7/31/2002

The War on Drugs



Watched the Stossel piece on ABC tonight and it was pretty predictable. That does not mean it was bad, or that I didn't happen to agree with the premise, but it's going to take alot more than that to get things moving in the direction of a more sane policy regarding drug abuse in this country. The problem is many faceted, but it mostly boils down to money and power. A war on drugs means lots of money for police, lots of money for companies that supply prisons, lots of money and power for politicians that keep the cycle turning in the direction of harsher laws, more siezures of property, more inmates for the prison industry. Until that dynamic is addressed reform of drug laws in this country is a pipe-dream (no pun intended...)


Also, anyone who is tempted to down-play the threat to civil liberties inherent in a crack-down intended to "increase security" ought to take a close look at the way the War on Drugs has steadily erroded civil liberites in this country. Here's one example (via Instapundit), but there are lots more.

7/30/2002

Rejecting the Franchise



It has suddenly become clear to me that I probably won’t vote this November. Hell, I probably won’t even register to vote. Part of this is the aftermath of a recent relocation from the People’s Socialist Utopia of Massachusetts to Live Free or Die New Hampshire- I am still plugged in to a foreign political reality. The intricacies of New Hampshire politics escape me at the moment even as I still cringe at Massachusetts’ One Billion Dollar tax increase to cover the exorbitant spending wracked up during the Clinton Bubble Economy.


Still, there is more to it than just relocation dislocation. Quite frankly I can’t see the difference between the separate flavors of political candidates today. No, I don’t think it’s time for a third party- we had enough of that crap with Perot and Buchanan, but I grow increasingly cynical. This cynicism is fueled in large part by the political parties of this country as they seem incapable of passing up even the most miniscule chance to tear down whom ever is in a position of power at the moment. In the 90’s it was the Republicans from the far right of the party who fueled an almost carnival atmosphere of scandal mongering regarding Bill Clinton. They pilloried that man at every turn and in the end wound up creating such a sense of fatigue that when something truly scandalous (perjury) did arise, the best they could muster was a sham Impeachment and show trial in the Senate.


The next step for me was the 2000 Presidential election. I’m not going to waste a lot of time with that episode except to say that the Supreme Court was correct- the attempt to count, recount and re-recount was illegal according to election law at the time. The Democrat’s attempt to change the rules after the votes were cast, the screwed up ballots and instructions put in place in Democrat-controlled polling districts, these are all object lessons in how not to run things. One would hope that we’ve learned a lesson from this, but somehow, I doubt it.


Finally, we have the war. I saw recently where some congress-critters are pushing legislation to force the President to get congressional approval before moving against Iraq. EVERYONE knows that the War Powers Act is unconstitutional- it just awaits a challenge in the courts to be tossed in to the “unmarked grave of discarded lies.” So why the move in congress to clip the President’s wings? Can’t have him doing something so provocative as the mid-term elections come up, can we? The Democrats need to be able to scream about something and so far they haven’t been able to make the corporate accounting scandals and death-spiral DJIA stick.


I could accept all of this if I thought the Democrats believed they had a better idea of how to destroy our enemies, but they don’t. They just want control of the House and a shot at the presidency in 2004: if it comes down to a choice between defeating America’s enemies or gaining political advantage, then the war be damned. Furthermore, if we were talking President Gore I am certain that the Republicans would be behaving in just as dastardly a way.


Put all the above together and suddenly I can’t seem to find the time to stroll down to City Hall and register to vote. Every time I think to do it, something always gets in the way: change the cat’s litter box, rearrange the paper plate holders in the cabinet, oh, and there is that Mayberry RFD marathon on the local cable channel…


Come 2004, I’m sure I’ll be ready. All that “First In the Nation Primary” crap will doubtless suck me in. By then the Poison of the Mandatory Collective of Massachusetts should have left my system and I ought to be in tune with New Hampshire politics. Perhaps I’ll finally be able to give a damn. Still, if I could just get them to replace the current House of Representatives with my idea of a drafted body- but I doubt there are enough pictures of congressmen and senators in compromising positions with farm animals to make that happen…


War with Iraq



Isntapundit has an interesting view on war with Iraq, as well as a link to his commentary on editorials in The Nation and the L.A. Times, against and for invading Iraq.

7/28/2002

Future Shock



This is simply awesome. Way to go, N.Z. Bear!


Wonder if he's ever read Brunner's Shockwave Rider...

7/27/2002

Cry 'Havoc!' and let slip the Dogs of War....



It seems that some of the media pundits have been saying that the only way the Bush Administration will be able to take away attention from the ongoing corporate corruption scandals, and the shrill allegations from the left of wrongdoing by Bush and Cheney, is for the U.S. to invade Iraq.

Though the motivation behind such an invasion is less likely to be what Liberals imply and is more a pre-emptive action to prevent greater chaos in the future, I have to admit that it has a certain appeal.

Mind you, I'm no warmonger. I'd be the next-to-the-last one to say "Kill 'em all and let God sort 'em out." (My dear brother isn't quite so...umm....magnanimous.) But removing Saddam Hussein and the Ba'ath Party is looking more attractive all the time. Despite the anger from the Muslim world that such a move might create, I believe that many of Iraq's neighbors will quietly applaud our actions and breathe a sigh of relief.

Of course many of the Liberals in the U.S. will bewail the death of Iraqi civilians, but that's what happens in war. During the Gulf War, Saddam had civilians moved into and around Iraqi military installations and weapons facilities in an attempt to prevent their destruction by Coalition air power. It did give pause to the Coalition military commanders, but in the end those installations and facilities were destroyed. Civilians did die. The Coalition couldn't allow the use of hostages, and that's what these civilians were, to deter the campaign against Saddam and the Iraqi military. It is a horrible fact, but civilians are always killed in war, either by accident or by design. The U.S. military tries hard to limit civilian casualties, but it's impossible to avoid.

Despite the pasting Iraq took during the Gulf War, it is still a formidable military power. Saddam Hussein still has designs on becoming a major player in the Middle East, if not the outright overlord. He covets Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the UAE, and many other Gulf states. He wants to be the Great Leader of the Arab world. I believe he's willing to kill as many people as necessary to achieve that end. I also believe he'd be willing to use weapons of mass destruction in his bid for power as he's used them in the past against Iran during the nine year war with Iran, and against the Kurds within Iraq. I doubt it would bother him in any way if the people of Iraq have to die in order for him to attain his goals. He certainly seems to be willing to kill his own people if he thinks he will gain some advantage in doing so. He has done so to stifle any opposition to his rule within Iraq.

