April 16, 2009

Web Reconnaissance for 04/16/2009

A short recon of what’s out there that might draw your attention, updated throughout the day...so check back often.

Five Feet of Fury: 'If United 93 had been an Air Canada flight...' (My London speech) - Tonight’s question is: are Human Rights Commissions useful or obsolete? Something can’t be called “obsolete” if it was never “useful” in the first place. It is commonplace to insist that the HRCs were a good idea at the time, but they’ve veered off course. Some present at the creation claim they never imagined the HRCs could have evolved into what they’ve become. I’d argue that they were never a good idea in the first place, and that any precocious 12 year old who’d accidentally watched Truffaut’s adaptation of Fahrenheit 451 on “Saturday Night At The Movies” could have foreseen what they would turn into. The original mandate of the HRCs was to deal with discrimination in employment and accommodation. A really embarrassing female politician asked Mark Steyn about one famous example, when he recently testified at Queen’s Park about the HRCs and Section 13. (READ MORE)

Spike Spencer: The Joker Had It Right: Why So Serious? - I recently said something at a gathering of some of my closest friends that made them look at me like I just clubbed a baby fur seal to death with the lifeless body of a cute little puppy that I had just strangled to death with my swastika arm band. What could be so downright unnerving? Did I say I drank human blood? Did I say I was attracted to little children and poultry? Did I say I wanted to desecrate the local house of worship, non-denominational of course, by throwing feces at it and blaming those inside for all the world’s evil? Well, no. No dear friends, I said nothing of the kind. In fact, all of these things no doubt would lovingly be fought for as our rights by the ACLU. No, I said something much, much, much worse. I said, “I don’t think that George Bush is a bad guy.” Cue the screeching halt of the car, followed closely by the dumbfounded looks of everyone around... (READ MORE)

Burt Prelutsky: Obama, Your Slips Are Showing - Judging by my e-mail, a great many conservatives are counting down the days until they next get to vote in 2010. They hope and pray that Americans will come to their collective senses and undo some of the horrors unleashed by last November’s election. Naturally, I hope they’re right. But I’m not sure that it will be enough to sound the alarm that the sky is falling because, by then, I suspect it will have already fallen. Besides, I’m not convinced that most of my fellow citizens have a problem with the direction that Obama, Pelosi and Reid, have taken us during these past few months. At the rate that Obama and the liberals are going, when it comes to piling up the national debt; nationalizing banks and major companies; scuttling our missile defense system; reaching out to Islamic and Communist tyrants... (READ MORE)

AJStrata: CNN Reporter Goes Drama Queen On Tea Parties - Far Right Loses It Too - A CNN Reporter (who probably is getting a reprimand) claimed the Tea Parties were anti-government (should be against unbridled government spending and high taxes) and anti-CNN! What in the world does CNN have to do with this? Supposedly, in this warped little mind, these protests across the nation are anti-CNN since Fox News was reporting on the Tea Parties (as did a lot of news outlets, as I noted yesterday). Granted, Fox communicated these events to its listeners well in advance and the mainstream media waited until the day of the events, but there were directions to the protests, directions on how to find them. This poor, picked on CNN reporter (to be fair - who knows how much harassment she took off camera before the live shot) even went on to say the protests were anti-family! Right after interviewing a dad with his baby in his arms whom she kept trying to shout down. (READ MORE)

William Teach: Napolitano Apologizes To Veterans For DHS Report - Or, does she? Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano apologized to veterans after a report issued by her department said troops returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were at risk for being recruited by right-wing extremists. “‘To the extent veterans read it as an accusation -- an apology is owed,’ she said in an on-air interview on FOX News Thursday, a day after veterans' groups and members of Congress blasted her for the report, which they said libeled members of the armed forces. ‘The last thing I want to do is offend or castigate all veterans. To the contrary, let's meet and clear the air,’ she said.”
Ah, the old "I'm sorry if you were offended" argument. Correct me if I am wrong, but, it wasn't really an apology. She just said one was due. Perhaps she could truly say she was sorry to the vets, eh? (READ MORE)

