Monday, January 30, 2006

Trials and Tribulations

Fire of Liberty

After spending a long stint at the Financial Times, columnist Amity Shlaes has moved on to brighter horizons and is penning her fine work over at Bloomberg. I recommend you check out her latest column in which she notes that even though the press is making a big deal about the trip-ups and the continued outbursts Saddam and his minion in the trials in Iraq they should remember that problems were abundant during the Nuremberg trials after WWII. So let's all sit back and relax and praise the Lord that Saddam is on trial in Iraq by Iraqis and not in a never ending international tribunal like the ones going on at the Hague. Check it out.

Persian People Power III

Fire of Liberty

While the Europeans and others have caught a case of cold feet when it comes to reporting Iran to the UN Security Council and recommending harsh sanctions on the mullahs' efforts to develop "the bomb," there are brave Iranians at this very moment trying the best to tear down the foundations of the regime by revealing the horrific nature of the masters in Tehran. Two individuals who are taking the pick-axe to the mullahs are Ladan and Roya Boroumand who established The Abdorrahman Boroumand Foundation, after their late father, who was killed by the regime. Not only is ABF a tribute to their father's fight for freedom and human rights in Iran but it's also a database of the hundreds of thousands of people who have been killed, attacked and inprisoned by the regime because they also chose to walk in the path of freedom and democracy. I have to say that the Washington Post's columnist Anne Applebaum pretty much summed up the efforts and the reasoning behind the daughters of Abdorrahman Boroumand compiling such a massive database in her January 20, 2006 column "A Web Witness to Iranian Brutality" when she wrote the following:
In their more optimistic moments, the Boroumands also hope that the mere act of participating in the project will remind Iranians that even in a totalitarian society, people are not entirely powerless. They can remember crimes, they can name the perpetrators and they can try to hold them to account. For that reason, the site also links to an extensive library of human rights documents, some translated into Farsi for the first time. Too many Iranians, the sisters say, feel that the terrible things that have occurred since the Islamic revolution of 1979 are "not their fault." But if you take responsibility for remembering the regime's crimes, soon you might also want to take responsibility for halting them. And that, of course, is the truly revolutionary thought behind the Boroumands' project.

Even if they don't achieve quite so much -- even if the regime successfully blocks access in Iran, or if Iranians remain too afraid to contribute -- the sisters are betting that their online archive will embarrass those members of the Iranian regime who still try to hide the true nature of their revolution from the outside world. At least until last week, when the Iranian president announced his intention to start enriching uranium, many in the United States and especially Europe were still arguing that Iran's government had mellowed, that Iran should be treated as a normal trading partner and a normal member of the international community. If nothing else, should make outsiders forever wary of that claim.

"At the minimum," Ladan says, "we are creating a database which academics and scholars will find useful. At the maximum, we start a real public debate about the regime's crimes in Iran -- and ultimately about accountability, due process and democracy." It is, she says, "a gamble." In more ways than one, she is right.
What's even more enlightening about ABF is that it adds more emphasis on the fact that the regime should not be in the possession of nuclear weapons because if they are willing to do this to their own people just think what horrific terror could be unleashed on Berlin, Tel Aviv or Los Angeles via one nuke. If their efforts are able to prevent the regime from building a nuke by opening up the door to a crumbling of the regime's foundation via a internal revolution then I say "carry on." No matter how you put it these brave souls are definately manning one of the many fires of liberty that shine a little light on the darkened "Outposts of Tyranny" thus giving us some greater insight on what evils a regime can truly commit.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Persian People Power II

Fire of Liberty

I just wanted to note that the mullah's quest for the bomb is something that should concern the US, Israel, Europe, and the rest of the Middle East but that we should focus on solving the situation by undermining or dissolving the regime from the inside. By opening up channels of political/moral/economic support to the "real democrats" of Iran, like the students, academics, and workers rather than dealing with the so called "moderates" that certain folks in the media and the State Department seem to fawn over, we can make our fight against this main pillar of the Axis of Evil much easier rather than launching a full scale attack. With some 60% of the Iranian population under 30 and not to mention that they're one of the most pro-American people in the region, the "true democrats" can do a far greater number on the mullahs than what our bombs could ever do. (Now if the regime in Iran brings their nuke program online in the near future I can see us taking out the mullahs militarily but for now we should take the Cold War route ala Solidarity of Poland.) As I said in the last post, we should use the pro-American stance and the people of Iran's anger towards the mullahs to our advantage and help them take back the country and return to the fold of the free world that they enjoyed prior to 1979. So lets get on our feet and call on our congressman, senator as well as President Bush to champion this quest for freedom that is clearly alive in the hearts of the Iranian people. I for one think this is a far greater solution than the use of force. (I'm still leaving the use of force on the table because we'd be foolish not to be willing to wack someone around that is definitely a real and threatening danger.)

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Persian People Power

Fire of Liberty

While MSM and the various Democrats like Senator Clinton throw complaints after complaints about the White House failing to prevent or hinder the mad mullahs of Iran from getting "the bomb" not to mention the various nations getting cold feet in reporting Iran's violations before the Security Council, Tehran's Bus drivers have planned a massive work stoppage due to the regime's heavy handedness and refusal to allow them to organize into a union. Though a lot of folks are wringing their hands on how to handle the situation in Iran, you'd think they'd would look beyond the distractions being put up by the President of Iran and realize that there is solution ruminating in the streets of Iran which is people power. As Michael Ledeen notes in his many articles and his book The War Against the Terror Masters, the people of Iran has the greatest ability to enact change if they are given the political/moral/economic support from the West. We have seen in the past where unions like Solidarity achieved great results in places like Poland during the Cold War when Thatcher, Reagan, PJP II, and the rest of "Free Europe" offered such support. While the mullahs are far different from the communists of Poland they still are totalitarian systems that can be taken down by the people (It happened in 1979 in Iran and can definitely happen again). I just wished that the efforts on behalf of the workers and students of Iran would be heralded by more in the media than the insane ramblings of Ahmadinejad. I suspect that the regime is so scared about what's going on in the streets that they put up their angry Potemkin village to keep the world's focus elsewhere when the real story is with the folks of Iran. So once again let's pay closer attention to the folks of Iran and encourage their efforts against the regime thus saving our troops from getting pulled into another hot war. I prefer a Cold War approach over the alternative and we've got a willing army in the Iranian populous to get 'er done. I wish the drivers great luck in their efforts to knock the regime off its throne.

