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Above all, we must realize that no arsenal, or no weapon in the arsenals of the world, is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women. It is a weapon our adversaries in today's world do not have.
-- Ronald Reagan

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Friday, December 13, 2002
A Dead Pig is Better Than A Caged Pig. At least, that's what some animal-rights activists in Florida think. Florida's voters, who like a well-amended state constitution, approved a constitutional amendment banning gestation crates this past election. Gestation crates keep pregnant sows confined during pregnancy -- some say this is cruel to the pig, other say its the most humane way to farm. In any case, apparently this was such a widespread problem for animal-rights activists that they needed to have a constitutional amendment to ban the crates, even though only two farms -- yes, 2, as in one more than one -- use the crates in Florida. And now, it looks like the two farms will simply slaughter the hogs instead. This overjoys some activists, apparently:

''That's terrific,'' exulted Nanci Alexander, president of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, when told the pregnant pigs were headed to slaughter. ``It's just sparing them a longer life of misery.''

Wayne Pacelle, senior vice president of the Humane Society of the United States, one of the groups that backed the Florida amendment, was more measured in his reaction. The amendment's point, he said, was to prevent future suffering.

''These pigs were born into this system and they're going to die anyway,'' Pacelle said. ``I would rather have a decent quality of life than be trapped in a cage.''

So, in the interests of a decent quality of life, you must die. Or at least the pigs have to. I wonder if this line of reasoning works for regions where deer are overpopulated, and depleting their foodstocks? Since they're going to starve anyway, it makes more sense to cull the herd through regulated hunting than suffer starvation, which is undoubtedly a low quality of life. "Son, we've got to kill Bambi in order to save her." I don't think that would fly with the PETA crowd.

The Center for Consumer Freedom is of the opinion that the Florida amendment is just the first step in an all-out assault on hog farming, and they have a good amount of evidence to back that claim up. See CCF's website for more.

Victor Davis Hanson has a new column, about aircraft carriers, at National Review. I like this bit:

The carrier's efficiency and lethality, however, are not a consequence of mere technological superiority, but of the dividends of a peculiarly American set of values. If we gave the Truman to Egypt it would sink on its maiden voyage. The French Charles de Gaulle I imagine has better food than the Roosevelt, but far fewer planes and even fewer launches. Israel has astonishing pilots, but few if any could land on the Vinson. Even the Swiss or Dutch could not build a Ronald Reagan. China claims they can soon launch a simulacrum to our carriers; but though they can steal the technology of an Enterprise, they still cannot emulate the ethic and creed at the heart of its success — unless China too first creates a culture of freedom. Carriers, in other words, are an American thing, and I am glad we at least will never have to meet such things in battle.

Mercury Watch: There's an interview with one of the authors of a recent study in the journal Lancet which suggested that mercury levels from vaccination were safe. You need to register (for free) to follow this link. His comments on the study the EPA used tro set the mercury exposure limit are illuminating, as well.

Medscape: On what basis did the EPA set public safety limits for mercury levels?

Dr. Pichichero: The EPA levels were largely based on studies from the Faroe Islands which looked at the toxicity of methyl mercury ingestion from whale blubber. Mild neurodevelopmental problems occurred at blood levels of 200 to 300 ng/mL, and the mildest detectable neurodevelopmental toxicity occurred at blood levels of 58 ng/mL. So the EPA decided they'd add in a safety factor of 10, and they reasoned that levels should not exceed 5.8 ng/mL to be totally safe. In our study, most children had levels of 1 to 2 ng/mL; two had levels of 2-3 ng/mL, and one had a level of 4 ng/mL. No child approached the EPA safety limit.

Medscape: Do you think that the Faroe Islands studies form an adequate basis on which the EPA can determine safe blood levels as they pertain to infants who receive vaccines containing thimerosal?

Dr. Pichichero: Actually, it's not an adequate basis because the situations are not strictly comparable. First of all, the Faroe Islands study looked at levels of mercury in fetal cord blood when mothers ingested mercury from whale blubber. If anything, the fetus has been shown in human studies to be more susceptible to the toxic effects of mercury than are infants, because mercury easily penetrates into the fetal brain and kidneys and causes damage.

The other issue is that the Faroe Islands study looked at methyl mercury exposure, but thimerosal contains ethyl mercury. The FDA [Food and Drug Administration] assumed that metabolism of these two organic forms of mercury was closely correlated, but this was not validated by our study. We now know that the two forms are metabolized and eliminated differently. But our data are very reassuring in that the metabolism of ethyl mercury appears to be six times faster than that of methyl mercury.

