Thursday, August 20, 2009


"Jews In The Attic" - An Interesting Perspective

Joe Huffman, a blogger and self-professed Second Amendment activist, has a brief essay on an interesting way to look at government regulation -- what he calls the "Jews In The Attic" test:
Will this law make it difficult or impossible to protect innocent life from a government intent on their imprisonment or death? [...] I told them I called this test my "Jews In The Attic Test". Furthermore I told them that if it fails this test no further discussion is really needed, the law must be opposed in the most vigorous manner possible.
(emphasis his)

Interesting, no?

I'm sure that some people would oppose this idea as ridiculous, saying that it's paranoid to plan for the day when the American Government would round up loyal citizens and imprison them without cause.

To which I'd reply: tell it to the graduates of Manzanar. It's happened before, and if we're not careful, it can happen again, particularly in times of hysteria.

No doubt the same people would ridicule the idea of America being invaded by a foreign enemy. To which I'd reply: this does not mean that the American military is unneeded; it means that they're doing their job. Similarly, if you think our laws are strong enough to keep Manzanar from ever happening again, I'd say that this means constant vigilance is working, not that it's not needed.

Back to Mr. Huffman. He gives a short list of laws that would fail this test -- in other words, that would make it impossible to protect innocents from the government -- and which therefore, by his lights, should be opposed without question.

Have a look. Some items on his list might surprise you.



US Life Expectancy At Record High

This is according to the CDC:
U.S. life expectancy reached nearly 78 years (77.9), and the age-adjusted death rate dropped to 760.3 deaths per 100,000 population, both records, according to the latest mortality statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The report, “Deaths: Preliminary Data for 2007,” was issued today by CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics. The data are based on nearly 90 percent of death certificates in the United States.

The 2007 increase in life expectancy – up from 77.7 in 2006 -- represents a continuation of a trend. Over a decade, life expectancy has increased 1.4 years from 76.5 years in 1997 to 77.9 in 2007.

Other findings:

  • Record high life expectancy was recorded for both males and females (75.3 years and 80.4 years, respectively). While the gap between male and female life expectancy has narrowed since the peak gap of 7.8 years in 1979, the 5.1 year difference in 2007 is the same as in 2006.
  • For the first time, life expectancy for black males reached 70 years.
  • The U.S. mortality rate fell for the eighth straight year to an all-time low of 760.3 deaths per 100,000 population in 2007 -- 2.1 percent lower than the 2006 rate of 776.5. The 2007 mortality rate is half of what it was 60 years ago (1532 per 100,000 in 1947.)
  • The preliminary number of deaths in the United States in 2007 was 2,423,995, a 2,269 decrease from the 2006 total.
  • Heart disease and cancer, the two leading causes of death, accounted for nearly half (48.5 percent) of all deaths in 2007.
  • Between 2006 and 2007, mortality rates declined significantly for eight of the 15 leading causes of death. Declines were observed for influenza and pneumonia (8.4 percent), homicide (6.5 percent), accidents (5 percent), heart disease (4.7 percent), stroke (4.6 percent), diabetes (3.9 percent), hypertension (2.7 percent), and cancer (1.8 percent).
  • The death rate for the fourth leading cause of death, chronic lower respiratory diseases, increased by 1.7 percent. Preliminary death rates also increased for Parkinson’s disease, chronic liver disease and cirrhosis, and Alzheimer’s, but these gains are not statistically significant.
  • There were an estimated 11,061 deaths from HIV/AIDS in 2007, and mortality rates from the disease declined 10 percent from 2006, the biggest one-year decline since 1998. HIV remains the sixth leading cause of death among 25-44 year-olds.
  • The preliminary infant mortality rate for 2007 was 6.77 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, a 1.2 percent increase from the 2006 rate of 6.69, though not considered statistically significant. Birth defects were the leading cause of infant death in 2007, followed by disorders related to preterm birth and low birthweight. Sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) was the third leading cause of infant death in the United States.
The full report is available at
(emphasis mine)

That's good news, pretty much across the board!

Now... can someone please explain to me, again, why heath-care reform is so urgent?


Tuesday, August 18, 2009


A Beautiful Turn Of Phrase

A number of interesting articles have been posted in re the much-maligned and heavily-underestimated Sarah Palin -- who was in the news recently for lambasting ObamaCare's prospective "death panels". This caused widespread condemnation, up to and including President Obama himself, who went out of his way to ridicule the idea that the government "would pull the plug on Grandma". (We also saw that unreasoning opposition to Mrs. Palin is by no means confined to Democrats.)

As several people are pointing out, however, there was reason to think that ObamaCare would eventually dictate which life-prolonging treatments to approve and which to deny, including a carefully-worded statement from the President. Calling such a scheme "death panels" might be harsh, but it's not necessarily inaccurate... and it got the discussion started, with a vengeance.

