Moblog from the West Coast....

.....of New Jersey, of course!

Happy New Year!

I wish I could feed up a picture of the last sunset of 2003, off Cape May, New Jersey, but there's no way to do that with this Sidekick. (No camera attachment yet; patience please.)

Well, here it is! The last sunset of 2003, Cape May, New Jersey....


UPDATE: I am serious about the West Coast of New Jersey, and the sunset there. Read this previous entry to clear up any confusion.

posted by Eric at 07:15 PM | Comments (5)

Some minorities are more equal than others!

I wish the enforcers of political correctness would behave in a consistent manner!

For starters, there's this report (link) of a conservative student who was threatened with violence and told to stay away from school because of his views. Mark Alton, a biology teacher, excoriated him and others as "neoconservative wing-nuts who call themselves Americans" and accused him of (among other things) homophobia and a "negative tone":

Mr. Alton said he was also disturbed by Tim's article on illegal immigration, which says, "Liberals welcome every Muhammad, Jamul and Jose who wishes to leave his Third World state and come to America."

"No one at the high school opposes the formation of the Conservative Club," Mr. Alton said. "What bothers me is the extreme views that border on racism or homophobia, the negative tone, and the hot line that calls teachers 'traitors.' "

OK, I know that racism, anti-gay views and "negative tones" are not good things. I try to avoid them. Sometimes, I find a distinct negative tone creeping into this blog, and I try to write my way out of it -- sometimes successfully; sometimes not. But there's still free speech, isn't there?

Who is entitled to free speech, anyway?

Might the following qualify as an example of "extreme views", "homophobia, and "negative tone"?

Homosexuality is not O.K.

Warning Dear Parents Warning

They try to convince our children to accept the Idea of this Disease, they try to convince our children to feel comfortable with this "Abnormal Human Act".

They started to come out from the hide with a proud feeling that it is to honor to come out and say, "I am gay, or I am lesbian, and I am bi and others are not in fashion yet."

After they shield themselves with the Greatest Nation's constitution and after they feel that they are accepted by the "It is a free country," slogan, then the second stage they started to come back with a disease created by God, especially for them, asking the American public to accept them whether they like it or not. (Via Jihad Watch.)

If you ask me, the above (taken directly from AMANA -- a leading Muslim web site) is at least as strong as any the stuff which earned the conservative students threats of violence and bullying tactics by teachers.

The Director of AMANA is "a member in the Florida Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights." What gives him and his organization rights that a lowly public high school student does not appear to have?

Might it be that Muslims who claim a religious motivation are free to engage in disagreeable speech -- but Christians aren't? Is this fair?

Is it fair for the former to be seated on the Civil Rights Commission while sitting in judgment on the latter?

Isn't what's good for the goose still good for the gander?

posted by Eric at 11:19 PM | Comments (3)

Local politics?

Remember last month's large bombing in Saudi Arabia -- which everyone assumed to be an act of international terrorism sponsored by al Qaida? Saudi authorities claimed it was, and most Americans simply assumed this was the case. Why would anyone think otherwise?

Well, here's an intriguing report which claims otherwise:

The suicide bomb attack at the Muhaya residential compound in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh on November 9 in which at least 17 people were killed - most of them foreign Arabs - was neither an episode of global jihadi terrorism nor part of a conspiracy to destabilize the House of Saud.

A Pakistani undercover intelligence operator who recently returned from Riyadh told Asia Times Online that the attack was in fact the result of a deep divide within Saudi society between strict religious conservatives with little exposure to the outside world, and a more "liberal" element with the money and power to indulge in restricted activities.

The compound attacked on November 9 was inhabited mainly by Lebanese, Palestinians and Egyptians, and it had earned notoriety as a "pleasure ground" for Saudi "playboys" in a country in which prostitution is outlawed. Apparently, some of the female residents of the compound were well known for their "exotic erotica", for which they were showered with money and gifts.

The goings-on in the compound were seemingly known to the authorities, including agents of the Saudi religious police - the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice - but nothing had been done about it, much to the anger of conservatives who wanted to "eliminate the evil in their society" and what they called the "Arab brothel of Riyadh".

It was as a result of this anger that the conservatives decided to bomb the complex, according to the Pakistani intelligence agent. (Via Jihad Watch.)

If there is any truth to the report, I'd say those are some pretty determined (and very powerful) Saudi "conservatives."

Conflicting stories like these are tough to interpret.

First and foremost, note that the Asia Times report does not deny that this was the work of al Qaida. Note also that the attackers were apparently disguised as Saudi police:

"The attackers got into the compound by disguising themselves as Saudi security men. They wore security uniform and drove into the compound in a vehicle similar to that used by the police," one Saudi security source told Reuters. A Western diplomat confirmed the report.
How do we know that the attackers were not in fact Saudi police?

As the BBC reported the story, while the bombing was assumed to be the work of al Qaida, no one seemed to know why.

Is there anyone bloggers can ask? What am I supposed to do? Phone the Saudi consulate? Do you think they'd tell me the truth?

On top of the conflicting report in the Asia Times, then there's this Debkafiles report. Noting puzzlement (by both Saudis and others) over the attack, Debka claims that the bombing was the work of Lebanese Muslims who targeted Lebanese Christians living in the compound:

Al Qaeda’s targeting of Muhaya and its Arab population at first puzzled Saudi and foreign counter-terror authorities - until it was realized that many of the casualties were Lebanese Christians and the assailants Lebanese Muslims. The terrorist network had very pointedly opted to sow death inside a focus of Christian habitation in the Muslim kingdom on the Muslim feast of Ramadan.
A real puzzle.

Conflicting versions of the story, and most Americans will probably never know what happened. If anyone knows, "anyone" isn't talking!

Does it really matter whether this attack was in fact sponsored by Saudi conservatives as opposed to the international branch of al Qaida?

In a way yes, and in a way no. Let me amplify.

Saudi conservatives are known to be the longtime chief financiers of al Qaida, which has been from the start a primarily Saudi front organization. If this bombing was the product of an internal struggle within Saudi Arabia, then things may be more ominous than they appear.

Are the Saudis, by having us believe they are "victims" of al Qaida, hoping to hide the fact that al Qaida is inextricably intertwined with, and part and parcel of, internal Saudi politics? (And an inextricable part of the Saudi royal family, of course.)

If that's the case, I doubt very much you'll hear anything else about this story.

UPDATE: Just today, an allegation of a Saudi coverup of a plot to "fly two light aircraft into a packed British Airways (BA) jet" failed to surprise Glenn Reynolds, who sarcastically called the coverup allegation "a shocking claim."

(Might as well ask al Qaida to investigate al Qaida....)

posted by Eric at 08:54 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

From yesterday.... (Why I haven't posted anything today)

Moblogging while Puff and I sit waiting at Philadelphia International Airport. Isn't that a crime of some sort?

They no longer allow waiting at the terminal itself, so everybody pulls over and waits on the shoulder and I GOTTA RUN RIGHT NOW!

posted by Eric at 04:31 PM

EHRLICH'S DECLINE AND FALL (if only we'd obeyed him!)
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW is that in ten or fifteen years -- twenty or twenty-five at the most -- you will be living in a world extremely different from that of today -- one that, if you are unprepared for it, will prove extraordinarily unpleasant.

Paul Ehrlich, The End of Affluence Ballantine Paperback (First printing November 1974), page 34.

The above came from the highly observant Justin Case, who (like the commenter below and like Common Sense and Wonder), saw parallels between Dr. Rosalie Bertell (see yesterday's post) and Dr. Ehrlich.

There are more failed predictions, of course:

The vast diversity of businesses that manufacture and distribute the goods of our "cowboy" economy will have largely disappeared. Most of the Japanese firms that today shower us with electronic gadgets will have gone defunct as Japan's situation deteriorates, and the higher costs of necessities will have so reduced demand for television sets, radios, tape decks, and the like that few new firms will have entered the market. Similarly, a wide array of non-essentials, from convenience foods to recreational vehicles, will have largely vanished along with the companies that produced them.

Probably before 1985, a general recognition of the changed economic status of the nation will lead to a stock-market collapse even more severe than the one that preceded the onset of the depression of the 1930s. This time, however, the public will be aware of the depth of our economic difficulties, and confidence in the market as a place to make money may be more or less permanently eroded. It is very likely that before the end of the century the stock market, as we know it, will disappear as a factor in the lives of individuals. (Id, 176.)

Hey man, doncha just love future nostalgia?

Younger readers who were not forced to read Paul Ehrlich as Justin and I were might get a kick out of this 1998 Ehrlich retrospective:

After limiting his family size to one (Ehrlich had a vasectomy shortly after receiving tenure at Stanford -- showing once again that tenure does limit production), Ehrlich resolved in 1968 to write an environmental text that would warn the world of the immediate danger it faced. Ehrlich's logic was simple: a growing population increasingly consumes the earth's finite resources.This left humanity with three options: 1) stop producing, 2) stop consuming, or 3) die from starvation.

His Population Bomb began, "The battle to feed all of humanity is over ... hundreds of millions of people are going to starve to death." In 1969, Ehrlich added, "By 1985 enough millions will have died to reduce the earth's population to some acceptable level, like 1.5 billion people." The same year, he predicted in an article entitled "Eco-Catastrophe!" that by 1980 the United States would see its life expectancy drop to 42 because of pesticides, and by 1999 its population would drop to 22.6 million. In the mid-seventies, with the release of his The End of Affluence, Ehrlich incorporated drama into his dire prophesies. He envisioned the President dissolving Congress "during the food riots of the 1980s," followed by the United States suffering a nuclear attack for its mass use of insecticides. That's right, Ehrlich thought that the United States would get nuked in retaliation for killing bugs.

I am not a scientist, and I really lack the time and expertise it takes to get into anything resembling a detailed fisking of either Ehrlich or Bertell.

My post yesterday really doesn't give the elderly nun the fisking she so richly deserves, because her fantastic claims are so wide-ranging, and involve specialized knowledge which it would take some time to study in depth. (Depleted uranium, plutonium disbursal by SNAP-9A rockets, alleged public health effects of environmental catastrophes, the ability of extremely low frequency (ELF) waves to trigger earthquakes, and the effect of chlorine on animal sexuality -- to name a few!)

Not the sort of thing to solve in a single post on a Saturday morning.

Besides, even if I took the time to get into details, some statistician or another would leap in with more detail!

And I hate detail!

That is why I hate practicing law!

What tends to happen when I focus in on details is that I then start worrying about their relevancy to the Big Picture, and I get frustrated. When friends and lovers were dying of AIDS and I had to spend my days writing things like "Points and Authorities in Opposition To Defendant's Umpteenth Motion To Compel Further Answers to Plaintiff's Fourth Amended Set of Interrogatories" originally promulgated by Trucking Company A solely to ruin the day and rattle the cage of the lawyers for Trucking Company B, I would start thinking about stuff like "what is the meaning of life?" and I'd get all frustrated (well, more than frustrated; I became seriously depressed and it nearly killed me).

The nit-pickers like to wear you out that way. That's why the nit-pickers tend to win. Unless you can find something you enjoy, and remain focused on it.

Still, I don't mean to put down the nit-pickers, overspecialized hyperstatisticians, and the like, because somebody has to do these things. And if I have to focus in on something technical or boring or detailed, I can.

As Drayton Sawyer said,

There's some things you gotta do. It doesn't mean you gotta like it!
And one must constantly be wary of allowing details to lead to mistaken thinking. Guys like Ehrlich focused so much on details that I think they became overwhelmed by their enormity, and pessimistic gloom set in.

Is this why millionaires tend to come from the ranks of B and C students? Detail guys like Ehrlich got the As, shot to the heads of their classes and their various departments, and became the central planners standing in the way of the C students who just wanted to make lots of money while (according to the A students) ruining the planet.

Jimmy Carter, a brilliant A student from the Ehrlich, central-planning school, believed he could micromanage everything -- including the schedule of the White House tennis courts. Reagan, a classic B and C guy, relaxed and watched the Sound of Music, while, much to the dismay of the A student central planners, the Soviet Union gave up the Cold War and the economy grew.

What if Ehrlich had gotten his way?

Suppose the limits he advocated had been imposed?

(I'd rather not think about the details....)

UPDATE: Almost forgot about a great Catch-22 of paying attention to detail. The more attention you pay to detail, the more fault others are likely to find when they search for the smallest detail you might have missed. The more you try, therefore, the more the demands. (A Sisyphean challenge inconsistent with clinical depression -- or even wanting to be left alone.)

In the practice of law, I saw that some very successful attorneys would exploit their hatred of detail by simply drafting and filing pleadings containing all the garbage they could think of, then sitting back and waiting for the opposition to file demurrers and other motions to clean it up! (A technique which, regrettably, can work!)

UPDATE: Thanks to Justin for correcting my transcription errors.

Details! Details!


Ehrlich was RIGHT about one thing: reduced demand for tape decks.

posted by Eric at 01:05 PM | Comments (5)

Is dumb ignorance less harmful than intelligent ignorance?

A few posts ago, I complained about a Park Service employee whose goal in life seems to be convincing the world that the Grand Canyon is only a few thousand years old.

I dislike seeing ignorance being promoted as science.

This morning I was treated to another example of ignorance -- this time emanating from a "leading scholar" with a Ph. D. in Biometrics, and five additional honorary doctorates. (At least, that's what all the web pages say, in similar language; I can't track down the names of the places which bestowed them.)

Reflecting on these two, I see no moral equivalency. The park service guy -- not a scholar -- at least bases his ignorance on something: a particular interpretation of the Bible. This is wrong, but it is at least honestly wrong.

Dr. Bertell, on the other hand, accuses the military of triggering earthquakes without a shred of evidence. She is a scholar, teacher, college administrator, and no doubt she delivers lectures to the literati.

By far, Dr. Bertell is the worse of the two. At least Mr. Vail is sincere in his religious belief, which doesn't particularly threaten anyone (as long as it isn't taken too seriously). Besides, he is mostly preaching to other fundamentalists who already share his views. And how many people are really harmed by the rather silly contention that the Grand Canyon is only a few thousand years old? (I don't think it qualifies -- even remotely -- as a "dangerous idea.")

Dr. Bertell, on the other hand, claims to be a scientist, but her nun's habit is wielded as an argument to authority. Her followers fancy themselves to be intellectuals who would look down on and belittle people like Mr. Vail. To the extent they are atheists (which I am sure many of them are) their religious masquerade is therefore infinitely more hypocritical.

Both are corrupters of science. Both improperly mix religion, politics, and science -- torturing all three in the process. Yet I think Bertell is the more malevolent, because she strikes me as a true hypocrite. I think she uses her status both as a scholar and a nun to hide genuine demagoguery, and I think many of her followers are in on the same game.

The image of an elderly nun plays well on TV, and they know it.

posted by Eric at 06:01 PM | Comments (4)

Not all bullies are big strong men

Perhaps I spent too much time living in Berkeley, California, but I am always interested in the origins of popular hysteria and crackpot ideas. This latest outburst -- that the Iranian earthquake was triggered by the United States military (aka "Bush") (via InstaPundit) -- seemed certain not to disappoint.

If you follow the links to the source, you'll be unable not to notice that the military-as-villain thesis emanates almost entirely from one person: activist Dr. Rosalie Bertell.

After listing a long litany of "abuses" (including use of depleted uranium, years of nuclear testing, and a crash of an SNAP-9A rocket in 1964), Dr. Bertell moves to lasers, chemicals, electromagnetic weapons, and Extremely Low Frequency waves. Our military plans to deploy all of these forces -- and more -- against The Environment, for reasons best known to Dr. Bertell:

These pulsed, extremely low frequency (ELF) waves, for instance, can be used to convey mechanical effects and vibrations at great distances through the Earth. They can manipulate the weather, creating storms and torrential rains over an area.

These waves have the potential to generate earth movements. ‘It has the capability to cause disturbance of volcanoes and tectonic plates, which in turn, have an effect on the weather,’ she states.

For example, earthquakes are known to interact with the ionosphere (the atmosphere 50-373 miles above the earth’s surface). In fact, many of the earthquakes that occurred in recent years were preceded by certain unexplained phenomena, says Dr. Bertell.

Even the 1989 San Francisco earthquake was preceded by these waves (of supposed military origin).

Hey, I was in that quake! Does that mean I'm a victim of the U.S. military? Let's see....

(If I just discovered my "injury" from reading that article, then the Statute of Limitations starts running today! Still have time to find a lawyer!)

