Monday, August 29, 2005

The Mother of Inventions

A young lady of my acquaintance has been having a problem with her imaginary friends. Some sort of epidemic seems to have swept through them, because one by one they've been dying off. She announced yesterday that all but one her imaginary friends were dead, and that she was going to have to make up some more (of course she knows she made them up — she's 3, not stupid).

In her case, it's easy to understand what's going on. Her grandmother died recently, and this is one way that she's been processing that, in a perfectly age-appropriate way. The games she plays with her older sister have also reflected this process; many of their characters seem to have been recently bereaved.

But what motivated the people who invented Sgt Dan Kennings, used him for two years of anti-war propaganda, and eventually killed him off?

Friday, August 26, 2005

Faster, Please.....

I hope, like in that Monty Python skit, we have teams of scientists working on this.

Wednesday, August 24, 2005

Oh, that political JAMA

According to to the editor of JAMA, the publication is not political:
Dr. Catherine DeAngelis, JAMA's editor-in-chief, said the decision to publish the review was not politically motivated. "Oh, please," DeAngelis said. "If I had a political agenda, I wouldn't pick fetal pain." JAMA does not publish "politically motivated science. We publish data-based, evidence-based science," DeAngelis said.
Some people might beg to differ.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

More Sheehan

Another response to Cindy Sheehan, this one from another bereaved parent:
Mrs. Sheehan has become the poster child for all the negativity surrounding the war in Iraq. In a way it heartens me to have all this attention paid to her, because that means others in her position now have the chance to be heard. Give equal time to other loved ones of fallen heroes. Feel the intensity of their love, their pride and the sorrow.

And this one:
here are over 1800 families that know the pain that my wife and I and our two remaining kids know. The horror of seeing the service at your door, with a message that is not one you want to hear. It changes you for ever. Amongst all this you have a suffering mother that has chosen to use her son’s suffering and sacrifice and commitment to his cause and Country as a soap box, a chance at 15 minutes of fame!
(Yes, he's a freeper. So what? According to the Sheehanites, as the parent of a dead soldier he speaks with "absolute moral authority". If that applies to loony anti-semites like Sheehan, why shouldn't it apply to freepers?)

Indeed, it appears that it's very difficult to find any other parents of soldiers who died in the war who support Sheehan. Pro-Sheehan demonstrators hold up pictures of young men and women, and wear stickers saying "mom", "uncle", etc, but don't be fooled into thinking that those are their children, who are serving in the armed forces. They're not. This reminds me of all John Kerry's "Vietnam Veterans Against the War" who turned out never to have been anywhere near Vietnam, or not even to have served at all. It also reminds me of the abusive mail Michael Fumento gets from people claiming to be Vietnam veterans who were damaged by Agent Orange, or to be Gulf War veterans suffering from "Gulf War Syndrome", but when Fumento challenges them for details of when and where they served, it becomes clear that they're just making it all up.

(Hat tip: Daffydd, Sachi, and Tim Blair)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Political Morality

Are governments bound by the promises they made in order to be elected? It obviously depends. But if an issue becomes a central point in the campaign, and it was clear at the time that had the promise not been made the election result would have been different, and there has been no change of circumstances since then, then it is clear that a government which changes its mind must return to the people for their say.

Even when circumstances do change, it's not clear that the government may renege on such a pledge. Wilson was returned in 1916 on a pledge to keep the USA out of WW1. Less than a year later, in changed circumstances, he took the USA into the war, with overwhelming support of the population. Had he held a referendum, it is clear that it would have passed. Should he have held one? I think he should have, but let Mackenzie King have his say:

When those who hold representative and responsible positions have given a definite promise to the people, they have created an obligation to act in accordance with that promise, until the people are again consulted. Such an obligation may not be binding according to law, but as an obligation it is no less sacred.

There are those, I know, who make light of what they call "political promises." It will, I think, be generally agreed that a political platform or programme is one thing; a definite and concrete promise or pledge is quite another. Because of circumstances, a government may, without breaking faith, fail to carry out, to the letter, its full programme. No change in circumstances could, however, justify a government in ignoring a specific pledge to the people, unless it was clear that the safety of the nation was immediately involved, and there was no possibility of consulting the people.

