Saturday, August 23, 2003

The Courage of Daniel Pipes 

A fantastic op-ed by Lee Harris (Tech Central Station) ends with two amazing paragraphs:
If one day our children, or our children's children, can look back at this epoch in history, and facilely conclude that al-Qaeda and Hamas did not 'really' stand for Islamic culture, it will be thanks to yet another handful of courageous men, both in the West and in the Muslim world itself, who, like Dr. Pipes, have insisted that Islamic culture could not be reduced to the pretensions of terrorist gangs and their apologists.

But if, tragically, such a day should never come, it will be in no small part because of those men and women who today are attacking Daniel Pipes and his work, as well as those politicians -- like Senators Kennedy, Harkin, and Dodd -- who permit hysteria and slander to guide where reason and judgment should rule.

(Hat-tip to American Realpolitic, who always also has great cartoons!)

Council of Watchers 

The Watcher of Weasels has put together a council to evaluate blog posts and come up with a list of outstanding posts each week. From the list of outstanding posts, the council will also vote and choose the best one. The Council of Watchers is explained in complete detail here.

This is an excellent idea in my opinoin, but I'm just a little extra juiced about it because I have been awarded membership on the council. My side bar on the right now has a link to the blogs for all other council members. This should be fun and provide an opportunity to see posts that I would not otherwise have come in contact with. If you find (or write) an extraordinary post that you want me to see, feel free to contact me.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Grade: C+ in Obesity 

This Northwest Arkansas Times article is a week old, but not much has been said about it yet:
With the new school year just days away a new legislative act that will require schools to record a student’s body mass is attracting support and criticism from parents and school officials in Washington County.

Passed in April by the Arkansas General Assembly, Act 1220 of 2003 has only recently become an issue as parents get their children prepared for the first day of school Monday.

The law demands that school personnel figure each student’s body mass index — calculated using a formula that uses height and weight and compares it to other children — for inclusion on the student’s report card each year. Schools are also required to provide pamphlets and other materials that explain the health effects of the body mass index.

This is insanity. Somewhere along the way, the notion that schools exist to educate kids has been lost. Students are graduating without adequate reading or math skills yet the schools still feel the need to take time out to make sure they know everyone's body mass index so obesity warnings can be delivered to kids who are the wrong size. The public school system in this country continues to major in minors and minor in majors.

The Need for a Standard 

The Ten Commandments monument in Alabama has been removed from public view. Is this a drastic step, signaling a new attitude against religion? No, but it is a symptom, an outward revelation of critical changes in the moral fabric of this country. There is a growing rage against anything that would define what is right and what is wrong. A new standard is emerging, one designed to be a weathervane that shifts with every wind instead of a compass which always points a true direction.

The Ten Commandments define man's relationship to both God and to his fellowman. It provides a moral standard, a definition of right and wrong that enables men to live at peace with one another. It establishes property and personal rights and provides boundaries to ensure that one person's rights do not trample the rights of another. Our system of laws and implementation of justice was modeled after this standard. There are laws which directly correspond to most of these commandments; many of which are still in place today. For this reason, representation of this model can be found in courthouses across the land, all the way to imagery of Moses holding the stone tablets both outside and inside the U.S. Supreme Court. These images and sculptures are not religious symbols or shrines, but rather acknowledgements of their contribution to this country's basis for justice and rights.

An early observer of our country, Alexis de Tocqueville, once said:

  I sought for the greatness and genius of America in her commodious harbors and her ample rivers, and it was not there; in her fertile fields and boundless forests, and it was not there; in her rich mines and her vast world commerce, and it was not there; in her democratic Congress and her matchless Constitution, and it was not there.
  Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.(1)
The moral standards continue to fall, and the result is not beneficial to this land. No one can argue that the high promiscuity in the youth of this country is beneficial. Modern society provides countless examples of people who place themselves above others, be it road-rage on the highway or impatience in the grocery counter line. Theft, murder and rape have increased as moral foundations continue to crumble. Even the State Department cannot discern any moral difference between Israel and Palestine. The former is condemned for taking out militants bent on destroying her people while the latter bombs innocent civilians and celebrates their death.

There is still hope, and there always will be. There continue to be many examples of good in this country. Earlier this week, we had a major blackout in the northeast, yet cases of rioting and civil disorder were few and far between. U.S. soldiers in Iraq carried out a war where they took extraordinary measures to reduce civilian casualties, even when doing so increased the risk to their own lives. There are teachers and coaches who mentor and train and mold the kids under their care. There are neighbors who keep an eye out each other and volunteers who sacrifice their precious time to serve others.

