Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

That's not a dream...


Making fun

On the login page for my email, Comcast has been running annoying ads. No big deal, I guess, just another thing to ignore on a webpage.

But recently on one of those annoying ads, I thought I saw a glaring typographical error, the type that would have earned me an automatic 10-point deduction in my headline writing class back in college. But I didn't notice the typo until after I'd logged in, so the ad was gone before I could check for sure.

Today, I remembered to look. Here's the first ad:

It's hard to read, but I think that headline says "Intrest Rates at 6 Month Low!"

So I hit refresh, and here's what I saw:

"Mortgage Rates Hit 6 Months Low"? That deserves a headline from James Taranto, but I'm
not talented enough to come up with it.

But that's not the typo I thought I saw, so I hit refresh again:

There it is. "Intrest."

And one more for good measure:

The company is AmeriValue, a California-based lender. If I was making the decisions for AmeriValue, I'd be handing out pink slips to the people writing my internet ad copy.

Instead, I get to snicker at them.



Let's bomb Iran

So argues Norman Podhoretz in the latest issue of Commentary magazine (reprinted today in Opinion Journal). His argument that Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is following the lessons of Adolf Hitler -- and like the world of 1938, today's international community fails to act at its peril -- is compelling and chilling (all bold emphasis mine):
By 1938, Germany under Adolf Hitler had for some years been rearming in defiance of its obligations under the Versailles treaty and other international agreements. Yet even though Hitler in "Mein Kampf" had explicitly spelled out the goals he was now preparing to pursue, scarcely anyone took him seriously. To the imminent victims of the war he was soon to start, Hitler's book and his inflammatory speeches were nothing more than braggadocio or, to use the more colorful word Hannah Arendt once applied to Adolf Eichmann, rodomontade: the kind of red meat any politician might throw to his constituents at home. Hitler might sound at times like a madman, but in reality he was a shrewd operator with whom one could--in the notorious term coined by the London Times--"do business." The business that was done under this assumption was the Munich Agreement of 1938, which the British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain declared had brought "peace in our time."

It was thanks to Munich that "appeasement" became one of the dirtiest words in the whole of our political vocabulary. Yet appeasement had always been an important and entirely respectable tool of diplomacy, signifying the avoidance of war through the alleviation of the other side's grievances. If Hitler had been what his eventual victims imagined he was--that is, a conventional statesman pursuing limited aims and using the threat of war only as a way of strengthening his bargaining position--it would indeed have been possible to appease him and thereby to head off the outbreak of another war.

But Hitler was not a conventional statesman and, although for tactical reasons he would sometimes pretend otherwise, he did not have limited aims. He was a revolutionary seeking to overturn the going international system and to replace it with a new order dominated by Germany, which also meant the political culture of Nazism. As such, he offered only two choices: resistance or submission. Finding this reality unbearable, the world persuaded itself that there was a way out, a third alternative, in negotiations. But given Hitler's objectives, and his barely concealed lust for war, negotiating with him could not conceivably have led to peace. It could have had only one outcome, which was to buy him more time to start a war under more favorable conditions. As most historians now agree, if he had been taken at his own word about his true intentions, he could have been stopped earlier and defeated at an infinitely lower cost.

Which brings us back to Ahmadinejad. Like Hitler, he is a revolutionary whose objective is to overturn the going international system and to replace it in the fullness of time with a new order dominated by Iran and ruled by the religio-political culture of Islamofascism. Like Hitler, too, he is entirely open about his intentions, although--again like Hitler--he sometimes pretends that he wants nothing more than his country's just due. In the case of Hitler in 1938, this pretense took the form of claiming that no further demands would be made if sovereignty over the Sudetenland were transferred from Czechoslovakia to Germany. In the case of Ahmadinejad, the pretense takes the form of claiming that Iran is building nuclear facilities only for peaceful purposes and not for the production of bombs.

But here we come upon an interesting difference between then and now. Whereas in the late 1930s almost everyone believed, or talked himself into believing, that Hitler was telling the truth when he said he had no further demands to make after Munich, no one believes that Ahmadinejad is telling the truth when he says that Iran has no wish to develop a nuclear arsenal. In addition, virtually everyone agrees that it would be best if he were stopped, only not, God forbid, with military force--not now, and not ever.

But, Podhoretz asks, how do we stop Iran if military force is not an option? Ideas include:
  1. Diplomacy, which has been pursued for several years and which only works with "a conventional statesman pursuing limited aims and using the threat of war only as a way of strengthening his bargaining position";
  2. Sanctions, which have "very rarely worked in the past" and "usually ended up hurting the hapless people of the targeted country while leaving the leadership unscathed." In addition, they will never be effective so long as Russia and China use their Security Council seats to block weighty impositions;
  3. More punishing sanctions in the hopes of provoking an internal uprising against Ahmadinejad. This sounds good, but has not happened in the years that it's been discussed (in Iran or elsewhere), and the Russia-China duocracy will again stand in the way of sanctions that might achieve this end.

