See the Dragon

Don Arndt, a friend of mine wrote a book about the year he spent in Vietnam in 1966. I helped to edit and typeset it and then we listed in on, a print on demand self-publishing site. You can read more about the book and find the links to order it on The paperback version is available now and we should have hardback ready soon, too.

Cheney was right


Dick Cheney was talking a little bit of sense when he was considering a run for the White House in 1994. Too bad this guy wasn't our Vice President in 2003.

Q: Do you think the U.S., or U.N. forces, should have moved into Baghdad?

A: No.

Q: Why not?

A: Because if we'd gone to Baghdad we would have been all alone. There wouldn't have been anybody else with us. There would have been a U.S. occupation of Iraq. None of the Arab forces that were willing to fight with us in Kuwait were willing to invade Iraq.

Once you got to Iraq and took it over, took down Saddam Hussein's government, then what are you going to put in its place? That's a very volatile part of the world, and if you take down the central government of Iraq, you could very easily end up seeing pieces of Iraq fly off: part of it, the Syrians would like to have to the west, part of it -- eastern Iraq -- the Iranians would like to claim, they fought over it for eight years. In the north you've got the Kurds, and if the Kurds spin loose and join with the Kurds in Turkey, then you threaten the territorial integrity of Turkey.

It's a quagmire if you go that far and try to take over Iraq.

The other thing was casualties. Everyone was impressed with the fact we were able to do our job with as few casualties as we had. But for the 146 Americans killed in action, and for their families -- it wasn't a cheap war. And the question for the president, in terms of whether or not we went on to Baghdad, took additional casualties in an effort to get Saddam Hussein, was how many additional dead Americans is Saddam worth?

Our judgment was, not very many, and I think we got it right.


Until recently it has bee commonly thought (again, even among scholars) that oral cultures could be counted on to preserve their traditions reliably, that people in such societies were diligent in remembering what they heard and could reproduce it accurately when asked about it. This, however, is another myth that has been exploded by recent studies of literacy. We have now come to see that people in oral cultures typically do not share the modern concern for preserving traditions intact, and do not repeat them exactly the same way every time. On the contrary, the concern for verbal accuracy has been instilled in us by the phenomenon of mass literacy itself; since anyone now can check to see if a fact has been remembered correctly (by looking it up), we have developed a sense that traditions ought to remain invariable and unchanged. In most oral societies, however, traditions are understood to be malleable; that is, they are supposed to be changed and made relevant to the new situations in which they are cited.

(The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, 45)

TWIT + Audible = irony

Am I the only one who finds it strange that TWIT rails against DRM in many of their episodes (as they should), but then they do ads for Audible, which has a terrible DRM? My parents tried using Audible to get audiobooks for their commutes, but the restrictions caused a lot of problems. I wouldn't want to pay for a book that I couldn't easily take with me when I get a new computer. Cory Doctorow's speech is still one of the best explanations for why DRM is bad. If you haven't yet, read it!

Rove quits

Proving the old adage that even rats know to abandon a sinking ship, Karl Rove stepped down from his job as advisor to President Bush. It's funny how family suddenly becomes a top priority when you're being called to testify before congress.

This quote reveals his view of congressional oversight:

When asked for his reaction to those who say he's being "run out of town," Rove responded, "That sounds like the rooster claiming to have called up the sun."

Perhaps most interesting is Rove's view of democracy as revealed by this statement:

What about those who say he's leaving to avoid Congressional scrutiny? "I know they'll say that," he says, "But I'm not going to stay or leave based on whether it pleases the mob."

Reflect jQuery

I made my first jQuery plugin. It's called Reflect jQuery and it's based on reflection.js, but it takes advantage of jQuery rather than building in the class selector from Prototype. Check out the demo or get the plugin if you're into it. At some point this may make it's way into b2evolution.

Francois visits

Francios and DannyThis week we had a house guest from France. I became acquainted with Francois through the b2evolution project. He created the project and continues to serve as the maintainer and principal developer. We did a bit of work on a forthcoming plugin. On the way to dropping him off at the train station we ate Gates BBQ and stopped at the Apple Store to help my sister pick out a new iMac for college. I decided to get one, too. The old PPC iMac I was using had begun to show its age.

