Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Chocoholics Unite! Looks like we have some good news on the chocolate front. Hershey's is good for you after all.

Dutch researchers found that men who ate cocoa were 50 percent less likely to die of disease than those who abstained. And doctors have also discovered that chocolate milk may be better for athletes than Gatorade.

Funny thing is I'm not that huge of a chocolate fan, although I do enjoy dark chocolate, which has already been proven to be good for your heart. But this news provides more support for my theory that anything that tastes good must be good for you.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Gun Nuts: It wasn't that long ago that people could carry guns openly in public. Associate Justice Antonin Scalia says he even used to carry a rifle on the New York Subway decades ago (via Volokh). Now such casual bearing of arms would incite immediate cell phone calls to the police.

This is a shame, on a number of levels. There is no doubt that the world has changed since the days of Scalia's youth. Crime is much more of a problem today, especially on the NY Subway. However, the crackdown on guns hasn't had a demonstrable effect on crime.

As a result, though, there is now an irrational fear of guns among the public. There was a time when many people were comfortable handling and firing a handgun or rifle. Now the very thought of one sends some people into conniptions.

Kids are being educated that there are no safe uses for guns. A high-school student was told she couldn't include in a class project images of Marines holding rifles. And officials at an Indiana middle school erased the musket out of a mural of the school's mascot -- a Minuteman from the American Revolution.

Such unfamiliarity and paralyzing fear make society less safe. Guns should be respected, not shunned. Unfortunately, if you read on in Volokh's comments, this ignorance is spreading to even the handling of a basic lock-blade pocket knife.

People tend to fear what they don't know or understand. And it is these same people who want more and more gun restrictions. This is another area where simple education and familiarity will not only enlighten, but also save lives.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Look Closer: I was worried that the United Arab Emirates would be offended by the explosion of controversy surrounding the port deal. It turns out that government is being very understanding. The UAE has agreed to hold off in taking over the management of the U.S. ports, at least temporarily.

Hopefully that will give enough time for detractors to calm down and realize that there is no reason for alarm. Sure, there will always be critics in Congress who will make noise because of their upcoming re-election, or those who will find any reason to counter President Bush. But as more information is made public, people will find that this deal is no more worrisome than most other current arrangements.

The argument that two of the 9/11 hijackers lived in the UAE borders on the inane. Many of the hijackers lived in Florida at one point, but we didn't hang up Gov. J.E.B. Bush by his toenails.

We need the cooperation of Middle Eastern countries in our War on Terrorism. Shutting out the UAE for no other reason than because of what the "A" stands for will only backfire, making us less secure than if we let them set up shop in Baltimore.

Still, hopefully the controversy will bring much needed attention to important issues -- namely that we must boost security at our nation's sea ports (as well as our airports and other shipping channels). If Congress is looking for a compromise with Bush, lawmakers should demand that the deal will only be allowed to go through if the president agrees to tighten port security, which is needed regardless of which company is in charge.

P.S. Is Hillary Clinton still trying to blame President Bush for 9/11?

If 9/11 was a failure of imagination and Katrina was a failure of initiative, this process is a failure of judgment.
Since Tom Delay is already the World's Biggest Asshole, Sen. Clinton must be the World's Biggest Hack.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

The Big Bang: I want to use this blog to present thoughtful, rational arguments to support my political views. Other times, though, I'm just too flabbergasted and can only manage disgust. What the hell is wrong with these people? Who blows up a historic and religious shrine just in the hopes that people will try to kill you in retaliation? Who wants to spark a destructive civil war?

In all the controversy about our involvement in Iraq, I find the whole timeline issue most perplexing. Democrats and the Left want us to pull out of Iraq -- although some want us out faster than others, that's still the stated goal. The Baathist/Sunni insurgents want U.S. troops out of Iraq. And the Bush administration wants to pull out of Iraq -- of course they want things to stabilize first, but if that happened tomorrow, we'd be out in a heartbeat.

