Friday, March 19, 2004

Repeatability
I was asked recently if I believe in telepathy, so this seems apropos.
Stop Abusing the Children
One of the most overused, overblown "arguments" in public policy has to be that some group wants to enact a social policy "for the children." The unspoken subtext is that anyone who argues against the proposition is de facto anti-children. "What, you oppose my proposal to raise taxes on Twinkies? Then you have no concern for the safety of children." Ayn Rand referred to this sort of moral blackmail as the Argument from Intimidation.

Well, in the spirit of liberal overzealousness, some city council has banned smoking in public because of the children.
"Port Orange council members said the smoking ban is to protect kids from second-hand smoke and to prevent them from starting in the first place."
It's simple: Some council members don't like having to breathe in cigarette smoke when hanging out in a park, but they couldn't justify their desire to pass a law banning a legal activity on pure personal displeasure alone, so they invoked the hobgoblin of child safety.

I'm all for keeping kids safe and healthy, but if the only argument you have to defend your position is some tangential reference to children, then your argument is hollow, and your position silly and pathetic. Only policies that are specifically about children, like child abuse, child sex-trafficking, etc., should refer to children's safety as a defense. Otherwise, it's a cop-out for a bankrupt idea.

Look, there are a lot of things in life that kids shouldn't be doing: Imbibing in alcohol, having sex, getting married, smoking, driving cars and getting their real estate licenses. These are adult activities. Should we ban them all because kids shouldn't be doing them? That's ridiculous.

In fairness, liberals aren't the only ones who do that. I used to have respect for Bill O'Reilly until I saw him defend current U.S. drug enforcement policy because he thought kids shouldn't have access to one more intoxicant. That was his argument, and it's completely devoid of content. The guy from the pro-marijuana legalization group looked at him like O'Reilly was the one smoking pot.

Stop invoking children for every stupid pet policy, for the sake of the children.
Admiral Deflooptypoo Speaks
One of my favorite recurring sketches on SNL these days is Hardball. Darrell Hammond does a great Chris Matthews. Fans of the show, especially fans of Christopher Walken, will remember one in particular, where Walken plays French foreign minister Dominique de Villepin. The title above was how Hammond referred to him after one exchange.

Well, the Admiral has spoken out about world terrorism. Seems he believes that the world is more dangerous now that Saddam is out of power.
"We have to look reality in the face: we have entered into a more dangerous and unstable world, which requires the mobilization of the entire international community," de Villepin said.

Assertions by the administration of President Bush that ousting Saddam would make the world a safer place proved not to be true, de Villepin said.

"Terrorism didn't exist in Iraq before," de Villepin said. "Today, it is one of the world's principal sources of world terrorism."
What a loon.

Did he forget about the terrorist training camps, the aircraft shells that were being used for airliner take-over training, the fact that known terrorist leaders were living on Saddam's largess, etc?

The only thing I can think of? Hammond's comment to Walken at the end of the skit: "That's tough talk for a country whose greatest contribution to world culture in the last 50 years is Gérard Depardieu and that amorous skunk."
Rhea County backs down
Rhea County commissioners voted unanimously to retract their call to ban homosexuals. It looks to me that they still would prefer to kick them out, but that darn Constitution got in the way:
Fritts said he advised the commissioners they cannot ban homosexuals or make them subject to criminal charges. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 struck down Texas' sodomy laws as a violation of adults' privacy.
Oh, well. Maybe they can change the text of the gay marriage amendment to ban homosexuality outright.
Discomfort
Here's a theory on why many people feel uncomfortable talking about root ideas, even when they feel passionate about them: they don't want to hurt anyone's feelings. At least I know that I make the effort to choose my words carefully when talking about such things because I don't want to make personal attacks, intentionally or not. But when you're talking about and challenging such fundamental ideas as religion, it can be difficult to make a critique or say "I disagree" without making offense. To many people, their religion is part of their identity, and they don't want to be challenged on that level.

