Saturday, August 09, 2008

Loose Change vs. Popular Mechanics

I know this is old news, but I've compiled the complete debate between the filmmakers of the conspiracy nutjob "documentary" Loose Change and the editors of Popular Mechanics magazine, which ran an excellent piece debunking the conspiracy theories into a playlist on YouTube. I'm presenting it now as a public service, as well as for its immense entertainment value.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

My, but the Iranians love Photoshop.

First, Iranian stringers Hezbollah had a hand in the Reuters fake photo scandal.

Then, Iranian state-run news agency PressTV presented a photoshopped protest sign as the genuine article.

And now, Iran is photoshopping images of their missile tests of the past few days.

I think this is hilarious. It's grim that the Iranians are threatening Israel and American interests with missile tests, of course, but that they feel the need to alter images of their tests for whatever reason is just funny. Do they think that Photoshopping a double of the missile will make a missile defense system miss or something? Because I can't find a practical purpose for altering the pictures in such a way, especially for such a bad job of it. (The editor could have at least sourced the duplicate smoke cloud from a different frame so it didn't look exactly the same.)

And that's about all there is to say. The more aggressively Iran behaves, the more likely they make it that Israel or the Unites States might attack. I suppose they're having difficulty figuring that out.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Today we celebrate our Independence Day

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

When in the Course of human events it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security. — Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their Public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected, whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us in many cases, of the benefit of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation, and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these united Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States, that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. — And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I am shamed: An open confession

There is no easy way to do this, but it must be done. I have broken my vows, and the first step to amends is to air my transgressions and motivate myself to not allow it to happen again.

I should explain before I go further. When I was in college, I was in the Society for Creative Anachronism. This is the world's largest medieval reenactment organization, and it is highly organized into kingdoms, baronies, and so forth.

As befits medieval reenactors with that kind of organization and scale, the Society has titular kings, lords of various grades... and knights.

I confess, I dearly wished to earn knighthood in the Society when I was still active, but it takes years of participation and dedication, years that I didn't have. Partly I wanted it for the sheer, nerdy glory and fun of it, but it was also partly because my temperament is such that it needs a restraint upon it that I care about, and I felt that the vows of knighthood would be just such a one.

As I said, I never earned the authority and responsibility of a knighthood, but as I knew the time when I would have to move away, too far away to feasibly participate any longer, was drawing near, I took the vows regardless, not bound to any lord or king, because none knighted me, but binding myself to the virtues of knighthood, as a safeguard against the fouler side of my temper.

The vows are many, but at their essence, they are outlined in this, the statement made by a knight before he is invested:

I swore to "ever be a good knight and true, reverent and generous, shield of the weak, obedient to my liege-lord (which I interpret as loyalty to my country and my vows, since I swore to no lord), foremost in battle, courteous and truthful at all times, champion of the right and the good."

I do my best, but I have of late failed and failed miserably at one: Courtesy. After a hard and frustrating day at work, I allowed my temper to gain the better of me and, without provocation, flamed a non-native English speaker for his poor spelling. I was mortified afterward, but pride motivated me to keep my silence for a time.

No more. I have made amends to him and obtained his forgiveness, but I have thought long and hard on it and realized that if I do not make a stand with myself, give a motivator to stop it here and now, I will continue to slide, and eventually what I promised to myself will mean nothing to me. I know of no better way than to write an account of my failure and place it up as a reminder that I expect better of myself, and shall keep a level head.

At the end of a knighting ceremony in the Society, it is traditional for the king to strike the new knight hard upon the chest after he has risen a knight, and to tell him to let the blow remind him that knighthood will bring him pain as well as honor. It has brought me pain these last two weeks, and I hope to return to honor. It may seem silly to people reading this, but this is important to me; I must reestablish shamefastness, the fear of shame, to keep myself from straying like that again. I renew my vow, and go forward with the virtues of chivalry at the forefront of my mind.

Breaking: Supreme Court strikes down D.C. handgun ban


Today the Supreme Court of the United States struck down the Washington, D.C. ban on firearms, issuing a definitive ruling on the meaning of the Second Amendment to the Constitution for the first time in the court's history.