Were the U.S. to invade and conquer Iraq, what should America do once the war is won? Maybe it's time to do some real nation building along the lines of the Marshall Plan after World War II. Perhaps if we had done that after the Soviet Union had withdrawn from Afghanistan, the Taliban would have never come to power and Al Qaeda would not have had a secure base of operations. We must do that in Iraq, for the consequences of not doing it will be far greater than we can probably imagine.



7/26/2002

Conservative vs Liberal...



I've always believed that the difference in attitude between Conservatives and Liberals is best described by the following statement:


Conservatives believe they are right and Liberals are wrong. Liberals believe that they are Righteous and Conservatives are Evil.


It turns out that Charles Krauthammer agrees with me.

7/25/2002

Responsibility



I decided I needed a couple of days to get my head around the recent bombing by Israel which sent Sheik Salah Shehada to meet his 72 virgins and took nearly a score of civilians with him. What made me pause was my initial reaction to the collateral killings: “Gee, that’s too damned bad, isn’t it?” It just seemed so damned cold. Then today I saw NZ Bear’s article regarding a mainstream media blogger’s initial reaction and later backpedaling.


It really does remain “too damned bad” with me. Others have argued that the Israelis cannot avoid taking responsibility for this “tragedy” and the apparent reality of the situation is that they have done just that. This was a mistake, intelligence indicated there were no civilians in the building, and there was no intention to kill civilians. What will infuriate those who believe this places Israel on the same moral footing with the Palestinians is that it does precisely the opposite: It demonstrates Israel’s immense moral superiority to her foes.


This is so basic that it should not need repeating, but here it is nonetheless: Palestinians deliberately target Israeli civilians and cheer when they are successful in the slaughter of shoppers, businessmen and children. Israelis do not deliberately target civilians, but recognize that they are at war and that any action they undertake will likely result in civilian casualties. When civilians die in an attack such as the recent bombing, they regret it, investigate it, and try to prevent it from happening again. The brutal calculus of war dictates that when you rain fire and hot steel from the sky, people will die. You do your best to minimize it, but beyond that it truly is just “tough luck, fella.”


To summarize the above: One side uses suicide bombers and ambushes to slaughter innocent civilians as their primary military tactic. They surround themselves with “innocent” civilians, counting on the civilized nature of their foe to protect them from attack. The other side uses military actions targeted at capturing or killing enemy combatants and disrupting their logistics. They employ tactics that often lead to civilian casualties, but they do everything they can to minimize this, short of deciding not to defend themselves. Couched in those terms, the only reasonable conclusion is that the Palestinian militants, in making the conscious decisions to a) slaughter civilians, and b) house themselves in the shielding embrace of civilian populations, bear the responsibility for bringing about the circumstances that led to this unfortunate loss of life. Unfortunate. Nothing more, nothing less.


The pacifists amongst us tend to cite such events as proof that war is intrinsically evil, unjustifiable and at best counter-productive. My own opinion is that people who espouse the view that all war is immoral are simply incapable of making moral judgments. I’ll grant that they abhor violence, that killing cuts to the center of their understanding of what constitutes “big-H” Humanity, but to transform that feeling of revulsion in to a blanket proscription of conflict of any kind begs the question: if you are not willing to fight to defend yourself, do you have the right to exist? Asserting the right to exist implicitly recognizes the right to defend your existence. Pacifism denies this and so is at its core both self-denying and self-destructive.


And one final note regarding the deaths of “innocent civilians” in this recent Israeli action- I have made this point before and I will quote the relevant part here:


It does not matter if the “ordinary Palestinians” are not so committed to the fight as the death-warped “martyrs” who bring their brand of righteous murder down upon school children and secretaries, the fact is that they tolerate these animals, and by tolerating them they are complicit in their actions. After the Second World War the Allies did not accept the protestations of German civilians who clamed not to know about the atrocities of the Holocaust so no thinking, reasoning person can give me any damned reason to start accepting excuses now.


To the “ordinary Palestinians” I say: “If you are not actively opposing those of your people who would sow random death then you are guilty of murder. You are damned.”



So enough about “innocent civilians.”

7/23/2002

Malpractice- Kill All The (Tort) Lawyers, Redux



An earlier post of mine mentioned the problem some states were having retaining doctors, and specifically obstetricians. A report on ABC's World News Tonight shows that the problem is worse that I had originally thought.

ABC's report focused on two OB/GYNs in the town of Cleveland, Mississippi forced to close their joint practice because their malpractice insurance premiums rose 500%. (No, that isn't a typo- five hundred percent!). They couldn't afford the premiums and the only choice they had was to close the practice, abandoning a number of patients, one less than three weeks away from delivering her child. Women in Cleveland will have no choice but to travel 40 miles to another OB/GYN, and the worry is that he may not be able to practice much longer for the same reason. The average premium increase in the Mississippi delta region was 400%!

This problem reaches far beyond Mississippi. Nationwide, malpractice premiums for OB/GYNs have risen over 160% in the past 10 years. The increasing number of malpractice suits and large settlements over those same ten year period are to blame. The American Medical Association says there are nine states in the U.S. that have reached crisis proportions when it comes to malpractice premiums and doctors leaving their practices. Another 18 states are showing signs of the same problem.

Dr. Thomas Purdon, former president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists reports, "In the past year, at least 10 to 20 percent of all OB/GYNs in the country have either stopped delivering babies, stopped doing gynecological surgery, or even given up practice altogether."

Some may argue that the malpractice suits were justified, that the doctors being sued screwed up. In some cases, I'd agree with them. But I'll bet a lot suits were filed because a patient or family wasn't happy with the way things turned out. Maybe a newborn had some health problems that didn't become evident until the child was born. Maybe a new mother had health complications from the birth. Some of this would have been unforeseeable. Some of these problems could have been caused by the mother herself for not following the doctor's orders during her pregnancy. And sometimes, shit just happens.

But don't fret! Here come the lawyers! They'll get you a load of cash to ease your suffering!

So your baby was born with a club foot? Not a problem. Sue the doctor!

Labor was brought on prematurely because of a traffic accident and the baby later died? It must be somebody's fault. Sue the doctor!

It was a boy rather than a girl? I guess somebody screwed up. Sue the doctor!

There were unexpected complications during and after the birth? Somebody should have expected them. Sue the doctor!

And so on, and so on, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

If this isn't a call for tort reform, I don't know what is. If it doesn't stop here, then one medical specialty after another will fall. And then we'll really be in trouble.

And so the chickens have come home to roost.

I'll go out on a limb here and bet that female lawyers and the wives of lawyers have a really tough time finding an OB/GYN that will take them on as a patient.

Maybe payback is a bitch.......

UPDATE: On Thursday, July 25th, ABC's World News Tonight reported that the two OB/GYNs in Cleveland, Mississippi were contacted by an insurance carrier that offered them short term coverage. Their practice will remain open for the time being, but this is only a reprieve. Their coverage will expire in a couple of months.

