Musings of a college conservative

New Blog!!!

After weeks of heartache and tears, I have succeeded in installing movable type, purchasing a domain, and getting an account with a host. Please update your bookmarks accordingly. The new website is:

Lex Libertas

It took me quite a while to settle on a name, and since "minitru" and "ministryoftruth" were taken, I decided to go for a Latin root. Latin is just too cool to pass up. On a sidenote, one of the rules for surviving a horror movie (or halloween) is "If your children speak to you in Latin or any other language that they should not know, shoot them immediately. It will save you a lot of grief in the long run. However, it will probably take several rounds to kill them, so be prepared."

Luckily, being a liberal arts major (in the classical sense), I should know some Latin - no need to kill me ... yet.

Is China Preparing For Something Rash?

Quite possibly the most frightening headline I've seen in a while - Pravda's "China Getting Ready for Severe Blitzkrieg."

Apparently, the Defense Department released a paper saying that China appears to be preparing for an attack against Taiwan, something that could cause a strategic nightmare. We're sworn to defend Taiwan, and I think we would have a moral obligation to do so, but I do not relish the idea of fighting the Chinese army. If Taiwan were to come under military attack, we should waste no time in executing a forceful counter-attack.

Even though a Democrat said it, I still agree with the sentiment that "we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty." That includes engaging the military of a country with 1.3 billion people.


I just saw Pirates of the Caribbean, and I highly recommend it. The music was phenomenal, the story interesting, the script witty, and Johnny Depp was absolutely astounding. This film deserve far higher than the 65% critics rating in Rottentomatoes.

The one-liners were smart, I only cringed once the entire movie - at a concept that could have been quite funny but I guess wasn't delievered properly ("you like pain, try wearing a corset"). The action scenes were impressive but now, only 1 hour later, I can't remember a single one in detail. Though the action is there, it isn't what carries this film. That honour goes to the craftsmanship (craftspersonship?) of Geoffrey Rush and Johnny Depp. They make it quite clear that they are both enjoying what they do, and executing it superbly.

In short, good movie, go see it.

Another Suicide Bomb in Russia

This is a form of warfare that must be eradicated. While the target may be justified by some because it was a military hospital, killing soldiers who are no shape to fight is neither a smart use of resources nor a morally sustainable position.

Why is there no international outrage against these attacks. These suicide bombings are not just targeting military installations or governments buildings, but civilian concerts. My guess is that, in order to be intellectually consistant, all the Israel-haters are forced into a position where they must accept suicide bombing as a legitimate means of "national liberation."

Suicide bombings, especially of civilians, cannot be tolerated. Just as the international community has created norms against the use of chemical and biological weapons, this is one conduct of warfare that must be put out of useage.

Turka Cola

Chevy Chase selling a coke/pepsi rival. I, for one, quite like these ads for Cola Turka. I think they're pretty funny, and not a bit un-American. I especially like the spontaneous mustache.

Time Delay

Sorry about the lack of posting these past couple days. I've been trying to move my site over to my own website, with a domain name and movable type. A bit harder than I initially anticipated.

Anti-War movement decries the failure of Allies to Shown German Weapons of Mass Destruction
Warning: satire

After hearing an advertisement on the radio for the CBS Premier of “Hitler: The Rise of Evil,” I was struck by the similarities in rhetoric between America 2003 and America 1941. Deciding to investigate the matter further, I stumbled across thess two articles. (I know it's a bit late now, I wrote this back in May, but the essence of the public debate over Iraq hasn't changed much)

The Many Facets of the Anti-War Movement

Los Angeles, CA – Anti-War demonstrators are up in arms over the perceived march to war by the Roosevelt administration. “The administration has beat its drums of war ever since the December 7th attacks, with no respect for the international community or the German people,” explained one student activist leader.

Many people around the country, and the world, are disturbed by President Roosevelt’s proclamation of an “Axis-of-Evil” consisting of Germany, Japan, and Italy. “We shouldn’t just lump countries together and say they’re evil. That only makes enemies and pushes those others away from a peaceful settlement of conflicts,” added John Marshall, a senior member of the anti-war organizer A.N.S.S.E.R (Act Now to Support Stalinism and End the Republic). “Besides, he’s just standing up to American and British hegemony, and I like that.”

Echoing a common sentiment, protestors at the federal building shouted “No Blood for Coal,” a reference to the fact that Germany has huge coal deposits. Since the American economy is largely dependent on coal for its domestic energy needs, some argue that this is simply an imperialist war to gain exclusive control of these reserves.

In defense of the administration’s actions, Secretary of War Henry Stimson “In all honesty, Hitler declared war on us first, we’re just responding. After the December 7th attacks, he showed video of them non-stop on German television to a soundtrack of ‘The Reich is Great.’ Moreover, we have reason to believe that Germany is developing weapons of mass destruction that would cause global imbalance and lead Hitler to be able to easily dominate the European continent. Hitler has been rearming for close to a decade in violation of the Treaty of Versailles and several League of Nations resolutions, and he has aggressively invaded neighboring countries. But even if all that weren’t true, we would still have a moral obligation to enact regime change from fascism to democracy, and stop the atrocities being committed against the Jewish people within Hitler’s borders.”

Noted anti-war intellectual Norm Chomski responded handily to what he calls “the false imperialist pretenses” of the Roosevelt administration. “There is clearly no connection between the attacks of December 7th and Hitler, even the CIA has failed to fabricate any. Germany’s weapons of mass destruction don’t exist, and even if they did, so what? A sovereign nation has the right to defend itself. The Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations resolutions were documents meant to specifically harm the German people, and were immoral. Hitler’s ‘wars of aggression’ pale in comparison to the many wars the United States has fought, and unlike the U.S. or Britain, Germany has never had an empire to speak of. The democracy argument is a farce. Germany has a self-determined government. Look at the domestic legislation that has been enacted since December 7th, any objective observer can see we’re the real fascists! Lastly, what is this sudden gush of ‘compassion’ coming from the Roosevelt administration? Where was the U.S. in 1938 during Kristallnacht? If they didn’t care then, I don’t see why they care now.”

Some in the Pro-War camp have labeled the Anti-War movement as anti-Semitic. They point to claims that the Roosevelt administration is full of high-placed Jewish intellectuals, such as Henry Morgenthau, the Secretary of the Treasury, or Samuel Rosenman, Roosevelt’s official speechwriter. The Anti-War movement also seems to be inextricably linked to the pro-Palestinian movement. This faction decries the “Zionist-occupation” of part of the British Mandate referred to as Palestine. They want the U.S. to focus on the real problem of the Arab-Jewish conflict, and not some fictitious rhetoric of an “Axis-of-Evil.”

“The Europeans have devised a ‘roadmap,’ and the U.S. should be a part of it. In order to stop the tension, Britain has decided to halt Jewish immigration, sending any ships back to their countries of origin, where they will be given employment at ‘work-camps.’ Germany and France both agree that the solution to the problem is less Jews. Russia has always known this. Now why won’t the U.S. support the ‘roadmap?’ Don’t they care about peace?” asks Enrique Salvador, a Spanish shopkeeper. “The first step is to stop the Jewish settlements like Tel Aviv and Haifa.”