Justice Scalia's opinion written for the majority affirms that the Second Amendment outlines an individual right to keep and bear arms, unrelated to service in a government militia.

The court's ruling still permits what they call reasonable restrictions, such as banning concealed carry, but trigger lock requirements, disassembly requirements, and general bans on weapons ownership are now effectively over, and none too soon.

Speech Code of the Month widget

Just throwing this up to note that I've decided to add the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education's Speech Code of the Month widget to the site sidebar.

The Speech Code of the Month is selected at the start of each month by FIRE, and is intended to highlight particularly egregious offenses against individual liberty and the rights of students by universities, in the hopes that they will remove or revise their rules; for several schools this has been successful. See the Speech Code of the Month archive for more information.

Friday, June 06, 2008


This date is the anniversary of the day in 1944 that marked the beginning of the end for Nazi Germany. On this date, June 6, the greatest men of the Greatest Generation landed on the beaches of Normandy, France, beginning the Allied invasion of northern Europe.
Thousands upon thousands of servicemen died that day, fighting to rid the world of the horrors of the Third Reich. Soldiers and Marines of the United States, United Kingdom, Free France, and Canada all stormed the beaches of the Normandy peninsula in the wake of overnight air and sea bombardment and paratrooper landings. Casualties were enormous, but the invaders won through.

Thanks to their sacrifice, the free world continued to exist and flourish through the rest of the 20th century. But it was not the final battle for liberty; none ever is.

Gone, but not forgotten. Remember their sacrifice, and never forget what it means. Remember so that it need not be repeated, for history doesn't like it when we forget a lesson, and tends to teach it again when we do. Remember too, to honor the memory of the fallen as well as those that lived to see their victory.

"The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure." - Thomas Jefferson

Remember the blood of heroes.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Venezuela's new school curriculum

NPR (audio), Global Voices

Venezuela's president, Hugo Chavez, is currently attempting to ramrod a new school curriculum into place, one that, unsurprisingly, is focused primarily on creating "young patriots," by which he means citizens who support him and his social policies.

The program, opposed by many Venezuelan parents as an attempt to indoctrinate their children, glorifies Latin American socialist revolutionaries, teaches that capitalism is a tool to subjugate the common people, and blames the United States for Venezuela's ills. Private schools would also be required to follow this curriculum under the plan.

This is an outrage against individual liberty and academic freedom. The place of an education system, particularly one that is publicly funded, should be to teach students factual information, not to feed them propaganda designed to make them loyal to the current ruler and to stir up hatred against that ruler's perceived enemies (in this case, the United States). Of course, it has been plain for some time now that Chavez has no interest in actually maintaining civil liberties in his country; quite the opposite, he aims to become a socialist dictator. He's already well on his way, nationalizing entire industries left and right, most recently the cement industry. He is unfit to lead, and one can only hope that his people will realize that before it is too late.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Hezbollah tries to take over Beirut

BBC, Reuters

The terrorist group Hezbollah has launched an all-out assault on the government of Lebanon, seizing the western half of Beirut, attacking pro-government and anti-Syrian media outlets, and firing rocket-propelled grenades at ministers' homes and government offices.

Hezbollah also happens to lead the minority opposition in the government. That they respond to political problems within a government they are a part of with violence against that government is incredible, or would be if they didn't have a history of it. They have thrown aside all pretense of caring for the Lebanese people, as though they hadn't already during their recent conflict with Israel.

The Bush administration has stated support for the Lebanese government, but the support Lebanon needs right now is the absolute crushing of Hezbollah as a fighting force. They have thoroughly demonstrated that no other measure will keep them from using terrorism as their first resort in political disputes.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Indiana's Primary Elections

As I mentioned in my previous post, I was a precinct inspector for the Indiana primary on May 6. I'm sorry this report was not written on the 6th as I'd promised; I was held up for so long at the courthouse afterwards that all I wanted to do was go to bed.

Setting up the polling station was simple enough; the biggest problem was the fact that the legs didn't want to stay in their sockets on one of the voting machines. The same machine caused problems later in the day because it had a dark spot on its screen that made it hard to see one of the ballot entries.