Now, some are more capable of handling such discussions than others. You and I, Rodney, can talk about these things without offending each other, but I've had conversations with others where it was clear that just isn't a topic we should broach. Instead we play nice, and some things are left unsaid for civility's sake.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

A Conflict of Visions
Our discussion club tonight was unusually lively. In one discussion, our speaker let us all know that he was an agnostic, and began reminiscing about a conversation he had had with Milton Friedman long ago. It seems that Dr. Friedman had convinced our speaker, who had professed to be an atheist at the time, that he couldn't possibly be an atheist. Instead, Friedman said, "you are an agnostic, because you can't prove God doesn't exist. Truly you can't know."

(Fast Forward to the future) At this point in our conversation, one of our more outspoken members, John, vigorously exclaimed, "All atheists are ingrates and mean towards other people and don't care about anyone else but themselves!" The room seemed to fall into an uncomfortable silence. It couldn't have lasted more than a few microseconds, before this fire lit up inside me and I responded with equal vigor.

"That statement is absolutely untrue. I happen to know several atheists. In fact one of them is in this room and I know for a fact that he is kind and believes in general that people are good and look out for each other. I've never heard him say unkind things towards anyone."

It seems at this point, our bigoted friend began invoking the name of God and God's law to condemn the "evil" atheists. "God hates them!"

Well, the blowtorch was lit and I turned the light on him. "That statement is completely false! God is a God of love - not hatred - not anger - not vengeance - but LOVE! And as a God of love, he doesn't care if one of his children believes in him or not. It truly doesn't matter to him and nothing that you can say will change his love in the least."

I know that I said more in this exchange, but the main points were made. It would have been really easy to ignore his thoughtless comments. Everyone could have hemmed and haa-ed until someone changed the subject. There really wasn't any personal attack here mind you. Both of us were equally passionate about an idea. You see, John didn't realize it, but in saying what he did about atheists, what he was really saying was this: God is a God of hate. This was the underlying and fundamental idea. So how should one challenge a false idea? What else could I do but to affirm what I knew to be the truth?

Now fortunately, this was at a dinner table with fifteen other people present. Others in the room may have felt really uncomfortable at the exchange, so the subject was quickly changed. It's funny how people have difficulty talking about religion or politics. When root ideas start to become apparent and are in conflict, people are at their highest level of discomfort.

This is the way it is with human nature. It's a paradox. Sometimes our nature expresses virtue, sometime vice. This is what makes us "human," as you say. Sure David, I agree with you that we have the capacity for good. But at times, there is also apparent vice. I saw both tonight.

What I would like to leave with you is this - you've heard me say this before - everything that we see or hear in this world and in this place represent ideas. Everything. And nothing is as it seems.

The conflict that we see in this world is nothing more than a conflict of ideas. At it's root, the discussion I mentioned above involved a conflict in the conception of God. It expressed itself, however, as an expression of bigotry and counterattack. It may have appeared to the meek that these were personal attacks. Neither of us were attacking anyone, however. It's just a conflict of ideas.

PS - there is one other possibility I neglected to mention. It could have been that John, in expressing his anger towards the "evil atheists," was expressing a profound and deep rooted fear. You see, he might actually be afraid that God doesn't love him and can't love him because of his human flaws. Nevertheless, my response hit this idea on two fronts. In responding to the original "sin," I affirmed that indeed God is a God of love. In responding to the second - his fear of the loss of love - I affirmed that it didn't matter what he or anyone else may think: God loves us anyway, regardless.
Ah, McCain
If I was conspiracy-minded, I would say that this is a sign that John McCain will switch parties and become Kerry's running mate, but I'm not, so I won't.
It's all Elrond's fault
I'm watch Fellowship of the Ring with my son right now, and Elrond just got done telling his story to Gandalf about how he led Isildur to Mount Doom to cast the One Ring into the fire, but Isildur refused and walked away. I say Elrond should have killed Isildur and threw the Ring in himself. Elrond faltered as much as Isildur did. I guess the point was that Elrond was such a nice guy, he wouldn't dare do such a thing (my son just said as he's reading over my shoulder, "It was to keep the movie going" - indeed).
Thank you
Rodney and I belong to a discussion group of about 20 people or so that meets once a month to talk about stuff, usually politics or whatever's going on in the world. I'm the newcomer to the group, having attended only five or six times, but it didn't take long before I understood that some of the most out-spoken members are right-wing religious Republican types (not that there's anything wrong with that). As far as I can tell, I'm the only atheist in the group, and judging by the strong opinions I've heard from some of the other members, I doubt it would go well if they knew that. I don't like conflict, particularly when it's aimed at me, so I've been keeping my mouth shut when the discussion turns to religion. Yes, I suppose that's cowardly, but what can I say? I don't need that kind of stress. You may think I'm not giving the group members enough credit, but then you haven't heard what's been said about the irreligious.

