Wednesday, May 31, 2006

"Sacred Honor"

Cannot say I am all that surprised, but Michael Moore is getting sued:

A veteran who lost both arms in the war in Iraq is suing filmmaker Michael Moore for $85 million, alleging that Moore used snippets of a television interview without his permission to falsely portray him as anti-war in "Fahrenheit 9/11."

We are a sue happy society, so this isn't all that shocking that someone would (finally) go after Moore and his vile smear. However, this is what I was particular interested in:

Sgt. Peter Damon, a National Guardsman from Middleborough, is asking for damages because of "loss of reputation, emotional distress, embarrassment, and personal humiliation," according to the lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court last week. [Emphasis mine]

At the end of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson refers to the "sacred Honor" that is being pledged by the signers of the document (and by extension, all those involved in the Revolution). To men, and I'd assume a brave person like Sgt. Damon is a real man, personal honor and pride is important. Are we so feminized in American society to believe that people like Lincoln, Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, Jackson, and even Bush and Kerry are not in part driven by their honor as men? I'd be willing to assume a brave soldier like Sgt. Damon is truly ashamed of the way Moore (as he does to many) exploited his remarks.

I'm not typically big on lawsuits, but this is one I'd like to see work. People like Moore cannot continue to insult people without any regard for the accuracy of his work. For more on this and Michael Moore in general, check out (the biased)

Monday, May 29, 2006

Sacrifice of the Soldier

As the Twin Towers fell on September 11th, 2001, the event united Americans in ways never before seen by the non-World War II generations. The attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th, 1941 also shattered the natural divisions within the United States. In the aftermath of both conflicts, all that mattered was that Americans, not simply human beings, were killed. Patriotism, the flame that ignites a political community, is seen time and time again during national crisis and tragedy. But what is mandatory to a political community is trust, which allows the motto e pluribus unum to have meaning. Trust must be the foundation of any society that wishes to form a government based on consent of the ruled. Peaceful transition of power, which is the cornerstone of Western representative democracies, is completely dependent on the trust the minority has in the majority of the same community.

In the book A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War, Harry V. Jaffa details how it is possible to have an American political community. The Founding Fathers understood that within a free society, the risk of an overbearing majority will always be apparent. But trust, which politically means that the ruled believe the ruling will adhere to the laws that protect all including those absent from power, always falls at the feet of the minority who must choose to accept their own political weakness. Therefore, the standard cannot simply be sentiment or sympathy. It must be rooted in the ideas perfectly expressed by Thomas Jefferson as “the laws of nature and nature’s God”. From the natural right doctrine, the American political community is cemented in the idea of equal rights in the law, i.e., the Constitution. Abraham Lincoln understood this best as he attempted to appeal to the South’s mind after his ascension to the presidency. In this instance, he would fail practically but theoretically succeed. Relying on both the Founders and Abraham Lincoln, it can be affirmed that the social compact, understood through natural law and imperfectly realized in the Constitution, underlies all that allows for an American political community.

Trust, without a doubt, is the prerequisite for any political community to take form. The American political community is based upon the principle of popular government, which resonates from the ground up through universal voting rights. However, during the American Revolution, it was a difficult proposition to explain and implement. It was incumbent on the Founding Fathers and the American people to first create a semblance of trust within the nation. Practically, Tories, which were Colonists loyal to the British Crown, were victims of “mob violence” and driven from the colonies. But this merely eliminates declared enemies of the Revolution. The question of trust is still left unanswered. Therefore, it is necessary to draw from “the laws of nature and nature’s God.”

Thomas Jefferson wrote the Summary View of the Rights of British America where he explains the natural right doctrine as it applies to those in America. Unlike the views expressed by some such as Russell Kirk, Jefferson’s argument against the British government’s abuses of the Colonies is not pointing to “the rights of Englishmen.” Jefferson is in truth arguing that British Americans possessed rights that pertain to all men, equally and always. Jefferson first argues that nature had endowed all British Americans, as their Saxon ancestors did before them, with the right “of departing from the country” where they were born. But, as Jaffa points out, rational decisions are made as to where one will later be located. And this migration was ultimately guided by the objective of “promoting public happiness.” If civic happiness is the goal of one’s location, which was guided by rational choice given by nature, then it is necessary to have government based on the conditions that protect the natural rights of man.

“[W]hen… it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands…” is the beginning of the Declaration of Independence, also written by Thomas Jefferson. The great uniting document of America explicitly outlines the rights of all men. These rights derive from “the laws of nature and nature’s God,” which could more readily be expressed as natural law. According to Jefferson, writing for all Americans, “[A]ll men are created equal… and endowed… with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” The idea of equality, which flows from the natural right doctrine, is penned here to show that men are born free and therefore own themselves. If one is born free, one therefore consents to be ruled, since all are in sole possession of themselves from birth. In the Summary View, Jefferson notes that the king is “the chief officer of the people” and is part of the government which is “erected for [the people’s] use.” Jefferson assumes that all power and authority first begins among the people who compose society. Then government only has certain “definite power” that are used to the people, thereby working for the people’s “happiness.”

Government derives from the consent of the people, and the government’s objective is to defend the “life, liberty, and… pursuit of happiness” of the people, and if government becomes “destructive of these ends,” it is necessary and a “right” of those who are ruled to change the government. Rule is not an immediately natural existence. Through society, men gather into a political community. But it is only through the consent of the people, may government be proper. Jefferson would see the right of revolution being succeeded by the “right of free election” with his election in 1800. And the right of revolution is the base of which all the right of the people derive. To summarize, all men are equal because of “the laws of nature and nature’s God.” Since this is so, government is only legitimate if it is created through consent. The right of revolution is the guardian of these rights. Only through this understanding can a social compact, i.e., the Constitution, be successfully implemented.

