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Pat's blog

Still alive!

The last blog post made here was one year ago tomorrow. The site was technically out of commission for much of the past year because the log file wasn't configured very well and the database grew too large. I've got that fixed for now. Me, I started a new job a year ago (same employer, different office and job), and my wife is having a baby some time in the next week or so!

Anyway, I noticed that the anniversary of the last post was coming up, and I didn't want it to be a full entire year between posts, so here's this one. I don't know that Stubborn Facts will get resurrected, but I've been reading through some old posts recently and am reminded of the wonderful debates we supported here. Thanks to Simon, Tully, Rafique, and all of our guest posters and regular commenters for the fun we had in our little corner of the internet.

Attention all you former Centerfielders

As most of you know, our little gang here found each other first at the old Centerfield blog site, started by the Centrist Coalition. The creators of that site wound up letting it go defunct, essentially, and the pages got filled up with spam and malware links. Last year, when the creator who had been paying the hosting fees decided he had to cut back expenses, I agreed to pick up the tab for awhile to keep the site up. I had hoped to have time to clean it up, purge the spam links, and upgrade the blogging software, or at least archive it all somewhere. A lot of us wrote some pretty good stuff on it, back in the day, in posts or comments.

At any rate, as a result of my news, I must myself cut back some financial commitments, and can't keep paying the $24 per month hosting fee. Before I cut it off, I wanted to let all of you know, and let anybody who is interested have an opportunity to take over the account. It'll be a shame to see the site disappear.

An announcement!

Hi, everybody! If you're wondering why I've been even more out of sight than ordinary the past few weeks, it's because... I'm getting married! Yep, I finally found somebody whacky enough to put up with me. Very soon now, I'll be a proud husband to a wonderful woman and step-father to a great 12-year old, and step-petter to a not-too-hyperactive Golden Retriever. The whole crew is moving into my house, so there have been a lot of adjustments (all wonderful) going on in my life.

I'm sure I will soon return to my only regularly lackadaisical mode from the extreme lackadaisical mode I have been practicing the past month or so.

Google+, Anybody?

I know a few of our favorite guest bloggers and commenters now have Google+ accounts. What is everybody thinking about the new service? My own belief is that Google will ultimately fail at its continuing efforts to break into the social networking realm. I just posted a lengthy comment on the subject somewhere in the bowels of a ZDNet blog, thought I would reprint it here to get your take on it. I haven't bothered to update with links; if you have any questions about specific references, let me know, and I'll get you some more information on it.

What's your take?

Google+ won't succeed because it's just too connected to all of Google's other services. Why would I want to risk access to my e-mail identity, on-line document processing and storage, photo storage, and calendar (among other things) for violating some bizzaro rule about using my "real name" in Google+?

That's the fundamental dilemma for Google moving into the social networking realm. To make any sense, it HAS to tie all of its services together. But most users don't WANT to put all their eggs in one basket.

Relatedly, if I put something in FB, I KNOW that it's not private, and will be shared with at least some people. With Google, how the hell do I know? Is my Gmail status shared with people? I don't know. What else do I do on Google generally that I have to worry about whether it's being shared or not? The confusion of having the same account from the same company for both primarily private purposes (e-mail, calendar, docs) and for significant public purposes (Picasa photo sharing, Google+ posts) is just too much. It's hard for most people to fit it into a conceptual model.

Oh, and will all journalists and bloggers stop paying any attention to this "20 million users in X days" nonsense? The same numbers were trotted out with Buzz, and they were even more meaningless... Google practically forced everybody with GMail into Buzz. Here, they've gotten their 20 million in part by counting anybody who didn't entirely delete their public profile from Buzz (which Google made damn hard to do, the first week or two). A good chunk of the rest of the numbers comes from people going "eh, here's a button, I'll give this a shot for a day." A much better metric would be how much daily activity ON Google+ is going on (and not just activity that is on Google and somehow tied to a G+ profile, perhaps without the user's real understanding).

Happy Anniversary to Us!

Today marks the 5th anniversary of the opening of Stubborn Facts. Our posting quantity has rather declined in recent times, but our quality remains high, I think. We appreciate the support of all of our bloggers and commenters. Note the lovely logo seal Simon has created for us, up in the top right of the Stubborn Facts masthead (you may have to hit the reload button on your blogger, holding down the shift key as you do, to make it appear).

I Ask Again: What's the Plan?

