Recently in Issues Category

This has been bothering me ever since that debate, complete with all the left wing crap about conservatives cheering for a death. They weren't cheering for a death; they were cheering because someone running for public office wasn't giving an emotional knee-jerk response and managed to actually - and correctly in my opinion - consider the counterarguments.

Let us consider the question as asked. It posited a young healthy man who could have afforded health care - could *EASILY* have afforded health care as he was young, disease free, and had a good paying job. He makes makes a decision not to purchase insurance, and some such young men do every year, loses the bet he is effectively making by getting into an accident that puts him into a hospital in a coma.

Where does the money to treat him come from? Increased cost to the provider. But who really pays those costs? Why, the other customers of that provider, of course. This means they get less health coverage than their dollars would otherwise buy, or it costs them more. For some of them, it makes the difference between a bill they can pay and one they cannot. So paying that young man's medical bill means that these people cannot afford health coverage. Guess what happens? Some of them - a larger number this time - need care and cannot pay for it. We get another entire round of this whole circle. And another. At some point people start asking why they should pay at all, as they can "free ride" off other people's coverage. Soon, nobody is paying for it, and immediately after that, there is none. Doctors can't get paid, there is no money for the machines, no money for the hospitals, no NOTHING in the way of health care. Maybe there's a few charities providing small services somewhere, kind of like Doctors Without Borders, but there is NOT the entire edifice of aggressive, comprehensive health care like we have come to expect in the last several decades.

You think I'm making a mountain out of a molehill? I am not. This is elementary behavioral psychology and basic economics. Them's the facts. It takes time to get to the conclusion, but we're not starting from zero and it's a compound interest expansion. Furthermore, the farther down this road we travel the harder it is to reverse, and from the point we reverse it, it is at least as hard to get back to this point as it was to get here in the first place.

Make it a government program, and it gets worse faster because government employees have no sensitivity to cost or efficient care or anything along those lines, plus you have government paid people imposing nonsense rules on everyone involved - providers, consumers, and all points in the supply chain on the basis of all the minor abuses that have ever been found in the system, whether or not that abuse applies to the situation at hand. All of those rules have their own costs, which in turn means that the resources to treat even more people are wasted on bureaucracy, and fraud prevention, and investigation into the merits of every claim, which delays treatment and allows the condition to fester (assuming its not one that would get better on its own, in which case I ask does the person really need health care?)

There are alternatives. Family friends and charity could decide to pay the cost of the young man's care. It was stipulated in the question that the young man was in a coma, but if not unconscious he could use that income he has been earning to persuade someone to give him a loan that would pay for the care.

But the question was "what should the government do?" and once you have examined all the costs of the two alternatives, my emotional value driven judgment says that the course of action with the lowest cost in terms of preventable deaths, treatable lesser conditions becoming prohibitive, and general availability of healthcare to the population at large is likely - in fact almost certainly - for the government to do NOTHING in that situation. It's not a popular solution. That young man has those friends and family members all crying about what a tragedy this would be, while the victims are at this point unknown and nameless. But they're not any less real for all of that, and refusal to face precisely these facts is one of the factors driving up the cost of health care and therefore insurance to those who want to pay it.

By all means let us have this debate. But let's drag the actuaries into it so that we're all aware of all the costs - the real costs - and make our choices based upon that, while both sides are equally abstract and we can choose a compromise that everyone can live with. Because the choice given is a rotten one at the point you have a specific face to put with the course of action that actually costs more lives and more misery, and no comparable faces to put on the other side. Like say, a hundred 7 year old girls who don't get their medicines or who don't get quite enough medicine because the money that was used to pay for this clown's intensive care mean there's no resources left for them.

In short, the question itself was either so viciously dishonest and one-sided as to evidence a political partisan trying to score cheap points, or so deliberately ignorant of the real choices we face in health care as to evidence that they should not be allowed input into the issue.

There's a program that President Bush got Congress to pass in late summer 2007 called FHA Secure. As passed, it was horribly limited by Loan to Value restrictions (97%), when the problem is that most folks are actually upside down on adjustable loans.

(This means that their payments have adjusted to something they cannot afford, and it's very tough to refinance to something reasonable through any kind of traditional lending program when you owe more than the property is worth)

I've been calling for the expansion of FHA Secure - eliminating Loan to Value as a criterion, but retaining Debt to Income and all other qualifications. The cost, a lot cheaper than the bailout, could be paid by levy on the lenders being relieved of their loans to pay for eventual losses.

This would have the effect of blunting the flooding of the housing market with thousands (millions nationwide) of people being forced into short sale and foreclosure. By tamping down on the flood of properties (supply) limited demand would not drop the price nearly so far, blunting the deflation of the market and making it likely far more people could manage to dig out successfully, many of them upon their own efforts. It wouldn't solve the crisis completely, but it would definitely lessen the problem by at least a factor of two, perhaps as high as five - reducing the problem to something the market can handle with very minimal direct assistance to financial megacorporations who should have known better.

Cost to Benefit ratio: Much better than any contemplated bailout. And it even helps the little folks who were mislead into debt they couldn't handle by alleged professionals who failed in their fiduciary duty. The ones who aren't "too big to fail", but who don't have six figure incomes and severance packages to take the sting out of losing one job.

(Scroll down for update)

The Supreme Court Decision in Heller vs DC was handed down this morning, and it was a win for the Constitution and people of the United States!

Supreme Court says Americans have right to guns

It was a lot closer than most court watchers were expecting, 5-4 instead of 6-3 or even 7-2.

Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia said that an individual right to bear arms is supported by "the historical narrative" both before and after the Second Amendment was adopted.

It's amazing that this had to go all the way to the Supreme Court to get something that obvious written

In a dissent he summarized from the bench, Justice John Paul Stevens wrote that the majority "would have us believe that over 200 years ago, the Framers made a choice to limit the tools available to elected officials wishing to regulate civilian uses of weapons."

He said such evidence "is nowhere to be found."

Justice Stevens? I think it's time to wake up now. Explicitly limiting the power of the government was precisely the point of the entire Bill of Rights, as is documented in many places by the writings of the framers. The only reason to think it's not there is the inability to process the information or the willful disregard for the evidence.

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote a separate dissent in which he said, "In my view, there simply is no untouchable constitutional right guaranteed by the Second Amendment to keep loaded handguns in the house in crime-ridden urban areas."

Justice Breyer? That's precisely where it's most necessary. In case you weren't aware, the Supreme Court (among many others) has ruled that the police are not legally responsible for pre-emptive protection (This is a good thing. The erosion of civil liberties from such a police duty would be unconscionable). There are quite strong laws against robbery, breaking and entering, and murder. If those laws do not stop the criminal, why should one more law (against the possession of weapons) stop them? The old saying "Better to be tried by twelve than carried by six" applies just as strongly to a criminal who can be expected to encounter a large number of dangerous situations.

Scalia said nothing in Thursday's ruling should "cast doubt on long-standing prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons or the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings."

The first part is good and necessary. As for the latter? One step at a time.

ScotusBlog

Examining the words of the Amendment, the Court concluded "we find they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weaons in case of confrontation" -- in other words, for self-defense. "The inherent right of self-defense has been central to the Second Amendment right," it added.