The American government is one that resonates from the people, or society. In debating the Constitution, Alexander Hamilton asks the readers of The Federalist if they would accept such a proposition: Americans must decide “whether societies of men are really capable or not of establishing good government from reflection and choice, or whether they are forever destined to depend for their political constitutions on accident and force.” The operative word is “choice,” meaning the people of America are to decide their fate, much as Jefferson recalled the migration of the Saxons and later the Pilgrims and other British Americans. The Constitution is the social compact of the American people. But the election of 1800 is the culmination of the social compact which allows for power to derive from the people. Only then the will of society can be seen in government.

Thomas Jefferson, who defeated John Adams in the election of 1800, fulfilled the idea of the social compact. Jaffa compares the election of 1800 with the election of 1861 in that the winner had to persuade the public, both majority and minority, that the loser of the election was not the loser of “a war.” Jefferson says in his inaugural, “We are all republicans-we are all federalists.” This statement alone hammers out what it means to have a social compact. The “federalists,” represented by John Adams, had become the minority of America. But they, being part of the American political community, were in a sense, republicans. This appears to be improbable on the one hand, but Jaffa explains how this can be possible. Drawing from Aristotle’s definition of friendship, justice is an inherent quality of friendship. American citizens can be seen as friends of a community. Lincoln would also appeal to friendship in his first inaugural address, attempting to stop Southern succession.

James Madison, who wrote the Virginia Resolutions attacking the Alien and Sedition Act, argued that the social compact is understood through the Constitution. Here, the states were used as a vehicle to defend individual liberty, but the states were not used in a manner to defend a “state’s right” as such. It is of interest to note that Madison used the state of Virginia to uphold the social compact, e.g., individual liberty, but discourse in pursuant of ballots, not bullets, were used for political change. Lincoln, writing to Congress, states that, “[B]allots are the rightful and peaceful successors of bullets….” This is to say that clearly, the social compact was set concretely prior to 1860 and succession is not permitted. Madison, in an essay entitled Sovereignty, states that the will of the majority must be seen as the will of the entire society. The social compact was unanimous, as any political community must be prior to its formation. After formation, the great balance of majority and minority rights begin to fester. But, as stated above, the right of revolution defends all who are bound by the social compact and the natural rights that were present before and during.

The social compact, which binds together a political community, is realized through the Constitution. However only through the natural law embodied perfectly in the Declaration of Independence can there be a social compact to be entered in. The natural law doctrine comes before the social compact, but the natural rights of man are defended by the right of revolution on which America was founded on. Both the Founders and Lincoln understood the importance of the social compact and its affirmation through majority rule. However, trust is the linchpin of the American political community. It was this breakdown of trust that allowed the American Civil War and the crisis that almost destroyed a nation. Soldiers, however, saved the nation through their individual sacrifices. What civilians do to a political community is unfair to the soldiers who have payed the ultimate price. It is why Lincoln will dedicate America in the Gettyburg Address to the fallen Union soldiers who "gave the last full measure of devotion."

References (e-mail for exact page numbers):

Jaffa, Harry V. A New Birth of Freedom: Abraham Lincoln and the Coming of the Civil War. New York: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2000.

Peterson, Merrill D. The Portable Jefferson. New York: Penguin Books, 1977.

Rossiter, Clinton. The Federalist Papers. New York: A Signet Classic, 1961.
Strauss, Leo and Joseph Cropsey.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Reality Foreclosing in on San Diegans

A couple of years ago, the Indigent Girlfriend and I were astounded by a friend of ours who bought a $380 thousand home with no money down. That friend has since sold that home and moved to Texas. She was the smart one. Our other friends that have recently purchased homes have done so with no money down and something called an adjustable rate, interest only loan.

I'm not about to explain all of these mortgages in detail because I don't really know that much about them. However, when I was in Waveland, MS last year, there was a mortgage banker from Illinois a few bunks down, and he seemed to believe the loans being approved in California were way out of balance in terms of mortgage-to-income and other indicators. He predicted that as interest rates rose, so would foreclosures.

The rate at which borrowers are foreclosing on their mortgages has doubled since last year, as high-risk financing has become the norm for home buyers in San Diego County. Local experts wonder whether the recent spike in foreclosures is a harbinger of horrors to come or of the much-hyped "soft landing" for the local real estate market.

Perhaps even more indicative of the state of the housing market, in January 2005 no properties were seized by lenders through the foreclosure process in San Diego County. Every one of the homeowners who had defaulted on their loans managed to offload their property without the bank closing in on them. But last month, lenders seized 66 properties through foreclosure processes. That's almost as many as in the whole of 2005.

Obviously! Of course foreclosures are going to rise along with interest rates, and the Federal Reserve has just raised the rates again yesterday, to five percent which is a six-year high. It stands to reason that some people will not be able to afford the effect that will have on their adjustable rate mortgage payment, and they will have to sell the house or be foreclosed upon.

Having said that, there is a greater problem in San Diego and southern California in general. People are getting what I would classify and complete sucker loans. I personally know people who have purchased homes with interest only loans, and now I read that some San Diegans are using something called a negative-amortization loan where the home-owner doesn't even make a complete interest payment, the balance of the loan actually increases each month.

In 2005, more than 70 percent of home loans in the county were interest-only or negative-amortization loans, according to Loan Performance LLC, a San Francisco-based firm that analyzes lending statistics. With interest-only loans, a borrower only pays off the interest on their loan every month for an initial time period. With negative-amortization loans, the borrower actually pays less than their interest payment each month, meaning that the amount they are borrowing grows over time.

