Saturday, February 23, 2002

Enlist world in war on terror

In doing my homework on examining the "root causes" of terrorism, it occurs to me that Bin Laden and his ilk are motivated more by a desire to return to the glory days of Islam without understanding it. The great Islamic empires of the past were mighty militarily, which will take more than a small secret group of suicide bombers to replicate, and they were cultured, open to the contributions of the rest of the world. The branch of Islam with which these people are associated is the kind that rejects all such contributions and tries to destroy them. This is clear from the Taliban's destruction of the giant Buddhas in Afghanistan, and the fixation of bin Laden's own group with bringing down the World Trade Center.

Such fundamentalism is contrary to peace and brotherhood. It seeks to establish a new totalitarianism, more the foolish because it ignores the example of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. You can't build an economy that can compete in this world without embracing the creativity and intelligence of the people by granting freedom. They may make bad choices, but when they have the freedom to succeed and to fail on their own, they succeed more, and the entire society is enriched.

Wahabism , the branch of Islam supported by Saudi Arabia, tries to deny all that mankind has learned in the past 1,000 years, and imagines a new Islamic paradise where free will is revoked.

I find it interesting that so many political theories boil down to establish their adherents as the ruling class and the rest of us to slavery. I was raised on the story that before the world was created, the sons and daughters of God who were to come to it and inhabit it were presented with two plans. One, which was the Father's, provided for freedom of choice, and a redeemer who would suffer all the pains brought about by the sins and evil done in the world and provide a path to return. The other plan was proposed by Lucifer, who was a son of the morning, and would bring all back, but without having ever had the ability to choose between good and evil. He sought to trade safety for free will. His plan was rejected by God and by two thirds of the other spirits, and he was cast from Heaven along with the third who followed him, and became Satan. He was placed here and allowed to tempt mankind, because there could be no choice without alternatives, "there must needs be an opposition in all things."

All the fuss ever since has been about the same plans: freedom and risk vs. slavery and the promise of security, which somehow never works as promised. Any proposal, political or religious, which seeks to destroy freedom, no matter how it is portrayed as something else, is harmful to the spirit of mankind.

On the other hand, freedom comes with the condition that we will receive not only the rewards, but the penalties for our choices. The one who has the most freedom is the one who does not barter it away for short term pleasures that make it difficult impossible to return to the freedom he had before the choice. The one at the top of the cliff has more freedom than the one who chose to step of it and ended broken and injured at the bottom. The one at the top is often accused as not being free, but he certainly has more choices than the one at the bottom.

Islam is not powerful enough to conquer the world and Wahabism does not offer a path to ever be that mighty. All it can do is destroy Islam as a religion. It can become a hiss and a byword or it can reclaim its place as a culture of learning and wealth. For all the claims that the war on terror is between the West and the Mideast, the true decisive battle will be fought within Islam itself, to determine what it stands for, the plan of Lucifer or the plan of the Father.

Friday, February 22, 2002

Schr�der calls for Europe to set tax rates

Go for it, Gerhard! This will be proof forever that the U.N. is an even worse idea.

Tim Blair blogs on

He's got such a nice touch.

Reading about people like Elizabeth Wurtzel makes me wonder if the Second Amendment should really be applied to all citizens. There are a lot of people I wouldn't want within a mile of a firearm. They're either too hotheaded or just plain nuts.

On the other hand, good Liberals would, in a moment of stress, put the gun to their head.

I am in favor of wider gun ownership and carrying by people who have been properly screened and trained. I'd like to see more frequent fliers whose mental stability and judgment is beyond question authorized to carry weapons on planes, trains and other commona carriers, and in all public places. They should be tested and certified by the FBI or the Secret Service. No one from Ruby Ridge or the Branch Davidians need apply. This would be another good use for smart ID cards.

Wurtzel is right up there with Susan Sonntag and Noam Chomsky for being detestable human beings. I'm for shipping any of these hate-America-first types to Saudi Arabia. Talk about terrorism!