But of course that is not all we're in store for! The U.S. military plans to visit unprecedented devastation upon mankind. Events like this:

.....severe flooding that occurred in the Indian subcontinent affecting Nepal, India and Bangladesh in which millions were left homeless. In China, floods killed hundreds while tens of thousands had their homes and property destroyed.

At the same time, Canada was hit by torrential rains, flooding, tornadoes, hail and thunderstorms - all very abnormal climatic conditions destroying property, livestock and lives.

Heavy snowfall, not seen in decades, appeared in South Africa, cutting off food supplies and taking lives due to the extreme cold.

During the week ending 19th July, earthquakes rocked the French Alps, Austria, Southern Italy, Northeast India, Japan, Indonesia, the Kamchatka peninsular, and Southern Mexico. In New Zealand, a volcano erupted.

Tremors were reported in Kenya, Germany, the Greek Islands, Turkey, northern Sumatra, Bali, the central Philippines, New Zealand’s North Island, eastern Japan, central Chile, El Salvador and the Alentian Islands, all within the week ending 26 July, she reported.

Hey, all I can say is that the U.S. military sure gets around!

But let's try to be serious? Who is this Dr. Bertell? And why is she taken seriously?

Dr. Rosalie Bertell (president of the International Institute of Concern for Public Health -- which I am sure you've all heard of) is well known as "the anti-nuclear Nun." A few facts:

  • Her doctorate is in Biometrics (statistics! I knew it!)
  • She has served three times as a judge on tribunals organised by the Permanent People's Tribunal
  • She "works by preference on behalf of indigenous peoples and citizen groups most severely affected by militarism and pollution."
  • A few more interesting facts about this very interesting woman:

    She identified clorines as the worst offenders on the planet. Developed during World War I, chlorine did not exist in the atmosphere until then. Now there is evidence that one class of chlorines has ``demasculinized and defeminized'' birds and fish, and Bertell warns that studies on the implications for human sexuality and reproduction have just begun.

    Bertell is routinely called a Cassandra and denounced by the nuclear industry. But she firmly maintains they and military policy makers are the world's main polluters.

    Becoming a thorn-in-the-side of power mongers wasn't an easy path for Bertell. She was born in Buffalo, the daughter of a Canadian mother and American father. Paul Bertell was president of the Standard Mirror Co. and the inventor of the day-night auto mirror.

    Wow. There was chlorine in many pools I swam in. It was in my own drinking water.

    My very own (gulp) Precious. Bodily. Fluids.

    (And if you look in your rear view mirror, you can see all those demasculinized and defeminized birds flying around! Tweet tweet! Cuckoo! Cuckoo!)

    Bertell blames El Nino and many other things on the US military, but a driving interest -- a subject about which she has written extensively -- is the supremely dangerous nature of depleted uranium.

    Nonsense! For the real lowdown on depleted uranium, read Michael McNeil's scholarly refutation of these bogus claims. (via InstaPundit.) See also these posts -- by Steven Den Beste, and Robert Prather.

    But who the hell reads these things? The activists certainly don't.

    What bothers the hell out of me is that this elderly female nun (er, that's not really a redundancy, but I don't want to get off-topic) gets away with monstrous allegations and outright lies, and no one calls her on it.

    And why? The only reason I can see is because she is an elderly female nun , that's why!

    This is logic? I consider it a grotesque abuse of logic.

    After spending about a half an hour googling, I could find only one criticism of Dr. Bertell -- by a judge who had the misfortune of listening to her testimony:

    "In deriving these separate values, Bertell was selective in her choice of data. She repeatedly used the largest reported incidence of cancer. In some cases she increaased this value by factors up to 10 to allow for differences in sensitivity between the group studied and the people for whom the risk estimates were required.

    "Bertell acknowledged that her evidence was marred by basic errors including:

  • incorrect quotation of data;

  • confusing the incidence of fatal and non-fatal cancer;

  • multiplying by the same correcting factor twice to give a figure for cancer deaths that were 35 times too large.
  • "Bertell recommended, on the basis of her evidence on risk factors, that the CEGB's radiation dose targets for the public in normal operation should be reduced by a factor of ten. She initially believed that the CEGB's targets were for average dose, whereas in fact they were for maximum dose. She did not change her recommendation after discovering the true position."
    Dr. Bertell's response was to launch an ad hominem attack against the judge. (And when cornered, I'll just bet she does an excellent imitation of a victimized old lady! Too bad we can't sic this guy on her!) The general public doesn't seem to care, and I am sure the media routinely trot her out as an "expert."

    From what I can see, almost everything she says drips with emotion, with her most common logical error being that of post hoc ergo propter hoc.

    Typical Bertell example:

    According to Dr. Bertell, the hundreds of burning oil fires during the Gulf War was the ‘worst man-made pollution event in history’. It led to environmental and climatic disasters worldwide.

    Scientists worldwide predicted fiercer monsoons due to greater warming, acid rain, forceful storms and severe flooding all over the globe.

    ‘In time...a huge typhoon struck Bangladesh on 1 May, killing more than 100,000 people...Soviet scientists reported very high levels of acid rain in Southern Russia. Satellite images showed smoke and darkened snow in Pakistan and northern India,’ she said.

    No tie-in. Nothing.

    Serious people would call this woman a kook -- and consider it a waste of time to even read her or take her seriously. Perhaps that is why she is considered a world renowned "scientist" -- and why she has been awarded five honorary doctorates.

    Because people like me remain silent?

    It's much easier to remain silent. It feels like a colossal waste of time for me to spend all this time discussing Dr. Bertell, who but for big media would be a pitiable and foolish person involving herself in matters beyond her competence. To criticize her is like shooting fish in a barrel.

    And moreover, it's considered mean-spirited -- even malevolent -- to dare criticize an elderly nun!

    So why am I doing this? It annoys the hell out of me to see her taken seriously by untold thousands of activists and so many in the media. I don't like the way she uses her little old lady status -- and her finely honed ethos as a selfless nun -- to take advantage of gullible people.

    If I didn't know she was a saint I'd almost swear she was a con artist.

    Forgive me!

    posted by Eric at 08:02 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (3)

    A corrected retraction of a corrected offer to improperly retract a corrected story?

    ....which is another way of saying that this post is an "UPDATE."

    But the original post is so far down on the blog that no one would notice or care if I updated it there.

    Anyway, in that earlier post, I expressed the hope that this story (that gay demonstrations were being censored out of the Lincoln Memorial's historical video) would turn out to be bogus so that I could "issue a retraction!"

    I think I offered the impossible.

    It wasn't my story at all, so I don't think a retraction could ever be in order. Nor would a "correction" be appropriate, for technically neither would be mine to issue.

    In any event, Andrew Sullivan earlier cited this report of a tentative reversal of what may have been a tentative "decision":

    Footage of gay rights demonstrations will not be removed from a videotape shown at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C, according to spokespeople from the National Park Service and the Human Rights Campaign. Earlier reports in various news outlets said the gay images would be removed.

    In a press release yesterday, Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), a government-watchdog group, said that because of pressure from conservative groups, the National Park Service agreed to remove from the tape all scenes depicting gay and abortion rights rallies. "The Park Service leadership now caters exclusively to conservative Christian fundamentalist groups," PEER executive director Jeff Ruch said in the release.

    But today that story has changed. "We have been assured that they are redoing the tape, but are not stripping out scenes of gay and lesbian events at the Lincoln Memorial, because to do so would be historically inaccurate," said Winne Stachelberg, political director at the Human Rights Campaign, a national gay rights group. Stachelberg told the Network that National Park Service Chief of Public Affairs, David Barna, made those reassurances to her this morning.

    This is puzzling, because when stories change like that it makes me wonder whether there really was a decision, or whether instead the waters were being tested as they were during the June controversy over whether gays in the Justice Department should be allowed to celebrate Pride Day (or whatever it's called now).

    Totally aside from the merits of this issue, I have a question: Has "idea floating" (through various media reports, rumors, and leaks) become a new way of determining public policy?

    If so, does that mean that the media are a de facto branch of government?

    I am not sure I like that, because big media have a very poor track record when it comes to issuing retractions.....

    UPDATE: In some cases (I don't know about this one), the "floated" ideas might themselves be largely media creations, floated not by government officials but by news media working in conjunction with special interest activists to force the issue. Hey, I guess that's a form of fuzzy democracy. (Works both ways, of course...)

    posted by Eric at 06:11 PM

    Cheating asshole with half baked cookie theories!

    I almost forgot the Most Important Thing!

    It's Friday, and notwithstanding Christmas (which seemed to make the entire week disappear), or the fact that today is Boxing Day, it is still Online Testing Day at Classical Values, and the show must go on!

    As I'm sure many of you did, I pigged out something awful yesterday, so I think it is entirely appropriate that this first test -- "What Kind of Cookie Are You?" -- deals with food (and high calorie, fattening food at that).

    I'm a snickerdoodle, whether I like it or not:

    You are a snickerdoodle.
    What Kind of Cookie Are You?

    brought to you by Quizilla (Via Susie the Sugar Cookie, who is, not surprisingly, sweeter than I am.)

    But lest I start to think of myself as overly sweet and delectable, the next test -- "Which Lord of the Rings character and personality problem are you?" -- said I was a real asshole:

    Congratulations! You're Faramir!

    Which Lord of the Rings character and personality problem are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    (Via Ordinary Galoot.)

    Being called an asshole hurt my self esteem, of course. So, to give myself the lift I deserve, I am reporting the excellent results I obtained from the "How Dexterous Are You?" quiz:

    I did it in 13 seconds.
    I deserved an A!!
    Take the How Dexterous Are You? Quiz!!

    This came from Ghost of a flea -- a man who gives (and grades) more tests than anyone in the blogosphere. There is an honor system among bloggers, and so I had to turn myself in and tell Nicholas that I cheated in taking this test. My punishment has not been announced (yet) and I am hoping he will show mercy! (My cheating was entirely accidental, and therefore not my fault, and I believe I have demonstrated truly heartfelt contrition!)

    I won't say how I cheated, though -- because that would spoil the fun! Besides, this is supposed to be a learning process.... The type of cheating I did might even be allowed, but I'll give you a clue: you do not have to follow the directions!

    Finally, the Flea featured another academically oriented test which boosted my self esteem to no end: "What kind of postmodernist are you!?"

    I am a Theory Slut:

    theory slut
    You are a Theory Slut. The true elite of the
    postmodernists, you collect avant-garde
    Indonesian hiphop compilations and eat journal
    articles for breakfast. You positively live
    for theory. It really doesn't matter what
    kind, as long as the words are big and the
    paragraph breaks few and far between.

    What kind of postmodernist are you!?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    That's their theory, of course -- and only one among many.

    Mine are far more complicated and long-winded!

    (And I'll do anything to get you to read them!)

    posted by Eric at 04:05 PM | Comments (2)

    Sick and ill-treated children?

    Recently, Frederick Turner (via InstaPundit) reflected upon the difference between those whose goal is the good, and those whose goal is the right.

    Laws seem, as many philosophers have opined, to be based on one of two foundations: what is good, and what is right. Very roughly, the distinction can be found in the difference between our own two traditions, of Roman law, and English common law; further back, between the ancient Hebrew ritual law, and the code of Hammurabi. Legal experts will, I hope, forgive the many exceptions to these generalizations for their usefulness as an analytic tool of thought.

    The distinction, even more generally, is between what is commanded of us by the gods or God (or, in later ages, by Humanity, by Nature, by Reason, or by Popular Will) on one hand; and what is required of us in the honest fulfillment of a contract, on the other. The former, which finds its Western origins in ancient Israel (and can be found also in the Confucian legal system of ancient China), sees law as a way to enforce the good -- the good as a transcendent endowment of human society that we can partly intuit, especially if we are talented, trained, learned, and morally upright. The latter, which can be identified roughly with the Hammurabic, Solonic, and English Common Law traditions, sees laws as the way to make sure the humble contracts that human beings make with each other have the support they need over and above the natural sanctions built into our families, our markets, and our practical agreed systems of mutual trust. The first emphasizes the good, the second, the right.

    Not only do I forgive the "many exceptions to these generalizations," I am so stunned by the sheer clarity of the author's thoughts that I would forgive a lot more than that. A topic like this cannot be discussed without generalizations -- the exceptions providing a collection of variables allowing further debate about the validity of the generalizations! Without generalizations, we'd have trouble seeing the forest from the trees. (For each tree is unique and different!)

    In this way, Turner looks at Roman, Christian, and Islamic Law through the general perspective of good versus right:

    Roman law, though again it was based upon a transcendent conception of the good, made many concessions to the low demands of commerce. It gave much authority over to local magnates, capos, and dons, so that in exchange for a local return to the patriarchal customs of the tribe, there would be a general concession to the legal supremacy of the Senate (and later, the Emperor). However, such laws did not provide for the increasing numbers of helpless indigents that are spawned by mercantile padrón systems everywhere.

    Christianity, which began with a purely internal and voluntary law of the good -- love thy neighbor -- had inherited the inner ideals of the old Jewish moral law. But it was purged now, Christians believed, of a great burden of its literalism and legalism, and reinforced by the blazing hope of salvation and faith in the redemption. This new religion gradually created for itself the role of the Empire's welfare system. Finally the Empire itself simply could not manage without it, and was itself forced, under Constantine, to become the secular enforcer of Christian moral law. As the Roman Empire crumbled, the ideal of a society in which the highest moral precepts, enjoined by God, would be enforced by the State, burned brighter and brighter in the imagination of the world. The result was finally the birth of Islamic law, or the Sharia, in the seventh century AD. Sharia systematized and perfected the law of the good, and embodied one of the most beautiful, and tragically flawed, visions of society that our species had yet achieved.

    All societies based on the enforcement of a law of good have tended to stagnate, wither, and eventually die.

    British imperialists were known for treating their subjects as children -- although in their defense it should be noted that the law they attempted to impose was the law of right and not the good.

    And ultimately, the British allowed the colonies to outgrow this colonial status in much the same way parents necessarily allow their children more and more freedom -- which goes hand in hand with responsibility!

    One of the chief worries in this blog has been over the growing tendency to treat American citizens as children -- moving us ever closer to a vast national kindergarten.

    By their very nature, children cannot be trusted to make intelligent and informed choices. Therefore, until they have learned and demonstrated maturity (and responsibility), it is necessary to tell them what to do. Children are not old enough to choose the good or the right. Their parents have to tell them.

    Like Frederick Turner, I worry incompatible schools of thinking -- and the primary problem may be a fundamental disagreement: ARE ADULTS CHILDREN? (The consequence being, of course, that if most adults are children, then they must be treated like children -- by an ill-defined force called AUTHORITY.)

    Speaking of the British Empire's erstwhile "children", the following observations about Islam (which Turner calls "the good") come from a writer from Karad, in Maharashtra, India:

    Muslims - Sick and Ill-treated Children

    Muslims have fought wars and thereafter stayed peacefully with the people of other religions. It is leaders, kings and fanatics who have used Muslims in the name of Islam for their selfish motives. Hindu leaders have coaxed Muslims on similar lines for their selfish interest. Today, every political party is trying to use Muslims for the party benefit by invoking the so-called injustice which has never been done to them.

    State boundaries disputes and the Mandal Ayog exemplify the attitudes of selfish leaders. Congress, Janata Dal, United Front Groups are coaxing the people on caste and creed lines, thereby arousing hatred among them. Muslims are looked as vote-banks. Such selfish leaders and political parties can be understood only through the process of education.

    Hindu Organizations should view Muslims as sick and ill-treated children of bad parents. Muslims should be caressed only with better education and not by giving concessions and temporary relief. Better family relations, respect for woman, freedom of thought, and basic understanding of human behaviour can make them real citizens. Muslims, therefore, are required to be educated with students of other faiths. They should attend the schools of Christians and Hindu Organizations. There should not be any special treatment for them as Muslims. Muslims can certainly improve through the study of science and humanities and not through Islam. They should be taught first to be human beings.

    Almost all religions except Islam have accepted modern scientific approach. They have discarded old, impracticable and irrelevant religious customs. Muslims have to go in the same footsteps and become sensible and civilized. That will save Islam. Otherwise it is bound to crumble like Marxism.

    Reactionary methods to improve or suppress Muslims will not succeed. Muslims are to be treated as human beings. They are to be made aware of freedoms, rights and duties. Unfortunately, Islam has not done this for its follower. Proper education will fulfil this job and bring Muslims into the mainstream with other societies. Gone are the days of war and supremacy. One has to live and let others live. Muslims have to come out of the fool’s paradise that they will rule the world through coercion.

