"You cannot qualify war in harsher terms than I will. War is cruelty, and you cannot refine it; and those who brought war into our country deserve all the curses and maledictions a people can pour out." - William Tecumseh Sherman

Name: The General
Location: Sacramento, California, United States


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Saturday, December 18, 2004
  Orin Kerr on Misleading Poll
Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy delves into the misleading press release that 44% of Americans support the restriction of the liberty of Muslim Americans.

What the poll actually shows is that many Americans support rational policies on dealing with terror, like profiling Muslims and infiltrating their organizations. Mr. Kerr's analysis here is quite good, even on the part of the poll which I agree is somewhat disturbing:
Of course, this is not to say that the poll results are heartening. In particular, it is very disturbing that 29% of Americans would agree that "All Muslim Americans should be required to register their whereabouts with the federal government." I can imagine less damning explanations for this figure, but it is on the whole quite troubling.

  Aquatic Altruism
Earlier this week a male teenager in Australia was killed by a great white shark while being drug by a boat on the ocean. This has sparked anger from the general public, and has led to South Australia's acting Premier Kevin Foley to grant an exception to the law prohibiting the killing of such sharks. However, the boys family wants the animal to be spared:
The young man's father, Philip Peterson, said the state government should electronically tag sharks known to enter metropolitan beaches, rather than kill them.

"We acknowledge that the sea is in fact the shark's domain and we don't, and I certainly personally don't, advocate the indiscriminate killing of any shark," he told ABC radio.

"In this case I gather it's a white pointer or white pointers but at the same time we would like to see funds provided to make our beach safer consistently without argument."

He said his son was well aware of the danger of the sea and the threats posed by sharks, but knew they were animals to be "admired, appreciated and respected".
While the shark can't be morally blamed for killing the boy, it is still at fault. The public's outrage is absolutely justified, and this shark should certainly be killed off. Mr. Peterson's advocacy in favor of the shark is chilling; and it certainly wouldn't be indiscriminate to kill the beast. His position is reminiscent of the biologists I have seen who attribute sharks killing people to a case of "mistaken identity", which we should humbly excuse.

This is altruism of the lowest order, the elevation of the non-human over the human. The ocean (and the Earth, for that matter) is not the domain of any creature, save man. Once an animal becomes a threat to human beings, that creature should no longer be tolerated - it should be hunted down, or otherwise restricted so that it can not inflict harm upon human beings.
Friday, December 17, 2004
  Yaron Brook (Really) Appears on O'Reilly Factor
I just finished watching Dr. Yaron Brook's appearance on the O'Reilly Factor. He did a good job presenting the proper means we should be applying to prosecute the war in Iraq.

Alas, Bill wasn't converted. His aversion to civilian deaths overrode sensible judgment. Nevertheless, Dr. Brook utilized every minute appropriately, and this is great advertising for Ayn Rand and Objectivism (O'Reilly even mentioned that Dr. Brook was from the Ayn Rand Institute, without any negative connotation being applied.)
  Apprentice Season II
Kelly Purdue has won the Apprentice. I can't say that I'm disappointed, because Kelly was pretty competent throughout the season. However, at the same time, I'm not thrilled either.

Last season when I watched, I was a solid Bill Rancic fan. He had a certain charisma and idealism that I found fulfilling and admirable. This season there was no comparable candidate. In fact, I found myself hating several members of the cast and actively welcoming their impending doom. While this is satisfying to some degree, it isn't a sign of success for a television series.

I've noticed this with several "reality" shows, where the first season or two there are people I've been quite partial too, and then later on nothing. When a show degenerates into complete negativity, where I spend more time wishing for someone's downfall than someone's success, that's a sign that the show has reached its nadir and is about to expire.

I'm not giving up on Trump though - I'll check out next season (starting in Jan. 2005), and at least give it a chance (the same with American Idol, though it has far less room to bargain with me). On a more positive note, I'd like to recommend The Amazing Race - I find it to be an interesting show, and there are some couples whom I can actually somewhat admire (my favorite team is Chris and John).
  Krauthammer on Syria
I haven't always been impressed with Charles Krauthammer, but today (12/16/04) he blew me away. I saw him on Fox News with Brit Hume, Jeff Birnbaum and Fred Barnes. It was a round table discussion, covering Social Security reform and Syria's interference in Iraq.

