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Wednesday, December 22, 2004

Homespun Bloggers Radio, program #2, is on the air. Click on the HBR button in the left column to hear it. Actually, it's a loop of both programs 1 and 2, so hang in there, and you'll hear the whole thing.

This program includes a commentary on Christmas intolerance, the first half of an "audio fisking" of John Kerry's final video to his supporters, and a musical segment in honor and thanks to our troops overseas. I think you'll enjoy it.

UPDATE: Murphy's Law is alive and well. Just as I went out of town for Christmas, the audio stream server siezed up. It's back now, and HBR is back on the air.

Friday, December 17, 2004

Administrative note: Christmas time is upon us (or, for those of you with the ACLU, Winter Solstice Season). As such, I'm taking a couple weeks of vacation from both work and the blog. While those of you who do the blogging thing know that it can be addictive, and thus I may not be entirely gone during this time, blogging will be light to non-existent until the new year.

(One thing I'm hoping to get out the door during this time is Homespun Bloggers Radio program #2. Stay tuned.)

So have a Merry Christmas (even you ACLU folks), and a very prosperous New Year. See you again soon!

I've said it many times before, that to liberals it's more important what you feel than what you actually do. With that in mind, read this.
After a relentless attack on the United States for opposing the Kyoto Protocol, environmental groups concede the international treaty will have no impact on what they believe to be impending catastrophic global warming.

Despite the fact that green groups at the U.N. climate summit in Buenos Aires called President George Bush "immoral" and "illegitimate" for not supporting the Kyoto Protocol, the groups themselves concede the Protocol will only have "symbolic" effect on climate because they believe it is too weak. Kyoto is an international treaty that seeks to limit greenhouse gases of the developed countries by 2012.

"I think that everybody agrees that Kyoto is really, really hopeless in terms of delivering what the planet needs," Peter Roderick of Friends of the Earth International told

All this sound and fury over a treaty that signifies nothing? Why then all the ruckus?
While Roderick dismisses the potential impact of the Kyoto Protocol, he believes the treaty is vital for a reason that has nothing to do with climate change.

"[The Protocol] is important more in the political message and the inspiration it is giving people around the world. People can say 'yeah, our politicians do care -- they are not just interested in power and their own greed and in their own money. They do care about the future of the planet,'" Roderick explained.

And there you have it. It matters more what you feel, or even just what you appear to feel. Kyoto will have virtually no impact at all, but that's what conferees at the climate summit choose to spend so much time, effort and emotion over.

It's time to spend a little brainpower on it, instead.

Here's a follow-up to yesterday's post about a Texas school district outlawing red and green. Why does it take a judge to dump this ridiculous rule?
A federal district court judge today granted a temporary restraining order to students and parents suing their Texas school district, thus allowing them to exchange religious cards and bring red and green party supplies to a school "Winter Break" party scheduled for tomorrow.

The only problem with this solution is that it depends on a reasonable judge. What if this had happened in Massachusetts?

Thursday, December 16, 2004

Stifling of dissent by the United Nations:
Buenos Aires, Argentina ( - The moderator of a panel discussion at the United Nations climate change conference here shut down questioning by a reporter who asked about disputed scientific claims regarding global warming, calling such questions "silly."

The panel discussion featured representatives of the Inuit people, who were announcing their intention to seek a ruling from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights against the United States "for causing global warming and its devastating impacts."

But when asked by to defend the science behind the group's legal challenge, the moderator of the event cut off the reporter's questions and threatened "to put a stop to this."

And what exactly was this dangerous question? What would cause allegedly open-minded scientists--ones who should be encouraging debate--to smack down a reporter? had asked the panelists about the scientific certainty that any potential warming in the Arctic is the fault of humans and specifically the fault of the United States.

The questions were predicated on temperature charts from a recently released report on Arctic warming and other data showing that surface temperatures in the Arctic in the early half of the 20th century were similar to present-day temperatures. asked Inuit panelists if these warmer Arctic temperatures in the first part of the 20th century had any disastrous impacts on the Arctic people.

"No it wasn't, [a disaster] no it wasn't at all," said Sheila Watt-Cloutier, the chairwoman of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference, a United Nations-recognized, quasi-governmental group that is seeking a human rights declaration against the U.S.

Watt-Cloutier said the weather did not impact the Inuit people in any way in the 1930s, and she disputed the notion that today's Arctic weather is similar to that of the 1930s -- even though the data shows that surface temperatures back then were similar to today's Arctic temperatures.

Also asked by how any potential melt of Greenland's ice shelf could create devastating climate and sea-level consequences when, according to multiple sources of available climate data, Greenland was warmer and had less ice during the Middle Ages than it currently has.

Watt-Cloutier responded, "I am not a scientist, so I can't give you any scientific responses to your question." But earlier in her presentation, Watt-Cloutier did present scientific analysis to bolster her group's legal complaint against the U.S.

"Melting of glaciers and the Greenland ice sheet can cause catastrophic interference with major ocean currents. Even moderate global warming scenarios are already having devastating impacts on the Inuit in the Arctic," Watt-Cloutier claimed earlier.

So, armed with scientific data, a reporter asked for details about claims and about contradictory findings. This showed the shortcomings of the presenters, who had to backpedal all of a sudden. asked again whether the panelists would acknowledge scientific reports that Greenland was warmer during the Middle Ages and had less ice cover than it has currently.

But Goldberg interrupted, saying, "This is not a scientific the moderator, I am going to put a stop to this.

"I have already put an end to this discussion, it is silly and it has nothing to do with what we are here to talk about," he added.

Goldberg then called for more "productive" questions.

So never mind the man behind the curtain, just continue on addressing me as "The Wizard of Oz".
A woman later took to the microphone and declared that the Inuit people's complaint against the U.S. was "not about the science, but it's about what is happening to human beings, and I think the U.S. has to start taking off its blinders."

