Nice

Filed in PoliticsTags: Humor/Satire, War on Terror

From the Media Research Center, Letterman does Saddam:

From the June 22 Late Show with David Letterman, the "Top Ten Reasons Saddam Hussein Loves Doritos." Late Show home page: www.cbs.com:

10. Three-cornered chips remind him of the Sunni Triangle

9. Chemical Ali taught him how to convert the spicy powder into a nerve agent

8. The "crunch" sounds like the breaking of a dissident's bones

7. Pringles are for Kurds

6. They are corn chips of mass deliciousness

5. Goes perfectly with a tall glass of camel milk

4. Endorsed by his favorite late night television host, Al-Asaad Muhammed Leno

3. "Cool ranch" flavor is a preview of the paradise that awaits a martyr

2. When beard is full of orange crumbs, he can do hilarious "Yosemite Saddam"

1. Delicious taste allows him to momentarily forget he'll spend eternity in Hell

Conservatives Love Condi

Filed in PoliticsTags: Elections, Republicans

Glenn Reynolds links to a straw poll indicating Condi Rice would kick the snot out of Republican contenders in the '08 primaries.

The best part of the post, though, is the comments section, which demonstrates just how much Democrats just don't get it. They still think that mainstream America holds the opinion that Republicans are the party of racists, sexists, and bigots in general:

Joefrommass: Just out of curiosity, why would R.W. republicans want to sink Condi? I thought she was their poster child.

Dude, no way. The Paleoright and the Christian Right have about as much time for her as they do for Arnold Schwartznegger. She's black, she's a woman, she's an intellectual, she's a social liberal, she's single, she's not detectably religious at all, etc. She's a certain kind of right-winger's worst nightmare. (Trent Lott, James Dobson, and Pat Buchanan for starters. Henry Kissinger and Brett Scowcroft probably can't stand her either, for different reasons.)

Moderates and formerly liberal neocons like her, though. If you haven't yet figured out that neocons are the left-wing of the Republican Party, not the right wing, well, I don't know what to tell ya.

...posted by the original poster, and summarily rejected and corrected by other commenters.

Nominating - and electing - Dr. Rice could very well be the final and ultimate triumph of the Republican right over the Democrat left. The two remaining bastions of support for Democrats - women and blacks - are already beginning to erode. (And black support will continue to erode as they realize that they are nothing more than the pawns of the Democrats: used for their votes, with nothing substantive coming back in return. The values of the black demographic, in general, are much more in line with the Republican party, and Condi Rice on the Rep. ticket may very well open their consideration of the Republican Party.

Again, for the record, history demonstrates that the Democrat party has always been on the wrong/losing side of every meaningful civil rights debate, especially women's suffrage and equal rights for blacks.

But lest anyone claim that a Rice candidacy would be used as only a "tool" or "trick" by the Republicans, Republicans - across the entire spectrum - adore Condi for who she is, what she believes, and what she has accomplished. We support her because we believe she is one heck of a Presidential candidate - in my opinion, the best of the field (even if she currently stands by her statement that she is not going to run).

Grassroots support has already begun: Draft Condi is attempting to do just that, and Condi Blogs is collecting an alliance of bloggers supporting Condi.

Stepping On The Rights of Business Owners

Filed in Politics, Social IssuesTags: Missouri, Saint Louis

The St. Louis County Council is about to consider a proposal to ban indoor smoking:

After months of contentious debate and careful negotiations, members of the county's Justice and Health Committee unveiled the latest draft of the proposed smoking ban Wednesday.

The legislation, which could be sent to the full council next week, bans smoking in restaurants and bars, while allowing Harrah's casino, area bowling alleys and Lambert Field to maintain separately ventilated smoking areas.

Of course, the proposal is selective - and therefore discriminatory.

The fundamental issue, though, is what right the government has to tell a private business-owner whether or not smoking (which, last I checked, was still a legal activity) is allowed in his establishment. A private business owner has the right to operate his establishment as he sees fit, and has the right to take the risk of losing patronage by allowing or prohibiting smoking at his establishment.