Some noted celebrities, like famous aviator Charles Lindbergh, have spoken out against this war. “What I fear most is the resort to unilateralism. I mean, when you look at who’s fighting, it’s the United States and the United Kingdom. That’s it. Where’s the rest of the world? Not even France is with us on this one,” related the American hero.

Issuing a statement from the newly relocated capital of Vichy, the French government condemned any American intervention because of the collateral damage that would occur. “We didn’t give up Paris to the Nazis to see it blown to pieces. An American naval landing could cause millions of dollars in damages to French property and cause the deaths of hundreds of thousands of French citizens,” exclaimed the Foreign Minister in a press conference on Tuesday.

Others in the Anti-War camp have focused their criticism on the domestic ramifications of the war. “Look at the state of our economy,” related Sarah Hampton, a union negotiator. “We’re forced to ration! How can the president be given any respect when he can’t even bring us out of this depression we’ve been in for over a decade. How dare he ask us to make sacrifices so we might ‘help’ out people in foreign countries? I don’t care about what happens in other countries, I only care that I have a living-wage job.” Law student Michael Hendrickson pointed out the infringement on civil liberties. “What is this about ‘War Crimes Tribunals?’ Everyone should have a trial out in the open, with 12 jurors. I don’t care if they are foreign citizens who tried to kill American civilians and want a government without a Bill of Rights. We should bring them back over here and give them all the amenities of our Constitution, even if it is at taxpayers expense.”

The Anti-War movement shows no signs of letting up. Many organizers boast that this is the fastest mobilization of protests in history. It has happened even before any troops have been committed. As John Marshall notes, “public sentiment will turn against the president much faster when Americans start dying and we have to institute a draft.”

War Criticized as a Failure

Washington, D.C. – The war with Germany officially ended a week ago, but already critics are calling it a failure. “It was the Japanese who bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7th, not the Germans. This whole war was a huge distraction from the war on the Japanese. Great, now we have finished this and wasted lives, dollars, and equipment, but the Japanese are still as dug in as ever. Why? Just so we could claim some coal and do an imperialist ‘regime change’ to have one more puppet. The people of Germany are living on less than 1,000 calories a day, and crime is on the rise. Where is all the aid we promised when the war was over? Even if Hitler was a bad guy, at least he had police and kept order,” related California representative Nanci Peloso.

Military officials defended the administration by saying that the war was a necessary step to destroy the “Axis Powers.” In response to criticisms of the war’s slow pace, they spoke of the fierce determination of some of the Emperor’s supporters. Many in the pro-War camp have decried the use of Japanese Air Force suicide bombers and wondered how we could stop such an enemy. Human Rights groups replied by pointing out that Japan was essentially decimated by Western Imperialism, and that with their inferior technology the only way of fighting back was to use themselves to blow up their enemies.

Character Assassination

I'm not sure how people are feeling out there, but my gut reaction tells me the woman is right, and Kobe forced himself on her. I really can't say why I've come to this opinion, but I find it hard to believe a man who three weeks ago told me nothing happened, and now admits to "consentual sex." If he lied then, why should I believe he's telling the truth now? Furthermore, H.L. Menken offers a slight variation on that theme, "It is hard to believe that a man is telling the truth when you know that you would lie if you were in his place."

What really infuriates me is how he might get off based on a "dark secret" about his accuser. A few months before the incident, she overdosed on some sort of pills. Some of her friends think it was an accident, and others think it was intentional. Apparently she had been going through some horrible things at the time, her high school sweetheart cheated on her while she was away at school and a good friend died. So whatever, it in no way means that she gave consent the night in question.

If anything, in her "emotional anguish," it would have been easier for Kobe to take advantage of her, requiring a lesser amount of force than normal to overcome her weakened willpower. Kobe messed up big, and he's going to have to pay for it. I hope that this piece of irrelevant info doesn't influence people's decisions against her.

In short, even if he didn't rape her, he's in a situation now where it's very hard to believe anything Kobe says. And that is squarely his fault. She offered, but he accepted. It's his responsability alone. Some might say she shares part of the blame because she's a "tramp, slut, skank, etc.," but the blame is all on Kobe. Whatever happened, he knew the possible consequences, and he did it anyways. One more vicitm of our "responsability-disinclined" culture.

Pure Genius

WMOB is a site for anyone who thought the mob was a cut above the rest of us.

"In the course of a federal racketeering investigation, FBI agents and prosecutors received court authorization to wiretap the home telephone of Federico "Fritzy" Giovanelli, a Genovese crime family soldier. The feds hoped to hear Fritzy discussing mob business with fellow New York wiseguys, conversations that would then form the basis for a RICO prosecution against Giovanelli and Co.

... while the tapes do not contain the sort of reckless chatter that sent John Gotti away for life, they're remarkable for the funny, profane, and whimsical conversations Fritzy had with his Mafia cohorts, namely Frank "Frankie California" Condo, a fellow Genovese soldier. Like two old hens, Frank and Fritzy would gab daily about life's rich pageant, their conversations a stream-of-consciousness potpourri.

... Listening to them talk, the pair's mutual love and camaraderie is clearly evident. A conversation doesn't pass without one telling the other, "I love ya" or "I miss you." One could almost forget that Frank and Fritzy are career criminals, racketeers who belong to an organization that uses murder as an enforcement tool."

These telephone conversations are truly entertaining, and eerily humanizing. The intimate interaction between Franky and Fritzy strikes a chord, and quite frankly reminds me more of the average working joe than some rich elites. I highly recommend this site as a glimpse of levity in the personal lives of some of the most cold blooded people around. Perfect for a psych dissertation idea.

Which is the Party of Tolerance?

Conventional wisdom claims that the Democrats are the purveyors of all that is kind, gentle, and caring in the world. So why is it that when blatantly anti-homosexual things are said by Democrats, it receives neither coverage nor censure. Case in point, the press coverage of the contentious House meeting today.

Notice that in both these articles (1 and 2), the headline deals with the idea of a turbulent meeting, completely glossing over the exceedingly homophobic comments of one Democrat.

Only one line in the Washington Post article mentions it, "one Democratic member of the panel called a Republican colleague "you little fruitcake" in the midst of the standoff." It's coverage in the Reuters version doesn't even identify the speaker in any way, most likely leaving one to assume Republican authorship. This isn't the first time in the past year that Democrats have played the Homophobia card.

During the 2002 election in Montana, the Democratic candidate ran an attack ad against his Republican opponent insinuating that he was a gay hairdresser back in the 70's and 80's.

In South Carolina, the same tactic was used by another Democrat:

... Attacking him for his closeness to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, a fellow Republican.
"We all admire what (Giuliani) did after 9/11," Sanders said during a television debate. "But Giuliani is an ultraliberal. He supports gay rights. He supports banning all handguns. He supports abortion. His wife kicked him out, and he moved in with two gay men and a Shih Tzu. Is that South Carolina values? I don't think so."

