Wednesday, February 28, 2007

The $80 Death

By now, you've probably read about Deamonte Driver, the 12-year-old boy who died because he didn't get a tooth extracted.

Cost of the extraction: $80.

The story blames Medicare, but in my mind, the story brings up a different issue.

Dental insurance in the U.S. is a crock.

Regardless of the way the story is spun, you don't have to be poor not to have dental insurance. Dental insurance is a luxury for most people. Many companies don't even carry dental insurance, and those companies that do usually charge a lot of money for it. Recently, I was considering adding dental insurance to our family plan, but the cost was about 1/3 of medical insurance. It would be more cost effective to simply save the money and pay for the dentist's visits myself.

Secondly, most dental insurance is very poor, especially in comparison with the sorts of benefits one gets from medical insurance. Dental insurance usually covers regular check-ups and, perhaps, X-rays. But for any sort of dental treatment, including fillings, crowns, or root canals, dental insurance tends to work more like a discount plan, and a discount plan that isn't very good. In short, dental insurance sucks.

Deamonte Driver's death is a tragedy, but I hope it spurs more families to take care of their children's teeth.

Why Gore's Energy Use Matters

The story about Al Gore's humongous electric bills is delicious because of the rank hypocrisy of those defending "Mr. Green."

There's this change-the subject defense at Crooks and Liars.

(Nicole: Do you suppose that they are equally up in arms by the fact that taxpayers are paying Dick Cheney's electric bill at the Vice President's mansion? You know, the one that had an $186,000 electric bill in 2001? Nah, that probably doesn't bother them in the least.)

Well, yes, the Vice President's energy usage could be considered excessive, but then Dick Cheney's never held himself out as a model of environmentalism and energy conservation. See, SilentPatriot, that's what makes Gore's position untenable: he's lectured everyone else on cutting their energy consumption while using as much energy as my housing subdivision.

The excuse Gore has given is that he uses a "carbon neutral lifestyle." That is, he buys carbon credits to offset his excessive energy usage. But that doesn't really wash, either. All it means is that someone else is using as much energy as they want but selling a credit because they don't need to use as much. In short, it doesn't change energy consumption at all.

That is the real importance of the Gore story: not that he's a hypocrite (it's clear he doesn't practice what he preaches), but that his behavior isn't changing his energy consumption.

Bill Hobbs has a great post explaining this important point that may get lost in all the furor.
But do Gore’s “carbon offsets” payments really compensate for his big non-green power usage?

Wikipedia again:
The intended goal of carbon offsets is to combat global warming. The appeal of becoming “carbon neutral” has contributed to the growth of voluntary offsets, which often are a more cost-effective alternative to reducing one’s own fossil-fuel consumption. However, the actual amount of carbon reduction (if any) from an offset project is difficult to measure, largely unregulated, and vulnerable to misrepresentation.

Did you get that? Carbon offsets are an "alternative to reducing one’s own fossil-fuel consumption" and yet "the actual amount of carbon reduction (if any) from an offset project is difficult to measure, largely unregulated, and vulnerable to misrepresentation."

Hobbs also points out another inconvenient truth:
According to The Tennessean newspaper’s report, Gore buys his carbon offsets through Generation Investment Management. a company he co-founded and serves as chairman:
Gore helped found Generation Investment Management, through which he and others pay for offsets. The firm invests the money in solar, wind and other projects that reduce energy consumption around the globe...

As co-founder and chairman of the firm Gore presumably draws an income or will make money as its investments prosper. In other words, he "buys" his "carbon offsets" from himself, through a transaction designed to boost his own investments and return a profit to himself. To be blunt, Gore doesn’t buy "carbon offsets" through Generation Investment Management - he buys stocks.

In other words, Gore is profiting from the policies he is promoting.

As Hobbs notes,
As the story evolves, it should move away from Gore’s “Gulfstream Liberal” hypocrisy and on to more important questions such as the efficacy of “carbon offsets,” and a variety of other economy-oriented policy issues that impact the environment, such as whether market-based solutions or government-planned approaches are more likely to foster the technology innovation and lifestyle choice changes that benefit the environment.

UPDATE: Amanda at Pandagon naturally defends Gore's hypocrisy as "not important." What's really important is bashing Ted Haggard and taxing carbon usage. Because, you see, individual responsibility is only important when it concerns evangelicals or conservatives.

It's a Daddy Thing

Kathleen Parker has a nice column at about the recent American Psychological Association study on the sexualization of girls.

The study states what parents of girls have known for 40 years: sexualizing images in advertising, marketing, and media are harmful to the way girls think of themselves.

The idea of girls "growing up too soon" isn't a new one. My mother was complaining about the fact that little girls' clothes were replicas of adult clothes back in the 1970s. And don't even get me started on what she thought of 12-year-olds wearig make-up and high heels.

I can't imagine what Mom would think of girls sporting "Hottie" on the seats of their ultra short shorts while dragging around their Bratz dolls.

The problem isn't only with the products aimed at children. In fact, it only starts there. While looking for computer games, my then six-year-old daughter picked up a copy of a Leisure Suit Larry game. She couldn't read the box, but she thought the scantily-clad women on the cover were "pretty," and that the game must be for girls. This daughter is particularly susceptible to "pretty" images because she likes playing dress-up and doing "girly" things.

One can argue that such games aren't for children and it is therefore up to the parents to ensure their children aren't exposed to such things. That argument would work if we lived in a world where parents could control everything their children see or hear. But, of course, we don't live in such a world, and limiting a child's exposure to offensive or damaging images is difficult to impossible.

So, what is a parent to do?

The APA has a list of things parents can and should do to help fight this trend. For me, the answer is simple: don't buy the sexy toys, games, DVDs, etc. no matter how much pressure you feel to do so (confession: I actually bought Bratz paraphernalia this last Christmas and now regret caving in). Spend time with your children explaining what is wrong with these images. Refocus your children on important qualities like honesty, compassion, and hard-work. Encourage your daughters to get involved with sports or music, as these activities get girls to focus on things other than appearance.

But as good as these suggestions are, Parker points out that the APA doesn't discuss the single most important factor in this equation: fathers.

Although the task force urges ``parents'' to help their daughters interpret sexualizing cultural messages, there's little mention of the unique role fathers play in protecting their girls from a voracious, sexualized culture.

Fathers, after all, are the ones who tell their little girls that they're perfect just the way they are; that they don't need to be one bit thinner; and that under no circumstances are they going out of the house dressed that way.

Fathers are the ones who remember what it is like to be boys and what boys think about, even when girls aren't. Fathers know that protecting their daughters even from their own bad decisions is the most important task a parent has. And "old fashioned" dads who won't let their daughters pierce their navels aren't just old fashioned. They are looking beyond the surface of these actions to the signals those actions send other people. That's the sort of discernment that teenagers don't have. It only comes with time.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Another Price of Abortion

GetReligion has an interesting story on a series unfolding at the Washington Times.

The series is about sexism and women's rights in India, and the initial installment leaves plenty of food for thought.

India is facing a shortage of women like Miss Kaur.

In most places in the world, a mother can find out the sex of her unborn child, but in India, it's illegal to do so. That is because if she's a female, there is a good chance she will never be born.

Roughly 6.7 million abortions occur yearly in India, but aborted girls outnumber boys by 500,000 -- or 10 million over the past two decades -- creating a huge imbalance between males and females in the world's largest democracy.

Ironically, a machine used by many pro-life groups in this country to dissuade women from aborting--the ultrasound--is used by women in India and China for sex selection abortions. The high number of abortions in these countries means that the imbalance between the sexes is getting worse, and with that imbalance, women will become more and more a commodity.
As a result, a new class of wifeless men are scouring eastern India, Bangladesh and Nepal for available women. India, already a world leader in sex trafficking, is absorbing a new trade in girls kidnapped or sold from their homes and shipped across the country.

Are these women just exercising their right to choose abortion in these situations? If women don't even value their daughters, how can a culture be changed to give those daughters full equality? How do pro-choice supporters handle sex selection abortion as an issue?

The Washington Times story is gut-wrenching. The roadblocks and dangers that Indian women face is staggering. Besides the sex selection abortions, women must deal with the burdensome dowery system that is still in place.
Sister Mary Scaria was one of two girls in a family of nine children.
Dressed in an aqua-colored sari of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, the nun is also a lawyer and coordinator of the Delhi Catholic Archdiocese's Justice & Peace Commission. In early 2006, she published "Woman: An Endangered Species?" which charged that "female feticide" is decimating half of the population.
She chiefly blames the dowry system, a Hindu marriage practice by which the groom's family demands enormous sums of money and goods from the bride's family as a condition for letting their son marry her.
"At a wedding, everyone looks to see how many bracelets the bride has and how much gold she has," the nun says. Dowries typically consist of gold and appliances, as well as substantial amounts of cash. Defenders of the system say that girls are often denied an inheritance in India; thus, what she gets at her wedding is in effect a savings account she can retain for the rest of her life.
What actually happens is the groom's family pockets the dowry, the nun explains, and the payments don't stop there.
"When a wife has a baby in India, the wife's family has to pay for the hospital stay," Sister Mary says. "After the birth, they also have to bring gold and food for the new family, even new saris for all the relatives."
Some Indian castes even require that the bride's family pay her funeral expenses when she dies. Worse yet, the groom's family will often kill the bride in what's known as a "dowry death" if they think the dowry is too small.