Loan Performance reported that in 2005, 26.7 percent of loans made to homebuyers and those refinancing their mortgages were negative-amortization loans. In 2004, that number was 9.9 percent. In 2003, it was 1.1 percent.

In addition, the vast majority of loans issued in San Diego County in recent years have been adjustable-rate mortgages. The interest rates for these loans are indirectly tied to short-term federal interest rates. Those rates have been rising recently, which means many people's mortgage payments have been increasing, leading to an increased chance that they will succumb to foreclosure.

In other words, 96.7 percent of all home loans in 2005 were made to people who could not really afford to buy a home. Home buyers have gotten away with this in the past because the value of their property has been sky-rocketing, allowing them to refinance and ease the burden of the rising mortgage payments. However, property values have flattened out in San Diego. The equity fairy isn't going to come riding in a white stallion to save anyone, not for a while at least. That will mean more foreclosures and more foreclosures will mean more properties on the market. It becomes a self-sustaining problem until all the would-be home owners who cannot afford a home in San Diego have been weeded out.

To be fair, some of the folks who go into these sucker loans were speculators. They thought they were going to make a fortune in real-estate and bought properties with adjustable rate interest only loans expecting a reasonably profitable short-term turn-around. These amateurs will be cleaned out of the market in the next couple of years.

It used to be that speculators could at least become land-lords and rent their properties if they had to hold on to it for longer than initially planned, but that is no longer the case. For example, the 1550 square foot house I am living in goes for about $525 thousand on the market, but I pay $1,625 per month in rent. That is admittedly a pretty good deal, but nobody in this neighborhood is paying more than $2,000 per month in rent. That's the ceiling on what the market will bear from renters. Now, by the time you add mandatory insurance and taxes to a 30-year $525 thousand loan, it starts looking a lot like $2,700 or $2,800 per month. So, speculators and distressed home-owners can no longer count on renters to come in and save the day.

This gap between rents and mortgages will only get worse until mortgages come down, especially since residents are fleeing San Diego County.

For the first time in more than three decades, the population of San Diego County declined last year, joining other California coastal counties that are losing their allure as high housing prices drive home-buyers to more affordable regions.

The surprising reversal of the county's long-standing population gains is revealed in U.S. Census Bureau estimates released today showing thousands more people leaving the county than moving in from other parts of the state and elsewhere.

In terms of real estate, this is a perfect storm. However, I don't believe this is going to be that big bursting bubble that everyone keeps talking about. I don't think that is going to happen. Don't get me wrong, I would be doing back-flips if I woke up to tomorrow and San Diego housing values were half what they are today (that's not real popular at parties). So, in addition to flushing under-funded speculators and home-owners, the flattening of real estate values will also dry out the other equity-based spending that has been happening in the county. All those people who have been refinancing once a year and splurging on big screen TVs and new cars will no longer be able to do so.

I don't pretend to know to what extent this is happening nationwide, and I don't know what impact this will have on the economy, but it can't be good.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The American Mind at War

Over at The Remedy, they linked to an eloquent Victor David Hanson article over at Real Clear Politics. Besides the fact that it is pretty accurate, it also goes a long way to exploring the deteriorating American mind. I'd like to go over a few portions:

Our present leisure, wealth, and high technology fool us into thinking that we are demi-gods always be able to trump both human and natural disasters. Accordingly, we become frustrated that we cannot master every wartime obstacle, as we seem otherwise to be able to do with computers or cosmetic surgery. Then, without any benchmarks of comparison from the past, we despair that our actions are failed because they are not perfect.

I'm reminded of Martin Heidegger's argument against the technological age we now find ourselves in. All alive today have seen man triumph over all of nature's immediate obstacles. Heidegger, in his famous Der Spiegel (.pdf) interview said that he was "frightened" by the pictures that returned from the moon. It was one of those moments that man was going further and further to master and manipulate the objective world he sees, thereby destroying its mysteriousness. This blend of Cartesian "subject" observing objective reality and Nietzschean unfettered will is where we are, for the most part, today. This means that everything must be faster, less strenuous, and most of all, flawless. These things taken alone and with the proper mind set, are not necessarily bad. Hanson, correctly, sees man taking slow Internet connection frustration to the uncertainties of war. Of course, nothing less is to be expected of modernity.

Perhaps we have forgotten such modesty because we have ignored the study of history that alone offers us guidance from our forbearers. It now competes as an orphan discipline with social science, -ologies and -isms that entice us into thinking that the more money and education of the present can at last perfect the human condition and thus consign our flawed past to irrelevance.

The single greatest obstacle facing modern man, aside from our historical amnesia, is the new religion science (all, including physical and social) has become for man. There is no doubt that science is now the "opium of the masses," to use Marx's phrase. The current surge of Christian activism in politics is a direct reaction to this scientific dogma. While I agree with the sentiment, I disagree with the solution. More on this below.

The result is that while sensitive young Americans seem to know what correct words and ideas they must embrace, they derive neither direction nor solace from past events. After all, very few could identify Vicksburg or Verdun, much less have any idea where or what Iwo Jima was. In such a lonely prison of the present what are historically ignorant Americans to make of a Fallujah or an Iranian madman's threat of annihilation other than such things can't or shouldn't or must not happen to us?

Thomas Jefferson sent a note to his nephew, Peter Carr in 1785. In it, he lists for his nephew, who was fifteen, as to which subjects he should begin to study, in what order, and what other activities he should do. He gives him the task of studying the ancients, including Plato, Cicero, and many others. The key is that there is something permanent about human nature. We can, if we examine the historical events and individuals carefully, learn about those in the past and of today. Today (and I am a product of contemporary education) the great figures of the past are passed over. A shame to say the least.

They would add that it is not unusual to be confronted with new crises even after such apparently easy victories.

