A Menagerie of Outspoken Opinions on Science, World Politics, and Geek Culture

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

Good Heavens

I'm an astronomy buff. I have been since I was about seven years old. I've got a pretty good grasp of how far a light-year - six trillion miles - actually is (it's far) and what it means for there to be more than four of them between our solar system and the nearest star. And because I understand the distance involved I also appreciate how amazing it is when we find planets orbiting other stars. Lots of other stars have been found to possess planetary systems, in fact ... some similar to ours, some radically different.

No planets like Earth have been discovered yet - they're too small to detect over such vast distances - but there are a few systems that look like they might have room for a rocky world in the right orbit for warmth, liquid water, and life. When I was a kid - not too long ago - actually making such discoveries was pure science fiction ... instead of hard data we had Carl Sagan with a bad haircut imagining where and how numerous such places might be. Now we actually know the size, orbit, and arrangement of dozens of other solar systems.

Hypothetical Watery Moon Posted by Hello

NASA is now announcing the discovery of four new extrasolar planets, one of which falls into an entirely new category of smaller, potentially rocky worlds. Science fiction to science in about 20 years. That's pretty good. And astronomer's haircuts have gotten better, too.

No politics today, kids, except to say that Rudy Giuliani's speech at the RNC last night was phenomenal. McCain did a great job too, but was necessarily more subdued. Rudy's was a barn burner, and a hell of a way to kick off the convention.



Monday, August 30, 2004

Monday Linkfest

This week's linkfest was supposed to begin with a photo of me being ironical, but Beth can't get the picture to me till next week so no go. Oh, well ... the shot will still be relevant for a couple months yet.

Anyhoo ...

TacJammer has a bead on the Kerry campaign's 527 hypocrisy; how those folks do love to dish it out but so loathe to take it in. Once again, for the record, I oppose 527s in general and the assault on John Kerry's bravery during the Viet Nam war in particular. The Swift Vet ads - whether there's any truth to them or not - represent the very worst in dirty, mud-slinging, soft money politics. But I oppose 527s in support of Kerry every bit as much as I oppose those bashing him, and there has been an enormous amount of 527 money behind Kerry. As TacJammer plainly observes - and preserves for posterity - the Democrats have been snuggled up to unregulated groups like MoveOn since the very beginning; strange that they never complained about soft money ads till one came out defaming their candidate.

Hat tip on that link to Ith of Absinthe & Cookies.

Meanwhile, Garrett O'Hara of The O'Hara Factor - with whom I probably agree on little besides George Bush being preferable to John Kerry - links to a revealing article in the Arizona Daily Wildcat. I link it because reader Krakatoa and I have been having an e-mail discussion about liberal bias in America's university system. Both of us have remarked that the bias is largely among professors, and far less prevalent among students. Of course the professors sway the students - that's the entire reason their bias is even an issue - but college kids today seem more moderate or libertarian than they did 10 years ago. In any case, the Daily Wildcat article displays the extreme bias of The University of Arizona's professorship; while even the liberal media of America and Europe consider Al-Jazeera little more than a tabloid network catering to Islamist resentment of the west, UA Journalism Professors praised its documentary Control Room while simultaneously slamming the entirety of the American press. No criticism of Al-Jazeera reporters for showing up to film attacks on coalition forces before they happen, Professor Sharkey? Since when is it ethical to condone death, injury, and destruction so that one can get better access to a story?

Lastly, it looks like Steven den Beste is pulling USS Clueless into space dock for a while. He's been blogging for years and almost every post he's made has taught his readers something important about politics, science, or philosophy. Steven seems to be hanging up his keyboard because he's been enjoying his recent respite from reader mail so much that he'd like it to continue indefinately. Seeing the amount and type of mail he gets, I can't say I blame him. So listen: Do not send Steven letters about his hiatus. Do not send him letters of understanding and commiseration. Do not send him letters at all. Let the guy have his well-earned break, and maybe he'll come back to blogging when he feels rejuvenated enough to deal with writing articles and responding to his hordes of well-meaning but obviously exasperating e-mailers.

For now, the sharpest blade in the neocon arsenal must be allowed to hang peacefully in its honored spot above the mantelpiece. For as long as it wants to.

Happy Monday all. Short week for me this week - Thursday I go on vacation to DragonCon in Atlanta - so I suppose it's an especially happy Monday! The rest of you will just have to tough it out for the five full days. Poor bastards.



Friday, August 27, 2004

On Anarchism

Reader Troy – who is also an old college buddy of mine – stated in the comments that he “figured anarchists would be pro-war”. It got me to thinking about anarchy a little, particularly after the recent PW “hacker anarchist” episode. Anarchists are in fact almost never pro-war, and the reason why is fairly straightforward: Governments go to war, and anarchists believe that governments shouldn’t exist. While there are almost certainly a few anarchists who also oppose war because it’s bloody and horrible, their objection to war as a group is not ethical but philosophical. All functions of government – from state universities to court systems to space programs – are all equally evil to an anarchist, and national defense is no exception.

Now, I’m not going to go deep into anarchist philosophy here. Suffice it to say that I utterly disagree with the idea that all government is evil and unnecessary – and I myself am an avowed minarchist. The simple, obvious truth of history is that too little government leads to chaos and mob rule, just as too much government leads to rampant totalitarianism. The cure for either is just enough government, a government that will " ... establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty ..." but do no more. The entire idea behind The United States of America is to create a society of just enough government, and that’s why our Constitution is, for me, as close as anything gets to holy writ. It’s not perfect, but it’s built and maintained a working society of just enough government for well over 200 years, and that’s something worth fighting for, killing for, and, if necessary, dying for. There are flaws – sometimes deeply disturbing ones – but compare America to the historical norm for our species and no honest man can deny that what we’ve built here is nothing short of miraculous.

So when I look at these anarchists in Seattle throwing rocks and bottles at policemen, smashing store windows, and flipping over cars in the streets I’m forced to wonder about the point they’re trying to make. When a “hacker anarchist” breaks into a computer system to vandalize web pages and steal private information, I ponder what it is he thinks he’s accomplishing. Because while it might feel good to express one’s rage and frustration in acts of destruction, the message these anarchists send is precisely the opposite of the one they purport to believe.