    At some early point in history, some leaders in some cultures decided that adults are like children (especially where it comes to vices like sex, drugs, and fun pursuits like rock'n'roll) and therefore must be told what to do. But because it is in their nature to break the rules, it was found that in practice the most effective rules are those said to emanate from God.

    Yet as culture advanced over the centuries, it was realized that goodness requires choice. Choice is not supposed to come from coercion.

    I have a friend who does not believe in religious morality of any kind, nor does he think morality should be imposed on anyone. However, he is strictly monogamous, and would never cheat on his wife. Thus, if we go by literal definitions of the words, he is morally conservative. But that is not what is meant by the term "moral conservative" in modern usage. "Moral conservatives" (at least as the term is popularly used) are people who believe in moral coercion, by government.

    Which means, ultimately, at gunpoint.

    I am of the opinion that this is neither moral nor conservative. And even if we discount the role of government, it could be argued that if someone is obeying what he believes to be God's law and refrains from sexual transgressions for fear of divine punishment, he by his own definition is less moral than a morally conservative atheist, because the latter has made a free choice without fear of punishment, and without any compulsion.

    When adults are treated as children, you get adult children.

    Adult children cannot handle responsibility, and cannot say "No" to temptation or vice. They need to be watched constantly by authorities, whose job is to pry into their subjects' lives to the greatest extent possible -- even preventing them access to places like topless bars, gay bars, X-rated theaters, casinos, or even cable television.

    Because, if the parental authorities turn their back for just a moment, unrestrained irresponsibility will start!

    When the cat's away, the mice will play!

    Of course, the authorities cannot be everywhere. Thus, events like stoning to death encourage group participation, and create a communitarian cult of violence.

    Likewise, Muslim men (at least, followers of Saudi Wahhabism) are encouraged to treat their wives as children.

    Allowing children authority over other children is an excellent way to maintain authority over children.

    The system becomes almost self-enforcing.

    Unless, of course, freedom sneaks in via things like rock'n'roll.

    Freedom corrupts the very tyrannical, imposed-from-above, "good"!

    I guess that means freedom is right.

    (I think it can heal the sick and ill-treated children too!)

    posted by Eric at 12:33 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)

    Treo 180 test....

    This is a Treo test. Frankly, I think the T-mobile Sidekick is far easier to use -- but still, I thought I should do an honest evaluation. By comparison, this is torture.

    The keyboard is much smaller and harder to use!

    The OS, though, feels stabler.

    Now let's see whether we can post!

    NOTE: The above was saved but after repeated attempts would not post. I think there is an incompatibility problem between Blazer browser and the Movable Type interface, as it freezes at the "Rebuilding entry" message.

    I don't have the patience for this -- not when the Sidekick is so easy and painless.

    (But then, I am lazy....)

    UPDATE: I keep hearing that the Treo/Palm OS is more "stable" -- but I have no way of evaluating that, short of attempting "crash tests" or something.... I will say this: there is a major advantage to the Sidekick browser in that I am able to see bright color graphics, whereas with the Blazer it's black and white (at least with the 180), text only, and a rather dim screen. Example: this image loaded just fine on my Sidekick, but was not visible on the Treo. (Very, um, "stable"!)

    UPDATE: Here's a loyal, longtime Treo user contemplating a move to the Sidekick, who cites similar problems to those I experienced. A quite balanced review of both sides -- although this is an easier choice for me because I was never dependent on the Palm OS in the first place, and thus am not concerned with such things as "the ability to export/synch my contacts and calendar with Outlook."

    On top of all that, I still can't get over the $49.00 price! For something like this, as good as it is, I keep wondering, what's the catch?

    MORE: TechTV compares the top five Hybrid Phone/PDAs -- and declares the Sidekick the winner.

    Here's Tech Ronin comparing the Sidekick to the Treo 600.

    And here's a comparison of the Sidekick to the Sony-Ericsson P800. (Along with a pro-P800, anti-Sidekick opinion.)

    posted by Eric at 10:58 PM

    Merry Christmas!


    UPDATE: Read Lee Harris's thoughts on blaming Christmas. (And don't!) Really good insight there. (Via InstaPundit/) I think Mr. Harris deserves the prize for Best Christmas Essay. (I say this as someone who does not like Christmas, too....)

    posted by Eric at 08:20 AM

    Whose hoax was this, anyway?

    Might there be more to the supposedly discredited Telegraph story (about Abu Nidal's possible training of September 11 terrorist Muhammad Atta) than meets the eye?

    Originally, Glenn Reynolds linked to the story, and when I read his link I recalled the very suspicious circumstances of Abu Nidal's death -- and, in particular, this contemporaneous spin, which struck me as classic disinformation.

    I got a coveted Instalanche, and then when the first story was (apparently) discredited I felt terrible, because I do try to be accurate and I don't want to be seen as someone who'd help fuel a false story. (Not that Glenn Reynolds or anyone else could have known anything more than the Telegraph knew, but this isn't a question of fault; just accuracy.)

    I know there's always a risk taking these stories at their face value, but I feel obligated to return to the matter again now that I have seen this Newsmax report:

    In a development that adds evidence to the case that Iraq played a direct role in the worst attack ever on the U.S., reports show that Ziad Jarrah - who piloted the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania after passengers had discovered they were on a suicide mission - also had ties to Nidal.

    Like Atta, Jarrah traveled to Hamburg, Germany, where three al-Qaeda operatives plotted their attack. The other member of the Hamburg cell was Marwan al Shehhi, who drove his plane into the World Trade Center's South Tower. Jarrah's assigned target: the White House.

    "A constant figure in Jarrah's life in Germany was his great-uncle, Assem Omar Jarrah," reported the Wall Street Journal in August 2002. "According to the German magazine, Der Spiegel, Assem Jarrah worked for a long time as an informer for the Stasi, the East German secret service, while maintaining connections to [Abu] Nidal's terror group."

    The Journal's Asla Aydintasbas - the only U.S.-based reporter to explore the Nidal-9/11 link in any depth - reported that the Palestinian terror kingpin spent much of his terrorism career as a hired hand, often in service to Iraq or Syria.

    Just days before Aydintasbas' report, Nidal had been found dead in Baghdad of multiple gunshot wounds; his demise ruled a suicide by Saddam's security forces.

    Der Spiegel reporter Gunther Latsch told Aydintasbas that Ziad Jarrah was "very close" to his great-Uncle Assem, the Abu Nidal operative: "He was the one who picked him up at the airport when [Ziad] first came to Germany. The uncle paid for his apartment. He really took care of him."

    Then, just two weeks before the 9/11 attacks, Uncle Assem disappeared, after living in Germany for 18 years. The 9/11 hijacker relative has not been spotted since.

    Even before the 9/11 attacks, U.S. intelligence feared Abu Nidal would play a role in what they warned at the time was a growing terror alliance between Saddam and bin Laden.

    I do not have any way of verifying this story, but it certainly deserves further investigation.

    If it turns out to be true, then it might be worth considering whether (as Dan Darling suggested) Muhammad Atta in fact had a double who deceived American authorities as to his whereabouts:

    ....[I]t apparently escapes Isikoff and Hosenball to note that if Atta were planning to leave the country illegally (something he would have had to have done in order to visit either the Czech Republic or Iraq), he could easily have laid a false paper trail - especially if he was planning on going to Iraq (which would have raised definite red flags if he were tracked during that period). (Link via HipperCritical.)

    What if Atta did such a good job that his deception is still working?

    posted by Eric at 08:11 PM

    Santa's coming! What more proof do you want?

    This is Christmas eve, and that last post was a tad dreary.

    I want to move to something over which the most sincere and intelligent minds can differ, but on which we ought to be able to find common ground. So bear with me, OK?

    I refer to the ongoing, ageless dispute over the existence of Santa Claus:

    You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign there is no Santa Claus.

    The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no
    proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

    The author concludes that Santa Claus is real, and is one of the immortals:
    Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia,
    nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will
    continue to make glad the heart of childhood.
    I wouldn't try to make a child disbelieve in Santa Claus!

    I think adults have every right to believe in him too!

    Besides, the existence of Santa Claus is not only an article of faith for some, but it has been proven logically for all. Somewhat long, but as the saying goes, "it's well worth the read." (Who said that?)

    And that was just logic! Here's some hard, cold science brought to bear:

    If you apply Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle to calculating Santa Claus 's position, in any moment of Christmas Eve, is extremely imprecise. In other words, it is stumped on the surface of the earth, in a way similar to the electron it is stumped at a certain distance of the nucleus of the atom. Therefore, Santa literally can be everywhere in a given moment. Lastly, the relative speed of the reindeers during brief time periods make it possible that, in certain cases, they arrive in some places before leaving the north pole. Santa Claus, in other words, assumes during brief periods of time the characteristics of the tachyon.

    We agree that the existence of tachyons is not yet proven and is hypothetical, but the same thing happens with the black holes, and yet nobody doubts their existence. Consequently, it is perfectly possible that Santa Claus exists and distributes all the gifts on Christmas Eve!!

    Hey, if science, religion, and logic are so close to agreement, it's good enough for me!

    Advantage, Santa!

    posted by Eric at 07:37 PM | Comments (2)

    Your tax dollars at play!

    Hey, let's play make believe.

    Forget about whether or not "images" of homosexuals have been removed from sight of professional zealots who managed (apparently) to make the government censor Lincoln Memorial displays.

    Let's talk about total fiction being taught as truth.

    George Washington and the cherry tree, move over.

    This is better:

    This fall the Park Service approved a creationist text, Grand Canyon: A Different View, for sale in park bookstores and museums. The book, written by Tom Vail, claims that the Grand Canyon is really only a few thousand years old, developing on a biblical rather than an evolutionary time scale. "For years, as a Colorado River guide, I told people how the Grand Canyon was formed over the evolutionary time scale of millions of years," Vail writes in the introduction to the book. "Then I met the Lord. Now I have a different view of the canyon, which, according to a biblical time scale, can't possibly be more than about a few thousand years old." One of the contributors to the book is creation "scientist" Gary Parker, who observes, "Where did the Grand Canyon itself come from? The Flood may have stacked the rock like a giant layer cake, but what cut the cake? One thing is sure: the Colorado River did not do it." Earlier this year the Bush administration prevented park rangers from publishing a rebuttal to the book for use by interpretive staff and seasonal employees who are often confronted during tours by creationist zealots.
    All I have to say is that the earth is flat!

    And no park ranger at any of our national seashores better tell me otherwise.

    You know, when I said the lunatics are running the asylum I wasn't kidding!

    These people are crazier than I thought.

    UPDATE: Perhaps I was being a bit hard on the flat earthers there. Maybe I should apologize. After all, famed South African statesman Paul Kruger (known affectionately as "Oom Paul") not only believed as fact that the earth was flat, but he enlisted prominent Boer scholars to supply scientific proof:

    It sounds odd to hear scholars and statesmen say the world is flat; but it is a fact that three Boers favoured by the opinion of President Kruger prepared a work to support that contention. While I was at Durban they came from Pretoria to obtain data from me, and they seemed annoyed when I told them that they could not prove it by my experience. With the advice to call up some ghost of the dark ages for research, I went ashore, and left these three wise men poring over the Spray's track on a chart of the world, which, however, proved nothing to them, for it was on Mercator's projection, and behold, it was "flat." The next morning I met one of the party in a clergyman's garb, carrying a large Bible, not different from the one I had read. He tackled me, saying, "If you respect the Word of God, you must admit that the world is flat." "If the Word of God stands on a flat world " I began. "What!" cried he, losing himself in a passion, and making as if he would run me through with an assagai. "What!" he shouted in astonishment and rage, while I jumped aside to dodge the imaginary weapon. Had this good but misguided fanatic been armed with a real weapon, the crew of the Spray would have died a martyr there and then. The next day, seeing him across the street, I bowed and made curves with my hands. He responded with a level, swimming movement of his hands, meaning "the world is flat." A pamphlet by these Transvaal geographers, made up of arguments from sources high and low to prove their theory, was mailed to me before I sailed from Africa on my last stretch around the globe.

    While I feebly portray the ignorance of these learned men, I have great admiration for their physical manhood. Much that I saw first and last of the Transvaal and the Boers was admirable. It is well known that they are the hardest of fighters, and as generous to the fallen as they are brave before the foe. Real stubborn bigotry with them is only found among old fogies, and will die a natural death, and that, too, perhaps long before we ourselves are entirely free from bigotry.

    So, no disrespect intended. People should be free to believe whatever they want. If they want to believe the earth is flat, I have no right to interfere.

    But there is such a thing as science, and you know, when there is an overwhelming consensus about pretty basic things, to force the government to subsidize what amounts to fringe nonsense (no matter how sincerely it is believed), strikes me as frivolous.

    I shudder to think that they might be handing out security clearances to people who "think" that way.

    (And, of course, whose security clearances would be denied at the same time?)

    By the way, the heretical idea of a spherical earth is a classical value!

    That idea became heretical, of course, in the superstitious Middle Ages -- a time period these "young earth society" types want to revive. I say, if we have to roll back the clock, why not roll it back to a period when saner heads prevailed?

    UPDATE: Almost missed something. (I guess this post is still "evolving.") The "young earther" Tom Vail (whose highly questionable book is being distributed by the United States government) seems to confuse "evolutionary" time with geologic time. Geologic time refers to the age of rocks (and the earth) -- the age of which predates life (and of course evolution). I suspect it suits his agenda to link geologic time with evolutionary theory, so he engages in misleading rhetoric.

    Maybe Dr. Vail should take up snake oil sales....

    (Don't know whether the guy's a doc or not, but hey! His book's been endorsed by lots of "doctors"!)

    NOTE: Bear in mind that I am not an atheist. However, I think atheists should get down on their knees and thank God for guys like Vail, because they do a much better job of turning people off to religion.

    posted by Eric at 06:13 PM | Comments (1)

    Serene sunset in the park

    The dog park Puff and I frequent is deserted today. Unusual to the point of spookiness, because it's supposed to be packed right now with busy commuters....

    But hey!

    Action! Bella (female, eight yearls old) is playing with Puff. According to her owner, she's in her "Cinderbella" mood. (Either that or her more onerous, "Bela" (Lugosi) mood.

    Bella being a Dalmation, she and Puff are distantly related, the Dalmation breed having been infused with enough Pit Bull genes to supply them with the "bellicosity" (!) they needed to do their job -- which was keeping stray dogs away from the horses which drew fire trucks in those thrilling days of yesteryear!

    Damn! Wish I could throw in my usual links!

    posted by Eric at 04:50 PM

    All roads lead to X-mas!

    Christmas eve rainstorm in New Jersey! Everyone seems to be shopping in the rain, and in bumper-to-bumper traffic, on the world's worst road: Route 206.

    Don't wanna knock New Jersey too much, but right now it ain't a Norman Rockwell painting!

    Christmas is coming! That seems to be the latest discovery around here!

    (Never thought I'd post from my car in New Jersey! Whoa.... There's an accident!)

    UPDATE: Definitely not a good idea: returning an (expensive) item sans receipt in low-income-oriented supermarket in NJ! (For a minute I thought they were gonna bust me!)

    UPDATE: Moblogging in church! What a serene contrast to New Jersey traffic!

    posted by Eric at 12:36 PM

    Mo' better moblogging

    My impressions of the new T-Mobile color Sidekick.....

    Obviously, it's not as fast or as versatile as a laptop. But hey == I can do "moblog" posts as I am right now.

    As I said last night, the biggest problem is linking. A shame, really, because I take pride in my links, but there is no easy way to do it. Still, I have much to learn, and maybe I can get better at cutting and pasting (which with this thing necessarily entails going backwards and forwards with possible loss of data -- no way to open multiple pages simultaneously so you have to reload!)

    But the deal I got was too sweet to refuse! This $300.00 device they'll normally sell for $199.00 (look at their web site). Somehow, the guy sold it to me for $49.00 == which means that even after a year they aren't making anything. If they're trying to hook me they're succeeding, though.

    Moblogging seems to be the wave of the future.

    UPDATE: Most of the blogs load pretty well on this thing == a notable exception being this blog! The fastest one I've seen so far is the streamlined (but without permalinks) PDA version of InstaPundit.

