January 2006 Archives

Shortly before last year's State of the Union address I wrote that President Bush is a "uniter", as demonstrated by him receiving an absolute majority of the popular "vote" in the 2004 presidential election.

Sure, we're more polarized than ever, and many Democrats think President Bush is the worst thing since Hitler, but the thing to realize is that President Bush is reducing the number of Democrats. He received nine million more votes in 2004 than he did in 2000, and many of those people were Gore voters who decided to switch sides. Our parties may be more polarized than ever, but because of President Bush more Americans are uniting under the Republican banner than ever before.

I think it's fair to expect presidents to attempt to appeal to everyone in the population, but no one (except Saddam Hussein) can win 100% of the vote. For a politician, winning an absolute majority is about the best that can be expected -- President Clinton was elected twice with mere pluralities, after all.

However, I think it's disingenuous to expect judicial nominees to be "uniters". There are two aspects of being united: the first is that the politician must create a vision that appeals to a broad range of people, but the second is that the people must have desires that are reasonably satisfiable and not mutually exclusive. No politician, no matter how gifted, can unite pro-choicers and pro-lifers, for instance, so one side will ultimately lose. In our system of government, for better or for worse, the side with the fewest number of adherents is the side that loses when interests conflict. In the case of judicial nominees, the President has to nominate someone, and the conflicting desires of the electorate prevent him from unifying everyone with his choice. Those in the minorty should realize that this is how democracy is supposed to work.

But I digress. Critics of the President aren't exactly decrying him for making a divisive nomination, they're denigrating Samuel Alito for not being a "uniter".

Senator Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, said later, "I must say that I wish the president was in a position to do more than claim a partisan victory tonight."

"The union would be better and stronger and more unified if we were confirming a different nominee, a nominee who could have united us more than divided us," Mr. Schumer said, according to The Associated Press.

Winning popular approval for your ideas is a political concern, not a legal concern. When the country is united it is generally because the desires of the population happen to line up in a particular way due to circumstance, not because some politician thinks of a brilliant idea that satisfies everyone who used to disagree. Justices, and judges, are expected to rule based on the laws that are created by politicians, not to be politicians themselves.

I do consider war correspondents to be brave people who risk their lives in dangerous environments to do their jobs, but I hardly think it's fair for Christiane Amanpour to characterize journalists as paying the price for the Iraq war without even mentioning the Coalition troops who have given their blood.


CNN's top war correspondent Christiane Amanpour now says the Iraq war has been a disaster and has created a "black hole."

Amanpour made the comments Monday evening on the all-news network.

"The Iraq war has been a disaster, and journalists have paid for it," Amanpour explains to Larry King, a day after ABC NEWS anchor Bob Woodruff was injured by a bomb.

"This is not acceptable what's going on there and it's a terrible situation."

AMANPOUR: "It's a spiraling security disaster... And by any indication whether you take the number of journalists killed or wounded, whether you take the number of Iraqi soldiers killed and wounded, contractors, people working there, it just gets worse and worse."

Worse than when Saddam was killing, by many accounts, thousands of his own people every month?

Ok, due to popular demand, here are a ton of pictures from the Williams' wedding.

In 2004 various pundits, including myself, predicted that the Israeli wall around the West Bank would lead to a Palestinian implosion, and it looks like things are finally coming to a head in the wake of Hamas' victory in the Palestinian election.

The leader of Hamas suggested Saturday that the Islamic group could create a Palestinian army that would include its militant wing - responsible for scores of deadly attacks on Israelis - in the aftermath of its crushing victory in parliamentary elections.

Israeli officials condemned the plan, demanding that Hamas renounce violence. Palestinian security officers, including loyalists from the defeated Fatah Party, said they would never submit to Hamas control.

"Hamas has no power to meddle with the security forces," said Jibril Rajoub, a Palestinian strongman.

The Hamas chief, Khaled Mashaal, reiterated that Hamas would not recognize Israel and indicated attacks on Israeli civilians would continue as long as Israel continued to target Palestinian civilians. "As long as we are under occupation then resistance is our right," he said.

And so forth and so on. Sometimes things have to get worse before they can get better.

It appears that hunches from 2003 that Saddam moved his WMD to Syria are turning out to be true: Iraq's #2 airforce commander says Iraqi WMD were moved to Syria in converted civilian jumbo jets disguised as relief supplies after a Syrian dam collapse in June, 2002.

The man who served as the no. 2 official in Saddam Hussein's air force says Iraq moved weapons of mass destruction into Syria before the war by loading the weapons into civilian aircraft in which the passenger seats were removed.

The Iraqi general, Georges Sada, makes the charges in a new book, "Saddam's Secrets," released this week. He detailed the transfers in an interview yesterday with The New York Sun.

"There are weapons of mass destruction gone out from Iraq to Syria, and they must be found and returned to safe hands," Mr. Sada said. "I am confident they were taken over."

Mr. Sada's comments come just more than a month after Israel's top general during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Moshe Yaalon, told the Sun that Saddam "transferred the chemical agents from Iraq to Syria." ...

The flights - 56 in total, Mr. Sada said - attracted little notice because they were thought to be civilian flights providing relief from Iraq to Syria, which had suffered a flood after a dam collapse in June of 2002.

"Saddam realized, this time, the Americans are coming," Mr. Sada said. "They handed over the weapons of mass destruction to the Syrians."

I'm interested as to why American intelligence agencies haven't leaked this sort of information during the recent deluge. Maybe they don't know about it? It doesn't seem like it would be hard to verify information involving 56 plane flights, there must be hundreds of people who know what happened, if anything.

Anyway, as I've said all along, the WMD angle was only one component of why we deposed Saddam Hussein. Whether or not there turns out to have been WMD, toppling Saddam's fascist regime was necessary for bringing real reform to the rest of the Middle East.

(HT: Clayton Cramer and Michelle Malkin.)

It seems some people are having problems implementing FlightGear's multiplayer network protocol, particularly the PlayerPosition array in the position message defined in mpmessages.hxx. Well, the solution isn't simple.

PlayerPosition is an array of three doubles that describe the location of the model in question in FlightGear's Cartesian coordinate system, as x, y, and z in meters from the center of the earth. This tidbit isn't explained anywhere in the source code, which means it might take you 2.5 days to figure it out. If your own representation is in WGS-84 geodetic coordinates then you'll need to convert to geocentric coordinates before converting to Cartesian coordinates, and this can be tricky. I recommend using the functions in FlightGear's "ls_geodesy.c" file, ls_geod_to_geoc() and ls_geoc_to_geod(). Note however that they use feet, not meters!

So it looks like the terrorist group Hamas is now the official Palestinian government, but this shouldn't be a surprise to anyone who has read my "Break Their Will" series of posts about the need to undermine the Palestinians' widespread support for terrorism. As I wrote and quoted:

This poll of Palestinians taken in September, 2002, is not very encouraging. Here are some stats:
  • 52% oppose peace negotiations with Israel.
  • 73% are pessimistic of a reaching a peaceful settlement to the conflict.
  • 66% are opposed to the Oslo agreement.
  • 80% support the continuation of the al-Aqsa Intifada.
  • 53% believe that the Intifada will achieve its object.
  • 65% support suicide bombing operations against Israeli civilians [the poll question specifically mentions civilians].

These poll numbers support my belief that the Palestinian people themselves are a part of the problem, and need to be cowed.

Dealing with the Palestinians as a real state for the past 15 years has only made the situation deteriorate, and now we're stuck trying to figure out what to do with a democratically elected terrorist govnerment. Don't forget: the Palestinian government, now Hamas, is almost entirely funded by charity from Western nations.

Overall, this seems like a self-destructive move by the Palestinian people. It's hard to see how a Hamas-controlled government will be able to gain any consessions from Israel or any civilized nation. More likely this election will just hasten the implosion of the Palestinian territory.

I don't get all the hub-bub about Joel Stein's recent admission that he doesn't support the troops.

And I've got no problem with other people — the ones who were for the Iraq war — supporting the troops. If you think invading Iraq was a good idea, then by all means, support away. Load up on those patriotic magnets and bracelets and other trinkets the Chinese are making money off of.

But I'm not for the war. And being against the war and saying you support the troops is one of the wussiest positions the pacifists have ever taken — and they're wussy by definition. It's as if the one lesson they took away from Vietnam wasn't to avoid foreign conflicts with no pressing national interest but to remember to throw a parade afterward.

I think he's exactly right. Our troops are all volunteers, and it's totally disingenuous for someone to claim that they "support" the troops and yet think their mission is evil and imperialistic. Why would you support a volunteer engaged in such actions? It's nonsense. Even though I think Joel Stein is wrong in his assessment of the war and foolish for admitting his true feelings about the troops, I've got to tip my hat to him for being honest while most of the people on his side wrap themselves in hypocrisy.

Although I'm not a Catholic, it sounds to me as if Pope Benedict's recent encyclical about love is on the money (at least based on this summary).

In the 71-page document "God is Love," Benedict explored the relationship between the erotic love between man and woman, referred to by the term "eros," and the Greek word for the unconditional, self- giving love, "agape" (pronounced AH-gah-pay).

He said the two concepts are most unified in marriage between man and woman, in which a covetous love grows into the self-giving love of the other, as well as God's unconditional love for mankind. ...

"Here we are actually dealing with a debasement of the human body: no longer is it integrated into our overall existential freedom; no longer is it a vital expression of our whole being, but it is more or less relegated to the purely biological sphere," he said.

The Pope also made some important points about the different roles of churches and governments.