It is even more accurate to say that the nihilism and radical historicism, represented by Heidegger and John C. Calhoun, were defeated physically on the battlefield, but become victorious in the minds of the triumphant Americans. This is seen so clearly in Harry V. Jaffa's A New Birth of Freedom. That is the current state of the American mind at war. Disillusioned with human nature (because, quite amazingly, human creativity has yet to conquer it's stubborn permanence), Americans today assume, as Hanson points out, that our cause as a political community is either unjust or handled by incompetent politicians (which, by the way, may or may not be the case) if victory cannot be perfectly found.

The option for modern Americans is, as Leo Strauss said, either progress or return. We can either continue to believe, foolishly, that we can and should bend everything to our own will, regardless of the standards we once admitted existed. There is no doubt that human creativity is a source of good and has given Americans wealth never seen on such a grand scale. The question, of course, is are we going to say there is something right and wrong about particular activities, or is the only "good" the mastery of the world and the human mind, i.e., anything goes. From here, Heidegger's argument was correct. However, the choice clearly is the nihilism of the present, or the substance of the American Founding. Seeing the current state of the American mind, it is hard to be optimistic about the latter.

I Don't Care About High Gas Prices

And neither do you. How do I know this? By and large, there have been no changes in driving habits. I'm not driving any less. In fact, I'm driving more and if traffic is any indicator, I'm not the only one (the day without immigrants notwithstanding).

Dale Franks has a post at QandO Blog examining the corollary between the price of oil and the price of gasoline and marvels at the uniformity, almost as if it "were governed by or something!" Some of the commenters to his post still challenge his post with absurd statements like, "when prices rise, margins should decline, period".

Roger Hedgecock, a local talk show host here in San Diego, took an interesting call a few weeks ago that dealt with subject in a simple, yet masterful way (paraphrasing):

Roger: "How much did you pay for your home?"
Caller: "About $150 thousand with another $100 thousand in improvements over the years."

(ed) The caller's home was easily worth $500 thousand in today's real estate market.

Roger: "Ok, so that's $250 thousand. Will you sell me your home for $300 thousand?"
Caller: "Of course not."
Roger: "What do you mean 'of course not'. You aren't going to be like the oil companies and gouge me are you?"

This was an amazing demonstration of supply, demand, and how such principles are manipulated by everyone, not just big, greedy oil companies.

Of course, the same principle works against those arguing that drilling in ANWR will somehow impact gasoline prices (either now or in the future). Let's I start the Indigent Oil Company and am awarded the rights for extraction in ANWR. I have begun and now have many barrels of oil from ANWR. The question is how much will I charge for each barrel of oil? Today, I would sell them for a little over $70 each. Period, that's it.

I know what some of you are thinking, "Wait a minute, how much did it cost you to extract the oil?" The truth is that it doesn't matter one bit; it's completely irrelevant. You don't believe me? Let's say it costs me $100 per barrel to extract the oil from ANWR. Who is going to pay $110 per barrel when it can be purchased anywhere else for around $70 per barrel? What if it costs me $5 to extract each barrel of oil. Well, like the caller with the house on the beach in San Diego, why would I sell a barrel of oil for $10, $20, or even $30 when I can get around $70 per barrel all day long.

Don't get me wrong. I support drilling in ANWR because Alaskans support drilling in ANWR, and I believe it is Alaskans who should get to decide the matter. Also, higher oil prices benefit the host nation. So, while our politicians are going after American oil companies, nations like Iran, China, Russia, and Venezuela are reaping a windfall. I prefer the United States to supply as much of its own oil as possible for environmental, diplomatic, and security reasons.

MORE: Tom Maguire

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Countdown to Judicial Coup in San Diego

Lt. Smash has a big Monday update over at the Indepundit, including this article on the cross at the Mount Soledad War Memorial.

San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders wants the city to continue its 17-year legal battle to preserve the Mount Soledad cross, despite a federal judge's order to remove the religious symbol or face a $5,000-per-day penalty.

“This is not about a Christian symbol,” Sanders said yesterday at a rally of cross supporters at Soledad Natural Park in La Jolla. “What this boils down to is preserving a nationally registered war memorial that is an integral part of San Diego history.”

It's not even so much about being an integral part of the war memorial for me. This is about judges who use a tortured interpretation of the law as an excuse to dictate their own personal policies upon an electorate whose voice has already been clearly heard on this issue, twice now. It's one thing if the majority of voters choose the other candidate or the other side of an issue, hey that's part of living in a democratic community and a democratic nation. It's another thing if there is some injustice or abuse of power for which the court is correcting in its proper role as a balacing government power. However, it's something entirely different when a judge invents and dictates new limitations and restrictions on the heretofore protected rights of the citizens.

Damn it, this really boils my blood. I don't know if I've mentioned this before, but more than any other, the subject of these rogue jurists frustrates and aggravates me to no end. The fact that our elected representatives seem paralyzed against them is incomprehensible. I mean we do have three branches of government with balance of power and all that, correct? The legislative body and executive body are countering each other all the time. Why is it we never see the Judicial Branch challenged more often? Certainly, a constitutional amendment is not the only defense against this judicial coup?

Anyway, StopTheACLU also has more information and an online petition to sign. Personally, I don't sign online petitions. In fact, I think they are rather childish and completely ineffective. However, I signed this one hoping it would make me feel a little better, but it didn't. Maybe it will work for you.

SEE ALSO: Freedom Through Oppression

Monday, May 08, 2006


Drudge is linking to a Jerusalem Post article, quoting Shimon Peres:

Vice Premier Shimon Peres said Monday that "the president of Iran should remember that Iran can also be wiped off the map."