John Robb: THE MATHEMATICS OF TERRORISM - Power laws -- a mathematical distribution, usually depicted as a curve, that depicts a low number of large extreme events (on the left) tailing off to a large number of mild events (on the right) -- are good at describing lots of things found in nature and society, from the distribution of cities by population to earthquakes by severity. Over 50 years ago, power laws were found to describe the severity of casualties in conventional warfare (Richardson). We've also found that changes to the slope of the power law can depict the shift from conventional warfare to open source warfare (or 4GW) over the past decades (see relatively recent analysis by Johnson, Spagat, et. al.. that shows casualty distributions for modern conflict are converging on the model for non-G7 terrorism). Another recent effort by Clauset and Young entitled, "Scale Invariance in Global Terrorism," studied terrorism data over a thirty-seven year span and concluded that power laws apply to this data set too. (READ MORE)

Classical Values: Raising the beer tax -- "for the children!" - While I am not always successful, I often seek to understand what drives the mental processes of those who devote their lives to meddling with other people's lives. Sometimes, though, these mental processes proves very difficult to understand, as I found when I read this report about a Michigan state task force which wants to raise taxes on beer -- in order to help the children! “The Michigan Child Welfare Improvement Task Force plans to recommend a higher tax on beer in Michigan, raising the tax from two to five cents per 12 ounces of beer, or about one can, in bars, grocery stores and wholesale stores. The money from the tax rate increase will go toward prevention programs for child abuse and neglect and to help children in the foster care system. Patrick Babcock, a co-chair of the task force, said raising the taxes on beer would have a large impact on child abuse prevention programs.” Got that? Taxing beer protects children from child abuse! (READ MORE)

R. Emmett Tyrrell, Jr.: The Arrogance of His Power - Another Democratic president has shattered precedent. Democratic politicians take great pride in shattering American precedents, and they do so with such regularity that it is surprising there are any precedents left to shatter, except, I guess, for the precedents Democrats establish on the ruins of earlier precedents. I hope, when the next Republican president comes along, that he or she will shatter a few Democratic precedents. Given the serial bungling of the Obama Administration, I shall not be surprised to see that precedent-shattering Republican come along in 2013. During his recent European peregrination, our haughty president became the first American president to speak ill of America while on foreign soil. Actually it is rare for an American president to speak ill of America anywhere. President Barack H. Obama does it practically everywhere. Now that Fidel Castro has quieted down and the French left is in abeyance, President Obama has become America's leading critic. (READ MORE)

Quin Hillyer: Obama's Opiate - Let's cut through all of Barack Obama's baloney. His speech on the economy at Georgetown University on Tuesday was a testament to the massive ego of a callow leader with grandiose pretensions bordering on megalomania. Everything he outlined in his vision for a near-Utopian economic future is designed to come about through the intervention of a government central planner -- his own Oneself -- combined with the coercive force of government to make it happen. It's a promise of economic growth at the point of a gun, at least tacit if not explicit -- and all as if some genius in the Oval Office or elsewhere in Washington has the wherewithal to know exactly how and where to "invest" and to "regulate" and to "stimulate" and to "reform" (the latter meaning, in most cases, to have government either take over something or else kill something it currently considers politically incorrect). (READ MORE)

This Ain't Hell: Napolitano stands by “vets as terrorists” warning - The Washington Times’ Audrey Hudson reports this morning that Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano stands by her department’s report on potential terror by the “right wing”: “Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday that she was briefed before the release of a controversial intelligence assessment and that she stands by the report, which lists returning veterans among terrorist risks to the U.S. In her statement Wednesday, Ms. Napolitano defended the report, which says ‘rightwing extremism’ may include groups opposed to abortion and immigration, as merely one among several threat assessments. But she agreed to meet with the head of the American Legion, who had expressed anger over the report, when she returns to Washington next week from a tour of the U.S.-Mexico border.” In response to some reports of who the author of the report might be, the Times narrows down the field; (READ MORE)

