Sunday, April 30, 2006

Gas Idea

I was watching Meet the Press and there was a roundtable discussion about what to do with the high gas prices. There was the usual comments:

  1. Windfall tax
  2. Build refineries
  3. Alternative fuels
  4. $100 tax rebate
  5. Drill for oil
  6. Leave oil companies alone

All of these are great for starters or long-term objectives. Eventually, no matter if oil is finite or not, the US economy does need to find an alternative fuel source that gives it independence. For the short-term, let's drill and all that good stuff. However, how about I offer an alternative that I have not heard yet.

Let's call it the Grimacer Gas Relief Plan of 2006 for short and ego. Basically, it has the feel of a plan similar to what was bandied about here. The difference is that it will not be a rebate per se. It is more like a tax exemption from federal taxes overall. For simplicity, let's use some round numbers.

Let us assume that a person spends $1,000 a year on gasoline and has kept all of their receipts. Let us also assume that the person makes a yearly income of $100,000. If the federal tax code were to be tweaked, it should deduct 50% of what that person had to spend on gasoline throughout the year. So, the person would write-off $500 from their income and would officially earn $99,500. Now, of course, this isn't much, but it is a start. And most of all, it has a built-in means test. Those who drive the most save the most. Those who don't, well... they're saving the planet, right?

It should be noted that I'm neither anti-oil companies or pro-oil companies (Can one be the latter?). I think there possibly is some gouging going on, which is dispicable considering it is a necessity for America. It is especially scandalous during war-time. I was not particularly offended paying such a high price for my Xbox 360. I did not need to buy one, but could. I know Gates and his Leviathan gouged and gouged and gouged for every last penny. That is the price of such a free political community. The oil companies, however, are should not get this kind of a free pass.

This plan is not much, and I'm sure someone can point out flaws with little ease (I recognize a few, such as lessening federal tax revenues.). We do need to find a way to save some money for the consumer and taxpayer. Nothing is worse than deciding between gas and a Xbox.

Communists Revive May Day in U.S.

The Communist May Day celebration will be returning to the United States tomorrow. The Socialist Workers Party and other Communist organizations are appropriately congratulating themselves on this momentus achievement.

Socialist Workers Party:For the first time in six decades, International Workers Day will be celebrated on U.S. soil with mass working-class demonstrations on May 1. May Day, celebrated the world over, commemorates the seismic upheaval inside the U.S. that launched the struggle for the eight-hour workday in 1886, a time when native-born workers had few rights and immigrants had still fewer, yet both united in a class-wide battle.

This picture (hattip: BBC) is a display of Soviet strength in a May Day parade from 1951, but we've all seen pictures from subsequent May Day parades with the endless rows of tanks and mobile missile launchers. May Day parades ended in the United States when organized labor recognized the threat communism posed to liberty and the middle class during the 1940s. Consequently, the U.S. labor movement expunged communists from its ranks and enjoyed several decades of growth and progress for the American worker. Unfortunately, it appears the socialists and stalinists have re-infiltrated the U.S. labor movement, which would explain the precipitous deteriation of the U.S. labor movement over the last 20 years.

Friday, April 28, 2006

Stay Tuned for Democrat Party Announcement

The Democrats have released and announcemnt today stating that the war in Iraq has created hundreds of terrorists that have "broken the back" of the U.S. military. Their announcement goes on to say that U.S. and British forces in Iraq have bogged down in Iraq and "have achieved nothing but loss, disaster and misfortune." Err... hold on for just one second...

Oh! This is an announcment from Al Qaeda leader Ayman al Zawahri. Sorry about that brief moment of confusion. I'm sure you can understand how that could happen.

That Riehlly Hurt

An Instapundit post tipped me to Riehl World View. It's a good blog and has been added to the blog roll here at Vagabondia.

If there was even a shred of credibility left in the Pulitzer Prize winning secret prisons story from the Washington Post, Riehl shreds it thoroughly and completely.

In 2002 the WaPo called the International detention (prison) story vital - in 2005 they quote another official calling it a burden. In 2002 they informed people that Clinton initiated the practice of extraordinary rendition. In 2005, they made it look like a creation of George Bush.

What changed? And what did Dana Priest know and when did she know it? Evidently, not a terribly great deal changed from 2002 to 2005, given that many details of the program the WaPo broke in 2005 were actually published through a group reported piece in the WaPo in 2002.

Reihl found a nearly identical story printed in the Washington Post in 2002, only it didn't win any prizes in 2002 (probably not enough Bush bashing). However, I now remember the 2002 because it did generate some wonderful press events for Human Rights Watch who issued letters or protest to President Bush and Prime Minister Tony Blair. Riehl has some great blog entries in addition to this one, take your time on his site.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

PorkBusters Herd Losing Credibility

I was listening to the Hugh Hewitt radio show yesterday when I heard him announce that the Senate had defeated an amendment to kill funding for the infamous Railroad to Nowhere. He followed up his announcment with the statement that "we are not yet serious about pork". I can agree with him on that because the people who appear to be the least serious about pork-barrel earmarks are the folks at PorkBusters.The railroad to nowhere is now the centerpiece of the PorkBusters movement, the be all end all, the ultimate big game, and the coup-de-grace of all their efforts. Unfortunately, their arguments appear to be descending into the same demagoguery used by much of the left.

During the debate leading up to the invasion of Iraq, which I did and do support whole-heartedly, there were conscientious and reasonable arguments against an invasion. However, those arguments were quickly lost amidst a tsunami of 'Blood for Oil' and 'Greater Israel' moonbattery. Well, now the PorkBusters have picked up a chorus of the old bogey-men, greedy developers and evil casinos.

