Saturday, December 31, 2005

NSA in the News (Again)

NSA Caught Placing Cookies on Web Visitors' Computers

Um...duh?

I honestly don't see what the big deal is. The NSA uses cookies- so does pretty much every other website out there. The NSA has as much of a right to collect stats on their visitors as I do. And let me tell you, Sitemeter and Bravenet, the two hit counters I have, use cookies to collect information on the people who visit the Right Wing Report. I can check and see if my visitors are new or repeat visitors, how long they stayed here, if they were referred from another site, and where they're from (incidentally, I've had a LOT of hits from NJ in the last few days- not sure what that's about.)

So if bloggers can do it, why can't the NSA?

Thursday, December 29, 2005

No Wonder Adults Say Teenagers are Crazy...

I know, I know, I'm still on vacation, but I saw this story when I was checking my email, and I couldn't pass it up.

BAGHDAD, Iraq - Maybe it was the time the taxi dumped him at the Iraq-Kuwait border, leaving him alone in the middle of the desert. Or when he drew a crowd at a Baghdad food stand after using an Arabic phrase book to order. Or the moment a Kuwaiti cab driver almost punched him in the face when he balked at the $100 fare.

But at some point, Farris Hassan, a 16-year-old from Florida, realized that traveling to Iraq by himself was not the safest thing he could have done with his Christmas vacation.

And he didn't even tell his parents.

More>>


Right now, I'm trying to imagine what my parents would do to me if I suddenly decided to fly to Baghdad. I have a hunch that not even Senator McCain's new anti-torture law would save me.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

And Happy Hanukkah to Jake the Jew and my other Jewish friends.

This will probably be my last post for the next few days. Tomorrow afternoon we are driving down to Virginia to visit my mom's family. They were originally going to come here, but my great-grandmother isn't feeling well, so our plans changed.

Then, the next day, we will be driving up to Buffalo, New York to visit my dad's family. If you never hear from me again, it's because I've been turned into a human popsicle (I HATE the cold!!!)

I'm not sure how much access to a computer I'll have during this time, so if I don't get back until everything is over, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Years!!!

PS~ I should probably also say Happy Birthday to Jake as well. Yes, the Jew was born on Christmas.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Mmm...Food

One of the things I miss most while away at college is being able to eat decent food. I mean, don't get me wrong, UMBC is awesome, but the food sucks. It isn't really their fault, but anytime you have food being mass produced for thousands of people, it's going to suck.

Most importantly, I miss being able to cook my own good food. My dad's family is (among other things) Italian, so he and my grandmother have been teaching me how to cook for as long as I can remember. Which is why, now that I'm home for winter break (six weeks!) I intend to cook as much as I possibly can to make up for the last few kitchen-less months. I'm so excited about this, I thought I would share the details with you guys.

Tonight's menu was:

Ribeye steak

Marinate in Chiavetta's sauce (it's an awesome marinade you can pretty much only get in New York,) season with dill, lemon pepper, and just a touch of garlic salt. Grill over low flames until cooked through as desired (in our case, medium rare.)

Grilled Potatoes

Brush Chiavetta's Sauce over skins of Russent potatoes, and sprinkle dill and garlic salt onto the wet skins. Wrap each potato in aluminum foil, and cook on the upper rack of the grill for about 45 minutes, flipping the potatoes occasionally.

Mix of white and yellow corn

I prefer frozen, but individual tastes may vary.

Anyway, I had so much fun catching up on my cooking. I'm thinking that for Christmas Eve dinner tomorrow I'll make Shrimp Fettuccini. If my family asks nicely enough, I might even make the sauce from scratch.

Bush's Approval Ratings Still Improving

Friday December 23, 2005--Fifty percent (50%) of American adults approve of the way George W. Bush is performing his role as President. That's up six points since the President's speech on Sunday night.

It's also the first time since July that the President's Job Approval has reached the 50% mark. He earns approval from 81% of Republicans, 23% of Democrats, and 42% of those not affiliated with either major political party...

...The President's speech had a measurable impact concerning the War on Terror. Fifty percent (50%) of Americans now say the U.S. and its allies are winning. That's up from 44% immediately before the speech and the highest level of optimism measured in 2005.



Sweet. Keep it coming, Mr. President. And by the way, if you sign that immigration bill on it's way through Congress now, you can expect your numbers to jump even more. If you so much as indicate that you are considering the possibility of a veto, those 81% of Republicans, myself included, might just give up on you once and for all.

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Can You Believe This?

Saddam Hussein is now claiming that he has been tortured.

"I want to say here, yes, we have been beaten by the Americans and we have been tortured," Saddam said, before gesturing to his seven co-defendants around him, "one by one."

After sitting quietly through several hours of testimony, Saddam said he'd been beaten "everywhere on my body. The marks are still there."

In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack called it "highly ironic" that Saddam would accuse his jailers of mistreatment.

"I know of nothing that would substantiate such a claim," McCormack said. "Look, he's been given to grandstanding in this trial, but where the focus should be is on the testimony of those people who were victimized by the tyranny, the oppression and the violence of Saddam Hussein. That's what people should be listening to."



First, let's consider the irony of Saddam Hussein complaining about torture. I mean, he tortured people for years, and now he's acting as if it's such a bad thing? Talk about hypocrisy.