He rejected the criticism of charity found in Marxist thought, which holds that charity is merely an excuse by the rich to keep the poor in their place when the wealthy should be working for a more just society.

While the Marxist model, in which the state tries to provide for every social need, responded to the plight of the poor faster than even the church did during the Industrial Revolution, it was a failed experiment because it couldn't meet every human need, he wrote.

Even in the most just societies, charity will always be necessary, he said. ...

Benedict stressed that the state alone is responsible for creating that just society, not the church. "As a political task, this cannot be the church's immediate responsibility," he said. ...

"We do not need a state which regulates and controls everything, but a state which ... generously acknowledges and supports initiatives arising from the different social forces and combines spontaneity with closeness to those in need," he wrote.

Interestingly, that sounds a lot like President Bush's "faith-based initiative" that is attempting to loosen the red tape that often hinders the involvement of American religious charities in government-sponsored programs.

I've heard this repeated as "fact", but is there any real evidence that the hospital death rate of potential organ donors is higher than the death rate of people who have not agreed to donate their organs? Are doctors quick to allow potential donors to die so as to improve the chances that the donor's organs will be more fit for transplant?

If not, then LifeShares may be an organization worth joining.

LifeSharers is a non-profit voluntary network of organ donors. LifeSharers members promise to donate upon their death, and they give fellow members first access to their organs. As LifeSharers members, you and your loved ones will have access to organs that otherwise may not be available to you. As the LifeSharers network grows, more and more organs may become available to you -- if you are a member.

The point is to give an incentive to people for donating their organs; increased access is one of the only possible incentives, since it's illegal to pay actual money for a body part.

With the Republicans in the House getting ready to elect a new majority leader -- who will hopefully rein in the outrageous spending spree that's taken place during the past five years -- it's fitting to remember once again that the only way to curb the influence of money in politics is to reduce the amount of money controlled by politicians. Unfortunately, both parties these days seem more interested in redistributing money to their supporters than in serving the voters.

Most local governments don't spend lavishly on gifts, but many are investing in taxpayer-funded lobbying. The number of companies hired to pursue earmarks has doubled since 2000, many of them retained by universities or cities to pursue federal dollars. Now the feeding frenzy has escalated to the point that some lobbyists, including many who used to work on Capitol Hill, are approaching local officials and suggesting they have the juice to get them an earmark, providing the lobbyist gets paid a hefty fee.

In 2004, Culpeper County, Va. (population 40,192), was hoping to build a local sports complex when the local newspaper reported it was "approached by a representative of Alcalde and Fay, a Northern Virginia lobbying group, who expressed optimism that funds for the $3.5 million sports complex could be tied to one or more federal appropriation bills." The lobbying group recommended a $5,000-a-month retainer, for a total of $90,000 over an 18-month contract. As Ron Utt, a former federal budget official now at the Heritage Foundation, points out. "Alcalde & Fay are, for all intents and purposes, selling federal taxpayer money for just 2.6 cents on the dollar. What local government wouldn't consider such an offer from a lobbyist?"

Politicians have long used taxpayer money to buy votes from those who pay less taxes, but now it's becoming an industry! What's more, politicians appear to be benefitting themselves by serving as lobbyists after retirement!

Some universities end up employing or being run by the very people who bring them this largesse. Last month Democratic former senator Dennis DeConcini was given a prestigious appointment as a regent of the University of Arizona. Mr. DeConcini retired from the Senate in 1995 after being tarred as one of the "Keating Five," a group of senators who improperly intervened with federal regulators on behalf of corrupt savings-and-loan owner Charles Keating. Mr. DeConcini then became--no surprise--a Washington lobbyist. He now admits he needs to be brought up to speed on education issues. But he had a ready explanation for his appointment: "I used to be very close to the universities. I was able to secure them millions of dollars when I was in the Senate."

The office of Gov. Janet Napolitano, who appointed Mr. DeConcini as a regent, agrees with his assessment. Spokeswoman Jeanine L'Ecuyer told the Arizona State University newspaper that the former senator "was selected for his experience on Capitol Hill, where he helped Arizona universities secure federal funding for research."

Greg Patterson, a Republican former Arizona state legislator, calls the DeConcini appointment outrageous: "Imagine if a former senator was appointed to the board of Boeing and said 'Golly, I don't know much about planes, but when I was in the Senate, I got Boeing a ton of contracts and now I've got this really cool job.' "

The only way to reduce this corruption is to reduce the power and funding of government. Rather than redistributing money from one person to another, the government needs to be restricted to providing core services.

Certain trends have been favoring the left for the past several decades. In the early 1960s, transfer payments (entitlements and welfare) constituted less than a third of the federal government's budget. Now they constitute almost 60 percent of the budget, or about $1.4 trillion per year. Measured according to this, the US government's main function now is redistribution: taking money from one segment of the population and giving it to another segment. In a few decades, transfer payments are expected to make up more than 75 percent of federal government spending.

Currently the federal government consumes about 20 percent of the GDP, which is another way of saying that about 20 percent of Americans' income, on average, is paid in taxes to the federal government. According to the Government Accountability Office, that is on course to rise to 30 percent by 2040. Most of that 30 percent would be redistributed as payments to other Americans, rather than spent on standard government services like law enforcement, transportation, defense, national parks, orspace exploration.

We're decending into European-style socialism, slowly but surely, and if we don't act to reverse our collapse then their fate certainly awaits us.

This excellent article about Osama Bin Laden's recent tape and the hunt for him in Pakistan contains two notable quotes from sources inside the American defense and intelligence forces.

The tribal region where Zawahiri was said to be has a long history of fierce resistance to central control, as both the British Raj and the Soviets who occupied neighboring Afghanistan found out. But none of those previous powers possessed similar technology to scour the countryside from the sky and to unleash remote-control missiles. The broad message of the Damadola strike, which flattened three houses and killed several families, is that tribesmen need to rethink their code. Those who are supposedly governed by the iron law of Pashtunwali—or automatic loyalty to fellow tribesmen or guests—now have to recalculate the cost of that, U.S. officials said. "The message to them is, 'You have to take a new measure now: your families are not safe if you protect the terrorists'," says one senior Pentagon official who would not speak about the attack on the record because the details are classified.

When terrorists hide behind civilian shields -- especially willing shields -- and those shields are killed, their blood is on the hands of the terrorists.

Although Zawahiri's wife is said to be a "Momand" Pashtun from that region—offering him considerable protection—the CIA has been having more success lately in developing sources in the area, with help from Pakistani intelligence. (According to several U.S. officials, the Pakistani intelligence service has allowed a large "liaison" team into the country, and has accepted a great deal of technical assistance.) Frank Anderson, a former CIA station chief in the region, says Pashtunwali goes only so far, especially with multimillion-dollar prices on the heads of top Qaeda suspects. "The noble savage whose word is his bond exists a lot more in literature than on the ground," he says archly.

It's good to hear that America's human intelligence is improving after being decimated during the Clinton years. For a nation as diverse as ours, it shouldn't be so hard for us to infiltrate operatives into other cultures.

This is the first in what will probably turn out to be a series of posts (as the political scene develops) about lawmakers attempting to take advantage of the recent personel changes on the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

South Dakota Lawmakers consider banning abortion in the state.

The bill will be called the Woman's Health and Life Protection Act. It will ban abortion, but won't prosecute a doctor who performs one to save a woman's life.

And the lawmaker who's introducing the bill says he thinks now is the right time to try and over-turn Roe vs Wade.

Rep. Roger Hunt says, "Abortion should be banned."

Those four words will likely lead to many others in the South Dakota House and Senate as lawmakers will decide whether to criminalize abortion in the state. The bill's supporters are using findings from a controversial abortion task force report recently given to the legislature.

Hunt says, "DNA testing now can establish the unborn child has a separate and distinct personality from the mother. We know a lot more about post-abortion harm to the mother." ...

Sunday, Hunt and other anti-abortion advocates held an event promoting their legislation. They say now is the time to pass it, because other states are considering similar bills and because with new Chief Justice John Roberts, and possibly Samuel Alito, the US Supreme Court is changing.

I think the time is ripe for change, and as other pundits have pointed out overturning Roe v. Wade will actually be a political boon to the Democratic Party because it will reduce the impact of an issue that has dominated their party for decades, to the detriment of their political fortunes. When abortion is back in the democratic, state-level political arena, Democrats will be able to free themselves from the vice-grip that the far-left abortion industry has on them at the national level and begin to turn some attention towards other matters that are more attractive to the median voter.

Randy Kirk just celebrated his blog's first anniversary and thus considers it his prerogative to "tag" me with a question and compel me to answer! He wants to know what five questions I will ask Jesus when I meet him in Heaven, so here goes:

1. What am I supposed to do now that I'm in Heaven?
2. Do I have less free will now than I did when I was on earth?
3. Did I have more free will than God himself, who can't sin, or is that just semantics?
4. Am I still married to Jessica, and if not, can I still hang out with her?
5. Will you autograph my Bible?

As for tagging others... how about Francis W. Porretto, Jay McCarthy, Donald Sensing, Orson Scott Card, and Eugene Volokh.

I enjoy the first phase of the American Idol season as much as the next guy, and anyone who's seen it knows that the main attractions are the freakish, untalented losers who parade themselves in front of the judges and the cameras because they either think they can actually sing or because they just want the publicity. Either way, it's funny because we're laughing at them, not with them, because they're freaks. So it's pretty disingenuous for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation to get their panties in a wad when sexually ambiguous freaks are made fun of along with everyone else.

Bosses at America's leading gay rights group are demanding a summit meeting with the producers of TV talent show AMERICAN IDOL after claiming the programme is "increasingly homophobic".

