Saturday, January 24, 2004

The bench-warming U.N.
Check out this story about Dick Cheney's speech in Davos, Switzerland, particularly this paragraph (emphasis mine):
Cheney's call for democratic reform in the Middle East comes as America is seeking help from the United Nations - the international body it sidelined in its decision to invade Iraq - in achieving a transfer of power to the Iraqis.
Huh? Wha? We all know the U.N. was asked to play, yet they chose to ride the bench. Who writes these things? Nancy Pellosi?
The Big Birthday Weekend
My son turns eight years old tomorrow, so the whole family is coming over today to celebrate. We moved to the Joplin, MO area in August, and although my parents have visited us a few times, this will be the first time my grandmother will see the new house. We have to make it a weekend event because the family has a four-hour drive just to get here, so naturally it's unreasonable to make it a day trip.

My father is Mr. Handy, and I'm not, so he's agreed to help me build shelves for the garage while he's here. Then we have reservations at one of the finer restaurants in town for all us tonight, and tomorrow the family will head back home and we'll have the roller skating party for my son and his friends. It should be a fun weekend, even with the shelf-building.

Friday, January 23, 2004

Lan = Aragorn
I started reading New Spring, the new Wheel of Time novel from Robert Jordan, last night and I realized something I should have realized a long time ago: Lan Mandragoran is modeled after Aragorn from the Lord of the Rings. I think they're too similar not to be. Both could be king but choose not to be, both wield an ancient magical sword, both are untouchable in battle and both, for a time at least, are unable or unwilling to be with the women they love.

I hadn't heard this comparison before, but I see I'm not the only one who thinks the same thing. This page draws all sorts of similarities between TWOT and LOTR. Just thought it was interesting.

As for New Spring, I only just started it and am only 50 or so pages in. So far, so good, but I'll reserve judgment until the end. For the most part, I haven't been too thrilled with the last three or four volumes in TWOT, yet I keep on reading them. I've got too much time invested in it to give up now.
It's getting better all the time
Victor Davis Hanson spreads the good news, and good news it is. The United States is more secure, Iraq is better off than it was under Saddam Hussein, other Arab dictatorships are beginning to understands the implications, and our economy is roaring.

It'll be interesting to see how Ariel Sharon's bribery scandal will affect the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, if he will be forced to resign and the new leader will have a different set of priorities. My overall impression is that Sharon's leadership has been good for Israel's security, so I'm wary of what could happen should he step down.

Speaking of which, I just finished reading The Holy Land by Robert Zubrin, which is a sci-fi satire on the Israeli situation. It makes it clear how simultaneously silly (that is, silly how they must conform to a different set of rules) and tragic Israel's plight can be. One thing I didn't like about the book is the way the Minervans (the Israelis of this story) look upon earthlings as being sub-human and little more than lab rats. Is that really the way Zubrin thinks Jews look upon everyone else? It certainly made it harder for me to empathize with them.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Bricker bracker firecracker sis boom bah!
I like James Taranto and look forward to reading his Best of the Web every day, but I have to say his defense for using the phrase "The al Qaeda Cheering Section" when referring to Democrats is lame. It's a child's argument, a complete avoidance of context. I cannot believe Taranto seriously thinks the Democrats root for al Qaeda over their own countrymen. As if, had President Bush had said something like, "Some al Qaeda terrorists are still bombing our convoys", the Democrats would have stood as one and given a Dean-esque "YYYYEEEEEAAAAAAHHHHH!"

Those that applauded the Patriot Act's demise did so because they think it's a bad piece of legislation that infringes upon the liberties of American citizens, not because it helps the fight against terrorism. For Taranto to pretend otherwise, he has had to play dumb, and that's just how he appears. Disappointing.
Libertarianism v. Conservatism
The ever-posting InstaPundit links to a quick comparison of conservatives and libertarians. All the high-falutin' talk about "competing lifestyles" and "value-laden vision" leaves me a bit cold, so I'll attempt to make it simpler.

Libertarians and conservatives share a level of distrust of government, but in Libertarians that lack of trust runs much deeper and broader. Also, the conservative's distrust only runs in certain applications - rejecting government intrusion in some areas and asking for it in others. For example, the stereotypical conservative would call for getting the government out of regulating health care and business, yet at the same time would call for a Constitutional amendment to "protect the sanctity of marriage". The typical libertarian would simply say the government has no business in controlling any of this and should get out of the way completely. Conservatives believe the government can be an instrument for protecting their morality, a defender of tradition and Judeo-Christian values. Libertarians believe in a free society such things must be left to the people themselves.

What troubles me is that many conservatives, certainly the President and many Congressman, practice a brand of conservatism that's practically indistinguishable from liberalism (that is, liberalism in its current definition). Both parties believe in the welfare state, but conservatives don't want to spend quite as much money on it. Both parties reject genuinely free markets, only the conservatives not as openly. And so on. The current strain of conservatism is a sign of a massive slide to the left.

President Bush and his ilk are not conservatives in the classic sense, and are certainly not Libertarian - not even close. A libertarian friend of mine, after the recent State of the Union address, told me, "See, they're all socialists". I'm afraid I have to agree.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Onward and upward
By now, it's old news that President Bush wants to establish a permanent base on the moon and send astronauts to Mars. I initially thought that this all sounded fine, but if the missions were of a purely scientific nature, wouldn't it be better done by the private sector? I envision a ship stickered over like its racing the Nascar circuit, tributes to the many corporations that gladly helped finance the excursion. I'm certain both projects can be financed like this, so why should the government bother?

If our military has valid reasons to have a presence in space, then so be it - I'm not against placing ourselves in a position of strength (see The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress). But otherwise, space travel should be opened for and left to the private sector. Then we'll see the most innovation, the best results and the most success.

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

To sum up...
Overall, I thought it was a decent speech. I thought it was great that the President listed off all (okay, most) of the countries helping us in Iraq, that he was interrupted by applause, and then he finished the list after the crowd quieted down. And then Nancy Pellosi, in the Democrats' response, had the gall to say this was not a "true" international coalition. Priceless.

Best line: "For diplomacy to be effective, words must be credible -- and no one can now doubt the word of America."

It's the domestic agenda I don't like. Illegal immigrants should be deported, not rewarded for breaking the law with a job. Gays should be able to marry just like anybody else. And again, steroids? The only thing that keeps me supporting President Bush is his commitment to our security. If not for that, I would be looking for an alternative.
Don't get too excited
President Bush just conveyed a message from a ten-year-old girl to the military saying she supports them. Everyone stood and applauded, and the camera turned to the three soldiers in the audience that were on the cover of Time Magazine's Person of the Year issue. They stood up, but didn't look to enthused. One of the soldiers barely bothered to put his hands together and began to yawn as the camera cut away. Thanks anyway.
Steroids?
I can't believe President Bush is bothering to talk about steroid use in sports. Is this the stuff of a State of the Union address? Why does he even care?
The economy is doing well, be happy
I'm currently watching the State of the Union address. President Bush just listed a bunch of indicators showing that the economy is doing well, and while he got a standing ovation from the Republican side of the chamber, not only did none of the Democrats stand, it looked to me that none of them applauded at all. Are they so opposed to President Bush that they cannot celebrate news that is good for everyone? How ridiculous.