30 June 2007

A break from serious things

Due to preoccupation with the amnesty-bill fight, I've been neglecting other topics. I'll be getting back to them. In the meantime, here are a few "lighter" items.

Republic of Sestakastan posts the chilling Origin of Ann Coulter (found via Zaius Nation).

Dr. Zaius also posts this collection of Dick Cheney jokes.

Samurai Frog has finished his epic work, The Bible Summarized by a Smartass.

Cox & Forkum, like most of us, are getting tired of Islamic rage.

Are these pics for real? Sperm donation in China (NSFW).

On the Pacific island of Vanuatu, there is a religion which worships Prince Philip (a member of the British royal family) as a god.

Does Vladimir Putin pay his security men in counterfeit money?

Finally, one source of unintentional humor on the internet is Conservapedia, a sort of bargain-basement version of Wikipedia for the flaming-nutjob fundamentalist crowd. For a taste of the thing, check out its article on dinosaurs.


A few last amnesty items

Rasmussen analyzes how the insular elite blundered into this tar pit.

Rich Lowry hails a new political force, "techno-populism".

Bill Quick agrees that bloggers are now a recognized power in the land, and sizes up battles yet to come.

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28 June 2007

Forty-six for, fifty-three against

The people's protest roared forth across this vast nation, from Maine to Midway and from Barrow to Brownsville. The calls and faxes and e-mails inundated Washington. The Senate's telephone system crashed and stopped working because of the overload. And in the end, they heard us. Amnesty came up fourteen votes short -- not able to muster even a simple majority.

Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC), consistently one of the strongest voices against the amnesty bill, probably said it best:

When the U.S. Senate brought the Amnesty bill back up this week, they declared war on the American people. This act created a cri-sis of confidence in their government. Thankfully, the American people won today. This is remarkable because it shows that Americans are engaged and they care deeply about their coun-try. They care enough for their country to get mad and to fight for it, and that’s the most important thing of all. Americans made phone calls and sent letters, and convinced the Senate to stop this bill.

This is a time for celebration -- even gloating -- but it is not a time to forgive or forget. Note well who voted the right way, and who voted the wrong way -- and remember, when the time comes to cast your own vote for or against a Senator.

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Today's the day

The second, and deciding, cloture vote on the Bush-Kennedy amnesty bill is scheduled for this morning. There have been reports that some of Tuesday's 64 yes votes have committed to voting no this time, but no sign of whether any others will flip from no to yes. It's not yet clear whether the yes vote can be pushed below the critical number of 60. We must keep the pressure up.

In the meantime, here are a few more pieces on the issue worth reading.

Stanley Kurtz thinks Senators haven't grasped how the internet age is changing politics:

The Internet was critical to the immigration bill’s first failure. If not for the blogs, the bill’s deceits and flaws would not have been so well or quickly exposed, and "comprehensive reform" would probably otherwise have passed within a couple of days. Now we’re at yet another new level. The public is being exposed to a basket of legislative tricks–of a sort that are rare in any case, and surely of a kind that have never been subjected to mass and rapid-fire public exposure. The undemocratic character of all that is happening here is being conveyed to the public in short order and with clarity–often through the medium of Senate aides themselves.

Douglas MacKinnon denounces the pro-amnesty Republicans' barrage of invective:

Going down the GOP line, Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina generically suggested I'm a "bigot." Homeland Security Chief Michael Chertoff (who should be protecting our nation and not attaching his nose to the president's backside) basically said I would prefer to kill illegal aliens. Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez suggested that I am in favor of "mass deportation,"
and former Bush speechwriter Michael Gerson said I'm "anti-immigrant." Wow. All of that invective hurled my way because I want to protect our borders and my country.

NRO rejects the fantasy that passing the bill will at least get a divisive issue out of the public eye:

Immigration has become more than a discrete public-policy issue. Thanks in large part to the comprehensivists’ handling of it, it has become a symbol of everything that many Americans detest about our political class. Both the president and the Congress have very low approval ratings. This bill will send
them lower. The number of Americans who tell pollsters that “Washington doesn’t listen to people like me” will go up. As it should.

The Rocky Mountain News actually favors amnesty, but denounces the shabby process:

It has been appalling to witness the defensive and dismissive approach President Bush and his congressional allies have deployed.....When the bill passed its first procedural hurdle by a 65-34 vote on Tuesday, the bargainers permitted senators to consider only a handful of amendments, several of which were clearly included to buy off some of their colleagues. These include proposals to add a U.S. attorney's office in Utah; increase the number of federal judges in some states; and (improbable as this might seem) create a commission to study the World War II internment of Latin Americans of Japanese descent.

The 231st anniversary of the foundation of this country is less than a week away. If we the people can stop this thing, we'll have shown that here at least, we still have what it takes to preserve what was created nearly a quarter-millennium ago.

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26 June 2007

Amnesty passes the first hurdle

The Senate has defied the American people and passed the first cloture vote 64-35. Here's the roll call of who voted which way.

They, and the political-media-business elite which supports this bill, think they can just ignore the firestorm of protest. They think this is still the same world as it was back before the organizing and empowering force of the internet. They think we'll have forgotten all about this by the time they come up for re-election. They don't realize it doesn't work that way any more.

The giant meteor has hit, the dinosaurs are being pelted with fallout, and the tiny mammals are chowing down on their eggs, and they're still too dumb to realize the game is up.

I think this posting sums up the situation well:

Senators who believe that by passing this bill they will at least be getting a divisive issue out of the way are making a serious mis-take. This is not 1986. The immigration issue is far more promi-nent now, and it will only grow in importance. Demographics, and the problems of assimilation in a globalized world of satellite dishes and easy travel will see to that. Look at how votes on the war have come back to haunt Democratic politicians. Votes by legislators of both parties on this bill will be haunting them–and all of us–for years to come.

