, but what it was like. In my case, I was frankly disbelieving. I had an indication that something was happening--I'd seen and heard some workmen listening to a radio as I walked into work. I hadn't really heard what they were talking about, but I got the impression that it was big. I was a Grad student at the time, so it shouldn't come as a surprise that I didn't have a radio or a television on hand when I got to my office. The first notice I got was through an e-mail with a call to a prayer meeting, and reading that the reason for the prayer meetings were airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon--I couldn't believe it. It didn't seem possible. I tried to get online, to check, but with all the Internet traffic that day, I couldn't get access. Eventually, a friend came by to talk to me about it, and I got a phone call from my mother (who was concerned since two of the flights had left from Boston, although she had no reason to think that I would be traveling anywhere that day), and I drained them of all the information they had, which was surprisingly little. It's not the sort of thing you forget, but sometimes it seems like we have forgotten, that two years is just too long in this age of "Internet time."

Today I was eating lunch at Pellegrino's, a sub place near U of R. The two guys sitting behind me were talking. (No, I didn't make much effort to tune them out. Call it eavesdropping if you want.) Initially, they were talking about dating younger women, and that it's important to have shared "Where were you...?" moments. They mentioned the Kennedy assassination, which neither of them could have been old enough to remember, then the Challenger shuttle explosion. Then came September 11th, which clearly wasn't relevant to the dating scene. From then on, that was all they talked about. One of them had a brother who witnessed it firsthand, and though it was secondhand, the speaker could describe his experience in detail. I left then, having finished eating, but I was reassured. Those two hadn't forgotten September 11th, and I very much doubt much of upstate New York has either. I doubt New York City has either.

A bad week

Have you had a bad week? So has Senator Kerry. At least you don't have Mark Steyn to mock you mercilessly when your week goes awry:
I wonder if John Kerry has perhaps launched his descent into caricature a couple of months too early. Usually, the successful losing candidate waits till late spring/early summer before shifting gears and beginning each day with the campaign trying to explain some rhetorical triviality from the previous week that's stuck to his shoe and he can't seem to shake off.

His summary of Kerry's week is well worth the read, although curiously he doesn't talk about either Kerry's snowboarding incident or the VVAW's assassination plot, which I think are the biggest stories of the week. Since both these stories broke on Friday, maybe they came out after Mark's deadline. It just goes to show that Kerry was having a bad week even before they happened.

The snowboarding incident, where Kerry collided with one of his Secret Service agents and then called him names, reminds me of an earlier snowboarding incident.

Week in Review

Here are the important posts for the week:

New Computer -- This may not seem like a big deal to you, but my new laptop (a Latitude D600, 14" screen, under 5 lbs), and especially, its wireless connection, may change the way I blog.

Spain: The attacks and the election
-- I finally put in my two cents on the Madrid bombings and the following electoral retreat. It doesn't look good.

Blogging Ralph Nader -- All right, I'll do it! With a new laptop, and with luck, a wireless connection, I'll be live-blogging Nader's talk this week.

Do you want a revolution? -- Reasons why I think a revolution in Iran would be a good thing.

Cheney's Speech
-- I comment on Cheney's excellent speech, with extensive quotes.

Affirmative Action Bake Sale -- U of R's College Republicans have an affirmative action bake sale, but I'm not sure it's really a great idea.

Kerry's VVAW problem -- I knew Kerry's involvement with this group would pose problems, but I didn't think they'd be this big.

Saturday, March 20, 2004

Weekly Webcomic Update

Rather than write about politics today, let's take a look at our favorite webcomics.

Sluggy Freelance -- Riff's back. Enough said.

Day by Day -- John Kerry, the New York Times, and Martha Stewart. So many people to make fun of, so little time.

It's Walky! -- Martians, zombies, and lawyers. Who do you think is the most scary?

College Roomies from Hell! -- Mike's sneakiness gets him into trouble.

General Protection Fault -- Yoshi runs into trouble with the law.

Schlock Mercenary -- Now that the mercenaries have a little downtime, Breya pushes for some target practice.

Friday, March 19, 2004

Kerry's VVAW problem

There's a story developing that could actually kill the Kerry campaign. I haven't discussed it since it just seemed too out there to be believable at first, but Captain Ed has been going over the details. From a New York Sun story:
Senator Kerry of Massachusetts yesterday retreated from his earlier steadfast denials that he attended a meeting of Vietnam Veterans Against the War at which a plan to assassinate U.S. Senators was debated. The reversal came as new evidence, including reports from FBI informants, emerged that contradicted Mr. Kerry’s previous statements about the gathering, which was held in Kansas City, Mo. in November 1971.

“John Kerry had no personal recollection of this meeting 33 years ago,” a Kerry campaign spokesman, David Wade, said in a statement e-mailed last night from Idaho, where Mr. Kerry is on vacation.

As I said in the Captain's comments, how do you forget something like that? I mean, Kerry seems to remember every minute detail from his time in Vietnam, considering how every situation reminds him of a new anecdote. I think a meeting where he opposed an assassination attempt and which ultimately caused him to resign the organization would be just a little bit memorable.

And I'm being generous in my interpretation of events: Kerry, hearing about the plans for assassination, was horrified at the thought, argued strenuously against it, and even after successfully opposing the idea, decided that he had to leave the organization. There are much more cynical ways of looking at it, but even this way, guilt by association makes Kerry look very bad. His involvement in a truly radical organization makes him look hopelessly naive at best, more likely dangerously anti-American even if he did have limits.

The more I think about it, the more I think that this could kill Kerry's campaign. It may be enough of a disgrace to force him to withdraw from the race entirely. As I don't think a Sharpton or Kucinich Presidential nomination are very likely, that would leave the Democratic side wide open. There isn't much telling what would happen then.

New Post: More here.

Affirmative Action Bake Sale

U of R's College Republicans are holding an Affirmative Action Bake Sale today. If you don't know what that is, it's a bake sale where discounts are given to women and "disadvantaged" minorities (i.e., Blacks and Hispanics). When I went by, there was a good crowd there, although to judge by the stickers they were wearing, most of them were members of the College Republicans. I didn't see any hecklers or demonstrators, which these sorts of things have drawn at other campuses.

While I'll defend the right of the College Republicans to hold these Bake Sales, I'm not a big fan of the events. It strikes me as needlessly insulting, which I guess is the point. Why should you be offended by being offered baked goods at a discount if you aren't offended by lowered admission standards and job quotas? Shouldn't that be considered even more patronizing? (La Shawn Barber has a good post on this today.) Still, it seems to me that there ought to be better ways to get the idea across. First, who is the target audience? Presumably it's those who normally benefit from affirmative action. I doubt it's to get the non-beneficiaries all riled up (and I certainly hope that's not the case). Second, will your target audience be too offended to listen to your point? The thinking might be that they won't listen unless you show graphically how offensive affirmative action is to them, but I'm still unconvinced. And I think many of them have such a low opinion of Republicans that they'll assume that the whole purpose of the exercise is either to get the non-beneficiaries riled up or to insult the beneficiaries, and they'll miss the message the Bake Sale is supposed to convey.