And all of which have succeeded only in giving Iran more time to develop its nuclear capacity.

With the likely failure of those options, we're left with a military strike. A strike that would require wide-ranging air power with wide-ranging munitions. A strike that could only be carried out (because of both capability and will) by the United States of America. Yes, it could mean Iranian retaliation against our troops in Iraq. Yes, it could mean non-nuclear attacks against Israel. Yes, it could mean devastating economic impacts around the globe due to fossil fuel prices. And yes, it would mean a world that verbally (or worse) berated the U.S. for its unilateral actions.

But as John McCain has said, the only thing worse than bombing Iran is allowing Iran to get the bomb. And there is compelling evidence (if you don't fall into the camp that still believes Ahmadinejad is reachable through diplomacy or sanctions) that we've run out of time on that question:

In early April, at Iran's Nuclear Day festivities, Ahmadinejad announced that the point of no return in the nuclearization process had been reached. If this is true, it means that Iran is only a small step away from producing nuclear weapons. But even supposing that Ahmadinejad is bluffing, in order to convince the world that it is already too late to stop him, how long will it take before he actually turns out to have a winning hand?

If we believe the CIA, perhaps as much as 10 years. But CIA estimates have so often been wrong that they are hardly more credible than the boasts of Ahmadinejad. Other estimates by other experts fall within the range of a few months to six years. Which is to say that no one really knows. And because no one really knows, the only prudent--indeed, the only responsible--course is to assume that Ahmadinejad may not be bluffing, or may only be exaggerating a bit, and to strike at him as soon as it is logistically possible.

Podhoretz clearly supports Bush's statement that if we allow Iran to acquire nuclear weapons, future generations will wonder how we could have allowed such a thing, and, Podhoretz notes, "they will rightly judge us as harshly as we today judge the British and the French for what they did and what they failed to do at Munich in 1938."

Podhoretz concludes:

Much of the world has greeted Ahmadinejad's promise to wipe Israel off the map with something close to insouciance [definition: indifference]. In fact, it could almost be said of the Europeans that they have been more upset by Ahmadinejad's denial that a Holocaust took place 60 years ago than by his determination to set off one of his own as soon as he acquires the means to do so. In some of European countries, Holocaust denial is a crime, and the European Union only recently endorsed that position. Yet for all their retrospective remorse over the wholesale slaughter of Jews back then, the Europeans seem no readier to lift a finger to prevent a second Holocaust than they were the first time around.

Not so George W. Bush, a man who knows evil when he sees it and who has demonstrated an unfailingly courageous willingness to endure vilification and contumely in setting his face against it. It now remains to be seen whether this president, battered more mercilessly and with less justification than any other in living memory, and weakened politically by the enemies of his policy in the Middle East in general and Iraq in particular, will find it possible to take the only action that can stop Iran from following through on its evil intentions both toward us and toward Israel. As an American and as a Jew, I pray with all my heart that he will.

I find it difficult to pray for such a thing, but Podhoretz -- despite engaging in a bit of extreme partisan rhetoric on behalf of the president -- makes a convincing case. Taken together with Andy McCarthy's sarcastic question on NRO yesterday, it's difficult to see how another resolution is achievable.

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Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Quote of the Day: The least of these

Today's quote comes from my favorite internet writer, Tony Woodlief, whose family has been "adopted" by a stray cat even though he's not a cat person (emphasis mine):
There's no telling, is there, who or what will cross your path once you start opening your door to strays, be they cats or people. I know a few people -- a precious few -- who seem to have spotlights over their homes, calling every broken-down drunk and homeless single mother and three-legged dog in the county to their doorsteps. I used to think it was their circumstances that were peculiar, that they just seemed to be always happening upon those in need. Now I see it's more the case that we all cross the paths of those in need, but we've trained ourselves to ignore them. We wall them out, whether they are the hurting, socially awkward people in our own churches, or the desperately poor people south of our national border.
I know I have a wall like that -- several of them, actually. Even as I pray this, I'm fearful of the answer, but I'm asking God to help me remove those walls.