It is against Indiana election law to campaign within 300 feet of a polling place. When I arrived at the polls, there were campaign signs stuck all over the ground outside the building; I had to remove and confiscate them when the polls opened. After that, though, there were no further problems with electioneering.

After that, the day was mostly long and boring. Voter turnout for my precinct was about 35%, which is high for a primary in this state, since we usually don't matter for the presidential election.

Since the Supreme Court upheld Indiana's law requiring photo identification at polling places in order to vote, my job mostly consisted of asking for ID at the front door. Voters kept cracking jokes about being illegal immigrants and/or having fake ID, but other than that, it went off without a hitch in my precinct. (Some nuns in South Bend were turned away for not having proper ID; I'm not clear on whether they were permitted to fill out provisional ballots as is required.)

There was one interesting thing: With the exception of the presidential ballot (for some reason, Huckabee, Romney, and Paul are all still on the ballot) all the Republicans ran unopposed. They didn't have enough candidates to go around, apparently; they were not contesting the judge's seat, and were only running two candidates for the county council (when the ballot allows voters to vote for three).

Voting was busiest at the end of the work day, as expected, but it trickled off well before closing time. We had one voter at the end of the polling time; there was nothing like the rush we were told to expect before closing.

All in all, it was a good day, and a new experience. I'd do it again if asked, though I couldn't resist informing the Democratic chairwoman of the irony of her choosing me to do it afterwards, so I don't know if I'll be asked again.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Indiana primary coverage tomorrow

Tomorrow I'm going to write a report on the Indiana primary from the perspective of a precinct inspector and post it on this blog. I won't be able to do ongoing updates, since I won't have Internet access at the polling station, but I will keep notes and write a full account. Watch this space tomorrow night.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Well, I'm a poll inspector now

With only a few days' notice, I've been tapped to be a poll inspector for the Indiana primary on Tuesday. The precinct they've put me in charge of is a small one, but this is still an incredible responsibility. I have the voting machines in the trunk of my car as I write this; I'm responsible for their security from now all the way until I turn them in at the end of Election Day.

I'm deeply honored to be entrusted with this, but it's funny at the same time. I was called by the head of the county's Democratic Party Committee to do this because my mother is on the committee; I suppose she assumed everyone in the household was also a Democrat. I am, obviously, not, but it doesn't matter; I'm committed to the integrity of the electoral process and will execute my duties to prevent voter fraud and other shenanigans the very best of my ability, and that's all the job requires. It's just highly ironic that the Democrats would unknowingly tap a Protest Warrior to run the polls.

It's also kind of unnerving that so little security goes into choosing who will run the polls; it would have been easy for them to have asked someone who is both less than principled and has a stake in the primary. I suppose we're simply fortunate that they did not... this time.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Paizo Publishing announces Pathfinder RPG

Back to my gaming roots for a moment.

Paizo (who has, to take a guess, grown tired of Wizards of the Coast's shenanigans with the D&D 4th Edition developers' kits) has announced the development and open playtesting of a D&D 3.5-compatible tabletop RPG called Pathfinder, after the adventure path series they started publishing after Wizards pulled their licenses to publish Dragon and Dungeon magazines.

Rather than convert their Pathfinder line to 4e, Paizo is developing their own ruleset based on 3.5e, and are conducting open alpha and beta tests. The alpha version of the rules may be found at the title link.

Having looked over the alpha version, I find what they have so far mostly good. I especially like the changes to combat maneuvers, but what I like most is the open testing; being able to see production in progress and possibly even influence it is exciting to me.

If you're into d20 tabletop gaming and aren't comfortable with the direction of 4e (or even just have a large collection of d20 sourcebooks that you'd like to keep using, like me) then I highly recommend checking out Paizo's initiative here and joining in the testing. Maybe we can keep up support for our game after WotC abandons it.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Indoctrinate U

This is an unusual step for me on this blog. Today I'm writing a film review.

I have not chosen to write about just any movie. Something like, say, Meet the Spartans (or even 300, the movie it parodies), to name a recent example, isn't even worth my time to watch, much less review. I am undertaking this step for Indoctrinate U, which I honestly feel is one of the most important films certainly of the decade, and possibly within my lifetime.