So, tonight, one of the members declared, essentially, that all atheists are scum. I let it pass as usual, but Rodney spoke up in my defense, saying some very kind things about me while being careful not to use my name (though I suppose some there probably guessed who he was talking about). I want to give Rodney a public thank you. Thank you for defending me, and thank you for not agreeing that I'm scum. You didn't have to do that.
A Ray of Sunshine
Here's something to be happy about.
At Least You Didn't Feel My Pain
Yes, it's heartening to know that President Bush has a spine and moral clarity. It's also heartening to know that the noose is really tightening on the top officials in Al-Qaeda. Hopefully, al-Zawahri will provide useful intelligence regarding bin Laden's current location.

My major beef, I suppose, is that I can't figure out why it is that Europe has such a large blind spot when it comes to fighting evil. I mean, we didn't fight Nazis on American soil -- we had to go to Europe to do that -- but we still seem to know that you can't negotiate with someone whose major objective is your death. (It's for this reason, among others, that I think negotiations with Arafat are a waste of time.) You'd think that the lessons of history would have some effect on European leaders. Are they really that myopic?

In light of last week's attacks, one would think that someone would say, "Hey, they're attacking us anyway, and they're threatening France for relatively trivial issues. Maybe we should actually do something about this, instead of talking about cooperative agreements to do something if it moves us." They haven't. Well, some op-ed's have, but I haven't seen any comments from "old Europe's" leaders to make me believe otherwise. Hell, even Poland is starting to say they're feeling misgivings towards us (I may have to rethink my ringing endorsement of them below).

What's next? Tony Blair pulls out?
The difference between government and private groups
I say gays have a right to marry. If you've been reading this site, you know I've been saying that for a long time. But I also believe private groups have the right to control their membership. So I say if the Methodist Church kicks this lesbian pastor out, or choose not to let her be a minister anymore, so be it. It would be sad, but if that's what they believe, then that's what they believe. I'm sure some other denominations would be happy to have her.
Ease Joe's pain
Dude, you've been agonizing - justifiably, I should add - over Europe's silliness. Does it help to know that we haven't wavered?

UPDATE: President Bush won't buckle.
The EU Reaches Out
To Canada? I'm sorry, but is Canada really at the forefront on the war on terror?
Collaborate as We've Never Collaborated Before
To paraphrase remarks from the EU's External Affairs Commissioner, Chris Patten, and this is his chief reaction to the bombings in Madrid. The key quote:
"If there is one European message regarding terrorism it is this: we have to collaborate to deal with the issue as we have never collaborated before," Patten said during a visit to Uzbekistan.

"It's not a good (method) of collaboration to criticise each other," Patten told reporters. "We have to work on international collaboration (and) deal with terrorism using any weapon and means available to civilised governments."
Using any weapon available to civilized governments? Since cooperation and collaboration are the only things the EU talks about, I suppose that means that actually fighting the terrorists is beneath them.

