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John Adams Blog

The blog of The Antient and Honourable John Adams Society, Minnesota's Conservative Debating Society www.johnadamssociety.org

Monday, February 27, 2006

-- DEBATE March 15 --


Christopher Phelan, Chairman
Marianne Stebbins Beck, Secretary
Larry Colson, Chief Whip
Roger Belfay, Chancellor

MARCH 15, 2006

“When you see a sundial or a waterclock, you see that it tells the time by design and not by chance. How then can you imagine that the universe as a whole is devoid of purpose and intelligence, when it embraces everything, including these artifacts themselves and their artificers.”
— Cicero

COMPLEX SYSTEMS IMPLY A DESIGNER. Protein functions, blood clotting, and bacteria flagellum are not random miracles. Theologian William Paley wrote, that upon finding a pocket watch in a field, one would reason “that the watch must have had a maker; that there must have existed . . . an artificer or artificers who formed it for the purpose which we find it actually to answer; who comprehended its construction, and designed its use.”

Intelligent Design is religion-neutral and does not address creationism specifically, nor does it say anything about the Bible. ID merely states that one (or more) intelligent designer must exist. The teaching of such a theory, especially when presented as a mere alternative to a theory of evolution, simply does not constitute a violation of the First Amendment in establishing a religion.

ON THE OTHER HAND, most scientists disagree with any form of intelligent design theory and have long accepted Darwinism. The survival of the fittest is an ongoing process, explaining the extinction of some species and the improvement of others, notably the human race (excepting the results of the welfare state). The marvels of modern medicine itself are a triumph of natural selection. The battle over evolution vs. intelligent design remains a religious war, and the real solution lies in the separation of school and state.

The chairman, an arguably intelligent man with designs of his own, has called for a debate to settle the question:

RESOLVED: Intelligent Design Should Be Taught In Public Schools.

The Debate will be held on Wednesday, March 15, 2004 at the University Club, 420 Summit Avenue, in Saint Paul. The Chancellor will preside over drinks beginning at seven o'clock p.m. The debate will begin at half past seven. While there is no dress code for attendance, gentlemen who wish to speak must wear a tie; ladies should adhere to a similar sartorial standard. For those gentlemen who arrive tieless yet wish to speak, fret not: the Purveyor of Ties will keep on hand at least one of his quite remarkable ties for just such an eventuality. Questions about debate caucus procedures or about the John Adams Society itself may be directed to the Chairman at (612) 204-5615 or the Secretary at (952) 470-8090.


Harvard Lays an Egg

Although I liked my headline last Wednesday better, "Harvard Loses Its Head." The Weekly Standard article found here is an excellent contribution. I believe that the Harvard Corporation forcing President Larry Summer to resign because of faculty protests but over the objections of the undergraduates is a watershed moment for American universitydom. Why am I excited about this event? The faculty is approaching retirement. The students are going to become faculty. As Dick Vitale might say, "We're winnin' baby."

Friday, February 24, 2006

A Fourth Option?

DJ Drummond at Polipundit asserts the following:

To win the War on Terror, we essentially have three options, none of them easy:

1. Kill everyone in the Middle East, except for Israel.
2. Pick a border and hide behind it, a la “Fortress America”.
3. Destroy enemies, make friends, and establish democracy

That’s it folks, you have to choose one of them. There really is no viable fourth option that I can think of.
How about simply destroy enemies?

Blogger festivus said...

Or "Destroy enemies & make (not buy) friends". I do strongly believe that the more of the world that has democracy, the safer we will be, but let's start with the first two.

5:25 PM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Air Marshall said...

How about make friends, encourage democracy, and destroy enemies only when we can't turn them into democratic friends?

9:45 AM, February 25, 2006  

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Terminal vs. Port vs. Berth

As you know the Dubai Ports World Co. is looking to buy P&O. Look for yourself how many terminals and berths P&O operates in the U.S. Their website is here. Here is an example:

According to the P&O Website, P&O operates 1 terminal in New York City with 7 berths. According to the NY Port Authority website, this terminal is for cruise ships only. The terminal is one among a dozen other terminals in NY.

P&O operates roughy 10 terminals at 6 U.S. ports. Compare this to the 3000 terminals and 350+ ports in the United States.

UPDATE: Air Marshall directs us to this article which points out why Congress is not in charge of Security.

The Mess We've "Caused"

Father Andrew Greeley, about a year ago I think, made what I belive to be an especially pernicious argument that's relavent after the destruction of the Golden Dome. The outrage that Greeley was referring to was a bombing by the terrorists of Iraqi children receiving candy from US soldiers. He claimed the US was responsible for the horrible deaths of these many children because if we hadn't invaded, these children would be alive.

There is some truth to Greeley's statement. If we hadn't invaded, those children would, in all probability, be alive, just as it's true that the Golden Dome would, in all probability, still be standing.

