Introducing: The Party Afraid Of Death

I was reading this yesterday: A Q&A with Ramesh Ponnuru on The Party of Death. While perusing the author’s pro-life remarks, a complementary Republican party nickname occurred to me: The Party Afraid Of Death. It seems fitting. Ponnuru appears to be against anything that might result in death, as if death is somehow unnatural and beneath human dignity. Almost like he believes we’ve evolved to the point where death, like the flintlock rifle, is obsolete.

I’m not advocating death as something to take lightly or have a party about (I’m certainly not looking forward to it myself), but I think modern society tends too far in the other extreme — we try awfully hard to avoid dealing with death altogether. In previous centuries, death was an integral part of family life. Before modern medicine came along, infants, children, parents, and grandparents died all the time. Now it’s like society thinks it’s “immoral” to die.

This part of the interview in particular baffled me:

[RedState:] Why do you think so many Americans are comfortable with abortion as an option for potentially handicapped children?

[Ponnuru:] It’s a misguided form of compassion, I think. We don’t want kids or their parents to suffer, and we want to eliminate disease and affliction. But because of the way abortion has changed our cultural assumptions, we let those sentiments pull us in the direction of eliminating children with diseases and afflictions.

I just can’t make any sense out of that. It sure sounds like he’s saying that not wanting people to suffer is misguided. Which is sort of a roundabout way of saying that it’s morally superior to let people suffer.

Move Along, Nothing To See Here

Today I’m too lazy to write about anything. Except I just watched some of NBC Nightly News About New Orleans For Dummies, and found it pretty silly overall. I’m pretty sure NBC doesn’t even send reporters anywhere but New Orleans anymore. Over on ABC News, I heard some of that Spanish American Anthem, which I find a little silly too. I guess I can kind of see what they’re trying to accomplish, but I’m not sure it’s the greatest way for Latinos to show their patriotism. I particularly liked how the song was set to debut tomorrow night at 7… only on Spanish-language radio stations.

Reminder: Iran Deadline Looms

Lest we forget about Iran in the midst of our Pain At The Pump(TM): Iran ‘will harm U.S. if attacked’. This Friday, the IAEA will be reporting back to the UN about whether Iran is going to comply with the UN’s demand that they cease their enrichment program. I think you can guess what the report is going to say.

ElBaradei [of the IAEA] has said that, overall, Iran has not proven it does not harbour a military nuclear programme at undeclared locations, and Tehran’s halt to short-notice IAEA inspections in February has magnified such concerns.

Since Iran is thumbing their nose at the UN, it is likely (I should say, it is hopeful) that the UN Security Council will step in and start making some resolutions against Iran. (Not that anyone will have the guts to enforce any of those resolutions.) Unfortunately:

The United States, Britain and France favour sanctions unless Iran bows to pressure soon but the council’s other veto-holders, Russia and China, both with lucrative business stakes in Iran, oppose punitive measures.

Funny how both Russia and China oppose Iran building nuclear weapons, and simultaneously oppose any action that would prevent them from building nuclear weapons. Kind of suspicious (or gutless), if you ask me.

Also, I think it’s worth noting that this latest rhetoric comes from Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei rather than President Ahmadinejad. You may recall that a common argument for burying our head in the sand against clashing with Iran is that crazy ol’ President Ahmadinejad doesn’t have any real power, and the Ayatollah, who does, is much more reasonable.

Malkin\’s Hasty Generalization

Mrs. Krehbiel has noted that I tend to rag on liberals more than conservatives, so this one’s for her: Michelle Malkin: The victims of illegal immigration. I tend to like Malkin’s blog because it’s mostly news and links that you never see in the media, but I find that when she writes opinions, they end up sounding a little shrewish.

She seems to have a knack for generalization (specifically, “hasty generalization“). Frequently, she’ll take the actions of a few and apply them to an entire group, and use this as an argument for some sort of conservative policy. This is normal human behavior, but one would expect a self-professed “investigative journalist” to be a little smarter than that. In the above article, for example, she tells us about Angel Resendiz, an illegal immigrant who raped, killed, and otherwise caused a great deal of harm to a bunch of people over a 25-year period. From this one example, we’re supposed to conclude that every illegal immigrant is going to rape and kill us, but if we just throw them all out and close the borders forever, we’ll be safe.

