Saturday, May 11, 2002

Wow...go to Eristic and read this post, in which Quana X. Jones blows apart a Saudi writer's defense of his kingdom. It's not for the faint of heart, but it is definitely worth the time.

Link courtesy of Cut on the Bias.

The Minneapolis Star-Tribune editorial page is biased. Take, for example, this editorial, from yesterday's edition. The writer has his anti-gun blinders on, and sure as heck isn't going to let anything like facts prevent him from making his point.

If you wonder, you might want to look to the Supreme Court, which interprets the Constitution, and the federal government, which must honor and enforce it. For more than 60 years now, those two branches of government have been of one mind about the Second Amendment: It's meant to protect the right of states to organize militias, they've long agreed -- not to safeguard any sort of individual right to own guns.

Um, right. The supreme court is a branch of the federal government, but the federal government is not a branch of itself. Work on the logic before you start bloviating.

Surprised? Don't be. This long-held view has done a lot to shape the world you live in. Because of it, your neighbors can't cavort about town with machine guns. Your irascible coworkers can't carry pistols in their pockets without police permission. And when your thrice-jailed, wife-beating cousin tries to buy a handgun, he has to undergo a background check to determine whether he should have one.

None of these issues have anything to do with the argument you are setting up. Forget about the straw men and work on a real rebuttal, if one is possible.

Scores of state and federal laws regulate private gun ownership -- all because the Supreme Court has said such laws are constitutional. In 1939, the court maintained that private citizens have no constitutional right to own a gun. The Second Amendment's real purpose, the court ruled then, is to secure "the preservation of efficiency of a well regulated militia." In its every expression before and since, the U.S. Justice Department has made the same case -- thereby defending government's entitlement to restrict who can own a weapon.

And in 1857, the Supreme Court affirmed that slaves were the property of their masters. And in 1896, the Supreme Court ruled that "Seperate but Equal" was an acceptable comprimise. Sometimes, the Supreme Court is wrong. I believe that the 1939 decision was one of those times. Just as the Brown vs. Board Of Edcuation ruling overturned the judicially unsound Plessy vs. Ferguson decision, this is the court reacting to a prior court's poor judgement. Just because you don't like the ruling doesn't make it wrong.

Until this week, that is. Attorney General John Ashcroft, lifelong member of the National Rifle Association, has seized the moment and tossed precedent in the trash. In briefs filed Monday, Ashcroft's Justice Department told the Supreme Court that the Constitution "broadly protects the rights of individuals" to own firearms. The declaration came in a footnote in each of two briefs filed by the department -- in gun cases so arcane that the government argues they shouldn't be heard. That makes the move all the more alarming: Though seeing no ready chance to push its philosophy forward, the Justice Department was nevertheless keen to declare its Second Amendment turnabout.

Guess what--the DoJ is arguing that the wording of the second amendment (the people) is the same individual right that has been interpreted in EVERY OTHER CONTEXT to be an individual right.

What next? It all depends upon the court. Chances are slim that it will take up either of the gun cases now before it, especially against the government's recommendation. But several justices are known to be itching for a chance to undo the 1939 precedent -- and Ashcroft has made clear he'll do whatever he can to help. Sooner or later, the amendment is likely to get its day in court. If Ashcroft's view prevails, all sorts of modest gun-control laws could be at risk.

Modest gun controls such as the wholesale banning of weapons (such as the Morton Grove, Illinois law)? Laws that act as a de facto ban on guns, such as the arcane licensing requirements in Washington, DC and New York? 15 day waiting periods in California, instead of the 3 days for which most gun grabbing groups agitated? Laws that ban weapons based on appearance, or specific model? Laws that ban the sale of affordable home protection for low-income people to protect themselves? These are all laws that the Strib undoubtedly supports, that many argue are unconstitutional. If I am gauging the writer's attitude correctly, he probably objects to *any* gun law being overturned, personal liberties be damned.

It takes nerve to chuck a government stance that has prevailed for more than six decades -- and a fair bit of audacity. Ashcroft's move is proof, if any were needed, of his brazen willingness to exploit his power to promote personal agendas. That's exactly what nominee Ashcroft told a Senate confirmation committee he'd never do.

Yeah, "seperate but equal" was a real winner for 62 years, until the court threw it out. I guess that the Eisenhower administration was brazenly abusing its power when it called in the national guard to escort those black kids to school. For shame.