New Post: If you want some information on the Bake Sale itself, I have some pointers above.

Strategies for the Culture War

Joe Carter has a nice post wherein he talks about the best way to engage in cultural debates. Arguing the slippery slope, which seems to be the only argument with which conservatives gain any traction these days, doesn't work against those who see nothing wrong with what's at the bottom. Here are some more of his don'ts:
First, we must realize that scoffing is not an argument. If we stacked all snarky tomes by Rush and Sean and Bill and Ann they would not fortify us against even the weakest liberal argument. Think for a moment how long Limbaugh has been on the radio. Now name one battle in the culture war in which he was instrumental in attaining a victory for our side. I can’t think of a single one. These pundits may bring the issues to our attention but they rarely provide adequate solutions to the problems they point out. We can’t rely on them to think for us; we have to do the intellectual heavy lifting ourselves. We would do well not to blindly imitate their approach.

Second, we have to become cultural missionaries, translating the components of our worldview in a way that can be understood by our opponents. Take, for example, an example of what Russell Kirk calls a “common principle” of conservatism: the principle of prescription - a reliance on the “wisdom of our ancestors.” Since the Enlightenment, the inherent value of tradition and ancient learning has slowly been eroding. The liberal elite, in particular, have fallen for what C.S. Lewis termed “chronological snobbery”, the presumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.

There are some interesting thoughts, but there's not a whole lot of practical advice for how to proceed (the post contains more "do nots" than "dos"). It's definitely worth reading, however.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

The al Qaeda letter

Doc Rampage thinks the al Qaeda letter (in which al Qaeda says that it's calling a truce with Spain as long as it really withdraws from Iraq and that it wants Bush to win because Kerry's so smart he'd be a real threat to the terrorists) is a fake. Maybe. It certainly doesn't strike me as particularly intelligent, whether fake or real. So are we supposed to believe that the terrorists really want Bush to win, because Kerry scares them? If Kerry had done anything aside from promise to return us to the pre-9/11 status quo, I might find it a little bit believable. As it is, you've got to be a way-out Lefty to believe that Kerry will fight the war on terrorism better than Bush, and a none-too-bright Lefty, or perhaps a really stupid terrorist trying his hand at reverse psychology, if you think anyone other than the far-Left can be convinced that terrorists really are more afraid of Kerry than they are of Bush. Either that, or the writer might be a somewhat clever conservative who thinks that people won't take the letter at face value and it will end up making Kerry and the Spanish Socialists look bad.

Cheney's Speech

Opinionjournal has a transcript of Cheney's speech at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum on Wednesday. It's clearly a campaign speech, divided equally between praise for Bush and put downs for Kerry. I noticed immediately that it hits on many themes which the blogosphere has been saying that Bush needs to put forward in his campaign. Either the blogosphere's becoming more influential, or we're just pointing out the obvious. As an example, Cheney stresses the need to go on the offensive against terrorism:
This great and urgent responsibility has required a shift in national security policy. For many years prior to 9/11, we treated terror attacks against Americans as isolated incidents, and answered--if at all--on an ad hoc basis, and never in a systematic way. Even after an attack inside our own country--the 1993 bombing at the World Trade Center, in New York--there was a tendency to treat terrorist incidents as individual criminal acts, to be handled primarily through law enforcement. The man who perpetrated that attack in New York was tracked down, arrested, convicted and sent off to serve a 240-year sentence. Yet behind that one man was a growing network with operatives inside and outside the United States, waging war against our country.

For us, that war started on 9/11. For them, it started years before. After the World Trade Center attack in 1993 came the murders at the Saudi Arabia National Guard Training Center in Riyadh, in 1995; the simultaneous bombings of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in 1998; the attack on the USS Cole, in 2000. In 1996, Khalid Shaykh Muhammad--the mastermind of 9/11--first proposed to Osama bin Laden that they use hijacked airliners to attack targets in the U.S. During this period, thousands of terrorists were trained at al Qaeda camps in Afghanistan. And we have seen the work of terrorists in many attacks since 9/11--in Riyadh, Casablanca, Istanbul, Mombasa, Bali, Jakarta, Najaf, Baghdad and, most recently, Madrid.

Against this kind of determined, organized, ruthless enemy, America requires a new strategy--not merely to prosecute a series of crimes, but to fight and win a global campaign against the terror network. Our strategy has several key elements. We have strengthened our defenses here at home, organizing the government to protect the homeland. But a good defense is not enough. The terrorist enemy holds no territory, defends no population, is unconstrained by rules of warfare, and respects no law of morality. Such an enemy cannot be deterred, contained, appeased or negotiated with. It can only be destroyed--and that, ladies and gentlemen, is the business at hand.

This leads into the appropriate attack on John Kerry later in the speech: "In his defense, of course, Sen. Kerry has questioned whether the war on terror is really a war at all. Recently he said, and I quote, 'I don't want to use that terminology.' In his view, opposing terrorism is far less of a military operation and far more of an intelligence-gathering, law enforcement operation."

About Kerry's claim of support from foreign leaders, and his refusal to say who they are, Cheney has this to say:
A few days ago in Pennsylvania, a voter asked Sen. Kerry directly who these foreign leaders are. Sen. Kerry said, "That's none of your business." But it is our business when a candidate for president claims the political endorsement of foreign leaders. At the very least, we have a right to know what he is saying to foreign leaders that makes them so supportive of his candidacy. American voters are the ones charged with determining the outcome of this election--not unnamed foreign leaders.

Which is a point that bears repeating. It is the business of the voters what Kerry is saying to foreign leaders, since we are the ones who will decide whether he will be running our foreign policy.

Cheney also takes Kerry to task on his promises to rebuild alliances while he simultaneously attacks them:
Sen. Kerry speaks often about the need for international cooperation, and has vowed to usher in a "golden age of American diplomacy." He is fond of mentioning that some countries did not support America's actions in Iraq. Yet of the many nations that have joined our coalition--allies and friends of the United States--Sen. Kerry speaks with open contempt. Great Britain, Australia, Italy, Spain, Poland and more than 20 other nations have contributed and sacrificed for the freedom of the Iraqi people. Sen. Kerry calls these countries, quote, "window dressing." They are, in his words, "a coalition of the coerced and the bribed."