7/20/2002

A Beer Night Rant: Reality



What, exactly, is reality?


I know, philosophers throughout history have expounded upon this topic. Rest assured, I do not fancy myself a philosopher of any stature. I’m not even a student of philosophy. I’m just a guy who has made far more than his fair share of horrific fuck-ups in life and is to this very day paying the price. So I have the right to ask.


WHAT IS REALITY?


What is real?


Got an answer?


Okay, good for you. Prove it. Please. Pretty please.


On a daily basis I hear from folks through conversation, through newspapers, through TV, and through Gigabit-space. ALL of them have opinions. All of them have facts. All of them have ideology, whether stringent and blinkered, or open and receptive.


But, is any of it REAL?


Is there any way that anyone in Gigabit Space can posit to me a model of reality, and prove that it has any claim to legitimacy?


I KNOW: this is a circular question, something worthy of a dorm-room, 35-bong-hit, “Oh, man, that’s just so deep,” kind of gab fest. But the question remains unanswered to this day. Sure, the Great Minds of all the major cultures of the past few thousand years have taken a crack at it, but what, honestly, has been proven?


If confronted with an individual who is convinced that there is a Great Conspiracy of The Cereal Producing Entities of the Earth to Control the Minds of The Youth of America, can anyone actually prove that said individual’s concept of what is real is incontrovertibly false?


It is the conundrum of human existence: how does one prove a negative? You have to account for all the infinite permutations of human interaction and physical laws and demonstrate that in every conceivable instance, and every inconceivable instance, that the theorem of the moment holds true. If you think you can do this I’d be willing to bet you play the government lottery (also known as the tax-on-math-illiterati) on a regular basis.


The closest I ever came to some one who could define reality was a friend named Roger who played the electric guitar. No acoustic crap for Roger, he wanted an instrument that screamed at the heavens, and to be honest, he was damned good with that six-string monster. Roger believed that the world would end in Nuclear War before he was thirty. When his thirtieth birthday came and went what was his attitude? “Bargain! I still get to play my guitar!” His view of reality was centered about what he could do, what he could control and affect. He knew it. He accepted it. He didn’t give a fuck what the rest of the world had to say about it.


I can only dream about that kind of intellectual freedom.


You see, I think about reality all the time. I live in a world where I can, for no fault of my own, find myself dragged in to the maw of other people’s concept of reality, a space where my own understanding of what is real is discounted, dismissed, even despised, even though what passes for reality for me is pretty damned main-stream middle-Amercan. Others can choose to impose their own interpretation of what they think I think, and there is damned little I can do about it.


The only likely difference between myself and the casual reader of this blog is that I know this, and this hypothetical reader may not. That does not make me better than the reader. It is entirely possible that in considering such a thing I place myself below the intellectual level of one who can accept that which he cannot see any way to change. Prove to me, one way or the other: which is better?


This is more than a simple question of rhetorical rationalization. We are in the midst of witnessing the chaos that is intrinsic within the lack of a working definition of Reality. I cannot explain to the average Islamofascist why his concept of what is real is so warped. He in turn cannot explain to me why my own fantasy of reality is so tragically wrong. In the end we rely upon power, defined as the ability to destroy, to prove what is real and what is not. I have destroyed your world, therefore your world was not truly real.


I cannot find a way to convince the nihilistic terrorist that there is a worthy world concept which exists outside his own narrow view of what is and is not real. At the same time I can see in some small degree how he can possess such a warped, death-centric view. Is this enough to place me above him: that I can acknowledge that his view of reality makes sense to him? A little empathy justifies war?


I have no answers; I just have six cans of beer, some peppermint schnapps and questions that defy absolute answers. I weigh my humanity by my ability to ponder such questions even while holding that there is a course which must be followed. Perhaps reality exists solely in the desperately small space between doubt and certainty.


Enough. The beer wins. Good night.

7/19/2002

Time to Kick the Bees Nest?



The Political Minor League Event known as the mid-term election is approaching and it’s been interesting to watch the maneuvering by the political parties the past few weeks. The Democrats have been desperately trying to throw anything they think might stick at George W. Bush and Dick Cheney. The Republicans have been, once again, failing to engage in the fight in any substantive way, essentially yielding the field of battle to the Democrats and their willing sock-puppets in the press. From that measure, the seeds of a massive power shift have been sown, and all that awaits is the harvest.


Except…


The President’s poll numbers are still strong, hovering just above the 70% mark. The public is not buying the tie between Bush and Enron/World Com/Harken/Halliburton, etc. Is this a reflection of the public’s love and admiration for the President? Hardly. Instead I believe I am beginning to detect a hint of political-scandal-fatigue amongst the general population.


I haven’t got poll numbers or research to back this up, just anecdotal evidence, and that limited solely to my own sphere of acquaintances; however, it’s not as small or limited a sphere as you might imagine. I am getting the same basic drift from everybody I talk to. The only exceptions are those people who are just too ideologically blinkered to budge from the narrow path defined by their political masters. In other words, they seem to be the exceptions that prove the rule.


The gist of what I am hearing can be boiled down to this:


“The market melt down is not Bush’s fault and he Democrats know it, but don’t care.”


“This is all political posturing because of the election in November.”


“Bush did nothing wrong at Harken and the Democrats know it, but don’t care.”


“The Democrats are trying to bag Cheney because they are more frightened of him than they are of Bush.”


“Accounting is not all black and white, and anyone who runs their own business, or even does their own taxes knows it. The Democrats know it, they just don’t care.”


Now the refrain of “they just don’t care” or words to that effect are a pretty strong constant in what I am hearing (again, this is anecdotal). That is the attitude that the Democrats must worry about more than any strong support for the President. It is not so much that people seem to be seeing through the political aspects of all these attacks because I am fairly certain that they always have, rather it is that people see it as far more cynical in light of the new reality within which Americans now operate. They are less willing to accept it and more willing to criticize it than they have been before.


This doesn’t mean that I believe we are on the verge of some sort of public uprising against the established parties. Please, I’ve had my fill of the “It’s time for a Third Party!” crap. I see it more as an incremental change, one that has been building slowly over the last decade or so, but which has been given a good nudge by the events of the past year.


This does not necessarily bode well for Republican hopes of recapturing the Senate, either. This new skepticism cuts both ways. Furthermore recent poll numbers by ABC indicate that the political landscape has not shifted terribly far from its previous position- percentage of voters who will definitely vote Democrat or Republican in the mid term elections this year stand at 47 and 46% respectively, a statistical dead heat if ever there were one. Republicans get the vote of confidence in dealing with the War, while Democrats get the nod on the Domestic agenda. Yawn.


