Friday, June 30, 2006

Light 'Em Up! I'm off with some friends to spend Fourth of July weekend camping on the beach. Hope y'all have a safe and fun Independence Day.

See ya Wednesday.

Water Logged: The floods here in Washington, DC, seem to be receding. Thank goodness, too. I had to work Sunday (I'm a volunteer firefighter), and we got slammed all night. I'm amazed at how many drivers, when confronted with a large body of rapidly rising water, choose to drive through it rather than around. We also had to respond to a bunch of downed power lines and a couple house fires caused by lightning strikes.

A hellish night, indeed. But now whenever I hear people talk about the recent rainstorms, everybody has to mention global warming, as if we never had a heavy shower before the invention of the H2. I appreciate everyone's concern for the environment, but let's not start blaming every downpour on the Republicans.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

We've Suffered Enough: On the lighter side, here's a video about a group of guys circulating a petition to end women's suffrage. And students are signing away.

I don't care who you are. That's funny.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Duck and Cover: Americans have officially formed themselves into a circular firing squad over the War on Terrorism. Sure there were squabbles before about Iraq, Gitmo, and the like. But now we're going ballistic over the nitty gritty details of catching terrorists.

The New York Times (along with The Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, and Washington Post) reported about a secret government program used to track the international financial transactions made by terrorists. It involved an organization nobody had ever heard of (Swift), was limited to international dealings that didn't concern most Americans, and it seemed to reside within the law. To top it all off, it was successful in nabbing terrorists.

Should journalists have exposed this program? Unlike the revelation of the NSA-wiretap program, this one doesn't seem to break any laws, require Congressional oversight, or even delve into the creepy world of invasion of privacy. That makes it hard to come up with a compelling reason to cover this program. But with the large controversy over the other secret terrorist-surveillance programs, how could a self-respecting newspaper sit on such a story?

Let's see what the different parties have to say.

For the conservatives, you've got Powerline once again calling for The New York Times to be thrown in jail. The program was classified, and publishing classified information is against the law. Case closed.

That's nice, except I don't think a dramatic lockup of journalists who report on the goings on in government will really quell the controversy about whether the Bush administration is trampling on the rights of ordinary Americans. In fact, it kind of plays into the liberal caricature of conservatives' ruling with an iron fist. Just because something is classified, doesn't mean it can't be exposed. The government classifies documents and programs to cover up embarrassing situations all the time. And while federal law does forbid exposing classified material, the U.S. Constitution forbids the government from restricting freedom of the press.

The media responds through Bill Keller, executive editor of The New York Times. I thought Howell Raines was the biggest asshole to grace the halls of the Gray Lady. Mr. Keller is quickly trying to overshadow him.

Some of the incoming mail quotes the angry words of conservative bloggers and TV or radio pundits who say that drawing attention to the government's anti-terror measures is unpatriotic and dangerous. (I could ask, if that's the case, why they are drawing so much attention to the story themselves by yelling about it on the airwaves and the Internet.)
This line has been ridiculed all over the blogosphere, best by Instapundit. The arrogance of Mr. Keller is overwhelming, asserting essentially that because he can do something, he will, while only playing lip service to the consequences. And nobody can stop him. While he's trying to accuse President Bush overusing his power, Mr. Keller has shown that the news media can't be trusted with its power. Somehow this debate has been completely turned around, taking the spotlight off the missteps of the government and on the corruption of the news media.

Mr. Keller continues to argue that the press shouldn't take its orders from the president. This is the most ludicrous straw man I have ever heard. Nobody is saying that the media should become a government pawn. We're just asking whether the newspapers even thought about what they were doing, or bothered to use a little common sense. Just goes to show how journalists make for lousy politicians.

The liberals. They are strangely quiet. Kevin Drum asked whether the revelation of this program will have some positive benefits because now that terrorists know that they can't use this method to finance attacks, they will have to come up with other ways that may be more difficult. Um, yeah, but it will also make it more difficult to catch them. And we want to catch as many of them as easily and as quickly as we can.

I thought The New York Times provided us with some top-notch journalism when it exposed the NSA-wiretap program. Even if the program is legitimate and hasn't been abused, it comes dangerously close to encroaching on civil liberties. The news coverage will help create safeguards to allow the program to continue but with necessary oversight.