Many questions come to mind, but the first is this: How would Sen. Kerry describe Great Britain--coerced, or bribed? Or Italy--which recently lost 19 citizens, killed by terrorists in Najaf--was Italy's contribution just window dressing? If such dismissive terms are the vernacular of the golden age of diplomacy Sen. Kerry promises, we are left to wonder which nations would care to join any future coalition. He speaks as if only those who openly oppose America's objectives have a chance of earning his respect. Sen. Kerry's characterization of our good allies is ungrateful to nations that have withstood danger, hardship, and insult for standing with America in the cause of freedom.

Cheney also addresses on Kerry's flip-flopping on the issue of Iraq:
A neutral observer, looking at these elements of Sen. Kerry's record, would assume that Sen. Kerry supported military action against Saddam Hussein. The senator himself now tells us otherwise. In January he was asked on TV if he was, "one of the antiwar candidates." He replied, "I am." He now says he was voting only to "threaten the use of force," not actually to use force.

And of Kerry's hypocrisy in attacking Bush's lack of adequate support for the troops while voting against the supplemental funding bill:
Sen. Kerry has also had a few things to say about support for our troops now on the ground in Iraq. Among other criticisms, he has asserted that those troops are not receiving the materiel support they need. Just this morning, he again gave the example of body armor, which he said our administration failed to supply. May I remind the senator that last November, at the president's request, Congress passed an $87 billion supplemental appropriation. This legislation was essential to our ongoing operations in Iraq and Afghanistan--providing funding for body armor and other vital equipment; hazard pay; health benefits; ammunition; fuel, and spare parts for our military. The legislation passed overwhelmingly, with a vote in the Senate of 87-12. Sen. Kerry voted "no." I note that yesterday, attempting to clarify the matter, Sen. Kerry said, quote, "I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it." It's a true fact.

Finally, Cheney notes that Kerry's Senate voting record on Defense is one of the worst in the country:
On national security, the senator has shown at least one measure of consistency. Over the years, he has repeatedly voted against weapons systems for the military. He voted against the Apache helicopter, against the Tomahawk cruise missile, against even the Bradley Fighting Vehicle. He has also been a reliable vote against military pay increases--opposing them no fewer than 12 times.

Many of these very weapons systems have been used by our forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, and are proving to be valuable assets in the war on terror.

There's so much stuff on Senator Kerry that I kept thinking it was the majority of the speech, when in fact it was less than half. And all of these talking points have been brought up on the blogosphere in the preceding months, including many of the old quotes of Kerry from the nineties which Cheney uses.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

So who reads this blog anyway?

You know, I was joking when I said that Orrin Hatch must be reading my blog. I still don't think he is, but I'm beginning to wonder if someone in Congress really is reading my blog. (Thanks to Evangelical Outpost for pointing this out.)

Update: It occurred to me that perhaps I should explain what the heck I'm talking about. The bill I mention would give Congress the authority to overturn Supreme Court rulings with a 2/3rds vote of both houses. This is similar to an Constitutional amendment I proposed a long time ago. I'm pretty sure such a law would be struck down by the Supreme Court. It would take a Constitutional Amendment to do this.

Autobiographical map

I haven’t done much blogging today. Well, if Glenn Reynolds can take a few days off, so can I. Well, a day, anyway. The irony is that while Glenn is saying he won’t post unless something really big happens, such as "alien invasion, atomic bombings, etc.", I would have sworn that those were the only things that could have kept him from blogging. In any case, mostly I’ve been working on my personal webpage. I just finished this very nifty map.

The numbers represent places I’ve lived, and if you click on them you’ll find out what I was doing there.

Do you want a revolution?

What's going on in Iran? CNN is painting it as harmless celebrating under the indulgent eye of the authorities, but CNN is not above whitewashing their accounts (free registration required) when they might otherwise lose access. Meanwhile, Project: FREE IRAN! claims it's a full-scale revolution. I hope it is, although others might not. A friend of mine, who is German, asked whether a revolution in Iran would be a good thing. In response to my "Of course!", he took the counter-argument. That, first, a revolution may cause the mullahs to try to find an enemy outside of Iran, and try to focus the people's anger against us. Second, we wouldn't want Iran's WMD projects to fall into the hands of non-government forces. Third, revolutions are sources of chaos, more likely to give power to demagogues than democrats.

I'd like to run through the optimistic view of a revolution's consequences first, then answer each of these protestations in turn.

A revolution in which the pro-democracy, pro-American movement in Iran came to power would have numerous beneficial results:

1. It's always a good thing when oppressed people become free.
2. A new democracy in the Middle East is also a good thing, as it can help to serve as an example to other Middle Eastern countries.
3. A Middle Eastern country becoming a democracy on its own is even better, as we want to encourage a new order which comes from within, not from without. The country is stronger and more confident for achieving freedom on its own. We want the people of the Middle East to reform on their own, through peaceful reform if possible, through revolution if necessary.
4. The pro-American strain in this movement makes it perticularly promising, as it would give us another ally in the Middle East.
5. It would stop Iran's nuclear program in its tracks.
6. It would eliminate a major base of operations and a major source of support for terrorists. Hezbollah is supported by Iran, and there're indications that al Qaeda is receiving significant aid from them.
7. Iran is providing support for the terrorists trying to destabilize Iraq, and removing that support would help to settle the situation there.

So, what of the protestations?

1. A revolution may cause the mullahs to try to find an enemy outside of Iran, and try to focus the people's anger against us.
I think this is unlikely to work, as the revolutionary movement is strongly anti-mullah and strongly pro-American. The two seem to go hand-in-hand, and I don't think the mullahs can divert the sentiment with an external threat. Second, the basic assumption here is that the revolution fails. I think it has a good chance to succeed.

2.We wouldn't want Iran's WMD projects to fall into the hands of non-government forces.
The assumption here is that it's safer to leave it in the hands of the government. Considering that one of the more powerful members of Iran's ruling council has called for Iran to use nuclear weapons against Israel, I'm not sure that's true. Iran's connections with terrorism make the simple handing over of WMDs to terrorists a possibility. While there is a risk that WMDs could end up in terrorist hands if Iran's government collaped, I'm not sure the risk would be any higher than it is now.

3. Revolutions are sources of chaos, more likely to give power to demagogues than democrats.
This is true, but it doesn't have to happen that way. For example, the fall of the Communist governments in Eastern Europe involved remarkably little bloodshed and chaos, and stable democracies arose very quickly.

There are risks in revolutions, of course. In some situations, however, I think the reward is worth the risk.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Blogging Ralph Nader

Old Post: I first offered to blog Ralph Nader's U of R talk here.

