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February 28, 2005

Attitude Kills « GWOM »

Setting aside for now about the efficacy of the "HIV = AIDS" thesis, this demonstrates that wilfull behavior is the most important reason we still haven't made much headway against AIDS deaths.

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Posted by Nathan at 03:08 PM | Comments (0)
The Courage To Live « Stuff Important to Me »

In Courage and Courageous Choices, I discussed an interesting book whose main purpose is to teach parents how to raise kids to keep themselves safe.

A big part of the book is teaching children to make courageous choices. The rationalization is that people who do courageous things are choosing to overcome fear and help someone else out. We don't help when we feel panic and fear for ourselves. Turning the situation into a child protecting the parents by keeping themselves safe allows the child to not be as afraid for themselves, and theoretically not paralyzed by that fear. I didn't hammer that aspect much, as there was a little too much to consider to cover everything in one post. I'm sure I'll hit this subject again.

I touched upon the courage involved in overcoming adversity, and living with pain, disfigurement, and discomfort. The reason I did discuss that is due to an off-line discussion I was having with a friend. The friend made some good points in defense of Oregon's Assisted Suicide Law, but in the end, I don't think the government, the medical profession, or society should take even the first step toward legitimizing suicide. Suicide is an unfortunate choice that someone should be able to choose, I guess...but it should be discouraged. As a society, we should be encouraging and teaching courage in the face of the worst pain and disappointment and despair. You only lose when you stop trying.

I was perhaps more emphatic in that view than normal, having just read this book (linked in the previous post) on teaching children to be courageous. It just seems to me that if we attempt to teach our children to be courageous (and we should, and I am), that it is hypocritical to encourage cowardice in other situations. No matter how hopeless a health situation might seem, medical miracles do occur. I've seen so many people given 6 weeks to live that last 6 months or more...euthanasia for the point of avoiding pain would have deprived them and their families of months of living together. Maybe at some point, the willful endurance of pain leads to some greater understanding of life? But if you assist in a suicide, then you permanently end any such chance, don't you?

Imagine my surprise to see Zombyboy and some of his commenters expressing pretty much the same thing.

And something else just occurred to me:
Depression is one of the stages of death, correct? But those stages end with "acceptance". Which stage would someone most likely beg for euthanasia? Right: Depression. So euthenasia proponents would prefer to deny people their chance at acceptance of their death. That strikes me as cruel, albeit on an emotional level rather than physical.

Simply put: The main purpose of life is not to avoid pain. That being the case, there is no reason to adopt that attitude at the last second, at the point death is near.

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Posted by Nathan at 02:35 PM | Comments (0)
Nick Smith Displays A Bit of Scathing Insight « Meme Stolen from Jeff G. »
Rick Von Slonecker is tall, rich, good looking, stupid, dishonest, conceited, a bully, liar, drunk and thief, an egomaniac, and probably psychotic. In short, highly attractive to women.

Yeah, this was the inspiration...

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Posted by Nathan at 09:28 AM | Comments (0)
» resurrectionsong links with: The Second Ignora-Blogging Award of the Evening (Updated)
A Thought « Quotes You Can Steal »

Do not curse the Ex-Girlfriend. For without the recently-spurned woman, how would there be inexpensively-priced guitar gear in the pawn shop?

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Posted by Nathan at 09:00 AM | Comments (7)

February 27, 2005

How Are They Sure Who He Is? « Humor »
Former Nebraska center Richie Incognito, who withdrew from school after being suspended from the team for disciplinary reasons last fall, was injured after posting the best 40-yard dash for offensive linemen. After running a 4.90, Incognito suffered a knee injury during pass-rush drills.

From the Kansas City Star Online.

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Posted by Nathan at 08:24 AM | Comments (1)

February 25, 2005

Courage and Courageous Choices « Stuff Important to Me »

I just started reading the book, Raising Kids Who Can Protect Themselves, by Debbie and Mike Gardner.

It is truly enjoyable to read a book that alters your attitudes and perceptions within the first few pages. I can't wait to keep reading through the whole book (although I lack much time to do so at the rate I wish). I may read it through a second time.

In some aspects, it didn't really change my philosophy of raising kids at all. Things like, "Reward the behavior you want to see"...

But the revelation for me was that they simplify safe and dangerous situations on the basis of behavior:

Everyone should be golden, i.e., nice, friendly, living by the golden rule.
But if someone makes you feel creepy and looks like they might invade your personal space, you have the right and the responsibility to get orange (agressive, or rude) with them: look them in the eye, tell them to leave, back away to increase your space. If the person presses the issue, they are now acting red (intending to hurt, angry), and you have the right and responsibility to act red to keep yourself safe: point your finger at them like a gun, use profanity, run. If that person tries to grab you, or silence you, or otherwise enters your personal space, you strike at their wind before they can grab yours.

See, my wife thinks I'm too naive and soft, and maybe she's right. I always want to be golden, and I want my children to be golden with people. And I think my wife is orange and red too often, too suspicious of anyone and everything.

I haven't known how to teach my kids to be kind and nice, but to stay safe, and I didn't want them to never trust anyone like my wife wants to. This book kind of shows me the way to teach my kids to act golden, but to listen to their instinct on when to act orange to keep themselves safe...and anyone, peer or adult, who acts red in the face of your child's self-preservation reaction of orange is probably intending harm, justifying your child to act red to keep themselves safe.

Okay, that's way simplistic. Go read the book.

However, the main thing I wanted to get at was they want you to teach your children to have the attitude: "No matter what happens, I have the ability to figure out a way to be okay." The alternative, they say, is actually telling your kids: "I don't trust you or your judgment." The point is to teach your children to act with courage, not with fear. If they do, they probably will be okay. They will react to adversity with strength and optimism. And that will lead to confidence that increases the chance for success and safety in everything.

I think you can probably see immediately that there is a socio-political lesson to be learned here.

There is a political party that says, "I don't trust you to make decisions for yourself. If we don't provide, you won't be okay." There is another political party that says, "I trust you to work through your problems. There may be discomforts, and you may fail, but I think you can succeed if you keep trying."

The attitude of the first party encourages weakness and dependence and unhappiness and fear. They think that pain/discomfort is to be avoided. They think that being in a bad situation means you will most likely remain in that bad situation unless you get help.

The attitude of the second party encourages strength, independence, optimism, self-confidence, happiness, and peace. They think that pain/discomfort is part of the learning process, and necessary signals to tell you when you are doing something wrong. They think that if you find yourself in a bad situation, at most you may need some advice to get out of it more smoothly, but most of the time getting help just prevents you from learning why you ended up there in the first place.

I tend to be an optimistic person, but I can tell you that there are some things that I was afraid of: a chemical attack that leaves you with a lifetime of aftereffects/damage. Paralysis. Scarring. Having one of my children be sexually abused or raped.

Of course, I still don't want any of those things to happen, but now I can see that all it takes is a tiny change of attitude to dispel the fear: "No matter what happens, I will figure out a way to be okay."

If my daughter gets pregnant, I don't want her to feel she has to hide it from me, or get an abortion. I want her to tell me: "Daddy, I will figure out a way to be okay." With that attitude, I will certainly help her to make sure there are no permanent crippling experiences. She might miss a senior prom, but her experiences as a teen, unwed mother would be different, not worse. If my son gets in a car accident because he was drag racing and loses an arm, I would want him to face life with courage and say, "I will figure out a way to be okay, Dad." That's taking responsibility for your actions and taking ownership of the situation you find yourself, whether it was your actions or someone else's that put you there.

There are many types of pain in the world. There are many ways to get hurt. Some pain is chronic, and it strikes people who we think don't deserve it. Other people live lives of privilege.

I've been told I'm privileged. And if someone looked at my current situation, that might be easy to assume. It would ignore the pain and difficulty and struggle I've already been through in life, and that I learned from it.

If at any point I had given up, I would never have made it here. If at any point my Mom had decided another pregnancy was too difficult, I wouldn't have ended up here to write this. Courage always wins, cowardice always loses. I want my children to face life with courage, not cowardice. I never want them to assume that the answer to a problem should be someone's death. I never want them to think that the best answer to difficulty is to end the pain, whether through chemicals, escape, or suicide.

This book is the first step of teaching them that. And I will.

I once worried a little bit about letting my son watch the Power Rangers, but went ahead with it, deciding that if there were any problems arising from it, I could notice it and take care of it if necessary. Now I can see that silly little karate show is going to be a big key to teaching my children to have courage in life. I have the key I need to unlock the chains that bind happiness.

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Posted by Nathan at 01:33 PM | Comments (5)
Go Read « Link O' Admiration »

Great discussion on the USAF here. It touches on the history of the USAF, interservice rivalry, Close Air Support needs/methods, new military technology, future is the best thread ever, and I'm not saying that just because I'm a participant. Honestly.

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Posted by Nathan at 08:08 AM | Comments (0)
I Actually Said This Today « Humor »

"Yeah, it's not so much that I feel sick, it's just that my stomach it bothering me...well, to be exact, my bowels feel like crap. Wait! Let me, um, rephrase that.

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Posted by Nathan at 07:41 AM | Comments (1)
Iowa Hawk Has What You Need « Link O' Admiration »

Specifically, an appropriate and amusing reponse to Mommy Madness.

There's even a Manolo Blahnik reference for you!

...I just wish I'd gotten more links for commenting on this within hours of the article being of the first, although probably not the first to do so...

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Posted by Nathan at 05:52 AM | Comments (0)
Nearly-Inscrutable (To Me) Reference « Link O' Admiration »

Okay, I think I understand what Chris was getting at: Apparently, he's a Cobbler to the Stars. I'm not sure why that is particularly relevant today. Did Hunter S. Thompson have a secret collection? Or is it just the Oscars?

Can someone clue me in?

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Posted by Nathan at 05:46 AM | Comments (0)
It Just Keeps Getting More Strange... « GWOM »

There are so many things wrong with this, I don't know where to begin...

But even officials at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have acknowledged the case is alarming.

...I'd say, it's alarming if you are gay and have had sex with 100 men in the last month or two while going through crystal meth like it was candy. Otherwise, I'm not sure I'm all that worried.

Instead of being a new strain, the virus could have rapidly developed into full-blown AIDS because of something unique to the patient, said Dr. Douglas Richman of University of California at San Diego., having gay sex with 100 men in the last month or two while going through crystal meth like it was candy is not unique to this man? I just want to make sure I understand what they're getting at, here.

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Posted by Nathan at 05:37 AM | Comments (0)
Asia News and Commentary « Link O' Admiration »

The very excellent Asia By Blog is up over at Simon's World. Go check it out, ok?

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Posted by Nathan at 05:16 AM | Comments (0)

February 24, 2005

Hard To Argue With « GWOM »
... she's got the right to choose, but only as long as her choice is abortion. If she chooses life, it's not legitimate. I don't want to assume such a horrid thing, but it really begins to appear as though these people will consider themselves successful when they perform more and more abortions every year. Their claims of "safe, legal and rare" ring hollow. If they're so concerned about women's rights, they should also provide ultrasound for their people.

From Anywhere But Here.

If she's not on your blogroll, she should be.*

Read More "Hard To Argue With" »

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Posted by Nathan at 09:28 PM | Comments (9)
Why "Roe V Wade" Will Not Stand Much Longer « GWOM »

Exhibit A.

Exhibit B.