Anarchists say there should be no police, no courts, and no soldiers. But by going out and pummeling people with rocks, vandalizing businesses, and randomly destroying personal property they show that we do need police and courts and soldiers – if for no other reason than to protect us from unhappy anarchists! They also apparently believe there should be no internet security (that “information should be free”). Then they go hack into web sites and wreak havoc ... again proving that we do need the things they say we don’t. Ultimately, anarchists are walking, talking refutations of their own philosophy, which is kind of cool; if they’re going to hold such a ridiculous position the least they can do is save us the trouble of having to assault it ourselves.

It’s probably worth noting as I close that not all anarchists are the same. Many are the violent and destructive assclowns we saw in Seattle, but others simply want government to leave them alone. Anarcho-capitalism is an interesting (even if highly flawed) concept, and I can understand why people think that system (or, rather, lack of a system) has merit even if I don’t agree with them. Anarcho-capitalists also tend not to throw rocks or set fires when trying to make a point, which, unsurprisingly, makes people more willing to listen to them. In the end I suspect that there is not so much philosophy in the destructive variety of anarchist after all, but rather a seething hatred of order, peace, and wealth which is rooted in psychology rather than politics.



Sandor the Chosen

A hearty "thank you" to rockynogin for my gmail invite; I am now one of the chosen few. The elite. The special people. We-for-whom-webmail-hath-1000-megs. The appropriate links have been updated with the new address, and I'll be shutting down the old one in a week.

So now I must look down upon you gmail-less suckers with great scorn and derision ... but I will allow you to touch the hem of my cloak as I sweep by in majesty and greatness. Just don't get any of your peasant filth on it!




Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Tracking the Hacker

Earlier this week I posted about the hacking of ProtestWarrior's web site. Well, Kfir and the PW dev team have sealed the security holes used for the break-in ... and they've also managed to track the hacker well enough to be 95% sure who it is. Why do these anarchist computer dorks always assume that their victims are stupid and won't be able to strike back? Probably has something to do with being a poorly socialized shitweasel (and you guys can, if you like, follow Kfir's hunt for said shitweasel in this thread on the ProtestWarrior BBS).

Anyway, Operation Liberty Rising continues unhindered; when the anarchist hoodlums, socialist nutjobs, and anti-war knuckleheads show up to protest the RNC next week there will be a huge contingent of ProtestWarriors there to counter-demonstrate. Remember kids: The cure for too much free speech is more free speech. Best of luck, folks. Tell the truth and enrage an ignorant, dirty hippie for me.

No WMDs? The Kurds Disagree. Posted by Hello

That's about it for now (I have a dermatologist appointment this morning and a lot of work to do this afternoon, so posting is necessarily light). I would like to offer my sympathies to the families of the people who died on those Russian jetliners yesterday though, and a vote of confidence to Putin's government: When you get your evidence - and you will - go get the bastards. No mercy for the merciless.



Tuesday, August 24, 2004

The First of Seven Signs

Longtime readers of this blog know how highly I respect Steven den Beste's work; he's a brilliant analyst and a gripping writer. One of the best things he ever did with USS Clueless was compile his Essential Library, a collection of articles that he feels are so important they should be read by everyone looking to understand the relationship between American politics, international politics, and the current war. I agree with him and reference those articles often.

Today I happened across this article over at The Inquirer (no, not The Enquirer) about how the Iranian hardliners are once again clamping down on reformist speech and politics. I immediately thought of one of SDB's essential articles, Spotting the Losers: Seven Signs of Non-Competitive States by Ralph Peters. The Iranians are burdened with at least five of Peter's seven signs, but perhaps none more obviously than the first ... and it shows glaringly in the light of today's Inquirer piece. I urge all of you to read both articles completely; you will find empirical verification of Peter's theory and gain significant insight into why Iran is such a deeply troubled place.

I suspect that Iran might be the real powder keg of the east. All of the other Islamist Theocracies and Arabian Thugocracies - even belligerent Syria - seem at least capable of enacting reforms. Iran seems different to me, though; like North Korea it is a true police state, but one mixed thoroughly with fanatical religion. If a general war erupts in that area - which is, thankfully, far less likely with Saddam gone - look for Iran and it's hardliners to be at the center of it.



Monday, August 23, 2004

Protest Warrior Hacked ... and Monday Links

I am a member of ProtestWarrior. I'm not a big activist, but the ProtestWarrior cause is a good one (and a smart one, too) so I try to participate every now and then and throw a couple bucks their way when I'm able. Today I received this in my Yahoo mailbox (which is a throw-away account under a false name, of course):

Modern day Nazis pledging their obedience to the State and the platform
of state-sponsored terrorism - neo-fascist ProtestWarriors, you have
been HACKED by your friendly neighborhood hacker anarchist =)

Right-wing extremists are modern-day brown shirts who abuse and harass
activists who are fighting for social justice ...

It goes on and on like that for some time; there is an awful lot of rambling about how the War on Terror doesn't have anything to do with stopping terrorism, but is instead a secret evil plan to erode civil rights and build an empire. So our "friendly neighborhood hacker anarchist" apparently believes that 1) if you stand up for Israel you're a Nazi (Hitler would be so disappointed), 2) when leftists protest it's "fighting for social justice" but when moderates and conservatives do so it's "abuse and harassment", and 3) empires send money and resources to other countries. It must be a requirement that "hacker anarchists" fail every history and civics course beyond the junior high level; I suspect they skip such classes altogether, instead spending the time building a better tinfoil hat (shiny side out, guys!) or saving up for a deposit on the parent's basement of their dreams.

There's a lot more in that e-mail: Links to sites the hacker thinks are just anarcho-licious, instructions for e-mail bombing all the world's evil non-liberals, and personal contact information for ProtestWarrior's leadership. Standard hacker fare, really; the kind of stuff you amuse yourself with when you have no job, friends, or sex life. I'd be surprised to learn that ProtestWarrior wasn't expecting to be hacked at some point; their (er ... our, I guess) web presence is huge and the organization's wildly successful operations have drawn more leftist ire then Toby Keith and Gene Simmons combined. The attack won't stop Operation Liberty Rising in any case, and the ProtestWarrior members page reports that new security is being installed as I type this. By this time tomorrow we'll all be thanking "hacker anarchist" for a more secure PW site and a heap of new proof that the far left will stop at nothing to silence those who disagree with them.