Supporters of this bill sell it as a compromise that will heal America’s divisions. I fear it’s quite the reverse. This bill is infuriating the public and undermining faith in government itself. You can see it in the polling on confidence in Congress and the President. If this bill passes, it’s going to aggravate and embitter politics for years to come. Passing a measure over such over-whelming opposition is like slapping the public in the face.

Meanwhile, there's still that second cloture vote, probably on Thursday. The amnesty bill can still be stopped if just five Senators who voted yes today can be persuaded to vote no next time.

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25 June 2007


I never imagined that I would one day say this, but -- I would like to see our country follow the example set by France.

As an aside, it is startling that Russia is now a major destination for illegal immigrants! This shows how much the place has changed since Communist times, when they had to build walls to prevent people from getting out.

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How it works

In case anyone still doesn't know this, the amnesty bill faces up to three distinct votes in the Senate:

(1) The first cloture vote. This is, in effect, the vote to re-introduce the thing for consideration, and could take place as early as tomorrow.

(2) The second cloture vote. This is the vote to shut off debate and move the bill along to the up-or-down vote in which it will finally be passed or rejected. This second cloture vote could come as early as this Thursday.

(3) The final up-or-down vote.

Both cloture votes require 60 yes votes to pass (that is, 60 actual Senators, not just 60% of however many are present). Thus 41 Senators not voting yes -- whether they vote no, or don't vote at all, or are absent -- will stop the bill. This applies to either one of the two cloture votes. If there are fewer than 60 yes votes in the first vote tomorrow, the bill stops there. If it passes tomorrow, but fails to win 60 yes votes in the second cloture vote, again, it will be stopped. If it gets 60 yes votes in both cloture votes and moves on to the final up-or-down vote, then passage of the bill is certain, because the final vote goes by a simple majority -- meaning that 50 no votes would be needed to stop it at that point, which is not realistically possible. Thus only the two cloture votes represent actual chances to kill the amnesty. If a Senator claims he will vote yes on cloture but no on the final bill, this is a scam -- it's a way for him to claim credit for opposing the thing while still not actually helping to prevent it from passing. There must be 41 no votes on cloture (counting non-votes and absences as no votes).

For updates on the struggle to reach the magic 41, see here and here (click on the newest-dated headline).

The media are continuing to spin the opposition to amnesty as a conservative phenomenon. For the facts, see this Rasmussen poll, which reveals that Democrats, Republicans, and unaffiliated voters all oppose the bill by almost identical ratios (about 50% opposed to 20% in favor).

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24 June 2007

Oregon's Senator Smith decides

He'll vote no on amnesty. Note that he apparently decided "after hearing from thousands of his constituents." Our efforts make the difference!


The social issues

Even under the Christian-Right-dominated Bush administration, America as a society continues to inch forward:

The same results have showed up even in opinions about social issues. The average annual percentage of those believing abortion should be illegal dropped from 19 percent in 2004 to 15 percent in 2006, and the percentage believing it should be legal in "all circumstances" rose from 24 percent to 30 percent. Indeed, the outburst of religiosity that began a decade ago and sustained the Republican Party in the South and the prairie states seems to be abating. A 2007 study from the Pew Research Center reports "a reversal of the increased religiosity observed in the mid-1990s," along with greater tolerance among white evangelical Protestants toward homosexuals and working women. The Pew study finds, for instance, that among white evangelical Protestants, the percentage of those who completely disagree that "women should return to their traditional roles" has risen from 28 percent in 1997 to 42 percent today. That spells trouble for a conservative Republicanism rooted in religious conservatism.

The article this came from, which is long and deals mostly with the prospects of the Democratic party, is here. Also of interest are these new Newsweek poll results, which show any one of the three major Democratic Presidential contenders (Clinton, Obama, or Edwards) defeating any one of the four major Republicans (Giuliani, Thompson, McCain, or Romney) in a head-to-head general election match-up, with or without Bloomberg in the race. One shouldn't read too much into polls this far in advance of the election, but it does show the way things are shifting at the moment.


Think of her as.....

Would this ad be produced today? (Found via Mendip.)


More illegal aliens

Fleeing intolerable conditions at home, they pour illegally across the border into the relatively prosperous and developed country next door. As Glenn Reynolds points out, "Anyone who opposes this immigration must be a racist. Why else would anyone object to immigrants?"


22 June 2007

The Bloomberg boomlet

If Michael Bloomberg runs for President, what will the effect be?

Bloomberg has suggested that he will not decide whether or not to run until after both major parties have chosen their candidates, and then will run only if one or both candidates appear "weak"
(probably meaning, if they seem too far from the political center). In fact, I think a Bloomberg candidacy would be harmful to the country unless both major parties have nominated extremist candidates.

Here's how I see the basics of a "normal" 2008 race with only two significant candidates. Whichever candidate is closer to the political center will win. Specifically, if the Republicans nominate Rudy Giuliani -- tough on defense against Islamic imperialism but pro-freedom on most social issues (other than gun rights) -- then he will defeat pretty much any Democrat currently on offer. If the Republicans nominate the kind of hard-line "social conservative" that the fundamentalist nutjobs are pining for, that candidate will lose to the Democrat, unless the Democrat is much further to the left than the three major Democratic hopefuls now stand. Either way, the message to both of the parties will be clear: moving to the center wins, moving to the fringe and pandering to the "base" (far-right or far-left, depending on the party) loses.