Read More "Why "Roe V Wade" Will Not Stand Much Longer" »

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Posted by Nathan at 04:00 PM | Comments (1)
Regulate Groups Calling For Regulation « Social Issues »

...because they have gone beyond all possible common sense.

"In fact, salt is generally recognized as unsafe, because it is a major cause of heart attacks and stroke. The federal government should require food manufacturers to gradually lower their sodium levels."

In fact, groups like the Center for Science in the Public Interest is generally recognized as unsafe, because it is a major cause of people smacking their foreheads in disbelief, assault on activists who want the govt to increase control over daily lives and reduce choice, and generally increasing the overall aggravation level of the average US citizen.

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Posted by Nathan at 03:47 PM | Comments (0)
» Accidental Verbosity links with: CSPI Smackdown
» Galen's Log links with: From the We Know What's Best for You Dept.
New Car V « Car Issues »

I'm just going to rename this blog: "My New Car Blog".

One of the things I think that the test-drive writers miss when they give reviews of cars is perspective.

I mean, sure, they drive alot of cars, so they get a good idea of what kind of rattle gets annoying after a while, how much power you need to merge, which seats are just plain the least comfortable. And they can pass that on to the consumer to purchase the best car.*

But here's the thing. I say that my car is excellent compared to a Sentra, Corolla, Civic, Focus, Cavalier, Neon, Spectra, Excel, etc... And I may insist that I think it is the equal to the Camry, Accord, Altima, Sebring, etc (lacking some things I don't care much about but for a significantly lower price)... But I'm not actually comparing this new car to those, am I? I'm comparing it to the car I drove to work over the last four years: a 1991 Toyota Corolla. So if my Verona lacks an inch of legroom the Camry has, I'm only going to notice that there's more space in the back seat of my new car than my old car, even with the driver's seat pushed all the way back. I'm only going to notice that it has more power, more torque, smoother shifting, and quieter operation and drive than my 2001 Corolla.

I say that Honda priced themselves out of my loyalty. That's sort of true. I did get onto their lot to see what was offered for what price on their Civic Value Priced car. But I saw that they were adding things like a trunk liner, ugly rubber floor mats, splashguards, etc, that I didn't want to pay for, and lacking a few things I would prefer, like cruise control, or maybe manual transmission for better mileage/acceleration. When I went to look at any of their other models, the prices jumped to above $17,000 way too quickly.

When I went to look at Kia (the Optima, specifically), it was to see what kind of car I could get that was supposed to compete with the Accord and Camry for around $10,000. But again, when you started getting a few options that are nearly non-negotiable, like a V-6 for decent power for that size car, CD player, power locks, etc, you were over $17,000. If you wanted the leather, it was over $21,000... ...for a car reputed to just about disintegrate before your very eyes the day after the bumper-to-bumper warranty expires. But I guess they got me on the lot to at least look.

I went to look at cars this time for the Ford Focus. I'd heard about its "spacious" interior and "deft, European handling". Well, I felt jammed up against the salesman (also over 6'0" and wide-shouldered), and I felt every bump in the road and heard the road noise. The salesman suggested we try a Suzuki, and I very nearly blew him off based on the derision I've held toward the Grand Vitara, XL-7 and Samauri (which at least one reviewer said was totally unfair...). But I went to check and was stunned by how comfortable the ride was, how much power it had...and, of course, how much I got for the listed price. Keep in mind, I was comparing to the car I drive daily. So I just had to be impressed enough to get into research. What I learned in research led me to go into negotiations. And the negotiations went well enough that I got a car I love for the price. Would I love a BMW 5-series more? Yes. But I'm not willing to pay that price.

I got my car for $14,700 flat out. Let's take a look at all the other sedans I could get for under $15,000. Be sure and notice how many of them start just barely under the magic $15,000 mark, and consider how little you probably get on that baseline car, and how easy it is to go over just with floor mats, base sound system and air condititioning.

Suzuki hit on the lure to get me in and interested. It will be interesting to see if any other companies figure it out...or if I'm unique enough in my cynicism and frugality to make it worth it for any company to try...

Read More "New Car V" »

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Posted by Nathan at 11:33 AM | Comments (0)
New Car IV « Car Issues »

Okay, I found the trip odometer. In fact, it has Trip A and Trip B. The buttons for it are hidden by my hand in my normal driving position. I didn't get an introduction to the vehicle because it was late at night and we were both tired. I told the salesman I'd call him if I had any problems and would stop by on Saturday for the complete introduction.

I actually only looked at this car once in daylight, and was only driving it at that time for a comparison. I was somewhat focused in the Forenza or maybe the Reno, to tell the truth. But throughout the process, I wanted more and more to get a more "grown-up" car, one I could take my commander home from the airport with without embarassment. And I guess as the process went on, they were getting more excited about getting a 2004 off their lot...!

I was reading the reviews of the car at Edmunds, um, after I bought the car. I know I mentioned that before, there is another point I want to make from that. One of the commenters said that after the car adjusted to his driving, he had plenty of power and got gas mileage far above the posted ratings. I mentally shrugged, considered the guy a little out of touch with reality, and moved on.

It turns out he may not have been so crazy.

When looking at the car and all the literature, I had been paying attention to the horsepower, gas mileage, fit/finish, price, and amenities (can't call 'em 'options' since they are all standard). One thing I missed in the literature was that the car has something called "smart" transmission. Here's a quote from a press-release puff piece:

The front-wheel-drive Verona comes standard with a "smart" computer-controlled four-speed automatic transmission. A feature called adaptive shift control allows the transmission's computer to "learn" the Verona owner's driving behavior and then adapt shifting patterns to optimize the car's performance.

Does any other car do this? I can see where this would be a definite cool thing, and could explain why the I-6 seems underpowered compared to its competitors: the test-drive editor hadn't driven it long enough! (perhaps)

Now, if this is already the industry standard, then disregard. But I haven't seen any other car company claim this feature, much less make a highlight out of it...

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Posted by Nathan at 10:48 AM | Comments (3)
New Car III « Car Issues »

This is day three of my new car ownership.

I love it even more.

I had developed a pretty strong like of Honda products. I had purchased a used 1995 Civic back in 1998, and it did a great job for me. We purchased a brand-new Civic in 2000, and loved it. A year later, we felt we needed something bigger, and so traded both Civics for a brand-new 2001 C-RV. I have come to know what to expect from them, and appreciate their quality, workmanship, engineering, and price.

But they have now pretty much priced themselves out of my loyalty range.

And I even had some buyer's remorse on the C-RV by day three, to tell the truth.

But this Suzuki...Wow. I'm beginning to feel like they should have used the "Superman" S for their symbol.

The speed-sensitive steering works like a charm. I feel almost like it knows where I want it to go before I tell it. I've never had to use more than a light touch. The turning radius is tight, too.

Whisper quiet in operation. Plenty of power for my tastes. I still find it absolutely beautiful to look at. The engine as smooth as silk in acceleration. The fit and finish is excellent, I can't find a flaw in it anywhere.

One minor annoyance: I wish it had a "Trip Odometer" in addition to the regular one. It seems like they could have added a button and programmed the computer for a handful of bucks, and it would be worth $100 to me over the life of the car.

Still, though, this is a great car, and if it holds together well, I will probably buy a Suzuki for my next car. Of course, that should be in about seven years, since I expect to keep this car for some time.

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Posted by Nathan at 07:32 AM | Comments (7)
From Today's Word O' the Day « Quotes You Can Steal »

Democrats: the the eristic party.

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Posted by Nathan at 07:19 AM | Comments (2)

February 23, 2005

Caption Contest!!!! « Humor »

No, not here. Here.

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Posted by Nathan at 11:43 AM | Comments (4)
New Car II « Car Issues »

So last night I purchased a brand-new 2004 Suzuki Verona S. I paid $14,700 and got $500 for my 1991 Toyota Corolla in Fair condition with $146,000 miles...

Here's the thing: I don't think there is a car out there that is as good as the Verona for that price. (The same goes for the Forenza, but I didn't buy one of those...)

If you have a chance and would like to purchase a new car, I'd go to your local Suzuki dealership and see if they have any 2004s in stock. The engine, materials, style, and everything is identical to the 2005...the only thing they add for 2005 is the side-impact air bags. So you can get a brand new car that they are desperate to get rid of, that should have been off the lot last October.

The Verona compares well with mid-range Accords and Camrys in looks, fit and finish, materials, and size. But a similarly-equipped Civic or Corolla or Ford Focus or Dodge Neon (all a step below) will cost you a few thousand more than a brand new 2004 Verona.

I'm sure you could get a Forenza (which compares favorably in all but power and gas mileage to all entry-level vehicles in everything but gas mileage) for an even cheaper price.

I think even the 2005 models are worth checking out, and probably still the best deal going. There are cheaper cars out there, yes. You can get a Kia Rio or Spectra or a Hyundai Accent. There are cars out there with better gas mileage and more power, like a Ford Focus or Honda Civic.

But the Suzuki represents a far better value than any other vehicle, in my opinion. The cheaper cars don't have Suzuki's quality. The more powerful cars don't have Suzuki's inexpensive price. The cars with better reputation don't have all the added extras without going into the upper echelon prices. You can walk out of the dealership with a brand new 2005 Suzuki Forenza S for the neighborhood of $15,000 (maybe less). A similarly-loaded Honda Civic would cost you at least $3000 more, and you'd also overpay for bunches of gee-gaws you don't really want, like mudflaps and a trunk tray.

In some ways, having all the extras be standard is nice: it simplifies things, and you get all the stuff you normally want even on a baseline vehicle like the S. In some ways, I admit it is a problem, in that you can't mix and match things. There's no way you can just get the sunroof on an S without simply upgrading to the LX level, with the extra things (like alloy wheels) that you may not want.

I keep comparing it to the Accord and Camry, but when it comes to options, it even beats out the "cheap" cars like the Kia Optima. Because when you go to look at the $10,000 Optima, and you think of the options that you really want, like a 6-cylinder engine, cruise control, CD player, floormats, etc... you very quickly get into the $18,000 range.

And for what it's worth, rates the Forenza S and Verona S (but not the LX and EX models, strangely) as being Top 10 for both low depreciation and low maintenance costs. For a car that's only 2 years old (they factored that in), it's pretty impressive.

One thing you'll note at Edmund's reviews of the Verona S, is that while the professionals rate the car only a 6.0 out of 10, the actual owners rate it an overall 9.1 out of 10. I'm going to wait a few months before I put my rating in, but I think I'll probably be about the same. I think the reason for it is, the professional writers just judge a car on its merits alone. They don't have to drive a Kia or Hyundai long enough to see it disintegrate before your eyes (within about 2 years lots of the stuff is broken or shabby looking), they don't own an American car long enough to hear its rattles and squeaks. And they certainly don't need to worry that much about price.

And price matters. I'd be depressed if I paid $30,000 for this car, sure. I'd have a heart attack if I'd been able to get this quality for less than $5000. I don't care how good a Civic is, if it costs my $19,000, I'm going to be a little unhappy, wondering how much I paid just for the reputation. Every time I get in this car, I'm going to think about how comfortable it drives and how nice it looks and how I would have gotten a noisy, boxy, cramped car from any other car company for the price I paid, and I'm going to feel quite happy and proud. The professional writers don't really get to have the experience to add to their writing.

