February 02, 2002

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IT'S BEEN LINKED ELSEWHERE, but if you haven't read Matt Labash'spost on conditions at Camp X-Ray, you might want to take a look.

This isn't the first time I've seen prisoners get better treatment than our military personnel. While stationed in Japan, my roommate and I were watching "60 Minutes." My roommate and I shared a room that was roughly 10x12 or so, and shared the bathroom with two guys on the other side of the wall living in a room identical to ours. On "60 Minutes" was a profile of some white collar criminal who had bilked people out of billions, gotten caught and sentenced to one of those minimum security outfits where they get to play tennis all day. "60 Minutes" showed the man's living conditions--a huge room, all to himself, with a big desk, a computer, no bathroom sharing, and unlike our military accomodations, the prison was quiet. Not for the first time did I feel like a sucker when I saw that. I had a college degree, some professional experience and my "permanent record" was just about spotless--yet a convicted criminal's incarcerated life was better than the one I'd volunteered for.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:29 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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AN ARAB LEADER LEADER CHOOSES SIDES:Jordan's King Adbullah Backs Bush on 'Axis of Evil'. Guess he doesn't want Jordan to be a province of Turkey when the war is said and done. Egypt seems to be coming around lately, too. Bush's bold SotU seems to getting the desired reaction where it matters most.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:22 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 31, 2002

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Posted by B. Preston at 10:54 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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ONE WORLD, ONE LOVE, LET'S GET TOGETHER AND FEEL ALRIGHT: That's Wrongway Bob Wright's big plan to combat the terrorists. Hold hands, hug trees, whisper sweet-nothings, and everything will be alright. Doug Turnbull has already effectively skewered Wright's one-world government prescription, but I have a few additions. Of course I do, it is Robert Wright we're talking about...

Let's look at the world as it stands today. We are savagely attacked, and even our own allies admit reservations about our display of naked power to avenge our dead. Our allies get all hot and bothered because we put a few extremely dangerous terrorists in orange jumpsuits and feed them better than we feed our own troops (and as a former military man, I can vouch for that...I spent many a dollar in every off-base hole I could find to try and keep fed). Our allies worry that we'll go too far, attack too many terror-sponsoring countries, etc. How on God's green earth can a world-wide government ever reach any level of effectiveness if our own allies are so weirded out when we move to wipe out international terrorism?

Then let's look at the present example of world governance, the auspicious United Nations. If there was ever a more ironically named organization, I can't think of it. The UN is the place for Third World tinhorn depots to voice their idiotic rants against freedom-loving people everywhere. The UN sponsors useless conferences on racism, routinely denounces the Middle East's only democracy while elevating the suicide-bombing Palestenians to sainthood, and the UN can't run a decent peace-keeping operation to save its (or anyone else's) life. And there are the recent allegations that UN staffers have sexually abused women in the countries in which it keeps "peace." If the Wright-envisioned world government resembles the UN in any way, I want no part of it.

Another proto-world government is the European Union. Effective? Yes, at raising taxes and empoweing faceless bureaucrats. Democratic? Hardly--it's a socialist's dream, and tiny Belgium seems to dominate it so far, while more populous nations have their representation limited. And then there's its rotating presidency, and its currency featuring imaginary architecture. Again, if the world government resembles the EU, I want no part of it.

As Doug mentions in his post, the nations of the world will likely never be able to get along peacefully, as different regions have different needs, different philosophies shape various cultures, and there will always be someone out there with the will to power and the ability to cause trouble. World government, rather than elevating the freedom of mankind, will limit it. "One man, one vote" means one thing when 100 million votes are cast, but means something very different when 2 or 3 billion votes are cast. World government, if it comes at all, will likely come in the form of dictatorship, as few nations will willingly surrender their sovereignty. Oh sure, a few big ones like France will early on, but to get the more cantankerous nations to go along will take force--lots of it, and brutally applied. That will likely spark more, not less, terrorism as people increasinlgy find themselves dispossessed by the seemingly unstoppable order.