ABC News Tries to Slime Justice Scalia

Fire of Liberty

While ABC News' "Nightline," was blasting a story on the airwaves about Justice Scalia committing an ethical scandal by attending a Federalist society legal seminar and forgoing Chief Justice Roberts swearing in for a "junket" and "tennis," it seems that the so called researchers failed to report the facts about the event accurately. (Who'd ever think that the folks at ABC would ever try to slime a sitting Supreme Court Justice like Scalia. I bet you'd never find such stories on Ginsberg and Stevens but then again they're on the same team.) Thankfully, Robert B. Bluey at Human Events seem to be on top of the story and has a bevy of information in the following article that the editors of "Nightline" seemed to have left out (It had to be lost by chance, right?) While it's good for you to read the whole story, I thought I'd give you a brief look at what really happened on Justice Scalia's visit to the lecture:

Federalist Society Executive Vice President Leonard Leo released the following information Tuesday in response to the ABC News report about Justice Antonin Scalia'’s attendance at a Federalist Society-sponsored legal seminar last September.

Justice Scalia...Teaches A Course The Facts

1. Justice Scalia taught a comprehensive course about the separation of powers under our Constitution. Reminiscent of Dan Rather'’s and Mary Mapes'’s false National Guard story, ABC Nightline knew in advance of airing its program that he did not simply "“attend" a "“judicial education seminar, "” and it grossly misled viewers by suggesting that the event was a "“junket"” rather than a serious scholarly program that required much work and advance preparation.

Justice Scalia taught a 10-hour course while in Colorado, lecturing the more than 100 lawyers in attendance as well as answering numerous questions they presented.
  • • Prior to the course, Justice Scalia produced a 481-page course book containing edited cases on separation of powers issues. All attendees received the book in advance and were expected to review the material and prepare in advance of the course.
  • Justice Scalia arrived and left Colorado without spending any extra days to engage in recreational activity. He arrived at the hotel the night before the course at 11 p.m., having traveled by car for three hours the night before. He departed at around 6:30 a.m. the morning after the course ended in order to fly back home. The event started at 8 a.m. each of the mornings, and, despite ABC NightlineÂ’s emphasis on Justice Scalia participating in tennis at the hotel, he spent less than two hours playing the game over the course of those two days.
  • Justice Scalia presented the course with LSU Law Professor John Baker. Both were present together on the rostrum for the ten hour course, and both received reimbursement for travel and lodging.
  • John Baker received an honorarium. Justice Scalia did not.
2. Justice Scalia did not attend Chief Justice Roberts'’s swearing-in ceremony at the White House on September 29 because he chose to respect a longstanding commitment to teach a course to over 100 lawyers who had traveled from at least 38 states. This was not, as Nightline suggested, missing an important Washington function so as not to miss a tennis outing.
  • • There was virtually no advance notice that John Roberts would be confirmed and sworn-in on September 29. It was not absolutely clear until the day before.
  • Justice Scalia had accepted the invitation to teach on October 10, 2004——nearly a year before the course dates. Almost all participants had registered and paid for the course by August 2005, nearly two months in advance.
  • • To have cancelled just a couple of days before the start of the course would have caused many attendees to lose the money the spent on plane tickets and hotel deposits, and, as the sponsor, the Federalist Society would have faced tens of thousands of dollars in damages that would have to be paid to the hotel for breaking a contract.
3. Justice Scalia was teaching a scholarly program that was educationally rigorous and open to anyone who wanted to come.
  • The course was approved by at least 30 state bars for continuing legal education credit. Most of the lawyers in attendance have to take such accredited continuing legal education programs in order to remain licensed to practice law.
  • The Federalist Society welcomed anyone who wished to come to the event. Members simply were asked to pay the registration fee, and non-members were welcome to attend if they paid the Society'’s nominal dues ($5 for students, $25 for lawyers) along with the registration fee. Indeed, at least 10 of those who came to the course were non-members who joined and paid the registration fee in order to attend.
  • More than 100 lawyers and law students were in attendance.
4. ABC Nightline was fully aware that its piece was misleading and inaccurate, and the way in which it prepared the story bespeaks hypocrisy.

  • Several hours before the program aired, the Federalist Society spoke with Nightline'’s senior producer, David Scott, as well as the investigative reporter who worked on the story, Rhonda Schwartz. The Federalist Society set forth the above facts and made very clear that tennis occupied a miniscule part of Justice ScaliaÂ’s time in Colorado. Nightline nevertheless chose to lead with a "“tennis outing" theme and grossly failed to present the facts surrounding the course in a way that demonstrated the amount of time and work involved.
  • At least a week before this conversation, the Federalist Society had spoken with Rhonda Schwartz and informed her in explicit terms that Justice Scalia taught a 10-hour course attended by lawyers. Nonetheless, ABC'’s website, on the night of the broadcast, cast the issue as Justice Scalia attending a judicial education seminar. There is a world of difference between teaching a 10-hour course and coming to a resort to hear other speakers between various recreational activities——but Nightline chose to manufacture the false impression that Justice Scalia was at a function that entailed much play and little work.
  • It is ironic that, in preparing a story that seeks to make the point that judges should be held to high standards of ethical integrity, ABC itself broke the law by trespassing on private property and invading the privacy of private individuals who did not give permission to be videotaped. Indeed, ABC contacted the hotel for permission to film the SocietyÂ’s activities, and permission was denied by hotel management.
You'd think that the reporters at ABC could at least use the skills of reporting they learned in our "wonderful" journalism schools to report the facts instead of the gotcha politics they seem to pull day in and day out. Thankfully, we have the powerful blogs, talk radio, FOX News, National Review Online and Human Events Online to sort out the truth that the MSM seems to selectively leave out.