Well if it's not about the science, why are you using science to blame the U.S.? If it's not about the science, you don't have a case against anybody.

And then came exposure of the herd mentality among reporters, as well as its liberal bias.
After the panel discussion, several audience members angrily approached this reporter and accused him of acting "disrespectful" to the Inuit people.

Never mind that they were using bad information to make their claims, just don't disrespect 'em. The conclusion is more important than the means by which you came to that conclusion. How you feel about something is more important that the reasons you feel it.

And that's the core of liberal "thought". How you feel about something trumps all. (Well, as long as what you feel fits in with what leftists think you should feel.) And they want to enforce public policy based on these feelings. Sorry, no can do.

First they took away Christmas carols. Then they wouldn't even allow the instrumental versions to be played. And now?
Now a school district has banned the colors red and green from a "Winter Break Party," requiring parents to bring only white plates and napkins.

In response to the party policy, as well as many other rules a group of parents and students believe to be rank censorship, a lawsuit has been filed against the Plano Independent School District in Texas to fight back against its "religious hostility," as one attorney puts it.

Other policies cited in the suit, filed today in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Sherman Division, include a ban on candy cane distribution when a religious card is attached, a ban on parents giving religious-oriented items to one another on school property and a ban on criticizing school board members or administrators on campus.

"This lawsuit includes a large amount of evidence that demonstrates the pervasive religious hostility in Plano ISD," said Hiram Sasser, director of litigation for Liberty Legal Institute, which, along with Alliance Defense Fund, is representing about 20 clients in the suit.

The paranoia is reaching fever pitch. The First Amendment permits the free exercise of religion, not making government schools religion-free zones.
One item included in the suit is the case of a girl student who was forbidden to invite her friends to an Easter event at her church, according to the law firm.

"We've even got a mom who went to the school asking if her daughter at her birthday party could hand out a pencil with 'Jesus' on it," Shackelford told WND, "and the principal got so upset with her that he called the police.

"It's just unbelievable stuff. We've been collecting these things for a year or two. This is a pervasive, district-wide problem of political correctness in the extreme."

Freedom of speech stops at the school doors. Yes, the school system has the right to regulate speech to a point--especially if it is disruptive to the learning environment--but pencils with "Jesus" on them?
Said Shackelford: "There's a huge difference between the school putting a sign out that says, 'We endorse Jesus,' and telling students and parents that they can't live out their faith."

Commenting on the white-only policy for party supplies, Shackelford quipped, "I guess nobody has told them white could symbolize the purity of Christ. They'd probably ban white!"

For a lighter look at Christmas colors, check out this graphic.

Today's odd "Considerettes" search term: "*bowling*fer*fire*09*" (#12 on MSN Search).

Wednesday, December 15, 2004 is now an official 527 group, like only...sane. >grin< The announcement is here.

With a nod to James Taranto comes this inane headline:
Women more at risk from climate change: Canadian at UN conference

You know that joke about the Washington Post headline, "God says world to end tomorrow; women and minorities hardest hit"? It's not so far off the mark. The CBC's headline wouldn't be much different.

And how exactly would women be hurt worse by a global climate change?
"For instance, often women don't know how to swim, so in a flood situation that can lead to a higher instance of death or injury," Angie Daze, a program manager with a Canadian group called Reducing Vulnerability to Climate Change, said.

If he were a Republican, this would be hate speech at worst and sexist at best. Since he is advancing the liberal agenda, he gets a pass. Here's another attempt at explaining the headline:
Other speakers on the sidelines of the Dec. 6-17 conference said women in poor countries are particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming, which has been blamed for causing more violent storms and rising sea levels, among other problems.

"Women are highly dependent on the environment for their family responsibilities" in developing countries, said one environmental worker based in Bangladesh.

"Any type of environmental degradation impacts them more severely than men."

Nope, sorry. Whatever those unnamed "family responsibilities" are, if they don't get done, the whole family feels it. This is just political correctness run amok.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Another reason why global warming predictions are not something we want to base public policy on.
SYDNEY (AFP) - Coral reefs around the world could expand in size by up to a third because of increased ocean warming, according to a new Australian study which contradicts the long-held belief that global warming is destroying the reefs.

Previous research has predicted a decline of between 20 and 60 percent in the size of coral reefs by 2100 relative to pre-industrial levels because of increasing carbon dioxide (CO2) levels caused by the greenhouse effect in ocean surface waters.

But the newly published research, by a team led by oceanographer Ben McNeil of Sydney's University of New South Wales, suggests that present coral reef calcification rates are not in decline and are equivalent to late 19th century levels.

"Our analysis suggests that ocean warming will foster considerably faster future rates of coral reef growth that will eventually exceed pre-industrial rates by as much as 35 percent by 2100," McNeil said in a statement Monday.

"Our finding stands in stark contrast to previous predictions that coral reef growth will suffer large, potentially catastrophic, decreases in the future."

Even when warming does happen, the predictions of what will happen due to it seem to be more what these folks want to happen (so they can get more funding an alter public policy) than an honest look into what is happening.

The Dead Arafat Dividend:

JERUSALEM (AP) - The armed uprising against Israel is a mistake and must end, interim Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview published Tuesday, signaling his determination to change direction after Yasser Arafat's death.

Palestinian militants have enjoyed broad support among Palestinians during more than four years of conflict with Israel. Abbas' affirmation of a somewhat unpopular view comes at the height of his campaign for Palestinian Authority president.

Abbas is the frontrunner in the Jan. 9 election to succeed Arafat as Palestinian Authority president. Abbas, a pragmatist, has the support of Israel and the international community.