The individual right interpretation, the Court said, "is strongly confirmed by the historical background of the Second Amendment," going back to 17th Century England, as well as by gun rights laws in the states before and immediately after the Amendment was put into the U.S. Constitution.

What Congress did in drafting the Amendment, the Court said, was "to codify a pre-existing right, rather than to fashion a new one."

and

The Court took no position on whether the Second Amendment right restricts only federal government powers, or also curbs the power of states to regulate guns. In a footnote, Scalia said that the issue of "incorporating" the Second into the Fourteenth Amendment, thus applying it to the states, was "a question not presented by this case." But the footnote said decisions in 1886 and 1894 had reaffirmed that the Amendment "applies only to the Federal Government." Whether the Court will reopen that issue thus will depend upon future cases.

I'd like to see that revisited. Either most of the most obnoxious laws and decisions in the country get reversed (Roe Vs. Wade, among many others, relies upon this very precedent and line of reasoning, and while I think abortion needs to be legal, Roe vs. Wade was a horrible decision), or the Fourteenth Amendment applies the Second Amendment to the states as well. It's basically a "no-lose" situation. It's just that the issue hasn't been revisited in 110 years that's the reason for the existing precedent as regards whether the Fourteenth Amendment applies thus.

Don Surber wants to make this decision a litmus test for justices and presidential candidates, a la Roe Vs. Wade on the left. I have to disagree. Single issue litmuses are something to avoid, because sooner or later the litmus tests prevent any but the most narrow and twisted ideogogues from serving. You have to look at the whole picture with a candidate - or a justice nominee. Individual issues can be regarded as "points against" or "points for" - the idea being that if a judicial nominee has an overall passing score, they should be confirmed. I can't name anybody I agree with on everything - and I don't think anyone except a victim of mass brain washing can either. This is how opinion evolves, instead of fossilizing.

Big Lizards with some history:

Many circus courts that held the amendment applied only to members of the National Guard hung their robes on an equally stupid misreading of U.S. v. Miller, 307 U.S. 174 (1939). In that bizarre case, Jack Miller and Frank Layton were charged with transporting a short-barreled shotgun across state lines. The trial court found that the National Firearms Act -- the law they were accused of violating -- was unconstitutional because of the Second Amendment; the Supreme Court overturned that verdict.

The Court ruled, at core, that the amendment only protected possession of those weapons normally used in armies or militias. No evidence was presented that short-barreled shotguns were in common use among such bodies (though of course they were): The reason no evidence was presented, I believe, was that Miller's attorneys did not show up at the Supreme Court hearing -- as their client had inconveniently been murdered in prison while awaiting appeal.

Default rulings are as binding as any other. 80% of life is showing up.

Hot Air has lots of good stuff.

Volokh Conspiracy only has a bare bones thus far, but I would expect them to have something more substantive later. Someone said the decision cited Professor Volokh three times.

Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit said he's teaching a class, but expects to have his reaction later. Powerline should also be interesting

Every once in a while, I have to check out the idiocy on the far left, so here we go

Oliver Willis calls it "head spin watch"

It will be interesting to watch those conservatives who yesterday decried the "activist" court for their death penalty decision now affirm that the gun decision today is firm and fair.

Um, Oliver? The Right to Keep and Bear Arms is a right explicitly spelled out in the text of the Constitution. The one yesterday (prohibiting the death penalty in the case of child rape) relies upon the fact that most states today do not permit it to ban it entirely. So what if ten years from now, forty-eight states want such a penalty? Because they change their laws individually, such a decision prevents any state from changing it's mind. Suppose it had been illegal for California to legalize "right turn on red light" back in the thirties? That's the way we make progress - one state or one municipality decides to try an experiment. If it works, others follow. That decision essentially prevents such experimentation. This one affirms a basic constitutional right, one (unlike the decision in Roe vs. Wade) explicitly found in the text of the constitution.


Daily Kos is truly mind-boggling to read. Justice Stevens arguing for judicial restraint? Nobody's certain what the text of the Second Amendment says? FYI:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

I didn't have time or stomach for the comments, but I imagine they'll be amusing if you've got the right mind-set.

Huffington Post is just as rational and logical as ever: Ad-hominem straight from the headline, ""Sport Shooting Ambassador Award" Winner Antonin Scalia's 2nd Amendment Ruling Does His Gun Pals Proud"

Even the first few commenters take the entry to task.

UPDATE: At ScotusBlog

It doesn't take a mathematician to recognize the narrow margin in this case. Replace any one of the five justices in the majority with a more liberal appointment - many of whom will be waiting in line if Barack Obama wins the presidency - and the outcome would have flipped. Americans would have lost the individual right to keep and bear arms. For some, this may be a welcome change, but for many of us, it's the sort of thought that makes the hairs on the back of our necks stand up.

text of the decision is here

Dave Kopel

After analyzing the text of the Second Amendment, the majority opinion then detailed the interpretation of the Second Amendment in the first half of the 19th century, showing that every legal scholar (except for one minor exception), along with state and federal courts, recognized the Second Amendment as an individual right to have guns for various purposes, including self-defense.

As Scalia explained, after the Civil War, Congress passed the Freedmen's Bureau Act of 1866, the Civil Rights Act of 1871, and then the Fourteenth Amendment -- all with the explicit purpose of stopping southern governments from interfering with the Second Amendment rights of former slaves to own firearms to protect their homes and families. All the scholarly commentators of the late 19th century -- including the legal giants Thomas Cooley and Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr. -- recognized the Second Amendment as an individual right.

and

The 1939 case of United States v. Miller, which held that a tax and registration requirement for sawed-off shotguns was not facially unconstitutional, is heavily relied on by the dissent. But the majority points out that Miller's analysis of the history of the Second Amendment was cursory; Miller did not even submit a brief, and, as explicated in a law review article cited by Scalia, the Miller case appears to have been a collusive case involving a corrupted defense attorney doing the bidding of the prosecutor. Most importantly, the Miler opinion turned on whether the particular type of gun was protected by the Second Amendment, and did not declare that only militiamen had a right to arms.

and (important!)

Justice Scalia accurately noted that the Breyer approach would negate the very decision to enact the Second Amendment: "We know of no other enumerated constitutional right whose core protection has been subjected to a freestanding 'interest-balancing' approach. The very enumeration of the right takes out of the hands of government -- even the Third Branch of Government -- the power to decide on a case-by-case basis whether the right is really worth insisting upon. A constitutional guarantee subject to future judges' assessments of its usefulness is no constitutional guarantee at all. Constitutional rights are enshrined with the scope they were understood to have when the people adopted them, whether or not future legislatures or (yes) even future judges think that scope too broad."

I want to make it crystal clear that the United States needs immigrants. Legal immigrants, with skills and willingness to work that know English (or want to learn!) and become taxpayers and citizens and be an asset to our country. Never mind the influx of ideas they bring (which are also valuable). The expansion of our economy requires more people to work in it, and our current citizens are just barely replacing ourselves. If not for immigration, our economy would be a lot less vibrant than it is.



We do not need potential immigrants who don't want to learn English. They get established in segregated ghettos and create more and more problems as time goes on. Most of western Europe is finding this out the hard way right now.