The only thing I am watching for is some sort of negative public response to the current or future purely political moves by either side. At some point a certain level of tolerance for disgusting displays of partisanship ought to be breeched, and one would hope the backlash would be dramatic enough to get the solid attention of the powers-that-be. This could be a reaction to the Democratic attempts to talk the economy in to a deeper hole, or a clearly politically motivated action in the Middle East. If the White House is planning to attack Iraq, it had better do it soon, or wait until after the election because an attack in say, October, would likely be viewed as an attempt to push the electorate, particularly if it looks like the Democrats are gaining serious momentum. Late August or early September would seem to be as far as one could push it out, unless of course the Republicans look solid, in which case, to Hell with it- invade on Election Day.

7/18/2002

Basher bashing..



Isntapundit is on fire and the target of his arsonist's ire is Brendan O'Neill.

7/17/2002

It says what?



Will the person who reached this site by seaching Yahoo for "Muslims with breast implants" please seek help immediately? Thank-you

7/15/2002

Let's Make a Deal...



Seems American Taliban John Walker has decided to plead guilty to charges. I can't wait to see what the deal was...


UPDATE: Two ten year sentences. Beats the snot out of the Death Penalty or life in prison...

7/14/2002

First, Kill All The (Tort) Lawyers-- an Update



A comment posted by Vegard Valberg about the McDonald's Hot Coffee incident in my earlier post pointed me to a website that blew away the veil of an urban legend. My understanding of the incident was quite flawed and this website cleared that up. Usually I check my facts, but in this case I really screwed up. Rather than post the entire thing, I'll just post the Mythbuster link and let you read it for yourself. Thanks for setting me straight, Vegard!

7/13/2002

Power and Weakness



I stole the title from an excellent article by Robert Kagan at Policy Review, which in turn I stumbled across while reading Dave Shiflett’s “Pipsqueaking” piece at NRO. The web is a wonderful place, isn’t it? The Kagan article is quite long, but well worth reading.


As an American who is part of the absolute tail end of the Boomer generation I grew up with the notion that Europe was our unconditional ally in the world. Hell, these folks owed us big time, French whining notwithstanding. It was not until the Reagan presidency that I began to realize that while Western Europe may have relied on American protection from the influence of the Warsaw Pact, it was not entirely pleased with its burly protector. Policies that seemed very straightforward to me produced all sorts of hand wringing and angst amongst Europeans and their wannabe poseur friends here in the US. I was attending the University of Massachusetts at Amherst at that time, so I got to see a lot of that end of the debate.


As time has marched on I’ve developed a pretty dismissive view of EU policies, hence my mild attraction to Shiflett’s article dismissing European press carping over the US as Pipsqueak Syndrome. Shiflett mentions and quotes Kagan, so I followed the link, printed it out (I’m old enough that I like paper, dammit!) and digested it over a few beers.


Kagan’s analysis has the beauty of simplicity: The divergence between America and Europe is at its core the product of America’s power and Europe’s weakness. Throughout history the weaker powers have traditionally clung to the ideal of International Law and Diplomacy as the best model and method for dealing with contentious situations, whereas nations possessed of power (in the form of the ability to project credible military forces in to areas of contention) have traditionally viewed those ideals as suspicious attempts to hem in their ability to act as they feel they must. To make this point Kagan offers the following analogy (also noted by Shiflett):


“The psychology of weakness is easy enough to understand. A man armed only with a knife may decide that a bear prowling the forest is a tolerable danger, inasmuch as the alternative — hunting the bear armed only with a knife — is actually riskier than lying low and hoping the bear never attacks. The same man armed with a rifle, however, will likely make a different calculation of what constitutes a tolerable risk. Why should he risk being mauled to death if he doesn’t need to?”


Point of clarity: what follows is my opinion.


Cast in those terms the EU’s attitude becomes easier to understand. Right now the situation between the EU and the Militant Islamic World is, from the EU’s point of view, manageable through diplomacy and economic engagement. What they seem to fear is that unilateral action by the US could kick the hornet’s nest hard enough that there will be no way to contain the swarm, or to tell what form the problem will take once things settle down again.


Why can’t America see this and accept the wisdom of following a longer-term policy? September 11th looms large here. We see the danger. We have identified real, credible threats not only to the US, but also the world. We have the tools and the will to act. And we have our own view of history to instruct us on the dangers of failure to act. America rejects the notion that the Post Modern age renders power not only unnecessary, but dangerous, and quite frankly resents Europe for building this massive, navel-gazing semi-socialist state while resting under the wing of American military power, then criticizing the nation that made their grand experiment a possibility in the first place.


From the American perspective it seems to me that Europe is living a vast fantasy. The security they enjoy is by no means absolute and the grand “post-modern paradise” they currently inhabit is extraordinarily fragile. Without American power to guarantee its security the EU could not exist as it does today. If America were to give up her role as protector of the peace, the social safety net of the EU would evaporate as the need to provide for its own defense consumed resources currently devoted to providing heaven on earth. Post modernism works for the EU because American power permits them to indulge in the fantasy.


Regardless of whether one’s opinions are US-centric or Euro-centric the Kagan article is a “should read” for folks on both sides of the pond as it provides a clear discussion of how this divergence in world view came about.




7/12/2002

More on Europe and the ICC, by Victor Davis Hanson



Over at NRO Victor Hanson explains to the Europeans why the US does not particularly trust them to have a tool such as the ICC at their disposal. A telling quote:


"The Europeans have more important security worries than errant American soldiers — such as terrorism and rising anti-Semitism. But if they are worried about issues of morality and law, they should look to their own immediate past and round up all the present legions of ex-communist officials and fellow-travelers still safe in their midst who just a few years ago brought misery and death to millions."


Victor, stop holding back. Tell us how you really feel...


He's Singing My Tune



When I ran across an article titled "ONE NATION, UNDER BEER" on Patrick Ruffini's page, naturally, I had to follow the link. To this. It's amazing what you find by accident sometimes.

Poor, Olde Europe...



Mark Steyn very clearly makes the point that Bush has simply gone beyond Europe, and that Europe can't understand it, can't adapt to it, and can't admit it. Go read.


Link via Ballon Juice

7/11/2002

First, Kill All The (Tort) Lawyers



Shakespeare may have had the right idea, at least when it comes to tort lawyers. You know the ones. They have slick TV ads implying that everyone is entitled to money because they've been wronged by someone/something/someplace, that it's not your fault that you were too stupid to read the directions before immolating yourself and burning your house to the ground. It appears that the message that is taught to the populace over the years has changed from taking responsibility for your own actions to finding someone else to blame instead. At least that's what the tort lawyers want you believe. They've made the stereotype of the ambulance-chasing lawyer become all too true. It is because of this that tort reform has become more important than ever.

Why?

