Wednesday, September 27, 2006

al Qaeda Letter Displays Pessimism

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

New York Daily News: Sly Fox in New York City

Thought you may be interested in a beer article since I haven't posted one in a while. This article is more a praise of Sly Fox for the paper's New York audience.

My Glass Case of Emotion

Well, I finally came to the understanding that my oldest cat, Daphne, would be happier and better-behaved in a single-cat no-dog house.

But pulling the trigger is far trickier emotionally than one would think if viewing the situation from the outside.

Daphne is very affectionate towards me. But she beats the snot out of the other cats. And she is very territorial, if you know what I mean.

So I want to do some last-ditch efforts to correct the situation. Or I need to find her a new home. Currently, I'm going down both paths.

I love Daphne. We've been through a lot. My wife gave her to me for my first birthday with her as a couple.

Anyway, that's why blogs are good to have. Free therapy regarding things few will have an interest in. But you get to shout to the world anyway.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Sudan Blames Israel for Their Woes

Way to trot out the big Zionist conspiracy to obfuscate your horrendous crimes against humanity.

Thailand Coup Installs a Prime Minister Who Will Negotiate with Muslim Insurgents

Muslim Thailand? I wonder if people in Thailand blame it on American support of Israel and American foreign policy.

Ok, probably not.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Sam Harris Tries to Argue for an Atheism Which Doesn't Destroy Objective Morality

Well, Sam Harris confuses religion with God. "Religion isn't necessary for meaningful morality" has a different meaning than "God isn't necessary for meaningful morality." Harris repeatedly makes this mistake.

Then, he tries to claim utilitarianism as a basis for objective, meaningful morality.
Clearly, we can think of objective sources of moral order that do not require the existence of a law-giving God. In The End of Faith, I argued that questions of morality are really questions about happiness and suffering. If there are objectively better and worse ways to live so as to maximize happiness in this world, these would be objective moral truths worth knowing.

And if God doesn't exist, why should I care? Why would any of that have any ultimate meaning?

There are a bunch of atoms bouncing around which have a certain chemical state in their brain telling them "hey, I'm happy." Why does this matter?

Why should I care? Why should I maximize everyone's happiness and not just my own happiness?

Let me accentuate his main problem. Mr. Harris doesn't want a law-giver. But he wants moral laws. But how do you get a meaningful law without a law-giver? Otherwise, you just have laws hanging in mid-air.

And if you say morality is made by humans (making society the law-giver), then you still have problems. Laws can come and go. You get into the realm of subjective opinion. Does anyone really think that a meaningful morality gets decided by a vote? Was chattle slavery OK? Was killing Jews OK in Nazi society?

No. Meaningful morality needs God. Can atheists be moral? Yes.

But they are showing that they have knowledge of God written on their hearts.

Sam Harris: Head-in-Sand Liberals Don't Get the Threat from Radical Islam

Sam Harris is a liberal and does not like religious belief in general. His article touches on something I've been thinking for a while.
Given the degree to which religious ideas are still sheltered from criticism in every society, it is actually possible for a person to have the economic and intellectual resources to build a nuclear bomb — and to believe that he will get 72 virgins in paradise. And yet, despite abundant evidence to the contrary, liberals continue to imagine that Muslim terrorism springs from economic despair, lack of education and American militarism.

At its most extreme, liberal denial has found expression in a growing subculture of conspiracy theorists who believe that the atrocities of 9/11 were orchestrated by our own government. A nationwide poll conducted by the Scripps Survey Research Center at Ohio University found that more than a third of Americans suspect that the federal government "assisted in the 9/11 terrorist attacks or took no action to stop them so the United States could go to war in the Middle East;" 16% believe that the twin towers collapsed not because fully-fueled passenger jets smashed into them but because agents of the Bush administration had secretly rigged them to explode.

Such an astonishing eruption of masochistic unreason could well mark the decline of liberalism, if not the decline of Western civilization. There are books, films and conferences organized around this phantasmagoria, and they offer an unusually clear view of the debilitating dogma that lurks at the heart of liberalism: Western power is utterly malevolent, while the powerless people of the Earth can be counted on to embrace reason and tolerance, if only given sufficient economic opportunities.