Before President Obama was even sworn in, I asked What's the Plan? That is, what is the American policy plan if a foreign relative of President Obama, such as his grandmother in Kenya, were to be kidnapped. An attack on "Granny Sarah," made because she is a relative of our President, is an attack on the United States, even though she is herself a foreign citizen, and we cannot afford to let it go unanswered, but answering it presents a number of difficult problems, some of which are due to the unique family background of President Obama.

Unfortunately, this threat is now much less hypothetical than it was in December 2008. ABC reports: "Barack Obama's Grandmother Threatened by Al Qaeda." Al-Shabaab, the Samlia-based branch of al Qaeda, has threatened to kill the President's Granny Sarah. Kenyan authorities have added security around her house, but I'm sure they are rather less effective than, say, the U.S. Secret Service.

God forbid, but if the terrorists do succeed in attacking Granny Sarah, what will the Obama Administration do? Retaliation by America is perfectly legitimate; she was targeted solely because of her ties to the American president. But any number of Americans will also wonder, aloud, why we should risk American lives or American interests to retaliate because some third-world thugs in Africa killed an old African woman who has never even been to America. And some critics of the President will paint him, were he to act in response to such an attack, as selfish and placing his family connections above his duties to the country.

I don't have any solid, easy, obvious answers, but I do know this question isn't simply rhetorical. This is a real threat, which will have real consequences to long-term American foreign policy, however it turns out. Somebody in a position of authority needs to be doing some serious thinking about this.

Minor rant about advertising

I'm not violently opposed to internet advertising, as a few hard-core internet fanatics are. Nor do I worry over much that the ad companies are tracking me and following my search patterns to serve up more targeted ads. It's of some concern, but I just don't get all worked up over it. At the moment, I really wish they'd just be a little smarter at it.

See, over the weekend, I searched out prices for used Bobcat skid-steer loaders. I've got to move some dirt around in my back yard, and was curious what the price for a used one was, compared to the cost of hiring somebody to move the dirt for me. I had no real intention of buying one, and I ran the search one time, clicking through to a couple of sponsored ad results on Google.

Now, about half of all internet sites I stop at are shoving big, blaring ads at me in large letters: "Looking for a Skid-Steer?" and "Compare Skid-Steer Price Quotes and Save!" I'm even seeing the ad now, over in our GoogleAds section at right.

You're wasting your ad money, people! I'm not going to buy a skid-steer. The advertiser/culprit seems to be a website called BuyZone. I will be interested to see how long these ads continue before they give up on me.

Maybe if I get bored this weekend, I'll do more experiments, to see if I can control what ads I'm most likely to see, based on search terms and the ads I click through. It would be nice, maybe, if it was a little smarter, so it could realize that a one time search does not mean I am actually in the market for such a thing.

P.S. If YOU are in fact in the market for a skid-steer, please click through the Google Ad at the right, so we can get a few pennies to keep this site operating!

Please welcome guest blogger Bridget Fay!

One of our favorite commenters and bloggers (under a variety of pseudonyms not here disclosed) had the opportunity to see a special sneak preview of Atlas Shrugged tonight, and we've asked her to share her thoughts about it as a special treat for our few but loyal readers.

Please welcome my friend, Bridget L. Fay. I know I can't wait for the review. She says the movie was very, very good.

Libyan military action was a BAD idea; first innocent civilian casualties from U.S. action

I have said from day one that establishing the no-fly zone in Libya was a very bad policy for the United States to adopt. No interests of the United States (other than our general humanitarian desires for all nations to be free) were being impacted by Qaddafi's brutality toward his own citizens. Intervening, I said, was more likely to cause more people in that region to dislike us. I particularly noted that we would be held responsible for civilian casualties.

In response, several people said, more or less: "What civilian casualties? We're only going to target Qaddafi's air force and maybe some maneuvering ground troops away from civilian areas." Well, today U.S. forces seem to have fired on a batch of innocent civilians.

According to this story in the U.K.'s Daily Mail, friendly residents of a nearby village came out to welcome U.S. pilots after their F-15 crashed. The U.S. rescue helicopter coming to retrieve the pilots opened fire on the approaching villagers (presumably because they assumed that any Libyans walking towards our pilots had a high risk of being hostile).

This is the first event. There will be others. War is MESSY. The U.S. does everything humanly possible to minimize civilian casualties caused by its armed forces, but "humanly possible" is a severe limit on our abilities in that area. And the rest of the world, and that region in particular, doesn't give us much credit for our efforts, but rather treat each civilian death as something akin to an act of murder on our part.