But Greeley connects this fact to the Catholic just war principle. In that, it is morally acceptable to take an action (such as bombing) that causes both good and bad effects (removing the ability of bad guys to hurt people while killing innocent people) as long as A) your desire is for the good effect only (if you could acheive just the good effect you would) and B) the good effects substantially outweigh the bad effects (you can't wipe out an entire city to get one bad guy). I agree with the moral calculus, but Greeley misapplies it, as do all who say we "caused" the bombings of children or mosques.

The difference is, in my view, causation stops as soon as another moral actor enters the picture. If I drop a bomb that kills both a guilty person and an innocent person, I've caused both deaths. If I drop a bomb that kills only the guilty person, but some other person reacts to this by choosing to kill an innocent person, that other person caused the death of the innocent, not me, even if that other person would not have made that choice absent my action.

Greeley, and thos like him, have the peculiar bigotry of leftists to treat only Westerners (and Israelis) as moral actors. Other people are like animals or physical objects. They do what they do, we can reasonably predict what they will do, and all moral culpability falls on us. We didn't cause the Golden Dome to be bombed. The bombers did.

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Greely and others like him can make these arguments because they ignore the nastiness of Saddam's regime. It has been reported that 300,000-1,000,000 Iraqi's lie below the earth in mass graves victims of Saddam's regime. Another million died in Saddam's wars. If we just include the 300,000 figure, Saddam was killing nearly 300 people a week. Perhaps we should subtract this figure from Greely's death toll

Would Greely also argue that it was wrong for us to invade France in 1944. After all, its estimate that over 50,000 french civilians died as a result of our "liberation" of France from various bombings and colalteral damage. These people would not have died but for the invasion.

9:36 AM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger festivus said...

Some children have died from vaccinations. Under Greeley's argument, those who invented the vaccines and those who apply them are responsible for the deaths, but such a simple-minded argument ignores the the millions upon millions who lived because they got those vaccinations.

Another case of a failure to look at the whole picture.

10:28 AM, February 24, 2006  

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New Media and the Port story

Daniel Henniger at Opinion Journal pretty much sums up how I feel about the Ports issue. Read it here.
It has been a truism for a century that press stereotypes set the tone ofmany public events. We used to call this the conventional wisdom; now it's a "narrative." By and large it's a neutral phenomenon. But in our jacked-up media age, first impressions--false or true--becomes powerful and hard to alter. Surely this is one reason Vice President Cheney's office resisted "releasing" the shooting incident into the media ozone.

I think this issue is the first real failure in new media. New media has been very successful lately. new media has been a reasonable voice when democrats and MSM were foaming. New media was responsible for revealng the truth with the CBS news documents, and have been very influencial over the past few years.

However, the Dubai posts story was a total failure for New media. New media has walked in lockstep to the hysteria of Dubai acquiring mere terminals at some of our ports. Now New Media is backstepping and trying to save face. Hugh Hewitt and Glenn Reynolds have now switched sides but are still blaming Bush for their initial mistake. IN contrast, Michele Malkin is still trying to hang on, and now argues that the Port issue is really about the potential sharing of the Port's security plan with a potential bad guy. This is essentially one step away from surrendering the issue. Sean Hannity also opposes the deal mostly because Dubai is populated by arabs and arabs attacked us on 9/11.

SC Dave Thompson continues to refer to the issue as Dubai "taking over our ports," when in reality Dubai is only taking over operations at some of the gates/terminals at some of the ports. We will see if Thompson comes around. He said he would research it. (Thompson has a good show. I recommend all JAS members to listen.

After Thompsons radio show, I heard the AM 1500 newscaster lady refer to Dubai paying $7 billion to take over the ports. This is also pure nonsense. The price is the cost for Dubai World that operates ports all over the world. $7 billion is for the whole company not just for the terminals at the six ports in the U.S.

The Dubai Port story is a failure for new media. It is a demonstration that New Media is susceptible to group think, just like the MSM.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Harvard Crimson Undergraduate Poll Results


1. What is your expected year of graduation? (424 responses.) A. 2006: 24.1%. B. 2007: 21.2%. C. 2008: 22.4%. D. 2009: 32.3%.

2. What is your gender? (424 responses.) A. Male: 56.1%. B. Female: 43.9%.

3. Do you approve or disapprove of the way that Lawrence H. Summers is handling his job as Harvard president? (424 responses.) A. Strongly Approve: 11.8%. B. Approve: 27.1%. C. Neutral/Don’t Know: 31.4%. D. Disapprove: 23.8%. E. Strongly Disapprove: 5.9%.

4. Do you lack confidence in the leadership of Lawrence H. Summers? (423 responses.) A. Yes: 26.7%. B. No: 54.8%. C. Not Sure/Don’t Know: 18.4%.

5. Should Lawrence H. Summers resign his post as Harvard's president? (424 responses.) A. Yes: 18.6%. B. No: 57.1%. C. Not Sure/Don’t Know: 24.3%.