Yesterday, the Senate voted down Coburn's amendment to kill funding for the Railroad to Nowhere-- a $700 million project meant to move an already functional section of CSX rail line farther away from the Mississippi coast so that the section of land it now occupies can become a beach resort/casino area.

On my first day in Waveland, we had one guy walking around shouting bible verses at the residents who had come for food and announcing Katrina was God's response to Mississippi's casinos. To the credit of Convoy of Hope, he was invited to leave that day but not before I had the unfortunate experience of sharing a table with him. After talking with him for five minutes, I wanted to punch him (as Christianly as possible mind you) right in his big smug mouth!

I'm surprised to hear these standard hobgoblins of the left used by Hugh Hewitt. Like Mr. Hewitt, I live in Southern California where we've heard all about the evil developers and wicked Indian casinos for decades now. And it's not like I support pork-barrel spending or even this particular railroad to nowhere, but I need substance to be convinced. I am more than willing to look at some evidence and agree that this is a corporate boon-doggle or a big labor kickback, but PorkBusters has failed to present any such evidence at this point.

What they have done is converged on a few arguments which they continually state as truth, but that are, in fact, less than decided. For example, we have the New York Times article and countless PorkBusters articles stating that the CSX rail line has already been rebuilt at a cost of $250 million dollars. I haven't been back there recently, but the two-mile Saint Louis Bay Bridge, used for Highway 90 and for CSX rail lines, was not yet completed as of January 2006. Even if it were, who can blame the Senator for making a rail line that connects New Orleans to Biloxi, Gulf Port, and the rest of the Gulf Coast a federal matter.

Of course, I've already pointed out the demagoguery of the PorkBusters herd, including one particularly shameless gem asking "how many people will lose their homes". As usual, the issue becomes a little more complicated than simple slogans. Sure, some developers and casinos may benefit from a relocation of the rail line, but the party that stands to benefit most is the State of Mississippi. The state wants that ground, currently occupied by the CSX rail line, for a relocation of Highway 90 to the higher ground. The current Highway 90 would be converted to a "beach boulevard", which I could care less about. If PorkBusters or the residents of Mississippi want to protest the "beach boulevard" plan, I have no problem with that. However, there are genuine reasons to relocate Highway 90 to the higher ground where the CSX rail line now resides.

Highway 90 near Waveland, MS

Crossroad on Highway 90 during Hurricane Rita

We know there is no amount of safety we can buy to protect us from something as devastating as Hurricane Katrina. The residents of Hancock County found that out the hard way. Since Highway 90 was one of the higher locations in the county, residents would park their cars along the shoulder to keep them out of the flood waters. The first picture shows how effective that was for Katrina. The second picture is a crossroad connected to Highway 90 during Hurricane Rita. The part of 90 that I was on remained dry, but it was closed due to flooding the night before. That's why we drove over the rails into Bay Saint Louis to help folks clean out their homes that day. The CSX rail line is the highest ground in the area. That's why the governor plans (PDF) to relocate part of Highway 90 to the rail line, which is why he supports the relocation of the CSX freight traffic.

Relocation of CSX railroad operations and acquisition of the CSX rail line and right-of-way for the development of a new east-west transportation thoroughfare.

Another talking point that the Porkbuster herd have decided upon is that the CSX line will be transferred to existing lines currently used by a competitor. Unfortunately for PorkBusters, I don't believe that has been decided with any amount of certainty. The idea has come up along with the original idea of building a new east-west rail corridor, but I've seen nothing that settles that argument one way or the other.

Please don't take this the wrong way. I am absolutely opposed to pork-barrel spending and earmarks on completely unrelated bills, but I've seen no evidence of the railroad to nowhere being in either of those categories. For some unknown reason, the Porkbusters herd has chosen this one issue as their Little Bighorn and I'm afraid their credibility and thus their cause will meet the same end as General Custer.

Countdown to Int'l Justice (Day 391)

The genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan continues unabated. While your oh-so concerned journalists breathlessly report on the displacement of 25,000 Iraqis and bemoan an acute malnutrition rate of 7.7% amongst Iraqi children, another 200,000 Sudanese have fled Darfur and severe malnutrition has jumped above 15% in recent months.

Clinics have seen a 20% increase in severely malnourished children since January, a spokesman for the UN children's agency, Unicef, said.

The surge in fighting has forced some 200,000 people to flee, bringing the total displaced to over two million.

Aid agencies last year managed to bring the malnutrition rate below the emergency threshold of 15% but south Darfur was seeing those figures again, Mr Chaiban said.

"Admissions to therapeutic feeding centre where severely malnourished children go are up by 20% since January. Admissions in the supplementary feeding centre where moderately malnourished children go are up by 50%," he said. - BBC

Fortunately, the United Nations has sprung into action and imposed sanctions on four people. Adam Yacub Shant, Gabril Abdul Kareem Badri, Gaffar Mohamed Elhassan and Sheikh Musa Hilal are now officially "in a box" constructed of that ever-effective UN paper work.

The war crimes suspects - Adam Yacub Shant, Gabril Abdul Kareem Badri, Gaffar Mohamed Elhassan and Sheikh Musa Hilal - would be subject to a ban on foreign travel and have any assets held abroad frozen.

The BBC's correspondent at the UN headquarters in New York, Laura Trevelyan, said it had taken weeks to get to this point and the sanctions could be difficult to enforce.

Russia and China, both permanent members of the Security Council with the power to veto the resolution, had initially opposed this move, but chose to abstain because the African nations supported the sanctions.

Even though it took weeks for the United Nations to decide to impose sanctions on four people, we should be thankful that Russia and China did not actively oppose these drastic measures. Apparently, they feel Osama Bin Laden will provide enough opposition to any attempt to stop the genocide in Darfur, at least for the time-being.

Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden urged his followers to prepare for a long war against Western would-be occupiers in Sudan's Darfur region, according to an audiotape attributed to him and aired on Sunday.

"This is a continuous Crusader-Zionist war against Muslims. In this regard, I call on the mujahideen and their supporters in Sudan ... and the (Arabian) Peninsula to prepare all that is necessary to wage a long-term war against the Crusaders in western Sudan not in defence of the Khartoum government, even though our interests may be mutual, as our differences with it are great."

You'll have to excuse me for not having much hope for Sudan. We have a global for-profit media and intrasigently relativist academic industry that almost universally views Bin Laden and his ilk as the oft referenced "another man's freedom fighter". The United Nations won't even define the word terrorism. Most of Europe believes that fighting terrorists is addressing their grievances and capitulating to their demands. We have a Democrat Party that believes Osama Bin Laden is so popular because he builds schools, hospitals, and day care centers. The United States is having tremendous success in Iraq, but we are stretched thin in that effort. Meanwhile, the world sits idly by and either secretly plots or openly cheers for our defeat against terrorism.


Countdown to International Justice (Day 195) 11 OCT 2005
Countdown to International Justice (Day 31) 03 MAY 2005
Countdown to Int'l Justice (Day 5) 07 APR 2005
Countdown to International Justice in Sudan (Day 1) 02 APR 2005

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

War in Egypt

Big Pharaoh is blogging on the escalating war in Sinai peninsula of Egypt evidenced by the fresh bomb attacks on peace-keepers in the region. The BBC is reporting that there were no injuries, while Haaretz is reporting at least four injuries amongst the international peace-keepers:

Two suicide bombers attacked security personnel and foreign peacekeepers in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, but did not cause any injuries to their targets. - BBC

One New Zealander and one Norwegian attached to the multinational force as well as two Egyptian policemen were wounded, security officials and Egypt's official news agency reported. - Haaretz

I think Big Pharaoh summarizes it best when he says, "Damn them those terrorists, they can't withstand a beautiful place, they have to destroy it."

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Flight 93

It is hard to believe that it has been over four years since 9/11 occurred. Now the movie Flight 93 will be coming out. But what is more astonishing to me is that there are those who are still say, "Too soon." The pleas, if from family members, are understandable. Those who have lost loved ones through tragedy have various levels of time needed to heal. It is impossible to completely empathize with a person who has lost so much.

However the movie is going to be out this Friday. There have not been any strong objections from family members who lost loved one on Flight 93. Several article, here, here, and here, point to one word: Heroism. This word has, over the course of human history, slowly diminished in meaning. It is possibly more applied now to our sports icons than the men on the battlefields of Afghanistan or Iraq. We've all done it... watching our favorite team win with a (I almost typed it!) great play or maneuver by a player. I'm just as guilty of this than anyone else. The problem, of course, is our inability to truly identify and marvel at heroism.

From all comments made so far about the movie (and the 9/11 Report confirms) show that heroic acts are still within human capabilities and that yes, even Hollywood can properly display it. I would submit that the acts by those on Flight 93 were truly American and truly heroic. The former, rather than the latter, would of course be disputed by many. The spirit of Jefferson, the proponent of the natural right of revolution, is within all Americans; this I do believe. I am excited, yet simultaneously nervous about seeing Flight 93. It will show me the great heroism that can be displayed by such "average" Americans, but it will also show my great failings as an individual. But this "self-hate," if one could call it that, is rather healthy. We need, especially among our youngest Americans, to see men and women doing something truly heroic, devoid of personal gain or glory. As the Greeks defended the polis, the Romans res publica, and now the Americans, who defend all those bound by "the laws of nature and nature's God," we should watch the movie, and allow us to relive the emotion we felt for our fellow Americans on that dreaded day. Currently, I can think of no other way to honor the dead than to remember their sacrifice.

Too Many Beers

I was reading a Tom Maguire post on the continuing saga of Mary McCarthy and the national security leaks. By the way, Tom Maguire seems to be the clear-but expert on all things that leak in Washington D.C. Anyway, something struck me as I was reading; there's that name Rand Beers again in the New York Times article referenced in Maguire's piece:

"That's not the Mary McCarthy that I know," said Rand Beers, a former colleague of Ms. McCarthy's on the National Security Council who has spoken to her several times since her firing.

"I'm glad she was prepared to push back," Mr. Beers said. "I was concerned that we were only hearing one side of the story."

So, in order to allay fears that McCarthy might be a partisan mole who supports the Party first and the people somewhere after that, we are given Rand Beers. Maguire points out that as recently as Saturday, the Times described Rand Beers as "an adviser to Mr. Kerry's campaign in 2004". Like their reporting on the true measure of McCarthy's campaign contributions to the Democrat Party in 2004, they fall a little short in their biography of Mr. Beers.

Rand Beers quit his office job in the Bush Administration and signed on to John Kerry's campaign as his National Security Advisor. Paul C. Light, a scholar with the Brookings Institution had this to say about Rand Beers:

"He's not just declaring that he's a Democrat. He's declaring that he's a Kerry Democrat."

Of course, this was a perfect selection for the Kerry campaign at the time. Beers was a general in the War on Drugs serving as the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs for most of 1998, appointed by President Clinton. So, who can blame Kerry, having once proposed using military bases slated for closing as detention centers for first-time drug offenders, for wanting a War on Drugs veteran on his cabinet? However, this hardly leaves Beers in a position to be an objective non-partisan source of a news story.

Monday, April 24, 2006


Here is a quote from Mary McCarthy. I call it a McCarthyism:

"Unlike other functions of democratic government, the conduct of intelligence is purposely-and with the consent of the public-carried out in secret, out of the view of public and without much public debate."