Part of this new collaboration appears to be:
"Aside from the terrorism coordinator, the Irish are set to propose measures including:

-- implementing a "solidarity clause" requiring EU states to come to the aid of a fellow country hit by terrorism

-- boosting cooperation among EU intelligence services, and

-- tightening up measures to cut off extremists' funding."
Aside from the seizure of funds, does any of this sound really helpful? Sharing information is good, but there's already division in Europe over whether anything new should actually be done, and this is just over information sharing. Can you imagine what would happen if the EU actually decided to do something?
Useless Ninnies
That's what "UN" should really denote; it bears out in fact. From the front page of today's Wall Street Journal (sorry, I only have the print addition):
The attack [on a Baghdad hotel that killed 27 people yesterday], thought to have come from a car bomb, appeared aimed at civilians, an increasingly popular tactic for insurgents. The violence could make the U.N. reluctant to get involved in Iraq just as the Governing Council has asked the world body for its assistance."
Why would even consider giving a bigger role to a body that runs away from everyone and everything? More:
"The attacks also will make Mr. Bush's agenda more difficult at the United Nations, where the violence could contribute to Secretary-General Kofi Anan's reluctance to get more deeply involved in solving Iraq's problems."
There's a new Prodi nominee in town.

Why does anyone, anyone, think that the U.N. offers any sort of legitimacy to anything? Why is the world so infatuated with this self-important gaggle of moral midgets?
Rhea County
I was waiting for Andrew Sullivan's response to the call in Tennessee to ban homosexuals, and although he quotes the same story Joe linked to earlier, Andrew doesn't address that particular story directly. Instead, he includes that in the context of other actions the government has already taken that appear to be rolling in the wrong direction. I don't know what the actual consequences will be, but it doesn't look good on the surface. I suggest you look at the articles to which Andrew links and see for yourself.

The part that concerns me is this:
“When you’re interpreting a statute, you have to be very careful to interpret strictly according to how it’s written and not get into loose interpretations,” Bloch said. “Someone may have jumped to the conclusion that conduct equals sexual orientation, but they are essentially very different. One is a class . . . and one is behavior.”
In other words, you cannot discriminate against gays for being gay, only if they act gay. What's the difference?

And, Joe, homosexuality has already been shown to be natural, at least in penguins.
To Out-Prodi Prodi
It's been very entertaining, though in a dismally sad sort of way, to watch Europeans fall all over themselves to be the first to capitualte. Prodi, obviously, and Zapatero come to mind immediately for the complete moral surrender. Javier Solana, the EU foreign policy chief, deserves it for his vacuity.
Much too perilous
Joe, you'll like this.
David, Hey!
Notice that they want to charge homosexuals with "crimes against nature." That could be a real door opener, though, in a test case. Defendents could take one of two paths. The first would be the obvious, that government can't and shouldn't legislate sexual preference and the private sexual activity of consenting adults. There's already precedent for that, via Lawrence and Garner v. Texas.

The second defense would be that homosexuality is natural, and could not, therefore, be considered a "crime against nature." That would be an entertaining result. This backwoods village would give homosexuals more legitamacy by having, say, the Supreme Court declare that homosexuality is natural.

Talk about the law of unintended consequences.

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

The Prodi award
Andrew Sullivan has proposed the Prodi award for "those whose response to terror is immediately to run away, concede critical issues, and generally appease", with Romano Prodi himself as the first nominee. Joe, you've been all over this. Who are your nominees?
Now that's entrepreneurship
Someone's offering insurance against being sued by SCO Group.
Hey, Joe!
That's fantastic, as in fantasy, as in I have a hard time believing it. Can people really be that bigoted?
Congress to Spain: Damnable Appeasers!
A House debate on a resolution to support the troops in Iraq had some fun exchanges regarding the Spanish elections. Quote:
"Here is a country that stood against terrorism, and had a huge terrorist act within their country, and they chose to change their government and to in a sense appease terrorists," House Speaker Dennis Hastert said.

Majority Leader Tom DeLay, a Texas Republican, said, "If we follow the example of the new Spanish government and we accept failure in Iraq and permit the victory of the terrorists, there there will no counting the number of people around the world who will suffer the consequences."
I love it.

