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Saturday, September 20, 2003

Tihs Is Inetertsnig 

This may be debunked here at Snopes but it is still very amusing:
Aoccdrnig to rscheearch at Cmabrigde uinervtisy, it deosn't mttaer waht oredr the ltteers in a wrod are, the olny iprmoetnt tihng is taht the frist and lsat ltteres are at the rghit pclae. The rset can be a tatol mses and you can sitll raed it wouthit a porbelm. Tihs is bcuseae we do not raed ervey lteter by it slef but the wrod as a wlohe.
It really does work. A co-worker and I communicated all day long using this method. Reading it is no problem at all, but writing it takes considerable effort and leaves the spellchecker irate.

Posts of Note 


U.N. Relevance (Oxymoron) 

Joyfulchristian looks at the ever increasing irrelevance of the U.N. and nails the issue right on the head. The proposed solution perfectly deals with the dry rot that consumes the U.N.:
I propose a new international body: The Association of Free States. The emphasis here is squarely on the word 'free.' This body should be formed with the aim of protecting, preserving, and promoting freedom, liberty, and self-determination.

If I had my way, the US would leave the UN and begin to negotiate a treaty that would form the basis of a new international body with a core of allies who are all dedicated to the promotion of liberty. At first, this should be a relatively small group of nations, not to exceed 10. I would say that this core group should definitely include the US, Great Britain, and Australia. Until recently, I would have said Canada, but they've gone wobbly lately. Other possibilities would be Japan, India, Spain, Israel, Italy, maybe even Poland. (Poland has certainly shown a strong dedication to freedom over the last few years.)

Exclamation point! Is it any wonder that a body of 191 member nations cannot make or carry out decisions when the majority of member nations are self-serving dictatorships? The number of human rights violators in the U.N. greatly outnumbers the number of free nations. This is why the U.N.'s actions against human rights violators is a joke. They are powerless to oppose such violations except against a country that is disliked by a majority of members. This means that the Palestinians can murder innocent civilians without comment from the U.N., but Israel is censured for taking out known terrorists or for choosing to exile Arafat.

It would be refreshing to belong to the group joyfulchristian describes. An organization which seeks to promote freedom and liberty will actually be able to do something, provided that its members have the same goal.

Friday, September 19, 2003

Texas Redistricting Map Advances 

After 5 days of work, a new redistricting map has been approved by the Senate Jurisprudence Committee. As expected, the minority party is not happy with the result:
A Senate committee on Friday approved a congressional redistricting map, setting the stage for a showdown between Republicans and Democrats next week on the Senate floor.

The Senate Jurisprudence Committee approved the map on a 4-3 vote along party lines. The committee chairman had estimated it could give Republicans between 18 or 19 seats in the congressional delegation that is now ruled 17-15 by Democrats.

The vote in committee came after Democrats voiced their opposition to the plan.

'The redrawing of congressional district lines, in spite of overwhelming public opposition, amounts to the commission (of) an enormous abuse of the public trust,' said Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston. He said 90 percent of the people that testified at redistricting hearings around the state had opposed the redrawing of the district lines.

What Senator Gallegos doesn't seem to understand is that elections are not based upon those who testify at hearings. They are determined by those who vote in the general election. In the last general election, cumulative(1) votes statewide for U.S. Representatives were 53.3% for Republicans and 44.1% for Democrats. Using these percentages as a guide, 17 of the 32 Texas Representatives should be Republican, 14 Democrats and 1 Independent.

The reason the seat ratio does not match the voting demographic is the redistricting done by the Democratic legislature back in 1991. Mr. Gallegos should remember this as he was a freshmen representative in the Texas House of Representatives at the time. The redrawing of congressional district lines is a legislative duty every 10 years, regardless of public opinion. Performing one's duty as assigned by the State Constitution is not an abuse of the public's trust but rather a keeping of it.

   1. Credit Haight Speech for adding up the numbers.

The John Whitmire Treatment 

John Whitmire was not well known prior to his boycott busting return to Austin, TX from Alberquerque, NM. Oddly enough, he is now very popular among Senate Republicans, but has lost some standing among his Democratic Party peers.
"We feel he obviously compromised his position," said Sen. Mario Gallegos, a Democrat from Houston who has called Whitmire his best friend. "We'll continue to be friends, but it'll never be the same."

