Archive for April 2007

Mormons on PBS

American Experience and Frontline present The Mormons.

It was quite an interesting show that explored the nature of Mormonism and America’s attempt to stamp it out. Given the possibility of a Mormon president, and the fact that one of the top Democrats is one, it doesn’t hurt to learn more about this uniquely American religion.

And like American history, it’s bloody.

Here’s more.

And more.

On Warfare and Genocide

Last night on the way home, the Kid asked me about war. It started with the number of soldiers in Iraq, then it moved on to the number of Americans killed in Iraq every day. For comparison’s sake, I explained to him about the number of Americans who died on Omaha Beach, and the number of Marines who died in Okinawa.

The kid listened intently and asked pretty good questions. When the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki came up, I explained why the bombs were dropped and told him some stories my Japanese students had told me about their preparations for the American invasion that the bombings prevented. I didn’t sugar coat the bombings – how they were horrific attacks that killed hundreds of thousands but saved millions. I moved on to Japan’s takeover of China, and the rape of Nanjing in which men, women and children were slaughtered.

I told him about a book on one of our bookshelves – Japan At War – that tells the stories of Japanese Imperial Army veterans – and said that when he was old enough, he could read it, but he was too young now.

He asked me if such genocide happens today. I told him about Darfur.

“Why don’t we send soldiers there to stop it?” He asked.

I told him I didn’t know.

I could tell him that we aren’t the world’s policeman, that it’s not our business to save the world. But then I consider our nation, our history and our ideology. It’s much more radical than anything Marx wrote, or Lenin proposed, or Khomeini issued in a fatwa. Like good radicals everywhere we have always worked to spread the word – through Manifest Destiny, or through the efforts of private citizens to fight fascists in Republican Spain during the 1930s, and on to today where we are attempting to remake the face of the Middle East by bringing democracy to Iraq.

We are an idealist people, one that has a hard time accepting the suffering of others around the globe. We send aid to tsunami ravaged Indonesia, try to make peace between Arabs and Jews, Irish and Unionists, and Turks and Greeks. We should intervene to stop the genocide there.

Then reality hits me: I know why.

Is Darfur worth sacrificing a single American kid over?

It’s a cold-hearted question, but nevertheless it’s one that our pol’s have answered – “No.”

And I can’t say I disagree with that. My globalist ideals are waning towards isolationism, which is the default condition of Americans. Recent polls in Indonesia show that all that aid and effort we sent that nation didn’t change their hearts and minds about us: They are still convinced we are out to divide Muslims – and 80% think that Osama Bin-Laden is an ok guy.

Granted, he’s one that doesn’t shower their country with aid in the immediate aftermath of the tsunami, is intent on truly dividing Islam by wiping out the Shi’a in Iraq – but he’s an ok guy nevertheless in the eyes of those who weren’t washed out to sea on Christmas eve 2004.

Whenever you intervene to protect someone, you make an enemy from someone else. Intervene on behalf of the Bosnians in 1995, and you upset the people massacring them – the Serbs. In the Arab world we have somehow managed to intervene to protect Iraqis from each other – and we get grief from both sides.

Machiavelli once said:
Machiavelli Quote

Just look at the Anti-American attitudes of nations like France and Germany. Thousands of American soldiers are planted in their soil, yet we’re the bad guy.

Would the Darfur residents do the same? Would they welcome our protection our would they eventually complain about our neocolonialist policies and influx of McDonalds fast food restaurants?

America needs to fight battles against its enemies. The people of Darfur, Tibet, Burma and other places need to rise up on their own. We should send them guns, but not American young people.

That’s the answer I needed to tell the Kid. It’s not the answer I want to tell him, but it’s the truth. Is he ready for that? I wonder.

Catholic Archbishop of St.Louis In Trouble…

For being Catholic.

St. Louis Archbishop Raymond Burke denounced a Catholic charity for scheduling singer Sheryl Crow to perform at a benefit concert because of the singer’s support for abortion rights.

Burke submitted his resignation as chairman of the board for the Cardinal Glennon Children’s Foundation, saying the decision to let Crow sing on Saturday left him no other choice.

“It’s very painful for me,” Burke said during a news conference Wednesday. “But I have to answer to God for the responsibility I have as archbishop.

“A Catholic institution featuring a performer who promotes moral evil gives the impression that the church is somehow inconsistent in its teaching,” Burke said.

Crow is set to appear at the 19th annual benefit for the Bob Costas Cancer Center at Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center. Costas will host the event, which will also feature comedian Billy Crystal.