Because without it business, medicine, recreation, or just plain living will become damn near impossible.

There was a movie some time back titled Cherry 2000. It was a comedic sci-fi picture that gave a brief glimpse of a possible future America where dating was negotiated by lawyers. The details were worked out to the nth degree, including such mundane things as holding hands, kissing, or an arm around a shoulder at a movie would be allowed, and to what extent. If a relationship developed beyond that, the lawyers would then negotiate such things as sexual relations including the type, frequency, location of said sexual acts. Observers would be present to make sure that both parties lived up to the contract. When I first saw that bit in the movie I thought it was hilarious. But now I wonder if it might actually come to pass. If it does, then we as a society are doomed. And rightfully so.

The American public has already felt some ill effects, and it will only get worse.

Some examples:

-- Some school and public playgrounds have had jungle gyms, slides, seesaws, and swings removed because of liability lawsuits or the fear of them. In some cases playgrounds have been closed outright because the municipalities didn't want to be sued in case little Johnny fell down or little Susie scraped a knee.

--Does anyone remember this one? A woman purchased a cup of hot coffee at a McDonald's drive-thru. After paying for the coffee and taking the cup of hot coffee from the employee working at the drive-thru window, she placed the cup of hot coffee between her legs, then drove off. When she then stopped at the exit of the McDonald's, the action of her moving her foot from the accelerator to the brake squeezed the cup of hot coffee between her legs. The extra pressure on the cup caused the plastic lid to pop off and spew hot coffee over the inside of her thighs, scalding her and causing first degree burns. She sued the McDonald's franchise and won because they hadn't warned her often enough that their hot coffee was hot!

Update: See below about the real McDonald's Coffee incident.

-- In some states physicians are leaving practices or moving them because malpractice insurance rates are so high. In Mississippi, for example, lawyers pressing malpractice suits have put so much pressure on the medical profession that physicians are voting with their feet or changing to less demanding professions, leaving many people there with less medical care. In Nevada, obstetricians are becoming an endangered species as more of them drop their OB practices or relocating them due to high malpractice insurance premiums. A friend of mine from my high school days dropped obstetrics from her OB/GYN practice because the only ones making any money from it were her insurance company and her lawyer.

-- A side effect of malpractice suits with large damage awards, even those suits based on junk science, has been to increase the cost of health care. Physicians now order extra tests to verify a diagnosis. This is not to double check the diagnosis so much as to gather exculpatory evidence for any malpractice suits that might be filed.

-- Small business are being forced to pay for the clean up of polluted waste sites even though the U.S. government admits they had nothing to do with the improper disposal of wastes. In one case, a number of auto repair shops, garages, and auto dealers in southern New Hampshire and northeastern Massachusetts are being billed for the clean up of a toxic waste site owned by a hazardous waste disposal firm. The various small businesses involved had contracted with the waste hauler in southern New Hampshire to properly dispose of used motor oil, coolant, ATF, and other fluids collected from their maintenance and repair operations. The waste hauler was licensed to haul and dispose of the waste. Little did the client businesses know that the hauler was dumping the waste into open, unlined pits rather than recycling or processing the waste as had been contracted. To quote Weirs Times columnist Publius, "There have been efforts made to correct the way in which the removal of designated Superfund sites is financed.....but the basic problem remains. The E.P.A. has eliminated the concept of fault from consideration in assessing fines and penalties. The federal bureaucrats are robbing even small business people who may face bankruptcy in cases where they readily admit that they have done nothing wrong, and have met every requirement of law and regulation in disposing of their waste." Who is responsible for this mess? One guess, boys and girls.

Two other points Publius makes that ring true, at least to me. The first:

"While it is true that the Clinton/Gore administration was more of a Lawyer's Government than any other thus far in American history, the removal of the concept of fault from consideration in lawsuits from torts to ACLU allegations of abusive Christmas decorations has been an ongoing process for decades. This single element is enabling members of the trial bar to suck up an ever growing share of the wealth of the U.S.A. on the flimsiest of pretexts even when buttressed only by junk science as has been the case with breast implants."

Dow Chemical was bankrupted due to a lawsuit about the health problems associated with the use of silicone breast implants. Incomplete data was massaged to prove that breast implants caused a host of health problems, though there was no comprehensive clinical study performed to prove the allegation. Studies done after the fact proved that there was an increase in certain autoimmune diseases or weakened immune systems amongst some women that had implants, but the increase was shown to be due to a risky lifestyle. Women with similar lifestyles but without breast implants showed the same increase of these same autoimmune diseases and immune system deficiencies. So it wasn't the breast implants that caused the problems, but rather the unhealthy lifestyle of the women affected. Of course this didn't affect the billions in damage payments made by Dow and the millions collected by the lawyers.

The second point:

"There was a time when attorneys at law were professionals who were available to advise and represent citizens who claimed to have been injured by the wrongful actions of another person or entity. Today TV viewers face a deluge from often shady characters from who they wouldn't buy a used car."

How many businesses in this country have had to pay large sums for injuries real or faked, not because they were at fault, but because they had deep pockets the lawyers thought worth picking? How many times have lawyers filed suit in shotgun fashion, naming anybody or any company even remotely connected to an allegedly defective product or service? I recall an instance where a trucking firm was forced to pay a claim in a defective and injurious product lawsuit even though the firm had done nothing more than haul the product from the factory to a distribution warehouse. The firm had nothing to do with the design, manufacture, promotion, or sale of the product in question. The firm had no financial ties to the manufacturer. The only thing the trucking firm was guilty of was taking on a contract to haul a product from point A to point B.

With the actions of September 11th in mind, trial lawyers must be drooling at the prospect of millions and millions in dollars in fees collected through class action suits as the result of terrorist acts committed against the U.S., its businesses, and its citizens. The fact that the actions of September 11th can be considered an act of war hasn't stopped many of these lawyers from filing suits against the airlines, the FAA, the New York Port Authority (owners the World Trade Center), the airports where the hijackers had boarded the aircraft, and a number of other entities and companies. Other than tying up the courts for decades, what purposes will these suits serve other than to enrich these bottom feeders?

Hmm. Could it be there might be a solution here? Is it possible, just possible, we could sic these lawyers on Al Qaeda? Could we solve two problems at the same time by allowing these two forces to wipe each other out?

On the other hand, they might just end up joining forces and then we'd all be doomed..... *sigh*


Update: A comment posted by Vegard Valberg about the McDonald's Hot Coffee incident pointed me to a website that blew away the veil of an urban legend. My understanding of the incident was quite flawed and this website cleared that up. Usually I check my facts, but in this case I screwed up. Rather than post the entire thing, I'll just
post the link and let you read it for yourself. Thanks for setting me straight, Vegard!