And one final thought. One of the reasons that we are the target of terror is simply because we are--it's our existence, and the fact that we're the current kings of the hill. People around the world resent that, and hate us for it. Imagine the hatred a much more powerful, much less benevolent, world government would inspire. September 11 would look like child's play compared to terrorism springing from that well.
Posted by B. Preston at 06:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 30, 2002

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I WANTED TO STAY OFF ABORTION FOR A WHILE, but this bears a post. A new study suggests that the sex of a baby may be determined within 16 days of conception. So...less than three weeks and parents can know the sex of the kid-to-be. Personhood slides closer to conception, if the study holds up (which is always a big 'if' in cutting-edge science).
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January 29, 2002

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LINKED VIA INSTAPUNDIT, Ken Layne's, er, creative editing, is a scream.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:30 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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THOUGHTS ABOUT THE STATE OF THE UNION and the Dems reation to it. The President delivered one of the greatest SotU speeches in history, pure and simple. He inspired, he encouraged, and he smiled while being tough. He drew cheers and applause throughout, and even scored a few laughs. His stature, as impossible as it may seem with an approval rating of 83%, grew tonight.

By contrast, Rep. Gephardt, delivering the Dems reaction, is so far pedantic and, well, boring. He's saying the right things about terrorism, but tossing up the usual dreamy socialist stuff on domestic issues. How do we reduce our dependence on foreign oil and simultaneously preserve our environment--especially if we can't even explore for domestic sources? How do we pay for that cradle-to-grave pension plan he touted? And isn't that what Social Security is supposed to do? Did I miss something, or did he tacitly admit that Social Security is failing in its mission to provide economic security to retirees?

It's somewhat unfair to compare the two speeches--the President gets the well of the Senate, guests of his choice, and rousing applause every few seconds. The opposition's reaction gets none of these, and just from a pure communications standpoint, the opponent loses. But, Gephardt was a lousy choice for tonight's speech--well, he was a lousy choice if the Dems wanted it to be effective. Methinks the gentleman from Missouri drew the short political straw tonight, and he knew that going in.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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OKAY, I'M DONE posting for a while. Running off the watch the rest of the speech. But then, he says "God is near" and a chill runs down my spine. The uncomfortable, stumbling GWB simply doesn't exist anymore.
Posted by B. Preston at 10:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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ONE THING THAT KEEPS STRIKING ME about the speech is its optimistic tone. We're at war, our economy is in a temporary tank, militants seem to be marching against us all over the world, and GWB declares that freedom can't be stopped.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:59 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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WATCHING THE STATE OF THE UNION, and so far it rocks. I especially liked the replacement with "If it feels good, do it" with "Let's Roll." My fellow Americans, that's as strong a repudiation of Clintonism as I've heard from the Pres yet.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:57 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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SEND IN THE CLONES: Well, if you want hits and email, anyway. I've stated before that I'm on the fence about cloning, and I'm being honest. Having said that, if you've read through my comments you're likely to think that I'm against cloning. Well, I am leaning that way for a variety of reasons. But I'm still persuadable if something comes along to convince me one way or the other.

But my posts have generated some mail, and I'll address it. Alan Carroll writes:

I've read through your comments on cloning and the articles that you
referenced. What I am puzzled about is why you consider reproductive cloning
wrong and in particular why you believe that it leads directly to a society
like Huxley's dystopia. You wrote "Once you fine-tune the process [of
cloning], you've got Aldous Huxley's nightmare staring you in the face". I
don't see that at all and I yet to see any writer against reproductive
cloning show how that follows. It's easy to see how that kind of dystopia
could exist without cloning at all (is it even stated in the book that they
ving cloning technology?). Even Ramesh Ponnuru's column never provides any
arguments about reproductive cloning, except to say that he doesn't like it.
I think he's quite right that theraputic cloning is morally more troublesome
than the reproductive variety, but that's not a strong argument against the

I haven't read Brave New World since high school, but I do seem to recall that no one, or almost no one (the Indian was an exception) had parents, and that everyone had been labratory-bred to fulfill a certain role in society, and that they were unable because of their genetically engineered levels of intelligence and ability (and really no other reason) to move from one role to the other. If cloning wasn't the stated reproductive system, it was certainly implied. So was today's prozac and ritalin abuse, in the form of "soma," but that's another discussion. Anyone out there have a copy of BNW handy? But whether or not my memory of Huxley is fuzzy, cloning is a Pandora's box that I don't see its supporters approaching very thoughtfully. Leaving aside the moral questions (which aren't and shouldn't be irrelevant, though some seem to think so), what about the nightmare I brought up before: if we get really good at cloning, you may be cloned without your consent and against your will. Someone out there will try to do some hideous things with cloning--build an army of genetically souped-up warriors, or introduce some genetic flaw that can spread through an enemy's population, or create a genetically engineered slave labor force. If you think that can't happen, think again. Slavery exists today in places like Sudan. It will exist tomorrow if some brilliant or weathy despot gets ahold of the technology. Imagine a bin Laden backed by a pile of money and a genetically engineered army of terrorists--that's a nightmare, but no longer far-fetched if we leap into cloning without carefully considering what we're doing.

