Defending the virtues of liberty, free markets, and civilization... plus some commentary on the passing scene.

Freedom's Fidelity

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Misfit Pumpkins 2006

Our Halloween pumpkin carving weekend has turned into a nice little tradition out at our "second home." I somehow managed to not get any pictures of ourselves doing the work, but maybe that's cause I was too busy with beer and pumpkin guts.

Going in, we weren't quite sure how we would top last year's band of Misfit Pumpkins, so we doubled the pumpkins and upped the creativity. I think you'll agree that we did in fact outdo ourselves.

So, let me present the Misfit Pumpkins of 2006!

(click any images for a larger versions)

Here are some close-ups, this first one, cannibal pumpkin, is mine.

Here are the second group of 4 we did, Totem Pumpkins

At night, the bottom one looks like a ribcage and vital organs, eh?

I just love the fiery eye effect here:

And note how bright orange the inside of the bat pumpkin appears here:

Here they are, as dusk descends, the Misfit Pumpkins ready to go out and raise havoc!

I think we have our work cut out for us next year.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

NYT Flip Flop

I'm sure everyone has already seen this since Glenn linked to it a few days ago, but still, I find it an astounding reversal by the New York Times.

Since the job of public editor requires me to probe and question the published work and wisdom of Times journalists, there’s a special responsibility for me to acknowledge my own flawed assessments.

My July 2 column strongly supported The Times’s decision to publish its June 23 article on a once-secret banking-data surveillance program. After pondering for several months, I have decided I was off base. There were reasons to publish the controversial article, but they were slightly outweighed by two factors to which I gave too little emphasis. While it’s a close call now, as it was then, I don’t think the article should have been published.

Those two factors are really what bring me to this corrective commentary: the apparent legality of the program in the United States, and the absence of any evidence that anyone’s private data had actually been misused. I had mentioned both as being part of “the most substantial argument against running the story,” but that reference was relegated to the bottom of my column.


I haven’t found any evidence in the intervening months that the surveillance program was illegal under United States laws. Although data-protection authorities in Europe have complained that the formerly secret program violated their rules on privacy, there have been no Times reports of legal action being taken. Data-protection rules are often stricter in Europe than in America, and have been a frequent source of friction.

Also, there still haven’t been any abuses of private data linked to the program, which apparently has continued to function. That, plus the legality issue, has left me wondering what harm actually was avoided when The Times and two other newspapers disclosed the program. The lack of appropriate oversight — to catch any abuses in the absence of media attention — was a key reason I originally supported publication. I think, however, that I gave it too much weight.

In addition, I became embarrassed by the how-secret-is-it issue, although that isn’t a cause of my altered conclusion. My original support for the article rested heavily on the fact that so many people already knew about the program that serious terrorists also must have been aware of it. But critical, and clever, readers were quick to point to a contradiction: the Times article and headline had both emphasized that a “secret” program was being exposed. (If one sentence down in the article had acknowledged that a number of people were probably aware of the program, both the newsroom and I would have been better able to address that wave of criticism.)

What kept me from seeing these matters more clearly earlier in what admittedly was a close call? I fear I allowed the vicious criticism of The Times by the Bush administration to trigger my instinctive affinity for the underdog and enduring faith in a free press — two traits that I warned readers about in my first column.

The last paragraph is revealing in that he still manages to place some blame for his own indiscretion on the Bush administration. As well, like Eugene Volokh, I wonder exactly what is meant by vicious and if, by that standard, the NYT has ever engaged in vicious attacks on the administration.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Around the Internets!

Here is some interesting reading I've come across over the last few weeks.

Popular Mechanics has their Breakthrough Awards for 2006. Burt Rutan takes the top spot for his breakthrough work on creating accessible space travel for ordinary citizens. A few others of note, the Lexus LS460 can actually parallel park itself. My fiance, who works closely with Lexus, was actually able to test drive this vehicle on an open track and sit in the passenger seat as the car really did parallel park itself. Needless to say that, living in the city, she loved the feature!

Another interesting one is this new safety table saw, "The Contractor's Saw (about $1000) is a full-on workhorse. But what matters most is that a sensor can detect a finger contacting the moving blade. The saw then stops in 3 to 5 milliseconds — reducing a probable amputation to a forgettable cut."


Over at One Cosmos, clinical psychologist Robert Godwin writes On Perversion, Pedophiles, and Homophobia of the Left.
One of the great drawbacks of our "enlightened" times is that we cannot speak honestly about sexuality. There are basic truths about human sexuality that your grandparents took for granted, but which cannot now even be discussed in impolite elite society. It is the opposite of sophistication or openness--it is a willful and destructive naiveté. Make no mistake: this modern attitude has nothing to do with freedom or liberation, but falsehood and slavery. But if you speak openly about it, the dogs of political correctness will be unleashed.