Hat Tip: Southern Appeal

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Gotta Love the Siesta

Fire of Liberty

Now I'm all for the Europeans adjusting their work habits and moving away from the socialistic ideals of a limited work week (below 40hrs), eight weeks of vacation to remain competitive with the rest of the world and keep the economy going but I think the people of Spain are losing their heart and a well known cultural identity with the dissolution of the seista. After nearly 500 years of tradition in which people take a short rest at mid-day to gather with their family for food, conversation, bonding and a little nap before returning to work, I think changing a way of things will have a far greater impact on the youth and family structure of Spain. The folks in Spain need to step up and shout "No Mas" to such a change and fully embrace this traditional aspect of their history and culture before Spain becomes just another European state.

The Return of the Right in Canada

Fire of Liberty

I'd like to give my most heart felt congratulations to the Canadian people for returning Stephen Harper and his fellow Tories back to power in Ottawa after some 13 years in the wilderness. I wished the Conservatives had gained some 156 seats to gain an outright majority in Parliament but 124 is a good starting point and you'll only need to find some 32 votes from the Bloc Quebecois, New Democrats or even the Liberals to get things passed. They might not be able to bring about a Canadian form of the "Republican Revolution" like the one that occurred in 1994 here but it shows you that folks are ready for change and a some wiser solutions to crime, the economy, social issues and the decline of Canada's armed forces under the liberals these past 13 years. So here's wishing Harper and the Tories good luck in getting things done in the House of Commons for the good of Canada.

Also, check out this piece by the great Peter Worthington on the most recent Tory win in our neighbor to the north.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Preserving UK conservatism

Fire of Liberty

In the past months I've written several posts that have been critical of the UK's new Tory party leader David Cameron and how the conservative party seems to be running off the tracks laid by Disraeli, Churchill and Thatcher with his darting towards the center on various issues to get the Tories elected to the leadership of the House of Commons. While he can carry on about England becoming overweight and attack candy companies for selling orange flavored chocolate to kids(I love Terry's Chocolate Orange like his "candy crusade", favoring the greens when it comes to the environment and his attacks on parts of the private sector might get him in the Commons it still saps the party's energy from important issues like crime, immigration, education, taxes, and poverty.

Luckily the Tories are still sticking with a conservative philosophy when it comes to poverty. Like the conservatives of America, the Tories know that the best place to fight poverty is locally via the family, church, voluntary groups and the private sector rather than the bothersome and lumbering government who creates greater problems by developing a growing sense of dependency. I'd have to say that Cameron and the Tories have pretty much gone by the conservative cards when it comes to the fight on poverty. Just take a look what Cameron had to say with regard to fighting poverty in this article in the Financial Times:
Mr Cameron said: "The state has become a guarantor of means-tested dependency, of the status quo, not of a new start"”. Conservative policy would highlight how the voluntary sector had "“the crucial role to play"” in giving people a second chance to escape from poverty, drug addiction and homelessness.

The focus of the speech was on organizationsions working within the voluntary sectors, or engaged in what was called "“social enterprise"”, could often get people out of poverty far more efficiently than government agencies.

Standing alongside Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader who now heads the party'’s centre for social justice, Mr Cameron said: "We'’ve both seen how the voluntary and social enterprise sectors provide intensive, long-term, holistic care to our vulnerable people. The public sector does a great job but its targets and caseloads make it difficult to provide the necessary level of help for the most needy.

"“Small community and voluntary groups who care for broken lives deserve financial support, the use of which isn'’t micromanaged by Gordon Brown'’s huge army of bureaucrats," he added.
Now the FT says this policy is a shift to the center or the left but if you look back to speeches of Disraeli, Churchill, Thatcher and various other philosophers/thinkers of the right, you learn that this approach to poverty is deeply entrenched in the belly of most if not all conservative thinking folks. So I say carry on Mr. Cameron but try to get your party back on the politically "right" track on other issues before you lose your base. They can just as well stay home if you erase all notions of conservatism from your platform.

Reconcilliating at the End of the Spear

Fire of Liberty

This past week I've been seeing the advertisements for the movie "End of the Spear" and I have to say that it looks like a pretty good movie to go see. While I'm intrigued by the movie just by watching the previews, I'm pulled into going to the theatres to see it because of the brilliant story that has been presented. Just think about it, this is a movie that is about some five Christian missionaries who go to the Ecuadorian jungle to share their faith with the Woadani Tribe of the native Auca Indians but are tragically killed by members of the tribe . Now while most folks would have wiped their hands clean of this tribe due to their horrific actions, the family of these slain missionaries actually picked up their belongings and returned to this remote jungle to live with the tribe and find a way to forgive them for what they did. In fact the Waodani and these missionaries seemed to have come full circle and some fifty years later these differing people have fully embraced each other as members of each other's families.

I clearly saw this enduring message of forgiveness this morning on FOX & Friends during an interview session with Steve Saint, the child of one of these missionaries who was killed and Mincayani, the chief of the tribe who killed the Steve's father. Sitting side by side the Mincayani noted he sees Steve as his own son and Steve noted that he and his children see Mincayani as their father and grandfather. You've got say that this movie gives the viewer a really great message to society that sometimes people, through the wonderful workings of G-d, can find it in their hearts to forgive people for their actions especially when it comes to a major misunderstanding like the one that cropped up between the missionaries and the tribe. (Though sometimes people can do things that only G-d can offer forgiveness for but that's for another day.) While I can only provide a narrow overview of the movie I can direct you to this wonderful review by columnist Cal Thomas. Though I'll let you read Thomas's whole review, he pretty much sums up the whole movie with the following paragraphs:
All films carry messages ("Brokeback Mountain" is not just a movie about cowboys). In recent years, with some notable exceptions, many of those messages have appealed to our lower nature. "End of the Spear" is not only a true story, but also a compelling one. For those, like me, who have longed to go to movies that are uplifting instead of bottom feeding, this is one of the best.

"End of the Spear" is the latest in a steadily growing number of films that are taking on culture on its own turf. Instead of cursing darkness, more independent producers are beginning to make good movies (do not confuse "good" in content with bad in execution) containing positive messages.

