Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Engineer writers

Sometimes, even John Derbyshire gets it wrong:
Andrew: The intersection set Writers x Engineers is not large. The only one that comes to mind is the fine & prolific British novelist Nevil Shute (ON THE BEACH, A TOWN CALLED ALICE, etc. etc.) He titled his autobiography SLIDE RULE.

This is, of course, incorrect. The problem is that Mr. Derbyshire hasn't taken the right genre into account, as I wrote him:
I fear you're looking in the wrong place. We engineers don't write boring old regular fiction, we write science fiction and fantasy. At least I do. (Of course, calling myself a writer since I put a couple of short stories and half a novel up on my webpage (http://www.ece.rochester.edu/~cranksha/writings/writings.html) may be a bit of a stretch.) I think it appeals to our creative instincts. We much prefer to create whole worlds with their own histories and cultures, not to mention their own rules for technology and/or magic, than to create just a few new characters and some boring real-life situation.

I haven't heard back from him. In case he's wondering, he has my permission to post my response on the Corner. If that link to my writings happens to be posted too, well, I suppose that's the price I must pay for freely offering my advice. Of course, some other readers responded before I did, prompting Derbyshire to post:
WRITER ENGINEERS [John Derbyshire]
Heinlein! Jerry Pournelle!! Arthur C. Clarke!!!

And best of all, from reader Peyton Cooke*, DOSTOYEVSKY!!!!!!!!

You'll notice that, aside from Dostoyevsky, all of those writers are known for their science fiction works, thus proving my point.

What's a "Judeo-Christian"?

La Shawn Barber points the way to this excellent article by Dennis Prager on America's Judeo-Christian heritage, and just how unique that is in the Western world. It is true that the churches I grew up in put a great deal of emphasis on the Old Testament, but it hadn't occured to me that this was somehow distinctly American. For the record I disagree with the assessment that America is somehow uniquely heir to God's promises to Israel. I do believe we've benefited from the Judeo-Christian influence on our society, although I'm skeptical that this has somehow earned God's blessing. I won't deny that our country has been extraordinarily blessed, but this is less a cause for pride than for humility. Those to whom much has been given, much will be expected.

CNN bias

Out of curiosity, what is the point of a story like this one from CNN?
A look at Bush's reversals

President Bush's decision Tuesday to allow his national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, to testify publicly before the commission investigating the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks reversed earlier White House insistence that she would only appear privately.

Some previous Bush reversals in the face of criticism:

[They then list five other times Bush "gave in" to public criticism, including his opposition to the Department of Homeland Security, and his opposition to various investigations.]

The obvious tone of this article, which is presented as straight news rather than opinion, is "Bush is a stubborn fool who resists doing the obviously right thing until shamed into it." That is, admittedly, one way of looking at it. Or you can believe that he's simply open to compromise and willing to have his mind changed. Or you can believe, like Michael Novak in the Corner, that these are brilliant political maneuvers:
Look. We have seen this move before. Everybody rages that Bush is doing the wrong thing, he has to do X. Senator Daschle says he has to do X.

Republicans say he has to do X. The whole press says he is stupid for not doing X. Still, Bush refuses. And refuses. And refuses. Then, after everybody else has spoken, Bush suddenly says, O.K., we'll do X. Then, with the attention of the whole world upon him, and with everybody committed to X, he steps forward and goes right through the hole the attackers opened up for him. He does X, and knocks them dead.

In football, this play is called the mousetrap. The guard pulls out and moves toward the end, and the opposing players rush in on the attack. Suddenly the ball is handed off to a runner heading right for the spot the attackers had just vacated.

It looks like CNN still hasn't caught on.

Tuesday, March 30, 2004

Laptop update

Old Post: I originally mentioned my laptop problems here.

Since Glenn Reynolds and Captain Ed are discussing their laptop troubles, I felt I'd be remiss if I failed to mention mine. If you recall, my problem was that the AC adapter jack was flaky, so I contacted Dell via e-mail on Saturday. This morning, a technician came to my office and replaced the motherboard. Watching someone replace the motherboard on a laptop is quite an experience. I've put motherboards in desktops before, changed the processor in my home PC, upgraded memory, etc. In general, I feel like I know my way around a computer. But when it came to taking my Latitude D600 apart, I was astounded. First the screen had to come off, then the keyboard, then the touchpad, the DVD, the hard drive, the memory, the mini-PCI wireless LAN, the DVD player, the back panel, what remained of the front panel. I realized something that hadn't occured to me. In a desktop, the motherboard and everything else is mounted to the case. In a laptop, the case and everything else is mounted to the motherboard.

In any case, it all works now. I don't think he left any screws out when he put it together, but frankly I couldn't keep count. Also, it may be my imagination, but the seam where the front and back of the computer join seems a little wider, and not quite as even... ah, I'm just being paranoid, I'm sure.