The news coverage on the Swift program doesn't seem to do any such good. But worse than exposing a legitimate program, it exposed the depravity of the politics surrounding the War on Terrorism.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Hyper Active: Today I'm mad at everyone. That's right, every single one of you. It's because all y'all always overuse hyperbole. Constantly.

Every time I read anything in the paper or hear something on the news, everyone is overexaggerating everything they say. Instapundit highlighted a good one today.

The world's least free place for making movies is the US, because it has a fixed model.
So sayeth Ang Lee. Yeah, that guy who just made a controversial multi-million dollar movie that won him an Academy Award. It seems The Man is holding him down.

We hear these exaggerations every single day. The United States is the biggest terrorist threat in the world. America is the least free place in the world. America is the least tolerant place in the world. Nobody believes any of this is true, but it's still offensive to hear.

Republicans are warmongers. Democrats hate America. Hyperbole is everywhere you look.

Apparently nobody can get their views publicized unless they say something so abhorrent that it strains conventional sanity let alone credibility. That's why both conservative Ann Coulter and liberal Ted Rall accused 9/11 widows of enjoying their husbands' deaths. No one would listen to them otherwise. But, in truth, nobody should listen to them because of such nonsense.

Tim Robbins complained of the "chill wind" of censorship that was sweeping the nation. He said it at a public press conference at the National Press Club.

Gitmo is the "Gulag of our time". And everyone is a Nazi, or Al Qaeda.

People are more likely to be quoted if they say something stupid than something rational. And the media savvy are well aware of this. It's time the news media ignored these efforts instead of rewarding them with publicity.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Together Again: It's worth pointing out that the United States and Europe are working closely together on confronting Iran. For the longest time, there was great concern that our rift on Iraq was going to create irreparable harm in our relationship. But as each big issue comes up, we will keep cooperating when it comes to protecting our own self-interests.

What comes of these talks with Iran is another matter. It's easy to see that the United States is taking a harder-line approach than Europe. But we recognize that we can accomplish more working together than separately.

And I like the U.S. and E.U. rebuke of the reporter who implied that the United States was a bigger threat to world peace than Iran or Al Qaeda. People express their frustration through polls. But few people mean that sort of thing.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Empire Strikes Back: If North Korea goes through with testing its ICBM, we may try to shoot it down with our missile defense technology.

That sounds like a great plan, if it works. But if I recall, we have only had limited success "hitting a bullet with a bullet". We have done it before, but usually we miss. Striking Korea's missile would be a perfect response. But trying and missing would be rather embarrassing.

Korea's recent threats give some credence to President Bush's insistence that we need a missile-defense shield. I don't know whether that technology is worth the money or not. But I'm tired of critics who condemn the program on the fact that it doesn't work. That's the entire reason of experimenting with the program -- to make it work. I'm glad these people weren't in charge of the American space program early on. A couple failures, and they would have called it quits.

Even if we never need our missile-defense technology, national defense innovations often lead to amazing inventions for the average consumer. Just take a look at the Internet. The question now is how much we are willing to spend on this technology.

P.S. Fox News linked to the Washington Times article. I guess the conservative-leaning press is trying to band together against the liberal-leaning media.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Know What I'm Sayin'? Professor Volokh ruminates on the superfluous use of the word, "like".

I hate that word, yet I can't stop using it. I hear myself talk aloud, and it just keeps coming out of my mouth.

And I was like, "That can't be true." And he was like, "Oh, it's true."
I could easily replace each "was like" with the old staple, "said". But I would have to think ahead of time to actually accomplish that.

I guess we can blame that stupid 80s movie Valley Girl for ruining the English language. Thing is, "like" and "y'know" are so ingrained in the speech of just about everyone under the age of 40 that I don't think it will ever go away. Some day, 90-year-old men will be sitting on a porch complaining aloud.

And I was like, "Quit driving so fast around here, boy!" And he was like, "I am disinclined to acquiesce to your request." Damn smartass kids! Y'know? Whatever!

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Inflammable Rhetoric: The Senate seems to be one vote away from passing a constitutional amendment banning the desecration of the American flag.