It's really a fascinating look at differences in sexuality and how problematic deviance can be on the male side.

And the read of the week, well, probably the read of the month actually comes from Patterico's interview with an Army nurse who spent a good deal of time at Gitmo.
I know Zarqawi, the terrorist said to the American. I am going to have Zarqawi cut off your family’s head while you watch. Then he will cut off your head.

The terrorist said it all in a matter-of-fact way, looking the American straight in the eye.

The American was not frightened. There was little danger that the terrorist was going to carry out his threat . . . at least any time soon.

The terrorist was a detainee at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and the American was an Army nurse who worked with Guantánamo detainees with psychological and/or behavioral problems. For six months, he spoke with detainees on a daily basis, and built a rapport of sorts with some of the most troublesome terrorists at Guantánamo.

He spoke with me recently, and I will be telling his story in several posts over the coming days.

Here is Part One that will lead you to all 5 parts. Do yourself a favor and read it all. The insight is like nothing you've read in any mainstream publications, as the subject of the interview notes, he chose to tell his story to Patterico because he didn't trust traditional media to portray it with any accuracy. I came away with an overwhelming feeling of surprise at what incredible conditions prisoners at Guantanamo are treated to. They experience better health and dental care than their guards and eat better than they probably ever have in their life. That and they are allowed to throw cocktails of feces, urine, and semen at the guards without ever facing repercussions. It's all the more laughable that people who pretend to be serious would compare this to the Gulag.

And finally, for some fun, these guys set out to expose beer to various harsh conditions and temperatures all to determine the effect on its taste. Pay attention to the results so you too, can avoid mistreating your beer.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Two Great Comments

These two comments are related only in so far as I found them both an absolute joy to read, perhaps because of their ability to strip away the garbage that seems to surround the truths of their respective subjects? Whatever. Read on.

The first from Dean's World regular Arnold Harris

I haven't weighed in on any of this Foley scandal stuff. Mainly because I don't really think its very scandalous.

Most of my life, I thought homosexuality of any kind was disgusting and ought to be stamped out. That was then. Now is now.

Having changed my mind on this topic completely a couple of years ago or so, I now think anybody else's sexuality is none of my business. Moreover, I think that what Foley did was only the concern of him, the congressional staffers in question, and the voters of his congressional district in south Florida.

As for teen-age pages in Congress. Teen-agers everywhere start fucking at about the age of 13 or 14. If they are heterosexual, they will fuck members of the opposite sex. If they are homosexual, they will fuck members of their own sex.

I don't think there was a time in all human history where this kind of behaviour has not taken place. Moreover, men and women of power, such as US congresspersons, naturally attract the attention of youngsters of both sexes. These kinds gravitate to Washington because they can all but smell the power that flows out from that place.

And when they get there, they will fuck congressmen in order to make their way through the power system of Washington, for the same reason their counterparts who gravitate to Hollywood will do the very same thing to attract the attention of motion picture producers and directors.

And much the same applies to the altar boys who get fucked by the priests in so many heavenly palaces of the mary folks.

There is no cure for the whorehouses of Hollywood or the shadier aspects of the roman international. Because there are too many willing young bodies and the old lechers who will take advantage of them.

But for Washington, the cure is easy. Stop hiring teen-agers to serve as congressional aides. Middle-aged men and women can do such work probably even better than the kids, and people old enough to have grown beer bellies attract few sexual predators.

Besides which, people who don't want to be accused of gay-bashing ought to shut the hell up about what folks do on an american style date, as long as rape is not involved.

Arnold Harris
Mount Horeb WI

Heh heh heh. I love the simple truth in that.

The second by 'Subsunk' over at the Mudville Gazette in the midst of a great discussion on whether or not momentum has been lost in Iraq. Really this is just the best of many.


"The laws of physics do not apply to politics"

Absolutely true. I agree with the gist of your post. I also think that American politics has no place on a battlefield. None. Politics has a function in Iraq. It is to convince the Iraqis that it will be less costly and more profitable for them to join the new Iraqi government rather than to snipe, bomb, lie and steal from/at the US. The function of politics in this case is to convince them they have lost their last war, and that they will receive friendlier and more profitable treatment if they will only stop fighting and join those who wish to end their "little war" (and it is a little war) and see a brighter future.

We can't quit. We have to see it through to the end no matter how long or how difficult it is with the resources we have. Your analogies are fine examples to me.

Additionally, I see many examples in the media of how some see the insurgency growing because Americans have killed some innocents or supposed innocents in Iraq, and their families have now determined to fight America wherever it shows its face. Liberals believe this just grows more enemies, and they are correct that families of those killed innocently will never love us.