Officials at the Gay And Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) were appalled by homophobic remarks made by judges SIMON COWELL and RANDY JACKSON on the first show of the new season, which aired in America on Tuesday (17JAN06).

On the programme, Brit Cowell told one effeminate wannabe to "shave off your beard and wear a dress," while Jackson asked another audition hopeful, "Are you a girl?" Both contestants were rejected.

I saw the show, and they were rejected because they were terrible singers. The whole point of the show is to mock untalented people, and these wannabes knew that and went on anyway. So it goes. In addition to mocking for lack of talent, the judges also routinely mock people for being fat, ugly, having no style, or whatever the case may be. As for the "Are you a girl?" person, the question was entirely justified because he/she was wearing female clothes, was built like a breastless girl, but kept referring to himself/herself as a male. He/she wasn't mocked for being gay (if he/she even was gay), he/she was mocked because of his/her appearance and mannerisms. There are plenty of gay people (even most gay people, for all I know) who are not freaks.

Anyway, the point is simple: if you want to be "edgy" and "nonconformist" then go ahead, but don't expect us not to make fun of you for it. The whole point of "civilization" is to enable people to work together towards a common goal, and when you purposefully choose not to conform then civilization will rightly ostracize you for that choice. Not because we hate you or want to hurt you, but because you're disruptive to the smooth functioning of society. Most freaks are disruptive on purpose, so they shouldn't be surprised when they're socially punished for it. (Socially, not violently or with malice, except perhaps in extreme circumstances like the KKK or something.)

Unwilling freaks are an entirely different matter and shouldn't properly be classified as "freaks" in the same group with those mentioned above. Those who want to get along but can't because of physical or mental differences obviously need to be treated totally differently from those who are freaks by choice.

Despite the prophetic warnings of Dr. Venkman, the true sign of the apocalypse will not be dogs and cats but snakes and hamsters, living together!

Gohan and Aochan make strange bedfellows: one's a 3.5-inch dwarf hamster; the other is a rat snake. Zookeepers at Tokyo's Mutsugoro Okoku zoo presented the hamster - whose name means "meal" in Japanese - to Aochan as a tasty morsel in October, after the snake refused to eat frozen mice.

But instead of indulging, Aochan decided to make friends with the furry rodent, according to keeper Kazuya Yamamoto. The pair have shared a cage since.

"I've never seen anything like it. Gohan sometimes even climbs onto Aochan to take a nap on his back," Yamamoto said.

Assigning symbolic meanings to the snake and hamster is left as an exercise for the reader.

I have three.

Do hairs grow in gray, or does the grayness creep up existing hairs?

From observing the terrorists in Israel for the past decade-plus, it's pretty clear that terrorists only offer "truces" when they need time to regroup and rebuild. If anything, Osama Bin Laden's truce offer should push America and our allies to greater, more vigorous action against terrorists around the world and we should in no way accept the offer. The last thing we want is to give al Qaeda a chance to regroup; instead, we should press our offensive even more powerfully and hope to wipe out these cancers once and for all.

Al-Jazeera on Thursday aired an audiotape purportedly from Osama bin Laden, who says al-Qaida is making preparations for attacks in the United States but offering a truce "with fair conditions." ...

The speaker did not give conditions for a truce in the excerpts aired by Al-Jazeera.

"We do not mind offering you a long-term truce with fair conditions that we adhere to," he said. "We are a nation that God has forbidden to lie and cheat. So both sides can enjoy security and stability under this truce so we can build Iraq and Afghanistan, which have been destroyed in this war.

"There is no shame in this solution, which prevents the wasting of billions of dollars that have gone to those with influence and merchants of war in America," he said.

It's considerate for him to emphasize that there's no shame in his offer, considering that it should be pretty clear to every observer that he is the one in the weaker position.

Al-Jazeera's editor-in-chief Ahmed al-Sheik would not comment on when or where the tape was received. He said the full tape was 10 minutes long. The station aired four excerpts with what it "considered newsworthy," he said, but would not say what was on the remainder.

So Al-Jazeera is editing al Qaeda's press releases to make sure they maintain the proper imiage? That's nothing new.

President Bush, of course, won't accept the offer. I'm sure his thoughts on the matter a similar to mine, plus there's no way to know that OBL actually has any control over any upcoming terror attacks. He may be funding and training various terror groups, but would they actually stop planning attacks just because he says so?

Last I'd heard they were in second place, but as of a year ago frequent flyer miles surpassed the US Dollar as the world's most circulated currency.

The gold standard of sterling is long forgotten and now the supremacy of the greenback has been surpassed. The world has a new global currency - airline frequent flyer miles, which have a greater total value than dollars, euros, pounds or yen.

Doled out by airlines to seasoned travellers, they are intended to be redeemed for tickets as a reward for loyalty. But since their invention in 1981, their popularity has spawned its own economy of trading schemes, charitable donations, enthusiasts and scams.

By the end of 2004, almost 14 trillion frequent flyer miles had been accumulated worldwide, worth between 1p and 6p apiece.

According to a new analysis by The Economist magazine, the global stock is worth more than $700bn (£370bn), more than all the US dollar bills in circulation, and streets ahead of Britain's £42bn of notes and coins.

Although I'm sure there are more dollars in electronic circulation than as actual bills, so it may be that frequent flyer miles are still in second place in total quantity. Plus, it seems unfair to compare frequent flyer miles only with bills considering that no one I know of has any frequent flyer miles in bill form.

An Army sniper has set a new record for the longest confrimed kill in Iraq at over three-quarters of a mile.

RAMADI, Iraq -- Gazing through the telescopic sight of his M-24 rifle, Army Staff Sgt. Jim Gilliland, leader of Shadow sniper team, fixed his eye on the Iraqi insurgent who had just killed an American soldier.

His quarry stood nonchalantly in the fourth-floor bay window of a hospital in battle-torn Ramadi, still clasping a long-barreled Kalashnikov. Instinctively allowing for wind speed and bullet drop, Shadow's commander aimed 12 feet high.

A single shot hit the Iraqi in the chest and killed him instantly. It had been fired from a range of more than three-quarters of a mile, well beyond the capacity of the powerful Leupold sight, accurate to 3,300 feet.

"I believe it is the longest confirmed kill in Iraq with a 7.62mm rifle," said Sgt. Gilliland, 28, who hunted squirrels in Double Springs, Ala., from the age of 5 before progressing to deer -- and then to insurgents and terrorists.

"He was visible only from the waist up. It was a one-in-a-million shot. I could probably shoot a whole box of ammunition and never hit him again."

(HT: RCaston.)

Despite the fact that black Americans get very little from the Democratic Party even though they vote for the Democrats 90% of the time, Senator it's Hillary Clinton who says Republicans who are running the House of Representatives like a "plantation".

Clinton, who is seeking re-election this year, said during a Martin Luther King Day event in Harlem this week that the House "has been run like a plantation," in that "nobody with a contrary view has had a chance to present legislation, to make an argument, to be heard."

Clinton appeared briefly in Washington Wednesday at a Democratic event, but quickly slipped out a back door far from reporters. On Tuesday night, she adamantly stood by the comments, saying "top-down" decision-making by GOP congressional leaders was bad for the country.

Aren't House members pretty much all at the "top" of the national decision-making structure? How does Hillary expect Congress to be run? Would "bottom-up" decision-making mean that the minority party (the "bottom"?) sets the agenda?

I'm a fan of Home Depot, but it pisses me off to see municipal governments tearing down churches to build "super centers". In our post-Kelo world -- in which the Supreme Court has ruled that it's ok for governments to use their eminent domain powers to take private property from one party and give it to another in order to increase tax revenue -- I expect that tax-exempt groups like churches will get the worst end of the stick every time.

Since the Supreme Court's controversial Kelo decision last summer, eminent domain has entered a new frontier. It’s not just grandma’s house we have to worry about. Now it’s God’s house, too. “I guess saving souls isn’t as important,” says Reverend Gildon, his voice wry, “as raking in money for politicians to spend.” The town of Sand Springs, Oklahoma, has plans to take Centennial Baptist — along with two other churches, several businesses, dozens of small homes, and a school — and replace them with a new “super center,” rumored to include a Home Depot. It’s the kind of stuff that makes tax collectors salivate. It’s also the kind of project that brakes for no one, especially post-Kelo. “I had no idea this could happen in America,” says Reverend Gildon, after spending Monday morning marching in the Sand Springs Martin Luther King Day parade. ...

What’s most egregious about this application of eminent domain is that there’s already plenty of room for development, even if the pesky church sticks around. Many community residents were happy to sell their property. Two other churches in the area decided to move to Tulsa. Other structures in the area were dilapidated and ready for the deal. The way things are now, Centennial Baptist Church could easily live side-by-side with new stores, houses, or businesses. Yet Centennial remains in the crosshairs — even though two nearby national chains, a taxpaying McDonald’s and a taxpaying O’Reilly’s muffler shop, have been left alone.

Yet another reason that the power of government should be limited. Perhaps the Supreme Court will feel a little differently if Justice Souter's house gets demolished to build a museum to lost liberty.

Fortunately my church is in a residential district, so it's less likely to be stolen by the city for commercial development.

(HT: BizzyBlog and Todd Zywicki.)

Since New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin wants a chocolate city, Senator Ted Kennedy decided he wants a butterscotch city: a city made of butter and scotch. Ha! I heard that on the Sean Hannity show on the way to work.

So yes, I came into work around 1 today because my wife and I spent the morning scrubbing, disinfecting, and painting our set of previously unfinished pine shelves. They look great! It was raining all around us, but the sky stayed sunny on our driveway and we got them all done in around six hours.

