Saturday, January 29, 2005

Hear, Hear!

History is being made this weekend. The people of Iraq are voting in an Iraqi election. Dr. Demarche in a very moving post at The Daily Demarche makes this plea:

For all the Bush haters out there, for all the pundits who think it is clever to spell Republican with a triple “k”, I have a challenge for all of you. For one day, less probably by the time you hear of this, devote some of that energy to wishing success to the people of Iraq in this election. Forget for one day your raging anger and calls for us to abandon Iraq. It’s not going to happen, and for this single day we could use your support. You can resume your attacks on the Administration on Monday- because you live in a free land.

Put aside your biases for just 1 day and hope for the best instead of fearing the worst.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Navy Submarine Accident Near Guam

Question: How is a US Navy nuclear submarine like a bulldozer?
Answer: It's not!

On January 8, 2005, a US Navy nuclear submarine, the USS San Francisco, hit an uncharted undersea "cliff," for lack of a better word. The vessel was traveling near its top speed. Over 60 of the 137 member crew were injured and one sailor died of his injuries.

I doubt that many who read this blog would have taken notice when this story first hit the major media outlets. It came and went fairly quickly. Some who read the story may have worried for the safety of these brave men because they too know someone serving in the military. I am sure that some, conspiracy theorists mostly, added this to their file of "facts" they keep on US military action.

I wanted to add my own personal twist. You see, your humble host, the ignited drake himself, served on a US ballistic missile submarine. I can only imagine the chaos that ensued when the boat slammed into that mountain. Men were thrown as far as twenty feet, and that's only because there aren't many places on a submarine where you can move twenty feet in a straight line! A submarine is a decidedly industrial environment filled with pumps, valves, steel walls, and equipment that is weighed in tons, not pounds.

Then, after you scrapped yourself off the bulkhead, (or removed the steel valve from your back!), you had to contend with a ship that was sinking! It was only the heroic efforts of a well trained and dedicated crew that prevented the sinking of this boat and the loss all hands on board. To my submarine corp. brothers, I salute you!

Now, I have heard it said that a picture is worth a thousand words. Tell me how many "quacks" these are worth:

This is a picture of the damage taken from ground level.

Here is one taken from above.

Go ahead. Say it! I know, "Wow!"

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Aaahh! Now I Understand!

Question: How can you identify a "newbie"?
Answer: A newbie gets excited over old news.

I know, I know, it IS old news but I didn't have a blog back then. I heard the Dean campaign talk about how they had mobilized a huge online team; a team that really made a difference. And I had heard of "blogs" but somehow I just didn't understand the depth of those points. For those of you that don't already know the story, Zephyr talks about ethics and the thrilling world of campaign blogging on Zonkette.

Please forgive me for rehashing old material. Remember, I still tell elephant jokes.

Flailings for Power

Question: When your party is out of power, what will you do to get it back?
Answer: There are two things really.

First, you could impugn the integrity and intelligence of a perfectly qualified candidate for Secretary of State, like Barbara Boxer did with Condeleezza Rice. And you could compare anything remotely connected to the party in power like Fox News was compared to that despicable madman, Hitler. And you could even imply that the Republicans want kids to be without healthcare as John Kerry did in the Boston Globe article.


You could bomb police stations and polling places. And you could take hostages and behead them while making inane demands. And you could target civilians in Spain to make a political point.

I would like to commend the Democratic Party for using the limits of our system to their advantage. I may not always like how politics is conducted in this country but it is a whole lot better than some of the other choices. I would also like to commend our Founding Fathers for constructing a system of government that allows, or even fosters, the type of spirited debate that "shakes the dirt loose" and moulds the greatest country in the world.

But most of all, I would like to commend the people of the United States. I commend all Americans; Democrat or Republican; Buddhist, Moslem or Christian; African-American, Asian-American or German-American; but American every one; for being who they are. Random violence is always an option. Great Americans just never choose to use it.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Healthy Skepticism

Question: How does one prosper in a world filled with biased opinions backed by slanted facts?
Answer: By having a sound knowledge of human nature and fostering some healthy skepticism!