Oh, and I found a picture of the same car, same color for your viewing pleasure.

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Posted by Nathan at 06:09 AM | Comments (1)

February 22, 2005

Offered Without Comment « Social Issues »

From Today's Best of the Web.

Some Blacks Are More Equal Than Others
Buried in a New York Times story on the massive increase in black immigration to America may lie the undoing of racial preferences in higher education:

"African-born and Caribbean-born brothers and sisters have realized that the police don't discriminate on the basis of nationality--ask Amadou Diallo [an immigrant from Guinea who was accidentally shot by police in 1999]," said Professor Charles J. Ogletree Jr., who teaches at Harvard Law School and has warned colleges and universities that admitting mostly foreign-born blacks to meet the goals of affirmative action is insufficient.

"Whether you are from Brazil or from Cuba, you are still products of slavery," he continued. "But the threshold is that people of African descent who were born and raised and suffered in America have to be the first among equals."

Ogletree seems to be arguing that American-born blacks deserve preferential treatment vis-à-vis foreign-born ones, at least if the latter do better than the former absent such preferences. In other words, in the name of "affirmative action," he is calling for discrimination against black people who were born outside the U.S.

The trouble with this is that the argument the Supreme Court has used to justify racial preferences in university admissions is "diversity." Favoring someone from the Bronx over an African-American from Burkina Faso is hardly a way to achieve that goal.

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Posted by Nathan at 04:31 PM | Comments (0)
Eeyore-ish « Quotes You Can Steal »

The people who complain the loudest about the horrible state of America are usually those most insulated, by position and wealth, from the supposed catastrophes.

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Posted by Nathan at 03:26 PM | Comments (4)
Red Tourism « China/Taiwan »

This strikes me as wrong on the face of it.

Historical tourism, yes. Historical tourism that highlights events of the past 50-60 years, sure. But to try to add legitimacy and increase loyalty to a communism the current government itself only pays lip service to? That seems like a possible disaster in the making, to me.

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Posted by Nathan at 11:24 AM | Comments (0)
This Kind of Thing Breaks Your Heart (UPDATED) « Social Issues »

Police believe pregnant woman and 7-year-old son are dead, and the victims of murder.

Okay, not to condone murder of the woman as justifiable or anything, but it seems clear that a selfish and unscrupulous man might go so far as to murder a woman to prevent a birth. Obviously, both men and women sometimes feel driven to murder someone who they feel is preventing their happiness.

...but (assuming the guy mentioned is eventually convicted for the crime) did he have to murder the 7-year-old kid, too? What motivation could possibly cause him to think he had to do that?

Don't get me wrong, it's absolutely horrible he (allegedly) killed his pregnant ex-girlfriend. Nothing excuses that action at all. But the fact that the 7-year-old son was murdered, too, just increases the tragedy many-fold for me.

UPDATE: They found the bodies.

Please note: when I linked the NBC article at first, it said the bodies hadn't been found yet. Apparently they updated the information at the link to reflect the new information. I'm not trying to be redundant here.

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Posted by Nathan at 10:21 AM | Comments (3)
New Car « Car Issues »

By this weekend, I will probably purchase either a new 2004 Verona S or a 2005 Forenza LX. My goal is to pay no more than $13,500.

Thoughts? Advice? Things I should know, but don't?

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Posted by Nathan at 08:19 AM | Comments (20)
Wal-Mart Communism « China/Taiwan »

If you peruse what I've written about China, or if you can find the archives of my older blogs online, you'll see that several times I've insisted that calling the Mainland Chinese "Communist" is inaccurate. They haven't really been communist for more than a decade.

However, they are still Totalitarian. You don't need to be communist to be a despotic government.

Market reforms have come to much of China, and the urban elite are getting rich, achieving materialistic dreams.

But the rural peasants are being left behind. And they are getting resentful.

Communism gained favor in China because communist leaders promised the people they would own their land and everyone could get rich. They toppled the Kuomintang (Nationalist Party) that supported wealthy landowners oppressing tenant farmers to institute land reform and let the people own the land! ...and then treated the brand new peasant landowners like tenants, taxing them heavily and telling them how much they could sell their agricultural products for. But the People put up with it, because after all, they now owned the land, and the heavy taxes and price controls were just a temporary sacrifice to help everyone get rich!

We've seen how well that worked out.

On a trip to Beijing two years ago, I met some of my wife's cousins from the countryside. They were engaged in making counterfeit bags, from what I gather. They were getting married, and it was pretty much an arranged marriage, having been decided since the kids were young that the marriage would be an excellent business alliance: one family made the bag parts, the other assembled them into the nearly-finished product. It was up to the kids to reject the marriage if they wanted to, but it seemed to me they were pretty excited about going through with it. They had come to Beijing to see the city and buy music and clothes and such.

We had a great talk, and they invited us to come to their home on our next trip to China. I really liked them, and in trying to be polite and warm, I invited them to come visit us in the United States someday, even if it took them 10 years or so. They looked uncomfortable and said, "That would be beyond our reach, even if we saved for our whole lives." We talked about financial realities and the difference between urban and rural economies a few minutes, and I pointed out that it was impossible to predict what the situation might be in 5 or 10 years, that if wealth ever reached the countryside, they might find the whole situation changing to their advantage. They looked skeptical and shook their head.

I still feel bad about that.

Because nearly 5 years later, despite Beijing's economy growing to the point that nearly everyone has cars now and prices for apartments/homes in the city now rival that of Seattle, the world changes if you go 50 miles out of the city. Maybe China needs a Wal-Mart that will be cheap goods to the countryside?

The point is, the government still controls the prices on many things. China is in a difficult situation, with 1/5th the world's population, but only 1/10th of the world's arable land. Food is always an issue in China. They still great each other with "Have you eaten?" and some of the most important and elaborate points of etiquette revolve around offering and refusing food between guest and host.

With a true market system of supply and demand, the peasants could get rich. They could bleed off some of the wealth from urban areas and make it worthwhile for someone to stay in the country. Perhaps the internet might help the rural poor sidestep market controls to sell their product more directly? Perhaps what little wealth they have as a group could use the internet to attract products to create a market in reaching out to the rural poor?

I'm serious about rural China needing a Wal-Mart. Is the US the economic juggernaut it is today because we had the Sears, Roebuck and Co. mail-order catalog? Because Wal-Mart was its successor in spirit? You can only have true wealth if your most isolated can use a collective buying power to obtain cheap and reliable goods.

By bringing wealth* to the rural areas, is Wal-Mart the capitalist version of the most basic communist goal?

Read More "Wal-Mart Communism" »

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Posted by Nathan at 06:06 AM | Comments (3)

February 21, 2005

New AIDS Strain Not a New Strain? « Social Issues »

The New York Times is on the case. (no registration required if you get it through Drudge like I did...)

[S]ome research scientists said the appearance of a possible drug-resistant and virulent strain of the virus in one 46-year-old man meant little. The man's immune system might have been compromised by the crystal methamphetamine he had taken, they said...

It is highly interesting that prominent, mainstream scientists can admit that the man's immune system might have been compromised by the crystal meth to hasten AIDS, but when the man who proved retro-viruses exist says that AIDS is itself merely caused by drug use, that's an unacceptable answer.

Longstanding rivalries among top AIDS researchers resurfaced, and one of the researchers who discovered the possible strain was accused of using a test developed by a company to which he had close ties.

Also very interesting, no? It is still acceptable to point out a possible conflict of interest for the person who provided the test that identified this possible new strain...but it is not acceptable to the AIDS industry to point out the same situation applies to the HIV testing kits that helped propel the idea that HIV causes AIDS in the first place...

There is much to consider in all this, if you have the wit...and the courage.

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Posted by Nathan at 09:54 AM | Comments (0)

February 20, 2005

Too Right « Aphorisms »
A bank is a place where they lend you an umbrella in fair weather and ask for it back when it begins to rain. -- Robert Frost

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Posted by Nathan at 07:28 PM | Comments (0)
Violence in Iraq « GWOT »

I hope you are paying attention to the violence going on in Iraq during the holy celebration of Ashura.

One year and a few weeks ago, we had captured Saddam Hussein, progress was being made on the interim constitution, and it was looking like we had turned a corner. It turns out it was just the calm before the storm.

A few weeks ago, we'd cleaned up Fallujah and Samarra, attacks are way down in Kirkuk and Balad and Mosul, the people had participated in an historic election. Maybe a turning point had been reached....and then the insurgents attack religious pilgrims.

This is holiday is prominent only to the Shia. In fact, it celebrates the martyrdom of a Shia leader who came to prominence in the controversy of succession that defines Shia vs Sunni sects. And so attacks on the pilgrims are almost certainly to be Sunnis. The Baathists who held power under Saddam are nominally Sunnis, as are most al-Qaida members.

Three weeks after the election, if the best target the insurgents can find is pilgrims, this says something about the state of the insurgency.

Last year, it took all the influence of the top Shia leader, al-Sistani, to prevent the Shias from rising up in retaliation. However, perusing the news this year, a civil war between the sects seems to be less likely than last year*. It seems like perhaps the opportunity for democracy and self-rule is more powerful than the chance for retribution.

Read More "Violence in Iraq" »

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Posted by Nathan at 07:58 AM | Comments (0)

February 19, 2005

Words of Wisdom « Aphorisms »
Give a man a fish and he'll ask for a lemon. Teach a man to fish and he'll leave work early on Friday. -- Unknown

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Posted by Nathan at 07:21 PM | Comments (0)

February 18, 2005

News of the Odd! « Link O' Admiration »

Lord have mercy on my soul, I'm laughing uncontrollably at this right now.

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Posted by Nathan at 09:18 PM | Comments (2)
From My Chain of Command « GWOT »

This weekend is the 60 year anniversary of the Battle for Iwo Jima. James Bradley’s book Flags Of Our Fathers documents the Order to put up the flag this way:

“Colonel Johnson wants this big flag run up high,” he told the lieutenant, “so every son of a bitch on this whole cruddy island can see it!”

The Six men captured in the famous photo are:
John Bradley: Appleton Wisconsin
Franklin Sousley: Hilltop, Kentucky
Harlon Block: Rio Grande Valley, Texas
Ira Hayes: Gila River Indian Reservation, Arizona
Rene Gagnon: Manchester, New Hampshire
Mike Strank: Franklin Borough, Pennsylvania

Some thoughts:

-Three of these 6 men died before the battle for Iwo Jima was finished.

-James Bradley never spoke to his family of the photograph or about the war.

-All told, about six thousand Marines and a few from other services died in the battle for this tiny island.

-Approximately 22,000 Japanese defenders were killed.

The 1,100 of our comrades that have died fighting in OEF/OIF pales in comparison.

Iwo Jima was invaded to secure a possible landing site for disabled B-29’s and their fighter escorts taking the fight to the Japanese mainland. It was the stepping stone to the even larger battle for Okinawa that was to follow.

OEF/OIF is being fought to free 2 countries and make terrorists aware that we are not afraid.

...I hope this gives us all a little perspective on our current efforts.

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Posted by Nathan at 06:23 PM | Comments (1)
Gun Control = More Crime « Gun Issues »

Yet more solid evidence of that fact.

When guns are outlawed, only the outlaws have guns.

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Posted by Nathan at 04:12 PM | Comments (0)
Television « Parenting/Leadership 101 »

Kris brings up an interesting issue on the "I Hate Caillou" post below entitled "Hidden Messages?"