Why do I feel this way about an independently produced documentary about academic bias? It's simple. Education, and the academia that is responsible for a large part of it and is the subject of the film, is the very heart and soul of the future; without it, we have nothing.

With the above as my premise, it is easy to understand why I consider Indoctrinate U an incredibly important film. The documentary delves deep into the issue of political bias in academia and, far more importantly, the issue of political repression of students and faculty who do not conform to the prevailing biases of a given campus.

For years, anecdotes of political correctness gone wild in universities have circulated around the rumor mill. Most people probably don't pay them much mind; I never did until I actually went to college, started to become politically aware, and ended up as a civil libertarian and classical liberal (as opposed to the more modern variety). Then, I experienced it firsthand.

But this post is about the film, not my own experiences. While I underwent significant vigilante censorship in college, my case is nothing next to some of the ones Evan Maloney, the filmmaker (whose own blog, Brain Terminal, may be found here), covers in his feature-length documentary. Two of the victims of campus political repression he interviews, one a professor and one a student, underwent harassment and abuses of administrative power so severe that they had to seek remedy in federal court. Perhaps not coincidentally, both of those cases arose from the California State University system at California Polytechnic, and several other cases of severe political repression covered in the film concern other California schools, notably UC Berkeley and San Francisco State.

But it's not limited to California's famously far-left and proud of it university system; the problem extends nationwide, with the documentary touching on incidents at the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Yale, Brooklyn College, Michigan State, Bucknell University, and several other schools, effectively putting an end to the era of mere isolated anecdotes of collegiate abuse of liberty. This film exposes the root of the problem for what it is; a systemic and institutionalized campus orthodoxy completely contrary to both individual liberty and academic freedom.

I am once again adding my voice to the call for reform on college campuses, as I did when I was still in school. The sort of widespread academic orthodoxy that Indoctrinate U exposes is poisoning the nation's very future, and must not continue. As Maloney calls for in his film, there needs to be another campus free speech movement, as there was in the 1960s, if students are to gain their freedom of thought and overcome the intellectual sloth that is fostered by rooted orthodoxy. For that is the real danger; in growing to think of its current mode of thinking as the only correct one, academia risks stagnation and complacency in the testing of its ideas. Thank you, Evan Maloney, for your clarion call to action.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Conservative Opposition to John McCain

As should be perfectly clear by now, Senator John McCain of Arizona is set to be the Republican nominee for President. As should also be perfectly clear, a lot of the Republican Party hates him.

Why is this? Well, ask and you'll get many reasons.

McCain-Feingold, for one. Hey, I didn't like it either when the Federal Election Commission tried to apply the rules meant for big advertisers to private bloggers, but we came through that all right. Still, it's a sloppy piece of legislation.

McCain-Kennedy for another. Amnesty for illegal aliens? Get out of here, and take your bill with you.

Then the opposition to Bush's tax cuts. John McCain opposed the tax cuts, it's true. But let's look at why he did it: There were no spending cuts to accompany them, which means that he was opposing cutting revenue while not cutting outlays, i.e. going further into debt. Is this not a fiscally conservative position?

However, the same commentators who lambast McCain tend to love George W. Bush. So for comparison's sake, let's talk about Bush's positions on these same issues that conservative pundits are taking exception to.

First, campaign finance reform. Fine, McCain pushed it and it can be seen as an infringement on freedom of speech. However, these same pundits love the PATRIOT Act, which Bush fervently supports and if anything is a larger infringement on civil liberties than campaign finance reform could ever conceivably be.

How about the McCain-Kennedy immigration bill? Oops. Bush pushed that same bill harder than John McCain ever did.

And sure, Bush cut taxes, but he did absolutely nothing to curb federal spending; in fact, he increased it to higher levels than any other post-Cold War President. And yet, for all this, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, and the other big-name talk radio pundits love the President.

No, the real reason is none of those. It is this: Look at the other names on the bills I mentioned above. Notice anything?

