Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog

Monday, July 31, 2006

In Vino Veritas

Alcohol is a depressant. In small quantities, it creates a feeling of euphoria by stimulating the release of endorphins and dopamine. It also tends to decrease inhibitions, and impairs judgment. Under the influence of alcohol, you do things you normally wouldn't.

  • You ask that pretty girl in the bar to dance.

  • You agree to go skydiving.

  • You laugh and shout and carry on, even tough you're normally sy and reserved.

  • You get argumentative, even though you normally avoid confrontations.

And you say things you normally wouldn't say, at least, out loud.

There's nothing in the biochemistry of alcohol metabolism to suggest that it makes you lie, and say things you don't really mean. In fact, it's the exact opposite. By relaxing inhibitions and depressing critical thinking skills, those under the influence are much more likely to say what they really mean, instead of hiding it under some politically correct facade.

So when you hear Mel Gibson's apology:
I acted like a person completely out of control when I was arrested, and said things that I do not believe to be true and which are despicable.

Realize he's telling at best a half truth.

Yes, what he said was despicable.

And yes, Mel, at some level, you do believe it's true.

Posted by Rich
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Non-Reciprocity of Accountablility

When Israel targets the launch location of Hezbollah rockets and kills civilians, the international community blames Israel for being overly aggressive and bloodthirsty.

When Hezbollah launches rockets into Israeli cities deliberately targeting civilian population centers, the international community declines to blame Hezbollah, because, well, I'm not exactly sure why nobody blames Hezbollah.

The easy answer is "Well, after all, they're only killing Jews," and we know how the world community feels about that.

Another easy answer is "Well, they're Arabs, and you know how those people can be."

Is the answer really as simple as overt/covert racism, or is there another dimension to this dementia?

How about cultural decadence? Moral cowardice? We have become so sensitive and so afraid of giving offense that we are no longer willing to differentiate between the deliberate targeting of civilians and collateral damage. Sure, innocents are dead in either case, but doesn't motive matter?

I think it does.

In the past, civilians were legitimate targets. Tokyo. Dresden. London. Hiroshima. Atlanta. Destroying the enemy's will to fight by bringing the fight home to them was a part of war.

In the last 60 years, we've moved away from that. We see war as a business between professional armies, leaving the civilian population relatively safe. Unfortunately, not all combatants follow the new way of warfare. They still believe in total war.

To the knife.

So here's Israel, fighting an enemy that believes there are no non-combatants, being held by the international community to a higher standard of behavior than their brutal enemy.

Hezbollah fires rockets that kill civilians indiscriminately and the world yawns. Israel kills civilians in the course of fighting back, and the world condemns them for it.

Posted by Rich
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Sunday, July 23, 2006

You Have the Right to do Exactly What We Tell You To Do!

If you remember, a little while back, I wrote about a court case in Virginia. A 16 year old boy and his parents decided to pursue alternative treatment for his Hodgkin's Disease after conventional chemo gave only temporary improvement.

A social worker decided that the boy and his parents had no right to decide what was best for their family, and promptly filed suit to have the boy removed from his parents and forced to undergo treatment.

Well, the decision is in.

Juvenile court Judge Jesse E. Demps has ruled that the boy must undergo chemo as prescribed by his doctors, and that his parents were being neglectful by supporting his decision, so they must continue to share custody with the county Social Services bureau.

Can you imagine that? This is wrong on so many levels, it's hard evn knowing where to start.

I've argued this before, and most folks tend to disagree. Of course, it's usually religious parents and the alternative therapy is prayer, so the objectors throw out a few buzz words like "fanatic" or "ignorant hicks" and go merrily about their business. I then warn that if the state has the right to interfere, soon, it won't just be in the case of religious folks.

And here we are.

A 16 year old can be tried as an adult, and sentenced to prison for life, or given the death penalty. If they're responsible enough for that, then aren't they responsible enough to make decisions about their health care?

Not in Virginia, they aren't.