Bloomberg presents himself as a centrist outsider, an alternative to the bickering, business-as-usual major parties in thrall to their respective hard-line "bases". This is Ross Perot territory, and the available polls (for whatever they're worth almost 17 months before the election) show Bloomberg likely getting somewhere in the range of 7% to 15% of the vote, similar to what Perot got. This is easily enough to "flip" several close states from one column to the other in the Electoral College, and thus change the outcome of the election. The question is, which side would he take more votes from?

It's generally recognized that a far-right third candidate hurts the Republican, while a far-left third candidate hurts the Democrat. This is because no liberal would ever vote for a far-right third candidate, while some conservatives would, so that the far-right candidate splits conservative voters while leaving liberals united behind the Democrat (there is also pressure on the Republican to shift further right to win back conservatives from the far-right candidate, thus alienating some centrist voters). A far-left third candidate, of course, creates the mirror image of this effect, dividing liberals while leaving conservatives united.

Logically, therefore, a centrist third candidate will hurt whichever of the two major candidates is closer to the center. Think about it. If the Republicans nominate Giuliani, he will likely win a "normal" two-candidate race by appealing to centrist and even moderate-left voters who find his socially-liberal views acceptable and fear that the Democrat will be weak on defense. But if Bloomberg is in the race, many of these voters who have misgivings about voting for a Republican will opt for him instead -- throwing the victory in the race to the Democrat. Conversely, if the Republicans nominate a "social conservative", the Democrat gains the advantage in a two-candidate race by appealing to centrists who dread another four years of Christian Right dominance of the government and the erosion of personal freedom that implies -- but again, if Bloomberg is available, many such voters would opt for him instead of the Democrat, throwing the race to the Republican.

Some are already arguing that such fears are overblown and that as the actual election day approaches, Bloomberg's support will dwindle to Nader-like levels. This strikes me as unlikely. Nader was not a centrist but a representative of one of the extremes (in his case, the extreme left), and he had nothing like the money available to Bloomberg. In any case, the 2000 race was so close that even Nader's tiny share of the popular vote may have affected the outcome. The 2008 race might be very close too -- we just don't know yet.

By robbing the more centrist major candidate of the victory, Bloomberg could actually strengthen radical partisanship and muddy the message the election could otherwise have sent.

There is only one situation in which a Bloomberg candidacy could be beneficial -- if both parties cave to their bases, and give us a race with a Christian Right "social conservative" against a man of the radical internationalist left. In that case, the country's best hope would be that longest of long shots -- that Bloomberg would actually win.



Developed by the Soviet Union during the Cold War for high-speed military sea transportation, the ekranoplan was a sort of giant hovercraft with some of the characteristics of an airplane. The technology never went any further and is now almost forgotten, but the designs are intriguing, and a smaller version may yet be revived in modern Russia.

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Amnesty update

Latest here. Momentum may be swinging our way. Remember, it's the cloture vote that counts (no on cloture = no on amnesty).


21 June 2007

What was Michelangelo thinking?

You can't tell me that this simply didn't occur to him.


The Bush amnesty

Identifying vampires

In the year 1215 that great bastion of infallible truth, the Catholic Church, officially recognized the reality of vampires. In the years that followed, the Church documented numerous "known cases" of vampirism, and established criteria by which vampires could be identified. Here's a look at the phenomenon through modern eyes (somewhat unpleasant for the squeamish).

Table manners

Some people I know could learn a thing or two from these diners.


This takes courage

Ex-Muslims in Britain are organizing to resist Islamic thuggery.

I have to draw attention to one weasel line in the Reuters excerpt: "Leaving Islam is considered a crime punishable by death in some Muslim-majority countries." The fact is, leaving Islam is a crime punishable by death according to Islam, period. This is an innate and immutable dogma of the religion itself, whether or not it is acknowledged by this or that Muslim government.

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Quote for the day

"What leaves me cold is the notion that we have gone at it with years of half-measures. We have worried more about civilian casualties than winning. We have worried more about detainees' rights than winning. We have worried more about world opinion than winning. Tell me when this president comes to the American people and says: 'Wars are long and bloody and hard. If you think it's been tough to swallow so far, what happens next will be particularly hard to swallow.' Then we begin to fight a real war. Since so few know what that really means, I'll spell it out: It means killing enough of the enemy that they lose the will to fight. Period. From the Revolutionary War through the World Wars to Gulf War I, that's how we've won every victory we have achieved. When we have not won - Korea, Vietnam, the current war - it has been because we have failed to grasp war's most basic tenet: You must vanquish the enemy wholly, decisively and without remorse."

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20 June 2007

And one pill makes you tall

A world leader at last!

18 June 2007

France's parliamentary election

Sarkozy's party wins a majority, though not by such a large landslide as hoped.

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Commoners marching with pitchforks

The inimitable John Derbyshire assails the arrogance of the pro-amnesty political aristocracy.


17 June 2007

A local echo of the amnesty fight

A few days ago the federal authorities raided two workplaces in my home city of Portland, Oregon, and arrested 167 suspected illegal aliens. Mayor Tom Potter, who apparently supports the amnesty bill currently under consideration in the US Senate, condemned the raids. In a massive response, the Mayor's office was inundated with more than 800 phone calls and e-mails. As best I can tell from this story in the Portland Tribune (whose editorial position also favors the amnesty bill), most of these communiqués attacked the Mayor's position.

The story notes that this response was "the most e-mails we’ve ever gotten on a single subject”. The fact that it was the Mayor's mere expression of opinion (not even an act of office) that drew such criticism suggests to me that the public's feelings on the issue are running high -- and that the people are primed and ready to launch the onslaught of calls and e-mails which will be needed to stop the Senate from reviving the amnesty bill this week.

