Friday, October 31, 2003
Part Three: the Fall and rise -- of sex
Sex and prayer.
At first blush, these two things would not seem to have much in common. But in the identity politics-driven world of modern America, sex and prayer have a very important thing in common.
They are political.
Halloween is being similarly politicized, and the way things are going, I would not be surprised to see all official references to it eliminated.
This whole late October/early November season is ridden with pagan as well as Christian overtones:
October 31 - Goddess month of Samhain beginsBy any standard, there are enough religious references present above to offend most fundamentalist Christians, most Muslims, many atheists, and even pagans. In fact, some pagans are upset about certain forms of Halloween celebration deemed degrading to Wiccans.
How did Halloween, originating as it did with the pagan celebration of Samhain, ever become standard fare in Christian countries? The general consensus is that Pope Gregory instructed his missionaries to coopt local customs and holidays by folding them into the Catholic Church.
Ditto for the later cooptation of Aztec traditions into the Day of the Dead.
This continued an earlier Roman tradition of melding holidays of conquered peoples into the Roman pantheon (the Church coopted cooptation itself, from the experts):
By 43 A.D., Roman armies had conquered the majority of Celtic territory. During the course of the following 400 years that Rome ruled the Celtic lands, two festivals of Roman origin were combined with the traditional Celtic celebration of Samhain. The first of these was known as Feralia, a day in late October when Romans traditionally commemorated the passing of the dead. The second Roman festival to be incorporated into the Celtic Samhain festivities was one which honored Pomona, Roman Goddess of Fruit and Trees.
And I guess that takes me back to Antinous, and the age-old struggle between religion and sex.
The cult of Antinous was extremely problematic for the early church, because not only did if offer life after death, and resurrection through the spirit of a idealized young man, but the sexually attractive nature of Antinous presented problems not easy to coopt, and which would not go away.
Some readers may find this as unbelievable as I did, but there was a serious attempt to transform the stubbornly resilient Antinous into a Christian icon! This Fourth Century statue (scroll down a bit) depicts Antinous holding a Christian cross. Not only that, but the city built to honor Emperor Hadrian's lover, Antinoopolis, became a major center for Christian monastic life, and remained so right up until the Muslim conquest.
And as I discussed previously, Antinous persisted as a major influence on Western art and culture, helping to define male beauty through the centuries, and even influencing Christian iconography to this day:
Antinous also had an effect on the shaping of early Christianity. The early church fathers, deeply disturbed by the resemblance of the dying savior god Antinous to the dying savior god Jesus, went to great pains to create some significant distance between them. Thus, Antinous influenced not only early church writings, but perhaps also the iconography of Jesus himself. (195) There is also some evidence that devotees of Antinous were among the last pagan holdouts as Rome converted to Christianity.Cultural icons like this are tough to stamp out by any standard, even by determined church authorities. Even I was touched to read about how the statues were considered too beautiful to be destroyed, and were carefully preserved in the Vatican. (Hell, I even saw one at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville! Sadly, I must refuse to say exactly where it is located, or provide any link to the hotel, lest some misguided Christians show up and demand the statue's removal. Such dangerous beauty is best left undisturbed and unsuspected....)
I have cooked up a crazy theory of my own, and most of the time when this happens, I find one scholar or another has beaten me to it. But this time, nothing. At least, nothing on the Internet. (Pssst! Someone want a Ph.D. thesis?)
In a previous post, I blogged about the cult of Sebastian, noting its homo-erotic aspects, and the controversy over the centuries:
I didn't stop to think about it at the time, but right now, the similarities between Sebastian and Antinous are more than striking. Why, Antinous could have been a model for Sebastian.
Now, let's put ourselves in the place of an early Church leader. Applying Pope Gregory's principle of cooptation, you discover a stubborn cult, and at first you attempt to coopt it by placing the Christian cross in the old god's hand. Fine as far as it goes, but what about the presence of these statues everywhere, and the ineradicable historical evidence that the god was not only very handsome, but, apparently, celebrated homosexual practices?
Might the best solution lie in recognizing the pragmatic reality that there is a human ecological niche to be filled? That a sizable segment of the population wants to worship a beautiful young man? And, because for obvious reasons this cannot be the chief deity, nor the young pagan of uncontrolled sexuality, why not create a new one?
In every respect, Sebastian filled the bill perfectly. Consider the evidence:
If you ask me, this has all the hallmarks of a good psy op. I think it worked, for a time. The militant Calvinists saw through it, though. In their narrow minds, religion was supposed to be the implacable enemy of sex, and Sebastian (along with much of Renaissance art) was an impermissible compromise with dark forces of a sexually suggestive nature.
The stubborn beauty of Antinous remains. So does the war between religion and sex, religion and pleasure.
A war which, I hasten to add, should never have been fought, and which must be ended. War against sex is a war against human nature -- even and especially when it claims to be fighting to uphold the very "nature" with which it is at war.
That which was perfectly natural to the ancients was called unnatural, and those who were at war with nature declared their enemies to be at war with nature. Once natural interests were transformed into unnatural interests, the resultant madness lent itself perfectly to a reign of truly unnatural interests -- a malignant inquisition into private sexual matters now being called "natural." With lots of trouble since.
(OK, so here come my slogans.....)
End the war of Religion versus Sex!
Restore Classical Values!
posted by Eric at 11:06 AM
Thursday, October 30, 2003
October 30, 130 AD. Eighteen hundred and seventy three years ago today, Antinous drowned in the Nile. Perhaps it is appropriate that we celebrate tonight as "mischief night" for opening ancient closets is always a source of mischief.
This mischief will constitute Part Three of my "Fall" series. In Parts One and Part Two I discussed the origins of the conflict between religion and sexuality which, I believe, still plagues us today. I concluded Part Two thusly:
Of course, the early Christians kept having problems with Antinous. More on this problem in Part Three.
The anniversary of Antinous's death seems remarkable in its proximity to Halloween, and I don't think it is too much of a stretch to say that even today we are still dealing with the fallout from a war between sex and religion started long, long ago.
Tim Sandefur asked me, "Why is it that Hallowe'en has become a gay holiday?"Without any further research, some obvious reasons come to mind. Halloween is: childish in the Peter Pan sense, theatrical, pagan in origin, involves partying at night, and dressing in costumes.
That's for starters, but it doesn't touch on Antinous. Hopefully, there will be more tomorrow, as I am drifting downstream.....
Don't wanna drown in denial....
Wednesday, October 29, 2003
Hidden and open identities
Things are getting to the point where if you dislike socialism as much as you dislike moral conservatism, you have no place in either the Republican or Democratic Party.
American politics are now driven primarily by socialism and moral conservatism.
Libertarianism is a joke.
And an especially cruel joke at that, considering that the majority of the country (the "middle," if such a term may be applied to people so profoundly disenfranchised by the American political system) are in fact libertarian. (That's with a small "l" folks; they prefer common sense to ideologues or ideology.)
Hidden agendas dominate politics, and neither "side" wishes the public to see the dreadful ideological venom which poisons their parties' rank and file. If you don't believe me, just get involved at the local level. You will quickly learn that the people who staff the tables, distribute leaflets, knock on doors -- in short DO ALL THE WORK -- are activists. Socialist, feminist, environmentalist, gun grabbing radicals on one side; religious fanatics who think God is guiding their every move and Christianity is defined by an obsessive hatred of homosexuality on the other.
Ideologues on both sides will generally be very nice to anyone naive enough to be tricked into working for a political campaign or organization, and therein lies the hook. Fanatics know full well that ordinary people who might want to make a difference are not fanatics. So, the goal becomes one of trying to convince them to become fanatics (a mild form of brainwashing often justified as "ideological training.") Those with real power in the two major political parties know what is going on and look the other way. Who else will staff the tables and do the dirty work?
Ordinary people who get bamboozled into working on these campaigns are sometimes fooled by the niceness and claims of friendship, and, not wanting to offend their "friends," they either go along with the bullshit, or remain silent.
Hidden agendas are everywhere. A recent example is the Terri Schiavo case, where a brain damaged woman is being "saved" by activists who have a primary goal of messing with homosexuals (in the name of "saving" them, of course, by submission to religious-based shame). I am not exaggerating; the organization paying the legal bills on the Schindler side is a notorious Christian Reconstruction outfit called the Alliance Defense Fund -- headed by James Dobson, D. James Kennedy, Don Wildmon and others who want homosexuals imprisoned. Their "victory" will be claimed as a "Christian" victory against the dark forces of homosexuality.
For an inside look into these thought processes, here is another fun website.
NOTE: At least two members of the Alliance Defense Fund's Board (Wildmon and Kennedy) are known members of the Coalition on Revival.
Lest anyone think I am out to bash the right here, let me give you an example from the left. At a San Francisco Lesbian Gay parade years ago, a large crowd was suddenly treated to a long harangue by a woman named Inez Garcia. No gay rights figure, she had simply killed a man who had raped her -- some weeks after the alleged rape. Her position was that any woman who is raped has an absolute right to kill in return, at any time. Not quite an eye for an eye, but good enough for the feminists of the time. So there we were, listening to Inez Garcia, and being counted as a crowd in "support" of her. While I wasn't completely unsympathetic to Ms. Garcia, I felt manipulated at the time.
Let me step back and narrow the focus. Might I be over-generalizing when I characterize the Big Split in American politics as Marxism versus Fundamentalism?
Might it be more evolving into something more specific? Something more along the lines of Identity Politics Left versus Identity Politics Right? Homos versus Christian Reconstruction, for example?
Let's take a look at the "sides."
Identity culture politics is one of the most tyrannical aspects of modern American society. It begins with labeling.
Under the philosophy of identity politics, there is no individuality, no right to be left alone to be yourself. Instead, you must be charted and analyzed. Your race must be identified, and you are not allowed to decide whether it matters or not. It matters. Your religion (or lack thereof) matters as never before.
One would think that human sexuality -- what it is that turns a person on sexually -- would be one of the most private matters there is. Even more than race. But no. Even such a personal matter is subject to an inquisition by religious maniacs and sexual activists.
I defy this system, and I always have. But most people won't and can't. Heterosexual or homosexual. According to many religious people, that's the choice. According to the sexual identity political activists, it isn't a choice. Under either approach, you must define yourself, so that you can be manipulated and then tyrannized some more. You must either be a homosexual or a heterosexual, and you must declare this. According to your answers, you will be either welcomed or shunned in various places. You cease to be an independent human being. You are now a something-sexual. It is fascinating that religious identity activists and sexual identity activists are increasingly in agreement about the need to ask, to identify, and then play the include/exclude game. In a recent example, religious school authorities asked a boy whether he was gay, and when he answered in the affirmative, demanded he submit to the shame cure, and then expelled him.
Religious identity politics is a more recent development, but one which is growing rapidly thanks to a ruthless juggernaut called Christian Reconstruction (another link here -- and here is a statement of some of the core beliefs of the (Reconstructionist) Coalition on Revival).
Getting unbiased information is problematic, because Christian Reconstructionists believe in obtaining power through stealth, and conservatives are loathe to criticize those who help them. Especially fellow travelers. This brings up a central point: the similarity of Christian Reconstructionists to Communists. I have been around Communists and worked with them, and it amazes me how similar they are in their methods:
While there appears to be somewhat of a genuine theological split between Christian Reconstructionists and other fundamentalist sects, the stealth nature of the Christian Reconstructionists tends to obscure its nature. (All the more reason to promote not only the First Amendment, but the reasoning behind it.)
But stealth and hidden agendas are what give these minorities the power to dominate majorities. Through stealth, minorities on the left and the right are able to dominate most of the American political process. Americans do not especially like identity politics, because it is profoundly un-American. But when the fanatic identity politicians are able to grab control of each major party, they can then pose as representing the entire country by pointing to each other as "alternatives" -- to the exclusion of the majority.
A lot of people have been talking about third parties. Arnold Schwarzenegger might as well have been a third party. In a normal election, the Republican minority activist consensus would have guaranteed a primary victory for McClintock (whose campaign, not coincidentally, was run by a Christian Reconstructionist) -- and, ultimately, another Democratic victory, not because the voters love the Democrats, but because the Democrats' version of rule by multiple identity politics groups is less threatening than the Republicans' "Party of God."
Fuller voter participation is the best way to stop this tyranny by activist minorities. It won't happen through the primaries. Voters need, simply, to have alternatives to those who hide behind cutthroat identity politics.
Identity politics is like gang membership, born out of a desire to belong, and a form of mob rule. It is based on emotion rather than thought. Voters reject it if given a chance, but it is very powerful -- and not always what it appears to be.
Just don't make the mistake of thinking it's limited to the left.
Tuesday, October 28, 2003
No sin left behind?
It would be irresponsible of me not to see how this blog rates under the Gematriculator rating system (link thanks to Discount Blogger), so I allowed the engine to search my blog. Here are the Official results for Classical Values (arranged as fetchingly as I could....):
Nothing like official certification, is there? I really suggest that every blogger try this thing out, as it gives you a detailed, almost line-by-line and word-by-word report.
As to interpreting my score, I am not sure.
Does this mean that whenever I sin I am twice as likely not to cast the first stone at myself?
Am I so good that I am letting my evil side get away with too much?
Does that mean I am engaging in self-appeasement? Am I headed for a war with myself?
Monday, October 27, 2003
Catching, isn't it?
Instapundit touches, literally, on a most annoying problem shared by most people who interact with the public: touching and the common cold. I have long hated people who are so rude as to show up for work or school -- or, God forbid an airline flight (yeah, I know it's not their fault....) -- sniffling, sneezing and leaching the latest rhinovirus strain all over the place. Yet unless you are a billionaire recluse like Howard Hughes, what can be done as a practical matter?
There is one thing actually. At the risk of developing OCD, you can WASH YOUR HANDS after handshakes. Rhinoviruses, being an Upper Respiratory Infection (URI), have to get into you oral, nasal, or bronchial passages, so the mere act of touching an infected person's hands by means of a handshake will not normally give you a cold. Unless, that is, you forget, and inadvertently place your fingers in your mouth or nose, or on your food which then goes into your mouth. The formula is simple: Nose > Hand > Hand > Nose:
Cold viruses are nearly always spread from nose to hand of infected person and from hand to nose of potential victim. Colds are easily spread for this reason when people are together in groups in enclosed areas.Washing the hands will work as a preventative. Why do you suppose doctors and dentists wash up? Frankly, this time of year, with all the latest childhood-engineered rhinoviruses spewed by the snot-nosed kids, I think anyone who has to engage in repeated handshaking should simply run to the bathroom, wash his hands AND FACE, then blow his nose or take a leak whatever the hell else he does, with CLEAN HANDS.