The Strib seems to be aiming to become the Midwest's version of the New York Times--all the bias that is fit to print. But that seems to be common to several McClatchey papers--the Bees in California (Sacramento, Modesto, and Fresno) are all of the same mold, too, but they don't have the influence of the Minnesota paper.


Well, I'm here.

I still don't have a phone, so I am using the computer center on base for internet access. This is somewhat less than optimal, so until I move into my permanent room (Monday if I'm lucky), I can't even talk to AT&T about phone service, let alone actually *have* phone service.

After yesterday's ordeal, I understand why people hate flying. I've never really had hassles before, but yesterday made up for that in spades.

I arrived at the airport, and was told that (unlike every other flight I have made) I could only check *two* bags (I had intended to check three); they would charge me $50. Then the counter attendant looked at the smallest bag, and informed me that I could take it as a carry-on item (this was in addition to my laptop). I was a bit perplexed, as I thought the problem was limiting the number of carry-on items, not checked baggage. Whatever. Then she informed me that the larger of my (now two) checked bags was over the weight limit, and was going to cost me (again) $50, unless I was able to make it fit under the limit. 15 minutes and three repacking sessions later (this is all in front of the ticket counter, BTW) I finally got it (just) under the limit, and it was processed through.

Then, armed with a boarding pass, I head over to the security checkpoint, and the next round of fun begins. Of course, the laptop has to be taken out of the case, and the row of eight rechargable AA-cell batteries emptied into a seperate container (else it will look like a detonator). Of course, I forgot about my nail clippers (which were confiscated), and while my stuff went through the x-ray machine, I get the wand treatment. The metal eyelets on my topsiders set the wand off, so they make me take them off (leaving me barefoot in the terminal) so they can verify that I don't have anything in the 1/4 inch soles of my shoes.

The flight itself was uneventful, and all of my luggage arrived intact. When I went to the ground transportation counter to enquire about a shuttle to my destination, he asked me "Do you have a reservation?" which is always a bad sign when one doesn't know that a reservation is usually required. He looked at his watch, and informed me that if I was quick, and there was room available, I might make the shuttle that was departing in five minutes. Well, I got a seat (the last one) for the 3 hour, 20 minute trip to the base. When we were about halfway there, we had to switch shuttles (the one from the airport went in one direction, the one we wanted went in a different direction). It was then that I forgot to grab my laptop computer, something that I did not realize for about 30 minutes. Luckily, the shuttle drivers confirmed that my laptop was still there, and we arranged for a delivery time (they brought the computer to me this afternoon).

When I arrived, it was 10:20 on a Friday, so of course nobody was around to get me checked in. They weren't sure where to put me, so they gave me a room in what might be the worst barracks on the base (it is being renovated right now, so it's all torn up and rather down-at-the-heels) and told me to be ready to switch rooms on Monday. I'll be happy, as this barracks is rundown, noisy, and confusingly laid out.


Note to self:

Leaving the laptop computer on the shuttle bus from the airport is a BAD thing.

Not everyone will jump through hoops to return it to its owner.

Thursday, May 09, 2002

I will not be updating for a few days. I am moving tomorrow, to the Pacific Northwest. I will start posting again as soon as I have a phone line, which (hopefully) will not be too far into the future. If all goes well, I will be settled in and blogging on Monday. In the meantime, visit the sites on my new and improved blogroll on the right. Lots of good stuff to be found at these sites.

JunkYard Blog has this hilarious photo of Arafat that has to be seen to be appreciated.

(Link via Cut on the Bias.)

Wednesday, May 08, 2002

Jeff Goldstein, over at Protein Wisdom, links to this article on NRO by Victor Davis Hanson which parallels some of my comments in a post I made last week. Thanks to Jeff for the heads-up on the Hanson article, and thanks for the link to my post.

A timely report on the California Legislature's misbegotten plan to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from cars, from Benjamin Zycher, of the Pacific Research Institute, can be found here.

This footnote is a lovely slap in the face to the faux green legislators:

Did you know that legislators in Sacramento are allowed to choose autos that the state purchases for them for their official activities? The Associated Press reports that almost half have chosen low-gas-mileage sport utility vehicles and pickup trucks, and most of the rest picked sedans with lower than average fuel efficiency.

I'd love to see the breakdown, by party, of the distribution of these vehicles. The legislature is divided 50-30, with the Democrats in the majority, yet I doubt the the "anti-environment" Republicans all drive SUV's, which would need to be the case to sustain the statistic cited by Mr. Zycher.