This is a story that is not only worth retelling, but is worth emulating. A liberal neighbor of mine has a sign in his yard that reads, "War is not the answer." We can debate that, but we can't debate reconciliation as the answer. It works, as this marvelous movie so beautifully and breathtakingly demonstrates.
I hope Hollywood is finally learning the people in the Heartland want to watch movies that provide a great story and not some quasi-political movie that tries to become the next protest or issue oriented movie. And people wonder why folks are drawn to the old black and white movies and the films from the "Golden Era" of films. I bet you'll remember those films and gems like "End of the Spear" (And a select few of the current era of film) a heck of a lot easier than some of the stuff that is being churned out of Tinsel Town today. My best advice is to go see the movie "End of the Spear" and see it for yourself.

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Getting the Armor Right

Fire of Liberty

Last week I was watching the various morning cable-news programs and came across the story about the new body-armor that the US will introduce to its soldiers in the coming months. Though I'm happy that we're giving our soldiers their much needed body armor, I was a little dismayed about the armor's bulkiness and restrictive nature of these new suits. While I looked at the subsequent pictures of the new suits I kept on thinking about how a soldier might be protected from a bullet and some explosions but if he had to get out of his Humvee really quick, run in tight spaces chasing a target/terrorist, or standing in the desert heat, he'd have a heck of a time doing it. (Just imagine the Stay-Puff or the Michelin Man jumping up, running, or reacting quickly, they just can't do it.) Let's hope the folks on the Pentagon's R&D team or some other research lab is working day and night to make more flexible, sleek as well as light weight body armor because the guys in the field need to have stuff that really works. We don't big and bulky things like this
In fact, there are several folks out there in the field in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as individuals who are well versed in the life of soldiers. One person I'd say that seems to have a good take on our body armor is TCS Daily's Ralph Kinney Bennett who has written a good piece that notes how in an effort to provide our soldiers with as much body armor as we can have has actually had a major impact on our soldiers mobility, stealthiness, fortitude, and general ability to fight due to its heaviness and bulky nature. I particularly like the following paragraphs by Bennett which takes the advice of several soldiers who are serving in Iraq and the general assessment of piling on more armor and how it hinders their ability to fight it out against the terrorists. Take a look:
"Our body armor is not perfect," notes Baghdad Guy, the blog name of an infantryman currently serving in Iraq. "“But overall it does a remarkable job of protecting soldiers, marines and airmen and everyone else who wears it."”

The real armor problem, as this soldier and many others have been pointing out, is weight and restriction of movement. The fast-moving firefights and ambushes in Iraq, the building-to-building combat, puts a premium on rapid movement and a soldier'’s ability to employ his weapons at every possible angle. Long patrols in intense heat when in "“happy gear" exacts huge physical penalties.

"“When I step out the gate,"” says Baghdad Guy, "“I am wearing on my person body armor, a Kevlar helmet, my M4 rifle with a few hundred rounds of ammunition, my M9 sidearm with another hundred rounds of ammunition, 2-3 quarts of water, a portable radio, night vision equipment, and numerous other odds and ends."”

He figures that "full combat load"” adds more than 40 pounds to his weight "“give or take a grenade."” But he's probably on the low side. Estimates at James Dunnigan'’s excellent show that troops, operating in temperatures that frequently reach over 100 degrees, carry as much as 100 pounds of extra weight while engaging in the rigors of combat in Iraq.

After about 10 pounds of clothing (goggles, kneepads etc.) and 24 pounds of armor (current vest with ceramic plates and Kevlar helmet) other items add up fast -- at least 20 pounds of ammo, 12 to 15 pounds for grenades, rifle, bayonet, flashlight.
We need more of this kind of info to reach the Pentagon and Capitol Hill before the start calling for more armor or doling out big a bulky body-armor that looks like an overstuffed snow parka. Let the soldiers tell you what the need and incorporate them in the design, you'll get a better input from the customer and a better product.

Monday, January 16, 2006

A Q&A with Hitch

Fire of Liberty

The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Bill Steigerwald has a good Q&A with Christopher Hitchens on the future of Iraq and the general War on Terror. I particularly like Hitchen's argument in the following passage:
Q: Has the cost to America in blood, treasure and diminished domestic liberties been worth it?

A: Well, I think in a way that's the wrong question. Again, it suggests that there was the alternative of not doing anything. But of course, doing it does not mean you have to listen to people's telephone conversations. But that is not a product of the war in Iraq, by the way. That's a product of Sept. 11. ... My view is this: If an al-Qaida member knows something, I want to know it too. ... The main point is that we are engaged in a just war -- on the right side.

Q: To be successful in the long run, what has to happen in Iraq? Will it only work if it's federalized?

A: I hope it's federal, not completely devolved. Obviously, what was in the front of everyone's mind when they did the constitution was we're never again going to have a centralized fascism as we had before, so all the emphasis is on devolution.

Q: When should U.S. forces start coming out?

A: When the insurgency has been convincingly, militarily defeated. The stakes here are fantastically high. If we can prove that in a really major country, in the heart of the Arab and Muslim world, that al-Qaida can be met on the battlefield openly and isolated and discredited and defeated and destroyed, that's a prize really well-worth having. These people are our enemies. I don't believe the president is right in saying we fight them there rather than here, because that is a false antithesis. But I think we should fight them everywhere -- and we have no choice in the matter. The crucial thing is to press on to victory and make absolutely certain that the defeat is a humiliating one for them. ... When that's done, I think we should turn over the country to the Iraqis. The art and science of it is to be doing both things at the same time, because the point is, it's the Iraqis who are the victims of these people, not us.
Thank goodness that Hitch is on our side.

Defending the Gates of Civilization

Fire of Liberty

Suzanne Fields of the Washington Times has an excellent column on how the we in the US need to make sure that we batten down the hatches and add some greater steel to our society to prevent the forces within and without from pulling us down much like other great civilizations that have fallen before us. I have to say that Mrs. Fields probably is one of the better defenders of our civilization and seems to show it with this wonderful passage:
"Civilizations," Toynbee reminded us, "die from suicide, not murder." We've been seduced by lavish social welfare spending, prey to the blandishments of secularism and multiculturalism, and undermined by low birth rates (abetted by abortion on demand) that threaten survival. All these things have contributed to making us soft and selfish, shifting our focus to the good life that will come to a bloody end in the tiger's supper dish. Mark Steyn, in a remarkably trenchant essay in The New Criterion magazine, calls this the suicide bomb in the belly of our civilization.

