Monday, December 20, 2004

Yes, I DO enjoy airport security

Powerline notes that people seem to have different opinions of what "civil liberties" are. One area that's come up in the past is airport security's racial profiling of passengers of Arab descent. And as one of those Arabic passengers, I'd just like to say: I'm all for it.

Thanks to the varying ethnic background of my parents, I have an Arabic face but a non-Arabic name. Before 9/11, we used to joke that if I didn't shave before going to the airport, I'd look "just terrorist enough" that they wouldn't let me on the plane. Now, of course, it's more of a liability than a joke.

Since heightened security was instituted after 9/11, the airline I usually take has instituted so-called "random screenings" of passengers at the gate. And I've noticed that I have been selected for one of these searches a disproportional number of times, as far as I can tell. Friends and relatives traveling the same airline through the same airports report that at most they've gotten the screening once; yet I've been lucky enough to be screened roughly 60% of the times I've traveled.

And now to shatter the illusions of the ACLU and trigger-happy lawyers everywhere (I can already hear them preparing briefs for "the discrimination lawsuit of the century") - I'm glad that this happens. It's not that I enjoy standing in front of a group of passengers and having a wand run over my body; it's not that I enjoy having my bag rifled through, having to turn on every electronic gadget I carry (and I lug a bunch of them around) to prove they're real. What I enjoy is the peace of mind that comes when I realize that everyone who looks like me gets the same treatment.

Call me an oddball, but I'm already a bit nervous about strapping myself into a thin aluminum tube that's stapled with two triangular bits of metal, powered by several hundred gallons of explosive fuel and held aloft by a scientific theory I only partially comprehend, relying on two guys I've never met to guide it at 300+ mph several thousand feet above the hard, hard ground.

I don't want to have to worry about some nutjob with an inferiority complex trying his damndest to bring the whole thing down.

You can argue the case about bigotry, guilt by association, and racial profiling all you want - but the bottom line is that 19 out of 19 hijackers who did the 9/11 attacks were Middle Eastern men. Track recent terrorist attacks, and with the notable exception of the Chechen schoolhouse massacre, most of them have been conducted by Muslims and/or Arabs. Is it really unreasonable to suspect a trend?

So I'll stand there, arms outstretched and shorn of all metal objects while some guy x-rays my shoes, so you can feel safer. I'll re-pack my backpack after it's been searched, and be happy that it's not an isolated occurrence. I'll take one for the team, and I'll breathe a little easier when I'm on that airplane. And I'll be glad that I can watch the scrolling landscape below, without having to keep an eye on the guy three rows ahead, who looks just like my uncle.

Friday, December 17, 2004

You know the Democrats have serious problems when. . .

. . . outrageous satirical advice to the party would actually help them more than hurt.

I agree with FrankJ, the person most capable of leading the Democrats is probably a Republican. And you won't even have to worry about the radical riff-raff crying about "selling out", since they've been crying that for quite some time now.

And who knows, if the Dems run a candidate who gets through being dropped in the woods with only a survival knife, AND survives gladitorial combat against Hillary Clinton, they might even carry a Deep South state or two!

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Fools for science

(via Polipundit) So the ACLU is suing a school for teaching intelligent design. Did these lawyers ever go through 6th grade? Don't they remember the basics about science?

Let's drop the oft-rehashed arguments about "separation of church and state". This issue is about pure science, or the lack thereof. If you had a decent curriculum when you went through grade school, then around the 5th or 6th grade your science book taught you about the scientific method. A simplified/paraphrased version to refresh your memory:

1) Create a hypothesis
2) Predict the results
3) Conduct an experiment and observe the results
4) Validate the observations against your prediction
5) Repeat the process

The essential idea is that once you've made your hypothesis, you need to conduct an experiment, see if the results confirm your idea, then refine your hypothesis/predictions and repeat the process over and over to catch any exceptions to the norm. Eventually you have a theory that holds for all observations over all iterations, the results of which can be reproduced by other scientists. Simple, right?

Simple indeed, for observable phenomena. But here's the problem with origin theory - it isn't observable or repeatable.

Grok that? You can not scientifically prove evolution or intelligent design. These are theories about a one-time, unobservable, non-repeatable event. Evolutionists don't have a Polaroid of the Big Bang, and Creationists don't have an .avi of the Creation week. To call evolution a scientific fact is an outright lie; to call intelligent design a religious myth is being obtuse. You can make a scientific case for either theory, and people will naturally believe one or the other case is more believable, but the fact remains, they are both theories.

Getting back to the point. . . neither evolution nor intelligent design should be taught as fact to children in school. However, neither theory should be excluded; the best thing a teacher can objectively say about natural origins is "Sorry kids, but we just don't know. Here are the two leading theories." The exclusion of either theory is an unjustifiable omission in a sound science curriculum.