Yes. Kennedy and Feingold are Democrats. And that's it right there. This is not about the issues, it isn't about conservatism, and it isn't even about McCain himself. It's all about party loyalty. McCain will occasionally cooperate with Democrats to get things done on Capitol Hill, and to the hard-line Republican wing, this is an unforgivable sin greater than any of the many non-conservative indiscretions Bush has committed in office. Sure, he shot the national debt through the roof, signed the PATRIOT Act into law, and did absolutely nothing to curb Congressional pork spending (it took the man how long to veto even a single bill?), but he never cooperated with Democrats on any meaningful level. So he's good.

What does it say about American politics when party loyalty is the determining factor in an election, rather than the candidates' positions on the issues, capability to act, or even political skill? (For the record, the ability to cooperate with Democrats across the aisle marks McCain as a consummate politician; someone with the ability to exercise great influence in Washington. If anything, it should be a qualification.) There's nothing wrong with opposing McCain based on the issues (despite writing him in as a protest vote in 2004, I do), but doing so simply because he will actually execute his legislative duties when doing that requires being civil to a Democrat is an ideologically and intellectually bankrupt position to take.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The U.S. primary elections: Super Tuesday, late voters, and Party shenanigans


Yesterday was the biggest primary election day in United States history. Twenty-four of the fifty states held their primary elections on that day, popularly dubbed "Super Tuesday."

Hillary Clinton edged out Barack Obama, though just barely. Neither one yet has a majority of the Democratic convention delegates, meaning that far from deciding the primary as was widely expected, Super Tuesday has left the race still open, making the primaries of states that have late primary dates still relevant, a rarity in U.S. politics. (Incidentally, this is why I advocate simply holding all primaries on the same day; more on that below.)

Similarly, the Republican primaries on Tuesday gave John McCain a lead in the number of delegates, but he still only has a little over half of the necessary delegates to guarantee him the nomination. His lead has many conservatives running scared, since his popularity among the conservative wing of the Republican Party is not high, to make an understatement. A separate post on my take on McCain will follow this one.

The upshot of all this is that primaries in late-voting states (such as my own) might actually matter this time out. As I said a couple paragraphs above, this is rare; usually by the time the latest primaries come around in May and June, there have been enough delegates assigned by earlier primary elections to some candidate or another that the primary results in those late states are completely irrelevant to the outcome, causing candidates to neglect the concerns of the voters in those late states, since their votes cannot influence the nominating conventions.

The primaries are staggered the way they are to deliberately give some states more clout in comparison to others. Namely, Iowa and New Hampshire go first because doing so supposedly gives "small states" a say in the race. Which is completely wrong; it does not give "small states" a larger say in the race; it gives Iowa and New Hampshire a larger say in the race. That the Democratic Party is refusing to seat Florida's delegation to the convention because they dared to hold their primaries earlier than they were "allowed" to in order to uphold this fiction is abhorrent and a massive violation of Floridians' right to equal representation. (Incidentally, allowing Florida's delegates to be seated might bring on a result that I really don't want to see; namely, their support for Hillary Clinton's candidacy, since she won the Florida primary nearly uncontested because the other candidates did not bother to campaign there, but it doesn't matter; their rights to representation trump any such considerations.)

In fact, I'm not even sure just why it is that the political parties get to dictate primary dates to the state governments. The parties are not supposed to have that kind of authority, or indeed any authority of their own over the governance of the nation. This is different from politicians who are members of political parties running the governments; this is the party committee itself telling a state government that no, it may not exercise its Constitutional authority to set the date of the election, which is just wrong. The current rush to hold elections first is stupid, but denying entire states their representation for it is inexcusable.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Civil Rights Making Progress

No, it's not what you think. No, really.

The state assemblies of South Dakota and Arizona are currently considering bills that would make it legal to carry firearms on public university campuses. I expect much whining from the anti-gun lobby in the days to come as the bills go to votes before their respective assembly houses. They'll say how it places our children in danger, how there will be deadly shootings by students who are legally carrying weapons, and other such nonsense.

And it's just that. Nonsense. If someone wants to shoot up the University of South Dakota, then he will attempt to do so. A would-be murderer is already setting out to break one of the most serious crimes on the books; he is not going to care about whether or not a campus is a "gun-free zone."

I don't usually cite other bloggers' work, but as a college professor I feel that Glenn Reynolds has some insight into this particular issue. That op-ed was written in the aftermath of the Virginia Tech shootings. I encourage you to read it; he raised the obvious points, but it's worth seeing.