I don't know how many more engineers and architects need to blow themselves up, fly planes into buildings or saw the heads off of journalists before this fantasy will dissipate. The truth is that there is every reason to believe that a terrifying number of the world's Muslims now view all political and moral questions in terms of their affiliation with Islam. This leads them to rally to the cause of other Muslims no matter how sociopathic their behavior. This benighted religious solidarity may be the greatest problem facing civilization and yet it is regularly misconstrued, ignored or obfuscated by liberals.
Recent condemnations of the Bush administration's use of the phrase "Islamic fascism" are a case in point. There is no question that the phrase is imprecise — Islamists are not technically fascists, and the term ignores a variety of schisms that exist even among Islamists — but it is by no means an example of wartime propaganda, as has been repeatedly alleged by liberals.

In their analyses of U.S. and Israeli foreign policy, liberals can be relied on to overlook the most basic moral distinctions. For instance, they ignore the fact that Muslims intentionally murder noncombatants, while we and the Israelis (as a rule) seek to avoid doing so. Muslims routinely use human shields, and this accounts for much of the collateral damage we and the Israelis cause; the political discourse throughout much of the Muslim world, especially with respect to Jews, is explicitly and unabashedly genocidal.

Given these distinctions, there is no question that the Israelis now hold the moral high ground in their conflict with Hamas and Hezbollah. And yet liberals in the United States and Europe often speak as though the truth were otherwise.

We are entering an age of unchecked nuclear proliferation and, it seems likely, nuclear terrorism. There is, therefore, no future in which aspiring martyrs will make good neighbors for us. Unless liberals realize that there are tens of millions of people in the Muslim world who are far scarier than Dick Cheney, they will be unable to protect civilization from its genuine enemies.

Increasingly, Americans will come to believe that the only people hard-headed enough to fight the religious lunatics of the Muslim world are the religious lunatics of the West. Indeed, it is telling that the people who speak with the greatest moral clarity about the current wars in the Middle East are members of the Christian right, whose infatuation with biblical prophecy is nearly as troubling as the ideology of our enemies. Religious dogmatism is now playing both sides of the board in a very dangerous game.

While liberals should be the ones pointing the way beyond this Iron Age madness, they are rendering themselves increasingly irrelevant. Being generally reasonable and tolerant of diversity, liberals should be especially sensitive to the dangers of religious literalism. But they aren't.

Iran, Venezuela, North Korea, and Cuba Team Up

Hugo Chavez is on a never-ending mission to rescue Pat Robertson's image.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

9/11 Conspiracy Theories and National Health Care: How They are Linked

I saw the following letter on Mark Steyn's website:
I've come to believe that the main reason people cling to 9/11 conspiracy theories is that they have a vision of government as all-wise, all-powerful, and all-knowing, capable of accomplishing anything it sets its collective mind to, accompanied by grandiose swells of orchestral music.

If they accepted the reality that government is a blind, lumbering giant that damages or destroys anything it comes into contact with, staffed all too often with lazy, inept, clock-punching featherbedders, too deeply incompetent to accomplish anything like what they describe, then all their dreams of a government-imposed utopia would fall to ruin.

In other words, in order to believe in nationalized health care, you have to believe in a 9/11 government conspiracy.

Michael Pelletier

Richard Miniter: We Are Too Soft on Detainees
The high-minded critics who complain about torture are wrong. We are far too soft on these guys - and, as a result, aren't getting the valuable intelligence we need to save American lives.

The politically correct regulations are unbelievable. Detainees are entitled to a full eight hours sleep and can't be woken up for interrogations. They enjoy three meals and five prayers per day, without interruption. They are entitled to a minimum of two hours of outdoor recreation per day.

Interrogations are limited to four hours, usually running two - and (of course) are interrupted for prayers. One interrogator actually bakes cookies for detainees, while another serves them Subway or McDonald's sandwiches. Both are available on base. (Filet o' Fish is an al Qaeda favorite.)

Interrogations are not video or audio taped, perhaps to preserve detainee privacy.

Call it excessive compassion by a nation devoted to therapy, but it's dangerous. Adm. Harris admitted to me that a multi-cell al Qaeda network has developed in the camp. Military intelligence can't yet identify their leaders, but notes that they have cells for monitoring the movements and identities of guards and doctors, cells dedicated to training, others for making weapons and so on.

And they can make weapons from almost anything. Guards have been attacked with springs taken from inside faucets, broken fluorescent light bulbs and fan blades. Some are more elaborate. "These folks are MacGyvers," Harris said.