We do not need potential immigrants who may not be able to pay for their own medical care, or pensions. Our system of social services is already overburdened and is actuarially certain to suffer massive failures in the next decade or so. Every person we add who becomes a net drain on the system makes those failures occur both sooner, and more disastrously.



We definitely do not need potential immigrants who are unrepentant lawbreakers. We might as well tell the people who spend years on applications and waiting lists and patiently crossing t's and dotting i's to come here legally that they are stupid victims of a con game meant to keep them out.



The whole immigration issue makes me feel like a spouse that's been cheated on one time too many. Except that it's more like 101 times too many.



My whole life - and I'm getting close to 50 - we the citizenry of this country have been sold one bill of goods after another on immigration issue. Every time, the powers that be tell us that they'll Really Enforce The Law This Time, and get the borders under control. Tom Lehrer was writing satire on Senator George Murphy back in 1965, when I was four years old, that included this very issue. The issue keeps getting recycled, and every time the people with incentives to keep the borders open tell us that if we'll just give them this one more chance to do what they want, they'll stop for good this time. Kind of like the Palestinians and the Israelis, except that even the Israelis have finally wised up.



The issue has become one huge festering tragedy of the commons, because so many people have a finger in the pie of illegal immigration, they don't realize what it's costing them.



Big business is obviously one. Higher supply of unskilled labor means lower prices for it, not to mention the fact that they can use illegal status as a lever against their employees who are violating the law. It's a reason why they can't complain about any number of employment law violations. From the employer's viewpoint, not only do they get cheap labor, but they don't have any reason for complying with the OSHA, FLRB, etcetera. Who's going to complain? Measures meant to protect the health and safety of the public at large, not just the workers, go unenforced because illegal workers don't want any kind of law enforcement anywhere around. Where legal American workers would complain about substandard construction, unsanitary food processing, etcetera, illegal workers won't.



Minority advocacy groups obviously understand that in a democracy, numbers translate into power. They want as many members of their group as possible, and they want to keep them segregated and out of the American mainstream. Ideal is if they can keep the new arrivals and their children for the next six generations from understanding everyone else, so that they will have no choice but to use the self-appointed advocacy groups as their mouthpiece - because that's the only possible interface between this group and the rest of the population.



Skilled workers see unskilled ones as a personal benefit. Why? Because unskilled workers aren't competing for technologically challenging jobs, while it means that they can get their lawns mowed for $5 on Sunday afternoon while they watch the game.



Politicians, for their part, are simply afraid to offend anyone for fear it may somehow cost them an election some time. This is why immigration advocacy groups tell so many lies about the Minutemen and similar organizations - because it shows the beginnings of political organization which might cause politicians to heed those who want to close the borders.



The upshot is that those with reasons to want the immigration laws to go unenforced have influence out of all proportion to their actual numbers in the electorate. This isn't a racial hate issue, no matter how various organizations try to paint it as one. When you talk to hispanics who are citizens, they want the borders controlled even more than the most rabid white supremacist - who doesn't mind Jaime or Jose mowing his lawn for $5 provided they know their place. The hispanics who are already citizens and members of our society understand how the flood of illegals hampers their nephew who is also a US citizen but couldn't afford college or their cousin still in Mexico who is patiently awaiting their turn legally. The same thing applies to groups from elsewhere, I suspect, except that I don't know as many of them personally. But painting it as a racial hate issue lets advocates shut down the rational debate.



It comes down to this: I don't believe they'll enforce the borders. Like I said, I feel like a spouse that's been cheated on 101 times too many. The immigration issue comes around at pretty regular intervals, and every time, those with an incentive to want illegal immigration tell us they'll Really Enforce The Borders This Time if only we'll give them what they want One Last Time. It happened in the mid 60s, it happened in the early 70s, it happened again in the late 70s, it happened yet again in 1986, it happened one more time in the 1990s, it came up again in the election of 2000, and here we are still dealing with it, again, for the Nth time, and not once since the Eisenhower administration has there actually been anything done on all the promises about controlling the borders - For Real This Time!



Well, since September 11, 2001, we can no longer pretend that people here in the country who should not legally be here cannot hurt us. Our non-existent immigration enforcement, fueled by people whose bread is buttered by lack of enforcement, is the unindicted co-conspirator of terrorism in this country, past, present, and future. The economic damage done by illegal immigration itself may not be so obvious, but it is grievous, endemic, ongoing - and growing - trivially more than the destruction of the World Trade center annually in increased costs to us as a society.



At this point, I'm pretty much with those who, like the Isrealis with the Palestinians, have had enough. I want to see the borders enforced so that people born in this country who couldn't afford college can get jobs that pay a living wage. I want to see the borders enforced so that jobs are available to relatives of people who are already citizens and they can be granted a the Visas they have waited decades for, secure in the knowledge that they'll be able to get a job, not see it go to some illegal working under the table for half the wages. I want the borders enforced so that the workers who are here legally can be secure in reporting their employers for violations of the rules and regulations we have agreed are necessary, not be worried about the cops deporting them while they're investigating. I want the borders enforced so we have some kind of clue who might be in the country with the idea of doing us harm (Can you prove Osama isn't hiding in Detroit? "Homeland Security" can't!). Most of all, I want the borders controlled because I'm an American, and all of this politically correct non-enforcement isn't fair to good people the world over who have learned our language, learned skilled professions, want to become Americans, and have spent decades trying to come here legally.



In short, once we've got the borders under control, I'll be willing to talk about letting even more folks in than we absolutely need right now. But like the Indians of the old frontier, I've been the victim of too many broken promises to control the border later.



No more broken promises. Get Our Borders Under Control NOW!



I am not sure that this is best explained by racism: Scientist: Racism hurt him at MIT



Blacks are under-represented at MIT. Perhaps that and the fact that the elite university mindset can be more easily manipulated by that charge explains the strategy of attempting to use that tack to attain tenure. Inside Higher Ed does make the racism case.



But the case that looks like it hangs together better is challenging scientific orthodoxy.



Or should I say ideology.



Specifically, on adult versus embryonic stem cells.



Seems like he has not only challenged ideological dogma by challenging cloning, and embryonic stem cell orthodoxy. Furthermore, he seems to have demonstrated most achievements that embryonic stem cell activists claim embryonic cells will eventually be able to accomplish, but in adult stem cells, not embryonic.



He got a PEW Grant and other awards for his work.



Admittedly, he hasn't been shy about sharing his opinions concerning embryonic stem cells, which is not conducive to gathering evidence and evaluating it even-handedly. But there are enough irregularities and apparent inconsistencies in this case to more than warrant a thorough, public, examination of Professor Sherley's work.



Challenging scientific orthodoxy is never easy. It becomes much harder with anonymous faculty votes which can effectively exercise a veto over which scientific questions are asked by vetoing the possibility of even asking the question through the convenient dismissal of inconvenient persons who are willing to ask.



I'll be the first to admit that I'm not qualified to judge the research on its own merits. But this looks to be coming from the same impulses as those at the beginning of the previous century, who could not master relativity and quantum mechanics, and took refuge in anger at those who had the critical insights. Check out Rutherford's final experiment (sorry about the weird format - pdf does weird things to my computer in conjunction with Firefox). He was so certain tritium wasn't radioactive he never aimed a Geiger Counter at his samples!