Sen. Judith Zaffirini said: "I don't believe that he will ever regain the trust and respect, but time will tell, and most importantly, his constituency will determine his future. He is a hero to the Republicans, but his action was detrimental not only to the Democrats and his constituents, but also to the restoration to civility."

I understand her position that having everyone in the same chamber to work out their differences is not nearly as civil as when 11 members flee and hide in another state to avoid legislation. At least when the citizens of the state have taken senate control from her own party and placed it into the hands of her opponents.

As one of those Texas citizens, I am glad that Mr. Whitmire returned to fulfill his obligation to represent his constituents.

Ahoy, matey! 

Avast! Let it hereby be known that this be Talk Like A Pirate Day. If ye scurvey dogs and buxom beauties be needin' lingual help, ye can smartly click here or here.

The Council Has Spoken 

The Watcher's Council has met and has voted on the posts of the week:

   Winning Council Entry:
   The Relief of 9/12 by Commiewatch

   Winning Non-Council Entry:
   Radiation Contamination in Iraq by USS Clueless

The amazing part is that the voting in both categories resulted in ties which were broken by the Watcher of Weasels.

Thursday, September 18, 2003

Caucasian Club 

Racism is such a difficult issue to broach because those who bring it up are usually skewered for what they say. I have somehow managed to hold my tongue thus far, but I now prepare to be vilified. I have been told many times that I cannot truly understand racism because of the paleness of my skin. I disagree. My own experiences, observations and conclusions are not automatically discounted because I do not possess a certain skin color. To do so would be discrimination. If you think that I have nothing to add to the discussion because you have been discrimated against more than I have, then you are free to stop reading now. The rest of you are free to judge my opinions and conclusions by their content instead of by the race of their author.

Humans mentally classify people into different groups. There are people who are enjoyable to be around and those who are unpleasant. Some people are trustworthy while others are not. This classification is automatic and it is a matter of survival. Sharing secrets with the wrong person can leave to embarrassment or conflict. Asking someone who doesn't care about anyone but themselves for assistance is wasted breath. Spending time with someone who is a threat may result in injury or death.

There is an incredible quantity of people that each individual must interact with or at least form opinions about. To save time and effort, there is a tendency to bulk-categorize identifiable people groups. Although such groupings typically do use stereotypes, there are some reasonably accurate groupings that can be made. Used car salesmen in general are usually not trustworthy. People with kids of their own can usually be trusted with other children.

This kind of categorization is useful as long as there is the understanding that these stereotypes are only valid for a preliminary opinion and are not always correct. Any evidence that an individual does not fit the sterotype must superceed the preliminary categorization. There are used car salesmen who are honest, and there are parents who should not be trusted with even their own children.

Dividing people by racial lines is done primarily because it is easy. Different races are often easily identifiable by physical characteristics or mannerisms. It is also patently wrong because, unlike the generalizations above, race is so broad that it is not helpful in quantifying an individual. Judging a person by their race makes a much sense as judging them by the thickness of their glasses or the amount of hair on their back.

If a real estate agent told me the house next door was for sale and asked what kind of neighbor I wanted, my answer would not be a white neighbor or a black neighbor or a hispanic neighbor. If I could choose, I would want a neighbor who is responsible and trustworthy. Someone who doesn't play loud music at night and who takes care of their yard. The color of my neighbor’s skin matters about as much as the color of my neighbor's car.

The whole point of this post is to look at a hot issue in a California high school. Lisa McClelland, a "Freedom" High School student, has stirred up a hornet’s nest with her proposed new student club (per this Contra Coasta Times article):

The 15-year-old freshman at Freedom High School says her campaign to start a Caucasian Club on campus is an effort to bolster diversity, not promote bigotry.

'It's not racist because we're not excluding anyone, and we're just trying to solve the issues of racial disparity,' says Lisa, whose ethnic background is American Indian, Latino, Dutch, German, Italian and Irish.

Lisa says she and many of her friends feel slighted by other school clubs that cater to specific cultures and races, such as the Black Student Union and the Asian Club.