Hysteria gets recognized

RealClearPolitics sums up the mystery of the UAE Ports deal:

So far I haven't seen any experts saying DP World poses some sort of additional security threat - though I've heard plenty of politicians say it.

So there you have it. The talking heads now realize that they maybe overreacted in a fit of hysteria to this story. Larry Kudlow calls it Islamophobia.

None of the Administration’s eager critics has furnished a scintilla of evidence showing the Administration hasn't done its due diligence. Add it all up, and I think what you’ve got here is a bi-partisan pack of protectionist politicians. Throw in some xenophobic anti-Arab feeling and you get our current state of affairs.

The Bush bashing, however, continues unabated at Instapundit:
But I'm now convinced -- especially after talking to Jim Dunnigan and Austin Bay-- that there's not really much to this story. As I noted earlier, we have aperfect storm brought about by the loss of confidence in the Administration'sbackbone after their inadequate Cartoon Wars response, continuing fears of terrorism (at least now the Democrats won't be able to say that it's a case of Bush fanning the flames of fear) and lousy White House PR management

Instead of recognizing their own faults these overreactors want to blame it on the Bush Adminsitration for not properly communicating to them soon enough that Dubai Ports World was buying a British company, which operated a few terminals in six ports in the U.S. They want to blame Bush for their own failings and their own sick hysteria. These talking heads should blame themselves. Where is the personal responsibility? Do they expect Bush to provide them with details on every one of the thousands of deals approved by the Government....no way. That would be ridiculous. How come these talking heads don't complain about the port terminals operated by China? Do they think China is our friend and gasses up or warships. These pundits are running for cover because they know they look and sound like idiots.

Unfortunaltely for the egos out there, this is not another Harriet Miers moment.

UPDATE: Here is another excellent commentary on the UAE Ports deal.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Harvard University Loses Its Head

The PC faculty at Harvard forced President Lawrence Summers to resign for impolitic, academic remarks made about a year ago. There had already been one faculty vote of no confidence and a second one scheduled. More than half of the undergraduates disagreed with the resignation decision. Poor Harvard.

Now, the Harvard Corporation has brought former President and PC King Derek Bok back as interim President. It should be interesting to see how far the PC folks push their agenda in the new presidential search. Expect either a PC successor to Bok or an excellent choice.

The problem for Harvard is its faculty is so far left that they're disconnecting from reality -- a bad thing for any institution -- but particularly an academic one.

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

It seems if these lefty professors are willing to trash larry summers, a democrat, they are probably also inclined to give students bad grades for not towing the line.

Harvard sucks.

8:55 AM, February 23, 2006  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

Giving up on Harvard is a really bad idea. Harvard is a great university. In most fields, it has the most accomplished or nearly the most accomplished researchers in the field. SSC excluded, the best students from all over the country strive to go there.

It is true that most of its faculty, especially in squishy fields, are far left. The problem is not that they are far left but they are politicized. It wouldn't be much better if Harvard was filled with far right idealogues. We need searchers for truth and in the squishy fields, everyone is convinced there is no knowable truth, only power.

I'm very disappointed by this. Summers was center-left, but he believed in science and the pursuit of truth. Changing our elite universities is important. It simply isn't going to be the case that in 50 years, Hillsdale College or some other now obscure or non-existent university is going to be as influential as Harvard is now. We need to get them back to their true mission.

7:26 AM, February 24, 2006  
Blogger Air Marshall said...

What? You mean my Alma Mater, "National University", San Diego Ca. isn't in the runnig?

5:32 PM, February 25, 2006  

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JAS Blog Reaches 10,000th Visit

Congratulations JAS Blog for reaching your 10,000th visit. May you reach 100,000 and 1,000,000 very soon.

Blogger Air Marshall said...

Is this a milestone event like the 2000th death in Iraq?

11:28 PM, February 22, 2006  
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The Caucus: Populist or not?

I'm interested to know the thoughts of the JAS members on the Minnesota Caucus. I got to thinking about this after reading something silly written by Sarah Janacek and Blois Olson (I apologize for my redundancy).

I moved to Minnesota from Illinois, a state that uses a primary rather than a caucus. There, a voter could also cross over, which led me to the dubious honor of perhaps being the only JAS member to have actually cast a vote for Rev. Jesse Jackson (I really wanted him to be the candidate for the Democrats. Really REALLY!). Besides the aforementioned meddling, the candidates for a party is effectively being decided by many who are neither active members of nor believers in the principles of that party.

I find the caucus much more appealing. I think it is intrinsically more sensible to have only activists being involved in the selection of a party candidate.

I'd like to hear from the populists - is that Caucus system populist or anti-populist? I believe it's populist by its very nature, in that decisions are made by those who care enough to show up. And for those elitists in our cadre, the power of any one delegate is amplified tremendously. In a primary system, the chance of getting a personal call from a candidate is slim to none, unless I'm a big donor. In a caucus system, as a delegate, my chance of getting personal attention is almost 100%. I, in my role as a delegate, party believer and (conservative) activist have the opportunity to influence the positions of the candidate. Given where he's already gone, I shudder to imagine Gov. Pawlenty running in a primary state, kowtowing to the average voter rather than the delegates.