An editorial accompanying the Lancet paper suggests that another study will soon be published comparing the effects of ethyl and methyl mercury. But from a toxicity point of view, once mercury is freed from its organic bonds, mercury is mercury, and it's the free form that enters the brain and kidneys and can cause damage. Our study did not examine toxicity, but we measured blood levels of free mercury, not of ethyl mercury.

Similar sentiments were expressed in a previous post of mine.
Credit: I originally saw this on the junkscience.com website.

"Every day that our nation was segregated was a day that America was unfaithful to our founding ideals." President George W. Bush, Dec. 12, 2002.

Thursday, December 12, 2002
Random thought: We had the North Korean ship with Scuds bound for Yemen. We boarded it, but ultimately we decided to let it go? Why, because, as Ari Fleischer said, "There is no provision under international law prohibiting Yemen from accepting delivery of missiles from North Korea." Wait, I thought the U.S. was supposed to be an imperial sooper-dooper power with no regard for international law? What about global hegemony -- couldn't we just scuttle a ship or two? No? Then maybe we are respecting the law after all.

Message to Trent Lott:

Shut the Fuck Up!

Sweet Jesus! Now Bob Herbert is saying that Trent Lott is proof that every Republican is a racist. Although I find that personally insulting, that hardly matters. What matters is that this is how Lott's comments will play out unless the Republicans repudiate him. Ah, the joys of racial politics...

Thomas Sowell weighs in on Senator Lott. Probably the most prominent African-American conservative these days, and therefore no doubt the object of much scorn from Jesse Jackson and the like, Mr. Sowell had this to say.

More important, such statements are going to live on as long as Trent Lott is leader of the Senate Republicans. Whatever the issue and whatever the election, Senator Lott's statements are going to be a recurring distraction from the serious concerns his party, the Senate, and the country will be confronting.

The changing demographics of the country mean that Republicans over the years will have to make inroads into the minority votes that now go automatically to the Democrats. Remarks like Senator Lott's will be a permanent albatross around the necks of Republican candidates trying to win the votes of blacks or of others who want no part of a racist past that was overcome at great cost.

The position of black Republicans will be undermined especially, if not made untenable. And any blacks considering becoming Republican candidates, or even Republican voters, will have to have some long second thoughts.

Please, Senator Lott, step down! But, according to a report on Fox News, "[Lott] also said he was not considering stepping down from the majority leader post he is to take over next month." This is most disturbing indeed.

Blurbs from today's Wall Street Journal editorial pages:

The dainty precision of the NYSE's proposed disclosure rules makes an odd contrast with a stock-picking business in which dartboards and monkeys can consistently outperform the pros... We don't need the NYSE's help. What any analyst knows is very likely already reflected in the share price anyway. What's left comes from digging up new facts or is mere speculation about the future unknown. We won't say such work is without value. But conflicted or not, an analyst who could predict share prices wouldn't be working in a Wall Street cubicle... All the excellent academic work of recent years has shown convincingly that stock markets are efficient enough that no investor should expect to make a living outgessing them. Then why are all the regulators constantly trying to fluff up a stale Wall Street business model based on peddling an opposite notion to investors?

Also, read William F. Buckley's piece at OpinionJournal.

Wednesday, December 11, 2002
Blood for Oil    A work in progress -- please bear with me.

It is a common slogan for signs and chants among today's anti-war protesters: "No Blood for Oil!" This article describes some recent events organized by a group called United for Peace, and "No Blood for Oil" was listed as a platitude of choice among the protesters. I find this logic somewhat strange - the argument that we go to war just to secure Iraqi oilfields, or prepare Afghanistan for a pipeline to profit.

This logic, it seems to me, ignores one simple fact: oilmen are more than happy to do business with brutal dictators, without having to fight them. As I recall, major oil companies have been buying Iraqi oil for some time now (find a reference). Also, before September 11, the petroleum companies were lobbying for the lifting of economic sanctions on Iraq (find reference). So, we've been trading blood for oil for some time now - but only the blood of dark-skinned people, tortured by Saddam and his minions. A better slogan is "No More Blood for Oil," meaning let's remake the government of Iraq until the oil trade is fair and the money we trade for it goes to the citizens of Iraq, and not its ruling thug. And then, maybe it's on to Saudi Arabia.

As an aside, apparently one protestor had a lovely sign reading "All I want for Christmas is Peace." Well, that's an admirable goal; a common wish at Christmas time, as well, "Peace on Earth and goodwill towards men." So my question is, how? How do you make peace in a world with people who want to kill you? How do you make peace with a man who will gas his own people, who employs man to be "violators of women's honor" - i.e. state-appointed rapists? (see the UK's dossier for more).

