"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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Friday, January 14, 2005
  Software Patents
The following headline from the Mises Blog caught my attention: Surely Without Patents No One Will Invent Widgets. The post goes on to note that IBM has opened 500 of its software patents to the "open-source" software development community, and that the European Union is looking to scrap software patents entirely.

As someone with a BS in computer science, I'd just like to add some interesting observations. Several prominent "open-source" projects, began as commercial projects, protected by the very patents being decried here. Let's just list some: There are very good pieces of software that have been developed without patents; but generally, they aren't as good (i.e., complete, feature rich, practical) as commercially developed software.

Also, I'm sad to say, most programmers are way to my left; when I went to college (I just graduated 8 months ago), I was the only person who liked Microsoft, let alone actually admitted that their products were any good. It is cachet amongst programmers to revile Microsoft and most commercial software; anytime an "open-source" equivalent is available, it is flocked too. I also found this attitude entrenched in most of the faculty, as well.
  Cox and Forkum - Caveman Diet
Thursday, January 13, 2005
  Quote of the Day
After I read this quotation from Michael Crichton, I couldn't resist posting it here (hat tip: Volokh Conspiracy):
I want to pause here and talk about this notion of consensus, and the rise of what has been called consensus science. I regard consensus science as an extremely pernicious development that ought to be stopped cold in its tracks. Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.

Let's be clear: the work of science has nothing whatever to do with consensus. Consensus is the business of politics. Science, on the contrary, requires only one investigator who happens to be right, which means that he or she has results that are verifiable by reference to the real world. In science consensus is irrelevant. What is relevant is reproducible results. The greatest scientists in history are great precisely because they broke with the consensus.

There is no such thing as consensus science. If it's consensus, it isn't science. If it's science, it isn't consensus. Period.
  More Things Legal
I've really been interested in all things legal right now, especially dealing with constitutional law. Timothy Sandefur, a lawyer for the Pacific Legal Foundation(a public interest law firm with "libertarian" leanings) has some interesting blog postings in this vein. One is regarding the commerce clause of the constitution, and how it has been a catalyst for the growth of government. As before, there is bad philosophy mixed in, so, caveat emptor. But I found much of it to be interesting.
  Good Article on Lawrence v. Texas
I've mentioned approvingly the Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas, where a law against sodomy was declared unconstitutional. As I was perusing the web, I came across a really interesting article on this case, by law professor Randy Barnett (some may remember seeing him in the news recently, when he defended the use of medical cannabis before the Supreme Court). While the article isn't perfect, it is a fascinating outline of some of the major Supreme Court decisions that led up to Lawrence.

If you find the topic at all interesting, you will probably find the article worth reading. It's about 20 pages long, and is available from the National Review or in PDF format here (right click to save the PDF to your hard drive). Be sure to put your philosophic detective hats on, and enjoy the ride.
  Great Op-Ed on War in Iraq From ARI
Yaron Brook and Elan Journo have written an excellent op-ed on the "quagmire" that Iraq has become, and why President Bush's "compassionate" war can only end in failure.
The horrific suicide bombing in December of a U.S. mess tent near Mosul and the assassination on Jan. 10 of the deputy chief of Baghdad police--the second Iraqi official murdered in five days--are further indications that the war in Iraq is worsening. Things are going badly not because, as some claim, the United States is arrogant and lacking in humility--but because it is self-effacing and compassionate.

The Bush Administration's war in Iraq embraces compassion instead of the rational goal of victory. Such an immoral approach to war wantonly sacrifices the lives of soldiers and emboldens our enemies throughout the Middle East to mount further attacks against us.

Regardless of whether the Iraqi dictatorship should have been our initial target in the war against totalitarian Islam, when in the nation's defense a President sends troops to war, morally he must resolve to soundly defeat the enemy while safeguarding our forces and citizens. But America's attention has been diverted to rebuilding Iraqi hospitals, schools, roads and sewers, and on currying favor with the locals (some U.S. soldiers were even ordered to grow moustaches in token of their respect for Iraqi culture, others are now given cultural sensitivity courses before arriving in Iraq). Since the war began, Islamic militants and Saddam loyalists have carried out random abductions, devastating ambushes, and catastrophic bombings throughout the country. That attacks on U.S. forces (including those engaged in reconstruction efforts) have gone unpunished has emboldened the enemy.

Early and stark evidence of the enemy's growing audacity came in March 2004 with the grisly murder and mutilation of four American contractors. Following the attack, U.S. forces entered the city of Fallujah vowing to capture the murderers and punish the town that supports them. But such resolve was supplanted by compassion.

In the midst of the fighting the United States called a unilateral ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid in and to enable the other side to collect and bury its dead. The so-called truce benefited only the enemy. The Iraqis, as one soldier told the Associated Press, were "absolutely taking advantage" of the situation, regrouping and mounting sporadic attacks: as another soldier aptly noted, "It is hard to have a cease-fire when they maneuver against us, they fire at us." As the siege wore on, the goal of capturing the murderers quietly faded--and the enemy's confidence swelled.

Neither the later offensive on Fallujah in November nor any of the subsequent incursions have quelled the insurgents: witness the unending string of car bombings and (road-side) ambushes. Why?

Because in Fallujah and throughout this war the military (under orders from Washington) has been purposely treading lightly. Soldiers have strict orders to avoid the risk of killing civilians--many of whom aid or are themselves militants--even at the cost of imperiling their own lives. Mosques, which have served as hideouts for terrorists, are kept off the list of allowed targets. Military operations have been timed to avoid alienating Muslim pilgrims on holy days.