For Professor Sherley, a thorough, open evaluation of his work is the least he is due, especially given that many of his accomplishments seem to stand out among his peers. Nobody ever made a critical scientific breakthrough by hewing strictly to the established orthodoxy, let alone ideology. And if Professor Sherley's distaste for the ethics of cloning and embryonic stem cell use motivated him to find a process that renders them unnecessary, that is cause for celebration by any rational standard, not censure. Faced with an ethical dilemma, wouldn't anyone rational rather have another alternative that enables them to avoid the dilemma?



Unless, of course, you want to insist that there is no dilemma.



And if those who examined his case for tenure are uncomfortable with a public examination of the evidence, that's a definite sign that something is wrong, and that there is something in the process in which he was denied tenure that will not stand the light of day.



(There is an on-line petition for granting Professor Sherley tenure. Sign the petition here)

Atheists challenge the religious right





"I am attacking God, all gods, anything and everything supernatural, wherever and whenever they have been or will be invented," declares Dr. Dawkins, the famed Oxford professor who wrote "The Selfish Gene."



These offerings are so intolerant of religion of any kind - liberal, moderate, or fundamentalist - that some scientists and secularists have critiqued their peers for oversimplification and for a secular fundamentalism.





Seems to me they are confusing "no evidence for" with "proven false."



The way to approach arguments of a spiritual nature, where there is no objective evidence on any side of the equation, is to require all sides to use data that can be demonstrated. I've cut down more than one fundamentalist who insisted upon, "my holy book tells me..." as a method for building an argument by telling them they are begging the question. I may or may not believe what your holy book says on that particular point, but unless everyone believes it, it's not an acceptable method for constructing an argument. This is one of the reasons I am against allowing religions the use of any force. Furthermore, even if everybody does believe it, the truth does not necessarily adhere to democratic principles. There was a time when everybody believed the world was flat and at the center of the universe. Neither one of those beliefs happens to be true.



But neither is it an acceptable argument to argue against a proposition by saying, "Brand X religious fruitcakes believe in this, and therefore I have successfully discredited it by association with those religious fruitcakes." For one thing, overtly religious fruitcakes have no monopoly upon crazy beliefs, as anyone who has studied the adherents of either communism or fascism will tell you. For another, it's possible that upon this one point, the fruitcakes are correct, no matter how messed up they are otherwise.



Faith is what we believe in the absence of evidence. But when there is evidence, the belief can either be true or it can be false, or it can be in some middle ground between the two. Moslems believe that a man named Mohammed lived on this earth about fourteen centuries ago. No matter how crazy I may believe some of their other beliefs, I'd have to say that on that point, their religion is pretty darned accurate, as documented by any number of outsiders. The existence of the Christian Jesus, under considerable cloud of scientific doubt when I was young, has acquired sufficient collateral evidence to be considered highly likely. Neither one of these proves a thing regarding the rest of the doctrine of either of those two large world religions, but their respective founders appear to have been real people. Neither one of these facts means they were in any objective sense chosen by the higher powers of the universe. I may respect them and their heirs to varying degrees, but that is based upon my personal beliefs, and I don't hold any kind of monopoly over deciding what beliefs are and are not valid. If I am not willing to consider the possibility I am mistaken, evaluate the evidence available, and modify my beliefs where they conflict with that evidence, then I place myself in the the same camp as the Inquisition, those who created the Hindu Kush, and most followers of the various brands of Marxism as a religious nutcase. No deity, no altar, and no worship is necessary; the evidence is incompatible with what they would like to believe, and they have chosen to disregard the evidence. Of course, I happen to believe that if there is some force running the observable universe, then the evidence of what we have managed to observe must be compatible with their intentions and desires and what they want me to believe. This is faith. I am unaware of any evidence against this belief, but faith it remains. I am also unaware of any conclusive evidence in favor of it. When what the holy books or the high priests tells me conflicts with what observable reality, I choose to believe observable reality. When the choice is, as the saying goes, "What are you going to believe, me or your own lyin' eyes?", I'll choose "my eyes" every time. The high priests or those who wrote the holy books most likely misunderstood somehow.



But those who would have us believe that no religion can be correct would have us ignore a large number of undeniable good things and truths that many religions have contributed over time. I object to this sort of thing:



The SCA intends to lobby the new Congress to override a presidential veto on stem-cell research and to repeal land-use legislation and other laws seen as "privileging one religion over other religions or over those who don't follow religion."



every bit as much as I object to school teachers leading a prayer, of whatever religion. I happen to believe that sacrificing potential humans to research potential medical cures is no different in kind from the research performed by Doctor Mengele upon the Jews of Europe in concentration camps. Different in degree, yes. Different in kind, no. I can very much see the point of those who do not wish to have tax money extorted from them at the point of a metaphorical gun (What happens when you don't pay your taxes in full?) to pay for something they see as murder. Here's something else to consider: If you think this research is so worthy, why don't you put your own money where your mouth is? Why don't you convince others to do so voluntarily? There is no law that says the research cannot take place, merely that the federal government won't fund it, with taxes taken at the point of a metaphorical gun, if the life was destroyed after the federal government made its policy known. The State of California alone has allocated three billion dollars, though, through one of the regular mechanisms for such allocations. Methinks the real issue is much closer to rent-seeking ("The federal government has to fund me because I can't convince anyone else to do it, and I need this grant or I might have to go get a real job doing something other people see as economically useful!")



Not all religions worship things they call gods. Some worship the doctrine that there are no gods, and there is no more evidence in favor of that than there is of the opposite viewpoint. I have encountered many people who worship Marx, or the doctrine that there is no god (or are no gods), every bit as irrationally as the most fundamentalist Christian or Moslem.





Their "blasphemy challenge" calls on young nonbelievers to create videos in which they renounce belief in the "sky God of Christianity" and upload it on the site; in return they'll receive a free documentary DVD, "The God Who Wasn't There," which includes interviews with Dawkins, Harris, and others. RRS is publicizing its campaign on 25 popular teen websites.





Question: Why are they explicitly selecting christianity for this? Is their offer good for those who renounce belief in Islam or Judaism? In the pantheon worshipped by the Hellenistic peoples? Buddhism? Hinduism? Odin, Thor, and all that lot? How about if I forever renounce any belief in The Cult of John Platt or The Flying Spaghetti Monster? It does not appear to be the case. Why? I cannot be certain, of course, but it does appear to me that these people feel threatened by Christians, but not by any of the other sects I named. I am not a member of any of them, but fundamentalist Moslem scares me a lot more than fundamentalist Christian. The Christians, you see, have become Westernized or even Americanized. You might have to listen to them pray, and you might have to tolerate them voting to outlaw a few practices they see as morally reprehensible, along with others who aren't Christians, but simply happen to believe things like theft are immoral. Oh, wait, that's illegal now despite the fact that it's against one of the Christian commandments. Isn't that Unconstitutional? Hmm. I seem to recall murder being both illegal and against one of the Christian commandments as well. Bearing False Witness, aka perjury? We're getting in deep. Plainly, by this logic, we are already living in a Christian Theocracy, and the Supreme Court had better act quickly! Perhaps a military coup by those officers who have sworn to uphold and defend the Constitution? But wait a minute! The Jews subscribe to these same beliefs! So do the Moslems! So are we victims of the World Zionist Conspiracy, have we all become dhimmi, or is there some other explanation?