While Arafat was still alive, Abbas told associates in closed-door meetings that he felt the uprising was a mistake, but rarely spoke out in public. When Abbas criticized the armed uprising during the launch of the U.S.-backed "road map" peace plan in 2003, he drew sharp condemnation at home.

In an interview with the London-based Arabic newspaper Asharq al-Awsat published Tuesday, Abbas said Palestinians should resist Israeli occupation without resorting to violence.

It is important to "keep the uprising away from arms because the uprising is a legitimate right of the people to express their rejection of the occupation by popular and social means," Abbas said.

"Using the weapons was harmful and has got to stop," Abbas said, referring to shootings and bombings by Palestinian militants that have killed hundreds of Israelis since the outbreak of fighting in September 2000.

Those looking for peaceful means to deal with this problem are now able to speak openly. Just another upside to the demise of Arafat.

On his blog yesterday, Hugh Hewitt noted a Washington Post article about the Senate's "nuclear option"; changing the filibuster rules to get Bush's judicial nominees more easily through the Senate confirmation process, with an eye to potential Supreme Court nominees. Hugh comment is:
Bill Frist's finger is on the button. Push it, Senator.

My comment would be, "he who lives by the nuke will die by the nuke". I'm no Sun Tzu, but I see this as a short term tactic that, while it might get the current job done, is a poor long term strategy that could come back to bite us someday. And I don't think we really want to give up the weapon of the filibuster just yet. The Post article backs me up on both points.
"One way or another, the filibuster of judicial nominees must end," [Sen. Majority Leader Bill Frist] said in a speech to the Federalist Society last month, labeling the use of filibusters against judicial nominees a "formula for tyranny by the minority."

Given the turn the culture war has taken--the fear of Christ in Christmas, same-sex marriage by judicial fiat, even going back to when the right to an abortion was "found" in the Constitution--do we really want to lose this tool to keep those kinds of judges out of the system? Democrats have been using it successfully to block conservatives, and now we want to take the ability of Republicans to use it? In the ebb and flow of national politics, in spite of all the talk of the death of liberalism, it's not dead yet (apologies to Monty Python), and if a Hillary presidency is at all a possibility in the future, I think we'll need to keep this weapon available instead of removing it entirely. Senator Reid's blustering does make a point:
"If they, for whatever reason, decide to do this, it's not only wrong, they will rue the day they did it, because we will do whatever we can do to strike back," incoming Senate Democratic leader Harry M. Reid (Nev.) said last week. "I know procedures around here. And I know that there will still be Senate business conducted. But I will, for lack of a better word, screw things up."

(Well, for lack of three better words, I guess.) Actually, while I think Republicans will rue the day, it will come later rather than sooner. For the moment, however, it may not be necessary.
Democrats, however, face several constraints. Democratic strategists said that some of the party's senators from states Bush carried in the presidential election could be reluctant to support a filibuster for fear of being portrayed as obstructionist -- a tactic the GOP used successfully in congressional elections this year and in 2002.

With a Supreme Court nomination, Democrats could be blamed for deadlocking the court at its current four conservatives and four liberals, making it impossible for the court to decide the toughest cases.

In addition to the sway Bush holds over blue senators from red states, this passage also points out the real way these problems should be resolved, and indeed has helped already in resolving this; elections. Not enough votes for ending filibusters? Take your case to the people. In this last election that's what happened, and look at the results; more Republican senators, and more Democrats who may be willing to go along with the Republicans. And frankly, that's the proper way to resolve political disputes in our republican system of government. You don't give the majority, even if it's "your" majority, more power by changing the rules. You give it to them by changing the minds of the voters.

If Frist doesn't want tyranny, perhaps he should start by imagining what the rule change would look like from a Republican-minority point of view. I believe that conservative judges would be better ones than liberal judges because in general they'll stick applying the Constitution and the law rather than creating new laws and rights out of whole cloth as many liberal judges have done. But even though I think that more conservatives judges would mean less judicial tyranny, that doesn't mean I want to give Democrats this same power when they're in the majority. Never mind "tyranny of the minority", this would be the majority doing it to us. Then what could Frist say? Not much.

If filibustering judicial nominees is now fair game according to Democrats, I want it available in the Republican playbook for now. The "nuclear option" would just remove one check on the power of the majority, substituting what amounts to a club with a rifle. If no one has a rifle, we can deal with the other side's club. But if we take up a rifle, someday we may be at the other end of the barrel.

I think the debate and the checks against power are good for us, even if I think they're being used against the greater good, because there are remedies that are more in line with a republic. We just saw that remedy in action last month. If we believe in the process, we should let it run its course.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Looks like Yushchenko will be getting the sympathy vote in Ukraine in addition to the anti-Putin vote
UKRAINIAN prosecutors will today begin an investigation into allegations that state officials tried to assassinate opposition leader Viktor Yushchenko, following weekend confirmation that he was poisoned in the run-up to presidential elections.

It is an inquiry that is expected to be hugely divisive because the prime suspect is the head of the Ukraine secret service, the SBU.

The official dined with Mr Yushchenko the night he was poisoned, and medical experts say the dioxin is likely to have been administered through the food and drink.

Mr Yushchenko, expected to be elected president in re-run elections on 26 December, yesterday promised a full investigation of the case.

Some are suggesting that the poisoning was never meant to kill him, but to scare him. But it doesn't look like it has, at least outwardly. While professing to not want to dwell on it, the campaign, or at least his supporters, have made it part of the cause.
Mr Yushchenko yesterday insisted his poisoning would not be the key issue in campaigning ahead of the presidential run-off contest against prime minister Viktor Yanukovich. He said: "I don’t want this factor to influence the election in some way - either as a plus or a minus."

In fact, the timing of the announcement means the issue can hardly be anything else. The poisoning allegations have been the central theme of this election battle ever since Mr Yushchenko was rushed to hospital with a mystery illness on 5 September this year.