And even though the dowry system was banned in India back in 1961, the system still remains.

The caste system is still prevalent in India as well. The ratio of women to men is most skewed in the richest provinces. The large number of unmarried men are resorting to importing brides from other areas, and those women are treated little better than slaves. As feminists, the mistreatment of all women--from womb to death--should be a concern.

UPDATE: Deep Thought reminded me in the comments that he addressed this sex ratio imbalance in a post from a year ago.

About those Election Promises...

The Politico has an interesting article on how Nancy Grandma Pelosi ain't keepin' all those campaign promises.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is discovering the cold truth about governing with a slim majority: It's much easier to promise behavioral change for Congress than to deliver it.

Pelosi vowed that five-day workweeks would be a hallmark of a harder-working Democratic majority. So far, the House has logged only one. Lawmakers plan to clock three days this week.

The speaker has denied Republicans a vote on their proposals during congressional debates -- a tactic she previously declared oppressive and promised to end. Pelosi has opened the floor to a Republican alternative just once.

I've heard howls of protest whenever I've pointed out how Democrats are breaking all their campaign promises left and right, but I've yet to hear any reasonable explanation for breaking more vows than, well, Bill Clinton (sorry, that one was just too easy).

The best defense is that trying to get anything done with a narrow majority requires strict enforcement of rules and an autocratic style. But governing that way does seem to fly in the face of all that "bipartisanship" talk we heard last fall.

In the Ministry of Truth

There's been an odd phenomenon unfolding over at the Huffington Post.

This morning, the HuffPo had a post about the attempted assassination of Vice President Dick Cheney while in Afghanistan.

Michelle Malkin has a PDF file of the 437 mostly batshit crazy comments left at HuffPo before they closed the thread. You can visit her site for examples.

While so many moonbats unhinged that the Vice President wasn't killed today is nauseating enough, the story takes a more bizarre twist. Pajamas Media explains that the Huffington Post didn't just close the thread, they manipulated it to try to make the moonbats look less treasonous than they are.

Over the last few hours, the more than 400 comments appended to the Huffington Post’s news item on the attack in Afghanistan on a base being visited by Vice-President Dick Cheney have been expunged from the site. At first the comments were closed, then gradually shrunken and for a short time completely expunged from The Huffington Post as the heat on the Cheney hate fest built up over the day.

From around 2:50 PM, all the comments to the original thread were missing, but of late some have turned up at the new item that occupies the same address, “Over 20 Die in Attack Aimed at Cheney.” The current page shows a marked difference from the original page. Where the original headline read, “Cheney ‘Targeted’ Deadly Afghan Blast,” the current head now reads, “Over 20 Die in Attack Aimed at Cheney.” This may well be a headline that is better informed as the reporting of the incident evolved over the day....

The comments now visible are evidently cherry-picked out of the original thread to give some sort of “tone” to the thread that it did not originally possess. It is really amazing what you can do to history with just a few strokes of the keyboard.

Now it is one thing to close comments, another thing to erase them, but something else altogether different to actually “edit” the thread to give a false impression. That seems to be what has been done here. To what purpose and on whose orders is not known.

I was not a Bill Clinton fan. Nor am I an Al Gore fan. But I can't believe the moonbats have sunk to this all new low. Wishing the Vice President dead? What is left after you've sunk to that level?

Jeff Goldstein dissects Glenn "sockpuppet" Greenwald's apology for the moonbat hate fest.

Interestingly, Greenwald argues that rightwing bloggers had to "dig deep" to find these hateful comments. But, like everything else that falls from Greenwald's mouth (or fingers, I suppose, in this case), it is patently untrue.

I looked at The Carpetbagger's Report and the very first comment is this:
OHIOAN: Am I a bad person for being disappointed that he didn’t get shot in the face [with shrapnel]?

And a few comments down, there's this:
ED STEPHAN: Gee, just like back when he got five deferements from service in Vietnam.

I have no way to verify, but I must admit this smells as staged as everything else the Bush Crime Family does.

So, there you have it. No digging involved. You have one lefty commenter disheartened that the V.P. wasn't assassinated and another accusing the President of staging the event. But don't question their patriotism!

UPDATE: Patterico has an excellent post eviscerating Glenn Greenwald as the hypocritical know-nothing he is.

Blogger "Scalping"

Andrew Sullivan, with whom I rarely agree, has an excellent post about the idea of scalping.

The term was originally used by Lindsay Beyerstein in the above linked article. She uses the term derisively to describe rightwingers who "pick a target and harass that person and his or her employer until the person either jumps or is pushed out of the public eye."

Sullivan points out the obvious.

Marcotte is the alleged victim in this case. But isn't the left just as guilty in hounding campaigns? Or are they too disorganized? Personally, I'm all for making life difficult for bloggers who have whored themselves out as paid propagandists for campaigns. But it's always best just to expose ugliness and dishonesty, not punish it.

All you have to do is read a few liberal blogs before you see the exact same pattern develop on the left that they assailed from the right. And, truthfully, I don't know of any rightwing bloggers who wanted Marcotte fired. They saw her as a wonderful albatross around the Breck girl's neck and wanted her to stay there.

It's amusing to me to hear the shrieks from the left about Amandagate, as though they have never gone after any target on the right with the same visciousness (Robert Bork, anyone?). The difference is that lefties haven't been able to force a change in behavior by most of the targets they go after. That's not to say they don't try, though.

Ann Althouse discusses this, as well as this by Ross Douthat.

Douthat points out that the meaning of Beyerstein's "scalping" statement could be going to the idea that conservative bloggers don't do other things as well as liberal bloggers do.
But re-reading Beyerstein, it's possible that her "unlike the liberal netroots, the right-wing blogosphere is capable of exactly one kind of collective political action" line wasn't meant to suggest that left-wingers don't scalp, but that they do other things as well, whereas right-wingers don't. This is an overgeneralization, obviously, but it gets a lot closer to an interesting truth about the blogosphere, which is that the lefty blogs have become way better at doing political things - raising money, raising issues, and influencing elections at the grass/netroots level - than most of the right-wing blogs. The conservative 'sphere became adept at picking apart the MSM in the first couple years of the blogosphere, but it hasn't really adapted to the Kos/MyDD era - and its anti-MSM shtick has grown pretty stale since events in Iraq started proving Big Media right, and the warbloggers wrong. Daniel Larison had a smart post on this subject recently, in which he remarked:
Why have the big lefty blogs evolved into online “communities” that sponsor political activism that actually has a remote chance of influencing elections? Because the people on the left are very big into a) political activism and b) collective expressions of that political activism. They also tend to be generally outraged about the state of the world, which lends itself to blogging, while there is nothing more uninteresting than Hewittian, “Gee, I sure do support the President a lot” posts and the old chestnuts of “why aren’t they reporting the good news from Iraq?”

And Larison points out that the blogosphere has come to power during a Republican administration. It's easier to attack administration policy rather than defend it.

With the Democratic win in the fall elections, Republicans (and their bloggers) need to figure out how to turn the loss into a win. That's not to say whitewash the loss; it means t learn from it. For bloggers, it will mean finding ways to create similar "communities" who will be motivated to action for Republican causes. This will be difficult since conservatism doesn't lend itself to such behavior in the first place. But if conservatives desire not to cede the blogosphere to the lefties, they will have to find ways to motivate readers.

The Politics of Energy

Here locally, we are obsessed with the proposed buyout of TXU Energy. Specifically, I'm concerned about what my electric bill will look like this summer.

According to the above linked story in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, TXU is planning to drop commercial rates, but not by much.

TXU residential customers who have not already switched to one of the company's lower-priced plans will receive a 6 percent rate reduction within 30 days, and an additional 4 percent cut once the buyout is completed. The cuts would apply to about 90 percent of TXU customers who still pay the basic rate of 15 cents per kilowatt hour.

The reduction would kick that rate down to 13.5 cents per kilowatt hour, still above prices of most providers.

The Texas Public Utility Commission has raised concerns that the rate reductions aren't enough, and that by scuttling their boondoggle to build 11 more coal-burning plants, TXU will end up raising rates, not lowering them.

But TXU says it doesn't need PUC approval for the deal to go through. That may be true, but TXU does need customers for the deal to go through, and with the highest rates in the state, more customers are likely to leave the TXU fold for greener pastures with a different energy provider.

Governor Goodhair says the plan is "good for Texas."
Gov. Rick Perry, who last April stood beside Wilder in Dallas and vowed "we won't let bureaucrats jerk us around" on TXU's plan to build new power plants, endorsed the sale Monday.