Stephen Moore has a great article explaining exactly why the House Republicans need to change their leadership team in the wake of Tom DeLay's resignation. John Shadegg is the newcomer who reflects the small-government values that put Republicans into the majority in 1994, and if he doesn't win or make a good showing it seems inevitable that the profligate spending of the Bush years will continue into the forseeable future.

Win or lose, Mr. Shadegg's candidacy will be a measuring rod of just how much trouble congressional Republicans really think they're in. It will also serve as a leading indicator of whether House conservatives will devote the next nine months of this term to slamming the brakes on a domestic legislative policy that has careened off course. The era when Republicans promised to make government smaller and smarter by abolishing hundreds of obsolete federal agencies seems a distant memory now in this era of Bridges to Nowhere. In the last five years, Republicans have enacted the largest increase in entitlement spending in three decades, doubled the education budget, nearly tripled the number of earmarked spending projects, and turned a blind eye toward the corrosive culture of corruption on Capitol Hill that seems so eerily reminiscent of the final days of Democratic rule in the House. ...

The Armey-Gingrich political coups were instigated by a gang of rebellious House conservatives and triggered a domino effect of momentous political changes. For years, Republican House leaders had suffered from Stockholm syndrome, becoming subservient to their captors, the Democratic majority. That gave way to Messrs. Gingrich and Armey devising a D-Day-type battle plan for the hostile takeover of the House in the '94 midterms. Its Republicans ran on Reaganite economics and a reform agenda of bringing squeaky clean ethics to Capitol Hill in the wake of House Democratic banking and post office scandals. Delusional Democrats thought they could merely cover the reek of scandals with disinfectants and then move on--a catastrophic blunder that Republicans may now be in danger of repeating.

House conservatives in alliance with ethics-minded GOP moderates intent on cleaning up the party's stained image are undoubtedly the force to prevent that from happening. But will they? The right-leaning Republican Study Committee has a decisive voting bloc to elevate one of their own to majority leader. Or they can cut separate deals to advance their own short-term political ambitions. Mike Pence, head of the House Republican Study Committee notes: "The political reality is that conservatives are the majority of the majority party in the House." Mr. Shadegg may not win this race, but if the conservatives don't embrace his message of reform and renewal, voters might demote them to majority of the minority.

I sincerely hope that the House Republicans are made of stern enough stuff to resist the lure of corruption that accompanies the power they've enjoyed for the past decade.

Almost too weird to be true, it seems that prank callers pretending to be police officers have actually convinced fast-food restaurant managers to strip-search their employees... and worse.

The caller managed to convince a 16-year-old female manager to strip-search a 21-year-old male cook in the women's restroom at the Sonic and to perform an oral sex act on the cook under the threat of arrest if she did not cooperate. The caller then persuaded the cook to conduct a strip search of the manager. ...

Stewart was arrested in July on a warrant related to a similar hoax perpetrated on employees of a McDonald's restaurant in Mount Washington, Ky. ...

In the Kentucky case, Stewart is accused of getting a female manager and her boyfriend to strip-search a female employee, and then soliciting the boyfriend to perform sexual acts on her. The boyfriend, Walter Nix, 43, has been charged with sodomy and assault, and is awaiting trial set for March 10.

The victim in the Mount Washington case filed a lawsuit against McDonald's in August, alleging that the corporation failed to notify employees in advance of a telephone scam that was widely known to be plaguing the fast-food industry.

Apparently it isn't uncommon for police to phone-in strip search requests to businesses.

PANAMA CITY, Fla. - A supervisor at a supermarket was arrested after an employee said her boss strip-searched her, claiming to be following orders from a police officer on the phone. ...

James Marvin Pate, 36, an assistant manager at a Winn-Dixie store, was arrested Saturday on charges of false imprisonment and lewd and lascivious behavior. He was released on $10,000 bail.

The woman told investigators Pate called her into his office Friday and told her she would go to jail for theft if she didn't remove her clothing and submit to a search ordered by the caller.

Police said he handed the phone over to the woman, who then undressed. Pate took her clothing, forced her to pose in different positions and refused to give her clothing back for an extended time, according to an arrest report.

At at another restaurant:

Two employees at a Bismarck restaurant took off their clothes in May when a prank caller, who claimed he was the district manager, ordered them to comply with a strip search. In 2000, three Bismarck fast-food restaurants received similar calls and two employees stripped down to their underwear as a result.

Deputy Police Chief Dennis Bullinger denies the policy:

According to Bullinger, the police department doesn't conduct strip searches over the phone under any circumstance.

According to him, if you believe it.

And yet again, strip searches at Wendy's.

BOSTON -- Investigators say someone posing as the police called several local fast food restaurants telling managers they must strip search their employees -- and they did.

NewsCenter 5's Jim Boyd reported that four Wendy's fast food restaurant supervisors were told Saturday that their employees were stealing from customers, and to conduct immediate strip searches.

"The person on the other end identified themselves as a detective from Whitman and said one of the employees was a wanted suspect and asked them to do a strip search," said Whitman Deputy Police Chief Raymond Nelson. "Evidently, they were strip searched."

The incidents happened in Whitman and West Bridgewater.

It's tempting to just throw up your hands and let people reap the consequences for their own stupidity. Paul -V- at Brainshrub thinks these people are even stupider than I do, but says they wouldn't take off their clothes so readily if they had free health care.

Box-store corporations have created an underclass within our culture. An underclass might be good for corporate profits, but it breeds long-term social instability. Ask the French if you disagree. Ogborn is currently suing McDonalds, but how many smaller indignities to working-class people have to deal with every day that don't get as much media attention?

Americans must support policies that empower workers to stand up for their rights. Policies such as universal health-care and living-wage laws prevent workers from being so dependent upon their employers, that they are willing to surrender their dignity.

These programs might make the cost of a cheeseburger go up by a nickel, but in exchange you will have the security of knowing that when your employer asks you to do something you find objectionable, you will not have to make a choice between doing the right thing or giving up your child's healthcare.

The strippers didn't have to make such a choice, however, because existing law protects them from these kinds of bizarre requests. In Paul -V-'s ideal world, would these employees have quit their jobs in response to the prank calls? That doesn't seem much smarter.

(HT: Vegan Porn.)

Here's more speculation about Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad paving the way for Islamic apocalypse (which I first wrote about here.

One of the first acts of Mr Ahmadinejad's government was to donate about £10 million to the Jamkaran mosque, a popular pilgrimage site where the pious come to drop messages to the Hidden Imam into a holy well.

All streams of Islam believe in a divine saviour, known as the Mahdi, who will appear at the End of Days. A common rumour - denied by the government but widely believed - is that Mr Ahmadinejad and his cabinet have signed a "contract" pledging themselves to work for the return of the Mahdi and sent it to Jamkaran.

Iran's dominant "Twelver" sect believes this will be Mohammed ibn Hasan, regarded as the 12th Imam, or righteous descendant of the Prophet Mohammad.

He is said to have gone into "occlusion" in the ninth century, at the age of five. His return will be preceded by cosmic chaos, war and bloodshed. After a cataclysmic confrontation with evil and darkness, the Mahdi will lead the world to an era of universal peace.

This is similar to the Christian vision of the Apocalypse. Indeed, the Hidden Imam is expected to return in the company of Jesus.

Mr Ahmadinejad appears to believe that these events are close at hand and that ordinary mortals can influence the divine timetable.

The prospect of such a man obtaining nuclear weapons is worrying. The unspoken question is this: is Mr Ahmadinejad now tempting a clash with the West because he feels safe in the belief of the imminent return of the Hidden Imam? Worse, might he be trying to provoke chaos in the hope of hastening his reappearance?

Fascinating stuff. Very anti-Christ-ish.

On page 32 of IRS publication 525 we are instructed:

Stolen property. If you steal property, you must report its fair market value in your income in the year you steal it unless in the same year, you return it to its rightful owner.

So, presumably the IRS won't turn you over to the cops if you declare income from theft?

A Predator UAV may have recently killed Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama Bin Laden's right-hand man.

Today, according to Pakistani military sources, U.S. aircraft attacked a compound known to be frequented by high-level al Qaeda operatives. Pakistani officials tell ABC News that al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's top lieutenant, may have been among them.

U.S. intelligence for the last few days indicated that Zawahiri might have been in the location or about to arrive, although there is still no confirmation from U.S. officials that he was among the victims.

If it's confirmed it's good news, not least because Pakistan is cooperating so well with us.

Oh well, it looks like Zawahiri wasn't there.

Ayman al-Zawahiri -- Osama bin Laden's right-hand man in the al Qaeda terrorist network -- was not killed in a CIA airstrike on a remote Pakistani village, according to a Pakistani intelligence official.

U.S. sources said al-Zawahiri was the target of Friday's strike and initially reported that he may have been among the 18 people killed. ...

Friday morning's strike killed eight men, five women and five children, Pakistani intelligence sources told CNN. Three homes were targeted. ...

Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Pakistan's information minister, said that the U.S. ambassador, Ryan Crocker, is to be summoned and a strong protest will be made.

"While this act is highly condemnable, we have been for a long time been striving to rid all our tribal areas of foreign intruders who have been responsible for all the violence and misery in the region. This situation has to be brought to an end."

He added that it "is also the responsibility of the people in the areas to fully co-operate.'"

It is very unfortunate if we killed a bunch of innocents, but I doubt we did. Even if we didn't get Zawahiri, we probably got some other terrorists. The deaths of the women and children are on their hands. If the terrorists consider themselves to be soldiers, they shouldn't hide among civilians.