Meryl Yourish: The self-defense of Jews: Still not welcome - This is an interesting argument that’s been floating around for quite some time. The world says to Israel that it exaggerates the danger of Iran. Israel says she will take action in self-defense if necessary, even if that means striking Iranian reactors. Then the world says, “Well, if you bomb Iran, that will just prove to them that they need to have nukes to prevent you from bombing their nukes.” I’m used to hearing it from the EU and, well, from idiots. I’m not used to hearing it from the U.S. Secretary of Defense. “Amid increasing suggestions that Israel might attack Iran’s nuclear facilities, Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates warned this week that such a strike would have dangerous consequences, and asserted that Tehran’s acquisition of a bomb can be prevented only if ‘Iranians themselves decide it’s too costly.’” (READ MORE)

Eugene Volokh: Self-Defense-Blindness - Many arguments against allowing private gun ownership or gun carrying strike me as quite plausible; I think they're mistaken, but they make sense. The arguments claim that banning guns would provide more benefits, especially in saving people's lives, than the costs that such a ban would impose (frustrated self-defense, decreased deterrence, and other things). I think that this argument is empirically unlikely, and morally troublesome. But it makes sense on its own terms. Occasionally, though, I run across a different phenomenon — both as to guns and as to other things — that I think of as "self-defense-blindness": a complete failure to even consider self-defense as one of the functions of a gun or other weapon. Either the speaker doesn't even think of self-defense, or at least he assumes that the listener can be persuaded not to think of self-defense. (READ MORE)

Ilya Somin: Does Declining Popular Identification with State Governments Undermine the Case for Federalism? - In their important new book criticizing federalism, Malcolm Feeley and Edward Rubin argue that federalism (defined as constitutional guarantees for state autonomy) is unnecessary in the modern US in part because modern Americans no longer feel any major sense of identification with state governments. Feeley and Rubin concede that federalism might be a useful institution in societies where state boundaries coincide with major ethnic or religious divisions. For example, Canadian federalism allows the French-speaking minority to have an autonomous enclave in Quebec, where they can avoid domination by the English-speaking majority. French-speaking Quebecers identify with Quebec as much or more so than with the Canadian federal government. By contrast, Feeley and Rubin claim, most modern Americans identify as "Americans" first and foremost and have little or no loyalty to their states. (READ MORE)

ShrinkWrapped: The Laius Complex and Tea Parties - Legend has it that King Laius was a minor, divine hero of ancient Greece: “In Greek mythology, King Laius, or Laios of Thebes was a divine hero and key personage in the Theban founding myth. Son of Labdacus, he was raised by the regent Lycus after the death of his father.” Today, we remember Laius for his supporting role in one of the central myths of Psychoanalysis. When Laius was orphaned, he was taken in by King Pelops. Laius repaid the kindness by kidnapping and raping King Pelops's son, after which the story became even more interesting: The story of Oedipus is familiar. In response to the Oracle at Delphi's prediction that he would kill his father and marry his mother, he ran from Corinth and set out for Thebes. On the road he encountered King Laius, who remained in character as a nasty piece of work, and in the struggle, with neither aware of the true identity of the other, Oedipus killed Laius. (READ MORE)

Donald Sensing: Convoying past Somalia not a panacea - I linked yesterday to an op-ed in OpinionJournal urging merchant vessels transiting the waters off Somalia sail in convoys, escorted by warships. The piece is worth reading, but author Peter Zimmerman misstates why convoying was done during World War II's Battle of the Atlantic. He writes that the same convoying "tactic which defeated the U-boats can put an end to the majority of pirate attacks." Problem is, convoying did not defeat the U-boats. Convoys, large numbers of ship sailing together under a unified command, had been devised in World War I as a defense against U-boats. Convoys' advantage lay solely in the fact that the Atlantic is so enormous that a convoy of even dozens of ships was not really easier for a U-boat to find than a single vessel. Besides, there would never be enough destroyers or corvettes to escort single vessels. Convoys grew in size as the war continued. (READ MORE)