- Testimony before the 911 Commission, Oct. 14, 2003

Well, the "consent of the public" be-damned when you've got some career-building brownie points to score. Hell, get that purposely secret intelligence right out to the first reporter you come across if it means a little friendly back-scratching and purely personal gain. Now, I have to make a new category. We have too many gentle-sons in our State Department, too many Wilsons at our embassies, and probably too many McCarthys in our CIA.

Is it any wonder that this woman served on the National Intelligence Council as the National Intelligence Officer for Warning and Deputy NIO for Warning during the period that included terrorist attacks against two U.S. embassies in Africa, the USS Cole in Yemen, and World Trade Center in New York on September 11?

Blasts in Egypt and Big Pharaoh

You may have heard about the terrorist attacks in the Egyptian resort town of Dahab on the Sinai Peninsula. Of course, anytime I want an informed opinion about current events in Egypt, I go to the Big Pharaoh blog. Only this time, the Big Pharaoh reports that he is going to the Red Sea for a vacation. Now, the Red Sea is a considerable body of water and the chances that Big Pharaoh being affected by these blasts are very low. However, I'll feel a helluva lot better when I read his next post.

UPDATE: Looks like Big Pharaoh is alive and well and will be back in Cairo tomorrow.

Poo-litzer Prize Winning Journalism

I was in the backyard scooping up piles of dog-poop. One particularly sloppy and malodorous pile reminded me of something I wanted to write about, the Pulitzer Prize. Now, I haven't been alone in my skepticism of these types of awards, but I have done my share.

Let's set aside the recent arrest of Bilal Hussein, the Pulitzer Prize winning photographer who snapped the Haifa Street photos and displayed an uncanny ability to move freely amidst insurgent groups in Iraq.

Let us instead focus on one of the recent Pulitzer Prize winners, like Dana Priest of the Washington Post. She won the prize in the category of "Beat Reporting":

For a distinguished example of beat reporting characterized by sustained and knowledgeable coverage of a particular subject or activity, in print or in print and online, Ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Awarded to Dana Priest of The Washington Post for her persistent, painstaking reports on secret "black site" prisons and other controversial features of the government's counterterrorism campaign.

Well, the revelation of "secret 'black site' prisons" as a "feature of the government's counterterrorism campaign" sounds quite ominous and downright Orwellian. Unfortunately, Dana Priest's reporting was a little too Orwellian. Just like the totalitarian societies in Orwell's novels, Dana Priest's secret 'black site' prisons appear to be fictional places.

The European Parliament's probe and a similar one by the continent's leading human rights watchdog are looking into whether U.S. intelligence agents interrogated al-Qaida suspects at secret prisons in eastern Europe and transported some on secret flights through Europe.

But so far investigators have not identified any human rights violations, despite more than 50 hours of testimony by human rights activists and individuals who claimed to have been abducted by U.S. intelligence agents, de Vries said.

"We've heard all kinds of allegations, impressions; we've heard also refutations. It's up to your committee to weigh if they are true. It does not appear to be proven beyond reasonable doubt," he said. "There has not been, to my knowledge, evidence that these illegal renditions have taken place."

Now, it turns out that Dana Priest's source for the news has been arrested and some are speculating that the entire subject could've have been an internal CIA sting to smoke anti-american treasonous operatives out of their little spider holes at the agency.

Let me summarize with this reminder; a so-called journalist was awarded $10,000 and a Pulitzer Prize for regurgitating a story that could be a complete fabrication. In defense of the Pulitzer, there is no question that concocting a believable story about fictional events happening to fictional people can be "painstaking", but hardly worthy of a Pulitzer Prize, at least in my mind.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Clueless Journalism...

The New York Times has now joined Porkbusters and the Instapundit in criticism of Senator Trent Lott's $700 million railroad to nowhere.

Let me first say, that although I would probably not see eye-to-eye on many issues with Glenn Reynolds, I am a big fan of his Instapundit blog and read it daily. Also, while I agree with goals of groups like Porkbusters (I think spending earmarks should be prohibited), I'm not that attracted to their message because the alternative to every bit of spending becomes an over-simplified quick-fix. Let's take a snippet from the Porkbusters article:

As for not being able to evacuate people, here is a novel idea, why not use the rail lines? Certainly it wouldn’t be too much to ask that a passenger train be sent to evacuate people in times of emergency. And it would be a solution for all the people who do not have a private vehicle to evacuate in.

That's an excellent idea and certainly quite plausible. Also, that CSX Freight line could've been used immediately after the disaster to ship things like diesel fuel, food, and supplies to places like Waveland, Mississippi. There's only one problem with that:

CSX Freight Line near Waveland

The only thing of notable value on this freightline was a house (you can see the rooftop in the distance), at least on the day I took this picture. It sure would have been nice to have this freight line available to the few groups who remained in Waveland when Hurricane Rita roared past us in the Gulf. Before I get too far off-topic, let's get back to the New York Times' editorial and examine their characterization of this vital freight line:

As the Senate returns from recess it will confront the year's prize porker blithely trotted out by Senator Lott — a $700 million earmark to relocate a Gulf Coast rail line, which was just rebuilt, post-Katrina, at a cost of $250 million. Invoked in the name of public safety, the project is actually a transparent attempt to tap already scarce hurricane reconstruction funds so the rail bed can be replaced by a touristy "beach boulevard" long sought by Mississippi to aid the casino industry and coastal developers.