The Caucasian Club would be open to everyone of all ethnic backgrounds, she says. She envisions activities such as fund-raisers and field trips to places that emphasize history, such as museums.

The Caucasian Club is a ridiculous idea, but the reason why she is doing it is obvious. She recognizes the culture’s approval of anything that would advance minority races. She also knows that anything which even hints at praising Caucasians is decried as racist. She states her intention is to "solve the issues of racial disparity" because she recognizes that discrimination against any race, even whites, is bigotry. The reaction to her proposal is most likely exactly what she anticipated:
Darnell Turner, first vice president of the East County chapter of the NAACP, said he believes the Caucasian Club will create racial division.

"It will not allow us to heal that divide that we've tried to overcome in the past couple of years," said Turner, who spoke out during the 2002 Liberty High incidents. "If her motivation is to bring harmony, as she alleges, this is not the way to go."
...
The NAACP's Turner said the club's concept sounded similar to former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke's 1989 election campaign when he claimed his National Association of the Advancement of White People was also about harmony. Turner added that organizations such as his and other ethnic clubs have never been associated historically with bigotry.

"It was a way to identify the members of that group and unify," he said. "When we use the word 'white' or 'Caucasian' or whatever, it has always been associated with racial bigotry. Using that term opens up old wounds, and we don't need to go there."

According to Mr. Turner, black student organizations provide an identity for black students and a way for them to unify. Yet a white student organization is not acceptable because it will cause racial division. I take extreme offense to his statement that the words ‘white’ and ‘Caucasian’ have always been associated with racial bigotry. This is coming from a leader within the NAACP. He explains how non-bigoted his organization is and then in the same statement declares that even the name of another race has always been associated with bigotry. It almost appears as if he could be prejudiced against all Caucasians because of their race.

Mr. Darnell Turner, I refuse to judge you by the color of your skin, but the hypocrisy you proclaim does reduce my opinion of you. I have no problem with the advancements of blacks and applaud that part of your organization’s purpose. I take no offence to the narrow focus of your organization trying to advance only the black race. What I take exception to is that you cannot tolerate anything that would advance people of another race.

Personally, I would never join a Caucasian club or even a Black Student Union, if I should qualify for that. I don’t see people as members of a specific race but as individuals. They may have characteristics from the race to which they belong but it plays only a small role in defining who they are. What amazes me is that those who make the most noise about racial prejudice are also those who insist on being identified as a specific race.

The truth is that there is only one race that matters: the human race. Here in the United States, the advancement of individuals and even groups is not a zero-sum game. I don’t gain when you lose, and vice-versa. A rising tide floats all boats…let us float together, people.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Define 'Truce' Please 

It sounds like Israel's new approach to terrorism is working: Hamas signaling willingness to observe truce
When without a previous understanding the enemy asks for a truce, he is plotting.
     Sun Tzu

Under the Radar 

Stealth News (aka Good News) continues to demonstrate its amazing low-radar profile and consistent ability to avoid detection by the major media. The latest secret out of Afghanistan is:
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- A former top Taliban commander was been killed in a shootout with Afghan forces.

Government and security officials told The Associated Press Hafiz Abdul Rahim was killed late Sunday in Kandahar province, along with other fighters. The man was a police chief with the Taliban before the regime was ousted. He was also suspected of leading attacks against Afghani government troops in southern Afghanistan.

It is important to note that the people doing the cleaning up in this case are Afghan forces, and not U.S. Troops. Another bad guy has departed from this world but it just wouldn't be proper to interrupt the Quagmire News and the "Young Osama" film reruns. It is most certain that if a U.S. Soldier was injured in the operation, that would not be newsworthy either.

Dirty Hands 

As a person who spent time in the restrooms of three different airports yesterday, this scares me:
Results of a new survey announced today at the 43rd Annual Interscience Conference of Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy (ICAAC) show that many people still aren't washing their hands in public places, exposing others to the risk of infection, despite recent outbreaks of infectious diseases.

Although illnesses as deadly as SARS and as troublesome as the common cold or gastric distress can be spread hand-to-hand, the survey sponsored by the American Society of Microbiology (ASM) found that many people passing through major US airports don't wash their hands after using the public facilities. More than 30 percent of people using restrooms in New York airports, 19 percent of those in Miami's airport, and 27 percent of air travelers in Chicago aren't stopping to wash their hands. The survey, conducted by Wirthlin Worldwide in August 2003, observed 7,541 people in public washrooms in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, Dallas, Miami, and Toronto.