Someone went and contributed $3 to my "Convince me to live-blog Ralph Nader" fund, so I guess I can't use the "nobody cares anyway" excuse. I purchased a ticket and checked out the wireless access in the auditorium. Unfortunately, the auditorium seems lacking in that department. I'm hoping there will be some sort of wireless access available on March 24th (it's right on the edge of the covered area), but maybe not. If not, Nader's talk won't be live-blogged after all, but it will be blogged, I promise.

Update: I clarified what I meant about wireless coverage, and a few other minor edits.

Spain: The attacks and the election

The big news items this weekend were the terrorist attacks in Spain and the following election. The election removed the Conservatives, who had backed Bush in Iraq, and installed the Socialists, who are now saying that they will be tough on terror while also promising to withdraw Spanish troops from Iraq. Curiously, they don't appear to see any contradiction between those statements. Iraq is the hard edge of the war on terror, where US and allied troops are fighting daily against al Qaeda forces. Originally, the forces in Iraq were a combination of Ba'athist remnants and international, al Qaeda terrorists. Since Saddam's capture, the Ba'athists holdovers have dwindled and what remains are the terrorists. It seems to me that if the Socialists wanted to fight al Qaeda, that's where they'd want to be. Apparently not, though.

The first question is why the Spanish voted the way they did. The second question is how the terrorists will perceive it.

The second question is much easier to answer, so I'll start there. The terrorists struck in Spain, either because Spain was an ally to the US or because of a 500 year old grievance. Most likely both. All of Europe is the enemy to them, but some are more immediate enemies than others. (Al Qaeda's such a basket case of overlapping causes that I'm not sure there's enough central control to work out long term strategies.) Spain immediately elected a party that's wants to withdraw from the main front on the War on Terror. In the terrorists' eyes, they struck, Spain capitulated, and terrorist attacks just before national elections suddenly become their most effective strategy. They will try again, very likely in the US come October.

So, knowing that, why did Spain vote the way it did? Well, the first possibility is that they were planning to vote that way anyway, and the terrorist attack had no effect on the voting. The second possibility is that they blamed the Aznar administration for the attack in the first place. Whether they place the blam on the Iraq war, which was not popular in Spain, or just poor security, Aznar's administration makes a good scapegoat. The third possibility seems most likely to me, and that it was not Aznar's actions before the attack but after the attack, that it looked like he was playing politics, fingering the ETA rather than al Qaeda, rather than dealing with the problem head on (see here).

Whatever the reason, it was the wrong response. If we take terrorism seriously, if it influences our voting at all, the correct response to such attacks is to do exactly what the terrorists least want, refusing to be cowed. This is important not only for the results, but just to show the terrorists that terrorism does not work as a means of influencing us in their favor--it can only work to turn us against them.

Update: I should point out that the first reason Spain might have voted the way it did (it was planning to anyway) is almost certainly wrong. The projections pointed to a victory for the conservatives just before the bombing.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Who went negative first?

I was just reading CNN's AM Quicknews (an automailed news summary), and apparently the big question in politics is who went negative first in the presidential race. Huh? The entire Democratic primary process was based on negative campaigning against Bush. He's been called unpatriotic, a traitor, the worst president in the history of the US, a deserter, and, of course, a moron. Now Bush has only recently started saying things in response, and there's a question about who went negative first? Again, I say huh?

Update: Typo corrections and clarifications. Nothing big.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

A month and counting

I made my first blog post on February 14th at 7:54 pm. This blog is now officially over a month old. Granted, February is a short month, so while it's a month old, it's less than 30 days. I've received over 2100 hits in that time, averaging to more than 70 a day. However, if you look at my Sitemeter monthly readout, you'll see that the majority of these hits occured in two large spikes, one from a link from National Review's The Corner, and one from a link from Wall Street Journal's's Best of the Web. Still, it's not bad for my first month, and in between the spikes I generally get 25-35 visitors each day. I figure that my visits can't account for more than ten of those.

This post marks another first--it's the first post I'm making from my new laptop, over a wireless network. I hope this will lead to more blogging.

Weekly Webcomic Update

I'm sorry this is late, but as I've said before, I'm in Boston and my Internet access is limited. Anyway, some nice things are happening recently.

Sluggy Freelance -- Torg and Sam escape, making a run for it, Kent and Nana's plan to rescue Arminius gets sidetracked, and Arminius is left to his own devices.

Day by Day -- The crew goes hiking. As might be expected, they get lost.

It's Walky! -- Several disparate threads all go crazy at once. Enjoy the mayhem, the bloodshed, and being sent through the emotional wringer by the evil cartoonist yet again.

College Roomies from Hell! -- Dave and Roger have a long overdue talk, while Mike's busy sowing mayhem through his powers of deception.

General Protection Fault -- The simmering feud between Fred and Trent reaches a boil.

Schlock Mercenary -- The Dark Matter Entities (DaMEs) finally arrive and all the double-crosses become moot: Breya and Tagon are finally working together again.

New computer

Since none of you guys seemed to want to buy me a new laptop, I got one of my own. It's a Dell Latitude D600, 1.6 GHz processor, 512 MB memory, wireless internet, 40 GB hard drive, and a DVD/CD-RW drive. It's very nice. A friend was trying to sell it, brand new, and I was able to buy it off him for significantly less than the going price on Dell's website. He even allowed me to pay in installments.

And now that I have it, it looks like I ought to live-blog Ralph Nader's talk after all. I was hoping lack of interest, and laptop, would save me from that ordeal, but no such luck. Now if someone were to donate some money to me via the Amazon button on the left, at least I wouldn't feel so bitter about it. $3 would cover the price of the ticket.

Week in Review

These are the posts I put up this past week which I thought might be of interest to visitors.

Getting Traffic -- I point out some of the ways a new blog can drum up traffic.

Ethical Considerations in Quantum Computation -- I point out that my field of research has some associated ethical questions as well. Assuming people are bothered by me reading their credit card information off the Internet, that is.

Ralph Nader at U of R -- I offer to live-blog Nader's talk at U of R if someone buys me a laptop. Of course, I later buy my own laptop and offer to live-blog Nader for $3.

The Roe Effect -- I talk about the Roe effect, a pet theory of James Taranto at Best of the Web.

Quantifying the Roe Effect -- I calculate how much the Roe Effect may have shifted the electoral college. There are some problematic assumptions, but it's interesting to see how much the effect may be. I got a link from Best of the Web because of it.

Post-Christian Europe: How long will it last? -- Mark Steyn's beautiful column points out how far along the Roe Effect is in Europe, although his viewpoint is closer to Doc Rampage's, that abortion is a symptom rather than the cause.

Sharing the Addiction -- I'm trying to convince MIT's Graduate Christian Fellowship to start their own blog. I'll let you know how that goes.