So this is for Ms. Wurtzel (paraphrasing Sir Walter Scott):

Breathes there a gal, with soul so dead,
Who never to herself hath said,
This is my own, my native land!
Whose heart hath ne'er within her burn'd,
As home her footsteps she hath turn'd,
From wandering on a foreign strand!
If such there breathe, go, mark her well;
And wish her swiftly down to hell;
Best selling her titles, proud her name,
Honored in salon as wish can claim;
Despite those titles on someone's shelf,
The wretch, concentred all in self,
Living, shall forfeit fair renown,
And, doubly dying, shall go down
To the vile dust, from whence she sprung,
Unwept, unhonor'd, and unsung.

And none too soon.

Danny Pearl's writing is his legacy. As his friend Daniel Bellow, who sat across from Pearl at the Eagle, says: "To think that he's dead for nothing, for ideology, is just more than I can bear."

I don't believe that Islam can survive while it justifies this act or the murders on September 11, 2001 and earlier. It will become the enemy of all people who believe in real tolerance, which is different from excusing outrages, and in the real God, who does not reward evil with good.

Thursday, February 21, 2002

Mark Steyn's latest column is a beaut.

He writes, "The EU supposedly fears massive �destabilisation� of the Muslim world. I say, bring it on, baby. If we don�t destabilise them now, they�re going to be destablilising us the day after tomorrow."

Speaking of stability, it seems to me that the more socialist a nation becomes, the more important stability seems to be. Government social spending is all about stabilization. Anything that might redirect government spending to such unnecessary items as national defense threatens the stability of increases in the national "safety net," otherwise known to those who produce wealth as a hammock.

Could this be the root of the considerable criticism of the U.S. in Europe as being reckless and destabilizing?

Chewing Up a Fragile Land
Terry Tempest Williams is to Utah as Katha Polit is to politics. She's a lapsed Mormon who gets published because she has master political correct speech. She loves to rhapsodize on the environment, so the pseudo-intelligentsia here love her.

Here she claims that the public lands in Southeastern Utah are too sensitive to allow seismic testing for oil and gas resources.
These lands are the way they are because they are tough and rugged. They've been explored by pioneers and prospectors and were never settled because they can't be. They are mostly vertical, and what is level is very hard to get to. The mesa tops and plateaus are impossible to irrigate, and the bottoms are subject to spring floods.

As for their being sensitive, it is important to remember that they were formed by erosion from wind and water. The tracks of man here are pretty puny.

The more serious implication of this kind of blather is that it proposes to deny lessees the property rights they have paid for.
This is what is most insidious about environmentalists, they don't respect any human rights, particularly contract and property rights. Every other consideration is trumped by Saving the Earth, and, of course, they are the self-appointed arbiters of what that means.

Of course they claim science, referring to the cryptobiotic soil, which is the crust that forms on desert land when lichens grow in it. They love to say that it takes 100 years for this crust to regrow after it is once disturbed Williams extends it to 300.

But their real argument is emotional. They always speak in religious and emotive terms: treasure, precious, pristine, holy, sacred, blessed, sacrifice, etc.

The real howler in this piece is the description of the BLM official who showed up to see what Williams and her fellow activists were up to:

A manager from the Bureau of Land Management suddenly appeared, and I felt a flash of relief, thinking he had come to stop this sacrifice of wild country that might at best yield a tiny fraction of the supply of fuel this oil-hungry nation uses every year. He was perturbed, but not by the trucks plowing through the cottonwood wash. He had come to monitor us � the public, walking on public lands.

Williams and her friends are not the public. They are a tiny segment of the public, but they claim that their agenda comes ahead of anyone else's. They are demanding that 9 million acres in Southern Utah be set aside as federal wilderness, which would close all historic access, close public rights of way, and prohibit any conveyance other than by foot and, possibly, horseback. Apparently feet and horsed don't impact the precious, fragile cryptobiotic crust. They say these are public lands, but they don't want the rest of the public to have any access to it, except as they decree.