Personally, I detest cigarette smoke. It smells disgusting, it makes me sick, it tastes disgusting, and it lingers on clothes. I think smokers, as a group, are among some of the most inconsiderate people with respect to violating public fresh air (huddling around building entrances, and forcing non-smokers to traverse the second-hand smoke "gauntlet"), and littering their cigarette butts wherever they want. At the same time, smokers are among the most maligned group in the country.

While an equal-protection and equal-opportunity balance needs to be struck in public, owners of private establishments (be they businesses or homes) have the right to manage them as they see fit. I think "smoking sections" in restaurants are about as effective as "peeing sections" in swimming pools. That said, I vote with my feet and with my wallet. If I do not want to subject myself to a restaurant, bar, or other business that allows smoking, I can choose not to go there. If I want to support smoke-free businesses, I can likewise do so with my own feet and wallet. If enough people agree with me, then the free market will dictate which establishments stay in business.

The government has no right dictating.

In Defense of Old Glory

Filed in Politics, Social IssuesTags: Judiciary

Yesterday, the US House of Representatives passed by 286-130 a Constitutional Amendment authorizing Congress to ban the desecration of the American Flag.

Several of my Conservative brethren would brand me as an extremist for supporting the measure. The arguments generally include:

  • Flag-burning is an exercise of freedom of speech, which is a Constitutionally protected right,
  • Expression is the same as speech, in terms of Constitutional limitations on abridgement of rights,
  • Banning flag-burning will lead to banning the exercise of speech and expression in legitimate forms of protest,
  • Giving Congress power to ban flag burning violates the entire embodiment of rights enumerated in the Bill of Rights.

These arguments - which I will address shortly - miss the point entirely. American Flag burning has no place in civilized society. Granted, anti-Christian, anti-Semite, America- and Israel-hating Muslim fascists take great joy in burning the flags of both the USA and Israel; but to that point I respond: 1) see my previous statement, and 2) perhaps those who would burn the American flag here in the US have much in common with those fanatics.

It is completely illogical to exercise one's freedom of expression by protesting the symbol of the guarantee of that very right of expression. The United States of America is the beacon of Democracy and the epitome of civilized society. Political dissent has been defended passionately since Bostonians turned the Harbor into the world's largest cup of tea. Political (especially, minority - since protecting majority rights is not really an issue) dissent is one of the roots of the limitation on Congress to abridge the freedom of the people - freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, keeping and bearing arms, property, etc. These freedoms all embody myriad means of expressing dissent, including private and public speaking, publishing (dead-tree and internet), artistic expression, protest assemblies, or expatriating oneself. Burning the American Flag is not among their number.

That's not to say that flag-burning never has inherent purpose. Burning a flag that symbolizes a tyrannical government that suppresses basic human freedoms is a perfectly legitimate and germane protest of the tyranny and suppression embodied by the flag. So, an Iranian who protests his government by burning the flag of Iran expresses a perfectly consistent statement. Only someone insane, or who hates America (or both) would attempt a serious correlation between an oppressed subject of a tyrannical regime burning the flag symbolizing tyranny to an American living in the most free society in the history of mankind burning the flag symbolizing the passionate and self-sacrificial defense of freedom.

A democratic society provides a means for the governed to hold government accountable. Representatives are subject to regular elections. Elected officials face recall or impeachment when warranted. Executive branches at nearly all levels of government are subject to term limitation. Legitimate means of protest against elected officials include watch-dog activities holding officials accountable to what they do and say while in office, formation of Political Action Committees and lobbyist groups, active campaigning against an incumbent, active campaigning for a challenger, or running for office oneself. Burning the American Flag contributes nothing to any of these endeavors.