Say some (stupid, but) meaningless pleasantries to an old (really old) man on his birthday and you're a bigoted rascist who deserves to be stripped of all political power. Call an opponent a "fruitcake," and you just got a little carried away while fighting the good fight against the evil, repressive, heavy-handed Republican regime.

Does this Sound like an Occupying Force?

Somehow, I just keep forgetting that we are an Imperialist power thirsty for blood and oil - eager to oppress any minorities we come across. Then I walk across campus at UCLA and see all the chalk and spraypaint decrying "this rascist war." Here's an article from the San Francisco Chronicle, talking about the feelings of our "oppressors" on the ground in Iraq.

Pfc. Jason Ring stood next to his Humvee. "We liberated Iraq. Now the people here don't want us here, and guess what? We don't want to be here either," he said. "So why are we still here? Why don't they bring us home?"

That pretty much sums it up. We don't like being in countries far from home being shot at. We'd much rather take out a threat quickly and be home by the next major holiday. When we say that we don't want to be occupiers, and that we'll leave as soon as possible, we mean it. Somehow, our critics seem to think they know our motivations better than we do.

What we don't hear from these troops is "yeah, I shot me an Iraqi today, woo-hoo! Lemme see if I can't rob, pillage, and rape this country into the ground." Nor is that message conveyed in the actions of our troops. All things considered, I'd rather not pay a billion dollars a month and lose a soldier a day to build infrastructure in another country, but it's necessary. If we want to have an ally in the region, and provide a decent life for 25 million Iraqis, we have to stick it out.

Populism Marks its Return

I've got to hand it to him, Jerry Springer is good. On his webpage he has three little video clips that sum up his "I'm for the little guy against the big wigs in Washington" campaign philosophy. Being a conservative, I'm obviously sympathtic to the "F*** the Federal Government" argument, but the problem here is that Jerry can't possibly mean it. He's a democrat, he wants the government to be invasive in our lives, especially economically. That's not too far off from classical populism - fiscally liberal, but conservative on social issues - but he doesn't fit the social part. Even though he's trying to sell it differently, Springer is nothing more than a traditional democrat.

I am afraid, however, that his campaign speeches will touch a cord will average people, they do with me. It's easy to say "we ought to help the poor," it's harder to understand how to do it. We all want to have the best society possible. Seeing as how I live on about $10,000 a year, I'm not exactly rich, but I do support fiscal conservatism because its the only thing that produces wealth for all to share. Liberal economic policies amount to nothing more than steal from the rich, give some to some of the poor, and pocket the rest for yourself and your cronies. Conservative economic policies say "keep what's yours and do with it what you will." That's such a radical concept that it is still not widely accepted to this day by many.

I think we'd do wrong to dismiss Jerry Springer. He's got the built in name recognition, and cult status. He's very well-spoken, and has a good story behind him. He also has taken a strategy that's been proven to work, employed most recently by Bush. The message of "little people vs. Washington," is one that could draw moderates away from the Republicans over to Springer. I'm anxious to see what Voinovich will counter with. Personally, I'd like to see him out-populist Springer. Republicans have more ideological overlap with populism at its core.

Fun with Google

Try this soon, I don't know how long these two sites will stay number one.

1) Go to Google.com;

2) type in (but don't hit return): "weapons of mass destruction";

3) Hit the "I'm feeling lucky" button, instead of the normal "Google search" button;

4) Read what appears to be a normal error message carefully.

Now...after you finish, type in "French military victories" (without the quotation marks) and hit i'm feeling lucky....

Also, check out the Star Wars Kid.

Why is Liberia so Different from Iraq?

Howard Dean is calling for US military intervention in Liberia.

Dean argued his position on the use of force is not out of line with his opposition to the war in Iraq.
"The situation in Liberia is significantly different from the situation in Iraq," he said.

His first contention is built on the faulty assumptions of his second contention. The situation in Liberia is indeed very different from that in Iraq. There were a hell of a lot more reasons to invade Iraq.

1. WMDs
2. Humanitarian
3. Sanctity of International Law
4. To draw out terrorists
5. Provide a democratic model in the Middle East
6. Give support to Iranian democratic movements
7. Deny safehouse and funding to terrorists

There is really only one, maybe two reasons to put troops in Liberia.

1. Humanitarian
2. Some sense of stability for the region

Given a world of scarcity, where we can only deploy in a limited number of places, Howard Dean would pick option number two. Thank God he is not in charge of evolution. This man clearly does not know how to allocate resources. I'm not saying we shouldn't put troops in Liberia, I'm pretty much in favor of that. What I am saying is that to justify military intervention in Liberia while denying it in Iraq is not only stupid, incoherent, and contradictory, it is also immoral.

Please let this man be the Dems candidate.

Life on the Blog

Isn't this cartoon the truth.

Is the Recall Democratic?

The eyeranian has a post denouncing the California Recall as undemocratic. At first, this struck me as the exact opposite of everything I ever learned. Wasn't the recall an invention of the Progressives to make politics more democratic? Upon further reflection, I found that my initial reaction was perfectly correct. A recall is democratic, and a good idea to boot.

I'm going to talk now about the abstract concept of the recal. Reasonable people can disagree about particular recalls and whether or not they are a good idea, but I'll deal with those who make the blanket claim that recalls are always bad, as asserts the eyeranian.

sometimes politicians are forced to make hard choices and explore options that may not be appreciated immediately. Just imagine if politicians started making every decision based on whether it is popular or not. How effective can they be when tough choices need to be made? Will they make the right choice, or the popular one, even if it is wrong? This is what this idiotic recall invention (not including provisions for any physical or mental incapability or legal convictions) brings to any political undertaking.

There you have the gist of his argument. With a recall, politicians will cater to the public will, and that's bad. The inherent assumption is that politicians shouldn't cater to the desires of the people. Unfortunately for the eyeranian, that is exactly what democracy is - civilized mob rule. Were he complaining that the recall is unrepublican, his argument would have more standing, but it's clearly democratic.

His main concern is that politicians won't make the tough choices. There are always going to be controversial decisions to be made, and the politician must come down one way or the other. Whatever he does, he is sure to anger some portion of the population. If he does not act, however, he will anger the entire population. A good way to check that is the recall. In debate-land, we call this a "turn." The eyeranian's arguement is not only wrong, the truth is the exact opposite. I've "turned" it to my side. Without a recall, politicians can pander to special interests, making decisions without the majority's interests in mind. With a recall, if the politican fails to take responsability and act, he will piss off everyone, and be thrown from office. For example, if a politican fails to deal with a $38 billion budget deficit, both parties will be fed up and kick him out.

With Issa holding the office, should the Democrats start a petition to recall him as soon as he makes some unpopular choice? Where would this all end?

Next point, it will just be recall after recall. First of all, it's not historically accurate. We've had the recall for almost 100 years, and how often can you remember it happenning? Second, the electorate is politically mature enough to not throw a temper tantrum when their candidate doesn't win office. It's part of the responsability attached to the privilege of living in a free society.