Esteemed expert on Middle Eastern affairs Daniel Pipes suggests that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be ratcheting up his nuclear ambitions because of his belief in an imminent Islamic apocalypse.

Mahdaviat derives from mahdi, Arabic for "rightly-guided one," a major figure in Islamic eschatology. He is, explains the Encyclopaedia of Islam, "the restorer of religion and justice who will rule before the end of the world." The concept originated in the earliest years of Islam and, over time, became particularly identified with the Shi‘ite branch. Whereas "it never became an essential part of Sunni religious doctrine," continues the encyclopedia, "Belief in the coming of the Mahdi of the Family of the Prophet became a central aspect of the faith in radical Shi‘ism," where it is also known as the return of the Twelfth Imam. ...

As mayor of Tehran, for example, Mr. Ahmadinejad appears to have in 2004 secretly instructed the city council to build a grand avenue to prepare for the Mahdi. A year later, as president, he allocated $17 million for a blue-tiled mosque closely associated with mahdaviat in Jamkaran, south of the capital. He has instigated the building of a direct Tehran-Jamkaran railroad line. He had a list of his proposed cabinet members dropped into a well adjacent to the Jamkaran mosque, it is said, to benefit from its purported divine connection.

He often raises the topic, and not just to Muslims. When addressing the United Nations in September, Mr. Ahmadinejad flummoxed his audience of world political leaders by concluding his address with a prayer for the Mahdi's appearance: "O mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the Promised One, that perfect and pure human being, the one that will fill this world with justice and peace."

So, if I understand at all, Ahmadinejad expects this Mahdi to appear at any moment to give victory to Iran. That may be why he's taking harder stances rather than backing down... he expects supernatural assistance.

(HT: Clayton Cramer, Stones Cry Out.)

Happy Friday the 13th! The next one will be in October. Interestingly, as Dr. Math explains, the 13th is slightly more likely to fall on a Friday than on any other day.

It turns out that every year has at least one Friday the 13th. The largest possible number of Friday the 13ths in one year is three. Surprisingly, it turns out that a 13th is slightly more likely to fall on a Friday than any other day. This happens because the leap year rules make some patterns of weekdays happen more often than others. The winning patterns include many Friday the 13ths.

Wolfram.com provides more mathematical details about Friday the 13th. Any given 13th of a month is 14.33% likely to land on a Friday. (If the odds were equal for every day, one-seventh is about 0.1429.) The simple explanation for this unintuitive result is that leap years cause some strange patterns, and it's pure chance that we happened to start using them in a way that favored Friday the 13th over Xday the 13th.

Youngsters like myself may find it hard to believe, but many Congressional Democrats haven't always been in favor of abortion-on-demand like they are now. Jill Stanek wrote an article last September that focuses specifically on Senator Dick Durbin's abandonment of his principles, but she also mentions a good number of other Democrats who became pro-abortion when they perceived the political winds shifting.

When Durbin was running for the U.S. House of Representatives in 1982, he boasted to a prospective pro-life vote that he served for five years as master of ceremonies at the annual Roe v. Wade observance at the state capitol, served as master of ceremonies at Springfield Right-to-Life's annual banquet, opposed abortion-on-demand and didn't even believe the right to abortion was constitutional.

Durbin won. In 1983 Durbin wrote a constituent that he hoped for Roe v. Wade's overturn so "states would be allowed to regulate ... abortion."

In 1983, Durbin responded in a pro-life questionnaire that he opposed all abortions except to save the life of the mother. ...

... Durbin made a bid in 1989 for vice chair of the House Democrat caucus, the No. 4 leadership position. But he lost – decisively.

Meanwhile, House comrade Dick Gephardt, who renounced his pro-life position in 1986, ascended to House Majority Leader that same year. In fact, most pro-life Democrats with aspirations defected during the 1980s, including Gore and Clinton.

And Durbin. Between 1989 and 1996, Durbin amassed an 84 percent pro-abortion voting record.

In 1996, he won his bid for U.S. Senate.

As senator, Durbin has maintained a 100 percent pro-abortion voting record, also utilizing his now renowned debating skills to aid and abet the abortion lobby.

Did he change his mind? Or were his principles always for sale?

I don't doubt that many Republican politicians would also be willing to sell-out their various principles in order to stay in office, which is why it's so important for the electorate to do its best to keep its thumbs on its leaders.

I heard last night and read this morning that a judge has ruled that unborn babies don't count for carpools, and despite my ardent pro-life stance my reaction is "duh!".

Unborn children don't count when it comes to carpool lanes, according to a judge's ruling.

Even after being fined $367 for improper use of a High Occupancy Vehicle lane, Ahwatukee Foothills resident Candace Dickinson stood by her contention that Arizona traffic laws don't define what a person is, so the child inside her womb justified her use of the lane. ...

The case set off a firestorm of opinion but Phoenix Municipal Court Judge Dennis Freeman used a "common sense" definition in which an individual occupies a "separate and distinct" space in a vehicle.

"The law is meant to fill empty space in a vehicle," Freeman said.

I think carpool lanes are a dumb idea in general, but if they're going to make any sense at all they should set a quota for licensed drivers, not just for people filling otherwise empty space. If a mom drives her five minor kids around she shouldn't get to use the carpool lane, because those five kids can't drive and wouldn't otherwise be in other vehicles.

There is the case where a single driver picks up other peoples' kids and ferries them all to soccer practice or whatnot, and in those cases you can argue that the carpool keeps the parents of the other kids off the road. Ok, so make the parents who aren't driving give their drivers licenses to their kids for the duration, thereby ensuring that the number of cars being driven is actually reduced.

This sample day in the life of a computer science grad student illustrates exactly why I decided to work full-time while in grad school rather than take a fellowship and do research.

1:00 Group Meeting with advisor 1:14 sudden awareness of one's shallowness resentment towards foriegn officemate for sucking up to your advisor Get reminded by your advisor that you need to do some more work for your literature survey.

1:51 Advisor hands you the reddened copy of your draft for corrections

1:51:02 The 49 second urge to murder advisor begins!!

1:51:52 Realize that he controls your assistantship/grade/ graduation possiblity/graduation date/all job opportunities/ and the rest of your life.

1:52:53 Thank him

1:52:54 Thank yourself for not saying something stupid to your advisor.

1:53:00 splitting headache #1

I've seen it, and didn't want it to be me.

Mark Steyn, columnist to the Anglosphere, sums up my thoughts about recent Hollywood movies quite well:

If you’re making ten straight cowboy movies, a gay one’s neither here nor there. Similarly, if you’ve made ten movies in which Jake Gyllenhaal or Heath Ledger kick terrorist butt from here to Peshawar, there’s plenty of room for a contrarian take in which it turns out to be the stewardesses who pulled off 9/11. But, in a conflict that’s already lasted longer than America’s participation in World War Two, Hollywood still can’t bring itself to make a film in which America’s heroes whump America’s enemies. That’s just lousy business sense.

And so, after spending my college years in a theater several times a month, I now rarely go to see a movie because there are rarely movies I'm interested in seeing.

Oh, what the heck... Mr. Steyn also has a great few paragraphs farther down the page about what strange bedfellows the enemies of America make:

Ever since September 11th, there’s been a grand harmonic convergence of all the world’s loser ideologies, from Islamic fundamentalism to Gallic condescension. By rights, a coalition that embraces hardline British socialists, American white supremacists, sophisticated European secularists, neanderthal European fascists, misogynist Muslim theocrats, militant gay Canadians (really – he’s a guy called Svend Robinson, who for years has been the gay mascot of the Palestinian Authority), by rights this crowd should be as fractious as a Thanksgiving reunion at the Assad home, with Bashar, the uncle who tried to topple his dad, the uncle who had his brother murdered, etc. But apparently they all get along swimmingly.

As you know, because the media parrot it incessantly, there were no links between al-Qa’eda and Saddam, because he’s a scrupulously secular Baathist and they’re fundamentalist Islamists. Good thing those pro-gay pro-feminist Eurolefties making common cause with honor-killing sodomite-beheaders don’t demand the same level of intellectual coherence from their own coalition as they do from the terrorists. Does George Galloway feel even a wee bit squeamish that his speeches are indistinguishable from David Duke?

Such lliances betray the real values of these various groups of losers. Despite how some may pose for freedom, they're all quick to stand against the world's brightest beacon of liberty in modern times: America.

Neuroscientist Michael Gazzaniga says in his most recent book, The Ethical Brain, that scientists have as much or more difficulty than religious believers changing their minds about their favorite theories in the face of new evidence. Writes Todd Zywicki, also quoting Gazzaniga:

He also has an interesting chapter on religion, where he describes how the brain reacts during religious experiences and the psychological experience of religion. One interesting point he makes in passing is that it turns out that scientists are just attached to their particular theories as religious believers, and in fact, scientists are just as reluctant to surrender their beliefs about science when confronted with contrary evidence as are religious believers. He notes (p. 146):
Nowhere does the human capacity to form and hold beliefs become more stark than when clear scientific data challenge the assumptions of someone's personal beliefs. It would be easy to spin a story line about how a particular person with a set of religious values resisted the biological analysis of this or that finding in an effort to reaffirm his or her belief. There are many such stories, but they miss the point. Scientists themselves are just as resistant to change a view when confronted with new data that suggest their view is incorrect. All of us hold ot to our beliefs, and it now appears that men are even more tencious about not letting go than are women.

He adds (pp. 146-47), "Interestingly, it turns out that scientists are slower to change their views in the face of new data than are preachers."