Isn't it possible that the Christians, Moslems, Jews, and certain others simply agree that theft, murder, and perjury happen to be against the best interests of this civilization that we are all members of, and that it has therefore become illegal to commit those acts because they have legally voted, in either direct or indirect fashion, to make committing those acts contrary to law? I happen to agree that theft, murder and perjury should be discouraged, and to aid in the discouragement, subject to criminal penalties. Am I, then, a Christian nutcase, a Wahhabist screwball, or a Jewish supremacist? Does it really matter that a Christian casts their votes against theft out of belief in the Bible, the Wahhabist in the Koran and Haditha, or the Jew in the Torah? All of these approaches yield the same answer as mine. Is my decision, reached through my best understanding of scientific, logical, and psychological principles, somehow contaminated by agreement with Christian, Islamic, and Jewish doctrine? I happen to believe mine is the correct, rational approach that we can use to convince the overwhelming majority of rational humans, whether or not they believe in any deity. But to say these approaches are prohibited by the Constitution is to not only invalidate the ability of believers to participate in the political process, violating the principle of all persons being created equal under the law, but also the part of the first amendment that immediately follows the part that those arguing for hard line separation of church and state so love to quote - namely the part about restricting the free exercise of religion. "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances." It's all down there in black and white. If the first amendment is so sacred that it cannot admit of any compromise, we certainly cannot compromise the part that says those who subscribe to a religion are free to practice it - which includes the right to speak and act, and even, vote, in accordance with those religious principles. I seem to recall something in Section 1 of the 14th Amendment about "No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States." If we are going to start disenfranchising followers of organized religion on the basis of irrational belief, then we have to start disenfranchising Marxists (more than half of the population of the globe lived under Marxist principles in the 1970s. Not once has it resulted in a beneficial result), Conspiracy Theorists (Kennedy Assassination was a government plot, 9/11 was a government job), and those who deny principles enshrined as the very basis of economics. At the very least, every citizen would have to have their beliefs tested for adherence to verifiable truth prior to obtaining the right to vote, or freedom of speech to influence those who might be able to vote. Pardon me if I suspect that a higher proportion of Christians would be able to pass those tests than most other segments of the population. Might be more people who pass the tests in Utah than New York or California, so that (under the Section 2 of 14th Amendment) Utah becomes the state with the most electoral votes and the state with more representatives in Congress than any other. We'll never know until we actually try the experiment, will we?



Near the beginning of this article, I mentioned that there was a time when everybody believed not only that the Earth was flat, but that it was the center of the universe. Suppose we treated that as an immutable truth, and made it an offense worthy of disenfranchisement, banishment, or even worse, to disagree? How would those who (correctly!) believed that neither was the case have convinced the rest of us of the error of our ways? Actually, as most schoolchildren are aware, worse has happened. Until it became permissible for them to attempt to convince others who did not share their views upon these very basic truths, the rest of us could make no progress.



This is not to say that every nutcase idea is worthy of your time. Actually, most of them have been so thoroughly discredited that only fundamental ignorance or the hope of being able to coerce their opponents, either through direct force or operation of the law, keeps the adherents going. The right to be heard, as one Supreme Court Justice famously observed, does not include the right to be taken seriously. It does, however, include the right to make the attempt to convince others by logic, persuasion, or even common beliefs, that your interpretation is correct. You won't get very far by appealing to logic if the audience doesn't share your devotion to it, you won't get very far with persuasion if the audience doesn't share your basic interpretation, and you won't get very far with an appeal to common beliefs if there aren't any, but this does not deprive you of the opportunity to try. When some faction, be it the historic Inquisition, Islamist fundamentalists, global warming true believers, or atheists wants to be able to pre-empt debate by means of silencing their opposition, it points me to a weakness in their world view, a flaw in their argument, and a fundamental fear that whatever they have to say to the world cannot stand up under the stress of disagreement.

Next big test of power to seize property?



Owner gets plans for the property approved by planning commission. But developer named for the redevelopment area demands $800,000 or 50% of the business, and sues to condemn.





The developer, Gregg Wasser of G&S Port Chester, told Didden he'd have to pay $800,000 or give G&S a 50 percent stake in the CVS business. If Didden refused, Mr. Wasser said, he would have Port Chester condemn and seize his property and instead of a CVS he'd put a Walgreens drugstore on the site.





There actually is another side to this story. The developer spent $100 Million redoing the area in exchange for the profits. Furthermore, although it's not raised by the article, without that developer coming in to spend their money on redevelopment, I'd wager the guy's plan would not have drawn an interested chain. But 1) I can't see that one brand name or the other of drugstore makes a significant difference to the plan, and 2) Who says the municipality that benefitted from having the developer come in and redevelop cannot pay for the rights of this person that have been abridged? Seems to me that municipality got a large amount of benefits for not much in the way of expenditure by curtailing those property owner's rights.





For decades Port Chester tried to persuade various developers to launch urban renewal projects in the village. None did. Then in 1999, G&S agreed to undertake the challenge - and risk. The company proposed a 27-acre, $100 million project to replace run-down buildings with new retail stores, new roads, utilities, and a multiplex movie theater.



In exchange, the village agreed to give the developer exclusive power to decide which properties within the redevelopment zone would be acquired through negotiation and which would be seized by eminent domain. It also gave the developer the exclusive right to build - and profit from - the project.







In other words, the bad guy here isn't the developer, who was promised certain benefits in exchange for spending their money to benefit the town. The bad guy here is the municipality who curtailed the rights of the property owners without just compensation while benefiting greatly.



As I keep saying in eminent domain, the issue is money (or actually, wealth transfer). This is an abuse of power not by the developer, but by the municipality. It isn't politically popular to make this observation, but it remains the correct interpretation.



Now any award from the town to the property owner should be offset by the value added to the property by the redevelopment zone, but the gentleman in question should nonetheless be entitled to an award of cash.



'Homeless dumping' charges for hospital





The case against it stems from a March surveillance video showing a 63-year-old patient from Kaiser Permanente's Bellflower hospital wandering Skid Row in a hospital gown and slippers. Prosecutors describe what happened to Carol Ann Reyes in a 20-page document supporting the false imprisonment and dependent-care abuse charges.



"We seek to end the inhumane and illegal practice," City Attorney Rocky Delgadillo said in Thursday's Los Angeles Times.



Delgadillo's office is also suing Kaiser under a state law on unfair business practices. The lawsuit asks a judge to forbid all Kaiser hospitals from dumping homeless patients on Skid Row and to impose financial sanctions if the order is violated.





You know, I want to see folks get good medical care. But there's this little niggling issue:



The Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution:



No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.





Emphasis mine, to show the important part.



Basically, Kaiser Hospital, among many others, is being forced to treat these people, despite no reasonable expectation of payment. Even when they do get paid, it is far below cost, and months to years after the fact. Kaiser would not have a hospital in the area did they not have a need to serve their members. When the county of Los Angeles or state of California or even the United States Government is paying, they are paying far below market rates, and months to years after the fact. This is not a case of the hospital making a decision to accept (for example) Medicare, where they agree ahead of time that they want the business more than they don't want the short payments and waiting times. They have no legal option but to treat these people. So not only are the members who pay Kaiser's insurance fees subjected to a tax, but unavoidably, in many cases they are going to wait longer, suffering additional pain and possibly additional damage while people who do not pay those fees are treated ahead of them. In some instances, there may be enough overflow to cause Kaiser to direct patients elsewhere. This tax on Kaiser insurees is no less a taking than the condemnation of their residence.