The only group that seems to revel in our presence is Al Qaeda. If they truly wanted U.S. troops out, all Al Qaeda would have to do is stop fighting. Things would appear calm, and we'd move on to poking Iran with a stick. But even though Al Qaeda claims to want us out, it's their actions that keep us there.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Happy Ending: A Jewish man spent his 13th birthday in a German concentration camp during World War II. He's 76 years old now, and he's finally getting to celebrate his Bar Mitzvah.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

On the Waterfront: I can't believe President Bush actually made this statement regarding the controversy surrounding the UAE's running six of the major ports here in the United States.

I want those who are questioning it to step up and explain why all of a sudden a Middle Eastern company is held to a different standard than a Great British company.
Needless to say, he needs no explanation why a Middle Eastern company automatically draws suspicion. I do appreciate his rhetorical statement that all will be treated fairly, and we're not at war with Islam, or Arabs, or guys with long beards. But it's ridiculous for him to throw out the PC card so casually.

It makes perfect sense to be concerned about the United Arab Emirates. After all, the country has had previous ties to terrorism, although we must also note that we're not talking about Iran or Syria here.

Even weighing the controversy, however, we should not put any undue burden on that country from competing in our marketplace. If no other company can step up and pay what it takes to gain control of those ports, then the U.S. government should not interfere. We cannot stop global competition, and so long as the UAE has a legitimate business interest in running those ports, our government should stay laissez faire.

But this does bring up the larger issue of port security -- something that has been long neglected. Our government should pass regulations to prevent dangerous people or materials from passing through these ports. These regulations, though, should apply to all ports. And if the UAE company can't live up to these regulations, it should not be given a free pass.

First we need to figure out what more we should be doing to secure our ports. Until then, let's not demonize any one company, no matter where it is from.

The UAE has no plans to spend billions of dollars just to blow up what would be a huge money maker. But we can't be naive either, and therefore must keep a watchful eye about what happens at these and all other ports.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Doomed: Instapundit is linking to this new video game. It's a Cheney parody that involves shooting famous politicians during a bird hunt. One of the potential victims you can choose from is a likeness of G.W. Bush.

Is that legal? You can't threaten the president, and even a cartoon depicting the president with a gun to his head will get the Secret Service's attention. I wonder how long this version of the game will last.

Faith in Science: I've always been a big proponent of the separation of church and state, especially keeping religion out of the classroom. And when it comes to the debate of intelligent design versus evolution, I often use the phrase, If you don't teach biology in church then you shouldn't teach theology in science class.

Well, now comes a story about hundreds of churches that celebrated Darwin's birthday and praised his teachings. They credited Darwin for turning religion into an actual faith and for keeping Christianity in reality.

God bless them for doing that. With all the extremists of the Religious Right bashing the very concept of evolution, it's good to see some intelligence in the religious world.

Blogger Fmodo points out that religion and science aren't always in conflict, and that there can be fanatics on both sides. Religious nuts will kill to keep people ignorant of science, but rabid secularists have used social darwinism as an excuse for eugenics and other unbelievable horrors.

I still don't want intelligent design taught in school. But it won't hurt for science classes to concede that there are still many unanswered questions, namely on the origin of life, and how life became so complex. Then students should be encouraged to find the answers on their own.

The Buckshot Stops Here: One last word on the Cheney debacle. A Washington Times reader noticed that so many people in the media said the vice president shot somebody in the face with "buckshot".

It wasn't buckshot, it was birdshot. Birdshot is used to shoot birds. Buckshot is used to shoot bucks, which is a male deer (though it works on females, or doe, too). Birdshot consists of hundreds of tiny pellets. Buckshot shoots several large bullets. If Cheney hit somebody in the face with buckshot, that person would most likely be dead. But people can survive birdshot easily.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Power Hungry: Saddam Hussein is protesting his treatment by staging a hunger strike.

Um, okay!