As a side note, both Little Rock and Dallas (Love Field) had really cool motion-sensing paper towel dispensers. You just wave your hand in front of them and out shoots your paper towel. There is no need to pull a lever or turn a crank so this should increase sanitation. At least for restroom patrons who do wash their hands.

Not So Virtual Employee 

I work from home. Always. Well, except for when I travel, which is a rare occurrence. Most companies know better than to put programmers in front of clients, because so many of us have difficulty communicating with non-technical humans. That said, I somehow found myself in Little Rock, Arkansas visiting a client. I'm not anti-social or anything like that, but when you spend almost all your time by yourself, being around people takes some adjusting to. The airport was full of people although the airplane was mercifully empty. I'm convinced that Houston to Little Rock is no honey run.

I'm not trying to sound like a hermit, because I'm not. When school gets out, my family comes home which is the highlight of every day. I'm very involved in church and spend time with friends and neighbors (and neighborhood kids). Yet I do spend most of my time sitting at my desk, physically alone except for this infernal machine next to me. (No - not the computer...the telephone!) I enjoyed the trip, but does take some adjustments when changing from a virtual employee to an onsite employee. I am usually very comfortable interacting with people, even strangers.

My first night there, we went to eat a late dinner at Cracker Barrel. I usually get their Country Fried Steak w/ mashed potatos, although the spicy catfish is always so tempting. I shared this information with the Project Manager I was dining with. The waitress was a fairly young girl with a strong Arkansas accent, blonde hair and freckles. My co-worker ordered her meal, and then the server looked at me. I was in a playful mood so I said "I'll have the regular." Blank look. More blank look. It was as if I had spoken in another language. Deciding not to press the issue, I just told her what I wanted which she wrote down, and which I later received and then ate.

The flight home was a direct flight with a layover in Dallas. I think direct just meant that my plane started in Little Rock and ended in Houston. On the first leg, the stewardess took drink orders and I requested Dr. Pepper. (Southwest Airlines gets special bonus points for carrying Dr. Pepper - some airlines do not.) When we landed in Dallas, I had a serious hankering for a milkshake. I spend 5 minutes trying to find my boarding pass, which had migrated to a point underneath my seat. Once I finally located it, and received permission to deplane, I was delighted to find a Dryer's stand strategically located just outside my gate. I would have been even more excited if it had been open. I almost considered getting a 'shake' from the nearby McDonald's, but instead wandered back to the gate and stood in line with the Dallas people going to Houston.

The second leg was hosted by the same stewardess. When she asked for my drink order, I could not help myself. With a smile on my face, I said "I'll have the regular." At least she responded to my statement. She looked confused and said "Excuse me?" I laughed, explained that I was just kidding and asked for another Dr. Pepper. She immediately understood what I had meant at first and said that she should have remembered. A few minutes later she returned with drinks for the passengers in my section. Each person got a glass of carbonation, except for "Mr. Regular." To me she gave a glass full of ice, an full can of Dr. Pepper and a big smile. I'm starting to think I will order "the regular" at every restaurant from now on.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Recalled Recall 

I was traveling yesterday so I was not aware that the 9th District Appeals court had postponed the California Recall until late today. The reason behind it is very interesting - they felt like the election would disenfranchise as many as 40k voters because punch card ballots are error prone.

It seems strange that they cannot hold an election because punch card ballots are too inaccurate. It seems that by this same logic, the result of all prior elections using said ballots should also be invalidated (which would include 2000 and 2002). I guess it is important to protect the rights of those who might not be able to vote accurately by denying all citizens of the state the opportunity to cast a ballot.

False Pontif 

Here is a creative excuse to use when the police pull you over:
A drunken motorist tried to claim spiritual immunity when traffic police stopped him near Baarn on Monday evening. He claimed to be Pope John Paul II, refused to get out of his car and turned the radio up loud.
The biggest question this presents is "What kind of music would the Pope listen to loud?" The whole excuse would work much better if your car actually resembled the "Popemobile". A really tall hat in the passenger seat would also lend a little credibility.