At least the Republican leadership in the House knows what's what. Europe take heed -- Neville Chamberlin isn't remembered for his brilliant diplomacy and nuance; he's remembered for his weakness and lack of moral courage.
Where's the Outrage?
Notice, in the piece I linked to in the post below, that the photo shows the suspect being lead out of jail with a bag over his head. Didn't Amnesty International and all those insipid NGO's freak out when the U.S. did the same thing to Gitmo detainees? I'm waiting for the same level of outrage to be aimed at Spain. I'll probably be waiting quite a while.
Spain Rebuffs the FBI
Spain doesn't want the FBI's help, so it seems. The FBI offered to assist Spain in their investigation of the Madrid bombings, and Spain hasn't responded.

I understand the desire to not have outsiders pour in and muddy up investigations, but Spain has invited in other foreign agencies. So, it's apparently not that.

Given the nature of the current conflict, I believe the U.S. has much to gain by having an FBI team on site, especially given the ease with which that would allow us to share information with Spanish officials, and vice versa. This could have been a goldmine of intelligence for both sides. What happened to the spirit of sharing?
Hey, David!
You thought the amendment to ban homosexual marriage was bad? Look at this.
France not Immune
France is in a bit of a pickle, to put it very mildly. Thinking that they were so "nuanced," France chastized the U.S. and its real allies for their "cowboy ways," thinking that they'd get a pass in the Muslim world for not supporting the war on terror. Now, it seems, their efforts to engender a mono-culture in France are going to subject them to threats, as well.

A group called "Servants of Allah the Powerful and Wise" sent a message to authorities, which included the following passage:
"A heavy offensive will take place on the grounds of the allies of Satan, and we are going to plunge France into terror and remorse."
All this for head scarves.

For anyone who sympathizes with the terrorists and their "cause," I believe this should put things into a better perspective. These people are nuts, and they need to be stopped. Even if you do nothing to help the U.S. in the war on terror, they'll still find a reason to make you a target.
Zapatero: Hug a Terrorist for Peace
Spanish PM-elect Zapatero still doesn't get it. From Yahoo this morning:
"Fighting terrorism with bombs, with operations of 'shock and awe', with missiles, that does not combat terrorism it only generates more radicalism," the 43-year-old Socialist leader said.

"The way to fight terrorism is with the rule of law, with international legislation, with intelligence services," he said. "This is what the international community should be talking about."
So, bringing down the Taliban and making sure that Afghanistan can no longer be used as a haven for terrorists, bringing down Saddam Hussein and making sure that Iraq doesn't fund terrorism anymore, these things don't combat terrorism. Right.

Zapatero's position, so he says, is that to combat terrorism, we shouldn't be fighting. No, that requires courage and icky things like effort. Instead, let's use "international legislation." That's great, because, as we know, terrorists are strict adherents to the rule of law.

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

Michael Savage is a nut
I admit it - I listen to Michael Savage at times, when I happen to be in the car when he's on the air. I know I shouldn't, but I think part of me must like to feel outrage at the ridiculous things he says. A couple of months ago, Savage said Kobe Bryant's accuser had it coming to her. Tonight, he said he is willing to give up his civil liberties for a few days so the government can be free to round up all the terrorists and have them shot without having anything as silly as rights to get in its way. He actually said that. He's a nut.
Cooperative Inaction
The biggest theme so far in any comment from an EU official that I've seen focuses on the need for international cooperation. The EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, says that what the EU needs is "the political will to cooperate" with other EU members to share intelligence. Taking the hard, arduous path to victory, I see.