Arguments of the type posed by the eyeranian are fundamentally based on the idea that the public is stupid, and that they don't know how to handle tough decisions. This type of thinking is the foundation for aristocracy, monarchy, and communism just to mention a few, but it is most certainly not the foundation of democracy. When faced with understanding that politican will not always make the decision we like, the eyeranian thinks that the average person will act immature, pout, and demand a recall. I have a different take. I think people can comprehend the complexities of life, and government. We often vote for a candidate we don't agree with one hundred percent, and we're not going to demand he leave office when he acts on one of his platforms we didn't like.

The eyeranian seems to want a patrician representative system where our leaders throw feed to the pigs to get elected, and then lead a cloistered life for several years, without any concern for the public (remember, they shouldn't cater to our desires), and at the end of their term, they can come back and tell us how great they were.

A great part of the reason why I'm conservative is that I believe that people can govern themselves, and they can deal with the intricacies of the political sphere. The popular decision is usually the right one, and the politician should be trying to please the electorate - the principle of decision by majority. And we're not going to try for a recall simply because our candidate didn't win. Please, have faith in the common person, our founders did.

Socialism Keeps France out of Heaven

I can't help but fisk this article. First, here's a good general rant against socialism by a blogger who echoes my own heart on a great range of subjects. Oddly enough, this is just the latest loose tongue screw-up in Europe. They sure do get in a fit over nothing. Imagine if they had to deal with someone like Newt Gingrich, they'll all gasp for air in shock and keel over ... hmmm, note to self ....

"France is not yet on the road to heaven, only in purgatory, since we still have Socialists," Mr. Raffarin said [French Prime Minister]

Sounds reasonable to me. After all, it is the country that invented the separation of powers, brought modern rule of law and freedom of religion to Europe, and Laetitia Casta. They at least deserve purgatory. They were doing pretty well until they became shaded pink, from about the Paris Commune on till now.

"Mr. Raffarin no longer deserves the title of prime minister of the Republic," said Jean-Marc Ayrault, the leader of the Socialist Party caucus in the National Assembly.

Of course you don't like that title, you'd much prefer "General Secretary." By the way, am I the only one who freaks out when he hears the words National and Socialist that close together in the same sentence?

In a scheduled debate in Parliament on Wednesday on whether to censure the French government for its overall policies, François Hollande, the secretary general of the Socialist Party

See, I wasn't even kidding when I made that reference to the title of the leader of the Soviet Union.

"You even have considered Socialism a sin bad enough to deprive our country of attaining access to heaven," Mr. Hollande said

It's really more sad than anything when a country that is considered 90% Christian to this day, and has produced some of the greatest theological minds, commits such huge faults in basic Theology. All sins are the same in size, it is not the combination of sins of varying degrees that deprives one of access to heaven; one simple sin is enough. But yeah, Socialism, e.g. the rape and pillage of a society for the benefit of those in power, while under pretenses of equality, is a bad enough sin.

"The majority is prostrating itself once again to the pseudomoral and intellectual terrorism of the left." said Jean-Marie Le Pen, the leader of the right-wing National Front party

This is one of the few times I actually agree with Le Pen. They say he's right wing, but they forget to mention that he is also superracist, and a Holocaust denier, and that he took second place in France's presidential elections. This must be how the Anti-War crowd feels when they find out that Pat Buchanan is on their side.

Mr. Raffarin accused the Socialists of "demotivating France," adding, "They seem to prefer their party to their country."

Naturally. Being good socialists, they don't believe that the country is owed their alleigance, that belongs to their ideology. The reference point is socialism and its global spread, not France.

His verbal blunders — as well as his sweet and sometimes meaningless aphorisms — are so numerous that there is a name for them: "Raffarinades." ... "When I succeed, I'm a supercommunicator; when I fail, I am a bumpkin from the provinces." said Raffarin

Sounds a lot like Bush. Think back to the pre-9/11 days when Bush was considered to have ushered in the era of bipartisanship and his "victories" in unity such as the education bill and prescription drug care.

Why Only Tepid Russian Support for the War on Terror?

Once again, terror struck the streets of Moscow. Two suicide bombers blew themselves up at a music festival outside Moscow. One was believed to be a twenty year old girl. I suppose that, combined with the appearance of female suicide bombers in Israel, is proof of Islam's gender equality.

I used to be sympathetic to the Chechen cause, but now I've lost it all. First the bombings in Grozny, then the theater in Moscow, and now this. It's unacceptable. I will be studying in St. Petersburg all next year, and whatever my political feelings are, they change the moment I might be blown up in a cafe.

A friend of mine judiciously warned me to stay away from people looking like this, but I think that stubble, a bini cap, and a sad look will be all the rave during winter in St. Petersburg, so racial profiling won't work too well for me.

I get my hair cut regularly in a salon staffed by Soviet expatriates, and today was no exception. After informing my Georgian stylist about the news, she proceed to vent on why this religion was so dangerous and terrifying, and why these Chechen rebels were idiots for wanting independence. Apparently, terrorism like this doesn't make people more favorable to one's cause or one's religion - big surprise there. This might seem a bit bizarre coming from a Georgian, whose country declared independence, but it was a separate Soviet Socialist Republic. Chechnya has always been an actual part of Russia.

This touches a little close to home, and makes me glad I'll be in St. Petersburg - several hundred miles from Moscow. Hopefully that extra drive we be dissuasive enough to keep me safe.

Europeans Throw Hissy Fit Over Namecalling

Berlusconi, in response to accusations of his unfitness to take over Europe's rotating Presidency, told a German member of Parliament that he could well play the part of a Nazi concentration camp leader. Now the two countries have issued statements saying the other was acting childish. I haven't seen fights of this sort since grade school. Just more proof that Europe is not the 'mature grown up' it claims to be. And further dispells the myth of "Europe." There is no unified continent, and there won't be for a while.

Instead of a United States of Europe, the more reasonable description seems to be "A Federation of Nation-States."

Suspension of Military Aid Problematic

"The Bush administration suspended all American military assistance to 35 countries today because they refused to pledge to give American citizens immunity before the International Criminal Court."

We have every right to request exemption before giving aid to countries participating in the ICC. The intricacies of international law have yet to be worked out, and we do not want to put our soldiers in risk of prosecution because of their role in helping other countries. What's interesting is some of the countries on the list. Most importantly is Colombia, where we are quite active in training and providing weapons for use against FARC and the drug trade. This removal could only prolong the war, and help FARC take an even more proactive stance. Hopefully Colombia will realize what it has to lose and sign the exemption.

US concerns about the ICC are well founded. Ruth Wedgewood gives excellent analysis as to its shortcomings. The realistic possibility of frivolous lawsuits has been proven by Belgium's case against Powell and Rumsfeld stemming from "human rights abuses" during the first Gulf War. There are no provisions for due process or any of the protections in our Bill of Rights, and the prison conditions in many of the participating nations are appalling.