"I think this is good news. Good economics. Good opportunity for jobs and wealth creation," Perry told reporters in Washington.He said the new owners assured him that they will provide enough power for the state, even though they won't build as many coal-fired generators. "There's nothing to keep them from building new plants at old sites," he said. But some conservative free-marketers were jolted that TXU's prospective buyers had given ground to environmental opponents.

I'm not that concerned about bowing to the enviro-nuts as long as my electric bill goes down and they don't gouge residents when the thermometer hits 105 in August. But evidently, we shouldn't count that out, either.
A group called Action Fund Management Llc. of Alexandria, Va., warned that if Texas doesn't build enough generating plants, it risks electricity shortages that could cause the same kind of price spikes that occurred in California several years ago.

"Power prices could spiral out of control in Texas because there aren't enough suppliers for the need and the state is so poorly connected to other states," the group said in a statement.

I can turn down the thermostat in winter and put on more clothes. What do we do in the summer?

Venezuela to Seize Foreign Oil Projects

The Cubanization of Venezuela continues unabated.

President Hugo Chavez ordered by decree on Monday the takeover of oil projects run by foreign oil companies in Venezuela's Orinoco River region.

Chavez had previously announced the government's intention to take a majority stake by May 1 in four heavy oil-upgrading projects run by British Petroleum PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Total SA and Statoil ASA.

He said Monday that has decreed a law to proceed with the nationalizations that will see state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, taking at least a 60 percent stake in the projects.

Chavez is clever, though. He doesn't want to boot out foreign companies. He wants to take majority control, then allow foreigners to run the companies as minority partners. Oil companies are reluctant to abandon the Venezuelan oil fields since Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world outside the Middle East.

Green with Envy

No, this is not about environmentalism or the Oscars. It's about Eric Boehlert's whine, whine, whine about the Washington Post feature on Michelle Malkin.

Boehlert's main problem with the feature is that it isn't the typical hit piece on Malkin.

(S)he's ambitiously unserious, and her work is treated accordingly by most people in senior positions within the mainstream media (except at Fox News and the Post). That's because her daily blog is built on a foundation of hatred that literally knows no bounds -- namely, Malkin's unbridled, name-calling disdain for Democrats, peace activists, journalists, immigrants, and Muslims. Yet inside the Post newsroom, or more specifically, at the Post Style desk, Malkin is seen as a rising media star worthy of focused, fawning attention.

But Boehlert isn't just upset that Malkin wasn't eviscerated in the article (Boehlert, who has seemingly made a career out of nitpicking through Malkin's work, lists a variety of sins committed by Malkin. Would that he put forth the same effort when discussing liberal bloggers who shall remain nameless). He's absolutely hysterical that the Post isn't giving the red carpet treatment to his cronies.
Where, in the last two years, has the Post's Style section run a feature on Markos "Kos" Moulitsas Zuniga, whose is the most popular political blog in the world? Where was the feature on progressive wunderkind organizer Matt Stoller, one of the forces behind the widely read MyDD website? Or pioneers like Eric Alterman (a Media Matters for America senior fellow) and Josh Marshall, who were among the first to establish progressive outposts online? Or John Amato, who revolutionized political blogging by posting video clips on his Crooks and Liars website, which, according to one recent survey, was the 10th most-linked-to political website in the world? Or Jane Hamsher, who founded influential, and who's been leading a team live-blogging the Scooter Libby trial? Or Duncan Black (a Media Matters senior fellow), whose hugely popular blog, Eschaton, remains an online must-read? Or John Aravosis, the progressive activist who runs AMERICAblog and just a few weeks ago forced the candy giant Mars to yank online Snickers ads after Aravosis and others tagged them as anti-gay? (Full disclosure: I know most of those bloggers on a personal basis.)

What a shock. Boehlert knows these bloggers who have been overlooked for features by the Washington Post! Hand around the Kleenex box, dears.

This is one of the shrillest and whiniest columns I've read by Boehlert (and it isn't like he isn't prone to whining and crying). Even trying to discredit Malkin as a serious blogger is only a side issue of this column. No, the main point is that it is so unfair (foot stamp here) that the Post hasn't done loving stories on leftist bloggers. Unfortunately for Boehlert, I would suggest that perhaps the Post couldn't find a leftist blogger whose work was printable.

UPDATE: Echidne at the Snakes, of course, agrees with Boehlert but adds this to the mix:
It's because us careful and thought-provoking bloggers are a) boring, b) too obtruse and c) deficient in talk about anal sex, breast sizes, the desirability of a genocide of all darker skinned people or the best ways of lynching the members of the Supreme Court.

Maybe Echidne doesn't read the Liberal Avenger or Pandagon. She'd find plenty of discussions about those things there.

Al Gore's Inconvenient Truth

Appropriately enough after Al Gore's Oscar win with An Inconvenient Truth, we find that Gore faces a few inconvenient truths of his own.

Gore’s mansion, located in the posh Belle Meade area of Nashville, consumes more electricity every month than the average American household uses in an entire year, according to the Nashville Electric Service (NES).

In his documentary, the former Vice President calls on Americans to conserve energy by reducing electricity consumption at home.

The average household in America consumes 10,656 kilowatt-hours (kWh) per year, according to the Department of Energy. In 2006, Gore devoured nearly 221,000 kWh—more than 20 times the national average.

Last August alone, Gore burned through 22,619 kWh—guzzling more than twice the electricity in one month than an average American family uses in an entire year. As a result of his energy consumption, Gore’s average monthly electric bill topped $1,359.

While it is unsurprising that Gore is an energy hog, the amount he is using is a little shocking. I wonder if he's planning to switch to compact fluorescent bulbs any time soon?

UPDATE: No surprise, Al Gore is decrying the unveiling of his electric bills. According to ThinkProgress,
1) Gore’s family has taken numerous steps to reduce the carbon footprint of their private residence, including signing up for 100 percent green power through Green Power Switch, installing solar panels, and using compact fluorescent bulbs and other energy saving technology.

2) Gore has had a consistent position of purchasing carbon offsets to offset the family’s carbon footprint...

It's nice that Gore is trying to reduce the huge amount of energy his own family uses, but I seem to recall during the original Kyoto hysteria that purchasing carbon offsets by big business was considered "cheating" by the enviro-nuts. They thought American industry should go in the tank because of the restrictions the Kyoto Protocols would place on businesses and that any deal to prevent strangulation of American business wasn't kosher. But now, when Gore is using as much energy in a month as the average American does in a year, purchasing carbon offsets is all right? Even with the purchases, it seems like an outrageous amount of energy for any enviro-nut to be using.

Nuts at HuffPo are foaming at the mouth that the Tennessee Center For Policy Research got Gore's bills and are already setting up the "rightwing smear machine" excuse.
We're going to fight back. All of us.

Why? Well, first of all, Al Gore turning his lights on doesn't make him a hypocrite, it makes him a human.

Second, we've seen this game a few too many damn times. The trick is for them to create doubt and distraction. They need to create doubt all around the country about Al Gore. But there is no doubt.

Al Gore is a hero.

Well, Gore is a hero only if you consider lying about one's individual contributions to life, holding questionable fundraisers, and making a "documentary" filled with questionable claims is heroic. But expect to hear people who would denounce George W. Bush for leaving a light on too long to keep making excuses for Gore.

UPDATE x2: Captain Ed has a nice rebuttal to the "but he bought carbon credits to offset his use" argument.
He may retort that he purchases carbon waivers that help fund efforts to clean the environment and reduce global warming to balance his large energy usage. I'd respond: so? The point that the global-warming alarmists make is that we have to stop releasing carbons in order to reverse the "crisis", as they called it over and over again, not to create a rations market that acts like a parasite to the energy market. If the situation is as dire as Gore painted it in An Inconvenient Truth and at the Oscars last night, then one might expect a little more self-discipline from the chief alarmist disciple.

Monday, February 26, 2007

The New Muslim Controversy

I wrote previously about the new Discovery Channel "documentary" which claims to have found the bodies of Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Jesus's son in a tomb in Jerusalem.

While the story is provocative, Christian protests about the film have been of the verbal sort. There hasn't been a call for the Discovery Channel not to show the film, or even requests for disclaimers about the film.

On the other hand, the film Obsession: Radical Islam's War Against the West, a documentary that shows Muslims urging attacks on the United States and Europe, is causing more heat.

At Pace University in New York, administrators pressured the Jewish student organization Hillel to cancel a showing in November, arguing it could spur hate crimes against Muslim students. A Jewish group at the State University of New York at Stony Brook also canceled the film last semester.

The documentary has become the latest flashpoint in the bitter campus debate over the Middle East, not just because of its clips from Arab television rarely shown in the West, including scenes of suicide bombers being recruited and inducted, but also because of its pro-Israel distribution network.