Right Truth: Keep the TEA flowing! - The question of the day: "What happens after the TEA parties?" I think Americans are more inspired today, the first day after the TEA parties, than they were prior or during the TEA parties. Ann Coulter said, "I had no idea how important this week's nationwide anti-tax tea parties were until hearing liberals denounce them with such ferocity." Amen to that. I don't think the liberals had any idea either. The TEA parties were about taxes, government spending, pork, politicians not listening to the people who put them in office, Americans wanting to keep what they work for, make their own decisions for their lives. That stays the same even after the TEA parties. People are fired up and they are going to be more active in politics than ever. The so called media journalists " ...showed in one brief day that there is no such thing as journalistic standards and that they will do everything they can to belittle the voice of concerned Americans if that voice runs counter to their left-wing agenda. Pathetic."said Bobby Eberle. (READ MORE)

Right Wing Nut House: BEGALA: APRIL 15TH SHOULD BE ‘PATRIOT’S DAY’ - What is it about paying taxes that make liberals coo and gurgle like a newborn making satisfied noises after soiling its diaper? Last year, it was Matt Stoller who wrote: “I just paid my taxes, and I have to say, I always take pride when I do so. I don’t like having less money to spend, of course, and the complexity of the process is really upsetting. But I am proud to pay for democracy, and I feel when I do send money to the DC Treasurer and the US Treasury that that is what I am doing. The right-wing likes to pretend as if taxes are a burden instead of the price of democracy.” With that kind of carrying on for paying taxes, you can imagine the party Stoller throws when he makes a complete stop at a stop sign. Not to be outdone this year, former Bill Clinton aide Paul Begala absolutely gushes about about tax day, calling it “Patriot’s Day” and slobbering over the fact that government gets to reach into his pocket and take his property: “Happy Patriots’ Day. April 15 is the one day a year when our country asks something of us — or at least the vast majority of us.” (READ MORE)

Political Pistachio: Tea Parties Not About Republicans and Democrats - Last February Rick Santelli of CNBC called for a Chicago Tea Party as a means of a revolt against the Obama Administration's mortgage bailout plan, and unsavory economic plans. Since then, the Democrats have spent us into oblivion, inserted government control over private industries, and has overstepped its Constitutional limitations in numerous ways. In 1773, angry over unfair taxation, colonists known as the Sons of Liberty, dumped over 90,000 pounds of tea from the cargo holds of three English ships as a symbolic act of protest we now know as The Boston Tea Party. That tea party was a grass roots beginning of a resistance against England that ultimately led to the founding of this nation. With annual deficit projections in the trillions of dollars under the "share the wealth" watch of the Obama Administration, again Americans are feeling unfairly taken advantage of, and feel the need to remind the government that they are our servants, and we do not approve of their unreasonable power-grab. (READ MORE)

Amy Proctor: Bishop Appalled at Notre Dame’s ‘Absolute Indifference to Murderous Abortion Program and Beliefs of Obama’ - Bishop Fabian Bruskewitz of the Lincoln, Nebraska Diocese wrote this letter to University of Notre Dame President Fr. John Jenkins in which the bishop publicly opposes Jenkins’ past support for The Vagina Monologues and his decision to honor and host pro-abortion President Barack Obama at commencement on May 17, 2009. Below is the text of Bishop Bruskewitz’s letter to Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins. "...Permit me to add my name as well to the long list of Bishops of the Catholic Church who are utterly appalled at your dedication to immorality and wrong-doing represented by your support for the obscenity called “The Vagina Monologues” and your absolute indifference to the murderous abortion program and beliefs of this President of the United States. The fact that you have some sort of past connection with the State of Nebraska makes it all the more painful that the Catholic people here have to see your betrayal of the moral teachings of the Catholic Church." (READ MORE)