Anyway, I'm very happy with Dell's service, although I'm still annoyed that the darn thing developed problems after two weeks.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Kerry's Sermon

La Shawn Barber takes Kerry to task for misinterpreting scripture:
Speaking in a black church yesterday (time to rethink that tax-exempt status), John Kerry implied that "our present national leadership" is lacking in compassion because some people don't have jobs and teenagers are killed in drive-by shootings.

"The scriptures say, what does it profit, my brother, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? When we look at what is happening in America today, where are the works of compassion," preached Kerry.
...
James gives guidance on how individuals, not governments, can evaluate their faith to determine whether it's living or dead. It is the personal works of believers that James has in mind in this passage. It wasn't addressed to Caesar.

If Kerry were a Christian, he'd know that the biblical standard of the test of faith doesn't rest on whether poor people exist or teenagers are killed in the streets. Using taxpayers' money isn't a work of faith.

She rightly points out that Kerry's confusing personal responsibility with government responsibility. This is something I've pointed out before, in the post "Christianity and the Nanny State." Compassion on the part of the government is not only inefficient and rarely able to relieve the sense of being unwanted, it also lets us Christians off the hook, discouraging us from compassion. The more the government does, the more caring for the poor is left to professionals, the more Christians fail to live up to Christ's call to care for the poor and downtrodden. Considering Bush's many personal acts of compassion, which aren't well publicized but aren't really hidden either (see here and here (scroll to the March 25th 8:36 pm entry)), Kerry's charge shows such little understanding of what the Christian faith lived out looks like that it's depressing.

As I've said before, I think Bush should contact that church and ask if he can speak before it. I'm optimistic enough to believe the church members would recognize true Christian faith when they see it.

La Shawn got an Instalanche for her post, by the way. I've been trying for weeks to get one without success. If she has any advice she'd like to share, I'm listening.

Sunday, March 28, 2004

Judicial Appointments

The Democrats are now promising to block any future Bush appointments until he promises not to make any more recess appointments. Senator Schumer has said, "The president's use of recess appointments to circumvent the advise and consent process puts a finger in the eye of the Constitution ..." Apparently filibustering an appointment is exactly what the constitution intended when it specified "advice and consent." Senator Daschle said, "At no point has a president ever used a recess appointment to install a rejected nominee onto the federal bench." That's a bit deceptive given that Pryor was never rejected. In fact, if a vote had ever been allowed, he would have been confirmed, but the Democrats filibustered to prevent one. As recess appointments are hardly uncommon, and have been used by such Democratic presidents as Clinton to appoint judges, Truman appointed 39, JFK 25. Deceptive or not, what the Democrats are doing will motivate Bush's base than anything Bush has ever done.

Nothing, and I do mean nothing, scares us conservatives more than the very real possibility that in our near future our laws will be decided by appointed judges, not our elected legislatures. See Donald Sensing for example. It's already happening, with the Massachusetts Supreme Court ordering the legislature to rewrite its marriage laws. I'm willing to bet that most moderates and more than a few liberals are frightened by that idea as well. Now that the Democrats have made it very clear that ideology matters more in judicial appointment than competence, that any form of judicial restraint, or "intolerant" views which happen to agree with 2/3rds of the population, are not just reasons to oppose a nomination, but reason enough to filibuster it, we're becoming very nervous about what our judicial system will look like with President Kerry doing the appointing. If Bush can successfully frame the debate on judicial nominations in these terms, strenuously arguing for the importance of judicial restraint, his base's support will be as solid as a rock. I think it fits strongly with his theme of an ownership society.

There are practical steps that must be taken here. The first is the Federal Marriage Amendment. While there may be some reason to support the Musgrave amendment, Orrin Hatch's amendment, which I personally prefer, fits better with the overall theme of curbing judicial overreach, and is much more likely to pass. If Bush were to throw his support behind Hatch's amendment, I think the Republicans who want to stick with Musgrave's would go fot it.

Second, Bush could voice reluctant support for the Bill which gives Congress the authority to overturn a supreme court ruling with 2/3rds vote (blogged here). I think it would take an amendment to do this, and I am also uncertain whether this is really such a good solution, but Bush needs to argue for a permanent solution to the problem of judicial overreach, not just the ad hoc solutions of more conservative appointees and an amendment whose sole purpose is to put a stop to one particular instance of judicial overreach.

Update: Oops, I called the amendment Gallagher's, rather than Musgrave's. Maggie Gallagher is a vocal proponent of the amendment, but Musgrave is the Congresswoman who proposed it.

Vampires

Do you believe in vampires? Believe it or not, there are places in the world where the belief in vampires is still strong:
On a recent afternoon, the village's single store, which also serves as its lone bar, was filled with men drinking hard as they explained the vampire facts to a stranger. Most had at least one vampire in their family histories, and many were related to vampire victims. Most had learned to kill a vampire while still children.