As for the argument that intelligent design is just religion in disguise, it should be noted that the fact that someone may worship the designer does not invalidate the theory. Heck, I could argue that evolutionist Wiccans are actually worshipping the evolutionary process; should we throw evolution out as well? What about evolutionary deists who believe that God created the world then left it alone to let evolution finish it--do they invalidate both theories at once? What if I said my dog was the Divine Designer of the molecular structure and I start worshipping him--should we stop teaching chemistry in schools as well?

Our children are smart enough to figure things out on their own. I say give them the options, have the guts to admit to them that there are some things in our vast universe that we still don't know, and let them choose what to believe.

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Inconsequential Thoughts

So Rory says rain is cloud seppuku? What does that make rainbows?

Solving the political divide

I think I found the problem with the two American political parties: everyone is running for the same position, even if they're not particularly skilled enough for it. No business would conduct hiring practices this way, so why should we let our government positions be filled in such a haphazard manner?

So I propose the following solution:
  1. Don't let Republicans run for any position that involves public relations, diplomacy to other countries, or talking to the media.
  2. Don't let Democrats run for any position that involves finance, managing the country, or real power of any sort.

See? That wasn't so hard.

. . .

Ok, Ok, I suppose I'll have to offer a rationalization for this.

To make a sweeping generalization, it seems like Republicans are the intellectual party, while Democrats are the emotional party. There's nothing inherently wrong with these designations; you need both intellect and emotion to be a normal, functioning human being. Your intellect and your emotion naturally compete against each other every day, for nearly every decision. But when your intellect and your emotions are so bitterly divided as to be irreconcilable, then you start having the type of psychological problems that wreck individuals; and it's this kind of national neuroses that we can't afford to have.

We have one party that makes decisions so heavily based on cold reason, cost-benefit analysis, and long-term strategy, that they have to come out and label themselves as "compassionate conservatives" to try and convince people they're not robots. And we have one party whose platform is so devoid of logic and full of utopian fantasy that it has to label itself as "reality-based" to try and convince people that their ideas aren't really self-parody or jokes. C'mon, we all know that if you have to label your product as "Really Good X" or "High-Quality X", it's a signal to look for the exact opposite in the package.

Example: Republicans know that Social Security needs a significant overhaul and is willing to put up with some pain to fix it, but they seem largely incapable of selling such a simple concept to the American public. And Democrats care about the pain to "the little guy" that any changes to the status quo will cause, but they're largely incapable of coming up with the kind of fixes needed to salvage Social Security.

Further Example: Republicans realize that the war on terror is a long-term commitment that needs to be fought now instead of later, but they've displayed a surprising inability to make this into an emotional, resounding point to contrast with the bloody pictures from that war. Democrats, with a single-minded tunnel-vision focus, have accomplished the extraordinary feat of taking good news from the war's front and turning it into bad news, slander, and scandals. They've mastered the art of manipulating perceptions, a useful skill in its own right; but they've somehow started to believe their own spin, a fatal mistake for political operators in any sphere; what's worse, they've now deluded themselves into thinking they know how to make tough decisions and run a military campaign! (Personally, I don't think they could run a war if it only required pushing two buttons at regular intervals.)

So keep the Repubs away from the people. Let them number crunch and analyze and worry about long-term scenarios; let them run for positions of power, opposing each other on detailed, structured platforms of problem-solving--but for heaven's sake, don't let them try to sell the public on their positions. No, for that you hire Democrats. Let the Dems churn out charismatic leaders who wouldn't know fiscal policy if it bit them on the nose, but who can bite their lip and look concerned about whatever it is that bothers Aunt Mabel this week. Let them take the strong pro-America policies from Republicans, and work their magic of diplomacy as ambassadors to foreign governments, NGOs, and the UN. But for the love of sanity, don't let them set policy!

I think this is pretty fair to everyone involved. The Dems get to do what they do best - pretend to care about the little guy while selling a policy that does the exact opposite of what they're saying; and the Repubs get to do what they do best - quietly wheel and deal behind the scenes, setting up long-term goals and pursuing them ruthlessly, even if there's short-term pain to the populace. The best part is, the amount of hate and mudslinging in politics will go down, since opposites aren't running for the same slots anymore.

And hey, third party candidates will even get an increased role in this new government setup. Think of them as consultants, single-issue experts who get elected with a clear mandate for a narrow set of objectives. Everybody wins.

Well, except for the nutcases over at the Democratic Underground, who seem to think they're better qualified to run the world, despite all the evidence to the contrary. . .

Monday, December 06, 2004

Some simple advice

Believe none of what you read, none of what you hear, and only half of what you see.