As another point of interest, I should also note that Portland's main newspaper The Oregonian is much given to running pro-amnesty editorials and sympathetic human-interest stories about illegal aliens, and that nearly all the letters to the editor which appear in response to these pieces are hostile to the illegal-alien cause, even though Portland is generally quite a liberal city.


Just doing some business

A master responds to an amateur: first read this typical scam spam e-mail, then read this reply.


Elite stupidity

One of the odder and more repulsive forms of political advocacy I occasionally see on the internet is proposals that some particular category of citizens (such as public employees, in one case) should have their right to vote taken away on some grounds or other. Here, Sadly, No! dissects a suggestion that the uneducated (or those who cannot "pass a test of economic literacy") should be disenfranchised.

I have to admit that the thought of tens of millions of people whose mental level is such that they believe in flying saucers, angels, psychic healing, the Bermuda Triangle, or creationism helping to choose the President is sometimes a little scary. But once you start thinking in terms of letting certain people (which ones?) decide who is or isn't too dumb to vote, you're opening a can of worms the size of the Grand Canyon.

My comment on the suggestion that the well-educated should be given extra votes to increase their influence on politics: In fact, the most educated, rational, and articulate people already have access to an extra lever of political influence. They can use their superior powers of expression to sway and persuade others, in ways that the unthinking and inarticulate cannot. If an educated person finds that his effectiveness in this regard is less than he feels it should be, perhaps his logic and argumentation are not as stellar as he imagines.

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In the name of religion

If you think it's only Christianity and Islam that commit and justify revolting abuses, read this.


Another must-read on the amnesty bill

Mark Steyn weighs in on the issue:

The bill is fundamentally a fraud. Its ''comprehensive solution'' to illegal immigration is simply to flip all the illegals overnight into the legal category. Voila! Problem solved! There can be no more illegal immigrants because the Senate has simply abolished the category. Ingenious! For their next bipartisan trick, Congress will reduce the murder rate by recategorizing murderers as jaywalkers.

One cavil: Steyn objects to the term "undocumented immigrant", but I am actually all in favor of the media continuing to use it -- because it infuriates people, and right now people need to be infuriated.

Steyn, of course, is known for his recent book America Alone in which he predicts that western Europe will collapse and lose its Western identity due to its growing, militant, indigestible Muslim population, leaving the US as the sole major representative of our kind of civilization. If this bill actually passes -- with its promise of amnesty for twelve million illegals, an influx of tens of millions more on the grounds of "family reunification", and the Devil knows how many tens of millions of further illegals flooding into the US in anticipation of yet another amnesty a decade or two from now, I may have to start on a book myself: Russia Alone.


16 June 2007

Is big business shifting to the left?

An interesting and wide-ranging essay by Christopher Hayes on a little-discussed phenomenon -- in contrast to its earlier stance, big business in the US increasingly favors government solutions to problems such as health care and global warming. The former issue is one where it has always seemed to me that American business suffers a great competitive disadvantage because of the US system (or lack of one) -- the US is the only advanced country with no government health-care system, which means that US companies normally buy health insurance for their employees, thus incurring a huge expense that their competitors in other advanced nations do not.

Or imagine you’re a major car company debating whether to site a new car plant in Canada or Alabama. After weighing the pros and cons, you decide on Canada. Why? Because in the United States, health care costs are growing at 7 percent above inflation, and you’re likely to be on the hook for your employees’ health care costs into the foreseeable future. This, in fact, is exactly what happened in 2005, when Toyota sent shockwaves through corporate boardrooms by opting to open a new plant in Woodstock, Ontario, citing Canada’s socialized medicine as a factor.

Business's newfound concern about global warming is also welcome and also, in fact, predictable. Businessmen, unlike politicians or libertarian ideologists, seldom prosper for long if they insist on living in imaginary worlds of their own devising in which real-world issues can be whisked into nonexistence with sarcastic quips. You don't get to be CEO of GE or PG&E by stridently insisting that any problem which threatens your favored ideology isn't real. And businessmen, like all other organisms, have an interest in the survival and health of the planetary ecosystem on which their existence depends.

All this presents challenges for the Republican party which, according to Hayes, it is ill-prepared to meet.

At the end of the day, the country can’t tax-cut its way to better health care or a post-oil economy or fewer carbon dioxide emissions. The titans of capitalism are beginning to realize that, even if the conservative movement’s leading lights can’t—or won’t.

Political alignments in the US are shifting and recombining in a number of novel ways, none of which favor the Republicans as currently constituted. Will they ever wake up? Can they ever wake up? Does anyone care?


God and amputees

Amnesty roundup

John McCain's strong support for the amnesty bill is a big part of the reason for the recent sudden collapse of his Presidential bid:

The Senate immigration bill backed by the President is opposed by a broad cross-section of the American public. McCain’s vocal and visible support for that bill has cost him dearly over the past month… both among Republican Primary voters and the general public.

Here's a good omen from the House of Representatives, with many Democrats voting the right way.

Thomas Sowell, looking at Europe's experience, comes up with a better term for the "guest worker" program.

Kausfiles continues to have regular updates.

Check out Noam Askew's "Day In, Day Out" blog, dedicated to the amnesty fight.


15 June 2007

NATO shows some spine

The alliance declares "strong determination" to work with Ukraine toward its membership.

Again, congratulations, President Putin.

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"It's back. It's beatable."

Mickey Kaus is back on the story as the second battle over the amnesty bill unfolds.

a) The Founding Fathers made it quite difficult to pass legislation -- even popular legislation, and b) this legislation is not popular (politicians worried about keeping their jobs won't be as gullible as the MSM when it comes to tendentious polls).