As for the reproductive vs therapeutic cloning question, I bring it up to taunt cloning supporters. Most of them say that therapeutic cloning is acceptable, but reproductive cloning isn't. To me, not only is their logic in this exactly backward, but their acceptance of one type of cloning while rejecting another--without any substantive reasons--amounts to the "icky" defense that cloning proponents mock in their opponents. They don't like reproductive cloning, so they don't support it. It's similar to the arbitrary difference-splitting I see in the trimester standard for legalized abortion, and it's an attempt to split hairs around difficult questions instead of simply taking a principled stand.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:55 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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NOW THAT'S timely coverage. The AP released this story before the President's speech was over...in fact, as I write this it's still going on.
Posted by B. Preston at 09:26 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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DICK MORRISsticks it to the Dems again, this time for hypocrisy on the Enron "scandal." Sen Chris Dodd is in the pocket of accounting and securities lobbies, with the cash to prove it. Match this up with Terry McAuliffe's macigal, Hillary!-esque profits on the stock of one Global Crossing, and the Dems may actually be in a worse position on financial "scandals" than the Repubs.
(thanks to MCJ for the McAuliffe link)
Posted by B. Preston at 05:05 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

January 28, 2002

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DOUG TURNBULL IS TOO REASONABLE: After picking through my abortion/cloning post, he comes out in favor of overturning Roe v Wade, the 20th Century's Dred Scott. He says it rotten law, and he's right. Overturning Roe wouldn't send anyone to a back-alley abortionist--it would just return the issue to the states to decide it. Some states would then outlaw abortion, while others would leave their existing laws intact. But the people--not the courts--would make the decision. And by democratizing the issue again, the awful abuses that take place daily at the nation's abortion mills might come to light. As things now stand, the people have essentially no rights to legislate around the question, and the world of abortion clinics remains hidden from public view.

But leaving the common ground for a moment, Doug essentially says I'm right about the pro-choice side's failure to define personhood. To him, personhood isn't present at conception but develops somewhere between conception and birth. He says he'd draw the line of legality at the first trimester, but the problem is not everyone will follow him. Many will leave partial-birth abortion, the heinous practice of bringing a live baby halfway into the world only to murder it in a horrific manner, legal. The whole system of viability, and assigning the ability to abort based on trimesters and so forth, is still arbitrary, as Doug admits. He says that the evil you're trying to avoid in drawing lines of legality is the evil of killing a person--I disagree. For pro-lifers, that is the case--we are definitely trying to end the legal killing of innocents, and we're called nasty names for our efforts. Many, if not most, on the pro-choice side (Doug is probably an exception) are mainly interested in ending the evil of inconvenience--the child-to-be doesn't fit the plans of the parents, and therefore isn't welcomed into the world. Drawing lines of legality at various trimesters is a way of balming their seared conscience.

For pro-lifers, religious and otherwise, the argument comes down to one fundamental right: life. It's the most basic of human rights, specifically named in our founding documents, and without which our other rights just don't matter much.