The current government of Ukraine is busy wiping the self-inflicted egg off its face.
Sources in Kiev say the best hope of solving the mystery has been the recent defection to the opposition of several senior SBU officials, who may bring with them details of any "dirty tricks" operations by the service.

The government, meanwhile, has been issuing furious denials. "There is no logic to this accusation," said Mr Yanukovich’s campaign manager, Taras Chornovyl.

Undercutting the government’s case has been their refusal, ever since the September attack, to admit the possibility of poisoning, or to investigate the allegation.

All this will now change. Last week a new chief prosecutor, Svyatoslav Piskun, was appointed as part of a deal between Mr Yushchenko and the current president Leonid Kuchma clearing the way for new elections.

Even if they had nothing to do with it, they're really done the Wrong Thing with regards to ensuring a fair and honest election. They should be out on their ear if only for that.

Head on over to Homespun Bloggers and see this week's "Best Of" postings.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Today's odd "Considerettes" search phrase - "WHERE CAN I GET MY PAYCHECK FOR WORKING ON THE VOTING POLLS". (#33 on Yahoo Search)

(Remember, these are actual search phrases used to get to this page. I can't make this stuff up.)

Friday, December 10, 2004

Today's "Considerettes Radio" entry is from my call with the Northern Alliance Radio guys substituting for Hugh Hewitt. Peter Beinart of The New Republic has written a couple of articles recently for the magazine ("A Fighting Faith" and "The Good Fight", free registration required to read) that have created a bit of disturbance on the left (even from folks at his own mag, see the article "Purpose Driven" by John B. Judis--wonder if this Christian-like terminology (even borrowing from Rick Warren's book title) is their way of trying to connect to "moral values" voters).

Peter used to strenuously defend the left's take on everything with no apology when on Hugh's show (sometimes beyond the point of reason). But last week with Hugh and (not as much) this week with the Norther Alliance, he's been slightly more contrite in his defense of what the Democratic Party has been doing, not just during the recent election cycle but for the past 40 years, especially with regard to prosecuting terrorism. So after his segment on the show, I asked where was this admission of extremism on the part of Michael Moore and MoveOn 2, 3, 4 or 12 months ago? Was this some sort of new revelation to Beinart?

I suspect that the reason was that it didn't make political sense to him to reveal his misgivings and reflections until after his guy's run at the White House, because perhaps some folks would actually think about these real issues with liberals. And they surely couldn't have that happen. It appears that the election was more important than being honest about the party, and I suspect that these articles would never have been written if Kerry had won. As one of the Northern Alliance guys noted, it seemed like they were just pretending to be tough on terror long enough to hopefully take the presidency. Honesty took a back seat to expediency.

"Considerettes Radio" on The Hugh Hewitt Show (WGKA, Atlanta, GA) 12/9/2004 6:20pm EST (270K)

Thursday, December 09, 2004

Is Charles Dickens too religious for today's public schools?
A high school principal canceled a dramatic performance of Charles Dicken's classic "A Christmas Carol," partly because he feared it would raise questions about the place of religion in public schools.

Mark Robertson, principal of Lake Washington High School in Kirkland, Wash., near Seattle, said his cancellation of a private theater group's Dec. 17 performance on campus primarily was because school policy prohibits charging admission.

But he said if admission were free, it would have prompted a "secondary discussion about public school and religion,'' the King County Journal reported.

The erasing of anything remotely religious from public life continues unabated, to the point that even the non-religious are alarmed.
Seattle Times columnist Danny Westneat describes himself as a "secularist and agnostic," but, pointing to a wider trend, wrote yesterday "even a lifelong doubter like me can see that something crucial is being lost, especially in the schools."

"If kids can't see a Charles Dickens play, hasn't the cause of separating church and state gone too far?" he asked.

Westneat said "A Christmas Carol" may have Christian themes, but it's not religious dogma. Character Tiny Tim's delivery of one of literature's best-known lines – "God bless us, every one!" – is the story's "most overt reference to religion," he noted.

Historical documents and bit lines in a play that hardly mentions religion at all are now fair game for this fear of the politically correct. This can't possibly be what the First Amendment was intended to do.

I like how some folks are protesting this insanity, bring it to the ACLU who is spearheading it.
A group of demonstrators sang Christmas carols in front of the Washington, D.C., office of the American Civil Liberties Union today to protest the organization for its attempts to take religious references out of the public square.

Over 25 volunteers with Public Advocate of the United States sang at the office to highlight "the ACLU’s continuing disregard for the rights of their many pro-family targets," the group said in a statement.

"Air America", the liberal talk radio network, has a new lease on life.
Liberal broadcaster Air America Radio, which is seeking a full-time chief executive, said Wednesday it has raised $13 million from investors, renewed the contracts of two of its more popular radio hosts and signed RealNetworks CEO Rob Glaser on as its chairman.

Air America said humorist Al Franken would remain on the roster for at least two more years, while Randi Rhodes has signed on for three. The company would not say how much it is paying its talent.

Back in March, when "Air America" started broadcasting, I predicted that Franken's show wouldn't last 2 years, and if Franken lasts as long as his current contract he'll outlive my prediction. So is my prediction due for an adjustment or a retraction? Here's what I said then:
That's why I think this will ultimately fail. People did not rush to Rush because of a media blitz or advertising. They came because they finally heard what they couldn't get from the mainstream media. I believe that in large part the American people are generally conservative. Many folks don't like labeling, and I understand that, but if they were to take a political test, I think a good majority would be center to far right.