The ridiculous prejudice we have against our own genitalia stands in stark contrast with the routine pollution we endure at the "hands" of other people.
Hey, I am not kidding here, my sarcastic tone notwithstanding. You are not going to get diseases from yourself by taking a leak! Nor, gross as it may sound, is it very likely you will "catch" anything from wiping your own ass. You already have the bacteria which are in your body. Not that it is a good idea to spread it around, but new diseases like URIs are not going to be found on your genitalia. Amazingly, doorknobs and public telephones are more dangerous than toilet seats!
I am not advocating being unwashed, nor am I suggesting that people stop washing their hands after going to the bathroom, but if you think about this logically, what is it about us that makes us worry more about whether you give diseases to others than whether others give diseases to you? The Golden Rule ought to work both ways. From the purely selfish standpoint of the hand washer, it is far more unsanitary to fail to wash up after shaking hands with a stranger than it is to fail to wash up after taking a leak. Your urine is pure, and your genitalia is yours. Other people's hands are not. (Frankly, you'd do better to wash your hands before handling your genitalia than after!)
Would the Objectivists call this another form of altruism run amok?
I don't know, but I think it is unfair to expect people to wash off their germs for the benefit of others while treating them like Howard Hughes for washing off other's germs.
Protection of others is polite, even important, but protection of oneself is primary.
DISCLAIMER: None of this constitutes medical advice, of course, as I am not licensed to practice medicine.
However, I do so love to look at medical books, and if any of you are:
Then you might get a kick out of this item -- especially if you scroll down to the kid with major nasal/pharyngeal/sinus problems.
Even makes me wanna wash my hands right now....
posted by Eric at 07:42 PM
Sunday, October 26, 2003
Unpeeling modern labels to reveal a classical core
I don't know how I stumbled onto it (and if I did I wouldn't say...), but I found an utterly captivating post here. I'd never seen the word "biphobic" before, but why the hell not? These words are such nonsense that we might as well stretch them to their limits.
It would be nice to return to a world where we did not judge people by the content of their orgasms.... I know that I have been ranting about this for months, but it is really nice to find another blogger who apparently thinks along (more or less) similar lines.
Richard Evans Lee's philosophy is in the spirit of the Classical ideal. Here's a sample:
I went through my bisexual phase. Unlike hasbians I didn’t repent my twofold sexuality and return to the comfortable embrace of monolithic sexual preference. A latish erotic satori showed me that there are more than two genders, social reality if not biological fact. The weblog isn’t called Pansexual Sodomite because I’m a fan of obfuscation.If there's one thing I love, it's a free thinker not hemmed in by anyone's labels.
I am no fan of obfuscation either. And when words are designed and constructed to obfuscate human dignity -- our very ability to think for ourselves, even be sexually attracted to what we like -- I will protest any way I know how.
Seeing I am not alone makes it all worth it.
Saturday, October 25, 2003
Beyond Freedom and Dignity?
If B.F. Skinner designed human rat boxes....
Here's the ultimate warm fuzzy PC mobile for.... hmmmmm, what's the equivalent of an automotive tree hugger? A road hugger? No, I don't think so. Anyway, look at this, this thing:
" The p.o.d (personalization on demand) redefines ergonomics. When you approach, it “smiles” and opens its door. It actively monitors driving style and mood and adjusts accordingly. If the conversation is lively, it photographs the moment. It even wags its antenna when it's happy."It's ugly and weird. It's fascist. The seats look to me like dentist chairs, and I would seriously distrust having anyone who'd want one of these things near me.
I have been having a ball down here in Nashville, and I don't think too many of the real people around here would buy an undignified car like the damnable "p.o.d."
It is an affront to automotive dignity, and to American dignity, if not human dignity. (Unfortunately, that means certain people might just buy it.)
(Link thanks to Hell In A Handbasket.)
UPDATE: I was still pissed off after posting this, so I elaborated to James Rummel about the "certain people" who'd buy this insidious monstrosity. Cities like Berkeley, California would buy them for the bureaucrats. So would the people who busy themselves building a better world in which we should all be forced to live. Finally, they'd be bought by the ineffectual hordes who cannot drive like normal people but nonetheless derive a collective feeling of smug superiority by banding together with fellow inferiors, looking to each other for mutual support and comfort. Inferiority can be very dangerous when it gives rise to such thinking. Look at the French! Look at Communism. Nazism. Radical Islam. Mob thinking almost always finds origin in one sort of inferiority complex or another, but it is late at night and I am getting off topic. (This is philosophy or something, and I only wanted to complain about a stupid car.)
Friday, October 24, 2003
HAPPY BIRTHDAY and HAPPY BLOGOVERSARY, JEFF!
Today marks TWO important occasions for my dear blogfather.
First, it's Jeff's birthday!
And on top of that, it's Jeff's blogoversary -- all day and all week!
Go over there and give him his birthday spanks!
I can't say enough good about Jeff, of course, for not only did he inspire me to get off my ass and get blogging, but I can't imagine a better blogfather than someone who practices what he preaches. (And what I try to preach too!)
If there were more "gay gun nuts" in this world, there would be less bigotry, less liberal bullshit, and fewer control freaks. I don't mean that everyone should become a gay gun nut, but just enough so that the term ceases to sound like an oxymoron. (It only sounds that way because the major media shun guys like Jeff who threaten the divide and conquer strategy.)
Jeff is a rare breed; a freedom fighter in the truest sense of the word.
Go get 'em!
(Jeff and his blog are BOTH in Scorpio! It don't mean a thing if you ain't got that sting!)
Today is Friday, which is Online Test Day at Classical Values. It is also Vacation On The Road Day, which means I don't have much time.
But nevertheless, I found an online test -- Which 80's Song Fits You? -- from the blogger who never fails to meet or exceed the cultural speed of light, the incomparable Ghost of a Flea.
I hope this test is not rigged, because I am wondering how it is that not only are my results the same as the Flea's, but they are the same as Sketches of Strain (another very fun blog, by the way...)
As the song goes, life is but a dream....
(I think life is sometimes the butt of a dream -- if the dream fits, of course.)
posted by Eric at 12:19 PM
Thursday, October 23, 2003
De minimis non curat....
I don't often disagree with the blogfather of all blogfathers, and so I don't want this to be a disagreement. Maybe a point of ordered disorder.
Anyway, the esteemed Instapundit might have been (gasp!) slightly mistaken when he referred to Knoxville as home to the winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics.
The Economics Prize is not a Nobel Prize. In 1968, the Bank of Sweden (Sveriges Riksbank) instituted the "Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel", and it has since been awarded by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Stockholm.Not in Sweden -- and not even in Knoxville!
A minor point, and I can't imagine why I would be thinking about such a dry and boring subject at this late hour.....
What's come over me, anyway?
Blogging very late and lite but lively.....
Not much blogging today, as I am on the road. Staying at the amazing Opryland Hotel in Nashville! The place is a maze, rivers run through it, and all in all it is a very tasteful shrine to the music which built it -- and I believe it is very pleasantly haunted to boot.... Really something to behold.
So where does this leave me?
I took an online test yesterday.
But it isn't Friday so I can't post the results yet.
Hey, I did find a real lively type rant tonight, though. This blogger claims homosexuality is utterly, intrinsically evil, yet cannot give a single logical reason in support of his position. (At least I didn't find one; some ranting about diseases, "design" and the Bible, but nothing I can call logic.) Nothing particularly new, but if you like to get all pissed off at the anti-gay bigots, you might have fun with him. The guy does NOT want gay bloggers linking to him -- so bear that in mind. Here's his thesis:
It is impossible for a homosexual "couple" to love each other. Indeed, short of taking another's life, engaging in homosexuality is one of the most hateful things a person can do.(Thanks to the World Wide Rant, via Vodka Pundit.)
Remember, no linky-winky!
Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Recreation is never therapeutic?
First things first: I did not mean to insult God, offend religious people, or offend supporters of Hillary Clinton with the angry title of a previous post. It was my way of saying that I do not believe in a god who punishes all for the shortcomings of some, just as I refuse to believe in the Bigot God of 9-11, who allegedly punished Americans for tolerating homosexuals. I should have said, "If Hillary were God's punishment, then God would suck!" But even there, the language may be too over the top for some people. No offense intended.
Believe it or not, I am not knocking God!
The problem is that I do not believe that God is a bigot. But if God were a bigot, then I would be against God. I'd have to be, because that would mean he had punished good people for no crime at all. It would mean that he has sent my loved ones to Hell, and if he has done that, then I'll be honored to go to Hell with them, just as I am honored if I was attacked by al Qaeda.
Making the wretched suffer is not compassion. It is evil. If God (or "Allah") is evil, then I am against God. People who have put evil words into the mouth of God have failed to convince me that evil is good.
I have a serious problem with the cruelty of some of the moral conservatives. I have long objected to imprisoning people for things which are not crimes at all, such as perceived moral failings, or the crime of self medication. I am horrified that there are people who think Rush Limbaugh deserves a break because he suffered from pain, yet who are wholly unable to allow for the possibility that anyone else might deserve a similar break. If they did, then they would want to get rid of the cruel drug laws which stalk this country like a plague. Instead, they cynically distinguish between Rush Limbaugh and users of "street" drugs, as if that is any distinction at all.
Don't get me wrong: I have already stated that Rush should not be imprisoned, and I have been criticized for it. What upsets me here is the sheer callousness of saying that only Rush should get a break -- but not "street addicts." (Maybe if some of the critics had to go stand in line day after day at a Methadone clinic they'd get a little more generous with that compassion they reserve for one of their own.)
Arthur Silber recently touched on something which needs to be addressed -- and that is the idea of pain.
Before we even get to the idea of the so-called "recreational" use of drugs (ostensibly for "pleasure"), we ought to be clear about what is meant by the term "pain."
For reasons not entirely clear (perhaps because modern medical science is better able to locate causes for it), physical pain is conventionally thought to be "real" pain, whereas mental or emotional pain is thought to be more ethereal in nature, and less "real." This is contradicted by science, common sense, and my own personal experience.
In any event, narcotics excel at treating both physical and emotional pain. Indeed, narcotics are better at the latter than at the former, as do not act as direct pain killers; instead they deaden the emotions, and this eases physical pain by allowing the person having pain to not be troubled by it -- even as he feels it.
If there is any moral distinction between these two forms of pain, I am at a loss to understand it. In fact, I am not sure the concept of morality even applies. If emotional pain is a moral failing, then why not physical? Why is a crutch or anesthetic permissible for one and not the other? There was no such distinction until the modern drug laws emerged; in Victorian times, many doctors refused to give their patients anesthesia for fear of ruining their character, but no one would have suggested this become a crime.
Pleasure can be the relief from pain -- either physical or emotional. Few things are more evil than inflicting pain on someone for trying to escape it. Drug laws do precisely that. To quibble over whether a user was "recreational" makes as much sense as arguing whether an alcoholic began as a "social" drinker or a solitary one.
Religion eases pain too. Communists criminalized religion. Why, Marx himself even called it "the opiate of the masses."
Some people need opiates as much as others need religion. While it is true that opiates are more tangible than religion, if endorphins are released by the latter, if people are made to feel better by the power of prayer, who is to say that religion is not as effective as opium? Why is comparing religion to opium perceived, ipso facto, as an attack on religion?
By bringing this up, I am in no way attacking religion. In fact, I am arguing that Marx was a cruel man by proposing to take away something that gives pleasure and relieves pain.
It is not even necessary to address the question of God's existence here.
These are matters of human conscience.
Let us return to the issue of "guilt." I use that term reservedly, because I don't think guilt has much to do with the relief of pain or the seeking of pleasure. Once someone is addicted to a drug, the reasons why he started using it are no longer relevant. It makes no sense to argue over whether or not the "fix" he gets from stopping withdrawal symptoms is pleasurable or merely relief from pain. Does anyone care? Relief from pain is pleasure!
Many of the people who defend Rush have been talking about Terri Schiavo. This woman is clearly suffering, and is in a bad way by any standard. Would it matter at all if someone like her were in a vegetative coma because of a drug overdose? If so, why? And, further, would it matter whether that drug overdose resulted from "street" drugs or factory-made drugs like OxyContin? Is the morality of her condition to be determined by whether she first used drugs for pleasure, whether she first used them for relief from pain, or whether she used them as a coping mechanism?
Only if pleasure is evil can these considerations possibly be relevant. Clearly, if one takes pleasure in evil acts, then that pleasure is evil, while if one takes pleasure in good acts, then that pleasure is good. Thus, enjoyment of killing makes a murderer's pleasure evil, while enjoyment of healing makes a doctor's pleasure good.
To enjoy the effect of a harmful substance is certainly not a good thing for the person who harms himself. But many people derive enjoyment from the effects of substances like tobacco, alcohol, food -- all of which can be harmful. Whether they derive enjoyment from using them is not as important as whether they might ultimately cause harm. If they do, then their use is a health issue. But the fact that they were enjoyed is largely irrelevant. If an alcohol user develops alcoholism or cirrhosis, do we then look to whether he derived pleasure from drinking? Assuming alcohol is evil, is there any difference in relative evil between a "recreational," one-drink-a-day user and an alcoholic?
Why, then, does whether or not Rush Limbaugh "enjoyed" his drugs take on national urgency? Logically, it would seem that a recreational user of addictive drugs would be someone not addicted. Is he more evil than another user who is addicted? If the initial exposure to a drug occurs in a medical setting, why is the subsequent use or addiction less "evil" than if it occurred in a schoolyard or in a city park, or at home?
I am really trying here, and I find myself unable to make sense of the alleged evil.
Is it possible that some people just want Rush to be a "good" drug user, while keeping the fiction that other users are "bad?" Should a review be done on a case by case basis of all drug prisoners, to determine which ones began their addiction as a result of medical use?
Surely, we don't want to put people in prison unless they are "bad"....
Come again, your honor?
Having a hard day? Well, read this item:
A French judge has been caught masturbating in court.Some judges believe in stiff punishments, I guess.
(via Radley Balko.)
What would Mahathir Mohamad do?
At least one leading blogger is sympathetic to Saudi Arabia acquiring nukes:
If you were SA what would you do? The only deterrence to preemption is having the thing it's trying to preempt.I can only assume he'd apply the same thinking to nukes in Iran.
(Or, if you were Saddam Hussein what would you have done?)
Instapundit, on the other hand, took a very different view:
We should topple the Saudi government before allowing it to get nuclear weapons. A nuclear-armed Saudi Arabia would be a bigger threat to world peace than North Korea.I'm sure it was just a coincidence that Instapundit was shut down yesterday while others defended Saudi nukes....