    UPDATE: And here and here are pretty good descriptions of the Sidekick. I am falling in love.

    posted by Eric at 08:27 AM

    It takes both!
    Boys of Athens studied dances,

    while boys of Sparta fought with lances.

    InstaPundit features (in an extended quote), Michael Novak's observations about Athens and Sparta -- and how we Americans should learn to combine elements of both -- is very thoughtful, poignant advice, as well as a lesson on the wrongful nature of the Culture War.

    I can't get the exact link right now, but please read AgendaBender's new piece on Christmas composers.

    Then think about Michael Novak's ideas.


    (I can already see that getting exact links ain't easy when you're moblogging....)

    UPDATE: Well, I might as well finish this on my regular computer.
    Michael Demmons' thoughts (via InstaPundit) echo the link (from AgendaBender) about Christmas music:

    The reason for emphasizing that the composers of some of our favorite Christmas music were gay is not that gays and lesbians do not know this; many do. The reason is rather that so many people who are deeply hostile to homosexuality and legal equality for gays do not know it, or blind themselves to it, or try not to think about it.
    Remember: The goal of the religious right is that if it cannot entirely extirpate homosexuality from the human race, at least homosexuality should be rendered legally, socially and culturally utterly invisible. They want to be able to enjoy what gays have produced without having to face the fact that they have any reason to be grateful to someone gay. They want to have all the pleasures of their bigotry without any discomforting cost or cognitive dissonance.
    For that very reason, it is incumbent upon us to press the fact that
    these are gay composers upon those very people - to mention it at every possible opportunity. And the more homophobic they are, the more important it is to press it especially insistently - in a loving way, of course.
    Our goal should be to make them as uncomfortable and conflicted as possible about enjoying the gay music of Christmas, to ratchet up the psychological cost of their bigotry so that some might eventually wonder whether their bigotry is worth it. Bigotry should never come cheap and it should never be let off easy - especially at Christmas!
    In general, I hate the whiny approach by gay activists who constantly try to point out "Who Is Gay!" as a way of gaining cultural hegemony.

    I do not think homosexuality or heterosexuality should be an issue (something I have said many, many times in this blog).

    But if people like those nuts who succeeded in removing "all images of gay groups that have protested at the Lincoln Memorial" continue to behave this way, then they make it crystal clear that their goal is not merely discrimination and imprisonment -- but censorship and eradication of all mention of homosexuality.

    That justifies telling them about Tchaikovsky, and Handel and the rest of them!

    And after that, demand that they boycott the Nutcracker Suite, Handel's Messiah performances, and if they don't, then tell them to go pound sand.

    Talk about nuts; it sounds like the lunatics are running the asylum.... People are entitled to their opinions, but how did these people get the power to issue such edicts, anyway?

    Hopefully, the story (link updated) will turn out to be bogus and I can issue a retraction!

    posted by Eric at 09:21 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (2)

    Am I on yet?

    Well now! This should certainly be interesting.

    I am right now attempting my very first moblog -- thanks to the inspiration of Jeff Jarvis (whoa. I think I just wrote a link by hand with this thingie), and others I discovered in the course of researching this technology.

    It is slow, but I can do it anywhere.

    I think.....

    And now, we shall see whether it posts!

    posted by Eric at 08:43 PM | Comments (1)

    Strange bedfellows at the Times?

    The Washington Times? (No, the New York Times in drag!)

    Why would the New York Times be helping to fuel or exploit a divisive cultural debate over same sex marriage? Daniel Drezner's analysis makes me suspect that they are. (Via Jeff Jarvis.)

    Unlike Social Security or Medicare, this public opinion divide is in all likelihood a reflection of the set of societal mores that were around during their formative years. Which means that over time, support for an amendment is likely to wane.

    I don't doubt that this will be a political issue for the 2004 election, just like flag burning was an issue in 1988. I also don't doubt that as a constitutional amendment, this won't fly.

    So why is the New York Times doing their damnedest to make it fly?

    My suspicions were heightened by this liberal blogger, who fisks the Times for a calculatedly inflammatory tone:

    This language issue is all the more surprising in light of the reporters' acknowledgement that "[r]esponses about gay rights tend to be influenced somewhat by the wording of the questions." The poll itself was even worse: It asked not about gays, but rather "homosexuals." Yes, it is practically the same thing, but as the reporters are aware, terminology has an impact.

    This is a story about a slight majority's opposition to equality, but the story never discusses equality and blares forth about "strong support" for an amendment banning "gay marriage."

    A very poorly done job by the Times.

    Nothing suprising about that.

    Hey, it's an election year! The Times obviously can't wait to throw more fuel on fire of the Culture War!

    ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: The New York Times might also be reminding its gay readers of the unpleasant realities of American politics. Democrats like to promise more than they intend to deliver. Recall Bill Clinton's signing of the Defense of Marriage Act. Perhaps it is felt that if they can bring the gay activists to heel, and make them face reality, it will tend to deprive Republicans of a hot button issue.

    Once again, though, it's as if there is no center at all in American politics.

    After all, it was only last summer that the nation's highest court decided that homosexuals should not be imprisoned for consensual sex. And until then the "choice" was often often presented as imprisonment for sodomy on the one side, versus same sex marriage on the other.

    posted by Eric at 08:23 AM | Comments (2)

    Every blogger needs a Psychic Sidekick!

    The stories about the various ghosts allegedly haunting Henry VIII's Hampton Court Palace simply will not go away.

    I've read many of these stories -- both of the ghosts and of their "debunking" (of course there is said to be more than one ghost) and I guess in the "spirit" of Christmas, the ghost is acting up...

    This was in my local paper today.

    But CNN and the BBC have pictures of this apparition. So do many local news outlets.

    The stories have finally reached the blogosphere.

    Considering that bloggers are the most cynical, fearless, and intrepid of all journalists, and considering the fact that moblogging (with or without cameras) is increasingly de rigeur, I am wondering why bloggers can't descend on this haunted palace with their various devices, and track down the ghost, ghosts, prankster, or pranksters responsible. (Boo who?)

    Jeff Jarvis is now moblogging via the mindboggling Treo 600, and I just stumbled onto what may be an even cheaper alternative: the T-mobile sidekick.

    There's even a blog devoted to the Sidekick. (Via EM-BROF.)

    Amazingly enough, the concept is at least a year old, and you can even use Movable Type with these things.

    Try your hand at ghostwriting!

    The problem with me is that I am really slow.....

    And to catch a ghost, you have to be fast.

    Furthermore, there's that old Pagan saying: "Don't go to your grave without a graven image."

    posted by Eric at 01:00 PM

    The Neo 1968 Net Offensive?

    It's time to play "retro future" with the wayback machine:

    anyone with a Web site and a server, a satellite transponder and about $100 million can have -- in a matter of months -- much of what the political parties have taken generations to build.
    I found the above via Jeff Jarvis, who says that "Hillary has to run in order to save the Democratic Party machinery from an outside takeover."

    Jeff Jarvis is right, of course.

    A blogger who qualifies as a human time machine by his life experience, Jeff takes us back to the mystique of Camelot, and the later McCarthy challenge of 1968:

    As Bobby tried to reclaim the Kennedy aura, so does Hillary help reclaim the closest thing to Camelot this generation of Democrats will ever know: the Clinton era.

    She would be the first serious woman candidate for President.

    She is hated by the Republicans -- and that only helps capture the rebel spirit of the Deanites. The more the talk-show hosts scream about her, the more Democrats will be inspired to come out to support her.

    Not only do I agree with that, the issue drives me to distraction, because I think too many conservatives allow themselves to become blinded by their rage -- something which (as I have argued before) could put Hillary in the White House. It is an ancient principle of fighting that if you can piss off your opponent to the point of anger, you can win, because anger will make him miscalculate.

    Waco Hillary, the evil Marxist blamed for the kidnapping of Elian Gonzalez (timed to coincide with the Bay of Pigs AND Waco anniversary, almost gloatingly....), a woman reviled for putting condoms and syringes on Christmas trees, rumored to be bisexual, to have engaged in adultery with Vincent Foster, a supporter of every dreaded cause from the Black Panthers to abortion to gay rights -- is an old hand at inciting this rage without appearing to do anything. (Sorry, but I have lived through tons of psychological warfare, and I know talent when I see it.)

    And now, she wears a new hat: "Artillery Hillary."

    Surely, this will drive the right wing crazy.

    But as this Treo 600-equipped blogger recognizes, there is a major new factor at work today. A quantum leap forward from 1968, a new media has emerged. It cannot be controlled by the old media, and it is now threatening the old politics:

    Technology, of course, has changed politics before. Television changed the two parties, for example, but it didn't make the parties obsolete. In fact, in the day of Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy, television strengthened the two-party duopoly (the economist's term for a shared monopoly), as only those two parties had the resources to use it competitively.

    But the Internet doesn't reinforce the parties -- instead, it questions their very rationale. You don't need a political party to keep the ball rolling -- you can have a virtual party do it just as easily.

    And that's what Howard Dean has done. Nor is Dean alone. The same forces make the evangelical right a powerful force in the Republican Party. With its TV stations, membership lists and money, it is a party waiting to happen. When Republicans of more moderate stripes express concerns about the evangelicals "taking a walk" on the party, they are recognizing that underlying reality.

    The ability to have "virtual political parties" is the greatest challenge the two parties have ever faced.

    Returning to the 1968 McCarthy analogy, Lyndon Johnson was the first president to be wholly unable to adapt to the new media of the time -- television. He couldn't handle watching the nightly news, with footage of angry young Americans calling him a "murderer!" Eugene McCarthy was a champion of these angry young Americans. Bobby Kennedy came along as the last hope of salvaging the tragically lost "Camelot." Then, assassin's bullets claimed him too -- leaving that generation with one more "image."

    The 1960s generation was the first generation to have grown up watching television, and for them it was -- and is -- all about images.

  • Redneck cops in Alabama siccing dogs on peaceful black demonstrators
  • Sobbing little girl covered with American Napalm, running along the street
  • Pile of dead villagers massacred by US soldiers at My Lai
  • Anti-Vietnam protesters beaten by Chicago police at 1968 Democratic Convention
  • Anguished girl weeping over fallen boyfriend shot by National Guard at Kent State
  • Dying Bobby Kennedy, his head cradled by waiter in Los Angeles
  • There are many more, but that's the way it was. Images were everything. Activists who knew how to manipulate the then-new media became instant celebrities, and created news wherever they went. Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, the Black Panthers -- all knew that getting on TV is what it's all about.

    But television was by definition a big media monolith. It still is -- except the once vast power of the "image" has been largely emasculated. Some of this is because of information overload. Much of it is healthy cynicism. But a major part is that a new generation is much more distrustful of imagery -- particularly when it is used to inculcate mythology. They can better handle reality.

    One of the tests used to determine whether someone is a psychopath (today the label is "sociopath") is measuring his reactions to disturbing images.

    I may be wrong about this, but I suspect that yesterday's psychopath is today's normal person. In 1968, a severed head on a platter would have been considered bad taste unless it had been religious imagery. Now, it's considered funny.

    And it is funny. I consider this healthy cynicism, not psychopathology. There were people who were amused by the mutilated remains of Qusay and Uday. Some of this sneering is, I believe, a reaction against the older generation's immersion in imagery.

    Today, people are interested in information minus the bullshit. And once you get over the gasping and the shock and the awe, what counts is what happened, and why. Shock value just doesn't cut it.

    Nor does the use of time-worn phraseology. An endless litany of hot-button expressions, often designed to invoke images, dominates the old journalism.

    Just today, Senator Kerry accused Dean of "liberal fundamentalism." When in doubt, trot out a label and hurl it. Except, it won't work with the new media. If it goes too far, they might just resort to fisking (a process which makes the Old School tremble in fear -- for, while they might be able to dish it out, like LBJ they are wholly unable to take it).

    The new media strikes me as about to tap into the newly emerging Third Rail of American politics: the great cynical majority. Former Clinton strategist and hired gun (much-hated for his Machiavellian insights) Dick Morris touched on this recently:

    The decline of President Bush in recent polls, the surge of Howard Dean and the embrace of Schwarzenegger in California are not contradictory.

    Rather, they are symptoms of the same cynical disregard for our national power elite. They must not be seen as contests between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, but as fights between insiders and outsiders -- the new polarization that is gripping America.

    Newsmax Magazine, Vol. 5, Number 12 (December 2003), at 18.

    Dick Morris, of course, wasn't especially writing about the Internet phenomenon.

    But these forces are inevitable. They're destined to merge.

    The outsiders are in the majority, and soon the future will be too.

    posted by Eric at 08:50 AM | TrackBacks (1)

    Heh-resy indeed!

    Has Glenn Reynolds a proprietary interest in the words "heh" and "indeed"?

    This is not an idle question brought on by having too much time on my hands. In fact, my very blogfather himself wants to know whether I had anything to do with this new blog. My answer to him was that I didn't do it, of course. (But I think the guy stole my idea before I had it!)

    Anyway, Jeff likes the blog, and so do I.

    Not that I am particularly averse to confessing to things I did not do; it's just that I have found that once you do that, you start down a slippery slope indeed. (Sorry! My rule is that I lose one point every time I use that word without supplying a link.)

    Confessing to what you did not do can lead you to places you literally never imagined!

    I think Glenn Reynolds has enough of an unofficial, but well-recognized proprietary interest in these two words that he indeed (whoa there!) could sell T-shirts with "Heh." in front, and "Indeed." in back, and people would buy them.

    But, this blog's policy of fearless and searching honesty requires me to state what I think: I'm afraid the words aren't his.

    NOTE: "Heh" might not be a word at all. Which is a point in Reynolds' favor.

    However, the blogosphere has its own customs, and its own unwritten code of conduct. From what I have seen in my seven months of blogging, it is considered generally accepted blogging procedure to either winkingly nod or noddingly wink at InstaPundit whenever (at the very least) the two words are used in combination. (Here's a typical example. And, in that regard, August 27 may be official Heh. Indeed. Day.)

    And here's a blogger who shows respect to all three of the Most Common Insta Utterances: heh™ indeed™ read the whole thing™.

    At least one Indeed scam has been unconvered. (Link from Heh. Indeed. himself.)

    It is noteworthy that even avowed enemies of Glenn Reynolds -- and I mean those hard core radicals who hurl that well-known insult better reserved for certain butchers in Korea -- nonetheless respect Reynolds' proprietary interest in Heh. Indeed.

    "Heh", as luck would have it, is only listed in one of my dictionaries, and only in connection with the HEH MIAO -- a polytheistic Hmong tribe in Southeast China.

    McDonald's has sued for far less. And, amazingly, the term "McHeh" was used -- in a positively insinuatory manner -- as an expression of freedom, to "Put 'Em in Their McPlace."

    "Heh" trumps the mighty "Mc"?


    But somehow, somewhere, you gotta draw the line. Copying is one thing, but blending a prefix with a suffix -- well that's another matter.


    Instant Heh-resy!

    Something must be done, retroactively, and insta-ntly.

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds (who is, after all, a law professor) says Heh. Indeed. "surely" does involve a trademark violation. I stand corrected -- although in my defense I should point out that I never studied Trademark Law!

    posted by Eric at 07:01 PM | Comments (3)

    The Good versus the Right?

    Once in a great while, something comes along which really makes me think.

    This piece certainly did. (Via InstaPundit.)

    The problem is, I am supposed to be doing my Christmas cards. I have less than two hours to get to the damned post office before it closes, or else it will be too late!

    I am very concerned about alliances (or collusion) between various peoples who believe in the concept of good as opposed to right.

    Particularly, I am afraid that Americans may be too linear in their thinking to understand why groups which hate each other -- even to the point of wanting to kill each other -- would nonetheless work together, fight together, fund each other, and (most troubling of all) commit suicide together, in order to achieve the common aim of destroying the right.

    That's what the Committee of Three is all about. Hizballah (Shia -- via Imad Mughniyah) joined forces with Osama bin Laden (Sunni).

    Americans should not allow their natural tendency to focus on divisions to cause them to lose sight of such alliances.

    (Of course, where else can you find a country which still cannot decide whether the good was defeated by the right or the right was defeated by the good in its own Civil War?)

    More later, I hope....

    posted by Eric at 11:53 AM | Comments (2)

    Evil green frog seeks romance in the Casbah!

    It's tough trying to make sense out of today's test results, but it's Online Testing Day at Classical Values, so the choice is not mine.

    First, from Ghost of a flea, I found a test which is really getting around -- "What Muppet are you?"