I still believe that about America, and the recent election bears this out in a way. I also still believe that the kind of emotion that it takes to keep "Air America" going--the kind of raw hatred we saw before and after the election--can't be sustained long enough to keep Al Franken's show in the black. least it shouldn't be sustained that long. And it not just the hatred, but also the outright delusion and paranoia out there. "Post Election Selection Trauma" is not, and has never been, a Republican malady. Yes, two terms of Clinton was painful in many ways but most conservatives picked themselves up and continued the fight, without resorting to depression and devastation. And yes, there are those on the Republican side that inhabit what Hugh Hewitt calls the Fever Swamps, but those folks are not given nearly as much press and influence within Republican circles as Michael Moore got at the Democratic National Convention, or as much as MoveOn (which won't) gets from <redundant>Hollywood and Democrats</redundant>.

I don't think hatred and paranoia should be something that keeps a show like Franken's and a network like "Air America" going for very long. But with Soros' billions, and what appears to be a boundless supply of vitriol from the left, perhaps such a thing is possible. That's as far as I'll modify my prediction for now. But that status quo is not a good thing for America, and it'll only eat away at those who just can't seem to part with those feelings.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

Liberal blogger Kevin Drum asked a number of questions to conservatives, and Dean Esmay has some impressive answers for Kevin, plus a few questions back at him.

My blogger-in-law Jim Jewell has come up with 10 good things to do before you give of your time & money, at Christmas or at any time of the year. It includes links to check out the charities you intend to give to, which is invaluable.

Is this the old Soviet bear rearing its ugly head?
MEDICAL experts have confirmed that Viktor Yushchenko, Ukraine’s opposition leader, was poisoned in an attempt on his life during election campaigning, the doctor who supervised his treatment at an Austrian clinic said yesterday.

Doctors at Vienna’s exclusive Rudolfinerhaus clinic are within days of identifying the substance that left Mr Yushchenko’s face disfigured with cysts and lesions, Nikolai Korpan told The Times in a telephone interview.

Specialists in Britain, the United States and France had helped to establish that it was a biological agent, a chemical agent or, most likely, a rare poison that struck him down in the run-up to the presidential election, he said. Doctors needed to examine Mr Yushchenko again at the clinic in Vienna to confirm their diagnosis but were in no doubt that the substance was administered deliberately, he said.

“This is no longer a question for discussion,” Dr Korpan said. “We are now sure that we can confirm which substance caused this illness. He received this substance from other people who had a specific aim.”

Asked if the aim had been to kill him, Dr Korpan said: “Yes, of course.”

Given that the results of the elections in Ukraine have been thrown out and will be done over, this may give Yushchenko a boost from a combination of sympathy vote for him and anger vote against Yanukovych, his (Putin-backed) rival.
Proof that Mr Yushchenko was deliberately poisoned would be a devastating blow for his rival, the Prime Minister, Viktor Yanukovych, as the two candidates prepare for a repeat of a presidential run-off on December 26.

It would raise questions about whether the poisoning was ordered by Mr Yanukovych, his allies, or even the Kremlin, which fears that Mr Yushchenko will take Ukraine out of its sphere of influence by joining Nato and the EU.

Is Russia still looking to recreate the old Soviet Union in all but name? The answer to this question and the answer to Yushchenko's medical mystery may well be related.

Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Now here's some dieting information worth passing along.
The less you sleep the more your waist will expand, say scientists who have linked the insomniac lifestyle of western society to the epidemic of obesity.

Lack of sleep boosts levels of a hormone that triggers appetite and lowers levels of a hormone that tells your body it is full, according to the team. The scientists will now study whether obese people should sleep more to lose weight.

The study, by Prof Emmanuel Mignot of Stanford University, Dr Shahrad Taheri of the University of Bristol and colleagues, is published today in the Public Library of Science.

"Our results demonstrate an important relationship between sleep and metabolic hormones," the team reports. "In western societies, where chronic sleep restriction is common and food is widely available, changes in appetite regulatory hormones with sleep curtailment may contribute to obesity."

Dr Taheri said the team believed that sleeplessness contributed to being overweight, and not the other way round.

I've lost 30 pounds using the Atkins diet. Now I know how I'm going to keep it off. Time for my siesta.

You may have heard of the "herd mentality" among journalists, especially reporting in Washington, where everybody winds up reporting on the same stories the same way. Did you know that it's even worse among climate scientists?
On Monday, Benny Peiser, a United Kingdom social anthropologist, called the Dec. 3 essay, "The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change," a "disturbing" study.

"A one-hundred-percent record of 'scientific consensus' on anthropogenic climate change would be a sensational finding indeed. In fact, such a total result would be even more remarkable than any 'consensus' ever achieved in Soviet-style elections," Peiser noted sarcastically.

The Science Magazine essay analyzed 928 abstracts containing the keyword "climate change," all published in peer-reviewed scientific journals between 1993 and 2003. The essay found that not a single one of the studies showed climate change to be naturally occurring.

A magazine that would seem to want to foster creative and independent thinking seems to have eschewed it when considering global warming. The Soviets had an agenda in getting that "consensus" to fall in line with the party. What's the agenda here, hmm?
"Whatever happened to the countless research papers published in the last ten years in peer-reviewed journals that show that temperatures were generally higher during the Medieval Warm Period than today, that solar variability is most likely to be the key driver of any significant climate change and that the methods used in climate modeling are highly questionable?" Peiser asked.

"Given the countless papers published in the peer-reviewed literature over the last ten years that implicitly or explicitly disagree with the hypothesis of anthropogenic global warming, one can only conclude that all of these were simply excluded from the [Science Magazine] review. That's how it arrived at a 100 percent consensus!" he added.

According to Peiser, Oreskes' assertion that there is a 100 percent consensus about the issue is not backed by science.

"Even [former Soviet dictator Joseph] Stalin himself did not take consensus politics to such extremes," Peiser explained. "In the Soviet Union the official 'participation rate' was never higher than 98-99 percent.