Scratch online

I mentioned Scratch a few months back. It's a really fun way for kids (and adults) to learn about programming and make little graphical apps just by dragging and dropping. They now have a program sharing website online, so when you're done with a program, you can just click the "Share" button in Scratch and it goes onto the website. You can even play the programs in your web browser I've uploaded a few here. People are doing some neat things, like this Duck Hunt remake. Emma and I downloaded it to see how it works, and we recorded our own versions of the sound effects. Emma does a good taunting laugh.


My name is Danny and I am an atheist. Three years ago I was a youth minister at a fundamentalist church. This change has been gradual, starting with the realization that youth ministry wasn't for me. I think I still believed when I left that job, but I took the opportunity to step back and come to faith again on my own terms. As time went on I found that I wasn't interested in beginning a new devotional life or getting involved in the church again.

I probably could have rode the fence indefinitely, but my wife encouraged me to put some thought into this and make up my mind. I did both. After taking a hard look, I can't find any compelling reason to believe that God exists.

The arguments for God that I latched onto before were the moral argument, the cosmological argument and the perceived reliability of the New Testament accounts of Jesus and his resurrection. Here are my thoughts on those three now.

I dealt with the moral argument in my review of The Language of God. To sum it up, I think our moral sense is an evolved trait rather than evidence of a cosmic moral lawgiver.

The cosmological argument says that the universe had a beginning, so it had to be caused by something, viz God. My main problem with this is that God is then let off of the same hook the the universe is put on. Who made God? I used to answer that question by saying that God is eternal and exists outside of space and time. But now I think that saying God is the first cause doesn't really get us anywhere.

While I used to think the New Testament was historical evidence that Jesus was supernatural, I now see it for what it is, a collection of religious documents. Religious documents and historical documents have very different goals. The NT was written to convert people, not to provide an objective account of what really happened. I hope to write in more detail about this, but here's a quick example.

Compare Mark, the earliest gospel, to John, the latest gospel. Over the 30 years between them, the stories and views about Jesus changed quite a bit. In Mark, very few people in the stories think Jesus is divine. When anyone brings it up, Jesus tells them to keep it secret. In John, Jesus goes on and on about how divine he is. One or both of the gospels has to be wrong about this basic aspect of the life of Jesus. I see this fact as it relates to the tendency for people to improve stories over time and I think that they're both wrong.

So far, I haven't found atheism to be nearly as sad and hopeless as I always thought it was. I still have meaning, love, morality and purpose in my life.

US Military

Nobody asked me, but . . .

Our military is both too large and too small. Our military is too big during peacetime and the money we use to have a large standing army, bases around the world and nuclear weapons (which would be immoral to ever use) is enormous. That money could be better spent elsewhere. Yet, when we do get into a war, as we have in Iraq, our military is too small. We're asking people in the military to do multiple 15-month tours in Iraq, and we're still not securing that country.

In the future, I think we should have a much smaller military during peacetime. Enough force to defend our own country from credible threats should be sufficient. I imagine that most of the host countries would be happy to see us close our bases. (Would you want China or Germany to have an army base next door to you.) If some unfriendly country starts to get close to our strength, we can always increase the size of our military. At the moment, no one is the world is even close to use, and the highest spenders behind us are friendly toward us.

What happens when we have to fight a war? We do what we've done almost every large-scale war in our history: draft an army. As unpopular as conscription is, it has a lot of advantages. The nation at large has to be behind a war effort for a draft to work. If a war isn't worth asking Americans to sacrifice, then we shouldn't enter it. If the American people are not convinced that a war justifies a draft, then the case for war is too weak. If a war has to be started more quickly than we can raise an army through a draft, then it's too hasty.

We need to get over the idea that we can fight a cheap, fast or easy war. If our commander in chief had to resort to conscription to start a war, there would be fewer wars.

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