Thursday, July 29, 2004

Sullivan the Dull

When I first started reading blogs about a year ago, I read Andrew Sullivan a lot. At the time he was pushing the values of a moderate gay Republican. It set him apart from the crowd of whitebread WASP Republicans and Libertarians that inhabit the blogosphere. Woo hoo! New ideas and viewpoints!

But eventually I read him less and less. Its obvious that gay (homosexual? same-sex?) politics are very central to Sullivan for obvious reasons, but somehow he had tricked himself into believing the very evangelical GW Bush to be his man in this area. What a shock that the evangelical President sides with the Christians on same sex marriage... Sullivan's rants on Bush's "betrayl" became tiresome quickly but never dropped in frequency. Of course it didn't help that I'm an evangelical who's ideals are much closer to the President than Sullivan.

So I read Sullivan today for the first time in months (work is slow) and it read way too party line Democrat. Granted its still a gay partyliner, but with democrats thats not so striking. I'm not the only one to notice. Sullivan often harped on topics I didn't care about, but now he's simply fallen into the Democratic pseudo-strategist noise.
And the Democrats can now claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility that the GOP, under Bush and Hastert and Frist, has abandoned. It will be hard for Bush to defend the tax cuts for the very rich in a debate, especially one framed this way by the Democrats.

Just one problem, all of Bush's carefree spending has been on bills proposed by whom? By Democrats. The Republicans were the one with ideas behind expanding Medicare and they certainly didn't write Teddy Kennedy's education bill. Sullivan's logic which I respected, even if I didn't agree with it, is increasingly left behind for this:
Domestically, I also thought Edwards was able to offer traditional Democratic support for the less fortunate without engaging in sour leftist resentment. I'm always moved by white Southern men of a certain generation who can also speak so effectively about civil rights.

Wow you're moved. Thats great. What happened the old less-predictable Andrew Sullivan? Is this what supporting Kerry does to a man? Turns him into a hollow shell of himself who can only repeat "I'm not a democrat" while he walks and talks like one? Ugghh not for me not anymore.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004


Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy is blogging on the PATRIOT Act.

The Volokh Conspiracy folks are law professors so its very interesting to see them comment on issues like the PATRIOT Act that are often heavily misrepresented by laymen. That doesn't mean the PATRIOT act is all sunshine and lollipops, but there is a lot of good stuff in there that deserves to be renewed. Its not the grand assault on civil liberties that people proclaim it to be.

UPDATE: Orin Kerr has posted another piece on the PATRIOT Act. This time he's specifically talking about criminal law and how the PATRIOT Act relates to it. It has some good links to commentary on PATRIOT by the ACLU.

Kerry Charisma

So I was checking Instapundit this morning like I usually do and took a look at this article by Claudia Rosett at the Wall Street Journal's Opinion Journal.

It got me to thinking about Democratic foreign policy. Their platform plank is John Kerry will do everything you liked about Bush foreign policy, only better, and with more of our traditional allies.

Now the like Bush but better isn't really worth talking about. Its something people say after the fact when they know nobody is going to check their references. The alliance builder part is what concerns me. Here is a piece by Mickey Kaus at the Democratic National Convention.
Based on an actual conversation!

Passenger: "Fleet Center, please."

Boston cab driver (an immigrant): "You like John Kerry, eh?"

Passenger: "Well, I'm a Democrat but I don't really like Kerry that much."

Cab driver: "I hear that all day. All day. 'I don't like Kerry.' Why you pick him if you don't like him?"

Yes this is the man who will unite the world behind us with the force of his personality and will. If he can't get his own party enthused for him, how the hell is he going to unite the world through alliance building in a way that Bush cannot? Other than by selling us out for the purpose of internationalism of course. I guess I don't buy it, but I'm probably going to be voting for the other guy anyway.

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Christian Harry Potter?

Evidentally there is a christian Harry Potter out in Britian. I find this very interesting because my first impression of Harry Potter has always been that it had a similar style to C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis is of course on of the great christian thinkers of the 20th century and author of several very good books. Frankly I think the "christian Harry Potter" would probably be The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe written by Lewis some time in the 1950s.

Of course some christians don't like Potter or don't like Tolkien. Its pretty foolish especially with Tolkien who was instrumental in leading C.S. Lewis to Christ at Oxford. Some people are just idiots.