More (as always) here.


69% for deportation

Debra Saunders cuts through the media distortions to remind us where the broad mass of Americans -- not just conservatives -- really stand on illegal aliens and the amnesty bill.


Against theocracy, again

The second Blogswarm against Theocracy is scheduled for the Independence Day weekend. Info here and (from time to time) here. Found via Zaius Nation. For postings contributed to the previous blogswarm back in April, see the link in my links list to the right.


14 June 2007

Amnesty, take 2

Even after the amnesty bill was stopped last week, some of the perpetrators in the Senate talked of reviving it. Now President Bush has thrown his full weight behind the effort. A review of the situation -- and tips on how to fight back -- here. And no doubt Mickey Kaus will be covering events in detail once again.

Froma Harrop and Fred Barnes think Bush will fail. But we can't take anything for granted. No effort must be spared to stop this thing.

The obvious message, from the people to Bush and the Senate: "What part of 'No' did you not understand?"

A reminder: the opposition includes people on the left as well as the right.

A comparison with the costs of constructing freeway noise barriers suggests that a border fence is easily affordable -- see point 6 here.

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Quote for the day

"Last year, the sop to the American people was the promise of a fence on the border. This year, the big question is: 'Where is the fence?' That will still be the question ten years from now, if we let the politicians soothe us with words."


12 June 2007

Congratulations, President Putin

Your bluster and efforts at intimidation have now inspired the President of Ukraine to put NATO membership on the front burner.

Ukraine is not Estonia. It's the second-biggest Slavic nation (population 48 million, one-third of Russia's own 148 million), with a language so closely related to Russian as to be almost a dialect of the latter (and more of its people speak Russian than Ukrainian anyway), and is probably more culturally similar to Russia than English Canada is to the United States. The Ukrainian border is closer to Moscow than the South Carolina border is to Washington. Ukraine is by far the most important and valuable of the republics that broke free of Russian control when the Soviet Union collapsed -- and before that collapse it had been part of the Soviet Union and Russian Empire for centuries. Very likely most Russians haven't yet quite come to terms with the idea of Ukraine as a genuine separate country -- try to imagine how jarring it would be for Americans to think of Texas as an independent nation, if it were to declare itself one.

Ukraine joining NATO would represent the greatest imaginable failure of Russian foreign policy. To Russians it would be a political earthquake. If such an event didn't open the Russian people's eyes to the disastrous nature of Putin's strategy, it is hard to imagine what would.


11 June 2007

The new wave of atheism in America

Is it possible that "unbelievers" actually make up as much as one-fourth of the US population? That's what this essay argues, based on analysis of several surveys of religious belief.

Atheism has recently won new prominence and respectability in our country due to the fiery and popular books of Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and Dennett. But even before that, it may actually have been much more widespread than most people imagine. This is certainly the case among the most educated:

After all, unbelievers are concentrated at the higher end of the educational scale--a recent Harris American poll shows that 31 percent of those with postgraduate education do not avow belief in God (compared with only 14 percent of those with a high school education or less). The percentage rises among professors and then again among professors at research universities, reaching 93 percent among members of the National Academy of Sciences. Unbelievers are to be found concentrated among those whose professional lives emphasize science or rationality and who also have developed a relatively high level of confidence in their own intellectual faculties. And they are frequently teachers or opinion-makers.

The essay argues that the time is ripe for a coalition of unbelievers and secular, non-fundamentalist believers who are equally fed up with the Christian Right and its excessive influence over national politics. The latter have more in common with the former than they do with the extremists. Together we can restore the secular character both of the government and of society.

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Dispatch from the planet of the elite consensus

Oh, c'mon! No matter how much you were saying "stop! stop!" while we were doing this to you, you know you really wanted it.

Be sure to read the comments. Also see here for another reality check.


More response to Putin's belligerence

Yet another former Soviet satellite country now wants to participate in the US anti-missile plan.

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More on the collapse of the amnesty bill

It really was a mass popular uprising, according to John Podhoretz and the New York Times (thanks to Chell for the link).

Glenn Reynolds's book An Army of Davids, on how technology is empowering "the little guy" in ways never previously possible, is well worth reading in this connection -- the revolt against the elite consensus on amnesty is a good example of what he was talking about.

According to Mickey Kaus, Bush doesn't get it and is planning to revive the amnesty. Click here for more details on the plot, and the DVD cover art. Vigilance!

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Reportage on the first round of the parliamentary elections. Looks like good news. Sarkozy's party is expected to hold about 80% of seats after next Sunday's second round of voting.

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10 June 2007

Piled high and deep

There's snow, and then there's snow.


More on the anti-missile dispute

This map -- from the Russian newspaper Kommersant -- clearly illustrates how the Czech-Polish location of the proposed US anti-missile system makes sense only if it is intended as a response to Middle Eastern threats, rather than being directed against Russia.

Found via Siberian Light.

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What a turkey

Jabberwock has posted a dissection of yet another preposterous Chick tract, this one about Thanksgiving. This one is particularly interesting for the authentic details on the story of the Pilgrims, a subject Chick evidently doesn't know, er, jack about.

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Chapter and verse

An important point about illegal immigration

I've occasionally noticed a disturbing tendency by writers to conflate the terms "illegal alien" and "Hispanic" as though they were more or less synonymous. They are not.

A large minority of the illegal aliens in the US are not Hispanic. In fact, many of them come from European countries.

A large majority of the Hispanic people in the US are not illegal aliens -- they are either American citizens or legal residents.