Theirs is not a Hollywood tale, and they laugh at Hollywood conventions -- that vampires can be warded off by crosses or cloves of garlic, or that they can't be seen in mirrors. Utter nonsense. Vampires were once Catholics, were they not? And if a vampire can be seen, the mirror can see him. And why would you wear garlic around your neck? Are you adding flavor?

No, vampires are humans who have died, commonly babies before baptism or people unfortunate enough to have black cats jump over their coffins. Vampires occur everywhere, but in busy cities no one notices, the men said.

Vampires are obvious when dug up because while they will have been laid to rest on their backs, arms folded neatly across their chests, they will be found on their sides, even their stomachs. They will not have decomposed. Beards will have continued to grow. Their arms will be at their sides, as if they are clawing out of their coffins. And they will have blood -- sometimes dried, sometimes fresh -- around their mouths.

We tend to scoff at these beliefs, but before you ridicule these superstitious people, ask yourself why you don't believe in vampires. I'll wait.




If you are a straightforward materialist who denies anything supernatural, you're on decent philosophical ground to be scoffing at vampires. Most of us have at least some belief in the supernatural, however, and that leaves our reasons somewhat shaky. Sure, it all sounds silly, but silliness isn't a factual argument. I am a Christian, and some of the things I believe sound silly to people who aren't. They don't seem the slightest bit foolish to me. The thing is, even those who think these beliefs ridiculous aren't arguing that they're illogical, at least not within my worldview, just that they're unseemly in theirs. For someone like myself who believes not only that God exists, but also that demons do, vampires seem unlikely--I'm not saying I believe in them--but I can't rule them out entirely.

Before you materialists scoff at my gullibility, consider this: Is regular alien visitation to Earth impossible? If you believe that life on other planets is possible, then regular alien visits may be unlikely, but you can't rule them out entirely.

Week in Review

Here's what I was talking about this past week.

We haven't forgotten -- Even after 2 and a half years, 9/11 still brings strong feelings.

Protesting the Imperial US Hegemon -- When wacky anti-war protestors go bad. It isn't pretty.

What is a Pharisee? -- Christians like to throw around the term Pharisee in a perjorative sense, to describe hypocrites in the church. While this isn't really fair from a historical perspective, the problems Jesus ran into with the Pharisees are common enough today. Of course, anyone who calls another a Pharisee is in danger of behaving like one in the worst way.

U of R survey on Religious belief -- I describe the results of a survey which Intervarsity took of the University of Rochester.

Ralph Nader's talk -- I blog a talk given by Ralph Nader at the University of Rochester on consumer advocacy. He sounded like a conspiracy theorist, talking about the evils of our corporate society.

Richard Clarke -- A quick summary of the Richard Clarke situation for those who are interested in my take.

Saturday, March 27, 2004

Weekly Webcomic Update

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

Heh, that's what happens when I cut and paste... I just repeat what I said last week. Sorry, I'll try to be more creative in the future.

Sluggy Freelance -- Kiki comes to visit as well, but it doesn't last long.

Day by Day -- The anniversary of the Iraq war brings lots of commentary from the Left, which requires lots of mocking from Chris Muir.

It's Walky! -- Fewer lawyers, more zombie time. We all breathe a sigh of relief. This week is bloody--consider yourself forewarned.

College Roomies from Hell! -- Mike lucks out yet again, but with his memory coming back in full, there's a good chance his sanity won't last.

General Protection Fault -- Yoshi finally meets s1r3n face-to-face. We aren't really surprised, of course.

Schlock Mercenary -- Breya turns to mercenary work to raise some cash.

Computer Problems

I've been having trouble with my Dell laptop. The computer hasn't been recognizing the AC adapter, so while the computer works, it has only been running off the battery and not recharging. I dealt with it in the same way I deal with most electronic problems--I took it apart and put it back together. You'd be surprised how often that works, and indeed, the AC adapter is now recognized. I'm hoping it continues to work, but I sent an e-mail to Dell support anyway. Chances are that the computer's jack has a flaky mechanical connection. According to the Dell bulletin boards, this problem is pretty common.

In other news, I've set up a wireless router in my home. I've named it Eyrie, which is appropriate since my laptop is named Gryphon. (My main computer is Dragon, and the network is called Lair.) So far, everything is working, and the computers can talk to the Internet. I had a harder time getting them to talk to each other, but that eventually started working.

New Post: Update on the laptop situation above.

Friday, March 26, 2004

The GOP's Southern Strategy

There's an interesting aticle on how the GOP became dominant in the South here. It helps to debunk the myth that the GOP gained the South through covert appeals to racism. It's an interesting article, and I highly recommend it.