Now let me propose a thought or two to all of those "fighting for social justice" alongside this pimply-faced, greasy-haired, would-be dictator of information: If a moderate, libertarian, or conservative group had made an attack like this on liberals, can you imagine the shrieking din that would result? The screams of "oppression!" and "censorship!" would be deafening, the condemnations of the perpatrators relentless. And yet here come avowed liberals doing their very best to hinder and hobble the message of the center and right. How can you claim to protect freedom of expression yet happily resort to dirty tricks to prevent those with opposing viewpoints from expressing themselves? How can you stand for civil rights yet be so blatantly bigoted against those you disagree with? The far left has clearly gone over the edge, becoming so fanatical and desperate that people like "hacker anarchist" are increasingly the ones carrying the banner of liberalism in this country. I don't understand how anyone with truly liberal ideals could even stand the presence of such people and their police-state tactics.

ANSWER's Answer to Signs They Disagree With Posted by Hello

There have been a number of things steadily driving me from the center-left to the center-right over the past five years. One of the most prevalent is this "freedom-of-expression-but-only-for-us" attitude that has been all but formally adopted by the left. In a sad and troubling irony, today's "liberals" have become precisely what they accuse everyone else of being: Oppressive, closed-minded, and woefully illiberal.

A couple Monday links:

Puddle Pirate of Brain Shavings reports on something interesting coming out of the Twin Cities. I largely stay away from Kerry-bashing because I don't think he's that bad of a guy (I just think he'd be a crappy president) but the "Christmas in Cambodia" thing does interest me. The media did indeed bury a story here, which I find irksome (at best) and so I'd love to see it debated. I have a feeling that the folks at Power Line are right, though; Jim Boyd doesn't sound like the type to actually show up at high noon with his six shooter. We'll see, I guess.

Puddle Pirate has also suggested that I find more liberals for the BPCP. I invited over a dozen in the initial pilot group but didn't get a lot of responses. Since then I've had a few from the left send in results, but not nearly on par with the center and right. I've considered asking Jesse and Ezra of Pandagon to help me out with a link - they seem sane and intelligent enough - but I'm loathe to link-beg. Another option is to wade into the DU - shudder - and post a request; that's a last resort though, and I'll need someone to promise to shoot me if I show up afterwards preaching the virtues of socialism and looking lobotomized.

Anyway, those of you who know some liberal bloggers please spread the word.

Lastly - apologies for the huge post, everyone - FlashBang has been added to my blogroll. Chris (aka Metallica Rat) is doing a great job over there and he updates regularly, so anyone who hasn't been reading him should start doing so now (I said now!). It looks like Chris is starting a new semester today, but he doesn't sound too excited. Word to the wise, Chris: American History thru 1877 ain't busywork. 1850 - 1870 is the most important couple of decades in American History - period - and except for the Teddy Roosevelt years they're my favorite to study. Learn that stuff well.

Okay, the post with gigantism is over. Happy Monday all!



Saturday, August 21, 2004

Saturday Fun Stuff

Saturday Fun Stuff is back! Yay! With no hurricanes to dodge, visitors to entertain, or hangover to nurse, I have time and energy to provide my most excellent readers with fun and mindless distractions.

First up, which Greek God are you? I, apparently, am Morpheus (funny, I always thought of myself as more Dionysian). The cool graphic that goes with this is too wide for my page, so I just have the link. Sorry.

And next, riddle me these:

When I am filled,
I can point the way;
When I am empty,
Nothing moves me.
I have two skins,
One without and one within.
What am I?

You can have me but cannot hold me;
Gain me and quickly lose me.
If treated with care I can be great,
And if betrayed I will break.
What am I?

My thunder comes before the lightning;
My lightning comes before the clouds;
My rain dries all the land it touches.
What am I?

As always, it is possible to look these up on the 'net but that's not much fun; I encourage everyone to try answering on their own. Leave your answers in the comments, and any that remain unsolved I'll post the solutions to on Tuesday.

Happy weekend, all!



Friday, August 20, 2004

How About Some Good News ...

...instead of a filthy lie assignment? To be honest I just don't feel funny today; maybe it's from reading about a 7 year-olds murder first thing in the morning. Anyway, reader Puppy Pincher sends in this article. Here's an excerpt:

Since construction began two years ago on the proposed 720-kilometer fence in the West Bank, there has been a significant decline in suicide bombings - from 46 in 2002, to 17 in 2003. Since the beginning of this year, there have only been four suicide bombings, all of the them before the Yassin assassination.

So despite the leftist pants-wetting over killing terrorist leaders and constructing a barrier to keep out bombers, it actually looks like both tactics are working well. While the pacifists and transnationalists were busy wringing their hands over root causes the IDF went ahead and did its job (defending their country and killing its enemies - gasp!) and the result is a huge - nay, dramatic ... nay, near total - drop off in human bombs reaching innocent civilians.

Everyone who already understood that killing terrorists helps stop terrorism - note the clueful italics - may now go home and have a beer. Those of you who this is news to should go hunt down all of your high school history teachers and punch them in the face for robbing you of an education. Anyone who still thinks appeasement and whining to the UN is the way to deal with terrorists is hereby dismissed to the nearest MoveOn.org rally, where the pot smoke is thick, the bellies are yellow, and the average IQ is just below "duh".



Capitulation, Transubstantiation, and Stone Cold Rage

Today's post was going to be an Alliance filthy lie assignment, but then I made the mistake of reading the news. I still plan on spending my lunch hour creating filthy lies, but I found three things on Fox that I want to blog about this morning:


It looks like The Zoo's favorite Shiite malcontent might surrender after all. Of course his decision is all "... to appease the Iraqi people ..." and has nothing to do with the bloody attrition of his militia, his hopeless military position, and the steadfast demands of the Iraqi government for his unconditional surrender.

Clearing Out the al-Sadr Militia (Fox Photo) Posted by Hello

I have no doubt that the Iraqi people will indeed be happy that al-Sadr and his brigands are out of the Imam Ali shrine, but I'm skeptical (to say the least) that this was a motivating factor for Moqtada. In reality he had no choice but to capitulate or die, and it's just a happy accident that he'll appear magnanimous to some Iraqis when he hands over the shrine.

What remains to be seen is if he actually abides by the terms of his surrender this time - and faces obscurity as a very minor player in Iraqi politics - or once again uses the cease-fire to inflame anti-Americanism, stockpile weapons, and regroup his forces. I know where my money is. Stay tuned.