    The Flea was Sam the Eagle, and I am Kermit the Frog.

    You are Kermit the Frog.
    You are reliable, responsible and caring. And you
    have a habit of waving your arms about

    "Hi ho!" "Yaaay!" and
    "How Green Was My Mother"

    "Surfin' the Webfoot: A Frog's Guide to the

    Sitting in the swamp playing banjo.

    "Hmm, my banjo is wet."

    What Muppet are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    This is only the second time in many months of comparative testing that the Flea and I have had differing results.

    And by the way, the Flea also offers another test which I took back in October. We're both creatively evil:

    (Original link via Dean Esmay.)

    But I wanted to be Sam the Eagle, so once again I am green with envy. Doubtless that accounts for my "dominant hue" score in the next test:

    you are darkolivegreen

    Your dominant hues are green and yellow. There's no doubt about the fact that you think with your head, but you don't want to be seen as boring and want people to know about your adventurous streak now and again.

    Your saturation level is medium - You're not the most decisive go-getter, but you can get a job done when it's required of you. You probably don't think the world can change for you and don't want to spend too much effort trying to force it.

    Your outlook on life is slightly darker than most people's. You try to see things for what they are and face situations honestly. You'd rather get to the point than look for what's good.
    the html color quiz

    (Via HipperCritical.)

    Last, Dave Tepper (who worries me because he also tested as Kermit the Frog!) furnished a very useful test -- "What Romance Movie Best Represents Your Love Life?"

    While I think I am comfortable with the traditional idea that a kiss is still a kiss, I am a bit unsettled by having two results in a row identical to Dave's....

    "You must remember this, a kiss is still a
    kiss". Your romance is Casablanca. A
    classic story of love in trying times, chock
    full of both cynicism and hope. You obviously
    believe in true love, but you're also
    constantly aware of practicality and societal
    expectations. That's not always fun, but at
    least it's realistic. Try not to let the Nazis
    get you down too much.

    What Romance Movie Best Represents Your Love Life?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    (Via Dave Tepper.)

    And what the hell would Kermit be doing in Morocco, anyway?

    Well, for starters, as any upright Muslim knows, frogs are Haram!

    Kermit might be safe there.

    posted by Eric at 10:40 AM | TrackBacks (2)

    A link to a report based on a story which turned out to be a fabrication?

    A hoax.

    A @*%&! hoax.

    And that hoax generated this report by Glenn Reynolds, who never asserted it was true, specifically cautioning that it was big news "if it pans out."

    It turns out that it didn't.

    Because my additional observations on that post got me an Instalanche, I stand squarely in the chain of evidence and my post may have compounded the error -- notwithstanding the fact that the fabrication was reported by the Daily Telegraph and widely circulated and commented upon by others.

    The whole thing makes me feel quite apologetic -- and obligated to add this separate post (in addition to updating my original post), because I try to keep this blog as accurate as I can, which means pointing out errors as soon as I become aware of them.

    Anyway, tonight, as I was getting caught up with stuff I missed, I found out that the story (that Abu Nidal trained Muhammad Atta) was "a fabrication that is contradicted by U.S. law-enforcement records." (Via InstaPundit.)

    How dare they (whoever "they" are) make this stuff up? You sure as hell can't blame the bloggers for commenting on it. Not after the story was carried in the Daily Telegraph. This is just part of life. The important thing is to correct the errors and go on.

    In any event, the fabricated story inspired me to revisit the old news reports of Abu Nidal's death. I still think the reasons given for his suicide are fishy as hell, and (as I said) disinformation. Years ago I read a biography of Abu Nidal (aka Sabri al Banna) and from what I know about the man, he was too much of a disciplined, master-terrorist to commit suicide. I don't know what he was doing in Iraq, but I doubt it was fun-in-the-sun -- or even studying Mesopotamian archaeology!

    But, whether his death was suspicious or not, the evidence linking Abu Nidal to Muhammad Atta now appears to be false.

    And that's the end of the hoax as far as I'm concerned.

    Unless someone accuses bloggers of deliberately circulating a false story. Funny what people can say over time....

    Hope that doesn't happen.

    In any case, my sincerest apologies to all!

    posted by Eric at 09:31 PM | Comments (3)

    Classical perspective on Iran

    A recent plethora of blogging activity (plus, I suppose, the capture of Saddam Hussein) is pushing Iran into the spotlight of the blogosphere.

    Iran is Persia, of course, and more than perhaps any country, Persia looks both East and West. This has been the case since antiquity. I have discussed Persian history before in this blog, and I wish I had the time to really study it in detail, because unlike Western history (punctuated as it is by a major cultural gap between the ancient period and the Renaissance), Persia has remained Persia -- a proud and rich culture -- for thousands of years.

    While it isn't especially the purpose of this post to discuss Iranian-Indian relations, studying the inextricably interrelated history these two countries share was an eye-opener in itself. Religions, philosophies, art, literature, architecture, language -- all of that which we call "culture" has been in a constant state of mutual influence over the millenia.

    For a very rich summary of the history of the Iranian-Indian relationship, I highly recommend reading parts ONE and TWO of this gem. It's a shame Americans aren't taught more about this subject, as it is very rich.

    Clearly, Iran occupies a very special place in the history of human culture. It is a shame that the country is still dominated by medieval mullahs whose system of tyranny has so little popular support that it must rely on terrorism to maintain its tentative grip on power.

    Most of the Iranian regime's support for terrorism is so well documented that to discuss it in detail would bore my readers. Besides, this is not a foreign policy blog, but offers radical American centrism from an ancient perspective.

    And right now, the ancients seem to be demanding that I do my damned job, and I dare not refuse. For I have a terrible feeling that if I could summon a Roman general -- let's say, Agrippa -- from the grave today and present what we know (or strongly suspect) about Iran to him, he would say that the time has come for some type of urgent action.

    Here's why: the worst case scenario America could face is not a repeat of September 11, but a nuclear attack by terrorists. No government is crazy enough or strong enough to launch a nuclear attack against the United States -- and that is what it takes: craziness plus capability. Terrorists have the craziness in spades. They'd love to nuke us, and have said so many times. They lack the nukes to do it. (So far, at least.)

    Consider the following two points:

  • Point One.
  • Iran is close to having a nuclear arsenal. Whether or not it is secretly enriching uranium, it has precursor materials as well as a nuclear reactor. According to the Department of State,

    Iran has acknowledged both the heavy water production plant at Arak and the uranium enrichment facility at Natanz, but did so only after their existence was disclosed to the press in August 2002 by an Iranian opposition group.

    Aside from a small IAEA-safeguarded “zero-power” research reactor located at the Esfahan Nuclear Technology Center, Iran has no known heavy water reactor and no need for an indigenous source of heavy water. Iran’s only nuclear power reactor expected to become operational within the next decade is the light-water reactor under construction with Russian help at Bushehr. This raises serious questions about Iran’s intentions in constructing an industrial-scale heavy water production plant at Arak. Heavy-water moderated reactors are better suited for plutonium production than are light water reactors. We believe Iran’s true intent is to develop the capability to produce fissile material for nuclear weapons, using both the plutonium route (supported ultimately by a heavy-water research reactor) and the highly enriched uranium route (supported by a gas centrifuge enrichment plant).

    Iran has also confirmed to the IAEA that it is constructing a gas centrifuge uranium enrichment facility near the town of Natanz. Although Iran initially delayed the visit, IAEA Director General ElBaradei visited the Natanz site in late February and found what appeared to be a “sophisticated” centrifuge uranium enrichment program. We are deeply concerned at Iran’s efforts to build that facility clandestinely, and believe there is no logical reason for Iran to pursue uranium enrichment other than to support a weapons capability, especially in light of Russia’s pledge to provide all the fuel for the lifetime of the Bushehr reactor.

    There has been a great deal of speculation as to why Iran would be developing nuclear power considering its oil reserves, and Stefan Sharkansky has questioned whether a weapons program makes any sense in light of Israeli deterrence. Of course, Ayatollah Rafsanjani has urged Muslims to use nuclear weapons against Israel, but that is not the same as saying Iran intends to do it directly.

    Well, how about indirectly? This leads to my other point.

  • Point Two
  • There is accumulating evidence that the top leadership of al Qaida is now located in Iran. Accounts vary as to exactly who is there, how long they have been there, or the details of their residence, but I think there are too many reports to be ignored. (See al Jazeera, Fox News, Two stories in The Hindu, WorldNetDaily -- as well as BLOG-IRAN.)

    What alarms me the most is the presence -- for some time now -- of Dr. Ayman al-Zawahiri, Osama bin Laden's partner, a man considered more dangerous and more intelligent than bin Laden. I doubt there is anyone alive who would be more delighted at any chance to obtain nuclear material for use in the United States.

    The fact that Iran has nuclear material of any sort is cause for major concern. The fact that Iran has the brains of al Qaida there is cause for even more major concern.

    But, taken together, the two are intolerable.

    Whether Zawahiri left or not (this report states he left together with the notorious psychopathic torturer Imad Mughniyah) does not really matter. Rather, the evidence establishes friendly relations between al Qaida and the Iranian government.

    There are too many ways to move nuclear material in this world. The Iranian mullahs, if they are smart (which I think they are) could well be contemplating a sort of indirect nuclear blackmail program to save their regime. The United States government (at least, according to this reasoning) would do almost anything to prevent a terrorist nuclear attack, including make a deal to keep the mullahs in power. And if the deal included handing over al Qaida leaders (with purloined material), the Iranian "moderates" could come out smelling like a rose.

    And the Iranian people would continue to live under tyranny.

    (I hate to be so cynical, but it wouldn't be the first time the United States fell for Iran's good-cop/bad-cop routine....)

    What would Agrippa do? He'd go Roman on 'em, of course. He wouldn't wait around for nukes....

    Of course, the Romans didn't have to worry about things like International Law.

    They were International Law.

    NOTE: The above post (and many more) can be read at

    posted by Eric at 06:07 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (3)

    The spirit of Walter Duranty lives on!

    Human Rights Watch accuses the U.S. of "political show trial" tactics in allowing the Iraqi government to try Saddam Hussein:

    [T]he Iraqi Governing Council, taking its lead from Washington, last week established a tribunal that is to be dominated by Iraqi jurists. Despite the superficial appeal of allowing Iraqis to try their own persecutors, this approach is unlikely to produce sound prosecutions or fair trials. It reflects less a determination to see justice done than a fear of bucking Washington's ideological jihad against any further enhancement of the international system of justice.

    Political show trials?

    Pretty strong accusations. Usually, the word jihad is used to the describe activities of organizations like Hamas, Hizbollah, and al Qaida. You know, stuff like slaughtering innocent civilians?

    Like, maybe, September 11?

    But here's more:

    because it can draw from a global pool of talent, it would be better able to secure the experienced and fair-minded jurists than a court that must look only to Iraqis. An internationally led tribunal could still conduct trials in Baghdad and involve Iraqis as much as possible, but it would be run by international jurists with proven records of overseeing complex prosecutions and scrupulously respecting international fair-trial standards.

    Despite the obvious merits of an internationally led tribunal,Washington is adamantly opposed, which largely explains the path chosen by the Iraqi Governing Council. But Washington's opposition reflects its ideology, not concern for the Iraqi people.

    Hmmm..... Concern for the Iraqi people means that the man who tortured and murdered them for decades must be allowed to live? Yes, because according to this group, the death penalty for Saddam Hussein would bring "broad international condemnation."

    I found this horror thanks to Michael Radu, who disagrees with HRW and Amnesty International's idea that putting Saddam on trial is like Stalin's show trials of the 1930s:

    By all standards, Saddam Hussein is one of the worst mass murderers of recent times – not an “alleged” or “suspected” murderer. If he does not belong in the company of Stalin, Mao, or Hitler, it is only because there were not enough Iraqis to kill to put him in this first rank. HRW’s likening of a trial that has not even begun yet – the Iraqis’ trial of this tyrant – to Stalin’s show trials of the 1930s is absurd. It casts Saddam’s victims in the Stalin role. It is Saddam, not they, that are in that role here.
    I agree with Michael Radu. It strikes me as condescending in the extreme to maintain that only bureaucrats from Brussels are fit to try Saddam Hussein -- especially considering that had it been up to them, the guy would still be there torturing and murdering Iraqis, and conducting genocide.

    I guess it all depends on how you define "fair-minded."

    HRW and Amnesty International seem to think it means that:

    a. Saddam Hussein must be allowed to live;

    b. trying him in Iraq would constitute Stalinist style "political show trials"; and

    c. the U.S. is guilty of "jihad."

    Stalin show trial analogies partricularly bother me, because I have studied that period extensively. The "fair-minded" international community at the time all believed Stalin's show trials were quite fair:

    ....[T]he public and the press were convinced of the legitimacy of the trials. This was particularly the case in Stalin's first three show trials, where he invited several international observers as witnesses. These observers included reporters from the New York Times, the U.S. ambassador to Moscow, and British diplomats. All agreed that the trials were reasonable and fair. For example, the International Association of Lawyers declared the 1936 show trial to be entirely lawful: "We hereby categorically declare that the accused were sentenced quite lawfully. It was fully proven that there were links between them and the Gestapo. They quite rightly deserve the death penalty (cited in Vaksberg, 1990, p. 123)." New York Times reporter Walter Duranty similarly accepted the verdict of Stalin's second show trial: "It is a pity from the Soviet viewpoint that no documentary evidence was produced in open court," yet still concluded "taken all in all . . . the trial did 'stand up' (January 30, 1937, cited in Heilbrunn, 1991)." The same sort of acquiescence was also largely given to the later satellite state trials, which were often treated as political intrigue stories by the west.
    Where was the "broad international condemnation" at the time? Should I ask the New York Times?

    Fair minded international consensus does not have the world's greatest track record.

    Ask Stalin's victims.

    As for me, I do not wonder whose side Walter Duranty would be on today.

    The penalty for obfuscating tyrants' murders seems a small one, which perhaps explains why there's so much of that going on.
    Penalty? Hell, there's no penalty at all!

    You even get to call yourself "fair-minded" while you're doing it!

    posted by Eric at 07:05 AM | Comments (2)

    Support your First Amendment right to keep and bear phones!

    Here's another ominous trend -- more prohibition of instrumentalities of crime (rather than enforcing laws against the crime itself) because of an uproar over the nature of the instrument:

    Many local governments in the United States are moving to restrict the use of cell phone cameras even as the quality of the camera pictures steadily improve.

    Trying to distinguish between a camera phone and any other cellphone has also complicated matters. The Elk Grove Park District in suburban Chicago enacted a ban in November that covered the possession of any cellphone - not just camera phones - in park-owned restrooms, locker rooms and showers.

    "There is no reason to have a cellphone while you're changing and showering," said Ron Nunes, one of the park district's commissioners. "I'd rather protect the children and the public more than someone who wants to call home and see what's for dinner." Fresh in the town's memory was a 2001 incident in which a man used a fiber-optic camera to secretly take pictures of children in a park shower.

    You'd think they'd have learned from things like gun control and penis control, but no!

    Now, it's camera control. Or, rather, camera-cell-phone control.

    Has it ever occurred to these people that the problem -- invasion of privacy -- does not justify the further invasion of privacy and dignity which inevitably occurs when we are reduced to a national kindergarten? This is like banning copying machines because they can be used to make illegal copies -- or MP3 technology because it can be used to assist piracy.

    Neophobia is of course at the root of much of this. No one proposes banning microphones! Yet they are instrumentalities of crimes like electronic eavesdropping.

    More accidents are caused by eating in cars than by talking on cell phones. Yet it is the cell phone society wants to ban and not the food.

    If it is a crime to invade people's privacy with invasive, sexually personal photography, then enforce the law! But they won't do that; instead they'll go after tiny cameras.

    Just like they want to take away my gun because others use theirs to commit crimes -- or my pit bull because certain other people use theirs in dogfights.

    Of course, the people who devote their energies to invading other people's sexual privacy won't be deterred by bans on camera-cell-phones. They'll just attach ever-tinier cameras to their shoes, and sneak up from behind!

    Maxwell Smart, update your shoe phone!

    (Or is that a "sole" phone?)

    Hey, don't get me started; yesterday in Texas they arrested a woman for selling a vibrator. Phones vibrate too, you know! Haven't you ever heard of phone sex?

    posted by Eric at 11:33 PM | Comments (5)

    Is there a need to belong?