The story then launches into a series of anti-Muslim incidents across the United States, but then gets back to the film, saying this:
While the film carries cautions at the beginning and end that it is only about Islamist extremists — and that most Muslims are peaceful and do not support terror — Muslim students who have protested say they believe the documentary will still fuel prejudice.

“The movie was so well crafted and emotion manipulating that I felt myself thinking poorly of some aspects of Islam,” said Adam Osman, president of Stony Brook’s Muslim Students’ Association, who asked that it not be shown.

Perhaps Osman should think poorly of some aspects of Islam, particularly those advocating a caste system for women and non-Muslims, or passages of the Koran that seemingly advocate terrorism against "infidels."

It's one thing to provide provocative films that cause people to have to think critically about their religions. It is another to complain that such films shouldn't be shown because they are persuasive.

Appeal for Redress and Astroturfing

According to Media Research Center, 60 Minutes ran a segment last night on what it declares to be "new opposition" to the war in Iraq by a "large group of soldiers." But as NewsBusters points out, the story is neither new nor large.

On Friday, Logan previewed her 60 Minutes story about a relatively minuscule number of servicemen who have signed a petition from an organization called "Appeal for Redress," a group formed last year and which delivered some petitions to Congress way back on January 16. Logan announced how "over a thousand servicemen and women have done something normally unthinkable for the military: protest the war they're in the middle of fighting....They've all sent a petition called 'Appeal for Redress' to their individual members of Congress letting them know that 'staying in Iraq will not work,' and it's 'time for U.S. troops to come home.'" Logan's piece featured soundbites from three soldiers, but none were identified by her or on screen. The page previewing the story, however, includes names as did the subsequent Sunday night piece on 60 Minutes.

In short, the story is an old one by media standards and the group is a tiny fraction of the military men and women who have served in Iraq (I made this point, btw, in a thread at another blog back in January when this was a real story).

Worse still, Appeal for Redress isn't even a real grassroots organization. According to Greyhawk at Mudville Gazette, points to a October 26, 2006 story in the New York Sun which reports that
a company that does public relations for the liberal activist political action committee, Fenton Communications, organized a conference call for reporters and three active-duty soldiers to unveil the soldiers' anti-war group Appeal for Redress.

According to its Web site, Appeal for Redress is seeking signatures of active-duty soldiers for a petition that reads in part, "As a patriotic American proud to serve the nation in uniform, I respectfully urge my political leaders in Congress to support the prompt withdrawal of all American military forces and bases from Iraq."

As Greyhawk points out, this technique is called Astroturfing.
In politics and advertising, the term astroturfing describes formal public relations (PR) campaigns that seek to create the impression of being a spontaneous, grassroots behavior. Hence the reference to the "AstroTurf" (artificial grass) is a metaphor to indicate "fake grassroots" support.

The goal of such a campaign is to disguise the agenda of a client as an independent public reaction to some political entity—a politician, political group, product, service, event. Astroturfers attempt to orchestrate the actions of apparently diverse and geographically distributed individuals, by both overt ("outreach," "awareness," etc.) and covert (disinformation) means. Astroturfing may be undertaken by anything from an individual pushing their own personal agenda through to highly organised professional groups with financial backing from large corporations.

Apparently, major media outlets can't tell the difference between the fake and the real, but then, this isn't surprising given their reporting of the war in Iraq.

Greyhawk has more of the seedy background on this story.

The New Jesus Controversy

And, no, this one's not political.

The Discovery Channel has a new special coming out (during Lent, no less) on the discovery of a tomb that the founders claim is that of Jesus of Nazareth.

New scientific evidence, including DNA analysis conducted at one of the world's foremost molecular genetics laboratories, as well as studies by leading scholars, suggests a 2,000-year-old Jerusalem tomb could have once held the remains of Jesus of Nazareth and his family.
The findings also suggest that Jesus and Mary Magdalene might have produced a son named Judah.

The DNA findings, alongside statistical conclusions made about the artifacts — originally excavated in 1980 — open a potentially significant chapter in Biblical archaeological history.

Atheists are probably applauding this hokey pseudo-science program. I long ago gave up on such fake history programs filled with so-called "experts" speculating about events but never giving any real evidence to support the theories.

Captain Ed dissects this new theory pretty well.
Jesus was a well-known agitator whose crucifixion creates a cult following, in the eyes of the Romans and the leading Jews of the time. The basis of that cult formed around the notion that Jesus rose from the dead. If the Romans knew where his body was buried, why then did they not produce it as proof of his immutable death? In order to be placed in an ossuary, he would have to lie in the tomb for a year, decomposing to skeletal remains. During that time, the Romans could easily have produced the body -- or the cult followers could have stolen it and buried it elsewhere to prevent it.

The familial ties also seem rather odd. In the first generation of Jesus, no one mentions his marriage or family. Yet his familiy and followers -- ossuaries of Matthew and James are supposedly among the discoveries -- supposedly felt it of no moment to bury him with his wife and son, despite their refusal to acknowledge a marriage. By the time his son would have died, the Gospels would already have been written and prophesied in the region and further to Greece and Rome.

And all of this evidence would have been left in the open, in a tomb in the middle of the largest city in the region, where anyone could have discovered it.

Scholars, atheists, and other interested parties have spent two millenia trying to figure out the sleight of hand Jesus's followers used to dispose of his body after the crucifixion. After all, the resurrection had to be a fake, right?

Unfortunately for the naysayers, they've never found the body, which leaves them with a real hole in the "they hid the body" theory. Not to mention all those martyrs who died horrible deaths to cover the sham of Christianity.

Why is it easier to believe that early Christians found a surefire way to hide Jesus's body and were then willing to be tortured and martyred for the cause, than to believe that Jesus was who He said He was and that his followers knew it? It seems that believing Jesus married Mary Magdalene, had a son, and all three died without fanfare or notice by the Romans is a bit more farfetched.

UPDATE: A.P. writer Marshall Thompson has an article disputing the Discovery Channel "documentary."
Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem who was interviewed in the documentary, said the film's hypothesis holds little weight.

"I don't think that Christians are going to buy into this," Pfann said. "But skeptics, in general, would like to see something that pokes holes into the story that so many people hold dear."

"How possible is it?" Pfann said. "On a scale of one through 10 _ 10 being completely possible _ it's probably a one, maybe a one and a half."

Pfann is even unsure that the name "Jesus" on the caskets was read correctly. He thinks it's more likely the name "Hanun."

Kloner also said the filmmakers' assertions are false.

"It was an ordinary middle-class Jerusalem burial cave," Kloner said. "The names on the caskets are the most common names found among Jews at the time."

Archaeologists also balk at the filmmaker's claim that the James Ossuary _ the center of a famous antiquities fraud in Israel _ might have originated from the same cave. In 2005, Israel charged five suspects with forgery in connection with the infamous bone box.

"I don't think the James Ossuary came from the same cave," said Dan Bahat, an archaeologist at Bar-Ilan University. "If it were found there, the man who made the forgery would have taken something better. He would have taken Jesus."

Geneology as Politics

I see a trend coming. Reporters have discovered geneology and, instead of using it to find their own long-lost relatives, they are digging into the lives of the political set.

First there was the vapid story about Mitt Romney's great-grandfather's and great-great-grandfather's polygamous ways. This story was roundly denounced (thank God) by both left and right as a meaningless attempt to smear Romney with the sins of his forefathers.

Now comes the news that Al Sharpton's great-grandfather was owned by Strom Thurmond's great-great-grandfather.

The Rev. Al Sharpton said Sunday it was "shocking" to learn he was descended from a slave owned by relatives of the late Sen. Strom Thurmond — a man he'd met only once in an encounter he called "awkward."

The civil rights leader learned of his connection to Thurmond, once a symbol of segregation, last week through The Daily News, which asked genealogists to trace Sharpton's roots.

"It was probably the most shocking thing in my life," Sharpton said at news conference Sunday, the same day the tabloid revealed the story.

The professional genealogists, who work for, found that Sharpton's great-grandfather, Coleman Sharpton, was a slave owned by Julia Thurmond, whose grandfather was Strom Thurmond's great-great-grandfather. Coleman Sharpton was later freed.

I'm still trying to figure out what any of this information on ancestry is supposed to say about modern day politicians. If one's great-grandfather was a slave, does that give a person greater leverage in debates about civil rights and racism? What if one's great-grandfather had been the owner of slaves? What if that self same great-grandfather inherited the slaves then freed them?

It seems to me this geneology kerfluffle is just a placeholder for bored reporters on the '08 campaign trail. What's next? What can we find in anybody's ancestry if we look long and hard enough? And suppose there are skeleton's in one's great-grandfather's closet, what, precisely, is a person to do about that 150 years later?

Best Picture?

I didn't watch the Oscars tonight, but I had stuck all the nominees for best picture in my Netflix cue after the nominations were announced. Tonight, we watched The Departed.

I'd heard a lot of hype about this movie over the last month or so. Many film critics (including Michael Medved) picked The Departed as Best Film and, when I peeked at the results after watching the movie, I found that it had won.

