Saturday, May 14, 2005
Today's Times Online carries an article entitled'No' Campaign widens gap in EU referendum, which discusses the EU constitution vote in the Netherlands, which is scheduled to take place on June 1st. What caught my attention was the mention of opposition to Turkish accession to the European Union as being a factor in he "no" vote. I wonder if this is a case of misplaced blame.
The Netherlands, in particular, have reason to be concerned about Islamic extremists; after all, fiilmmaker Theo Van Gogh was murdered by Islamic fundamentalists, and two of the nation's lawmakers are in hiding due to threats against their lives by extremist Islamists. There are about 900,000 Muslims living in the Netherlands, and while only about 20% are active in their faith, a quarter of those are fundamentalists who are bent on changing Dutch culture to their own. Additonally, as is true throughout Europe, Muslims commit crimes at a rate significantly higher than the population as a whole, creating a resentment towards them.
What does not follow is how this extends to Turkey. While Turkey is an Islamic country, it is A) not Arabic, and b) predominantly secular. Unlike the theocracies or quasi-theocracies that run much of the Middle East, Turkey has a democratically elected, multiparty system that explicitly limits the ability of religion to play a part in the day-to-day affairs of Turkish citizens. After the Ottoman Empire disintegrated after its defeat in World War I, Kemal Ataturk came to power in Turkey, and made a conscious decision to orient his country towards the west, rather than throwing his lot in with the petty dictators and tin-plated despots to the south and East. The effects have been profound, as a look at Turkey's society and economy compared with its Arabic neighbors will quickly confirm. Turkey is not like the rest of its Islamic neighbors.
That bears out in another way as well. Turks play a minimal role in terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, and seldom involve themselves in the militant fundamentalist movements that are the source of many of the problems in Europe. The ones who do are far more likely to have been born in Europe (especially Germany) than in Turkey, which says more about Europe than it does about Turkey.
I personally favor Turkish admission to the EU, but as I am neither a Turk nor European, my views are irrelevant to the discussion. I will, however, submit that when addressing the issues of Islamic extremism and crime, instead of lumping the immigrants of all nationalities together, to separate them by their ethnic background. I suspect that the results might surprise some of the Turk bashers in Europe.
posted at 02:58 PM | permalink | Comments (0)
Venting on civil unions
No links, just a little venting on my part.
There are those on the left of the political spectrum who insist that the anger at the Massachusetts gay marriage ruling is because conservatives consider gays to be second class citizens, or because conservatives animus towards gays, or because conservatives are mindless simpletons in thrall to a "mythology" called Christianity. Conservatives claim that their opposition is rooted in the method by which that decision was reached.
Obviously, I fall in between the two groups. I am a self-described conservative who supports the idea of gay civil unions. I don't support gay marriage (for reasons I have explained many times), but the idea of denying a host of legal benefits to gay couples over what are essentially religious objections is not acceptable to me. However, despite my support of civil unions, I fall in behind the conservatives on this issue, because I feel that (for the most part) the political posturing is coming from the left. Oh, to be sure, the usual suspects (Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, and their allies) are screaming over the issue, but conservative politicians are upset with the process, not the end result.
Let me explain, since what I just wrote may appear to be insane, based on the amount of discussion generated by the Massachusetts decision. I can boil it down to two words: Vermont and Connecticut.
Vermont has had civil unions for gay couples for almost five years now (the bill approving civil unions was signed by then-Governor Howard Dean on 26 April 2000; the first certificates were issued in July of that same year). The legislation was the result of a Vermont state Supreme court ruling that limiting the benefits of marriage to heterosexual couple was unconstitutional, and the state had to legalize either same-sex marriage or same-sex civil unions.
In the Massachusetts case (Goodridge vs. Department of Health), the outrage was twofold; not only did the court act without input from the legislature, but it also specifically excluded the possibility of civil unions, and flatly stated that only same-sex marriage was an acceptable solution. It was after this decision that President Bush announced his support of the heinous Federal Marriage Amendment.