My point, of course, is not to criticize the troops in the rescue helicopter who opened fire. I have no doubt they were acting honorably, and solely to protect our downed pilots from a potential threat. My point is that such misunderstandings will ALWAYS occur in any military action, no matter how limited. And every single one of them will do substantial damage to the U.S. reputation in that world, and allow al Qaeda and our other enemies in the area even more ammunition to attack us for "invading" their lands and killing their people.

That by itself is not a sufficient reason to stop us from taking necessary action to defend American interests. But it IS good reason to stop us from taking action for solely humanitarian reasons.

Oscar Open Thread!

Open thread to discuss the Oscars, at the request of favored commenter, Blue Jean! She may show up here, or over at: Shakespeare's Sister.

SOTU Open Thread

I have absolutely no intention of watching the State of the Union address or the responses to it. I'm tired of this meaningless annual political theater, which means precisely nothing. Words are cheap. Actions are hard. I don't think I've watched one all the way through since January 2002. From what I've read of the transcripts, President Obama's have been particularly bad, but they're equally irrelevant regardless of who is in the White House.

But if any of you are gluttons for punishment and plan to watch, here's a place to discuss the SOTU and the GOP and then the Tea Party responses to it.

Election Night Open Thread

We're not likely to be a hotbed of late-breaking election news tonight, but here's an open thread to talk about the results as they come in. Here's a couple of tidbits to get you started.

Over at NRO's The Campaign Spot, Jim Geraghty reports on some initial reaction to the exit polls:

I am told that one Democratic strategist, helping a television network with Election Night analysis, just declared that the Democrats were experiencing something on par with mass murder.

More seriously, I think everybody committed to sane, rational political discourse in this country should read John Fund's Requiem for the Pelosi Democrats, which appeared in the Wall Street Journal the other day. Pay particular question to the admissions of retiring Representative Brian Baird (D-WA). He clearly saw the overreaches and missteps being made by his party's leadership... but he did nothing about it. He still voted for all of those excesses. He voted for cap and trade, for health care, for financial regulatory reform, even though, as he says now, he saw that they didn't do a lot to help some of the key problems (wondering in particular why the latter didn't address Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, and why those two federally-owned entities were so involved in the political process to begin with).

Both Democrats and Republicans need to take a close look and learn some lessons from Mr. Baird's confessions. The Democrats because it tells them just where they screwed up (like the Republicans after 1994, they got drunk with power and started rewarding their constituencies rather than governing responsibly), the Republicans because it tells them where they're most at risk of screwing up. The Republicans will have their own share of Mr. Bairds, who will see serious flaws in legislation, yet still vocally support the bills and the Congressional party leadership. The new Republicans should not let themselves fall into the same trap. Yes, compromises are part of governing and politics... but those compromises should be open and honest and PUBLIC. If a bill being pushed by the party truly fails to address a crucial issue, then it is the responsibility of all members to speak up about that bill and the problem, and to try to make it better. And if the party leadership keeps making the same obvious mistakes over and over... STOP VOTING FOR THEM. To hell with having the good office or getting some nice pork for your district back home. Your constituents will respect you if you speak your mind and stand up for principles.

And just to be clear, I recommend this article not to praise Mr. Baird, but to criticize him. Fools, used and manipulated by others without realizing what's really going on, are bad enough. Mr. Baird saw the problems, but was too weak-willed to stand up to his party leadership and for his principles. Shame on him... and let his lessons be a cautionary tale for all new Members of Congress.

The Electability Issue

"Electablity" is a legitimate question in a primary race. Whether one or the other candidates in a primary is "unelectable" because of ideology, personal character or competence, or scandal is a legitimate, if unpleasant, factor for the other candidate to bring up. Far better that a candidate's warts be exposed in the primary process rather than appearing as a surprise attack by the other party in the general election.

As a democracy, we are supposed to have these types of discussions out in the open, and settle them at the ballot box. The voters in Delaware have just done that.

I do have some concerns with the candidate that the Delaware primary voters chose. In particular, her campaign seems to have dismissed the "electability" argument against her by denying that it's a legitimate campaign issue, that we by goodness ought to be PURE at all costs.

Why wasn't her response: "I AM the most electable candidate"? I'm not up in Delaware, so maybe that was their approach up there, but I didn't get that sense from her flock of internet supporters who were outraged and irate that anybody DARED to question her electability, and denied that electability should play any role in the discussion at all, and viciously attacked any who dared question that she was the best candidate.