She points out that several TV shows are (or have been) banned from her house.

I've never banned a TV show yet (and I've never banned a commenter, either...).

I suppose I should, because Jay Jay, Caillou, DragonTales, and Clifford are about the most crappy, horrible, boring, lifeless, sappy, saccharine children's shows possible... I do like Jakers, Thomas the Tank Engine, Arthur (pretty good, for the most part; entertaining stories that aren't typical "liberal education ideal" garbage), and Cyberchase (all on PBS).

I guess I could be more concerned about the liberal education ideal content of the ones I don't like, but the way I see it, I was a TV addict growing up myself. The first thing I'd do when I got home after school was watch whatever was on TV until dinner, and I remember lots of nights doing nothing but watch TV after dinner, too.

But when Junior High came around, I started getting very involved in music, sports, and drama, and I often was at home only to sleep. About the same time, my friends and I got into roleplaying and simulation strategy wargaming. TV kind of dropped off my plate, and I rarely watch it anymore, except for football.

And I don't really see my children being affected by that stuff, either. It may be a TV show, but what seems to have the greatest effect on their developing minds is the interaction I have with them, the way I help them resolve disputes, and the system of rewards and punishments I have established to help them internalize the lessons I want them to learn.

Am I being myopic?


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Posted by Nathan at 02:30 PM | Comments (0)
Revealing Increase in Tensions « China/Taiwan »

This doesn't look good folks:
China has accused the United States of sending a false signal to Taiwan by disclosing a CIA assessment indicating the military balance between the rivals is shifting in Beijing's favor.

Nothing soon, of course, but after the Olympics...?

Maybe I should clarify, particularly in light of the negative tone I take in this post:

I don't approve of nor trust the Mainland Chinese government. On the other hand, I think much of the tension between China and Taiwan is due to Chen Shuibian putting his own political expediency ahead of the needs of the people of Taiwan.

I criticize Taiwan for its past, but it is actually doing a pretty good job of being a democracy since 1996. I also think the best way to defuse some rising tensions with Mainland China is to give them the same benefit of the doubt we give other nations. Beating someone up about a past mistake they've taken pains to correct does no one any good.

I'm also very split on the Taiwan issue. There is a great deal of hypocrisy on both sides. Mainland China doesn't collect taxes or make any decisions regarding Taiwan's laws or welfare, so it is ridiculous to claim it is a "renegade province" or "part of China". On the other hand, Taiwan wants all the benefits of having close ties to China without acknowledging the connection. You know the rules about "No direct flights"? That's due to "free" Taiwan, rather than the "evil Communists". Taiwan is getting rich off of investing in China, and cheap labor. They still have billions of dollars of wealth that was plundered from China when they fled...if they are not part of China, shouldn't they return what they stole? If they are part of China, wouldn't they want it where it belongs? Taiwan wants the US to risk its military members to protect it as it provokes China into a military confrontation, which doesn't win any points with me, either.

Bottom line for me is, Taiwan and Mainland China have a closer connection and more in common than just about anyone but maybe the US and Canada, and in some ways, more connection (common history, values, etc). There is no reason they could not be peacefully reunited to the benefit of both, except that the current leadership of Taiwan will not consider it.

Then again, there are good strategic reasons to have an independent nation sitting 60 miles off one of the most populated portion of China's coast.

It's a little complicated to look at it as a whole, and while I think I have the experience to point out the complexity and a few aspects of the problem, I don't pretend to have the knowledge or experience to unravel this Gordian knot. I fear the results if it is cut, however.

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Posted by Nathan at 10:21 AM | Comments (0)
Hidden Messages? « GWOM »

Have I mentioned that I hate "Caillou"? I'm not the only one.

Today the Message O' the Day from the episode "The Mighty Oak" is that "Trees sometimes get sick. If they do, you have to cut them down. But don't worry, it is like cutting a toenail. It doesn't hurt, and it is no big deal." Then they go buy a new tree, and there are multiple comparisons between the new tree and a baby.

I can't help but feel like there is a foundation being laid to support the liberal view of euthenasia, at the very least (if not abortion). Sure, I'm probably paranoid...

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Posted by Nathan at 08:17 AM | Comments (10)

February 17, 2005

Taiwan: Our "Friends" in "Democracy" « China/Taiwan »

The Kaohsiung Incident.

Only 10 years before the Tian'anmen Square Incident in Mainland China, Taiwan had finally allowed the people the some ability to express discontent publicly. A riot occurred, and the Kuomintang govt (exiled from the mainland) arrested several leaders and tortured them for several months.

Keep in mind, these were people denied any place in the political process until 1996, and under martial law until 1987. And let us not forget that thousands ("10s of thousands" is probably an exaggeration...) who were killed by Kuomintang troops on 28 February 1947.

Oh, yeah: you probably can't 'not forget' was was never told to you, never really discussed in the US. But we hear about the Tian'anmen Square incident, don't we? That's because Realpolitic dictates that we support evil, despotic regimes when they oppose evil, despotic Communist regimes.

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Posted by Nathan at 12:07 PM | Comments (1)
A Point « Social Issues »

It is increasingly clear to me that male and female homosexuality should be treated as entirely separate issues. In other words, it is not that you are straight or homosexual as much as you are male or female, and then straight or homosexual.

I think if science can disentangle itself from sociology (political correctness?) and delve for answers without having to tweak the results to conform with some ideological viewpoint, we will find that the causes and consequences for female homosexuality are entirely different than that of male homosexuality.

I realize that's not a news flash for some of you...but our society seems to want to treat male and female homosexuality as pretty much the same thing, as a united but opposite sexual expression from heterosexuality. And I am nearly convinced that's flat-out wrong and contributing to the overall confusion.

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Posted by Nathan at 09:26 AM | Comments (1)

February 16, 2005

Trivial Trivia « Stuff Important to Me »

Stolen from Tony.

What’s your favorite kind of cookie? Tennessee Cookies (also known as No-Bake cookies, Mississippi Mud cookies: lots of chocolate, lots of sugar, lots of oatmeal...)

Who is America’s most overrated actor? Nicholas Cage

Name a guilty pleasure. Jagged Alliance 2.

“Scrubs” or “Everybody Loves Raymond”? Never watched either one.

Name two things you can’t live without. Buffalo Wings and Iced Tea.

Your first pet’s name + your mother’s maiden name = your porn star name. —- Inky Green

What song are you listening to right now? Nothing, strangely. I used to always have music playing...

Name your celebrity crush. I can't think of one right now.

Favorite punchline from a joke. “What do you mean 'we', white man?”

Who do you want to pass this meme off to? Jeremy or Zombyboy or SaaM. I think any of them might be entertaining with it. Except that we already know Zombie is listening to Mark Lanegan.

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Posted by Nathan at 08:41 PM | Comments (2)
» Jeremy-Gilby-dot-com links with: Trivits
» resurrectionsong links with: Blame Nathan
Wanna See Inconclusive Anecdotal Evidence Presented as Fact? « Media Distortions »

Check out this gallery of "evidence" of global warming.

This guy absolutely doesn't allow for sunspot cycles, normal variations within a typical range, weather, or just about anything except that he's got 5 sets of pictures that show extremely minor differences only the non-imaginative would think has any significance whatsoever.

The argument is made more effectively here.

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Posted by Nathan at 12:33 PM | Comments (3)
Check it out! « Blogging »

I'm linked at Salon!

I'm honored! Welcome, Salon Readers!

Please keep in mind, this is a soapbox, and a pulpit. I lay down smack, I speak in absolutes (usually), and may come across much differently through my monologues than I would if you met me in person and engaged me in a dialogue. I will admit when you make good points. I will get irritated if you defecate in my wheaties, so to speak. I am flexible, and my mind is usually not as entrenched in its track as some of these essays might seem.

But have fun, and enjoy your visit!

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Posted by Nathan at 10:01 AM | Comments (6)
Please Note, Dems « Politics As Usual »

From today's Kausfiles:

Lackobama Blues: Kf, its finger on the pulse of the left as always, hears that the talk of progressives these days is incoming senator Barack Obama's vote in favor of the bill limiting class action lawsuits. The worry is that by siding with President Bush on the issue, Obama has signalled his intent to pursue a Hillaryesque centrist strategy instead of providing the left with the the full-throated anti-Bush champion it craves. ... Fingers are pointed at Pete Rouse, the veteran Daschle aide Obama has chosen as his chief of staff. ... But don't you think this is something Obama would make up his own mind about?

Obama has been called brilliant, charismatic, insightful, a young, exciting candidate with lots of potential to attract followers, and many other glowing descriptions...

Yo, Dems: if he is a brilliant and wonderful as you say, why do you automatically assume he must want to drag the party leftward, or automatically oppose anything President Bush does?
President Bush's policies attract nearly 50% of the population in nearly every case, and that resulted in an outright majority of voters. Get that? President Bush might actually be correct in what he proposes. And unless you are going to unleash the bigotry of soft expectations on Obama, it might be wise to realize that Obama is smart enough to realize when President Bush is correct, particularly when you seem unable to do the same thing.

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Posted by Nathan at 06:07 AM | Comments (25)
Mommy Madness (UPDATED) « Parenting/Leadership 101 »

Interesting article.

One thing that strikes me as that even when these women talk about trying to be the best mommy for the kids, I get the feeling that it is really more about being the best mommy so they can say they are the best mommy. It's less about paying attention to the kids and giving them what they actually need, and more about treating their kids as faceless drones who will be happy, successful Stepford Kids if the these women only follow the right magical formula and go through the motions. There is less heart in their actions and more ego. Motherhood by Superstition.

And then they complain about how no one appreciates their sacrifice.

Again, you don't do it for the appreciation. If it's not all about the kids, it's not right. Even the first lady quoted: "Three hours of intense parenting in the morning before work, three hours of intense parenting after work" is ridiculous. Yes, children need to be loved, played with, and engaged fully...but it also an important part of their development to see their parents interacting with love, to see them be whole persons with hobbies and interests and activities of their own.

It seems like none of these mothers quoted really understood about how to develop a whole person who could be fully independent and secure. They focused so much on mental development they lost some other things. A mommy being obsessed with playground politics? That's how kids learn to get along and resolve disputes! If the mommy gets involved, how will the child ever learn to deal with a bully? Because there are adult bullies in the workplace as surely as there are playground bullies...

And this supposedly explains why the lady cut her baby's arms off....


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Posted by Nathan at 05:32 AM | Comments (6)
» Anywhere But Here links with: Mommy Madness

February 15, 2005

Didja Hear The Latest About Sen. Kerry? « Humor »

It seems President Bush asked for an additional $81.9 billion, and Kerry voted for it, before...he... ...voted...

...screw it. It's just not worth the effort anymore.

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Posted by Nathan at 02:41 PM | Comments (0)
Intriguing « GWOT »

President Bush's plans for the next step in the Global War on Terror may have been revealed when the US recalled its ambassador to Syria.

Sure, it could be nothing. Bluffs, moves, countermoves, posturing...these are the weapons of diplomacy. As of now, obviously diplomacy is still of use. But let's not forget what Clausewitz said about diplomacy as related to war...

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Posted by Nathan at 10:48 AM | Comments (0)
Noooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! « Stuff Important to Me »

Oh, well. Movies aren't really worth a crap these days, anyway...