I've lived in the South for 11 out of my 29 years. While there is racism in the South, it's nowhere near as widespread and pervasive as you would think by listening to Democrats. It certainly isn't the motivating force in the areas from which Republicans draw their strongest support. In the end, accusing Republicans of racial appeals is insulting to them, but it's the Southerners they're outrageously deriding. If Democrats want to win in the South, perhaps they should be less nasty to Southerners.

Richard Clarke

The big story this week has been Richard Clarke. He's been accusing the Bush administration of not being serious about al Qaeda before September 11th. This doesn't agree with things he's said earlier, but while he denies he actually lied earlier, he claims that because he worked for the administration, he spun it in Bush's favor. That explanation might work if the comments were not in direct contradiction.

When Bush came in, Clinton's ineffectual policy had been unchanged since 1998, and had accomplished nothing when it came to degrading al Qaeda. Bush decided to keep the Clinton policy in effect, even expanding it and increasing its funding, while his team put together a more complete plan, a plan whose aim was to completely root out al Qaeda. That plan took time to put together, and Bush approved it the week before 9/11. It was a three-year plan that began with diplomatic pressure, then slowly built up force to directly overthrow the Taliban and destroy al Qaeda. Then 9/11 took place, and the timeline was significantly accelerated.

This is all what Richard Clarke said in a transcript released by Fox News earlier this week. I'm not sure how you could explain away the differences between that and his current statements as just spin.

Here's the clincher, however. Even if Bush had started bombing the Taliban on the day of his inauguration (Something which, as I said earlier, would not have been possible without a public mandate. Such a mandate takes time to build, which is one of the reasons why the Bush's plan had such a slow pace.), 9/11 was already in motion. The principals were no longer in Afghanistan. I'll admit that there's a chance that if we had gone after al Qaeda then, we might have captured a higher up who could have spilled the information, but I think the odds on that are slim. (Most of al Qaeda would have slipped over the border to Pakistan, and as Musharaf didn't come around to our side until after 9/11, we would have had to go to war against Pakistan to get them.) Most likely 9/11 would still have happened, and those who are now saying we did too little would have said that 9/11 was in retaliation for our attacks on al Qaeda. You know, the same folks who are saying we should have pre-emptively attacked al Qaeda but not Iraq, that Clinton did everything he could to get al Qaeda, but what he couldn't do in 8 years Bush should have been able to do in 8 months, even if it took him five of those months to get all of his people through the confirmation process.

Of course, most of you aren't hearing anything new from me; I'm just giving a quick summary of the facts for those who are curious about my thoughts on the matter. If you really want to know more about this issue read through Instapundit, Captain's Quarters, or National Review's Corner.

Update: I've cleaned up this post considerably. There's one point I haven't made, and that's this: Clarke can make a legitimate argument that before 9/11, Bush did not see al Qaeda to be as dangerous as it truly was. The problem was that, before 9/11, no one saw al Qaeda for the threat they were, and that includes Clarke, who made a name for himself in the 90s sounding the alarm about cyberterrorism. Bush, unlike Clinton, at least developed a comprehensive strategy to dismantle al Qaeda, even if the planning did not have the urgency it should have.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

God and science majors

Old Post: I posted about the U of R survey on religious belief here.

Looking at the results of the survey, I suppose what I find most striking is the difference between the hard science majors and the humanities majors when it comes to the "Does God exist?" question. The percentage who say no is about the same within the margin of error: 6% for the humanities and 8% for the hard science majors. The percentage who say yes is 78% for the humanities and 59% for the hard sciences. That's a difference of 19 percentage points, or a ratio of 4 to 3. What's most intriguing is the difference between those who say they're not sure: 32% to 17%, nearly 2 to 1. I've never noticed the incidence of atheism to be much higher among scientists and engineers than the rest of the population, but it does look as if more of the hard science majors are uncertain. Are they just more skeptical when compared to the general population, more unwilling to put their trust in something they can't test? I've never really believed that was the case, since the science folks I met in college believed all sorts of crazy things, but now I'm beginning to wonder. After all, while I know science types pretty well, my experience with the general population is pretty limited, so maybe I just think the level of skepticism I deal with regularly is representative.

A Few Naderite Bumper Stickers

I only took one picture from Ralph Nader's talk, from a table selling paraphernalia outside. As it was dark and raining, I guess nobody wanted to demonstrate. In any case, here's the photo.



The angle wasn't good enough to get all the bumper stickers, and I don't remember all of them, but the ones which do show say the following:

"These colors don't run... the world"
"Visualize impeachment"
"Let's not elect him in 2004 either"

Update: I think the red one says "I'd rather be smashing imperialism"

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Ralph Nader's talk

As I feared, there’s no wireless connection available. By the time this post goes up, it will be all over. Still, I'll keep a minute-by-minute account running, so you'll see what I would have posted if I had been able to live-blog.

8:45 pm -- I arrived a few minutes ago and looked for a spot with wireless. No luck, I'm afraid. There's a decent crowd here, and it will only get bigger, as the event is sold out. A lot of the people here look like students, but there are quite a few older folks here.