I don't expect to have changed Doug's mind here. I believe in a soul; he doesn't. I believe in the right to life; he doesn't. But I appreciate the respect he has paid to my position, and I hope I've demonstrated a similar respect for his.
Posted by B. Preston at 11:40 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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ANOTHER SLATE WRITER picks on Robert Wright's oversimplified views of the war. Scott Shuger, who's written some pretty terrific pieces since the outbreak of the war, takes on Wright's assertion that the US shouldn't doctor photos in our psywar efforts. As usual, Wright's take is just too simplistic--we don't want to become known as liars, so we shouldn't doctor photos of terrorists under any circumstances. Shuger says we should, either to drive a point home about bin Laden's willingness to lie to save his butt, or to depict what known terrorists would look like if they dressed in Western attire. Shuger's point is that the ultimate goal is to rid the world of bin Laden, and we shouldn't allow some loopy "principle" of photo non-alteration to get in the way (as Shuger points out, the FBI does it all the time, either to age a wanted criminal or to give them alternate haircuts, etc). Shuger is right, Wright is wrong. Glad to see a Slate writer take him on (I've been lonely out here).
Posted by B. Preston at 06:00 PM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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MY ABORTION/CLONING POST has generated a reply or two--William Quick of DailyPundit argues with my statement that a severed finger doesn't constitute personhood since it lacks the potential to develop into a full person. He says cloning will likely change that, since in a clone-capable world any cell can be used to extract the necessary ingredients to make a clone. True enough, and it's that sort of scenario that disturbs the anti-cloners. You could be cloned without your consent--you visit the family doc, he gives you a shot, wipes up the blood and sends it off to some nefarious lab where the work to clone you proceeds. Why would anyone want to do this? Because they can--humans often show the desire to do things they shouldn't simply because they have the ability. Once you fine-tune the process, you've got Aldous Huxley's nightmare staring you in the face.

But for now, that scenario is still science fiction. Cloning hasn't turned out to be as mess-free as its proponents wants us to believe. Dolly the cloned sheep suffers from odd ailments, as do other cloned animals. Most cloning attempts still end in horrible monstrosities. And why, pro-cloners, do you favor therapeutic cloning but not reproductive cloning? What's the difference? As far as I can see there's no principle at work here, only the "icky" defense you scorn in anti-cloners. And for the record, I'm still on the fence. Convice me to join you.

Doug Turnbull (Beautyofgray) has also weighed in, but it's late. I'll take him on tomorrow night.
Posted by B. Preston at 02:29 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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A PATRIOTIC TROLL FOR HITSPerry de Havilland of Samizdata deserves a little taking-down for his post on the definition of patriotism. In that post, he essentially rejects as illegitimate

any function of the state which is not related to the defence of the individual liberty of people within their area of control, within a broad reasonable definition of those terms.

He then goes on to say that he'll burn flags to prove it, and he'll burn wearers of t-shirts bearing slogans with which he disagrees:

So can I be 'patriotic'?

To the State? Absolutely not. Try to make me pledge allegiance to Old Glory or the Union Jack or the Tricolour with the intention of extracting an admission of loyalty to the state and I will set in on fire instead. And if it is on a tee shirt saying "Try to burn these colors asshole", the wearer might just get their wish. Try to conscript me and the state will discover that I am not a pacifist and have no problem with using force against someone who tries to impose servitude upon me: starting with the guy who tries to serve call up papers on me.

Do you see the problems there (besides the self-important grandstanding)? Any function of the state not directly connected with defending Perry's personal liberty is illegitimate, yet if it becomes necessary for the state to draft him in order to defend his own liberty, the state is acting illegitimately. I guess someone else will always have to do Perry's fighting for him. And Perry is perfecly free to burn flags all he wants, but if he takes his own hyperbole seriously and burns the guy wearing the "try to burn these colors" t-shirt, Perry is requiring the state to lock him up for assault--is that also illegitimate, Perry? Or should the state let you harm someone else's freedom in allowing you to burn their clothes while they're still wearing them?

Perry, and Will Wilkinson who approves of Perry's take, sound an awful lot to me like Raskalnikov in Crime and Punishment--they're free to do as they please because they're somehow above the concerns of others, but woe to those who disagree with them.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:51 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack

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BLOGGER is acting up on me a little tonight. The other story I linked to in the "update" to the "Just Say 'No'..." post says that a rank structure seems to be emerging among the X-Ray prisoners, and that they continue to be a dangerous lot. UPI also has a story with the following interesting sentence:

The Geneva Convention, which the United States signed but did not ratify, governs government treatments of prisoners of war, protecting them from interrogation, requiring their humane treatment and giving them certain rights...

Did not ratify? You mean to tell me that the Geneva Convention has all the legal force of the Kyoto Accord? Since we (we being the NATO countries and other friendly powers) seem to be the only ones who actually follow it, maybe we should give it the same treatment...
As for Amnesty International, they seem to be more interested in charging our soldiers guarding the terrorists with war crimes than with figuring out what a real war crime actually is.
Posted by B. Preston at 12:04 AM | Comments (0) | TrackBack