"Cowboy!" Well, not really. Mr. Peres is saying exactly what Iran must hear: You cannot scare a nation that does not care about the "international community." It does care to an extent, but that extent merely goes as far as Washington. It is no accident that the U.S. and Israel are united and the U.S. surely holds Israel back from truly defending itself, but it must be remembered Israel will indeed act in its self-interest when cornered. Mr. Peres continues:

"Teheran is making a mockery of the international community's efforts to solve the crisis surrounding Iran's nuclear program," Peres told Reuters, adding that "Iran presents a danger to the entire world, not just to us."

What is the "mockery?" I thought it was pretty clear, with the ignored sanctions in regard to Saddam's Iraq, the genocide in Rwanda and Sudan, the UN makes a mockery of the international community. Iran is merely doing what it can do to secure its own security and regional supremacy. Of course, the question is when will truly political nations-Israel and the United States-again act in the best interests of themselves and the world?

Cue Up Some More U.S. Prisoner Abuse Questions

UPDATE: Just in Time! BBC: US 'acts to end prisoner abuse' 08 MAY 2006

The only United Nations organization more grotesque than the Iraqi Oil-For-Food program, is the Sex-For-Food program running in Africa. It might be time for Secretary General Kofi Annan to cue up another day of rehashing Abu Ghraib abuses by U.S. forces because the sexual abuses perpetrated by UN organizations and within the UN itself are spinning out of control.

Soldiers from the UN peacekeeping force, aid workers, and teachers are among those who demand sex from girls some as young as eight.

After this was first exposed in camps for internally displaced people four years ago, even before the war ended, the international community put in safeguards that should have stopped it happening again. But the research found that, "sex in exchange for goods, services and as a means of survival was becoming a more common option for children to support themselves and their families".

The most visible signs of abuse are close to garrisons of UN peacekeeping soldiers. In one village a 17-year-old girl said that most of her teenage friends were having sex with Ghanaian soldiers from the nearby base. Like many of them she has a baby fathered by a Ghanaian soldier.

So, a child sex-for-food program on a continent where AIDS is most prevelent is reported to the United Nations four years ago, and yet it continues. Well, at least the performance of the United Nations' when tackling problems is consistent if nothing else. Not to worry, I fully expect yet another secret U.S. gulag to come under investigation in the next day or two, but that won't make this little problem go away.

DNC Challenges States' Voter ID Laws

I find our national elections to be fascinating, not just for the policy discussions and partisan mud-slinging, but also for the influence the political parties attempt to impose on state election laws. Every state determines their own voter ID requirements in accordance with Federal law, but Howard Dean and his Democrat National Committee are not happy with that arrangement (hat tip: Election Law Blog)

Dean said the law is "part of a national Republican program to disenfranchise voters" and drive down voter turnout.

A similar law passed in Georgia was overturned by the courts, and Dean said he thinks the same will eventually happen to Indiana's law. Dean said the case could end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. "We're going to take this as far as we have to," he said.

Secretary of State Todd Rokita, though, said reports Tuesday showed "no systemic problem" and that in any case the legal appeal will have to be on the evidence already offered in the court case.

"The way the law is crafted, there is always a way for (people without the necessary ID) to vote if they wanted to," he said, citing provisional ballots, which are counted if the person later produces the ID or cites religious scruples against the photo ID. - IndyStar

I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000 and watched the DNC battle Nader's ballot qualification state-by-state in 2004. So, this kind of move is not at all beneath them.

What the DNC doesn't seem to care about is that every time an illegal ballot is cast by an unqualified voter, a legal ballot is cancelled out and the qualified voter who cast that ballot is disenfranchised. So, using Democratic Party Chairman Dan Parker's own standards, "If this law disenfranchises one voter", then perhaps we should also care if the overturning of this law would make it more likely that a legitimate voter would be disenfranchised.

In other bone-headed election moves, 56 Republicans in the House are ready to allow billingual ballot requirements expire this week (hat tip: Election Law Blog). I doubt there is much stomach in Washington for this effort. Even Senator Sensenbrenner can't support it.

"If [immigrants] want to achieve the American dream, they better learn how to read and function in English," Sensenbrenner said. "But this deals with the right to vote, and these people are United States citizens; they are not illegal immigrants. It seems to me these people should not be confused because they don't have the proper instruction about how to vote on ballots for the candidates of their choice." - LA Times

It's one thing to require proper voter identification to protect citizens from disenfranchisement, but to have naturalized citizens denied voter instructions in the language they most understand is just plain wrong.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Oxymoronic House Select Intelligence Committee

Oh, this one is so rich! I held off on it because I just couldn't believe our House Select Intelligence Committee could be so misled so badly. No, I'm not talking about how the Bush Administration supposedly pulled the wool over their eyes in making the case for an invasion of Iraq. I'm talking about a report from Reuters, printed in the Washington Post and at FOX News:

"Battlefield 2" ordinarily shows U.S. troops engaging forces from China or a united Middle East coalition. But in a modified video trailer posted on Islamic Web sites and shown to lawmakers, the game depicts a man in Arab headdress carrying an automatic weapon into combat with U.S. invaders.

"I was just a boy when the infidels came to my village in Blackhawk helicopters," a narrator's voice said as the screen flashed between images of street-level gunfights, explosions and helicopter assaults.

Well, DanceThisMess over at the ChronWatch forums posts a link to a couple of gamer sites containing some interesting information. You can download the video and read the posts of the person who made it by following this link.

The ominous quote about a being "just a boy when the infidels came" may be recognizeable by some readers. It is the voice of Trey Parker, one of the creators of South Park, and the "just a boy" speech was lifted directly from the movie Team America: World Police in the making of the video. Truly an embarrassment for our media and our congressional intelligence.