But if you were Saudi Arabia, what would you do?
(If you were Mahathir Mohamad, what would you do?)
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Is a boycott of Malaysia unthinkable?
Think Malaysia, and think:
In short, Malaysia is a virtual Who's Who of the computer industry.
The CPU and countless other parts inside the PC you are now using were very likely made in Malaysia, and your software was most likely produced and made there. Penang is known to Malaysians as "Silicon Island".
I don't say this idly, but if -- let's just make that an if -- they are messing with our Internet, with our free speech, if their squalid little excuse for a president only takes time out from framing political opponents on sodomy charges so that he can spew anti-Semitic hatred, well, might it not be a good time to ask Bill Gates about his company's huge investments there? (Hint: Let's tell Bill the Malaysian government is moving to the dread open source....) Craig Barrett of Intel? Hector Ruiz of AMD? Kevin Rollins of Dell?
How would they like to receive emails from angry bloggers?
And there's more for bloggers to be angry about....
Let's return to His Excellency.
Right now, Mahathir Mohamad is getting the negative attention he deserves for his anti-Semitic remarks, and that is as it should be. But what about remarks like this:
"Western films idolise sex, violence, murders and wars. Now they permit homosexual practices and accept religious leaders with openly gay lifestyles," he said.That was last month. The homos -- especially the homo reporters out there -- were mostly silent. I was silent too -- because I didn't see this story reported by the "many homo reporters."
Next came the Jews.
Have unsuspecting American techies helped create a monster who has now decided to bite the hands that fed him?
Support the boycott!
In Malaysia, there is no equality before the law; no right to a fair and public trial; no presumption of innocence; no right to peaceful assembly; no freedom of thought, conscience and religion; and no freedom of opinion and expression.I would say that if this series of well-organized DOS attacks is found to originate from such a place -- right after the country's president's public exortations against Jews -- it begs the question of direct government involvement, if not sponsorship.
UPDATE: Here's the Wiesenthal Center's announcement of the Malaysia boycott.
I try harder....
....according to this quiz, at least....
(Via Dean Esmay.)
posted by Eric at 08:42 PM
Is "sin" made in Hollywood?
Did Ronald Reagan say that about people with AIDS?
Either Ronald Reagan made the above statement or he did not. I spent over an hour researching it on the Internet, and I am unable to find it. Regardless of President Reagan's personal moral conservatism (which I remember well and did not like), I would have bitterly hated him forever had he made such a callused statement about people with AIDS, and I would certainly have remembered it. I lost three lovers and over twenty friends to AIDS, and the experience nearly caused me to commit suicide, so this is not something I take lightly.
Moral conservative or not, Reagan had gay friends, and he lost some to AIDS. While he was slow to speak up about the AIDS epidemic, his surgeon general's promotion of condoms is inconsistent with a president wanting "sinners" to die.
I was never a Reagan supporter, but I am suspicious about these words which have been put in his mouth.
The whole thing is just too close to next fall's election.....
If Hillary is God's punishment, then God sucks!
All I try to ask from people is original thought. By that, I simply mean that people ought to think for themselves instead of spouting the opinions of other people. If someone spouts Hillary Clinton's opinions but is unable to defend them, then I tend to lose respect for that person. A mere recital of political ideology is not, to my mind, original thought. It does not persuade me when someone tells me that he agrees with someone else, if, when I ask why, he then quotes the thoughts of the person with whom he agrees. (Example: "I am a Marxist because I agree with Marx that the people should own the means of production!")
Such circular reasoning is not much different than spouting religious text as a substitute for original thought, then claiming that someone else said God said it. If it is not rational and logical, then it does not matter who said who said what. Claiming that the earth is a few thousand years old because someone said words in a book were uttered by God is about as persuasive as saying that socialism is good because some learned economist said so.
What has me worried right now is that "God" might put Hillary Clinton in the White House!
As crazy as that sounds, I'll try to explain. I think that if Hillary is elected president, it will be because of the efforts of conservative religious fundamentalists. She will run (in their minds) "against God," there will be a showdown between Marxism and Fundamentalism, and Marxism will win.
As McClintock demonstrated in California, the hard right is inherently much weaker than the hard left. Hillary hails from the hard left, even though she does her best to hide it. However, there is a perceived abrasiveness in her tone and personality which has a way of bringing the worst of the right wing into the open. Yet the worst of the right wing cannot win a national election. The more Hillary tries to moderate herself, the angrier her enemies will become.
Glenn Reynolds has warned the Democrats about the pitfalls of not being nice.
...[T]he deep appeal of niceness to modern American culture underscores most of the successes of the Democratic party, along with the more general phenomenon of political correctness -- people would rather go along even with dumb policies than seem, well, mean.
I think Hillary understands this, and she is determined to be nice. At the rate things are going, she is well on her way to being the voice of reason on the left.
By not even pretending to buy it, the hard right will fall into a carefully laid trap. Fundamentalists will become the loudest voice in the Republican Party, and Hillary will capitalize on it by characterizing the Republicans as extremists.
The Democrats will keep their mantle of niceness.
But there won't be anything nice about it.
Back up blog
The following was posted at my emergency backup blog:
FUCK YOU, AL QAEDA!
I notice that for the second time in just a few days, Hosting Matters is down. While some people might consider changing to another ISP, I am very loyal to what I can tell is a good company. But -- considering the news from LGF and Instapundit that Al Qaeda was responsible last time, I am very angry.
My inclination is that we do something to retaliate.
Is there a way to show the bastards that the blogosphere can practice what it preaches about self defense?
Just a thought.....
For the time being, I have taken Glenn Reynolds' lead, and started this as a backup blog, because I think it would be too confusing to reopen my original blogspot blog at http://classicalvalues.blogspot.com).
For now, I think the following points are worthy of consideration:
1. Malaysia is apparently the source of our common problem;
An interesting discussion of the problem can be found here.
The attack was engineered primarily by Al Qaida supporters, and participants were recruited in a number of Arabic-language forums, most of which are hosted in Malaysia.Enough said!
I am donating money to the Haganah site right now, on general principle.
UPDATE: And here's a blogger who thinks there was no attack:
They are whining about terror attack without an ounce of proof. The paranoia and self importance of too many of us is on display.I would say that the proud boasting by supporters of the attack constitutes at least "an ounce."
posted by Eric at 04:12 PM
Monday, October 20, 2003
Test your art movement!
Finally, an online test bearing some relation to Classical Values! (Well, at least a revival thereof.)
I am pleased with the results, too!
which art movement are you?
this quiz was made by Caitlin
(From the blog which is an art movement all its own, the ever-talented Ghost of a Flea.)
posted by Eric at 08:38 PM
Sunday, October 19, 2003
Street! Bush! Race!
Not here in Philadelphia. I guess I shouldn't place too much stock in the conventional, post-Schwarzenegger victory spin, should I?
Actually, there was a certain degree of dissatisfaction with Philadelphia's current mayor, Democrat John Street. Up until about a month ago, Street's Republican challenger Sam Katz was shown as ahead in the polls. (Link via Zogby Blog -- who offers many interesting posts on the Street-Katz race.)
But then disaster struck. Mayor Street was caught up in a corruption scandal, FBI bugs were found in his office, and the feds explained he was under investigation.
Wrong! In the past month, Street moved up ten percentage points in the polls.
The Street campaign wasted no time invoking the magic word "BUSH!" (That's, of course, the guy who stole the last national election, and who supports dragging black men to death in Texas.)
"Republicans Accused of Electoral Bugging"(Hey, at least it wasn't electoral buggering!)
Are there in fact national implications?
Here's a CBS report:
"The timing of the discovery of these listening devices seems incredibly strange, seeing that we are four weeks out of the election, and we have a Democratic mayor ahead in the polls, and we are on the eve of the first mayoral debate," Street campaign spokesman Frank Keel said.Well, that might have only been Street's campaign spokesman, and it was all I saw reported in my local newspaper. But before anyone gets the idea that allegations of involvement by Bush are crass local Philadelphia politics, consider the following fascinating (and not widely reported) statement from none other than Terry McAuliffe:
Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffee questioned the motives of U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft.What fascinates me is the evolution of this spin. What started out as a report of an investigation into corruption and wrongdoing by Mayor Street morphed into wrongdoing and wiretapping by President Bush. Next, the spin took on racial overtones, soon taking on historic, even international proportions. Here's Britain's Guardian:
Black leaders long have alleged that there is a pattern of racial bias by the FBI, citing J. Edgar Hoover's authorization of wiretaps on Martin Luther King Jr. because he thought the civil rights leader was a communist. They also point to investigations of Malcolm X, former Washington, D.C., Mayor Marion Barry and other prominent black figures.It has become quite clear who are the bad guys here.
Anyway, this stuff is really cool! Imagine being a student in Political Science today!
Why, there's even a prayer vigil! (Who says religion and politics don't mix?)
A group of clergy members and other civic leaders, under the name Philadelphians for Justice and Fair Play, scheduled a prayer vigil for Street on Saturday morning, in part because of racial concerns.Let us pray!
As is so often the case, the facts have become largely irrelevant. We may never know what happened. The important thing to remember is that the spin -- based as it so often is on the human tendency to believe in favorite myths (often buttressed with reference to religion) -- had the intended effect.
They've polled Street's street, and the polls show that something -- Bush bugging, race baiting, Bush baiting, the power of prayer, whatever -- worked. (Sorry but I just can't get over the hypnotic, almost mantra-like effect of mixing magically powerful media words like "STREET," "BUSH," and "RACE.")
Anyway, just look at these pies! (Don't ask me to slice into those statistics.)
Hey, at least no one (not in Philadelphia, at least) is blaming the Jews. Nor (yet) are they blaming the homos. Regarding the latter issue, I do have to say that I find it curious that a Republican challenger would have a stronger pro-gay stance than a Democrat supported by the McAuliffe machine.
Hope I'm still allowed to say "Hmmmmm....."
And I certainly hope none of this involves "Muslim money". (Isn't there enough trouble without upsetting the Muslim, er, street?)
I think I have pushed enough hot buttons for once day. How foolish of me to think anyone would care about things like facts!
Well? Pretending that this isn't a national issue (now that it is) is not in my view the best way to deal with it. But who the hell asked me?
posted by Eric at 08:27 AM
Saturday, October 18, 2003
Is marriage "heterosexual"?
Speaking last Thursday to homosexual activists at a New York fundraiser for the Empire State Pride Agenda, Clinton called the Bush-supported effort to protect marriage as "taking away rights and undermining the ability of Americans to live their own lives."
I don't particularly disagree with Arthur's view on gay marriage, but may I be permitted to inject some perverse logic into this debate?
At the risk of committing an Easterbrook gaffe, I too want to play the Devil's Advocate here. When I saw gay marriage emerge in the mid 1990s, it struck me as divisive and manufactured for political ends. It simply did not have much mainstream support, and it seemed almost calculated to inflame the Culture War by stirring up passions over an issue of immediate relevance only to a minority of homosexuals. But it grew and grew and grew, and is so emotional now that I almost hesitate to discuss it. But that would elevate cowardice over blogging. It would be wrong for me to engage in self censorship. We should all take to heart Jeff Jarvis's words on the Easterbrook affair:
I worry about the fate of free speech in this country -- not because of governmental interference, not because of that most overused word, "censorship," but because people in power are skittish about opinions, terrified of controversy, cowed by political correctness, and most of all driven to avoid at all costs the ultimate sin of the age: offendingDamn right.
I hate to inject logic into something so emotional, but homosexuals are already allowed to marry. They are allowed to marry either heterosexuals or other homosexuals. The only restriction is that the partner must be of a different sex. That does not mean that the marriage is necessarily heterosexual, or between heterosexuals. Thus, it is not logically accurate to say that only heterosexuals are allowed to marry.
In an earlier post, I complained facetiously that by not being allowed to marry myself, I was being discriminated against as a single person. Why should not a single person be allowed to marry himself and derive the same "benefits" of marriage that two people derive? Why are two persons more worthy of protection than one? What is the magic of coupling, anyway?
Just as homosexuals are not barred from marriage, nor are they barred from becoming pregnant. That does not guarantee that they will be able to become pregnant, though. But the fact is that men cannot get pregnant. Does this biological fact discriminate against men? Does pregnancy (with its concomitant tendency to render women vulnerable and in need of some contractual legal protection) offer a reason for marriage? Is there something about the different biological natures of men and women which makes them uniquely predisposed to enter into marriage? If there is, then is it necessarily discrimination for the law to treat such couples differently than couples of the same sex?
What about same sex heterosexual marriage? As a practical matter, I recognize that there will not immediately be long lines at the county clerks' offices in the event that marriage is opened up to same sex couples, but is anyone seriously suggesting that there be proof of homosexuality in order to marry a spouse of the same sex? Why shouldn't two women living together who want a tax break or insurance benefits simply marry? How about two criminals who want to prevent each other from being forced to talk to the authorities and marry so they can invoke the marital privilege? Or two men who simply want a tax break, or company insurance benefits? Why the hell not? Should prisoners be allowed to marry each other?
Seen this way, same sex marriage would do more than merely extend to homosexuals rights currently held only by heterosexuals.
It would allow any person to marry any other person. (Well, I suppose there would still have to be two people -- but is that any more fair than saying they have to be of the opposite sex? I guess they would both spouses would have to be alive, and above the age of consent.)
True, it would be a new right. But it would not be a new right solely available for homosexual consumption.
It would be a new right for everybody.
I guess I just made a new argument for same sex marriage. Which side am I on, anyway?
Is Hillary being inclusive enough?
Somehow, I still feel left out....
posted by Eric at 02:24 PM
Friday, October 17, 2003
Islamofascists deserve marital law!
I am deeply, deeply honored.
I have been blogging for less than six months, and I now find that I have been shut down by none other than Al Qaeda! I saw that I was down (along with all the HostMatters blogs last night) but had no idea what had happened. This Al Qaeda story appears to be true, and it has been confirmed here.
I don't deserve the honor, so I'll just have to redouble my efforts. It is my hope that Al Qaeda and their stinking Saudi butthole buddies may yet come to appreciate me!
Let's start with gay marriage. As usual, another Islamic double standard. The Islamofascists officially abhor homosexuality and condemn gay marriage. (You might have to reload their squalid page, but it's worth it for a good retch.)
The reality, however, is another matter:
UPDATE: OK, OK. I know you're all demanding a caption.
"Tie between Osama and Saddam closer than previously believed."
posted by Eric at 07:49 PM
Whose side is Satan on, anyway?
This general does not get it.