Which brings us to Connecticut. Three weeks ago, Connecticut passed a civil union bill, similar to the one in Vermont, which extends the state-granted benefits of marriage to same-sex couples. Unlike the Vermont case, there was no court order to do so. Yes, there have been a few protests, but a quick look at the Focus on the Family website shows no press release, and the Family Research Council has only one press release on the issue. It has been far lower-profile than either of the previous decisions. Part of that may be because it's not a first of its kind; its not as noteworthy as the first two. It might be because it is a civil union bill, as opposed to "gay marriage"; Connecticut's Attorney General explicitly stated it as such, and it fact the Governor refused to sign the bill until the AG made such a statement. But it is also likely that much of the opposition to the previous two (especially the Goodridge case) was anger to "judicial activism"; in Connecticut, the legislature acted on its own, without a court decision forcing them to act. That is the way our form of government is supposed to work, rather than through executive orders and courts writing legislation from the bench. I was not particularly pleased with the Massachusetts case, but I fully support the Connecticut legislature and Governor Rell on their actions.
I have not seen much in the way of quotes from influential Republican politicians on the Connecticut case, which leads me to believe that regardless of their personal beliefs, they're not going to argue against federalism on a case where there is no solid ground on which to stand. Federalism is theoretically one of the pillars of Republican philosophy, but there has been an alarming trend in the party to willingly sacrifice it when it obstructs an agenda of party members (primarily social conservatives, but occasionally the left wing of the GOP as well). It's nice to be able to reasonably think that at least on this issue the GOP is actually going to stand by its principles, even if it means seeing something come to pass that is opposed by a sizable segment of its members.
posted at 11:50 AM | permalink | Comments (2)
Thursday, May 12, 2005
My last two posts have been about The Huffington Post, but I can't help myself. It's strangely fascinating, which means that Huffington has succeeded. It's like a train wreck, which is not what she was aiming for, but it's still drawing eyes to her pages, which *is* the ultimate goal.
What the hell is the deal with the posts from Greg Gutfield? Apparently, he's the editor of Maxim UK, which would seem to indicate that he's straight. (The "lad" magazines give a politely condescending nod to gay men, from the light exposure I've had to them. They're not openly contemptuous, but they certainly don't advocate that orientation) If he is straight, his posts are bordering on offensively stereotypical, and if he's gay, his blog posts make Jack from "Will & Grace" look like Walter Cronkite. They're particularly jarring since most of the other posters are serious, or at least not acting like they overdosed on lithium.
posted at 06:56 PM | permalink | Comments (0)
John Cole vs. Jim Lampley
John Cole, over at Balloon Juice, has been watching the back-and-forth over the 2004 Ohio results between Jim Lampley and Byron York at the Huffington Post, and utterly destroys Lampley by linking to one article (from the Ohio Democratic Party website, no less) that kicks the legs out from under Lampley's fatuous argument. Lampley is obviously fighting out of his weight class (to continue his tired boxing analogy). Cole is a heavyweight, and Lampley is a flyweight (and that's with Arianna putting a foot on the scale to give him some heft).
Lampley drags up Diebold's founder and his statement that he would do everything possible to deliver Ohio (his home state) to Bush in 2004. He drags out the Buried Donk fabulism that Diebold machines are programmed to overcount votes for Republicans(which is false, but never mind that). Ergo, Kerry actually won Ohio.
Except that not a single voter in Ohio used a Diebold machine, or any type of electronic voting without a paper trail. Diebold machines are not certified in Ohio. That fact is noted in the ODP press release.
posted at 06:40 PM | permalink | Comments (3)
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
Best. Snark. Ever
Vodkapundit, describing the train wreck that is Arianna Huffington's new quasi-blog (it appears to be a cross between a commentless blog, a Drudge-like news filter, and a discussion board like the Buried Donks or Free Republic), comes up with what has to be one of the funniest descriptions I've ever seen:
We're reading the web. We don't want names; we want content. Huffingtonblogwannabepostthingy might have great content -- but being neither fish nor fowl, I just couldn't get into it. I couldn't read through the wreck of something that looked like a tabloid, claimed to be a blog, and read like Wonkette without the anal sex jokes and killer rack.
posted at 08:41 PM | permalink | Comments (0)
Cognitive dissonance at the AP
Boi from Troy points out the catch-20 employed by the AP in this story (cache version because it was sanitized out of existence shortly after its release), which seems to be criticizing Bush for being too eager for allowing diplomacy to work out the problems. BfT has a few things to say about that, and some of the commenters have some insight as well.
posted at 12:23 PM | permalink | Comments (0)
Monday, May 9, 2005
More dissembling from Molly Ivins
Molly Ivins' most recent column (Dated May 5th, it appeared in today's Seattle Times) is a typical half-witted hatchet job, full of omissions, half-truths and distortions. Let's take a look.