His comments on Social Security reform were interesting; while most conservatives are blindly "cheering" Bush and celebrating the end of Social Security, Krauthammer astutely pointed out that most congressmen won't vote for a proper reform. He said something to the effect that they "would vote for a provision that included a free lunch, without essentially changing the system", which he called totally irresponsible. I found that pretty surprising, from a conservative (so few seem to think independently these days).

Even better though, were his comments on Syria. First Fred Barnes properly criticized and made light of the President's "threats" (yes, scare quotes) to Syria and Iran, telling them to stop meddling in Iraq. Barnes called them weak and ineffective, which they absolutely are. Krauthammer then went on to say that there was one solution to Syria, bomb them. Not necessarily declare war, mind you. But give them a swift kick to the gut, letting them know we won't put up with any nonsense. I beamed in my seat, and laughed out loud with joy. Krauthammer said that "bombs are all they understand", and even opined that we should have done so when we first went in.

If I'm fortunate enough to find the transcript for this exchange, I'll be sure to post it so that everyone else can enjoy (somewhat vicariously) the thrill of rational ideas on war.
  Gun Control Rears It's Ugly Head
Eugene Volokh points to a piece from the AP on a new handgun ban that San Francisco's supervisors are attempting to pass.
Wednesday, December 15, 2004
  Excellent Cartoon (Funny Too!)
Another great one (hat tip: Pharyngula):

  Yaron Brook on the O'Reilly Factor
I received the following from ARI:
Dr. Yaron Brook, executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute, has been re-scheduled for an interview on Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor" on Friday, December 17, 2004. The topic will be Iraq. This program airs at 8 p.m. and 11 p.m. Eastern Time. Please check your local listings for exact times in your area.
Tuesday, December 14, 2004
  Judicial Filibusters
Norman J. Ornstein has written an excellent piece (hat tip: David) in support of judicial filibustering by the Senate: Ghost of Abe Fortas Hangs over Discussion of Judicial Filibusters. As a historical example, he points to the filibustering of one of President Lyndon Johnson's nominees by the Republicans. Senator Robert Griffin (R-Mich) led the charge, and his understanding of the appropriate function of the filibuster as a brake is very good. Here are some quotes from him, via the article:
“It is important to realize that it has not been unusual for the Senate to indicate its lack of approval for a nomination by just making sure that it never came to a vote on the merits. As I said, 21 nominations to the Court have failed to win Senate approval. But only nine of that number were rejected on a direct, up-and-down vote. . . .

“As more senior members of this body know so well, the Senate works its will in various ways. In the situation confronting us now, there are good and sufficient reasons for refusing to take up the nomination. . . .

“If ever there is a time when all Senators should be extremely reluctant to shut off debate, it is when the Senate debates a Supreme Court nomination. If Congress makes a mistake in the enactment of legislation, it can always return to the subject matter and correct the error at a later date. But when a lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court is confirmed by the Senate, the nominee is not answerable thereafter to the Senate or to the people, and an error cannot be easily remedied. . . .

“Whatever one’s view may be concerning the practical effect of Senate rules with respect to the enactment of legislation, there are strong reasons for commending them in the case of a nomination to the Supreme Court.”
  Archaic Laws On Sex
Brian Alexander at MSNBC has a fascinating article surveying the laws in several states which prohibit various sexual acts between consenting adults. While they are rarely enforced, these laws should all be excised. Here's a small sampling, for your own reference (I'd hate to find out you'd been arrested for these offenses - ignorance of the law isn't an excuse).
If you’re traveling with a lover, and you are not married to each other, but feeling in the mood, you’d better not rent a hotel room in North Carolina because "any man and woman found occupying the same bedroom in any hotel, public inn, or boardinghouse for any immoral purpose...shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.”
Sex under those circumstances would absolutely be “immoral” because, like many other states, North Carolina has laws against fornication whether you are in a hotel or just at home: “If any man and woman not being married to each other, shall lewdly and lasciviously associate, bed, and cohabit together, they shall be guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.”