The wise and compassionate Catholic church once again impresses us with its kindness for the afflicted. Gluten intolerance apparently means one is unworthy to take part in Catholicism's most important community-affirmation ritual; the wheat stalk points the way to acceptance.

Thou Shalt Not Have Gluten Allergies (Fox Photo) Posted by Hello

Now I happen to have grown up Catholic, and I've also studied Theology a bit. Catholics believe in transubstantiation, the mystical transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ. See if you can follow my logic here: It is central to the entire communion ritual that Catholics believe they are not actually eating bread and wine when they accept communion, but instead the literal body and blood of Jesus. So why then does it matter that Haley Waldman's wafer was rice instead of wheat before the transubstantiation? After the ritual it became the body and blood of Christ - unless we ludicrously assume that God can transform one grain but not another - which Haley then consumed per the usual tradition. The very idea that "bread type" is a central issue here is logically inconsistent with belief in transubstantiation. If one truly believes that bread and wine become flesh and blood then Haley's communion was perfectly valid regardless of how the bread started out; if one does not believe then it calls the entire communion ritual into doubt ... at which point who really cares whether it's rice or wheat wafers?

Inflexibility and logical inconsistencies like this are among the many things that drove me from the church. The pampered old farts in Rome are far too concerned with cash flow and rigid adherence to doctrine, and not nearly concerned enough with the needs of the real people who comprise the faith. Golden Jackass Award to The Vatican!

Stone Cold Rage

I have fantasies about catching a child killer and beating him until he is dead, dead, dead. I can't help it; our impotence in preventing this scourge upon our civilization is beyond infuriating, and whenever it happens my mind drifts off into "If I Could Do Something About It" land. Well, the body of seven year-old Patricia Ann Miles was found today. An innocent little girl who went to the store for a bottle of soda and a candy bar, and ended up dying - terrified and confused, probably - at the hands of some sick, evil, twisted fuck who deserves nothing but the most extended and painful death possible.

Anyone who would intentionally harm a child may take what follows as the direst of warnings: You are a wolf who preys among innocent lambs and you think this makes you powerful. But what you don't understand is that not all men are sheep; there are those of us who are the human equivilent of Border Collies, Sheep Dogs, or German Shepherds. We are not so easily fooled or cowed as your victims - you sniveling, scavenging, inhuman wretch - and when one of us gets his or her jaws around your throat the only thing you will taste is your own miserable blood as it fills your lungs and grants you a death far more merciful than the one you actually deserve. And in your mind will exist the certain knowledge that humans everywhere rejoice in your demise, and that any Gods which might await you beyond death's door will be both mighty and terrible in their vengeance.

Keep looking over your shoulder you cowardly dingo, because one day my face will appear there and it will be the last thing you see. Believe this as you believe the sun will rise tomorrow.



Thursday, August 19, 2004

BPCP Update

The Blogosphere Political Compass Project has been updated (sorry for the delay, but last week's tropical chaos postponed some of my blogging). Go to the BPCP permalink page for a complete list of participants and links to their sites.

BPCP Chart 20Aug04 Posted by Hello

Welcome to our new participants. And yes, I'm still looking for better graphing software - in fact, it's starting to become imperative that I find something more powerful than Excel. Anyone with an idea please leave me a comment or send an e-mail.

And notice how closely The Tiger in Winter scored to me (3, -3.3); I'm not alone any more! Yay!



Al-Sadr Gets His War

I really thought al-Sadr was going to wriggle off the hook when the interim government offered him that peace deal on Tuesday. Even yesterday it looked like he was ready to accept, but then it turned out he had imposed too many conditions on his disarmament. In an impressive display of resolve, the Iraqi government rejected al-Sadr's attempt to win concessions from them and delivered him an ultimatum: Surrender immediately and unconditionally or face certain attack. Al-Sadr has refused, and now it looks like the battle for the Imam Ali Mosque has begun.

Al-Sadr Militiamen in Najaf (Reuters Photo) Posted by Hello

Lots of Iraqis are going to die here, folks. Many hundreds of al-Sadr's men, at least, and probably dozens of the Iraqi soldiers who are tasked with removing them from the shrine. If the fighting spreads outwards from that building, al-Sadr's militiamen will inevitably run into US troops - who are maintaining a cordon about 400 yards from the mosque - and then we might lose some soldiers as well. If the Iraqi authorities really press the attack all the way it's going to be a bloodbath, period.

In previous posts I have said that al-Sadr is more interested in power for himself and his faction that he is in "resisting the occupiers" (his anti-Americanism is just a means to an end ... thankless bigotry aimed at a convenient target). I maintain that assessment even though he didn't back down; I think al-Sadr believes he can still hold out long enough - and perhaps make the battle bloody enough - to win concessions from the Iraqi government. He has grossly underestimated their resolve, I'm afraid, just as Saddam underestimated ours. People are fed up with thugs influencing policy across greater Arabia, and al-Sadr is going to have to serve as another example of how civilized people are now willing to make significant sacrifices to remove fanatics and strongmen.

This is a true test for Allawi's government. I wish them success, and safety for the brave Iraqis charged with the task of removing this thug that has occupied one of their holy places.



Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Steal From the Rich, Get Lots of Poor

German cities are erupting in protest over cuts to that nation's absurdly generous welfare system. It's amazing, but not because tens of thousands of people are willing to demonstrate to keep the state teat within suckling distance - that's entirely predictable. Rather, it's amazing because a nation that worked so hard to excise the cancer of communism from its body politic a decade ago can't yet grasp the first simple truth of free market economics: The more you steal from the rich (in taxes) the more poor you create (in unemployment).

And, of course, the easier you make it for a man to sit home and do nothing the more likely it is that's exactly what he'll decide to do.

Germany has huge unemployment - it's approaching 10% in the prosperous areas. Problem regions - like East Berlin - are getting close to 20% unemployment! Can you imagine 20% unemployment in the US? Even 10% is difficult to comprehend (for those of you outside the US, our unemployment hovers around 5% - maybe as high as 8% during a serious recession - and it's largely considered shameful for a healthy person to accept handouts). How did Germany's employment situation get so bad? Well, this excerpt from the article I linked above is quite telling:

Harald Reutter, spokesman for public sector union Verdi said union members were now gunning for a clause making it hard for the unemployed to turn down jobs deemed to be lower than those they previously held.