8:50 pm -- There are quite a few cameras set up, but none of them look like professional TV crews. I did see a van belonging to the local FOX news affiliate outside, however.

8:55 pm -- Speak of the devil. The crew setting up some way beside me is professional. R news, a local news station. They were apparently just doing a test of some sort, as they didn’t stay long.

9:01 pm -- Ralph’s coming out, to much applause. They turned the lights out, but Ralph asked that they be turned up. I’m glad, because my laptop’s pretty bright. I don’t want to be that prominent.

9:02 pm -- Ralph’s starting to talk about consumer advocacy, and the political implications. It sounds like he’s blaming the harm done by automobiles -- traffic and pollution and safety -- on the failure of the auto consumers to organize, and instead the highway lobby was in charge. He's talking about how GM and its collaborators destroyed the trolley industry. I’m trying to wrap my mind around it. From the facts he’s put out, GM may be responsible for killing some trolley systems, but I don’t see how they can be held accountable for the entire nation’s highway system.

9:07 pm -- He’s singing the praises of public transit now. Hey, I liked Boston’s public transit, but you know, I like having a car now. I tend to think consumers like cars. But then, I’m an ignorant capitalist, what do I know?

9:10 pm -- He’s now saying that if consumers spent 10 hours learning how to buy food, we could save 30% on our food budgets. I’m all for educated consumers, but most of us learned how to shop for food from our mothers. Now, perhaps they didn’t teach us very well, but I know I spent more than 10 hours of my life going to grocery stores with her.

9:12 pm -- In the sense that he thinks consumers should be more educated, I agree.

9:14 pm -- He’s just described what’s in a hot dog. I can’t stand hot dogs anyway, so I’m not particularly concerned.

9:15 pm -- He’s just told us there’s 9.5 teaspoons of sugar in Coke. He says it’s not on the label, but I already knew there were 27 g of sugar per serving of Coke. That it does say on the can. I guess he’s complaining that it doesn’t give that amount in teaspoon units.

9:19 pm -- He attributes the diversifying of the supermarket on better consumer education.

9:20 pm -- He’s plugging his website, democracynow.org.

9:21 pm -- He’s telling how he berated one of his 25-year-old supporters for not liking radishes. When he said, "I don’t like radishes." Ralph asked, "Who’s I? Is it your kidney, your liver, your heart, your mind?" Apparently it was his tongue.

9:27 pm -- He’s telling a story about how one of his books encouraged car buyers to use Ralph’s own "consumer written" contract. The first guy who wrote him about what happened said the dealer called the police.

9:30 pm -- He’s complaining about tort reform. He says that in 1840 we filed more per capita lawsuits than today. I bet class action lawsuits were rarer, though.

9:32 pm -- He’s saying that courts do not favor consumers. I have no data on that.

9:33 pm -- He’s asking now whether people in the audience have ever filed a lawsuit, aside from divorce court, saying that it’s more than average than the population as a whole. I looked around, and I was thinking it looked like 5-10%. [Addendum: His argument, of course, is that this is not a litigious society, that we in fact do not sue often enough.]

9:37 pm -- He’s now talking about doctors. He’s saying that something like 5% should not have a license (I was typing when he said that, so I’m not quite sure of the number).

9:39 pm -- He’s now talking about the success of driving smoking from public areas.

9:41 pm -- He’s now telling a story about how he ended up sitting next to a smoker who recognized him on the last flight where smoking was allowed. Apparently, the smoker was not a forgiving sort. The crowd applauded.

9:45 pm -- Apparently only 25% of Americans smoke now, down from 46% in the 1960s. 25% seems like a lot more than I thought.

9:46 pm -- He’s complaining that we’re the only country of the Western world without universal health care, without four to six weeks of paid vacation, with such a poor public transit system. Of course, we’ve also got an economy that works, but I won’t go there. But at least we’re ahead in smoking. [Addendum: In getting rid of smoking, I mean.]

9:49 pm -- He’s telling how he helped to get the automobile industry regulated. Mandatory seatbelt, collapsing steering column. He says that this improved automobile safety from 5.6 deaths per 100 million miles to 1.6 per 100 million.

9:51 pm -- Cosmetics now. Talking about how the cosmetic industry defines commercial beauty standards. I’m pretty good at ignoring it. He’s talking about how it hurts us, by causing anxiety, neuroses, even suicide. So is he suggesting suing them? He hasn’t said.

9:55 pm -- He’s talking about how banks can debit you and you don’t notice the charges.

9:57 pm -- He’s saying that schools should teach consumer education, while seller education is a big concern. I’m thinking that’s because people are rarely paid to buy stuff.

9:59 pm -- He’s now saying that crime in the suites, corporate crime, takes more money and kills more people than crime in the streets. He’s saying that 10% of health care charges are fraudulent.