Dolphins, PETA, and Reason

Just an amazing piece of research done in the United Kingdom. It appears that dolphins have more human-like communication than once thought:

DOLPHINS may be closer to humans than previously realised, with new research showing they communicate by whistling out their own “names”.

The evidence suggests dolphins share the human ability to recognise themselves and other members of the same species as individuals with separate identities. The research, on wild bottlenose dolphins, will lead to a reassessment of their intelligence and social complexity, raising moral questions over how they should be treated.

I am not necessarily surprised that dolphins, or any creatures on Earth, have very unique mental faculties. What has surprised me is how some claim, that just because something is a living being it means "rights" shall be applied to it. In particular, this is straight from PETA's website:

PETA believes that animals have rights and deserve to have their best interests taken into consideration, regardless of whether they are useful to humans. Like you, they are capable of suffering and have an interest in leading their own lives; therefore, they are not ours to use—for food, clothing, entertainment, experimentation, or any other reason. [Emphasis mine]

The creation of animal rights is an interesting phase in human history. This issue has been around since the ancient Greeks, and Immanuel Kant wrote an essay entitled Why We Have No Obligations to Animals. But the appropriation of rights is something of a new religion, filling the void of our deceased God. I was attracted to this article because it does raise a good point, namely the "raising [of] moral questions" in human/dolphin interaction.

"PETA believes," and interestingly does not know, that animals have "rights." But how is it possible that PETA could come to the conclusion that animals have rights at all? Simply put, it is the rejection that reason can play a role in understanding the objective world around us.

First, how do we know humans have rights? It certainly is not because of the natural sympathy one human has toward another human. Sympathy can be used for purposes other than compassion, such as Nazism or other brands of fascism. There is no argument against fascism if sentiment alone is the standard. Nature, therefore, must be the standard, The Founding Fathers understood this and Lincoln dedicated his entire presidency to affirm the principles derived from nature. All men are born with a free mind, to which they own and all men have free, individual reason. So if man owns himself and can therefore reason his existence and the objective world around him, there are certain rights that necessarily must be applied to all men. However, animals, do not fit into this category.

Nietzsche tells us that cows have no history because they neither contemplate their existence nor their morality. Being driven to their demise means as much as being herded from unseen danger. They cannot, therefore, fulfill their natural purpose of existence unless man does so for them. Ants fulfill their natural purpose upon conception. But neither cows nor ants have rights applicable to them. Their respective subjugation or extermination is not wrong if done for human betterment and only right if leads to said betterment.

On the other hand, dolphins, like dogs or gorillas, have higher reason and must exert some labor to fulfill their natural purpose. Dolphins must gather into groups and have emotional interaction; dogs yearn for love and attention and gorillas have shown to be highly intelligent. In short, they are all more human, not less. The cow and the ant are far removed from man, and this is most obvious due to their lack of reason, but more clear with their natural purposes being realized after subjection or immediately upon conception. Therefore, it is harmful TO MAN to abuse, eat, or otherwise be cruel to dolphins, dogs, or gorillas. Dolphins, therefore, deserve special care apart from other sea animals. This must not give man a blank check in treating other animals however he chooses. Anything that harms a man's soul and or psyche is wrong, and being unnecessarily cruel to lower species does just that.

It is only possible to contemplate the "rights" of animals when human rights have become devoid of substance. The rejection of nature as the standard has made it possibly to go beyond human rights and allow emotion, not reason, to prescribe what a human right is. Only then is it possible to equate human rights with that of an animal. In sum, by advocating for animal rights, PETA is advocating for nothing.

Reference: Harry V. Jaffa, A New Birth of Freedom.

Welcome to The SandBox

I've added a new blog to the Blog Roll. It's called The Sandbox. It's well worth visiting regularly.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Dying Under Government Protection

Alex Tabarrok's entry at Marginal Revolution (hat tip: Chicago Boyz) examines the latest DC Circuit Court ruling that would prevent the FDA from interfering with a dying patients' access to life-saving drugs. I'm having trouble finding the part in the Constitution that permits the government to deny dying patients access to life-saving drugs that are not yet government approved, but apparently someone along the line thought that power was granted to them.

I wonder how many doctors or hospitals fail to recommend life-saving treatments because lack of government approval leaves them vulnerable to expensive malpractice litigation? I also wonder what the relationship is between the FDA and pharmaceutical companies? I guess it would take a little more research than I am willing to do... but I can't help myself (PDF):

The Abigail Alliance for Better Access to Developmental Drugs (“the Alliance”) seeks to enjoin the Food and Drug Administration (“FDA”) from continuing to enforce a policy barring the sale of new drugs that the FDA has determined, after Phase I trials on human beings, are sufficiently safe for expanded human testing (hereafter “post-Phase I investigational new drugs”). More specifically, the Alliance seeks access to potentially life-saving post-Phase I investigational new drugs on behalf of mentally competent, terminally ill adult patients who have no alternative government- approved treatment options (hereafter “terminally ill patients”).

Are you kidding me? So, the Alliance is not trying to prevent the government from initiating a policy barring terminal patients from potentially life-saving drugs, it's attempting to get the government to discontinue its existing policy! As bad as that sounds, its not the scariest part of the court document. How about this little gem in the ruling from the bench:

Despite the FDA’s claims to the contrary, therefore, it cannot be said that government control of access to potentially life-saving medication “is now firmly ingrained in our understanding of the appropriate role of government,”...

"It cannot be said"? What in the hell is that supposed to mean? Are you telling me if it could be said that government interference in life-saving medical care was ingrained in our understanding that it suddenly becomes law of the land? God save us all, lawyers truly are the modern day cannibals of the Western world, devouring first a finger, next the hand, then an arm and a leg.