For a man who starved hundreds of thousands of his own people by ignoring United Nations resolutions after the invasion of Kuwait, and thereby bringing crippling economic sanctions on his own people, I'm glad to see him starve.

And it's good he's doing it to himself. If we imposed that punishment on him, that would be a war crime. But the food's there, he just ain't eatin', or so he says.

Seriously, though, I don't understand how a hunger strike can be effective as a protest. Any sort of self-inflicted punishment just makes you look crazy, not dedicated. (If you don't give me what I'll want, I'll punch myself in the face! I mean it!)

I almost want to keep doing whatever is bothering the protester, just to see if he will follow through.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

V-Day: Happy Valentine's Day. In honor of this glorious holiday, I bring you -- fluff!

The Pew Research Center conducted a poll to find out who among us is truly happy, or at least claims to be happy. For the most part, most Americans say that they are content with their lives.

People who make more money report to be happier than poorer folks. So I guess money doesn't necessarily buy happiness. It comes free with the cash.

People in southern and rural areas are cheerier than those in northern and urban areas. That may be from the laid-back lifestyle. Or it may be because of the Republican domination of the federal government.

Married people are in higher spirits than single people by 2-to-1. That may surprise anyone who has ever hung out with married people. But this correlates with other studies that say married people tend to have more sex than single people. The other studies didn't say whether the married couples were having sex with each other, but I guess there is something to marital bliss after all.

That segues to another story about Valentine's Day cheaters. Apparently the unfaithful can carry out their extracurricular love lives covertly until V-Day; that's when both the spouse and the lover want attention. And private investigators are as busy as florists. So watch your six.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Cheney's Got a Gun: Our esteemed vice president shot someone in the face. Luckily it was with bird shot from a 28-gauge shotgun, so the victim appears to be doing all right. I've heard that some people are trying to absolve Cheney of blame, claiming the other guy snuck up behind the veep before the quail jumped. Well, that's bullshit. I'm a hunter, and I know it's always the gunman's responsibility to know where his compadres are and where the shot will go, and to make sure those two aren't anywhere near each other.

But this story has been labored to death on other blogs, so I'll move on to something else I saw in another newspaper. Boston is trying to crack down on gun deaths in the city, and officials are brainstorming ideas on what to do. Among the proposals is to record the names of anyone who buys ammunition. That makes me nervous, because I'm allergic to any governmental intrusion into people's private lives (ie, the NSA wiretaps). But I'm also aware that sometimes additional government action is necessary during times of crisis (ie, the NSA wiretaps). Count me against registering ammunition purchases. There's just too much potential for abuse without much likely benefit.

But I'm open to a second idea that Boston is toying with. Officials want to use technology that stamps a gun's ID number on the shell casings. That way the police can definitively match a gun to a spent shell found at a crime scene.

Now, if the shooter collects his shell casings at the end of the shooting, the stamped ID will do nothing. But chances are, it will help solve a few crimes. And police will only be investigating your spent shells if they are mixed in with a crime scene. Sounds like a fair deal to me.

Friday, February 10, 2006

No remorse, No repent: Harriet Miers (remember her?) appears to be moving on just fine from her failed Supreme Court nomination. What with Alito's first vote, I wonder if any conservatives miss her.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Go Quietly: This is a big pet peeve of mine. As pet peeves go, you're going to think this is an awfully strange one. But it really bugs me when people do this -- Anybody who attempts suicide in public.

Here's an article about somebody hanging himself in an airplane lavatory. The result, the plane had to be rerouted. Many people who were minding their own business were suddenly severely inconvenienced because some loser couldn't have ended it all three hours earlier or three hours later. And, according to the article, this type of thing has happened before.

Sure, it's a tragedy when somebody feels the need to take his or her own life. But these people should carry out that tragedy in the privacy of their own homes.