Blogger ssc said...

Test for whether something is populist: does it tend to support the entrenched elite or undermine them? Caucuses tend to undermine the elite by offering a channel for organized protest. By counterexample, the gerrymandering of the U.S. House races every ten years to protect incumbents is not populist.

8:11 PM, February 22, 2006  
Blogger Air Marshall said...

In this State it is not gerrymandering, it is Ramermandering.

9:38 PM, February 22, 2006  

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That Port Thing

The whole UAE controlling our port stories appears a little troubling. What I mean by troubling is the knee jerk reaction reasonable thinking Americans have with this deal. It doesn’t help to have comments from the press such as this:

Facing a sharp bipartisan backlash, Bush took the unusual step of summoning reporters to the front of Air Force One to condemn efforts to block a firm from the United Arab Emirates from purchasing the rights to manage ports that include those in New York and New Orleans.

Now, superficially, that seems wrong…especially to someone who knows nothing about ports.

However, the article, like most commentary on this issue is misleading. USA Today gets it right:

Dubai Ports World is a port operator owned by the United Arab Emirates, an oil-rich Persian Gulf nation. The company would take over the management rights to some terminals at six U.S. ports.

The “rights to some terminals.” In fact, Dubai will be only operating one terminal in New Orleans (along with eight other companies), and now more than 30% of the terminals at any port. This is far different than Dubai managing the whole port – yet that is what is implied by all the pundits and critics of this deal.

Imagine an airport with 50 terminals. Now imagine that Dubai Ports World takes over operations at 5 of the terminals, kind of like United Airlines operates terminals and many airports. Does it still seem outrageous?

Consider that 24 out of the 25 largest companies that operate ports around the world are not American. Consider that 4 out of 5 terminals at Los Angeles are run by foreign companies. Consider that China operates 50% terminals at Los Angeles. Who is the bigger security risk, Dubai who is an ally with us on the war on terrorism or China who does deals with Iran and Sudan?

Foreign companies operating terminals at our ports…. Hmmm… Is this an outrage. Or is the reaction to Dubai outrageous.

Talk show hosts such as Sean Hannity and Hugh Hewitt and Bill Bennett compare this incident to the Chinese bid for Unocal and argue that the President will have to back down. However, it increasingly looks a lot less nefarious than Unocal. Perhaps the President will win out on this one.

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

I sense a shift in the waves already. Now people are calling it a "public relations disaster," admitting that the merits are not that bad. Hmmmm.

People need to stop blaming Bush when they make their own stupid mistake of jumping to conclusions. Bush should not have to anticipate the idiocy and bias of the American public.

1:13 PM, February 22, 2006  

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Monday, February 20, 2006

Is Captain Pierce Right?

Read Francis Fukuyama’s After Neoconservatism. I post. You decide.

Blogger Air Marshall said...

Under the Shaw, Iran had a modern Western type economy, with wide prosperity, Western styles, liberated women, good higher education, and enlightened attitudes toward modern secular life. Didn't evolve into liberal democracy did it? Didn't guide people away from middle ages religous thinking did it? Part of the success of the Islamist revolt of the Seventies (outside of Carter's help) was based on growing disaffection with Western "modernism". Methinks Fukuyama has the cart before the horse (like most Paleo's). He also obviously has not read Tommy Franks' book or he would not say such uninformed things about our long term plans in Iraq.
The Administration knew from the first proposal submitted by Franks that they were looking at a five to ten year time line, and that one of the biggest risks they faced was what Franks called "catastrophic success". In other words, winning before Iraq was defeated as a nation. Does anyone think that either Japan or Germany would have been so docile if they had not first been pounded into the pavement? A determined foe gives up fighting when he can't get up off the ground anymore. A country quits when it sees no other course but total destruction.
George Bush said in his speech on 9/12 that the war on terror would go on for decades and long out last his own administration. And so it will, like it or not. Islam is not going away, and it is not modernising unless it is forced to.

7:02 PM, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

Rich Lowry has been talking about (but not endorsing) what he feels to be the most respectable alternative to nation building: rather than supporting "our son's of bitches", which we know doesn't work, or isolationism (ignoring Islam won't make them ignore us), instead he sees a growing movement of "to hell with them hawks."

The motto: Rubble doesn't make trouble.

That is, the way to deal with a dictator like Saddam is not to cut a deal with him or ignore him, but get in, kill him, do a lot of damage, and get out while leaving a card stating that if the next guy in charge offends us like his predecessor, we will do the same thing again.

That's certainly what I will endorse if I become convinced nation building isn't worth it - something I am anything but willing to concede at this point. Nation building in Iraq, from what I can tell, is working.

8:03 PM, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Air Marshall said...