Now Kaiser could stop the majority of these charges easily enough, by limiting its emergency services to areas with few homeless or uninsured. Of course, this would make it more difficult and costly for lower income people to obtain coverage through Kaiser, which is one of the better and more affordable health plans out there. It might even mean that more people go uninsured, go untreated even if they are insured due to the difficulty of reaching services, etcetera.



If the government is going to mandate that these people be treated, particularly with the same legal and medical responsibilities as any other patient, then the government needs to reimburse Kaiser in full and in a timely manner for the treatment of those patients. Kaiser would be very glad to treat the patients on that basis. But it is not happening, or Kaiser wouldn't be trying to get rid of the patients. Yes, it disturbs me. No, I don't want them discharged. But forcing Kaiser, or any other health provider, to spend the money it pays for housekeeping and drugs and doctors and nurses and everything else from the chief surgeon down to the newest laundry employee, without just compensation is a violation of the fifth amendment. If the Bill of Rights is important to you, you need to support this no less than the right to avoid self-incrimination, which is a part of this same amendment, or double jeopardy, or due process of law itself, which, by the way, are also part of the Fifth Amendment. But if we're not going to pay the bill (and the County of Los Angeles hasn't paid these medical bills in a timely fashion for decades), then we cannot mandate treatment. Just because someone receives a medical license does not exempt them from coverage under the Fifth Amendment.

Oliver Willis (among others) is going bananas over allegations in the NY Times that the Bush administration put Iraqi documents on the web that supposedl gave third world nations the atomic bomb. He has an article here on Democrats reacting to the news.



One question: If Iraqi documents we published on the Web gave some other nation the technical know-how to build a nuclear bomb, wouldn't that mean that Iraq knew how to build one?



Here's the article: U.S. Web Archive Is Said to Reveal a Nuclear Primer



Experts say that at the time, Mr. Hussein's scientists were on the verge of building an atom bomb, as little as a year away.





and





In September, the Web site began posting the nuclear documents, and some soon raised concerns. On Sept. 12, it posted a document it called "Progress of Iraqi nuclear program circa 1995." That description is potentially misleading since the research occurred years earlier.





News flash: Once you know how to do something, the knowledge doesn't just vanish. If they knew how to do it in 1991, they still knew in 1995, and in 2003. Soon as the sanctions come off, work starts. And the sanctions were fraying badly. Or has everyone else forgotten the votes and negotiations, and the Oil for Food corruption?



Let's look at the sources and quotations: Peter Zimmerman, quoted by the article, is a chair for the AAAS. Run his name through some search engines, and you'll come upon things like this gem. Looks like one of the other quoted authorities, Ray E. Kidder, has some very interesting information himself on his website here, including pictures of actual warheads and their component parts. From reading his webpage, and some Times Select stubs, we discover that he's another anti-SDI leading light.

Ray S. Blanton and the National Security Archive here. Iran Contra seems to be their main claim to fame.



Plus all those unnamed "senior officials."



In short, this piece looks to be something that looks credible for a few days (just coincidentally reaching the election) but is, IMHO, a hit piece.



Just One Minute has more



enrevanche notes that there may indeed, have been some damaging documents, and why.



Anchoress, of all people, lays on the snark very well.



National Review covers it much the same, but with less snark.



Carol Platt Liebau about sums it up.



Argghhh! seems to have the clearest vision: Dumb move, to put it on the web (if, in fact, it's real -DM). But it means that Iraq had the means for the bomb that the Times (and others) have been denying they had for years.



Hot Air has all the itemized details of what might possibly have happened in the future with this information.



Michelle Malkin has the complete text of Representative Hoekstra's statement.





"With respect to the possibility that documents may have been released that should not have been released, I have always been clear that the Director of National Intelligence should take whatever steps necessary to withhold sensitive documents. In fact, as of today the DNI had withheld 59 percent of the documents that it had reviewed, and has become more risk-averse over time. If the DNI believes that the documents that were released were in the safe 40 percent, imagine what the 60 percent being withheld must contain.



"That said, it is also important to emphasize that the IAEA, contrary to its assertions, never raised any concerns about this material with the United States Government before going to the press. Similarly, the DNI's office has informed me that no agency of the U.S. Government had raised any issues about the potential or actual release of these documents before yesterday. If there were such problems, they would have been better addressed through the appropriate channels rather than the press.





In other words, for the politically challenged, the New York Times did a hit piece which nonetheless validated the claims of the Bush administration and the intelligence community prior to the war on the status of the Iraqi nuclear program.





Captain's Quarters, who has been working extensively with that particular archive that contained the alleged leaks, connects the dots in a manner that only someone intentionally blinding themselves to what is there could miss.



(He just earned another "Blogger of the Year" nomination, although in his case, that's redundant.)

Politburo Diktat had a post a few days ago on Habeas Corpus Blogging. It was submitted for RINO Sightings, so I read it again. The comments are also worthwhile.



Most folks seem to be unaware of the history and purpose of Habeas Corpus. It is historically applicable to those residents of a state accused of crimes, most particularly against that state. It has never, historically, been applied to enemy combatants in any form. If there is someone at Guantanamo to whom the definition of enemy combatant does not apply, I'd like to know about it, and I'll support the point of view that they should be entitled to a trial. But this has been a tool for those of a certain political stripe to score political points, by attempting to apply a broad-brush strategy (habeas corpus) to a situation it was never intended to apply.



If those "defenders" were really trying to free prisoners of injustice at Guantanamo, they could have done so with a fraction of the effort they have spent so far, by publicizing the details of particular cases, making it politically untenable for the Bush administration to continue holding that particular detainee in that fashion, getting that prisoner freed. But that is not the case - or at least I haven't found one single case of a prisoner where that is the case. If there were one, it would not apply to the next prisoner over, unless that prisoner were also in that situation.



Now it sucks to be in all essentials, a prisoner of war indefinitely. But let's consider the other side. Suppose North Vietnam had released John McCain after only four years. Is there any doubt in your mind that he would have once again become an enemy combatant against them? They were therefore justified in continuing to hold him.



The same situation applies here. By all means, if there is anyone being held as a political prisoner, or a prisoner of conscience, let's get that news out and get them a trial and get them released. I will publish any news of one such that I run across. But enemy combatants have got to stay locked up, lest they return to the fray and kill more of our soldiers, or worse, civilians. Those performing the evaluations of the detainees have been, if anything, too forgiving of those detainees. There have been multiple former prisoners at Guantanamo killed or recaptured in battle in Afghanistan and Iraq, and one would have been one too many.



It's not a matter of trusting the administration, as any number of its opponents have charged. If there were any of these detainees who are not deserving of incarceration, the avenues exist to get them freed. It is a matter of protecting our troops and our country from an unnecessary threat that has already been neutralized. These people are not noble revolutionaries out to free us from the chains of the Bush administration. They are enemy combatants. They want to kill us. All of us.