Rocky should resign

Salt Lake City mayor Rocky Anderson said in an interview that some people (meaning Mormons) don't want anybody else to have any fun, and that he wished they would move to an Amish village. This letter to the editor nails him. "How is it that supposedly civilized Americans permit such hate speech from an elected official?"

It is particularly appropos when one remembers that Rocky Anderson made his fortune trying civil rights plaintiffs cases, frequently for the ACLU. The mask of tolerance and sensitivity is off, and the hypocrisy and bigotry is in full view.

Wednesday, February 20, 2002 - Show America more respect, EU policy chief tells Bush critics Note the line, "We must speak the truth among friends, but you don't necessarily have to do it with a megaphone." It's nice to know that his softening toward the U.S. is sincere.


Ted Rall's logic is even worse than his drawing. I took a monthly tabloid called Funny Times, but quit reading it after the first couple of months because it's idea of what's funny always came from the Left. It featured comics about gay life, environmental causes, life in the yuppy and bobo set, etc. and, of course, Ted Rall's stuff was featured prominently. That by itself should entitle me to my money back.

Patrick J. Michaels sticks it to the global warming theories and the U. S. National Assessment of the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change, which he says "can't pass the simplest of scientific tests."

I didn't know there was such a thing as a Federal Data Quality Act (which must be one of the more oxymoronic law names. "Federal" and "Data Quality" in the same phrase?).

Michaels is particularly on point with his comment on the use of computer models to predict climate changes, especially 100 years into the future. He writes:
A climate model is nothing but a statement of scientific
hypothesis: What we "think" should happen based upon
currently fashionable theory. When a hypothesis doesn't
work (i.e., performs worse than a bunch of darts thrown at
the Dow Jones), the ethic of science requires that it be
thrown out. In this case, it means that the USNA should
have used better models, or, absent a defensible model, it
should have used none. If a computer simulation of climate
can't beat a table of random numbers over the United States,
it borders on scientific malpractice to continue to apply it.

This is the key to understanding global warming claims. They are all based on computer models, which are nothing more than the embodiment of a particular hypothesis which has not been tested.

When it comes to long range predictions, we have to understand the concept of trans-science, the inability of science to resolve some problems due to their extreme complexity. This is similar to chaos theory, and the old saw about a butterfly flapping its wings in Brazil causing a tornado in the U.S. What it means is that, the further out you try to predict, the less likely you are to be successful. The earth is such a complex system and so poorly understood, that computer models of it cannot claim any degree of validity sufficient to base public policy on them.

Should we try to limit pollution? Yes, but not because it will destroy the earth. It's sufficient that it causes smog and is ugly. Is CO2 a pollutant? Given that all plant life needs it, I'd say probably not, but anybody who claims to know the long term effect of adding CO2 to the atmosphere is definitely blowing smoke.

Tuesday, February 19, 2002

The Saudi Challenge
Tom Friedman discusses the Saudi Baby Boom and what the nation must do to weather it. But his analysis is marred by the repetition of the line that the roots of terrorism are in poverty. Maybe, but the poor regions of Arabia only supplied the suicides. The hate, funding and planning came from the scion of a wealthy Arabian family.

The "roots of terrorism" argument is hogwash. The only way for the Muslim world to catch up is to import the resources that have enabled the rest of the world to leave it in the dust: education, science, liberal democracy and free markets. Too many of the smart and ambitious in these countries emigrate to the West. The ones who remain are either rulers, who live high on the backs of the poor, or the less bright, but brutish, like Saddam, the Taliban and the Mullahs in Iran.

Ken Layne on

Pretty funny and trenchant, but I disagree that the Olympics are sleazy. Only the Europeans running the older sports are sleazy. Simon Ammann, Derek Parra, Sasha Cohen, Appolo Antonio Ohno, Alisa Camplin, Bakken & Flowers, and the rest: definitely NOT sleazy.

