Archive for August, 2004

Regarding this article, from farker cscx:

Are these people really this stupid? Since when does “taking a swing at a secret service agent” constitute “free speech”? If this moron represents my generation as a whole, I might as well turn in my membership card to the human race while I’m ahead.

My thoughts exactly.

So I’m driving home today, and I start to hear a hissing noise from the passenger air vent. At first I’m thinking it’s liquid condensed from the AC sloshing around inside the dashboard (drain hole clogged up maybe).

But the noise doesn’t seem affected by turning, or speed. I try turning the AC on and off, then the fan itself. Nothing. Even with the climate control turned completely off, I’m still hearing this hissing. It’s more or less constant, and occasionally sounds “wet”, like a leaking hose that periodically gets into water.

I’m going mad on the drive home trying to diagnose it — turning things on and off, braking hard, turning, etc. Only thing that affects it is when I brake sharply; when the nose dives and the car’s plane becomes angled forward for a moment. The hissing stops briefly, then resumes.

Finally I get home in the garage where I can check it out better. Still hissing even when I turn the ignition off. I’m wondering if it’s a leaking hose, a freon leak or something. But there’s no unusual smell.

So I duck my head in on the passenger side to hear better exactly where the sound is coming from, and…

…it’s my bottle of Dr. Pepper in the front seat, hissing because I didn’t screw the cap on tight enough.

From someone only named “Michael” in a comment thread at Joanne Jacobs’ blog:

A since-retired colleague was once asked by a student, “Why did you give me an F?” He replied, “Because the Board of Regents wouldn’t let me give you a G.”

One of the themes of the Kerry campaign has been that Bush has damaged American international relations through his “unilateralism” with regard to the Iraq campaign. The large number of allied nations in the coalition is dismissed on the grounds that most of them were “bribed, bullied or coerced” into joining. Something about this claim has always bothered me, and last night I finally figured out what it was.

Diplomacy, as Steven Den Beste has observed, is the art of getting another party to do what you want through the application of what he calls “carrots” and “sticks”. A carrot is something valued by the other party. In international diplomacy, carrots can include things like improved trade status, foreign aid subsidies, favorable terms for government contract bidding, grants of foreign territory, etc. A “stick” is something the other party views as a disvalue; in international diplomacy sticks are things like the revocation of trade status or foreign aid, threats of the use of military force, etc. Basically a carrot is something you promise to the other guy if he does what you want; a stick is something you threaten the other guy with if he does not do what you want.

Now, to the problem with Kerry’s critique: it characterizes the normal processes of diplomacy as though they are illegitimate. An ally who joins the coalition to gain something we offered to them in return is “bribed”. An ally who joins the coalition to avoid something we threatened them with if they did not is “coerced” or “bullied”. On Kerry’s terms, the only legitimate allies are ones who support us simply because we asked. But what avenues of diplomacy are left if we simply ask and they say no? We can’t offer them anything on pain of having “bribed” them into supporting us. We can’t threaten them on pain of having “bullied” or “coerced” them. The only thing left is to say “Pretty please?”, and if that doesn’t work to ask again with sugar on top. At that point we’re basically no different from the European Union.

The implicit model of diplomacy underlying the “bribed, bullied or coerced” charge is no model at all. Either Kerry knows this, in which case attacking Bush on that basis is dishonest political pandering, or he doesn’t know it, in which case his claims of being able to do diplomacy better than Bush should be taken with a CostCo-sized shaker of salt.

Leftists have long used various forms of social and political pressure in order to get their way. Marches, protests, leaflets, all the various traditional methods of civil resistance. Advertising and donations from wealthy benefactors have played a big part in the perpetuation of various activist organizations.

Now that this ideology has infected the school system, from elementary on up through universities, teachers take the opportunity to instill these leftist values in their students, planting the seeds of future generations of irrational shit disturbers.

But lately I’m starting to observe the beginnings of what I suspect is a new trend in leftist activism; deliberately and conspicuously breaking the law. I don’t just mean the low people on the food chain starting riots and getting arrested, or burning down an animal research facility. I’m talking about people in nominal positions of authority within the Establishment itself.

Take Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco. Earlier this year, he made history by authorizing San Francisco officials to grant marriage licenses to homosexual couples. The result was a flood of people into the city, some 8,000 by most estimates, who applied. These marriages were later ruled void on August 12, 2004, by the California Supreme Court, who stated that Newsom had exceeded his authority in violation of existing state law. Lawyer Richard Ackerman remarked, “Gay activist leaders do not have the right to declare what they’d like the law to be. California remains a state governed by law, not by the political whims of a rogue mayor.”

At the time he authorized the marriages, Newsom said:

“We are talking about a question of the constitutionality of Proposition 22. I feel it is absolutely inconsistent with the state constitution, I feel very strongly that it needed to be challenged, and we are challenging it.”

Fast forward to August 17, 2004. Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich has announced that the state of Illinois is going to set up an online network to allow Illinois residents to buy prescription drugs from Canada, Ireland, and the United Kingdom. He knows this is illegal, in violation of FDA regulations as well as general regulations against the reimportation of drugs from other countries. He states:

“We have taken every possible step we could think of to convince the FDA, and convince the Congress, and anyone and everyone who will listen, that people across Illinois, and across our country, deserve access to safe and lower cost prescription drugs. The federal government has failed to act. So it’s time that we do.”