These are the unintended consequences of well-meaning liberal attitudinizing. We've given priority to the secondary impulse for a comfortable cradle-to-grave security over the really important things like national defense, the concerns of family, the strengths of faith and the need to reproduce ourselves as the guarantee of survival.

Secularism is a cherished principle if it means keeping the responsibilities of the state separate from the church's responsibility for nurturing the soul, but the term and the principle have been distorted to mean hostility to the faith that sustained and inspired the founding fathers. Multiculturalism is noble if it means respect for the immigrant cultures that came together to form America, but multiculturalism will be lethal to our civilization if it means we must regard all cultures as equally valuable, equally worthy of emulation. Such phony "tolerance" deprives us of self-preservation. The head-hunters of New Guinea no doubt have something to teach us, but we have no need of the skill for shrinking heads.
Let's just hope that a lot more people in this nation are taking these observations to heart and are willing and ready to man the barricades of "civilization" against the barbarians who are waiting on the other side to unleash darkness, chaos, and death on our society.

Hollywoodinization of Honest Abe

Fire of Liberty

William Bryk has a wonderful review in the New York Sun on "Lincoln," which is The History Channel's latest take on our 16th president. While I don't plan to see its premier tonight(I prefer the conclusion of the season premier of "24") I'm glad the Bryk cleared or pieced together some of broken facts and misnomers of Abraham Lincoln that the producers seemed to have failed to addressed when they put the series together. He's got a pretty good take on the History Channel's presentation look at Lincoln as some tragic, mentally-ill recluse who achieved greatness instead of as a great man of the 19th Century who fought tooth and nail to prevent the destruction of the United States and the eventual freedom of millions who had endured bondage for hundreds of years. Take a look:
Like nearly everything else the program bills as a major revelation, this is simply long known fact. But the program seems to celebrate Lincoln's depression, even to argue that his greatness stemmed from it, as if pandering to an audience of overmedicated West Siders addicted to psychoanalysis. Common sense tells us his genius had nothing to do with his depression. Illness might have tested his character. It did not make him a great man.

The talking heads tell us again and again that Lincoln was depressed, as though someone off camera had cautioned them to be sure and mention it in every sound bite.This emphasis is flawed, as is the prurient focus on Lincoln's sexual life. That Lincoln may have gone whoring as a young man - he would be neither the first nor last president to have paid for sex in the heat of youth, or even middle age - would shock only a dirty minded fundamentalist.The suggestion that Lincoln was "sexually confused" stems from a few things, most already well known.

Lincoln had a gift for emotional intimacy with men: He made friends and kept them. He lived with his best friend, Joshua Speed, for several years, and their letters candidly express deep affection and enjoyment of each other's company. But little in them bears a sexual interpretation. More laughable, perhaps, is the way the film dwells on Lincoln's frequently sharing beds with other men, a custom shared by most 19th-century American men who had to travel.

Nearly any visiting European journalist wrote articles or memoirs reciting the appalling discomforts of the practice,which had everything to do with having a place to sleep and nothing to do with sex. One of the film's commentators dwells at some length on second-hand hearsay that Lincoln had been seen in bed with a Pennsylvania militia captain stationed at the Washington Soldiers' Home, which the president frequently visited to escape the heat of a Washington summer.None of this is shocking or even particularly interesting, save as it reflects on 21stcentury audiences. As one commentator suggests, where we think of sex first, Lincoln's contemporaries thought of it last.
Maybe instead of watching the History Channel's presentation of "Lincoln," folks would get some better insight on Abraham Lincoln if they just picked up Benjamin Thomas's Abraham Lincoln: A Biography, David Herbert Donald's Lincoln, Allen C. Guelzo's Abraham Lincoln: Redeemer President, Harold Holzer's Lincoln at Cooper Union or even Harry V. Jaffa's Crisis of the House Divided or A New Birth of Freedom. I'll take these sources over the History Channel any day.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Those Quirky Gases

Fire of Liberty
Robert Matthews a visiting reader(I'd say he's a research fellow who teaches) of Aston University in Birmingham, England has a wonderful piece in today's Financial Times that reveals current research in the journal Nature that shows that earth's living trees and plants are producing some 10 to 30 percent of this gas in our atmosphere which probably has a greater impact on global warming than the villainous "Carbon Dioxide" is presented by the Kyoto Protocol folks. What I find interesting is that the Matthews is acting like a real scientist who uses his ability to reason and seek out the full cause of global warming instead of screeching like a fanatic and scaring off the regular folks that the green lobby seems to do on an occasion. I care for the environment as much as anyone else does but find it refreshing to find folks like Matthews:
There is no longer any serious debate about the reality of global warming. Some may still quibble about its causes, but the focus is on what nations should do to ameliorate the effects of climate change. And this is precisely what makes the new research so disturbing. For how could so basic a source of global warming have gone undetected until now?

In fact, evidence pointing to huge holes in the science of atmospheric methane has been circulating for years. In 1998, Nature carried a study showing global increases in methane were mysteriously levelling off. Now it seems that deforestation - that bête noire of the environmentalist movement - may have helped combat the rise of this greenhouse gas. While no one is suggesting chopping down the world's trees to save the planet, the new research highlights the astonishing complexity of environmental science. Measures to combat climate change that once seemed simple common sense are turning out to be anything but.

Everyone knows fossil fuel power stations are hefty producers of CO2 and need urgently to be replaced. Yet they are now also recognised as hefty producers of aerosols - tiny particles in the atmosphere that play a key role in reflecting the sun's heat back into space. The scientific consensus was that this is a minor benefit of fossil fuel burning. But last month Nature published new research showing aerosols may be twice as effective at keeping the earth cool as was thought. Suddenly, wholesale closure of power stations no longer seems such a good idea.

Even so, it surely makes sense to use renewable sources of energy whenever possible. Well, up to a point: new research suggests hydroelectric schemes can be worse than useless in reducing greenhouse gas emissions. A study by the National Institute for Research in the Amazon in the current issue of the journal Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change shows that the vast lakes used to feed hydroelectric turbines are a rich source of rotting vegetation - and thus methane. One such scheme in Brazil is now believed to have emitted more than three times as much greenhouse gas as would have been produced by generating electricity by burning oil.