Suppose some of them are released, and subsequently participate in the detonation of a radiological bomb in New York Harbor, or along the banks of the Potomac. Would we not say that the Bush administration was responsible, that they failed to protect us from a known threat? Make no mistake about it, the administration would be responsible. They volunteered to hold that particular bag of responsibility, and we elected them to do so. But simple ethical guidelines says that we cannot then rip large holes in the bag, rendering it incapable of retaining its contents, and then fault the Bush administration for failing to keep them in.

Fury Over Pope's Remarks Raises Concerns





Pakistan's legislature unanimously condemned Pope Benedict XVI. Lebanon's top Shiite cleric demanded an apology. And in Turkey, the ruling party likened the pontiff to Hitler and Mussolini and accused him of reviving the mentality of the Crusades.





All because he said he believes Islam is a violent religion? The truth must be painful. Especially when you're in denial.



Linked to Hitler and Mussolini because he accuses someone of being violent? Just so we're clear about what we're discussing here, what about repeated Vatican condemnations of George Bush and the US as being too violent?



Oh. I see. It's okay to accuse the civilized, restrained US of being too violent. But it's not PC to accuse Islam, never mind how accurate the accusation. Or is it along the same lines as Han Solo's famous quote: "That's because droids don't pull people's arms out of their sockets when they get upset"?



So don't accuse Wookies of being violent. Or Islam. They'll do considerably more than pull your arm out of it's socket.





"The declarations from the pope are more dangerous than the cartoons, because they come from the most important Christian authority in the world - the cartoons just came from an artist,"





You mean perhaps because he lends the accusation a certain amount of legitmacy, perhaps? The argument is legitimate no matter who makes it. But he makes it more weighty because of who he is. You can get mad at the messenger, or you can deal with the root issues of the message. These folks did the former. The latter is more constructive. Christianity managed it centuries ago, Judaism centuries before that. Buddhism never had much of a problem with it. Of all the major world religions, Islam is the only one in denial of this problem.





"He has a dark mentality that comes from the darkness of the Middle Ages. He is a poor thing that has not benefited from the spirit of reform in the Christian world," Kapusuz told Turkish state media. "It looks like an effort to revive the mentality of the Crusades."



"Benedict, the author of such unfortunate and insolent remarks, is going down in history for his words," Kapusuz added. "He is going down in history in the same category as leaders such as Hitler and Mussolini."





Because he tells the truth as he sees it? As millions of others see it? In accordance with a huge body of observed evidence? Exhibit A of which is the teachings of the holy books of Islam?



This, ladies and gentlemen, is psychological denial. Of the same sort you encounter in addicts of all stripes.



Pope's Birthplace in Bavaria Vandalized





Police were investigating, but so far had no suspects.





Does anyone think it likely to have been a group of marauding atheists? Jews, perhaps? Protestants? Buddhists? Hindus?



Moslems are not the only suspect that springs to mind. But they are the most likely.



Turkish Cleric Criticizes Pope Comments





Bardakoglu said he expected an apology from the pope and said it was Christianity, not Islam, that popularized conversion by the sword, according to Turkey's state-owned Anatolia news agency.



"The church and the Western public, because they saw Islam as the enemy, went on crusades. They occupied Istanbul, they killed thousands of people. Orthodox Christians and Jews were killed and tortured," he said.





And nothing ever happened in the Hindu Kush. Pay no attention to those jihadis behind the curtain. These are not the terrorists you're looking for.



Well, there might be an alternate universe where it's true. But here in this one, the one religion with the strongest history of conversion by force of arms is Islam. In fact, it's the only religion I can think of that has not specifically forsworn conversion by force, and they have been doing it since long before the counter-offensive that was the Christian Crusades, and they've been doing it ever since, even in completely unrelated areas of the world to people who had never heard of Christianity.



Not to mention that this was a thousand years ago, and Christianity has morally evolved while Islam has not. You want an excuse to be savage murderers, you need to think of a better one than that.



It is not enough to say these are actions of a small number of extremists. For so-called "moderate moslems", it is essential that they condemn the actions in no uncertain terms, and materially aid in hunting down the perpetrators and preventing such actions in the future. That's what it takes to convince me that you really mean it. Action that leaves no doubt as to where you really stand.



Why do I suddenly hear crickets chirping?



When so-called moderate moslems condemn such acts in no uncertain terms, undertake political risk to condemn, circumvent, and hunt down and punish extremists who perform these kinds of actions, then I will believe that they actually are moderates. When accomodating the opinions of an 'islamic community' is more important, I call those people sympathizers, not moderates.



Consider the history of the Ku Klux Klan here in the United States. Their power wasn't broken until they were seen as unfit for civilized people to be associating with. Until then, they were supported by a community of enablers that ranged from business organizations to women's organizations to still others that are some of the most respected organizations in the United States, even today. A bigot or denier who protected the Klan by saying "they were only having a bit of fun," or "they were protecting the white community," was a part of exactly the same problem as the actual Klansmen performing his acts of terrorism.



This same principle needs to be applied to so-called "moderate Moslems." Show me by your actions that you are not part of the problem. But most of them are making the same sort of excuses that Klan apologists made. Not to mention apologists for most of the other atrocities of history. To be fair, there are those who are acting in accordance with this. But they are relatively few. The vast majority are acting exactly like the Klan enablers did. QED.



Muslims deplore Pope speech, want apology





"The Pope of the Vatican joins in the Zionist-American alliance against Islam," said the leading Moroccan daily Attajdid, the main Islamist newspaper in the kingdom.





So, because he says Moslems need to improve, he's joining some kind of unholy alliance with the goals of the democide of the Islamic world?



Denial.



Related:

The Pope Tackles Faith and Terrorism



Original of the Pope's Speech here, via Justus for All



SWWBO uses far fewer words to say what I did.



Scrappleface reduces it for easy understanding.



Iran leader vows never to give up nuclear program, accuses West of misrepresenting activities



They've been enriching now for how long? How long did it take the US to enrich the atomic bomb in the first place? China and India both stunned the world with how quickly they became nuclear powers. How much shorter do you think it might be now that the technology is mature? Have you considered the possibility that they use their long held and permitted civilian enrichment equipment to boost their enrichment capability by enriching to that limit prior to further enrichment, thus stretching their weaponry enrichment capability?



Ladies and gentlemen, I think that Iran may be very close to nuclear capability. Their open defiance is only one of many symptoms. Their enrichment centrifuges. Their gas purchases and usage. And so on and so forth.



They may already have a nuclear weapon, or even more than one. They are most likely building to a certain threshold, enough so that no matter what happens, every major antagonist is going to know there's at least one for them.



So, how are we going to behave in a world where the crazy mullahs have nukes?

Iran Ready for "serious" talks.



It took them three months to say that? After three years of what the appeasement artists solemnly declared were serious talks?



At least there is one rational voice on the issue:



At U.N. headquarters in New York, U.S. Ambassador John Bolton said the United States is prepared to quickly submit elements of a new Security Council resolution that would impose economic sanctions on Iran if it does not accept "the very, very generous offer" from the five permanent council members and Germany.





I understand our options are limited, especially with the domestic political situation. Nonetheless, I'd rather have our president do the intelligent, principled thing, even if it causes the Republicans to lose Congress in November. I don't think it will, but it could.