Second, I do not, for one second, believe his story to be true. On the contrary, I'm sure he's being treated quite well, just so that he can't use mistreatment as a convenient get-out-of-execution-free card.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Because I Can

Since I invested so much time and effort into preparing for my political philosophy final, I thought I would do something to make it count for more than just a grade. So here are the two essays I turned in.

Essay One:

Can the best life for a human being be attained through politics? What is the appropriate relationship between the individual and political society? Answer with reference to at least two of Plato, Aristotle, Machiavelli and Hobbes.

Aristotle would most certainly agree that the best life for a human being is attained through politics. After all, his assertion that “man is by nature a political animal” is quite famous. To Aristotle, politics was as much a part of human nature as eating or breathing, and is quite necessary for human development.

It is important to understand how Aristotle tracks the growth of politics. To him, the city-state was a crucial factor in human development. Man is ill-suited to surviving on his own, and bands together into family households and small villages.

These groups solve some of the basic difficulties of human survival, but are still incapable of completely sustaining themselves. To achieve this needed self-sufficiency, several villages join together to form a larger city-state. As Aristotle describes it, a city-state “comes to be for the sake of living, but it remains in existence for the sake of living well.” (1252b25)

However, if a city-state is not governed it will dissolve into anarchy as the baser parts of humanity seek to obtain because of greed and a lust for power. To prevent the city-state from collapsing, humans must subordinate the baser parts of themselves and let the rational part of the soul rule.

In order for this to succeed humans need to come together to determine how things should be run and how members of the communities should act. This leads us to Aristotle’s next point, which is that “nature makes nothing pointlessly.” (1253a5) Humans are the only creatures capable of speech, and as such are the only ones capable of discussing what is good or bad and just or unjust. Humans are naturally drawn to involve themselves in such a dialogue. Once humans start trying to define concepts such as good and bad, it is a natural step to creating laws requiring people to do what is good and just instead of bad and unjust.

It is clear from his writings that Aristotle thinks the best way to live involves politics. Reading Plato, however, it isn’t so clear that that is actually the case. Socrates is, of course, very much interested in politics and philosophy, and in asking the difficult questions. However, it is also clear that not everyone he speaks with feels the same way. Some, like Cephalus, try to end the conversation as quickly as possible. Others are open to engaging in debate at first, but quickly grow frustrated with Socrates’ seemingly endless list of questions and examples that shoot down their arguments. In other words, Plato’s writings would indicate that while some take pleasure in politics, others are much more content to leave things as they are, and not examine anything in too much detail.

So is the best life attainable through politics? Honestly, this is not a question I can answer impartially. It certainly seems to be the best for me. I have been interested in debate and politics for years, and can not imagine a future in which I am not in some way involved in politics. However, I am observant enough of the world around me to realize that this opinion doesn’t seem to be universal. Many people just don’t care. To them, the thing that offers fulfillment isn’t politics, but music, or writing, or teaching.

To each their own, I guess. I think they’re crazy, and they think I am, but in the end what matters is that people are happy with what they’re doing.


Essay Two:

Hobbes, Locke and Rousseau have all been called "social contract" theorists. Compare and contrast (and critically discuss) the ways in which the idea of a contract or agreement enters into the thought of two of these writers. Highlight similarities and differences and judge the relative success of each thinker’s use of the idea. Support your claims with reasons.

When reading Hobbes’ Leviathan and Locke’s Second Treatise on Government, it is impossible not to notice the differences in the two works. They describe very different systems of government. However, what is perhaps most interesting is that, despite all the differences, both governments spring from the idea of the formation of a social contract.

So how do two such different forms of government spring from the commonality of a social contract? The key to understanding the differences between Locke and Hobbes is to understand their concept of the state of nature. Though they both frequently speak of this state, they are in fact referring to two very different concepts of what the state of nature is.

As far as Hobbes is concerned, the state of nature is a very grim and dismal state of perpetual conflict and war. To get out of it, people lay down their rights so that one man can take power to protect them. The oath taker would say something similar to “I authorize and give up my right of governing myself to this man, on the condition that thou give up thy right to him, and authorize all his actions in this manner.” Here, we see that the only contingency in Hobbes’ social contract is that others take the oath as well. There is no clause saying people only give up power provided the leader does a good job, nor is there a clause permitting rebellion if the leader fails to live up to expectations. To Hobbes, such a rebellion would be the worst possible thing, because it would only throw people back into the state of nature. He believes that nothing, not even a brutal tyrant, is worse than returning to that state.

Clearly, there are some flaws in Hobbes’ logic. First, he assumes that the state of nature is terribly violent and brutish, yet he has no proof that this is in fact the case. Without such a terrible alternative hanging over people’s heads, they would be less likely to give up as many of their rights. He also assumes that the only way to avoid the state of nature is to surrender all of ones rights to a ruler. Obviously this is not the case, as it is easy to look around the world and see dozens of countries in which the people retain rights, and things haven’t degenerated into chaos.

Finally, Hobbes also assumes that a rebellion would plunge humans back into the state of nature. Again, however, history proves this to be incorrect. Many countries, including America, Britain, France, and Germany, have had rebellions in their past. However, after an initial period of violence, either the old government retained power, or a new government was formed to better suit the needs of these people. They did not, as Hobbes’ suggest, return to the state of nature and stay there.

