Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Some thoughts regarding Rep. Tom Tancredo's remarks about bombing Mecca

First off, if Allah can't protect Mecca, he probably won't be able to give anyone 72 virgins and a bag of goodies for blowing themselves up.

Thinking on it a bit more, perhaps a better way would be:
Another 9/11 attack -- Dome of the Rock is leveled
First nuclear weapon in U.S. -- Medina destroyed, after giving a week or so to evacuate.
Second nuclear weapon in U.S. -- Mecca destroyed, no warning. Okay, so that would definitely be evil, we should at least give them time to get out of the blast zone. Destroying a bunch of building is still better than destroying a bunch of lives in addition to the buildings.

Or we could tell them to evacuate, and then fake them out and drop in Marines rather than bombs to secure the perimeter. Barbed wire, minefields, machine gun emplacements, no-man's-land, the whole nine yards. Every pilgrim coming in has to be fingerprinted and suspicious ones DNA-tested. Innocent lives would be saved, and with a well-fortified perimeter and a few massively-armed checkpoints (or chokepoints), Americans wouldn't even need to step inside the "holy" city.

I think Bush should come out on national TV and clearly say "The United States will never, under any circumstances, attack non-militarized Islamic holy sites in response to a conventional attack on the U.S."

When the press hounds him about "What about a nuclear attack?" he should just say "Look, I don't want to get into hypotheticals here." President Bush is pretty good at repeating things over and over, and sooner or later reporters will have to leave.

More seriously, someone in the government had darned well better be deciding exactly how to respond to both conventional and nuclear/biological/chemical/unconventional attacks on the U.S. The best time to be making decisions on what stuff gets snuffed out of existence is probably not in the heat of anger after the bombs explode.

Finally, if the Left wanted to make a more persuasive argument, they probably should say something more convincing than "he's a dangerous moron who should apologize and resign immediately." Something like
If a nuclear attack were to be carried out on the U.S., all resources of the U.S. military -- including our nuclear arsenal -- should be available to the President to permanently remove the ones responsible. That having been said, such weapons are too horrifying to release upon innocent people, and under no circumstances should someone be targeted simply because they share the same race or religion as the perpetratrors."

Or something like that, I'm not much of a speechwriter. It does seem to me that if hundreds of thousands of Americans were to die in an attack, they should preach precision payback rather than holding hands and singing kum-ba-ya.

As a side note, someone complained that such an attack would alienate a billion Muslims, to which I responded with a few key words changed:
Osama, there is no justification for dropping a bomb on New York, the focal point for an entire country of 300 million farking people, you seem to think you can pacify a colony of bees by whacking a hive with a stick, are you truely this dumb, or are you just trolling?, there are 300 million Americans in the world if we piss them all off, this is a really bad thing, their nuclear weapons outnumber those in the muslim world 400 to 1, get some knowledge, you ignorant fool.

What I think is odd is has not a peep about this story (at least nothing comes up on a search for "tancredo" on their site).

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Now, I *know* they don't ignore things just because they make the U.S. look bad. I wonder why they did so in this case?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Some thoughts on "Campaign Finance Reform"

One person on Fark suggested we should have 100% Federal funding of elections now. I'm not very fond of that idea, so I suggested this instead:

All campaign contributions go directly to the Federal Election Commission. Half the money goes directly into into a candidate's account, with the remaining half split evenly among all qualified candidates. (For a two-candidate race, this works out to a 75/25 split for every dollar donated.) A candidate can *only* spend the money that is in his account, and it can only be used for campaign expenses (no "become a candidate and get a redwood deck and hot tub"), with the record of all expenses made public in a timely manner.

In addition, drop all limits on campaign contributions (there's no real need, since a portion of each donation can be used by all candidates), and have the FEC report every individual donation above a certain amount, as well as all corporate and foreign donations of *any* amount. A candidate can only start accepting donations and start drawing money once they have entered the race, which would force them to state their intentions fairly early in the campaign, and all money that isn't spent by election day can help fund the election itself.

This way, only the people who want to contribute are "taxed" for the campaign, and third parties would gain a voice that is drowned out by the two major parties.

I realize this isn't the "pure Libertarian ideal" for financing elections, but it is fairer than taxing everyone *or* putting limits on donations.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Some thoughts on Libertarianism

Here are some thoughts on Libertarianism, provoked by a Fark post that quoted The Daily Kos:

Foreign Policy: Peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none.