And she got results, didn't she? The bill is being amended to make the point clear that "death panels" are not desirable.

But my hat's off to Moe Lane, who frames the issue concisely and accurately:
I can't spare this woman. She fights.
She does indeed... and the battles she picks are worth fighting.

Even better: she apparently caused this furor, and got these results, with one Facebook posting! As economy of effort goes, that's impressive. (Her followup Facebook postings are impressive too; have a look.)

Love her or hate her, or anything in between, Sarah Palin is worth watching -- because she's proven she can shape the debate to her liking, at least as well as President Obama can. (Watching her is entertaining, too; she speaks and the powers-that-be squirm.)

Keep on fighting, Mrs. Palin. The people that need to hear you are listening.


Thursday, August 13, 2009


Academic "Fear", Not "Freedom"

As seen in Instapundit -- Yale is planning to publish a scholarly work on the infamous twelve Mohammed cartoons... and is deliberately omitting the cartoons.

If this isn't ridiculous, I don't know what is. By way of analogy: would you want to see a scholarly work researching the history of antisemitic cartoons, without reprinting the cartoons themselves? (I wouldn't. It's an important issue, and I want people to know what they're talking about.)

A brief recap: in 2005, a Danish newspaper learned about efforts to censor images of the prophet Mohammed, and chose to do some research into the subject. So they commissioned several cartoonists to draw images of Mohammed; the images, twelve in all, were then published.

Riots all over the world resulted... and, amazingly, newspapers worldwide then refused to publish the cartoons. The riots were reported in detail, but the cartoons that started it all were not.

Many newspapers justified themselves, of course, by saying that they didn't want to contribute to the violence by inflaming passions further. In doing so, they neglected their job -- which is to keep the public informed.

As if to underscore the point, Muslim rabble-rousers further inflamed passions by showing the Danish cartoons -- including brand-new images that had never been published. (One purported to show a bearded Muslim with a pig's snout; another showed a Muslim being raped by a dog.) They could get away with this... because most people had never seen the original 12, so they didn't know which ones were the original Danish cartoons (published to ask a question), and which were the new Muslim-against-Muslim ones (intended to incite riots).

Here is a slideshow of all twelve, thanks to Charles Johnson at LGF.

Or, if you prefer to see them all at once, here they are. Please note that most are not controversial in the slightest -- except to those who believe that Mohammed must never be depicted in any way. (They're also very tame compared to the way Muslim cartoons depict others!)

(Another view of the cartoons, with more complete translations of the Danish captions, can be found here.)

Some of these are actually rather clever, e.g. the left-hand one in the second row, showing Muslim women in burqas (with only their eyes showing) and Mohammed (with everything but his eyes showing). Several are pedestrian (e.g. #1, #2, #3, and #12); some are relatively tame statements about Islamic terrorism (e.g. #7, #8, and #9); and the self-fulfilling #5 just breaks my heart. (A cartoonist must live in fear, because he drew a cartoon of a cartoonist living in fear? Unbelievable.)

By not publishing the actual cartoons, Yale is compounding the problem, rather than showing the way to solving it. They are also betraying their motto (lux et veritas, "light and truth"), and taking the cowardly way out:
John Donatich, the director of Yale University Press, said by telephone that the decision was difficult, but the recommendation to withdraw the images, including the historical ones of Muhammad, was “overwhelming and unanimous.” The cartoons are freely available on the Internet and can be accurately described in words, Mr. Donatich said, so reprinting them could be interpreted easily as gratuitous.

He noted that he had been involved in publishing other controversial books — like “The King Never Smiles” by Paul M. Handley, a recent unauthorized biography of Thailand’s current monarch — and “I’ve never blinked.” But, he said, “when it came between that and blood on my hands, there was no question.”
Of course, their research is no doubt freely available on the Internet as well -- so, by Mr. Donatich's logic, there's no need to publish the book at all.

And the claim of "blood on my hands" is equally ridiculous. He is exercising self-censorship due to fear that his work will be abused. By similar logic, we should see equivalent self-imposed bans by people who sell knives, alcohol, or cars.

He is also ignoring future bloodshed. If Muslims today are willing to riot, causing many deaths, because of some silly cartoons, is it more important to fear those riots... or to take a firm stance now, to avoid much worse consequences later? I don't know what will set off the next round of Muslim anti-West riots... but I strongly suspect it'll be even sillier than this one.

Basically, Yale has found excuses for abandoning the principles of academic freedom -- the freedom to investigate anything worth investigating -- in favor of capitulation. It wouldn't have cost Yale anything to include the cartoons, and they could then have applauded themselves for their courageous stand in favor of academic freedom. But they didn't want to risk it.