The ICC is far from perfect, and until some of the gravest concerns are dealt with, we will abstain from any action in a country where the ICC's jurisdiction could ensnare us. This is a loss for humanity as a whole. For example, under the current ICC format, Yugoslavia could have brought us to trial based on NATO bombings during the Kosovo campaign. Unless immunity is agreed to, the next time a country slaughters its own, we will be forced to sit the sidelines.

Americans Held Hostage Denied Compensation

"A federal appeals court ruled today that the Americans held in Iran for more than 400 days beginning in 1979 cannot receive damages from Tehran because the agreement that freed them barred such lawsuits. "

I fully support this decision. First of all, we should feel lucky we even got these hostages back. Considering the mood of Tehran circa 1979, and especially after a failed rescue attempt, it wouldn't have been a surprise were they all killed. If part of the deal was to relinquish any monetary claims, that was well worth their lives. I understand that the situation must have been pure hell, and I'm not saying it was a weekend jaunt. But that the Iranians eventually traded them back is proof of our negotiators' skill, and the hostages ought to thank them profusely, not second-guess their bargain. I'm sure that given the opportunity themselves, they would have gladly forgone any future lawsuits in order to secure their freedom.

Second, it would set a horrible precedent for the United States to go back on a deal made in good faith. This would significantly erode America's standing in eveyone's eyes, especially those of another group of radical extremists that we are trying to deal with right now - Palestinian terrorists. Were Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Al Aqsa to see us renege on a deal, any prospects for an agreement brokered by us would be finished. International relations are based on only two things, force and trust. For other nations to lose faith in our word, we would pay a hefty price in standing, prestige, and effectiveness.

In short, the Iranian hostage crisis was a low point in our history, and it was a nightmare for those involved. I am ecstatic that they got to come home unharmed, but given the circumstances, they were wrong in attempting to file suit.

PS: In doing this post, I not only learned how to properly spell renege, but also that it and renegade came from the same root - to deny. Kinda neat.

Talk About Orwellian

Kucinich wants to create a "Department of Peace," to "prevent violence both domestic and internationally."

Perhaps Dennis needs to go back and take an intro Poli Sci class where he would learn about the concept of the "monopoly of violence." This Dept. of Peace would have to use force to prevent violence, especially domestically. How does he think that the police force works. Maybe he hasn't ever seen an episode of Cops and thinks they just talk to criminals.

Leave it to the Dems to come up with insidious labeling to confuse the purpose of an office. As if somehow it were possible to prevent violence by means other than force. Clearly, our non-violent measures over a decade persuaded Saddam to conform to our convictions.

These people have such a ridiculously naive worldview. Dems have the reputation for being more cultured, traveled individuals, but I just can't imagine that they have ever been outside of America. Go on Dennis, create your newspeak department. Tell Kim Jong Ill how much we wish he would stop killing, imprisoning, and torturing his own people. Ask the Algerian islamofascists to stop slaughtering schoolchildren. Offer Islamic Jihad political recognition if they stop blowing up busses. Do all this, but realize that instead of securing the world for peace you only give it over to the more bestial, feral parts of humanity.

"Whatever enables us to go to war secures our peace." - Thomas Jefferson


Much thanks to AIR for adding me to the blogroll. If you haven't checked it out yet, it's a great site.

A Neat Idea

The Free State Project is a group of liberty minded individuals who want to have a group of at least 20,000 people all move into the same state. With this political base, they plan on influencing state policies to such a degree as to roll back gun control laws, install classical liberal economic policies, and implement a whole host of traditionally libertarian ideas.

I, while not signing up for the move due to the fact that my life is utterly chaotic and I don't know where I'll be in the next two years (hopefully not a merchant marine ship in Shanghai), would like to voice my support for such a move. This is the raison d'etre for federalism. Our states are supposed to be the laboritories for democracy, and this is one hell of an experiment.

Seeing as how I am greatly sympathetic to the majority of their causes, I wish the Free State Project the best of luck. By the time my life is more stable, I hope they have made some good progress, and I may just decide to move on over and help out.

As for which state to do it in, my vote is Montana.

Abortion Ship
warning: cultural conservative ahead

Just one more reason to like Eastern Europeans. Poles protested a ship that takes women to international waters to give abortions, away from their home countries where the procedure is outlawed. The boat, run by Women on Waves, was held up by protests, violated the port's entry orders, and was found to have on board pills that are illegal under Polish law.

Poland is a staunch Catholic country whose population still believes that abortion is wrong. I am glad to see that there are still people around the world who hold the value of human life in high regard. Abortion is such a divisive issue here in the U.S., that nobody really talks about it. I have recently, however, had conversations with a couple of people who feel like I do that a child should have their rights protected even if it inconveniences the mother or father who have already made her choices.

As a sidenote, our focus on abortion being a "woman's right" has only served to undermine the role of male responsability for pregnancy and children. If a woman is pregnant, it is considered only in her agency to keep or terminate the child. As a result, the man is completely shut out from the decision. This had lead many men and women to assume that the child is the woman's problem. It took two people to create it, and when we cut off one of those people, it is easy to see why males, in general, use this as an opportunity to skip out on responsability for wearing protection in the first place, and for taking care of the child if the mother decides to keep it.

I do see hope on the horizon. Apparently, though not here at the cooperative where I live, today's generation is more conservative than the last. A newsweek cover story from the June 9, 2003 edition cited a poll showing that the majority of Americans believe that life begins at conception.

Perhaps we have finally regained a bit of our humanity that was ripped out by the selfish and responsibility-disinclined generation of the 1960's. It is time we decided to protect the weakest and most defenseless of our society.

Supreme Court F***ks It Up

Vagueness and Obfuscation Trump Transparency.

The Supreme Court saw fit to denounce the undergraduate admissions criteria for diversity at U.Mich which gave points for race, but upheld the law school admissions, which is a "'highly individualized, holistic review of each applicant's file' in which race counts as a factor but is not used in a 'mechanical way.'"

Apparently, racial diversity is a compelling interest that the state can step in to control.

"Justice O'Connor's opinion in the law school case embraced the diversity rationale. 'Effective participation by members of all racial and ethnic groups in the civil life of our nation is essential if the dream of one nation, indivisible, is to be realized,' she said. She added that law schools, in particular, served as gateways to economic and political leadership. 'Access to legal education (and thus the legal profession) must be inclusive of talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity.'"

This says that if somehow every shade of skin tone and every purveyor of a localized food and dance (culture) were represented at every single law school, we would have a perfect government. So if there is one Inuit candidate, they ought to be let in to fulfill diversity, no matter how unqualified. One of my main faults with this decision is the use of doublespeak. "All racial and ethnic groups," does not mean all. There will be no exta benefit for descendents of Irish Catholics turned Protestant - even though that is a culture unto itself. What about Bretons, Basques, Normans, Romanche, Hungarians from Romania, etc. Our current leadership seems to forget that Europe has hundreds of ethnicities, yet all their descendents in America are labeled white and presumed to come from lives of privilege and wealth.