Nicole Griffin, a guest blogger over at The Sundries Shack, has written a decidedly balanced post on the recent Seymour Hersh column about the administration's supposed designs on Iran. Please note the techniques employed to sift the important stuff from the noise in Musings on Iran.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Liberty and Freedom?...Freedom and Liberty?

Question: What is the difference between liberty and freedom?
Answer: Why don't you comment! I will give you my definition soon.

Hint: I think the president's second inaugural address says it all.

Update: All right. Here is what I see is the important difference between these words. First let me give you a dictionary definition so that we have a baseline for the discussion. From, the definition of liberty:

Main Entry: lib·er·ty
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French liberté, from Latin libertat-, libertas, from liber free
1 : the quality or state of being free: a : the power to do as one pleases b : freedom from physical restraint c : freedom from arbitrary or despotic control d : the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges e : the power of choice.

Also from, the definition of freedom:

Main Entry: free·dom
Function: noun
1 : the quality or state of being free: as a : the absence of necessity, coercion, or constraint in choice or action b : liberation from slavery or restraint or from the power of another : INDEPENDENCE c : the quality or state of being exempt or released usually from something onerous d : EASE, FACILITY e : the quality of being frank, open, or outspoken f : improper familiarity g : boldness of conception or execution h : unrestricted use

As is normal in the evolution of language, the meanings of these words has changed; in this case, moved towards one another. But even in the modern definitions, differences still exist. Liberty is the ability to "do as one pleases." Freedom is "absence of coercion or constraint in choice." To coin a loose phrase, liberty is a "natural" right, God given, and should be available to anyone that lives on this earth. Freedom is not a right; it is an absence of outside pressure. This absence must be earned and protected. Freedom requires your action to attain and maintain. Liberty is given. Freedom protects and allows liberty.

With these definitions in mind, read this excerpt from the Declaration of Independence:
When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. --That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness...

You see, it is an honest, virtuous government that guarantees freedom. It is freedom that allows liberty to flourish. That type of government is outlined in the Constitution of the United States.

And now from the President's Inaugural Address:

We are led, by events and common sense, to one conclusion: The survival of liberty in our land increasingly depends on the success of liberty in other lands. The best hope for peace in our world is the expansion of freedom in all the world.

America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time.

We may squabble and call each other ugly names. We may celebrate the weaknesses of others and dance in the streets when the opponent is defeated. We may even prostitute ourselves in all sorts of unseemly ways. In the end, the Constitution will stand. There is always hope.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Selective Cites

Question: How far does one go to make a point?
Answer: Apparently pretty far

In order to rationally argue a viewpoint we often need to quote others to bolster our position. Nothing inherently wrong with that but often those quotes are stripped of their real meaning when they are diluted by the discussion. I was strolling by Reptile Wisdom and to my surprise shoveldog had quoted Martin Luther King on the arrogance of America. Dr. King was a great leader who used scripture to change a nation. This quote shows that:

Don't let anybody make you think God chose America as his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with justice and it seems I can hear God saying to America, "You are too arrogant, and if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I will place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name. Be still and know that I'm God."

-- Martin Luther King, 4 April 1967
Full of energy and life, Dr. King made a forceful statement that the arrogant will be punished by God. I immediately thought how odd it was to see Dr. King quoted on Reptile Wisdom. Shoveldog usually uses religious teaching to point out the weakness of religion. In fact, another shoveldog post does just that by mocking Psalms. Now he was using it to make a point?!

Shoveldog had chosen to use the Dr. King quote to comment on the arrogance of the United States. Especially, I would assume, as it relates to the current administration. (Update, Shoveldog later responded that, yes, it was his intent to comment on the arrogance of the current administration. VARepublicMan.) But is his use of the quote "appropriate?"

My problem is this. The quote has one sentence on arrogance (arrogance concerning our action in Vietnam) and the rest of the quote deals with the divine punishment for such arrogance. I believe that it was Dr. King’s intent to state that God will be final arbiter on what punishment flows from such evil arrogance. Since shoveldog does not believe in that concept (divine punishment for evil acts), what was his purpose in using the quote? I really consider shoveldog’s use of the quote as inconsistent with other statements he has made in the past. Regardless, I enjoy seeing him use the possibility of a divine punishment to comment on arrogance.