Not surprising, considering that scientists are people too.

(By the way, the point of this series of posts is not to impugn scientists as a class, but merely to point out that they have human flaws and that scientific claims should be considered in that light rather than placed unworthily on a pedestal. I consider myself to be a scientist, and I like to think that I am humble enough in my beliefs to admit when I'm wrong or unsure.)

Next time my wife gets mad for me not listening to her, I'll have a defense: hearing is hard. I would have guessed that vision was more complicated that hearing, but after reading about both I think that ears might actually be cooler than eyes.

Although I have no idea if the power being referred to is actually "green" and in any way better for our environment than regular power, the "green power" credit market described in this article works exactly how I'd like and expect.

Whole Foods will buy 458,000 megawatt-hours of the wind energy credits from Boulder, Colo.-based Renewable Choice Energy Inc. Neither company revealed the dollar value of the two-year contract.

"Right now, the main benefit is public relations," said Andrew Aulisi, senior associate at the nonprofit World Resources Institute. "For a company like Whole Foods, which has a particular kind of clientele, I can imagine this is an important way they relate to their customers."

Unlike slapping solar panels on a roof, buying green power credits does not mean that wind-generated electricity will power all Whole Foods' stores. Rather, the amount spent on the credits will pump more wind energy into the electric grid overall, reducing the amount of coal and natural gas used nationally.

I'm all for protecting the environment, and I think markets like these are the best way to do so. Again, assuming the power is actually "green"... but that's up to the clients to decide, not me and not the government.

Let's say some scientist develops an artificially intelligent program that, to a layman, can interact in a human-like manner and seems to be as intelligent as a human. To the scientist, the program is no more than a set of instructions in a text file that can be modified at will, compiled, copied, deleted, and so forth. The scientist does not perceive the program to be "alive" or even "intelligent" in any meaningful sense, because at any instant the program is simply responding to its inputs in the way the programmer has designed it to. To the layman the program may appear to be intelligent, personable, and self-aware, but to the scientist this appearance is just a facade.

Is there a substantial difference between the program and a human? Is the only difference that someone knows how the program works, but no one knows how a human works? If they behave the same, are they the same? Or is there more to humanity than appearance? If someone were capable of "programming" a biological human, would that put the human and the computer program on the same level?

How would a secular materialist morally distinguish between the program and a human? Is it cruel for the scientist to terminate the program every night before he goes home? Is it cruel for him to tweak the program and prod it to see how it responds to various stimuli? A self-aware program might very well be designed to feel anguish at the prospect of being turned off, but is that anguish "real" or morally substantial? If it is real, is it ok for the programmer to tweak the program so that it no longer feels such anguish? How is that different from a cult leader who convinces his followers that if they drink the kool-aid they'll be taken up to live on a comet?

If such a program can react in a human-like manner, can we use it as a torture simulator? Perhaps our interrogators need to experiment to find the most reliable methods for extracting truthful information from prisoners. We don't want to cause undue pain to actual humans, but perhaps we could torture a sufficiently human-like program and see how it reacts.

What's more, in order to improve this program we will certainly need to perform experiments on it to verify its operation and test its limits. We will need to duplicate it, put it into confrontational situations, create families and groups of human-like programs and watch them interact, and so forth. To the scientist who wrote the program, these permutations will probably be morally irrelevant, but the layman observing the process will likely encounter situations that appear to be quite troubling. Are they?

Every country is talking tough on Iran, but it's time for more than just talk. If we and our allies aren't presently preparing and staging for military operations then we're already behind the curve. Even I, a mere blogger, can see the obvious signs that Iran is pushing to develop nuclear weapons despite their claims to the contrary, and even I can comprehend announcements by Iran's president that Israel should be wiped off the map.

Strategically, there's an argument to be made that the West is so complacent that the use of a nuclear weapon by Iran or one of its terrorist cronies may be one of the only events that can rouse us from our slumber in the face of this rising danger. However, I hope that such a terrible attack isn't necessary for us to do what needs to be done to preserve our civilization. President Bush has clearly shown a willingness to strike first when it's needed, and I hope that all the political posturing by his domestic enemies hasn't weakened the President's resolve to protect the American people.

More than two years ago I wrote about the terrible injuries often endured by people who survive suicide bombs, and I mentioned the use of diseased suicide bombers who turn their own corpses into infectious projectiles. Well, now it looks like al Qaeda is learning from the Palestinians and is recruiting bombers with lethal diseases.

AL-QAEDA is recruiting suicide bombers who are infected with the AIDS virus, according to documents revealed to the Sunday Mirror.

Terror chiefs are also targeting fanatics who suffer other lethal blood diseases such as hepatitis and dengue fever in order to increase their "kill rate" from an explosion. The chilling new threat is revealed in papers distributed to British military camps in Iraq and across Europe.

Under the heading "HIV/Hepatitis" the document states: "There is evidence that terrorists might be deliberately recruiting volunteers with diseases that are spread by blood transference."

Experts have found that bones and other blood-spattered fragments from a suicide bomber could penetrate the skin of a victim 50 metres away and infect them.

If they're really committed, there's no reason that bombers couldn't be deliberately infected in advance as well.

We really need to take more aggressive steps to eliminate terrorists.

Considering the thousands of deaths directly attributable to coal mining over the past century -- not to mention the innumerable health problems associated with pollution -- does it really make sense to argue that nuclear power is too dangerous or dirty to be deployed more widely in the United States? I wonder how many lives would be saved each year if environmentalists would quit obstructing nuclear power?

If I ever have kids and I ever have to send them money, I'm going to include a test that covers material from recent letters and family events. If they want to spend my money, they're going to have to demonstrate that they pay attention to what I say and what's going on with the family. Otherwise they'll get nothing.

Eugene Volokh has posted an interesting pregnancy thought experiment in which a pregnant woman can be forced to receive medical treatment to prevent her from infecting others' unborn babies with a deadly disease but cannot be forced to receive medical treatment to prevent her from infecting her own unborn baby with a deadly disease.

Say that Moe's [the mother] child grows up to be, say, ten, but is clearly dying by then. She's not just a fetus or even an infant. She can talk, and ask questions. Here's how the conversation goes:
Child: "Why am I dying?"

You: "Because you got a deadly infection from your mother. Your mother could have taken steps that may well have saved your life, but because of her idiosyncratic view of medicine, she chose not to."

Child: "But wait, why didn't someone stop her from doing this to me?"

You: "Oh, we couldn't do that: She had a constitutional right to infect you with a deadly disease, with no interference from anyone else."

Child: "So if someone is walking around with a communicable disease that would cause birth defects in other people's children, he has a legal right to keep doing that."

You: "Of course not; we could mandate that he be vaccinated, or otherwise treated. But that's only when he's infecting other people's children. When a women is infecting her own child who's still in her womb, she has a constitutional right to do that."

Can that really be right?

No, of course it can't.

Here's an incredible story from Vermont: a child molester who raped a 10-year-old girl many times over the course of four years has been sentenced to 60 days in jail.

There was outrage Wednesday when a Vermont judge handed out a 60-day jail sentence to a man who raped a little girl many,many times over a four-year span starting when she was seven.

The judge said he no longer believes in punishment and is more concerned about rehabilitation.

Prosecutors argued that confessed child-rapist Mark Hulett, 34, of Williston deserved at least eight years behind bars for repeatedly raping a littler girl countless times starting when she was seven.

But Judge Edward Cashman disagreed explaining that he no longer believes that punishment works. ...

Judge Cashman also also revealed that he once handed down stiff sentences when he first got on the bench 25 years ago, but he no longer believes in punishment.

"I discovered it accomplishes nothing of value;it doesn't make anything better;it costs us a lot of money; we create a lot of expectation, and we feed on anger,"Cashman explained to the people in the court.

If you've read my ealier posts on crime and punishment you may not be surprised to learn that I agree with this judge -- in a way. I'm a big believers in punishment, but prison terms often aren't the best way to punish an offender. Mark Hulett may simply need to be executed, but even if that's too harsh he should face public beatings and humiliation in addition to any imprisonment. Make the punishment fit the crime. Perhaps being put in stocks in a public square for four years would be ample punishment and also encourage him to change his ways.

I've resisted buying an iPod or any of the various other portable music/video devices because I don't like the idea of paying for each song/video that I want to consume. Now that Microsoft is coming out with Urge and a buffet-style price scheme, I'm sure the rest of the industry will follow.

Using an appearance with Justin Timberlake, the Microsoft chairman debuted a new music service, Urge, to directly compete with the iTunes music store and interface. Urge launches with over 2 million tracks for purchase or as part of an all-you-can eat subscription, an option the iTunes music store doesn't have. The offering will include exclusive material from MTV, though it will not be compatible with iPods, which are currently the most popular MP3 player.

Combined with Vongo's buffet of movies, now we're getting somewhere.

Contra my reserved praise earlier this week for China's gradual liberalization of its economy, Mary Anastasia O'Grady argues that slow-going freedom can be self-defeating and bases her assessment on the 2006 Index oc Economic Freedom.

As they do every year, the index authors observe the average per capita income of countries in each category. Not surprisingly, over the years, they have found a strong relationship between economic freedom and prosperity. Yet there is something more that can be observed in this pattern: Countries that liberalize quickly and thoroughly achieve resounding successes, politically and economically. Conversely, gradualism risks stagnation and even reversals, because the benefits are not evident enough to impress the electorate and generate a momentum in their favor.

However, the situation might be different in undemocratic countries like China.