Did I read that correctly? Did the author actually use the words "scarce hurricane reconstruction funds" to describe the government's approved spending for the Katrina recovery effort? According to the Heritage Foundation (a conservative anti-pork organization), government spending on Katrina could exceed $200 billion, not including tax incentives such as the one I took advantage of when I spent almost $1,000 to get myself down to Waveland to distribute food and help clear debris from houses. It's nice to see the New York Times is finally so concerned about government spending, but like the other groups that keep throwing around this $250 million number for a "rail line which was just rebuilt", they should try a little thing in journalism known as investigation. That $250 million includes reconstruction of the Saint Louis Bay Bridge that carries both the rail line and Highway 90 from Bay Saint Louis to Pass Christian, which by the way, has not been done.

Now, I'm all for scrutinizing these expenditures, especially where the Mississippi Department of Transportation (MDOT) is concerned. I'm also wary of government "paybacks" to labor unions. The federal Department of Transportation waived contracting rules to allow officials to hire contractors for the immediate rebuilding. Now, could the reasoning behind this $750 million project be a bone thrown to transportation unions? You bet it could, but I haven't seen any of the anti-pork slueths raising that question.

Despite my inclination to oppose earmarks and the opposition from a growing chorus of anti-pork voices, the fact of this particular matter remain unchanged. This freight line was taken out of action by Hurricane Katrina. Rebuilding infrastructure is expensive and a working freight line would've been a God-send when I was last in Waveland, Mississippi.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Homelessness is not a crime...

... according to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals:

Los Angeles' policy of arresting homeless people for sitting, lying or sleeping on public sidewalks as "an unavoidable consequence of being human and homeless without shelter" violates the constitutional prohibition against cruel and punishment, a federal appeals court ruled today.

The pattern of logic develops...

"Because there is substantial and undisputed evidence that the number of homeless persons in Los Angeles far exceeds the number of available shelter beds at all times, including on the night" the plaintiffs were arrested or cited, "Los Angeles has encroached upon" the plaintiffs' 8th Amendment protections "by criminalizing the unavoidable act of sitting, lying or sleeping at night while being involuntarily homeless," Wardlaw wrote.

Now Judge Wardlaw, who wrote the opinion of the case, is making an interesting argument from the outset. If you notice, she clearly is not making an argument about becoming homeless; quite the contrary. She begins her argument after homelessness has already been achieved. To her, that is where she has decided to begin the relevancy of the Los Angeles ordinance. But it is here that she undermines the entire idea of a community setting up its own standards and whether she knows it or not (I would argue that she does indeed understand the implications of her argument), Judge Wardlaw has stated quite clearly that it does not matter as such that the person became homeless to start with.

It might be advantageous to explain it another way. The crime being committed in Los Angeles-homelessness-is a degradation of the community and therefore, sleeping on the streets, or any public place, is an attempt to devalue what the public has created. It must be noted here that rational men can disagree on whether or not sleeping on a street corner is degrading the public works, but that is a standard set within each city or county (possibly state). Los Angeles has decided that becoming homeless does not make you less human (Why do I understand Judge Wardlaw's opinion to say as such?), but it does not mean you have a right to degrade the public works others have labored for.

Wardlaw said that "as a result of the expansive reach of the [Los Angeles ordinance], the extreme lack of available shelter in Los Angeles, and the large homeless population, thousands of people violate the Los Angeles ordinance every day and night, and many are arrested, losing what few possessions they may have."

This is simply astonishing. Los Angeles is not saying homelessness itself is a crime (although Judge Wardlaw reads that as such), but the abuse and degradation of the public works is. Just as Los Angeles, and every other city in the United States, states that selling a product is not a crime, but selling crack cocaine is. Specific acts of homelessness is criminal, just as specific acts of being a retailer can be.

Judge Wardlaw's rationale states that Los Angeles cannot do as such because in placing a value on the public works, they have stripped away a right of an American citizen. There is nothing "cruel and unusual" about giving value to public works; and there is nothing "cruel and unusual" about expecting a person to either be productive or at the very least, be lazy* and do not degrade the public works. But then again, I doubt highly Judge Wardlaw, or the ACLU for that matter, really care about the substances of their exoteric arguments.

*Yes, of course, there are at times circumstances that can place someone on the streets. But I doubt highly that that is the rule and not the exception.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Bible Lesson #3174

Attendees of a New York City political conference, hosted by Reverend Al Sharpton, were treated to a bit of a Bible lesson from Senator John Kerry (hat tip: QandO Blog). Patrick Healy provides some details of the groups tutelage in the New York Times:

A Roman Catholic who has struggled at times to talk about his own faith, Mr. Kerry also told the group that he believed "deeply in my faith" and that the Koran, the Torah, the Gospels and the Acts of the Apostles had influenced a social conscience that he exercised in politics.

"I will tell you, nowhere in there, nowhere, not in one page, not in one phrase uttered and reported by the Lord Jesus Christ, can you find anything that suggests that there is a virtue in cutting children from Medicaid and taking money from the poor and giving it to the rich," Mr. Kerry said.

Kerry, a Roman Catholic, gets his moral guidance from the Koran and the Torah? I must've missed those lessons in catechism classes, but that's not the statement that struck me as funny. When I repeated Kerry's statement to the Indigent Girlfriend, her first thought was the same as mine; the Parable of the Talents:

For [the kingdom of heaven is] as a man travelling into a far country, [who] called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods.

And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey.

Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made [them] other five talents.

And likewise he that [had received] two, he also gained other two.

But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money.

After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them.

And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more.

His lord said unto him, Well done, [thou] good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them.

His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed:

And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, [there] thou hast [that is] thine.

His lord answered and said unto him, [Thou] wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed:

Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and [then] at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

Take therefore the talent from him, and give [it] unto him which hath ten talents.