Apparently, I am not alone in my assertion that burning the American Flag has no place in a civilized America. From the same article:

The measure was designed to overturn a 1989 decision by the Supreme Court, which ruled 5-4 that flag burning was a protected free-speech right. That ruling threw out a 1968 federal statute and flag-protection laws in 48 states. The law was a response to anti-Vietnam war protesters setting fire to the American flag at their demonstrations.

Again, what we really have is a Constitutional-amendment band-aid to reassert the right of the legislative branches of our Federal and State governments to legislate according to the will of the majority, against judiciary fiat - in this case, SCOTUS trumped the legally and legitimately expressed will of the citizens of 48 States, and and Federal statute. I will concede that I would much prefer that the wording of the amendment guarantee the right of the States to govern themselves with respect to the prohibition of the physical desecration of the American flag; however, even the wording as rendered would restore that right to the States, whether or not the US Congress ever chooses to pass legislation prohibiting physical desecration of the American flag.

To further illustrate the will of the people, consider this collection of (ten-year old) polls concerning support for or against flag burning as free speech.

To be honest, I'm extremely tired of attempts to justify flag burning as protected free speech. Just for reference, here's the wording of the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

First point: the reference to freedom of expression, as written in the First Amendment, directly correlates to religion. Note the use and location of the comma, semi-colon, and the word "thereof", which corresponds "expression" to "religion". Thus, while I am no Constitutional or legal scholar, I do understand basic rules of grammar and can say that arguments that the First Amendment protects a carte blanche freedom of expression are baseless.

Next, I would like to reiterate the definition of "speech":

speech
n.

    1. The faculty or act of speaking.
    2. The faculty or act of expressing or describing thoughts, feelings, or perceptions by the articulation of words.
  1. Something spoken; an utterance.
  2. Vocal communication; conversation.
  3. A talk or public address: “The best impromptu speeches are the ones written well in advance” (Ruth Gordon).
  4. A printed copy of such an address.
  5. One's habitual manner or style of speaking.
  6. The language or dialect of a nation or region: American speech.
  7. The sounding of a musical instrument.
  8. The study of oral communication, speech sounds, and vocal physiology.
  9. Archaic. Rumor.

Of all the definitions of speech, one common thread is clear: speech involves or originates from oral communication. Speech can be concurrent with Flag Burning, but the act of flag burning itself is not inherently "speech".

As for the right of government to abridge the freedoms embodied in the Bill of Rights, the prohibition of flag desecration would certainly not set a new precedent. A civil society should, can, and does impose reasonable limits on the exercise of personal freedoms. For instance, the Supreme Court has upheld that expressing intimidation via cross burning is not Constitutionally protected free speech. (And here's a liberal's attempt to compare and contrast cross and flag burning.) Further, speech that presents a "clear and present danger" (e.g. shouting "Fire" in a crowded theater:

As I pointed out, the excuse normally given by the government for oppression is that of necessity. This was precisely the reason given in 1919 when the Supreme Court ruled in Schenck v. U.S. that speech could be forbidden if it presents a “clear and present danger.” It was this same ruling that put the “shouting fire in a theater” test into the public conception of the parameters of free speech. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote:

We admit that in many places and in ordinary times the defendants in saying all that was said in the circular would have been within their constitutional rights. But the character of every act depends upon the circumstances in which it is done. Aikens v. Wisconsin, 195 U.S. 194, 205, 206 S., 25 Sup. Ct. 3. The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a theatre and causing a panic. It does not even protect a man from an injunction against uttering words that may have all the effect of force. Gompers v. Buck’s Stove & Range Co., 221 U.S. 418, 439, 31 S. Sup. Ct. 492, 55 L. ed. 797, 34 L. R. A. (N. S.) 874. The question in every case is whether the words used are used in such circumstances and are of such a nature as to create a clear and present danger that they will bring about the substantive evils that Congress has a right to prevent. It is a question of proximity and degree.

Although subsequent decisions went on to clarify that a “clear and present danger” was limited to violent actions and not political advocacy, that was not before this case was used as justification to imprison political dissidents. In any case, the idea was planted in the people’s mind that speech could be limited by the government, as long as the reason was good enough.