Is peace merely the absence of overt fighting? Or is it a time in which all people are free to live the lives they wish to lead, in accordance with their inalienable rights. If the US does not attack Iraq, have we truly achieved peace this Christmas? Or have we simply left others to die under a most unpeaceable regime? And will we have let that regime plot its vengeance, to be visited on us at some day in the future?

I, for one, do not believe that peace is something that happens - it's a hard-won prize. Think of this: On September 10, 2001, we were at peace, weren't we. No overt fighting, at least. But deadly war plans were being readied by our enemies. So was it peace, in the Christmas card sense? My answer is no, what we had then wasn't true peace, it was complacency.

Tuesday, December 10, 2002
Trent Lott is an idiot, even if he's not a racist. Either way he should step down as Republican Senate Majority Leader.

Mercury Watch: While perusing the Weekly Standard's letters section today, I unexpectedly ran into the following letter (#10, the last one).

Protecting Eli Lilly from being sued for the known neurotoxic effects of thiomerasol, which they have added to their vaccines, and which have permanently injured many thousands of children, is simply not acceptable (Katherine Mangu-Ward, "Of Pork and Patronage"). Hiding it in a bill for Homeland Security; sneaking it in with no chance for public debate and disclosure is not acceptable behavior. Who will protect the public from thiomerasol if not the trial lawyers? I am a Republican activist, and a conservative, and I am ashamed of this sleazy bit of paying off a large campaign contributor at the expense of American children and adults harmed by thiomerasol.

-Milton Fried, M.D.

Besides the good doctor's misspelling of thimerosal, he's also got his basic facts wrong. Study after study these days is showing nothing - no link at all between thimerosal in vaccines (by the way, it isn't even used anymore) and any neurological diseases. I wish I could contact Dr. Fried and find out what sources he was using for this information. Press releases from Safe Minds, no doubt.

I hate Cuba. Well, that's not quite right, because the Cuban people are prisoners of the Castro regime. So the next time some lefty type starts spouting about the greatness of Che and Uncle Fidel, direct them to www.biscet.org. It's a website dedicated to Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet, a Cuban physician who became a human rights activist, who was recently released from jail after 3 years, and then re-arrested just this past week at a peaceful demonstration. But Fidel really does a fine job of making sure everyone can read, right? No child left behind! As long as they never, ever, ever, question anything Castro does and never, ever, ever petition the government for any change.

From Fox News: CHARLESTON, W.Va. — A man trapped for nearly a week in his car after it plunged into a ravine survived in the freezing cold by burning paper, melting snow for water and eating packets of fast-food sauce, rescuers say.


"Conservatism is not about profit but about loss." This piece was in the print Wall Street Journal last week, and they put it on their website today. Here's a passage that I like very much:

Sept. 11 raised the question: Who are we, that they should attack us, and what justifies our existence as a "we"? American conservatism is an answer to that question. "We the people," it says, constitute a nation, settled in a common territory under a common rule of law, bound by a single Constitution and a common language and culture. Our primary loyalty is to this nation, and to the secular and territorially based jurisdiction that makes it possible for our nation to endure. Our national loyalty is inclusive, and can be extended to newcomers, but only if they assume the duties and responsibilities, as well as the rights, of citizenship. And it is reinforced by customs and habits that have their origin in the Judeo-Christian inheritance, and which must be constantly refreshed from that source if they are to endure. In the modern context, the American conservative is an opponent of "multiculturalism," and of the liberal attempt to sever the Constitution from the religious and cultural inheritance that first created it.

American conservatism welcomes enterprise, freedom and risk, and sees the bureaucratic state as the great corrupter of these goods. But its philosophy is not founded in economic theories. If conservatives favor the free market, it is not because market solutions are the most efficient ways of distributing resources--although they are--but because they compel people to bear the costs of their own actions, and to become responsible citizens. Conservative reservations about the welfare state reflect the belief that welfare generates a dependency culture, in which responsibilities are drowned by rights.

The habit of claiming without earning is not confined only to the welfare machine. One of the most important conservative causes in America must surely be the reform of the jury system, which has allowed class actions and frivolous claims--including claims by non-nationals--to sabotage the culture of honest reward, and to ensure that wealth, however honestly and diligently acquired, can at any moment be stolen from its producer to end up in the pocket of someone who has done nothing to deserve it.

The author also tosses in a plug for The New Criterion, which is neat because I'm buying a subscription to that journal for my brother Dave for Christmas. (He already knows, so I didn't spoil the surprise.)