Because he’s a coward

Tim Graham writes in NRO’s Corner: Al Franken’s boast in his book that he challenged Rich Lowry to a fistfight gains a little bit of perspective in today’s Washington Post magazine. Humor columnist Gene Weingarten wanted to parody a moment of right-left civility, but guess who was too “busy” to even get in an e-mail sandbox with one of his hate objects, the Ann Coulter doll:

“I decided to invite an arch-liberal and an arch-conservative to meet in this column and constructively discuss their differences, with me as moderator. I wanted the liberal to be Al Franken, the author of the best-selling Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, and the conservative to be Ann Coulter, author of the best-selling Traitor: Liberal Treachery From the Cold War to the War on Terrorism. Ann agreed right away. But Al begged off, saying he was too ‘busy,’ even for a worthy cause like helping combat the plague of name-calling. What a milksoppy, pantywaist, jellyfish, weasel-out wuss he turned out to be.” Weingarten reports that Michael Kinsley and Molly Ivins also rejected the challenge. So Gene and Ann have a typically Weingartenesque exchange on toilet paper and the merits of dogs vs. cats.

I still haven’t heard back from Al about my challenge. So, obviously he’s just as much of a coward as he claims Rich Lowry to be. I have to admit, I’d never considered making the same offer to Mr. Kinsley or Ms Ivins – I imagine Molly probably packs an okay punch, but she’s surely about as quick as molasses. I am, of course, far too much of a elite university-neutered, gender bias-free, sensitive New Age 90’s male to harbor any compunction about beating down a woman, even one who is old, fat and slow. We’re all equal, right?

No f$*^@(%$! chance!

Jean-Francois “hey, the FCC says it’s okay” Kerry announces that Howard Dean has no chance to get elected. Right, like he’s one to talk. Dean is at least somewhat interesting. Kerry is the biggest dork in the history of American politics. Seriously, it cracks me up every time I see him in that ridiculous leather jacket. I hope he gets the Democratic nomination, so we can see if it’s possible for a candidate to lose all 50 states.

It’s true, Dean probably doesn’t have chance, but wouldn’t you love to see the look on Hillary Clinton’s face if Dean somehow managed to beat George Bush? Considering that senators are almost never elected president, you have to wonder how divorced from reality they are to keep throwing their oversized hats in the ring. I think Orrin Hatch’s candidacy was probably my favorite no-hope run.

Microsoft’s first flat-quarter

The fact is, if you are negotiating with Microsoft, and you pull out a SuSE or Redhat box, prices drop 25 per cent from the best deal you could negotiate. Pull out a detailed ROI (return on investment) study, and another 25 per cent drops off, miraculously. Want more? Tell Microsoft the pilot phase of the trials went exceedingly well, and the Java Desktop from Sun is looking really spectacular on the Gnome desktop custom built for your enterprise, while training costs are almost nil.

We’ll see. It could be prophetic, or perhaps just wishful thinking. I have no doubt that “pull out all the stops” means the infernal Trusted Computing. But it’s a nice thought, anyhow.

Speaking of OpenOffice, I hope that reader who’s working on the random slide show for OpenOffice Impress is able to get that going. Let me know when you do.

Red zone bug

Madden’s 2004 has a pretty humorous bug in it. When the computer has the ball inside the five-yard line, a play-action call will result in the quarterback faking the handoff to the running back, then immediately throwing the ball while he is still facing backward. This, of course, is a fumble, and since the defense is usually rushing aggressively, will tend to result in the ball being scooped up and returned for a defensive touchdown.

I thought it was just an anomaly when it happened the first time a few weeks ago, but when it happened again today from a similar formation, I realized it was a bug. The quarterback is obviously programmed to throw the ball before he has time to turn around. A nice 14-point turnaround there.

Propaganda in education

K-girl writes: Here’s a few tidbits for you, based on my (brief) experience in university education classes:

A) In a three-week course – where time was extremely limited already – my instructor spent 20 minutes convincing her students why vouchers were bad. She did not stop this lecture until virtually the entire class had verbally confirmed that vouchers were a bad idea. Furthermore, she announced that vouchers were a conservative, Republican idea, and wrote “Republican” on the board — all to make a point about vouchers, a subject not contained within the lesson plan.

