Dec 22 2010

Fiction on TV? This is REALLY fiction.

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 11:25 am

Don’t get me wrong.  I usually like Tom Selleck’s acting, and he even seems to be somewhat conservative in his politics.

But this new series, Blue Bloods, about a cop family in New York, with Selleck as Police Commissioner, really, really jumped the shark in episode 5.  They couldn’t even get through the first handful of episodes without trotting out that favorite of Hollywood, the white American female terrorist of non-Middle Eastern descent.

This time it’s a typical looking neighborhood mom who is looking to blow up Central Park with her son and estranged husband as unwilling victims, all in the name of Allah.

So they got it half right.  Yes, virtually all homicidal terrorist types are Islamic.  But no, they are virtually never females of European descent who are recent converts to Islam.

But Hollywood is all about fiction.  Sometimes even fantasy.

Dec 21 2010


Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 1:44 pm

In final Senate speech, Specter slams political ‘cannibalism’

Arlen Specter isn’t leaving Washington quietly.

In his final speech on the Senate floor, the outgoing Republican-turned-Democrat sounded off on the tea party, the rise of partisanship in Congress and the “judicial activism” of the Supreme Court.

“Defeating your own is a form of sophisticated cannibalism,” the Pennsylvania senator said of the tea party activists who worked to defeat GOP centrists.

Specter bemoaned the loss of a Senate where both parties seemed to be interested in finding compromise, and he was especially critical of lawmakers who campaigned against their fellow members.

“That conduct was beyond contemplation in the Senate I joined 30 years ago,” Specter said. “Collegiality can obviously not be maintained when negotiating with someone simultaneously out to defeat you, especially within your own party.”

He called the increasing lack of civility in politics discouraging. “Civility is a state of mind,” Specter said. “It reflects respect for your opponents and for the institutions you serve together.” Political polarization, he said, will make civility in the upcoming Congress “more difficult [but] more necessary than ever.”

The former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman then went after the Supreme Court, accusing Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito (both conservatives whom he supported) of “eroding the constitutional mandate of separation of powers.”

“The Supreme Court has been eating Congress’ lunch by invalidating legislation with judicial activism after nominees commit under oath in confirmation proceedings to respect congressional fact-finding and precedents,” Specter said, per CNN’s Alexander Mooney.

Whiner. Loser. Coward.

This from the man who switched parties because he’d lost the confidence of the voters who elected him.

Good riddance.

Dec 21 2010

The double standard rears its ugly head, again

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 12:41 pm

Barbour defends comments on race, but is the damage done to his potential 2012 bid?

“A pattern of remarks is a different matter than one off-the-cuff anecdote that suggests a man remembers the elders of his youth through rose-colored glasses,” Geraghty writes. “Watermelon jokes are appalling. Perhaps in that time and place the comment was common, but to modern ears, across the country today, it’s an unthinkably obnoxious and racially provocative remark.”

This kind of thing only hurts Republicans, of course. Democrats get away with murder…. or at least, former membership in murderous organizations. And “insensitive remarks” seem only to harm Republicans, too.

Dec 19 2010

Is it hate speech to expose hate speech?

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 9:32 pm

Youtube has decided to end the exposure of Palestinian hate speech by closing the account of the pro-Jewish organization that exposes it.

That makes sense.  To an idiot, maybe.

UPDATE:  Youtube has reinstated PALWATCH.  Good for them and good for all who asked them to do so.

h/t: Innermore sent me this link.  Thanks.

Dec 14 2010

Debate misses the point about the truth or falsity of God’s existence

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 9:24 pm

Speaking about a debate between Christopher Hitchens and Tony Blair about whether or not religion is a force for good in the world, the Gospel Coalition blog comments on the misplaced focus of the debate, in Be It Resolved: Hitchens and Blair Debate Religion.

The debate itself also demonstrates, however, the way in which modernization has shaped the debate. The question at hand was not about God’s existence or religions’ truthfulness, but about their respective usefulness. Is religion a force for good? To begin with this question is to concede the most crucial elements of the debate before it begins.

For example, in Hitchens’ opening remarks he posed several questions:

Is it good for the world to worship a deity that takes sides in wars and human affairs? To appeal to our fear and to our guilt, is it good for the world? . . . To terrify children with the image of hell and eternal punishment, not just of themselves, but their parents and those they love?

Behind each of these questions lies Hitchens’ conviction that none of these claims corresponds to truth or reality. From his perspective, there is no deity who takes sides in human affairs or holds people accountable after death for the decisions made in life.

It seems unlikely that he would ask similar questions about hard realities he believes to be true. Is it good for the world to listen to journalists who takes sides in wars and human affairs (as Hitchens has done time and again)? To appeal to our fear and guilt by informing us that unless we prioritize care of the earth, we will be guilty of its destruction—is it good for the world? To terrify children with the images of nuclear war and the risk it poses not only to themselves, but also to their parents and those they love? If good means nice or safe, then none of these topics is good for the world. If good means true or real, then we must address them.