Other cells pass messages from leaders in one camp to followers in others. How? Detainees use the envelopes sent to them by their attorneys to pass messages. (Some 1,000 lawyers represent 440 prisoners, all on a pro bono basis, with more than 18,500 letters in and out of Gitmo in the past year.) Guards are not allowed to look inside these envelopes because of "attorney-client privilege" - even if they know the document inside is an Arabic-language note written by a prisoner to another prisoner and not a letter to or from a lawyer.

That's right: Accidentally or not, American lawyers are helping al Qaeda prisoners continue to plot.

There is little doubt what this note-passing and weapons-making is used for. The military recorded 3,232 incidents of detainee misconduct from July 2005 to August 2006 - an average of more than eight incidents per day. Some are nonviolent, but the tally includes coordinated attacks involving everything from throwing bodily fluids on guards (432 times) to 90 stabbings with homemade knives.

Friday, September 15, 2006

How a Major Evolutionary (Internal) Debate Tells Volumes About the Problems with the Theory

Ok, here is the rundown.

One side says that small changes over time (microevolution) has to lead to major changes over time (macroevolution). The other side says that microevolution is not a viable mechanism to get you bigger, grander-scale changes. You need big jumps. Plus, the fossil record supports big jumps.

The first side retorts "there is no viable way to get big jumps."

And guess what? I think both sides are correct.

In other words, evolution has major problems. It has no viable mechanism to make it work.

Here's a quote from a referenced article:
Suppose that, for his part, Coyne is right that viable macromutations don't happen, and that the rules of population genetics must be obeyed in any evolutionary scenario.

But suppose that, for their part, Erwin and Davidson are right about the signal of the fossil record (rapid discontinuity) and the nature of body plan specification (novel architectures can't be built incrementally, because that's not how they work developmentally).

What happens to the theory of the common descent of the animals? -- a theory, by the way, that all parties to this dust-up hold as a given.

That's the body prone on the barroom floor. Unconscious, and bleeding all over the place.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Iraq's Deputy Prime Minister on Pre-War Iraq/al Qaeda Connections

The source I am quoting quotes another source.
The Senate Intelligence Committee has issued Saddam a clean bill of health, as far as international terrorism is concerned. That is, they say he had no relationship with al Qaeda. But Iraq's deputy prime minister, Barham Salih, begs to differ:

"The alliance between the Baathists and jihadists which sustains Al Qaeda in Iraq is not new, contrary to what you may have been told." He went on to say, "I know this at first hand. Some of my friends were murdered by jihadists, by Al Qaeda-affiliated operatives who had been sheltered and assisted by Saddam's regime."

A Kurdish politician who took his high school exams from inside a Baathist prison, Mr. Salih said he was the target of the alliance between jihadists, Baathists, and Al Qaeda in 2001, when a group known as Ansar al-Islam tried to assassinate him. In 2002, envoys of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, one of the two Kurdish parties sharing sovereignty over northern Iraq between the two Iraq wars, presented the CIA with evidence that the organization that tried to kill Mr. Salih had been in part funded and directed by Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard.

The Senate's report declassifies a July 2002 Defense Intelligence Agency study of Ansar al-Islam as a possible link between Saddam's Iraq and Al Qaeda that concludes that, even if it can be proven, as Mr. Salih at the time alleged, that the Baathist regime supported the group, "it will not necessarily implicate the regime in supporting Al Qaeda." The DIA concludes that Ansar al-Islam "receives assistance" from Al Qaeda but is not a branch of the terrorist organization.

This last point is the kind of sophistry that defenders of Saddam are forced to resort to. There is no doubt that Ansar al Islam was a dangerous terrorist group; among its activities was the production of ricin to be used in terrorist acts in Europe. The left's conventional defense of Ansar al Islam is that it was located in the northern part of Iraq, and therefore under the presumed dominion of the Kurds. But so what? They were in Iraq, and Saddam not only tolerated but supported them. The Kurds had no ability to drive them out. The idea that Saddam is insulated from al Qaeda because Ansar was only supported by al Qaeda, but was not a "branch" of al Qaeda, is the kind of silliness liberals engage in on this issue. Ansar was a terrorist Islamic group, and Saddam both harbored and supported them.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ann Coulter's Way with Words

I know she rubs a lot of people wrong. But she has a way to put the nail squarely on the head.

Consider this quote involving Iraq:
The first month Clinton was in office, Islamic terrorists with suspected links to al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein bombed the World Trade Center.