Jesus once said "So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you."(2) This religious statement has value to men and women with faith and without. A person living according to this standard benefits not only themselves, but also those around them. This is the attitude of the great America of the past, and prayerfully of the great America of the future.

  1 It is possible that this was never said by Tocqueville, per this page. Its meaning is not diminished if it was said by another.
  2 Matthew 7:12a (NIV)

Thursday, August 21, 2003

Earache Man Gets Fixed 

Here is a story you don't see every day (per the Houston Chronicle):
A Brazilian man who went to a clinic to have an aching ear checked ended up having a vasectomy after mistakenly believing that the doctor had called his name.

A manager at the Doctor Jose Carlos de Espirito Santo clinic in the town of Montes Claros in southeastern Minas Gerais State told Reuters Wednesday Valdemar Lopes de Moraes, 39, entered the vasectomy room when Aldemar Aparecido Rodrigues' name was called.

"He was called by the full name and yet thought it was him. But the strangest thing is that he asked no questions when the doctor started preparations in the area which had so little to do with his ear," Vanessa Guimaraes said.

"He later explained that he thought it was an ear inflammation that got down to his testicles," she added.

This article leaves a big question unanswered. Did his 'operation' do anything to help with his earache?

Help - My Teenager is Bored! 

The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University released a study on Tuesday which states that teenagers who are stressed, bored and have spending money are at an increased risk for substance abuse. The study does have some interesting findings and I do agree with a few of their prevention tips, but these criteria are too general and vague to be of any service.

The amazing part is how bored teens are today. My own experience with teenagers over the last 9 years has confirmed that they are incredibly difficult to please and have extremely short attention spans. They are bored despite their access to 200+ channels of TV, game consoles, computers, the Internet, movies, organized sports, disorganized sports, telephones and shopping malls. Boredom is truly an attitude. It is a state of mind and not a state of being.

By the way, according to this New Jersey Star-Ledger article, this study should be taken with a grain of salt:

The Columbia survey, which included focus groups of New Jersey teens, is the center's eighth. Last year's findings on teen binge drinking became controversial when the liquor industry challenged the data. Columbia later lowered the figures.
The biggest problem with these studies is that they highlight correlations but fail to identify causes. I don't believe that having money is a cause of drug use. I do believe that of the kids who desire to do drugs, those with money are better able to act on that desire. In the same way, I don't believe that stress and boredom are causal factors in drug use.


The Washington Times has a very interesting op-ed regarding methods of hiding weapons of mass destruction. It is written by a former Romanian Spy Chief who has credible experience in such matters.

Does This Mean They Can't Still Be Friends? 

Palestinians pronounce truce dead (per Houston Chronicle)
GAZA - A senior Hamas official declared a ceasefire dead on Thursday shortly after an Israeli missile strike killed Ismail Abu Shanab, a leader of the militant Islamic group, in Gaza City.

'The assassination of Abu Shanab ... means that the Zionist enemy has assassinated the truce and the Hamas movement holds the Zionist enemy fully responsible for the consequences of its crime,' Ismail al-Haniyah told reporters in Gaza.

Palestinian militant faction chiefs declared a temporary ceasefire on June 29 under international pressure to advance a new U.S.-backed plan for peace with Israel. "

So Tuesday's suicide bombing did not play a factor in breaking the cease-fire? Hamas claimed responsibility for the terror attack but insisted that it was still following the truce. I'm positive that the people in Israel are quaking in their boots now, with out this "cease-fire" to protect them.

Chemical Ali Captured 

The U.S. thought that Ali Hassan Majid was killed in April in an airstrike on one of his homes. It turns out that he is alive but has been captured by U.S. Forces (per ABC News):
One of Saddam Hussein's key advisers, Ali Hassan Majid, also known as 'Chemical Ali,' has been captured in Iraq, U.S. officials confirmed today.
Majid is the King of Spades in the deck of wanted Iraqi officials and holds the #5 spot on the most-wanted list. It is important not to confuse 'Chemical Ali' with 'Comical Ali'. The former is a cousin of Saddam and is known for using chemical weapons on the Kurds in 1987 and 1988, killing more than 100,000. The latter (aka 'Baghdad Bob') is famous for providing stand-up comedy and entertaining the world during the course of the second gulf war. 'Comical Ali' did try to turn himself in to coalition forces once the war ended but they refused to arrest him.

Update: Must read article here on the same subject at Scrappleface. (Thu Aug 21, 09:39:15 AM)

Wednesday, August 20, 2003

Wrong Move 

Here is the official palestinian response to yesterday's bus bombing in Jerusalem (per this Reuters article):
Abbas condemned the blast as a "terrible act," saying it "does not serve the interests of the Palestinian people" and promising to launch an investigation.