I agree, even if it is a rough choice out of options. I think it is rough more in the short term than the long. Also, in Franks' book he speaks of the media wringing their wrists over the concept of his becoming the "MacArthur of Iraq". In retrospect, that may in fact have been the best road to take. Think about it.

9:27 PM, February 20, 2006  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

I agree with Air Marshall, Fukuyama is asking for results too soon. In fact it could be decades before Iraq emerges as a stable democracy. However, Iraq today is much better for America and the world than it was in 2002 - people forget that Iraq is no longer run by Saddam Hussein, an individual who would be raking in over $40 billion a year in cash to use for his own personal purposes - mostly for bad things.

Yes there is a lot of violence there. But, it is the kid of violence that we can manage, it is not the type of strategic threat of WMD and massive armies and cash that Saddam presented.

The famous argument that "democracy cannot be imposed" is true, except that democracy is always imposed, and is generally almost always imposed through revolution and war with the assistance of a foreign power. Organic democracy is mostly a myth. What we are trying to do is get the democrats in Iraq to impose democracy on their people; i.e. to get their people to participate and come to expect it. They need help. And we should give it to them.

it is already true in Iraq that democratic legitmacy is becoming an important point of discussion among Iraqi politicians both sunni and shia. They argue over who got more votes from what district etc.... The more this becomes engrained the more difficult it will be for a dictator take power outside the democracy.

Hitler took power in Germany by using violence and constant protests and intimidation. That Hitler took power through the vote, is a myth. Hitler never got more than 39% of the vote. These same forces are at work in Iraq. We should fight against them.

4:04 PM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Air Marshall said...

Sloanasaurus, HEAR! HEAR!
We forget where our democracy came from, or how we got independence, and where the help came from and why it came.

9:19 PM, February 21, 2006  
Blogger Air Marshall said...

Frontline did a story last night on the "Insurgancy" that was quite positive in it's treatment of American troops and American goals and accomplishments in Iraq. I was astounded. It even showed local Iraqis being happy and friendly with American troops! Sheese!

9:46 PM, February 22, 2006  

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Sunday, February 19, 2006

Winter Olympics Success

Despite the carping about low t.v. viewership, I for one think it's amazing that the Winter Olympics is as successful as it is. The reasons for its success is its willingness to adopt new sports like snowboard and short-track skating and its willingness to go to four-year intervals between the Summer Olympics.

In many ways, I enjoy the Winter Olympics more than the Summer Olympics.

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Media and Hunting Accident

VP Dick Cheney shot his gun and hit his friend. We should all be concerned about the well being of his friend. The public is rightly interested in the details.

But -- the media's focus on the White House's 16 hour delay in going public proves only one thing. It's been a slow news day.

Blogger Air Marshall said...

Interesting how no one cares about how Cheney is doing. He has to feel just terrible. As an avid shooter I think I would rather be the shootee than the shooter. Be really hard to live with.

6:26 PM, February 18, 2006  

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The nutty media

David Ignatious writes in the Washington Post today:

There is a temptation that seeps into the souls of even the most righteous politicians and leads them to bend the rules, and eventually the truth, to suit the political needs of the moment. That arrogance of power is on display with the Bush administration.

The most vivid example is the long delay in informing the country that Vice President Cheney had accidentally shot a man last Saturday while hunting in Texas.

Am I missing something here? The so called 16 hour delay in telling the Washington Press Corps that Cheny was involved in a hunting accident is the display of the arrogance of power? How ridiculous. How would reporting the incident...say immediatly.... do anything other that cause rumor and speculation.

The mainstream press has so much hatred for the President that they need to find a bad story in every story. Now they realize that it appears quite babyish to complain about a mere 16 hour delay in telling a story that is meaningful to the person who got shot, but meaningless to the American people. Therefore, to cover-up their babyishness, they are spinning the story into "another example of the abuse of power." Do people actually buy this stuff?

Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

Is the Washington Post mainstream press?

The White House should have reported the incident as soon as they found out. Considering that everyone was, hopefully, at first concerned about the afflicted man's health and secondly, in securing the perimeter or whatever, this would have been some period of time, likely into the wee morning hours.

Not that the White House wants to pay this struggling story further homage, but it might be interesting for them to explain why it took an astounding 16 hours. (Is 16 hours a staggering amount of time?) Or have they done this? I've had very little opportunity to stay on top of these major news stories. Or perhaps I've just had little interest in chasing down all the details of this one. Either way . . .

8:34 AM, February 20, 2006  

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Have Republicans Grown Fat?

Drudge reports the DNC, for its 2008 "message," will go after the GOP's corpulence.

Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

This sounds like a really winning strategy. (In California). Have they ever looked around the Wal-Mart?