So apparently his solution is to ignore the law and do it anyway.

I am disturbed by the apparently cavalier manner in which these government officials simply flout the law in order to get their own way. Is this going to be the future of leftist activism? Protests don’t work, so they intend to take Nike’s advice and “just do it”, now that they have people in positions of government authority?

States have a certain level of sovereignty. This is guaranteed in the Constitution, as well as being a long cultural tradition in the United States. Does Blagojevich, as Governor, have the authority to do this for the state of Illinois in a way that Newsom, as Mayor, does not? Should he? Is there too much Federal regulation of things that should be relegated to state-level control?

A contrasting example is the Governor of Alaska, Frank Murkowski. He has decided to drill for oil off the coast of Alaska. He is calling on oil companies to begin test drilling as soon as January, 2005. He doesn’t care what environmentalists think, and most of Alaska is on his side. It is interesting to note, however, that what Murkowski is doing is not illegal. The area he has opened to drilling is outside the boundaries of the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge, where drilling is prohibited, but still within state borders. He commented:

“We are a sovereign state and we have this authority and I hope we find a big puddle down there.”

Is what Murkowski’s doing the same as what Blagojevich is doing? Blagojevich is openly declaring his intention and knowledge of violating the law. Murkowski is staying within the bounds of the law, just pissing off lots of radical viros. He is trying to work within the system as established, rather than ignoring the law.

Gavin Newsom used his position to “protest” what he believed to be a legal conflict within the California Constitution and the legal provisions of Proposition 22. The problem is, it isn’t Newsom’s place to do that. We have venues for resolving such conflicts, and they’re called courts. The way to resolve this is to file a lawsuit and have the court decide, not use one’s executive mayoral authority to knowingly break the law. The observant reader will note that it was the California court system that ultimately resolved this situation, after various groups filed lawsuits.

Blagojevich is doing the same thing. Instead of taking his case to the court system, whether State or Federal, he is using executive power as Governor of Illnois to enact something that is illegal. Someone should (and probably will) file a lawsuit to stop him from doing this. The Federal government may have legal authority to stop him, as well. Again, that is for courts to decide, not Blagojevich.

Murkowski appears to be acting within his authority, as the law is written. Someone may file a lawsuit against the state of Alaska to try and stop it, and the courts would deal with it as needed.

This is what the rule of law is about. Hopefully this “tactic” by leftists, if they pursue it, will be short-circuited by the legal system. But it may be evidence of desperation in the face of a national majority that is sick and tired of their shenanigans.

I really, really wonder about the intelligence of radical viros sometimes:

Environment activists piled thousands of dead fish at the foot of Berlin’s biggest tourist attraction, the Brandenburg Gate, Tuesday in a demonstration against over-fishing and pollution in the North Sea.

[V]isitors to the famous neo-classical landmark were greeted by the smell of 11,000 rotting fish displayed on a 100 meter long table under banners bearing the slogan “Don’t waste life!.”

“We caught the fish in the North Sea on board the Greenpeace ship Esperanza using a standard 10 meter commercial fishing net, said Jettka. “The net has a huge pipe attached that sucks up fish indiscriminately like a giant vacuum cleaner.”

The dead fish on display — some 95 percent of the catch, including endangered species of octopus and sea urchin — were those that commercial crews would normally throw back overboard for failing to meet traders’ criteria.

Um. Is this story even for real? Protesters deliberately went out and indiscriminately caught 11,000 fish, including some endangered species, for the purpose of putting their dead carcasses on display as a protest against over-fishing?


Am I missing something here? How exactly does this prove their point? Haven’t they just committed an illegal act by fishing and displaying endangered species? Isn’t this entire stunt an incredibly stupid way to protect marine life, considered that they killed 11,000 fish?

Anne and I just got back from a week’s vacation visiting my relatives. First at a family reunion in Colorado, then staying with my parents who moved to Wyoming last year. Major impressions:

  • Colorado has some literally breathtaking scenery. I say ‘literally’ because it’s 10,000 feet above sea level, and when you spend most of your life in San Jose that makes for some pretty thin air.
  • Devil’s Tower looks pretty much like it did in Close Encounters.
  • It sure rains a lot in Wyoming, considering that it was August and there was a drought warning on.
  • Real estate is cheap there. My parents’ residence is like a big house with a second big house underneath it. They more than paid for it by selling their 3-bedroom, 1-bath house here in San Jose. In fact, it cost less than the townhouse Anne and I bought here last year.
  • I’d forgotten how much 56k dialup internet sucks. It used to be possible to use the net productively with a dialup connection. I’m not sure that’s true anymore.
  • There’s a serious lack of traffic in Wyoming. It’s unsettling to be able to drive into the equivalent of a major city without ever seeing a traffic jam.
  • Not reading the news for the past week or so has been very relaxing. I think I’ll keep doing it for a few more days.