Thursday, November 10, 2005
I haven’t talked much about torture here because I came to the conclusion a long time ago that my view of what constitutes torture doesn’t completely match the way others view the topic. Looks like Derbyshire just came to that same conclusion:
Yeah, that’s about the view of it, isn’t it? In my world view, torture is more than merely being a bit mean and rough.
I’m wondering whether that leaves me outside the societal norm or if most people don’t understand that when critics accuse Americans of torture, they aren’t talking about the third world despot’s version involving what I would consider truly inhumane treatment. No professional rapists or surgeons devoted to removing body parts on our payrolls.
But does that average American understand the distinction in the current debate? Keep in mind, 24 is a wildly successful show, but the things that Jack does on a regular basis to extract information from terrorists are often a few steps beyond what someone like Andrew Sullivan seems to be thinking of when he cries “torture.” It seems to me that the people who cheer Jack aren’t going to get squeamish over our intelligence services’ use of intimidation and aggressive persuasion.
There are dividing lines, of course, and I still suggest being very open about what is and is not acceptable. What some people think of as torture, though, wouldn’t even qualify as a bad childhood in my book.
Son of a…But…Godda…Arrrrgh
Okay, so I was writing morning market advice for investors. I was going to talk about the four reasons that today’s market outlook is dismal (fears about heating oil costs, mildly negative jobs data, a much wider September trade deficit forcing lower third quarter GDP growth estimates, and GM’s continued woes--including an accounting oops leading to a restatement of $400 million in profits for 2001).
It was good, and early gains notwithstanding, the market has quickly turned to negative.
It was good.
Of course, my computer ate my freakin’ homework.
Now the benefit of my wisdom won’t be yours as I’m heading off to work. Sorry about that.
Oh, and I should probably note that I’m hardly a market expert. If you take my advice, you get what you deserve.
Update: Which is all sort of okay seeing as the market bumped up big late in the day after an unusually strong bond auction from the Treasury department. Didn’t see that coming. It didn’t hurt that both oil and natural gas eased off today (oil coming in below $58).
The big bump, though, came from the Treasury auction that brought in quite a bit of international attention. With the dollar’s recent advance, it indicates that foreign investors are still betting on the US economy to stay strong.
All of which should mean good things for my mutual funds…
Wednesday, November 09, 2005
Mr. Answer Also Provides Occasional Translation Services
From an article in the Washington Post:
Of course, between tax breaks, incentives, restrictive policies, and the threat of extra taxes to help balance out energy company profits, I doubt that anyone can figure out how profitable the oil industry would be without the government’s meddling. The dollar cost of a barrel of oil is just an illusion when considering the actual price paid at the end of the day.
Mr. Answer Knows it All (Or At Least Makes a Credible Guess Every Now and Again)
When searches come in that I find interesting, sometimes I’ll take the time to answer the question in hopes that the next time a person searches for the information, they’ll find something more illuminating.
Thus, Mr. Answer makes the world a better place.
Mr. Answer says:
There may be forms of drug-induced pseudo-zombism (and I have yet to see any convincing evidence of that), but not an actual resurrection of the dead into servants of voodoo witch doctors. No shambling, mindless, brain-eating undead to make the world a scarier place.
But if you want to see a great zombie movie, definitely check out Shawn of the Dead. Brilliant.
A Little Reading
This comes from a speech given by Syed Abul ala Maududi in 1939.
This is from a translation provided in the book, Voices of Terror. Highly illuminating.
This war against Islamic terror continues to look (dramatically) like the wars against Communism and Fascism--the drives of the Islamic extremist are the same as the drives of the Communist: to bring liberation to the people of the world through a totalitarian dictate, for their own good, whether they want it or not.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Come the 17th, this story will get just a touch more interesting.
In case you were wondering, I really want to see Army win this (friendly) competition. I mean, who wants to lose to a bunch of jarheads, zoomies, and squids?
Seriously, it’s a good cause and a good way to show support to soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines who have served our country.
Gimme Your Excess Profits
From today’s Rocky Mountain News editorial:
Okay, let’s start with the questions:
What is there to explain? That speculators drove the price of oil to ridiculous highs regardless of the weekly supply data? That consumers kept consuming right up until the prices finally hit that psychological $3 tipping point? That when the supply data couldn’t be ignored, the cost of oil per barrel finally started to flutter down and that profits don’t promise to be quite so “excessive” next year (although, as I’ve argued before, I believe that there is a potential for a seasonal speculator swim that will jack prices up annually)?