Derbyshire on Islam



NRO has an article up regarding Islam by John Derbyshire in which he makes the point that Islam, in and of itslef, is not the enemy of the West. Why this has to be stated in the first place is a bit of a mystery, but at least he does a fairly thorough job of explaining his point:


Instead of mocking or dismissing Islam, we should appeal to believers to look to the nobler and more generous texts in their scriptures, the texts that emphasize a common humanity. We have nothing to gain from alienating honest Muslims, any more than they have anything to gain by being enemies of the West. If we can remember the first, and persuade them of the second, there might be some prospect of cutting off significant support to the legions of glittering-eyed Koran-waving murderers the world is currently infested with, and of averting the destructive clash that we are all, slowly but surely, coming to believe inevitable.


All well and good, I suppose. The problem that most people seem to have with Islam as a whole is the pronounced dearth of loud, indignant voices from the Islamic world condemning in no uncertain terms the actions of Islamofascists in pursuit of their warped vision of a perfect world. That and the incessant messages of hate pouring from the Islamic press in the Middle East.

What If... part 2



I’m going to try to tie a couple of things together here. I’m new at this, so bear with me and with any luck it will both make sense and be interesting.


There has been a lot of talk recently about how the lack of any activity from our terrorist enemies likely indicates that they had no real concept of what to do after the 9/11 attacks, and that they disastrously underestimated America’s likely response. These are easy conclusions to draw, but to accept them we really have to have an understanding of how and why Osama and Co. could have been so ill-prepared and so wrong.


Regarding the idea that the 9/11 attack was actually pretty poorly planned, the idea is that having launched such a stunning attack, where was the follow-up? If Americans had planned 9/11 it would have been followed within days by something equally as dramatic. There would have been a series of actions, not necessarily escalating in nature, but designed to keep the fear factor high and drive home the idea that there was an active, powerful force in action. What we are getting from the islamofascists is… silence. Not total silence, since there are repeated warnings from their latest spokes-beard promising a rain of death and destruction, but an utter lack of action of any kind. All we are getting from the rump of the OBL gang is rhetoric and chest beating. Quite frankly I am currently more disturbed by the ravings of leftist offenderati such as the Guardian or Warblogger Watch, than I am about the blow-hard rantings of whatever remains of Al Qaeda.


Next, they were totally unprepared for our response. The idea that the US would come after them in their own back yard, overthrow their little puppet regime in Afghanistan, and chase them in to Pakistan was totally foreign to them. They were misled by a basic lack of understanding of the way America works. First, as noted in an earlier article, they do not understand the concept of a peaceful transfer of power resulting in a real change in policy. One of the true accomplishments of the Constitution of the United States is the regular, voluntary transfer of power from one administration to another. This happens even when the incoming President is of a different party from the outgoing. To them, one president was pretty much like another. They had good reason to believe this given history- policies in such areas as the Middle East have not been terribly malleable over the past 50 years; however, they fell prey to a common affliction of ideologically blinkered people, particularly those whose ideology is religion-based: the times, they had been a-changin’. The end of the Cold War was more than a victory for Representative Capitalism over Totalitarian Socialism, is was a paradigm shift for the world as a whole. It not only removed Superpower thrust/counter-thrust from the equation, it also changed the complexion of the Petroleum Card.


One reason the US has been somewhat consistent in backing her allies in the Middle East and trying to keep the often-cited “Arab street” appeased has been to ensure the free flow of oil from the area. Even the 1991 Gulf War was primarily an exercise in preventing a fickle regime from gaining control of vast quantities of the world’s oil reserves. In doing so the US of course bolstered the Saudis, placing her own troops in the vanguard to protect the Kingdom. All because of oil. Given that fact it is a little easier to understand why the terrorists would assume that the US would again pay homage to the Saudis. But the times had changed. There is oil in the former Soviet Union, and if ever a region could use a few trillion petrodollars over the next few decades, that one can. Osama and Co. did not ignore this, it simply never occurred to them.


What this all seems to point to is a very large disconnect between the perceptions of the Radical Islamic world and the objective political and economic realities of the World in general and the Western World in particular. It is a symptom of the decline of Islamic civilization that has been on-going for some 600+ years.


More on this later.

Quotable Quotes



Found this note from The Fat Guy, via InstaPundit, of course. That Samuel L. Jackson is one BMF...

7/10/2002

What is an American?



Cold Fury posts on an example of just what that can mean.

7/09/2002

More on the House of Saud



Victor Davis Hanson fleshes out the recurring theme that the Saudis are not our freinds, and that it is time to start re-thinking our relationship.

7/07/2002

What if they ain't got nothin' left?



I made a speculative post on July 4th asking what it might mean if nothing happens in the terrorist camp. A couple days later I see InstaPundit making a comment regarding the lack of any action from our nefarious foes and linking to a pre-July 4th piece by PhotoDude that essentially says these folks are all washed up.


Is this a good thing, or a bad thing?


I am daily growing more convinced that whatever Osama’s Band Of Looney Medievalists might have wanted to do, they laid out all they had on September 11, 2001. I remember on the 12th talking to some of my more easily panicked co-workers who were stressing over the possibility of the islamofascists using a nuclear warhead as the next step in their war against the US. I dismissed the idea with a single statement:


“If they had an nuclear bomb, they would have used it.”


Even back then I had this idea that no matter how determined these folks were, they hadn’t really thought beyond this one attack. I also agree with PhotoDude’s assessment that they vastly underestimated what the US response would be. Folks in that corner of the world simply do not grasp the concept of a non-violent transfer of power between one ideology and another. Bill Clinton is replaced by George Bush? No difference to them- they counted on us being as ineffective in our response as we were to the Kobar Towers bombing and the attack on the USS Cole. They didn’t understand that there was a new administration with a new attitude and that the old rules didn’t necessarily apply anymore.


It’s a Good Thing because:


All in all, I’d be perfectly happy to have it turn out that the threat was overblown. It was a reasonable position to take post-9/11 given what we were subjected to, but it’s been ten months and the best they could muster was a failed shoe-bomber and a few isolated incidents. We are coming up on the one-year anniversary of their Big Moment. If this passes as quietly as all the other obvious target dates have we can reasonably assume that these folks are toast.


It’s a Bad Thing because:


These people have only gone to ground, not gone away. Most of the immediate infrastructure that was used to initiate 9/11 has been broken up, but the committed whacko’s are still out there. The absolute last thing we should do at this point is back off and give them a chance to reorganize. It is vital that we go after the governments and individuals who support them in any way. The message has to be unambiguous: There is NO PLACE you can hide. Fail to do this and we invite a nasty sequel to 9/11.