An American is an American, period. An American citizen of Hispanic ancestry is just as American as anyone whose ancestors arrived on the Mayflower.

An illegal alien is an illegal alien, period. The enforcement of immigration laws should be carried out against all illegal aliens equally, irrespective of race or national origin.

I think pretty much all enforcement advocates understand these points. However, it is important to emphasize them explicitly and often, so as to make it clear that we want nothing to do with the racist fringe of society.


They still don't get it

If one were seeking examples of how our politicians often seem not to operate in the real world that the rest of us inhabit, one could do worse than this essay by Janet Napolitano, the Governor of Arizona, in which she pleads for Congress to take another crack at enacting an amnesty for illegal aliens.

Opponents of the Senate immigration bill -- those who really want to do nothing -- merely yelled "amnesty" in place of reasoned opposition.

Whatever planet she lives on evidently lacks access to the internet on this one. Opponents of the amnesty made many principled and reasoned arguments -- that it would reward lawbreaking, that it would encourage more illegal immigration, that it would depress the wages of unskilled American workers by unfair competition, that it would betray and insult the millions of would-be legal immigrants who followed the law and are waiting for their turn to come, that the government has never properly enforced existing laws and we have no reason to trust it to enforce new ones.

For 20 years our country has done basically nothing to enforce the 1986 legislation against either the employers who hired illegal immigrants or those who crossed our borders illegally to work for them. Accordingly, our current system is, effectively, silent amnesty.

So start enforcing the laws you admit we are not enforcing, thus bringing the "silent amnesty" to an end. Don't convert it into a de jure amnesty. That's what your constituents were telling you.

If we have no comprehensive immigration reform this year, and if we do not deal rigorously and openly with those already here, silent amnesty will continue.

Not if we start enforcing the existing laws.

Napolitano gives examples of what she calls the "arbitrary and unfair" character of current enforcement:

A man in the United States illegally was pulled over in Phoenix and charged with driving under the influence. Immigration officers arrested him, his wife and their 19-year-old son, who were also here illegally. An aunt says that their 12-year-old daughter -- who is an American citizen -- cries every day for the family members who had to leave her behind. This is a fair immigration system?

What's unfair about this? Three people who broke the law were caught and given the prescribed punishment. Many criminals who are sent to prison have 12-year-old daughters who probably cry over them. Should we exempt criminals from punishment if they have minor children?

The Immigration Customs and Enforcement agency has sent several top-ranking students from Arizona State University to a camp in Eloy, Ariz., to await deportation to countries they have never lived in. The students have earned top marks, have never been in serious legal trouble and by all measures are primed to become productive members of our economy. This is a wise immigration policy?

If these students were illegal aliens, they had broken the law by coming here. Should we exempt criminals from punishment if they are good students? I was a very good student in my time. Can I get one of these exemptions so I can break the law without fear of punishment?

If these examples are "unfair", it is hard to imagine that very many illegal aliens could be "fairly" deported -- that is, they are an argument against most enforcement.

It is fundamentally unfair and unrealistic to suggest that our system remain as it is and ignore the 12 million who ran the gantlet at the border and managed to find work in our country.

No one is suggesting that we should do that. We want enforcement of the law, especially employer sanctions, so that jobs for illegals will dry up and those 12 million interlopers will go back to where they belong.

It is not "amnesty" to require these individuals to earn the privilege of citizenship, as have the millions of immigrants who came before them.

If you end up giving illegal aliens a legal right to stay in the US, it's an amnesty. Everything else is just smoke and mirrors.

Why is a person who addresses the anti-illegal-immigration majority of the American people with such condescension and misrepresentation the governor of a state?

Build the border fence. Tough employer sanctions. No amnesty.


09 June 2007

Why Russia and not Brazil?

An interesting question.

Brazil, incidentally, is more of a technological innovator than you might think; see here and here.

They could use some help with logo design, though.

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Open-source biology

A look at the future of medicine:

The biotechnology of 2007 is much akin to the computational technology of 1957. There is a great road ahead of us, and even the nearest visible waystations promise gains in longevity and health unlike any seen before.



Daylight Atheism debunks the meme that strongly-committed atheists are "dogmatic" in the same sense as the religious are.


What real men really want

Dennis the Peasant explains real life to Amanda Marcotte.


The amnesty is dead

We did it. We beat this thing. Read obituaries by Rasmussen.....

The immigration bill failed because a broad cross-section of the American people are opposed to it. Republicans, Democrats, and unaffiliated voters are opposed. Men are opposed. So are women. The young don’t like it; neither do the no-longer-young. White Americans are opposed. Americans of color are opposed. The last Rasmussen Reports national telephone poll found that just 23% of Americans supported the legislation. When a bill has less popular support than the War in Iraq, it deserves to be defeated.

.....by NRO.....

What happened is that the American people came out of the shadows. Their opposition to the Senate’s grand compromise, amplified and given voice by talk radio and other dissenting media voices, were enough to carry the day.

.....by Mickey Kaus.....

Indeed, when Gallup described to voters various alternatives, the most popular, at 42%, was "to require illegal immigrants to leave, to but allow them to return if they meet certain require-ments over a period of time." That sounds a lot like--yikes--deportation, no? Another 14% wanted flat deportation with no possibility of eventual return. 42+14=56.

.....by Bill Quick.....

First, we [bloggers] exposed the crudely hacked polls that claimed amnesty was overwhelmingly favored by those they polled. Second, we publicized the polls that showed the true state of affairs - that Americans hated this travesty - and thus gave folks who thought they were alone in their opposition the comfort of knowing that, far from being a lonely minority, they were part of a whopping majority. Third, we turned up the heat on congress, and kept it on flambe until the bill was toast.