But the majority of those killed in Iraq today are killed by other Muslims or other Iraqis. How does this play into the theme that all Iraqis are motivated by our killing and our killing alone? Why assume that our enemies are growing at a greater rate than our allies in Iraq? And it also begs the question as to how, if Saddam killed so many of his subjects, he could keep from ever building such a huge insurgency in Iraq that he would never have been able to retain control --- and we all certainly agree he retained complete control in Iraq during his reign, don't we? Any Dhimmis wish to comment on that?

The answer, of course, is that fear will greatly outweigh the anger of revenge. When you fear more for your family's lives than your thirst for revenge, you will hold your fire, hide your arms, and stop killing just because your fear for your own life or the lives of those most precious to you over and above your desire to kill the man who killed your brother. This is shown in all kinds of examples in America today. We allow our justice system to exact the punishment for murderers instead of me having to kill the SOB who raped my daughter, or you having ti kill the person who killed your wife in a car accident. The Amish attend their childrens' killer's funeral to forgive. Reginald Denny forgives the brutes who bashed his head in with a cinder block during the LA riots. The list is long and distiguished in the extreme. Muslims have their own set of these people and they are wise as well.

There is insufficient fear of America in Iraq today, and this will not change because we are not that kind of people. We don't demand fear of ourselves or of our actions. We demand respect, and irrational hatred and revenge do not understand respect. Were we to work towards instilling fear, we most certainly could prevail in Iraq quickly, a little more painlessly on our part, and a whole lot more painfully on the Iraqis part.

And we would lose the war on Islamofascism. Utterly and Totally. You think we have no friends now, try winning friends once you've carpet bombed Baghdad, leveled Ramadi and obliterated Haditha. Extermination of pests works very effectively and certainly instills sufficient fear or removes sufficient motivation for revenge if you know your entire family, all your lands and property, and everything you hold dear will be obliterated if you poke the sleeping monster one more time.

So we are stuck with the war we have. Too kind to kill them all, and too compassionate to just completely give up, leave the place and allow the pests to eliminate each other, allow a victor certain to emerge (whom, if we like him we allow him to be friendly with us, and if we hate him, we begin anew and kill all his supporters while waiting to see who replaces him after another bloody five years of civil war).

We stand in the way of them killing themselves, saving them from each other, and we take the feeble poundings they give us in the meantime because they are stupid children who don't know any better and we must suffer their "slings and arrows" until they grow up and stand on their own two feet and learn to take care of themselves, including eliminating and imprisoning their miscreants and killers of children on their own.

It's Hell being the babysitter sometimes, ain't it?


Some powerful stuff, that. I humbly bow to the blogosphere!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Required Reading

What do you get with an MA in anthropology, living and teaching in multiple countries including Saudi Arabia all mixed with a libertarian leaning mind?

Why, you get some breathtakingly insightful observations on Arabs and Middle Eastern culture.

Read the whole thing, as they say.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Brilliance Dressed as Glib

Over at Dean's World, Aziz Poonawalla posts an excerpt from this essay by Michael Grant:

We need someone to remind us who we are. The Bush administration keeps telling us we're safer than we were five years ago. I don't feel safer. There's this huge sword swinging around. Our leadership, with all its display, is acting just like the terrorist wants us to act, then suggests we are dead wrong if we disagree. It makes all of us out to be acting just like the terrorist wants us to act. But we're not that way. I watched the buildings burning on Sept. 11, and at some point got on email and messaged everybody I knew that we should think what the terrorists would want us to do, and then do the opposite thing. Nobody objected, or disagreed. So it doesn't take a rocket scientist to know how to fight a terrorist. We just all need to be brought together in this quiet, firm, fight, and quickly.

He then declares the essay brilliant and encourages us all to read the whole thing. Well, as I commented over there, I read the whole thing expecting brilliance and all I got was a chuckle.

So the terrorists actually wanted us to topple the Taliban taking away OBL's base, remove Hussein from power, nurse democracy in Iraq, and press the wider Middle East towards democratic reform? Now that is some kind of reverse psychology Al-Qaeda pulled on us huh?


Oh, I also just love this:

I watched the buildings burning on Sept. 11, and at some point got on email and messaged everybody I knew that we should think what the terrorists would want us to do, and then do the opposite thing. Nobody objected, or disagreed.

So, no one that he 'got on email' with on 9/11 disagreed, therefore doing the opposite of what Al-Qaeda wants must be the blindingly obvious correct course to take? That is some sophisticated strategy!

Or maybe his email list that he 'got on' is just wanting.

Yeesh. As usual another glib post from Aziz which is further magnified by his unwillingness to respond or expound on his characterization of Grant's essay as brilliant. The post did generate a very good discussion in the comments though, I do encourage you to read them all. If nothing else the essay united the Dean's World commenters!


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