And a parent only has rights when he chooses to exercise those rights in accordance with the wishes of some unelected county bureaucrat.

And there are still people who think this is a good thing.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, July 21, 2006

Last Word on ESC (for now)

Did I change any minds?

Probably not.

Did I cause anybody to at least think about it?

I hope so, but I'm not all that optimistic.

This is an issue where people make up their minds, then refuse to re-examine their decision. What makes it even harder is that ESC research is being so heavily sold as a miracle cure for what ails you, which pulls hard on the old self-interest lever. After all, we all know somebody who has suffered and possibly even died from one of the many ailments that researchers claim ESC's will cure, if only the Fed would fund the research.

So why do I do it? Knowing that I'm probably not changing any minds, why do I keep writing about ESC research, and why it's so very wrong?

It sure ain't to win friends, I'll tell you that much. All the cool kids are all for it. Say you're against ESC research, and not only are you an ignorant, hyper-religious luddite standing in the way of progress, you're also a cruel, inhuman monster that wants people to die just to protect a small lump of undifferentiated tissue.

I guess it's the Don Quixote in me.

People ask those of us against ESC research if we would refuse treatment derived from ESC if it would save our lives.

I would.

But ask me if I would refuse to allow my child to be treated, and you would probably get a different answer. My self interest would triumph over my ethical principles.

But that doesn't mean my ethics were wrong, now does it? Nope, just that I'm a typical human, weak and imperfect.

I think what gets to me the most is the hypocrisy inherent in the whole debate.
It's not really a life; it's just a lump of tissue. We can use it however we want without ethical qualms. But for God's sake let's not make it on purpose and harvest it! That would be icky.

If you take noting else away from these posts, carry that one with you. After all, it represents the "thinking" of the majority of our representatives.

Ask yourself why it's ok to harvest cells on a retail basis, but not a wholesale one. Why is it icky?

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, July 20, 2006

About That Whole “Third Party” Idea….

Iraq. Iran. North Korea. Syria. al qaida.

So, does it bother anybody else that the only issues being discussed by the lead Republican candidate for the Senate are gay marriage, abortion, and judicial activism, while the Democrat candidate apparently thinks that high gas prices are the biggest problem facing America right now?

Posted by Rich
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Quote at the top of the left column

I changed it.

Posted by Rich
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I know, I know, you all hated those questions on the SAT, but bear with me; unlike the SATs, this actually has meaning.

To solve the riddle, let's look closely at Lebanon. Lebanon has a weak central government, one that is unable to extend it's influence throughout the entire country. As a result, Hezbollah, a very small minority of the Lebanese population, controls the southern border, where Lebanon and Israel meet. Hezbollah has also managed to eke their way into a minority position in the government, meaning that when they act unilaterally, they still manage to implicate the entire Lebanese government.

What that means for the average Lebanese citizen is that the depraved actions of a small minority can put the rest of them in grave danger.

Sounds kinda familiar, doesn't it?

If we pull out of Iraq too soon, we're creating the exact same conditions there as exist in Lebanon right now.

And we see how that's turning out.

Let the troops finish the job, then we'll talk about coming home.

Posted by Rich
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Wednesday, July 19, 2006

More On Embryonic Stem Cell Research

A quick trip through the libertarian blogosphere shows that I'm pretty much standing alone on this one. But that's OK. Copernicus stood alone, as did Galileo.

I can live with that kind of company.

But I do have a question for all my libertarian friends who want to see federal funding for ESC research expanded.

If an embryo is not a person, just a lump of tissue, and destroying it is A-OK if it leads to cures for all kinds of horrible diseases, then why isn't it A-OK to create fetuses specifically for doing the research? Tissue is tissue, whether created by accident or on purpose, so why would the Senate vote 63-37 to expand ESC research, but 100-0 against fetal farming?

Either it's a person, or it's a lump of tissue. Make up your minds and act accordingly.