Gay Marriage

Randy Barnett over the the Volokh Conspiracy has a piece up on Gay Marriage.  The core argument is that marriage is a contract between two people.  The government is meddling in civil liberties of individuals when it says that they can't enter a contractual relationship.  This is interesting because its conservatives who are asking for the meddling instead of decrying it as usual.

This only has one problem. Marriage is not just a contractual relationship between two people to share property and parenting responsibilities. Its a contractual relationship with society as well. Thats why marriages are public gatherings and require witnesses. Thats why businesses often recognize married couples for special benefits. If marriage were just between two people this wouldn't be a big deal and I'd be with you.

You see by granting gay marriage equal standing with straight marriage you give the gay couples the weapon of equal protection to legally compel me to violate my conscience. 

I have no problem with a gay couple raising their kids or sharing property rights based on their relationship.  Good for them.  I don't have a problem with them assuming many of the trappings of traditional marriage. 

I have a problem with them walking up to me and saying "you give this to straight couples so you have to give this to us too."  Yes in a way I am talking about the freedom to discriminate.   I don't hold that all discrimination is a wrong or bad.  Discrimination is actually necessary like judging between right and wrong.  The Sermon on the Mount tells us to discriminate wisely through even judgement without prejudice, not to be completely undiscriminating.  Thats the whole point of the "pearls before swine" passage that follows the "judge not lest ye" passage.

Smart People Missing the Point

I like Steven Den Beste's work over at USS Clueless.  As one of the Four Horsemen of the Blogpocalipse he is worthy of my respect.  Sometimes his work is good, other times it misses the point, and still other times its just hot air.  His last post is in the missing the point group.

Long story short, someone who has likely never read his blog emailed him looking for free publicity on a product.  Steven then researches the guy (who turns out to be the writer's publicist) and finds out that he is simply looking for free publicity.  So then Steven gives it to him.  Yup, Steven goes on a long winded your-a-bozo-look-how-smart-I-am tirade.  The point he missed?  There is no such thing as bad publicity and he has mentioned the guy's publicity company multiple times.  Even gives links to their email addresses, etc.  Granted he doesn't mention the name of the book, but all this guy needs to do is list the book on his website and Steven might as well have.

Not one of Steven Den Beste's brightest moments.  Pearls before swine...

Change This

Jeff Jarvis is talking about ChangeThis over at Buzzmachine.  ChangeThis is a manifesto hosting site.  Yes, perhaps if Ted Kazinsky hadn't hated technology so much he could have become the Unablogger.  I'm guessing ChangeThis will cater more to the left than the right and to explain I offer this story:

I'm going to lunch with some coworkers.  As usual, names have been changed to protect the innocent.  There is myself, my coworker who I will call Izzy, and another coworker I will call Tom.  Izzy is an engineer like myself and is a car nut.  Tom is a computer programmer and not a car nut. 

As we drive Izzy and I are discussing car engine design (pushrods vs. dual cams) and Tom, seeking inclusion, says "I think we should stop using the pistol engine.  We've been using it for almost a century so there has to be something better out there.  Its such old tech." 

Izzy and I look at each other.  Izzy smiles and replies with "You're a Democrat aren't you Tom."

"Yeah how did you know?"  Tom was amazed as he had never discussed his politics with us.

"Because you want to change something just to change it.  You have no alternatives to the old process and don't really know much about it, but you just think we shouldn't use it simply because its old."

The two engineers go on to explain why the piston engine is still here after 100 years to the computer scientist.

This is really what separates conservatives from liberals.  If a solution to a problem lasts 100 years, conservatives will see it as a good solution.  Its lasted the test of time.  Liberals see it as old and out-moded no matter what.  They want to change it, even if they don't know of anything better.  They want change and "progress" solely for change sake.  This is part of the point of ChangeThis, change is good no matter what.

This is not to say that conservatives don't want change as well.  I'd willingly write a manifesto about the US highways needing to adopt the keep right principle used on the German autobahn.  It's a great solution and has really contributed to lower accident rates over there.  But thats still a solution that has met the test of time, just not here.

Jewish Super Heroes

Eugene Volokh is pontificating on Jewish Superheroes.

But Spoons points out something more important:

I think you should be able to claim Spiderman. After all, it sounds like a Jewish name, doesn't it? Can you hear it? Federman, Goldman, Grossman, Leiberman, Friedman...

Wow -- how could I have missed that? Maybe that means that all the big -man superheroes are Jewish.