Yet again, speech intended to incite a riot is not Constitutionally protected free speech. Obscenity, child pornography, libel, perjury, contempt of court, and false advertising - these are all also not Constitutionally protected free speech. What about freedom of expression of religion? Even under the guise of religious freedom, polygamy, pedophilia, bestiality, public nudity and obscenity, and any other of a number of forms of "expression" (including oppression of women and children and beheading of "infidels") are not Constitutionally protected.

The reason that American Flag desecration should be prohibited is not because it offers no inherent value or benefit to discussion of issues or political dissent in civilized society; it should be prohibited because it is an act of political dissent so base that it inherently incites violence and hatred, and aids, abets, and offers comfort to the enemies of the United States in times of war. Burning the flag is an act that illicits passion and emotion and stifles reasoning; thus flag burning is actually detrimental to civilized discourse.

The American Flag symbolizes everything that is America - the good and the bad. More importantly, though, the flag represents a system of governance of, by, and for the people - a system of checks and balances, and a system of self-correction. The American Flag symbolizes a system in which the majority must recognize and protect the rights of the minority, a system in which mistakes and grevious wrong-doing alike are exposed, rooted out, and atoned for from within. The Flag represents a system that provides the mean to be changed; a political dissident can change the system if gathers enough support - and that change comes peacefully, through the process defined by the system.

Thus, to burn the flag is to protest the most advanced, the most peaceful, the most civilized, the most humane, and the most successful means of changing the system of government by the governed in all of history. To burn the flag is effectively to end any discussion or debate that would otherwise come out of civilized political dissent. To burn the flag is to protest the sacrifice of thousands of American men and women who have fought - and died - to defend the freedoms symbolized by the Flag.

Having said all that, I don't really expect the measure to pass the Senate. It is doubtful that it has the 2/3 majority support:

A day after a proposed constitutional amendment to outlaw flag-burning cleared the House, an informal survey by the Associated Press suggested the measure lacks enough Senate votes to pass.

The 286-130 outcome in the House was never in doubt, and amendment supporters expressed optimism that a Republican gain of four seats in last November's election could produce the two-thirds approval needed in the Senate, as well, after four failed attempts since 1989.

But an AP survey yesterday found 35 senators on record as opposing the amendment — one more than the number needed to defeat it, barring a change in position.

Apparently, the American Flag Blog agrees, in reaction to an opinion piece by one Sandi Webb.

I will probably re-visit the issue later, mainly to take on more of the arguments against prohibiting flag burning.

Ann Unleashed

Filed in PoliticsTags: Military, War on Terror

Dear Lord, thank you for giving us the World According to Ann. In her latest take-down of the Lunacy of the Left, Ann Coulter takes down the ridiculous Gitmo rhetoric:

In the interests of helping my country, I have devised a compact set of torture guidelines for Guantanamo.

It's not torture if:

  • The same acts performed on a live stage have been favorably reviewed by Frank Rich of The New York Times;
  • Andrew Sullivan has ever solicited it from total strangers on the Internet;
  • You can pay someone in New York to do it to you;
  • Karen Finley ever got a federal grant to do it;
  • It's comparable to the treatment U.S. troops received in basic training;
  • It's no worse than the way airlines treat little girls in pigtails flying to see Grandma.

This piece is Ann at her finest; best column in weeks. Perhaps one of her best two-liners:

Others claimed they were forced into uncomfortable, unnatural positions, sort of like the Democrats' position on abortion. Next, the interrogators will be threatening to slightly undercook the Lemon Chicken!

I have to thank my mom for introducing me to Ann's columns a few years ago. What a perfect ending to a Wednesday.

Vacuvin Concerto

Filed in ReviewsTags: Food/Wine

Being single and living alone does not go well with wine - especially since a full glass with dinner is almost more than enough for my tastes. I have turned more bottles of cab and zin into expensive vinegar than I care to admit. Well, along came this post from the Corktease blog, introducing me to vacuum wine stoppers, particularly those from Vacuvin.