The United States also condemned the attack and demanded a Palestinian crackdown on militant groups. Before the blast, President Bush urged Abbas's Palestinian Authority to "dismantle and destroy" militant groups.

Abbas, whose peacemaking efforts are supported by Washington, has said a crackdown would risk a civil war.

He needs to consider the fact that choosing not to crackdown will also cause a war, with Israel. It is also significant to consider the response of the palestinian people (per Reuters). (Hat tip to Little Green Footballs.)
Several hundred young men poured into the streets of a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon on Tuesday and handed out sweets to celebrate a suicide bomb attack on a Jerusalem bus that killed at least 20 people, witnesses said.

They said the men, who urged more attacks, fired into the air in an expression of joy and handed out sweets to passing cars as women watched from the sidelines in the Beddawi camp on the outskirts of the northern city of Tripoli.

"Death to America. Death to Israel," the protesters chanted. "Yes to the resistance and yes to more operations."

Israel's initial response was to cut off all talks and freeze scheduled pull-backs. Many people expected a very significant and harsh retaliation, perhaps as soon as today. Instead, Israel responded with this (per PennLive.com):
Israel holds off on retaliatory strike
With a U.S.-backed peace plan hanging in the balance, Israel decided Wednesday to hold off on a major military strike in response to a Hamas bus bombing in Jerusalem that killed at least 20 people, including as many as six children, a security official said.
Israel's response (or lack thereof) will be taken by the palestinians as license to continue terrorist activity. These people think diplomacy is a sign of weakness and only understand force. Consider what Uday Hussein said three days before the fall of Baghdad: "I think the end is near. This time I think the Americans are serious, Bush is not like Clinton." I'm praying for a similar revelation in the ranks of Hamas and Islamic Jihad.

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Half Mast 

Earlier today, there was a car bombing in Baghdad at the U.N. building which killed 20 people. Now we have word of another suicide bombing in Jerusalem, also killing at least 20 people.
JERUSALEM (AP) -- A suicide bomber blew up on a bus packed with observant Jews returning from the Western Wall on Tuesday, killing at least 20 people and wounding more than 100 in one of the deadliest bombings in the past three years of fighting.

The militant Islamic Jihad group claimed responsibility, in a call to The Associated Press, saying it was avenging the killing of a senior operative by Israeli troops in an arrest raid last week.

Will someone please explain to me how blowing up innocent people can be defined as fighting? This is the worst bombing in the past three years of palistinian cowardice. This is the worst bombing in the past three years of palistinian crimes against humanity. You can lecture all day about the oppression and illegal settlement that come from Israel, but you have no moral ground to stand on.

The time has come to label these groups as terror organizations and work towards eliminating them. The time has come to identify the Palistinian Authority as a state that sponsors terrorism and cut off all their funding. The time has come to release the Israeli people to defend themselves from those who seek to destroy them.

Diamond Days 

No. 20 on the U.S. list of the 55 most wanted Iraqis (10 of Diamonds) has been captured (Yahoo News).
Taha Yassin Ramadan, who served as vice president under Saddam Hussein, was handed over to U.S. forces in Mosul on Tuesday, the U.S. Defense Department said.

Ramadan also served on Saddam's Revolutionary Command Council member and was known as "Saddam's knuckles" for his ruthlessness. He was No. 20 on the U.S. most-wanted list.

If you are curious about the current status of the "Iraq Deck", a quick summary can be found here. We are getting pretty close but we still don't have a Royal Flush. (We lack the Ace of Spades, the Jack of Diamonds, the King & Jack of Clubs and the King & Jack of Hearts.)

Here is an amusing scrap of information about "Mr. 10 of Diamonds" from this Reuters article:

On being made industry minister in the 1970s, Ramadan is reputed to have admitted ignorance of his subject but summed up his policy simply: "I don't know anything about industry. All I know is that anyone who doesn't work hard will be executed."
I will leave all comments regarding his management technique books and seminars to ScrappleFace.

Monday, August 18, 2003

At Least It's a Clean Quagmire! 

I regret to announce that coalition forces will never be able to re-establish city-wide garbage collection service in Baghdad. Why? Never in its long history has the city ever had city-wide garbage collection. However, they have successfully started the first such service in the city. (Complete article is at the Coalition Provisional Authority's website here.)
Under the regime of Saddam Hussein only the most prominent Baghdad residents received garbage collection services. No consistent, universal system existed except in the wealthiest areas of town. Even then, garbage was collected only if residents tipped the city workers who came into their neighborhoods.