Clearly, this is a ridiculous argument. (Clear to me, at least.) Malkin fails to mention exactly how many illegal immigrants are sitting on death row*, so therefore we must conclude there’s just the one. So, let’s see… 1 murderer out of 11-12 million illegal immigrants. Once again, we find that the average person has a much, much higher chance of dying in a regular old car accident than at the hands of a nutty illegal immigrant. (Reminder: In 1998, 49,304 died in accidents in North America — for comparison, 58,226 U.S. soldiers died in the entire Vietnam War and, according to Malkin, Angel Resendiz killed 12 people over the course of 25 years.) And without even bothering to look up actual statistics, I’m quite sure there are plenty of bona fide U.S. citizens running around raping and killing people.

My point is that the discussion of whether or not we close up the borders should not include the actions of merely one nutty illegal immigrant. No matter how much security we impose, we’re never going to be safe from the proverbial “lone gunman.” (A secondary point is that most people should worry more about their drive to work every day than the country’s borders.)

* I’ll do Malkin’s fact-checking for her: “The 367 Hispanic inmates under sentence of death at yearend 2004 accounted for 13% of inmates with a known ethnicity.” There is no mention of whether they were illegal immigrants or not. If we presume that all 367 of them were illegal immigrants (out of the 11-12 million in the country), and they each killed 12 people over a span of 25 years, then the total American deaths at the hands of nutty illegal immigrants reaches 4,404. Recall that 49,304 died in traffic accidents in 1998. If we crudely extrapolate that over 25 years, we get 1,232,600 deaths. So, remind me again, which deserves more of Malkin’s outrage?

Nightly News Watch

I’m officially renaming NBC Nightly News to NBC Nightly News For Dummies. Last night, I saw one of the most asinine news reports ever. (Yes, even more asinine than the unending “Long Road Back” series.) Here it is: Road trip reveals impact of gas prices.

An NBC “reporter*” and his “producer*” rented a candy apple red sports car — a convertible — and drove from North Carolina to Orlando, Florida. During the trip, they bought gas. That was the story. I swear, I’m not making this up — that was literally the entire story. This brilliant bit of journalism was intended to prove that we, the American people, are indeed experiencing the Pain At The Pump(TM) that they are harping about so much these days. Because, you know, we may not have noticed. Or we might think they were prattling on about nothing.

The story went on for like 3 minutes, with jaw-dropping inanity after inanity. Each time the “reporter” filled up, he told us how much he spent. “I just filled up the tank with 8 gallons of gas and it cost $24!” Later, we see a shot of a gas pump indicating some $40+ dollars worth of gas inserted into the convertible’s tank, while the “reporter” dutifully exclaims, “ouch!”

Of course, during the trip, the “reporter” “interviewed” other regular people to get independent confirmation of Pain At The Pump(TM). (Seriously, isn’t there any other word in the English language they can put with “pump” besides “pain?”) “Golly, these gas prices sure are high!” one regular person exclaimed. “This is ridiculous!” another regular person exclaimed. “I’m fed up with it!” a third regular person exclaimed, sitting in her car before driving away.

Hey, I have an idea. How about a story on how much oil stock the NBC News executives own and how much money they stand to gain from causing mass hysteria about gas prices? Or maybe a story about how much crack an NBC News executive has to smoke in order to approve a story about absolutely nothing? Just a thought.

* Is there anything more insidiously sarcastic than quotation marks?

On Price Gouging

RedState uses the classic “if you don’t like the gas prices, don’t buy any” argument in discussing whether or not price gouging is good or bad: The Twilight Zone Comes To The Debate Over Gas Prices.