Sounds good to me, but how many Jewish kids do you think there are in Smallville, Kansas? ;)

UPDATE:  Eugene has updated and raises a really good point brought up by his readers.  Most superheroes are Gentiles, but most of their creators are Jews.  Practically the entire Marvel Universe was written by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, both Jews.  Similarly Superman and Batman's creators are Jewish.  Its actually surprising there aren't more Jewish superheroes.

Side Question:  Can Orthodox Jewish superheroes fight crime on Shabbat?  Or use their powers at all?  Would a Jewish Superman still have to walk to synagogue or could he fly?  Would their superhero weakness involve sacramental cleanliness? 

Some people may be wondering if I'm some kind of anti-semite at this point since "Jeff the Baptist" is certainly not Jewish.  Nope, my girlfriend is a Jew and I get along with Jews just fine.  I'll probably talk about Judaism a lot, but my view is as an outsider giving his opinion and I'm sure some of it will not be popular with the yarmulke set.  Eh not like anyone is reading this anyway.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Bush Tells the Truth

Instapundit has another post up on Joe Wilson and the collapse of the Bush Lied! argument. This one is about the disparity of coverage between the original Bush Lied! story and its collapse. So far there is an order of magnitude difference in the coverage they are recieving.

Now big media votes party line democrat. We already know this. Now they have a situation were not only do they have to support the Republicans, but they also have to retract a whole lot of stories which are turning out to be false. Is it any wonder there is a deafening silence...

Wednesday, July 21, 2004

Uniter not a Divider

Silflay Hraka has some interesting commentary on John Kerry and foreign policy. His line of thought goes like this: Bush has had a presidency characterized by disunity. The last Democrat, Clinton, did not. In terms of foreign policy and prosecuting terrorists, Kerry's party affiliation and newcomer status to the presidency will give him options that Bush doesn't have. No doors are yet closed to Kerry. So because Kerry hasn't burned any bridges yet, he may be (for instance) able to rally international support in a way that Bush never will be because Bush is an American cowboy president and a unilateralist.

Now Mr. Hraka is a Democrat. I am on the other side of the political divide. His bit about Clinton being a uniter is of course completely wrong. Bush's "uniter not divider" quote was directed at Clinton! Clinton never won a majority. He owes both his terms in part to Perot. His presidency is perhaps the most scandal ridden of the twentieth century. It was also characterized by bitter partisan division since 1994. The only reason Mr. Hraka could possibly think Clinton is a uniter is because all his friends are also Democrats.

But that's beside the point. We are in a war and I have had similar thoughts. The right may not like having a democrat in office, but I believe will be reluctant to act in a way that severely undermines his authority and may get soldiers killed by encouraging the enemy. The right recognizes that this is war. The left has no qualms about doing either of those to Bush and doesn't give a damn if this is a war. The left questions authority where the right respects authority. Likewise who's sons and daughters are serving in the military these days?

Here's an example: Remember when Clinton bombed Iraq on the day of his impeachment vote? Congress pulled together and postponed it in order to provide a united front. The news story of Clinton basically bombing someone for political reasons was quietly dropped. Even the right conceded that Hussein wasn't complying with UN resolutions and had to be dealt with although the timing was awfully questionable. Plus the news media voting for Clinton didn't hurt. Can you imagine that happening with Bush bombing someone?

Right so I concede Kerry may be able to pull together better support at home and its unlikely he will be able to take back Congress so his stupid domestic policies won't pass. But how will he use this support in the foreign policy arena? The democratic party platform makes reference to using special forces against terrorists, stronger security at home, and lots of talking to people like France. Nowhere is there reference to really taking the fight to the enemy and pulling on serious pressure. Oh discrete strikes, yeah that's there. Clinton did that too remember. It didn't work. It made them mad and gave them time to plan, bad combination. There's also reference to getting other countries involved. Sound like Clinton's failed law enforcement policies again? It should since the same guy wrote them, probably Sandy Berger.

What Bush realizes is that we need to take the fight to the enemy. This includes states that sponsor terrorism like Syria and Iran. Why are states so important? Because the switch to Arab terrorism directly coincides with the Arab nations' inability to defeat Israel militarily. They support terrorists as surrogate armies against Israel. The other reason is that terrorists won't attack us here when they can more easily attack us over there. All they want to do is kill Americans and there are Americans in their streets. Of course the people in their home towns are soldiers and marines and shoot back. But for some reason the same folks that become suicide bombers aren't bright enough to figure that out.