This matters the most in democracies, where leadership needs to produce results if liberalization is to stick. Clearly, it's not the absolute income level that generates support for reforms but the growth in living standards that seems to hold the key. Halfhearted measures generate immense resentment from the "losers" of the old system but often don't yield large enough gains to create a constituency to support the changes.

In China, the biggest "losers" are the Communist party bosses, but if they have the willpower to push the liberalization through (and the smarts to profit off it themselves) then political freedom can still follow.

The inestimable Mark Steyn has yet another excellent article that goes to great lengths to convince his reader that Western civilization is in serious trouble and that many of us are worrying about the wrong things.

A decade and a half after victory in the Cold War and end-of-history triumphalism, the "what do you leave behind?" question is more urgent than most of us expected. "The West," as a concept, is dead, and the West, as a matter of demographic fact, is dying.

What will London--or Paris, or Amsterdam--be like in the mid-'30s? If European politicians make no serious attempt this decade to wean the populace off their unsustainable 35-hour weeks, retirement at 60, etc., then to keep the present level of pensions and health benefits the EU will need to import so many workers from North Africa and the Middle East that it will be well on its way to majority Muslim by 2035. As things stand, Muslims are already the primary source of population growth in English cities. Can a society become increasingly Islamic in its demographic character without becoming increasingly Islamic in its political character? ...

I watched that big abortion rally in Washington in 2004, where Ashley Judd and Gloria Steinem were cheered by women waving "Keep your Bush off my bush" placards, and I thought it was the equivalent of a White Russian tea party in 1917. By prioritizing a "woman's right to choose," Western women are delivering their societies into the hands of fellows far more patriarchal than a 1950s sitcom dad. If any of those women marching for their "reproductive rights" still have babies, they might like to ponder demographic realities: A little girl born today will be unlikely, at the age of 40, to be free to prance around demonstrations in Eurabian Paris or Amsterdam chanting "Hands off my bush!"

As Mr. Steyn has written before, the West faces a crisis of confidence. Unless we wake up and realize that our enemies are real and present, and unless we decide that Western civilization is worth fighting for, we're going to lose by default.

The recent ramage of violence on a commuter train in France is a case in point.

Despite protests from the Left that they aren't on the same side as our terrorist enemies, the terrorists, at least, think that they are.

RAFAH, Gaza Strip -- Palestinian gunmen in Gaza Strip early Wednesday tried to kidnap the parents of an Evergreen State College student killed in 2003.

Five gunmen burst into a house and tried to kidnap Rachel Corrie's parents, Craig and Cindy. The gunmen eventually relented after being told who their targets were.

Rachel Corrie, of course, was the woman who stood in front of an Israeli bulldozer while it was in the process of destroying a house used by terrorists (or a tunnel used to smuggle weapons into Israel, depending on the source you read).

(HT: James Taranto.)

I'm not a lawyer, but here's a list of special circumstances that can affect the penalty for murder/killing in the state of California, based on my reading of sections 187 - 199 of the California Penal code.

Special circumstances that reduce or eliminate the penalty:

  • Victim was an unborn child and the killing was a lawful abortion performed with the mother's permission
  • Extreme emotional or mental disturbance
  • Victim was a participant in homicidal conduct or consented to the homicidal act
  • The offense was committed under circumstances which the defendant reasonably believed to be a moral justification or extenuation for his or her conduct
  • Extreme duress or under the substantial domination of another person
  • The ability of the defendant to appreciate the criminality of his or her conduct or to conform his or her conduct to the requirements of law was impaired as a result of mental disease or defect, or the effects of intoxication
  • The age of the defendant at the time of the crime
  • The defendant was an accomplice to the offense and his or her participation in the commission of the offense was relatively minor
  • "Any other circumstance which extenuates the gravity of the crime even though it is not a legal excuse for the crime"
  • When committed by accident and misfortune, or in doing any other lawful act by lawful means, with usual and ordinary caution, and without any unlawful intent
  • When committed by accident and misfortune, in the heat of passion, upon any sudden and sufficient provocation, or upon a sudden combat, when no undue advantage is taken, nor any dangerous weapon used, and when the killing is not done in a cruel or unusual manner
  • By public officers and those acting by their command in their aid and assistance, either
    • In obedience to any judgment of a competent Court
    • When necessarily committed in overcoming actual resistance to the execution of some legal process, or in the discharge of any other legal duty
    • When necessarily committed in retaking felons who have been rescued or have escaped, or when necessarily committed in arresting persons charged with felony, and who are fleeing from justice or resisting such arrest
  • When resisting any attempt to murder any person, or to commit a felony, or to do some great bodily injury upon any person
  • When committed in defense of habitation, property, or person, against one who manifestly intends or endeavors, by violence or surprise, to commit a felony, or against one who manifestly intends and endeavors, in a violent, riotous or tumultuous manner, to enter the habitation of another for the purpose of offering violence to any person therein
  • When committed in the lawful defense of such person, or of a wife or husband, parent, child, master, mistress, or servant of such person, when there is reasonable ground to apprehend a design to commit a felony or to do some great bodily injury, and imminent danger of such design being accomplished; but such person, or the person in whose behalf the defense was made, if he was the assailant or engaged in mutual combat, must really and in good faith have endeavored to decline any further struggle before the homicide was committed
  • When necessarily committed in attempting, by lawful ways and means, to apprehend any person for any felony committed, or in lawfully suppressing any riot, or in lawfully keeping and preserving the peace

Special circumstances that increase the penalty:

  • Intentionally killed victim "because of the victim's disability, gender, or sexual orientation or because of the defendant's perception of the victim's disability, gender, or sexual orientation"
  • Defendant previously served a prison sentence for first or second degree murder
  • Prior criminal activity with or without a conviction, unless the defendant was actually acquitted at trial
  • Prior felony convictions
  • The murder was intentional and carried out for financial gain
  • The defendant was convicted previously of murder in the first or second degree
  • The defendant, in this proceeding, has been convicted of more than one offense of murder in the first or second degree
  • The murder was committed by means of a destructive device, bomb, or explosive planted, hidden, or concealed in any place, area, dwelling, building, or structure, and the defendant knew, or reasonably should have known, that his or her act or acts would create a great risk of death to one or more human beings
  • The murder was committed for the purpose of avoiding or preventing a lawful arrest, or perfecting or attempting to perfect, an escape from lawful custody
  • The murder was committed by means of a destructive device, bomb, or explosive that the defendant mailed or delivered, attempted to mail or deliver, or caused to be mailed or delivered, and the defendant knew, or reasonably should have known, that his or her act or acts would create a great risk of death to one or more human beings
  • The victim was one of the following and was intentionally killed for actions taken while on duty:
    • peace officer
    • former peace officer
    • federal law enforcement officer or agent
    • firefighter
    • witness to a crime who was intentionally killed for the purpose of preventing his or her testimony in any criminal or juvenile proceeding, and the killing was not committed during the commission or attempted commission, of the crime to which he or she was a witness; or the victim was a witness to a crime and was intentionally killed in retaliation for his or her testimony in any criminal or juvenile proceeding
    • prosecutor or assistant prosecutor or a former prosecutor or assistant prosecutor of any local or state prosecutor's office in this or any other state, or of a federal prosecutor's office
    • judge or former judge of any court of record in the local, state, or federal system in this or any other state
    • juror in any court of record in the local, state, or federal system in this or any other state
    • operator or driver of a bus, taxicab, streetcar, cable car, trackless trolley, or other motor vehicle operated on land, including a vehicle operated on stationary rails or on a track or rail suspended in the air, used for the transportation of persons for hire, or the victim was a station agent or ticket agent for the entity providing such transportation, who, while engaged in the course of the performance of his or her duties was intentionally killed
  • The murder was especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, manifesting exceptional depravity. As used in this section, the phrase "especially heinous, atrocious, or cruel, manifesting exceptional depravity" means a conscienceless or pitiless crime that is unnecessarily torturous to the victim
  • The murder was committed while the defendant was engaged in, or was an accomplice in, the commission of, attempted commission of, or the immediate flight after committing, or attempting to commit, the following felonies:
    • Robbery in violation of Section 211 or 212.5
    • Kidnapping in violation of Section 207, 209, or 209.5
    • Rape in violation of Section 261
    • Sodomy in violation of Section 286
    • The performance of a lewd or lascivious act upon the person of a child under the age of 14 years in violation of Section 288
    • Oral copulation in violation of Section 288a
    • Burglary in the first or second degree in violation of Section
    • Arson in violation of subdivision (b) of Section 451
    • Train wrecking in violation of Section 219
    • Mayhem in violation of Section 203
    • Rape by instrument in violation of Section 289
    • Carjacking, as defined in Section 215
  • The murder was intentional and involved the infliction of torture
  • The defendant intentionally killed the victim by the
    administration of poison
  • The murder was intentional and perpetrated by means of discharging a firearm from a motor vehicle, intentionally at another person or persons outside the vehicle with the intent to inflict death
  • The defendant intentionally killed the victim while the defendant was an active participant in a criminal street gang and the murder was carried out to further the activities of the criminal street gang

Francis W. Porretto has a great essay up about the Conservative-Libertarian schism, what it means, and how to resolve it. I think he's spot-on in many ways.

Many conservatives find themselves at odds with the official positions of the Republican Party on one or more important points. Yet most of those persons would not be comfortable with “pure” libertarianism, and for good reasons. It’s too wholesale. It attempts to answer every question, to be all things to all men. And it fails to recognize where it ceases to provide palatable answers.

Please don’t mistake me. I think the libertarian political philosophy, where applicable, is a very good one. It’s more accurate in its assessment of human nature and its controlling influences, and leads to better societies and better economic results, than any other political concept ever advanced. But the “where applicable” part is very important; in fact, it’s the most important part of this paragraph, as it explains in near-totality the “conservative-libertarian schism.” ...