On the other hand, Locke’s concept of the state of nature is much different from that of his predecessor. He believes that the state of nature, while unpleasant and uncomfortable, is not nearly as brutish as Hobbes thinks. As a result, people should not be willing to give up nearly as many of their rights in the social contract to escape it.

In addition to not giving up all their rights, in the Lockean contract people only give up their rights conditionally, provided the government does its job. The people have a right to rebel if they feel their leaders are not acting in their best interests.

This logic would seem to have one flaw: if people had a right to rebel, wouldn’t they do so whenever the government did something they disapproved of? Locke thinks not, arguing that most people realize the stupidity of attacking the government with only a few people. He says that people will put up with a lot of abuse from the government, so long as “the suffering is sufferable.” In order for rebellion to be successful, there must first be widespread discontent with the government.

Naturally, Locke’s version of society is a much more compelling vision. Most people would prefer a government in which they possessed some power of oversight as well as basic human rights. Many humans are, after all, rather independent, and like the opportunity to make, at least to a certain extent, decisions of their own. Government is a nice thing to have in a supervisory capacity, but if it were to constantly tell us what to do with every aspect of our lives, it would quickly become unbearable. With the Lockean contract, it is much less likely that such a government would ever come to exist, because eventually the abuse would grow until it was intolerable, and the people would act. For this reason, it’s nice to have the option to rebel, even if we would prefer not to have to.

I Love Free Money

I made $25 today doing like absolutely nothing at all. Some make up company is doing a study on campus- I just had to put on their lip gloss, go back once an hour for four hours to answer a couple questions, and then at the end they gave me a $25 gift card to Target.

Gotta love that...one more exam, and then I'm goin' shopping. And my Christmas shopping is done, so this money is all mine.

:)

Update: The free money was well spent. I got the outfit I'll wear on Christmas- dark blue jeans and an adorable red sweater.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Bush's Approval Ratings up another 5 Points

Sweet.

Another Exam Down

I just aced my econ exam. I don't even know why I bothered studying, because it was a waste of my time.

The exam was seven pages long. There were three pages of multiple choice questions, and four pages of problems. I finished in half an hour- and that was taking my time. I was first to finish- the look on my professors face was pretty funny. He was like "what, you're done already?"

Two down... two to go. Political Philosophy should be easy, but the exam for Geography of Environmental systems is going to suck... much like the entire class has all semester.

An Interesting Article

I find myself further along in my studies than I thought I would be at this point, so I'm taking a quick break to share this with you.

Each week, I dutifully read the newest copy of my school's newspaper, The Retriever Weekly. The paper is overwhelmingly liberal, but I still read it to keep up with events on campus, and to catch the occasional diamond in the rough that is a conservative article.

I was particularly impressed with one article from this week's paper, which was written by a guy in my Political Philosophy class. I don't necessarily agree with everything he's written, but it is well written, and his style is particularly amusing. He said I could post it here, so tell me what you think:

Dear George,

We’ve been together a really long time now. I mean, it’s been a good, what, six years now, something like that? I remember clearly those days when we first got to know each other, way back when your campaign began in 1999. It feels just like yesterday that we were celebrating the upholding of the law in Bush v. Gore, the massive GOP electoral victories in 2002, and, of course, that nerve-wracking election night in 2004 when I first dared to dream that you might just win after all.
But here’s the thing, George. I know this is hard for both of us, but one of us has to be strong enough to do this. See, George, it’s time for the two of us to go our separate ways. You’ve changed since we’ve met, and I don’t think it can ever be the same again between us.
When you first ran for the nomination, right-wingers like myself rallied around you with our fingers crossed. You seemed like exactly the sort of conservative Republican we needed to counter John McCain, and were cautiously optimistic that you could be what we had waited for during the long, dark night of the Clinton years. I had such high hopes for you, George, I really did. I knew that there could be only one Reagan for me, but I thought that I might just find some of what Ronald had in you.
At first, I wasn’t disappointed. When you made it clear that you weren’t going to budge even as Congress screamed and carried on about that first little tax cut, I was cheering you on the whole way. When you stood up and took upon yourself the heavy mantle of leadership after 9/11, unafraid to bear the burdens of command and make the hardest decisions, I allowed myself to thing that you might be the one after all. I stood by you even when it seemed like the whole world was against us, as you courageously proposed another war in Iraq. You knew full well that this idea might derail your whole presidency, and yet you still went with what you felt was right. I was delighted to argue for the war day after day that year, because you and your administration made a case that I found well-nigh impregnable.
But along the way, something went wrong. Sure, you proposed another set of badly-needed tax cuts, and even to this day I continue to defend the Patriot Act. But along the way, you proposed an enormous increase in federal education spending, whereas the ‘90s GOP, under Gingrich, had made eliminating the federal Department of Education, completely, a goal. Instead of opposing the democrats; foolish lobbying for a prescription drug benefit outright, you met them halfway with an expensive program that satisfied no one. You signed a nakedly opportunistic bill augmenting those absurdly anachronistic farm subsidies that manage to both drain the U.S. economy and undercut Third World agricultural development. And I never thought that I’d witness the party of free trade support steel tariffs of any sort, let alone the monstrous duties you imposed.
George, the fact is that you have yet to veto a single bill that Congress has handed you. You have had a republican Congress for the lion’s share of your time in office thus far and you’ve squandered it. It gets worse too, George. A little piece of me dies inside whenever I remember that, adjusting for inflation, you raised spending more on non-homeland defense-related matters in your four years than Clinton did in his eiht. We’re faced with a reality in which democrats- democrats, George!- can plausibly attach us- we, the party that has proposed a balanced budget amendment more than once!- for the appalling deficits that threaten to eat away at the core of the American economy, like an engorged worm in the center of a juicy red apple.
George, as each little disappointment came in turn, I handled it as best as I could. Every political relationship has its ups and downs, and any person serious about entering into one has to be prepared for what’s going to come. With each new betrayal, I found myself questioning just what it was that kept me on your side.
The final straw came as the promises of Iraq withered like so many cheap roses. There was such promise at the beginning- a fearsome dictator felled, a threat neutralized, a people freed! Iraqis did cheer for us in the streets, and the time was ripe for America to re-establish its legitimacy in the Middle East. The world now knows that, even with all the time you had, from the proposal of the war to the current mess, the endeavor was horribly planned and executed. The U.S. was by no means prepared to handle the task before it even as the Butcher of Baghdad fled for his life. Worse yet, you didn’t even take seriously the advice of knowledgeable scholars and experts whom you brought on board. Under the circumstances, Iraq’s nascent democracy hands on with admirable tenacity. For someone like me, who had put his faith into you, beginning with bright-eyed hope, the slow but sure realization of what your administration had wrought came like a wrenching stab in the back.
And so it comes to this, George- I think it’s time for it to end between us. Our differences are now enough that a committed conservative republican like me can no longer actively support your presidency. True, there aren’t any decent alternatives (the Constitution Party is extreme, and I won’t even get started about the libertarians), and no, I don’t regret voting for you in 2004. However, I can no longer defend you when called upon, as I have loyally done all this time. I’m still a republican- just an irate one.
Thanks for everything George. I really do wish you the best. I just can’t support you anymore.
Please, don’t cry.
James W.

Friday, December 16, 2005

My Stat Final...

... was definitely easier than I thought it would be. I think I got an A on it.

Not that it matters. With the grades I've gotten earlier in the semester (As on all my quizzes, Bs on all my tests,) I'm pretty much stuck with a B in the class whether I get an A on the exam or not.

I hate math.

Anyway, one down, three to go...

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Finals

I'm hitting crunch time with my finals now, everybody. I have a stat exam tomorrow, an econ exam Monday, and physical geography and political philosophy exams on Tuesday. I'm not sure how much time I'm going to be able to spend on the computer, so there probably won't be too many updates over the next four days or so.

On the plus side, though, after Tuesday, I have a six week long winter break. Though I'll be traveling for a week or so, I should have be able to dedicate a significant amount of time on my blog... assuming I survive the next couple days.

The Latest from Ann Coulter

Now, I do not always agree with Ann Coulter, but I have a great amount of respect for how she says what is on her mind, and doesn't give a damn about political correctness. Plus, she's sarcastic. I like sarcasm. It's funny.

From her latest column:

I'm getting a little insulted that no Democratic prosecutor has indicted me. Liberals bring trumped-up criminal charges against all the most dangerous conservatives. Why not me?

Democrat prosecutor Barry Krischer has spent two years and hundreds of thousands of dollars trying to find some criminal charge to bring against Rush Limbaugh. Political hack Ronnie Earle spent three years and went through six grand juries to indict Tom DeLay. Liberals spent the last two years fantasizing in public about Karl Rove being indicted. Newt Gingrich was under criminal investigation for 3 1/2 years back in the '90s when liberals were afraid of him. Final result: No crime.

And of course, everybody cool in the Reagan administration was indicted. Or at least investigated and persecuted. Reagan's sainted attorney general Ed Meese was criminally investigated for 14 months before the prosecutor announced that he didn't have anything (but denounced Meese as a crook anyway).

I note that nobody ever wanted to indict Bob Dole or Gerald Ford (except, of course, other Republicans).

In the Nixon administration, liberals even brought "Deep Throat" up on charges — and he was one of you people! What, now I'm not even as hip as "Deep Throat"?

I've done a lot for my country. I think I deserve to be indicted, too. How am I supposed to show my face around Washington if I haven't been "frog-marched" out of my office by some liberal D.A. looking to move to D.C. for the next Democratic administration? What's a girl have to do to become a "person of interest" around here? Mr. Krischer, where do I go to get rid of my reputation?


Hehehehehehe

Encouraging News

NEW YORK (AP) — Donor fatigue? Not this year. Even after the outpouring of donations for the Indian Ocean tsunami and Hurricane Katrina, holiday giving is robust this season and 2005 could well set an overall record, U.S. charity officials are reporting.

It seems to be a phenomenal year," said Stacy Palmer, editor of the Chronicle of Philanthropy. "Donor fatigue is something not many charities are seeing."