This week, more than 1400 trucks have begun running a series of new routes reaching every part of the city. The trucks run two to three times per day to collect the more than 22,000 tons of waste generated every week. It is the first time that residents will have these services regardless of social or economic status.

Faris Abdul Razaq Al-Aasam Deputy Mayor for the Municipality stated, “This is a dramatic step forward toward improving the quality of life for millions of Iraqis. Under Saddam, residents’ garbage often piled up for weeks, or was never collected. The regime simply didn’t care about the health risks of this neglect on the city’s population.”

Steps like this are the key to creating a lasting peace in Iraq because they improve the lives of the people and provide new jobs.

15 Minutes of Fame 

When your site gets as few hits as mine does, it is very noticeable when you see any increase. Last week I posted a story about a Marine Corps staff sergeant who used her Pentagon credit card to buy numerous items, including breast enhancement surgery. It turns out that I scooped the news by two and a half days. I found the story via Free Republic on Friday morning (August 15) and posted about it at 8:50 am CST. Suddenly at 7:00pm on Sunday evening (August 17), I started getting a drastic increase in search engine traffic. Each hit was searching for information about Sherry Pierre, the staff sergeant mentioned above.

I looked closer at the searches and found that a Google search for "Staff sergeant sherry pierre" places me at the top of the list. A Yahoo search for "Sherry Pierre marine" lists me as the third most relevant result. A little more research showed this CNN article on the subject which was posted at 5:46 pm CST on Sunday. (Kudos to David at Freedom and Knowledge who also noticed this story on Friday at 11:04 am.)

My first thought was shock that this did not hit any major news outlets until nearly 60 hours after I wrote about it. I also thought that this was a great opportunity to increase my regular readership. A closer examination of the keywords used in the search hits shattered that idea pretty quickly. I now understand that most of the searchers did not find what they were really looking for - a picture of staff sergeant Sherry Pierre. I guess they just wanted to see their tax dollars at work.

UPDATE: I little more research uncovered this ABC News Article about Ms. Pierre dated August 14 (Thursday). I also found this blog entry which was posted 10:39 pm on the 14th (beat me by 10 hours).

The Truth, the Whole Truth... 

The New York Times is guilty once again of First-Degree Misinformation. (They might be able to plead the charge down to Reckless Editing with Intent to Mislead.) This one comes from an article summarizing Idi Amin's life. (Hat tip to Little Green Footballs) Here is how they describe the 1976 Air France place hijacking:
On June 27, 1976, seven terrorists, two of them members of the German Baader-Meinhof gang, hijacked Air France Flight 139 after it left Tel Aviv for Paris. The plane landed first in Benghazi, Libya, and then continued on to Entebbe in Uganda, where it arrived early on June 28.
It's not that the excerpt above is not factual; the problem is the facts which have been selectively omitted. Two of the terrorists have been identified, but the paper failed to point out that the other five (a mere 71.4%) were Palestinian terrorists with the PFLP. In the context of the story, it was not necessary to identify any of the terrorists. By choosing to identify a select group, a minority no less, the Times is attempting to shield the Palestinians from responsibility for the hijacking. Everyone understands that all facts can not be included in every story, but this fact omission borders on revisionism.

It is only recently, since the Jayson Blair scandal, that the newspaper has come under such intense scrutiny. In no small way, the internet has made it much more difficult to get away with sloppy or biased reporting. The editors know that the public is viewing their product with a critical eye, yet there continue to be example after example of less than credible reporting. If the paper shows this much disregard for fact while under close examination, it would be interesting to examine the paper prior to the Blair scandal and analyze the quality of the news from a period where the paper was trusted.

The growing negative sentiment towards the Times can be summed up with this post on Free Republic by Brian Allen.

I tried wrapping some week-old fish in an old NYT the other day but the fish jumped out. Said the paper stunk.

Sunday, August 17, 2003

Anti-Establishment = Disestablishment? 

Another spot on essay here at Power Line regarding the 'War against the Scouts'.
I do not believe that "tolerance" has anything to do with the these battles, although it is frequently a flag of convenience for the warriors of the left who wage them. "Tolerance" cannot explain the hatred of organizations like the Scouts and the Church, which the left is not content to leave alone. The impulse here is totalitarian. The ultimate object of these battles seems to me to be the transvaluation of values, requiring our indoctrination in the moral good of homosexuality and the moral evil of the United States.
Tolerance is truly a misnomer here - because true tolerance can tolerate intolerance. I've said it before, and I will say it again: The constitution does not guarantee that religious groups will not discriminate but it does guarantee that the government will not discriminate against religious groups.