"We have to stick to our course on the really difficult issues," said Reutter.

So if you can't find a job as cushy as your old one, just don't work! Sit at home and live on money the government steals from folks who are working ... many of them at jobs that suck worse than the one you won't take because it's "lower than [the one] you previously held". Why struggle up the ladder when you can reach just as high by standing on the back of the next guy! The German welfare system has made it so easy to be a layabout that double-digit unemployment has become the norm and people believe they're entitled to a free ride.

"Give'em an inch and they'll take a mile" is a saying that our neighbors across the Atlantic are obviously unfamiliar with.

So now Schroder is trying to enact reforms, and the socialists, anti-globalization nutjobs, and plain old welfare bums are shitting bricks. Of course they want their fat welfare checks when they don't work - just like they want their 32 hour work weeks, months of paid vacation, and free third-rate health care when they do work. Meanwhile the real generators of wealth - entrepreneurs and the innovations and industries they create - are increasingly hobbled by these ridiculously huge benefits they're forced to provide (and taxes to support the welfare system too!). Schroder is doing the right thing by trying to stem the flow of money hemorrhaging out of the German economy, but the socialist mosquitoes are used to drinking their fill and swatting even a portion of them is going to take years.



Monday, August 16, 2004

The Right Words ... and Monday Links, Too

I've developed a case of The Waffles regarding the terms with which I describe myself politically. I swear I haven't been hanging out with John Kerry; my inability to pick the right words to correctly denote my political affiliation is rooted in my own ethics, not a desire to be non-controversial. I know very well what I believe, but how do I express that to other people without sitting them down for a 20-minute conversation?

In the political vernacular I am a social liberal, fiscal conservative, foreign-policy hawk ... but here at The Zoo we know that "liberal" is now an economic term, not a social one. Furthermore, I'm not so much a "hawk" as I am a foreign-policy "realist"; I support the war because Islamism - fueled by the many failures of Arabian tribalism - has declared war on us. But I'd be the first to beat a few of our swords into plow shares if the Islamists gave up their ambition to destroy the west and subjugate us all to their blood-soaked theology. I support the idea of fighting not because I like fighting, but because they have clearly chosen to fight us and any response on our part besides total commitment to victory would be suicidaly insane.

I've called myself a libertarian, but that's a poor description. I'm not a laissez-faire capitalist nor do I believe in a purely defensive military, which are two central Libertarian positions. I've called myself a fiscally conservative Democrat or a socially liberal Republican - either term fits well - but I no longer belong to either of those parties. Recently I've been using the term "minarchist", and I really am one, but the word doesn't tell you anything except that I like the idea of limiting government. Most Republicans are minarchists, for example, but I'm no Republican; there is just too much that "minarchist" doesn't tell you.

So I spent some time researching all this yesterday, and I've decided I'm going to go with Classical Liberal as my short answer. It is the "most right" (as opposed to the other terms which could only manage "least wrong"). I don't like that the word Liberal is in there at all - it conjures entirely the wrong image - but I'll have to trust new readers and folks I get into political discussions with to be smart enough to deduce that the Classical descriptor denotes something different from what Howard Dean and Michael Moore believe in. My quasi-profile on the sidebar has been updated with a link that defines Classical Liberalism, so those with an interest please take a look.

And okay, a Monday link:

It looks like Moxie is going on hiatus, but I encourage my readers to continue visiting her blog. Her archives are full of great writing and even better photography. I'll admit that I don't always get all of her references and jokes; that is partly because our politics are somewhat different and we live on opposite sides of the country, but also partly because she's a lot smarter than me. For instance, I can't really tell if this break from blogging is because she has a great guy who's taking up all of her time or because the great guy has (foolishly!) heartstomped her and she needs a break. In either case The Zoo wishes Mox all the best and hopes she gets back to her blog someday soon.



Saturday, August 14, 2004

All Clear

Just a quick post today to let everyone know that Hurricane Charlie missed our area by about 100 miles; it made landfall down in Punta Gorda, a little town on the SW Florida coast. From what I hear the damage was extensive and over a dozen people were killed. My condolences to those poor folk's families.

Secondly, I see that a lot of people are worried about Frank J. over at IMAO. Frank lives about two hours from me near the other (east) coast, and Charlie did hit that area a bit harder than Tampa. Because the hurricane had to pass over quite a bit of land to get there, however, they should have been spared the beating Charlotte County got (hurricanes weaken fast after they make landfall). Frank is probably fine but he might not have power for about 24 hours, leaving him unable to post. Hopefully there are no ninja or supermonkey attacks during the chaos ...



Friday, August 13, 2004

Chuck You Farlie

We're evacuating. Worst-case senario has 14 - 16 feet of storm surge flooding our area, which will put plenty of water into our house (even though we're over a mile from the coast). Roy, Melissa, and the baby are going to relatives further inland ... Eddie and I are heading to a friend's place that is here in Tampa but out of the flood zone. His condo has few windows, too, which is a big plus.

Charlie's Strike Probability 8 am Posted by Hello

So, that's probably it. I'll post updates if I can, but things are going to get dangerous quickly and the power will probably be out by this evening. Wish us luck, all.



Thursday, August 12, 2004

Blogging the Storm Out

I just knew we were going to get hit this year. The Tampa area is notoriously lucky when it comes to hurricanes; they pass south of us, north of us, or hover out in the Gulf for a few days and then wander off to Mexico. But I had a bad feeling when this hurricane season started. Why am I always right?

Charlie's Strike Probability Posted by Hello

It's not for sure going to plow right over Tampa - we might just get sideswiped as it hits Fort Myers or Hudson - but there's gonna be 100 mph winds and flooding regardless. For as long as the power stays on I'll keep updating The Zoo with posts from the storm zone (it shouldn't start getting bad until around this time tomorrow).

Now I'm off to stock up on water, batteries, and gasoline.