4:35 PM, February 14, 2006  

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Monday, February 13, 2006

Lawfare: Terrorism and the Courts (Feb 16)

William Mitchell College of Law presents a National Security Forum ~ Lawfare: Terrorism and the Courts, to occur at 7:00 p.m. on Thursday, February 16 in the Auditorium at William Mitchell. The speakers, Judge Gerald Rosen, Judge John Tunheim, and Star Tribune correspondent James Rosen, will discuss whether the courts can be trusted to handle classified information after 9/11.

Register online at www.wmitchell.edu/lectures. For more information contact John Radsan, jradsan@wmitchell.edu.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

University of Chicago Law Professor Ed Levi Right on NSA Surveillance Issue

A historical solution to the Bush spying issue
By John R. Schmidt a Chicago attorney
Published February 12, 2006

Thirty years ago, Edward Levi, the most respected U.S. attorney general of the modern era, suggested a procedure that would resolve the dispute regarding President Bush and the National Security Agency wiretapping program.In 1975 testimony to the Church Committee on U.S. intelligence activities, Levi suggested that court power to authorize foreign-intelligence wiretapping in the U.S. go beyond traditional warrants based on probable cause for surveillance of a particular individual. He said it should include power to approve a "program of surveillance" that is "designed to gather foreign-intelligence information essential to the security of the nation." Congress passed the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in 1978, setting up a new court with authority to approve electronic surveillance on a case-by-case basis, but without Levi's suggested additional power.Levi said a traditional warrant procedure works when surveillance "involves a particular target location or individual at a specific time." Foreign intelligence, however, may in some situations require "virtually continuous surveillance, which by its nature does not have specifically predetermined targets." In these situations, "the efficiency of a warrant requirement would be minimal."In approving a surveillance plan, "judicial decision would take the form of an ex parte determination that the program of surveillance designed by the government strikes a reasonable balance between the government's need for the information and the protection of individuals' rights."Had Levi's procedure been in place, President Bush could have submitted to a court an application setting out the elements of the proposed NSA surveillance program: the target; communications to be intercepted; screening methods; controls on information dissemination. Because FISA procedures are secret, a court application would not have compromised the program's secrecy. If Congress puts this procedure into the law, the president can submit the NSA program for approval now. . .

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Pig Piling on Those Who Won’t Eat Pigs

It is a tough call. I am not sure what is more ridiculous: Atlanta vegans protesting outside of a Honeybaked Ham retail location, or Georgia's anti-terrorism unit conducting video surveillance of these morons. The photos are here.

Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

Don't laugh. We have a semi-serious eco-terrorism problem in this country. Not as in killing people, but they are burning down houses and car dealerships, spiking trees to prevent logging and so on. To the extent that the anti-fur, anti-meat crowd falls in with them, I'm not sure we shouldn't be collecting information. That's not violating anyone's rights.

11:59 AM, February 11, 2006  

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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Game Theory applied to Practical Problems

Harsh Pencil and I were talking before the debate last Wednesday, and the issue of Game Theory came up. Given that Mr. Pencil is an economist and I am not, I'll leave it to you, Gentle Reader, to ascertain which of the two of us first uttered the phrase 'Game Theory'. Yet, as usual, the conversation was interesting and enlightening.

I today discovered, via The Corner, a more practical application of Game Theory that I thought I'd share. Hopefully, Harsh Pencil can weigh in with his analysis.

Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

I read that paper yesterday. (It's a game theoretic study of leaving the toilet seat up or down). My main conclusion is why it's a good thing that most of the action in game theory moved from math to economics. The author, a mathematician, simply screws it up. When economists do game theory, they see it as a tool for analysing conflict. (My former colleague, Roger Myerson wrote a textbook called "Game Theory: Analysis of Conflict"). This yoyo goes to all the trouble of formally setting up the problem between a co-habitating man and woman and then tries to figure out what's fair, as opposed to what we should expect to happen (as any good economist would do). Feh!

11:12 AM, February 10, 2006  

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Neocons will agree this guy's antisemitic

Israel 'may rue Saddam overthrow' (How's that for defeatism, somebody correct him, send him some pictures.)

Yuval Diskin is concerned Iraq's instability could spread west The head of Israel's domestic security agency, Shin Bet, has said his country may come to regret the overthrow of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Yuval Diskin said a strong dictatorship would be preferable to the present "chaos" in Iraq, in a speech to teenage Jewish settlers in the West Bank. He also said the Israeli security services and judiciary treated Arabs and Jewish suspects differently. A Shin Bet veteran, Mr Diskin took over as Shin Bet's chief in May. When you dismantle a system in which there is a despot who controls his people by force, you have chaos. I'm not sure we won't miss Saddam

His speech to the students at the Eli settlement as they prepared for military service was secretly recorded and broadcast on Israeli TV. When asked about the growing destabilisation of Iraq, Mr Diskin said Israel might come to rue its decision to support the US-led invasion in 2003. "When you dismantle a system in which there is a despot who controls his people by force, you have chaos," he said. "I'm not sure we won't miss Saddam."