Is that how it works now? Initiate a government sheme or policy to get a toe-hold in our understanding and keep the pressure on until it becomes firmly ingrained?

Madonna is the New Marie Osmond?

I've been using the MSN service to buy music for my Creative Labs Zen Vision M and other personal use. Well, tonight, it was the Indigent Daughter's turn to select some songs for purchase, with her own money, of course.

Her first selection was Hollaback Girl by Gwen Stefani. Now, I like Gwen Stefani because I like what she has done with No Doubt and I hear her all the time on the radio. There is just one problem. Gwen Stefani's entire Love Angel Music Baby album contains explicit language.

This is important to me because my daughter is only 9 and is not permitted to use bad language. Since she will be punished for using bad language, I don't use bad language around her and don't tolerate it being used around her. It would kinda be like entrapment or something, in my opinion. Along those same lines, getting her an album stuffed full of explicit lyrics would also be a setup... no, not punishing her for 'slipping' is not an option, but I would rather not have to punish her at all. So, I don't want to put her into a situation where she's going to be singing out, or along, and use bad language unintentionally where I can hear it.

The next choice she made was Green Day's Boulevard of Broken Dreams. Green Day is talented enough, but all their albums sound the same to me. However, this song also had explicit language. The Indigent Daughter indicated the song contained the 'F' word, so I declined and decided to look for alternatives.

I go back to Hollaback Girl and see that it has been covered on a parent-friendly album called Girl Authority. We sat together listening to the sample tracks, and I have to tell you; they were pretty bad. Despite this, the Indigent Daughter expressed some interest in Material Girl, so I just went to Madonna's version and ended up purchasing that one for 99 cents. Something struck me as odd while looking through the song catalog for Madonna, relatively few of them had that Explicit label indicating bad language. We sampled Vogue, Lucky Star, Like a Prayer, and a few others. I was so happy to finally have a list of songs for which I didn't have to continually reference the lyrics to judge how gratuitous was the use of bad language.

Unfortunately, the Indigent Daughter didn't care for any other Madonna songs, probably because she did not recognize them. Here is the list we ended up purchasing and burning to CD:

Material Girl - Madonna
We Got the Beat - Go Gos
Head Over Heels - Go Gos
Genie in a Bottle - Christina Aguilera
Come On Over Baby - Christina Aguilera
What a Girl Wants - Christina Aguilera
Get the Party Started - P!nk
My Prerogative - Britney Spears
Whenever, Whenever - Shakira

I have to admit that it was a very terrifying experience, but we got through it and the Indigent Daughter was quite happy with the outcome. I just can't believe we're at a place where I might chide someone for bringing a Gwen Stefani CD to a family party and instead recommend a nice, safe Madonna album.

Friday, May 05, 2006

The Dear Professor

Scott Bruce over at North Korea Zone examines a solution proposed by Republican Congressional candidate Tony Zirkle... and file it under humor.

"On Thursday, Zirkle suggested the unification of North and South Korea and giving North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il 60 days in which to abdicate or face the threat of a unified invasion by the United States and China.

To get the North Korean leader to agree to abdication, Zirkle suggested tempting him with international amnesty for his crimes -- and the offer of a professorship at either Beijing University or Yale University."

Mr. Bruce has some concerns about what subject the "Dear Leader" might teach. Perhaps Yale might start a new vocational course for aspiring Elvis impersonators? My favorite is one of the commentors suggesting the Dear Professor might be better suited for a professorship on UC Berkeley or Santa Cruz. Those universities need more moderate voices after all. LOL!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Freedom Through Oppression

Yesterday, the cross at the Mount Soledad War Memorial was ordered removed by a federal judge. The City of San Diego has 90 days to remove or destroy the cross or face a $5,000 fine each day they do not comply with the Judge's order.

The cross was erected at the site in 1954 with the approval of the democratically elected San Diego City Council. It has twice been re-approved by public referendum (Proposition F 1992, Proposition A 2005) with over 75 percent of the vote in each case.

Mount Soledad War Memorial

U.S. District Judge Gordon Thompson Jr. is 77 years old and was appointed to his current position by President Nixon in 1970. He is citing the California State Constition to subvert the democratic process and deny residents of San Diego their Constitutionally protected freedoms.

This is the exact same issue that killed Democrats in race after race across the nation in 2004. It wasn't values per se, it's about an out-of-balance authoritarian judiciary. The gay marriage issue was just one example. I don't oppose gay marriage, but the state legislatures have been determining the conditions under which they will license a marriage for centuries. I will remain neither silent nor idle when glorified ambulance chasers in black robes decides to usurp that authority for themselves.

Lt. Smash has more on the issue: The Desecration of a Veterans' Memorial

SEE ALSO: Trouble With Judges

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

May is Social Security Month

For some reason, May seems to be Social Security announcement month. QandO blog has a post on the Social Security and Medicare trustees' announcement that both programs will be exhausted in 34 and 12 years respectively. So, I thought this might be a good time to revisit my post on Social Security from this time last year.

Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme 05 MAY 2005

Now it all becomes comes clear. Charles Ponzi couldn't have dreamed up a better scheme. Our government claims 12.4 percent of every worker's wages couched as a retirement investment, then steals from the retirement Trust Fund to mask excessive spending, and guarantees to payback those retirement investments with the power to tax those workers to any extent necessary.

This is exactly why I supported the Bush Administrations' progressive Social Security reforms. At the same time, I can't understand the undying defense and support (from the left of all places) for the most regressive tax ever imposed on the American worker.

What's an alternative? Let's say the average moron making minimum wage ($6.25) invests $1560 per year into U.S. Treasury Bills (just like the Social Security Trust Fund) for 47 years starting at age 18. Let's say that Treasury Bills returned 4.5 percent (a very low investment return but par for T-Bills) on our morons investment. What's that? How do we know this person is a moron? Becaue this moron worked for 47 years and never once got a raise.