Saturday, March 13, 2004

Sharing the addiction

Some of you might be wondering what I've been doing on my trip to Boston. Well, part of what I've been doing, aside from hanging out with old friends, is trying to convince my old fellowship at MIT to start a group blog (thus the demonstration post below). I think it would be a neat idea, and give GCF a strong presence on the web and a stronger online community. Of course, I've also recommended that this blog focus on religion and not politics. If GCF takes my advice, I'll probably be a member of their blog at least long enough to get them up and running. This may involve some cross-posting and more articles on faith and theology. I'll let you know what happens.


This is a test to demonstrate how easy it is to put stuff online. See, I'm just like Glenn Reynolds.

Update: The link above was previously just a generic link to Instapundit, but I've changed it to point to the specific post I was thinking of when I put it up.

Back online

A friend's letting me use his computer to check e-mail and such, so I thought I'd write a quick post. The big news this weekend is the bombings in Spain. Others have already posted more and better than I'll be able to do, so check out Hugh Hewitt, Captain's Quarters, Instapundit, and Tim Blair. I'll just repeat Captain Ed's suggestion that we pray for Spain. Pray for comforting for the mourning, healing for the injured, for justice and for grace.

Friday, March 12, 2004

Road Trip

I'm travelling to Boston this weekend. I don't expect to have much Internet access there, so expect blogging to be light. Once again, if anyone wants to buy me that laptop, the situation might be different.

Thursday, March 11, 2004

I want my membership card

Paul Krugman has this to say on Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Lateline:
If you like, the vast right-wing conspiracy isn't a theory, it's quite clearly visible to anyone who takes a little care to do his home work.

[Thanks to Tim Blair for the link]

What I want to know is where I can sign on to the VRWC. Karl Rove won't return my calls.

Post-Christian Europe: How long will it last?

Mark Steyn has a beautiful column today in The Spectator (registration required).
Maybe the collapse of the church and the looming demographic disaster facing Quebec and most of Catholic Europe is just another coincidence. But, for whatever reason, Europeans have less and less interest in God's first injunction, to "go forth and multiply". And, as a consequence, they'll enjoy their post-Christian EUtopia, but only for the two or three generations it lasts...

In his new book, Civilization and its Enemies, Lee Harris begins with the following observation: "Forgetfulness occurs when those who have been long inured to civilized order can no longer remember a time in which they had to wonder whether their crops would grow to maturity without being stolen or their children sold into slavery by a victorious foe. That, before 9/11, was what had happened to us. The very concept of the enemy had been banished from our moral and political vocabulary."

Very true. But other countries at other times have been made "forgetful" by civilised order. It's the particular form of civilisation that makes this bout of forgetfulness potentially fatal. In post-Christian Europe - where fertile women who not so long ago would have had three children by the age of 24 now have one designer child at 39, where social welfare programmes depend on a growing population, where the main source of immigration is from a culture that despises secularism as weak,short-sighted narcissism - societal "forgetfulness" isn't just a passing phase you can snap out of. In this situation, the Christian fundamentalists, Holy Rollers, born-again Bible Belters and Jesus freaks of America are the rationalists. It's the hyper-rationalists of secular Europe who are living on blind faith.

As I said, it's a beautiful column, read the whole thing. It ties in quite strongly to the Roe effect (more here and here). But whereas in the US, it looks like the domestic conservative and religious populations will grow while the secularist liberal population shrinks (in relative terms, at least), in Europe it is the immigrating Islamic population which are growing. A US governed by conservative Christians will maintain essentially the same rights and freedoms (despite what the Left would have you believe). The same cannot be said if the unassimilated Islamic groups come to power in Europe.

Update: Minor editing. I clarified that I meant unassimulated Islamic groups.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Quantifying the Roe Effect

Old Post: I originally talked about the Roe effect below.

It took me all day to do this, which explains why this is the only post today. I've been wondering about whether it's possible to quantify the Roe effect. According to Pia de Solenni's column in National Review:
Approximately 40 percent of American women under 45 have had at least one abortion. Twenty-five percent of all pregnancies end in abortion. Since the legalization of abortion in 1973, over 40 million abortions have taken place.

What I basically did was calculate what the 2000 population of each state would be if those 40 million had been born, then derive the electoral college representation for the revised population. Since I didn't have access to the complete statistics for abortions performed in each state, I used this source for the abortion rate per 1000 women aged 15-19. I took this rate to be representative, so that this rate times the total population of the state is proportional to the total number of abortions in the state over the last 30 years. (For state populations, I used the 1990 US census. Since the abortion rates were for the years 1988, 1992, 1996, and 2000, I used the rates from the year 1988 for simplicity.) This gives me a set of numbers proportional to the number of abortions per state, which I normalize to 40 million. I then reapportioned the House seats for each state given the new population. Any statistician can point out the multitude of problems in this analysis: taking one year to be representative for an entire three decades (which ignores changes in demographics and abortion laws), assuming the rate for teenage girls is representative of the rate for all women, not accounting for population migration, etc. A lot of these would be solved if someone could point me to a simple listing of the number of abortions received by the residents of each state since Roe v. Wade. In any case, with my limited information, I've calculated what the electoral vote would have been in the 2000 election using the Electoral college as apportioned by the 2000 census (NOTE: The 2000 election used the apportionment of the 1990 census, so this result differs from the electoral votes the candidates actually won.), and what it would have been if the 40 million citizens had been born. This is assuming that each candidate won the same states (unlikely, considering the millions of extra voters) and received all the electoral votes from those states (not all states are winner-take-all). You'll note that if the election had taken place under the 2000 Census, Bush would have won 278 to 260. Whereas with the revised population, it would only be 270 to 268. In the table below, those states that voted for Bush are in red, and those that voted for Gore are in blue.