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Posted by Nathan at 10:30 AM | Comments (2)
What's Going On? « Social Issues »

Since this is already in the legal system, it is unlikely to turn out to be a hoax.

We are hearing more about the murders (and attempts) to steal babies from other women's wombs. We are hearing more about mothers murdering their babies. Or starving them, or poisoning them, or abusing them.

Are things really getting worse? Or are we, as a society, just beginning to realize that mother's love is no more (or less) universal and automatic than father's love?

I think it's just the nature of an increased information flow. We can hear about things much more quickly and easily, and the more lurid the tale, the more it reaches prominence.

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Posted by Nathan at 10:07 AM | Comments (0)
Occupation REGENCY « GWOT »

People have used the word "occupation" to describe our presence in Iraq. I objected to it. President Bush himself used that term once. I didn't like it any better. I really couldn't think of a good alternative, to tell the truth.

Well, from a quote in today's Impromptus, I have it now:

It was, of course, the American "regency" in Iraq that protected these courageous people and made the elections possible. It took faith in the power and the discipline of the soldiers of the American-led coalition for Iraqis to brave their way to the polling stations in Basra and Mosul and Kirkuk. From Kirkuk, there came a "warrior note" from Col. Lloyd "Milo" Miles addressed to his 2nd Brigade Combat Team, on the eve of these elections. This commander told his soldiers of a meeting he held with local leaders. One of these leaders had heard a rumor that the U.S.-led forces would be confined to their bases on the day of the elections and that security would be provided by Iraqi military and police units. The man was distraught and demoralized. "I beg of you, you must help us, do not let us walk alone on that day." We know that the Iraqis did not walk alone on that signal day in their country's history.

Yes. We held power in that nation, but we held it in trust for a young (and still, as yet, not fully mature) government to form and take over. From here on out, I will refer to our presence in Iraq as a Regency.

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Posted by Nathan at 08:55 AM | Comments (1)
No Joke (UPDATED « Politics As Usual »

I truly believe Howard Dean may be suffering from a form of Tourette's Syndrome.


Read More "No Joke (UPDATED" »

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Posted by Nathan at 06:04 AM | Comments (4)
This Needs an Instalanche, Methinks « Media Distortions »

So let's say you are wondering what the Eason Jordon flap was all about. And on top of it, you have never even heard of Jeff Gannon*.

Here's a pretty good analogy to help you understand the whole issue, and the significance of the relevant players' actions. And it's pretty funny, to boot, so I've got whole that going for me, you know.

Read More "This Needs an Instalanche, Methinks" »

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Posted by Nathan at 05:56 AM | Comments (0)

February 14, 2005

Race and Origin « Social Issues »

Kris of Gradual Dazzle has a very interesting glimpse into racial issues up on her blog right now. Well worth your time to read. It provokes all sorts of cogitation...

As an aside, can I please interject here that I absolutely love that my children do not notice their playmates' skin color, or rather, they don't choose their playmates based on skin color. They notice, but only as shades of hue rather than as distinct groups, and they readily play with kids who are nice regardless of their appearance. It's how I have always wanted it to be.

Exactly right.

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Posted by Nathan at 07:22 PM | Comments (0)
What Responsible Lefty Bloggers? « Social Issues »

Leftie blogs are now publishing insane speculation (via some random web site) about a married White House staffer being gay - based on an anonymous rumor that he's visited gay bars - and wondering aloud about ties to Gannon.

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Posted by Nathan at 03:56 PM | Comments (2)
Nice Blog. It'd Be A Shame If Anything Happened To It. « Humor »

Lots of interesting stuff to blog about today. Unfortunately, you won't see commentary on any of it here...

But I do have this amusing article about Kim Jong-il's obsession with President Bush.

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Posted by Nathan at 02:36 PM | Comments (0)
Equal Pay for Equal Work « Social Issues »

This is interesting.

I do know a few women who have complications and pain associated with their menstrual cycle as a matter of course, so I think Zelda's reaction might be a little unsympathetic. However, her overall point is valid: this is a ridiculous rule.

One way or the other, this rule says something significant about equality in the workplace.

The actual number of women who require an extra 12 days of sick leave every year seems too low to justify this rule. If the number of women who need it comprise less than half the total female workforce (and I gotta assume it's probably less than 10%), then this will be abused constantly. Where's the equality in that?

On the other hand, if the actual number of women who truly need additional sick days to deal with chronic menstrual problems not treatable by doctors is more than 50%, then whither the notion of "Equal Pay for Equal Work"? If women can't be expected to work as much as men due to physical problems, many of the arguments for equal pay go out the window.

I used to think that if the work isn't physical, it made little difference whether the worker was man or woman. Now I'm not so sure.

Heck, this makes me rethink the feasibility of a female President of the United States of America...

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Posted by Nathan at 08:29 AM | Comments (7)

February 13, 2005

I Want This « Stuff Important to Me »

Spherical Watchdog.*

Read More "I Want This" »

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Posted by Nathan at 07:45 PM | Comments (1)

February 12, 2005

Drawing the Wrong Conclusions « Social Issues »

Yeah, I'll fisk the New York Times:

Or at least parts of it:

City health officials announced on Friday that they had detected the rare strain of H.I.V. in one man whose case they described as particularly worrisome because it merged two unusual features: resistance to nearly all anti-retroviral drugs used to treat the infection, and stunningly swift progression from infection to full-fledged AIDS.

Umm, no, they detected no such thing. At least, absolutely no evidence of a new strain of HIV was given at all. At the very most, all they can say is that this man's AIDS progressed atypically fast. But if the average time for AIDS to appear is 10 years (as they say now), and some people are AIDS-free nearly 20 years after being diagnosed with HIV, well, then this isn't strange at all, is it? Is it too much to expect scientists to be consistent in their claims? If this is unusual, then 10 years isn't the average. If 10 years isn't the average, why did the early AIDS sufferers have it appear within the first 3-5 years of being exposed to HIV?

And resistance to anti-retroviral drugs? Might that not indicate it isn't a retrovirus causing it?

By last month, it was clear that three of the four classes of anti-retroviral drugs used against H.I.V. were not working in this case, and the man showed signs of AIDS, including rapid weight loss, a high level of the virus in his bloodstream, and a depleted supply of crucial immune system cells.

Unless, of course, the anti-retroviral drugs are causing the rapid weight loss and depleted supply of crucial immune system cells, as Dr. Bialy and others have asserted.

...people have developed a false sense that AIDS no longer poses a significant threat, leading to a rise in unprotected sex. Clear evidence of the trend has been seen in the growing number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases like syphilis, chlamydia, and lymphogranuloma.

Well, then shouldn't we be seeing a significant rise in the number of HIV cases? From my understanding, estimates of the number of HIV cases in the US has pretty much held steady between 950,000 and 1,000,000 cases. The HIV virus is smaller than the syphilis pathogen, so it's not like differing effectiveness of condoms could explain that non-HIV STDs are rising while HIV infections remain pretty much constant.

Unsafe sex practices combined with growing resistance to medications among people with H.I.V., has had officials warning for years about a possible resurgence of AIDS, a fear voiced yesterday by many people across the country as they struggled to make sense of the news out of New York.

...and yet, there is no resurgence of AIDS to date. There's just one AIDS case that progressed far more rapidly than normal, and that's it.

I tell you, the justifications and excuses used to justify the premise that HIV causes AIDS remind of those used by a witch doctor to explain why the spirits aren't cooperative...

Just for kicks, here's a bibliography with a few summaries to guide your investigation.

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Posted by Nathan at 05:43 PM | Comments (0)

February 11, 2005

Organizing Philosophies of the Ideologies « Politics As Usual »

I particularly like the discussion going on over at Q and O Blog, and I particularly like what I have to say. I know when I'm reaching, and I think I know when I'm on to something, and I think I nail it this time. Go read the discussion, if you want. But my comment does stand on its own, for the most part. (in the extended entry)

Read More "Organizing Philosophies of the Ideologies" »

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Posted by Nathan at 04:26 PM | Comments (2)
HIV = AIDS...or is it something else? « New Thinking »

I gotta tell you, Dean's top-notch discussion about HIV in relation to AIDS wasn't exactly a denouement for me*, but it did give me a more complete understanding of the arguments on all sides.

Such understanding is vital for reading an article like this one on a "new strain" of HIV.

Duesberg, I believe, was one of the people saying that AIDS was more likely the result of drug abuse than HIV. Well, drug abuse plays a part in this "new strain" of HIV, too:

Antonio Urbina, medical director of HIV education and training at St. Vincent's Catholic Medical Center, site one of Manhattan's largest AIDS clinics, said at a news conference that the patient's use of crystal methamphetamine shows that the drug ``continues to play a significant role in facilitating the transmission of HIV.''

The drug reduces peoples' inhibitions and their likelihood of using condoms or other forms of safe sex, he said.

But isn't that the case with lots of drugs? Heck, alcohol's been doing that for millenia, but not once have I ever heard alcohol cited as a risk factor for AIDS the way crystal meth seems to be. Ande the best argument for its effect is that it reduces inhibitions? My B.S. Detector just pegged the max redline reading.

Read More "HIV = AIDS...or is it something else?" »

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Posted by Nathan at 01:26 PM | Comments (7)
Think About It (UPDATED TWICE) « Rhetorical Questions »

Did anyone actually ever listen to the Boomtown Rats?

UPDATE: I mean, on purpose.

UPDATE II: Related.

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Posted by Nathan at 12:17 PM | Comments (3)
Exclusive! Must Credit Brainfertilizer! « Humor »

I am currently drinking a diet soft drink.*

You are not going to get news like this anywhere else, folks!

Read More "Exclusive! Must Credit Brainfertilizer!" »

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Posted by Nathan at 09:43 AM | Comments (0)
Gannon-Quiddick « Media Distortions »

The three best summations of the Jeff Gannon story can be found at:
INDC Journal, Ace of Spades HQ, and Ace of Spades HQ again.

I didn't think I had much to say about this, but in retrospect, I do.

Heck, it isn't exactly a shocker to note the following:
-Liberals consider privacy, especially privacy about sexual orientation, to be of the utmost importance....unless you are conservative!
-Liberals consider it okay for journalists to lob softballs at political figures, as when Chris Matthews asked Sen. John F. Kerry something like, "Would you like to explain why, exactly, these fraudulent and so-called Swift Boat Veterans for Truth spurious and underhanded attacks are, in fact, spurious and underhanded?" Again, it's beyond the pale if you are a conservative.

Apparently "liberal" is now a synonym for "self-serving double standard".

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Posted by Nathan at 06:12 AM | Comments (0)

February 10, 2005

I Gotta Say « GWOT »

I think this reaction is essentially correct.

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Posted by Nathan at 06:43 PM | Comments (0)
What Is Wrong With These People? (UPDATED) « Social Issues »

Infant thrown from car window.

Sad, sick, and tragic.*

UPDATE: A complete report on the story fabrication. I'm glad it didn't happen the way we first heard.

Read More "What Is Wrong With These People? (UPDATED)" »

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Posted by Nathan at 02:41 PM | Comments (4)
Assertion « GWOT »

Things change, and things grow, and situations alter over time.

Yeah, whatever. My point is, as late as last September, we were still playing "Whack-a-Mole" with the insurgents in Iraq. We'd suppress or drive them out of one city and they'd rise up in another.