He continues:
"The fight against terrorism without any doubt has to be based on the exchange of information, the exchange of intelligence, the exchanges and cooperation between important actors and important countries and also cooperating on how the money that arrives to terrorist groups does not arrive."
I'm a reasonable person; I believe that cooperation's a good thing. I mean, one of the advantages of the Patriot Act was that it allowed government agencies to share information. Good deal. But all I'm seeing from the EU is how they're going to meet and cooperate and share and love and smile about their grand cooperation. What I haven't heard is what they're going to do about terrorism.
Good news
InstaPundit says things in Iraq are better than they seem.
The EU Goes Kerry
We're probably all familiar with Kerry's oft quoted belief that the war against terror is more of an intelligence gathering, law-enforcement issue than a military one. The EU, apparently, believes the same thing. Money quote from EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana: "It's a terrible criminal act." No, you schmuck, it was an act of war. A foregin organization specifically plotted the overthrow of the conservative government, hoping for the replacement of the pro-US PM with a Socialist.

CNN reports they have obtained an Al-Qaeda document discussing this very thing. They believed that a Socialist Spain was far less likely to participate in the war in Iraq, so they timed their attack to affect the elections. Quote:
"We think the Spanish government will not stand more than two blows, or three at the most, before it will be forced to withdraw because of the public pressure on it."
Their plan worked. Al-Qaeda successfully identified a country that would lack the courage to stand up for itself.

Monday, March 15, 2004

Damn Joe's prophetic powers
More indications that al Qaida was involved. I agree that we cannot back down. The weaker we look, the worse it will get.

Here's some good news: not only the Polish, but the British, Czechs, Ukrainians, Japanese and even the Belgians are saying they're going to hang in there. Perhaps cooler heads are going to prevail.
The source of rights
Rodney, I don't know why you would find my last post as not offering anything logical. I know it was quick, but that's the nature of blogging, particularly when I have actual work to do. That being said, I thought I made it clear that there are problems with deriving rights from external sources, and consequently the source must be inherit to each of us. Now that I am home and have time, I'll expand on it:

Let's begin with a definition. When I say I have a right, I mean I can freely perform some action, on my own, without requiring permission from someone else. So if I have the right to free speech, that means I can say what I want to say (or blog what I want to blog) without having to clear it past anyone. But my rights only extend as far as my own self and cannot infringe upon someone else. I can ask for help, enter into partnerships and the like, but I cannot force anyone to act on my behalf, for then the rights themselves become meaningless. Also, implicit in the concept of rights is the necessity of liberty. Rights, the freedom to act, obviously mean nothing in a society that does not respect freedom. I think we can agree on this.

Rights cannot be derived or given from an outside source, for as easily as they are given, they can be taken away. In such a situation, I would no longer have a right to anything. Instead, I would only have license to act, not a right to act. I would not truly be free, just allowed to act within the confines of the authority's wishes. This is true regardless if the external source is the government or God or anything else. I would have rights in name only. When the authority appears and says "I have decided to revoke your rights", I could offer nothing in defense, for they were not mine to begin with. It would be then that I would realize I had been a slave all along.

The only thing that cannot be taken from me is my nature as a human being. For this reason, my rights must be derived from my humanity. This applies to all of us, everywhere, all the time. Religions differ, governments differ, but human nature is constant, absolute, immutable. When the authority appears and says "I have decided to revoke your rights", I can stand up and say No! You will not and cannot! My rights are mine, they are a part of me. I think, I feel and I live, with all my virtues and all my vices, not for you but for myself, freely and peacefully. You cannot take my rights from me because they are not yours to take!

Now, yes, you could say human nature is flawed, but so what? It is this imperfection that makes rights and freedom so important, for surely flawed people disagree with each other. Individuals choose to pursue different goals, different interests, different solutions to the same problems. Some people succeed, others fail. It is our rights as human beings which guarantees the freedom necessary to follow our own paths, to lead our own flawed lives.

And yes, Rodney, I am inferring from what you have posted that you believe rights are derived from God. If I'm wrong, stop being coy and enlighten me.
Not Off the Hook Yet My Friend!
That was a nice sidestep to avoid my earlier request, David, but I'm not letting you off the hook! First of all, the issue revolves around your proof of "do as you please so long as you don't infringe upon the rights of others." I think that I asked for you to defend this position logically.