Marie Cocco -- Public Funding Is Key to Campaign Reform

What the Democrats are counting on is that the provisions of the bill prohibiting groups like the Sierra Club and labor unions from paying for negative ads within 60 days on an election will be struck down by the Courts, but the rest of this misbegotten bill will remain, giving them all the soft money they want in the form of "independent" ads.

Of course, there are Conservative groups who can do the same. So actual campaigns will diminish and the real action will be between all the groups who used to just give money.

I doubt that anyone in politics would support such a bill unless he/she had a Plan B in mind.

The Great Unwatched

All these years I've thought Safire was intelligent! What a letdown.

He tries to turn the incident where George Wahsington defused the hotheads in his military staff, who thought they should seize the government and declare him king, by putting on his spectacles with the comment that he had impaired his vision in the service of his country. It was a simple and clever way of reminding them of their duties as patriots and the fallibility of any human, even himself. Safire wants it to be a warning against Big Brother, but it turns out to be just a puzzling aside to a hysterical rant.

He's not really trying to draw a lesson from the life of our first president. He only mentions him because it's Presidents Day (Should be Washington and Lincoln Day).

The real concern of this piece is the attempt by security officials to marshall technology in the pursuit of homeland protection.

What I find most absurd is the assertion that "the tradeoff [for safety] is government control of individual lives."
How greater surveillance equates to control he doesn't say. All he can say is "To be watched at all times, especially when doing nothing seriously wrong, is to be afflicted with a creepy feeling. That is what is felt by a convict in an always- lighted cell. It is the pervasive, inescapable feeling of being unfree." (Italics are mine)

Ooooh--a creepy feeling! Of course, a convict in a cell has lots of other reasons for feeling unfree than the mere fact that he is being watched, but we're not supposed to make that connection.

What it all boils down to is the canard that we have a right to be anonymous. Where that supposed right comes, of course, is rhetoric, not law. We live in society, not isolation. If you want to be anonymous, go live as a hermit in Montana. The rest of us benefit greatly by seeing and being seen by others. Most of us would love to be famous and popular, but now there is this strange idea that while we're out there in public places, we should be able to pick and choose who sees us. We are becoming more and more exhibitionistic and voyeuristic that it seems sometimes that only prudes want privacy. But if those we expect to protect us try to keep track, it's BIG BROTHER, ignoring the fact that the U.S. is constitutionally unable to be a totalitarian state like that portrayed in 1984. They should go back and read the book. To implement such a system, the government would have to employ half the population to watch the other half.

In one exchange about the use of cameras in public areas, a woman wrote that she liked to wear revealing clothes, but was disgusted by the possibility that there could be police officers back at the station leering and drooling over her image. Apparently, the possibility that some rapist on the scene might be having the same thoughts didn't bother her.

But, Safire warns darkly:
When your government, employer, landlord, merchant, banker and local sports team gang up to picture, digitize and permanently record your every activity, you are placed under unprecedented control. This is not some alarmist Orwellian scenario; it is here, now, financed by $20 billion last year and $15 billion more this year of federal money appropriated out of sheer fear.

Think about it. The fact that there are cameras around, does not mean that anyone is looking at the pictures. Most of the videos taken in stores and ATMs are never reviewed. They are recorded over after a few days go by without incident. The only time a human actually looks at them is after an incident occurs which makes them valuable. There is no "permanent record of your every activity." It would take a lot more than $20 billion, or even $35 billion to operate a system that could do what Safire describes.

The truth is that most of our feeling of privacy comes from the fact that all but a tiny percentage of us are just uninteresting. There is no reason to focus on us longer than it takes to determine that we aren't anybody to be concerned about. This is why we feel fine going out in public and why agoraphobia is considered a mental health problem.

But a lot of people feel a chill whenever they see a cop, or even someone who might be a cop. They have been brainwashed by activists and protesters into believing that the people we hire to protect us are actually there to prey on us. Blacks, not unjustifiably, see police as bullies who assume the worst about them because of their skin color. Racial profiling is certainly a problem which is in the process of being resolved, but it is not the same as the privacy issue.