Assuming away the definition of race and ethnicity (blacks and hispanics) and assuming away a better form of diversity (thoughts and ideas), we'll deal with the issue of how to best implement "diversity" programs in the most "fair" way possible. If this is going to exist, I want it to be done in the most transparent way possible. Sandra Day O'Connor even says as much: "'In order to cultivate a set of leaders with legitimacy in the eyes of the citizenry, it is necessary that the path to leadership be visibly open to talented and qualified individuals of every race and ethnicity.'" The undergraduate program was transparent. We knew how people got in. If we wanted we could go look at their tally sheet. That's a visible way. The law school admissions is far more vague. The holistic review never has to justify itself or give empirics. This version of admissions is based on good feelings. If people are taking scarce spots in highly competitive programs, I want to know why, and not just because some admission counselor got warm feelings. We publish the criteria of SAT and GPA, why not race? Why make it a hidden factor, used for constructing a perfect society behind closed doors? This smacks of what Frederic Bastiat wrote about in 1850 in The Law,

"But what a difference there is between the gardener and his trees, between the inventor and his machine, between the chemist and his elements, between the farmer and his seeds! And in all sincerity, the socialist thinks that there is the same difference between him and mankind!
It is no wonder that the writers of the nineteenth century look upon society as an artificial creation of the legislator's genius. This idea — the fruit of classical education — has taken possession of all the intellectuals and famous writers of our country. To these intellectuals and writers, the relationship between persons and the legislator appears to be the same as the relationship between the clay and the potter."

If these people wish to construct their perfect society, fine. I can't do anything about it. The process should at least be transparent, with clear guidelines. Vagueness is always manipulated and invites corruption. The harms of a quota-like system, decried in the Bakke decision, are far more tolerable than a secretive junta desiring to create a racial vision.

What World Do These People Live In?

We all saw the two inch print last week declaring that hispanics have officially become the largest minority in America, and the racists have something to say about it. One of Sunday's op-eds in the L.A. Times described how this demographic shift does not matter, and that the true dichotomy in America will always be black/white. The main thrust of the argumentation is that blacks have a distinct place in the American cultural mindset, and their ability to galvanize white guilt can not be matched by any other minority. Essentially, blacks make whites uncomfortable because of historical injustices in a way that hispanics never can. This piece suffers from several faulty assumptions.

"Even as Latinos exert growing influence on American politics and culture, blacks will continue to have a more powerful claim on America's moral imagination."

One of the main problems with generalizations is that you don't know what the hell the author is talking about. First of all, he falls in the trap of positing political power as if it was a tangible zero-sum game. Latinos can claim power without threatening blacks, or whites, or asians, etc. He also places these groups in opposition to whites. If anything, as a Republican, I think hispanics and blacks can be a boon to our party. Both groups are traditionally socially conservative and very religious, with values closer to the right than the left. Democrats have a grip on these groups for irrational reasons, and as more information comes out, the tides of political alignment will change. After all, politics should be about ideas, not physical appearance. Second, what is "moral imagination" Does he mean thoughts like, "if I had the chance to steal a million dollars and not get caught, should I do it?"

Their history of slavery and segregation ensures that African Americans will not be displaced in their role as the preeminent "other" in U.S. society.

I always thought the preeminent "other" in U.S. society was government tyranny and obstruction. Apparently, this author views himself as a race warrior.

The social distance between brown and white has never been as great as that between black and white.

The author seems to think that brown only refers to hispanics. If this statement were to stand as is, we would be asked to assume that in the current political climate there is a smaller divide between whites and arabs than between whites and blacks. Clearly, the author has missed the most recent evolution in race relations.

"Cozying up to Hispanics can help whites show how tolerant they are," says Stanford philosopher Richard Rorty. "Someone who hates the idea of hiring blacks can say, 'Hey, look how many Hispanics I have.' "

Really now, this is getting absurd. I just do not understand these people's cognitive processes. Who out there hates blacks but loves hispanics??? It seems to me that racial intolerance tends to be an all or none characteristic. Most people are either ok with people of different backgrounds, or they are not. My life experience leads me to conclude that this racial substitution hypothesis is a stretch. One more reason to believe that philosophers get paid for having overactive imaginations.

Latinos may now outnumber blacks, but African Americans will remain firmly entrenched in the American psyche.

After five years at a liberal institution of higher learning and reading articles like this, I am beginning to think that maybe I am the odd one out on the issue of race. Speaking in terms of "racial/ethnic group, numbers, entrenched in psyche" is nonsensical on a fundamental level. That's just not the way my brain is wired, and it is not because of some blanket rejection of binaries. I can think in terms of right/left, conservative/liberal, libertarian/authoritarian, but I do not think ethnic group/ethnic group. Ethnic groups are made up of people, individuals with their own thoughts and ideologies. They are not homogenous groups, why do we treat them as such? It makes more sense to groups people along lines of worldview, no matter what thier skin color may be.

Dealing with the idea of historical injustice, I am reminded of a peom by Langston Hughes, entitled "I, too, sing America." The narrator is a servant forced to eat in the kitchen away from the white family he serves, thinking of the day when he will sit at the table with everyone else. At the end, he says, "I, too, am America." Yes, bad things have been done to blacks, hispanics, jews, native americans, irish, italian, etc., but we have to realize that we are all Americans. What unites us is different than what unites the citizens of every other nation on earth. They were all formed more or less of the basis of the inhabitants and tribes of a region. Ours was a country founded on ideology alone. If, even given our ideological basis, we cannot look past skin color and ethnicity, how can we expect any other country to do it?

Whatever the color classification of America, the real sorting ought to be done based on our grey matter.

Friendly Fire Trial Dropped

The court martial of the two US pilots who accidentally bombed a canadian platoon in Afghanistan has been dismissed. This is an emotionally charged issue, but I believe the right choice was made. The pilots thought they were receiving hostile surface to air fire and proceeded to bomb what they thought was the enemy position. The pilots blamed the mistake on the "fog of war," a concept first stated by 19th Century military philosopher Carl von Clausewitz. War is a confusing place where everything goes wrong, and the consequences of incorrect action are death to you and your closest friends. Under these circumstances, we can easily see how mistakes are made. In the case of Afghanistan, the country was riddled with surface-to-air missiles that we gve to the Mujahedeen that are a clear threat to any aircraft. Beyond this threat, the pilots also outline several other mitigating factors:

"The pilots said they were never told the Canadians would be conducting live-ammunition exercises that night. Defense attorneys suggested Air Force-issued amphetamines, which were routine issued to help aviators stay awake during long missions, had clouded the pilots' judgment. They also blamed a military communications breakdown "

This accident was on the tail end of a 10-hour mission. I can't stand to be in a plane for 10 hours, much less piloting it and conducting activities in hostile teritory. Is it really any wonder that they got a little jumpy when people who, as far as they knew, weren't supposed to be there started firing. Friendly fire deaths are always a tragedy, and should be minized as much as possible. However, we simply cannot go around punishing honest mistakes like these. The consequences would be dreadful. Imagine if every soldier now hesitated to fire because it might be possible they were shooting at an ally. More often than not, they would only be helping the enemy. In a warzone, things get confusing. Let's not tie the hands of those who are putting thier lives on the line.

