Thursday, July 30, 2009

Damn Yankee watch

A longer excerpt of that Voinovich quotation:

"We got too many Jim DeMints (R-S.C.) and Tom Coburns (R-Ok.). It's the southerners. They get on TV and go 'errrr, errrrr.' People hear them and say, 'These people, they're southerners. The party's being taken over by southerners. What they hell they got to do with Ohio?'," Voinovich said.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Rule by Technocrats

Convergences (a blog I'm not familiar with, aside from this article) tackles the issue, "Can Science Rule Society?" Some interesting discussion, but I find it hard to identify the author's point, if there is one. There's a lot of on-this-hand/on-the-other-hand, without coming to a clear conclusion. But I think the author is wary of rule by scientists.

If that's the point, I agree, although perhaps for other reasons. Science and scientists (I am one, after all) can identify processes and facts and so on that relate to practical issues before the government. But the question of policy--of what we should do about it, if anything--is not a scientific question. It's a political one.

Let's take global warming. Is there global warming? If there is, is it man-made? If there is, and we wanted to stop or reverse it, what techniques would work? These are entirely scientific questions.

If there is, should we stop/reverse it? That's not scientific. A scientist can give the consequences for different policies, but science cannot tell us which policy (if any) to take. Science itself is morally neutral. Man's well-being, morality, and ethics are not scientifically determined. These can come from common sense (in easy cases), from political ideals, and most fundamentally from established religious and moral systems.

The article misses some of this, for instance with sex education. It declares abstinence-only education a failure (I'm not familiar with studies; it's not much of an interest of mine) and denigrates the idea, saying the issue is well-suited for rule-by-scientists. But pregnancy and STD infection rates aren't the whole issue. The morality of the actions are also important, and that's something entirely missed by looking at statistics. Should sex-ed be resigned to or even encouraging of sexual behavior by kids? A scientific approach misses this whole question.

Heck, let's take it up a notch to eugenics. There was a great job of rule by science! Scientific principles were driving the whole scheme. But should it have been done at all? Ahh, you see, that wasn't a scientific question, and the immorality of the program was dismissed by those Progressives who pushed for a scientific government.

Policy can or should be informed by research (depending on what we're talking about), but the decision of what to do cannot often be a scientific one.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

US Revokes visas for Honduran diplomats

Story here.

I don't get this. I mean, I'm eager to hear the reasoning for the other side, but I just don't hear any justification that isn't patently superficial and brief. I really thought we wouldn't go this far against Honduras. This is the option they were left with, given that they don't have the impeachment process in their country (which would be a good thing to add, really). There's not been a military takeover, and the democratically-elected government remains as it was, minus the former president. Honestly--why are we doing this?!

...but don't question his patriotism!

Bill Maher on whether Sarah Palin has a political future: "You never know with this stupid country."

I actually thought Obama's election would make liberals more "patriotic," in a sunshine-patriot's sort of way. Interesting that it hasn't been true for Maher, anyway.

Damn Yankee watch

Next exhibit: Sen. George Voinovich, "Republican" of the damnyankee state of Ohio.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

In which I engage Lunar Landing Conspiracy Theorists

Probably a mistake, but here are my two replies to commenters regarding Whoopie Goldberg's lunar landing denialism:

Post one.
Post two.

Monday, July 20, 2009

ATF says Tennessee's Firearms Freedom Act has no force in law

Story here. Nice. I hope this really picks a fight. Instapundit says the ATF is on solid legal grounds but that it won't play well.

I know the past 70 years of Federal behavior has been to ignore Washington's limitation to regulating only interstate commerce, so Glenn might be talking about precedent, but I've still got to think the state is the one on solid legal ground by both the meaning and letter of the Constitution. It defends Tennessee's intrastate firearms from Federal regulation.

I say, bring back nullification!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Abolish the Foreign Service?

See Powerline for the letter. The former Chief of Staff to the Counselor to the Secretary of State (say that three times fast!) writes to defend Obama for not appointing more Foreign Service Officers to ambassadorships.

I've got family and family of family and friends of family who are career FSOs, and I have an admiration for what they've done, but I've also gotten the same impression this correspondent does about many or most FSOs. The problem of going native seems to be a really big one, and I'm grateful it didn't happen with my relatives.

I didn't know about the Foreign Service being modeled on Bismark's F.S. Interesting.

Honduras: Zelaya's hints of force against the congress

Mary Anastasia O'Grady reports in the Wall Street Journal. He'd used thuggish tactics earlier this year in fights with the congress for things outside presidential powers. Not surprising, and perfectly in keeping with his being a Chavista.