10:00 pm -- He’s saying that the money cheated from people is enough to provide health care for all the children who don’t have insurance. Show me a government program more efficient and less corrupt than an industry, in any country, and maybe I’ll believe him.

10:04 pm -- He’s talking about how Soviet citizens waited in lines, now we wait on the phone. I don’t see that there’s a real connection.

10:05 pm -- He says Southwest and Fed-ex answer their phones while others do not. Why? He still hasn’t said. I figured he’d argue that it was due to some law he lobbied for. It could very well be economic competition.

10:07 pm -- He’s saying that U of R needs two new courses: consumer education and citizen skills. Citizen skills sound like Political Activism 101: calling talk shows, writing effective letters to your congressman, attention-getting stuff, using the Freedom of Information Act, getting and disseminating information. I didn’t really need help to start a blog. Political education would be more interesting to me. How to spot media bias, maybe.

10:12 pm -- He’s talking about how corporate dominated U of R used to be, and how they can’t get permission to start these classes. His applause line stated that the University trustees should take off their corporate caps and concern themselves with the welfare of their students.

10:13 pm -- Another applause line: "Too many young people today lose their twenties trying to resolve personal issues they should have solved in their adolescence."

10:15 pm -- The recurring theme: We live in a corporate society.

10:16 pm -- I agree that there’s too much "corporate welfare." I’m not a big fan of corporate handouts, but that’s my libertarian side showing.

10:18 pm -- You know, from how he talks, you’d think the bulk of the government’s money was going to corporate handouts, rather than, say, Social Security.

10:21 pm -- He’s encouraging us "young people" to be more activist.

10:22 pm -- He says that most people make less money now, in adjusted income, than they did in 1973. He’s complaining about outsourcing now.

10:25 pm -- Talk’s done. Something of a standing ovation, although it looks like a lot of people are just leaving. I’ll wait to see if there are any questions.

10:26 pm -- Question: What do young people do in a university like this where the administrators who have been bought by corporations? [If that’s true, why did they let Ralph on campus? Someone in the VRWC screwed up!] Answer: The students should organize to make sure academic values are supreme. What’s the line between academic and corporate science? Need written policy to how much time faculty can spend moonlighting. Supposedly there’s a difference [Addendum: between corporate and academic science, I mean. I never did anything for corporations, but I have friends who did. The way MIT worked, anything done on campus by Grad students had to be publishable. Maybe not everyone has this policy.]

10:30 pm -- Question: How long will oil dominate? What will this mean concerning future wars? Answer: We don’t have an energy policy to get rid of oil and gas dependency. Corporations are in control.

10:31 pm -- Question: How do we get rid of the majority political system where minorities have no power? [Addendum: That pesky democracy!]Answer: Need to get rid of the electoral college. Since can’t get rid of it by amendment, should get rid of winner take all. Need proportional system. Not regional. If state have two seats, one ballot, first place and second place each get a seat, third place not get anything. [Addendum: Plenty of people think that regional politics should no longer matter. I don't agree, as I think regional governments are more responsive than national, and anything that gives regions less power over the federal government tends to centralize government. That pesky federalism!]

10:39 pm -- Question: What happens when budget deficit causes dollar to collapse? Answer: Now he’s praising the dynamic economy, saying that this won’t happen. [Translation: he’s not concerned about the budget deficit.] He says the economy will survive because the government will bail it out. [Addendum: He quotes his father as saying: "Capitalism will always survive because socialism will always bail it out." I bet the Europeans wish someone would bail out socialism.] Danger: we’re in debt to a lot of foreign countries. He’s mixing this with the trade deficit. The trade deficit is not the same thing as foreign debt, but he’s not making the distinction, so I’m having a hard time following his argument. [Addendum: But apparently it's a bad thing.]

10:41 pm -- Question: Are our lawsuits raising consumer prices? Answer: Huh, he’s talked about this his entire talk. Now he’s praising the insurance companies for spreading out corporate costs. Hmm, I seem to remember him complaining about the fraudulent insurance companies earlier on.

10:45 pm -- It’s getting late, I’ll be getting going soon. I don’t want to stay too late.

10:47 pm -- Question: Why isn’t family helping? Answer: Corporate society destroys families. [That’s an interesting argument.] There’s a need for two breadwinners for a middle-class existence, and that draws parents apart. Television and video games make children less social, less family interaction.

10:52 pm -- Question: Why are you running for president rather than work on these issues? Answer: "We are shut out of Washington by a two party duopoly that is in bed with the corporate interests." We need consumer advocate in Washington. The Democrats are now much more in thrall to corporations than they used to be. One objective of running is to give young people opportunity to get involved. Wants universal healthcare. Wants "foreign policy that wages peace militantly." Decrease defense funding--we have no major enemies [Uh, this guy is running for President? He does know this is 2004, not 2000, right?]. Plug for votenader.org.