Every once in awhile the Washington, DC, subway system will be significantly delayed, all because someone decided to jump in front of one of the trains. Traffic in the area will come to a standstill because someone else jumped from an overpass.

I'm a volunteer firefighter/EMT, so I see my fair share of these incidents. People who overdose on drugs then drive onto a sidewalk and into a building. Once someone slit her own wrists, drove on the highway, then closed her eyes and let go of the wheel.

These people were not just endangering their own lives, as they planned, but they could have killed or injured many other people in their cry for attention.

The next morning after the highway call, we ran another suicide attempt. He had overdosed, and a family member found him unconscious in his room. He was breathing, and his pulse was steady, so it was a simple transport to the hospital. What was nice was, A) He was unconscious, therefore quiet and cooperative, and B) He wasn't bothering anyone else outside his immediate family, except perhaps the few people who plugged their ears as the sirens wailed by.

Suicide is never the answer. But if you think it's for you, keep it to yourself.

Wright is Wrong: Congress may be looking to get rid of the Wright Amendment, finally.

Those of you not from Dallas may not realize what a crappy law the Wright Amendment is. It limits flight out of Love Field, the smaller of the two airports in Dallas, to a few selected states. Its purpose was to help DFW International Airport get off the ground.

That was 1979. DFW is doing just fine, and the law has outlived its usefulness.

I grew up in Dallas, so I fly there often to visit my friends and family. Limiting the flights raises airline prices significantly by cutting competition. The airline that benefits the most is American Airlines, at the expense of Southwest Airlines.

But this is more than just a local issue. Dallas is a major hub, and increasing the prices anywhere hurts flyers everywhere. American Airlines is funding a major ad campaign to keep the restrictions in place. We can't let them succeed.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

License to Kill: Sometimes the Blue States surprise you. Some Massachusetts residents near Boston have taken up suburban hunting -- bagging deer and other wild game from their backyards.

Hell, I live in Arlington, Virginia, and there's no way we could get away with that here. I have to travel a couple hours before I can find legal hunting ground. Happy Hunting, Boston!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Are You Ready? It's amazing what you can find in a football column. Today we have one of the best defenses for Intelligent Design that also appropriately skewers its biggest proponents. For those who don't know about Gregg Easterbrook, he's a science writer and devout Catholic who is also a rabid football fan and has his own sports column called "Tuesday Morning Quarterback". He peppers the column with other factoids and commentary. Here's his take.

No Higher Power Is Guiding "Intelligent Design" Politics: Yours truly thinks the "intelligent design" idea is being given the short shrift by the mainstream media. Yes, some intelligent design advocates want to use I.D. as a Trojan horse to put religious doctrine into public schools -- forbidden by the First Amendment, and wisely so in the opinion of this churchgoer. And some intelligent design advocates believe young Earth creationism, a nutty idea for which there isn't one iota of scientific evidence. But as they mock the notion of intelligent design, the mainstream media are systematically avoiding a substantial question mark in evolutionary theory: it does not explain the origin of life. That organisms evolve in response to changes in their environment is well-established -- anyone who doubts this doesn't know what he or she is talking about. But why are there living things in the first place? Darwin said he had no idea, and to this day science has little beyond wild guesses about the origin of life. Maybe life had a natural origin that one day will be discovered. Until such time, higher powers or the divine cannot be ruled out. Exactly because I think intelligent design is a more important concept than the mainstream media will admit, I really wish right-wing screwballs would stop advocating I.D. -- they're giving the idea a bad name! First, it's common to hear them say evolution can be disregarded because it's "just a theory."

This is ill-informed. In everyday usage, "theory" can mean a conjectural or unlikely claim. ("See, I have this theory why Maria Sharapova would go out with me.") In science, a theory is an idea that has well-accepted supporting principles, has been tested successfully and that no one has falsified; in science the word theory conveys high standing. For instance, first relativity was an analytical idea, then a hypothesis, then after many years of testing was acknowledged as a theory. When in 1996 Pope John Paul II called Darwinianism "more than a hypothesis," he was choosing words precisely. Many on today's anti-science right appear ignorant of such basic precepts as the definition of the word theory.