It should be noted that, even after the referendum passed with 64% of the vote, releasing the government from its promise never to send conscripts overseas, conscription was not introduced until 2½ years later, and even then only after a political crisis.

The dictator Sharon is obviously cut from a different cloth.

Monday, August 15, 2005

The Sheehan Circus

The worst thing about the whole Cindy Sheehan thing isn't her moonbat leftism or the army of Lefties who think she's some kind of saint. The worst thing is that even the mildest criticism of her makes you pure evil. Apparently she is so wise and pure that to question her stance is to automatically become a "smear artist". For a disturbing look into the way she is treated, haul yourself over to her postings at HuffNPuff and the read the comments. Almost any critique is hit with a withering barrage of "how dare you's" and "stop promoting your hateful war". And those are for the critiques left by others who lost a loved one in Iraq. They are told, over and over, that the war is a charade and all of the death has been in vain. Nothing that is too harshly critical of her is let into her blog. It's censored. So it's an echo chamber of anti-war craziness that betrays more hatred for anyone who supported the war than I thought was possible.

Now, Newsweek has an article about how it is that the President meets with grieving families, and how he has kept it quiet and not publicized his meetings. Apparently, he does feel drained by the meeting with the families of the fallen. Cindy Sheehan has, in my opinion, changed her story of their first meeting for her own personal goals. If Bush was kind to her and seemed human and caring when they met last year, that undermines her quest. So he must be aloof and he must refuse to say the name of the soldier in Cindy's narrative, or else her story falls apart. In the Newsweek story, Bush talks with all of the families about the fallen, about who they were. When Sheehan says that the President didn't want to mention Casey Sheehan's name, I think she is either lying or has actually convinced herself the President didn't care. With a crazy person, either is possible. But because Newsweek is "corporate media" don't expect the Cindy Patrol to talk any stock in it. They're all media whores as Newsweek, or didn't you hear that? (Yes, this site has criticized Newsweek in the past, theflushing Koran story, but that was for printing an unverified story, not one that is fully sourced)

One last thing. Lance Armstrong is going to Crawford to ride with the President. Armstrong said on "This Week" yesterday that he wants to see more funds spent on cancer research. Makes sense. He's probably already done more good for his cause than Cindy Sheehan ever will, and he's not a publicity hound. I don't know his politics, but I expect Lance will soon be called a whole litany of horrible things by people on the Left who might have once called him a hero. I'm sure they'll first demand he "speak for Cindy", and if he doesn't, well, doesn't he know that not to support Cindy is to be a wormonger? He'll have to be taught, won't he. This is the dumbest media circus since the missing girl in Aruba. Cindy Sheehan may not be using her son, but she's a nut and others are certainly using her. That's the truth. And it's pathetic.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Able Danger

The Captain has it right. The latest statement from Hamilton and Kean is detailed, logical, plausible, answers all the questions, and if it had come a week ago I'd have considered the matter settled. Or if, all week, we'd heard no comment from the Commission, while it investigated the story and prepared its response. But instead we've had daily changing stories, each one contradicting the last. Now finally, after a week of trying out different explanations, they've managed to invent one that makes sense. Big deal.

You know, tomorrow Kofi Annan could release a 100-page legal brief, that explains away in detail every bit of evidence against him, and shows him to be completely clean. And if I were on a jury trying him, and had to find him guilty beyond reasonable doubt, I might look at this hypothetical explanation and say "yep, looks like reasonable doubt to me". But that's not the standard in the court of public opinion, and if he were to release such an explanation tomorrow I'd say "nice try, monkey-boy*, but I don't believe you". Thieves are not above lying, and liars are not above lying some more.

* UPDATE: I'd better explain this. In Hebrew, kofi means "my monkey". It's also a reference to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

Bravo

Mohammed, at Iraq the Model, has a message for Cindy Sheehan. Read it.