State Population (thousands) Electoral Votes Revised Population (thousands) Revised Electoral Votes
Alabama 4447 9 4916 9
Alaska 627 3 703 3
Arizona 5131 10 5662 10
Arkansas 2673 6 2903 6
California 33872 55 42067 59
Colorado 4301 9 4767 8
Connecticut 3406 7 4096 8
DC 572 3 814 3
Delaware 784 3 902 3
Florida 15982 27 18420 27
Georgia 8186 15 9055 14
Hawaii 1212 4 1485 4
Idaho 1294 4 1356 4
Illinois 12419 21 14200 21
Indiana 6080 11 6583 11
Iowa 2926 7 3198 6
Kansas 2688 6 2931 6
Kentucky 4042 8 4336 8
Louisiana 4469 9 4821 9
Maine 1275 4 1408 4
Maryland 5296 10 6353 11
Massachusetts 6349 12 7504 12
Michigan 9938 17 11589 18
Minnesota 4919 10 5379 9
Mississippi 2845 6 2994 6
Missouri 5595 11 6151 10
Montana 902 3 972 3
Nebraska 1711 5 1866 4
Nevada 1998 5 2255 5
New Hampshire 1236 4 1409 4
New Jersey 8414 15 10095 16
New Mexico 1819 5 2011 5
New York 18976 31 22953 33
North Carolina 8049 15 9130 14
North Dakota 642 3 684 3
Ohio 11353 20 12572 19
Oklahoma 3451 7 3758 7
Oregon 3421 7 3864 7
Pennsylvania 12281 21 13745 21
Rhode Island 1048 4 1179 4
South Carolina 4012 8 4429 8
South Dakota 755 3 793 3
Tennessee 5689 11 6237 10
Texas 20852 34 22760 33
Utah 2233 5 2327 5
Vermont 609 3 684 3
Virginia 7079 13 8110 13
Washington 5894 11 6723 11
West Virginia 1808 5 1919 5
Wisconsin 5364 10 5825 10

CandidateCurrent Elect. College TotalRevised Elect. College Total

Update: Talk about irony. I posted this on what La Shawn Barber notes is the National Day of Appreciation for Abortion Providers.

Update: It figures. I get a link from Best of the Web and it's on a post where I messed up the Old Post, New Post scheme. It's fixed now.

Update: One of my commenters says that unless I can show that women who've had abortions have less children overall (in other words, that they don't make up for the aborted children with children later in life), then my statistics don't hold. He has a point, but it would be hard to separate that from other correlations. I think the analysis is valid as long as the abortion is treated as a form of contraceptive. The Alan Guttmacher Institute argues that most women have more children than they want, and abortion is a necessary means for keeping that from happening. Doc Rampage argues that abortion is a symptom, not a cause, of lower family size with some groups. I'd be interested in seeing more data on this, if anyone wants to point me in the right direction.

It seems like everyone has a blog these days

It looks like even sentient slime molds have beat me to blogging.

Tuesday, March 09, 2004

The Roe Effect

James Taranto at Best of the Web on Opinion Journal has been talking about the Roe effect for a while now:
Our theory is that abortion is making America more conservative than it otherwise would be.

We base this on two assumptions. First, that liberal and Democratic women are more likely to have abortions. Second, that children's political views tend to reflect those of their parents--not exactly, of course, and not in every case, but on average. Thus abortion depletes the next generation of liberals and eventually makes the population more conservative. We call this the Roe effect, after Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court's 1973 decision that established a constitutional right to abortion.

It's not the sort of thing that should make conservatives happy. If conservatives are gaining in relative numbers, we should find it appalling that it's happening because of state-sanctioned murder, no matter that we've done our best to fight it every step of the way. While Mr. Taranto initially presented this as a theory sans facts, he's begun to gather facts and figures which back him up, as his most recent column shows. Personally, I found this hard to believe initially, especially since the impression I have is that most women who have abortions are teenage girls. This skews things significantly, since many of them are scared and seeking a quick solution rather than sticking with their values. Many are pressured into it by boyfriends and parents. Those who do carry the pregnancy to term often give the baby up for adoption, and the political beliefs of the adoptive parents aren't correlated to those of the birth mother. Again, these are impressions rather than hard numbers. However, Mr. Taranto's column does show a correlation between liberal beliefs and abortion rates for girls aged 15-19 on the state level. This is something I can more easily believe, since we're now talking a correlation between the society's attitude toward abortion and the rate at which pregnant teenagers attain abortions. A frightened teenager is more likely to act against her personal beliefs and get an abortion if the community in which she lives is accepting of the practice. I think Mr. Taranto's conclusion that the red states are growing in population more rapidly than the blue states may very well be the case. As a reader points out in a newer James Taranto column,
The main impact in liberal states is the invisible impact on representation, because they are growing more slowly than conservative ones. Between the 1990 and 2000 censuses alone, six of 20 Gore states lost representatives, and only one (California) gained. The result is that Gore would lose 278-260 under new apportionment; the margin in 2000 (before a faithless District of Columbia elector abstained) was 271-267.

Working backward, if he carried the same states, Gore would have won under the apportionment systems of 1980 (271-267) and 1970 (278-260). That's also a 36-member swing in House representation for the red states after Roe, which is greater than the Republican margin of control.

I'll need to work through the numbers more carefully (my initial, admittedly naive, calculations aren't in line with the dramatic shift in reapportionment). While this is certainly nothing to gloat over, I wouldn't be surprised to discover that abortion, like many of the great evils of the twentieth century, is ultimately self-defeating.

New Post: I calculate the change in electoral votes due to the Roe effect above.

Doc Rampage Writes

My own web-published fiction inspired Dave at Doc Rampage to post some of his own. Unfortunately, it's only a small segment, but it's good stuff nonetheless. He appears to have a taste for Greco-Roman culture similar to my own.

The Hatch Amendment -- who came up with it first?

Ramesh Ponnuru of National Review is wondering who first came up with the Hatch Amendment proposal, himself or James Taranto of Best of the Web. If he'd been reading my blog, he'd know that pretty much everyone and his brother proposed something along these lines at some point.

Volokh and Hatch's FMA

Old Post: My last post on this issue is here.

Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy has come out in support of Orrin Hatch's Federal Marriage Amendment. Weakly, with plenty of caveats, to be sure, but still it's nice to see.

New Post: More on this here.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Kerry and the Black Vote

Old Post: I first pointed out that this election year provides an opportunity for Bush to make inroads with African-Americans here.

Yet another reason that the Black vote may be in play: Kerry's ineptness.
"John Kerry is not a black man — he is a privileged white man who has no idea what it is in this country to be a poor white in this country, let alone a black man," said Paula Diane Harris, founder of the Andrew Young National Center for Social Change.

(Thanks to Captain Ed for the link.)

Carnival of the Bush Bloggers

This week's Carnival of the Bush Bloggers is up on Blogs for Bush. See what the Bush bloggers have to say about recent issues. My post on letting the state legislatures decide the gay marriage question made it. I also liked La Shawn Barber's comments on the judiciary memos... in fact, I liked her blog so much I added her to my blogroll. This wasn't based just on this post, though. I only add blogs to my blogroll when I find myself going back to their site time and again over at least a week--I had already seen the post in question before the Carnival went up. Check out her site, La Shawn Barber's Corner.