Ipse Dixit has a cool little archive entitled "Five songs you can never grow tired of". Well, I looked over the selections, and while I like a lot of the songs there, none of my personal faves are listed. So, here is MY list, in no particular order:

Only Yesterday--Carpenters

Shattered Dreams--Johnny Hates Hazz

Missing--Everything But the Girl

Dreamwalk--Keiko Matsui

New Day for You--Basia

All of these songs are vocals, except for "Dreamwalk", although I could easily add another five songs and end up with five vocals and five instrumentals. That is not the rule, however, so five will have to do.

More Search Engine Hits

It's been said before that Google loves blogs. Considering the number of hits I received today from Google (and its international cousins), I can believe it. Among the highlights:

A search for Jeningrad returns my site as the number one result (Go, me!).

However, a search for Scutum Sobieski ranks me as sixth. (I'm not the original owner of the name; what can I say?)

And on the repugnant front, a Quebec ISP with possible Arabic connections was the source of "Ariel Sharon is a war criminal". (Blow it out your ear, scumbag.)

Ye Olde Blog has a picture of the new EU flag.

WARNING: Eye-searing. May induce vomiting. Keep out of reach of small children.

Another idle thought:

All of the suicide bombers have come from the West Bank, despite the fact that the Gaza Strip is the real hotbed of Anti-Israeli sentiments. Since there is a fence around the Gaza strip area, that has kept the Palestinians from Gaza out of Israel. I suggest to Israel that they annex the West Bank, and the Palestinians can have the Gaza Strip as their country. (I'd suggest relocating the Israelis who have settled there, though, as they would become instant targets.) Offer Israeli citizenship to the Arabs that remain in the West Bank, and deport those that decline.

Europe would howl, but they're doing that already. What are they going to do that they haven't done already?

As I said, it's just an idea, and probably not a very good one. I'm in a grouchy mood, and the bombing set me off again.

Tuesday, May 07, 2002

We've all heard about the bombing, but I want to highlight one sentence in this article about the attack in Israel today.

It was the first suicide attack since Israel launched its offensive on March 29 in the West Bank aimed at uprooting suicide bombers.

There were no suicide attacks while the offensive was underway, but less than a week after it ends, the suicide bombings begin again.

What this means, apparently, is that the only way the Israelis can be safe is to use their military to occupy the West Bank on a continuing basis.

The Palestinian "leaders" of Hamas (or Fatah, or whoever else claims responsibility for the bombing) are DIRECTLY responsible for any of the deaths that result from the next Israeli offensive. It is no coincidence that the bombing occured when Sharon was in Washington to present a peace proposal. It shows the world, once again, that the Palestinians don't want peace.

Of course, European leaders are so blind to the hypocrisy of the Palestinians that they will find a way to hold the Israelis responsible, as they have assigned blame for all of the strife in the mideast.

From Navy Times: (not available online)

ABOARD THE CHARLES DE GAULLE, North Arabian Sea--Early in February, Lt. Jeremy Tyler was preparing to talk over the radio to an AV-8B Harrier Pilot.

Tyler, a British air controller serving aboard the French carrier Charles de Gaulle, figured he would need to brush up on his Italian, since the Harrier launched from the Italian carrier Giuseppe Garibaldi.

But the voice that crackled across the airwaves astounded him. A U.S. Marine was flying the jet.

"I thought I would get an Italian," said Tyler, marvelling at the thought of a British officer aboard a French ship talking to an Italian Harrier flown by an American.


All in a day's work. The current war on terrorism has brought together the navies of the United States, Great Britain, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Canada, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Australia, Greece, and Bahrain. among others. The level of cooperation required with such a large and changing cast can be difficult, but we've all pulled together to make it work.

As part of the teamwork effort, there has been an informal exchange of personnel with some of the navies, where Americans spend time embarked on foreign ships, while personnel from other navies work on our ships. It's not a formal program, such as the Personnel Exchange Program, but it allows sailors from various navies to learn a little about the military culture of other countries.

On the cover of this week's Navy Times is a cool photo (taken in February) of the Charles de Gaulle, Illustrious, and John C. Stennis sailing side by side in the Northern Arabian Sea. A French Navy pilot took the picture, which is now appearing in a publication devoted to the US Navy.

It appears that due to my e-mail inquiry to the IPC, I am now on mailing list for Palestinian propaganda. I received mail this morning on the account that I used to make the inquiry. More interestingly, I received a different e-mail from them on a different e-mail account, one that I cannot say I have ever used to contact them, which is odd, to say the least.