Update 2pm EST: Pinellas County - the coastal area just west of Tampa - has declared a mandatory evacuation of A,B, and C flood zones. About 350,000 people will be on the move this evening. We live in the B zone of Hillsburough county, so I'm expecting an evacuation order sometime this afternoon. We are not actually on the water though, so ours will probably be a voluntary evacuation. As we happen to be at the top of a hill (well, what passes for a hill in Florida) we'll probably stay unless it looks like Charlie is going to land right on top of us.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

Time's Up In Najaf

When I learned last weekend that the casualties among al-Sadr's militiamen had topped 300 dead and 1000 captured or wounded, I remarked to my roommate that something bigger was going on than just another momentary uptick in violence. Monday we were told that the interim government had indeed asked the US military to remove the al-Sadr militia from Najaf, and yesterday it was revealed that the Marines had received permission to enter holy sites if need be. This morning Reuters reports that US and Iraqi forces are now preparing for an all-out assault on Najaf - and that they have plainly said so. The gloves have quite obviously come off.

Meanwhile, an article in Time - apparently released before the developments reported by Reuters - laments precisely this eventually, fretting over the possible repercussions of thousands of dead al-Sadr militiamen and of having US Marines enter Muslim shrines. Will there be a massive Shiite uprising? Will the Iraqi interim government lose its mandate? Will the "Arab street" decide to hate America even more?

Will the American left ever stop wetting the bed?

Look folks, the situation in Iraq is admittedly complex. Overwhelming force is not always the solution - no one knows that better than our own military - but when our adversary provokes us into a confrontation of this nature we're forced to respond with simple, direct military action. Al-Sadr was given a chance to play ball (a chance I don't think he deserved) but instead of genuinely working towards a solution he used the cease-fire to stockpile weapons and fortify positions. When the legitimate Iraqi authorities tried to stop him - tried to make him abide by the ceasefire deal he agreed to - he responded by attacking police stations. The Marines were called in to help the Iraqi police and guardsman, and now it looks like the interim government and the US military have completely lost patience with al-Sadr's deceptiveness and bloody bids for power.

Personally, I'm glad to see it. I'm not glad to see people dying - especially not American Soldiers and Iraqi Policemen - nor am I pleased that there will be ripples of discontent throughout Iraq over this. But I very much doubt such discontent will amount to anything as disruptive and dangerous as al-Sadr's militia itself is. Eventually the Iraqi interim government was going to have to show the insurgents and extremists that it means business in a big way; they cannot be seen as weak or pliable. Some Shiites are going to be up in arms when we clean out the rat's nest in Najaf, but more are going to be impressed that the interim government acted with conviction and strength.

The choice here is to either a) let al-Sadr and his thugs push us around or b) move in and wipe them out, even if it means we take two steps back for every three we take forward. I'm for option "b", and so, apparently, are the US and Iraqi authorities - in the end, it'll still leave us a step ahead.



Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Say It Ain't D'oh

Harry Shearer, who voices Ned Flanders, Mr. Burns, and Smithers on The Simpsons is saying that the show is "out of steam" and that he no longer enjoys working on it. I seriously hope this doesn't mean they're going to try and replace him.

Now I'm the first to admit that The Simpsons isn't what it used to be. Seasons three through six were the high point of the show; every episode was good, and roughly half were downright brilliant. More than a few reached the status of "legendary" (Halloween Specials III and IV come immediately to mind). But nowadays you don't watch The Simpsons expecting groundbreaking television; you watch it for your two or three guaranteed belly laughs per episode (plus a few solid chuckles). Frankly, most sitcoms are lucky to deliver that in a season.

I think The Simpsons still has life left in it. Replacing voice actors, however, would be a mistake; better to retire the show with dignity than try to pull a Rosanne-esque midseries switch. Yeah, I know they're just voices and they can be faked pretty good ... but I'd be able to tell the difference. And it'd suck.

Do-diddily-on't change my voice! Posted by Hello

Now, on a much more important note: My Mom is in the hospital. She broke her collar bone and hit her head in what ammounts to a silly household accident - the kind that almost sounds comical until you realize someone actually got hurt. Anyway, the broken bone is uncomfortable but she seems to be handling that pretty well. The real problem is that they gave her a CAT scan and found what might be some blood on her brain, so they're keeping her in the hospital for now. I'm probably going to be going to see her at lunchtime today - and every day she's there - so blogging will be light. If you're the praying type, please say one for sandor's Mom.


Update: Okay, Mom went home this evening. There was no blood on her brain, but the CAT scan did reveal a non-cancerous mass - obviously unrelated to her fall. It is not life-threatening, but the doctor feels it should be removed to prevent possible problems down the road. Mom is understandably frightened about the whole thing, but we're glad it's not blood on the brain or - Goddess forbid - cancer. On the whole, one might even consider her lucky that this was discovered when it was ... 10 years from now the mass could have started pressing on her optic nerve or something and then it would have been too late to do anything. At least now it's a devil we know.


Monday, August 09, 2004

Monday Linkfest

Happy Monday! I had a great weekend, as I got to do my two favorite things: Game a lot and go out for drinks with my bestest fwend, Beth. Beth and I even talked about politics for a little while (the other people we were with fled to the pool tables and dance floor as soon as that started) and we both decided that the other is crazy and desperately needs to change their mind.

Well, I guess it'd be sorta creepy if we thought too much alike.

Anyhoo, there are a couple sites I'm linking for the first time today: Via Cold Fury I discovered RedState.org, and yesterday Cornpone linked to My War - Fear and Loathing in Iraq. RedState is a Republican web community constructed in answer to the large Internet presence of far-left liberals (remember how Dean raised all that money?). I'm no Republican, but this site looks to be well written and I should be able to get some good debates going with the social conservatives. My War - Fear and Loathing in Iraq is a milblog by a soldier serving near Mosul, Iraq. His post about the fighting there last week is just incredible ... I suggest everyone read it and return to visit him often.

Meanwhile, Michelle expresses yet another opinion that I agree with: Intelligence gathering is the quintessential double-edged sword, and even more so when race is involved. Do the job well and someone is going to come after you for civil rights violations, freedom of information demands, or (as in Michelle's post) racial profiling. Do the job poorly and they'll hang your ass out to dry for getting Americans killed. Last week I posted this in a thread over at BookTalk in which we're discussing Lee Harris' Civilization and It's Enemies:

"... while I do not hold specific grudges against Islam either, one would be a fool to ignore that it is specifically Islamic terrorism we're facing. There are not Zoroastrians or Hindus blowing up buses in Israel, embassies in Africa, and skyscrapers in America. It was not a Shinto group who bombed the trains in Madrid, nor was it Catholics who ran a raft of explosives into the USS Cole. Muslims perpetrated all of those acts - fanatical Muslims, yes, but Muslims just the same - and that fact must be a consideration in our efforts to defeat our enemy."