Or, how about explaining how some of the proponents of higher gas taxes in pursuit of lower consumption suddenly think that higher gas prices (and a temporary softening of consumption) constitute a bad thing. Is it just because when the money isn’t collected by Uncle Sugar it can’t be funneled into their favorite social programs or be used to balance a budget so far out of level that it is truly frightening?
And then there’s the big question: if the oil industry uses these new profits (you know, the excessive ones) to explore for new oil sources, define responsible ways to tap oil shale here in the West, or further refine recovery methods so that oil fields yield far more of the oil that is actually trapped in the ground, how is it that those profits were “excessive”?
Monday, November 07, 2005
Two worthwhile posts you might have missed out there today:
Re: Terrell Owens (Updated)
Peter King, in today’s Monday Morning Quarterback, says quite a bit about Owens, his relationship with his team, and the likelihood of Owens return to the Eagles. But he really gets to the point of the matter with one of his shortest sentences:
Blessed with talent and physical skill, a smart guy who knows how to play the game, and the kind of receiver that every team wants (even at the risk of actually having Terrell Owns on the team). That’s the thing about Owens, though, isn’t it? All the praise comes with a giant warning sticker that boils down to this: he never learned to be something other than selfish.
He will rant and rave when someone says the tiniest thing to hurt his feelings, but he never notices how vicious his own words can be. He wants to be the focal point of the team without ever realizing that the team needs more than one player to get the wins. He signs the kind of multi-year contract that comes close to the GDP of some emerging nations and then demands a re-negotiation after just the first year has passed.
Yeah. That idiot Terrell Owens.
Read the story. (The quote is on the second page.)
PS- In the same article comes this quote:
Which comes across to me as surprisingly endearing.
Update: Speaking of Terrell Owens (Because We Were, You Know):
I think everyone expected this outcome, but the speed of the event is surprising. Read the story.
I Feel So Honored. Sort of.
You know that your past spending habits aren’t what might be considered “responsible” when the good folks from Nieman Marcus make a regular effort to call and let you know about the latest sales.
I mean, it’s nice that they like to keep in touch, but geez…
Anyway, the silence is because I’ve been moving from my cube into my old office today--an odd thing to do a few years after giving up the door and the window. Between that and the remnants of the Killer Avian Bird Flu Thingy, I’m pretty well occupied today.
I’ll try to give a better accounting of myself later in the afternoon.
Cool (And Marginally Useless)
The BBC maintains a portion of its daily news in Swahili. How cool is that?
Admittedly, for me it’s still a bit useless since I don’t know enough to catch more than a few words here and there in the articles, but hopefully that changes over the coming months.
Yeah, this is going to take some time…
Friday, November 04, 2005
The Evil That Eminent Domain Does
Normally by this time on a Friday afternoon, I would already be getting ready to make the long drive across town to see the g-phrase (whose sentimental value to me extends far beyond the dollar value tied to all of her component parts), but this story required a response. This will obviously (and rightly) set off a storm of debate about eminent domain:
What struck me most--aside from the sense that this was just the sort of unfair and unreasonable maneuver that had to be expected following Kelo--was the assumption from one of the city council members that they had offered far more than the land was actually worth. Quite obviously that wasn’t true: they hadn’t offered more than it was worth to the owner.
What is the value of your belongings? Is it simply a dollar amount covering what it would take to replace the belonging or is it a set of values that might not be tied at all to an actual dollar amount. A while back, when my apartment building caught fire, my worry wasn’t for my computers or my television, but for a simple little bundle of photographs. The sentimental value of the items was far more important to me than the dollar value of the electronics or my hand-me-down furniture.
When my grandpa moved to Arkansas with my parents and they put up the old family farm for sale, I considered selling some of my things and seeing what it would take to buy the land. It was a rundown house and old farm buildings in dire need of work before the city came along and realized the hazard, and it was an old, overgrown yard and mucked up pond surrounded by stone work of dubious value. It was also on the southern side of Colorado Springs while I live on the north side of Denver. For that matter, the neighborhood isn’t precisely posh.
I didn’t want to save the land because it was a good investment or where I really wanted to live; I wanted to save it because most of my good childhood memories are connected to that place. It’s still hard to know that it’s gone.