For the first time ever, a terrorist act against America was treated not as a matter of national security, but exclusively as a simple criminal offense. The individual bombers were tried in a criminal court. (The one plotter who got away fled to Iraq, that peaceful haven of kite-flying children until Bush invaded and turned it into a nation of dangerous lunatics.)

Loose Change vs. Popular Mechanics Debate Transcript

The conspiracy theorists about 9/11 really bother me.

Frontline Episode on "The Man Who Knew"

About this guy in the FBI who took the threat seriously, got pushed out, and then died as head of security of the World Trade Center.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Tabletalk's Bible Study From 9/11/2001

Read this and tell me what you think.

I read it on 9/12/2001 and it was truly weird. But God is a God who is in control. That's my explanation.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

9/11 Hijakers Wanted to Avenge Bosnia

Yes, the same Bosnia that Clinton intervened militarily in and saved many Muslims lives.

I'm not getting this one.

Hat tip to Little Green Footballs.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Growing Islamic Threat of the 90's

There is a lot of truth about the Clinton administration not taking the terrorism thread seriously enough. But, frankly, neither party was. Do you remember hearing Republican complaints?

And I'll go one step further. The public wasn't taking it seriously either.

There was enough information out there for people to get a good idea of what was going on.

Here is the list of pre-9/11 major events from Powerline:
* January 25, 1993: Mir Aimal Kansi, a Pakistani, fired an AK-47 into cars waiting at a stoplight in front of the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters in Virginia, killing two CIA employees.

* February 26, 1993: Islamic terrorists try to bring down the World Trade Center with car bombs. They failed to destroy the buildings, but killed 6 and injured over 1000 people.

* March 12, 1993: Car bombings in Mumbai, India leave 257 dead and 1,400 others injured.

* July 18, 1994: Bombing of Jewish Center in Buenos Aires, Argentina, kills 86 and wounds 300. The bombing is generally attributed to Hezbollah acting on behalf of Iran.

* July 19, 1994: Alas Chiricanas Flight 00901 is bombed, killing 21. Generally attributed to Hezbollah.

* July 26, 1994: The Israeli Embassy is attacked in London, and a Jewish charity is also car-bombed, wounding 20. The attacks are attributed to Hezbollah.

* December 11, 1994: A bomb explodes on board Philippine Airlines Flight 434, killing a Japanese businessman. It develops that Ramzi Yousef planted the bomb to test it for the larger terrorist attack he is planning.

* December 24, 1994: In a preview of September 11, Air France Flight 8969 is hijacked by Islamic terrorists who planned to crash the plane in Paris.

* January 6, 1995: Operation Bojinka, an Islamist plot to bomb 11 U.S. airliners over the Pacific Ocean, is discovered on a laptop computer in a Manila, Philippines apartment by authorities after a fire occurred in the apartment. Noted terrorists including Ramzi Yousef and Khalid Shaikh Mohammed are involved in the plot.

* June 14—June 19, 1995: The Budyonnovsk hospital hostage crisis, in which 105 civilians and 25 Russian troops were killed following an attack by Chechan Islamists.

* July—October, 1995: Bombings in France by Islamic terrorists led by Khaled Kelkal kill eight and injure more than 100.

* November 13, 1995: Bombing of OPM-SANG building in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia kills 7

* November 19, 1995: Bombing of Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan kills 19.

* January 1996: In Kizlyar, 350 Chechen Islamists took 3,000 hostages in a hospital. The attempt to free them killed 65 civilians and soldiers.

* February 25 - March 4, 1996: A series of four suicide bombings in Israel leave 60 dead and 284 wounded within 10 days.

* June 11, 1996: A bomb explodes on a train traveling on the Serpukhovsko-Timiryazevskaya Line of the Moscow Metro, killing four and unjuring at least 12.

* June 25, 1996: The Khobar Towers bombing, carried out by Hezbollah with Iranian support. Nineteen U.S. servicemen were killed and 372 wounded.

* February 24, 1997: An armed man opens fire on tourists at an observation deck atop the Empire State Building in New York City, United States, killing a Danish national and wounding visitors from several countries. A handwritten note carried by the gunman claims this was a punishment attack against the "enemies of Palestine".

* November 17, 1997: Massacre in Luxor, Egypt, in which Islamist gunmen attack tourists, killing 62 people.

* January 1998: Wandhama Massacre - 24 Kashmiri Pandits are massacred by Pakistan-backed Islamists in the city of Wandhama in Indian-controlled Kashmir.