Debate Tips

Some debate tips for the future:

1. Do not compare American elected politicians (even the ones you hate) to Hitler or Stalin.

2. Do not try to argue that those who disagree with your position are dumb.

Any others.....

Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

And Hannibal. Hitler, Stalin and Hannibal.

But how else would I possibly explain someone not agreeing with my obviously correct position unless they're just dumb? Could we say instead that they are intellectually challenged?

Calling someone dumb is one of the most time-honored debate tactics, closely followed by the bigotry claim, then Hannibal, Hitler and Stalin, in that order.

5:08 PM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger Craig Westover said...

Do not use the word "hordes" unless you pronounce it distinctly and cleanly . . . .

Do not use the phrase "make the trains run on time" as a good thing . . . .

5:39 PM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

I wondered whether it would be bad taste to point out that Hamas would make sure that the trains blew up on time.

6:23 PM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...

By the way, I really enjoyed last night's debate. I thought it had some very good and entertaining speeches.

6:28 PM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger festivus said...

Perhaps giving the 'Heil Hitler' salute might also be in poor taste.

10:25 PM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

And repeatedly flipping the Chairman the bird is simply uncalled for, even when behind his back. (Sorry, Pencil, it won't happen again.)

7:49 AM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger Air Marshall said...

All this flipping and name calling going on and I wasn't even there? Good heavens think of the mayhem if I had been. (I'll be watching my back Scribbler)!

12:26 PM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

I'd never flip the bird at a man with a permit to carry.

3:28 PM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger Air Marshall said...

Wisdom is a virtue for aspiring authors.

11:42 PM, February 10, 2006  

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Dump Chafee?

Senator Lincoln Chafee has a conservative opponent in the upcoming Republican primary: Stephen Laffey. But, a new poll shows Laffey running much weaker against potential Democratic opponents than Chafee. (Hat tip, Captain's Quarters).

So who should conservatives support? Many have commented that losing the Senate seat wouldn't be much of a loss. Chafee, after all, voted against Alito and didn't even vote for President Bush in the 2004 election. What difference would a Democrat in his seat make?

I'm not so sure. In many ways, the most important vote a Senator makes in any term is the first: which party slate for leadership do I join. Chafee votes, in this vote, as Republican as any other Republican Senator. And that vote determines every committee chairmanship, that Republicans get a majority of every committee, and a whole host of other benefits that come from being the majority party.

This is not an easy call.

Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

Unless we are willing to put a boot to the rear of such a pretender as Chafee, we will eventually lose other Senate seats, and Congressional seats, and governorships, and school board members, because there will be no reason for the man on the street to vote Republican.

So I say, Aye. Cash in your Roth IRAs and send every legal dime to Mr. Laffey.

Do not forget that incumbents tend to enjoy their incumbency in the polls, and that once there is a legitimate campaign waging and war chests built, these numbers will be mere puffs of smoke. Poof.

9:43 AM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger Air Marshall said...

Time was, I would have been sending money to his opponent anyway, but the spirit of rebellion is gone. I actively supported Spector's opponents in the good old days.

9:50 AM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger Harsh Pencil said...


What is the evidence behind the assertion "Unless we are willing to put a boot to the rear of such a pretender as Chafee, we will eventually lose other Senate seats, and Congressional seats, and governorships, and school board members, because there will be no reason for the man on the street to vote Republican."

If you are correct in this prediction, then, of course, I agree with you that Chafee needs the boot. But I don't see your assertion as obvious.

10:42 AM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

To examine this point, let us imagine there are little Chafees everywhere, in all levels of government, some not quite as moderate, but all with essentially the same flaw -- they represent very little to nothing of the Republican platform.

Now let's take our man on the street off the street and plop him down in front of a television where he can learn all about the things Republicans stand for before he runs off to vote. He can learn, from all the little Chafees, that Republicans oppose cutting taxes, oppose cutting spending, like to inaugurate new programs and extend those that have failed.

I don't think I'd bother to get off the couch to go vote either.

12:01 PM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Its a tough call. Chafee is a Republican in a very blue state. If a democrat were to hold that seat they would certainly not be a conservative democrat. Further Chafee allows democrats to claim they are doing "bi-partisan" things when they get Chafee on board.

The taxpayer league said Chafee was at 50%. I suppose 50% is better than 0%

1:41 PM, February 09, 2006  
Blogger Scribbler de Stebbing said...

I should add that, were there only 50 or even 52 Republican Senators, I would not be so quick to advocate giving Chafee the boot. But with 55 Senators, I think the play has a good benefit for risk ratio.

12:13 PM, February 10, 2006  
Blogger Air Marshall said...

I think Scribbler is right only not strong enough. If the conservative revolution is ever to regain momentum we have to attack accross the board. Our own libs as well as theirs. 1994 wasn't about being cautious, it was about being aggressive.

12:32 PM, February 10, 2006  

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Let the Wookie Win

Recent events reminded me of this set of lines:

"He made a fair move. Screaming about it won't help you."