They do exist, it's just that Science Magazine and the article's author have put blinders on. I really don't think they're alone.
Iain Murray, a senior fellow in International Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, wrote a letter to the editor of Science Magazine questioning why the study was even published.

"I was surprised to see Science publish an article crowing over the existence of a scientific consensus on global warming and then advancing the non-sequitur that political action is therefore needed. Neither is a point worthy of consideration in an objective, scientific journal," Murray wrote in his letter to the editor, dated Dec. 6.

"...the message of the article -- that politicians must act on the basis of the science -- is clearly a political point rather than a scientific one," Murray continued.

"...the argument advanced by the author that 'our grandchildren will surely blame us if they find that we understood the reality of anthropogenic climate change and failed to do anything about it' is barely economically literate and has no place in a scientific journal," he added.

Ah, there's your agenda.

Homespun Bloggers update:: The week's "Best of" posting, and this week's symposium question is a tough one. I may look at some of the other answers before I tackle it.

Monday, December 06, 2004

A UN Peace Prize? Irony, anyone?
THE United Nations — desperately in need of some positive spin — is considering a ploy to steal some of the Norwegian Nobel thunder by launching its own annual peace prize. It doesn't hurt that the highly politicized Nobel Peace Prize has been bestowed to such unpeaceful types as Yasser Arafat and appeasers like Jimmy Carter. "The United Nations peace prize would be announced each year with the fanfare of a Live Aid-like concert, to be broadcast on a youth channel like MTV," said one source.

After the UN's handling of the genocide in Rwanda and the current genocide going on in Darfur, are these the kinds of folks going to determine who's peaceful and who isn't? They can't even decide if the Darfur situation is worth calling "genocide" (but they are taking the decisive action of holding meetings on the subject). How will they know "peace" when they see it?

Another stem cell success story. But once again, not embryonic stem cells; adult ones. And they came from the same person who was treated.
A British woman who was left paralysed by a riding accident has regained some movement after taking part in a pioneering trial in which stem cells were transplanted from her nose into her spine.

Kim Gould, the first British patient to have the operation, can now crawl and has some sensation.


Now she has become one of the first patients to benefit from a pioneering trial by Dr Carlos Lima at the Egaz Moniz Hospital in Lisbon.

"If there's a chance that you could possibly be better than being stuck in a wheelchair, paralysed, I think you've got to take it," she said.

Because nasal tissue contains stem cells, which last a lifetime and are able to regenerate nerve tissue, it offers a way to patch up a broken spine. "Nature does most of the job, not us," said Dr Lima, who has conducted the operation on 34 patients so far.

And this is no flash in the pan.
The first patient to have the operation three years ago is still improving, Dr Lima said. Some of his patients can now walk with braces or a walking frame.

Pardon me, John Edwards, but people already are getting up out of their wheelchairs.

Saturday, December 04, 2004

The Homespun Bloggers group has a new feature; Homespun Bloggers Radio. I'm acting as the host and one of the contributors. It's a streaming audio program, but you can also download a high-quality MP3 of each show as well. Details are here, or you can just click on the Homespun Bloggers Radio button on the left column.

I'd be very interested in feedback, so E-mail me with suggestions. Hope you enjoy it, as we branch our blogging out a bit from text to sound.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Today's odd "Considerettes" search phrase - "Wrigley's gum credibility statement" (#3 on Google).

This week's Homespun Bloggers Symposium question is:
What, in your mind, represents the single greatest long-term threat to the United States of America, and what should be done about it?

At this point, a number of members of the group have responded, and I read them first before attempting this, although I had an idea on my answer soon after I read the question.

My answer to the first part of this question is: Personal morality. Without personal morality there is no national morality, and I believe that is the key to facing down any other threat to ourselves or our country.

Whose Morality?

The first question that someone might ask is "Whose morality should be practiced?" Indeed we are a religiously pluralistic society, so telling Muslims that they must observe Christianity would be wrong, in addition to being unconstitutional. For starters, however, I'd say that if we each would just live by the moral teachings we purport to follow, that would help matters immensely. C. S. Lewis, in The Problem of Pain noted that every religion or philosophy had one thing in common; that its adherents failed to live up to their ideals. Therefore, "all men alike stand condemned, not by alien codes of ethics, but by their own, and all men therefore are conscious of guilt."

So that would be a good start. However, let's not forget that religious plurality is nothing new in these United States. The Pilgrims themselves brought workers on the Mayflower that did not share their religious convictions. Therefore, just throwing your hands up and saying that we can't choose whose to follow is a cop-out. The fledgling United States had this same issue to deal with, having immigrants who came from many countries and many religious beliefs. Yet, a common morality was the foundation for the Constitution. James Madison said it this way:
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.

The Constitution assumed a moral populace, in full knowledge of the religious diversity of the time. A nation was formed and thrived and became a beacon of liberty in the world with this shared morality. Not all of our Founding Fathers were Christians (as this article from Christianity Today plainly acknowledges), but, as Madison noted, did agree on a common morality, based on Christianity, in part or in whole, either out of simple respect for it or firm belief in it. That didn't mean that they all believed that Jesus was the Son of God (e.g. Jefferson), but it did mean that the moral teachings from the Bible were, in fact, the foundation of a country that has come to epitomize liberty and justice.

That's where our country has come from, and that's what made it as great a nation as it is. Christian morals (as distinct from Christian doctrine) were the shared values of this country in the past. Regardless of one's doctrine, a shared morality is essential for a community and a nation. We have one that gave this country such a good start. We should return to that.

Why Morality?

This is not to say that the history of this country has been as pure as the driven snow. However, the farther citizens and politicians stray from that standard, the more likely the troubles will come. Slavery was abolished when morals won out over money. Yes, for some it had to come by force and proclamation, but few would doubt that it was morally right to abolish it. A shared morality won the day and removed a blight on our country.