In Idaho, fornication can get you a $300 fine and six months in jail. But that’s a piece of cake compared to the penalty for adultery -- up to a $1,000 fine and three years in the state pen.

If you’re a man in Oklahoma, and you tell a virgin female you want to marry her, then you two commit fornication, you had better not change your mind about the marriage, Bub, or else you’ve committed a felony. You could go to jail for five years. Luckily, if you change your mind back again, and make an honest woman of her, all is forgiven.

Idaho, Indiana, North Carolina, Oklahoma and Texas are all conservative “red states.” Massachusetts, on the other hand, is the ultimate “blue state,” the state Bush accused of being full of “liberals” as if the state were a breeding ground for godless subversives. But it’s got some doozy sex laws. Adultery could get you three years in state prison. Sell a dildo, do five years. (I’ve previously mentioned anti-vibrator laws in Texas.) The state even has a catch-all statute for any “unnatural and lascivious act with another person.” The law doesn’t say just what is unnatural or lascivious.

Maryland appears to outlaw just about everything except the missionary position between married men and women. The law prescribes 10 years for “any unnatural or perverted sexual practice” like, say, oral sex. Not only that, but, says the law, the state can indict you without naming the particular act it’s accusing you of committing or even the manner in which you committed it.
  No Child Left Behind
Now here's an education policy I can agree with (hat tip: Pharyngula):

  The Ottoman Empire Turkey
Charles Johnson at LGF has noticed an interesting story on the resurgence of Islam in the ostensibly secular nation of Turkey.

Turkey is the remnant of the Ottoman Empire (the last Islamic Caliphate) from WWI. It was "founded" by Kemal Mustapha, a.k.a. Ataturk, who became its first President. He hated Islam (not so much because it was irrational as that it was Arabian), and wanted to return Turkey to the Turks. I've always thought that Turkey would return to Islam rather than move to rationality, so this story is all the more interesting for me in that light.

One other interesting thing caught my attention in this article, stemming from this quotation:
"“Islam is reclaiming its rightful place in Turkey,"” said Kenan Alpay, an organizer at Ozgur Der, or Freedom Association, a conservative Islamist group. "“We have been on the sidelines of politics and society too long. That’s ending."”
If you replace "Islam" with "Christianity" and "Turkey" with "America", you'd be listening to a typical conservative's viewpoint. This isn't surprising of course; as one of my co-workers put it (and he's the most religious Christian I know), "The only difference between Christian and Muslim fundamentalists is the Crescent and the Cross."
  Yaron Brook Canceled?
Yaron Brook's appearance on the O'Reilly Factor has been canceled. I apologize for whetting everyone's appetite and then letting you all down - I can be such a tease.
Monday, December 13, 2004
  Interesting Talk About Supreme Court
Eugene Volokh at the Volokh Conspiracy points to some interesting blogs discussing why replacing Rehnquist with Scalia or Thomas might actually be a good thing. The links are worth looking into, even if I tend to disagree with them.
  Parents Television Council
This is apropos of my previous post on Chairman Powell and the FCC, albeit a few days late.

Wonkette gets the details about the Parents Television Council, "an Alexandria-based junior league Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice." What's particularly interesting about this group, is that they're responsible for "99.9 percent of indecency complaints to the FCC through October". That's pretty substantial, although given the Council's purpose, it doesn't surprise me. Wonkette also aptly captures the meaning of the above:
Yes, democracy: Where a small group of religious fundamentalists aggressively patrols all forms of mass culture and tells the rest of us what we can watch.
  Rumsfeld, Let My People Go
Sunday, December 12, 2004
  Ayn Rand in the Telegraph
Luke Johnson has written a piece in the Telegraph on Why We Want To Make Money. While it isn't philosophically perfect, it does feature a very positive mention of Ayn Rand!
Ayn Rand, the author of The Fountainhead and inventor of objectivism, was perhaps the foremost exponent of the unfettered philosophy of laissez-faire capitalism. She originated "the concept of man as a heroic being" with "productive achievement as his noblest activity". Her books and beliefs remain popular today.
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