They will have to live with the consequences of their decision. As Winston Churchill wrote:
"Still, if you will not fight for the right when you can easily win without bloodshed, and still yet if you will not fight when your victory will be sure and not so costly, you may come to the moment when you will have to fight with all the odds against you, and only a precarious chance for survival. - There may be a worse case. You may have to fight when there is no chance of victory, because it is better to perish than to live as slaves."

- - -

By the way, when I did a Google search for "mohammed cartoon", I was bemused to note that this one came up as match #5. Perhaps thinks I'm terribly subversive, or something. (Further update: and in mid-September 2009, the same image is match #4... with a link to this site. Strage.)

UPDATE: Michael Moynihan points out that this is indeed atypical for Yale University Press. What a pity.

As Dean Acheson once said at a press conference:
"One must be true to the things by which one lives.

The counsels of discretion and cowardice are appealing. The safe course is to avoid situations which are disagreeable and dangerous. Such a course might get one by the issue of the moment, but it has bitter and evil consequences. In the long days and years which stretch beyond that moment of decision, one must live with one’s self; and the consequences of living with a decision which one knows has sprung from timidity and cowardice go to the roots of one’s life.

It is not merely a question of peace of mind, although that is vital; it is a matter of integrity of character."
Words to live by, indeed.

UPDATE 2: In the interests of reductio ad absurdum, I'm taking a second look at the cowardly sentence I quoted above:
The cartoons are freely available on the Internet and can be accurately described in words, Mr. Donatich said, so reprinting them could be interpreted easily as gratuitous.
Hmm. I wonder if descriptions of the cartoons in words would be considered inflammatory? (I suspect so; if you really want to be offended, just about anything can be offensive.)

Let's make a Google search for this page nice and easy:

Mohammed cartoons! Mohamet cartoons! Muhammad cartoons!

Cartoon #1 is one of my favorites! It features Mohammed, wearing a black beard and a red turban, walking tiredly across a desert. He's holding a walking-stick, and pulling a donkey laden with red bundles. There's no caption. It's easy to see why this line-drawing made mobs murderously angry, isn't it?

Mohammed cartoons! Mohamet cartoons! Muhammad cartoons!


Monday, August 10, 2009


"Dissent Is Patriotic!"

I used to see lots of bumper stickers like that (and other stuff) that, back when George W. Bush was President -- along with "Question Authority" and similar sentiments. I don't see too many of them these days.

Could it be that dissent is, somehow, no longer patriotic? Glenn Reynolds suggests this, comparing the increasingly vocal "town meeting" attendees (who oppose ObamaCare, and are publicly derided) to the massive protests during the Bush years (who opposed Bush, and were publicly applauded). So does John Leo, who notes that hardly a day went by when Bush, or a member of his Cabinet, wasn't compared to the Nazis... which makes Speaker of the House Pelosi, with her recent comments ("they’re carrying swastikas and symbols like that to a town meeting on health care"), sound foolish, at best. (As Michelle Malkin notes, President Obama's critics are tame indeed compared to those of his predecessor.)

And Mark Steyn wades into the fray with his usual helping of snarkiness, noting the White House's request that "fishy"-sounding criticisms of Obama's Health Care plans be forwarded to (Remember the brouhaha when President Bush's Patriot Act gave the government the right to look at your library records? How would people have responded if he'd asked Americans to forward him suspicious e-mails?)

As Prof. Reynolds notes: "Civility is fine, but those who demand it should show it". And now Administration officials are accusing Tea Party demonstrators and Town Hall attendees of thuggishness and violence... when so far, if anything, they've been the targets of violence.

All in all, it looks as though Democrats -- who grew increasingly shrill when they were not in power -- do not take kindly to even a mild version of the tactics they used. (No doubt they won't like these either.)

In the meantime, I'll have to see what suspicious-looking e-mails I can send to the White House. (There's a Nigerian money-making opportunity I'm wondering about, for example.)

After all, I want to do my patriotic duty, don't I?


Tuesday, August 04, 2009


Operation Cast Lead: The Israeli Viewpoint

As my friend Sol says, there's nothing brief about this legal brief. (I'll add that whoever chose the fonts should be demoted immediately.)

Beyond that, it's an extremely detailed report on Israel's December 2008 - January 2009 incursion into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, and well worth a look. The executive summary alone runs to 14 paragraphs, including such details as these:
3. The Paper addresses the context of the Gaza Operation and notes that Israel had both a right and an obligation to take military action against Hamas in Gaza to stop Hamas‘ almost incessant rocket and mortar attacks upon thousands of Israeli civilians and its other acts of terrorism. Israel was bombarded by some 12,000 rockets and mortar shells between 2000 and 2008, including nearly 3,000 rockets and mortar shells in 2008 alone. Hamas specifically timed many of its attacks to terrorise schoolchildren in the mornings and the afternoons. These deliberate attacks caused deaths, injuries, and extensive property damage; forced businesses to close; and terrorised tens of thousands of residents into abandoning their homes.