I'm not a movie critic, but I have played one in the past (I reviewed some movies when I worked at the local newspaper back in college and after). My feelings about The Departed? It was ok.

Leonardo DiCaprio plays a cop who goes undercover in the Irish mafia in an attempt to bring down a kingpin (played by Jack Nicholson). Meanwhile, the kingpin has a mole in the Massachusetts State Police (Matt Damon) who is trying to find the rat in Nicholson's mob.

The cat-and-mouse games played while each mole tries to find the other is fascinating to watch. The all-star cast really makes the most of the material and the writing is taut (I didn't find myself saying "This would be a good place to end this" the way I do in a lot of movies).

Like all mafia movies, The Departed is quite violent. Not Good Fellas violent, but there is plenty of brain-splattering for the mafia lovers in any family.

The problem with The Departed is that the ending is relatively predictable (we pegged it after the first hour). It's a straight forward mob movie with little else in the plot to recommend it. I didn't find any of the secondary characters to be that interesting, and while Leonardo DiCaprio is a more empathetic character, there was nothing compelling in the performance.

I'm not sure why The Departed won the Best Picture award. Perhaps the other four nominees are weaker, or maybe the star quality of The Departed drew votes. My vote will be out until I have a chance to see the other four films.

The Defeated Democracy

Dana had a link to this article at The Coffeespy, discussing an interview with a North Vietnamese colonel. The honest responses from the communist colonel tells us a lot about the current efforts to undermine the war in Iraq.

Q: How did Hanoi intend to defeat the Americans?
A: By fighting a long war which would break their will to help South Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh said, “We don’t need to win military victories, we only need to hit them until they give up and get out.”

Q: Was the American antiwar movement important to Hanoi’s victory?
A: It was essential to our strategy. Support of the war from our rear was completely secure while the American rear was vulnerable. Every day our leadership would listen to world news over the radio at 9 a.m. to follow the growth of the American antiwar movement...

Q: What was the purpose of the 1968 Tet Offensive?
A: To relieve the pressure Gen. Westmoreland was putting on us in late 1966 and 1967 and to weaken American resolve during a presidential election year...

Q: What about the results?
A: Our losses were staggering and a complete surprise. Giap later told me that Tet had been a military defeat, though we had gained the planned political advantages when Johnson agreed to negotiate and did not run for re-election. The second and third waves in May and September were, in retrospect, mistakes. Our forces in the South were nearly wiped out by all the fighting in 1968. It took us until 1971 to re-establish our presence, but we had to use North Vietnamese troops as local guerrillas. If the American forces had not begun to withdraw under Nixon in 1969, they could have punished us severely. We suffered badly in 1969 and 1970 as it was...

Q: What else?
A: We had the impression that American commanders had their hands tied by political factors. Your generals could never deploy a maximum force for greatest military effect.

As the Coffeespy points out, we really haven't learned anything since Vietnam. Hell, we still have Democrats in office who are so determined to lose the war that they think the loss in Vietnam was a good thing. And with a complicit press and howlers from the moonbatosphere telling the public we've lost, is it any wonder public opinion turned?

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Mob Rule

Anyone who wants to see what happens when majorities run amok need look no further than this Little Green Football post about the shenanigans at

The idea behind an ostensibly non-partisan site like is that people submit links to interesting things, and other people rate the links, so that interesting stuff gets more votes and rises to the top.

But at Digg, this utopian web fantasy has turned into a system of mob rule.

Case in point, our post today about the ACLU’s newest attempt to get Islamist spokesman Tariq Ramadan into the US: Digg - ACLU: US Can’t Bar Terrorism Supporters.

As soon as this post was “made popular” (received enough votes to get listed on the front page), leftist Digg readers swarmed all over it, clicking the “bury” button like busy little progressive beavers. They also voted against almost every supporting comment, so that they disappeared from the list.

They’re doing this with every LGF post that shows up at Digg now, and the swarm is almost instantaneous. If one of our posts gets to the front page, it’s buried within minutes.

It’s a leftist totalitarian dreamworld. They simply exclude any and all points of view that violate the groupthink—and call it “democracy.”

I hate to keep pointing this out, but this is typical liberal behavior. You can see the same sort of thing happen at any number of liberal websites, whether it be Pandagon or Liberal Avenger. Any conservative who posts gets immediately swarmed over with idiotic ad hominem attacks. It really doesn't matter how non-controversial the comment might be; as long as it goes against the liberal meme du jour, it will get flamed.

One can say that such treatment should be expected on a liberal website (you go to their house, they get to pummel you). But as Charles points out, the purpose of is to be a non-partisan source of interesting articles. It's clear, however, that there is a very vocal section of the left that doesn't want debate or to "look at different viewpoints"--arguments offered for the un-Fairness Doctrine. Rather, they want to squash any debate and drowned out voices they dislike.

I have to wonder if this is what Amanda meant when she talked about the rightwing smear campaign designed to separate bloggers from the Democratic leadership. The article she quoted left the impression that it was all an elaborate plot by Republicans to a wedge between Democratic leaders and the netroots by attacking bloggers–and their readers–as an extreme vitriolic embarrassment.

I would suggest that it is the behavior of the nutroots that is the embarrassment, as the events unfolding at suggest.

News Flash: Mormons Used to Be Polygamists!

I had to laugh when I saw this article from the Associated Press.

While Mitt Romney condemns polygamy and its prior practice by his Mormon church, the Republican presidential candidate's great-grandfather had five wives and at least one of his great-great grandfathers had 12.

My first thought was "Duh!" Romney's great-grandfather was probably alive in the 1880s, and his great-great-grandfather was probably around 1850. That was when Mormons defended polygamy. What on earth does 19th century skeletons have to do with the 21st century campaign of Mitt Romney.

It's been noted for some time that digging into every possible negative or foolish word or deed by a politician--no matter how long ago such speech or actions were made--will eventually drive out good politicians and leave us with a bunch of milquetoast jerks that nobody wants to elect. I can't help but think searching in people's family trees is an even worse idea.

One can assume that a person is responsible for their own behaviors (whether it is hanging a Confederate flag in your dorm room or using cocaine). But what on earth is a person supposed to do about events that took place four generations ago?

Saturday, February 24, 2007

"Loss of Press Freedom in Post 9/11 America"

Eugene Volokh has a nice post puncturing the myth of "lost press freedoms" since 9/11.

The particular case at issue concerns Josh Wolf, a video blogger who refuses to cooperate with police by giving them an unedited copy of his video for use in a police investigation.

Wolf videotaped a July 2005 demonstration in San Francisco protesting a meeting of the G8 economic summit. The local district attorney wanted the unedited footage to assist a police investigation into violence which marked that night. The 24-year-old refused to turn over the full video to a grand jury.

But this isn't a "loss of press freedom," as Volokh points out.
Recall that all citizens must generally testify before grand juries -- or turn over tangible evidence to grand juries -- if they know things relevant to a criminal investigation. In 1972, 29 years before 9/11, the Court faced a journalist's claim that journalists have a First Amendment exemption from this duty, and rejected it. The Court left open room for some limited First Amendment protection for journalists, but quite limited; and since then journalists have repeatedly been required to testify before grand juries. And this is so even as to confidential communications to journalists, where journalists can most plausibly claim an analogy to the several narrow exceptions to the duty to testify (for instance, attorneys', psychotherapists', and clergy's right not to testify about confidential communications by their clients or parishioners).

It's hard to see how Wolf's case symbolizes "the loss of press freedoms in post-September 11 America." First, the rejection of the First Amendment arguments he makes long predates September 11. Second, to my knowledge there was never a time when the press had an established freedom not to testify, especially as to facts they observed in a public place. Third, even if "press freedom" should include the right to gather confidential information without the risk that one will be required to testify about it, I don't see a persuasive argument for why "press freedom" includes the right not to turn over publicly gathered video footage of a public demonstration.

The current hysteria about "loss of freedoms in a post 9/11 America" loses yet again. Still waiting for that definitive example.

Wimbledon Gives Female Players Same Pay as Male Players

I'm not calling this "equal pay for equal work" because it isn't. It's more like if I worked 30 hours a week and a man worked 40 hours a week and we both got the same thing. Is that equal pay?

Most people would say no, unless they were the one getting more money for less work. But such is the complex world afforded feminists and others making this rather silly argument about female athletic pay.

The grey heads at Wimbledon finally bowed to the pressure and have decided to pay the female contenders the same as the male ones, even though they don't play the same number of sets.

Wimbledon chiefs announced Thursday that they will pay men and women equal prize money for the first time at the prestigious tennis championships this year.

The decision overturns more than a century of deliberate inequality in pay and brings the tournament more into line with the other three annual grand slam tennis events.

"We will be paying equal prize money this year at Wimbledon, through all the rounds in both singles and doubles," said Tim Phillips, the chairman of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club, which runs Wimbledon.

He said the club's committee unanimously agreed that "the time is right to bring this subject to a logical conclusion and eliminate the difference."