Ralph Nader at U of R

Ralph Nader is coming to the University of Rochester, where I work, to speak about Consumer Advocacy on March 24th. Normally, I'd rather pull my own teeth without the benefit of anesthetic than go to a talk by Ralph Nader, but I'm a blogger now, which means I have responsibilities. I'm still trying to live down the fact that I didn't even hear about John Edwards's visit to Rochester until after it had made the news due to his total lack of disability etiquette. So I should go and report back to you guys. Post in comments if you want me to go, or if you have any specific questions you want me to ask him. I might even be able to live blog the event if someone wants to buy me the laptop on my Amazon Wish List.

New Post: It looks like I will indeed be blogging Ralph Nader, and it might even be live.

Fire Reviewed

Doc Rampage has given me my very first online review of Fire. He liked it. Fire is free, and will likely remain so forever (or at least until I have to start paying for online storage space). I can't say the same about the sequel, assuming I ever finish writing it. Hey, we engineer/blogger/writer types have to eat too.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Ethical Considerations in Quantum Computation

I was going to comment on President Bush's Bioethics Council, but then I thought I should start closer to home.

I have a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering, which generally means that I am either a professor or a researcher. In my case, I am a researcher who runs experiments and analyzes the data. My area of research is quantum computation, as you may have figured out from other things I've said around here. Quantum computation has its own ethical dilemma. To date, we've discovered that it's very good at two useful applications, performing unordered searches and factoring large numbers. The first may be useful, while the second is definitely useful. It's much easier to find a prime number and multiply it by another large prime number than to factor a large product of primes. When I say much easier, I'm talking about it taking the same computer a few seconds to do the finding and multiplying, versus a few million years to do the factoring. This sort of one-way problem forms the basis for public key encryption (although it is of course more complicated than that), such as that used in RSA, the encryption protocol used to transmit information on the Internet. For more information on RSA, check this FAQ from the sci.crypt newsgroup. A quantum computer with a sufficient number of qubits could factor a large product of primes faster than a classical computer create it in the first place. If someone were to produce such a computer today, all Internet transactions would suddenly be vulnerable.

You can tell what use people are planning for a quantum computer by looking at where the funding is coming from. Right now, the people giving out the funds are the Army Research Office, the Defense Department, and, oh yes, the NSA. It's clear that the main objective is decryption (or, perhaps, to prove that a quantum computer is so far from realizable that public key encryption is secure).

In my experience, very few scientists working on quantum computation projects think about the ethical implications at all. For the most part, they console themselves with the fact that a quantum computer capable of factoring a decent sized key is so far in the future that by the time it gets here (~25 years or so), we'll have better encryption (hopefully, quantum encryption). That may or may not be the case. I've heard that the federal government may be pushing for a five-year program to develop a quantum computer that can factor 128-bit encryption. (I've been looking for confirmation but I haven't found it yet.) This is wildly ambitious--I don't think it will happen--but how many scientists, who previously considered quantum computation safe because it was decades away, would jump at the chance to partake of this funding?

For the record, I have thought a bit more in-depth about quantum computation, partially because I took part in a discussion group with MIT's Graduate Christian Fellowship based on the book Responsible Technology. To a large degree, the questions about developing a quantum computer revolve around who would get it. Quantum computers aren't going to be available on the open market anytime soon, and they'll probably be as regulated as nuclear power. So, assuming I helped create a quantum computer, would I trust the NSA to use it wisely? I certainly don't mind them cracking a terrorist's e-mail, but I wouldn't want them reading mine. So, I don't think that the technology itself is wrong, but I am concerned over how it would be used.

Dave Barry on the Deficit

Dave Barry's newest column takes on the budget deficit in a convenient question and answer format:
Q. But surely we -- the baby boomers and senior citizens -- are not going to selfishly steal the future from our kids, and generations yet unborn!

A. Of course not! We're going to let the government steal it for us.

Q. Well, OK, then! It sure is a good thing that young people and generations yet unborn do not, as a rule, read the newspaper.

A. I'll say! If they ever found out about this, they'd be putting anthrax in the nation's Metamucil supply!

One thing Dave Barry forgets is that while we do not read the newspaper, we young people do read the Internet, so as long as his columns are posted online, we will find out about these things.

Getting traffic

Old Post: This train of thought started below.

Doc Rampage joked a bit about how much traffic I get in a comment. I'm hardly high traffic, but I've done pretty well for being less than a month old. My average daily traffic these days is 25-35 visitors according to Sitemeter. It's partly luck and partly salesmanship.

Most of my traffic probably comes from Blogs for Bush. It's the only blogging consortium I'm on so far, although I'd like to join up with blogs4God, but they prefer blogs that are at least a month old. Joining these sorts of consortiums are probably the best way to gain traffic and make a name for yourself. Consortiums, aside from linking to all the blogs on their main page, usually ask their members to include some form of their blogroll as well. Blogs for Bush is especially good for this because it uses a rolling blogroll that puts the blog with the most recent update at the top, which means I'm pretty much guaranteed a few hits every time I post. Of course, just joining isn't enough... participating in Carnivals, posting in comments (with links to specific posts), and using trackback with those blogs that have it are all good ways to get attention.

Carnivals are pretty much consortium specific, but comments and trackbacks are good ways to get attention whenever they're available on a higher traffic blog. Then, of course, there's occasionally selling a post to one of those high traffic blogs by e-mailing a link. I haven't been doing that too much recently... the odds are pretty low considering the amount of e-mail they get. Sometimes you get lucky, though.

Also note that some blogs also have a reciprocating policy--you put them in your blogroll and they put you in theirs. Some of them use automated blogrolls to do this, powered by a service such as Blogrolling.

And of course, I post at a pretty good clip. I have something new every day, even if it's just a note that I don't have much today. Aside from giving visitors a reason to check back often, just in case I updated, it puts me at the top of those rolling blogrolls more often.

Don't overdo it, though. It's frustrating when you have good material that nobody's reading, but there's no point in getting attention when you don't have good material. You can get them to come, but they won't come back. Right now, I'm really not making much effort to sell my blog. A comment when I have something on my blog that's relevant to someone else's blog post, a trackback ping whenever I refer to someone else's blog in one of my posts, and participating irregularly in the Carnival of the Bush Bloggers. I like the traffic I currently get, and I want to make sure those who are coming by have something worth reading, which means I better stop with these self-indulgent posts about blogging and get back to politics. I never really did rake Glenn Reynolds over the coals properly...

Week in Review

Here's a quick review of the topics I touched on the previous week.

Quantum Computation -- I finally introduce the topic of quantum computation, with a quick introduction and pointers to some of my papers.

Skeptics Anonymous -- I complain about the misuse of this resource made available by MIT's Graduate Christian Fellowship.

The Complementarity of the Sexes -- I point out that men and women are, you know, different, and that in and of itself may make heterosexual marriage advantageous as a social unit.