Now, though? When's the last time you heard of an attack anywhere outside of Baghdad?

I would love if someone could do a little research to either prove or disprove this (I may do it myself when I find the time):

The scope of attacks in Iraq is significantly down. The insurgency is now contained in smaller and well-defined areas, mainly Baghdad and its surrounding suburbs.

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Posted by Nathan at 02:25 PM | Comments (0)
Cheney Benefits From Iraqi Election « Politics As Usual »

Read it for yourself here.

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Posted by Nathan at 10:09 AM | Comments (2)
» resurrectionsong links with: The Daily Giggle
More News Links! « GWOT »

This seems to be a good start:

Abbas fires all the old guard in the Palestinian leadership.

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Posted by Nathan at 10:01 AM | Comments (1)
I Wish I had something to post about... « GWOT »

This will do for now.

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Posted by Nathan at 09:31 AM | Comments (0)

February 09, 2005

Exclusive! Must Probably Shouldn't Credit Brainfertilizer! (UPDATED) « Social Issues »

You know the teenager that got scalped?

Well, my sources tell me:

OK...this was done to remove her "punk cred" because the ringleader thought she was a "poser" or defied the group mentality. How do I know this? Because when [someone I know] was part of group of friends, she upset a lead girl and also had her hair forceably removed, to take away her "chelsea" (bangs with little hair elsewhere, more common in UK punks)

My source goes on to say:

[The girl I know] was extremely cut up about her head, as the girl attacked her with extremely sharp scissors. It was a violent attack, but she fended her off well enough that more damage wasn't done. Skin was removed, but not to the extent of that young lady...not sure what she used to literally scalp so accurately.

Editor's note: In the news item, it wasn't through a frontal attack: the woman doing the scalping tied up the victim first. Much easier to do this sort of thing if you immobilize your victim first, I would presume.

Even more input from my source:

You may want to stick in a line about "not being worthy" of wearing a "punk" hairstyle, and also, both were girl-on-girl attacks...not insignificant, I think.

Good points, and I agree with both. In both anecdotes, the attacker does seem to be saying: "Your mark of belonging has been taken away from you, your membership in our group has been revoked."

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Posted by Nathan at 02:54 PM | Comments (1)
Back-Handed Defense of the Left « Politics As Usual »

James Taranto sums up an item in Today's Best of the Web by saying:

Treating slavery as a peculiarly American evil reflects a weird sort of self-loathing ethnocentrism, an attitude that one's own country can do no right.

As much as I respect Mr. Taranto, I must point out that his sentence is incorrect and not representative of the liberal-progressive viewpoint. He should be ashamed of the vile and underhanded smear.

In reality "Treating slavery as a peculiarly American evil" is a reflection of an attitude that one's own country's conservative/Republicans can do no right.

They like themselves, of course; so of course they approve of their own actions and decisions. Pulling out of Somalia? Ignoring the genocide in Sudan and Rwanda? Being enablers apologists for the evils of communism? Idolizing Che? Lionizing Fidel Castro? Those are just peachy.

Ending slavery? Freeing people from dictatorships? Lowering taxes? Beyond the pale.

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Posted by Nathan at 02:02 PM | Comments (0)
Harnessing the Power of The Blog « Stuff Important to Me »

eBay sucks. Does anyone want to sell me a Playstation 2 system in perfect working order? If so, can you throw in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City? And maybe Madden 2005?

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Posted by Nathan at 11:46 AM | Comments (4)
Interesting Opinion From Dick Morris « Politics As Usual »

Except, of course, he's usually wrong about everything...

I'm not sure how correct he is about this:

The political fact is that a Rice candidacy would destroy the electoral chances of the Democratic Party by undermining its demographic base. John Kerry got 54 percent of his vote from three groups that, together, account for about a third of the American electorate: African-Americans, Hispanics and single white women. Rice would cut deeply into any Democrat’s margin among these three groups and would, most especially, deny Clinton the strong support she would otherwise receive from each of them.

But I think this part is dead-on, and how history will recorded:

Since Bush’s success in Iraq has laid the basis for negotiation in the Middle East, there is every prospect that Rice may preside over a diplomatic triumph in catalyzing the discussions between Sharon and Abbas. The firm American stand in Iraq will also make more likely success in Korea and Iran, all of which would add to the prestige of Rice.

Here's the whole thing.

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Posted by Nathan at 10:44 AM | Comments (4)
Putting Our Money Where Their Mouth Is « Politics As Usual »

I remember lots of Democrats complaining that President Bush was spending the nation into a deficit. They would show more fiscal responsibility, they promised. Just elect 'em, we'd see!

Good thing most people didn't believe them.

Bush actually starts making cuts*, and they start wailing like babies. Character will always show through.

"You know, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that if you're concerned about the deficit, you either have to raise taxes or cut spending," said Representative Mario Diaz-Balart, Republican of Florida. "What's very interesting for me to hear is the same people that complain about a high deficit then complain about not enough spending by this budget."
Read More "Putting Our Money Where Their Mouth Is" »

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Posted by Nathan at 09:46 AM | Comments (1)
Just Sent To My (Acting) Flight Commander « Stuff Important to Me »
I feel like I started waking up yesterday...

What do I mean?
Well, last summer I was stressed out around home, which stressed me out at work, which stressed me out at home and in general. You remember.
Even after the worst time, and after I talked to Capt N about it, I was still always on the edge of stressed-out, because I was trying to do more and more and not really catching up. I was just getting caught up on everything at home when we moved buildings.
I knew that I was exhausted from the move, 13 days straight with all the responsibilities I had at home left me absolutely spent.
I had a hard time recovering...Looking back, I think it’s because we went right into the holiday season when no one was here, so we were actually quite busy every day. I still am not sure why our business never slowed down at all. (I was disappointed we didn’t get more “holiday” manning, but shoot! We were too busy to get any more!)
Then right after the new year I had a few briefs to do and was trying to get caught up on out-processing at the same time. Feeling behind on everything tired me out.
At the same time, I was trying to potty-train my daughter with no help. That’s harder than it sounds.
Soon after, we actually sign the paperwork for divorce. I take leave to go on vacation, but with driving so far only to get the 3rd degree from her relatives, well, I didn’t get much rest. Especially since even though there were so many adults in the house, *I* was the one mainly dealing with the kids and resolving disputes, playing with them, etc., to include my very rambunctious AD/HD neice (I don’t get it...I just don’t get how so much non-parenting can go unnoticed by anyone but me).
Last weekend I drove down to Portland and back. It was a nice time, but no ‘down’ time.
Through all this, I rarely get more than 5.5 hours of sleep each night during the week, and my “catching up” nights are never more than 8. At least two nights a week I feel I am forced to choose between being physically exhausted or emotionally unrefreshed.

Going through this last weekend I was finally able to get some rest. And I’m finally getting recovered. I think I can do a better job of staying on task and helping people out now. On that scale of likelihood of a major stress-related illness, I think my rating for the last year is probably something above 500. Thank goodness I’ve been pretty healthy.

Did I sound too whiny? She was pretty much up to speed on all the issues, so if I seem too vague in spots, it's because I'm eliding over ground already covered.

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Posted by Nathan at 08:07 AM | Comments (4)
No Comment « Social Issues »

If you peruse these pages*, you may notice that there is little or no reference to Ward Churchill, nor Jordon Eason's recent flap; you won't find a discussion of whether torture is useful, advisable, or permissable on terrorists.

The reason is that I don't feel I have many qualifications to discuss these issues, nor do I have any strong visceral reaction that compels me to weigh in, nor do I feel I have any relatively unique viewpoint to add anything useful to the overall online debate.

I'm not ignoring the issues of the day, I'm still absorbing. I'll find other things to talk about, I'm sure.

Read More "No Comment" »

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Posted by Nathan at 07:29 AM | Comments (3)
Clintonian Scandals: The Gift That Keeps On Giving « Politics As Usual »

Of course, they could probably help themselves on this issue if they weren't so willing to pretend to be the best friend of anyone who will give them scads of cash.

It's a talent, I guess.

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Posted by Nathan at 06:15 AM | Comments (0)
Amazing « Link O' Admiration »

Simply amazing what IowaHawk can do on a consistent basis.

If I were trying to run a humor blog, I'd probably have to give it up.

Luckily, I'm only trying to put out crap and stuff not worth linking. I appear to be doing an excellent job at that so far!

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Posted by Nathan at 05:58 AM | Comments (0)

February 08, 2005

Howard Dean « Politics As Usual »

I'm actually pleased about his selection to head the DNC. Unlike many bloggers you might see out there, I'm not distressed, gleeful or derisive.

Here's the thing about Dean: I'm convinced he says what he thinks and believes what he says. After more than a decade of "triangulation", "re-invention", and "nuance", I think it could be very healthy for the Democrat Party to have their most prominent leader be open and honest (for the most part) about his stance on political issues.

For quite some time, the President (or most recent Presidential candidate) has been the most prominent leader of the Democrats. But Dr. Dean brings a celebrity to his position that in some ways eclipses all other Democrats right now. Heck, I find it quite significant that Dean's victory dismantles a major part of the Clinton political machine.*

Read More "Howard Dean" »

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Posted by Nathan at 10:45 AM | Comments (0)
The Biggest Mistake « Quotes You Can Steal »

The Democrats' biggest mistake in the 2004 Election was in allowing and/or encouraging politicians to unofficially begin their candidacy in late 2001 and early 2002.

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Posted by Nathan at 09:57 AM | Comments (0)
Thoughts on Rebuilding Iraq's Army « GWOT »

The sub-title is a little misleading...

It really doesn't talk much about NCO's, and doesn't even go far enough in discussing the problems with officers, but the article still has some good points. Here's one:

It has become generally accepted wisdom that it was a mistake for the Coalition Provisional Authority to disband Saddam's army after American forces took Baghdad two years ago. If Maj. Lechner's experience is typical, then retaining the old force would have just created a whole different set of problems, and might well have further set back efforts to create a flexible, effective Iraqi army. Solving the problem in the 7th Battalion ultimately required rooting out nearly all of those officers who had served under the old regime.

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Posted by Nathan at 07:42 AM | Comments (0)
The Romulans are Coming! The Romulans are Coming! « Link O' Admiration »

Got a better explanation?

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Posted by Nathan at 07:30 AM | Comments (2)
You Say You Want Start an Army? « Link O' Admiration »

Be prepared for the long haul.

When I entered Active Duty, it took six months to finish Basic Training, the Security Police Academy, and Air Base Ground Defense (the USAF version of advanced infantry training). After all of that, when I arrived at my first duty station, I was qualified to do nothing. Instead, I immediately had to begin another 6 month on-the job training course in order to perferm the duties appropriate to my rank.

Nothing magical happens during 2 or three months of Basic Training that turns you into a competent soldier. All that does is turn you into a competent recruit. It takes months of training in basic military skills, weapons handling, fire and movement, and more just to prepare you for the basic demands of soldiering.

Then, of course, there are the two or three years of experience and schooling that you must have before you can be promoted to the most junior NCO position.

For senior leadership positions at the regimental level and above, it takes a generation.

That's all mostly true. I disagree with a few doesn't take quite as long to develop a quality officer as it does a quality NCO, in my opinion. Good officers are only good if they depend on their NCOs, anyway, but even more than that, officers are largely managers rather than tacticians, these days. You could pull a few successful businessmen into the military and at least not have a disaster.