"Our enemy is a spiritual enemy because we are a nation of believers.... His name is Satan."
Atheists do not get it.
Christian fundamentalists do not get it.
Islamic theocrats who have declared war against this country did far more than declare war on Christianity. Or on Judaism. Or on Judeo-Christianity. They also declared war on atheism, secularism, agnosticism, and paganism.
NOTE: Atheists and pagans are often considered synonymous by Muslims.
While traditional Islam considers Judaism and Christianity to be infidel religions, once they are conquered, they are nonetheless permitted to maintain their religions, but in a subordinate status which means payment of special taxes, legal imposition of second class citizenship, prohibitions on public religious practices and proselytization, etc.
Not so for atheists, Buddhists, agnostics, and pagans. Unless they convert to Islam, these groups are to be exterminated.
Fundamentalist Christians have trouble recognizing that they are considered less of an enemy than many of their fellow citizens, and this makes me wonder whether they have trouble facing the simple fact that this is a secular country, and we are hated more for religious tolerance than for religious intolerance.
Likewise, atheists seem to have trouble with the idea that a radical fundamentalist religion has attacked Judeo-Christianity along with atheism, secularism, and all other religious or non-religious beliefs which do not conform to the beliefs of radical Islam.
It is not in the interests of anyone to call this a religious war, precisely because so many divergent groups of Americans would then have to see themselves as being allies whether they like it or not. Atheists no more want to defend fundamentalist Christians than fundamentalist Christians want to defend atheists. However, I have not seen too many atheists declare that this is a war between atheism and Islam -- even though a lot of Christians paint it as a war between Christianity and Islam. But logically, one can make the claim that it is both. And, considering the total annihilation promised atheists, in contrast to the second class status promised Christians, one could make the argument that atheists have more to lose in a defeat by Islam of the West.
It is by no means a foregone conclusion that "Islam" is in fact at war with "the West" because Islam is not the monolithic monster it is so often claimed to be. (For starters, there is a distinction between radical Islam and moderate Islam.) So I am not arguing that "we" are at war with "Islam."
But, let us assume for the sake of argument that a radical Caliphate is somehow established, and all Islam is united under radical Islam, which then declares war against "the West" -- or against the United States and Israel as "Great" and "Little" Satans. Characterizing this war as between Islam and Christianity distorts reality, and leaves many millions of Americans (along with many Israelis) unspoken for.
Atheists and fundamentalist Christians facing a common enemy -- and one which considers atheists the worse threat of the two?
No wonder there is a consensus against calling this a religious war.
That would be far too messy for the various ideologues....
SAVE OUR SODOMY LAWS!
Here's a new wrinkle: in at least one state, certain religious zealots are pushing to keep unconstitutional sodomy laws on the books -- because they think it will help block gay marriage.
By not repealing the law, the legislature will protect the definitions and institutions of marriage and family in the face of the court's outrageous decision. Keeping the law will send a clear message that the Commonwealth of Virginia is serious about marriage and decency. Laws like this demonstrate the state's preference toward what has been the bedrock of civilization throughout history - the traditional family unit.Send a message! Save historic laws!
You know, I think the Virginia legislature ought to consider that such things as the ducking stool, the scold's bridle, and the whipping post have also been the bedrock of civilization throughout history. While they may be unconstitutional, I think it's high time to dust off the venerable old statute books and resurrect our country's time-honored statutes -- for only then will we be able to send a clear message that we are serious about upholding "God's law."
Thursday, October 16, 2003
Caesar had a palace?
I must have been on a dry drunk last night!
The test results prove it.....
Wednesday, October 15, 2003
A new bull, or a new matador?
Is this country headed for an irreconcilable culture war -- something which will dwarf the best efforts of this blog to stop?
I mean, despite the soothing remarks by many bloggers, it is harder and harder to ignore the seething rage just beneath the surface of so much that passes for ordinary politics. It has become quite ordinary for simple dialogue to be only barely possible -- as Paul Wolfowitz found when he addressed an audience in New York, and was almost heckled off the stage. How does one reconcile such views as people on one side who believe it is self apparent that Paul Wolfowitz and Condoleeza Rice epitomize evil, with people on the other who think "liberals" have declared "war" on "Christianity"?
Is the gap too wide?
Libertarians are hated by the socialist, deconstructionist left because they have a definable and articulate anti-socialist moral compass. At the same time, they are hated by moral conservatives because the libertarian moral compass is not grounded in the absolute truth the latter claim can only be found in a particular interpretation of a particular religious text.
Yet I see more and more evidence that libertarians are tiring of their "politically homeless" status, and hence, many of them would gravitate towards the socialist camp so that at least part of their agenda is embraced. Human dignity may depend on such things; John Adams observed that there is no state so intolerable as the state of not being listened to. The present administration is, rightly or wrongly, perceived by many libertarians as antithetical to just about every libertarian principle -- as well as unwilling to engage in dialogue. Some Democrats (Howard Dean in particular) are seen as at least partially libertarian, and open to dialogue.
Additionally, there is a sense among libertarians of having been taken for granted by the Republican Party. ("They'll never vote Democrat!")
Yet, true libertarians are not in favor of socialism. That guarantees future trouble if they enter Democratic Party politics, because like it or not, the Democratic Party is the party of socialism.
As things stand right now, both parties favor a modern, powerful, ever-centralized American federal state. Because there is agreement that this must remain, neither party can be said to be the party of "small government." This feeds the Culture War, because each side fears the other side gaining power and using it against its opponents. Human idiosyncrasies such as sexual desire or religious beliefs, and accidents of birth such as race, have been completely politicized, with otherwise innocent individuals made to fear that they will be oppressed if the wrong side gains power. Had the federal government remained small as originally envisioned, there would not be as much fear of power as there is now. A vastly powerful federal government now is accepted as a fact of life.
It is a tragic fact of life that religious fundamentalism fuels moral relativism, and I don't know what can be done about it. Simple logic would dictate that there is such a thing as truth, but the blind assertion that it is to be found only in one literalistic interpretation of one particular text -- when there are other interpretations and other texts -- renders truth illusory and arbitrary, and subject to a guessing game of which version of god is right and which book is the one god wrote. This fuels the moral nihilism of Foucault and others because it seems to "prove" their assertion that truth varies according to culture. Asserting that only those who think what is written in your group's book possess "The Truth" -- well, that puts the Koran, the Bible, and the Little Red Book on an equal footing, making all truth relative. Because I do not believe truth is relative, I cannot buy into any philosophy which demands irrational acceptance of an argument by authority. Whether one is religious or not, and whether there is a God or not, the incontrovertible fact is that man is not God, and cannot speak for God. Books, all of which were written and produced by man, do not become the word of God simply because men so assert. Illogic like this (in my view at least) fuels the irrational belief that there is no truth.
There is, of course, the possibility that I am wrong, and that absolute truth may only be found in one of the particular texts -- which did in fact come from the God to whom the text is attributed. If that is the case, it means that God amuses himself by making the world's billions play guessing games and meanwhile slaughter each other in his name. If the hell described in some of the books turns out to be his place for "infidels" who refuse to be bullied into following a particular group, I guess I would just have to go there. Amazing, though, that in the enlightened, modern United States of 2003 that I feel compelled even to discuss this. The fact that I do shows how far these things have gained entry into politics.
Fundamentalism versus Marxism! Which side will drive the modern Leviathan?
Not a very healthy "choice."
Libertarians, in my view, should choose neither. (Certainly not in the philosophical sense.)
I'm afraid I have raised more questions than I have answered, but now I am afraid I must conclude on a dark and cynical note. For years I studied the Watergate affair, and as I began to shed my emotional outrage over the duplicity and disloyalty displayed at the highest levels of government, I came to realize something which so many people seemed to miss. Regardless of what anyone thinks or thought of Richard Nixon, he was the last president who seemed to possess the ability to control the executive office. (And in the end, he found that he didn't control it.) As government power grew, the president was reduced to a mere figurehead without much real power. Presidents today cannot control the State Department, and they hold office according to the whims of the CIA and other agencies. It does not matter who the president is. The real power is not located there anymore. Might as well allow the British to elect a new queen.
Is the "Culture War" a largely diversionary tactic?
Is the apparent choice between Fundamentalism and Marxism a red flag being waved by a matador? Where are the "smart bulls?"
For the sake of argument, let us suppose that the American voters found someone (say, in the spirit of a Ventura or a Schwarzenegger) believed to be a smart bull, and managed against all odds to place him on the throne. Would he discover that because real power lies elsewhere, that his office only allowed him to be a figurehead or role model? That his accountability was not to the voters, but to those really capable of shaping and spinning events in a way that maintain the illusion that the voters are in control?
So where does the smart bull go to find these elusive matadors?
NOTE: This post can be read at the fine Blogcritics site.
All visitors from Blogcritics, welcome!
Tuesday, October 14, 2003
Life and death issues in the blogosphere
My blogfather recently lamented the long absence of Bill Quick, and I am glad he's finally back. I was starting to worry, especially because Jeff has been at this far longer than I, and he had said this just last week:
Bill, please come back. You're one of the folks who started this whole thing and... Yes, you did coin the term, "blogosphere." Now please come back to it because you are one of the best and are also one of the reasons many of us leaped into the same fire. You're also one of the really nice folks in this business.I haven't been blogging all that long, but I have already noticed dead or dying blogs, and I find it a bit depressing, because in the blogosphere a blog is all you know about a person. I guess the downside of blogging is that blogs can just disappear, and you might never know why. When it dies, it is as if that person has died. The more you get to know and like a blog, the more distressing it is when you see it "sick" or wasting away. (Too much real death in the real world may have made me hypersensitive, of course, so if Bill Quick's fishing vacation had gone on much longer I would have written something downright maudlin.)
Welcome back, Daily Pundit!
A man in Germany has been charged with "using symbols of unconstitutional organisations" for teaching his dog to perform the Nazi salute on command.
According to the report, a local animal protection official "says the dog shouldn't be judged for what its owner taught it."
The owner faces up to three years in prison.
No word on whether the dog will face punishment.
As recent psychological testing revealed (see previous post), I am not a practical person.
UPDATE: And here is a great RSS quick start site for beginners I found at the above site.
posted by Eric at 07:03 AM
Monday, October 13, 2003
Read the whole thing, as they say. But here; have dessert first:
....[A]s soon as one is dependent on the behavior of other people, it is incoherent to insist that they follow a code of behavior that one is not willing to follow oneself simply because there is nothing privileged about one person's position in the universe compared to anyone else's. And it's this notion of the interchangeability of perspectives or the interchangeability of interests that really lies at the heart of moral systems, such as the Golden Rule, the categorical imperative, and others.Long, but worth the read!!
Get a net!
For a variety of reasons, I am so disgusted that I might as well share some very personal test results with my readers.
Charles Hill (of Dustbury) steered me to a test which irritated me to no end by daring to question my practicality!
Wow! I am glad to see I was not alone testing out at only 30% PRACTICAL. I like to think of myself as very practical too. Only practical people would engage in blogging, right? The problem, obviously, is that this test is impractical, and it does not know practical people when it sees them.So, pay no attention to the above silly and impractical test!
Your political compass Economic Left/Right: 4.50 Libertarian/Authoritarian: -3.54I had a great deal of trouble answering some of the questions, because they require accepting too many underlying assumptions. I therefore simply "disagreed" with the questions I did not like, which allowed me to finish the test.
I'm in the lower right hand quadrant -- probably where I belong.
(I guess maybe I am about 30% practical....)
Is being bicoastal really possible?
Yesterday, I found little bit of a West Coast right here on the East Coast!
I mean this literally -- the West Coast of New Jersey.
Cape May, to be exact. Higbee Beach, to be more exact.
In a state of blissfully naive innocence (I had been told about the place by a nature lover), I drove to Cape May and spent the afternoon exploring this unspoiled place, which, if you look at a map of New Jersey, happens to be on the left hand side of New Jersey's cape -- making it New Jersey's West Coast. A still-unspoiled, natural beach, it is bordered by dunes and driftwood, and stretches for several miles. What I did not know until sunset was that the sun actually sets over the water there! It seems to defy common sense that there would be any locations on the East Coast where, right on the coast, you could watch the sunset over the water, but by the gods I did it yesterday. (And by the way, the math checks out, because the distance from Cape May to Lewes, Delaware is 17 miles, while the distance from beach to horizon is anywhere from 3-7 miles depending on your vantage point.)
Not only that, but the East Coast's only West Coast seems to be seething with barely suppressed West Coast activities. The place has a history as a nude beach, with the usual controversies attending same. They have prohibited nudity, but I had one of these intuitive feelings that the regulars there (I did see a few) are not sincere believers in the fig leaves which have been planted upon them.
As Glenn Reynolds would say, "I blame John Ashcroft".
In this case, though, it seems the ferries are to blame.
Hey, watch how you pronounce that word!
posted by Eric at 11:46 AM
Sunday, October 12, 2003
posted by Eric at 07:34 AM
Saturday, October 11, 2003
Group blink; group think!
Born gay? If you insist, fine. What's wrong with having been born gay? What's wrong with becoming gay later? And what is a homosexual? What is a "bisexual"? It has been seriously maintained that the latter do not exist. A leading proponent of that theory bases his thesis on his claim never to have met a bisexual, and (in the alternative, I suppose) his view that bisexuals are confused:
....the question of whether you want to spend the rest of your life waking up next to stubble or full breasts is pretty fundamental to our sense of who we are and it is difficult to believe that there is a significant segment of the population who wouldn't care one way or the other.Are humans so simple that they boil down to either stubble or full breasts? Proponents of crackpot theories love to define the views they then condemn -- in this case bisexuals are nonexistent absurdities unable to see more in a human being than breasts and stubble and who don't care about that. But the people who are claimed not to exist indignantly deny their nonexistence, of course, and some claim harassment by gay activists -- some of whom obviously despise bisexuals for claiming to exist. (I don't know who wrote this, but he is not alone.)
What are the implications of this? Is there such a thing as a preference? Or is there to be a rule based on the number of sexual experiences? Why is it that a single homosexual experience is so often defined as homosexuality but a single heterosexual experience is not defined as heterosexuality? Is sexual preference a movement-driven definition like race -- where even a minuscule percentage of some racial genes (but not others) defines one's "race"?
This article includes a picture of a suspect eye.
You blinked! You blinked! You're gay! Hahahahaha!