Exactly.  Hitchens and Blair both seem to tacitly accept a utilitarian view of value and truth.  This may be natural for Hitchens, who “describes himself as a believer in the Enlightenment values of secularism, humanism, and reason.”  The utilitarian philosophy was an outgrowth of the Enlightenment’s fixation with progress and technological improvement, but applied to morality and society.   To make a machine work happily, you do what is good for the machine, and to make people happy, you do what you believe is good for them, without regard to what is exactly “true” in a larger sense.  Morality is assumed to have no root other than the outcomes it produces for the greatest good for the greatest number of people.  That “good” is usually expressed in totally materialist, secular terms, without regard to whether it is good for people to know truth, and whether that knowledge has any spiritual benefit for them, in this life or the next.

But what’s true is true, regardless if it is obviously “good” for people in terms of outcomes we can immediately see.  Hitchens takes a completely utilitarian slant towards religion at any time, though he seems bent on denying the obvious good it has done along with the bad.  Blair is leader of foundation that is interested in discovering the commonalities of all religions and promoting them in the name of common understanding, a perspective which is bound to blunt his interest in the particular truth claims these religions each make that are at variance with the other religions.  That means that neither party is very interested in what truth may underlie any particular religion, a blind spot that is expressed by the topic of this debate.

I suppose my utilitarian question for them both is this:  is it good for people who know nothing about the afterlife or the Creator’s role in creating this life or the next to tell other people that there is no Creator, and no afterlife, and no meaning in anything, ultimately, other than being physically comfortable in this life?

Pascal’s wager comes to mind.

Dec 13 2010

The Commerce Clause, or involuntary servitude?

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 5:36 pm

Big legal setback for Obama’s health care overhaul

President Barack Obama’s historic health care overhaul hit its first major legal roadblock Monday, thrown into doubt by a federal judge’s declaration that the heart of the sweeping legislation is unconstitutional. The decision handed Republican foes ammunition for their repeal effort next year as the law heads for almost certain eventual judgment by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson, a Republican appointee in Richmond, Va., marked the first successful court challenge to any portion of the new law, following two earlier rulings in its favor by Democratic-appointed judges.

“Keep in mind this is one ruling by one federal district court. We’ve already had two federal district courts that have ruled that this is definitely constitutional,” Obama said. “You’ve got one judge who disagreed. That’s the nature of these things.”


I suppose the simplest question is this:  if the federal government can mandate the purchase of health insurance for all citizens, what can’t it require you to buy?  Is there anything the government can’t require or control under the commerce clause?

Do I have to buy galoshes?  Cheesecake?  A TV?  A phone?  A computer?  Vitamins?  A bicycle?  A dictionary (to look up the meaning of words in the federally mandated copy of the IRS code that I will have to buy)?  A subscription to the New York Times?  A time share condo (to live in while I have the federally mandated evironmental check on my house)?  A car (to flee marauding IRS agents)?

You laugh.  Or sneer.  But in essence, there is no limit to congressional power if I can be forced to buy anything I simply do not want or choose to buy.


Dec 08 2010

The headline I thought I’d never read, in this administration

Category: economy,election 2012harmonicminer @ 10:46 pm

WH warns tax defeat could trigger new recession

Raising the direst alarm yet, the Obama administration warned fellow Democrats on Wednesday that if they defeat the big tax-cut compromise detested by many liberals, they could jolt the nation back into recession.

President Barack Obama appealed anew for Congress to “get this done” and insisted that more congressional Democrats would climb aboard as they studied details of the $900 billion year-end measure. Several did announce support on Wednesday, but at least one said there still was “a mood to resist.”

This looks like a headline we’d have seen in the Bush administration when he was pushing for tax cuts.

For this to come out of the Obama White House is a bit surreal.

Does this mean that Obama has finally agreed that low taxes stimulate the economy more than deficit-based stimulus spending?

Maybe it just means that he is beginning, belatedly, his campaign to be re-elected in 2012.

Dec 06 2010

Why journalism school isn’t enough

Category: mediaharmonicminer @ 10:50 pm

‘Programming error’ caused Russian rocket failure

“The Proton launch rocket functioned abnormally, sending the three Glonass satellites and the upper-stage booster rocket on the wrong trajectory and they fell into the Pacific Ocean 1,500 kilometers northwest of Honolulu,” the statement said.

Once separated from the Proton launch rocket, the upper-stage booster rocket with the three satellites aboard should have put them in orbit about 20 kilometres (12 miles) above the earth.

Here’s the problem: reporters often write stories about matters regarding which they know essentially nothing.

From firearms to business practices to the economy to religion, not to mention science, too many reporters know way too little about the world, despite the ostensible “general education” they may have received in college.

I’ve seen stories that imply that Mexican narco-terrorists are using machine guns that were initially bought in US gun stores, except that machine guns mostly aren’t for sale in US gun stores (short of a very difficult-to-get license). Few gun stores stock machine guns for a simple reason…. they almost never have a customer who is legally allowed to buy one. That didn’t stop the media from reporting widely that “automatic assault rifles” from USA gun stores were flooding Mexico and in the hands of drug runners.