By the way, I never wrote that my principles are derived from God. You are perhaps inferring this? Nevertheless, I'm challenging your position. Most people won't accept that the quoted statement is derived from human nature. In fact, I would imagine that you'll be faulted for it because human nature, perhaps universally, is considered flawed. We even have stories to describe it; ever hear the one of Adam and Eve? Or Cain and Able? Or King David and Bathsheba? I don't think you'll win them over with a "human nature" premise. I do think that I agree with you, however, in that human nature is constant - constantly flawed!
Damn My Prophetic Powers
Well, I suggested on Thursday that the EU would curl up into a fetal position in response to the attack in Madrid. Seems I was right. Damn it all. Key quote from European Commission chief, Romano Prodi:
"It is clear that using force is not the answer to resolving the conflict with terrorists...Terrorism is infinitely more powerful than a year ago."
(An aside: Infinitely more powerful? Has bin Laden become a deity, now?)

Okay, so what is the proper response to terrorism? When someone blows up a train filled with commuters, is the proper response to apologize for the mess, then roll over and take it again? When will Europe figure out that appeasement doesn't work?

Anyway, Spain's new government doesn't inspire me with confidence, either. PM-elect Zapatero recently stated, "Wars such as that which has occurred in Iraq only allow hatred, violence and terror to proliferate." Maybe if we had sent Carebears and Valentine hearts candy to Saddam's forces, and asked them really, really nicely to stop exporting terror, everything would have worked out for the best.
Terrorism's Bad, Fighting It's Worse
Well, the Spanish Prime Minister-elect is reaffirming his commitment to appeasement, stating:
"The military intervention was a political error for the international order, for the search for cooperation, for the defense of the United States."
Okay, first, how was this a mistake for the international order? Saddam's out and a major fund source for terrorism has been destroyed. The after-effects of this, typified by Libya's sudden decision to come clean about its weapons programs, are astounding.

Second, I don't understand what this "search for cooperation" is. The U.S. found allies, and we attacked Iraq. Way to go, international cooperation. And, what's particularly noteworthy is how those nations that complained the loudest about our "unilateralism" (France, Russia) are the same ones who were profiting from Saddam's illicit use of Oil-for-Food.

Would the PM-elect like to share what his solution would be? Actually fighting terrorists and eliminating their membership gets results, and we can't have that, so what does that leave us? More international cooperation to foster a sense of unity across borders and cultures? That's the ticket. Why act when all we have to do is sit and jabber?

The EU is having a summit meeting in a couple of weeks. I really am looking forward to what they have to say. They're promising to move up discussions on anti-terror campaigns on the agenda. Anyone think this will produce anything?
Homeage to Asininity
Thank you to Andrew Stuttaford at The Corner for linking to this article. Here's my favorite line: "An international conference, to bridge the divide between Muslim and Christian communities, should be one first step." Yeeha! Gotta love that typical European response. "You know, if we hold a conference in the Alps, get some of the best caterers in the world to provide the Beluga caviar and fois gras, then we can invite the world's democracies and the most brutal dictatorships to the same table, engage in rampant moral equivalence, and everything will come out just fine."

Has this ever worked? League of Nations sound familiar? The United Nations, for that matter?
What's the difference?
Rodney, you could use your argument against yourself, too. Just because you believe your rights are derived from God doesn't mean the government couldn't stomp all over them. Do you think the Lord Himself would intervene? When you say, "But this is my God-given right!" and they say, "So what?", then what do you do?

Or if you're in, say, Saudi Arabia, and you claim a right to free speech and they say, "Not according to Allah", then what?

Most people in this country believe that their rights are God-given, yet that hasn't stopped them from sacrificing them to the government. Heck, they use their religion as an excuse for giving them away (see gay marriage, abortion, freedom of expression, etc.).

The beauty of deriving rights from human nature is that it is constant. It doesn't matter who you are or where you live, you are a human being and share the qualities of humanity and your rights with everyone else. This is not the case if you derive your rights from any higher authority, whether it be God or government. Whose God? Whose government?
Damnable European Socialists
Well, the results of the elections in Spain were a little surprising, to say the least. I don't think very many people expected the conservative Popular Party to be ousted by the Socialist Party.