There is no shortage of aggressors lusting for American blood, and they grow bolder with each display of American compassion.

Consider the shameful tenderness shown toward the Islamic cleric Moktadr al-Sadr, who aspires to be the dictator of an Iranian-style theocracy in Iraq. An admirer of the 9/11 hijackers, Sadr has amassed an armed militia of 10,000 men (right under the noses of our military), and demanded that Coalition forces leave Iraq. On the run for the murder of another cleric, he took refuge with his militia in the holy city of Najaf, which has been surrounded by U.S. troops. Rather than attacking, however, the United States agreed to negotiate. It is as absurd to negotiate with and trust the word of a villain such as Sadr as it would have been to negotiate with Nazis bent on wiping out Allied forces in World War II. It is shockingly dangerous that the United States allowed a mediator from Iran--part of the "Axis of Evil" and Sadr's ideological ally--to assist in the negotiations.

In the end Sadr was allowed to walk away along with his armed militia; his agreement to disarm them has--predictably--gone unfulfilled.

For the enemies of America, Iraq is like a laboratory where they are testing our mettle, with mounting ferocity. The negotiations with Sadr; the half-hearted raids on Fallujah; our timid response to daily insurrections throughout Iraq; America's outrageously deferential treatment of its enemies--all of these instances of moral weakness reinforce the view of bin Laden and his ilk that America will appease those who seek its destruction.

If we continue to confess doubts about our moral right to defend ourselves, it will only be a matter of time before Islamic militants bring suicide-bombings and mass murder (again) to the streets of the United States.

Though Washington may be blinded by the longing to buy the love of Iraqis, our servicemen know all too well that (as one put it): "When you go to fight, it's time to shoot--not to make friends with people." In its might and courage our military is unequaled; it is the moral responsibility of Washington to issue battle plans that will properly "shock and awe" the enemy. Eschewing self-interest in the name of compassion is immoral. The result is self-destruction.

Dr. Yaron Brook is executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute. Elan Journo is a writer for the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, CA. The Institute promotes the philosophy of Ayn Rand, author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
Wednesday, January 12, 2005
  Adoption Law in Florida
From USA Today:
The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday allowed Florida to continue barring gay men and lesbians from adopting children under a law that is the only one of its kind in the nation.

The high court's action - taken in a brief order without a recorded vote - leaves in place a lower court ruling that upheld the Florida law, which was passed in 1977 as part of an anti-homosexual campaign backed by singer Anita Bryant. The lower court said that there is no constitutional right to adopt children and that Florida has a legitimate interest in encouraging adoptions by families with a mother and father.
Although I hadn't expected it, I had slightly hoped that the Supreme Court would hear this case, and pass a similar ruling to the one it passed in Lawrence v. Texas, where it struck down a law banning sodomy. It really shows the naked altruism of the religious right, that they would rather have a child suffer in a vicious foster care system, than be placed in a loving home with gay parents.

Maybe this is a controversial position, but I don't think there should be any such ban. Those who have read this blog for a while know that I also think gay marriage should be legalized.

The USA Today article above concludes that the justices' decision not to hear the case is not a victory for either side; I disagree. This is a win for the religious right. They were shocked and dismayed when the court overturned the Texas sodomy law.

An excellent example of the religious right's views on these "moral values" issues is Phyllis Schlafly, a lawyer and radio talk show host. I recently had the (unpleasant) experience of reading her latest book, The Supremacists: The Tyranny of Judges and How to Stop It. The following quote is very revealing of the attitude of the religious right (especially for those of you who think they won't live to see a christian theocracy):
The out-of-the-mainstream attitudes expressed in the majority opinion in Lawrence v. Texas dealt a devastating blow to long-standing American laws and beliefs about morals and self-government, striking down our right to legislate against immoral actions and doing so without advancing any argument that reasonably relates to the U.S. Constitution. No constitutional argument justified the decision that created the new right of sodomy. The decision evolved out of the social preferences of the justices and their pandering to liberal elites.

Justice Kennedy, who wrote the majority opinion, based it on "an emerging awareness that liberty gives substantial protection to adult persons in deciding how to conduct their private lives." It's obvious that using the criterion of "emerging awareness" gives much more latitude to the judicial supremacists who want to impose their avant-garde doctrines than does adhering to the Constitution, the text of the laws, and the intent of the people.
Now it's true that the Supreme Court has many times taken "liberties" (please excuse the pun) with the constitution; but note that this is not what Schlafly (and the conservatives) are against. They are opposed to the idea of the Supreme Court as a check on their arbitrary power to legislate christian morality; they are opposed to the power of judicial review.

This is why it's imperative that Bush not nominate any more conservatives like Scalia or Thomas to the Supreme Court. Just two more conservative justices could very well end judicial review, and condemn all of us to the tyranny of the state we live in.
  Essence of a Politican
The Washington Post ran a story today regarding the Republican detractors to President Bush's plan to restructure Social Security. I found the following quote, which dumbfounded me, if only for its candor:
"Why stir up a political hornet's nest . . . when there is no urgency?" said Rep. Rob Simmons (Conn.), who represents a competitive district. "When does the program go belly up? 2042. I will be dead by then."
That quotation sums up why it is too early to jump into politics.
  Quote of the Day
The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters

--Frederick Douglass (1818-1895)
Monday, January 10, 2005
  Sine philosophia saepe errëmus et poenäs damus...
Dianna's back. Check out her blog to see what this latin phrase means.
  How Nerdy Are You?
I just finished taking a test to determine my "nerdiness" (hat tip: Pharyngula). Here are the results:

I am nerdier than 89% of all people. Are you nerdier? Click here to find out!
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