Event organizer Allen Allred said he was disappointed with Burke’s decision, but that Crow would appear as scheduled.

“This is not an event that’s about ideology,” Allred said. “This is about helping kids.”

That’s rather naive considering that Cardinal Glennon is a Catholic hospital:

SSM Cardinal Glennon Children’s Medical Center is part of SSM Health Care, one of the largest Catholic health care systems in the country. SSM is sponsored by the Franciscan Sisters of Mary and owns, operates and manages 19 acute care hospitals in four states – Missouri, Illinois, Wisconsin and Oklahoma.

As I recently wrote in comments at Dean’s World I am both Pro-Life AND Pro-Choice. I am also NOT Catholic for a variety of reasons. Therefore I wouldn’t expect to be invited to write speeches for the Archbishop or be employed by the Catholic Church in any way.

However getting Sheryl Crow to perform for a benefit makes as much sense as booking Bobby Brown at a battered women’s shelter benefit. So the Archbishop, who believes that abortion is a modern day holocaust or genocide should not be expected to agree with the ignorance of the benefit’s organization committee.

When Hezbollah books Jackie Mason, or the Bnai Brith books Hassan Nazrallah to speak – then perhaps I’ll change my mind. However the Archbishop did the right thing by taking a hike from this bit of ignorance.

Global Warming: I’m Convinced

UPDATE: 04/25/2007
Please see the comments.
I cannot in good faith support what you will read below, and have struggled with it in the days since I wrote it. However I am going to leave the article as a reminder to readers who may believe that I never question my own beliefs, and to myself that it’s better to admit you’ve screwed up than to hide the fact.

To summarize: I believe the climate is warming. However I am not convinced that humans are to blame for it. I also believe that without a better understanding of the climate, the actions we take out of ignorance could make things worse. I’m not sure where this places me on the issue, but I’m sure it’s in the category of “flake”/”ignorant dissenter” depending on your point of view.

Scott Kirwin———
I really hate to admit this. It’s painful but necessary because this journal is devoted to the quest for Absolute Truth as revealed by Occam’s Razor. As the evidence for man-made causes of global warming continue to pile up, the arguments countering that evidence become increasingly shrill.

So I’m announcing that I have been swayed – not by Al Gore and the Hollywood Idiot Brigade – but by the scientists at this site: Real Climate. I accept that the phenomenon known as “Global Warming” is real and is largely caused by human activity.

There – I said it.

Occam’s Razor cuts regardless of politics; that’s part of its usefulness. When the evidence has mounted to a point where no other simple explanation exists to explain it because the alternate hypotheses have become convoluted an complex – then Occam’s Razor slices and you are left facing the Truth in all its beauty and grandeur – whether you like it or not.

I’m not dogmatic. The Jesuits killed off that tendency long ago, God Bless Their (excommunicated 3x) Souls. And I still don’t understand how scientists can predict the climate a hundred years from now with accuracy but can’t predict the weather 2 months out better than the chance. However, when the scientists at Real Climate smack down the global warming dissident arguments, they are devastatingly effective. I am not egotistical enough to believe that just because I don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s not true. These guys are pros – and know their stuff alot better than I know their stuff – and certainly better than “1 Square” loonies like Sheryl Crow.

I do not see this issue as undermining my faith in the free market, capitalism and neo-conservativism. In fact the challenges posed by global warming seem to support them – new technologies, an America freed from imported oil – what’s not to like?

I can even continue to make fun of Al Gore.

Al Gore Limo

There’s plenty of ground to argue about, but I cannot in good faith argue with this premise anymore. Global warming is real and it is largely caused by human activity.

What comes next? E85, better conservation and getting hypocrites like the Limousine Liberals to stop trashing the planet… Yeah, there’s plenty to fight about.

Wacky Quotes from “Environmentalists”

I care about the landscape, and the animals and the air we breath and the water we drink. I’ve even been lucky enough to physically participate in the conservation of an endangered species – chimps.

But when I think about using the term ‘environmentalist’ to describe myself, I run up against these loons.

“If you ask me, it’d be a little short of disastrous for us to discover a source of clean, cheap, abundant energy because of what we would do with it…”—Amory Lovins, Rocky Mountain Institute.

“The only real good technology is no technology at all. Technology is taxation without representation, imposed by our elitist species (man) upon the rest of the natural world”—John Shuttleworth, founder of Mother Earth News.

“Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialized civilizations collapse? Isn’t our responsibility to bring that about?”—Maurice Strong, Secretary General 1992 UN Earth Summit

“We have wished, we ecofreaks, for a disaster or for a social change to come and bomb us into the Stone Age.”—Stewart Brand

“Everything we have developed over the last 100 years should be destroyed.”—Pentti Linkola

“Phasing out the human race will solve every problem on earth, social and environmental”—David Foreman, founder of Earth First!

“If there is going to be electricity at all, I would like it to be decentralized, small, solar-powered”—Gar Smith

“The only hope for the world is to make sure there is not another United States…”—Michael Oppenheimer, Environmental Defense Fund

“Man is always and everywhere a blight on the landscape.”—John Muir, founder of the Sierra Club.

Murderers Go Multimedia

A psychopathic Korean-American has set a precedent.
Whereas Charles Manson’s acolytes posted their messages in blood, the Unabomber Ted Kaczynski typed up his screed, and the Columbine Killers left behind notebooks full of their rantings, Cho Seung-Hui has brought madness into the 21st Century with digital photos and Quicktime movies, some shot in a lull during his killing spree.

While jihadis have been posting videos and passing around tapes for years, their intent is to shock their enemies and to recruit followers with their videotapes of beheadings and anti-Semitic and anti-Western rants. In that sense they act as propaganda that give few insights into their mental state. A better analogy would be the “farewell messages” left by homicide bombers, which have been common in the Middle East for the past 25 years. These often show the mental state of the bomber – anguished, often appearing drugged, and usually brainwashed – and clue us in better to the “why” behind the bomber’s action.

However Cho’s complex multimedia presentation represents a new development in the annals of American mass-murder. His message – like most messages left by mass murders – is inherently irrational, self-contradictory and incoherent. We can learn little from its garbled message, other than to note the insanity of the person responsible for it. Where Cho’s impact will be felt is on the presentation of the message itself.

He has set a precedent that future psychopaths will no doubt follow and perhaps even expand upon. It is not hard to imagine a pair of modern day sickos like the Columbine killers carrying video cameras to the next killing spree. This sort of thing is already being used by al-Qaeda, and would represent the next step in the romanticizing of mass murder by the mentally ill.

Killer Ethanol

via TheRegister:

Jacobson found that the E85-driven model forecast 200 more deaths per year across the USA, the majority occurring in Los Angeles.

And this is a bad thing? A few less aspiring actors and screenwriters in exchange for carbon neutral energy? Sounds like a fair trade to me…

Black Days, Bitter Nights

A dose of bitterness in morning coffee:
Brian, commenter at Dean’s World:

Guns don’t kill people, English majors do. Please register and properly store your English Majors…

I’ll add:
Guns don’t kill people: Koreans do.
Guns don’t kill people: Asians do.

Note to the World:
Leave us alone.

When we want your opinion, we’ll ask for it.

Don Imus

It couldn’t have happened to a more deserving guy.

That Didn’t Take Long…

As I predicted in the previous post…

President Pelosi

The division of powers is a wonderful thing. It is probably the key to the success of American democracy.

When it comes to foreign policy, the division is clear: The president can make any policy he wants, but Congress holds the purse strings.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi has overstepped that division with her trip to Syria this week.

Now I believe that Syria has to be turned somehow, peeled away from Iran in order to achieve lasting peace in the Middle East. So I tried to find some good in this visit. However when the liberal Wife and now the left-wing Washington Post believe the visit was foolish, and the foolish dictator-loving President Carter likes it, well, it’s time to admit defeat.

Here’s what WaPo had to say about her visit:

“We came in friendship, hope, and determined that the road to Damascus is a road to peace,” Ms. Pelosi grandly declared.

Never mind that that statement is ludicrous: As any diplomat with knowledge of the region could have told Ms. Pelosi, Mr. Assad is a corrupt thug whose overriding priority at the moment is not peace with Israel but heading off U.N. charges that he orchestrated the murder of former Lebanese prime minister Rafiq al-Hariri. The really striking development here is the attempt by a Democratic congressional leader to substitute her own foreign policy for that of a sitting Republican president. Two weeks ago Ms. Pelosi rammed legislation through the House of Representatives that would strip Mr. Bush of his authority as commander in chief to manage troop movements in Iraq. Now she is attempting to introduce a new Middle East policy that directly conflicts with that of the president. We have found much to criticize in Mr. Bush’s military strategy and regional diplomacy. But Ms. Pelosi’s attempt to establish a shadow presidency is not only counterproductive, it is foolish.