Why should gay predestination matter to so many? Why is there such a stubborn insistence on placing people into groups and generalizing about them? Why look for a "cause" of sexual desire? It strikes me that there is an obsessive need by some people to look for a single explanation for sexuality (by now almost a gay political holy grail), and thus create a group where there is none. Homosexuals have no more in common with each other than heterosexuals, and in many cases, a given heterosexual and a given homosexual may have more in common with each other than they do with the rest of the members of their very artificially (and arbitrarily) defined "group."
I have seen few things as silly as the compilation of blinking statistics. Even assuming that none of the subjects was distracted by other factors (such as being already self conscious and on top of that being watched by scientists), the most that can be shown here is that for whatever reason, some female homosexuals blink at rate approximating heterosexual men. If that is to be interpreted as evidence that they were born that way, well, that in no way demonstrates that all lesbians were born that way.
Some is not all.
To declare that all homosexuals are "born that way" negates free will in matters of human sexual desire. It is logically preposterous, destructive of freedom, and contradicted by my own personal experience. There are countless things which have turned me off or on at one time or another, and the process is ongoing. Types of people who might have once repelled me now turn me on, and types I once found attractive now aren't. Sexual desire is something I have found to be quite fluid. It makes no sense to declare that I was born with attractions that are always changing. Example: years ago I found piercings offensive. Now they turn me on. (I once hated broccoli, too.) And if you are foolish enough to have a taste for androgyny, well, that is a constantly changing target.
I do not deny that some people are born homosexual -- maybe even a substantial percentage. I believe there are both genetic and prenatal factors. But -- I also believe there are psychological reasons. And there is such a thing as free will. Human freedom.
It is degrading enough to an individual to be judged and classified on the basis of research performed on others whom he never knew nor met. But to be subjected to the extrapolations from statistics on eye blinks? Where do these people get off, anyway? Next they'll be saying that one's political views are genetically determined.
Years ago, the need for the "born that way" thesis was justified along the lines of, "Well we need to refute the claims of the religious conservatives that this is a choice."
Who are "we" -- and why do "we" need to do that?
Doesn't this presuppose that there is no right to choose one's sexual partners, or to be attracted to whatever the hell one is attracted to? To like the stubble on one human, the full breasts on another? (Or on one?) I don't think it should make any difference whether something is chosen or not. Freedom has no such conditions, and if they are imposed, then that concedes the idea that if something is chosen, such a choice may later be restricted. What ought to matter is the right to make that choice. The dignity of the individual is far more important than the right of some "group" to do something that, it is claimed, they "cannot help."
I freely admit that I can help it, and I do help it and help myself whenever I feel like it. My sexual desires and attractions are mine. They do not belong to a group -- whether of statisticians, politicians, political analysts, or adherents to one or another religious text.
I wonder whether defeating religious conservatives is the only reason behind this constant movement to push individuals into a group based on sexual desires. Might something else be going on? Some form of magic -- via creation of groupthink? I guess the idea would be along the line that once people are brainwashed into accepting that they "belong" to an identifiable group, then the next step is the invention of a fraudulent "culture" complete with "leaders" who will tell them what to think, what to wear, who and what to vote for....
(Should there be "leaders" of the "heterosexual community"?)
I think it is truly pathetic that anyone would want to belong to such groups. Not that they don't have a right to do whatever they want, of course. But when they start telling others that they belong in the group they have created for them, that is the beginning of group tyranny. I must reject that even as I defend the right of the group to exist.
Actually, eyeball movements are a good way to determine sexual preference. If a guy's eyeballs move in the direction of a sexually attractive woman, statistics show that more often than not, he is heterosexual. Likewise, if his eyeballs move in the direction of a sexually attractive man, he is statistically more likely to be homosexual. There are also statistically significant movements of blood to the erectile tissue of the penis -- capable of exact measurement by scientists -- which provide even more "proof."
Further studies are in order! Perhaps government testing kits could be supplied to the schools and other places of social engineering, lest someone be left out of some group.
Here here! The eyes have it!
Divorced from reality?
Another test -- "Which Fantasy/SciFi Character Are You?" -- and I turned out to be Galadriel.
My resistance to programming (or, possibly, my cultural illiteracy) may be showing, but I wasn't completely convinced that I was Galadriel, so I went to a more official-looking site, and took another test. The results were more intriguing.
So, I now pronounce myself husband and wife!
I don't care whether single sex marriage is illegal or not. For me, the math works! I promise to have and to hold in sickness or in health and all the rest of it. And till death do I part! Can I kiss myself now?
Divorce is of course not an option.
QUERY: Do marriage laws discriminate against single people? Or is singular humanism a threat to the institution of marriage?
posted by Eric at 01:42 PM
Whose soul is showing?
If there is anyone who lures me into the evil temptation to engage in ad hominem attacks, it is this man, because he has long championed ad hominem attacks against people for their lifestyles, for the content of their orgasms. (Also, I haven't forgiven his cleverly orchestrated smears of Senator John McCain.)
Still, I really try not to engage in ad hominem attacks, so I do hope that telling people to look at this picture is not that.
But can a picture ever be an ad hominem attack? After all, pictures are like facts. They speak for themselves, and unless doctored, they simply show what the camera saw at the instant the shutter was depressed.
Yet primitive peoples have long considered photographs to be a form of attack, or invasion. "Stealing the soul" seems to be a frequent complaint.
I'll try to stay with logic. This means that in some cultures, a photograph is not so much an attack upon the person, but an attack against that person's soul.
Was Mr. Robertson's very soul captured by this photograph?
Surely, it is not an ad hominem attack merely to pose such a question....
A related thought....
Some of my readers might ask, what is wrong with the ad hominem style of argument? I suppose if you are having argument about a person's character, then insulting him might just go with the turf. But otherwise, hurling insults is not logically relevant to arguments, and often makes enemies for no good reason. I realize that certain people (the talk show business comes to mind) thrive on making enemies, because that often generates ratings. In blogging, it often means hits, because it invites retaliation. So, it might be in my interest to hurl insults in the hope that offended targets or their supporters will come running. Free speech certainly allows me to insult anyone I want, as long as I do not engage in defamation. I just don't like it, though, and once it starts, there really is no easy way to shut it down. It's ugly, and it turns off the kind of people who think for themselves. Instead, it encourages mob thinking, and bullying. When someone is a victim of a mob, my instinct is to defend that person, because mob thinking is not thinking at all.
For example, I am disinclined to join the mob calling Rush Limbaugh a fat drug addict who deserves imprisonment. I think his position on drugs is cruel, wrong, even outrageous. (And I will never forgive his remarks on Jerry Garcia's death.) But to say that he deserves prison for a drug offense when I am against prison for drug offenses would be one of the most outrageous forms of ad hominem attack I can imagine, because to say that is to say that he deserves prison for his intolerable opinions. Or for hypocrisy (which, though lamentable, should not be criminal). For someone as opposed to drug laws as I to advocate imprisoning anyone for drug "crimes" why, that would be like a death penalty opponent supporting the death penalty in cases where the defendant happened to support capital punishment. That is merely fighting hypocrisy with hypocrisy. It may placate the emotions and satisfy the mob, but emotional satisfaction just doesn't do it for me intellectually.
I'd rather turn off my emotions with OxyContin.
That way, I'd be dead to the world, and dead to the mob.
You're goin' down! FOR DOING DRUGS! Please rate if you liked!
(via Back to Something Apostrophe-Free.)
UPDATE: My blogfather feels differently, and thinks hypocrisy is a factor in aggravation of any criminal charges against Rush. I see his point, although hypocrisy -- while it may be morally relevant -- is legally irrelevant to a drug possession charge. Furthermore, Rush has not been arrested, and it seems increasingly unlikely that he will be. Words tape-recorded by his supplier and printed in the National Enquirer -- even if admitted by Rush -- cannot prove a case where physical possession is the crime. They have to get a warrant, and go find the stuff -- and I'd be willing to bet his place has been sanitized.
So whether the man goes to prison may all be moot. Morally, though, he stands convicted of hypocrisy.
Friday, October 10, 2003
The indefatigably scintillating Ghost of a Flea has saved my butt again!
Meaning that it was Friday, and therefore MANDATORY ONLINE TESTING DAY at Classical Values, it was getting late, and I didn't have any tests at the ready.
Not only did the Flea come through, but when I took the Random Actor Compatablity test, its promised "truly spooky accuracy" did not disappoint.
You like the social butterfly, the outgoing, Rupert
Everett gets you in.
Random Actor Compatablity
brought to you by Quizilla
I am truly outspooked.
What gem will this archaeologist dig up next?
Here's David Warren:
Behind the notion that homosexuality is sin is not only Christian doctrine, nor also the doctrines of the other "great religions". Behind it is the wealth of accumulated and applied human experience, growing through the centuries. The Jews set themselves against the homosexuality that was endemic in the ancient world around them; the pagan Romans set themselves against the homosexual customs of the Greeks. In doing so they were raising the standards of their societies; and not incidentally, raising the status of their women.Let me use as a starting point the comment I left on Stephen Green's blog:
"No social order will long endure that is founded on lies about the human condition." Agreed!OK, now that I am at my blog, I get to expand upon my comment!
Tradition is important. It is part of history and it must be respected.
To a point...
And that's a simple point -- of logic and common sense: Older is not better because it is old, and newer is not better because it is new. The central premise posited by Mr. Warren is that opposition to homosexuality is somehow "progress." That the ancients partook of homosexual relations, while not an argument in favor of homosexuality, is neither an argument against it. Warren makes no showing that homosexuality was in any way responsible for the demise of Greece, Rome, or any other ancient society. But shortly after the anti-homosexual prejudice was introduced, the Dark Ages started. Again, I am not arguing cause and effect, for there were many reasons. But the argument that sodomy laws were a step forward is simply absurd, and not borne out by history.
It is my considered opinion that a "tradition" can arise in many different ways, and once it takes root in a culture, logic is lost, as are the reasons it started. As was the original (i.e. earlier in time) "tradition."
Chinese footbinding, once considered the essence of progress, began because of an emperor's fetish for tiny female feet, eventually becoming a measure of a woman's status and honor. It has been compared to circumcision, and both practices were assumed to be virtuous because they were bound by tradition.
Hey, I am not being judgmental here. I admit publicly that I am circumcised, and I hold no grudge against the doctor who performed it, or my parents for ordering the procedure. But I am not so arrogant as to insist that what was done to me be done to others. Nor would I suggest that our civilization will plunge into barbarity if the modern trend against routine circumcision continues on its present course. (My personal preferences -- whether progressive or not -- are completely irrelevant.)
Speaking of progress, Mr. Warren seems to forget that Islam purports to be the most "modern" and most "advanced" of the three big monotheist religions. Doubtless Muslims also consider themselves to be the sum total of the "wealth of accumulated and applied human experience, growing through the centuries" which Warren describes. Yet no society in the world today more brutally punishes homosexuality than fundamentalist Islam of those countries following the Shariah.
While Islam is not mentioned in the Warren piece, there is this intriguing statement that we must look:
outside the West today, or into prison wards, to find social orders in which male homosexuality is "normal", in which it becomes the alternative bond of society. In all such societies the position of women is radically different than in our own; in all of them women are reduced to chattels -- and kept, if you will, as breeding machines.Let's play detective! What society shares the following characteristics:
Surely not Islam! That would defeat Warren's entire argument. Because Islam is anti-homosexual -- and in the most "progressive" sense of the word! How can that be?
Or, let us return to the Middle Ages, when homosexuals were tortured to death in the name of the same progressive movement championed by Warren. Were women liberated? Were Medieval Christians "raising the standards of their societies; and not incidentally, raising the status of their women?"
Footbinding was considered to raise the status of women too. Tortured (literally) as that argument may be, the claim that prejudice against homosexuality raises the status of women is about as preposterous as a claim that women will be oppressed by having normal feet. (And I am sure some stodgy Mandarin rulers could have supplied a list of reasons at least as long as David Warren's....)
Finally, isn't Mr. Warren being a bit arrogant in his assumptions about women? I went back and carefully reread his piece, and I saw no reference whatsoever to homosexual women. There are such people, Mr. Warren! They are called "lesbians." I am sure they would welcome an explanation of how freeing them from intolerant laws will "lower the status of women."
Thursday, October 9, 2003
What Would Caesar Do?
I had been planning a post tonight on a different subject, but as my luck had it, the damned Verizon DSL connection crapped out, and I spent -- literally -- four hours talking to technical support (in FIVE phone calls), being led like an idiot through countless cruel and pointless idle exercises I knew would not work, trying this and that stupid useless thing on some robot's Stupid List of Stupid Things to Do to Get Rid of People Who Resist Our Stupidity, until finally, when I called in total despair of even getting a crummy dialup connection going, I was told that there were "connectivity issues" affecting both dialup and DSL in this area.
And that (believe it or not) was a relief!
Meanwhile, I frittered away the entire evening, against my will, doing the following:
The latter particularly infuriated me, because I have two computers on a simple network, which connect to each other and to the DSL modem via a DSL firewall router. Even assuming that one computer failed, the other one would still work, as would the router. But no; I was given endlessly circular answers. The router did not work but if it did work then the network card did not work. They seemed infuriated by my persistent claim that (because I have two computers) either one the other computer should work, either with or without the router, so finally they forced me -- in the most torturously slow manner -- to connect each computer alone, first with the router and then without the router (via their stupid software I had to reinstall) directly to the modem. The latter required shutting down the network, pulling all the cables, separately hooking up each computer, rebooting innumerable times, installing the software into computer number 2 (after the same thing failed in computer 1), and finally, after trying my case twice to each technical support person, I managed to convince them that there just might really be something wrong -- WITH THE LINE.
After three hours I was given their precious, much-coveted "trouble ticket" -- which consists of a promise by Verizon to call you back at an unspecified time, hopefully within the next 48 hours.
"When is a good time to call you?" I was asked.
"That depends on when I am home, because if I need to get on the Internet I will have to drive to a Wi-Fi hot spot. And if I am home and on the Internet, I'll be on line via dialup, which means no one can call me."
Not so fast, there!
I didn't know it, but their dialup service did not work either. That was when I finally wrangled the admission out of them that Something. Was. Wrong.
"With the line?"
"Yes. there are 'issues' in your area."
"Why didn't you just tell me that, instead of taking me through hours of troubleshooting when I knew there was nothing wrong at my end?"
"Sir, the trouble was not yet reported on our system."
Which meant my only hope was now dialup, whether it worked or not. Another hour was spent obtaining new dialup numbers, and setting up new protocols for the dialup network adaptor.
I have been through this many times. Same story. Nothing is their fault. It must be the customer's fault. And even if it is their fault it is not their fault. No there is nothing that can be done. And, of course, it really isn't "their" fault. It is not ever the fault of the person answering the phone, because after all, all things are compartmentalized. (The latter means that nothing is the fault of anyone, because each person is one small part of the machine, with no real responsibility to do anything except follow the script in front of him or her.)