Climate scientists would have us believe there is no doubt about the basics of global warming and the time for action is now. The recent spate of large revisions of the facts tells a different story. Yet politicians are still being pressed to do the impossible: modify the huge, chaotic system that is the earth's climate in ways guaranteed to be beneficial for all.
I'd say that maybe the folks in our government and in the other industrialized nations should seek scientists like Matthews, Bjorn Lomborg, and Michael Fumento with regards to combating global warming instead of jumping into the hot frying pan like Europe and parts of Asia did by signing up on Kyoto. Aside from fighting war, keeping order in the streets and printing money, politicians and government don't seem to create good solutions to our problems. (If your a cynic you'd say they do a darn good job in spending lots of our money). So let's get back to basics and let the scientists study the problem more before we do something stupid that will cost us more in the long run. So thank you Robert Matthews for laying this before the dinner table.

Big Ted's Dagnabit Moment

Fire of Liberty

Throughout the whole week I've immersed myself into the choppy waters of the confirmation hearing for Judge Samuel Alito to replace Sandra Day O'Connor and discovered that lawyers are boring and that a lot of our Senators are pure blowhards who like to hear themselves talk. Another thing that bothered me more about the hearing was how horrible and disrespectful these Senators were to Judge Alito and his family. It's a downright shame that individuals like Sens. Schumer and Kennedy forced Mrs. Alito to become emotionally distraught and leave the hearing due to the bombardment of her husband by such Liberal lions who making accusations that Judge Alito is closet racist/sexist because of a guilt by association (I still don't understand how you can hold someone responsible for obscure letters or articles to CAP's magazine Prospect - I could understand if Alito's name was on the masthead, editorial board or a contributor to the magazine but it isn't so the red banner being waved on Alito on this point is no good.), that he lacks integrity, can't make his own decisions, or is controlled by others and their money. Now it's understandable to keep up a strong line of questioning for a future Supreme Court Justice but sometimes the Senators need to make sure they check out their own closet before they start heaping charges of conflicts of interest against judges like Samuel Alito. Thankfully, the British magazine the Economist (They're not known to be a friend of President Bush or conservatives in general) has a good piece showing a fair look a Judge Alito and also provides a little sunshine on Senator Ted Kennedy's inability to keep others money and influence out of his pockets. I'll let you read the whole piece here but here's the good part on Kennedy's concerns about Judge Alito's ethics:
TED KENNEDY is deeply troubled by the ethics of the Supreme Court nominee. Between 2001 and 2006, Samuel Alito, who is currently an appeals court judge, accepted $7,684,423 in "“donations"” from special interests who perhaps wanted the law tweaked in their favour. That included $28,000 from defence contractors, $42,200 from drug firms and a whopping $745,373 from lawyers and law firms.

No, wait. Those are Senator Kennedy's conflicts of interest—or, rather, a brief excerpt from a long list compiled by the Centre for Responsive Politics. The lapse for which the senator berated Mr Alito was considerably less clear-cut.
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To avoid conflicts of interest, Judge Alito invests most of his savings in mutual funds, rather than individual firms that might appear before him. He does it through an investment company called Vanguard. Though no rule required this, he promised, when nominated to the appeals court in 1990, that he would disqualify himself from cases involving Vanguard. Twelve years later, such a case came up, but he forgot to recuse himself. When he realised his mistake, he recused himself from a fresh appeal. No one claims that he stood to benefit from his judgment.
I guess that is a complete splashdown on Senator Kennedy's attempted borking of Judge Alito but I can assure you that this story or facts will not make any daylight on ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, NPR, Air America or MSNBC but then again the love Teddy K. So go check it out and learn some interesting things.

I'd also note that I enjoyed Judge Alito's performance under such pressure and his devotion towards the law and looking at every facet of a case before issuing his decision. It really make you proud to have judges and justices with such temperments being elevated to such posts. So here's wishing for a quick committee vote and a straight up and down vote in the Senate so Justice O'Connor can retire and take care of her ailing husband and the SCOTUS becomes whole again.

Hat Tip: Professor Bainbridge

Friday, January 06, 2006

US Economy More Dynamic

Fire of Liberty
It seems the U.S. economy is more dynamic than I previously reported. Take a look at what Bloomberg reported on the latest numbers released by the Labor Department:
The U.S. economy added 108,000 jobs in December, capping the second straight year American employers added more than 2 million workers, a government report showed.

The unemployment rate fell to 4.9 percent from 5 percent and labor costs rose, the Labor Department said today in Washington. The December gain followed figures showing 71,000 more jobs than first reported for November and October.

The U.S. added jobs each month in 2005, overcoming a barrage of hurricanes and surging energy prices. President George W. Bush, whose approval ratings sank last year, is pointing to the resilience to build support for his policies. Business spending and job growth may sustain the economy in 2006 as higher interest rates slow the housing market, economists said.
If this is bad in the eyes of the Dems can you imagine what they consider a disaster. So keep up the good work Mr. President or should I say keep on freeing up the economy to do its own thing.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

An Awesome and Dynamic Economy

Fire of Liberty

The US Unemployment rate has hit a five year low and keeps on humming along showing how dynamic our economy really is. And the Democrats across the aisle keep on calling this one of the worst economies they've experienced, maybe they need to read more.

No Stinking Playoffs in DIV I-A Football

Fire of Liberty

If your like me and enjoy college football and want to preserve the pageantry and traditions of the fall classic then your probably in agreement that you prefer the good ole' bowl game and all the quirks of the BCS than some newly created playoff system. Well, I finally found a piece over at National Review Online by John Tamney that pretty much surmises the reason why I feel that the introduction why the playoff system in Division IA college football is a very bad idea. Here's a look at Tamney's great argument:
Saraceno described as "“perfect"” the Indianapolis Colts'’ first loss of the season, which occurred on December 18. Already in possession of home-field advantage throughout the postseason, the Colts could now coast though the season'’s final three games minus the added pressure of completing an undefeated campaign. Just as there were no consequences when the New England Patriots lost in late-season to the hapless Miami Dolphins in 2004, the Colts'’ loss to the San Diego Chargers was meaningless in light of the NFL'’s postseason structure.