By the way, my own attitude is not nearly as charitable. Mothers have lost sons to war for as long as human civilisation has existed. It's a sacrifice reality demands so that civilisation can exist. In previous times, though, mothers told their sons to come back with their shields or on them; Sheehan tried to persuade her son to desert. That alone discredits her.

UPDATE: When I wrote that, I hadn't read this. I didn't know that Ms Sheehan believes "America has been killing people on this continent since it was started. This country is not worth dying for." I certainly didn't know that she had said her son was "killed for lies and for a PNAC Neo-Con agenda to benefit Israel", and that he "joined the Army to protect America, not Israel", or that she said terrorism would stop when "you get America out of Iraq and Israel out of Palestine". Now that I know she said that, I no longer give a damn about her pain and grief. She will go to Hell; my wish is that she get there as quickly as possible.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Another Difference a Year Makes

"I now know he's sincere about wanting freedom for the Iraqis," Cindy said after their meeting. "I know he's sorry and feels some pain for our loss. And I know he's a man of faith."
That was how Cindy Sheehan described her meeting with the President a year ago. Though she and her husband vigorously opposed the war, and were not shy to criticise it and the way - as they saw it - the President "has changed his reasons for being over there every time a reason is proven false or an objective reached", they appreciated that he took the time to meet them, and came away from the meeting with no complaints, and a good impression. As her husband said, "I have a new respect for him because he was sincere and he didn't have to take the time to meet with us".

What a different picture of that meeting Ms Sheehan paints now. She now claims to have come away from the meeting "dissatisfied and angry". She claims that the President treated the first meeting as a party, did not seem to know her son's name and referred to her as "Mom", and that she was hustled out of his presence without the ability to voice her concerns about the war:

We wanted him to look at pictures of Casey, we wanted him to hear stories about Casey, and he wouldn’t. He changed the subject every time we tried. He wouldn’t say Casey’s name, called him "your loved one".
Meanwhile, Michelle Malkin has come into criticism for noting that Ms Sheehan has aligned herself with Michael Moore, who calls the Iraqi insurgents "Minutemen", and that "I can't imagine that Casey Sheehan would approve of such behavior, conduct and rhetoric". (Transcript here - scroll down to the bottom). For this Malkin has come under savage attack. Ms Sheehan has said "I didn’t know Casey knew Michelle Malkin…I’m Casey’s mother and I knew him better than anybody else in the world". And Dan Savage, guest blogging for Andrew Sullivan, had this to say:
Now you might normally think that a dead man's mother would know his mind better than some batshitcrazy columnist he never met. But you would be wrong. Everyone in our armed forces backs their Vacationer-in-Chief—except for that Paul Hackett dude, of course. Alive, wounded, or even dead, America’s heroic armed forces are 100% behind our Dear Leader! Just ask Michelle "I See Dead People" Malkin.
Fair point, one would think. And yet, here's what Pat and Cindy had to say a year ago:
The 10 minutes of face time with the president could have given the family a chance to vent their frustrations or ask Bush some of the difficult questions they have been asking themselves, such as whether Casey's sacrifice would make the world a safer place. But in the end, the family decided against such talk, deferring to how they believed Casey would have wanted them to act. In addition, Pat noted that Bush wasn't stumping for votes or trying to gain a political edge for the upcoming election.
Note the bit I emphasised. Based on that it seems that Malkin's got a pretty good grip on what sort of behaviour and rhetoric Casey Sheehan would have approved of, and that includes neither Moore's nor, sad to say, his own mother's. Another clue is the fact that he re-enlisted in August 2003, four months after the invasion of Iraq, knowing very well that he was likely to be sent there, and that he resisted his mother's incitement to desert and flee to Canada.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

What a difference a year makes

Commenter RMBN over at the Captain's notes that if the Pentagon had found out about Mohammed Atta in mid-2001, rather than a year earlier, and had not informed the FBI, we would be hearing about it through every MSM news channel and every leftist blog, Howard Dean would have a fit, and the Democrats would start demanding impeachment hearings. We wouldn't hear the end of it. But it happened a year earlier, when Someone Else was in the White House, and so the left is silent.