I’ve seen stories that tell us the only way to balance the federal budget (by increasing revenues) is to raise taxes. Few reporters who repeat this nonsense seem to have heard of the Laffer Curve, nor have they read basic economic history of the last 30 years, let alone the last 100.

Since most reporters have never run a business, and have never studied it either, their reporting on the realities of growing a business is usually laughable. All they know is what they hear at cocktail parties given by people who inherited their money.

The concept that reporters have of religious people, especially Christians, is beyond caricature. It is at the level of assuming African-Americans all eat grits and watermelon, or that all gay men are interior decorators or choreographers, or, for that matter, that most Muslims are terrorists. But we have to listen to these clowns pontificate about trends in American religion.

Here’s the thing: journalists think that the ability to write a sentence means they have the ability to communicate something that matters, or is true. They think they can tell who is lying to them, or distorting the facts out of self-interest. They think the ability to talk a little bit means they’re smarter than other people. They think interviewing skills replace background in the topic of the interview.

Editors don’t seem much better, since such a huge number of whoppers make it into print, and broadcast.

By the way, if you haven’t figured out what prompted this diatribe, it’s probably because you don’t know any more than the reporter(s) and editor(s) of this story about how high above the Earth is the minimum for a satellite to go into orbit.  You may be forgiven for this.  No one knows about everything.  But people who purport to report on the events and issues of the world have a responsibility to educate themselves on the background to what they report on, just to keep from telling whoppers like this one.

Still laughing.  If you could get into orbit at 12 miles above the Earth, you could get into orbit in an F-15.  Check the Service Ceiling at the link.  Of course, you’d need an amazing afterburner to get orbital velocity.  Not that these dunces of reportage would know that.

Dec 05 2010

Some experiments only prove what is NOT true

Category: Democrat,economy,governmentharmonicminer @ 10:27 am

California can be seen as a lab experiment that has produced negative results, i.e., it has proved what is NOT true, and what does NOT work, as explained in a somewhat lengthy but very enlightening article titled Lessons from California’s Laboratory. Here’s the introduction. Click the link for the full text.

California is facing serious economic and political problems. How we deal with these problems will affect both California and the nation.

In this first essay of our Advice to the Governor public policy series, the Claremont Institute’s William Voegeli explains that we must strictly limit spending, and we must do it repeatedly rather than just enough to get us through the next budget or election cycle. The path forward is simple but not easy. Ballot measures that seek to restrain budgets and revenues are unlikely to provide lasting solutions unless our legislature and governor are committed to fiscal rectitude. In this long-building crisis, we have great opportunities. As Voegeli puts it, we are likely to see not a teachable moment but a “teachable decade.” The time to act is now, for we cannot escape the inescapable any longer.

As Rahm Emmanuel famously said, it’s a shame to let a crisis go to waste. Pray that California’s new government (really, the same old government) will recognize this, and act accordingly to take this opportunity to make tough decisions and stick to them, even if they are politically unpopular with some.

In the meantime, list your house for sale and start looking for a job in Texas.

Dec 03 2010

Lucky thief: Marines restrained themselves

Category: Uncategorizedharmonicminer @ 9:30 am

Marine at ‘Toys for Tots’ drive stabbed by theft suspect

A Marine Corps reservist helping in a “Toys for Tots” drive was stabbed Friday when he grappled with a fleeing shoplifting suspect, authorities in Augusta, Georgia, said.

Cpl. Phillip Duggan, 24, suffered a single stab wound. He was treated and released from the hospital later Friday, Sgt. Dan Carrier of the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office said. “He’s doing fine.”

The suspect attempted to conceal property and was confronted by Best Buy employees, authorities said. An employee struggled with the suspect, who brandished a knife. The employees backed away from the armed man to prevent any injury to themselves or customers, Carrier told CNN.

Duggan and several other Marines wearing their dress blues were conducting the annual toy drive in the breezeway of the Best Buy when they heard the commotion and saw the suspect flee through the store entrance, Carrier said.

Duggan tackled the suspect and other Marines also moved to stop the suspect, who stabbed Duggan once in the middle of his back, close to his spine, Carrier said.

“They jumped on top of him, and they pulled him down,” said “Toys for Tots” volunteer Larry Frelin.

“It took about five different people on top of him, but unfortunately he had a knife. He brought the knife around and managed to get it in the back of the Marine,” Frelin told CNN affiliate WRDW.

Tracey Attaway, 39, was in custody Friday night and was charged with armed robbery, aggravated assault and possession of a knife during the commission of a crime, authorities said.

CNN was unable to reach Duggan or the Attaway residence late Friday.

“Most people who shoplift don’t take it to this extreme,” Carrier said.

The thief was lucky.  Marines are generally trained in crippling or fatal hand-to-hand techniques.  And they aren’t generally friendly to thieves.  After bringing the knife out, the thief is very lucky to have survived the encounter.

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