.....and by Michelle Malkin, warning of the danger of a sort of zombie resurrection.....

This is neither the beginning nor the end of the immigration debate. The White House is still trying to push shamnesty through. I predicted a while ago that after the massive amnesty package failed, Congress would break off chunks of the bill and try and pass it piecemeal. I expect that to happen here, as it has repeatedly in the past. Wanted: Vigilance.

Well, if they try to bring it back, they'll know they've got a fight on their hands.

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08 June 2007

The Russian radar proposal

It's too soon to know what to make of this, but maybe, just maybe, it's a good sign. Maybe, just maybe, the Russian regime has figured out that if it can't even intimidate Latvia, its aggresive strategy isn't working and it's time for a new approach. (Background here.)

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07 June 2007

France still moving in the right direction

France will hold parliamentary elections next week, and polls predict a landslide victory for pro-Sarkozy forces.

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More on the amnesty bill

Existing laws would work if enforced.

Unions betray American workers.

It's not racism, it's the rule of law.

Polls by Gallup and Rasmussen show that the public is turning against the amnesty bill.

Real-time updates on the legislative battle here and here.

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06 June 2007

What is Putin up to?

The increasing rhetorical belligerence of the Russian regime raises the question of what exactly Putin is trying to accomplish. The most recent example seems especially baffling. The US, along with the governments of Poland and the Czech Republic, wants to install anti-missile defenses in those countries. Putin vehemently objects, claiming that the missiles are in some way directed against Russia; the regime has even threatened to aim Russian nuclear missiles at targets in Europe if the plan goes through (a symbolic step of much less real importance than it might appear, since nuclear missiles can be re-targeted in a matter of minutes, and Europe would inevitably be involved in any nuclear conflict between the US and Russia, whether missiles had been aimed there before the conflict or not). Russia has also recently tested new ballistic and cruise missiles which, it claims, can penetrate any missile-defense system.

What's really going on here?

First, it is simply not possible that Putin really believes that the US anti-missile system is directed against Russia. Even if it were to work perfectly, it would be totally useless at stopping an attack by a huge nuclear arsenal such as Russia's. It would be effective only against isolated missile launches such as those of which Iran may be capable. Russia has no shortage of missile experts, so Putin undoubtedly knows this.

I think the regime's aggressive rhetoric has to be understood in the context of its recent actions toward Estonia and of its efforts to convert its position as major supplier of fossil fuels to Europe into political leverage. Like France, Russia is having difficulty coming to terms with its fall from superpower status (especially since that status was far more real, and far more recent, for Russia than for France). Inevitably, there are elements in Russia -- elements to which Putin certainly belongs -- who want to re-assert Russia's power, especially its dominance over the countries which were part of its empire in Soviet times. Poland and the Czech Republic, like Estonia, fall into the latter category. The increasing American military presence in those countries -- not only the proposed anti-missile system, but the fact that most of the ex-Warsaw-Pact states and even the Baltic states have joined NATO -- is resented because it takes those countries "off the table", making them practically immune to being incorporated into a revived Russian zone of domination. By forcing those countries to bow to Russia's will in some area -- any area -- the regime would convince itself (and perhaps more importantly, the Russian people) that its dominance is being re-asserted.

What the regime does not seem to understand is the intensity of other eastern European nations' determination never to allow themselves to be forced into such a position. Even tiny Estonia, a former constituent republic of the USSR which borders on Russia and is far from the centers of Western power, did not knuckle under. It is very unlikely that larger countries such as strongly-nationalistic Poland will do so either. Even western Europe, which many American conservatives claim is so feeble that it is doomed to be taken over by a bunch of loudmouth mullahs in a matter of decades, has reacted by pushing for greater energy independence. It may be significant that western Europe's two new pro-American leaders were touched personally by Soviet domination -- Angela Merkel grew up in East Germany, while Nicolas Sarkozy is the son of a Hungarian refugee. Every effort by Putin's Russia to bully its neighbors will merely frighten them and drive them closer to the United States, which they see as the strongest potential protector of their independence.

In short, the Russian regime's efforts to browbeat its neighbors seem doomed to produce nothing but a series of embarrassing failures, with the Estonian confrontation being only the first.

It is understandable that any country wants to maximize its power. It is even more understandable that Putin is popular among the Russian people, who want their country's power to be respected, and who have grown far more prosperous under his rule than they were during the chaotic Yeltsin period (and remain much freer than they were under Communism). But it is essential, for them and for us, that they realize that Putin's approach to foreign affairs is not the way. It will lead only to Russia becoming isolated and losing what it has gained. Furthermore, the real existential threats to Russia come from Islam and China (which are, note, also adversaries of the US), not from the West. It is not in Russia's interest to foment pointless and artificial conflicts with the West.

Every ex-superpower faces a choice. It can join the US-dominated global system as an ally, or it can stand outside that system and try to assert itself as a rival. Britain and Japan chose the first option a long time ago. France, in this year's election, may finally have chosen it. Russia is about to learn that the second option is a dead end. And the sooner the better, because Russia joining the American camp would be the best thing that could possibly happen for both countries and for Western civilization in general.

I've thought for a long time that what Russia really needs is something like the Ukrainian Orange Revolution, where popular protests against an obviously-rigged election led to a peaceful transition to democracy in a country very culturally similar to Russia. Given the Russian people's nostalgia for superpower status (something which Ukraine, as such, never had in the first place) and the regime's ability to buy popular support with fossil-fuel revenues, the likelihood of such a thing has been looking remote lately. But if Putin bulls ahead and leads Russia into a series of embarrassing foreign-policy disasters between now and next year's Presidential "election" (which will undoubtedly be rigged in favor of his chosen successor), he just might manage to awaken his subjects in a way he never expected.