    Here's a politically correct essay which nonetheless manages to raise some issues worthy of discussion. The author is a self-described heterosexual who questions the privileges which have been bestowed on her because of her sexual preference.

    The privilege she complains of having is akin to belonging to a sort of inside club -- a club not for homosexuals:

    How difficult it is for them to listen to the casual, constant discussion of showers and engagements and weddings and assume that everyone is interested in these heterosexual coming-of-age events. How excluded gay/ lesbian/ bisexual/ transgender folks feel when their coming-of-age events are secrets only shared with a select few, not freely discussed in the lunch room by the water fountain.

    Promotions and even jobs can be denied to those not members of the heterosexual club. It's never said overtly, "We can't hire her, she's lesbian," just as it is never said, "We can't promote her, she's black." Such "isms" are not the subject of outright talk. They are the silent enemies of those who don't conform to the established, dominant cultures.

    Heterosexuals assume their privilege and benefit from what MacIntosh terms "unearned power" in the blithe manner of all dominant cultures. Heterosexuals make the immediate connections with other staff. They talk with supervisors about their families, spouses, and lives in a way that assumes everyone's entering the conversation from the same platform of experience. It's so easy, so familiar, and so blind. They are assuming a sexual commonality where it does not always exist.

    My question is: why not assume a sexual commonality which does exist, and simply stop worrying about it? We are all sexual (at least most of us are), so why should there be any social tyranny in the first place?

    Why does it matter?

    Is the homosexual person really that different? Aside from having a partner of the same sex, is there something internally different? If a black person were magically altered so that he had white skin and white features, would there still be something different? If so, precisely what?

    Why must these differences, whetever they are, be considered "group" identity? Why do they matter?

    I cannot think of a logical reason; however, I can nonetheless feel a reason.

    Therefore, I suspect the reasons have more to do with emotion.

    Something along the lines of needing to belong. To something.

    Life is tough when you don't.

    And if you think any of that is logically perplexing, consider the following: more homosexual men are raped by heterosexuals than heterosexual men by homosexuals.

    Crazy, isn't it? Homosexual rape by heterosexuals?

    Why not heterosexual rape by homosexuals?

    Clearly, logic does not belong.

    Yet, here's someone who proves quite logically that "the world is apparently composed of more than simply heterosexuals and homosexuals":

    There are apparently hundreds or thousands or millions of sexualities. There might be as many sexualities as there are people. There might be six billion sexualities!
    I tend to agree with this, because each person's taste is unique.

    Once again, identity politics, with its insulting, lowest-common-denominator, one-size-fits-all, you-must-be-gay-or-straight, thinking, is the culprit. Those who need to belong are its victims.

    The problem is, most people have a need to belong!

    I don't want such a need, but that's an easy thing to say.

    (And meanwhile, I find myself knowing less and less about more and more.)

    posted by Eric at 08:56 PM | Comments (1)

    All wet and loose inside!

    No blogging all day, and almost no blogging tonight!

    I said "almost" because I just fixed what I have called my "IMPOSSIBLE problems with Verizon's sucky-ass, on-again/off-again DSL".

    It always tends to occur in the rain, and this week, in addition to DSL failure, on Monday the phone became unusable because of a loud hum which drowned out the dial tone itself.

    Verizon "repair" (that is what they call themselves) came today while I was out, and wedged a note in my door stating that the problem had been theirs but had been fixed.


    I went inside, picked up the phone, and NO DIAL TONE AT ALL.

    I have been through this "interface" device crap before, so I went outside with a 3/8 nutdriver, removed the cover screw, and -- lo and behold -- they had not plugged the phone line back in! So I plugged it in, and was greeted by a scratchy dial tone, but hey! at least it worked. I fired up the computer and had Internet, but that lasted only for about twenty minutes.

    For the past two hours I struggled with Verizon repair, and DSL technical support. I will say this: DSL is at least populated by human beings. "Repair" is a crazed, illogical voice mail system, which makes me feel sorry for Verizon's customers.

    Repair solved nothing except a promise to come back on Friday, but at least DSL tech support stepped me through the usual modem troubleshooting, and when they ran their signal test, they said my line was "erratic" and drawing far too much current -- a signal consistent with a malfunctioning cordless phone. (I don't use cordless phones.) Unplugging everything except the phone I was using, they still got the same result.

    For my efforts, I gleaned a "trouble ticket!"

    Still not satisfied, I decided to take a closer look at the work performed by "repair."

    Another trip outside (in wet, sleety, snowy weather) and this time I inspected very carefully. I was completely shocked to see that the inside of this "weatherproof" plastic box was soaked with water! It was all over the wires inside, and worst of all, water was leaking from inside the modem plugs!

    This called for war.

    I armed myself with a box of Q-tips, some paper towels, and an electric hair dryer plugged into a 50' extension cord, and went to work.

    But then I thought of you, my readers, who may be wondering why I disappeared. Just so you can see what I am talking about, here's a photo of the terminals, which really doesn't show the water, but will give a general idea of the problem. (Actually, you might be able to spot some of the water; it was enough to soak the Q-tips.)


    (Nice having a macro setting....)

    After further drying, I decided to check again, but then I thought, hmmmm.... Surely they wouldn't have left the brass screw-down terminals loose? Fortunately, they're also 3/8 inch, so I started checking for tightness, and whoa! Not even hand tight! It was as if the guy (or girl, or whatever) had simply put the wires in position (they had been moved to another set of terminals in the box) and forgotten to tighten them -- along with forgetting to plug in the line.

    All of the wires were loose.


    Of course, no one can be fired, no one is in charge, and no one cares.

    There is no "there" there.

    posted by Eric at 07:44 PM | Comments (1)

    Divisive issue

    The biggest division in American society -- and the widest cultural gulf -- is between those who believe in serfdom, and those who believe in freedom.

    Those who believe in serfdom are inclined to think that the world is divided into masters and slaves, and that if you don't want to be a slave, you'd best work your ass off, study real hard, join the right churches and country clubs, make lots of money, and then if all goes well, you'll find yourself in the position of being a master. Once you’re a master, of course, you are free from having to obey the laws you promulgate for the slaves, as they are the little people -- people fit only to be ruled (and many of whom look to above, to higher authorities, and in fact want to be ruled).

    Note that this has nothing to do with left and right. Hillary and her village of serfs differ from the conservative version in only the details of how the power pie is divided, and what will be regulated.

    On the other side are people who believe in being free men and women. They don't want to be treated as serfs, and they don't want to be ruled by people who divide the world into serfs and overlords. Even though they are in the majority, they are confused by a system which encourages "masters" to run for office, and then further confused by a game played by these masters along the lines of good cop/bad cop; good master/bad master.

    As I see it, a common intellectual trap tends to confuses people. The mistake is in thinking that the division is between "the people" and "the leaders," when it is really a division between those who believe in being ruled by the "leaders" and those who don't. The latter tend to think that rather than being ruled, their elected representatives are there to serve them, while the former tend to look up to them (and might even want to aspire to "leadership" themselves).

    Rule or be ruled? I think that is a sickening concept in a free country.

    The rule-or-be-ruled crowd must be resolutely opposed by the refuse-to-be-ruled crowd lest they succeed in setting up a new feudalism.

    How can this be done in a civil manner?

    In my view, the first step is in getting people to recognize that the biggest gap in the country is not the dispute between left and right (even though some of the right wing tend to respect at least the idea of limitations on power.)

    It's the dispute over whether we are ruled -- or free.

    posted by Eric at 11:53 PM | Comments (1)

    Moral relativism -- a concept which refuses to die!

    Hey, I don't mean to whine about gays in the military or anything....

    But Strom Thurmond was personally as well as politically opposed to homosexuals for his entire career, and believed that not only should they not be allowed to serve in the military, but that they shouldn't be given security clearances.

    Here's something I always wished I could have said to the guy:

    What, you might ask, would I have said to Senator Thurmond in response to his simple but admittedly personal question? Well, by way of suggestion, here's an example:
    "Well Senator, you have asked me a personal question, but since you consider it relevant, my answer is YES, I am a ho-mo-sex-u-al! But since we're onto personal questions, I have one for you: How does a 90 year old manage to get a 20-year-old wife and have children? What's your secret? Boy! I wish I could do that!"
    Something like that might have broken the ice with the old coot. Might not have melted his cold, cold heart, but it's just more human than hiding behind quasi-presidential skirts, aloof judicial robes, or some other man-behind-the-curtain power.
    As it turns out, the senator (also a champion of upholding morality in high office) did quite a bit of getting around.

    This story, while an entertaining account of Thurmond's 78-year-old "love child," inexplicably leaves out a crucial detail which I found in my local paper -- the mother of the love child was sixteen!

    Essie Mae Washington was among the bright lights in the Class of 1945 at S. Horace Scott High School in the Chester County steel town of Coatesville.

    She was also the secret daughter of Strom Thurmond - the product of a sexual union between the 22-year-old son of the most prominent family in Edgefield, S.C., and the 16-year-old black girl who cleaned the family's house.

    Thurmond's relatives stepped forward yesterday, six months after his death at age 100, to acknowledge that Washington, now 78 and using the married name of Williams, was, indeed, the senator's child.

    I suppose I would be accused of smearing a dead man for bringing this up.

    Or of engaging in (gulp) "moral relativism"?

    But hey, I thought stuff like having sex with sixteen year olds would mean you wouldn't get a security clearance. For years, this man was the chairman of the committee which helped promulgate such regulations.

    Strom Thurmond Chairmanship (1995-98)

    By the time James Strom Thurmond (R-SC) became chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the 104th Congress (1995-97), he was, like Senators Russell and Stennis, a much-revered and esteemed figure in the Senate. He was the only Senator who had been a member of that body when the Republicans last controlled both houses of Congress in 1955. He was also the last link to the earliest years of the committee--the last Senator who served on the Senate Armed Services Committee through most of the Russell Era and all of the Stennis Era.

    He was a leading opponent of homosexuals and other "security risks" for his entire political life, and worked hard to uphold his version of morality.


    I guess in some parts of the world I'd be called a moral relativist for raising similar questions about Aisha.

    Am I allowed to ask if hypocrisy is all relative?

    UPDATE: Here's a valuable post I missed. I am glad I am not alone on this one. (Link thanks to InstaPundit.)

    UPDATE: I am also glad to know that One Fine Jay doesn't think I am smearing a dead man.

    MORE, AND ADMITTEDLY OVER-THE-TOP: My standards are very low, which is usually a good thing, for it helps me to overlook the worst in people, and to carry on with life as best I can.

    But occasionally something violates my very low standards, and then I have a problem. What I read here pushed me over the top.

    I wrote this outside my blog in a fit of anger over Strom Thurmond. (So angry that I couldn't see straight.) That man epitomizes all I hate, even though I know it's wrong to hate him. I'll take it to my grave, I guess.

    An ardent segregationist, an advocate of laws against miscegenation, he practiced what he would imprison others for. Even his own daughter he damned -- by the evil laws he loved -- to a life of inferior, second class citizenship.

    This was a man who refused to compromise his "principles." He wasn't just opposed to in-your-face, activist homosexuals (of the kind who "just won't shut up"), he was one of those guys who believed in specifically asking whether you're a homo!


    Was it a coincidence that his god decided to take him on the same day sodomy laws were thrown out in the United States of America?

    I don't know, but I don't believe in his god.

    I prefer the one who'd be hated today as a moral relativist because he didn't think it was a good idea for people to be enforcing laws they didn't obey themselves.

    UPDATE: This editor in the Philadelphia Inquirer notes that had Thurmond been black and the sixteen year old white, the situation would have called for lynching. (Lynching, of course, was a gruesome form of murder -- often including castration -- carried out by mobs in the name of "sexual morality.")

    According to Jonah Goldberg, "Strom Thurmond didn't just oppose voting rights for blacks -- he opposed anti-lynching laws."

    And if this is true, Thurmond never actually repented his racist views.

    As I said, moral relativism!

    It isn't for everybody....

    UPDATE: It seems that in South Carolina in those days, the age of consent was 14 -- so there was nothing illegal about the young Mr. Thurmond's affair. (Via InstaPundit.) Not that I said there was -- but I don't like to create misleading impressions. (As to adultery, who knows?) My anger was not based on criminality, though; just hypocrisy.

    posted by Eric at 01:11 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

    Saddam's real lifeline....

    While Howard Dean might have missed his moment of opportunity, according to William Safire, Saddam Hussein can't wait for his:

    I think Saddam is still Saddam — a meretricious, malevolent megalomaniac. He knows he is going to die, either by death sentence or in jail at the hands of a rape victim's family. Why did he not use his pistol to shoot it out with his captors or to kill himself? Because he is looking forward to the mother of all genocide trials, rivaling Nuremberg's and topping those of Eichmann and Milosevic. There, in the global spotlight, he can pose as the great Arab hero saving Islam from the Bushes and the Jews.

    Under interrogation, he's not likely to rat on his fedayeen, lead us to his hidden billions abroad or tell the truth about dirty dealings with France and Russia. Instead, he intends to lie all the way to martyrdom. (Via Vodkapundit.)

    Even viewing the video of the tyrant at his "broken" worst, I couldn't help notice his awareness of the magic eye -- the camera watching him. Why, for a brief moment he even seemed to be hamming it up -- pretending the medic was hurting his jaws by making him "open wide."

    Just like a dried out desert plant springing to life after a rain! I swear, the guy draws strength from knowing he's gonna be on TV!

    He knows intuitively that the camera means Big Media -- a sort of life preserver tossed to a man who'd otherwise drown.

    His friends can see him!

    His enemies can see him!

    Many people are debating what should be done with Saddam Hussein. One thing is certain: the camera is his sustenance right now. His megalomania needs it like a junkie needs heroin. With it, he lives, breathes, grows. Without it, he's a broken man.

    If only there were a way to turn the damned thing off....

    (But that would be bad for ratings.)

    posted by Eric at 11:44 AM | Comments (1)

    Souljah of misfortune?

    Looks like Howard Dean missed out on an opportunity for the Sister Souljah moment which had been predicted. (Via Instapundit.)

    Maybe Dean's not as smart as I thought.

    (Or, maybe he's as reckless as Karl Rove thought....)

    posted by Eric at 11:16 AM | Comments (2)

    Islamist snuff films don't lead to alms!

    Latest idea? Frighten Americans and embolden Jihadis by distributing snuff films like the one showing Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl having his head cut off.

    I don't know the extent to which this has been independently verified, but this site discusses the idea (and links to a rather sickening video):

    The newest tactical plan in the Islamist propaganda campaign is to create and distribute videos to the media showing the actual rape/torture/murder of westerners specifically kidnapped for these productions.


    It will also interest you to know that these types of videos were made as fund-raisers for the Islamist cause and that it was possible to have placed a custom order for the type of person and style of execution.

    For the majority of those Westerners who have had the gumption to view the video clips, they represent a shocking introduction into the twelfth century morality that seems to be irrevocably entwined in the Islamist mentality. It is also an indelible introduction to the use of video as a weapon in and of itself.

    Americans (especially journalists) are expected to be the unwitting tools of our own demise:
    The unwilling primary actors for this deliberately cold-blooded exercise in psychological terror operations are to be western, but preferably American military personnel, business people, non-governmental organization (NGO) charity workers and lastly journalists themselves. The ranking of potential victims is purposeful as it is the journalists who must complete the distribution cycle and it would not do to unduly alarm them, unless of course they fail to cooperate as expected.


    [T]he bottom line for the consumers of mass media...[i]s the decision of whether to continue to become shocked and dismayed by the already-announced dissemination of barbarous images though our own media outlets that lack the mature and objective self-restraint required… or to finally become aware of who we are as a nation and a culture, the true nature of whom are at war with and begin to deal with it rationally and decisively.

    I don't know how true the report is, but I think the deliberate production of snuff videos involving Americans is the last thing terrorist Jihadis should want to do. Americans have a long, proven history of getting really pissed off by tactics like deliberate torture of innocent civilians, women, and children. They tend to lose any sympathy they might otherwise have had.

    Americans are generally decent, big-hearted people, and inclined to be charitable, even genuinely compassionate. But let those who might otherwise be seen as sympathetic underdogs resort to bloodthirsty tactics like torturing American civilians, and Americans are inclined to be in a very uncharitable mood.

    Americans have an ugly, (even politically incorrect) history of saying things like, "The only good Indian is a dead Indian!"

    And acting accordingly.

    It's all very regrettable, of course.....

    I would never condone it.