Monday, May 21, 2007

A common misconception

Dean Barnett writes a Boston Globe op-ed this morning on why he, a non-religious Jew, is pro-life. I appreciate anyone who can lay down a secular argument for life, because the accusation that pro-lifers are shoving their faith down our throats is frequently -- and erroneously -- tossed into the discussion in the hopes of squelching debate. As Barnett says in the final paragraph:
In making my case, I didn't refer to God, the Bible, the Koran, or any other holy tract once. Please adjust your stereotypes accordingly.
But in the process, Barnett uses a misconception that is frequently used by the pro-abortion crowd and is easily refuted. Not with faith. With science. Barnett writes:
The only people who can say with absolute certainty and total conviction when life begins do so as a matter of faith or belief, not as the inevitable result of a logical process. This is every bit as true for the pro-choice absolutists who feel that life begins only at birth as it is for people who believe that life begins at conception.
This ignores the scientific facts available to pro-lifers if they'd bother to use them. I wrote extensively about this issue back in 2005, but here's the relevant part:
  • At the moment of conception, your parents contribute 300,000 genes to determine your unique physical characteristics, intelligence and personality. You have your own set of DNA from the first minute, a DNA that tells any scientist that you are a human being. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
  • Within three weeks, your heart has begun pushing your blood — often a different blood type from your mother — around your body. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
  • Within four weeks, your eyes, ears, arms and respiratory system have begun to form. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
  • Between day 31 and 33, the brain becomes 25 percent larger. Brain waves, as measured on an EEG, are present 40 days (less than six weeks) after conception. Your fingers start forming at six weeks. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
Out of the 1.37 million annual abortions in the United States, 300,000 are done by this point in the pregnancy.
  • Before seven weeks, your jaw has formed and includes 20 "pre-teeth." Your tiny mouth has lips and the beginnings of a tongue. Tear ducts are forming in your eyes. Your completed skeleton begins to harden with its many complex links and joints. Your reflexes are present. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
Another 240,000 annual abortions are done by this point in the pregnancy. That's more than half a million total.
  • By eight weeks, all your bodily organs are present and functioning. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
Another 250,000 annual abortions are done by this point in the pregnancy, bringing the total to almost 800,000.
  • Before 10 weeks, if the sole of your foot was touched, you would curl your toes and bend your hips and knees to move away from the object. You squint, swallow, move your tongue and make a fist. Your fingerprints and footprints are evident. Do you believe it's a human being yet? At what point are you finally convinced? How do you establish an arbitrary cutoff where it's OK to abort before the date, but not after?
With another 275,000 annual abortions by this point in the pregnancy, the total pushes past 1 million children.

That's the end of my old post, but it's crucial to re-read that last question: how do you establish an arbitrary cutoff? With that question, Barnett tries to reconcile his position:
Because we don't know where life begins, the only logical thing to do is to err on the side of caution -- the side of life. In other words, because an abortion might take an innocent life, it should be avoided. It should also be illegal in most cases.
But Barnett is wrong. It's not a matter of faith. It's a matter of science. We do know when life begins. The child may not be able to live outside the womb for another 150 days or so, but that doesn't change the fact that the child's life starts at conception.



Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Quote of the Day

From Jonah Goldberg, referring to Mitt Romney in tonight's GOP presidential debate:
What Do I Have to Do To Put You In This BMW Today? That's what Romney seems to be saying if you hit "mute."
By the way, Ron Paul can't seriously believe he has a shot in hades of winning this, does he?



Wednesday, May 09, 2007

The definition of 'is'

When Bill Clinton invoked that rabbit trail during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, the nation rightly rejected it as so much legalese BS. Today, I read something that was equally full of it.

In 1997, a follower of the Church of ALF (the Animal Liberation Front) decided his god wanted him to burn down a meat-processing plant in Redmond, Ore. Not to mention 20 other arsons in five Western states.

Ten years later, the government is urging a U.S. District Court judge to include terrorism charges against the confessed perpetrators. The attorney for one of them, Jonathan Paul, is trying to convince a judge that it was just arson, not terrorism. No harm, no foul.

Based only on the information in that Mail-Tribune story, I wouldn't be surprised if Judge Ann Aiken denies the government's motion to increase the seriousness of the charges. Paul's attorney argues his client has not met terrorism statute's definition of actions "calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation, or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct."

But that's a failure of the terrorism statute. My dictionary defines "terrorism" as:
The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.
If this isn't the use of force intended to intimidate society for ideological reasons, I don't know what is.

The airplanes that smashed into the twin towers weren't aimed at government institutions, but no one would deny they were piloted by terrorists. Jonathan Paul and his ALF cohorts shouldn't get off any easier.

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That's when Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden's current term expires (OK, it's really 2011, but the election is in 2010). With the news that Wyden and his bride are expecting twins later this year, that means the kids will just be getting out of diapers in time for that election.

With two toddlers running around his feet, will anyone be surprised if Wyden (who will be 61 by that point) decides that three decades of congressional service is enough? And if he does, who will the Republicans choose to run for that seat? It's not too early to start thinking about it.

Greg Walden's name is periodically thrown around for governor, but would he consider switching chambers? Is there anyone in the Oregon Senate or House who is ready for prime time? I don't see anyone who really jumps out at me, and that worries me. If the Republicans can't produce a viable candidate for that race, it will likely be lost to Democratic hands for decades.

Who would you like to see in the race for Wyden's seat?