Phillips said that social and marketing factors had made Wimbledon chiefs decide to do a U-turn to end the anomaly and hoped it would send out a positive message about tennis to young sportswomen.

Last year, the men's champion made $655,000 and the female champion made $625,000. If it were me, that would be a positive enough message about tennis. But is it really fair for women to make the same amount when they aren't doing the same work? It seems to me that this sends the wrong message: complain, complain, complain and eventually you will wear down opposition without having to improve your performance.

Frankly, I've wondered for years why the women don't play the same number of sets as the men. This isn't 1930 when male athletes were in significantly better shape than female ones. With conditioning and weight training, there's no reason women don't play five sets. Are they saying women are too weak to play five sets? The double standard, in my opinion, is still in place. It's just weighted in a direction some people like this time.

Friday, February 23, 2007

They Just Won't Let Amandagate Die

Who, might you ask? Why, Amanda Marcotte, of course.

From the various tangents that went off here this week on the subject of the blogger dust-up on the Edwards campaign, it’s clear that the final “meaning” of the whole sad affair won’t be untangled from the various threads of religion and politics, the acceptable use of satire and “uncivil” language in politics and of course, the evolution of politics in the internet age. That said, I think Ari Melber of The Nation wrote an article that gets to the most important element of this whole story, which is that this right wing smear campaign against Melissa McEwan and myself was not about deep religious offense or any genuine offense over some naughty words, but about separating the Democrats from the resources provided by bloggers.

This, of course, is precisely what the "dust-up" was not about. The "dust-up" (read: ass-kicking) was about Amanda's incredibly ugly, hate-filled, a virulent brand of "satire" that insulted large swaths of the American public who might actually contemplate voting for John Edwards. It was about the incompetence of the Edwards campaign in hiring bloggers who lack the maturity to address their opponents' issues without accusing them of endorsing slavery or wanting their children to die of terrible diseases.

In an ironic twist, Amanda Marcotte has become that icon of feminism: the ever-shrieking victim. We all know that victims are blameless and therefore ineligible for even the slightest criticism. Well, Amanda has wrapped herself in this self-same victimhood and now just won't shut up about it.

Amanda quotes from this article in The Nation, which argues that the problem was the threat the nutroo--er, netroots pose to a Republican majority.
The fight was not so much about religion or online obscenity as power. The netroots are the most aggressive, ascendant force in progressive politics, wielding more members, money and media impact than most liberal organizations. In the 2006 election cycle, MoveOn alone spent more than every other liberal political action committee except the prochoice EMILY's List. According to the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet, online donors gave Kerry $82 million in 2004, and Democrats expect much more in 2008. (Bush pulled only $14 million from the web.) And now top bloggers--like Jerome Armstrong, Markos Moulitsas and Glenn Greenwald--have hundreds of thousands of readers, successful books and a bully pulpit in print and broadcast media.

Republicans cannot stop the donations or pressure the media into ignoring liberal bloggers. Instead, the GOP has tried to drive a wedge between Democratic leaders and the netroots by attacking bloggers--and their readers--as an extreme vitriolic embarrassment. During the midterms, the Republican National Committee repeatedly attacked Democratic candidates for accepting netroots donations and working with bloggers, even distributing a six-page "research" brief maligning Moulitsas, the founder of Daily Kos. Conservative operatives recently floated smears of anti-Semitism at MoveOn [see Eric Alterman, "No Comment," October 30, 2006], Republican donor Bob Perry sank $1 million into a new group devoted to battling MoveOn and Bill O'Reilly regularly denounces the "far left websites." The strategy is to scare Democratic politicians away from tapping their motivated base.

Is it really impossible for these people to grasp the idea that calling even some Christians "Christofascists" might be offensive to Christians of all political persuasions? Or that her inability to admit that the railroading of the Duke lacrosse players was despicable might disgust other potential voters? Or that her shrill condemnation of virtually all Southern males as bigots made her decision to support John Edwards look hypocritical?

No, in the search for validity, it was all about fear. Republicans fear the nutroots.

Well, no, we don't.

I actually relish the idea of the ascendency of the nutroots in the Democratic Party. I think it would be great for them to nominate completely leftwing candidates that don't have a snowball's chance in hell in the regular elections. I'm not sure what excuse they'll come up with for losing then, but I'm sure it will be interesting.

Cross-posted at Common Sense Political Thought.

Lieberman Calls for a Cease Fire

Senator Joe Lieberman wants Democrats to stop trying to sabotage the reinforcements in Iraq before they even get started.

Well, he called it a "cease fire," but it is essentially the same thing. I've not understood the determination of Democrats to undermine the reinforcements in Iraq before we've had any time to see if the strategy works. General Patreaus says we should know in six months if it will work or not. Can't they wait that long before cutting and running?

Evidently not, given the number of strategies to sabotage the effort floated by various Democrats. They know that Congress has the power of the purse. If they really want to end the war, they can defund it. But doing that would put them in the uncomfortable position of being responsible for ending the war, and that's a responsibility they do not want. They want to end the war but make President Bush (and by extension, Republicans) be the ones responsible for it.

Now Lieberman is saying to stop the foolishness and give the plan a chance.

U.S. Senator Joseph Lieberman called for a “political cease-fire” for the next six-months to give the new military leadership a chance to show the public the new strategy is working.

Lieberman who met with state officials in Hartford Friday said “I’ve taken a position on the war in Iraq that’s very different from the Senate Democratic caucus, true,” but when it comes to domestic policy “I agree much more with the Democrats.”

He said the chances of him switching parties from Democrat to Republican is “very remote," but the man who was elected as an independent in a three-way race this November knows better than to rule anything out.

I said just the other day that Lieberman would make a lousy Republican, and any Democrat who thinks he has suddenly become a conservative is stupid (ok, not in precisely those words). Now even Lieberman is backing off the "if you don't stop X, I'm divorcin' ya!" rhetoric. It just wouldn't make sense for a guy who votes with the party 80% of the time to leave it over one issue, even an important one like the war. It's better to fight for the soul of the party from within it.

It seems like the Kos Kids were at the press conference, though.
As the press was called off by Lieberman’s handlers, a Wesleyan student who had attended the "No Child Left Behind" discussion that brought Lieberman to Hartford Friday, asked him why he changed his stance on the war after the election.

Mike Pernick said during his campaign Lieberman promised to bring the troops home as soon as possible and now he supports a plan to increase troop levels. "It doesn’t make sense," Pernick said.

It makes me wonder if Pernick voted for John "I voted for the war before I voted against it" Kerry. Can he honestly say he didn't know that Lieberman supported the war effort before the election? There's nothing dishonest about promising to bring the troops home as soon as possible. Everybody agrees with that sentiment. The disagreement comes about over when that will be.

Cheney Won't Back off Pelosi Remark

I thought the ruckus over Vice President Dick Cheney's remark about Grandma Pelosi's approach to the war is interesting.

Cheney said earlier this week that Pelosi wanted to "get out" of Iraq and that the Democratic majority's attempts to micromanage the war "validated" the Al Qaeda strategy. Pelosi complained that Cheney was questioning her patriotism and tattled to President Bush about it.

But Cheney isn't backing down.

"She accused me of questioning her patriotism," Cheney said. "I didn't question her patriotism. I questioned her judgment."

"Al-Qaeda functions on the basis that they think they can break our will. That's their fundamental underlying strategy: that if they can kill enough Americans or cause enough havoc, create enough chaos in Iraq, then we'll quit and go home," Cheney added. "And my statement was that if we adopt the Pelosi policy, that then we will validate the strategy of al-Qaeda. I said it, and I meant it."

I'm glad Cheney refuses to knuckle under to this phony complaint. Critics of the war have characterized every argument as "questioning their patriotism." While it is true that some might draw that conclusion from certain actions, it doesn't mean that every complaint is about their patriotism. Sometimes, it's just about a lack of intelligence, foresight, or judgment.

The Marketing of Perfection

I don't often agree with Echidne of the Snakes on a lot of things, but I found her post More on the Unattainable Perfection to be spot on.

Echidne discusses the idea of the Unattainable Perfection with regards to eating and exercise (you can never have too little of the first or too much of the second), but then expands the notion to other areas of life, including cosmetics, mothering, and sex.

I tend to view all this striving for perfection to be a perverse melding of the Puritan philosophy of avoiding sin with modern marketing. Most of us were brought up to believe in delayed gratification (it works well for gaining achievement), but marketing tends to work on the most vulnerable aspects of our self-esteem (attractiveness or parenting skills, for example).

The results have been a society of more educated, less confident people than ever before. How did we get to the point where a 50-year-old woman is supposed to look better than she did when she was 20? I'm not just talking about the old joke about trading in a 40-year-old woman for two 20s. I'm talking about really expecting a middle aged woman to be thinner, smoother, and better-looking than she was at 20.