Journalistic Integrity (An Oxymoron?) 

Editor & Publisher has an interesting article detailing with corruption in the Iraq press pool while Saddam was still in power. The first-hand accounts from John Burns are very revealing:
There were correspondents who thought it appropriate to seek the approbation of the people who governed their lives. This was the ministry of information, and particularly the director of the ministry. By taking him out for long candlelit dinners, plying him with sweet cakes, plying him with mobile phones at $600 each for members of his family, and giving bribes of thousands of dollars. Senior members of the information ministry took hundreds of thousands of dollars of bribes from these television correspondents who then behaved as if they were in Belgium. They never mentioned the function of minders. Never mentioned terror.

In one case, a correspondent actually went to the Internet Center at the Al-Rashid Hotel and printed out copies of his and other people's stories -- mine included -- specifically in order to be able to show the difference between himself and the others. He wanted to show what a good boy he was compared to this enemy of the state. He was with a major American newspaper.

It is interesting that small news sources, especially independent ones, are so scorned because of their lack of accountability. Matt Drudge was considered a fluke and perhaps a fad by big media when he started the independent web-publishing revolution. The blogosphere continues to grow in size and in quality (the cream rises to the top) and ultimately in relevance. Independent writers know full well who they are accountable to - their readers.

Bonfire 

If you want some fresh reading, head on over to this weeks Bonfire of the Vanities, hosted this week at wizbangblog.

Baldilocks 

One of my favorite daily reads is Baldilocks. She posted yesterday with her take on the murder of Yetunde Price. So tragic yet I appreciate her candor, no matter how it breaks my heart.

Monday, September 15, 2003

Molech 

The man walked down the path, his first-born son in his arms. His wife trailed behind, trying to hide her tears. The valley ahead was still too far off for him to see their destination, but the smoke rising in the distance assured him that all was ready. The dusty soil swirled around their feet as they walked, evidence of the extended drought upon the land. Eventually they reached the rim of the basin and started down the narrow path. Below them, they could see the idol and the crowd around it. They continued to the floor of the valley and approached the statue.

The drums began to pound slowly, with the beat increasing in frequency and volume as the man approached the status with its extended arms. The throng began to dance and shriek with anticipation. The man paused a few steps from the idol. He could hear his wife behind him, begging him not to do what was required. He clenched his jaw and approached the red-hot hands of Molech. This close to the statue, the pain in his heart was joined by the agony of heat on his exposed skin.

He took a breath of stifling air, raised his boy to heaven and tossed him into the hands of his god. The pounding drums and the singing of the people behind nearly covered the screams of his son, just a few feet away. The boy thrashed on the heated brazen hands, trying to escape their searing touch. Finally, mercifully, he rolled down the arms and into the hollow statue filled with fire.

Molech was an ancient deity, worshipped throughout Canaan and Phoenicia. Called the god of the Ammonites, Molech is essentially identical with both Chemosh of Moab and Melquart of Tyre. The idol of Molech was a brass image in human form yet with the head of an ox. The statue was hollow and had outstretched hands to receive offerings. The image was heated from below by fire and the sacrifice, a small child, was placed in the god's outstretched arms. The thrashing of the sacrifice would cause it to drop into the hollow statue and be consumed by the fires below.

The worship of Molech has mercifully fallen out of practice. Yet, in the same region of the world where the ashes of Molech's offerings lie, a new cult of death has emerged. One where parents willingly sacrifice their own sons and daughters, blinded by their hatred toward their enemy. Their young children play with real guns and the heroes they model themselves after are murderers. Their teenagers accessorize not with fashion but with explosive belts. They produce martyrs but no dreamers.

The Palestinians look to a future without any Israel and then sacrifice the next generation in an attempt to achieve it. They do not fathom that they are blowing up their future rather than securing it. Former Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir was exactly right when she said:

We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.
The true question is not "Will there be a future for the Palestinians?" but rather "Will there be any Palestinians left to participate in their future?" The key to peace in the region is not a new Prime Minister, 'roadmap' or cease-fire. The key to peace in the region is when the Palestinian people are taught and understand that their human sacrifices do not advance their cause. They are as futile and self-damaging as the offerings once made to Molech.