Indeed, for all of the excitement they bring, the playoffs mean that NFL teams don'’t have to always be perfect— and it'’s the fans who suffer. Each December, NFL fans frequently endure meaningless games played by the league'’s best teams, while the worst teams seemingly tank games with better draft positions in mind. (You may have heard of the "“Reggie-Bowl"” in recent weeks.)

Conversely, in college football'’s system of rankings and bowls, teams must strive for perfection every single week. There is nothing "“perfect"” about a loss in college football, because a loss can mean the difference between a January bowl in Miami in prime time or a December date in El Paso.

Importantly, the existence of bowls in Detroit, Boise, and Memphis means that college teams not playing for number one still have something to play for. Far from diluting the regular college-football season, the 56 bowl spots mean that all Division I teams are playing for recruits and future rankings right through December. The recent bowl wins by Nebraska, Oklahoma, and LSU over Michigan, Oregon, and Miami respectively gives each a momentum boost going into 2006. Under an eight-team playoff, all three would have seen their seasons end in December.

Returning to Indianapolis'’ December 18 loss, Saraceno correctly deduced that with a perfect record no longer possible, the Colts could "“rest their starters as soon as feasible and gear up for the playoffs." Sadly, what Saraceno suggested occurs all too often within a system that does not demand perfection on a weekly basis. Fans are once again the losers as evidenced by all the playing time Bradlee Van Pelt, Matt Cassel, and Jim Sorgi received last weekend in place of Jake Plummer, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning.

College football'’s incentive structure is very different, and with every game a "must-win," the best players are always on the field until a game'’s outcome is no longer in doubt.
Well done. I'd say that more bowl seasons like the one we just concluded is far more welcomed that sub-par playoffs.

Something to Ponder

Fire of Liberty

Ralph Peters has a good piece in Wednesday's USA Today that lays out an interesting look at how the US has got to get a hand on how to handle if not stop the Islamic terrorists with their "poor man's nuke", the suicide bomber, which threatens the everday life of our soldiers and will evenually find their way to our shores. Here's a sneak preview:

Suicide bombers are recruited from the ranks of troubled souls, from those who find mundane reality overwhelming and terrifying. The suicide bomber longs for release from the insecurities of his daily experience. He is fleeing from life every bit as much as he's rushing toward paradise. He dreads women, sin and doubt.

Hypnotized by faith and excited to ecstasy, he can walk into a children's clinic and press a detonator. No heart-rending child's face will stop him. His god will forgive the innocent. Nothing matters but the divine will as interpreted by the masters of terror — the most brilliant psychologists of our time.

We have faced enemies more dangerous, but none so implacable.

The world's great strategic struggle of this century is between those who believe in a generous, loving god — in any religion — and those who serve a punitive, merciless deity.

The suicide bomber has chosen his side.

Venezuela's Road to Serfdom

Fire of Liberty

Here's further proof of why Hugo Chavez's Marxist style revolution in Venezuela is bound to end in a failure much like that of the Soviet Union. The folks of Venezuela are venturing down their own "Highway to Hell" especially after the most recent shortfall of goods in the stores after the government initiated its horrific price controls on various staples like coffee, sugar, and beans thus leaving "the people" to go without because Comrade Chavez thinks he knows better. Just look at what the Financial Times had to say about Chavez's most recent escapade in socialist economics:
President Hugo Chávez introduced caps on the prices of basic goods three years ago, in theory to ensure lower costs for the poor. But while prices have since been lifted periodically to offset rising output costs, suppliers say the increases have been too slow. In some cases, production costs exceed the official price.

Coffee processors, for example, buy beans at 6,200 bolívars per kilogramme, equivalent to $2.48 (€2, £1.50), while roasting and packaging costs raise the cost to 7,440 bolívars. The government is preparing an official retail price of 7,400 bolívars.

Gaetano Minuta, head of the Mérida coffee producers’ association, said that the new official price for coffee would lead not only to financial losses but possibly to the loss of this year’s harvest.

“There are more than 30,000 tonnes of beans in the coffee-producing zone that are on the brink of being lost because of the government’s refusal to allow us to live in dignity,’’ he told local media. In an effort to shift some supplies to market, National Guardsmen on Wednesday began raiding private coffee warehouses near Caracas.

Samuel Ruh, head of the consumer protection agency, said 300 tonnes of seized coffee would be distributed through Mercal, the government-run retail chain. Supplies of powdered milk and chicken have also become scarce.

Economists have long predicted that price controls would lead to shortages of controlled goods and foster a black market for some products.

Since the imposition of foreign exchange controls, a black market has blossomed in which the “parallel’’ dollar sells at about 2,500 bolívars, a premium of almost 20 per cent over the official rate of 2,150 bolívars.
One day these folks who want to keep the price of goods down would stop imposing the heavy hand of the government and just make way for the markets. Now I know this is my rudimentary economics but if you let markets take their course, then people going to the stores will have a greater impact on how many goods are available and the level of the good's prices. With an active market economy with a broad selection of goods to choose between the folks going to the will either buy less of this or that good because they deem it too expensive or will simply seek out an alternative good that serves the same purpose but with a quasi "command economy" like the one being imposed by Chavez will only stifle competition between various companies because they are forced to charge a set rate that ignores how much the company put into the product to get it to the market.