Picture this. In some lab somewhere, Dr. Cureall discovers a way to use embryonic stem cells to treat Parkinson's and Alzheimer's diseases. The cure is 100% effective when used in the early stages of the diseases, and is moderately effective in reversing the ravages of the diseases even with late use. You now have a patient pool of hundreds of thousands of people, all of whom want the cure right now.

Where will we get the embryos?

Either farming, or by cranking up the abortion rate. There's no other answer. Either we create fetuses specifically for research and therapy, or we start to encourage abortions. If culturing existing strains can't keep up with the demands of research, then I highly doubt it will be able to keep up with the demands of ongoing therapy. And I'm only talking about 2 potential therapies. Throw in heart disease therapies, or kidney repairs, and the patient pool explodes in size.

Do the math, folks. If we start down this road, farming fetuses is the only efficient way to generate enough material to keep up with the eventual demand.

Are you A-OK with that?

It's the Kelo decision all over again, only this time it's written in the blood of our unborn children. Take a piece of private property and give it to somebody else and the libertarians cry out in outrage. Take the life of an unborn and give it to somebody else, and they applaud.

Posted by Rich
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A New Plan

I cut off most of my hair yesterday. The doctor said I needed to lose weight, and that was easier than dieting.

I don't know what I'll do for next week. Short of some radical shaving, I've about exhausted the possibilities.

I could trim my toe nails...

Posted by Rich
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PV2 Privett Starts Basic Combat Training Today

My son Adam leaves today for BCT at Fort Leonard Wood.

Pride and concern make for a very uneasy heart.

Posted by Rich
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Veto the Bill on Funding Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Life begins at conception.

If you don't believe me, don't ask a priest; ask a biologist. It isn't a religious decision, it's a scientific one.

Here's the short version.

First, throw out all supernatural notions, including the idea of a soul. We're talking about good old-fashioned rigorous science. In the world of science, identity boils down to one thing, and one thing only.


You are your DNA and your DNA is you. It's better than fingerprints. Not only does your DNA identify you, it defines you as well. How tall you are, what color your hair is, what color your eyes are, how you perceive the world; all of these things are determined by your DNA. In fact, some go so far as to argue that your DNA actually determines not only how you think, but what you think as well.

Given that DNA identifies and defines an organism, then the only logical conclusion is that as soon as a new DNA pattern emerges, the bearer of that pattern is a new, unique organism. This occurs at conception, therefore life begins at conception.

Like I said, check with a biologist if you don't believe me; you won't find a reputable one who disagrees.

Now, what they will say, in one way or another, is that personhood is separate from identity, and that the newly created organism may be human, but it isn't a human until it has a brain. Or until that brain passes through the vaginal canal. Or some other more or less arbitrarily defined moment.

But personhood is no more a scientific concept than is the soul, and we agreed to leave that soft stuff out of this. It's a legal fiction, used at different times to justify slavery, as well as genocide.

Probably not the best guidepost to be using here, eh?

So science tells us that life begins at conception. What does this mean for embryonic stem cell research? Simply that if we proceed, we're cannibals, devouring our young for our own benefit.

Probably not the optimum survival strategy when you think about it. Darwin would not approve.

And that's the science. I didn't have to bring God or morality into it at all.

I could go on, and talk about how few (zero) ESC treatments have actually worked, and how many ASC therapies are already in use. I could talk about the experiments showing that ASC can be coaxed into pluripotency, if not totipotency. I could talk about the benefits of autologous ASC transfers, and how they avoid immune system complications. I could talk about all of these things, but the core is still the same.

A species which cannibalizes its future to enhance its present will soon discover for itself where the dinosaurs went.

Posted by Rich
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Friday, July 14, 2006

There’s Nothing Lamer than Lamar

Alexander that is.

A few weeks back, the Senate voted to build a wall and beef up our border security. On that vote, Sen Frist said NO, but Sen "Lamar!" said YES, demonstrating his commitment to protecting America.

Or just posing for the cameras.

Today, the Senate opposed including the money to actually build the fence in the latest appropriation for DHS, and this time, Alexander joined with the majority, saying NO.