I stand by my assessment. If we were fighting the IRA, I'd advocate closer scrutiny of Irish men between 15 and 50. If we were fighting the Hillary Duff Fan Club I'd advocate the same for teenage girls between 10 and 16. The simple truth is that in the war on terror ethnicity is a factor. Perhaps if the Arab and Muslim communities here in America took a more active stand against radicalism the war would be over faster, and all of us could get back to flirting with flight attendants instead of wondering if the Lebanese guy in 12a has an explosive shoe.

Lastly, sarahk has moved Mountaineer Musings, so those of you who are fans should update your links. Apparently, Sarah is fairly proud of her shins; I know when I first saw a picture of her that's what I was thinking ... "Nice gun, and what a pair of shins!"

*Sigh*. So, another long week is ahead ... but at least we're coming up on the halfway point of evil, evil Monday. And DragonCon is less than a month away now, so I do have something to look forward to.

Later, chil'uns.



Friday, August 06, 2004

Sandor's Top Ten: CDs

I say "CDs", but a lot of what I list below acually came out on vinyl. It's still hard not to call them "albums" ... as in "Have you heard the new Dave Matthews album? It's pretty good - too bad he's a liberal jackass."

10. Mother Love Bone - Apple

9. Dead Can Dance - Toward the Within

8. Rusted Root - When I Woke

7. Sarah McLachlan - Fumbling Towards Ecstacy

6. Liz Phair - Whip Smart

5. The Rolling Stones - Exile on Main Street

4. Led Zepplin - Led Zepplin IV

3. Social Distortion - Live at the Roxy

2. The Clash - London Calling

1. Led Zepplin - Houses of the Holy

I'm dating myself here, because none of those are less than 5 years old. In fact, only three were recorded within the last 10 years. Oh well ... we are talking about my favorite CDs of all time. If I was to expand the list out to 25 there'd be a lot more recent music on it.

Comments and complaints are welcome.



Thursday, August 05, 2004

Sandor's Top Ten: Movies

Well, yesterday's post about adoption and abortion really attracted some readers and comments (note to bloggers: if you want to generate comments, blog about abortion). I suspect the conversation / debate will continue on that one for a while yet, and as such I'm going to get back to what I had originally planned to do this week: Fun stuff!

Today it's my top ten list of movies:

10. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

9. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

8. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

7. Quick Change

6. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

5. The Shawshank Redemption

4. Star Wars

3. The Empire Strike Back

2. Aliens

1. Contact

Some notes about the top three:

The Empire Strikes Back is, in my opinion, the high point of George Lucas' career. It's flawless science fantasy, the very best the genre has to offer. His franchise rights should be taken away for the last piece of crap he dropped on us though; the two "modern" installments of the Star Wars saga don't even make my top 50.

Aliens is how I like my science fiction: Gritty and realistic. This movie combined horror, sci-fi, and military action like no other before it; it borrowed a little from Heinlien's Starship Troopers (the novel, not Verhooven's crappy film version) but not so much as to constitute a rip-off or anything. Aliens is a movie that I can watch over and over and over ... it just doesn't get old. If only the subsequent films had been anywhere near as good.

I don't want to hear about how badly cheated you felt because you didn't get to see the alien at the end; Contact is a fantastic movie. This is science fiction in the truest sense; an extrapolation of what alien contact might really be like based upon our current understanding of science. If you didn't like Contact you're not a fan of science or sci-fi, you just like action movies with spaceships and lasers. Go watch a Verhooven flick.

Comments, questions, and angry rebuttals are welcomed in the comments section.



Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Not as Fragile as Amy Richards Thinks

Michelle Malkin has been following the story of Amy Richards, a feminist and pro-choice activist who recently aborted two of her three triplet fetuses with a procedure called selective reduction. Ms. Richards has given lots of reasons for her decision, including health concerns, worries about her ability to financially provide for three children, and the almost total loss of freedom she'd experience during and after the pregnancy. Her latest addition to this litany of excuses concerns her "reason" (I've never used that term so loosely in my life) for not choosing adoption over abortion. I find it the least convincing by far:

"...I personally believe that the long term physological impact on my child would be more negative if he knew that he had "siblings" out there whom he didn't know."

Now, before I get into this let me say that on the subject of abortion I am of two minds: Politically I lean towards the pro-choice position, but personally my stance tends to be more pro-life. I do not think abortion should be illegal, nor do I believe it is unilaterally immoral. However, I do think that it is unethical to use abortion as a form of birth control, and I would not want a child of mine aborted unless there was a serious deformity or carrying it to term would endanger its mother's life.

I suppose I see abortion as a medical procedure that should be used only as a last resort, when not using it would result in significant risk and suffering. But I also believe that I have no right to force others to live by my personal ethics, so if some women want to use it in ways that I find questionable that's their business. Until the fetus is old enough to live on its own - which occurs early in the third trimester - it is essentially part of its mother's body and should be treated as such (what to do with people who want abortions after that point is another debate entirely).

Now, with all that said, let's get back to adoption and the "psychological impact" of having siblings who you don't know.

I'm adopted. Two of my cousins are adopted, too, as are several of my best friends and more acquaintances than I care to count. All of us live with the knowledge that there are people out there who are related to us - a mother and father at least, if not brothers, sisters, and cousins - every day. But I can tell Amy Richards with absolute certainty that the vast majority of us don't think about it all that much. Our parents are the people who raised us, and our siblings are the people who grew up with us. Rare as hen's teeth are the adoptees who lay awake into the wee hours fretting over the possibility of unknown brothers and sisters. The term psychological impact simply does not describe the experience; mild curiosity or even near apathy are closer to the mark. For me this is not a guess or an abstract opinion - I know.

It is apparent what Amy Richards is doing here: She's making what she hopes are reasonable-sounding excuses for aborting two of her three triplets. Most of the ones she made previously are trumped by the simple notion of putting the second and third up for adoption, so she had to come up with this latest nonsense in order to shoot down that option as well. I suspect the real reason she had the selective reduction procedure is a mixture of selfishness and politics; selfish rejection of the (admittedly considerable) burden of carrying triplets while simultaneously making a pro-choice political statement. It makes her an icon of extreme feminism, a heroine for those who love to thumb their noses at anyone who says abortion isn't always the answer to unwanted pregnancy.