This seems to be a pretty common argument from people who can afford gas at any price, but I find it a bit misleading. In a purely theoretical sense I suppose it’s valid, but realistically my car doesn’t run on anything but gasoline, so shopping elsewhere isn’t all that feasible. (And I suspect buying an electric car isn’t feasible if you can’t afford gas.)

Yeah, yeah, I know there’s public transportation, but that’s not terribly practical in a lot of situations, either. In my case, I’d probably have to ride a train to work everyday to get out of paying for gas, which isn’t very cost-effective (looks like about $10-$15 a day). To cut travel costs I’d have to take a train down here on Monday, stay at a motel through the week, and return on Friday. But then I’d have to pay for a motel for 4 nights, which isn’t very attractive either. And then there’s the slight problem that my cubicle is some 7.5 miles from the train station.

“So get a new job,” they’ll say. Okay, sure. I’ll keep my eyes peeled for a high-tech job within biking distance of my house.

(Just for the record, I don’t think there’s any gouging going on right now, but I was very suspicious when gas prices went up two days before Katrina hit.)

Back In A Bit

Mrs. Krehbiel and I are heading out for a much-needed vacation this week, so you’ll have to fend off Iranian Appeasement and the persuasive but not entirely factual writings of georgia10 and Cenk Uygur without my help for a little while.

Cenk Stinks

More impassioned pleas for Iranian appeasement from HuffPo: Cenk Uygur: If You Liked the Iraq War, You’ll Love the Iran War.

Almost every sentence in Cenk’s article can be refuted as entertainment, deception, or, most likely, just plain ignorance. First, let’s check on Cenk’s “credentials:” He’s a liberal radio talk show host, formerly an entertainment lawyer. In other words, he gets paid to entertain people. Now, let’s examine some of his commentary:

“If you liked gas at three dollars a gallon, you’ll love it at five dollars or more.” Reality: Three dollars a gallon occurred after Katrina, not Iraq. “If you liked fighting 26 million people in Iraq, you’ll love fighting 68 million in Iran.” Reality: At no point has the U.S. been fighting 26 million people in Iraq. Last I heard, we (meaning U.S. and Iraqi forces) were fighting 15,000-20,000 insurgents. “If you liked turning Sunni Muslims against us, you’ll love turning Sunni and Shiite Muslims against us.” Reality: The Sunnis — ya know, Sadaam’s posse — already hated us. Nobody “turned” them. And, uh, most of the Iraqis are Shiite.

“Besides which, there is a very real reason why they actively don’t plan for these wars.” This is pure fantasy. I work among government folks, and I can assure you they plan everything down to the most microscopic level. “They don’t want word of the worst case scenarios (or even realistic scenarios) leaking out and providing a disincentive to go to war.” They may not want word leaking to the enemy, either. “They think if they can convince people it will be easy, everyone will go along.” Golly, there’s an insightful observation. Surely Mr. Cenk, as a radio entertainer, should know the value of good publicity. “They” (I assume he means the Bush administration) are in good company — I’m pretty sure that if you go back through history and read the speeches of every wartime president, or any wartime leader in any country, you won’t find much in them about the impending death and destruction.

“Why do you think every retired general is screaming at the top of their lungs to fire Rumsfeld? “ This implies that Rumsfeld forced the generals into a war they didn’t agree with. But Cenk failed to mention that many of those retired generals supported an Iraqi invasion (“among the retired generals who have called for Mr. Rumsfeld’s ouster, some have emphasized that they still believe it was right for the United States to invade Iraq”); they just didn’t like Rumsfeld meddling so much in the military planning (and rightfully so).

“By the way, is there anything more vile than a Republican telling you that the kids who signed up for our volunteer army knew what they were getting into, so they have no compunction about sending them into war?” Uh, yeah.. a vacuous talk radio jockey influencing public opinion, meddling in American foreign policy, and implying that American soldiers are too weak to fight, while raking in a fat paycheck for his efforts. That’s way, way more vile.

“Bush is a proven liar.” Lying is part of the president’s job. Yes, bald-faced, outright lying. I’m convinced that the general population, growing fat on cheesburgers and dumb on Survivor, is not prepared to handle the whole truth about global politics.