You know, I disagreed with Frist's vote both times, but at least the man had consistency. He said no to building it, and no to funding it. Alexander, on the other hand, is looking to claim he supported the fence without actually, you know, supporting it.

It's got to be hard to be lamer than a lame duck, but Sen Alexander has managed it.

Posted by Rich
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Thursday, July 13, 2006

US Senate GOP Primary Debate

The following has been cleaned up and formatted just a bit to make it easier to read.
EB=Ed Bryant
VH=Van Hilleary
BC=Bob Corker
HF=Harold Ford
  • Q1 To VH on abortion:
    • VH claims he didn't really change his position, it just seems that way.
    • BC says he always opposed partial birth abortions no matter what VH says
    • EB says I've always been 100%pro life

  • Q2 To EB on independent voters, and how to win them:
    • EB says TN is not independent, but conservative, so he'll get the votes.
    • BC says he'll win independents because he's a successful businessman.
    • VH says I'm an independent too!

  • Q3 To BC Can you buy an election in TN?
    • BC I've driven 103 miles,(I think he meant 103,000) this is a grassroots campaign, despite my outspending my opponents a zillion to one.
    • VH I sure hope not.
    • EB BC hasn't disclosed his full tax return Tax returns are important to disclose information. I challenge you to release your full return.
    • BC says I released my 1040 and that's enough
    • EB was that yes or no?
    • VH says BC said no. We need to know about BC finances.
    • BC fights back by calling them lobbyists.

  • Q4 to VH define conservative:
    • VH I believe it in my heart. I behave as I believe. Low taxes, small gov't. Challenges BC on abortion again. Strong national defense.
    • EB TN conservative are of the heart, and too often they convert during election. I've been to DC and I was a conservative while there. Just check my record.
    • BC Not talkers, but doers. I cut state spending, using conservative principles for positive results.

  • Q5 to EB you voted no on minimum raise. still against it?
    • EB yep, unless there's an offset to the small businesses.
    • BC I agree with EB. Private sector should ensure a living wage.
    • VH. voted to slow up increases, but voted for final bills. Rather see increased minimum wage than welfare (Shades of Kerry saying he was for it before he was against it)

  • Q6 to BC GSMNP should the gov spend more?
    • BC Smokies are wonderful. Yes fed parks maintained by fed dollars.
    • VH Yes. For the children.
    • EB Manhattan project for 5 year alternative fuel vehicles. (I was waiting for a follow up that linked their response to earmarks to make the question relevant nationally.)

  • Q7 HF called them the three stooges.
    • VH Stooges were pretty popular. HF gets points for style but not substance.
    • EB HF is a young man, perhaps too young and eager. Strange way to "raise the level of the discourse"
    • BC I campaign positively, not like my scum-sucking opponents from both sides of the aisle. (I wish one of them would have had the nads to just flat out say, "Harold Ford? Ah, he's just an *&*^^%$!")

  • Q8 Something about pensions and COLA raises for contractors. I got a phone call.
    • EB the money is there, we need to revisit it and fix it.
    • BC dispute is actually between private contractors for the gov't and their employees. But I'll try to help behind the scenes.
    • VH (missed response)

  • Q9 to BC Chris Clemm says you opposed conservative candidates and supported Democrats.
    • BC Not true. I'm a Republican. It says so right here by my name.
    • VH I don't doubt Clem. He's a stand up guy. And BC is lying about cutting taxes; he raised them
    • BC I never said I cut taxes in Chattanooga. We have the lowest tax rates since the 50's And I supported you in 2002.
    • VH He's voted for, supported, and given money to democrats.
    • BC I have never in my life raised money for a Democrat.(That's a very categorical statement, and one that can easily be researched. I'll bet Hilleary is looking into it right now.)
    • EB I cannot think of a conservative principle that say you raise taxes to deal with a budget crisis.
    • BC I'm sorry my opponents keep bringing this up. EB raised taxes, and VH supported tax raises.
    • VH Cheap shot. The fee increase was part of a 240 billion tax cut.
    • EB I'll stack my record on cutting taxes against Bob anytime.