    But just the same, I wouldn't advise snuff films as a way to defeat Americans.

    posted by Eric at 08:43 AM | Comments (3)

    San Francisco's latest pissy fit....

    What kind of city would -- in the middle of a war -- no longer welcome its traditional annual (since 1981) precision flying performance by the legendary Blue Angels?

    San Francisco, unfortunately.

    As a 30 year resident of Berkeley (although I'm currently bicoastal), and former city official there, I'm familiar with the type of thinking which dominates Bay Area politics, and I'll offer an all-too-typical example.

    Here, from today's San Francisco Chronicle, is a letter to the editor:

    Editor -- Regarding the news article, "A Fleet Week sans Blue Angels?" (Dec. 12): The Blue Angels (the Navy's precision flying team) will not be missed. The vulgar display of triumphal military regalia has long been a civic disgrace.

    Such garish spectacles may have a place in the protocols of authoritarian fascist regimes, but are grotesquely out of place in a city such as San Francisco.

    At a time when many San Franciscans continue to recover from the threatening prospect of another eight years of oligarchic civic administration under Mayor-elect Gavin Newsom, good news does come in unexpected places.


    San Francisco

    I am not at all sure that "fisking" is the correct way to deal with letters such as the above.

    Urinalysis might be more appropriate, considering the contents of the piss.

    I'll take the Blue Angels' triumphal military regalia over Mr. Gutekunst's vulgar display of a letter any day -- especially at a time when a leading authoritarian fascist regime has finally been defeated. Trashing the Blue Angels at a time like this is indeed a civic disgrace.

    posted by Eric at 02:42 PM | Comments (2)

    Fighting the war -- cell by cell?

    Forget, for a moment, things like plastic turkeys and rubber chickens.

    Tim Blair offers a map showing the exact locations of the Coalition of the Puss Pissy. (Link via InstaPundit.)

    I hate to sound paranoid but that map (especially the MoveOn version) bears a striking resemblance to the T-mobile cell phone coverage map!

    Surely, this cannot be a coincidence!

    It is well known that terrorist "cells" are everywhere. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to suspect a foreign conspiracy.

    First of all, GSM cell phones (which all German Telekom T-mobile phones are!) are un-American, and have already been allowed to take over Iraq:

    [US Congressman Darrell Issa]... had been campaigning to exclude "un-American" GSM from Iraq in favour CDMA.

    Well, it's now official. The Iraqi Communications Ministry has awarded three licences for mobile services - and all three consortia will be using GSM.

    GSM phones not only cause cancer, but they have been implicated in mind control projects!

    Worst of all, the evil, perverted Germans who run T-mobile have recently been implicated in an insidious plot to inundate their users with pornographic images!

    I have been using T-mobile for over a year now. I am a satisfied customer.

    Too satisfied?

    While I don't think I have developed full-blown Pissy Syndrome, I am worried that for all of the above reasons I may be in danger of being an asymptomatic "carrier."

    Stranger things have happened.

    UPDATE: While it's hard for me to believe that anyone could take seriously this plastic turkey business, a particular remark by Michael Moore really pushes things, and makes me wonder about the IQ of his hapless followers:

    Michael Moore, one of the regime's trenchant critics, put it well in an open letter to his President: "The fake honey glaze on that fake bird wasn't much different from the fake honey glaze that covers this war. And the fake stuffing in the fake bird was just the right symbol for our country during these times. America loves fake honey glaze. It loves to be stuffed, and damn it, you knew that."
    Michael Moore is hardly one to complain at all -- much less use the words "fake" and "stuffed" in the same breath! A rich New York millionaire (as distinguished from the poor ones) who lives on the fashionable Upper West Side, where he sends his daughter to an elite private school, Michael Moore very ample stuffing is matched only by his faker-than-fake working-class-hero pretense.


    Where do people get off, taking such things seriously? Is anti-Bush hysteria making people delusional?

    On the other hand, if the hysteria induces enough anger on the other side, it could both backfire (with a Bush landslide, as Steven Malcolm Anderson predicts) and simultaneously fuel itself further. I don't think such anger and psychotic polarization are a good thing -- but who asked me?

    REALLY LATE UPDATE: Hey, come on folks! When I said "rubber chicken" I was just kidding, OK? (Link via Tim Blair.)

    posted by Eric at 12:01 PM | Comments (4)

    A man's hole is his dungeon?

    With understandable skepticism, my blogfather Jeff discusses this report from Debka that Saddam Hussein was being held prisoner by Iraqis seeking to claim the reward money:

    Saddam was seized, possibly with the connivance of his own men, and held in that hole in Adwar for three weeks or more, which would have accounted for his appearance and condition. Meanwhile, his captors bargained for the $25 m prize the Americans promised for information leading to his capture alive or dead. The negotiations were mediated by Jalal Talabani's Kurdish PUK militia.

    These circumstances would explain the ex-ruler's docility ­ described by Lt.Gen. Ricardo Sanchez as "resignation"­ in the face of his capture by US forces. He must have regarded them as his rescuers and would have greeted them with relief.

    I share Jeff's skepticism, and I have never fully trusted Debka. Common sense would suggest that if Iraqis had Saddam Hussein, they'd want to get credit for turning him over themselves. They'd be proud!

    And they'd certainly get the reward anyway. Why go through this charade of allowing the Americans to appear to capture him?

    And why would American soldiers participate in such a charade?

    Surely someone would talk.

    As Benjamin Franklin said, "Three can keep a secret -- if two of them are dead."

    As to Saddam Hussein's docility, I think this is a more likely explanation.

    ANOTHER THOUGHT: And since when are "prisoners" given:

  • A pistol;

  • an AK-47;

  • $750,000 in cash?
  • I'll move there right now and surrender!

    posted by Eric at 09:19 AM | Comments (1)

    A leg up on culture?

    Not to neglect today's events, but I think the following might be of general interest, and I would have posted on it earlier but for the dramatic news of Saddam Hussein's capture.

    Is homosexuality is associated with the inner workings of civilization itself?

    Arthur Silber (a meticulous guy who always does his homework) links to this book review from the New York Times (and I know what a hassle it can be to fill out the damned form to read these things, so I'll quote generously):

    [I]n Louis Crompton's sober, searching and somber new history, "Homosexuality and Civilization," homosexuality is associated with the inner workings of civilization itself....


    In ancient Greece, homosexuality was philosophically praised and institutionally sanctioned, associated with virtues of courage and mentorship. In ancient Rome, it was primarily cultivated in relationships between masters and slaves, but homosexual behavior was common to Pompey, Caesar, Mark Antony and Octavius. "Of the first 15 emperors," Gibbon pointed out, "Claudius was the only one whose taste in love was entirely correct."

    Why did such indulgence, tolerance and even sanction disappear? Mr. Crompton offers a very different interpretation from the influential theory outlined by the French philosopher Michel Foucault. In Mr. Crompton's view, the concept of homosexuality was not something created in 19th-century Europe when it was first considered a medical condition, nor was it, despite cultural variations, so drastically different in other times and places.

    Mr. Crompton argues that Christianity created the most radical change in attitudes toward homosexuality. "The debt owed by civilization to Christianity is enormous," he writes; but so, he believes, have been Christianity's sins. In Japan, for example, before the mid-19th-century Western influence, homosexuality was "an honored way of life among the country's religious and military leaders so that its acceptance paralleled, and in some respects even surpassed, ancient Athens." It was common among Buddhist sages, part of samurai culture and an accepted aspect of the Kabuki theater world.

    Christianity attacked such customs when it gained access, Mr. Crompton argues, but its assault began in the West as early as the 4th century (not the 12th century, he says, as the historian John Boswell believed).

    Mr. Crompton traces Christian hostility to Leviticus, which may have been written around 550 B.C., at the very time that homoerotic poetry was thriving in Greece. It mandated death for homosexual acts. Mr. Crompton suggests that this law was an attempt to differentiate the Jews from Mediterranean cults in which transvestite priests, eunuchs and sexual activity played a central role in ritual and worship.

    As filtered through the severity of the writings of the Apostle Paul, though, that condemnation became central to Christianity, strictly distinguishing it from Roman and pagan cultures.

    I have posted -- repeatedly -- about the difficulties posed in analyzing the ancients' attitude towards homosexuality in modern terms. To say that they did not stigmatize it misses the point. They did not see it as different. Rather, it was a part of human sexual expression; sexual desire. Something to be perhaps commented upon in passing, but not something which would separate people who did it as remarkable, different, or (particularly) in any way less human than anyone else. While it is tough to draw a modern analogy, the closest example I can give would be the way a heterosexual man who liked legs (I guess that's safe enough) would be called "a leg man." No stigma, because this is simply seen as sexual variation.

    Homosexuality was as unremarkable to the ancients as an interest in legs would be to heterosexuals today. To speak of America's "tolerance" for men who enjoy women's legs would strike us as totally absurd.

    Similarly, to talk about the ancients' attitude towards homosexuality, by presuming that there is an attitude, runs the risk of contamination by alien observation.

    Still, the question remains: why the stigma? Certainly, it makes little sense solely to blame Leviticus. Jews have not stoned homosexuals for thousands of years, and, notwithstanding St. Paul's disapproval of homosexuality, the Council of Jerusalem specifically distanced Christianity from the Leviticus prohibitions. Thus, at some point in time, Christianity "discovered" a new stigma -- or perhaps reinvented and misintepreted ancient Jewish laws even though Jews no longer applied them as written.

    Were Justinian and Theodora the culprits? Maybe I should ask a genuine scholar of the Byzantine period (and one of my favorite bloggers) Michael McNeil. (His latest post -- The Byzantine Crusades is a real gem!)

    I don't think there was any one cause. Different ideas spring up among different peoples, times, and places. (It has long fascinated me, for example, how homosexuality could be the essence of masculinity in some cultures, and the essence of effeminacy in others. And they didn't get the latter idea from Leviticus!)

    Given enough time, such ideas become so entrenched that no one knows how they started.

    Like foot binding.

    (You never know; it might have started with a leg man.....)

    UPDATE: I know that not everyone reads comments, so I wanted to share this link -- absolutely loaded with material on ancient Roman attitudes -- with all who are interested. . (Thank you, Dave Tepper.)

    posted by Eric at 05:56 PM | Comments (6)

    No pretense of moral clarity here!

    At least one blogger believes that Saddam Hussein wasn't all that bad:

    Saddam was a bad guy, but it isn't clear he's any worse of a guy than some of the folks who are a part of our "Coalition of the Willing," so this pretense of moral clarity, etc... is ridiculous.

    Well, let me say one thing: this blog does not have any pretenses of moral clarity!

    If you find any, let me know, and I'll be properly ashamed.

    The next thing we'll hear is that the Saddam Hussein capture -- just in time for Christmas -- was just another orchestrated PR stunt for Dubya's reelection. (That they knew all along where he was, and were just waiting for the right time... something like that.)

    I think the situation calls for satire.

    Since I am lucky enough to have gotten an Instalanche on my last post, let me float an idea for either a cartoon or a Photo Shop project (something I am not competent to do).

    Remember the uproar over Bush and the Thanksgiving turkey? How about using that same picture, and instead of the turkey, substituting a suckling pig -- with Saddam Hussein's head holding an apple in his mouth?

    I can see it now. (Wish I knew how to draw or use Photo Shop....)

    By the way, Saddam-Suckling-Pig Hussein was not my idea; it was my elusive helper, Justin Case. But ideas cannot be copyrighted!

    UPDATE: Wow, it didn't take long for the turkey remarks to start!

    another plastic Turkey moment. Another moment that does not really matter. (via InstaPundit.)
    So the capture of Saddam Hussein is the equivalent of a turkey? And a fake, plastic one at that?

    What next? Surely you don't think they'd go so far as to call this feast part of a PatternOfDeception(TM), do you?

    Hey, forget my PhotoShop remarks, OK?

    UPDATE: A source reports that the mood on "the street" in Berkeley, California, today is glum indeed. (Perhaps there'll be some news from al Jazeera to cheer them up!)

    UPDATE: A talented ghostwriter for Indymedia offers this full explanation of today's news:

    Isn't it convenient that the capture comes right on the heals of the Halliburton gas price scandal? Seems a little too convenient. Obviously they've had Saddam for months waiting for just the right moment to "announce" his capture. Cheney forced the issue to bring him out of hiding now to protect his Halliburton buddies. He wants to push the gas price scandal out of view, and he's going to succeed unless we keep attacking.

    UPDATE: Here are some of the more amazing quotes I have seen (compiled in San Francisco by Banagor):

    "I've heard that they had him for months and only pulled him out now because of the elections"

    "I don't really believe it is him. It must be a double. You know that Bush would stoop to that."

    "Yeah, I don't believe it either. It was staged."

    "Maybe it was him but what about all the other things like Haliburton?"

    "I don't put anything past Bushcheney and Rove. It's a set up."

    "I'm still in shock, you know what this means for his numbers?"

    "How can you be happy about it? You know what this means for Dean?"

    I wish someone could spread some oil on such psychotically troubled waters. Anti-Bush hatred has taken on the earmarks of complete hysteria, and things are getting to the point where I think Bush himself ought to do something, and I don't know what! Not to win any election, but simply to remind those who hate him (and those ordinary folks who find themselves increasingly baffled by the metastasizing hatred) that he is, simply, a human being. (Ronald Reagan was to the right of Bush, yet he was nowhere nearly as excoriated. One of the things he used to do was to meet with enemies....)

    UPDATE: And here's the last word on the Atta/Hussein connection: an exclusive interview with Saddam Hussein himself, via Meryl Yourish.

    U.S.: Let's talk a little bit about Mohammed Atta.
    S.H.: I do not know such a person.
    U.S.: Mohammed Atta, Abu Nidal—you remember Abu Nidal, he's the guy who committed suicide while in your country by multiple gunshot wounds to the head.
    S.H.: Ah, him. Yes, it was an unfortunate suicide.
    U.S.: Dude. Multiple gunshot wounds to the head. You had him murdered. We know it.
    S.H.: I did not have him murdered. It was suicide. He fell on his gun, and it went off several times. And hit him in the head each time. It is pure coincidence that my son was there.
    U.S.: Abu Nidal taught Mohammed Atta, didn't he?
    S.H.: I do not know what you are talking about. How can I remember such things while my people are in bondage? [*urp*] I need to use the bathroom.
    U.S.: How can you use the bathroom when your people are in bondage?
    S.H.: You mock me now. But the great Iraqi people will rise up against the occupiers, and restore Iraq to—
    I don't know what happened at this point. Guess they lost the signal....

    NOT SO FAST!!! There's another interview with Saddam Hussein, and this time, he begs for mercy!

    posted by Eric at 11:31 AM | Comments (3)


    For Saddam Hussein -- who was just captured!

    Why wasn't there a single word on Drudge?

    I guess I'll have to poke around to see where it's been reported.....

    UPDATE: Hey, looks like SOMEONE beat Drudge!


    UPDATE: Nice picture too. (Long time without Baath.)

    UPDATE: And, speaking of Abu Nidal (who now appears to have trained Muhammad Atta), does anyone remember the reasons given when he was killed on orders of Saddam Hussein?

    According to a report in the British newspaper the Daily Telegraph, Abu Nidal was killed because he refused to train al-Qaeda fighters, who had fled Afghanistan. He also refused to carry out attacks against the U.S. and its allies, the report said.

    A U.S. official was quoted as saying that he had "paid the price for not cooperating with Saddam's wishes."

    Whatever the case, Karmon said it exposes the nature of the Iraqi regime.

    "It proves again the character of the Iraqi regime that even if it was not directly involved, the regime has a lot to hide," Karmon said.

    A lot to hide? I'll say!

    The reason given -- that he "refused to carry out attacks against the U.S." -- sounds like classic disinformation to me.

    UPDATE: Thank you, Glenn Reynolds, for kindly linking to this post. Welcome all newcomers to this blog!

    I have posted a few more thoughts here.

    UPDATE: It now appears that the story that Abu Nidal trained Muhammad Atta was "a fabrication that is contradicted by U.S. law-enforcement records." (Via InstaPundit.)

    Well, I still think the suicide story is fishy as hell. I read a biography of Abu Nidal (aka Sabri al Banna) and the man was too much of a disciplined master-terrorist to commit suicide. I don't know what he was doing in Iraq, but I doubt it was fun-in-the-sun -- or even studying Mesopotamian archaeology!

    posted by Eric at 09:11 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBacks (3)

    New subject

    Fascinating discussion by Glenn Reynolds on digital photography versus film.