I largely agree with Simon's post, by the way.

But I disagree with those in the national media and on the Democrat side (but I repeat myself) who are trying to spin O'Donnell's primary victory (and presumed, by such pundits, general election loss) as evidence that the Tea Party movement is hurting Republicans. HOG WASH. BALONY. RIDICULOUS. If not for the Tea Party movement tapping into the general sentiment that government's spending too damn much money right now, the President's party would be cruising to an easy reelection campaign. The barely-coordinated Tea Party chapters have managed to craft a fairly simple, limited message and used that to grow a very large, anti-incumbent, anti-politics-as-usual movement. If they overreach in one election or two, that hardly undermines the extreme success they've had in changing the overall political mood of the country. A year ago, nobody, NOBODY was predicting that 2010 would be a lambasting of the incumbent party by 1994 proportions. Now, such an outcome seems likely... because of the Tea Party movement.

Why is this a crime?

So in France, a woman has just admitted murdering 8 of her children, immediately after they were born. The Telegraph newspaper in England says that this is "France's worst ever case of infanticide." According to reports, the woman hid her pregnancies from her husband and everybody else, killed each infant as it was born, wrapped them in plastic bags, and buried them in the back yard, without anybody else's knowledge.

So here's my question... why is this such a horrible crime? According to Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Dr. LeRoy Carhart,and 4 members of the Supreme Court of the United States, if she had seen a doctor 30 minutes before the children were born, and he had used medical tools to puncture their skulls, crush their bodies, and suction their remains out of her uterus, she would have been merely exercising her constitutionally-protected right to control her own body, and to terminate the parasite in her body (so long as the doctor decreed that the woman's "health" required such a measure). Heck, according to all the lectures I heard during the health care debate, apparently if the woman were poor, we as taxpayers would have some sort of moral obligation to help pay for her to see the doctor and have her infants killed... as long as this was done moments before, rather than after, they passed through her vagina and into the world. How is it that condemning this woman's act is morally righteous, rather than simply conservatives in a tizzy because somebody, somewhere had sex?

So how about it, pro-choicers? Anybody able to say why THIS woman, who killed her children within moments of their birth, without anybody else in the world ever knowing they existed, is a horrible criminal, guilty of infanticide, while if she had gone to see a doctor to kill the infants a day or two before, as long as the doctor would say that her "health" required it, then she would be guilty of nothing, would deserve not even moral shame, because she would merely be exercising her human and constitutional rights over her own body?

Happy Fourth of July, Simon!

To foreshadow what I presume is a forthcoming post from Simon, let me wish him a particularly happy Fourth of July! To all the rest of you as well, of course, but especially to him.

iPhone 4 has arrived

Hey, gang! Sorry for the long posting hiatus, but life has just been busy, you know? But I wanted to share the very exciting news with all of you... my new iPhone 4 arrived just an hour ago! I've got to wait 15 more minutes for the AT&T activation process, and then I will make my first call.

It's really cool looking, I must say. I'm very excited.

Consider this an open thread to express your envy or to discuss your favorite smart phones or other electronic gadgets. ;-)

So long, Arlen!

Sen. Arlen Specter, the former Republican-lite, fled the Republican Party a year ago and became a Democrat. His motivation was his impending certain loss of the Republican primary in his reelection bid this year. While his perfidy did keep him from losing the Republican Primary, it failed to stop him from losing the Democratic primary.

We had a lively discussion of Sen. Specter's blatant political opportunism last year. I am glad that it did not pay off for him. This fall should show us a revealing and spirited campaign between Democrat Sestak (who who has alleged that national Democrats broke the law by offering him jobs to drop out of the primary) and Republican Toomey.

One less career politician, willing to do anything to cling to power, is gone. So long, Sen. Specter. Enjoy your forced retirement. I hope your replacement learns the right lesson from your loss.

More censorship in the West

Cartoon by threatened Danish artistIt is my strong and long-standing policy to stand in solidarity with those who are censored as a result of fear or threats of violence or prosecution. I did so when the subject was threats by radical Islamists against Dutch cartoonists who posted offensive drawings of Mohammed, and I did so when the subject was threats of "human rights" prosecutions against a Muslim group who published offensive drawings of Jews.

Last week, as most know by now, Comedy Central "bleeped" several words as a result of a "prediction" of violence posted on a video blog by a young idiot New Yorker who converted to Islam. The details are available through Powerline. Comedy Central should be ashamed of itself. South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone promise to have something really good next week on South Park. They're not ones to take b.s. like this lying down, so I imagine they'll have something really special to see. I urge everyone to tune in.

