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One of the most provocative, brilliant, fascinating, erudite, yet ultimately silliest books of recent times is Jared Diamond’s best-selling Guns, Germs, and Steel. The book is Diamond’s long attempt to answer a question put to him by a primitive tribesman in New Guinea, essentially, “Why do you guys in the West have such prosperity why we are still knee deep in pig poop?”As a learned and persuasive hard-core environmental determinist, Diamond’s answer is: The West (whose inhabitants are two-digit IQ morons compared to the natural brain power of New Guinea natives) is the most culturally and technologically successful civilization in history because Mesopotamia (where Western Civilization originated) had wild animals and grasses conducive to domestication 9,000 years ago.See what I mean by silly? For a determinist like Diamond, thought processes are irrelevant to the fate of human societies. He has no appreciation nor understanding of how cultural values and practices drive the success or failure of civilizations. Proof of this is that the word “meme” does not appear once in the book’s 480 pages.



Whatever might be said about John Kerry's candidacy--one thing for sure is that his choice of John Edwards as his VP running mate should give everyone a reason to reject this ticket--and that is that Kerry has chosen a trial lawyer to sell his philosophy to the American people. I have been a lawyer for almost 40 years. I am generally proud of the profession, notwithstanding the many corny lawyer jokes I've had to suffer. However, there is one segment of the legal profession of which I am not proud, and that is the so-called trial bar--the plaintiff's' attorneys who have for years raped, pillaged and plundered American society, usually in guise of rectifying ills that don't exist.



A great moment in journalism it wasn't.  At 6:58 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time on Tuesday, Aug. 14, Agence France Presse distributed a photograph by Wissam al-Okaili, an AFP stringer, of an elderly Iraqi woman holding two cartridges in one hand.  The caption that accompanied the photo read: "An elderly Iraqi woman shows two bullets which she said hit her house following an early coalition forces raid in the predominantly Shiite Baghdad suburb of Sadr City." I used the word "cartridges."  The caption writer used the word "bullets."  Let me explain the difference for the benefit of the photo editors at AFP.  A cartridge consists of three elements: the bullet (the pointy thing at one end); the propellant (the gunpowder stuff) that forces the bullet through the barrel of the gun when the trigger is pulled; and the casing, in which the bullet and the propellant are held together until the cartridge is fired.  Once the cartridge is fired, the bullet and the casing go their separate ways. So here's the AFP photo:



When Senator Jon Kyl (R-AZ), chairman of the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Terrorism, Technology and Homeland Security, held a well-publicized hearing on a specific new type of terrorist threat last April, a lot of folks got scared. It turns out the threat is marginal. Instead of being called the EMP Terror, it should be called the EMP Annoyance.EMP stands for Electro-Magnetic Pulse, caused by a nuclear bomb exploding not on or near the surface but high in the atmosphere. Kyl claims it’s the easiest way for America to be defeated by its enemies.An EMP attack from a single Scud missile, launched by a Nuclear Iran from a freighter in international waters, would have according to Senator Kyl, “irreversible effects on the country's ability to support any large fraction of its present human population. Those who survived would find themselves transported back to the United States of the 1880s.”I suppose this is what happens when politicians, well-meaning and patriotic (for let there be no doubt - John Kyl is one of the good guys on Capitol Hill) yet who know very little science get scared of a threat they don’t understand. (Again: Kyl is very bright - he was a Phi Beta Kappa in college and a smart lawyer - but he has no scientific background.)His staffers also didn’t do their homework - for it turns out that there already has been an EMP attack on an American city, and nothing much happened.



America's democracy has always had its flaws, but it has long been considered the best. Our political "leaders" are changing that. Those of you who have lives may not have noticed that our presidential nominating process, which in recent years has been teetering on the brink of insanity, has plunged into madness. The Iowa caucuses traditionally have been held eight days before the New Hampshire primary.  If New Hampshire moves its primary to Jan. 8, and Iowa keeps the normal separation, then the Iowa caucuses would be held on New Year's Day. Though caucus goers may make better choices when they're roaring drunk, and it would be delightful to make political reporters work that day, this is unlikely to happen.  New Hampshire is likely to opt for its first ever Saturday primary, so Iowa can hold its caucus during the election year, though barely after the college football bowl games have ended.  But at this writing it is possible the voting for president in 2008 will begin in 2007.



News media reports from meetings organized by billionaire George Soros say he and some rich allies are now funding groups intended to counter the efforts on college campuses of conservative educational organizations such as the Leadership Institute (LI). Although Soros and his allies hope through their spending to increase the effectiveness of the left on campus, I do not fear that activities they bankroll will significantly increase the left's campus influence. Nor can Soros stop the growth of campus conservative activities.



Here are two Chris Cox bottom lines. Bar none, no one Congress is more dedicated to capitalist free market freedom than him; bar none, no one in Congress is smarter.Now you may reply that being the smartest man in Congress is like being the tallest building in Topeka. But Chris would be the tallest skyscraper in just about any city. That’s why the Senate Banking Committee hearings on his nomination to run the Security & Exchange Commission are going to be so entertaining, a C-Span show you won’t want to miss.There are a fair number of bright people in the House, and a fair number of really stupid people in the Senate (we’re talking ratios here - there are some amazingly dumb Congressmen and some very bright Senators). The disparity is because it costs so much more to run for a state-wide Senate seat; thus the majority of Senators are millionaires who inherited their money (like Teddy Kennedy), or made it through a particular idiot-savant expertise (like Jon Corzine) which they think makes them an expert on everything.With few exceptions, every Senator’s ego vastly exceeds their brain-power. Arrogance, power, and stupidity is not a good combination, which is why the Senate is so dysfunctional. They love to prate and pose and pontificate and act so insufferably important in front of television cameras during their hearings. Which is why it’ll be so much fun to watch Chris take them apart.



It was a small change, made quietly two weeks ago on the website of the Goddard Institute for Space Studies.  But it could have big implications. Al Gore claimed in his 2006 crockumentary "An Inconvenient Truth" that nine of the ten hottest years in history have been in the last decade, with 1998 the warmest year on record. Not so, says the GISS, which is affiliated with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Columbia University, and is headed by Dr. James Hansen, scientific godfather of global warming alarmism.  According to the GISS, the hottest years ever in the U.S. were, in order: 1934, 1998, 1921, 2006, 1931, 1999, 1953, 1990, 1938 and 1939.  Only one year in the last five (2006, 4th) is on this list, and only three in the last ten, compared to four in the 1930s.



These two Tibetan lamas blowing their tunchen horns, are calling the Buddhist faithful to prayer atop the Stok monastery in a remote Himalayan region called Ladakh. The river below is the Upper Indus. On the other side of the mountains in the distance is China - for Ladakh is in India, that part of Tibet that escaped seizure by the Communist Chinese. I took this picture in 1993. The Chicoms’ courtship of India has been much in the news lately, with India usually portrayed as swooning over Beijing’s attention and flattery. Dire predictions are being made of India being suckered into a strategic Sino-Indo alliance with China the dominant partner. Analyses are being issued celebrating India jilting the US in favor of China, causing the “souring of the India-US honeymoon.” Don’t believe it. For all those worried or elated about China’s bonding with India to America’s detriment, here’s the reality without the filters and blinders: It is India that is playing China like a fiddle, not the other way around.