The Bioethics Council -- After a week of promises, I finally get around to commenting on the controversy surrounding the President's Bioethics council.

What is a qubit?
-- I talk a bit more about quantum computation, explaining what a qubit is.

The Blogosphere -- I comment on some of the utilities out there that link blogs together, especially those which have gotten me visits.

Saturday, March 06, 2004

Bhuwan Singh

This post was written on May 11, 2004. The timestamp was set to put this post at the top of this page in the archives, since this seems to be the entry point for people looking for information on Bhuwan Singh.

I've gotten a lot of hits on this page from people looking for information about Bhuwan Singh. I'm afraid I don't know any more about his death than anyone else, but you can find some information here. The only other bit of information I have is that he was found in the afternoon, and he was seen in the Ashdown dorm around 7 am. The post that brought you here is this one, which contains a list of some of the papers our lab produced, one of which we were co-authors on.

Weekly Webcomic Update

And once again, I take a break from the usual politics to talk about webcomics.

Sluggy Freelance -- Pete draws a huge, beautiful Sunday comic that is unfortunately so confusing that he spends the next several days trying to explain it. It's a rehash. With stick figures. There ought to be a law against that. At least the ghost of Secret Cranky Office Temp is doing well. Once that's out of the way, Sam makes a return visit to the farm and runs into the vampires.

Day by Day -- Chris Muir takes on John Kerry, Corrine Brown, and relaxed fit jeans.

It's Walky! -- Walky and Joyce make up, Sal makes a mistake. As Jason would say, "Crikey! Every time I think that girl's about to make some sense out of her life, she bloody well screws it up again." Sorry, I don't do the bad British dialect as well as Mr. Willis.

College Roomies from Hell! -- Marsha and April fight each other to unconsciousness, Margaret dreams of Dave, Dave dreams of Blue, and Roger tries to keep Dave's insides from becoming his outsides.

General Protection Fault -- Trent installs Wi-Fi on GPF's network and Sharon goes ballistic.

Schlock Mercenary -- Xinchub arrives with plans to clean up after his liabilities. Of course, first he has to make them liabilities, otherwise he doesn't get to have the fun of doing the clean up. But does Jeevee have a plan for yet another double-cross?

The Blogosphere

One of the fun parts about having a blog is all the tools that link blogs together. One thing that I like to do is check out all the places that are linking to me. There are lots of way to do that.

First, there's Sitemeter. They're the ones who provide the counter for this site. The counter has lots of features, but my favorite is that it lets me track visits by referrals. This lets me tell who's linking to me. I don't know how reliable it is, because sometimes I've traced it back to blogs where I couldn't find a single link to Back of the Envelope, but it's fun to check out. Most of it comes from other blogs that have me on their blogroll, usually Blogs for Bush who automatically reference me through the Blogs for Bush blogroll (see, I knew joining up would get me more hits).

Next, there's Technorati, which finds all the blogs linking to a site, even non-blog sites. Try it out on your own blog, or any random webpage. My blog has 28 blogs linking to it, mostly Blogs for Bush again.

Third, there's Blog Pulse. Blog Pulse looks for key phrases that are occuring with some frequency on blogs. I got a hit from someone looking at the phrase social security system. This post somehow managed to turn up at the top.

Fourth, there's the venerable Truth Laid Bear Blogosphere Ecosystem, where I'm still in the lowly realm of the Crawly Amphibian. I hope someday to make it up to Primate, or even--dare I dream?--Mortal Human. Unfortunately, there's no way this Blog is big enough, nor am I dedicated enough, to launch myself into the realm of Higher Beings, where Instapundit and Andrew Sullivan dwell.

Well, now that I've had fun pointing out all the ways you can find this blog on the Internet, which helps to lead plenty of people here who'd otherwise never have an interest in anything I have to write, what's my point? Well, I did want to point to a few people who've linked to me. For example, Alessandra, whose blog, Reflections in Order Not to Go Insane, is just a day older than mine, comments on my article on the Complementarity of the Sexes, both in a blog post and the comments section; it's only the fourth comment I've gotten overall. Then there's The Pryhills, which clearly has very different ideas than I about the Federal Marriage Amendment. I'm not quite sure how I ended up on its blogroll, considering.

Of course, when a big blogger links to me, it has a cascading effect. When Captain Ed found my Why Iraq? post interesting, Slings and Arrows picked up on it (Although, he may have found it independently, but it's hard for me to imagine someone just browsing my blog without a pointer. I'm modest that way.). And I still haven't managed to find everyone who linked to my post on Dave Barry's Kerry DYKWIA story that started a Cornerlanche.

Update: Added a pointer to Alessandra's comment.

Update: I forgot to mention Technorati's Breaking News, which looks for references to hot stories. I got a few hits when I picked up on Orrin Hatch's proposed amendment.

New Post: More above.


I've been writing some fiction recently. As usual, it's hard to get started, but difficult to stop myself once I get going. Today's been one of those days of off and on writing. Ten minutes here, an hour there, another thirty minutes as I try to work out a particularly tangled thought. It's probably not the best way--I'd rather have a full two hours of uninterrupted writing--but since I write for pleasure, I often have more urgent things that need to be done. Plus, I'm just easily distracted. In any case, here's a sample:
The long shadows cast by the disappearing sun cast their darkness on his as he navigated the raised stepping stones that gave pedestrians some hope of staying out of the muck which covered the pave streets. Buildings loomed several stories high on either side of him, and it was already late enough to leave some particularly narrow stretches, where the overhanging buildings nearly hid the sun at high noon, in deep shadow. Aulus wished that Artura has the same system of street lamps as Novaro, but a few private homes had lamps, and those were only lit in anticipation of the return of the patrician master or mistress. No one wanted to waste lamplight on those wretched strangers still out as evening set in.

Aulus had to move quickly to the side as one of those wealthy patricians came by. Slaves carrying torches took the lead, followed by a tight knot of burly slaves with clubs around a litter, heavy velvet curtains blocking out the sights and sounds of the street. Not the smells, I bet, Aulus thought. Just then the overpowering perfume which served that purpose swept over him, its sick sweetness causing him to break out in a loud coughing fit. One of the thugs who guarded the litter glared at him, taking a step in his direction. Fortunately, the litter was moving too fast to give him a chance to indulge in a little violence, and he had to hurry after it as the rear torchbearers caught up to him and Aulus. He barely had time to breathe a sigh of relief when he heard the screaming.

It's rough, of course, and will go through three or four revisions before it's ready for public consumption, assuming it ever is. It's a continuation of Fire, on my website, which I suppose is as ready for public consumption as it will ever be. It can be found here. And frankly, I consider it highly unlikely that I will ever tire of pushing my fiction on my blog. You better get used to it.