I will blog later tonight; I am recovering from my final exam today. (urk) I did well enough, although not as well as I had hoped. When we review tomorrow, I will find out what areas I still need to study.

Monday, May 06, 2002

U.S. Pulls Out of International Court Treaty

Good riddance. As a member of the US Armed Forces, the idea of being called up for "war crimes" because someone has his skivvies in a bunch offends me deeply.

This court is flawed in other ways. It specifically excludes terrorism.

One provision criminalizes the transfer of civilian populations into territory the government occupies.

(Both of the above appear to be aimed at Israel)

Weapons of mass destruction (such as nuclear or biological weapons) are excluded.

Within hours of the ratification of the court, proposals to indict Israeli leaders began to proliferate. Any doubts that the court was to be used as a weapon against Israel (and the United States, its primary benefactor) were laid to rest when these demands were made, before the ink had time to dry.

This was not the first time the Palestinians had tried this gambit. Since Belgium has decided that they are the moral authority of the world, and can try anyone for war crimes, the Palestinians petitioned for Sharon to be indicted there.

For more on this issue, see this post at USS Clueless. His post sums up why this court is a bad idea. The US should not be a party to bad ideas, and Bush is doing the right thing, despite what the EU-nuchs and the media elite in this country would have us believe.

Pim Fortuyn murdered!

This name may not sound familiar to you, but he was the leader of the Netherlands' largest right-wing party, one which advocated closing the country's borders.Fortuyn's party recently swept the elections in Rotterdam, and was expected to poll strongly in the elections on May 15th.

He was also gay, unusual for a right-wing politician in this country but not unheard of in Europe (Austria's Jörg Haider has been the subject of rumors). Unlike far-right politicians in this country, neither are openly anti-gay, and in the Netherlands such a stance would not fly; the country legalized gay marriages and is known for its acceptance of homosexuality.

Thanks to Moira Breen at Inappropriate Response for pointing this article out.

UPDATE-12:35pm--InstaPundit has an interesting quote on Fortuyn (from Financial Times) on how his sexual identity directed his politics. It's an interesting paradox.

UPDATE-5:33pm--Andrew Sullivan has a revealing elegy on Fortuyn. He was not far-right, except by Dutch standards. Elsewhere, he'd be considered a mainstream conservative.

Another thought--what will happen if the killer is an immigrant?

UPDATE-5:33pm--Thankfully, he's not. I'd much rather he be a standard left-wing nut job than an immigrant.

Just in case I have a reader or two who don't visit InstaPundit on a daily basis, this link, found by the professor is a must-read.

Swedes less well off than poorest Americans -study

African-American households have a higher median average income than the Swedes. International Monetary Fund data from 2001 show that U.S. GDP per capita in dollar terms was 56 percent higher than in Sweden while in 1980, Swedish GDP per capita was 20 percent higher.

Socialism will be the death of Sweden, although it will be a slow, lingering death. Unlike much of the rest of Europe, which is moving rightward (Austria, Spain, Italy, Denmark, Portugal, and perhaps the Netherlands and Germany in their upcoming elections), Swedes are strongly wedded to the welfare state. The fact that they have the slowest rate of growth in Western Europe *might* be related, although I am quite sure that they will argue such a conclusion.

From the “can’t let it go” department:

I was fact-checked today, and it was warranted. It all arose from my question to the International Press Center over a map that appeared to imply a view of “Palestine” that included what most people refer to as “Israel”. This is a view popular with a number of terrorist organizations.

I suppose I should have been more direct with my questioning, instead of trying to be diplomatic. What I asked was "Why is Israel not on the map?" with a few follow-up notes. The Israel question was not answered, at all; the response focused on my additional comments. A two-state policy is implied, but never actually stated, but that map seems to imply otherwise. It would be akin to going to an official website for Great Britain, and seeing a map that covered Ireland, India, most of Sub-Saharan Africa, British Guyana, a sizable chunk of Southeastern Asia, and a portion of the middle east, including Palestine. Such a map would be historically accurate, since prior to Irish independence in 1922, that was the extent of the British Empire.

The answer that that is an historical map of Palestine doesn't wash; Historical Palestine was only confined to the specific boundaries of current-day Israel and the "Palestinian" areas for a short time, during which the objective of creating a Jewish homeland was always intended. Prior to 1923, Mandatory Palestine included the current-day Jordan. Before the British revived the name in 1917, the concept of "Palestine" as a separate administrative district had not existed since the Romans overran Israel in 70 BC. It did not exist during the Ottoman period, which began in 1516. During the Ottoman period, there was no Palestine, only districts that do not conform to current borders. Three Sanjaks–Jerusalem, Nablus, and Acre (which is in current-day Lebanon)–had jurisdiction over most of the area. Nablus and Acre were part of the province of Beirut, while Jerusalem was ruled directly from Istanbul, due to its religious significance.