A family-owned business for fifty-six years, and no one seems to be suggesting that it was a blighted property or otherwise a nuisance. Fifty-six years. Honestly, I can’t even imagine the emotional connection that the owner has to that property.
That he can be forced to sell to make way for condominiums is ridiculous. Making the case that the condos are vital for community interests or that they constitute, in some way, a public need strains credibility to the breaking point. Simple ownership of property has always been somewhat illusory; now the illusion is completely shattered.
This and That While Paris Still Burns
Is an extension of that:
The expectations of fundamentalist Muslims who emigrate to the West--sometimes from impoverished North African nations, sometimes from wealthy Middle Eastern families--is that the cultures, laws, and expectations of their new hosts will bend to the will of the immigrants. Western expectation is that the newcomers will peacefully bring the best of their own culture, but not in a way that damages the legal and political body of the host.
Instead of peaceful integration, though, what we have is honor rapes in France, the religiously motivated murder of Theo Van Gogh, and the request that Muslim communities have the opportunity to enforce their own religious laws in Canada. In the UK we see Islamic extremists will to live on the dole--that is, on the welfare provided by a generous host--while supporting the London bombings.
Oddly, the US has been spared much of the problem with it’s immigrant base (while being a huge target for attack from outsiders). Is that just luck? Is it just a matter of time before poorer Islamic communities in the US riot in the same way?
Again, that touchy-feely PC belief that if they just got to know us better, if we just communicated more, we wouldn’t have these cultural clashes is proven to be naive. They know us very well, they respect us very little, and they believe that we heretics are fair game for attack and exploitation. Not every Muslim is a potential enemy of their host state, but those that embrace their religious law and culture above the more secular laws of Western developed nations simply cannot rub elbows with the rest of us without undue strain.
We can’t tolerate some of their religious practices (honor rapes again spring to mind) and they can’t tolerate us in a much broader sense.
We have our own problems with riots, of course (think of the riots following the Rodney King verdict), and the problems in France aren’t entirely religious in nature (having a significant economic component). It would be unwise, though, to ignore the cultural and religious element, especially while we engage in a war against Islamic terror throughout the world.
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Ahh, The Elton John Defense
A woman in the UK who killed her son (a 36 year old man with Downs Syndrome whom she had cared for her entire life) and then attempted to kill herself, was spared a jail sentence. The judge who believed that the extraordinary circumstances that led her to commit murder warranted an extra helping of mercy.
Ah, yes, the Elton John defense.
Well, that’s alright, then.
Read the story. (Link added with a belated, “Oops.")
Wednesday, November 02, 2005
From The William Shatner School of Singing (Pre-Ironic Understanding of Uncoolness Period)
I just listened to one of the most hideous, horrid, useless, and (of course) hilarious things I’ve ever heard.
But, please God, never again. Never again.
Click on through. You’ll probably regret it, but you’ll regret it through the awkward giggling.
Bush’s Rogue State
From Former Blogger Patrick comes this fun quote from Andrew Sullivan in discussing treatment of captured terrorists and enemy combatants:
I love it: Bush’s America now constitutes a rogue state.
I have disagreed with our leadership’s current policies (and even had myself labeled a racist for the effort), but for a liberal, representative democracy that has regular power shifts directed by its citizens labeled a “rogue state” just seems kind of goofy. Sullivan is engaging in the kind of over-the-top rhetoric that made Daily Kos such a big site.
Because Real Black Folks Aren’t Conservative. Everybody Knows That. (Updated)
Real black folks don’t vote Republican. They don’t ever speak out against ills in the black community, like that race traitor Bill Cosby. And they don’t work for President Bush, like Condi Rice.
Everybody knows that these are some of the most basic rules for actually being black. Only it would appear that someone forgot to tell Michael Steele.
For daring to believe that skin color does not have to equal political preference, and that personal principles don’t have to hinge on racial identification, Steele is fair game for racial attacks. That is sad and sick. Indeed, if the majority of blacks in America agree with this stance, then, politically, there is something very wrong in the black community at large.
Another update: Jeff G, too. Although I have a quibble with this bit:
I think it absolutely does rise to the level of being anti-American in the patriotic sense because it raises racial heritage to a level of importance over national heritage. That is, for a person who thinks that it’s okay to throw Oreo cookies at Steele, their racial heritage and the percieved baggage that skin color carries is more important than the shared American heritage. I can’t see how that is anything other than anti-American in nature.
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