The challenge we face is more than just overcoming Militant Religious-inspired terrorism. We need to forcefully preempt any kind of terrorist attack now and in to the future. We need to be certain that if Timmy Terrorist stands up at the annual meeting of Dispossessed Losers Whining About the Unfairness of It All and says “Let’s Kill Americans!” the other dinner guests will first freeze in horror, then quickly slit his throat and put him in a nice unmarked grave somewhere quiet and remote. We can’t make them love us, so we’ll have to settle for them fearing us more than they hate us.


More on this later.

7/06/2002

Another Reason to Resist the ICC



Cold Fury hypothesises about the future activities of the ICC. Just don't have a mouthful of coffee when you click the link.

Cogent Voices From the Left



Both PontifexExMachina and Glenn Frazier have been making encouraging noises about a fifteen-year-old blogger posting under the title of The Young Socialist. Given that I respect both of these writers I decided to stop on over and see what was to be found. I left the site determined to add this writer to my link list.


I find a lot to argue over with Mr. Lawson seeing as I fully believe that socialism as it has been attempted throughout the past century or so has inevitably led to disaster. Glenn Frazier has argued this point fairly succinctly so I’ll just point to him and let you look it over at your leisure. Still I think Lawson does a very good job of stating his opinions, of making the extremely important distinction of marking his opinions as just that, and of keeping his facts in order. We may disagree on interpretations, but I doubt I’ll ever find cause to castigate this writer for presenting ideology as science, an affliction often suffered by the Ideologically Blinkered Set.


The folks over at the Collection of Meaningless Noises could learn a few lessons from this young man.


Beer Night



Well, Blogger's problems kept me from making any real attempt at a Beer Night Essay, but that's just as well since I really had nothing burning to be said anyhow. I'd get mad at the Blogger folks, but hey, for a free service it just ain't too bad, so no bitching from the WeekendPundit on that score.


Still, I hate to let a Friday night pass without comment, so here's just a thought or two for the nether hours:


Blogging is a great hobby. I used to love to write, and then as life began to expand to consume more and more of my waking hours I kind of let that part of me slide. Blogging, just the few weeks I've been at this, has given back that part of me. I never realized how much I missed it until now. I honestly don't give a damn if nobody ever reads this stuff- I wrote it. I put it out there. There it is. Should fate happen to drop you in this corner of gigabit-space, well, just make of it what you will. See? A Frederick Pohl reference! What more could you ask for?


I think Sgt. Stryker had it right- Blogging as it currently exists is just a flash in the pan. Still rather than write it off, I really do believe it will evolve, most likely in ways nobody can accurately foresee. There are folks out there who are just damned good at ferreting out events and offering unique perspectives on them. Those folks will always be there in one form or another. All that it needs is that lovely phenomenon of Cultural Critical Mass. Enough people who find some group of viewpoints to be worthwhile. And on the fringes there will always be people who just love to write, to opine, to speculate. The Web offers too many opportunities to souls seeking expression for this ever to die out completely. In one form or another, it will continue.


Finally, I find this silly pseudo-war between the Left, the Right, and the Libertarians to be wearying. The folks at WarBlogger Watch are simply pissing in to the wind when they try to ridicule the War Bloggers. Nobody here is stupid enough to read something on the Web and decide it is the One Sterling Truth, or even the One True Faith. Give people a little God Damned credit will you? That goes for the true War Bloggers, as well. It's not as if folks are going to stumble upon War Blogger Watch and decide "Oh My God! How could I have been so blind?!" And no one is going to find InstaPundit and suddenly become a screaming acolyte of American Imperialism. Everybody needs to step back and take a big, deep breath, count to ten and exhale from their toes. Then resume the debate in a more civilized tone.


Wow. I just re-read that last paragraph and the only phrase that comes to mind is, "Talk about your pissing in to the wind!!!"


Enough. I'm tired and this cheap Rice Beer is having its way with me. Perhaps I'll post something from The Cave- I'm working there all weekend, after all.


7/05/2002

Church and State in the USA



PontifexExMachina has a nice piece on Secularism, Government, Culture and Law. An he keeps it short, too!

The Day After



Hmmm... No bombs, no radioactive clouds, no toxic gas. All in all a relatvely quiet 4th, except for one Egyptian going bonkers at the El Al counter at LAX. Not only that, but world-wide it seems that our adversaries couldn't muster up as much as a water baloon attack. Interesting.


UPDATE: InstaPundit seems to agree with me:).

7/04/2002

Independence Day



I did a quick scroll through my favorite blogs (not all of which are listed due solely to sloth on my part) and found a pretty up-beat tone throughout (I stayed away from the sites outside North America, and WarBlogger Watch, of course). I particularly liked James Lileks' Bleat (big surprise). This Fourth of July my wife and I found ourselves with no kids, no plans, no oblgations. Paradise, of sorts, particularly given how hectic our lives have been of late. Given that it's hotter than hell out right now we decided to stay home and relax.


Watching the news today all the on-going and up-coming celebrations seem a trifle frenetic. Everybody seems to be trying very hard to avoid the obvious question: will something happen? On the face of it the odds are pretty good, this being both our great Independence Day celebration and the anniversary of the Battle of the Horns of Hattin, where Saladin won a great victory over King Guy of Jerusalem and the Knights Templar in 1187 CE. The Islamofascists do seem to be quite fond of historic symbolism, so it makes a certain kind of sense that if they can make an attack today, they will.


It's the "if they can" part that has everybody wondering. I can't help feeling that today will pass without any great incident here in North America. Wishful thinking perhaps, but I really do believe that we as a nation have both given these pinheads too much credit, and not given enough credit to our own country. We really did break up bin Laden's band of dour medievalist miscreants. We really did disrupt nearly unto total destruction their command, control and financial infrastructure. I don't think they are capable of mounting any kind of major attack against us in the forseeable future.


Still, just one suicide bomber in a crowded public place would be all it takes to strike what the terrorists would likely consider a major psychological blow the American people. And what if they can't even bring off something like that? What does it say about their plans and capabilities? Unfortunately, not very much at all. We are still faced with a fanatical foe. He may be disorganized now, but that cannot be counted on to last forever. He can be given no place to hide, no time to breathe, no base from which to reorganize. He and his supporters must be brought to heel, and the sooner, the better for everyone.


So, here's hoping for a nice, loud, safe Fourth of July. Just don't forget what we are up against.

7/02/2002

And Victor Davis Hanson Does Get It



Ran across this article from one of my favorite commentators and had to share it. For those of you who aren't sure, Prof. Hanson doesn't think the Saudis are our freinds.


Link Via Transterrestrial Musings


The EU and Their Cheering Section Just Don't Get It



Steven Den Beste does a clear and concise job of explaining that the ICC, and other favorite treaties of the EU and the Left, are unconstitutional. Europe has a habit of ignoring laws it finds inconvenient. Americans don't trust the government enough to let them get away with it.