Whatever you do, NEVER ask for a supervisor. This activates the "let's play supervisor" game, where one of the people gets to pretend to be a supervisor. It also guarantees at least another half an hour on hold. The only thing more stupid than asking for a supervisor is to ask for "billing." This can take most of the day.
There is nothing that can be done about the wasted time. It's just gone. I feel so sorry for people who have to waste even more time than I do (because I am fairly techno savvy and I when I call for support I really have a problem), but I know they are out there. Elderly people who were given computers by their grandchildren so they can send email. People who don't have four hours to throw away in the evening (or at any other time).
Service (in the form of technical support) is more and more of a problem. If you're an idiot, I guess it's not so bad. But if already know what you're doing, it is absolute torture.
Nor am I particularly comforted to read that this is typical of Malaysia.
UPDATE: The next morning, everything is back to normal. Whoever they are who work in the field for Verizon (the real techs) obviously fixed the problem (allowed to be described to customers as an "issue" -- but only after approval by those who protect the corporate image). But how will they ever repay the four hours they snatched from my life? While it was not much different from sitting in a gigantic traffic jam, the absolute lack of common sense displayed by these people was appalling. A bare minimum of sanity would seem to suggest that a perfectly good router and two network cards would not all fail at exactly the same time.
Was I perhaps wrong even to call technical support? I have been through this enough times to know that the "support" process is really a screening process, and that the method used is simple attrition. Only a brave few customers, with endless time, patience, and determination, make it past the gauntlet of their countless idiotic "steps." You finally get there (which is nowhere, really) and you end up asking, "Why?"
If it's a real problem, the real people -- the kind who actually do things -- will fix it.
Give up before you start! Surrender and quit -- or we will bury you with our pointless charade of mind-numbing inanity.
(I think I'm the real idiot here for even calling customer support. You'd think I'd learn.....)
posted by Eric at 08:41 PM
More guns, more condoms!
Numbers and statistics must be getting awfully boring!
The anti-gun number crunchers also seem to believe that among the crimes caused by guns is the theft of guns themselves by criminals (More guns = more gun theft):
By some estimates 1.5 million guns are stolen every year, which means that anything that increases gun ownership (and carrying a la Sean Penn) is likely to put more guns into the hands of criminals.Substitute the word "car" for "gun" and you can see how preposterous this notion is. Apparently (it is believed), the presence of guns causes people to steal them. Sorry, but I am having a bit of trouble with the logic. Does the presence of money in a bank cause people to rob it (and put more illicit cash in the hands of criminals)? Does the presence of women cause men to rape them? I am not being facetious; in certain countries women are veiled because of a similar irrational, blame-the-victim, mentality.
This reminds me of the stubborn belief that condoms cause STDs, because their very presence encourages sex. Like guns, condoms are believed to be possessed of an evil animus. This justifies not only lying about their effectiveness, but asserting that they actually spread AIDS. Nicholas Kristoff has called this "junk science" -- which it is. I wish Kristoff could apply his condom logic to guns, just as I wish some of the firearm enthusiasts would apply their gun logic to penises. But, well, ours is not a perfect world.
I don't know how my readers feel, but the presence of a condom no more makes me want to screw someone than the presence of a gun makes me want to shoot someone.
However, if you are getting depressed, you should keep in mind yet another valuable statistic: condoms cause depression!
posted by Eric at 03:43 PM
Death to DRM
This is a very scary idea which must be stopped:
one of the industry guys said that their big legislative priority is to try to create a regime where you have to register with a unique, verifiable ID to access the Internet.
Not long ago, there was an excellent discussion of the genuinely Orwellian potential of a takeover of our beloved Internet by this so-called "Digital Rights Management" (DRM) technology.
Those who pooh-pooh these fears and assume, for example, that Linux offers a way out, that an "outlaw internet" will save us, that "people won't accept this" or that "the hackers will come to the rescue" should ALL read the above.
a full-strength universal DRM requires a level of totalitarian government and big-business control that is utterly terrifying far beyond the mere inability to play music when we want to.So were Hitler, Saddam Hussein, and a lot of people.
Does this mean we have to kill the DRM people? Or can we just zap their buildings with a giant junkyard magnet?
Sounds very grim to me. However, I did find slight cause for slight optimism in this one comment by Joseph Hertzlinger:
Mandatory DRM is not to Microsoft's advantage. If there's a law mandating DRM, it will be based on a publicly-available standard that changes in government time. That means anybody will be able to write software dealing with it. If there is no mandatory DRM, but some media companies use the commonest proprietary standard, Microsoft stands to gain. It can change the standard every year or two as competitors start to accumulate.Downright Churchillian!
I also like illegal networking. (How about some new underground movement, along the lines of Wi-Fi "ad-hoc" networking or something like that? It's tough to stop mutual consent.... Don't we still have freedom of association in this country? Or will the DRM fascists close that loophole too?)
Save your old computers. Hang onto Windows 2000. Buy more guns. Pray.
UPDATE: Hey, what do I know? According to the Geek Test, I'm still in the 1970s.
(Thanks to Straight White Guy)
UPDATE: Plus, nothing remains static. Totalitarian crackdowns invite the development of new technologies.
Wednesday, October 8, 2003
The PRIMARY reason....
Glenn Reynolds offers one of the best analyses I have seen of the California election. One of his readers opined:
Part of the blame for the California mess must be assigned to the state's Republicans for their sheer political ineptness in recent years. The system doesn't work when there is no credible opposition party.Very astute. The only thing I would add is that not only is there is no credible opposition party, but there is no credible party at all.
Sooner or later, the two major parties will wake up to the fact that Americans are sick to death of the dreadful primary system which dictates the dominance of shrill minorities out of touch with the majority of Americans. Americans do not want to choose between Marxism and Fundamentalism. Yet, as ordinary Americans move away (RUN away) from these two extremes, the two extremes become more and more extreme, more and more committed to grabbing the reins of power in each party, and more and more duty-bound to perpetuate the system which keeps them in power.
Arnold Schwarzenegger was a fluke -- for the simple reason that he was able to successfully bypass the tyrannical, yes evil, primary system. He could never have survived the primaries to become the Republican candidate -- precisely because he is in touch with reality, and in touch with the thinking of the majority of Californians.
Ironically, nothing in the Constitution dictates that the primary system should have such a stranglehold on reality -- to say nothing of American democracy itself. It just happened.
Because shit always does.
Leave it to crazy California to have a loophole which allowed democracy to sneak through.
Traditional ways of getting ahead
What do you do if you are surrounded on all sides by people who want to civilize you, and convert you and your people to their way of life?
Head for the hills?
Long, long ago, a tribe of people (generally considered to be of Mongolian stock) did just that, settling in the remote Naga Hills area bounded by India, Burma, Assam, Tibet, and China. This means, of course, that they were surrounded by Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Confucians, and, of course assorted wannabe Imperialist rulers -- all hell-bent on winning them over to their various ways.
How do you make people leave you alone?
It is often said that the best defense is a good offense. How do you offer a good offense when your would-be conquerors far outnumber you, are much better armed, possessed of religious fanaticism promising instant heaven to those who die in battle, and more, well, "civilized?"
Only one way: you scare the holy crap out of them.
I don't mean to particularly offend anyone, but I think this gruesome photograph will demonstrate how it was that the Naga headhunters managed to remain unconquered for so long.
Yeah, I know that displaying a photograph of severed children's heads is in questionable taste -- and I hope it doesn't offend any of my readers, who I like to think are mostly jaded enough not to lose their breakfast over it. (In my defense I should point out that I have been looking at it since I was a small boy, so it factors into my child development.)
Here it is:
The above is a scan of an actual photograph taken by my father during World War II. The Naga headhunters lived in the rugged terrain in the area of the China-Burma-India (CBI) campaign, where allied soldiers (American, British, Chinese) were fighting the Japanese. My father served as a medical corps officer, and had the distinction of actually operating on a blind Naga chieftain named Rang Lang. When Rang Lang (described by my dad as "a real primitive who had never seen civilization") woke up and saw for the first time in decades, he viewed Army trucks -- a totally new thing. He jumped up and down and squealed and hooted with delight, and presented my father with one hundred chickens and two Naga wives. (No, I am not half Naga....) Rang Lang was delighted with the diaper pins my father had placed in the gigantic, stretched perforations in his ear lobes (the bamboo plugs had to be removed to avoid infection, and my father was trying to be, er, diplomatic...) The grateful chief ordered his men to henceforth inform on the Japanese activities; this was also supplemented by an occasional toss to the Americans of a severed Japanese head.
Here's a World War II veteran who confirms this (officially denied) "alliance":
I was a combatant in WWII, not a civilian. I served in the CBI with many of your brave Brit soldiers, along with Indian and Chinese troops, and even Naga headhunters from Burma, who were wonderful allies, and tremendously feared by the Japanese.
Readers might ask, "But why children? What had they done wrong?" The purpose of lopping the heads off little children was that they were protected by their parents, and thus harder to take as trophies. One baby head equaled several adult heads, leading to more rapid promotion in the tribal hierarchy.
Isn't that roughly analogous to the way corporate headhunters operate today?
The Naga warriors demanded payment from the American GIs for allowing photographs, and I saw one series of snapshots where a tribesman, angered over not being paid enough, started snatching the heads off the ground and stuffing them into his sack.
While I am no expert on the Nagas, I have a warm sentimental spot for them in my heart, and I want to share with my readers what little I could find on the Internet. (Hopefully, without multiculturalist-style sentimentality about noble savages, or moralistic hand-wringing about their direct approach to getting ahead in life.)
The extent to which these people have ever been "civilized" is open to question, even today:
Whilst some of the more accessible regions came under British Administration under the Raj, much of the region, being covered in mountains and jungles and home to warring tribal groups such as the notorious 'Naked Naga' headhunters remained off-limits. Although some tribal people fought with the British and Indian forces in the decisive battles in Nagaland that turned back the Japanese in WWII, political unrest continued after Indian Independence, with head hunting raids persisting in remote areas into the 1960s. The situation was further exacerbated by the Chinese incursion into Arunachal Pradesh in1962 when they reached as far as Assam, their gateway to India, before running out of supplies and being pushed back to Chinese Occupied Tibet.
Considering the country's national pride (to say nothing of effects on tourism), I don't think the Indian government would admit the existence of headhunting. Instead, they seem to have sealed the area off, and are accused of practicing cultural annihilation, if not genocide. Here is a Christian missionary's account:
For 50 years the Naga people have struggled for Independence from India. Nagaland is made up of numerous Naga tribes, all of which, because of their Mogolian descent, have more in common with Burmese tribes, their neighbors to the east, than they do with India. Like many indigenous groups in the area, the Nagas' land was arbitrarily split by colonial powers into what they consider false regions, separating them from other Naga groups in other countries.
And here is another missionary, who persuaded some of the Naga "old guard" to stage a headhunter dance at a Christian revival meeting:
As I got up to preach, I invited two of these old boys, in full regalia, to join me on the platform where I queried them about their past headhunting days. It was quite a site as I got them explain and then demonstrate (not literally) to the crowd how they would have killed an opponent, cut off his head and then stuck it on the end of the spear. I even joined in with them as they chanted their victory chant and danced their victory dance. Now that I had my ‘official’ headhunter necklace, I felt honored to be able to join in with them. But all fun aside, it must have been pretty frightening to run into a bunch of these boys out in the jungle with machetes in one hand and a spears with their former enemy’s heads on them in the other! The crowd roared and laughed as we talked, chanted and danced and as I explained to them that I too was a headhunter and had traveled the world hunting the devil’s head. But more importantly I had come to hunt their souls for Jesus!
Anyway, the practice of headhunting is believed to have died out (although only recently):
Traditionally fierce warriors and until recently headhunters. The Nagas have defended their land against incursions by invaders. Unlike the Was, who took human skulls to safeguard their society and crops. The Nagas killed for personal glory and for the glory of their villages. The practice of head hunting is believed to have died out in the past twenty years. Although Nagas would not buy skulls like the was sometime did, slaves were bought to be decapitated for their skulls and their heads were hung in baskets high in bamboo groves with arrow driven through the eye sockets to ensure that the ghost would protect the village.For an interesting look at Naga politics today, the Nagas have their own web site. Now, that's progress.
What's next, a Naga blogger?
For lovers of traditional Naga values who find all this progress unduly threatening, it should be pointed out that you can still buy a traditional headhunting sword, called the "Dao."
Respect the past -- but not too literally. (You might lose your head.)
Tuesday, October 7, 2003
Following the dream....
UPDATE: This post can also be read at Blogcritics.org. (A great site, by the way!)
Is Stephen W. Stanton a prophet? My clairvoyant skills are not what they should be, so I cannot predict today's California election results.
But I am pretty good at predicting retrospectively, and I think I can fairly state that if Schwarzenegger wins, his victory will be in no small measure a result of the influx of "South Park Republicans" into the electorate.
When he used the term -- exactly one year ago today -- Stephen W. Stanton offered this uncannily prescient definition:
South Park Republicans are true Republicans, though they do not look or act like Pat Robertson. They believe in liberty, not conformity. They can enjoy watching The Sopranos even if they are New Jersey Italians. They can appreciate the tight abs of Britney Spears or Brad Pitt without worrying about the nation's decaying moral fiber. They strongly believe in liberty, personal responsibility, limited government, and free markets. However, they do not live by the edicts of political correctness.(And here's a more recent look at the phenomenon, also at Tech Central Station. Link thanks to Instapundit.)
Might the California election spell an emergence of a new generation gap? Back in the 1960s, when the term was coined, it referred to the "60s generation" and their slogan "Never trust anyone over 30!"
Well, now that 60s generation has hit their 60s, is there a new generation gap?
Never trust anyone under 30?
Looking for clues in today's San Francisco Chronicle, I found two articles.
Here's the 60s perspective:
John Hanley, head of the San Francisco Local 798 firefighters union, drew cheers as he shouted: "So help me, you touch my daughter, and you are in deep trouble, young man."Hey, what would Cartman say?
"The fireman is very magical. Rub his helmut and he spits in your eye."And here's the Chronicle again, with a fretful appraisal of the growing "South Park" threat:
The estimated turnout -- including 2.1 million absentee voters who already have cast their ballots -- would be 30 percent higher than the 7.7 million who voted 11 months ago in the 2002 election, when Davis was re-elected, said Mark DiCamillo, director of the Field Poll. Field issued the projection Monday.
So, what will happen?