(Omitting two-paragraph screed against Big Oil companies)
And their genius answer to "energy independence"? Drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Look, the total oil under ANWR is 1 billion barrels less than this country uses in a year, according to Robert Bryce, the Texas journalist who specializes in energy reporting. The bill is just riddled with perversity: We continue to subsidize people who buy Hummers, but no longer grant tax rebates to those who buy hybrid cars that are more than six times as fuel efficient. This is not how you get to "energy independence." The United States hit its oil peak back in 1970 -- domestic production has been declining ever since.
Wow, she packed a lot into one paragraph. Drilling in ANWR is expected to produce anywhere from 40% to a bit over 100% of the oil we import from Saudi Arabia each day. (IOW, we might be able to stop all imports from the House of Sod.) That's not an insignificant amount. We currently import about 1.5 million barrels per day from Saudi Arabia, according to this helpful chart from the Department of Energy. This PDF file, also from the DoE, points out that from 2013 (when drilling will commence) through 2023 or 2024 (depending on which forecast is used), production will increase from ANWR. This will allow us several addtional years to develop alternative energy sources.
Robert Bryce, the writer she cites, is not a disinterested observer. He is a vigorous partisan whose writings have appeared in the leftist Salon, Texas Observer (where he was a colleague of Ivins'), Mother Jones, and The Nation. Of course, Ivins fails to point out his ideology because it might call into question his motivation and credibility on the issue.
We don't subsidize Hummer buyers; Ivins is referring to a loophole in the Bush economic stimulus package which increased the allowable tax write-off for trucks used for work. Small business owners are able to use the increased tax writeoff, so CEO's and other corporate fatcats don't get a break; only small businessmen get the benefit. As to the tax credit for hybrid vehicles, it's extraordinarily regressive; the rich who are most likely to be able to benefit get a significantly larger rebate, as shown by the sidebar chart in this USA Today article. Ivins also conveniently forgets to mention that congress can extend the tax rebate; it was scheduled to sunset in 2006. Bush's plan called for the rebates, but Congress makes the decisions on spending. Ivins instead blames Bush for the sins of congress. **See update and link below**
I'm not sure I've ever seen anything quite as odd as the right wing's insistence that global warming does not exist. I'm not a climatologist, but I can read what they're saying. In fact, they're screaming it. Rush Limbaugh is not a climatologist, either, nor are any of the rest of these pinheads who seem to think the whole thing is some figment of liberals' imagination.
There's nothing liberal about global warming, it's science. There seems to be some element of childish spite in the refusal to recognize it -- "Boy, we can drive the liberals crazy by pretending it's not happening, ha, ha, ha." If you read right-wing blogs, you find a kind of Beavis and Butthead attitude about the subject, a sort of adolescent-jerk humor. What's astonishing is finding the same attitude among members of Congress. Head-militantly-in-sand is not a solution.
Half of the nimrods squawking about global warming in the 21st century were screaming about how pollution was creating a new ice age in the 1970's. There is not a whole lot of science behind global warming, because all of the models that are being used are deeply flawed. Some omit the effects of oceans, some use readings only from urban areas (where temperatures rise as population increases), some eliminate datapoints that don't fit preconceived definitions, and so forth. And not all of the "pinheads" who dispute global warming lack scientific backgrounds (including climatology). Note, for example, the Oregon Petition, with over 17,000 signatories, over 90% of whom have been verified; almost 40% of these scientists held advanced degrees in physical science or life science. The "head in the sand" crowd is composed of those who refuse to accept that nuclear power is the once and future solution to much of our power generation issues. (more on that shortly)
Foreign policy also plays a role here. Let us pass quickly by the administration's pre-war assurances that Iraqi oil would pay for the war -- the country is pumping less now than it did under Saddam Hussein. How smart is it to dick around trying to oust the president of Venezuela? You put a bunch of ideological nutcases in charge of Latin American policy, and you're going to create a lot of enemies down there.