By any measure, it's been a year of immense challenges for relief groups, and donors have responded. The year began with Americans pitching in to help faraway victims of the tsunami; those private gifts added up to $1.6 billion. Later came Katrina, the nation's worst natural disaster of modern times, prompting donations that are nearing the $3 billion mark.

Some charities feared their holiday season fundraising would suffer as donors decided they had given enough. Thus far, however, end-of-year giving is generally strong, although some local charities remain worried because they have more needy people to serve.

In Lansing, Mich., for example, more than 2,200 residents have applied to get donated toys and groceries this season — up 20% from last year. The local Salvation Army branch had to turn away hundreds of families after exhausting a fund to help pay utility bills.

"People have been incredibly generous," said John Keightley, a spokesman for Catholic Charities USA. "But as we hit the giving season, our local agencies are nervous whether they're going to meet their goals. We're all challenged to stretch, to think about people who don't have enough."

In Omaha, the Salvation Army branch says it is running slightly ahead of last year's pace in seeking a record $2.2 million for its holiday campaign — coincidentally the same amount the Army raised in Omaha in response to Katrina. The holiday funds assist hometown poor with heating bills, and provide them with mittens and winter hats.



If it is at all possible to give this holiday season try and do so. If you're strapped for cash like I am (to a poor college student, ATM= Ask the Mother,) there are many organizations that also collect things like canned goods or old jackets to give away this winter.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Gallup: 94% of Americans Believe in God

NEW YORK A new Gallup survey released today finds that four decades after the "God Is Dead" controversy was first noted, Americans retain a strong belief in a higher power. Some 94% think God exists.

Only 5% feel God "does not exist" -- and even most of them "are not sure" of that. Exactly 1% are certain there is no God.

But how strongly do the believers believe? Nearly 8 in 10, in fact, say they are "convinced" God exists, although Gallup does not ask them why that is.

Conservatives are more likely to be convinced than liberals (87% vs. 61%), women a little more likely than men (82% vs. 73%), and residents of the South more than those in the East (88% vs. 70%).

Surprisingly, some 61% of those who seldom or never attend church are nevertheless convinced that God exists.

The poll sampled 1,002 national adults, Nov. 17-20.



Very nice. Notice the poll doesn't separate out different religions, just asks about a general belief in some sort of God.

God Bless America.

"Cindy? Father Time called. He said your fifteen minutes was over a long time ago."

There aren't enough words in the English language to describe how pathetically disgusting this is. If nothing else has, Cindy Sheehan's latest stunt has proved beyond a doubt that she is an attention-grabbing, self-serving manipulator only out to help herself.

What could possibly be so bad, you ask? Check out this two page spread in Vanity Fair:



Yes, that is Cindy Sheehan. Yes, she is lying on her son's grave. For a photo op. For Vanity Fair.

Does anyone still believe she is in this for anyone but herself?

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

New Links

I've been steadily building up my links list over the past couple of weeks, and I just wanted to draw everyone's attention to the updated list.

First, I traded links with the good people at Stop the ACLU. As they are significantly larger than I am, I definitely get more out of the deal, so I'm excited. If you haven't read some of their stuff, you should check it out. It's pretty interesting.

Also, you should head over to check out the folks at Pererro as well as LiquiDiamonds. I kind of stumbled across the two accidentally, but they have good stuff. Definitely worth a look.

In addition, I've also traded links with Viking Spirit's Blog. He is a conservative student from Ohio (we conservative students have to stick together, you know) and has a lot of interesting insights into their Governor's race.

Finally, since all of my link list was to conservative sites, I decided I needed a token liberal. So I added a link to my friend Jake's new blog. He's liberal, but it's the non-moonbatish type, I promise. And, since he's also Jewish and 1/4 Cuban (yes, we call him Jake the Juban) it just adds to his token-ness. He only has two posts up so far, but I think it's going to be interesting. Hopefully the two of us will cause each other to actually defend our views, and keep the rhetoric (rhetoric is boring) to a minimum.

Anyway, I think that's all for the new links. Check them out, and let me know what you think of them. Also, if anyone else has a blog and would like to trade links, just leave me a message in the comment's section and I'll get back to you soon.

Europeans Angered by Tookie's Execution (EU Considering a Resolution to Hide in a Corner and Cry)

VIENNA, Austria — California's execution of Stanley Tookie Williams on Tuesday outraged many in Europe who regard the practice as barbaric, and politicians in Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger's native Austria called for his name to be removed from a sports stadium in his hometown.

At the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI's top official for justice matters denounced the death penalty for going against redemption and human dignity.

"We know the death penalty doesn't resolve anything," Cardinal Renato Martino told the press. "Even a criminal is worthy of respect because he is a human being. The death penalty is a negation of human dignity."

Capital punishment is illegal throughout the European Union, and many Europeans consider state-sponsored executions to be barbaric. Those feelings were amplified in the case of Williams, due to the apparent remorse they believe the Crips gang co-founder showed by writing children's books about the dangers of gangs and violence.



The "apparent remorse"? I'm sorry, but if someone committed terrible crimes and then wanted off the hook, they would need to do a lot more than imply they were sorry. At the very least, they would need to actually, you know, say "I'm sorry." Tookie Williams never did.