The screwball fringe keeps proposing I.D.-related legislation that shows it doesn't even understand the limits of evolutionary theory. Two years ago some science illiterates in Cobb County, Ga., got the local Board of Education to mandate stickers on biology textbooks reading, "Evolution is a theory, not a fact, regarding the origin of living things." Evolution has nothing to do with the origin of living things. The core quandary of Darwinian logic is that we can imagine how living things evolve but cannot imagine how they came into existence in the first place. Now a know-nothing Utah state representative has proposed this bill that "requires the State Board of Education to establish curriculum requirements and policies that stress that not all scientists agree on which theory regarding the origins of life … is correct." Hey, Utah state legislature, there are no theories on the origin of life. A few biologists have made wild guesses involving RNA, clay or hot ocean vents, but no scientist has offered anything nothing remotely near the level of a testable theory. Given the presence of life is so mysterious, a creator God may be why we are here. But please, science illiterates, stop attempting to enact rules about intelligent design; you are ruining the idea.
In addition, here's a comprehensive article from the Washington Post Magazine.

I'm not religious, but I don't rule out the possible existence of God. Science and religion don't have to be at odds. Science is just the investigation of the tools God keeps in His work shed. There are many things unknown, that science has not yet proven. That doesn't mean God is the only answer for those gaps in scientific theory. But both sides need to look for the answers with an open mind.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Intimidation Watch: While the Defense Department hasn't burned anyone's embassy in protest, they have taken offense to another benign political cartoon. This one was published in these here United States of America.

Answering critics who have raised questions about the present condition of our military, whether we're stretched thin fighting two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said we're just fine and called our soldiers "battle hardened."

Liberal cartoonist Tom Toles drew this cartoon as a result.

Now the Joint Chiefs of Staff have condemned Toles and his employer, the Washington Post, for criticizing our soldiers.

This cartoon is obviously not criticizing anyone except Rumsfeld. Any accusation otherwise may not amount to censorship, but it does count as unnecessary government intimidation.

Luckily the only result has been more people seeing the cartoon instead of fewer.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Whaaa? Alito breaks ranks with conservatives already. He voted with liberals to stop a Missouri execution. It was a 6-3 vote, so he wasn't the deciding factor, but this was his first vote cast. I'm sure it's just a fluke, but it sure is interesting.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Jihad: This confuses me. Muslims are up in arms about cartoon images published in a Danish newspaper, and subsequently by other European publications, depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a terrorist. Why, I ask, aren't these Muslims as outraged about actual terrorists killing innocent men, women, and children in the name of Islam?

President Bush said it best when he noted that terrorists were trying to "hijack" the religion of Islam to justify their evil work. Blasphemy be damned, Muslims should realize that these extremists are more dangerous to the Prophet Muhammad's image than some silly cartoons. And threatening to bomb the Danish newspaper in retaliation just underscores the cartoons' point.

From a quick search online, these appear to be some of the egregious images in question. If only all political discourse were this civil:

Gasp: The Dixie Chicks are abandoning Nashville. Their next album will have a "70s rock" feel. Yes, this all stems from "The Incident" when the singer ridiculed Bush during a London concert, and conservative country-music fans decided to boycott the Chicks' music.

I'm a country-music fan. I'm a hard rock fan. I'm also a 70s rock fan. But I've never been much of a Dixie Chicks fan (a cupla their songs are okay). However, it is pretty fascinating that the polarization in this country is so hot that pop culture icons are altering their careers to find the right political support group.

What's next? Donny and Marie Osmond are going to switch places?

Applause Line: Missions to Mars, private accounts for Social Security, and hydrogen cars ... All these have gone nowhere. Keep that in mind as you consider Bush's new laundry list from his State of the Union address. Carry on.

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