UPDATE: Apparently not. At least this commenter at moonbat blog Think Progress isn't afraid to make noise about this discovery, and place the blame on You Know Who, who was running the Pentagon in mid-2000. Er. Well. Maybe not.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Profiling

One of the frequently heard arguments against profiling is that there are exceptions which the profile won't catch. Thus, when we point out the stupidity of conducting anti-terrorist searches purely at random, and wasting time searching grandmothers from Iowa instead of concentrating on those who appear to fit the profile of Islamist terrorists, we're sure to hear the refrain "what about Timothy McVeigh and Richard Reid". Now, via Michael Totten at Instapundit, comes this version of the same argument, making the point that not all radical Islamists look the same. If you're stopping people strictly according to a profile, Yvonne Ridley could probably pass, at least if she would take off her head scarf.

Well, yeah. As any fule kno, profiling, even the very best available, isn't 100% reliable, and can't be, ever. There will always be someone who doesn't fit the profile, and thus stands a better chance of avoiding detection - and who will never be caught at all, if everyone always searches according to the profile. That's why the DC snipers avoided detection for so long; everyone was looking for a white loner, because that's who usually does this sort of crime, so the two black guys went right on shooting until someone looked outside the box.

And that's why I've yet to hear anyone argue that police should stick exclusively to a narrow profile, and never stop anyone outside it. Every description I've ever seen of how profiling works, includes some random factor which changes regularly, precisely in order not to give a free pass to the unusual criminal or terrorist. For instance, a particular guard might decide, in addition to the usual criteria, to stop anyone who is wearing a particular colour, and change that colour every hour. Or she might, every 5 minutes, stop someone completely at random. But most of the time, she should concentrate on the profile, and anyone who does fit it should come in for extra scrutiny.

Because, let's face it, the Ridleys and Reids of the Islamist world are the exception, not the rule. Given an unlimited supply of volunteers, the terrorist leaders might concentrate on sending only atypical-looking people out on missions, but they don't have an unlimited supply of volunteers. They've got a handful of white converts, and a whole lot more Middle-Eastern or Asian Moslems from birth. And the few whites make up a tiny percentage of all the white people who pass through a checkpoint, while the terrorists who fit the profile make up a far larger (though still quite small) percentage of all the people who look like them and who pass through the checkpoint. And there's nothing anyone can do about that.

Now a word about the people who do fit the profile, and who are therefore singled out for special scrutiny. No, it isn't fair on them. And the people who do the scrutinising have to bear in mind that the overwhelming majority of the people they stop will in fact have nothing to do with terrorism. So they have to be extra careful to treat them with courtesy, and, having found nothing wrong with them, to apologise for the inconvenience. But none of this makes profiling a wrong or immoral policy.

Here's a f'rinstance: it is a regular practise for the authorities to issue pictures of wanted people. Sometimes these are photographs, so they're by definition fairly accurate; sometimes they're photofit drawings, and are, to put it mildly, less accurate. But no matter how accurate one of these pictures is, there are going to be quite a few people who bear a strong resemblance to the wanted person. Perhaps they are relatives - perhaps even identical twin siblings - or perhaps they have no known connection, but happen to look like them. Suppose there are 10 people who look like a wanted person; that means that when the police stop someone on the basis of the picture, there is a 91% chance that the person is completely innocent. They should certainly bear that in mind, and not immediately knock the person to the ground or slap handcuffs on them. But should they refrain from stopping them and asking some very pointed questions? Of course not. If you happen to be one of those people who look very like a wanted criminal, life will get very tiresome until the criminal is caught. But that's life, and it's absurd to suggest that the police should solve your problem by stopping people at random, even if they look nothing like the criminal.

Will The Isreali Pullout of Gaza End Terror There?