But without a professional and trainied NCO corps, you are headed for a disaster. I don't think even most US NCOs truly realize how special and unique they are.

For the most part, officers set direction and set the standard. But it is NCOs who ensure that junior enlisted are trained to that standard and continue to meet it.

And it will take 3-5 years to get a fully trained NCO corps. The interesting thing is that after we are done in Iraq, they should have the best military in the entire region, by far.

Good luck, Iraq!

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Posted by Nathan at 06:14 AM | Comments (0)
My Thoughts on the GoDaddy Commercial « Stuff Important to Me »

Because I know you want to hear them.

Offensive? No. Unfunny? Yes.

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Posted by Nathan at 06:07 AM | Comments (2)

February 07, 2005

Minorities Out Standing in Their Field « Quotes You Can Steal »

The difference between a token and model is whether you want more of them or not.*

Read More "Minorities Out Standing in Their Field" »

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Posted by Nathan at 04:45 PM | Comments (1)
Tough Times « Link O' Admiration »

Little Miss Attila appears to be suffering something of a crisis of nerve...

I thought about answering her, but my response is probably going to be long enough to warrant its own post. Furthermore, I want my own readers to be able to see what I have to say, too.

I don't want to do a fisking, but I do want to respond to several points.

She starts off by saying:


... is just like planning a wedding. Someone (generally the woman, if one's available) works her ass off, forfeits sleep, spends evey penny she owns, and sacrifices endlessly so a bunch of other people can have a good time.

The thing is, those "bunch of other people" probably include women, too, right? So why try to start off with an inflammatory gender issue? Some people give, and some people take, and gender has little to do with it. Now, this doesn't change that Miss Attila sounds like a giver who is often taken advantage of. That's sad, unfair, and she should be applauded for her sacrifice. But not by insisting that men are lazy slobs and only women work around the house.

Next, she says:

Naturally, I'm frightened about the child or children: I know this will be a life-changing experience. I know it will be a lot of hard work. I just don't know if I'll end up feeling used, or taken for granted. I just don't want it to be like all the other projects I've worked hard on for essentially no payoff. (The assumption out there being that women simply like to work really hard to make other people happy, so the act itself is its own reward.)

What they tell me is that kids are so wonderful that it's terrific to have them around (once you're past babyhood and the terrible twos). They say it's different. They say the work is grueling, but at the end of the day you don't really mind.

Now, I don't read Little Miss Attila enough to get the full backstory on this. Too many great blogs out there, yanno?

The thing is, from personal experience: you don't do it because you don't really mind at the end of the day. You don't do it because there is a payoff later.

You do it because they depend on you. You do it because there is no one else. You do it because, if you don't, no one else will.

The military talks about "selfless service" and at times we really approximate that. But most of the time there's awards and punishments and added benefits to keep us in and working for the nation. Not that there aren't real sacrifices going on all the time...but to be totally honest, I think there are non-tangible rewards that make up for the tangible sacrifices. Esprit de Corps is not a fable.

But parenting is pretty much the most selfless thing a person can ever do. You do it, not for thanks or respect or to get anything back, but because they need you, as I said.

I spend no less than 60 hours a week (sometimes more) involved with my work (including getting the kids up and dressed, commuting, dropping off at daycare, working, picking up from daycare, commuting home...). Once I get home, I make dinner, apply management techniques to get kids to eat, wash the dishes, play with them and make sure they have everything they need, take them to the library, give them their bath, help them brush their teeth and get ready for bed, read them a bed-time story and devotions, pray with them, and do "restless child watch" for an hour, then clean the house and do laundry.
I do the same on the weekends, including getting up with the children and taking them out to play at the playground, throw rocks in the river, go feed the ducks, go play at the mall, etc. I potty-trained my daughter with zero help. There is no reward for dealing with training pants filled with a mixture of excrement and urine. But you do it because they cannot do it themselves.

There are moments of joy in that. The hug of a child who loves you is wonderful. But you don't do it for those rewards. You simply do it for them.

That's why you hear people say "That one smile makes it worthwhile" or whatever...because they got past the "what's in it for me?" mentality and whatever crumb of happy memory they get is more than they expected and is wonderful.

I know I'm painting a pretty bleak picture. It's not really that bad. The human mind has the ability to adapt to anything. And while it is a sacrifice, it quickly stops seeming like one. You begin to care for their welfare more than your own. You truly place their needs ahead of yours. Their happiness truly becomes your happiness.

And that's how I define "Love".

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Posted by Nathan at 03:06 PM | Comments (12)
Exactly What I Expected, Unfortunately « GWOT »

"Insurgents" turning to attack Iraqi security elements.

Actually, this is hardly "new" news. They have attacked Iraqi police and military with suicide bombers before. One of the highest Iraqi death tolls came from a car bomb attack on a recruitment center.

But I feel in my heart this will backfire. Bill of INDC Journal has more on the shift in Iraqis' collective attitude (plus a neat turning of the tables on terrorist taping tactics*). (Via Florida Cracker.

Read More "Exactly What I Expected, Unfortunately" »

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Posted by Nathan at 09:36 AM | Comments (0)
Exactly What I Was Hoping For « Link O' Admiration »
Suddenly empowered with the vote, Iraqis no longer seem to view America as all-powerful, or themselves as unable to affect events. A result has been a suddenly more accepting view of the United States.

This is the most important paragraph of a piece at the New York Times. I'm not going to register to read the whole thing, but you can get a larger excerpt at the same place I did: Geopolitical Review.

Um, if your browser has as much problems with the columns as mine does, you'll have to scroll down a bit to see the actual article.

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Posted by Nathan at 08:31 AM | Comments (0)
Perhaps Not-So-Super Bowl « Link O' Admiration »

Everyone go and visit Jeremy and express your condolences. (although he seems to be taking it well)

Here's hoping it doesn't take three consecutive losses at this level to finally win one.

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Posted by Nathan at 08:27 AM | Comments (1)
Good Advice « Social Issues »

...of course, I'm a full day late in spreading the advice. At least I'm not a dollar short.


So why do you feel it's ok to barge in on the biggest day of the year for your football fanatic boyfriends and husbands? Are you that insecure in your relationship that you can't just let him be for a few hours?

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Posted by Nathan at 05:46 AM | Comments (0)
Good « Politics As Usual »

Don't let the door hit ya where the Good Lord split ya!

And what's with the "But America is turning into a country very different from the one I grew up believing in."...? He didn't believe in a country that helps spread liberty and freedom? He didn't believe in a country that could appoint a black woman to be Secretary of State or a Hispanic to be Attorney General? He grew up believing the United States was a country that would punish you for being successful? He can no longer live in a country where someone criticizes Planned Parenthood for creating an artificial demand for killing babies? What, exactly? Don't leave us hanging, dude?

I think it's actually a bit of misplaced blame. The biggest changes for the worse in the United States are coming directly from the ideology of the Progressives/Liberals, i.e., the elitists who think the highest purpose of government is to protect its citizens from having to grow up (you know: experience difficulty in learning to take care of yourself).

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Posted by Nathan at 05:41 AM | Comments (3)

February 04, 2005

Don't Irritate the Pro-Choice Powers « GWOM »

They will spread lies about you.

So much for journalistic ethics, not when you have a chance to smear a prominent Christian, pro-Life, anti-Planned Parenthood blogger.*

Read More "Don't Irritate the Pro-Choice Powers" »

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Posted by Nathan at 03:56 PM | Comments (1)
There Are Only Two Evil Things In This World « Media Distortions »

SUVs and Homeschooling. least, according to the liberal-leaning mainstream news media. Guess which one is a key player in this story?

Read More "There Are Only Two Evil Things In This World" »

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Posted by Nathan at 01:34 PM | Comments (2)
» The LLama Butchers links with: Some questions to ponder over bagels and Book World
I Can't Believe This « GWOM »
"The victory wasn't sweet," [Ms.] Young said Thursday afternoon. "I'm not gloating about it. I just hope the girls learned a lesson."

Learned their lesson about what?

They learned never to try and do anything nice for Ms. Young, ever.

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Posted by Nathan at 01:18 PM | Comments (1)
Taylor or Takamine? (From the Open Thread) « Music/Guitar »

This is an excellent time to buy a guitar...

Why? I’m not sure, but I think the reason is computer design, drafting, and manufacturing processes have allowed entry-level guitars to be mass-produced to tighter tolerances (and thus higher standards of quality) than in decades past.

Just a few months ago I purchased an excellent strat copy electric with low action, smooth fingerboard, heavy body (for good sustain), and decent pick-ups from a pawnshop for just $100. I felt like I was getting a $400-500 guitar in new condition: what a bargain! Then I went on the web and found out I could have gotten the same guitar with a practice amp shipped to me for a total of $110. I wasn’t such a great bargain-hunter as I thought.

…then again, a guitar is intensely personal, and every guitar is slightly different. You should never purchase a guitar you haven’t played for at least a few minutes.

Acoustic guitars are another interesting case. Seagull Guitars started the movement for inexpensive quality guitars a few years back…but now they’ve gained a good enough reputation that their “$800-quality for just $230 price” guitars are now costing $400-500. Rats. That’s too expensive to bring on a deployment to a desert climate that might ruin it.

So I went looking for a decent guitar at a price that wouldn’t leave me upset if it ended up warping after a few months in the Middle East.

I checked out some of the cheaper ones…I usually hate the acoustics painted with colors, preferring a more natural varnish look. But there was a green Takamine with an electronic amplification system. The action was low, but no fret buzz, booming bass like I’d expect on a Martin…and just $200!

So now I have a $200 acoustic guitar I like too much to let die in a desert. Sigh.

Anyway, based on that, I’d recommend a Takamine. Taylor, Martin, and Guild are generally considered the best mainstream acoustic guitars. And they price them accordingly. There are other, smaller companies…more exclusive, and even pricier, like Larribee, et al. And then there is the Seagull Guitar level: nearly as good quality as Taylor and Martin for about half the price. Other companies are following where Seagull blazed the trail. The other nice thing about Seagull is they are extremely beautiful guitars…

But the bottom line is, well, the bottom line: $2000 is a lot of money to spend on a guitar that might get scratched when the cat runs through the room and knocks it over, or when your child wants to strum for a while, or if you stand up too quickly. The difference in sound, quality, and appearance from the best guitar to the worst is, these days, far smaller than the difference in price. That’s to your advantage.If you want the top of the line, well, it is the best for a reason, but you pay as much for the name brand as for the guitar.

But there is one other choice rather than buying a guitar, if you have the time, patience, and dexterity. For about $400, you can build your own with a Stew-Mac kit. It doesn’t sound too hard to do, and you end up with a guitar of the same quality as a $2000-3000 guitar, from all accounts I’ve heard.

Aside: They used to have archtop jazz guitar kits; I’m disappointed they seem to have dropped that choice. But I may have to try that violin kit.

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Posted by Nathan at 10:32 AM | Comments (2)
So...I don't Need to Start Studying Farsi, Then? « GWOT »

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, beginning her debut trip abroad today as America's senior diplomat, said that a U.S. invasion of Iran is "simply not on the agenda at this point in time," but repeatedly warned Iran to improve its human rights record and resolve doubts about its nuclear ambitions.