Conrad Black has an article on Honduras in National Review. One thing that surprised me in this, if I understand correctly, is that Honduras doesn't have provision for impeachment of its president. Huh.

Oh, H*** No!

Commenting on the theme by Neal Peirce in my previous post, George Mason's Bob Nelson manages to forget an explicit Constitutional protection in this post: "Is the U.S. Senate Obsolete?".

As far as I can tell, he's annoyed that small-population, rural states get the same representation in the U.S. Senate as, say California and other overgrown states. I appreciate that the Federal government has wildly overstepped its Constitutional powers all across the board, but it's not only the Senate's fault, and that's the one place we small states can defend ourselves from the bullying of big states.

That's why the Constitution has a single provision which can never be amended away: the equal representation of states in the Senate.

Should we get rid of that? Insert my post title here.

UPDATE: Of course, I'm asking rhetorically. It's not even possible to get rid of that!

Arrogant City Slicker Watch

Exhibit A. Neal Peirce, of the Washington Post Writers Group. He asks, "Are States Obsolete?" and shows a profound ignorance of the governmental origins of the United States. He seems to think (this appears to lie behind his thinking--it's not stated explicitly) that the Federal government created the states (the original 13 as well as the rest), and thus that the borders are arbitrary subdivisions of a single government. Recall, of course, that the thirteen sovereign states (countries) after the Revolution created the Federal government between them. They're pre-existent and are Constitutionally the default loci of sovereign power. Only those powers the states have voluntarily ceded to the Federal government can be exercised by it.

Beyond that, he writes, states' problems arise from the excessive influence of rural lawmakers in their general assemblies. Oh, if only we could have a heavier hand of the urbanites at work in our capitals!

Ugh! I'd place this also in my Damn Yankee file, but I don't know for sure if he is or not. Ignorant city slicker, for sure.

Read the Citystates Group website's mission, posted here:

Our mission… to reflect a new American narrative. From a 20th century of cheap energy, endless automobility, burgeoning suburbs, threatened cities. To a challenge-packed 21st century: fast-rising energy costs, perilous carbon emissions, deepening have-have not divisions. But a time of exciting promise, too: rejuvenated cities, new citistate-wide consciousness, more protected lands, the most urban rail starts in a century.’s quest: to chronicle struggles, illuminate pathways to more vibrant, equitable, sustainable choices for grassroots America and citistates worldwide.


Sunday, July 12, 2009

Honduras: Republicans vs. Democrats

Story here. I'd feel better if there were some Democrats on our side on this. So far, I haven't seen any substantive defense of Zelaya, and I'd really like to read one.

A relative sort of sympathized with my opinion but said the rest of the Honduran government had made bad PR moves. Well, I agree, but that doesn't justify our government's response.

Of all people, our State Department's job ought to involve digging beneath the superficial appearances (="looks like a military coup") and find out what was actually going on (say, read those sections of the Honduran constitution their government cited).


Honduras: Chavez calls up the State Department

Story here. Best line, delivered with (I believe) a totally straight face: "I believe at various times the Venezuelan government has been supportive of a process that would lead to President Zelaya's return."

Ya think?!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Francis Collins to head NIH

But according to the New York Times, "Pick to Lead Health Agency Draws Praise and Some Concern." Well, how even-handed of them. There are two basic objections to Dr. Collins. The first is his very public embrace of religion.

Those two sentences have an eerie sound to them.

Miguel Estrada: the Honduran "coup" was constitutionally required

Read it here.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

A little more on Honduras

From Reuters, which kind of takes the pro-Zelaya line as a given. But it's clear in reporting how Chavez has been acting in this situation, both in public and behind the scenes. Maybe we should be more worried that he's taking a less-public role all of a sudden. It might mean he's got devious plans going on.

In related news, Hillary Clinton has given an interview with the last free television station in Venezuela. She doesn't come out and condemn Chavez but has some subtle criticisms. I wonder if that will accomplish anything or hearten anybody in that country. At least Globovision is happy she talked to them.

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

Roundup on Honduras

Some of these are a few days old, but I want to archive the links here so I don't have to keep the browser tabs open:
The DC Examiner

Open Market

Donald Sensing

Donald Sensing, again

Lightning on Mars

They've detected lightning on Mars caused by dust storms. Pretty neat.

One of the rare things that will make me visit my Senator

Let me introduce you to Section 304 of the "Cap and Trade" bill (Waxman-Markey).

This will be the law that forces you to make your home much, much more energy efficient. Wait--did you think you owned your house? That how you lived in it was your business? That the kinds of appliances and the windows and the furnace and whatnot were all matters for you, a free man, to decide?