I recently bought the Vacuvin Concerto vacuum pump, and so far it has worked great and is worth its weight in gold - or, at least, worth its cost in wine.

Sun Sets On Midgley Saga

Filed in PersonalTags: College, Indiana, RHIT, Terre Haute

In a conclusion to the controversy of the past academic year at Rose-Hulman, embattled President Jack Midgley resigned June 11th. The resignation ends Midgley's tumultuous tenure heading the nation's premier undergraduate engineering institution. Coverage here from the Indy Star. The resignation comes prior to - and perhaps in anticipation of - any action taken by the school's Board of Trustees, which had delayed a decision on Midgley a week prior.

Follow the background story here, here, and here.

Book Reviews Coming Soon

Filed in ReviewsTags: Books

With my laptop being down much of the past couple weeks, I've been getting a lot of reading done. Should have some book reviews forthcoming this week for Letters to a Young Conservative, Liberalism is a Mental Disorder, and Michael Moore is a Big Fat Stupid White Man.

To My Father

Filed in Personal

While not generally a fan of "Hallmark Holidays", I know that we rarely take the opportunities we are given every day to express our love to the people we are blessed to have in our lives. So, what better time than the present? To my father:

  • To the man who taught me to throw and catch a baseball in the summers of my youth, when even my little league coaches ignored me,
  • To the man who coached me in tennis in high school when I was not yet good enough to make Varsity
  • To the man who taught me most of life's most important lessons:
    • That sports are a metaphor for life: that life is not fair, that competition is healthy, that winning and losing are a part of life and how we deal with either tells a great deal about our character, that no matter how good we are at something, there will always be something better, and that truly - win or lose - what ultimately matters is how we play the game,
    • That a man's word is his bond, and that to violate a trust will damage any relationship at it's most fundamental level,
    • That self-esteem is derived from character, and that bullies are cowards,
    • That everyone makes mistakes, but to take responsibility for my actions and always to be honest are better than their alternatives,
    • To treat everyone as I would have them treat me, regardless of whether or not they ever do so,
    • That all men are created equally in the image of the Father,
    • That in humility I should consider others before myself, and that everyone has something to teach me,
  • To the man who talked to me before I was even born, who read The Hardy Boys to me before bed every night, and introduced me to the love of reading and education,
  • To the man who taught me to think for myself, to question all assumptions and to recognize all biases - mine and others', and to stand for something lest I fall for anything,
  • To the man who worked as hard as he could to provide opportunities he never had, who sacrificed and gave up things in his life in order not to set a bad example, but to set a positive example in the life of his children,
  • To the man who stood up for me when no one else would,
  • To the man who demonstrated that a father should not be a best friend, but a parent - and that a parent is closer, more trustworthy, reliable, and supportive, and loves more deeply than any friend could ever hope to do,
  • To the man who exemplified for me what it means to be a husband, a father, and a man - who continues to model these things for me,

  • To the man whom I respect above anyone to give wisdom, advice, and counsel when I need them,
  • And most importantly, to the man who instilled in me my faith in God the Father and in His Son, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior; who taught me that faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God - and never to accept blindly what anyone teaches on matters of faith, but to test everything against the Word - whether from a Sunday School teacher, a Pastor, or from my parents themselves; that I must always be ready to give an answer when anyone asks of the hope I have in Jesus Christ; that to be a husband and father - the spiritual head of a Godly household - is the greatest calling and achievment and God's greatest blessing; that I am to love unconditionally as Christ loves me unconditionally;

Dad, I love you. Not a day goes by that I do not thank God for the blessing He has given me. I only hope that I can be half the husband and father that you have always been.

Absence

Filed in PersonalTags: Computers

Sorry for the delayed absence. I've suffered two catastrophic hard-drive failures in the past week. Hope to have everything up and running again by the end of the week.