Also, it's time our neighbors across the Atlantic got a few things through their heads:

1) We don't care what Europe thinks. Really. You do things your way, we're going to do them our way. Hearing them whine about the "barbaric" Americans is neither new nor interesting to us. We will have our own internal debate on whether or not the death penalty is a good idea, and really, they will have very little say in the matter.

Also, why the fuss over this death? Why not compaign a couple weeks ago, when the 1,000th execution was carried out? Is it simply because the person who ultimately chose not to spare Tookie was born in Europe?

Anyway...

2) Despite the many Christians in the United States, we also really don't care what the Vatican thinks either.

And again, I don't see what their problem is. If he truly repented, isn't his death a good thing? I mean, let's face it: jail sucks. If Tookie has truly asked for and received forgiveness from God (which would make Him much more forgiving than I am capable of being), then wouldn't an execution send Tookie to Heaven? Isn't Heaven arguably a much better place to be than jail? And if he didn't repent, then, well... may he burn in Hell.

I try not to judge Europeans by what we hear in the news, but every time a story like this comes out it becomes harder and harder. Read the article- what I quoted was only a part. There are many quotes from European political leaders condemning the U.S. and Governor Scharzenegger, and also praising Tookie. People in the Governor's hometown of Graz, Austria, are calling for his name to be removed from their stadium- and replaced with Tookie's!!

That is what I find the worst about this whole article. Say what you will about the death penalty as a punishment, and whether Tookie Williams should have been killed or simply jailed for life. But when it comes down to it, Tookie Williams was a murderer, and not in the least deserving of the respect and praise he is getting from people in Europe. Frankly, I find it disgusting that some mourn more for the fate of Tookie than they do for the fate of his victims.

Iranian President Doubts the Holocaust Actually Happened

TEHRAN, Iran — Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has reiterated his doubt about the Holocaust and called on Muslim nations to take a proactive stand on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, state media reported Tuesday.

The president's comments, published on Iranian state television's Web site, were the second time in a week he has expressed doubt about the Nazi genocide of Jews during World War II. In October, Ahmadinejad also said Israel should be "wiped off the map."

"If the killing of Jews in Europe is true," the Web site quoted Ahmadinejad as saying during a speech at an Islamic conference in Tehran, "and the Zionists are being supported because of this excuse, why should the Palestinian nation pay the price?"



"If?" Because, you know, there is all that doubt that the Holocaust really happened. Honestly, we just can't be sure... it could all just be one huge Zionist conspiracy or something.[/sarcasm]

To top it all off, Reuters has an article that only adds to this idea. While I would hope they didn't mean for the line "Historians say six million Jews were killed at the hands of Germany's 1933-1945 Nazi regime" to imply that there was doubt about the Holocaust, it certainly sounded that way.

And in other news, Astronomers say that the sun rises in the East.

What?

French Police Dismantle Suspected Islamic Terror Network

The French have police? Where were they during the riots?

Another Quake Hits Pakistan

KABUL, Afghanistan— A strong earthquake struck remote northeastern Afghanistan and shook neighboring Pakistan, the scene of a devastating quake two months ago. Hours after the quake, officials were trying contact isolated communities to determine whether it caused damage or injuries.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the magnitude 6.7 quake was centered in the remote Hindu Kush region of northeastern Afghanistan. It struck shortly before 2:30 a.m. in Afghanistan.

The quake — centered about 65 miles southeast of Faizabad in the Hindu Kush mountains — was felt more than 200 miles away in Islamabad, Pakistan, and in Kabul, where the shaking lasted several seconds and people rushed into the streets.

Abdul Majid, the governor of the Badakhshan province where the quake was centered, told The Associated Press the ground there shook for two minutes. He said he had no information about any damage in the mountainous region, where communication with remote districts is difficult.

The sparsely populated area is about 200 miles from the center of the Oct. 8 quake that killed about 87,000 people in northwestern Pakistan and Indian Kashmir. Salim Akhtar, an official at the Peshawar earthquake center in Pakistan, said he did not consider it an aftershock of the October quake.


Now, I understand that we aren't exactly best friends with many in that part of the world, but a majority of people living in the area are innocents, and I certainly hope this quake wasn't nearly as deadly as the one that hit in October. My best wishes and prayers will go out to people in a region just starting to recover from the last earthquake.

Although, if Osama Bin Laden and a few of his Al-Qaeda lieutenants happened to die in agony after being crushed by falling rock, that would be ok with me.

Schwarzenegger and Courts Reject Tookie Williams' Plea for Clemency

SAN FRANCISCO — Calif. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger refused to stop the execution Monday of Crips gang co-founder Stanley Tookie Williams, who was set to die by lethal injection early Tuesday.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied an appeal filed Monday evening, his last recourse for reversing his death sentence.

The death penalty of Williams, 51, should proceed as planned at 3:01 a.m. EST (12:01 PST) at San Quentin State Prison. Williams will be executed for murdering four people in two 1979 holdups.



And more from the article:

Schwarzenegger was unswayed by pleas from Hollywood stars and petitions from more than 50,000 people who said that Williams had made amends during more than two decades in prison by writing a memoir and children's books about the dangers of gangs.

"After studying the evidence, searching the history, listening to the arguments and wrestling with the profound consequences, I could find no justification for granting clemency," Schwarzenegger said. "The facts do not justify overturning the jury's verdict or the decisions of the courts in this case."