Let me return once again to the prediction of the prophet, one year ago today:
Hopefully, the South Park Republicans will shatter the unfair stereotype and set the record straight. As Cartman would say, "That would be pretty sweet."
Yeah, it would. Or, to quote Cartman directly,
"Follow your dreams. You can meet your goals. I am living proof. Beefcake! BEEFCAKE!!!"
Hey, this South Park stuff is almost Jeffersonian!
Monday, October 6, 2003
Why would anyone buy this ridiculous item?
Give me a break!
UPDATE IN THE INTEREST OF FULL DISCLOSURE: Like Don Watkins, I am a major fan of both Howard Stern and Frank J. This places me in a clear conflict of interest with regard to monkey references -- because for many years I thought that there was only one monkey boy. Then, of course, there are the classical monkey gods.
All monkey references at this blog should therefore be viewed with the utmost skepticism and confusion.
posted by Eric at 09:00 PM
Sunday, October 5, 2003
Starvation cures gluttony!
Certainly adults have the right to pursue any kind of therapy they wish, to whatever end. I don't think anybody ever seriously said otherwise.Words of wisdom, Arthur.
I have a serious problem with looking for any single cause for something as complicated as sexual desire. Each person is turned on by different types of stimuli, and in order to ascertain why such anyone might find something or some type of person attractive, you'd really have to conduct a detailed medical, psychological, maybe prenatal, and genetic study of that individual.
Why would anyone want to do that? It defies logic to assert that there is any single "cause" of something as varied as the number of people who might share it. While there may be genetic or prenatal factors which could make someone attracted to members of his own sex, there might also be strong psychological factors. Then again there might be freely chosen sexual conduct, in order to make money, advance a career, avoid being killed in prison, or simply casual kicks (for the hell of it). How causation can be ascribed to any of this escapes me. And of course Arthur is correct that adults have the right to pursue any kind of therapy they wish. A right to do something, if it means anything at all, means the right not to do it, or to stop doing it. What I dislike about some of these "conversion" movements is that they are often little more than attempts at inducing shame, and the "cures" they offer are based on religion. Still, any individual should have the right to shame himself, through religion, without government interference. I might not understand why anyone would do that, but it is none of my business.
Reading the article, I am even more baffled by this particular study, and not merely because it is based on results from religious "cures." It seems that some of the "cured" people have not become heterosexual at all!
"It also depends on what is meant by change. Some may not be able to go as far as experiencing heterosexual arousal"What the hell does that mean? If they are not experiencing heterosexual arousal, then they are not changed. These people have not gone from homosexual to heterosexual. Indeed, they are not even bisexual. Have they, possibly, achieved a state of zero sexual desire? And that is reported as a cure? I take serious issue with that, because it sounds merely like religious based abstinence (aka religious celibacy) rather than a cure. While I know religious celibacy is possible, my cynical and practical side causes me to doubt its long term effectiveness in most people.
Above all, I have a serious problem with the labeling and grouping of people based on the content of their orgasms, -- something I have complained about many times in this blog. But, assuming that someone is unhappy because of an inability to engage in heterosexual sexual relations, it would seem to me that the "treatment" ought to consist of teaching him or her how to have sex with a member of the opposite sex, as well as overcoming barriers or mental blockage preventing that. This would require the services of a trained professional, who would utilize a sexual surrogate the way they do in cases of impotence or sexual dysfunction.
If it worked, the patient could then function heterosexually, or bisexually, and could then be said to have "changed."
I just don't think the religious cure advocates are all that interested in teaching the finer arts of penile-vaginal intercourse.
Or hiring sexual surrogates.
Let us analogize to the "sin" of gluttony. Convincing an overweight patient that he is evil for stuffing his face might be easier for those of a religious bent, but this is not likely to create lifelong dietary changes.
"Put a knife to your throat if you are given to gluttony. " - Proverbs 23:2
Hey, I just found out that I am a glutton! Apparently it is not about being overweight but it involves preferences:
If your toast must be a specific shade of brown and buttered just so, you're a glutton: you devote too much mental energy to your food rather than to matters of the spirit.I am very picky about my toast. (Whether therapy can help I am not sure....)
In other gluttony news, a group of French chefs is trying to remove gluttony from the sin list.
Damn these liberal activists! May they end up in the Glutton's Hell where they belong!
Can religious-based anorexia defeat the dark forces of gluttony?
De gustibus non est disputandum.
There's a lot of fuss right now about Fox News, and "misperceptions." This study cites (gulp!) statistics which purport to demonstrate that Americans who get their news from Fox suffer from a higher number of "misperceptions" about the war in Iraq than those who get their news from other networks. NPR's fans (according to the study) have the fewest misperceptions.
What is a misperception?
Isn't that term really a judgment on the quality of an opinion? I have a lot of atheist friends who, if they said belief in God was a misperception, well, they'd be being kind. "Delusion" is more likely the word they'd use.
A lot of moral conservatives think that homosexuals suffer from a misperception of nature.
Who gets to decide what is a misperception and what caused it?
Whether people are misperceiving things depends, of course, on a detailed analysis of what is true.
Facts are rarely agreed upon, and often hotly disputed. While it is true that many people believe things which are questionable, and which often turn out to be untrue, there is something I don't like about not giving people fair credit for thinking the thoughts they think -- rightly or wrongly. Thus, I refuse to blame Fox News for people's opinions, any more than I would blame Instapundit, Eschaton, or Rush Limbaugh for the views of people who read or listen to them. Might as well blame churches for the fact that many of their parishioners believe in God. Or science fiction writers for the fact that many of their readers believe in space travel.
Just as they like some people more than others (and call them friends), people enjoy favorite sources for news and commentary. No one is selecting their friends for them -- or making them listen to or read anything.
Blaming (or, in the case of NPR, crediting) a source for the beliefs of its audience presupposes that the audience is largely devoid of originality, and waiting to be, literally, "programmed."
But even if we allow for the possibility that this is true, where does it lead? To further control? Counter control? Who gets to decide? Once you reduce people to the status of mindless sheep being led, it begs the question of whether this should be "allowed." There are only two ways to prevent people from being led: persuasion or force. One approach is to offer them new "leaders." But this applies only to government, not media, because media choices can be freely selected by flipping the dial (or entering a different URL). The only way to stop people from selecting "misleading" media (in the case of Fox News, many millions of people) is to offer an alternative in the hope that they will switch to it. NPR is already an alternative for millions of people, but there are millions who will never choose it.
Are the statistics attacking the "misperceptions" of Fox listeners being offered in the hope of persuading them to switch to NPR? This study strikes me as a rather odd way of persuading people of anything.
And, if the purpose of the study is not persuasion, then what is the purpose? Just to "scientifically" inform the world that Fox listeners are misperceiving things and end it there? Or are there other purposes?
Isn't there an implied argument that Fox viewers are not so much misperceiving as they are deliberately misinformed? If so, where is the proof of that? Statistical correlations showing that particular beliefs are shared by similarly situated groups do not show causation. Without getting into whether God exists, if more Fox listeners than NPR listeners believe in God, that does not show that Fox is responsible. Suppose a study were done of viewers who watch religious programs. Doubtless, a very high percentage of them believe in God. Does that mean the programming is responsible? Or does it mean that people like to hear what they already believe?
Where is this intended to lead?
Do I have a right to my misperceptions? I think I do, and I also have a right to disagree with the view of them as misperceptions.
I think there is an absolute right to believe in anything, and as I said before, an absolute right to be wrong. No matter how benevolent the intentions of the regulators, regulation of media content is inherently censorship. If they can muzzle Fox, they can muzzle Rush Limbaugh, or the blogosphere (where everyone is a journalist) -- or anyone else.
In fact, I'm sort of amazed at what was powerful information about both their intent and their actual activities that were not known and were hidden from U.N. inspectors seems not to have made it to the press. This is information that, had it been available last year, would have been headline news.Who is misperceiving what here?
Clearly, there are two sides to this argument -- and the word "misperception" is being used to characterize one side of it. Such arrogance is one thing, but any attempt to regulate media content to stop differing views must be seen as what it is.
Saturday, October 4, 2003
No more traditional links?
Mike Silverman reports that as of now, the Traditional Values Coalition:
has their entire web site hidden behind a password/registration system. Not just their "private" membership alerts and such, but even their press releases require you to go through a complex registration process which includes a random number generator! I've never heard of any kind of political group which makes it so hard for a citizen to find out what they are actually saying.This is news to me, and I am quite hurt by it, because I recently linked to them, and now my readers will not be able to read the quotes in full. (Unless, of course, I join and fork over some cookies so that I can find the new links and then force you to join to read them....)
At least they are not being hypocritical. Those who would shut others up must first shut themselves up.
Anyway, I just checked for myself by clicking on the links in my previous post (which worked fine when I posted them). They no longer work! All refer back to a page which requires becoming a member and logging in.
This isn't the first time I have seen the phenomenon of "now you see it, now you don't" web pages and entries.
What a fascinating world it is when people do not want the public to be able to read their own words at their own website! Maybe I should censor this blog, and not allow any of you to see it unless you first log in with cookies and join the Classical Values Coalition! That would show that I mean business, wouldn't it?
Plus, I'm afraid they might not like this blog site.
Just a few "erroneously" dropped words
Not that anyone cares about facts, but I love the way they become such a joke -- especially during a last minute, campaign smear feeding frenzy.
It seems that "a few words" disappeared from Schwarzenegger's reported comments from 30 years ago -- but now they have been "found." The source claims he is "amazed" -- and can't understand how it happened:
Mr. Butler said the book proposal had erroneously dropped a few words from a quotation attributed to Mr. Schwarzenegger. According to Mr. Butler's reading of the transcript, Mr. Schwarzenegger followed his comments about Hitler's public speaking by adding, "But I didn't admire him for what he did with it." He did not say, "I admire him for being such a good public speaker and for what he did with it," as he was quoted in the book proposal and in early editions of The Times.Aren't you amazed too?
In the process, "didn't admire" became "admire." Never mind such things as the the details of what Arnold actually said. Moralistic outrage is more important.
We know Arnold is bad!
So typical of these mean-spirited conservatives to quibble over grammatical trifles (such as whether their candidate said the opposite of what was reported as fact) at a time like this!
In a few days, the details will be forgotten. All that will remain is the myth that people want to remember.
I should be too cynical to care. I can't believe I'm still getting annoyed by yet another round of fervent moral lectures based on "facts" which turn out to be "erroneous."
(Possibly this reactivates old childhood trauma: I never got over having been subjected to moral lectures about lying, involving an "erroneous" story about a cherry tree....)
Friday, October 3, 2003
Now THIS is embarrassing...
It's still (barely) Friday, which means that I had to find an online test. ANY online test. Friday online tests are a Classical Values tradition (even if they're as kooky as this one).
Anyway, I don't know much about Princess Bride characters, because I haven't read the book OR seen the movie. But I took the "Which Princess Bride Character are You?" test anyway, and now I find that I have morphed into an elderly man named "Miracle Max!" I should read up on this guy, because I could always use a miracle or three.
Which Princess Bride Character are You?
this quiz was made by mysti
Well I never!
Thank you so much for bringing up such a painful subject. While you're at it, why don't you give me a nice papercut and pour lemon juice on it?I am sure you all needed that as much as I did.
posted by Eric at 08:45 PM
Grab your guns! The piss cops are coming!
This is going to be a tough post, but I see some major new anti-drug tyranny ahead, and, while I know I can do little to stop it, I couldn't live with myself if I remained silent and watched while another of the few remaining shreds of freedom is lost forever.
I sincerely, truly hope that the drug allegations against Rush Limbaugh turn out to be false. Because if there is anything to them, this country may be in for one of the most sickening displays of moral hypocrisy in our history. Bad as that will be, I fear that it will be followed by yet another phase in the foul, treacherous, anti-American "War on Drugs." Because if the allegations are well-founded, the anti-drug forces hold in their hand (and by the balls) a leading spokesman who could be counted on to do or say anything, no matter how dishonest or perfidious.
The threat to freedom, in my view, dwarfs the obviously political timing of the Limbaugh attack. (They held back for two years, in my view to assist the Democrats' election strategy, and to coincide with the unveiling of a major liberal talk radio venture. But this post is not about the political timing.)
If anything, the political timing of this affair puts even more pressure on the Republicans to put the strongest possible anti-drug spin on this, and ASAP. In their shortsighted view, the best way to do that is to force Rush to become a rat and a victim, and then (after allowing him a comfortable pause for "detoxification"), have him emerge as a major anti-drug crusader....
I want to emphasize once again that I hope and pray that I am mistaken, and that this horrible vision never comes to pass. But I worry, because if the allegations are true, I see it as boiling down to simple political math. (I mean, what's the other alternative? For a leading Drug War advocate to suddenly announce he is a victim of drug laws? That would be suicidal to his career -- and guarantee him a stretch in the slammer. If, through some miracle, he showed such courage, I would do literally anything I could to help him.)
OK, now suppose (for the sake of argument) there are some readers to this blog who favor the "Drug War," and who think that having Rush emerge as a leading anti-drug spokesman is the best possible outcome if the allegations are true. I would urge you to consider the following:
And now, for an entirely new wrinkle:
The latter will most likely emerge subtly, as if by accident, when one fine morning, the gun grabbers wake up to reread the existing gun laws, and "discover" that addiction to drugs is a prohibited category. Much the same way they demanded that Charlton Heston surrender his firearms, there will be a hue and cry that Rush Limbaugh -- the "drug addict" -- must be disarmed in the interests of public safety!
Normal American middle-class taxpayers have become quite accustomed to routine drug tests -- both for themselves and their schoolchildren. Once the idea "strikes them" they'll demand to know why the right wing yahoos who want to buy guns shouldn't have to pass the same piss test their little Johnny has to take to play on the soccer team.
Soccer moms for gun drug testing! It's only fair!
Of course, I vehemently oppose drug testing as insidious Orwellianism, and I sympathize with this guy. (And I am still sorry for the misunderstanding the other day. If only there were some way to drag the the "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" cast to the local shooting range!)
Myths are remembered; facts are boring
Americans are known to have a short political memory. The election is a year away. Therefore, things are being done right now which are intended to resonate with voters in one year.
Next November, middle class voters, it is hoped, will think of one word when they think of Republicans:
That was what the core message of the "vast right wing conspiracy." And now, the payback torpedoes are being launched. Some of them have struck. Timing is far more important than truth. (Truth is for wimps anyway.)
Schwarzenegger: Nazi-loving, chauvinist groper.
Limbaugh: racist drug addict.