Ouch!

I suppose it’s only natural that Congress attempts to gain power at the expense of an unpopular, lame duck president. However to do so by kissing the ass of one of the world’s thugs who is directly responsible for the death of American soldiers in Iraq, Israeli soldiers and civilians in Israel, and Lebanese Democracy shows a complete naivety in world affairs, and underscores that Democrats aren’t ready for the presidency.

As a Republican I should be clapping my hands in glee at Pelosi’s arrogance. Should Syria do something stupid over the next 18 months, such as goad Hezbollah into attacking Israel again – likely according to the Israeli media – there will be plenty of photos of Assad and Pelosi to display, and quotes to dredge up to use against Democrats. The silence from the leading Democratic candidates on the visit will only make it easier to portray the Republican candidates as better suited to handling foreign policy, and therefore, maintaining control of the Oval Office.

However my desire for peace in the Middle East transcends my current party affiliation; I supported peace just as vehemently when I was a Democrat. Pelosi’s visit has setback those prospects, and it’s clear to me that she should have just stayed at home.

Bush Derangement Syndrome

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Ethanol Boom Study Vs. Corn Prices

Two critics of ethanol at the University of Minnesota have published a study in the May/June issue of Foreign Affairs contending that the ethanol boom will lead to world hunger (Yahoo! short term link, Gulf Daily News perma link

“In the United States, the growth of the biofuel industry has triggered increases not only in the prices of corn, oilseeds, and other grains but also in the prices of seemingly unrelated crops and products,” they ( C. Ford Runge and Benjamin Senauer) said.

The timing is a bit bad, considering this Bloomberg story:
Corn fell to a four-month low in Chicago and soybeans declined on speculation lower energy prices will reduce demand for fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel made from the two biggest U.S. crops. ...

Prices have fallen 23 percent since reaching a 10-year high of $4.5025 on Feb. 26, on expectations that U.S. farmers will plant the most acres since World War II (emph. add).


Academics don’t understand the free market. I’m not sure if it is because they are not subject to it, being shielded by the tenure system and teaching unions, or if it’s due to something else.

The free market is a pretty cool thing. When ethanol started pulling corn out of the food supply, it drove the price of corn up. Farmers responded by planting “the most acres since World War II.” Now the price of corn is falling because supply has outstripped demand. A similar thing happens with petroleum – although the market is somewhat tempered by OPEC. Oil demand goes up, driving up prices. The price makes some oil fields and technologies viable, thereby adding to a market where the producers are already flooding it to get the most cash they can get. Meanwhile, demand slackens as people stop buying Hummers and flying cross-country on their personal jets (Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi excepted). Eventually the supply outstrips the demand and prices fall.

No handwringing necessary – although I suppose the above reality doesn’t make for good studies that make it onto Yahoo! news.

I agree with the authors that ethanol subsidies need to be phased out. I even agree with their push for conservation and…

promoting alternative sources of energy, such as solar and wind power; and investing in research to improve agricultural productivity and raise the efficiency of fuels derived from cellulose.

However the cellulose tech isn’t there just yet, but it will be once the industrial world ends its oil addiction. How? Someone will develop a process to make ethanol from stuff that’s plentiful and cheaper than $4/bushel.

This study seems like shallow pandering to the Environmental Alarm crowd. It completely fails to recognize market forces as well as the technological innovations that have made every Malthusian prediction wrong.

Rosie O’Donnell’s New Fashion Line

Wealthy media mogul and conspiracy-theorist Rosie O’Donnell has announced a new fashion line today. Speaking at a gala thrown by the Billionaires for Change, O’Donnell – rumored to be mulling over a $40 million dollar contract by ABC - announced her new line which she guarantees will protect the wearer against “all microwave radiation beamed out of CIA headquarters in Langley,” and prevent Bush from “reading the minds everywhere and keep his Israeli mafia from gunning them down.”

EEEvil Conservative

O’Donnell, who believes that part of her $40 million mission is to “speak truth to power” has denied that as one of America’s wealthiest people, she in fact is the power. When told that she’s an overweight intellectual lightweight who is single-handedly holding back the Gay Rights movement, sources in orbit of Ms. O’Donnell confirm she consulted her attorneys regarding a possible libel lawsuit – thereby proving that for Ms. O’Donnell, speaking truth to power is not okay when she’s the power.

Hat-tip (literally): EEEVil Conservative