Our moron could retire at age 65 with approximately $265,000 in the retirement account. This moron could now retire at 100 percent of his highest salary without touching the principal investment. Excuse me? What kind of sadistic son of bitch takes $1560 a year from someone making minimum wage? Well, that would be the Social Security Administration.

Introducing Expose the Left

My favorite news and analysis show on TV is Special Report with Britt Hume on FOX News Channel. Just after the bottom of the hour, Britt Hume has a short feature called the Political Grapevine with two or three little snippets of interesting or funny information.

Well, there is a site called Expose the Left that features video clips of the days events, usually making the folks on in reactionary left look bad. Of course, a video clip is all it would take to do that. Expose the Left is like my daily web-dose of the political grapevine and it is a very well put together site. They offer most video clips in both Windows Media and MP4 (Apple?) format.

The great entry today was John Bolton doing some sparring before a Congressional Subcommittee:

US Ambassador to the UN John Bolton testified before the House subcommittee on international relations today and got in a little argument with Rep. Dennis Kucinich. Rep. Kucinich asked John Bolton about Sy Hersh’s “New Yorker” article on (ed- US troops in) Iran, to which Bolton said he didn’t see it because he doesn’t have time to read “fiction”

That is exactly why I supported John Bolton during his nomination. I hope that's gin in his glass because the man deserves it! Check out the video at Expose the Left and keep going down the list. They have a lot of good entries up right now.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Day Without Immigrants? Let's Make It a Week!

UPDATE: Well, I meet the Indigent Girlfriend at Souplantation on Clairemont Mesa Blvd for dinner and... CLOSED! And this wasn't closed as in "closed early", this was closed as in totally dark and not open at all today kind of closed. The Indigent Girlfriend was absolutely livid about that, but I was overjoyed. You see, when we have the usual "so where do you want to go for dinner" discussions, I always pick Black Angus (great Long Island Iced Teas) or Trophys (best two-glass margarita in town). She always picks Souplantation, which has neither long island iced teas nor margaritas, and that's usually where we end up going. I would say we end up eating at Souplantation two to four times a month (yes, we out too much). Well, I would like to extend my sincere gratitude to Garden Fresh Restaraunt Corporation and The Souplantation because I know we will never be eating at a Souplantation again!

UPDATE 2: Just to cover my bases and make sure the Indigent Girlfriend could not later come back and say, "maybe they were closed because of broken plumbing" or something like that, I called them this morning. The person who answered the phone told me "yes" they were open today and that they were closed yesterday because they did not have enough people to staff the building.

May Day? Yeah, they made my day. No traffic. No more salad for dinner. I could almost see the appeal of these communist holidays.

I have not run into any side-effects of the May Day boycott (see update), other than the ground crew for the home-owners' association not being on the job today. I don't usually attend the meetings, but prehaps I will recommend the association check out Hire Patriots to find employees that don't miss work to participate in Communist holiday celebrations. Outside of that, all businesses I frequent, here in San Diego, appear to be open and fully operational.

The most noticeable effect of the boycott was traffic... and what a BEEE-YOOO-TIFUL effect it was! Clear sailing into work from Tierrasanta to Miramar, at around 8:00 AM this morning. It was clear again on north and south bound lanes of I15 between Miramar, up to Rancho Bernardo, and back to Tierrasanta. I made that round-trip circuit in about 45 minutes. It usually takes well over an hour. I didn't even sniff a slow-down in traffic all day, in over 80 miles of freeway driving.

So, this is all coming from someone (me) who has very much supported President Bush's guest-worker program and been critical of Senate bills, such as the REAL ID Act, to crackdown on immigration in general. I think we need more immigrants and a much more liberal immigration policy than exists now. Having said that, the recent marches and activism of the immigrant community has me rethinking those positions.

Monday, May 01, 2006

No Immunity for Complicit Journalists

Michael Barone has an interesting article at Real Clear Politics about the blowback the media is experiencing as a result of the various CIA leak investigations. Of course, the media spear-headed this campaign with its calls for investigations into the "outing" of CIA employee Valerie Plame, the unfortunate wife of that self-congratulatory liar, Joe Wilson.

...there have been precious few prosecutions of leakers of classified information in our history and none of journalists. And don't journalists have a right to protect their sources? The answer to the last question is yes, in some states, but no in federal law...

April 28 was the anniversary of Aldrich Ames' last day of freedom. He was sentenced to life in prison for leaking classified information to the Soviet Union. That was Ames' big mistake. These days his scheme would've worked much better by using journalists.

I don't want to make light of Ames' treason, which led to the execution of at least nine CIA agents in the Soviet Union, but I do want to make a point. If we had an Ames-like individual working a similar names for money or plans for money scheme today, he would only need to make payment arrangements with those desiring the information, then leak the information to the media.

Imagine a scenario where we had a spy amongst General Tommy Franks' advisors in the run up to the invasion of Iraq. The spy makes all the circumspect financial arrangements with Saddam Hussein's goverment, then leaks the information to an eager journalist with a very anti-administration slant to it. It's not hard to imagine the headline, Achtung! Bush Plans Blitzkrieg on Baghdad! followed by an article with enough details of the operation mixed in with the usual quotes from the average Iraqis that don't want to die and the U.S. generals that say such a plan wouldn't work.

Do I think journalists deserve special protection? Do I think there should be some kind of special journalist-spy privilege protect by law? Hell NO! I think journalists should be dragged out of their corporate offices and into FBI interrogation rooms until we have the names of every traitorous son of a bitch in our intelligence agencies.