The Prime Minister-elect, Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, is already promising to pull Spanish troops from Iraq, probably by the end of June. Quote from CNN: "I am going to fight the violence that also is attacking other nations in this world." Hmm. Interesting choice of words, when his initial statements have him sounding retreat.

What is it with these people? Don't they understand that this is what Al-Qaeda was trying to do? The proper response to intimidation is not to cut and run, it's to stand up and say you won't be intimidated.

Zapatero continues, "My immediate priority will be to fight terrorism, and the first thing I will do tomorrow -- Monday -- will be to search for the unity of the political forces to concentrate all of our efforts in that fight." Ooooh, political forces. Yeah, those terrorists better watch out -- we've got political force on our side. Certainly they'll crumble in the face of our mighty edicts!

Zapatero did hold out the possibilty that Spain would stick around, but only if the UN assumed control of allied forces in Iraq. Why does anyone believe that the UN has any legitimizing force? These are people who have stood by and allowed all kinds of atrocities to occur. Anyone remember the reports that UN "refugee camps" in Palestinian territories are staging grounds for terrorist attacks? Anyone remember Rwanda? Anyone remember that the UN was in post-Saddam Iraq for a brief period, and then fled when they came under enemy fire? And now it's finally coming out that Oil-for-Food is one of the most corrupt programs ever organized. The only thing the UN is good for is catering large junkets.

I had hopes for Spain, I really did. They, unlike their neighbors to the immediate north, showed some backbone. Then, when things got tough, they folded. Disappointing.

At least we've still got Poland covering our back. Love those Poles. They're true friends.

Sunday, March 14, 2004

What's to Stop Them?
It’s interesting that you use the logical conclusion to a "natural rights" argument (which derive its principles from God) to affirm your "human" right to "do as you please so long as you don’t infringe upon the rights of others." I think that your argument has a weak foundation. What is to stop the government from taking even more of your rights?

For example, the President may declare one day, "You know David, I was thinking that it is my duty as president to protect you and your family from your own ignorance. After all, I am President and that counts for something doesn’t it? So, starting today you’ll have to submit, to the Federal Bureau of Child Services, a parenting plan that describes how you are to raise your children. The intelligent public servants in this new department will review your plan and (if approved) will assure society that your children, indeed all children, will grow up being good citizens. Oh, and before I forget – did I mention the interrogations – er, I mean the interviews with the children? We can’t forget them can we? After all, safety at all costs! We never know what kind of parents are out there – no offense. (Did you hear about that monster in Fresno who was having sex with his daughters – By God, he got them pregnant!) So, you’ll only have to submit to these home inspections and interviews once a month – a minor inconvenience when you consider the children, after all! This will insure that your home is indeed hospitable and safe for the care of your little ones. Our new slogan for this bold new initiative is: 'good little citizens start at home!' "

Well? What argument is going to stop them? As an individual, you have no rights other than what the state grants you. After all you are part of society and the social contract demands that you conform to the wishes of the collective. You are like a bee in a hive and the rules of the hive are supreme. Hmmm?
The source of rights
Rodney, my right to my life, liberty and property are derived from the fact that I am a human being. I've never understood why it takes an appeal to some higher power, whether it be God or the government. That appeal that causes problems and inconsistencies. For example, in the Middle East, particularly in Muslim nations, that higher power doesn't bestow the same rights as in the U.S. If all rights are derived from God, then why are they so different depending on where you live? Surely there aren't two different Gods handing out rights, yet if you were to say the Muslim God is false, well, they'd say the same thing about your God.

My point is that it is not adequate to derive your rights from a higher authority. I believe my rights come from my human nature and what is required to live as a human, unfettered, free to live my own life. I use the classic formula for determining specific rights, that is, I have the right to do whatever I choose as long as it does not violate anyone else's rights.

One of the benefits is this means everyone everywhere has the same rights, whether their higher power would agree or not. Nice and consistent.