"Let him have it. It's not wise to upset a Wookiee."

"But sir, nobody worries about upsetting a droid."

"That's 'cause droids don't pull people's arms out of their socket when they lose."

The Vatican and Freedom of Speech

Over at the Volokh Conspiracy, Eugene Volokh posts on a Vatican statement regarding the Mohammed cartoon rioting. From a Reuters report:

The Vatican on Saturday condemned the publication of cartoons lampooning Mohammad which have outraged the Muslim world, saying freedom of speech did not mean freedom to offend a person's religion.

"The freedom of thought and expression, confirmed in the Declaration of Human Rights, can not include the right to offend religious feelings of the faithful. That principle obviously applies to any religion," the Vatican said.

The Church has been working through its relation with the state for centuries now, perhaps its entire history - what is Caesar's and what is God's? Blasphemy has always been taught as wrong, for instance. You shouldn't do it. But how one reacts to another's blasphemy, or how one's government should react to another's blasphemy are separate questions. One could leave the punishing to God, or insist Caesar punish as well.

Unfortunately, various diplomats in the Vatican seem to not be properly making this distinction. Of course one should treat other religions with respect. But the Vatican seems to be going further and stating that one should use the government's power (which comes from the threat of violence) to ensure this. Are we seeing vestiges of "error has no rights"?

Blogger Air Marshall said...

We are seeing vestiges of "everybody is scared out of their minds of the Muslims". And as long as everbody is, the Muslims will feel free to riot their outrage over everything and anything untill freedom of speech, or of anything else for that matter becomes meaningless.

10:47 PM, February 07, 2006  
Blogger festivus said...

Via OpinionJournal.com comes this absolutely fantastic quote on this issue.

We'll Take That as a 'Yes'
"They want to test our feelings. They want to know whether Muslims are extremists or not. Death to them and to their newspapers."
--"protester" Mawli Abdul Qahar Abu Israra in Afghanistan, quoted by the BBC, Feb. 6

THEN I read that the Strib won't publish the cartoons. I won't comment on this decision other than I expect that they will keep to this standard when faced with printing anti-Christian propaganda "which [is] crude and amateurish, [and doesn't] meet the standards of effective commentary".

11:23 PM, February 07, 2006  
Blogger Air Marshall said...

Holding your breath are you, festivus?

9:03 AM, February 08, 2006  

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Sunday, February 05, 2006

The Two Faces of George Stephanopoulos

This morning on "This Week", anchor George Stephanopoulos proved his bias once again.

In his pre-pitch for an upcoming segment on the show, he referred to his guest, Gen. Michael Hayden, deputy director of national intelligence, who he referred to as heading up the controversial "Domestic Spying Program".

When he got to the segment, he did the generally standard dual sided intro saying "Referred to by its proponents as 'Terrorist Surveillance Program' and by its critics as a 'Domestic Spying Program'...."

Therefore, by his own definition, Stephanopoulos is a critic of the program, and thus biased. QED (although we didn't need any additional proof as far as I'm concerned).

Blogger Sloanasaurus said...

Excellent catch. Just another reason for MSM ratings to decline.

People can get polled and express their cynacism, etc.. but I can't wait for voters to get a choice on national defense. Do you want someone who will be aggressive against terrorists or do you want someone who is not? In the end that is the ultimate question.

9:50 AM, February 05, 2006  
Blogger festivus said...

Hugh Hewitt posted this last week, asking hypothetically: You have the misfortune to be part of a mass hostage situation. Jack Bauer hasn't arrived. Looks like it might go on for days, maybe weeks or even months.

Who would rather be with --the Congressional Democrats or the Congressional Republicans?

I think it's an excellent question, and one with an easy answer. I suspect my socialist neighbor and I would have the same answer.

12:08 PM, February 05, 2006  

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Will Sauce for the Goose, Be Sauce for the Souter?

On Saturday, February 4, 2006, the Board of Selectmen of the Town of Weare, New Hampshire will decide whether to go forward with a petition submitted by Logan Darrow Clements, that the town to use its power of eminent domain to build a hotel and resort on what is now Supreme Court Justice David Souter's property. Clements' project -- The Lost Liberty Inn -- would bulldoze the Justice Souter's farmhouse and build a hotel commemorating the Justice's landmark opinion in Kelo v. City of New London.

The American Conservative Union has joined the fight, urging its supporters to blast fax the Selectman and Town Clerk of Weare to support the plan.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Is There More to Know?

From ABCNews

Recently, Larry Watson saw proof in one of the college classes he teaches that Black History Month was needed more than ever.

"I asked the students in my class whether they knew who their Senate representative was," said Watson, who teaches music and sociology at three colleges in Boston. "No one knew. And when I asked who was Sen. Edward Kennedy — the most activist senator in our country — the only thing most of my students could say was that he was fat and that he was drunk.

Blogger ssc said...

Pretty smart kid.

8:53 PM, February 01, 2006  

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