Update: I typed this over two hours while listening to Ralph Nader speak. I'm not a great typist in the first place, and since I was writing, not taking dictation, I spent most of that talk writing as fast as I could while listening. This inevitably led to mistakes and ugly stylistic missteps. I've decided to keep it as is, for the most part, but I'll correct any egregious grammatical errors. I may not be able to help myself with some of the stylistic things, but I'll make it clear if I make any substantive corrections. Any notes in italics that say [Addendum: More stuff here.] are later additions.

Ralph Nader tonight

This is just a reminder that I will be blogging Ralph Nader tonight. His talk on Consumer Advocacy is at 9 pm. If I can live-blog it, I will, otherwise expect something to be up around 11 pm. I'll also bring my digital camera--maybe there'll be some fun demonstrators to photograph.

U of R survey on Religious Belief

The Intervarsity Christian Fellowship at U of R took a survey of religious belief on the U of R campuses. I wrote up the results for an article in Campus Times, the college newspaper. Here's what I wrote:
This January the Intervarsity Christian Fellowship groups at University of Rochester River Campus and Eastman School of Music did surveys to begin to better understand the spiritual beliefs on the UR campuses. The survey was more informal than scientific, but given that over 194 students filled out surveys, the results lots of insight into the spiritual beliefs of UR and ESM students. The intervarsity groups will use the data to make their outreach and other programs more relevant. Probably most interesting were the responses to the four yes and no questions: "Do you believe God exists?", "Do you believe in a heaven?", "Do you believe in a hell?", and "If you believe in a heaven, do you believe that you will go there?" In all, 70% of the respondents believe that God exists, versus 8% who say He does not. The remaining 22% said they were not sure. 62% of the respondents say that Heaven exists, while 14% say it does not, as opposed to only 51% who say that Hell exists, while 26% say that it does not. 68% of those who believe in Heaven believe they are going, while 30% say they are not sure whether they are going or not, and only 2% said that they believe in Heaven but that they are not going. 80% of those who believed in Heaven also believed in Hell, while 7% said there was a Heaven but no Hell. The remainder were either not certain or did not answer the question. No one said they believed in Hell but not Heaven.

Of those who responded to thea question about religious background, 67% were from a traditional Christian background, either Catholic or Protestant, although only 84% of them said they believed in God, and only 63% had an orthodox Christian view of Jesus. Other common religious backgrounds included Jewish (6%), Atheism/Agnosticism (6%), Hinduism (3%), and Buddhism (3%). A striking 10% said they had no religious background.

Answers to the "Do you believe God exists?" question by campus and major.

Population

Yes

No

Not sure

River campus

63%

9%

28%

Eastman campus

81%

5%

14%

Hard sciences

59%

8%

32%

Humanities and social sciences

78%

6%

17%


I pretty much stuck with the facts and didn't do a lot of analysis. I'd do that here, but I don't have much time at the moment. I'll see if I can come up with more later.

New Post: I talk a bit about what I found most striking about this poll here.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

The 9/11 blame game

There's a lot of effort to figure out who is to blame for 9/11 these days, from the Clarke book to the 9/11 commission. If we want to know who's responsible, however, it's dangerous to blame Presidents and administrations but not the people they led. No president wants to go to war without a popular mandate, and before 9/11, it simply wasn't there. It's possible that Clinton could have built a mandate based on the previous attacks, but it would have been nearly impossible for Bush to make the case in the first 8 months he was in office. It wasn't until September 11th that the American people were ready to support a war.

I think debates which ignore the political realities are missing a large part of the equation.

What is a Pharisee?

My small group is doing a study on Philip Yancey's book, The Jesus I Never Knew. Yesterday we had a lively discussion on a couple of paragraphs in Chapter 8, "Mission: A Revolution of Grace." The relevant paragraphs are these:
Somehow we have created a community of respectability in the church, I told my class. The down-and-out, who flocked to Jesus when he lived on earth, no longer feel welcome. How did Jesus, the only perfect person in history, manage to attract the notoriously imperfect? And what keeps us from doing this today?

Someone in the class suggested that legalism in the church had created a barrier of strict rules that made non-Christians feel uncomfortable. The class discussion abruptly lurched in a new direction, as survivors of Christian colleges and fundamentalist churches began swapping war stories. I told of my own bemusement in the early seventies when the redoubtable Moody Bible Institute, located just four blocks down the street from our church, was banning all beards, mustaches, and hair below the ears of male students--though each day students filed past a large oil painting of Dwight L. Moody, hirsute breaker of all three rules.