I’ll spare Cenk from complete embarrassment by leaving the rest as an exercise for the reader.

“As a nation we may take pride in the fact that we are soft-hearted; but we cannot afford to be soft-headed. We must always be wary of those who with sounding brass and a tinkling cymbal preach the “ism” of appeasement.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt, January 6, 1941

Reframing Iranian Appeasement

Here’s another HuffPo attempt to “reframe” Iran as the victim of BushCo’s aggression: Bill Scher: Reframing The Iran Debate. This one, at least, presents some supporting evidence, but ultimately I didn’t find it very compelling.

1. Iran presently has a strong, rational incentive to get nukes. Bush is planting permanent military bases on Iran’s doorstep in Iraq, and trying to proliferate nukes to nearby India. Iran’s feeling the heat, and desperately wants to pull a North Korea: get a nuke to keep the neocons at bay.

According to this history of Iran’s nuclear program (which, by the way, takes a very anti-U.S. stance), Iran announced its nuclear enrichment program on February 9, 2003. One would have to presume that it had been under construction for some time before that (apparently Iran obtained and experimented with plutonium in the 1970s — plutonium is only used in building nuclear weapons). All these events occurred before the U.S. invaded Iraq and before the U.S. dealt with India, so it seems unlikely that an imminent threat from the U.S. is the cause for Iran suddenly wanting nukes now.

(I would also like to point out here that Scher cited on article from his own blog as source material.)

2. Iran has acted rationally and can be reasoned with. According to former Bush aide Flynt Leverett, in 2003 the Iranian government offered Bush “a detailed proposal for comprehensive negotiations to resolve bilateral differences … about its weapons programs and support for anti-Israeli terrorist organizations.”

Yes, Bush rejected the proposal. Scher did not mention that the U.S. also rejected many requests from Iran in the 1980s when it asked for help from U.S. companies in building its nuclear program.

Why wouldn’t we deal with Iran, you ask? Let’s flash back to November 4, 1979. 500 Iranian students stormed the U.S. embassy in Iran, taking 52 American citizens hostage (men and women) for 444 days. Since an embassy is considered part of the sovereign territory of the nation it represents, that’s basically an act of war against the United States. And yes, the new post-Revolution Iranian government could have stopped it and in fact but instead encouraged it. (Later, international court proceedings declared Iran should be held accountable.)

Has Iran ever apologized for that? Offered concessions? Not that I know of. A “reasonable” government, sincerely interested in talks, would have done so. So, the political situation stands at: Iran willfully attacked the U.S., and the U.S. responded with sanctions. The ball remains in Iran’s court.

(By the way, unconfirmed rumor has it that President Ahmadinejad was one of the hostage-takers in 1980 1979.)

Scher’s points 3 and 4 (“we have plenty of time” and “Bush isn’t credible”) are easy: Scher’s own sources say 5 to 10 years, 2020 at the latest. That may be plenty of time for some, but it sounds pretty close to me. As for Bush’s credibility, yeah it’s a little shaky, but I see news bits all the time quietly citing new ways that Bush’s Iraqi threat assessment wasn’t so far off after all — and besides, this isn’t about Bush, it’s about Iran.

5. The way to stop Iran, without causing more death, destruction and instability, is to remove the incentives for Iran to go nuclear, and negotiate. The only way that will happen is if we change leaders in the White House, junk the India deal, dismantle the permanent bases, and clearly renounce neocon foreign policy aims.

Why not call it what it is? Scher is talking about appeasement.

UPDATE: Pardon my earlier mistakes in history and grammar.

Cartoon Wars, Part II

I’ve been trying to research whether Comedy Central actually did censor Mohammad in last night’s South Park. Fortunately, National Review Online did so for me, and it sounds like Comedy Central did, in fact, refuse to show it, which is a huge relief. I was pretty annoyed when they blacked out Mohammad (especially since he was “just standing there looking normal”) and I would have been really super annoyed if I’d found out that Matt and Trey had censored themselves.