4. The Paper notes that Hamas constantly worked to increase the range of its weapons and that, by late 2008, its rocket fire was capable of reaching some of Israel‘s largest cities and strategic infrastructure, threatening one million Israeli civilians, including nearly 250,000 schoolchildren. Hamas also orchestrated numerous suicide bombings against Israeli civilians and amassed an extensive armed force of more than 20,000 armed operatives in Gaza.

5. The Paper also describes the numerous non-military approaches Israel pursued to try to stop the attacks before commencing the Gaza Operation, including urgent appeals to the U.N. Secretary General and successive Presidents of the Security Council to take determined action, and diplomatic overtures, directly and through intermediaries, to stop the violence. Hamas nonetheless continued, and in fact escalated, its cross-border attacks. [...]

6. [...] Both before and during the Gaza Operation, the IDF went to great lengths, as documented in the Paper, to ensure that humanitarian aid reached the Palestinian population, including by facilitating the delivery of 1,511 trucks carrying 37,162 tons [of aid].

7. By contrast, both before and during the Gaza Operation, Hamas committed clear grave violations of international law. The Paper documents Hamas‘ deliberate rocket and mortar attacks against Israel‘s civilian population, which violated the international law prohibition on deliberate attacks against civilians and civilian objects. It also documents deliberate Hamas tactics that put Gaza‘s civilian population in grave danger. [...]

8. The Paper addresses the acute dilemmas faced by Israel in confronting an adversary using its own civilian population as a shield. It details the extensive precautions taken by the IDF to avoid or limit harm to civilians in Gaza, while still having to achieve the necessary objective of stopping Hamas‘ constant rocket and mortar fire on Israeli civilians and property. The IDF not only checked and cross-checked targets and used the least destructive munitions possible to achieve legitimate military objectives; it also implemented an elaborate system of warnings, including general warnings to civilians (through media broadcasts and leaflets) to avoid or minimise the presence of civilians in areas and facilities used by Hamas, regional warnings to alert civilians to leave specific areas before IDF operations commenced, and specific warnings (through telephone calls and warning shots to rooftops) to warn civilians to evacuate specific buildings targeted for attack. The IDF dropped more than 2.5 million leaflets and made more than 165,000 phone calls warning civilians to distance themselves from military targets.
(emphasis added)

The "brief" itself goes on and on, into excruciating detail. For example, this simple sentence:
In the eight years preceding Israel‘s decision to launch the Gaza Operation, Israel sent dozens of letters to the Secretary General of the United Nations and the President of the Security Council, describing the Qassam rocket shelling of Israeli town and cities and suicide attacks on Israeli civilians.29 followed by footnote #29, which goes on for two pages of small print, listing over 220 official letters to the UN in chronological order. (With no visible irony, the footnote begins "see, for example"...)

Hamas self-inflicted casualties are also listed:
Between 27 and 31 December 2008, the first five days of Israel‘s air offensive, about 6.5 percent of the rockets fired by Hamas at Israel fell in the Gaza Strip.

The brief also goes into great detail about the rights and obligations of self-defense, international law as it applies to proportionality and the need to avoid civilian casualties, and so on, listing both Israel's painstaking care and Hamas' utter disregard of such things. Hamas' use of civilian buildings -- and UN facilities! -- from which to launch their attacks is documented with dates, locations, and photographs. Even IDF training materials (emphasizing the sanctity of all human life, and the need to protect civilians) are documented. I was interested to see documentation of how the IDF telephoned military targets ahead of time, in order to warn non-combatants away; so far as I know, this is unique in the history of warfare. (The brief calls this technique "frequently effective", because "aerial surveillance many times was able to confirm the resulting evacuation of numerous civilians prior to an attack by the IDF".)

There's also a breakdown of that 1,511 trucks carrying 37,162 tons of humanitarian supplies on pages 102 and 103. For example, 119 Israeli trucks crossed into Gaza at Kerem Shalom, carrying 1,038 tons of medicines and medical equipment; 24 trucks brought 160 tons of blankets. There's also a list of 706 trucks of humanitarian supplies from various international organizations and other countries. (I, for one, find it notable that Egypt -- the country with the largest humanitarian contributions, other than Israel -- sent 43 trucks with 1,183 tons of supplies. That's less than one-thirtieth of what Israel contributed... and they share a border with Gaza.)

The whole thing goes on for 164 pages, with 283 footnotes. And... as the introduction notes, this is the preliminary report.

I will not exhort you to Read The Whole Thing. But you might well want to take a look. It is, as Sol calls it, "everything you always wanted to know about the Gaza operation but were afraid to ask".


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