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

And cast ye the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Now, this parable is primarily about works, but I'm surprised Kerry wasn't mindful of it as he mentions the Gospels so prominently in his speech. However, it clearly illustrates "one phrase uttered and reported by the Lord Jesus Christ" where money is taken from the poor and given to the rich. The problems with Kerry's speech are further compounded by the rediculous notion that a government could ever be virtuous or recognized by God for that matter. Our government could implement every social policy that every wack-job has ever dreamed up, and I would still be thankful that I only have to answer to God for what I have done, not for what any government has done. I also believe there would be a whole lot of people, which had voted for and supported those social policies all their lives, having their talents taken away and given to those who perhaps had not voted for the government programs.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Stone Flees Puritanical Repression

I haven't seen Sharon Stone's new movie, Basic Instinct 2... In fact, I haven't seen the first Basic Instinct. Apparently the sequel is not doing so well at the box office, scoring a little over $3 million in receipts, just edging out Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector. Ok, in all fairness to Larry the Cable Guy, it has been out for two weeks. Health Inspector actually did about $7 million on its opening weekend. Hollywood Reporter has tracked down the director of the movie who offers an explanation for Basic Instinct's abysmal failure: (hat tip: Powerline)

Paul Verhoeven, director of the first "Basic Instinct" (which scored $353 million worldwide) as well as the widely ridiculed "Showgirls" (now regarded as something of a camp classic), attributes the genre's demise to the current American political climate.

"Anything that is erotic has been banned in the United States," said the Dutch native. "Look at the people at the top (of the government). We are living under a government that is constantly hammering out Christian values. And Christianity and sex have never been good friends."

Scribe Nicholas Meyer, who was an uncredited writer on 1987's seminal sex-fueled cautionary tale "Fatal Attraction," agrees, noting that the genre's downfall coincides with the ascent of the conservative political movement.

"We're in a big puritanical mode," he said. "Now, it's like the McCarthy era, except it's not 'Are you a communist?' but 'Have you ever put sex in a movie?"'

Of course! We can't see erotic images because of the puritanical repression in the United States of America. This is especially true here in the mostly Christian, mostly conservative City of San Diego. Let's ignore, for a moment, the dozen or so sex shops and all-nude dancer joints within ten miles of my home and stick to what is on Television beginning at 11:00 PM tonight.

Let's see, I could watch Sex and the City on my choice of two broadcast network channels, KSWB and KTLA. Ah, not fair you say. Sex and the City is not really an "erotic thriller". Well, neither was Basic Instinct 2 by all accounts, but I will move on. It goes without saying that we'll find much more fertile material on HBO and Cinemax (aka Skinemax) between the hours of 11:00 PM and 1:00 AM. Here I find, for my viewing pleasure, a choice between Bikini-A-Go-Go (technically a comedy), Hotel Erotica Cabo (must be a series), and back to back episodes of Best Sex Ever. Let's stick a fork in this one once and for all by talking about the Internet. Here is a VERY truncated list of binary (picture or video) groups that anyone with Internet access could choose from:

I want to re-emphasize that this is a much shortened... excuse me for one moment: beanie-babies?!?! Puritanical society indeed! Even beanie-babies are lumped into our "erotic" fetishes.

Well, Sharon Stone won't have to worry about that anymore. She says there is already a script for Basic Instinct 3 and that she is planning to direct it. She also plans to make the movie in the UK to get away from the puritanical constraints of the U.S. and to give the film a more "gritty atmostphere. It should be a big success. After all, who doesn't like their eroticism a little on the gritty side?

Public Service Announcement: While the usenet groups listed above are available to anyone with an Internet connection, they are completely unmoderated. So, you may be thinking that your going to view a picture or video of an erotic blonde, but what you actually get may be a picture or video of an exploited ten year old. Also understand that the picture, whether legal material or not, is also sitting on the hard drive in YOUR computer by the time you are looking at it.

CBS Cameraman Freed...

Reuters is reporting that the cameraman apprehended by US troops a year ago has been released by an Iraqi judge for lack of evidence to support the charges of terrorism.

A cameraman for U.S. network CBS was freed on Wednesday after a year in detention without charge when an Iraqi court ruled there was no evidence to support charges of terrorism against him. Iraqi security forces fired warning shots into the air as journalists tried to speak to cameraman Abdul Ameer Hussein's American lawyer outside the court. It was not clear why they opened fire.

I think anyone who has seen a press swarm knows why the Iraqi security forces fired warning shots. Personally, if I were confronted by one of these swarms, I can't guarantee that my warning shots would be fired into the air.

Hussein, an Iraqi, was shot by U.S. troops and arrested exactly a year ago, on April 5, as he filmed clashes in the northern city of Mosul. He was accused of instigating a crowd and of recruiting Iraqis for the anti-U.S. insurgency, but the exact charges were never made public.

The Committee to Protect Journalists has accused the United States of stonewalling investigations into allegations against journalists, often detained for months without charge.

The committee ranks the United States as the sixth worst jailer of journalists, along with Burma.

"For the lack of evidence ... the court orders that all charges be dropped and the accused be released," Judge Kamil al-Shweli said.

Hussein's lawyer Horton said outside the court, before the shooting: "Justice has been administered in Iraq. I am very happy with that."

Now CBS should be free to shed some light on the footage contained in Mr. Hussein's camera on that day. They should now be free to answer some of the questions I have asked about this story, but I don't expect we'll hear much more about this.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Last Man Watch

If one were to look at my profile, they'll notice that I'm a fan of the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche. Not because I agree with his solution to the problems of modernity, but because his description of the liberal (note: Not to be confused with American liberalism) world he saw is exactly correct, and still applicable today. He spoke of the "last man": those who were content with their own mediocrity. A professor of mine commented that if Nietzsche were alive today, he'd see modern man and not at all be surprised. MTV and its participants would be called "walking coffins"... a term I truly enjoy.