Arguing that you've chosen abortion over adoption because having unknown siblings causes some mysterious "psychological impact" is downright laughable. I mean just ludicrous. So ludicrous that it makes Ms. Richards' ulterior motives all the more transparent. And while I'm not willing to pass laws preventing her or anyone else from having selective reduction, I am perfectly comfortable condemning her on a personal level: You are a fringe extremist, Ms. Richards, and a purveyor of weak and foolish excuses. In the name of your own temporary comfort you've passed up a chance to bring two new lives into the world and give untold joy to a childless couple. Worst of all, you were all too happy to use that potential gift - and your own body as well - to instead make a self-aggrandizing political statement.

Richards was within her rights to have the selective reduction procedure, and I'll stand up to protect such rights because I firmly believe they have their value (and also that laws which seek to regulate sex and reproduction are deeply immoral). But personally I think she is a selfish, creepy, deceptive fanatic and I'm quite happy that I'm not burdened with knowing her any better than news articles allow.



Tuesday, August 03, 2004

BPCP Update

The Blogosphere Political Compass Project has been updated. Go to the BPCP permalink page for a complete list of participants and links to their sites.

BPCP 01Aug04 Posted by Hello

Thanks to everyone who is participating ... and I'm still looking for better graphing software, so if anyone has any ideas please let me know.



Bouncing Baby of the Week: Leo

No vile enemy this week. Instead I present to you my roommates, Roy and Melissa, and their newly-adopted son, Leo. Leo is from Korea, and he likes teething rings, long naps, warm bottles of formula, and the fuzzy, stuffed football I gave him for his zeroth birthday.

Roy, Melissa, and Leo Posted by Hello

Personally, I suspect Leo is an advance scout for the Asian hordes that will one day destroy us all. Roy assures me we have plenty of time to brainwash him with apple pie, hot dogs, baseball, etc ... but I'm keeping a close eye on him anyway.

In other news, I'll be finishing up the BPCP update during my lunch break and it'll be posted sometime this afternoon. Also, I've decided to take a break from political blogging for a week or so; I just don't have a lot to say right now about the election, dimwitted liberals, Iraq, or the larger war on terror. I'm all talked out on those subjects and I don't want to force myself to write about them ... doing so will only result in crappy posts and worsening burnout.

So The Zoo is going to go lighthearted for a little while, with pictures, riddles, top ten lists, and other fun-but-inane blogging. Eventually I'll get my socio-political groove back (I always do) and you will once again find rants and analysis and letters to the editor here ... but until then, it's carnival days at The Zoo. Yay!



Monday, August 02, 2004

Monday Linkfest

Hi all. Well, I had intended a special surprise over the weekend: Photos of my roommates and their new baby boy! Leo Gargagliano - that's his name now that he is officially adopted - arrived from Korea last Friday night. I never mentioned it before now because I didn't want to jinx his arrival. Anyway, it turned out that this weekend was a lot of sleepless nights, continuous phone calls, and a non-stop stream of visitors. Taking photos just didn't end up high on the priority list, and as such I didn't have anything to post. Not to worry though; we'll take some pictures soon enough and I'll post them. In fact, if some get e-mailed to me today I'll post'em immediately.

The first Monday link is Michael's post about obesity over at Fukiblog. As someone who exercises regularly but doesn't really enjoy it (except during those couple months of spring and fall when the weather is especially nice) I have little patience with the "it's my glands" crowd. I have even less for the "it's McDonald's fault" crowd; I'm not sure how they run things in the other 49 states, but here in Florida we aren't rounded up by jackbooted McThugs and forced to slurp down super-sized value meals. I myself drive past a dozen fast food joints every day without stopping, and I've watched one of my roommates loose over 70 pounds in the past year via the revolutionary method of eating healthy and exercising a lot.

The problem here is whiney and weak jellyfish-people who won't control themselves so want the government to do it for them. They are similar to those who won't earn a living (so want the government to do it for them), won't raise their children properly (so want the government to do it for them), and won't stand up to protect themselves and those they love (so want the ... well, you get the idea). I'm personally in favor of letting natural selection see to the welfare of such people instead of the government ... Darwinism is quick, fair, and doesn't suck a single penny out of my pocket and put it into a crackhead's.

Sorry if that one sounds a little harsh, but I just don't like people who refuse to take responsibility for themselves. And I don't like those who enable them to go on doing it at the expense of the hardworking majority, either.

Next up is Frank J. and his apparently expensive trip to Vegas. I'm not a gambler myself; I've only been to a casino once and came out $40 ahead ... I wasn't that impressed with the "rush" everyone talks about. I'd rather spend an evening drinking good Irish whiskey, smoking expensive British cigarettes, and talking about politics or philosophy. Strangely, I do enjoy playing Uno for a buck a hand ... we did that on one rainy camping trip and it was a lot of fun.

Sorry about the bad luck, Frank. Here's some advice to all you fine readers from someone who's been around the sex, drugs, and rock & roll block a couple times: Keep your vices firmly imprisoned in a glass or an ashtray, and keep them occasional. If they start to involve cards, dice, sex, any type of powder, or, Goddess forbid, a needle, you are on the road to a hospital bed, a jail cell, or a coffin. Believe it.

And last is this post from SDB over at USS Clueless. As usual, it's hard to add anything to what Steven says; his analysis here of the difference between terrorism and guerilla warfare (and how this stage of the Iraq war is an odd combination of both) is spot-on. Right now anything that seems to support the insurgency actually does support the insurgency, because winning has largely become a matter of who the average Iraqi believes will win.

The only thing that Steven really didn't get into is the far left's outright support of the insurgency (as opposed to the center-left only seeming to via their opposition to Bush). The more I look at it the more it seems to be truely pathological. Not politics - not even dirty, partisan politics - but a full-blown mass mental disorder that drives people to hate their own leader so much they're willing to cheer on genuine mass murderers and fascists just to spite him. I suspect it is largely brought about by their frustration over being wrong so often (really often ... really, really often). It's disturbing (and a little embarrassing), like watching a drunk up at the bar who is just making an absolute ass of himself but keeps insisting the drama is really that guy's fault.

BPCP update later today or tomorrow.