Then over at Brain Shavings Puddle Pirate was blogging about a discussion on CNN between Justices Breyer and Scalia. Justice Scalia made the point that other Supreme Court Justices have a predilection for quoting foreign law when it suits them but avoiding it when it doesn't. Puddle Pirate gave a great example using abortion law.

...take our abortion jurisprudence, we are one of only six countries in the world that allows abortion on demand at any time prior to viability. Should we change that because other countries feel differently? Or, maybe a more pertinent question: Why haven't we changed that, if indeed the court thinks we should use foreign law? Or do we just use foreign law selectively? When it agrees with what, you know, what the justice would like the case to say, you use the foreign law, and when it doesn't agree you don't use it. Thus, you know, we cited it in Lawrence, the case on homosexual sodomy, we cited foreign law -- not all foreign law, just the foreign law of countries that agreed with the disposition of the case. But we said not a whisper about foreign law in the series of abortion cases.

-- Justice Scalia, 13 January 2005; Breyer/Scalia at AU Washington College of Law
Scalia cites this example as being inconsistent. If you read the entire transcript (and you really should read it!), Scalia makes the point that we have to be very careful about examples cited when trying to argue a point in a rational discussion. That simply citing similar situations is often misleading because one cannot understand the full implications of the quote if one does not fully understand the situation surrounding the quote. Breyer agrees saying that one must always understand the situation but that quoting other rational thinkers is useful. He emphasizes that he (Breyer) never relies on foreign law as governing, only as guiding. Scalia counters that once a cite is used, it colors the decision regardless of how carefully the citation is used.

I tend to agree with Scalia. Shoveldog used a quote that spoke about arrogance, a point that he has made in the past, but he overlooked the full meaning of the quote. Breyer tried to say quoting dissimilar law is okay if one is careful in it’s use, essentially saying that using just a portion of it's meaning is okay if one is careful. I say that both shoveldog and Breyer have the same problem; quoting what suits them and ignoring the rest.

So how far will some go to make a point? Sometimes very far.

Saturday, January 15, 2005

First Post

Question: Why does a duck have flat feet?
Answer: Makes it easier to stamp out forest fires.

Question: Why does an elephant have flat feet?
Answer: Makes it easier to stamp out burning ducks!

Welcome to The Flaming Duck; my foray into blogging. In many ways, this blog is a reaction to the first blogs that I read. Some of them were really wacked out. I wondered what would make someone want to expose such intimate feelings in such a public manner. I am not going to name specific blogs but they really were different! And I mean scary different. Luckily, I did a little more research and found that there actually are some "regular" people with blogs (and that helped to salvage my perception of the blogosphere). I hope that you find that I am one of those "regulars."

So just to prove that I am really normal, I started this blog with my all time favorite joke. I always tell it as an "elephant joke". Sometimes it makes a big hit and sometimes it falls flat. Sometimes I am asked to write it down so it can be retold. And sometimes the recipient doesn't even understand it. But mostly I just think the joke works. It is a truly great joke because it works on so many levels. I do plan on expanding on this thought a little later but for now, I just want to tie the joke to the name of this blog.
Imagine for a moment, that you are the duck. The day has been rough. Three forest fires, a couple of bears saved, one cabin salvaged (the owner was mighty grateful) and now you are fighting the biggest fire of your life. Then suddenly it all goes wrong! Your tail catches fire when the wind changes. The pain is excruciating! You are running around, (like a chicken with your head cut off) trying to put out the flames when suddenly an ominous shadow overtakes you. For a moment, a tiny moment, the shadow becomes more important than your flaming tail and then, WHAM! An elephant foot “assists” you in putting out the fire.
Sometimes I just feel like that duck. Only doing what you're supposed to be doing and then something totally unexpected happens. But that's the way life goes, doesn't it! But what I like best about the joke is that it leaves so many questions unanswered. Did evolution really devise flat feet to put out forest fires? Could an elephant catch a duck? Did the elephant really "help" or did he just squash the duck? So this blog is really about questions. Some I have answers for, some I don’t. But asking the question is the most important part.