Because I am so heavily influenced by Nietzsche's diagnosis, I look for "these last men" that walk to Earth today. So, I was not at all surprised by an article I found linked by Tim Blair. The article from the Guardian tells:

Doctors from London University have revealed details of what they believe is the largest amount of ecstasy ever consumed by a single person. Consultants from the addiction centre at St George's Medical School, London, have published a case report of a British man estimated to have taken around 40,000 pills of MDMA, the active ingredient in ecstasy, over nine years. The heaviest previous lifetime intake on record is 2,000 pills.

Though the man, who is now 37, stopped taking the drug seven years ago, he still suffers from severe physical and mental health side-effects, including extreme memory problems, paranoia, hallucinations and depression. He also suffers from painful muscle rigidity around his neck and jaw which often prevents him from opening his mouth. The doctors believe many of these symptoms may be permanent.

I am less saddened by this than the recent protests happening all across the United States. The protests themselves are not bad, but the fact Mexican and other Lain American flags were so proudly flown was dispiriting... and disheartening. But this story about a man who-it is safe to assume-wandered aimlessly through life with no purpose other than the self is telling. We all, including myself, experience this aimless pursuit of meaning. Since it is no longer "rational" to believe in God ("God is dead!"), nor is it "good" to believe in patriotism (human rights, not natural rights), we are forced into pursuing meaningless; empty dopamine releasing experiences.

While we may or may not be at the "end of days" (whatever that may be), there is little doubt human excellence is still on the decline and we are the "last men." America is one of the few places left-because of the revolutionary principles disclosed in the first two paragraphs of the Declaration of Independence-where we still see a yearning for human excellence and human purpose. One of my favorite movie quotes comes from the mediocre movie Ice Harvest where a character played by Oliver Platt is drunk and looking at two girls hanging on the arms of a guy in the corner of this club. He says (cleaned up language here) that "all that is left for men is women and money." Something to think about as we continue to work and go through our lives. Are we really putting meaning in our lives? Or are we endlessly pursuing a rapid and extreme release of chemicals that make us "feel" the moment? Or possibly the better question is, is there a real, tangible meaning to life? All I know is that modern life says that there isn't, but I've never been one to listen to philosophical modernity...

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Comedy and Immigration

I am really a big picture, "how does this impact our culture" type person. Practical, nuts and bolts politics or what is happening at the Oscars really does not determine how I will live my life and does not truly interest me. But I'm a fan of comedy; especially comedy that reflects universal truths. Andrew Sullivan a while back commented on the state of American comedy, where he included comedians such as Dave Chapelle, Jon Stewart, and Stephen Colbert. They are all very funny and go a long way to breaking down stereotypes and misconceptions that have, throughout modern American history, divided Americans along racial, religious, or economic lines. However, I've become very impressed with Carlos Mencia.

His show, Mind of Mencia, is probably the best attempt at truly being comedy aimed all who simply want to be entertained. Mencia's goal, which is obvious with his opening skit or set of jokes, is to hit all groups quickly and without apology. The feeling the viewer gets, if paying attention, is how ridiculous stereotypes are and why it is important to be able to look at how odd and funny we all can be on an individual and collective level.

Recently, the debate over immigration has been dominating the air waves and print. Interestingly, neither party seems to have a good hold of the issue. The question that needs to be most readily addressed is assimilation. American immigration, as a whole, has been far more successful than any other nation in the world. That is because American citizenship is not based on race, religion, or any other subjective criteria. The only requirement is a belief in the American experiment: The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Those two documents are the fundamental concepts of America and have universal appeal. The only real issue that should be debated in the Congress is how to Americanize all immigrants, legal or otherwise. I'm saddened that America wants to rely on a guest worker program. It seems to be a European approach which does not work and it neither promotes America's political ideals nor increases the American population. (More will live within the borders, but what does that mean if they are not committed to the American experiment?)

The private side of America, along with government, has indeed assimilated the vast majority of immigrants. However, it has always been the case that the numbers are managable AND the connections of the immigrants, more or less, were severed at departure. European immigrants and Asian immigrants could not practically keep those connections. Today, Mexican or any Latin American immigrant can keep these links. This causes great strain, as anyone who saw the recent protests observed that there were many Mexican or other flags present. Many American flags were there as well, but it is hard not to cringe at such a bond with a foreign country that, for one reason or another, drove one's ancestors out.

So you may be asking what that has to do with Carlos Mencia, or any comedian in general. Mencia, and many other comedians, do represent how successful American assimilation has been in the past. He recently just took a shot at Kanye West, who has a history of making racist comments. Of course West is an easy target, but West has great appeal, just as many vulgar characters always had the ability to make it in pop culture. It was something that had to be done, but it just depended on who was going to do it first.

But Mencia's appeal is more in tune with the American ideal. He cares little, unlike Kanye West, about what race has to do with a person. Rather, some Americans' fascination with race is what Mencia really digs at and profits from. It is this appeal that we need to remember as we continue to see heated, unnecessary comments directed at Hispanics/Latinos, or Anglo/non-Hispanic Americans. If we cannot continue to assimilate and create new Americans, who are loyal only to the US, then any guest worker program or any fence will matter little at the end of the day. America is one of the few nations that can take in so many people, from so many nations, and keep the real patriotism alive.

Democrats Resurrect Kerry Campaign from the Dead

The Democrats have come together to release a less than inspiring national security strategy. I've read through it and I must tell you that it sounds suspiciously like John Kerry's presidential campaign platform from 2004. In fact, it is so much like Kerry's campaign platform that it says more about their perception of the reasons for their 2004 defeat than it does their policy towards national security. Here are a few key elements of the Democrat plan, called Real Security, towards the War on Terror:

Eliminate Osama Bin Laden, destroy terrorist networks like al Qaeda, finish the job in Afghanistan and end the threat posed by the Taliban.