Jules Crittenden: Grassroots Length Comparison - It’s kind of a political studliness contest. Anyone doing the math on how the turn out on the amorphous thing know as the national Tea Party is going compared to Obama’s big mega-email and doorknocking campaign last month to drum up pro-spending rage? My money’s on Tea Party. OK, quick Google news check. Ambinder, April 2, Atlantic Online: “When Terry McAuliffe was the chairman of the DNC, his staff used to joke at his expense that any number he uttered — usually a brag about some fundraising goal or field accomplishment — had to be reduced by about a third in order to comport with reality. Dana Milbank, writing in the Washington Post, suggests that the current DNC regime is overboasting, too, about the number of Obama budget pledges it received. In fact, the canvassing of Obama’s vaunted e-mail list of 13 million people resulted in just 114,000 pledges — a response rate of less than 1 percent. Workers gathered 100,000 more from street canvassing. The DNC got to 642,000 by making three photocopies of each pledge so that each signer’s senators and representative could get one.” (READ MORE)

Hamilton, Madison, and Jay: IRS employees ticked at the hypocrisy from the Obama administration - I saw this on the Chicago Tribune's site, and I had to chuckle. It seems that IRS employees aren't happy with having to report to a superior (Tim Geithner) who cheated on his taxes, and yet was still rewarded with his appointment as Treasury Secretary: “‘Our members are upset and angry,’ said Colleen Kelley, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, referring to concern bubbling up within the IRS over unusually strict rules that can cost agents their jobs if they make a mistake. In some cases, IRS employees have lost jobs for simply filing a late return or failing to report a few hundred dollars of interest income.” His position as Treasury Secretary is a joke, and that's why the public is pi$$ed. He gets to skate, free and clear, of any sort of responsibility, save having to pay the back taxes, and the average citizen gets bullied by the IRS. Worse, IRS employees can get canned if they pull a Geithner. I disagree with the reevaluation of the rules. There should be one strict set of rules for all, not a relaxation of the rules. (READ MORE)

Ed Morrissey: Spainmas a bust - Earlier this week, news that Spain intended to prosecute Bush administration officials for torture at Gitmo had the Left all atwitter, in the same way that they buzzed about frog-marching Karl Rove out of the White House during the Plame investigation. It turns out that Spain was a lot less enthusiastic than they were. Spain’s Attorney General threw a large bucket of cold water on Spainmas, recommending that the country drop the whole matter: “Spanish prosecutors will recommend against opening an investigation into whether six Bush administration officials sanctioned torture against terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, the country’s attorney-general said Thursday. Candido Conde-Pumpido said the case against the high-ranking U.S. officials — including former U.S. Attorney-General Alberto Gonzales — was without merit because the men were not present when the alleged torture took place.” (READ MORE)

Baron Bodissey: What About Kafir-Bashing? - Any serious or persistent criticism of Islam is usually described by Muslims and their Multiculturalist allies as “Islam-bashing”. But have you ever heard of “Christianity-bashing”? How about “kafir-bashing”? Me neither. When the mobs gather to shout “Death to those who insult Islam!” or “Jews to the gas!”, they’re just… well, “Muslim demonstrators”. Or “angry protestors”. Or maybe “Muslims who feel threatened by growing Islamophobia”. Or something similar. We’ve all heard the media-speak whitewash. Fortunately for the world’s 6.8 quadrillion insulted Muslims, a young Indonesian woman in the Netherlands is helping her boyfriend make a movie in response to Geert Wilders’ Fitna. According to Radio Netherlands, Anita Paoniasari plans to set the record straight: (READ MORE)

The Anchoress: Why Susan Boyle matters so much - It’s not because of her magnificent voice, although that gift from God is happily now in our awareness. It’s because it should not have taken that exposition for people to think well of her. Got this from Deacon Greg and just loved it; it really speaks to our materialism and our short-sightedness. It’s a good scolding we all could stand to hear, in the worldly world: “Susan is a reminder that it’s time we all looked a little deeper. She has lived an obscure but important life. She has been a companionable and caring daughter. It’s people like her who are the unseen glue in society; the ones who day in and day out put themselves last. They make this country civilised and they deserve acknowledgement and respect. Susan has been forgiven her looks and been given respect because of her talent. She should always have received it because of the calibre of her character.” (READ MORE)

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