Schwarzenegger could have commuted the death sentence to life in prison without parole.

The city of Los Angeles prepared for angry protests after the California governor made his announcement.

"Too often I hear the governor and many who are around him talk about his values system," said NAACP President Bruce S. Gordon. "In this particular case, those values seem to be cast aside. There is absolutely no recognition given to redemption."



I honestly do not understand this reaction. How could the NAACP, which ostensibly has the goal of pursuing that which is in the best interests of African-Americans, possibly argue to save the life of Tookie Williams? Yes, he is a black man. However, how much has he harmed the black community by forming the Crips? How many blacks are dead or addicted to drugs because of this one man?

Every time the NAACP (or the ACLU for that matter) does something like this, it damages their credibility. I honestly feel the organization could be a force for good, but they get distracted by situations like this that provide headlines instead of real results. I mean, if you want to argue against the death penalty, fine- that is certainly within your rights. But wouldn't your argument be strengthened by finding, say, an innocent man on death row to defend? Or at the very least, one who isn't indirectly responsible for thousands of deaths?

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Retreat and Defeat

Check out the new video at GOP.com. It's pretty interesting, and strongly condemns the Democratic leadership (Dean, Pelosi, and Kerry) for their defeatist attitudes about the war. It also alludes to the fact that their statements are bad for the troops, and good for our enemies.

While you're there, check out some of the other videos they've posted. Some make serious points, and others are just plain funny.

She Can't Stop

I, like many others, have long since gotten sick of Cindy Sheehan's incessant ranting about the war in Iraq, George Bush, and anything else she thinks might get her a few more minutes on television. But it seems as if the United States is no longer big enough for Sheehan, because she recently traveled to the United Kingdom to protest there as well.

Last week Sheehan joined Scottish mother Rose Gentle, whose son Gordon was also killed in the conflict, at the Scottish parliament to demonstrate against the war. Sheehan compared First Minister Jack McConnell to President George Bush, saying: “They don’t have as much courage as our sons did.”


What's worse, it seems like even an end to the war won't be enough to quiet her now. "I'm compelled to do this," she told the Sunday Herald. "I can't go back to my old life until the occupation ends and even then I will go on fighting for peace."

Can't she take a hint already? Everyone felt sympathy for her at first, and she certainly made enough headlines when she set up camp outside President Bush's ranch in Crawford, Texas (although I still blame a lot of the coverage on the fact that there wasn't really any real news in August anyway.) But lately, her ranting has been getting ridiculous to the point that now even the Democrats are ignoring her. Of course, threatening to oust Hillary Clinton probably didn't improve her popularity with the party leadership much.

Now, inevitably, there will be someone reading this who is disgusted by my 'callous treatment' of a grieving mother. But to be honest, I no longer care about speaking my mind about this woman. I felt bad for her at first- I had an uncle in Iraq and a cousin in Afghanistan. I can't imagine how I would have felt if one of them had been lost, and I know losing a child would be even worse. But no mother I know would so ruthlessly pimp her son's death for her own (now painfully longer than) fifteen minutes of fame.

Don't believe me? Read what else dear Mother Sheehan told the Sunday Herald.

Sheehan also revealed her son was a virgin when he was killed with eight other soldiers in an ambush near Baghdad. “ He would tell me all the time that he wanted to save that part of his life for his wedding night,” she said.


What, praytell, does that have to do with the war in Iraq and whether or not it was justified? If you answered 'absolutely nothing' you would be absolutely correct. It's nothing more than another attempt to use her son in order to gain more sympathy. It's pathetic, it's disrespectful, and I for one am sick of her ploys for attention and her bitter, hateful ranting.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Bush's Approval Ratings Up