This is the very much follows the meme that we devoted the bulk of our forces to Iraq instead of focusing on capturing Osama Bin Laden in Afghanistan. This was usually followed by Kerry's own vow to go after Bin Laden. What the Democrats don't seem to be understanding is that, in the minds of most Americans, eliminating Osama Bin Laden is not the end. Even the Dalai Lama recognizes that. Of course, we also know what the Democrats mean by "destroy terrorist networks" because they explain how they're going to do that in the third bullet-point: combating the economic, social, and political conditions that allow extremism to thrive...

Here we are, back to the "root causes of terrorism" and poverty being one of them. This is so pathetically simple-minded that it is hard to continue, but when I said the Democrats were resurrecting the Kerry campaign platform, I meant they were resurrecting the entire losing policy.

Double the size of our Special Forces, increase our human intelligence capabilities, and ensure our intelligence is free from political pressure.

This is the one Kerry campaign promise that really got under my skin. What is says is the only reason we don't have more people in Special Forces is that a President hasn't declared that there should be more people in Special Forces. After all, any Democrat knows that Special Forces people are a dime-a-dozen, nothing at all exceptional or special about their physical and mental characterstics. No, what makes Special Forces people "special" is the honorary title of Special Forces granted to them by them beloved and benevolent government. It couldn't possibly be that it's the special people making the Special Forces special. Let's move on before I really get going.

Secure by 2010 loose nuclear materials that terrorists could use to build nuclear weapons or “dirty bombs.”

In other words, they're going to continue the Materials Control Protection and Accounting program started by this Bush Administration, which is just a Department of Energy version of the agreement signed by the first Bush Administration through the Department of Defense. So, this is like Republicans running a campaign that promises a Christmas holiday on December 25. Finally, we get to the last bullet point of the Democrat plan:

Redouble efforts to stop nuclear weapons development in Iran and North Korea.

What effort will be redoubled? Would that be shipping free food to the cronies and sub-servient factions of the communist regime or building the free light-water nuclear reactors for the militant communist regime? I think they really need to be more specific on this one.

Well, the Democrats sure are in the resurrection spirit this Easter season. They've got Kerry's dead campaign policies and Dean has promised to resurrect the Terry Schiavo for the 2006 and 2008 elections. We'll see how all that works out for them.

The most interesting part of this Real Security plan is what it says about the Democrats. They seem to truly believe they lost in 2004 becuase Bush cheated in Ohio, or was it Diebold, or was it disenfranchisement... maybe it was voter intimidation. Heck, it couldn't possibly be that the American people rejected Kerry's national security plan.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Jill Carroll Coerced By Captors

Apparently, Jill Carroll wants to set the record straight on her recent captivity in Iraq. The Christian Science Monitor, for who she is working, has released her official statement along with their own.

During my last night in captivity, my captors forced me to participate in a propaganda video. They told me they would let me go if I cooperated. I was living in a threatening environment, under their control, and wanted to go home alive. I agreed.

She goes on to discuss her statement on Iraqi Television for the Iraqi Islamic Party and clears the air of a few completely mischaracterizations of her attitude towards the U.S. military.

Software Licensing and the Windows Repair Install

In early 2002, I decided that I was going to clean-up my computing habits and get rid of all the illegal (or cracked) software I had installed on my home computers. There were two reasons for this decision; 1) I had just changed careers from Quality Assurance to Software Development, 2) product activation and license validation was becoming more and more prevalent.

To make a long story short, I was down to my last ill-gotten copy of Microsoft Windows XP Professional running on an old laptop that used occasionally for odd test and development work. This was one of the infamous "corp. editions", which is a installation CD with a volume license key (usually purchased by large companies) and requires no activation.

Along comes Microsoft's Windows Genuine Advantage program around the middle of 2005. Now, there was a lot of uproar over this new program from Microsoft and piles of misinformation. Basically, users wishing to remain compliant with Microsoft's licensing policy would have to validate their operating system before they could continue receiving non-critical updates and other free product downloads, such as the Windows Defender Beta2 (formerly the Anti-Spyware Beta). The truth is that, as a test, I ran the WGA validation check on my laptop and sure enough, it failed. That's it. I could continue to download and install criticial security updates, but there were no black Microsoft helicopters or jack-booted enforcers coming to punish me for illegally using Microsoft Windows XP. All of my office and development software installed and worked as expected and Windows Components (e.g. Internet Information Services 5.1) could be added from the "cracked" CD with no hassles.

I've had a extra valid license for Windows XP Professional SP2 for some time now, but today was the first chance I had to apply it to my laptop. There are two ways to accomplish this; 1) a clean wipe of the laptop hard drive followed by a fresh install with the legal copy of Windows XP or 2) a repair installation of the existing Windows operating system.

The latter of the two options was the most appealing because I did not want to go through the hours of work required to reinstall and reconfigure all my application and development software. I also took a great deal of time stripping down the Windows installation (i.e. minimal graphics, security, etc) because it is only a 500Mhz Pentium III with 256 MB of RAM. So, I decided to follow the instructions posted on Michael Stevens' web-site. In addition to the low system specs listed above, I'm also running a compressed volume on the laptop to increase my total disk space.

I can report to you that the in-place repair install worked flawlessly and that Michael Stevens' instructions are spot on. All of my minimalist settings were preserved, all my applications are working including Windows Components such as IIS 5.1, and the new installation activated over the Internet in seconds. I no longer have a single software application installed in violation of the manufacturers license agreement.