Meanwhile, you should be aware that one of the original Danish cartoonists has now been fired... er, put on "indefinite leave". While the paper won't say why he's being let go, the cartoonist, Kurt Westergaard, says he believes the paper is concerned over their security, particularly after the recent arrest of two men in Chicago charged with planning to attack the paper, Jyllands-Posten.

On May 20, 2010, we will be participating in the First Annual Everybody Draw Mohammed day (idea originated here. I invite all of our bloggers, guest bloggers, and commenters to draw a depiction of Mohammed, and we will post them all.

As with all publications at Stubborn Facts of offensive cartoons or other artwork, the intent is not to offend the peaceful followers of any religion, but to fight back against those who seek to prohibit or deter, through violence, threats of violence, or legal proceedings, the exercise of our fundamental freedom of speech. If we do not stand united in defense of the freedom of speech, even "offensive" speech, then we will soon lose both that freedom and many others. To anyone who is offended by the images I have posted or linked here, I ask that you direct your anger to those truly responsible, the members of your religion who, in its name, threaten violence or legal action in an attempt to censor us. When those threats cease, I will join you in ASKING cartoonists and comedians to be more polite and respectful towards ALL religions. We will not be intimidated by threats. More threats will be met with more insults and more derision, until you must either kill us all or adapt your worldview to understand that you don't have a right to control what others do, and that violence is not an appropriate response to speech and cartoons.

Calm down on Matheson, folks...

When I first read that President Obama had appointed Utah law professor Scott Matheson to a position on the 10th Circuit court of appeal, I was as suspicious of the timing as most Republicans, given that Matheson's brother (Jim Matheson) is one of the Democratic Congressmen who has previously voted "no" on the healthcare reform bill pushed by the President and Speaker Pelosi. Coming in the midst of a major arm-twisting movement by the House leadership to pass the Senate version of the healthcare bill, it certainly had a certain aroma of pay-off to it, particularly when considered in conjunction with Admiral Sestak's apparent admission that the Obama Administration offered him a high-level job in return for withdrawing from a primary election challenge, allegations surrounding former Gov. Blagojevich, and similar incipient scandals.

But having read Prof. (former Judge) Paul Cassell's Volkh Conspiracy post on Scott Matheson's appointment, I am convinced that there's nothing to see here. Cassell confirms, from personal knowledge, that the vetting process for Matheson has been underway for several months now. Since he is a colleague of Matheson's, Cassell was contacted by the ABA as part of their evaluation process in mid-January. As Cassell notes: "Given that the ABA was evaluating Scott in roughly January, one would expect an announcement roughly six weeks later – exactly as happened here." Cassell also notes that he considers Matheson exceedingly qualified and as moderate of a judicial temperament as one could ever expect to be nominated by a Democratic president.

Cassell is not the only person in the world who would be familiar with the normal delay between ABA evaluation (which happens after the FBI background check) and public announcement of the appointment. The mere fact that the vetting process had begun so long ago is a solid indication that the nomination is no attempt at bribing Rep. Matheson.

Moreover, failing to make the public announcement would look even worse. Imagine that the healthcare vote were to happen in 2 weeks, and THEN Matheson's brother was formally nominated. If Matheson had switched his vote to "yes" just days BEFORE his brother's appointment, then the cries of payoff would be outrageously loud. Somebody, probably the GOP staffers for the Senate committee on judicial appointments, would be aware that the nomination was held up longer than the normal process, and that would be used as evidence that the President was keeping it in his back pocket to ensure compliance by Rep. Matheson.

So, having started the vetting process in January, or perhaps before, Pres. Obama was then in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don't situation. If he waited to release the nomination until after the healthcare vote, that would have looked like a pay-off (if Rep. Matheson switched his vote to yes), and if he released it now, it would still have looked like a pay-off (the only difference in the two cases being which party to the bribe bears the risk of the other party not fulfilling his end).

Prof. Cassell's insight and analysis has convinced me there's nothing to see here, and those opposed to Obamacare passing should keep their powder dry for other, more important issues.

I want it for you, honey, really. It's for safety. I think they're fine just how they are.

Breast implantsIt's not that I think your breasts are too small, honey. I swear! They're perfect, really. I would hate to see them change. I just think you should get implants for your own safety. You know, in case you ever get shot. I recommend a D-cup. For safety, that's all.

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