Well...there are an awful lot of qualifiers for one short statement. That nearly approaches a good example to help define the word "ambiguity"...

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Posted by Nathan at 09:50 AM | Comments (3)
Musings (UPDATED) « Rhetorical Questions »

If I could meet an earlier self, the 18-year-old romantic with starry eyes and star-crossed soul, what could I tell me about life and love?

I would tell me that my view of love is wrong. That, yes, love is created through deliberate effort and caring and placing others' needs above your own; but you need something to work with, and sexual attraction is not enough.

I would tell me to take more time before making any decisions. Anyone is nice and caring when the love is new, for a short time. But the true person shows in glimpses and moments over long periods of time.

I would tell me to pay most attention to character. Someone who loves attention and parties and fun isn't someone to build a quiet life with. Someone who lies to their parents to avoid trouble will lie to you.

I would tell me that although I can talk myself out of trouble with facile words, it is better to admit error and apologize. Anyone who can't understand doesn't match with you; anyone who won't try to understand doesn't love you; and anyone who won't forgive isn't worth spending time with. To avoid finding this out after a serious commitment, revisit the second point once again.

I would tell me that it is better to have the right person than to have a person, and so by corollary it is better to remain alone than have the wrong person.

Would I listen?

Read More "Musings (UPDATED)" »

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Posted by Nathan at 07:26 AM | Comments (5)

February 03, 2005

Never Before Seen on Brain Fertilizer « Blogging »

Open Thread!

Discuss whatever you want to.

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Posted by Nathan at 02:48 PM | Comments (8)
A Nice Point From a Long Time Ago « Link O' Admiration »

RaAs, with a bonus: why are white supremacists considered 'right-wingers' anyway?

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Posted by Nathan at 01:38 PM | Comments (1)
Ya Take What Ya Can Get « Blogging »

I was hoping for a Best of the Web spike for my previous post (I submitted it to Mr. Taranto).

Instead, I got my name into the contributor's list. Ah, well, I think my line about the headline is better.

USO Shows Ain't What They Used to Be
"Marines Miss January Goal for Recruits"--headline, New York Times, Feb. 3

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Posted by Nathan at 12:58 PM | Comments (0)
I Didn't Know the Marines Even Had a Pin-Up Girl Calender! « Fun With News Headlines »

Understandable, I guess; if she's attractive she'd probably be my goal, too.

Read More "I Didn't Know the Marines Even Had a Pin-Up Girl Calender!" »

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Posted by Nathan at 07:28 AM | Comments (1)
Potty-Training Final Update « Kidblogging »

I think I forgot to announce:

My daughter is well and fully potty-trained.

When we took the 9-day vacation two weeks ago, she did awesome. In the car, she always told me she had to pee, and was able to hold it for 15-20 minutes until we got to a gas station or rest area. After arriving, the very next day, when I asked her if she needed to go pee-pee, she said, "I already did!" The next time I asked her, she said the same thing, and said, "I went poopy, too!" And that's the way it was the rest of the time. When she needed to go, she went and took care of it without prompting or help.

She did have one small poopy accident the night we got home. I think she just wasn't expecting it, and she stopped it before it got messy, told me immediately, and finished up after I changed her.

Absolutely no accidents since, and I don't need to remind her at all. She's transitioning to pre-school now at daycare.

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Posted by Nathan at 07:24 AM | Comments (4)

February 02, 2005

Yeah, We Should Be More Like Europe « Politics As Usual »

...because they've obviously got that whole Unemployment thing worked out.

And 5.9% was a horrible unemployment rate? For shame, Democrats!

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Posted by Nathan at 01:45 PM | Comments (0)
"Shut Up and Act/Sing" « Social Issues »

I've used this phrase before, as have many others, and been taken to task for it, as have many others.

There's points by both sides. We do have a country that values the free expression of political opinion, and that surely applies to celebrities. On the other hand, there is something somewhat unfair about someone who becomes rich and famous with the money and support of all citizens using that wealth and fame to disparage and oppose conservative values and promote just one political ideology. Yet back on the original hand, the people who complain about the Dixie Chicks and Barbara Streisand are pretty much the same ones who have no problem with Charlton Heston and Arnold Schwarzenegger....

Well, here's the difference: Credibility.

With great power comes great responsibility. If you are lifted up on the shoulders of others, it isn't right to spit on the people who lifted you up. It's even worse to whine about losing your popularity as a result of your disdain (as the Dixie Chicks learned).
If your fame and wealth come from doing one thing well, then you have credibility in that realm. But to arrogantly assume that money and fame in one sphere automatically grant you influence in another sphere is stupid and worthy of ridicule. And that's where "Shut up and sing/act" comes in.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was never just an actor in the same way Barbara Streisand was only an entertainer. He was a successful businessman before he ever starred in a movie. He married into a political family and showed good politcal savvy before he ever ran for governer.

Ronald Reagan demonstrated politcal acumen as he rose through the political system. The charge that he was "just an actor" was hollow long before he was elected to President.

Heck, even Bono of U2 has gained a great deal of credibility through his involvement in political issues. And Angelie Jolie seems to be approaching it correctly, as well. She understands that if all you bring to an issue is celebrity, you do more harm than good. You need to educate yourself first, understand the issues, discuss them with educated, intelligent, credible people, and then approach the issue with humility.

And that's what most of the stars lack.

We've already mentioned the Dixie Chicks' sour note. Barbara Streisand earned derision, not for expressing her opinions, but by telling career-politician Dick Gephardt how to run his campaign...and for mis-spelling his name. How more presumptuous can you get? Sean Penn provided aid and comfort to Saddam al-Hussein by making a high-profile visit there and then announcing Saddam al-Hussein had no WMD. Perhaps history will prove him correct (I'm still convinced there's some needles waiting to be found in that haystack, even the US govt has decided it is no longer worthwhile to search), but his assertion that his brief visit was of any significance shows how ignorant he really is.

And that's the thing. It is important to understand what you have credibility in and what you don't. I have a great deal of credbility in discussing some issues regarding China, or music, or pre-WWII military surplus bolt-action rifles. Some. I would never pretend that my opinion, as educated as it might be, is the end-all-be-all on any topic. In fact, one of the main goals of my life and this blog is to talk intelligently enough about different issues to gain the credibility to be heard on those topics and others. Perhaps I've failed horribly, but it is still my goal.

Celebrities would help themselves if they understood that. And so, if celebrities display the hubris to name themselves as political experts, I'll be here to tell them again to Shut Up and Sing/Act. Even if they don't listen to me.

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Posted by Nathan at 12:03 PM | Comments (3)
» GeoPoliticalReview links with: MUST READ
"Planned Parenthood" « Social Issues »

One of the things that bothers me about Planned Parenthood is their very name is one of the biggest euphemisms of all time.

They really don't have much to do with actual "parenthood", obviously. The emphasis is on the "Planned" part. I hate that they assume the only good family is one that happens according to a pre-determined schedule. Implicit in the title of their organizaion is the notion that an unplanned parenthood is one of the worst things in the world, and as such necessitates millions of federal dollars, strong-arm tactics on reluctant doctors, underhanded marketing techniques to teens and pre-teens, spreading misinformation and the least effective condoms on the market to people...all in order to help increase demand for what they are selling: Abortion.

They should change their name to, "Unplanned Parenthood is Only Wrong if Allowed to continue past the 2nd Trimester!" Or even more apt, "Abortion, Inc." That would be honest, at least.

I detest that all their activities are justified as "reproductive health", First, they are about ending reproduction whenever possible (rather than preventing it)*. Second, complications from abortion greatly increase the chance of infertility, and perhaps other problems. So "reproductive health" concerns are an absolute lie.

Planned Parenthood is quite simply one of the most amoral, uncaring, brutal, cold-blooded, ineffective, and just plain evil government programs significantly-govt-fund "non-profit" organizations** I have ever seen.

Read More ""Planned Parenthood"" »

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Posted by Nathan at 10:56 AM | Comments (0)
Planned Parenthood Chief Criticizes Kerry « Social Issues »

I lost count of the deliberate use of politically- and emotionally- charged rhetorical devices somewhere around 30. See how many you get!

But it's an interesting article, nonetheless. The filter through which Ms. Feldt sees America saddens me...

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Posted by Nathan at 10:45 AM | Comments (0)
Cell Phones Increase Traffic Problems? « Social Issues »

So says this study.

Interestingly, the impact of smoking is far worse. It slows reaction times by something like 30% in the 20 minutes after you smoke a cigarette. I can't imagine why that wasn't included in the Demonization Program.

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Posted by Nathan at 07:48 AM | Comments (3)
Monty Python Politics « Link O' Admiration »

Go read this nice article about how Democrats are not bringing anything constructive to the political table.

No big surprise there, the idea has already been out there for some time. But Rodger comes at it from a good angle with nice quotations. Go check it out.

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Posted by Nathan at 06:19 AM | Comments (1)
Mary Jo Kopechne Could Not Be Reached For Comment « Link O' Admiration »

Will there ever be accountability?

Sadly, I doubt it.

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Posted by Nathan at 06:12 AM | Comments (0)

February 01, 2005

10 Observations from the Iraq Election « GWOT » « Link O' Admiration »

Via GeoPolitical Review.

Here's a few to whet your appetite:

6) No other entity but the United States (and her true allies) could have attained this momentous result.

7) The election is unlikely to lead to a civil war.

8) 20 years from now, Syrians witnessing Iraqi expatriates voting in Damascus will be viewed as a notable factor in the Syrian dictatorship's demise.

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Posted by Nathan at 12:57 PM | Comments (0)
The President Wants Us To Remain in Iraq « GWOT »

No, not our President. Theirs. The Iraqi President, al-Yawer.

He said foreign troops should leave only after Iraq's security forces are built up, the country's security situation has improved and some pockets of terrorists are eliminated.

"By the end of this year, we could see the number of foreign troops decreasing," al-Yawer said.

Perhaps he's a stooge of the US? Nope:

Al-Yawer had been a strong critic of some aspects of the U.S. military's performance in Iraq, including the three-week Marine siege of the Sunni rebel city of Fallujah in April.

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Posted by Nathan at 07:48 AM | Comments (0)
Asia By Blog « Link O' Admiration »

The latest Asia By Blog is now up. Go check it looks quite interesting today.

Well, it always does. But I haven't had time yet to read any articles to point out any specific ones yet. Yet.

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Posted by Nathan at 06:15 AM | Comments (0)
Iraq Elections: A Cautionary Note « Politics As Usual »

I'm as excited as the next person, and I'm not pooh-poohing the results or the effort.

But it is important to remember that an election is just an election. You don't have "democracy" until one side can lose power and still participate in the electoral process afterward. Or until both sides can win power without dissolving future elections. We had nascent democracies in both Pakistan and Algeria, but both were shut down when Islamic Extremists threatened to impose Sharia and cancel further electiosn after taking power.
It's hard to say at exactly what point Iraq actually "has" democracy. I'd say that Afghanistan already does, despite not having had a series of election cycles...but we'll have to see what Karzai does in the face of losing power before we can know for sure.

And the most important thing will be how Iraq develops the Rule of Law, something already growing entrenched in Afghanistan. Karzai is using the legal mechanisms to help his country, not fiat based on personal power. And that's very important for the future of his country.

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Posted by Nathan at 06:10 AM | Comments (0)