Here's to these bills passing. University students are legal adults, and if they can show themselves competent to carry a firearm, there's no reason why their college campuses should be any different than the rest of the country.

And to quote Freud:


Thursday, January 31, 2008

Hail Xenu!

Well, it's been a long time, but recent events have conspired to jolt me out of blogging "retirement," as it were.

For years, the Church of Scientology has been engaging in litigious behavior towards their critics, and now a lot of people have had enough. February 10 is a national day of protest against Scientology.

Event locations may be found here.

Why do this, you ask? For one very simple reason: The Church of Scientology is an oppressive, fascistic, brutal organization that suppresses, extorts, controls, and sometimes even kills its members. A good overview of Scientology's dangers may be found here. If you don't have time to spend an hour or so reading the Operation Clambake site, watch this. Don't believe those critics? How about a court brief?

In addition to this, the "church" has engaged in espionage, perpetrating the largest infiltration of the United States government by any organization in history, foreign intelligence agencies included, during their "Operation Snow White."

Still not enough? According to Scientologist doctrine, L. Ron Hubbard described himself as the Antichrist and charged that Jesus was a child molester and prone to violent fits of rage. From the OTVIII Scientology document:

"No doubt you are familiar with the Revelations section of the Bible where various events are predicted. Also mentioned Is a brief period of time in which an arch-enemy of Christ. reforred to as the anti-Christ, will reign and his opinions will have sway. All this makes for very fantastic, entertaining reading but there is truth in it. This anti-Christ represents the forces of Lucifer (literally, the "light bearers" or "light bringer"), Lucifer being a mythical representation of the forces of enlightenment, the Galactic Confederacy. My mission could be said to fulfill the Biblical promise represented by this brief anti-Christ period. During this period there is a fleeting opportunity for the whole scenario to be. effectively derailed. which would make it impossible for the mass Marcabian landing (Second Coming) to take place. The Second Coming is designed, among other things, to trigger a rapid series of destructive events.

With the exception of the original Buddhism, virtually all religions of any consequence on this planet, mono- and pantheistic alike. have been instruments to speed the progress of this "evolution of consciousness" and bring about the eventual enslavement of mankind. As you know, Siddhartha Gautama never claimed to be anything more than a man. Having caught on to this operation, he postulated his own return as Metteyya, part of which prophecy will have been fulfilled upon the passing of L. Ron Hubbard.

For those of you whose Christian toes I may have stepped on. let me take the opportunity to disabuse you of some lovely myths. For instance, the historic Jesus was not nearly the sainted figure has been made out to be. In addition to being a lover of young boys and men. he was given to uncontrollable bursts of temper and hatred that belied the general message of love, understanding and other typical Marcab PR. You have only to look at the history his teachings inspired to see where it all inevitably leads. It Is historic fact and yet man still clings to the ideal. so deep and insidious is the biologic implanting."

A word of warning, though: The Church of Scientology is utterly ruthless to its critics. Their Fair Game doctrine specifically says that "Suppressive Persons" (their term for their enemies), quote, "May be deprived of property or injured by any means by any Scientologist without any discipline of the Scientologist. May be tricked, sued or lied to or destroyed." Those who wish to participate in this should know that they are taking a risk. Scientology will use and abuse the legal system in any way they can to shut their critics up. They have in the past intentionally provoked picketers at their churches to attack them by getting up in their faces and then had their critics jailed. If they find out who you are, they will attempt to sue you if they can find any recourse at all, including the use of any of their symbols. I, for one, intend to stand up anyway, because it has to be done, but I don't want to bring anyone into this unaware of the risks.

If you do decide to go, stay together with fellow protesters (unless they're about to do something stupid), do not give out your name, do not allow yourself to be tempted to physically engage a Scientologist or even give the appearance of doing so. See you in the field.

Addendum: I am aware of the current DDoS attacks against the Church of Scientology's websites. While I detest Scientology for the brainwashing cult that it is, I do not condone illegal actions of this sort or any other. Scientology should be opposed within the legal system and with peaceful demonstrations, not hacking or vandalism.