B) There was a great deal of emphasis based on politically correct language in the special ed class.

C) There was a guest speaker who flat-out told us that most of the time we would be more important to the student than the student’s parents, because most parents were too consumed with their own problems to care much about their own kids.

D) There was one America-bashing instructor who loved to spin us these lovely leftist tales about how America was consumed by violence and unfair to the poor and how socialist countries avoided those problems because of their very nature. She was a nice woman who was more than willing to listen to the handful of conservatives in her class, so I am willing to cut her a little slack.

Sadly, (C) may very well be true, at least of parents who send their children to government schools when they need not do so. I’d be interested to hear how the lady in (D) would explain the 20+ democidal massacres that took place in socialist countries since 1917. I suppose there’s not much room for the people to commit violence when the government is committing so much against them.

In any case, it’s no wonder that the teaching community is such a disaster, when considered in the collective. Take the dregs of the university, then send them off for a year of being steeped in propaganda. Even if the educratic bureacracy actually wanted to help children develop the ability to use their minds, they wouldn’t have much success working with that material.

Religion and War

The Star Tribune reports: Most Minnesotans say religion plays a role in causing war, and most also think that certain religions are more likely than others to encourage violence among their believers.

The latter is certainly true, the former is absurd. This sort of ignorance, bordering on complete idiocy, really annoys me. I am a bit of an armchair military historian – I’ve had a strong interest in wargames since I was young – and for some time, I have been contemplating an exhaustive compilation of all the recorded wars of history and determining if their root cause had much, if anything, to do with any religion in general and Christianity in particular. My historical instincts lead me to estimate that 15 percent of all wars have a partial or primary religious component – albeit only 5 percent if Islam is excluded.

An initial look at the Wikipedia list of wars seems to indicate that this estimate is a reasonable one. The list of 126 wars is by no means comprehensive, but includes all of the major wars of the post-Renaissance, including many that most people have never heard of. Everyone knows of the Crusades, but few realize that Russia fought seven distinct border wars with Turkey, not including the Crimean War, only one of which was nominally religious. This list is heavily oriented towards the modern era and Europe in particular, so it is quite likely that the percentage of wars involving religion is unusually high since wars of the ancients and in the Far East were usually fought between co-religionists or were simple wars of conquest.

In any event, of the 126 wars, only 14 can be reasonably laid at the feet of religion. That is 11 percent – meaning that 89 percent of history’s wars have little or nothing to do with religion. This calculation includes counting all four Arab-Israeli wars separately and splitting the difference in the two wars of Chechen independence as well as the two wars of the ongoing War on Terror. There is a reason that the Thirty Years’ War – a vicious, but fairly minor war in terms of historical significance – is often cited when religion is blamed for war, there simply aren’t very many wars that centered around religion as a cause.

Note that the medieval period is sadly underrepresented – not a single war between the war-torn Italian city-states is listed – as are the Middle and Far Easts. This list would lead one to think that Japan was a peaceable land until the Sino-Japanese war of 1894, while anyone familiar with Japanese history and the culture of bushido knows that nothing could be further from the truth. Balancing this is the fact that the religion-based wars of Islamic expansion are also left out – but then, so are the irreligious wars of the Mongols, Huns, Assyrians, Babylonians and Egyptians.

Of course, some will probably argue that the fact that people harbor religious beliefs allows the various kings, emperors and governments whose hunger for fame, wealth and power to more easily manipulate their people into war. But this is semantical nonsense, one might as easily say that having a good harvest “plays a role in causing war” with equal accuracy. Furthermore, the scant history of irreligious states such as the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China is no more peaceful than the historical norm. Throughout most of history, people have had no choice about fighting the wars imposed upon them by their leaders. And, in any case, that’s not what the Star Tribune article is implying, nor it what most people are saying when they blame religion for the human failing that is war.