* February 14, 1998: Bombings by Islamic Jihadi groups at an election rally in the Indian city of Coimbatore kill about 60 people.

* August 7, 1998: Al Qaeda bombs U.S. embassies in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and Nairobi, Kenya, killing 225 people and injuring more than 4,000.

* August 31 – September 22, 1998: Russian apartment bombings kill about 300 people, leading Russia into Second Chechen War.

* December 1998: Jordanian authorities foil a plot to bomb American and Israeli tourists in Jordan, and arrest 28 suspects as part of the 2000 millennium attack plots.

* December 14, 1998: Ahmed Ressam is arrested on the United States–Canada border in Port Angeles, Washington; he confessed to planning to bomb the Los Angeles International Airport as part of the 2000 millennium attack plots.

* December 24, 1998: Indian Airlines Flight 814 from Kathmandu, Nepal to Delhi, India is hijacked by Islamic terrorists. One passenger is killed and some hostages are released. After negotiations between the Taliban and the Indian government, the last of the remaining hostages on board Flight 814 are released in exchange for release of 4 terrorists.

* January 2000: The last of the 2000 millennium attack plots fails, as the boat meant to bomb USS The Sullivans sinks.

* August 8, 2000: A bomb exploded at an underpass in Pushkin Square in Moscow, killing 11 people and wounding more than 90.

* August 17, 2000: Two bombs exploded in a shopping center in Riga, Latvia, injuring 35 people.

* October 12, 2000: AL Qaeda bombs USS Cole with explosive-laden speedboat, killing 17 US sailors and wounding 40, off the port coast of Aden, Yemen.

Democrats Threaten ABC Over 9/11 Film

I don't want to hear about Joseph McCarthy any more from them.

From Hugh Hewitt:
But I hope ABC execs add a postscript of Sandy Berger, in the National Archives, stuffing secret documents into his pants and socks, and then pleading guilty to having done so. And a nice bit of footage of Madeleine Albright clinking glasses with Kim Jung Il in late 2000 would be a fine addition as well. Perhaps a shot of the disbarment proceedings of President Clinton, or the rambling last press conference that followed the Marc Rich pardon? The Clinton censors want accuracy, then give them accuracy in everything, I say.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

al Qaeda's Charter

From Bush's most recent speech:
These radicals have declared their uncompromising hostility to freedom. It is foolish to think that you can negotiate with them. (Applause.) We see the uncompromising nature of the enemy in many captured terrorist documents. Here are just two examples: After the liberation of Afghanistan, coalition forces searching through a terrorist safe house in that country found a copy of the al Qaeda charter. This charter states that "there will be continuing enmity until everyone believes in Allah. We will not meet [the enemy] halfway. There will be no room for dialogue with them." Another document was found in 2000 by British police during an anti-terrorist raid in London -- a grisly al Qaeda manual that includes chapters with titles such as "Guidelines for Beating and Killing Hostages." This manual declares that their vision of Islam "does not… make a truce with unbelief, but rather confronts it." The confrontation… calls for… the dialogue of bullets, the ideals of assassination, bombing, and destruction, and the diplomacy of the cannon and machine gun."

Still other captured documents show al Qaeda's strategy for infiltrating Muslim nations, establishing terrorist enclaves, overthrowing governments, and building their totalitarian empire. We see this strategy laid out in a captured al Qaeda document found during a recent raid in Iraq, which describes their plans to infiltrate and take over Iraq's western Anbar Province. The document lays out an elaborate al Qaeda governing structure for the region that includes an Education Department, a Social Services Department, a Justice Department, and an "Execution Unit" responsible for "Sorting out, Arrest, Murder, and Destruction."

According to their public statements, countries that have -- they have targeted stretch from the Middle East to Africa, to Southeast Asia. Through this strategy, al Qaeda and its allies intend to create numerous, decentralized operating bases across the world, from which they can plan new attacks, and advance their vision of a unified, totalitarian Islamic state that can confront and eventually destroy the free world.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

The Wedding Gift

It is expected of a groom to give his bride a gift on their wedding day, after the wedding, etc.

Women seem to know all about this custom. And for some reason, men have never, ever heard of this.

At a rehearsal lunch yesterday I asked the groom if he knew about this topic. No. "What do I do?" "Get her some jewelery."

I wonder if there are other customs men need to know but don't.

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