French and Italian Leaders use Immunity to escape prosecution

Whereas we are willing to impeach a president over lying, the Continentals make their leaders untouchable by lawsuit while in office. The most recent incarnation of this principle is Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister of Italy. Parliament just passed a law giving the top five members of government immunity from prosecution during their term. This is meant to stall the seven year process charging corruption and bribing by Berlusconi. Odd how it coincides with his presidency of the EU.

If this sounds familiar, it is probably because the right honorable President de La France, Jacques Chriac, also has immunity while in office, and is also awaiting trial on several charges of corruption. While he was mayor of Paris, Monsieur Chirac made many "questionable" deals involving the current majority party (RPR) which he founded.

It came as no surprise when I learned that France and Italy are considered the most corrupt and the most corrupting of industrialized nations. To quote, "graft affects every corner of life, from sport to politics. So endemic is it, they argue, that it simply represents the French way of doing business.." And we thought we had "good ol' boys" networks.

It seems that God created sex to tempt American politicians, and money to tempt Europeans.

Lemonade Anyone?

At my lemonade stand I used to give the first glass away free and charge five dollars for the second glass. The refill contained the antidote. - Emo Philips

Well, at least the police didn't shut me down like this poor six year old entrepreneur.

Enforcing Copyright Laws

Apparently, Senator Orin Hatch is willing to allow the recording industry to physically destroy the computers of people caught illegally downloading material. I certainly think that is a bit drastic, but I am not sure how I feel about pirating media.

Obviously, it is illegal. We are taking material that is copyrighted and we are not paying for it. Being a child of the information age, I have a radical idea that information ought to be free. I still have not reconcilled this with how authors would make a living, but it seems to me that even in such a society, people would still want to buy books to own a physical copy. Likewise, and perhaps even less vexing, if songs become public domain consumers would still want to go to concerts to see the music performed live. Artists would still have a way to make a living.

Assuming the laws do not change to meet the realities of this new era, do we have a de facto obligation to obey the law - even if we consider it unjust? I do not necessarily think so, we all violate laws every single day (speeding, to name just one instance). In fact, it seems that a lot of laws ought to be on the books just in case something bad or extreme happens; i.e. it is ok to break these laws at your own peril, but if something bad does happen, it should be known that you were clearly in the wrong. For example, seat belt laws. You should not be forced to wear a seatbelt. If, however, you are in an accident and you are not wearing a seatbelt, you should not be able to sue for damages due to the fact that you flew through the windshield.

Let's bring this back to copyright infringement. Should people who download one or two songs from their favorite artists and who have a playlist of 1,000 songs be punished. No, the drain on money from the government for each individual prosecution does not even begin to cover the damage inflicted on the recording companies. However, if someone has one million songs, and is selling access to their library for downloads, that might be a good case to punish.

As for the legality of downloading, I do not see a real difference between pirating songs from peer-to-peer and taping songs from the radio. In both cases you are making a recording of a song that passes freely over the airwaves. Excepting obscure bands who might not be played on the radio, but who would profit from the greater publicity of filesharing. To further illustrate this similarity, I have a friend who hooked up his radio to his computer and ripped songs straight from FM radio. Would this make him a target for prosecution? Why would the medium of recording make a difference?

This new technology has made it possible for the market to react to an overpriced product. Consumers are expected to pay close to $20 for a cd that likely has only one or two good songs, and no liner notes with items of interest such as lyrics. This is far too much money, and so people are willing to make investments elsewhere. The price is so high that people are willing to invest time into searching and are willing to settle for an inferior quality of product. I have no doubt that if cds were made more affordable, people would be more willing to buy them. These artists are overpaid anyways, there are not many people who would disagree with that.

As is to be expected, new technology is forcing our laws, culture, and social norms to be reevaluated. The information revolution is still creating corpses, but it is all part of the beautiful destructive creation that is capitalism. Oligarchies are being challenged, inflated prices confronted.

Should we destroy the computers of people who want to hear the theme song from Gummy Bears beacuse it reminds them of their childhood? No, and the fruits of pirating will be a better product offered. God bless the free market.

What a Fox

I guess it is subliminal, but this must be why I like Fox News so much.

Good Christian Ethics

The Bishop of Pheonix was arrested over the weekend for fleeing the scene of a fatal hit and run accident. Bishop O'Brien also allowed priests that he knew had been accused of sexual misconduct to work with minors, and he would sometimes pass these priests off to other parishes without alerting their supervisors. Sounds like good christian living to me.

As far as I remember it, the parable of the good Samaritan involves finding an already beaten man, and then helping him. I suppose if it is you who does the beating, then there is no obligation to help the man. O'Brien could have at least said the Last Rites.

This type of behaviour is unfortunately indicative of the state of the Catholic Church right now. Frank Keating, the ex-governor of Oaklahoma and devout Catholic, appointed to head the investigation of the sex abuse scandals gets shouted down for coming out and telling the truth. Keating said that it was shameful for the Church hierarchy to act with such secrecy, and reiterated that his committee must be transparent. Los Angeles Cardinal Mahony, head of America's largest archdiocese referred to Keating's remarks as "the last straw."

Why is Cardinal Mahony so defensive against these accusations of obfuscation? Because he is not willing to answer a survey about the number of priests involved in sexual misconduct, nor will he release subpoenaed documents pertaining to the prosecution of several former and current priests.

When the Jayson Blair story broke, it was the New York Times, Blair's own paper, that did the most thorough accounting of his fabrications. They did so to save what little respect and prestige they could. They wanted everyone to know they had the integrity to own to their mistakes. The Catholic Church, faced with decades of sexual molestation, refuses to take a similar action. Instead they try to keep things behind closed doors, exactly the type of activity that got them in trouble in the first place. The only attempt made at cleaning up thier image and rooting out justice is sabotaged by high-ranking officials like Mahony. Keating's panel was a half-hearted attempt by an embarrassed Chruch. Not because they meant it, but because they had to do something. Now that Iraq and other news has eclipsed their scandal, the committee is being undermined from within.

Behaviour like Mahony and O'Brien cannot be tolerated if the Church is to retain any dignity. Beyond that, if they are to have any claim of moral superiority, any claim to bring people to "the Way, the Truth and the Life," then must stop acting as if we live in Medieval Europe. These officials are not above the law, although by their actions they should be above reproach. It is not acceptable to kill someone in an accident and flee, or to molest little children entrusted to them as representatives of God.

In order for the Church to continue the good work that it has done, it must confess its sins. And not just in a booth, behind a curtain, to other priests - but in public, in front of cameras, to the whole world.

Left-Wing Conspiracy Theories

I didn't know they existed, but the Lefties have a bunch of conspiracy theories all their own. In true form, none of the liberal theories make any sense at all. Especially compared to the quite credible right wing theories, like Vince Foster, or the Clinton Body Count. Thanks to Right Wing News for the link.