I apologize for the less than frequent postings, but I'm in the middle of finals right now, so everything is study, study, study. I'll try and get in as many posts as possible, but they'll probably be heavy on quoting and light on analysis for another week or so. My brain is too fried to think in much detail about anything else.

~~~~

This just goes to show that when Bush acts like a good conservative, things will be a lot easier for him.

Shifting into campaign mode to reverse his slide in public opinion polls, Bush has boosted his support among key constituency groups — particularly in the Northeast and West — on his handling of Iraq and the economy, an AP-Ipsos poll found.

"Now it's not a one-sided debate," said Republican pollster Ed Goeas, citing Bush's recent speeches on the health of the economy and the high stakes in Iraq. "You have a message getting out there in a much more positive way."

Bush improved his job approval rating from 37 percent in November to 42 percent now.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Advertising Stuff

So yesterday I decided to join BlogAdSwap in an effort to draw more attention and readers to my blog. You may have noticed the little ad about halfway down the sidebar.

So, the idea is, for every two people seeing an ad on my site, one person sees my ad somewhere else. In theory, people click on that ad, and come see my blog.

There's only one problem. I lack computer and artistic skills. After playing around with the ad maker off and on all day yesterday, here is what I've managed to come up with:



Pretty sad looking, isn't it? I mean, who would want to click that? I think part of my problem is that I don't have a logo from my blog to include in the ad. Why not? That brings us back to the "lacking computer and artistic skills" problem.

So, is there anyone out there who could give me a hand? I'm looking for suggestions of what my logo could be, as well as advice on how to actually create something that looks moderately impressive, and not like something a little kid made.

Thanks in advance for any help!

This is Disgusting...

This is absolutely insane.

Apparently, one wounded soldier at Walter Reed Hospital received what appeared at first glance to be a get well card from a kid.

It wasn't.

Instead, the childlike handwriting says:

Dear Soldier,
Have a great time in the war
and have a great time dieing in the war.

From,
Miguel Gallier

PS~ DIE

I'm not sure what would be worse: an adult imitating a child's handwriting to spread this hateful filth, or the idea that a kid actually wrote it. Who teaches their kids so much hate? And not even hatred towards the President, but towards soldiers who had no choice but to follow orders and go into battle? It's absolutely disgusting.

You can see a picture of the letter here.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

What DOES Democracy Look Like?

So, I had every intention of making yesterday a completely non-political day. I do occasionally have a life, after all, and I needed to destress after a hellish week filled with three exams and a four page paper.

And, for the most part, I succeeded. Some friends and I went shopping at Arundel Mills mall (which is HUGE, by the way.) We almost got hit by a car on the way home- I was making a left hand turn onto Arundel Mills Boulevard. The car coming from the other direction had a red light, and his right turn signal on.

He didn't stop.

Or turn right.

Instead, he barrelled out into the intersection. You know, that place I was in.

I swear, he was less than four feet away from my car.

So, I was pretty freaked, and to top it off, I wasn't done driving. After dropping my friends off on campus, I had to drive to Greenbelt, because some friends were singing at this cafe there.

You see, this is where the politics comes in. Because like the word "Green" in the name implies, Greenbelt is hardly Republican central. The cafe was this little hippy place, but it seemed nice enough. My friends played, and sounded awesome. The main room was full, so everyone who came to see them was standing in the back by the door. Many of us were College Republicans, but we were just hanging out.

So, after our friends play, a man and a woman go onstage with a guitar and a tamborine. Yes, the tamborine was a clue as well. They start playing this song complaining against the government, Bush, and so on. Every time they got to the chorus, the guy would sing "What does democracy look like?" The woman and the audience would respond "This is what democracy looks like!"

So I had an idea. I ran out to my car and grabbed a Steele for Senate sign that was leftover from the Bush/Steele fundraiser earlier this week. I ran back into the cafe, and we held up the sign. Then, every time the guy would sing "What does democracy look like?" we would point to the sign and shout "THIS is what Democracy looks like!!" I don't think I've laughed that hard in a very long time. Of course, after my near-death experience earlier, some of that laughter was slightly histeric, but I don't think anyone noticed.

Anyway, so with the exception of that one little prank, I did manage to keep yesterday politics-free.

Well, there was that one ten-minute rant about why dumbasses shouldn't be given driver's licenses, but under the circumstances, I think that counts as personal, not political.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Bureaucracy Sucks

So, I did a pretty stupid thing yesterday. Volunteering at the Bush/Steele event was great, but there was a lot of walking involved. For those of you who know Baltimore, we parked on the far side of Camden Yards. We then had to walk all the way through Camden Yards, cross the street, and then walk to the far side of Raven's stadium... not a short hike. Between volunteering and the event itself, I was on my feet for at least for hours... and then had to walk all the way back to the car.

And I have an old knee injury that likes to flare up.

In all honesty, I probably could have been fine, even with all that walking. Except that once I got back to school, I promptly sat myself down on my bed and spent the next six hours writing a paper and studying. So between all the moving, and then not moving at all, my knee is stiff as anything, and has been bothering me all day.

Now, the simple solution, and one I've used before, is to put on a knee brace. Except that my knee brace is at home, and I can't get it until I go home this weekend. I can't simply hobble around on a bad knee for two days, because my campus is huge and has a ton of stairs, so that would only make it worse. My next idea was to simply borrow a knee brace, so I called University Health Services. Here's how the conversation went:

[ringringring]

"Good morning, University Health Services, hold please."

[Ten minutes of holding and killing cell phone minutes]

"University Health Services, how can I help you?"

"Hi. Is it possible to temporarily borrow a knee brace from your office? I hurt my knee, and I can't get my brace from home until this weekend."

"Let me check. Hold please."

[Five minutes of holding and killing cell minutes]

"I'm sorry, we don't give out knee braces unless you get an appointment with a doctor. He or she could give you one, and then bill it to your insurance company."

"I don't need to see a doctor. I know exactly what the problem is. It's just an old injury acting up."

"I'm sorry, but the only way you can get a knee brace is to see a doctor. It would get billed to your insurance company."

"Yeah, but the copay would be more than the knee brace is worth."

"Well...we could lend you a pair of crutches."

"You'll let me use crutches without seeing a doctor, but not a knee brace?"

"Yes, that is our policy."

"Aren't crutches usually for more serious injuries than knee braces?"

"That's just how we do things."

After that, I just sighed and ended the conversation. I spent the rest of the day trying to find someone with a knee brace or an Ace bandage I could borrow, but didn't have any luck. Finally, me knee was hurting so bad, I just gave up and went to get the stupid crutches. It's overkill, and I look ridiculous, but I won't risk making this injury even worse.