Libertarianism is a philosophy. Conservatism is not. Strictly speaking, conservatism is a set of preferences, some of which are political in nature, about certain kinds of social phenomena and changes to them. ...

I hope to see a continuing refinement of libertarian-conservative or “fusionist” thought. I do what I can to advance it. Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Larry Elder, and others of greater stature than myself are also working on it, from their particular perspectives. It is the most important effort under way in political thought. Unless it succeeds, and allows us to build a single front—united on critical matters and tolerant of divergence on lesser ones—with which to oppose the statism and special-interest-propelled panderings of the Left, freedom in America is doomed. Libertarians will have to face an accelerating loss of the freedoms they cherish. Conservatives will have to face the ongoing reduction of their bastions, as the power hungry, ideologically propelled forces of the Left eat into their numbers via the schools, the media, and the awful power of their patented divide-to-seduce technique.

Using his definitions I suppose I'm philisophically libertarian with conservative preferences.

The season premier episode, "Infected", of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit was possibly the most moronic and insulting piece of television that I've ever seen. In brief: a young boy (Walt from Lost) witnesses his prostitute mother get killed by one of her johns. The detectives find him hiding in the closet and take him to the police station, where he later incorrectly identifies the killer in a voice line-up. However, he later sees the defense lawyer walking out of the station with a guy he recognizes from a charity who used to help his mom, and he concludes (rightly) that this man was the killer. So the boy feels responsible for letting his mom's killer go free, leaves the police station, gets a gun, and goes and kills the guy. So far: no problem. It's simple revenge, right? It's regrettable that a young teenager has to go to jail for a while, but we all expect the DA will cut him a deal and he'll be out in 10 - 15 years for murder-one. Reasonable.

But no. The defense lawyer presents some ridiculous argument that the boy isn't at fault, the gun itself is at fault. The boy has witnessed so much gun violence that he can't help but use a gun to kill his mom's murderer. I'm not sure how this is different from "revenge", but apparently it is because the argument convinces the ADA that the boy isn't at fault and offers him a sweet plea bargain. Then a lawyer from the "American Gun Association" shows up to try to stop the plea deal because he doesn't want anything on record showing that, in the words of the defense attorney, "the actual gun itself is to blame for the death, not the person who held it".

At this point everything in the episode it completely ridiculous, but it gets worse. The AGA lawyer gets an injunction preventing the criminal court judge from accepting the plea deal. Is this possible? Who knows. But the AGA lawyer wants to establish in civil court that the boy killed out of revenge, not "gun disease" (hence the title of the episode, "Infected"). So a civil judge hauls the defense lawyer, the ADA, and the criminal court judge into his courtroom and the AGA lawyer questions the boy until he admits that he killed his mom's killer because he hated her. At which point the criminal judge, the ADA and the defense lawyer conspire together to turn this confession into a mistrial so that the boy won't be convicted of murder.

Anyway, that was probably confusing and hard to follow, but so was the episode. The central principle, that the defense attorney had a "scientific study" proving that gun violence is a "disease" and that killers are no more to blame than people who catch colds, is uttery insulting to any viewer's intelligence and betrays a complete lack of sophistication on the part of the show's creators and writers. Even the most cursory review of human history will make it clear that people have been killing each other for thousands of years, and the level of violence in America where we have the Second Amendment is abnormally, incomprehensibly low compared to historical norms... not least because our own government kills very few of us compared to governments throughout history. People killed each other with stones, spears, swords, and now guns. But the inanimate objects aren't to blame; there's nothing magical about guns. It's just unbelievably retarded.

What's more, every bad guy in the show was a white male. The charity worker was a white male, and he turned out to be a "sex addict", child molester, and muderer. The AGA lawyer was a white male, and he made the poor boy cry on the witness stand and was portrayed as speechless in the face of facile, shallow arguments about "gun disease". The civil judge who disrupted the criminal trial with the injunction was a white male. All the good people were minorities or women, like the ADA, the defense attorney, and the criminal court judge who conspired to bring about the mistrial on spurious grounds so that the boy who murdered his mother's murderer could go free. The "scientist" who testified about the "gun disease" study was black.

To top it off, I tried to email the show to express my disappointment and the email address provided isn't even any good! So I decided to write it all out here in the hope that someone from the show will find it. If anyone can determine who wrote this episode please post their name in the comments.

Unfortunately I'm not a patent attorney and am thus out of my depth regarding actual patent law, but a friend and I were just discussing the concept of "obviousness". To my understanding, in order for an idea or process to be patentable it can't be "obvious" to a typical person in the field -- it has to be "novel". In my recent discussion, my position was that an idea is almost guaranteed to be novel if no one is doing it and it turns out to be profitable. Profitability plus lack of action implies that no one has thought of the idea.

My friend was arguing that there are some ideas that are so incredibly obvious that no one writes about them, that no one thinks will be profitable, and that actually are profitable once someone does them -- but I don't think that's the case. There may be some such ideas, but considering that people are wont to try vast numbers of ideas on the mere suspicion that they might be profitable, it's hard to believe that there are many obvious, profitable ideas that everyone thinks will be unprofitable.

Thus, my argument was that no matter how obvious an idea may seem in hindsight, if no one has done it or written about it, and it turns out to be profitable, then the idea is almost certain to be novel.

Although I have libertarian sympathies I'd label myself more as a conservative than as a libertarian, mainly because I just don't think pure libertarianism can work. Why? Because humans aren't rational and we very often do things that aren't in our best interests, and when a critical mass of society lives miserable lives because of their own poor choices it's certain to bring the rest of us down as well. The externalities are unavoidable. Case in point: a significant percentage of people simply can't handle their own finances -- this article is about the UK, but I'm confident the situation is even worse in the US.

A debt-fuelled spending splurge at Christmas is set to push thousands of individuals into crisis and cause record bankruptcies in coming months as consumers struggle to pay off credit cards. According to the accountancy firm Grant Thornton, at least 20,000 people in England and Wales will become insolvent by the end of the quarter in March, and 66,000 individuals by the end of 2006. Both figures would be the highest since records of personal debt began 45 years ago.

Shoppers are thought to have been tempted into splashing out more than they could afford on food and presents at Christmas and on bargains in the new year sales. After a slow start retailers reported brisk business in December, and the bill for Christmas is almost certain to top the £10bn of 2004. The spree comes as personal insolvency surges at an annual rate of more than 30 per cent. Citizens' Advice Bureaux are reporting "huge numbers" of debt calls, and the Consumer Credit Counselling Service predicts bankruptcies will double in the next few years.

If people can't even handle credit cards, why do libertarians think they can handle, say, addictive drugs? Well, many libertarians don't, but respond to the philisophical difficulty by dismissing it and abandoning anyone who can't handle themselves to their own folly. But few people would argue that returning to an age of debtors prisons would be more desirable than a few governmental restrictions on borrowing and lending.

The key is "a few". Any regulations can go overboard, and bureaucracies have a tendency to expand to attempt to control anything they can get the budget for, so there's a fine line to walk to find the optimal level of liberty. I think we could do with a lot less regulation than we have now in most areas, but there are some that could do with a little more public oversight.

Just on general principle it's smart not to log in to your computer as the Administrator unless you're purposefully doing something that requires Administrator access, and now it appears like there another good reason to limit your own privileges during normal use.

On Tuesday, December 27, 2005, Microsoft became aware of public reports of malicious attacks on some customers involving a previously unknown security vulnerability in the Windows Meta File (WMF) code area in the Windows platform.

Basically that means that simply viewing an infected image file can corrupt your system, whether you view the image on a webpage, or through email, or whatever.

An attacker who successfully exploited this vulnerability could only gain the same user rights as the local user. Users whose accounts are configured to have fewer user rights on the system could be less impacted than users who operate with administrative user rights.

Which means that if you're logged in as an Administrator or a user with administration privileges your computer will be much more at-risk than if you're logged in as a normal user.

Just wanted to point out that yesterday I said Russia would turn Ukraine's natural gas back on soon, and today they did.

The New York Times' new public editor, Byron Calame, has written an editorial questioning the timing of the NYT's revelation of the top secret NSA surveillance program and why it coincides so closely with a book due to come out by one of the reporters involved, but implicit in Mr. Calame's writing is a disturbing, silent support for the leakers who violated national security and revealed the program.

Taken at face value, Mr. Keller seems to be contending that the sourcing for the eavesdropping article is so intertwined with the decisions about when and what to publish that a full explanation could risk revealing the sources. I have no trouble accepting the importance of confidential sourcing concerns here. The reporters' nearly one dozen confidential sources enabled them to produce a powerful article that I think served the public interest.

It's not Mr. Calame's job or the Times' job to determine what national security secrets should be kept or revealed for the public interest. That's what we elect politicians for, none of whom on either side of the aisle appear to have tried to stop this program.

With confidential sourcing under attack and the reporters digging in the backyards of both intelligence and politics, The Times needs to guard the sources for the eavesdropping article with extra special care. Telling readers the time that the reporters got one specific fact, for instance, could turn out to be a dangling thread of information that the White House or the Justice Department could tug at until it leads them to the source. Indeed, word came Friday that the Justice Department has opened an investigation into the disclosure of classified information about the eavesdropping.

And, needless to say, Mr. Calame and the Times oppose prosecution of these leakers, despite the severity of their crimes. Why? It doesn't take a genius to figure it out: journalists depend on criminals and leakers to get their information so they can make money and get famous.

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