Yes, it is true that the Bush administration miscalculated on the Iraqi oil issue, but Ivins is flat-out wrong. According to the notoriously pro-Bush Al Jazeera, Iraqi oil production began exceeding pre-war levels last year, and this year should be able to produce more than 50% more than pre-war levels, as more or Iraq's ill-maintained infrastructure is repaired.
Hugo Chavez's anti-Americanism has nothing to do with the "ideological nutcases" in the Latin American desk at State, and more to do with his political love-fest with Fidel Castro, the pariah of the hemisphere. Opposing Chavez is not losing us any support from his neighbors, all of whom have seen a significant cooling of relations with the Venezuela, with a leader who is paranoid after an almost-successful coup two years ago.
And their answer is to bring back nukes? Let's review the bidding on that one. Aside from Murphy's Law, the problem with nukes is that they create radioactive waste that remains toxic for tens of thousands of years. And we don't know what to do with it. The First Rule of Holes applies -- if you're stuck in one, stop digging. We're already dependent on one form of energy that has a toxic legacy, why in heaven's name walk into another one, this time with foreknowledge of its effects? Especially when there are cheap, reliable, renewable, non-poison-producing alternatives? We're nuts to even think about it. Wind power already has near competitive prices.
Renewable energy sources are not pie-in-the-sky -- they're here right now, and they're going to be a lot cheaper than oil. The single cheapest thing we can do about oil is not use so much of it. Current hybrid technology will not get us to the mythical goal of "energy independence," but at least we can slow down the demand for oil. In theory, it only takes 15 years to replace the entire fleet of American cars now on the road. We don't have another four years to waste.
And a few more errors to close out the piece.
Nuclear power *is* the solution, as countries as diverse as France, Estonia, and South Korea have all discovered. (Each use nuclear power to generate more than 50% of their total power generation.) New technology in nuclear reactors reduce the already minuscule change of a meltdown to zero (the United States never used a reactor with the unsafe design of the Chernobyl reactor, and in the Three-Mile Island incident, a meltdown didn't occur because of the safety features of the plant). The new designs are even safer, because the designs are inherently safe, requiring human intervention to prevent a shutdown.
Nuclear waste is a concern, but nowhere near as dangerous as doctrinaire anti-nukes (like Ivins) would have us believe. Toren Smith had a nice summary of the issue of nuclear waste, discussing vitrification, a simple and elegant solution to the problem.
Ivins implies that renewable energy is the solution, but neglects to point out a few facts, such as the fact that wind generators and solar panels require a source of wind or sunlight to produce energy, hydroelectric power (the best renewable of all) is verboten amongst the greenies because of its effect on fish, and any attempt to create a large-scale project is opposed by the NIMBYs, BANANAs, and the environmentalists who snivel about habitat destruction. Further, only 3% of our electrical power is generated by oil-fired plants. If Ivins were addressing the problems with coal- or gas-fired plants, it'd be more relevant, but not oil.
Here in Washington (state), we have one reactor, Columbia Unit 1, with a capacity of about 1100 MWe. The efficiency factor for Nuclear power is about 90%, so the effective power is about 990 MWe. A single wind turbine has a capacity of about 3 MWe, with an efficiency rating of about 30%, so the effective power is 900 KWe. In order to generate the same power as our one nuclear plant, a wind farm with 1000 turbines would be required, which is a staggering number. The project off Martha's Vinyard (scuttled by limosine liberals who didn't want it to interfere with their views) was projected to be 130 turbines over 24 square miles. 1000 tubines would require 184 square miles, which is simply not feasible.
UPDATE: Q and O notes that Oregon is studying a punitive tax on owners of hybrid vehicles, taxing them on miles driven. A similar proposal is being pushed in California. Is Ivins going to chastise the Democratic governor and senate in Oregon, or the monolithic Democratic assembly and senate in California? These new taxes have nothing to do with the federal government.
posted at 11:39 PM | permalink | Comments (0)