  • Q10 Support TN education and college degrees.
    (Phone call. I'm lost. Another disadvantage to watching it on TV instead of going...) Hilleary is talking about taking on too many projects

  • Last Question When you get to DC, what will your focus be. One word.
    • VH Iraq
    • EB opportunity
    • BC opportunity

OK, they're blathering their prepared closing remarks now. Here are my impressions:

  • I've got to wonder about Bill Williams as moderator. One of the key issues in the debate was how Bob Corker was representing (or misrepresenting)his record, but Bill stifled that debate, and looked annoyed that the candidates tried to mix it up a little. Granted, Hilleary could have done a better job on the attack by using enough detail that Corker couldn't keep wiggling around (such as when Tom Humphries concisely described the tax records Corker had not released).
  • I also wonder about the questions. In light of the events over the last couple of days, I'd expected a lot more questions on the military, the war, and foreign policy in general. We know that all three of them are virtually identical on domestic issues.
  • Bob Corker was a successful businessman and a good mayor, but he hasn't said anything to convince me that those skill sets will transfer to the Senate. He's very folksy, and he's got a lot of money behind him, and that makes him the favorite to win the primary, and he's the only candidate polished enough to compete with the Harold Ford machine.

    But I don't like him. He's slick, not substantial. I'm listening to him right now and he's still using the same tactic of saying he doesn't want to be negative while simultaneously attacking Hilleary and Bryant. What turns me off can be summed up by his commercials claiming that Chattanooga property taxes are the lowest they've been in 50 years, implying that he cut taxes.

    But when pinned down, he admits he never did.

    I don't like deceptive tactics.
  • Van Hilleary is sincere, earnest, and earnestly sincere, and I'm sure he has a position on things other than abortion, and that "Bob Corker is lying about his record" but he never put it out there. Even during the post debate interview, he was attacking Bob Corker. His strongest point is he's comfortable talking about foreign policy, unlike his two opponents. Given current events, that is very close to a deal breaker. As a Senator, they'd better have national defense as their top priority, not some feel good fuzzy "opportunity."

    I did like what he said during the post debate interview, about needing to send somebody to Washington who won't need training wheels. Corker is trying to score points off of Hilleary and Bryant having been in Washington, and Hilleary turned it back on him with that remark.
    I wish he'd managed to get it into the debate.
  • Ed Bryant seems to me to be the candidate with the most integrity of the three. He seems the least political of the three candidates, which may make him the least electable. On the plus side, he's the only one who talked about immigration either during the debate or the post debate interviews. On the minus side, his campaign doesn't seem to be lively enough to beat Harold Ford.

So, who will I be voting for?

I was leaning towards Ed Bryant after the first debate, but his answer to the final question really bothers me, particularly in light of all that has happened over the last couple of days. The person we send to the Senate has to understand that events in the Middle East have to be our top priority, followed closely by immigration reform.

I still like Bryant, but based on the current state of the world, I'm probably going to vote for Hilleary.

Posted by Rich
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Tennessee GOP Senate Debate:  Part 2

As I did during the last debate, I'll be watching this one to see if the candidates actually say anything interesting. Unlike last time, I'll be watching from home. I didn't want to fight the west Knoxville traffic, and I didn't really care to be shown hunched over my laptop with a camera slung around my neck.
Of course, the drawback is I won't get to see Christine Jessel again...

Posted by Rich
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Stupid Questions

I was over at McKay's bookstore the other day and I saw a bumpersticker on a car in the parking lot that read
If war is the answer, then it must have been a stupid question!

So here are some stupid questions:
  1. Does government derive its power from the consent of the governed or divine authority?
  2. Can an entire race be held in slavery?
  3. Do nations have the right to defend their borders?
  4. How do you stop a madman who has already slaughtered 11 million innocent people?

Yep, those are pretty stupid questions alright.

Posted by Rich
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