Hah, hah, hah...silly person! No, you, my friend, are a ward of the state and unable to live your own life. Here, let us decide these things for you.

What the heck?!

As far as I can tell from this story, a private pool in Philadelphia just kicked out a day camp that had its black children swimming there (which it had permission to do). The club even seems to have given this as the reason.

Outrageous. Hopefully there's another explanation, but this is really surprising.

Using distributed computer processing to work out primordial life

Interesting article from on using distributed computing (like SETI@home and Einstein@home) applied to biology. The idea is to simulate the conditions and constituents of Earth's early oceans and see if you can get simple cells evolving from pre-biotic material.

The headline is entirely wrong, though: there's no toy model of the "universe" being simulated, but rather a toy model of an ocean. But to the writer's credit, the head of the project did use just that phrase, himself.

It's a really interesting project. As the designer notes, though, chemical reactions run faster than the computers can simulate them at the moment. So the simulation would run more slowly than a real-lab experiment. On the other hand, you've got the ability to control details in a way that you don't in a lab, and some day, the processors will be much faster.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Univ. Chicago to allow mixed-sex dorm roomates

What could possibly go wrong?

Update on Honduras

Good summary of the events so far in Honduras. It seems that two pro-Zelaya protestors were killed in clashes at the airport yesterday. Those police have got to restrain themselves: they're on a thread as far as foreign opinion goes, and maintaining a light hand on the population is necessary to hold on to any chance of legitimacy in the eyes of other governments.

Of course, I can't understand why the rest of the world, America first and foremost, has sided with Zelaya, who was trying to make himself into a strongman. It seems so clear that the Honduran government is in the right on this--that they followed the law and preserved their constitution--that I'm eager to find any reason we have for taking Zelaya's side. If I could try to see it from the State Department's point of view, I could at least analyze what their reasoning is. But no matter how much I read, the only thing I can come up with is that it was the army that carried out the orders to depose Zelaya. That's it. And so, in the State Department's phrase book, this has become a "military coup," despite the fact that the entire rest of the government (except the executive branch) acted together, and the army simply carried out a warrant from the supreme court.

The army is not in command of the government. Zelaya was the president, not "the government," in the odd wording of our administration (saying Zelaya "is" the government we recognize), and the entire rest of the government remains intact. I really, really, really don't get this. As Mary Anastasia O'Grady (who has the coolest name, by the way) writes in the Wall Street Journal, "Reason has gone AWOL in places like Turtle Bay and Foggy Bottom."

Code among Jefferson's papers solved

It's not a code Thomas Jefferson created (and he did make some), but rather one a friend sent to him in a letter. It's lain unsolved from 1801 until now. Robert Patterson, math professor at U. Penn and a friend of Jefferson's, sent it to him as a challenge, while they were discussing code and cipher techniques. Jefferson didn't solve it and was clearly impressed.

Now another mathematician, Dr. Lawren Smithline of the Institute for Defense Analyses, has cracked the code. Check out the WSJ article on the story for the details of how Patterson enciphered his message. Really impressive. And you'll enjoy Patterson's humor in what the message actually says.

Saturday, July 04, 2009

Octavio Sanchez on why it wasn't a "coup" in Honduras

Octavio Sanchez, a lawyer and former Honduran government official, explains the Honduran constitution to the rest of us and points out why the congress didn't just impeach Zelaya:

According to Article 239: "No citizen who has already served as head of the Executive Branch can be President or Vice-President. Whoever violates this law or proposes its reform [emphasis added], as well as those that support such violation directly or indirectly, will immediately cease in their functions and will be unable to hold any public office for a period of 10 years."

Notice that the article speaks about intent and that it also says "immediately" – as in "instant," as in "no trial required," as in "no impeachment needed."


He was detained and taken to Costa Rica. Why? Congress needed time to convene and remove him from office. With him inside the country that would have been impossible. This decision was taken by the 123 (of the 128) members of Congress present that day.

The actions taken in Honduras last week make sense in the light of this explanation. I wondered at first (just to play devil's advocate) whether his statement "of the 128 members of Congress present that day" left any room for force used to keep some pro-Zelaya legislators away, but no: The Honduran congress has 128 members. So 123 congressmen voted on this.

The provision of several unchangeable parts of the constitution is interesting. I think ours only has one--that no amendment could reduce the number of senators a state has. But what's more interesting is the enforcement for this is just about self-acting. It did require the Supreme Court to issue a writ to enforce it, but the result is one with no provision for a trial: if a president suggests amending the constitution to allow himself to stay in office, he's out immediately!

The reasoning for the exile makes sense, although I don't know if it was necessary. But then, I'm not a Honduran. I imagine they can run their government on their own terms.