In addition (and this is important), it worked even though there were some that did not share it. What mattered was that it was the right thing to do. This brings in the concept of transcendent Good and Evil, which is a concept out of vogue in many circles these days. However, it's easy to see how some shared moralities are better than others. A common value of accepting murder would decimate a society quickly, so obviously not all values are created equal. Value judgements must be made, whether via tradition or religion.

And consider this: If no one ever stole from anyone else, we would not need laws against stealing. We need laws because not everyone shares that value. The more a shared morality is internalized, the less of a need for laws, and for people to enforce those laws, and for apparatus to punish those who break the laws. A shared morality becomes its own check on behavior and contributes to the well-being of all, not just the individual.

In doing some searching the Internet for this, I came across this quote from an essay "Morals and the Criminal Law" written by Lord Devlin (The Philosophy of Law, ed R M Dworkin, Oxford, 1977). It speaks to the need for a shared morality, and why rules alone aren't enough.
Society means a community of ideas; without shared ideas on politics morals and ethics, no society can exist. Each one of us has ideas about what is good and what is evil; they cannot be kept private from the society in which we live. If men and women try to create a society in which there is no fundamental agreement about good and evil they will fail; if, having based it on common agreement, the agreement goes, the society will disintegrate. For society is not something that is kept together physically; it is held by the invisible bonds of common thought. If the bonds were too far relaxed, the members would drift apart. A common morality is part of the bondage. The bondage is part of the price of society; and mankind, which needs society, must pay its price.

This is why we need a common morality, and why, without it, our society becomes more and more held together by the wisps of law rather than the steel of "common thought". What the government gives (via law) the government can just as easily take away, but a common, personalized morality will hold a community together far stronger because they have a more of a vested interest in that community than a lawmaker hundreds or thousand of miles away, and who is hearing from lobbyists from all over.

The Danger

Thus a shared morality that has proven over time to be a good one is essential to a functioning society. Lacking that, issues come up not unlike what we are seeing today. I'll use some of the dangers seen by other Homespunners as examples.

Incorrect Attitudes: David at A Physicist's Perspective suggests that destructive attitudes are a great threat to this country. In a nutshell, the attitudes and ideas he enumerates leave people with no reference for Good and Evil, unwilling to make any judgements. This leaves people open to manipulation by those with an agenda to harm them. Returning to a personal morality gives us a clear and accurate view of the world and would be a basis for making those value judgements that some are so afraid of making. Those value judgements can save lives in the times in which we live.

Abuse of power: Bunker Mulligan talks about how the loose interpretation of the Constitution has been bringing more and more governmental power to bear on us, and that this was never the intent. Those who try to use the federal government's power to get their own extra-Constitutional agenda passed serve only to reduce liberty (and I'm referring to both sides of the aisle). Knowing what excessive government has done to nations in the past, no amount of temporary, perceived "gain" should be thought of as a justified means to an end when, in the long-run, it hurts us all. The Founding Fathers knew this, which is why they made the Constitution limited, and made it so hard to alter. A shared morality would open up the eyes of some to the larger picture; what is good for all over time than what might seem good in the here-and-now. This application of my thesis may be a bit of a stretch, but I don't think by much.

Fear of Religion: While basically making the same point I am, I read this theme in the response by Bill's Big Bloviating Blog. With political correctness making people afraid of mentioning religion (either in a Christmas parade or even the Declaration of Independence), and the ACLU is out there with their misreading of the First Amendment, finding judges who agree with them and who will suppress religious expression. This subverts a shared morality by threatening jail time or high defense costs to express their religious beliefs. "Freedom exercise of religion" is being quickly removed as part of our common values.

Over-dependance on Government: Ogre's Politics & Views considers Socialism to be the greatest threat to the country. This would be one of those values that, if fully shared, would destroy our freedom as a nation (as history has so plainly showed). The idea that we must forcibly take money from those who have it instead of trust that they will voluntarily help their fellow man is not a shared value that a nation can long live with. Accepting charity, freely given, is not a vice, however. But I don't see how forcing people to hand over their money to the government, which skims about 75% off, and then doles it out to those with the biggest lobbies, is backed up by a closely held personal morality. Marvin Hutchinens at Little Red Blog has a similar take.

Moral Relativism: MuD & PHuD and Paulie make similar points about being able to distinguish between Good and Evil, and relate it to terrorism and twisted medical ethics. If we can't recognize it when it appears, how do we fight it?

I could go on, but the point is that a threat to our country, from within or without, must be met by a united people with shared principles and values. That must start with the individual, who must own these values and put them into practice. Without them, all we have are laws, and laws do not change a person and do not unite a people. Personal morality does.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Well it's sorely needed. We'll see if it's ideas are implemented.
The United Nations on Tuesday proposed the most sweeping changes in its history, recommending the overhaul of its top decision-making group, the Security Council, and holding out the possibility that it could grant legitimacy to pre-emptive military strikes.

The changes were outlined in a much-anticipated report commissioned by Secretary General Kofi Annan a year ago after bruising division over the Iraq war left the United Nations feeling ill-equipped to meet modern challenges represented by terrorism, failed states, nuclear proliferation, poverty and violence.

Frankly, under Kofi Annan, some of the worst of these problems flourished. It's good to hear he commissioned the report. The big question will be; will he attempt to implement any of it? Annan is expected to take up the reports main topics with the General Assembly next September, although some parts can be put into effect by Annan himself or by the portion of the UN that would be affected.