The Bush Administration: mean religious bigots who wreck lives of heroic whistle blowers by deliberately exposing their beautiful and courageous wives to harm. (The cool thing about that is that they get to trot out yesterday's heroes of mythological yore....) Those who see through the stories often go unappreciated.
Hey, I don't write these stories, but somebody does. They all make for titillating reading somewhere. Whether you call it spin or national mythology, these are ordinary Americans' bedtime stories now -- and they are intended to remember them next year.
Come on! That's not the point, and it's never been the point. The collective national unconscious is being manipulated. The Democratic activists (frankly, I think the Clintons are still the high priests of the national mythology machine) are calling the shots, they've fired the torpedoes, and the Republicans are now in react mode.
Whether they stay in react mode remains to be seen.
posted by Eric at 04:40 AM
Thursday, October 2, 2003
Shut up and die!
This woman would be safer (and better off) as an atheist. Instead, she has taken the time to read the Koran and study the hadiths, and make an impassioned plea for Muslim tolerance. For this (and for her self-described lesbianism) she has received death threats.
Is freedom of speech incompatible with Islamic fundamentalism? (A lot of links follow, but they're all worth reading.)
How about critical thinking? Here's Irshad Manji again, interviewed by MacLeans, on Israel:
Q. In your book, you depict Israel as an example of what a modern Islamic state could look like. For a Muslim, that's pretty courageous.That kind of talk is heroism, by any standard.
What I would like to know is why did I have to hear about this lesbian activist (described as host and producer of "Queer Television" -- "the world's first show on commercial television for gays") from an online conservative publication?
Where are the major news media on this? Are they afraid of "Muslim sensibilities?"
Only after I was clued in was I able to find such gems as this:
Stuff like that, and this, or this, renew my faith. (The more mainstream blogosphere is starting to notice her too!)
On the lighter side, maybe she can help this poor man. (I hope you can all manage to stream it, because it will make your day....)
I may be wrong, but I don't think this courageous woman will get much support from either gay or Christian fundamentalist groups. The former are described as "conspicuously and hypocritically silent" and as to the latter, I could find nothing, so I think they are silent. (Whether such silence is hypocritical is another matter.)
Wednesday, October 1, 2003
I need to apologize.
Because I take pride in avoiding the ad hominem approach to arguing, and try to stick to logic as much as I can, I am not proud of something I said the other night when I retaliated in kind to what I saw as a rude comment. The commenter (that's this guy) told me to "Fuck off and die, asshole." My response was to suggest that he gently go and blow it out his ass. I thought that in addition to being fair retaliation, that this was funny (because rightly or wrongly, I saw the man as a "blow-hard").
It really isn't all that funny two days later, and I don't think my comment persuaded anyone of anything. I'll leave it there in the comment section, because I have this weird thing (maybe it's my idea of "principle") about not wanting to "un-write" things I have written. I'll just let it sit there as a reminder that I too can be "over the top." But I am sorry. (Those who feel they need more background, please read my blogfather's remarks.)
And I am sorry at least as much to myself as I am to the commenter, because one of my biggest gripes about politics in general is the constant stream of ad hominem insults and attacks. Not only do they fail to persuade the opposition of anything, but worse yet, they tend to turn off potential allies, who quite justifiably don't want to join those who engage in childish name calling to get their way. I don't blame them, because people who hurl insults at each other to win debates can only be expected to continue to do the same thing to anyone unfortunate enough to join their cause.
Second Amendment advocacy is an especially sensitive area in this regard. Ferocious Culture War types populate each side -- the Culture War being heavily weighed down by ad hominem attacks, personal insults, and attacks on individual lifestyles. Whether someone owns a gun is as much a personal act as a political act these days anyway, and sometimes I think people get involved in gun politics as a way of vindicating themselves and their lifestyles.
I hasten to add that I do not refer only to the pro-gun people. The anti-gun people also see their lives as examples to be vindicated and for others to emulate. Not having a gun in the house, then, becomes as much a personal and political act as does having one. This is very inflammatory, and automatically makes the gun issue one of the most "hot-button" issues in the country. Add to this the dynamic of "saving lives." Pro-gun people think their guns save lives, while anti-gun people think precisely the opposite. In short, the gun issue is a seething cauldron of ad hominem attacks just waiting to happen.
NOTE: Being pro-Second Amendment and a gun owner for most of my life, I am of course on my side of the gun issue. (This I point out to avoid confusing any new readers.)
Richard Poe, a staunch Second Amendment activist, has stated that the primary purpose of gun control is to "disarm the middle class." While I do not agree with everything Mr. Poe says about the left, I think he's right about the major goal of disarming the middle class. Unfortunately, the left-wing gun control advocates and Marxists he decries are sometimes assisted by some of the staunchly pro-Second Amendment activists.
This will take some explaining, and I hope that if you are (like me) in the "staunchly pro-Second Amendment advocates" category you will hear me out. I have long believed in the philosophy that you catch more flies with honey. Three masters of this style of argument are Benjamin Franklin, Ronald Reagan, and Bill Clinton. In analyzing this, it must be remembered that their style of argument had at least as much to do with their success as the persuasiveness of the argument.
Style can be persuasiveness personified. It drove the left crazy that Ronald Reagan was able to (in their minds) make rabidly right-wing positions sound downright plausible, just as it drove the right crazy that Bill Clinton was able to package his agenda as "moderate" and make the middle class like him. As to Franklin, the man did not even believe in disagreeing; he thought the best approach was a gentle sort of questioning, coupled with humor and satire. Franklin learned this lesson early in life; his writing had attracted the ire of none other than Cotton Mather (of Salem witch fame) when Franklin was just sixteen years old.
One of the reasons I am so proud to have Jeff as my blogfather is that he is one of those intelligent, thoughtful gun owners which we direly, direly need. If the goal is to disarm the middle class, we should start by asking: just what is the middle class these days? My theory is that it consists of all those forgotten people out there who are:
They can and should be armed, but they have been made to fear the gun issue. How has this happened? Not only have complicated gun laws proliferated which make clear that the government will know it if you get a gun, but nowadays your child's pediatrician will ask you whether you have a gun in the house, your school will indoctrinate your child that guns are evil (and possessed of some magical animus which makes them walk around and cause "gun deaths"), you will be snubbed socially and made to feel like some kind of un-cool fanatic or paranoid nut, your landlord or insurance company may ask questions, and in general, it will be made clear that if you have a gun, you are at least reckless, at worst a danger to the community and a downright bad parent who should be afraid to appear in public.
The key is fear. Needless to say, the middle class (which only wants to be left alone to pursue their lives, liberty and happiness) fears any and all of the above.
Is it possible that these justifiably fearful citizens (who might despite all odds actually entertain thoughts of owning a gun) will likewise be frightened by the carefully crafted stereotypes of crazed, militant, gun-waving, Bible thumping bigots? Regardless of the truth of that stereotype, it is undeniably there. And I have to say that I have seen (and felt) palpable hostility by smug, self-congratulating gun nuts who think that they are clearly better (and often more "godly") than the unarmed, disarmed, constitutionally-disenfranchised, largely silent, sometimes agnostic, often timid, middle class.
I don't mean to point fingers at anyone, but the disarming of the middle class proceeds at an alarming rate, while the already armed too often feel righteously superior to those they might condescendingly call "sheeple."
Who might these "sheeple" be?
People who are trying to fit in so they get and keep their jobs, their kids, their debt-ridden property, and their hard-earned social standing?
People who don't even know about Second Amendment bloggers, much less study the divisions between them of which I complain?
I have to explain something which is quite complicated, and rather than bore you all again with another citation of my Gay Guns San Francisco experience , let me shift gears and talk about dogs.
Yes dogs. Less inflammatory than guns and homos.
Not just any dogs, though. I want to talk about pit bulls, because they are another hot-button issue with which I am intimately familiar. Twenty or so years ago, the Berkeley City Council considered one of those onerous breed-specific bans which would have outlawed pit bulls. I had been breeding and selling puppies and I knew enough local owners of a more or less theatrical bent that I was able to throw together a small (mostly gay) group to demonstrate with cute pit bulls and cutesy signs saying things like "DON'T KILL MY PUPPY!" and "I ('heart') MY PIT BULL!"
A couple of councilmembers I knew saw this on their way in and sheepishly came over. They said we needn't have gone to all the trouble, that they would never enact the ban. That they just didn't know that "we" cared so much. That all we needed to do was call. Over the years, I have seen the pit bull metamorphose from the poor Southern "white-trash" dog-fighting stereotype, to the urban ghetto crack dealer dog-fighting, child-killing stereotype, and now, to my amazement, to a celebrity hipster, trendy loveable dog stereotype. The other pit bull stereotypes, of course, are still to be found. But my point is, now you have Los Angeles actresses, San Francisco pierced kids, lesbian skateboarders, and hipsters of all varieties walking these adorable dogs around. In places where this has happened, they cannot, and will not, be banned. Moreover, once you involve hip celebrities, you make it tougher and tougher for any large city to enact anti-pit bull legislation. Indeed, having, say, Rosie Perez walk into a City Council hearing with her pit bull to the flashes of the photographers makes such legislation all but impossible. In contrast to the old days, there are now hip, dedicated, political organizations like this one.
At this rate, the lowly pit bull might once again become a breed loved by the middle class.
Get to know one of these dogs. You might find yourself charmed. Even, disarmed!
"Disarming" works both ways.
Just as pit bull owners were once invariably shown as antisocial if not psychotic misfits, gun owners are painted as anything but hip. In some ways, this unfair stereotyping is made easier by the fact that owning a gun is now considered a right wing act. Never mind the fact that Rosie O'Donnell, Dianne Feinstein, Sean Penn and other big liberals carry guns; they don't admit it publicly. Instead, they think they are in a different league from everyone else and that their gun ownership is not real gun ownership. (This reminds me of religious mullahs who feel justified in executing homosexuals for admitting to something which they deny doing even as they do it.)
Gun ownership needs to be made at least as cool as owning a pit bull. There are many bloggers who do a great job of doing this in their own way -- Glenn Reynolds, Rachel Lucas, Jeff Soyer, Eugene Volokh, and Kim du Toit (even if he wants me to fuck off and die) are all outstanding examples. (What I would like to know, is how does one get Reynolds, Lucas, and actor James Woods on the board of the NRA? Believe me, I am deadly serious.)
Everyone has a different style though. This being a media war and a propaganda war, intelligence and style are everything.
Homosexuals, whether you like them or not, are hopelessly wedded to the middle class. Through a poorly understood, tough-to-explain form of symbiotic shamanism, they are both followers and leaders of the middle class. They decorate the houses, wait the tables in expensive restaurants, teach the kids, sell the makeup and perfume at Macys, style the hair, write the scripts for the shows on TV, tell people what to wear, help women lose weight, and assist generally with countless other middle-class-bolstering pastimes. I really don't like the stereotype because I don't fit it, but it really doesn't matter whether I or anyone likes it, because the close connection between homosexuals and middle class America is there, and ineradicable.
What is not ineradicable is the illogical tendency of homosexuals (and many other trendy types) to dislike guns, and consider them un-cool, un-hip, un-stylish. Every homosexual like Jeff Soyer is a dagger in the heart of the plan to disarm middle America. Because of this, those who want to arm middle America would do well to remember that the Second Amendment is no one's exclusive turf, nor should it be a battleground for culture wars which, if they must be fought at all, are best fought in some other arena.
One last observation: I am in no way suggesting that homosexuals are better qualified or more capable of leading the opposition to gun control. Such a thing would be as absurd as suggesting that they lead the country away from draconian anti-pit bull legislation. I am saying that they are a useful, very disarming weapon to confuse, frustrate (and, well, even emasculate) the politically correct -- and they counter a ridiculous, deliberately misleading stereotype which has not been countered, and which often turns off the middle class.
Isn't the Second Amendment more important than the preservation of a stereotype?
Vote against anti-Semitic theocracy!
What we have is a wildcard election with a wildcard entrant (Arnold Schwartzenneger) threatening the Christian Conservative stranglehold on the California Republican party. The Republican Party here (which produced mildly notable politicians like Ronald Regan prior to the christian takeover) no longer holds a single statewide office. They point to the fact that McClintock's run for controller was the best showing statewide in the last election as some sort of endorsement for their agenda. Arnold must be opposed simply because he will destroy their control of the party here.
And here's the so-called "Christian Reconstructionist" who runs McClintock's campaign:
Stoos, in an article for the Chalcedon Report, a journal of the radical Christian Reconstructionist movement, goes so far as to call Christian politicians God's "vice-regents...those who believe in the Lordship of Christ and the dominion mandate."
Chalcedon, the fanatical organization started by the notorious R.J. Rushdoony, believes in the death penalty for homosexuals, drunkards, astrologers, disobedient children, and probably Arnold Schwarzenegger. These people aren't merely the "religious right"; they are absolute, near-Nazi kooks, and I am genuinely appalled that one of their supporters (a guy who writes for their vile magazine, no less) would be running the campaign of a man so dangerously close to being governor of the country's largest state.
Lest you think I am kidding, read this. McClintock's campaign manager is so dementedly anti-Semitic that it apparently cost him his former job heading the 55,000-member California Gun Owners Lobby. He admits that in the world he wants to create, Jews:
"would not have total acceptance. You would feel more at home in Israel."Wow. This from the campaign manager of a future California governor?
As Don Watkins (check out his new digs!) likes to say, "No, seriously!"
A classical arch in New York?
Dull and uninspired. That's the assessment of more than one blogger about the designs proposed so far as replacements for the World Trade Center. Here's Megan McArdle, writing at Tech Central Station (and here's her blog link):
The answers that have been so far offered by the LMDC have been thoroughly unsatisfactory. None of the proposed designs for the site got a reaction warmer than "tepid" from the public; the most you could say for the winning design by Daniel Libeskind was that it might just be the best of a bad lot. The others were high-concept office parks, or disjointed hodge-podges of ideas that nowhere married form and function: the bits that were interesting weren't practical, and the bits that were practical could have been built just as well in Skokie, Illinois.I agree, and a couple of months ago, I offered some suggestions about what to do with the gaping hole where the World Trade Center used to be.
Now I discover that sure enough, New York actually had one -- the Dewey Arch -- built to celebrate the Spanish American War victory.
Here's a fanciful version of what it might have looked like, had they thrown a real Roman style victory parade:
Of course, this is all fantasy.
Boredom, bureaucracy, and insipid, institutionalized designs will be what we'll get.
I know that classical designs were popular in Victorian times, and I guess the argument can be made that classical designs provoked a "modernist" reaction. But is anything modern now?
Do the ancients still have to be considered boring?
posted by Eric at 01:15 AM
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