Executing Minors: the ethical opinion is all over the place, but most would go with the cheapest alternative, which would be incarceration.

Dissention: Who cares, as long as my rights are respected.

Self-image: People are free to believe, consider, argue against, or ignore another's viewpoint. Their personal belief in their own infallibility is irrelevent as long as they don't impose their views on other people.

God: Irrelevent in political discourse, though as a matter of observation, he tends to be on the side with the biggest guns.

Stem Cell Research: Private companies can do whatever research they like.

Leaders: As much as possible, people should govern themselves, and if a leader is necessary he or she should be freely chosen by the people. God doesn't get a vote.

Use of Force: As the most efficient means to protect the lives and/or rights of citizens.

Bush's War in Iraq: Too expensive in lives and money, very little expected return.

Press: Freedom of the Press (even more so than Liberals like Catharine MacKinnon)

Free Speech: It doesn't matter if someone disagrees with me or not, I'm free to argue or ignore them as I wish.

Individuals: People should be free to act as they wish as long as they allow others the same right, but they are under no obligation to "celebrate" or "embrace" anyone.

Cooperation: People are free to band together in common cause or act as individuals.

Tolerance: Do what you want, but with your own money.

Conscience: Personal choice

Origins: Anything involving "creationism" is best left up to whatever church you attend. Publicly-funded schools should teach science without religious bias.

Fear: Fear is your body telling you that you are doing something stupid before Darwin does.

Women: Women should have the same rights and responsibilities as men under law.

Marriage: The definition of marriage should be left to individual's conscience, not government edict. Government should get out of the marriage business, and be concerned only with enforcing contracts.

/Other Libertarians are free to expand, edit, or argue as you wish.

The stupidest conspiracy theorists on the planet

Since the first hour I saw coverage of the terrorist bombings in London on 7/7/05, I've seen theories so bizarre as to be laughable, if they were not so reheated as to be boring. The dumbest one I've seen is one slyly suggesting Bush was responsible for the attack because it was conveniently timed, which made me type the following post:

Yeah, but a damned inconvenient place, especially when he has the bulk of "Old Europe" just across the Channel.

Another poster disagreed with me, to which I made the following response:

Explain to me this, considering the Brits are the one steadfast ally we have, why would Bush target them? If he targetted Paris and got away with it, it would embarrass Chirac -- and who knows, maybe the French would be more cooperative with the "War on Terror." The same with Berlin. The same with Madrid, with the added bonus of showing that caving into terror doesn't make you any safer.

No, of course not, he is supposedly Machiavellian enough to plan a terror attack, yet dumb enough to pick the one country backing him. I'm not suggesting that he won't try to take advantage of the attack -- he's a politician, they all do that often enough to be nauseating -- just that this particular conspiracy theory is uncreative (in that every disaster on the planet is attributed to Bush) and unbelievable.

Oh, and I lied when I agreed about it being a convenient time -- a convenient time would be a year from now, before midterm elections, or three years from now before the next Presidential election.

Finally, my personal theory is Bush is not clever enough to come up with a plan more detailed than a beer run, and any advisor evil enough to suggest a convoluted scheme like this is smart enough to come up with a better time and place to carry it out.

Monday, July 04, 2005

Teachers want $40K/year to start. I want merit pay. Let's see if we can work something out.

I made a point on Fark about merit pay for teachers, which someone took issue with (or perhaps I should write that as "with which someone took issue" to prevent ending it with a preposition). This person asked me to enlighten everyone on how I would do so. Here is my response:

I'm glad you asked. See, I'm not an educator, so I don't know every measurable quality necessary for being a meritorious teacher, but I know for a fact that other occupations are able to come up with ways of deciding who is earning their money and who is filling space. If a teacher has the ability to determine which students in his or her class merits an "A" and which ones deserve an "F," wouldn't it be reasonable to assume that school administrators should have the ability to determine which teachers encourage their students to excel and which do not?

Presumably, there are expert educators out there who would be able to put together a set of reasonable, unbiased, and measurable criteria to judge teachers by. Using such criteria, even if imperfect, would be better than not holding anyone accountable for the success or failure of their teaching methods.

Sure, it may be difficult, but if they can determine excellence -- albeit crudely -- in something as hard to pin down as acting (Oscars) and writing (everything from Hugo's to Nobel Prizes), why wouldn't they be able to do it in teaching? Your question almost makes it sound like there is no way to measure success in teaching, which if true means there is no possible way to determine if any teacher is earning his or her pay.