Will Kerry keep the pressure on? I sincerely doubt he has the stones for it. His voting record says no. His policies say "lets talk." That's a no as well, incidentally. Here's a tip about fighting. There are two reasons to talk to your enemy. One is if you think you can come to a peaceful settlement so nobody has to get hurt. Your enemy becomes your friend. Not gonna happen. The other is to buy time to recover from the other guy kicking the crap outta you. Yup that's the one. Except we're hurting him a lot more than he's hurting us so letting him up for a chat would be a mistake. It squanders the advantage we have already built up. Similarly calling in our friends and allies is not a reason to let up as both can be done at the same time.

So yeah I'm probably voting for Bush, but I'm not especially happy about it either.

Terror in the Skies: Cont'd

The comments from my last post have exposed a few flaws with the prayer theory.  The first is that an airliner bathroom is small and is not a place of ceremonial cleanliness.  Its also hard to tell where you are facing.  I think the problem of cleanliness is balanced with the fact that its the only place on the airliner a Muslim can perform the ceremonial washing (aka ablutions) that goes with prayer.  I don't know about the size, but if they are handicap accessible they are certainly big enough.

I've decided I like Technorati and I'll probably be using them for trackback instead of haloscan.  You link to my post's permalink and Technorati picks it up.  Its clean and I don't have to worry about one link for trackback and another for something else.  Works for me.  Why am I mentioning this?  Because its what The Volokh Conspiracy uses and they're how most people got here on the Terror in the Skies story.  I sent an email to Instapundit, but he didn't link up and he doesn't use any form of trackback either.  Darn you Glenn Reynolds!

Orin at Kerr at The Volokh Conspiracy kindly reciprocated my link to them.  He seems to have gotten the blogosphere rolling to my door on this subject.  Its interesting to see different blogs refering to me as reasonable or sane.  Especially since I have never met these people.  At least one guy is a shiite muslim, and he doesn't find my theory too far fetched so I can be proud that a Baptist got Islam right.  Nice to have second opinions on my sanity though.  I hope my blog hasn't peaked with the third post.

I may have to get my blogroll rolling soon.  I also need to write some religious posts soon since I am Jeff the Baptist.

Friday, July 16, 2004

Terror in the Skies?

A whole bunch of folks are linking to this story. Oh the The Volokh Conspiracy is linking too.

Can anyone think of a reason why groups of muslim men would cycle through both bathrooms on an airliner in flight? And synchronized like they all know when they have to do it. Very suspicious... Of course what do muslims do 5 times a day at set synchronized times? They pray. The woman's account includes a rolled up cloth "bag" which is removed from storage. This is likely that man's prayer rug. She also mentions another man reading from a little red book on the second occassion, this is likely a copy of the Koran.

Others have said "hey this happened on my flight too". Yes it did. Because this is what some observant muslims do when they have to pray on an airliner. Calm down folks.

Now is this important? Could Muslims organize some sort of terrorist act based around their prayer activites? Did the authorities react properly to the situation? They could use this as a pretext and the authorities didn't, which is why this story is important. But people, they were probably just a bunch of musicians praying!

Update: Just checked the typical times which are around noon and 5pm. Her flight left at 12:30 so they were probably boarding or in public at the first prayer time. They took it in the air instead. The flight was four and half hours long so they landed right around afternoon prayers, hence the commotion.

Comments: I just switched over to Haloscan for commenting and trackback. This means the original comments have unfortunately been lost when my blog republished. Sorry about that. If anyone knows how to make a copy of them I can throw onto this thread please let me know.

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Close Enough for Government Work

I saw this post on a firearms website I frequent. (I'm on my way to becoming a gun owner.) It pretty royally pissed me off because frankly it's typical of the ignorant libertarian. He knows nothing but yet he still feels the need to speak.
The notion that government employees deserve more and/or better benefits than the general population just because they "work for the government" sticks in my craw. I don't know 1-in-1000 federal, state or local government employees that "serve" out of a sense of patriotism or duty. 999 out that 1,000 are in it because it pays well, has great benefits and retirement, affords some - more or less - power and influence and, as long as everybody keeps paying taxes, offers lifelong employment with retirement at the end.
Now I'm a government employee. I work as a civilian in the US Department of the Army. I'm a mechanical engineer and systems analyst. Guess how much money I make? I'm a 0830 GS-11. Type that into Google and look for the government pay tables for the boonies of Maryland where I work. Congratulations, you now know my salary.