Update (7 June): Bush is adopting a conciliatory tone and offering to open the anti-missile system to Russian inspectors. Responding to Putin's belligerence, Latvia (another tiny ex-Soviet republic sharing a common border with Russia) is offering to host American missiles.

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Quote for the day

"These aliens must then 'pass a strict background check,' 'hold a job,' 'maintain a clean record,' and 'eventually learn English.' This sounds like the lawbreaker was given a pardon, not a plea bargain, with minimal penalties. If a man broke into your house, how would you feel if the judge punishes the guy by allowing him to stay at your house, but he has to pay rent, sign an admission of guilt and stay away from your children? This amnesty deal also is unfair to the people who made the mistake of respecting the rule of law. Any foreign national waiting in line legally to come to the U.S. would have been better off sneaking in illegally and finding an under-the-table job. They would be eligible for this program. The good conservative-minded foreigners who followed the letter of the law are being punished, because they were dumb enough to actually believe the rule of law would be respected."


Stem cells strike again

British scientists are developing a technique that could restore sight to people blinded by macular degeneration.


Supporting Estonia

The US House of Representatives has unanimously passed a resolution supporting the position of the Estonian government in the Bronze Soldier crisis.

While essentially symbolic, the resolution is important as a way of showing Putin and his regime that the West will not be cowed by his belligerent rhetoric. This is especially true since it passed unanimously and came from the Democratic-dominated House (rather than from, for example, the Bush administration, which has severely lost credibility and clearly represents only a portion of the American people).

If only the Senate would show as much respect for the sovereignty of the US as the House has for Estonia's.


04 June 2007

The wit and wisdom of Vladimir Putin

Words to live by, from the Russian leader.

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Quote for the day

"The equivalent disaster scenario on immigration would go something like this: 'Comprehensive reform' passes. The 12 million illegals are legalized as planned. But the untested enforcement provisions prove no more effective than they've been in the past — or else they are crippled by ACLU-style lawsuits and lobbying (as in the past). Legal guest workers enter the country to work, but so do millions of new illegal workers, drawn by the near-certain prospect that they too, some day, will be considered too numerous to deport. Soon we have another 12 million illegals, or more. Wages for unskilled low-income American and immigrant workers are depressed. As a result, in parts of L.A., visible contrasts of wealth and poverty reach near-Latin American levels. And, yes, the majority of the new illegals are from one country, Mexico — a nation with a not-implausible claim on large chunks of the Southwestern U.S. For the first time, a neighboring country will have a continuing hold on the loyalties — and language — of a majority of residents in some states, with the potential for Quebec-like problems, and worse, down the road."


03 June 2007

Christianity, summarized

Behold the “word of god”: The belief that a cosmic jewish zombie who was his own father can make you live forever if you symbolically eat his flesh and telepathically tell him that you accept him as your master, so he can remove an evil force in your soul that is present in humanity because a rib woman was convinced by a talking snake to eat from a magical tree.

Yes, that sounds like a rational belief system well suited to serve as the basis of our twenty-first-century technological civilization.

Found here.

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The battle over amnesty

A couple of good essays by Debra Saunders:

Does the government think we're stupid?

Washington does not have to pass new laws to beef up border enforcement or punish law-breaking employers. Those laws exist. To the extent that such laws have not been enforced, the cause is not that laws are not tough enough, but that Washington has lacked the will to enforce them.

It's a fight for America's soul:

They won't hear about the legal immigrants whose families spent years waiting and slogging through the system to obtain green cards and apply for citizenship. They won't hear how these immigrants react to the federal government giving a pass to those who illegally jumped to the head of the line.

The New York Times says that Bush's support for amnesty is "testing" his conservative base. If that's the correct term for what Bush's pro-amnesty position is doing to his base (and to the country), then I saw a dog "testing" a fire hydrant the other day.

Parenthetically, I am getting very tired of reading this kind of thing:

White House officials.....expressed frustration at what they described as ill-informed criticism that the bill provided amnesty for illegal immigrants when it in fact traded legal status for fines and fees

Let me explain the fundamental point here in simple language. If a plan offers the existing illegal-alien population any legal right to stay in the US, on any basis, it's an amnesty. Period. Anything else that such a plan does, or doesn't do, is irrelevant to the fact of its being an amnesty.

The Los Angeles Times claims that it's the pro-amnesty coalition in the Senate which is about to be "tested". We can only hope so.

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02 June 2007

With ethical diamonds

High school graduation in Russia

Not quite like here. The odd uniforms are a relic of Soviet times, now worn only on graduation day.

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The little problem

Church signs get snippy. Found via Mendip.

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Weird art

Zaius Nation presents "A Surrealist Gallery of Animated Gifs". Some people are scarily imaginative -- I'm not sure I want to know what that critter in "GOP Agenda" is supposed to be.

Dr. Z is also hosting a "Carnival of the Liberals" next month. Love the picture.


Toxic toothpaste

When even the Bush-administration FDA says there's a problem -- there's a problem.

Read this too.

As a replacement, a concerned reader suggests "Tom's of Maine, which actually says 'Made in USA' on it, and states on its list of ingredients that its glycerin comes from vegetable oils."

Meanwhile, I regard this as pure theater designed to convince an alarmed world that the Chinese regime is "doing something" about its exports of tainted food products. The regime is very casual about killing its subjects (with 22% of the world's population, China carries out about 80% of the world's executions). When bad practices are so pervasive and blatant, and have been going on for years, there is something far more serious at work than just one, or a few, corrupt officials.