The report recommends increasing the Security Council from 15 to 24 members and gave a couple alternate solutions for how to add them. Veto power would still be conferred only on the 5 permanent members (Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States).
The panel was very critical of the Human Rights Commission, a body that has often brought the United Nations into disrepute by incorporating some of the worst rights violators like Cuba, Libya and Sudan into its membership. The commission, which is based in Geneva, "suffers from a credibility deficit that casts doubt on the overall reputation of the United Nations," the report said. The official who briefed reporters added that too often the chief motivation for countries to join was to deflect attention from deplorable rights conditions at home.

Many more people other than this panel have been critical of the HRC, but that hasn't changed much. The UN has to have been aware of the horrible irony having these violators as members of or, in some cases, presiding over the commission. The bureaucracy is such that it can no longer react and adapt as it should, and the Iraq situation, 12 years in the making and including tens of billions of dollars in graft, is a classic example. The fact that after all that time and money wasted, there was a "bruising division" over the war only serves to point out how badly the UN is broken. It remains to be seen how these changes in the UN apparatus will change the underlying problems. No matter what the UN Charter may say, if France is too hooked on under-the-table cash from a rogue state, their veto blocks any action. Corruption among member states can still stymie it, and where does that leave us?

It leaves us with pre-emptive war, which was also taken up.
Addressing the critical issue of the legitimacy of the use of force, a source of crippling tension at the United Nations last year when the United States was seeking Security Council authorization to go to war in Iraq, the panel said it found no reason to amend the charter's Article 51, which restricts the use of force to countries that have been attacked. The report said the language did not constitute, as some have asserted, a demand that nations wait to be attacked. And it said many countries had exercised the right to attack when they had felt threatened.

But it acknowledged that a new problem had risen because of the nature of terrorist attacks "where the threat is not imminent but still claimed to be real: for example, the acquisition, with allegedly hostile intent, of nuclear weapons-making capability."

It said that if the arguments for "anticipatory self-defense" in such cases were good ones, they should be put to the Security Council, which would have the power to authorize military action under guidelines including the seriousness of the threat, the proportionality of the response, the exhaustion of all alternatives and the balance of consequences.

Apparently in anticipation of objections from Washington over that requirement, the report said, "For those impatient with such a response, the answer must be that, in a world full of perceived potential threats, the risk to the global order and the norm of nonintervention on which it continues to be based is simply too great for the legality of unilateral preventive action, as distinct from collectively endorsed action, to be accepted. Allowing one to so act is to allow all."

It is good to know that this panel understands that fighting terror is different from the wars that have preceded, but apparently this is news to the UN in general and to those who think any pre-emptive action is never warranted. But given my concerns about corrupt governments holding things up, putting our foreign policy to this global test is still a danger to our safety, regardless of any official rethinking about fighting terror. If the Security Council can specify if we can act, when we can act, and by what means we can act, we will be stuck with what we had before the Iraq war; an international body unwilling to act on anything where a member state has a vested interest in keeping the status quo, but very willing to submit more paperwork tut-tutting the bad guys.
The official said that at the outset, some of the panel members had been in the habit of faulting the United States for exaggerating the threat of terror and seeking what they called "perfect security." But he said the members had come to a sharp new appreciation of the menace of nuclear and chemical agents and how easily they could be infiltrated into Western societies.

Good morning, United Nations. Welcome to the post-9/11 world. Time to stop hitting the snooze button

The report breaks new ground with respect to the nation of Israel (at least, with respect to how most UN members view it).
Addressing a long sought codification of terrorism that would not allow people to class it as an acceptable act of national resistance, the panel suggested defining it as any action "that is intended to cause death or serious bodily harm to civilians or noncombatants, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population or to compel a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing any act."

In a sentence that may have been directed at members of the United Nations who habitually condemn violence by Israel while making no mention of attacks on Israel, the report said, "There is nothing in the fact of occupation that justifies the targeting and killing of civilians."

This last sentence will no doubt be fought by the pro-Palestinian contingent, but even it's suggestion by someone other than Israel itself or the United State is a breakthrough. I'm very happy to see this, but again, it's all in the implementation.

The list of people involved in this panel really is a diverse group.
The panel was headed by Anand Panyarachun, a former prime minister of Thailand, and included Brent Scowcroft, the United States national security adviser under the first President Bush; Yevgeny Primakov, a former prime minister of Russia; Qian Qichen, a former foreign minister of China; and Amr Moussa of Egypt, secretary general of the League of Arab States.

These are folks from all across the spectrum, which may give more weight to the need to implement their recommendations. If the United Nations is to be legitimate and relevant in any way, this opportunity to reform should not be squandered or delayed.

And it should not be considered a destination; only the first step in its redirection. "Better is the enemy of good enough", as Jerry Pournelle has said.

Scott Ott knows bloggers. >grin<
'Blog' No. 1 Word of Year, But 'Instalanche' Not in Top 10

(2004-12-01) -- Merriam-Webster, the dictionary publisher, today announced that 'blog' was the most-searched word on its website in 2004, and will be added to the dictionary in 2005. However, the term 'Instalanche' failed to make the top 10, delivering another crushing blow to blogger Glenn Reynolds.

The dictionary will define 'blog' as "an online journal which produces fame without wealth for pajama-clad scribes, known as bloggers, who write so well they don't need editors and who survive by eating ramen noodles and Tang powder from a spoon."

'Instalanche', which missed a top 10 ranking despite a vigorous lobbying effort, is "a brief but powerful spike in blog traffic, generated by a link from, which creates in the affected blogger a fleeting sense of euphoria and heightened self-esteem, followed by weeks of doubt and progressive self-loathing."

InstaPundit creator Glenn Reynolds could not be reached for comment. However, unnamed associates said that the Instalanche production business has such a small profit margin that Mr. Reynolds must moonlight as a law professor just to make ends meet.

Talk to any blogger who's had an Instalanche, and you'll find out that it's more than just euphoric; it can be addictive. I'm proud to say I've had 3 in my lifetime, but I keep looking forward to my next fix one.