It's not bad. In fact it's pretty good. I make above the average US household income all by myself. However, if I worked in industry I would be making significantly more. If I was contracting, I could be making six figures. If I worked in industry, I would be making less than that but still five figures more than I make now. Now give that some thought.

As for the power and influence, I work for what may be the worlds largest bureaucracy. It puts Dupont or other large companies to shame. And I'm at the bottom of the hill that the shit runs down. My job is regulated largely by people I see twice a year and quite often by people I have never heard of or who are long dead. There are people with influence in the federal government, just like there are in industry. Most of them are at the executive level, in law enforcement, or aides to elected officials. By and large my job involves navigating a mammoth spider web of red tape designed to prevent me from doing my job because that might get someone hurt.

The benefits are few but go like this...

I am serving my country's military in a time of war. I guess I'm that one patriot in a 1000. Funny there are a lot of 1 in 1000s where I work, but that might be a military thing. Or he could have been pulling that number out of his ass. I'm betting on the latter.

I have stable employment. This is the other biggie. My dad was an engineer in the aircraft industry. Aerospace is notoriously unstable, so he switched jobs a lot. He was working out of town a fair bit as I was growing up just to make ends meet. I'm damn proud of my father for what he did, but I don't want that for my kids. Government is the last place I can have relatively stable employment for my entire career. This is the really big motivation for the federal employee.

I get health benefits and retirement benefits nearly identical to someone working in industry. My 401k isn't called a 401k, but that's what it is. I use blue cross. I get no dental and no optical beyond what blue cross gives me. I believe that dental and optical may be changing.

The last benefit is vacation time. The government gives more of it than industry to make up for the fact that we earn less. Industry typically gives 80 hours off a year, where I get 104. I also get paid for organizational activities like the occasional holiday party during work hours. All this is in an attempt to bring my $ per work hour back up to industry levels.

Does this address the lines at the DMV or any of that crap? No. I'll touch on that later because it is actually worth some in-depth analysis. What I am saying is that government employment isn't bad, but its a balancing act that is at best equal to employment in the private sector.

UPDATE: It's now February 22, 2007. I'm now an NH-III so my salary is more obscure because of pay banding. Vision and dental benefits became available at the start of this year. Since I passed 3 years with the government, I now get 6 hours of vacation every two weeks. That's a total of 156 hours per year.

Thursday, July 08, 2004


I started this blog as a repository for all my earthly knowledge. Funny how its empty except for a test post isn't it? I suppose that says something about me and my knowledge then. What does it say I wonder? Probably some interesting mix of "dumbass" and "slacker." Both of which are true to varying degrees anyway. So I decided to get off my butt and start posting because otherwise I'm going to forget how to log in to the stupid thing.

I was thinking about writing some sort of introductory post filled with my name, rank, and serial number. But I'm lazy and with what I'm planning on writing you'll pick it up if you care to. If you don't well hey this is just my second post so I'm not sure if I give a damn either.

I actually didn't created this blog as a repository for all my earthly knowledge because frankly there's a lot of stuff you don't need to know. What I created it for is so that I can comment on other people's work that interests me. Lots of blogs that don't allow comments do allow trackbacks, so this is my central site for blog commenting. Granted I'll need to figure out how haloscan works so I can get trackbacks going in the first place though. I'll also be writing some of my own original ideas down and sharing bits of my life and perspective on things of course. But that basically goes without saying.

Oh, one last thing. I tend to have a dry sense of humor that doesn't come off well on the net for obvious reasons. People just think I'm a jerk unless I use way to many smilies. When I do that they just think I'm some giggly sixteen year old or something. I'd rather be a jerk than some damn noob. Sometimes I read something I wrote a month ago on message board and think I'm a jerk before I notice its me. Usually I just think I'm brilliant though. When that happens I get a nice affirmation out of it because I know I'm being the me-est me I can be. Anyway be advised this is a heavy sarcasm zone.

Jeez this post is already a hundred times the size of my last email to my girlfriend. And she has my blog address. And she will notice these things. Perhaps I had better stop before I get a stern talking to. Just kidding dear. She's reading this sitting at her laptop and making a :P face at the screen right now I can feel it.