A couple of years ago I was in a heated debate regarding Iraq and our policy in the Arab world with a friend of a friend and a party(in Washington, the debates never end). The subject of Isreal came up, of course, and I defended the US's support of Israel and it's right to defend itself. The person I was debating with called me "ignornant" for ignoring the "obvious" fact that the Israeli's had "stolen" their land from the poor Palenstinians and that they were obviously occupying Gaza nad the West Bank illegalaly and that the Palestinians had every right to fight back to claim it. I was taken aback, first because this woman had just called me ignorant. Second, because she essentially said Palestinian terrorism was OK. I asked her if she really supported the killing of innocents by the terrorists in Isreal. She respinded with a non-answer, saying should could "understand the desire" to hurt those who took your homeland. Unfortuantly for this woman, I had just finished reading two books: "The Case for Isreal by Alan Dershowitz, and "Six Dats of War", a well-written, fairly balanced history of the Six Days War in 1967. Dershowitz's book dispels most of the myths defenders of teh Infitada use to justify attacks on Isreal, and the history of the Six Days War enlightened me as to why Isreal still held onto Gaza and the West Bank.

For those of you who don't know, it's because neither Syria or Jordan has ever promised not to attack Isreal again. After the war ended, the Isreali's immediately offered to give back all the land they had won in a war they didn't start if the agressors, Egypt, Syria and Jordan, promised to stop making war on them. None agreed. When the Camp David accords were signed, Egypt got back the Sinai because they finally promised to stop attacking Isreal. Syria and Jordan, however, have been using the Isreali occupation of those lands as a reason to forment hatred of the Jews in the Arab world. It's more useful to them for the Isreali's to keep the land because it works up their population into a frenzy against Isreal to keep the attention off how corrupt Syria and Jordan are. When I pointed all this out to by interrogator, she called me a racist and huffed off. I informed my friend of this exchange, who is half-Iraqi, half-Isreali. The friend was not seen at an of her parties again. I was.

Why am I telling this tale? Because Isreal is about to start pulling out of Gaza on it's own. On August 15th, Isreal will reomve it's own settlers from area and give it to the Palestinians. Without any of the previous conditions being met. It had caused some great upheavel in Isreali politics. with former Prime Minister and Cabinet Member Bibi Netnyahau quiting the government the other day. But they are doing it anyway. Today Daniel Pipes wonders if this will change the amount of terror directed at Isreal. It's an important question, because, as I said above, the common complaint from Isreal's detractors is centered around the "illegal" occupation of Gaza. Will people like the one I debated at the party stop complaining about Isreal after this pullout occurs, and, more imprtantly, are the right that the level of violence will decrease because the "injustice" is gone? Pipes doesn't think so. I hope so, but am not optimistic. It's a question that should be asked today though, because Isreal is showing it really wants peace. How will anti-Isreal members of both the Left and Right respond? I might have to wait to the next party over Labor Day to find out.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Sometimes I Wish Kerry Won...

Christopher Hitchens on whose not offering humanitaran help in Iraq. The left cannot bring itself to align with the Iraqi people against a barbaric totalitarian enemy that is almost a caricature of evil. Perhaps Kang was right when he suggested a John Kerry victory was best for the GWOT. Vunerable on national security and wounded by the swiftboat vets, JFK would have followed through on Iraq and brought many on the left with him. Of course, Bush is a safer bet to prosecute the war, but if this is a mushy victory: perhaps JFK would have been in our long-term interest.

Don't know much about history

Has-been blowhard Harry Belafonte delivered himself of this pearl of wisdom today:
Hitler had a lot of Jews high up in the hierarchy of the Third Reich. Color does not necessarily denote quality, content or value.
By analogy, he argues, black members of the Bushitler tyranny should be judged by the actions of their master rather than by the colour of their skins. A fair point, if one accepts its moonbat premises. I'd just like to know the names of some of those prominent Nazi Jews. I mean, if there were a lot of them, surely Mr Belafonte can name two or three. In the alternative, I'd like to know why anyone pays attention to this idiot.