The biggest problem with the map (and the linked map reached by clicking it) is that it appears on the official Palestinian press agency website, and despite the “historical” disclaimer it appears to be a de facto claim for the whole region. Considering that Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and Hizbollah all want Palestine to occupy the whole area, it seems to be a provocation. Simply adding the label "Israel" on the second map, and moving it forward would eliminate most of my concerns. I still have problems with their claim of a totally occupied Jerusalem (which is stated in the notes on Jerusalem in the West Bank map), and I want to know why they label so many towns in an area for which they are supposedly not fighting (the 14 towns in Israel proper).

The answer that the Palestinians "had to give up land to attain peace" is so ludicrous that I actually stared at my screen for about 20 seconds before I started laughing. I literally could not believe what they had said. There is no peace; there has not been peace since the Arabs rejected the UN partition plan in 1947. (Recall that the UN plan allotted a larger portion of the region to the Arabs then they ended up with when the dust settled.) And the Palestinians never "gave up" land, they had it taken from them after each ill-advised attack on the Jews.

UPDATE: It appears that not everyone has seen my earlier rebuttal. It's right here. That post is why this one is entitled "unable to let go", as I began researching this post after I completed the first rebuttal. There is very little duplication in the two posts, so if this topic interests you, check out the other one.

Sunday, May 05, 2002

I have had my 1000th visitor today. I expected this milestone about two weeks from now, but the links to my post about the map have generated a lot more traffic than I normally see.

Just in case anyone cares, yesterday was my busiest day since I installed my meter, with 130 visitors. My normal visitor load is about 25 people, although this last week has seen a lot more traffic.

This is extremely troubling. DPM sums up my views nicely.

Jim Henley over at Unqualified Offerings fact-checks my ass, and I admit that his conclusions are, for the most part, justified.

However, I do have a few quibbles.

Firstly, he points out a few Israeli-government issued maps that include the West Bank and Gaza Strip areas within Israel's borders. Well, technically, they *are*, because Jordan and Egypt, respectively, have renounced claims to those areas (the fact that Jordan's claim on the West Bank was recognized only by Britain and Pakistan notwithstanding). Since there is no working agreement between the Palestinians and the Israelis yet, they *are* part of Israel until an agreement has been made. Besides, the Israeli outline maps show "boundaries and cease-fire lines". Israel has boundaries with Egypt and Lebanon (and, since 1994, Jordan, although it is not reflected on the 1993 map). They have a cease-fire line with Syria (due to the ongoing dispute over the Golan Heights). Until an agreement is struck, there *is* no Palestine for all practical purposes. The fact that Israel identifies areas under Palestinian control appears to be more than the Palestinians are willing to admit, considering that the word "Israel" appears on no map on the Palestinian website. Additionally, several cities that are clearly inside Israel (14 of them) are identified as "Palestinian cities", although there is no additional info available on them. If the purpose was simply to identify major population centers, then why was overwhelmingly Jewish Tel Aviv left off, while smaller, more Arabic cities receive labels?

Further, I did a little digging of my own, and found this official Israeli map, which shows that the Israelis *do* differentiate between Israel proper and non-Israeli territories. Notice that the Golan Heights (which Israel fomally annexed in 1981), and the Eastern portion of Jerusalem (annexed in 1967) are included in the Northern Districtand the Jerusalem district, respectively, while the Gaza and West Bank areas are not included at all. (I suspect that the Central Bureau of Statistics, from which this map comes, has a wealth of maps with similar distinctions. However, I do not read Hebrew, so I have no idea how to navigate the site.) As I have pointed out in the past, if Israel were truly against the idea of a Palestinian state, they simply would have annexed everything (West Bank, Gaza, and all). The fact that they didn't should tell one something.

I agree that both sides appear to be playing fast and loose with the borders (the fact that I had to dig so far into the Israeli government website to find *any* maps is telling), but I still think the Palestinians are ahead in the dishonesty game. The semantic hoops they jumped through in their response to me indicates that they are trying to have it both ways.

Gallows humor from Mark Steyn. Referring to the telethon held in Saudi Arabia to raise money for Palestinian "martyrs":

Maybe they'll make it a weekly show: Who Wants To Be A Million Air Particles?