It's not that I'm against diet and exercise. And it is certainly helpful for parents to read up on nutrition and parenting techniques. But is it really harmful to your child if you introduce vegetables before fruits? Or if you don't read the Wall Street Journal as a bedtime story? Or if you allow them to watch Spongebob Squarepants?

Echidne is right when she says that moderation is the key. One thing you learn when you have multiple children is that you can't do everything, be everywhere, and have everything all the time. The main thing your kids need isn't new stuff or more activities, but more of you. I love when my son tells me all the minutiae of his day, not because I didn't know that water is a powerful force, but because he's sharing himself with me and I know that he'll do less of that as he gets older.

The important part of eating or exercise or parenting or even buying pretty clothes is because you enjoy it, not because an ad or article tells you doing so is better (and, conversely, you are a worse person if you don't). As a conservative, I do spend a lot of time thinking about the morality involved in various choices more than some of my liberal friends. But I also do that because I'm a parent and I'm required to take the long view of events. Even with those responsibilities, though, I've come to recognize that an extra hour of television isn't going to damage my kids sometimes. Especially if we're cuddled up watching it together.

The Iraq Effect... Or Is There One?

You'll probably see the moonbats crowing about this story in Mother Jones purporting that terrorism has increased "sevenfold" worldwide. The story is getting quite a bit of traction in the moonbatosphere (see here, for example).

The problem, as usual, is that it isn't true, and Karl at Protein Wisdom does an excellent job debunking it in three posts on the subject. It's worth the read.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Cutting and Running, Take 2

It probably isn't take 2, but the Democrats have come up with a new way to cut and run.

Senate Democratic leaders intend to unveil a plan next week to repeal the 2002 resolution authorizing the war in Iraq in favor of narrower authority that restricts the military's role and begins withdrawals of combat troops.

House Democrats have pulled back from efforts to link additional funding for the war to strict troop-readiness standards after the proposal came under withering fire from Republicans and from their party's own moderates. That strategy was championed by Rep. John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) and endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

The Democrats are hellbent on us losing in Iraq. First, they wanted timetables. Then they were going to "slow bleed" us out of Iraq. Now they want a "do-over" of the authorization of the war. What's next? Cross their fingers behind their backs while they swear they want to win the war?

UPDATE: Captain Ed discusses it this way:
Now the Senate wants to introduce a replacement for the existing AUMF that would limit the use of troops in a different way, but with similar results. It forces an end to the deployment of combat brigades by March 31, 2008, the date proposed by the Iraq Study Group, and afterwards restricts American operations in Iraq to training, border security, and counterterrorism. It would require the White House to certify that any offensive operation in Iraq directly targeted al-Qaeda rather than sectarian Iraqi militias or insurgencies -- and would set up a potential impeachment scenario if the President failed to make the case before any operation began.

This is a textbook case of micromanaging a war. Instead of taking the one option open to Congress -- defunding the war effort -- they have decided to override the Constitution by setting themselves above the President in the chain of command. They understand that a defunding effort would unmask them as defeatists and retreatists while American troops face the terrorists, especially in Anbar. Even Joe Biden understands that much.

Nor are they opting for an honest method of floating this unconstitutional nonsense. The Democrats plan to attach the reworked AUMF as an amendment to a Homeland Security funding bill rather than allow an up-or-down vote on it in the Senate. They want to dare the Republicans to filibuster the spending bill or Bush to veto it if it passes with the new AUMF intact. They're playing games with the funds necessary to secure the nation during a time of war -- and they expect to be taken seriously on how to conduct one?

Good point.

More "Duh!" News from Iran

Like anyone with half a brain didn't know this, but all that "diplomacy" that's supposed to solve all the world's problems hasn't caused Iran even to slow down its uranium enrichment efforts.

In open defiance of the United Nations, Iran is steadily expanding — rather than freezing — its efforts to enrich uranium, the International Atomic Energy Agency reported today. The findings have prompted the Bush administration to press for more severe sanctions against Iran, at a moment of greatly increased tensions between Washington and Tehran.

In a mild surprise to outside experts, the nuclear agency reported that Iran is now operating, or is about to switch on, roughly 1,000 centrifuges, the high-speed devices that enrich uranium, at its main nuclear facility at Natanz.

Coming on the heels of the Bush administration’s accusations that Iran’s Quds force is sending arms and explosive devices into Iraq, the report heightens a growing confrontation.

The Iranians “are very serious,” said David Albright, a former inspector who is now president of the Institute for Science and International Security in Washington.

“They are installing faster than was commonly expected.”

And this was surprising...why? It's not like we haven't seen this scenario before. We went down the same trail with North Korea. Lots of finger-wagging and tut-tutting. Even some meaningless sanctions.

As we should all be aware by now, the U.N. is far better at padding their pockets with cash than actually doing anything about any worldwide problem. Can anyone name the last time U.N. action stopped a tyrant or dictator from, say, persuing nuclear weapons or killing significant portions of his country's population? Anyone?

No, this is yet the latest example of how well diplomacy works in real world applications. There will be more talk, talk at the U.N. while the Iranians do as they please. Then when they actually have nuclear weapons, whichever dunderhead is in charge of the U.N. will give a mushmouthed condemnation of it. Not that that will change anything. But, gosh, it sure does make those diplomacy advocates feel good!

Lieberman Says War Vote Could Cause Party Switch

According to this article, Joe Lieberman has said he might switch political parties.

Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut told the Politico on Thursday that he has no immediate plans to switch parties but suggested that Democratic opposition to funding the war in Iraq might change his mind.

Lieberman, a self-styled independent who caucuses with the Democrats, has been among the strongest supporters of the war and President Bush’s plan to send an additional 21,500 combat troops into Iraq to help quell the violence there.

"I have no desire to change parties," Lieberman said in a telephone interview. "If that ever happens, it is because I feel the majority of Democrats have gone in a direction that I don't feel comfortable with."

It's sort of a "Duh!" moment. Lieberman hasn't really been one of the moonbatty left for some time, and the wrangle he went through last fall to get re-elected left a bitter taste in his mouth for the Donkeycrats. He said to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday:
WALLACE: But looking at the three frontrunners — Clinton, Obama, Edwards — all of them in varying degrees expressing their opposition to the war and wanting to end our involvement there — could you support any presidential candidate who you didn't feel was committed to victory in Iraq?

LIEBERMAN: Well, you make a decision based on a whole range of issues. But obviously, the positions that some candidates have taken in Iraq troubles me. Obviously, I will be looking at what positions they take in the larger war against Islamist terrorism.

Here's where I am and maybe why it's — I am genuinely an Independent. I agree more often than not with Democrats on domestic policy. I agree more often than not with Republicans on foreign and defense policy. I'm an Independent.

WALLACE: And we've got less than a minute left.


WALLACE: Joe Lieberman grew up in John Bailey's Connecticut, Democratic vice presidential nominee. You're saying you might vote Republican in 2008.

LIEBERMAN: I am, because we have so much on the line both in terms of the Islamist terrorists, who are an enemy as brutal as the fascists and communists we faced in the last century, and we have great challenges here at home to make our economy continue to produce good jobs, to deal with our crises in health care, education, immigration, energy.

I want to choose the person that I believe is best for the future of our country. What I'm saying is what I said last year and what I think the voters said in November. Party is important, but more important is the national interest. And that's the basis that I will decide who to support for president.

It is simply horse hockey when moonbats paint Lieberman as a DINO. He scored an 80 out of 100 by the liberal Americans for Democratic Action. Lieberman isn't Republican unless it is in the Susan Collins or Olympia Snowe way of being a Republican (that is, not very much).

No, the motivation for Lieberman is his dogged belief in the war in Iraq and his refusal to compromise on the issue. That refusal makes him a rather unpopular man with Democrats, who really don't give a damn whether he votes the way People for the American Way wants 85% of the time. The Democratic Party has determined that this war will be just like Vietnam, and they aren't likely to forget anyone who doesn't agree with that.

I'm not sure the Republican Party needs more Democrats like Lieberman in their midst. They do need more Democrats like Lieberman when it comes to supporting the troops for real.

From Dust You Were Created and To Dust You Shall Return

Ash Wednesday has always been a somber occasion for me, not just because it marks the beginning of Lent, but because it is a reminder of how fragile life is.

As a Baptist growing up, I don't really recall celebrating Ash Wednesday. Perhaps it was "too Catholic" for us Baptists. As a Presbyterian, I now look forward to our Ash Wednesday services as a reminder of Christ's willing sacrifice for mankind. I missed the service this year due to flu, but I kept it in my heart, nonetheless.

This article reminded me that life is fragile and we must embrace it as it comes to us, not wait around for something better to come along.

My family is facing some difficult decisions dealing with my 80-year-old father. In a nutshell, he needs more care than I can give him, yet my siblings are reluctant to consider assisted living. The balance of needs and desires is a difficult one, and a huge burden.

As I watch my father's fragile life deteriorate, it makes me more anxious to grab the time I can with him. Yet spending more time with him means neglecting other family needs. It's hard to explain the tightrope one walks trying to keep everything going, but I am hopeful that my siblings and I will find a solution for my father's care problems. Pray for us as we deal with this situation.