And the Greens STILL Don't Get It



An interesting article over at OpinionJournal dovetails very nicely with my notions posted last night regarding Nature and Humanity. It's a pretty good read and points up my long-held feeling that environmentalists are at their core deeply misled and are charting a course for the eventual extinction of the human race.


Link via VodkaPundit.

7/01/2002

"Cultural Diversity" and the Balkanization of America



Seeing the uproar over the decision by three judges of the Ninth Circuit court over the constitutionality of the Pledge of Allegiance got me to thinking about the melting pot that is supposed to be America.

My maternal grandparents came from Finland. They arrived knowing no English. In time they learned it. My grandfather was a machinist, my grandmother a housewife and housekeeper. Over the years, they managed to earn their way in to the American Dream. My grandfather started his own business in Hartford, Connecticut- Swan Tool and Die. My grandmother had cleaned the houses of other Americans, some native born and some immigrants like her. They had a nice home in Wethersfield and a summer cottage on the seashore in Madison.

Never once did they complain about being pressured to forget their cultural heritage, forget where they came from. Why?

Because it never happened.

They came to America to make their fortune, to raise a family, to become Americans.

My mother grew up speaking English. Her older brother had been born in Finland, but he learned English at a young age and probably forgot most of the Finnish and Swedish he knew. My grandparents wanted them to be Americans. And they were. But they never forgot their heritage.

But over the past couple of decades it seems that an increasing number of politically correct liberals believe that immigrants shouldn't have to give up their cultural identities and backgrounds and be assimilated into American culture. They expect us to forget and suppress our cultural heritage in favor of those of foreign lands far away. They seem to think that foreign cultures are superior to western culture, and specifically American culture. They appear to believe that cultural diversity is all important and that everything else should be sacrificed to attain it, even if it means the destruction of the very thing that entices immigrants to risk everything to come to America.

If these misguided souls had their way, America would be a series of ethnic and cultural enclaves, miniature reproductions of all of the foreign lands immigrants left behind. There would be no pseudo-homogenization, no 'melting pot' that is America. They don't seem to realize that American culture was created by taking the best of many other cultures and adapting it, making it our own. If we do it the way that those screeching about cultural diversity want it done, all we would do is recreate the very conditions that so many fled by coming here. The very political, ethnic, cultural, and religious tensions that existed elsewhere would now exist here. There would be ethnic cleansing, dictatorships, oppressive theocracies, and a host of other problems that we really don't want here. We would become another set of artificial Balkan states, along with all the strife that comes with it.

There's nothing wrong with remembering and celebrating our cultural roots, remembering where we came from. There's no problem with observing customs 'from the old country', as long as they don't violate any laws. There's nothing wrong with speaking a language other than English when amongst your family and ethnic peers. But don't expect everyone else in America to bend over backwards to preserve your cultural heritage at the expense of American culture. If someone wants to preserve their cultural heritage and not be assimilated into our culture, not learn our language, not be bound by our laws and our culture, then why did they leave their homes and come here?

To paraphrase Alexis de Tocqueville, "One can go to France and never become French. One can go to England and never become English. But one can go to America and become an American." It's about time that the misguided few remember that.

Nature



I was down at my parent's place this weekend for a cookout and as we all sat on the deck yakking somebody noticed a hawk apparently being harassed by two sparrows. The hawk was turning lazy circles and the two sparrows would dive in on him, forcing him to radically change direction to avoid collision. Somebody noted how nice it was to watch nature at play.


"He's just keeping them close until he works up an appetite," I remarked. I got glared at.


That conversation brought up a vivid memory from a few years ago- we were living on Cape Cod in an apartment complex with an open courtyard behind our unit. The lady next door liked to set out ample helpings of birdseed and that day a good thirty or more assorted birds were out there feasting. I happened to be looking out the back window when suddenly all the birds exploded in to the air in a dizzying, swirling commotion. Striking through the panicked cloud a hawk snatched a good-sized pigeon, driving it to the ground. The hawk stood there, the pigeon thrashing in its talons- it was just a magnificent beast, standing about three feet tall, its white-trimmed brown feathers almost glistening, all neat and striped. This thing was simply the balls.


"Scat! Get out of here!" The bird lover next door was banging on the window to try and scare the hawk away. It looked in her direction, then very calmly lashed out with its beak, snapping the pigeon's neck in a single fluid motion. It then looked again at the shrieking lady and if I can be forgiven for a little anthropomorphizing I swear it was radiating a snappy "Up yours! And thanks for the snack!" Then it leapt up and with two strokes of its wings it was gone from sight.


Bird Lover Lady was distraught. “I just wanted to feed the birds!”


“I’d say you succeeded,” I remarked. I got glared at.


Good intentions. She just wanted to feed the pretty birds, not the beautiful, but nasty ones. Because of what she did this beastly predator spotted an avian carnivore’s smorgasbord and dropped in for a bite. She failed to see the total beauty of the moment, the total honesty of the way it brought Nature, real Nature, in to our little concrete hovels for just a moment. That hawk was absolutely the most beautiful flying creature I’ve seen to this day. Even the attack, the way the other birds, several different species, all reacted identically when the threat appeared- that wild cyclone of flight was no random panic, but an ingrained response- was beautiful in its own way.


It is an object lesson that a lot of people fail to grasp. They get all sentimental about nature, its interconnectedness, and the nobility of the wild. Sure, they see the predators on TV, but it’s at arms-length and safely sanitized. Real nature isn’t like that. Nature is brutal. Nature is unforgiving. Nature provides meals for all the creatures that need them, often in the form of other creatures who are either too slow, or too stupid to get away. To repeat the two old quips, “Mother Nature is a Cast Iron Bitch,” and “In Nature, Stupidity is a Capital Crime.”


Remember that the next time some armchair environmentalist decides to harangue you about how badly humanity is screwing up nature. Human beings are part of nature, too. We are the dominant species by virtue of our ability to shape our environment to our needs. The cold reality is that this planet cannot support us indefinitely no matter how careful we are to preserve the current temporary state of the ecology. One hiccup in the orbit of some stray rock, a surge in our sun’s magnetic field, a nearby supernova that we have yet to even see, or even a few of large volcanic eruptions could wreak havoc upon our world far more quickly and with much greater devastation than mankind’s current activities could ever hope to match. I am all for taking the ecology in to account, but it cannot be allowed to become inviolate- to do so means to give up racial survival in pursuit of preserving a life-system that fate will inevitably eradicate, perhaps as soon as tomorrow afternoon.


Some day some form of the hawk is going to arrive for homo sapiens sapiens. God help us if the only thing we have to throw up in our defense is that we haven’t fucked up the Earth.