Violence in Egyptian Media

Matrix Reloaded was banned in Egypt on grounds that it challenges traditional religious views on "human existence, and creation." The film discusses free will, in a somewhat sophmoric way, but it does not say anthing about the creation of human beings. As for confronting beliefs on existence, does it matter if a couple of people think they really are in the matrix? Even if that were true, I don't see how if would affect one's belief in God.

On a more realistic note, the censors feel that "the film has too many scenes of violence at a time when we are trying to fight this phenomenon." Fair enough, Egyptians are concerned about violence on television. I can understand that. If that's true, however, then why do the censors not work on stopping the shows that pass freely on television. A study on programming during the holy month of Ramadan, the most watched time for Egyptian television, showed that violence against women was highly prevalent and condoned. If they are at all worried about programming challenging the basics tenants of Islam, billed as a religion of peace and tolerance, then why do they allow such barbarism to pass nightly during the holiest month of the year?

Moral of the story: Violence against a dictatorial, tyrannical power structure trying to enslave the masses is not to be viewed. Abuse of women by the heroes of prime time television shows is normal and laudable.

PS: What do we expect from the country which aired "Horse without a Horseman" during Ramadan. A serial which drew on the notorious "Protocols of the Elders of Zion." A book forged by order of the Tsar of Russia to detail the Jewish conspiracy for world dominance.

High School Exit Exams

With California's public schools still in shambles, many attempts are being made in an attempt to increase the value of education. One such idea is the California High School Exit Exam (CHSEE).

Exit exams are a good idea in general. We always seem to talk about 'how much smarter the Europeans are than Americans,' and they have comprehensive exit exams to finish high school. For the Brits, it's the A-Levels, for the French, the BAC. A-level results stay with you the rest of your life, often put on your CV; and the type of BAC taken determines what you can study at university. Mind, these tests are quite difficult. The equivalent in America would be to require that all students take AP tests for each of their subjects, and then use these results to get into college.

I'm not suggesting a change that radical, but some sort of basic knowledge needs to be garnered. People need to know why the American Revolution was fought, and who King George was. They need to understand something of the founding fathers and their ideas, Jefferson vs. Hamilton and the like. An understanding of the function and division of our government is near essential to the proper functioning of our democracy. Hemmingway, Melville, Milton, Orwell, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Laclos, Hugo, Cervantes, Goerthe, and myriad other authors should be read and remembered. Some basics about the Enlightenment, the French Revolution, the Counter-Reformation, and the Restoration ought be committed to memory. The ideas of Voltaire, de Tocqueville, Sir Francis Bacon, Ben Franklin, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche should be understood. Exposure to the classics goes without saying. Some basic physics and biology would help to appreciate this world. Some may call this Eurocentric, but these people and ideas form the core of modernity. I am certainly open to ideas from other cultures, but these people have so influenced society the world over that they are essential.

Perhaps this is just my wishlist of study, but I think the idea that some level of mastery should be acquired before graduating is held by many. The California exit exam only requires "scores of 60 percent correct in language arts and 55 percent correct in mathematics" in order to pass. That's not a passing grade in any one class, why should it be passing on the comprehensive exit exam? Before people get up in arms defending this watered down exam, just take a look at an 8th grade exit exam from 1895. It is eye opening to think that what we required of 8th graders one hundred years ago would be difficult for a Ph.D. to pass today.

North Korea's Nukes

Richard Perle, the man appeasers love to hate, has brought up the notion of precision strikes against North Korean nuclear facilities. It's good to know that we finally have people in positions of power, like Rumsfeld, who aren't afraid to take action when necessary, even in the face of negative consequences.

Clinton, for all his failings, did fine for himself. He appeased several terrible regimes, and came out of office with a high approval rating, and a huge check for his memoirs. Had he confronted these problems during his tenure, Clinton would have had some tough choices to make. So instead of driving a hard bargain with the North Koreans, he let them go on their way developing weapons behind our backs. Had he taken any other action, he would have had to deal with the after effects. But now, it's a different president who has to deal with the results of his decision. This way, Clinton's time in office isn't spoiled, and somebody else has to fix the problem.

A military strike on North Korea poses a certain distinct drawback in the sense that it might provoke a military response against South Korea or Japan. This isn't so much of a problem if North Korea only has conventional weapons; but if, as rumored, they already posess one or two nuclear weapons, the consequences could be catastrophic. North Korea possibly has missiles that could reach the West Coast, but it surely has a delivery system that would extend to South Korea and Japan.

I don't think that the response would be a military invasion of S. Korea, that would surely kill the 30+ thousand troops we have at the DMZ, and draw the United States into a full fledged war. But I wouldn't rule out a barrage of missiles aimed at Seoul and Tokyo, potentially nuclear tipped. It seems that a strike to destroy North Korea's nuclear technology might release that which the strike was intended to prevent. However, to counter that point, it is conceivable that if N. Korea had only a small number of nuclear weapons, and we struck, they would not strike back with those weapons, but use conventional warheads. That way they could keep the nuclear weapons on hold for deterrence against any further US military intervention.

I am in favor of destroying N. Korea's nuclear facilities, but I'd want good evidence that N. Korea doesn't already possess nuclear weapons. Of course, it goes without saying that if Clinton had taken care of this mess back in '94, we wouldn't have to be worrying about the state of North Korea's nuclear arsenal.

Iran's Nukes

An opinion piece in Haaretz gives a pretty good summation of the current Iranian nuclear weapons quandary. Iran is developing nukes, we all know it. We just don't know how quickly, or with what sort of range.

Given that, the question is, how do we deal with it? We could a) give up, b) attack, c) negotiate. I'm sure that choice a is not the best. Choice c doesn't seem too good either. Iran is not Iraq, and there are not as many justifications for an invasion. The terrain is mountainous and much more treacherous, and the current political situation inside the country is such that an attack may well strengthen the Islamiscists and galvanize resistance.

Choice b is not very appealing because it does not work. How can we possibly negotiate when Russia is supplying the materials used to construct the nuclear reactors? How can we negotiate when there is no enforcement mechanism? We cannot trust the Iranian regime, and so the basis for any negotiation is tenuous at best. That seemingly leaves us with no options.

Perhaps if we modified b and c, we could get a viable alternative. We must show that we will not allow countries to blackmail us using nuclear weapons. North Korea and Iran are examples of how attempting to gain nukes will bring a country to the big table, and will act as a form of immunity. It seems that we should negotiate, and try as hard as we can to stop the nuclear club from expanding, but use tactical strikes if necessary.

We have the technological ability to strike targets such as nuclear facilities with great precision. We should strike the plants before the come online to avoid contaminating the area with fallout, but we must remain resolved to use force if the time comes. Without the will - or perceived will - to use violence, any threat from the US looses credibility, and any negotiation becomes futile.

UPDATE: The past couple days of protesting in Iran are a wonderful sign of the weakness of the Iranian regime. The people are getting fed up with the government, and its days may be numbered. Just like last year's protests against the death sentence for Hashem Aghajari, these manifestations are going virtually unreported. I really don't understand why the mainstream press continues to underreport the events in Iran.

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