I cannot bring myself to wish ill on Howard Dean or any of the other Donkey honchos. But I wouldn't cry if they suddenly saw the error of their ways and discovered a certain burning ambition to enter a different trade.



On the same subject,



It turned away International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors from an underground site meant to shelter its uranium enrichment program from attack and its top leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, declared that Tehran will continue to pursue its nuclear activities.





If there is anyone who still thinks that if a sufficiently strong response is not forthcoming in the next few months, we're going to entering a phase of history where fanatical religious leaders with attitudes that hardened in the eighth century AD have nuclear weaponry to intimidate the rest of the world with? Ladies and gentlemen, this scenario makes North Korea having nukes look positively wonderful by comparison. Kim Jong Il won't start the world's first nuclear war because he thinks Allah has told him he'll get seventy-two virgins in paradise. I don't want a confrontation with Iran. But the worst possible case if we stop them from getting nukes is better than the best possible case if we don't.





ROFASix agrees with me that ultimately, this is another problem that the US will be expected to solve.



RightWing NutHouse notes some existing Iranian plans. Doubtless we have plans for Iran, as well. Under the circumstances, it would be criminally stupid not to have made contingency plans for war with Iran. We've got such a plan for war with Canada, for crying out loud, and have since 1934. It's not like you can suddenly gather intelligence, figure out what are and are not important targets, figure what it would take to achieve them, put the logistics in place, and figure out all of the coordination, after the shooting starts. Well, I suppose you could if you wanted to lose and waste resources. Isn't that the sort of thing the president's enemies have been riding him for?



Thomas Sowell at Real Clear Politics



After we, or our children and grandchildren, find ourselves living at the mercy of people with no mercy, what will future generations think of us, that we let this happen because we wanted to placate "world opinion" by not acting "unilaterally"?





While we're on the subject, Michael Barone on out covert enemies.

Keeping Silent

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Via Politburo Diktat, Ace of Spades has a good explanation for the terminally outraged on how the government is sometimes not lying to you, it's lying for you.



But I do think one of his examples was weak. Not the Chinese Embassy stuff, that's spot on. But anybody with any intelligence or exposure to banking records requirements knew the government tracks financial records extensively. It's how we catch mobsters, drug traffickers, etcetera, and how we have been catching them since the 1930s. The government doesn't publicize it, but if they ever said, "We're not doing it," I must have missed it. They simply didn't draw any attention to it. Just like there are ways people in certain high-risk occupations have of letting people know that There Is A Situation But I Can't Say So Openly. Many of these are found in publicly available, completely unclassified documentation, others are things that everybody in the business knows. However, you don't see them splashed on the front of the trade publications. To coin a completely bogus but plausible example of the sort that are used, "If your auto dealership is taken over by terrorists, fly double pennons! The Police know that's what it means!" If the New York Times or other media publicized these methods, those these methods are meant to guard against would be able to take precautions, and sometimes there just aren't a whole lot of means available. If the network news said, "A Police SWAT Team was able to deal with Al-Qaeda taking over the grounds of Joe's Discount Car Sales in Podunk today. Forty-three terrorists were killed without civilian injury. They discovered it unbeknownst to the terrorists when an alert Police Officer, Mr. B. Anonymous, noticed that the employees at Joe's were flying double pennons, a universal signal that car dealerships are being controlled by terrorists." Add that to the standard camera shots, and every terrorist from now on is going to know that double pennons mean the SWAT team is going to come, and there are only a limited number of such signals possible.



It's not that the government said that bank records weren't being monitored. That would have been a stupid, obvious lie. Of course bank records were being monitored. They've been monitored for seventy years. But sometimes, if you just don't bring something to your enemies' attention, they forget about it. Or maybe nobody ever told them in particular. Or they just don't realize that this is important information, they don't worry about it, and pretty soon, their arrests are announced. Kind of like a combat ambush but better.



Publicizing these methods means that they are not available or won't work. The enemies of civilization will take precautions so that they don't get caught by them. And that is precisely the crime of the media in the banking records brouhaha. They reminded those whom the methods were being used against them that these methods existed, so they could take precautions against them. I think the War on Drugs is a stupid worthless counterproductive waste of resources, but given that I can't change the fact that we are fighting it, finding drug traffickers through financial records sure beats no-knock raids. I'd rather not be fighting the War On Terror, either. But given that we are in it whether we want it or not, I'd rather discover terrorist plots through their financing before the fact than during, when they and the enforcement types are spraying bullets everywhere and bystanders are likely to get hurt, or afterwards, when all we can do is pick up the debris.



This is very troubling. Give me bandwidth! You know that right and left wing are equally willing to use the government to abuse the people, just for different things, but this is a right winger suggesting the use of eminent domain to condemn the telephone lines? Better to simply revoke the monopoly status and give anyone else the right to use the same public easements that the current companies have. Because the one thing worse than a government granted monopoly is a government run monopoly.



Ladies and Gentlemen, both sides in the net neutrality debate are engaging in rent seeking behavior. The content providers want to use the wires at for free. The telephone and internet companies want to skim some fees off them.



The person being forgotten in the war is the consumer. I have digital broadband through the cable company which usually exceeds the 10 Megabits that the author above laments ever achieving. I pay the monthly fees gladly. But I pay those fees with the expectation that whatever content I might choose will all be delivered to me at that same speed, whether it's news, static text pages, or huge media files. If it's a 100 Megabyte media file, I should have a clue that it's going to take longer to get to download than a static 2 kilobyte text file. But the ISP has been paid to deliver that content to me. I paid them. The bill is already paid, and for them to attempt to extort more money from the content provider can only raise the fees the content providers would have to charge me. The online content providers don't pay such fees, the users do.



Now were someone to propose an ISP where the access is free but the costs are paid by the content providers, or through advertising riders, that would be quite reasonable. However, such business models have been tried and found to have limited success at best. Indeed, such providers tend to be some of the largest sources of spam around, as spam-meisters are always shifting the costs of their operations onto others, shifting the costs of access as well is no large jump. If you are using such a service, particularly for email, it should be no news to you that the majority of your outgoing emails get automatically tagged as spam, as the filters at your destination are well aware that these providers are the source of a large proportion of the world's spam (My bet for the first verified message from outer space? "Hot Andromedan Grrllz! Go to uww(universe wide web).pr0n.com!")



But with consumers willingly paying the bills of bringing the content from the providers to themselves, neutrality of content is precisely what we are paying for. Whatever that content is, it should have precisely the same priority as any other data. For the ISPs to attempt to extort more money from the content providers (and by extension, from their own consumers who have already paid for this access) is a violation of our contract with them. I know I didn't sign up with my provider for internet access with preferred content providers, I signed up for the entire internet, at equal access priority, all dependent upon what I choose to look for, and I suspect you did the same. If ever that deal changes, I'll find a different internet provider. I suppose I'm siding with the content providers, but only because doing so coincides with my support for the free market and consumer choices and the fact that the bill for access has already been paid, and so would you ISP extortionists please go away? If the content providers have to raise their prices because my ISP is charging them extra, I'll find another ISP provider. The government's role should be limited to making certain that my choices are not artificially restricted.

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