It may seem jejune and unsatisfying to say, "If you're not doing anything wrong, you have nothing to worry about," but it is nevertheless true. I'm sorry to telly you, but the police and the FBI have too much important work to do to waste time keeping track of you and me, unless you're a terrorist or a criminal.

The most important thing to remember is that the first step towards finding the bad guys is to eliminate all the good guys from consideration. The new technologies can help do that. It is true that there could be abuses, but that is true with all authority. We will deal with this as we always have, through the courts. No nation has ever gone to the lengths America has to protect legitimate rights, and that is not going to change, but we know now that there are greater villains among us than the police, and we should not dupe ourselves into thinking that we can have safety and good intelligence without cooperating with measures that will achieve those ends.

Monday, February 18, 2002

Fine-Tuning for Privacy, Hong Kong Plans Digital ID

This will be a chance to evaluate and develop this technology. If it works, we should use it. It doesn't have to be mandatory, but if people are told they can get through the airports faster I'd bet that a lot of of them will go for it. The real question is whether it works.

As I've said before, any system that can clear the vast majority who are not terrorists in a fast, reliable manner would be a great boon to security. What we have now is a brute force approach to security, check everybody. This is a pretty inefficient way to do it.

The real question is how to qualify for one of these cards. How can we decide whom to trust? Of course, this will be accused of being a profiling tool, which it is, but it doesn't single out people to be detained. Rather, it would identify people we don't have to waste time searching.

So far I haven't seen a really logical discussion of this. It's too important to ignore.

John Feinstein proposes that all sports requiring subjective judging be eliminated from the Olympics.

This is a non-starter. Figure skating and gymnastics are too popular. The source of the problem is not the sports themselves but the people in charge, who are perdominantly Europeans. They have an aristocratic and nationalistic mindset. They see nothing wrong with tinkering with scores for national pride, but they don't understand that medals awarded on anything other than merit don't bring honor, but cynicism. The Russian pair was as badly hurt by the apparent bias of the judging and the reports of vote trading, as were the Canadians, but the skating union officials, including many of the judges, don't seem to understand this.

I would decertify all of the present judges and the International Skating Union (ISU). No judge should represent a nation, and no nation should be allowed to nominate or provide judges. No judge should be allowed to score skaters repreenting his own country.
And there should be an independent commission charged with monitoring all judging for signs of corruption and bias.

We can't eliminate subjectivity from judging, but we can and must eliminate dishonesty.

News: Microsoft prepares to explain .Net

That headline should read, "Microsoft prepars to SELL .Net"
Unwittingly the new slogan, "One Degree of Separation," is exactly what's wrong with Microsoft's whole business approach. It fails to recognize the value of diversity and free markets and focuses instead on trying to impose its own vision on the whole industry, demanding to be the sole doorkeeper to all computing. It's not enough to be successful and make useful products; all other choices must be eliminated.

Most of us don't want One Degree of Separation, particularly when that means putting Microsoft in charge of all our security and privacy.

Sunday, February 17, 2002

David Broder's take on the Campaign Finance Reform Bill

I disagree with his line about "the ugly and indefensible practice of federal elected officials extorting six-figure contributions to their political parties from corporations, unions and wealthy individuals." This makes it sound like the donors are being dragged into buying influence and politicians against their will. The truth is that politicians and people who seek to influence policy with money are made for each other, and no matter what reforms may be passed, there will always be politicians willing to sell their votes and business, labor and activist leaders who are willing to buy as much government as they can get.

I don't think that laws like this one can ever clean up government. The only ones who can do that are informed voters, who pay attention and dig into the truth about the candidates and don't sell their votes for promises of government largesse or desire to use government power to get what they can't through fair, open debate. We should be as angry about Sierra Club money as about NRA money, as angry about Big Labor buying influence as about Enron or other big business getting favorable regulations.