The Red Queen Trial of Scooter Libby

Daniel Henninger has an excellent column on the Scooter Libby trial.

The trial of I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby is the closest version of a Red Queen trial this country has had in a long time. One says that knowing it might start a stampede from past defendants laying claim to the most upside-down prosecution.

Lewis G. Carroll's account of the Knave' s trial before the Red Queen and White Rabbit is famous for the Queen's dictum, "Sentence first, verdict afterward." But read the full transcript of the mock trial and one will see that the real subject is not justice, but the humiliation of the defendant.

The trial of Scooter Libby in Washington, the national capital of illogic, has been exemplary. In December 2003, the prosecutor purports a crime has been committed by revealing a "covert" CIA agent's identity to the press--despite knowing then what the outside world learned nearly three years later--that the revealer of the agent was a State Department official, Richard Armitage. With the "whodunnit" solved on day one, the prosecution follows the Red Queen's script by taking the nation on a useless, joyless ride through the opaque looking-glass of Washington journalism.

The testimony of three of the world's most sophisticated journalists--Judith Miller, Matthew Cooper and Tim Russert--was the trial's closest thing to the White Rabbit reading nonsense verse to the jury: "For this must ever be a secret, kept from all the rest, between yourself and me."

Yes, indeed. Libby is guilty of one thing only: he worked for this administration. That is enough in the moonbatosphere to convict him, even though there was no crime committed.

As Henninger points out, this is what our justice system has been reduced to: we no longer prosecute crimes, we pile innuendo upon innuendo, light the kindling, then torch the reputations of those in the middle. It's a most disgusting way for a legal system to behave.

Let the Hysteria Begin

The moonbatosphere is working itself into high dudgeon because the Nevada Democratic Party is working with Fox News to televise a debate with all Democratic candidates in August. They've even got this nice little petition so you don't have to work too hard. As it states, "Remember, a personalized email and subject header always helps."

Because, God yes, if it appears on Fox News, Democrats will melt like the Wicked Witch of the West when splashed with water.

Over at Daily Nutroot--er, KOS, there's a reminder of the atrocities committed by Fox News the last time they hosted such an event.

For an example of how disrespectful and counterproductive such Fox News-sponsored Democratic debates are, consider the September 9, 2003 Democratic debate in Baltimore, Maryland, hosted by Fox News in partnership with the Congressional Black Caucus. Fox News graphics, as well as a banner over the stage, titled the event as the "Democrat Candidate Presidential Debate," a misconstruction of "Democrat" used as an an epithet Fox News then summarized the debate with a story titled, "Democratic Candidates Offer Grim View of America," continuing with such jabs as, "The depiction of the president as the root of all evil began at the top of Tuesday night's debate...." Controversial questions included the accusation that Howard Dean had a racist gun policy by Fox News analyst Juan Williams. There were also multiple interruptions by protesters throughout the debate, leading to four arrests.

In deference to my friend Aphrael, I've stopped calling it the Democrat Party, but frankly, it's a bit silly to get worked into a lather about it. And characterizing the debates as an attempt to pin all evils on President Bush is accurate, and, honestly, would be accurate if used against a Democratic president, as well.

As Greg Tinti points out (via Michelle Malkin)
Maybe the Nevada Democratic Party actually wants to people to see this debate. And anyway, it's not like there aren't going to be dozens of other debates from now until the primaries. Everyone major network is going to get their turn. And can you even imagine how Markos et al. would react if righties started objecting about GOP debates being on CNN, MSNBC, or PBS and demanded they only be on FOX News?

Well, we know what the reaction would be. They would spend a lot of time linking to Media Matters and F.A.I.R. and trying to say that all media is really a rightwing conspiracy.

Whether Democrats like it or not, Fox News is a big news network and it draws lots of viewers, viewers who might be voting in the Democratic primaries. It's ridiculous to get worked up about this. Save the ire for a real offense which, I'm sure, they will find in the next five minutes.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

But There's No Difference in Religions

According to this story, a man killed his wife and four daughters because they were becoming "too western."

Any guesses as to the religion of this man?

Mohammed Riaz, 49, found it abhorrent that his eldest daughter wanted to be a fashion designer, and that she and her sisters were likely to reject the Muslim tradition of arranged marriages...

Riaz, who had spent all but the last 17 years of his life in the North West Frontier region of Pakistan, met his Anglo-Pakistani wife when her father sent her to the sub-continent to find a husband.

After an arranged marriage, she developed a career as a community leader in Accrington while he, handicapped by a lack of English, took on a series of low-paid jobs.

After Mrs Riaz's father died she "suddenly felt less beholden to Mohammed", a friend said. "She started to develop her own circle of friends and allowed the girls to express themselves in a more western way."

There are religions to be fearful of, but you don't see these stories about Christianity.

So, 21,500 Troops Is Too Little but 2,000 Is Too Much?

With Tony Blair's announcement that Britain is scaling back its forces in Iraq, a question has been tickling the back of my mind:

If cutting 2,000 troops from Basra is a devastating amount to leave, why isn't 21,500 troops considered to be a big increase?

Drugmaker Stops Lobbying HPV Vaccine

Via Dana at CSPT, comes news that Merck has decided to stop being quite so brazen in its attempt to grab government money for STD vaccines for 11-year-old girls.

Merck & Co., bowing to pressure from parents and medical groups, is immediately suspending its lobbying campaign to persuade state legislatures to mandate that adolescent girls get the company’s new vaccine against cervical cancer as a requirement for school attendance.

The drug maker, which announced the change Tuesday, had been criticized for quietly funding the campaign, via a third party, to require 11- and 12-year-old girls get the three-dose vaccine in order to attend school.

I'm glad to see the brakes being put on this, although it doesn't address the problem I face here in Texas, since Governor Rick Perry unilaterally decided this wasn't a parent's decision to "opt in." Of course, questions about Perry's ties to Merck came up, but that hasn't stopped Governor Goodhair.
Last month, the AP reported that Merck was channeling money for its state-mandate campaign through Women in Government, an advocacy group made up of female state legislators across the country.

Conservative groups opposed the campaign, saying it would encourage premarital sex, and parents’ rights groups said it interfered with their control over their children.

Even two of the prominent medical groups that supported broad use of the vaccine, the American Academy of Pediatricians and the American Academy of Family Practitioners, questioned Merck’s timing, Haupt said Tuesday.

“They, along with some other folks in the public health community, believe there needs to be more time,” he said, to ensure government funding for the vaccine for uninsured girls is in place and that families and government officials have enough information about it.

Legislatures in roughly 20 states have introduced measures that would mandate girls have the vaccine to attend school, but none has passed so far. However, Texas Gov. Rick Perry on Feb. 2 issued an executive order requiring Texas girls entering the sixth grade as of 2008 get the vaccinations, triggering protests from lawmakers in that state.

Perry defended his order Tuesday, a day after lawmakers in Austin held a lengthy hearing on the issue but failed to act on a bill to override the order.

The concerns of parents aren't just knee-jerk reactions of fundamentalists to government mandates like some people would have you believe. The vaccine was tested for less than five years, and only on a small number of younger teenagers. In short, they don't really know what the long-term effects of this vaccine could be on your daughter.

As of now, the best way to combat HPV is:
(a) Avoid having sex before marriage (that means both of you)

(b) Stay monogomous (that means both of you) during marriage, and

(c) Have yearly Pap smears. And if you just can't do (a) or (b), then

(d) Use barrier method protection.

Pap smears are considerably cheaper than the HPV vaccine, which protects against about 70% of the viruses that can cause cervical cancer. Because of the cost, it's a better method for trying to protect women from cervical cancer, rather than allowing government to mandate a vaccine for a non-communicable disease.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Just a Question

Why is it when other people perform atrocities in their countries that it is still America's fault?

This woman, Sabrine Al-Janabi, was taken from her home. She was raped multiple times and then beaten before she was raped some more. What devastates me is knowing that we did this. We turned another country into a place where women are regularly pulled from their homes and gang-raped.

Say what?!

I understand that the American left thinks all evil stems from America, but are these people so willfully ignorant that they deny the atrocities of the Hussein regime?

Apparently so.
Me: Um, no. The people who raped her did this. And I guess you don't believe in the rape rooms that where there before, right?

Commenter: Do you really want to go there, sharon? Because then we'd have to ask who provided Saddam with the funds to make those horrors happen as well.

I've always found this to be a weak argument, but it is typical of the blame America first crowd. If we give any foreign aid (and we give a lot), then any abuses are our fault. It would be nice if, instead of constantly blaming America, the left actually blamed the people who perpetrate these crimes. Novel idea, I know.

UPDATE: Later in the comment thread, Shakespeare' Sis said this:
I don't believe that they are personally responsible for an increase in rapes, with the exception of those who actually commit rapes themselves.

That I do agree with.