Everybody laughed. Everyone except Greg, that is, who fidgeted in his seat and smoldered. I could see his face flush red, then blanch with anger. Finally Greg raised his hand, and rage and indignation spilled out. He was almost stammering. "I feel like walking out of this place," he said, and all of a sudden the room hushed. "You criticize others for being Pharisees. I'll tell you who the real Pharisees are. They're you [he pointed at me] and the rest of you people in this class. You think you're so high and mighty and mature. I became a Christian because of Moody Church. You find a group to look down on, to feel more spiritual than, and you talk about them behind their backs. That's what a Pharisee does. You're all Pharisees."

All eyes in the class turned to me for a reply, but I had none to offer. Greg had caught us red-handed. In a twist of spiritual arrogance, we were now looking down on other people for being Pharisees.

In the first century, the Pharisees were a religious and political movement. They were neither collaborators with the Roman occupiers, nor revolutionaries. They attempted to find a middle ground, to be "in the Empire, not of it," to use an anachronism. Whereas today calling someone a Pharisee is a condemnation, at that time the Pharisees were respected and respectable. They made great efforts to live by the Law, which gave rise to a strict legalism and high moral standards.

Today, they are best remembered for their conflicts with Jesus. Why? What is it about them that made it so hard for them to get along with him? Well, what he often called them are "hypocrites," or "play actors." People who pretended to be something other than what they were. The passage from Philip Yancey's book points towards the problem: spiritual smugness. Anytime we look down on others because of our superior behavior, or doctrine, or worship style, deciding that we are the "better" Christians, we are acting like the Pharisees did. That is not to say that all beliefs or practices are equally good, or that blatant sin doesn't need a corrective, only that we, imperfect that we are, unable to see into the hearts of our fellow man, cannot judge anyone's spirituality but our own, and if we find that anything but wanting, we are in danger of forgetting our need for Christ.

Update: I am painting with a rather broad stroke here. As with any real-world political movement, there was a wide degree of variety among how individual Pharisees believed and acted. Many became Christians in the early years of the church. In Western thought, however, they are best remembered for their conflicts with Jesus, and I believe that conflict stemmed from the source I pointed out. Any movement which stresses individual purity runs into danger when its members believe they have achieved it.

Kerry's VVAW problem -- continued

Old Post: The earlier post is here.

In the Blogs for Bush carnival, my previous post is described as: "Back of the Envelope talks about how Kerry's association with VVAW, which was recently revealed to have discussed assassinating U.S. Senators, could destroy his political future." My first thought was "I didn't describe it that strongly, did I?" Well, I did come pretty close. I really think this story, if it were given anything near the attention that Bush's National Guard record was given, really could make Kerry's candidacy untenable, perhaps even cause him to withdraw, despite the fact that he's hardly the sort to do so. It looks like it won't get that attention, however, so it doesn't look like that will happen. It would take a prominent Democrat attacking Kerry on this, or at least a Bush ad about it, to get much media attention at all.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Protesting the Imperial US Hegemon

I was living in Boston for the wars in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and I saw my share of protestors, big puppets and ludicrous slogans and all. For the most part I ignored them. First, I was a Grad student at the time, so I lived in my own little world. Second, their timing was always horrible. Oh, they'd have plenty of time to protest before the war started, loudly speculating about the horrors the US would inflict, but once things got going, they could no sooner organize the protest than it was all over. I remember one protest, where they slept in tents to empathize with the plight of the Afghan refugees from the war. Of course, the protest took a couple of weeks to put together, and by the time it actually happened, the tipping point had taken place at Mazar-e-Sharif and Kabul had fallen, food and medical supplies had begun to pour in now that the land routes were open, and thousands of refugees, including those who had fled the Taliban years earlier, were beginning to return. The Tech article describing the protest did not deign to mention any of these things. Reading that article, I felt sorry for the protestors, who apparently had their talking points planned in advance and didn't really have time to adjust to the new realities on the ground

Ignorant and mistimed protesting is little more than annoying and amusing. This is evil:

(From this website.) This image has been circulating around the web, and well it should. I know these people love to complain about the crushing of dissent and trampling on their first amendment rights whenever someone calls them "unpatriotic" and makes them feel bad. Granted, I've never heard anyone actually called unpatriotic--I've never done it myself--but in this case I'll make an exception. This person is unpatriotic. I'll go further: he (or she, it's hard to tell) is hateful, anti-American, narrow-minded, and bigoted. As Glenn Reynolds says, they're not anti-war, they're on the other side.

The Instapundit Returns

Glenn's back. He was out for five days. In terms of number of posts, that's like one of us mortal bloggers being gone for a month.

U of R AA Bake Sale

Old Post: My previous post on the Bake Sale is here.

Conservatives Gone Wild has much more on the Affirmative Action Bake Sale than I do, including some about the interactions between the University administration and the College Republicans. There's more above and below the post I linked to, so keep scrolling. There's also an article in Rochester's Democrat and Chronicle. (Thanks to The Corner for the links.)

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 CNN.com, 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 Opinionjournal.com'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.

Test

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.