Apparently the Senate has no qualms about desecrating the U.S. Constitution and our liberties enshrined in the Bill of Rights.

The Republicans must be scraping the bottom of the barrel to pull out this golden oldie. The amendment has failed repeatedly in the past, but recent GOP gains make passage more likely. If passed, it would represent the only time that the Congress amended the Constitution to restrict our freedoms, instead of expanding them, other than Prohibition. And we all know how well that turned out.

As I've said before, people who burn the American flag aren't very smart. And that's partly why we need to keep our First Amendment rights intact: It makes it easier to spot the stupid people. Anyone who lights a flag on fire (and, by extension, his hand and arm and clothes, and possibly his hair) doesn't have anything intelligent to say. We can safely ignore them.

But any government that needlessly tramples on our rights to free expression does more to dishonor our country than any pyromaniac protestors do. It's more patriotic to exercise your rights as an American than to brutally suppress them.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Dodging Bullets: President Bush makes a surprise visit to Baghdad. For five hours.

I look forward to the day when the President of the United States can make an announced visit to Baghdad, and spend the night in peace.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A is for AAAAAHHHH! Alberto is gliding through the Caribbean with whopping 50 mph winds. This isn't even a Category One hurricane yet, merely a tropical storm, yet it's getting round-the-clock media attention. Are we going to fall into panic mode for every storm this hurricane season?

Thursday, June 08, 2006

God is Great: Abu Musab al-Zarqawi is dead. We finally got the bastard.

News reports are rightfully tempering the announcement by saying that this in no way ends the insurgency or terrorist attacks in Iraq. While he was the operational leader of Al Qaeda in Iraq, his death is largely symbolic.

But symbols are important in this war. Al Qaeda picks its targets largely on their symbolic value, and replays the images of the deaths and beheadings over the Internet to amplify their effects. People in the Arab world respond to symbols. And they also respond to might.

This was a show of force on our part, a representation of dominance. And Muslims in the Arab world reacted with cheers and celebratory gunfire.

As well they should. Zarqawi didn't care about Iraqis, or even Muslims. He was a psychopath bent on turning Sunnis against Shiites to ignite a bloody civil war. He was a foreign presence in that country who wanted to bring down the democratically elected Iraqi government to create chaos in the Middle East, leaving Arabs desperate so Al Qaeda could prey on their weakness.

Now he's dead. Although previous news reports said that other Al Qaeda members were taking over the helm in Iraq, nobody had the media presence and the symbolic value of Zarqawi, and nobody will for some time. And although the terrorists will likely lash out and continue their deadly attacks, their operational infrastructure and financial resources have been weakened, making it harder to conduct the attacks in the long run.

This is a wonderful day for Iraqis and for all of Al Qaeda's enemies.

Now it's time to get Osama Bin Laden.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Empty Spaces: No posts for awhile. Sure I've been busy, but I really can't think of a damn thing to blog about. I was going to write about how Bush's renewed drive to (not) pass a constitutional amendment outlawing same-sex marriage was purely political to rally the base for the mid-terms, but I see that 100 other people have already said that. If this is so obvious to so many people, why isn't it obvious to Republicans?

Ann Coulter has a new book out. Okay, let's change the subject.

Yesterday was 6/6/06, or 06/06/2006, or something that gave marketing people hard-ons.

Muslim terrorists plotted to attack the Canadian parliament. Liberals are blaming American policies. Sigh.

Hell with it. Check out this video of a dancing model airplane!

Friday, June 02, 2006

Yay! Everyone came to agreement on the future of Iran's use of nuclear technology. The United States, China, Russia, France, the European Union -- they all signed on. Only one party was missing: Iran.

Hate to sound like such a cynic, but Iran is not going to go along with the agreement. It doesn't matter what incentives are there for Iran to cooperate, or disincentives to keep the country from building nuclear facilities, we will not be able to stop that government from developing nuclear technology.

Iran may even sign on. But as soon as the country gets the incentives, that government will restart its nuclear program. Actually, Iran will probably continue covertly the entire time. And when all this information surfaces, only then will we see whether the allies mentioned above have the fortitude to stick to the agreement. Wanna hear my prediction on that, too?

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