Hopefully this recent incident will spark the people in the streets of Caracas and throughout Venezeula to realize that Chavez's forays into economics are leading them down a path of ruin. I hope this will be the start of the end of El Jefe II maniacal rule but then again he'll probably find a way to blame it on the US and wiggle away from the clutches of "the people" once again but his luck running near empty.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Tories Attacking Willy Wonka

Fire of Liberty

Well it seems that David Cameron, leader of the UK's Conservative Party, has decided to attack candy manufactures because they offer candy at lower prices while failing to promote healthy products. It's all well and good to advocate healthy lifestyles and products if you want to but for goodness gracious don't attack a candy company because they make fattening candy. I don't know if Cameron realizes this but he should know that conservatives of all stripes believe in self-restraint or the tempering of all things that we partake in and if your not old enough to discern what's good for you then you should have parents responsible enough to say "no," every once in a while. While the Tories are clinging heavily to various polls to find out what issues are hot with the folks who they want to pick off from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, they are also selling out the base of the Conservative party and will find themselves lost in the wilderness for many more years to come. When your party gets devoid of some concrete ideas or even a guiding philosophy you'll continue to reach for straws to get the votes. The Tories need to remember that Margaret Thatcher or Tony Blair didn't win their long tenures as PM because they put their fingers in the wind and ran on what was polling good but because they offered ideas and a direction for the UK to follow. Cameron needs to return to tackling the problems of crime, education, immigration, housing, and a number of other problems that the Labourites have failed to address for some 10 years and shy away from the media driven, please everyone campaign that pleases the likes of health crusaders like Jamie Oliver (The Naked Chef). The UK Conservative party needs some life breathed into it and not the re-tread of Labour's tired ideas.

End of the Vacation at Gitmo

Fire of Liberty

It looks like the folks who've been calling for the closure of Gitmo are going to have some second thoughts when the "vacationers" are moved from their island paradise and returned to the heavenly confines of an Afghan prison. Well I guess they forgot those countless times when their mom warned them to being careful for what they wished for or it my come true. For me I could care less where they're housed as long as these terrorists and enemy combatants are behind bars and unable to do their bloody work. I'd say that the American public shares those same sentiments.

Get Well Arik

Fire of Liberty

My prayers go out to the good health of Israeli PM Ariel Sharon who endured yet another stroke today. I might not agree with his withdrawal from Likud to form a new party or his most recent actions in pulling folks out of Gaza but when you really think about it, Ariel Sharon has done more in the last four years to remove the scourge of terrorism and protect the state of Israel than what any other Israeli PM in recent memory has done. (Now I'll add Ben Gurion, Golda Mier, Began, Rabin and Natanyahu to this list but ya know what I mean). I just hope he recovers real soon so that he can at least return to his beloved Sycamore Ranch to rest up for the upcoming elections this spring. So get well Arik, Israel still needs you at the helm.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Make that Change

Fire of Liberty

Here's a good piece by David Frum in the National Post on the latest happenings in Canada. According to Frum, our neighbor to the North is experiencing an uptick in homicides and the current government has decided to blame the US for this upsurge of criminal activity but Frum aptly points out that Canada's Liberal led government is derelict in fighting crime while the US has been reducing crime. Luckily Frum has the facts on his side and pretty much lays waste to the Liberals claims when he notes the following:
1) America's crime problem has dramatically improved, while Canada's is becoming seriously worse. Toronto's 78 homicides in 2005 appears to compare favorably to the homicide totals of the three American cities cited by the Star. But those 78 Toronto homicides in 2005 represent a 28% increase over the 61 homicides recorded in Toronto in 1995. Meanwhile, the three U.S. cities cited by the Star each achieved dramatic decreases over the past decade: Chicago down 46% from 823, Washington down 46% from 365, Baltimore down 17% from 322.

More broadly: Canada's overall crime rate is now 50% higher than the crime rate in the United States. Read that again slowly--it seems incredible, but it's true. It's true too that you are now more likely to be mugged in Toronto than in New York City.

2) America's crime problem is becoming concentrated in ever fewer places, while Canada's is spreading out to ever more places.

The United States is a huge country, and it will always be possible to find a jurisdiction with shocking crime numbers. The overwhelming majority of Americans, however, live in places that are becoming steadily safer. Since the early 1990s, crime rates have dropped in 48 of the 50 states and 80% of American cities. Over that same period, crime rates have risen in six of the 10 Canadian provinces and in seven of Canada's 10 biggest cities.

3) While American cities and states are adopting anti-crime policies proved to work, Canadian cities and provinces are adopting policies proved to fail.

Over a decade of successful crime-fighting in the U.S., criminologists and police departments have learned some important lessons.

Bluntly: prison works. Criminals do not commit crimes while they are held in prison. Yet a Canadian criminal is 80% less likely to go to jail than his American counterpart.
You know a it's rather sad that a party that has mismanaged the domestic affairs of Canada like the Liberals have, is so willing to place the blame on another country instead of themselves. The Liberals might think they can put up this "pay no attention to the man behind the curtain" smoke-screen up for this election cycle but the folks of Canada can look out their windows and read Frum's piece and know that this rise in crime is not attributed to their neighbor to the south. I'd say that this latest tactic is the straw that breaks the camel's back and will most definitely push a lot of people in Canada to pull the lever for Stephen Harper and his fellow Conservatives rather than Martin and the tanking Liberal party in the upcoming election. Now I'd prefer an Canadian styled Paul Kersey ("Death Wish") to emerge and start blasting away the thugs who mug, rape, or murder the folks in Toronto or the other great cities of Canada and cause the people of Canada to rise up and do a national push-back on crime but being its Canada, I think the folks of Canada and their American well-wishers will be satisfied to call Stephen Harper their new PM. So go Harper and take Canada back for the folks.

Walking in the Footprints of Giants

Fire of Liberty

While Nancy Pelosi and a large sub-section of fellow Democrats in the House of Representatives are slowly driving their party closer and closer towards the edge of a great cliff on their stances on national security and foreign affairs, there are some Democrats who take principle over politics. One individual that has impressed me with this stance is US Representative Jim Marshall of Georgia. Aside from his principled stand behind our troops and our mission in Iraq, he has also gone against Pelosi by speaking out on extending the Patriot Act because as he notes in this article, "it's a useful tool in the nation's war against terrorism." As one of Rep. Marshall's constituents, I'm very proud to have a Democrat in the mold of the great Carl Vinson Rep. - D- GA(Srv. fifty years from 1914-1965) and Sen. Sam Nunn -D-GA (1972-1996) serving as my representative. You'd think the Democratic party would get the drift that maybe they're losing touch with the American people when it comes to fighting terrorism and defending this nation. I just hope more level-headed Congressmen like Jim Marshall and Steny Hoyer take a stronger stand in the Democratic party before they become lost in the "wilderness" like the GOP did from 1954-1994. I don't know about you but I prefer a government with a ruling party and it's respective opposition. So carry on and keep up the good fight Rep. Marshall.