Meanwhile, some nobody called Dick Gregory showed himself to be one of the most dishonest, ungodly, unspiritual people ever to have existed in the history of the planet, but since I can't recall having heard of him before today I don't know whether this came as a shock to anyone.

(Hat tip: Ann Althouse at Instapundit)

Friday, August 05, 2005

Scandalous Language

Kevin Choset, over at Volokh, talks about the practise of tacking the suffix "-gate" on to any scandal. How did this practise arise? I believe that it was started by Democrats, with the conscious purpose of making people remember the Watergate scandal, and therefore the almost-subliminal idea that Republicans are corrupt. No matter what the actual scandal du jour is about, and no matter who is involved, those Democrats wanted it always to be compared, in the back of people's minds, to the ur-scandal, the burglary at the Watergate.

I remember that during the Iran/Contra affair, when people started calling it "Contragate" or "Irangate", I saw a contrary suggestion that right-wingers should start referring to it as "Iranaquiddick", in order to divert attention from an old Republican scandal to an old Democratic scandal. But if I recall correctly, the term that emerged among those reluctant to use the "-gate" suffix was "Iranamuck". At least, that's still the term I use if I ever have to refer to it nowadays. And I still occasionally try using the "-quiddick" suffix on the scandal du jour, to see whether it sticks.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

More Terminology Stupidity

There seems to be a whole category of error, which consists of someone using a term as a better way of saying something else, and then treating it as if it were a complete synonym for that other thing, using it wherever the original word would be used, and ending up saying something completely stupid as a result.

"Homicide bomber" was originally, as I commented below, a perfectly sensible way of making a particular point—that when distinguishing between different kinds of bombers, the fact that a paticular one intended to kill people is more significant than the fact that he was willing to kill himself. But when people adopt this new term without thinking about it, what happens is that internally they're still thinking "suicide", and at output time they just impose a blind substitution, and they end up saying that the London bombings on 7-Jul-05 were the first homicide bombings in Europe. Or, when people blindly substitute "African American" for "black", they end up talking about "African American cats", or about Arab Sudanese massacring "African American" Sudanese.

Here's another example: Joel Rosenberg reports on an anti-gun campaigner who uses the term "criminal" in a non-standard way, with amusing results.

There's got to be a name for this category of error, but I have no idea what it is.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Huh?

I just saw this story from ABC last Friday, about Lachlan Murdoch's resignation from News Corp. One bit near the beginning caught my eye:
The sudden departure put the spotlight back on the issue of who would eventually succeed Murdoch, who is 74 years old. The next most likely candidate in the Murdoch family is Lachlan's 32-year-old brother James, but given his youth he would not likely be a candidate for many years.
Excuse me? Lachlan, as the article says later on, is 33. The last time I checked, 33 - 32 = 1; James is one year younger than Lachlan. So how, exactly, is the passing of the torch from Lachlan to James complicated by the latter's relative youth? Explain this, please.

Oy Vey!

We've all heard stories of the Chevy Nova, the miraculous life-restoring Pepsi, the IKEA Jerker desk, and other brand name blunders, both real and made up. Certainly IBM's RS/6000 met some resistance in Australia, where RS means useless, broken, or no good. Meanwhile, my favourite Australian beer, Cascade, won't ever be sold under that name in the USA, because over here it refers to an entirely different kind of product.

This German knife company may want to rethink its name, if it ever wants to sell to Jews, or to other USAns who use this word.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

Who Are the Right's Least Favorite Conservatives?

Right Wing News conducted a poll of the top right-wing bloggers to determine which conservative they dislike the most. Here are the results. Pat Buchanan led the pack to come in first, and John McCain got second. My least favorite conservative, Ann Coulter, was a close third. In my mind she's worse than Bucnahan because Buchanan, whole being slightly repugnant, is at least incredibly intelligent. Coulter is a hideous beast who really couldn't argue her way out of a paper bag. She'd rather shoot her way out. I know Kang has a soft spot for her, but I wish she'd go away. Anyway, check out the list. I found it most enjoyable.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Helen Thomas update below.