    No one asked for my opinion, but here it is: I am a lazy fuck, and while I might from time to time be creatively inclined, I have only so much patience. Something about hassles with film -- the expense, development, paranoia over what the pinheads at the processing center might conclude -- make me disinclined to use it.

    Takes away some of the the spontaneity and fun.

    When I got my first digital camera, the freedom from film just filled me with newfound enthusiasm. So did the ability to dump as many images into my hard drive as I wanted, without regard to cost, quantity, or even quality.

    A bit like blogging?

    I grew tired of writing, printing and sending material to people who didn't want to hear from me, or writing to publishers who'd just as soon have me die or disappear. Still, I did that for a decade. I have a nice fat bunch of files (about 250 megabytes worth) and loads and loads of paper.

    But this is not on paper, not intended to be on paper; it's all digital, and more accessible than any book.

    Like digital photography, blogging gives you just about everything you need except subject material.

    The latter is more important than the medium.

    Here ends a road.


    posted by Eric at 04:20 PM

    In defense of (gulp!) shit

    I am crushed.

    The famed master satirist and Hollywood expert Howard Veit did not like "Angels in America":

    Whenever the Left praises a movie you can bet the movie is a total propaganda piece. "Angels in America" ain't about God. Angels in America is about homosexuals being victims because they stuck their dicks into somebody's ass and caught AIDS. Like guess what? There ain't no penicillin up there, people. There's shit up there. What the hell do you think is going to happen to you if you slosh your dick around in shit for five minutes? A Federal hand out, that's what they think. Angels in America is about how everybody should rally and pay for their disease. It's about, hating Reagan, Republicans, and everybody who isn't on the "gay side". The New York Times led the usual liberal choir in praise of this homosexual spectacle. The people who watch TV knew exactly what a long winded piece of shit this was and didn't watch. No ratings at all. Sort of like the Abercrombe and Fitch catalog of filmdom.

    I didn't particularly care for "Angels in America" either. But it didn't occur to me to whine about shit stabbers getting their just desserts -- any more than it would occur to me to say that cigarette smokers deserve to be neglected to death in government hospitals.

    Oh well. To each his own, I guess.

    Much as I share his loathing of the material, I must take issue with the reviewer's idea that "shit" plays a causative role in the transmission of AIDS.

    Fecal material has nothing to do with it. Obviously, feces are unsanitary and loaded with bacteria, and could help spread innumerable infections, but according to the CDC there has never been a single case of AIDS infection via feces. (Otherwise, it would be tough to find a plumber in certain neighborhoods...)

    The last link (involving a prisoner charged with attempted murder for flinging feces at a guard) is interesting, because legally, one cannot be convicted of attempting that which is impossible, regardless of intent. For example, if you shoot someone with a water pistol in the mistaken belief it was a real gun, an attempted murder charge will not lie. Similarly, it is not possible to attempt murder by means of a voodoo curse, because courts take judicial notice that voodoo does not work.

    So, I think the feces-flinging convict has a good defense based on impossibility -- provided Mr. Veit is not sitting as the trial judge!


    Where was I? Angels with dirty feces?


    Infected semen and infected blood are the AIDS transmission vectors. And even there, the virus has to pass from an infected T cell to an uninfected T cell. Drinking blood will not do it, absent a cut in the mouth or esophagus.

    A vampire would not even get AIDS.

    It is the passive partner who is at risk, not the "shit stabbers" Mr. Veit so fondly condemns.

    Why has Mr. Veit gotten his roles so hopelessly reversed?

    Really, the stench and confusion are so dizzying that I seem to have lost track of whether this is a television review or a medical dispute. Surely, the infectious nature of shit (and whether or not it spreads AIDS) is not really a criticism of "Angels in America," is it? I mean, it would be one thing if the series were trying to make a case for the wondrous purities of shit, but so far, I don't think that has been the point.

    I have never liked Tony Kushner, though, so I had to grit my teeth to watch "Angels in America."

    Howard Veit made me do it. Honest!

    Anyway, I did see issues which warrant attention.

    First of all, there are serious logical problems with the notion that Ethel Rosenberg was a saint. She was not. The Venona transcripts have clearly demonstrated that Julius in particular was an important agent of the Soviet Union, and he was guilty as hell. This does not mean Ethel deserved the death penalty, though. A leading FBI investigator, along with J. Edgar Hoover, believed that Ethel should have been spared because her role was relatively minor (and subordinate to her husband's). Plus she was a mother. For what it's worth, I tend to agree with the ultraliberal J. Edgar Hoover that her life should have been spared.

    Some "saint."

    [NOTE: of course, look at some of the recent candidates for beatification....]

    Of course, this hardly makes Roy Cohn a great guy. He was an aggressive, unethical prosecutor, Joe McCarthy's right hand man, and well, was not known as the world's nicest guy. He lied about his AIDS diagnosis, and was what might be called a classic closeted homosexual.

    But no matter what anyone thinks of Cohn, even if you think him truly malevolent, it is a supremely manipulative abuse of logic to maintain that his villainy beatifies Ethel Rosenberg.

    Rubbish! I am not a fan of Cohn or the McCarthy era, but this thinly disguised attempt at rehabilitating the Rosenbergs should be seen as the historical fraud that it is.

    I think I just made a better case for shit than for "Angels in America." Still, it's well-written, and, well, it's entertainment -- as far as it goes.

    As entertainment, it has about as much to do with history as Mr. Veit's feces have to do with AIDS.

    (What kind of sicko would be entertained by both Veit and Kushner?)

    UPDATE: When I wrote the above, I had not known about Mr. Veit's fascination with the Rosenberg case -- to the point of even writing hypothetical screenplays! Yet, despite such demonstrated, meticulous interest in the subject material, his review says not a word about the Rosenbergs, but focuses on feces.

    If I didn't know any better, I might suspect jealousy was involved.

    As to me, I'm jealouser than shit!

    posted by Eric at 09:58 AM | Comments (2)

    Stop embarrassing and unwanted elections!

    I recently took a test which ranked my presidential "preferences" for me in an order other than the order that I would rank them! (Test link via Discount Blogger. )

    1. Your ideal theoretical candidate. (100%)
    2. Bush, President George W. - Republican (75%)
    3. Libertarian Candidate (70%)
    4. Phillips, Howard - Constitution (40%)
    5. Gephardt, Rep. Dick, MO - Democrat (39%)
    6. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (35%)
    7. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (34%)
    8. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat (28%)
    9. Kucinich, Rep. Dennis, OH - Democrat (26%)
    10. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat (17%)
    11. Clark, Retired General Wesley K., AR - Democrat (9%)
    12. Lieberman, Senator Joe, CT - Democrat (9%)
    13. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat (7%)
    14. Moseley-Braun, Former Senator Carol, IL - Democrat (2%)

    That's not the way I would rank those candidates.

    How dare they rank them for me?

    I may not agree with Carol Moseley-Braun, but she is at least sane (and therefore outranks Lyndon LaRouche by several percentage points). And I prefer General Clark to Sharpton, Kerry, Edwards, Kucinich, Gephardt. Why does Bush come in ahead of the imaginary Libertarian? And why does Howard Phillips rank so high? Whose opinions are these, anyway? I thought my opinions were mine!

    What the hell!

    Maybe I should carefully redo the list to reflect my real order of preferences.

    But I want to be fair.

    Who's paying me for endorsements?

    posted by Eric at 09:20 AM | Comments (2)

    SPAMARREST.COM (another cross to bear?)

    Here's a very annoying development: SPAM coming from a company whose stated purpose is -- you guessed it -- fighting SPAM!

    I was just startled to receive the following email, from someone I do not know, and have never heard of [note: this was in response to an email I sent, but to someone else on the list, so it was not an ordinary SPAM]:

    Xxxxxxx here,

    I'm really sorry about this inconvenience. I get scads and scads of junk mail, and I'm trying to regain control of things. I know this message seems a little bit like spam itself, and I'm sorry about that. I know some people hate "whitelist" solutions like this one. All I can say is that if you got as much spam as I do, you'd consider things like this to.

    Don't worry, you only have to do this once.

    Just this once, click the link below so I can receive your emails. You won't have to do this again.

    You are receiving this message in response to your email to Xxxxxxx, a Spam Arrest customer.

    Spam Arrest requests that senders verify themselves before their email is delivered.

    When you click the above link, you will be taken to a page with a graphic on it. Simply read the word in the graphic, type it into the form, and you're verified.

    You will only need to do this once per Spam Arrest customer.

    Webmasters help stop spam and make 50%.

    Here's the thing; I don't want to do this at all! It is extremely rude for a stranger to be sending email like this, and the only reason I haven't emailed him back is because I am on a master email list which (I believe) sends copies of every email to everyone on the group list.

    But what really teed me off is that after I was kind enough to visit the stupid web page and enter their stupid word, next I got the following solicitation from the damned anti-SPAM company:

    Thank you for verifying your email address with Spam Arrest!

    Your email has been forwarded to Xxxxxxx's inbox. All of your
    future emails to Xxxxxxx will also be delivered directly into
    their inbox.

    You can protect your own email account using Spam Arrest.

    Please visit our website to learn more, and signup for your
    fully-functional, 30-Day, Free Trial!

    Spam Arrest - Take control of your inbox!


    Webmasters help stop spam and make 50%.


    This I do not like. I don't want "spamarrest" to have my email address, and I did a little research, and found that the company has a proven track record as -- yes! -- spammer! (Via OnePeople, via Politech)

    I guess the above is what I can now expect, because I was stupid enough to be nice.

    To hell with being nice -- and to hell with I am posting this so maybe someone can learn from my mistake.

    Don't use the services of this company to stop SPAM.

    Unless you want to lose friends.

    And make enemies.

    posted by Eric at 07:32 PM | Comments (3)

    Some thoughts on "emo"-sexuality....

    Normally, I don't like to dwell on depressing things, but at Christmas time, the depressing seems almost cheerful. (Which might be the whole idea.... or maybe vice-versa.)

    The term "emo" (see last post) is a trendy new expression for a multifaceted phenomenon I have observed for many decades. I'll stay with the word "emo" because I prefer the simplicity of a three letter word. As opposed to (for example), "lonely-clinically-depressed-young-man-whose-lack-of-self-esteem-is-matched-only-by-a-total-hatred-of-all-conformity-and-a-fuck-you-attitude-toward-the-world-with-resultant-refusal-to-engage-in-social-phoniness-who'll-therefore-never-score-with-women-and-whose-natural-bisexuality-fuels-his-hatred-of-the-hypocrisy-of-everyone-else-so-he-hangs-out-at-gay-bars-and-gets-loaded-and-maybe-hustles-maybe-meets-interesting-people-and-maybe-falls-in-love."


    Yeah. "Emo" is definitely less of a mouthful.

    There's a lot of 'em out there, too. Rufus Wainwright (Via Ex-Gay Watch) and River Phoenix strike me as a couple of possible emos who achieved fame before that label was coined.

    Gay? I guess. Emo? Whatever! If society has a problem with that, well, that's a good enough reason to embrace the label. But I would not expect an emo to conform to some stereotypical "gay" standard when rejecting such bullshit was the whole idea.

    I find myself rather partial to such lost souls, and I'm not sure why.

    posted by Eric at 03:26 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (2)

    Three time loser!

    Well, now is the time for me to fess up and admit that I have failed as a King, as a Queen, and even at Christmas!

    But because today is Friday -- Online Testing Day at Classical Values -- I will not allow my own poor scores in these tests to prevent me from sharing the results with you.

    First, my, er, kingdomhood. I found this otherwise really excellent test from the Great Test Giver Himself, Ghost of a flea, and what really hurts is that he got the cool result! That's right, the Flea got to be Caligula! I'm stuck being Charles VI of France -- a madman most people have never heard of.

    Which Historical Lunatic Are You?
    From the fecund loins of Rum and Monkey.

    I though it was a shame the test did not display the narrative of this at least colorful loser, so I reworked the description, and made it more personal:

    "After illness I became a tad unstable. When a raving lunatic ran up to my entourage spouting an incoherent prophecy of doom, I was unsettled enough to slaughter four of my best men when a page dropped a lance. My hair and nails fell out. At a royal masquerade, I and my courtiers dressed as wild men, ending in tragedy when four of them accidentally caught fire and burned to death. I was saved by the timely intervention of the Duchess of Berry's underskirts.

    This brought on another bout of sickness, which surgeons countered by drilling holes in my skull. In the following months I suffered an exorcism, begged my friends to kill me, went into hyperactive fits of gaiety, ran through my rooms to the point of exhaustion, hid from imaginary assassins, claimed my name was Georges, denied that I was King and failed to recognise my family. I smashed furniture and wet myself at regular intervals. Passing briefly into erratic genius, I believed myself to be made of glass and demanded iron rods in my attire to prevent myself from breaking.

    In 1405 I stopped bathing, shaving or changing my clothes. This went on until several men were hired to blacken their faces, hide, jump out and shout "boo!", upon which I resumed basic hygiene. Despite this, my wife continued sleeping with me until 1407, when she hired a young beauty, Odette de Champdivers, to take her place."

    Hey, who said life was easy?

    No self-respecting mad king would overlook his inner "queen" so my misguided sense of royal prerogative made me feel obliged to take this test -- "What kind of queer are you?"

    It turns out that I fail as a homo, because I am too emo to be homo!

    WOW! What a suprise! You're an "Emo Kid"
    We have no clue if you are gay or not, you damn
    emo boys look gay but sometimes you're not!
    lonely, you find yourself quoting lyrics and
    writting some of your own.

    What kind of queer are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    (Via my favorite stalker, Ray.)

    I guess it's consistent with the emo personality to have Christmas "issues" -- so I shouldn't have been surprised by the results of "What Christmas Carol are you?"

    A Christmas Carol
    You are 'Christmas Time is Here, by Golly!', by Tom
    Lehrer. Hmm, you really don't like Christmas,
    do you? From the moment they start playing
    carols in the shops in October to the
    appearance of the first Easter Eggs in the
    shops on New Years Eve, the rampant hypocrisy
    of the Christmas spirit sets your teeth on
    edge. You know just how many family fights
    start over Christmas dinner, how many people
    are injured in the Boxing Day sales, and how
    few people actually find Christmas even
    remotely merry. You liked Scrooge far better
    before those ghosts got to him, and you are
    only doing this quiz because you are bored at
    work and anything is better than listening to
    everyone else discuss their Christmas shopping.
    Still, it is two days off work, which does
    count for something... Enjoy the break.

    What Christmas Carol are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    (Via Stranger in a Strange Land, who probably knows more about Christmas than most of the blogosphere, and hopefully won't hold my poor score against me! Humbug!)

    posted by Eric at 08:36 AM | Comments (2)

    (My reaction to the demonstration)

    Not much point in shooting off my mouth when others have said it better.

    So, I'll just shoot off this instead:


    UPDATE: The above was taken with my three-year-old Epson PhotoPC 850Z, which only has a 3x optical zoom. Now if I'd had one of those slick new Toshiba PDR M700 series camera, like InstaPundit's....

    10x optical!

    I found one at an incredibly low price -- just $304.00! The problem is, now they're sold out.

    I'm too slow.

    posted by Eric at 11:19 PM | Comments (1)

    Is too much going to be enough?

    If you're as tired as I am hearing about doom, gloom, quagmires, non-renewable resources, global warming, and other claptrap, be sure to read this for a lift:

    For the first time, an international research program involving the Department of the Interior's U.S. Geological Survey has proven that it is technically feasible to produce gas from gas hydrates. Gas hydrates are a naturally occurring "ice-like" combination of natural gas and water that have the potential to be a significant new source of energy from the world's oceans and polar regions.

    ...Interest in hydrate E&P has soared in recent years because of growing evidence that more hydrocarbon exists in hydrate deposits than the combined oil, gas and coal reserves worldwide.

    ...[T]here may not be enough hydrocarbons available to bring on global warming from conventional fossil fuels reserves. But if the technology to extract methane gas hydrates can be made cost-effective then humanity really will have to refrain from using as much fossil fuel as it can burn.

    Apparently, there's more energy in this planet than we need.

    This news is certain to infuriate control freaks and social engineers of all stripes.

    (Hat tip to Justin Case for this tidbit. Do I have to set up a tip jar just to bribe him?)

    UPDATE: Am I the only human being having IMPOSSIBLE problems with Verizon's sucky-ass, on-again/off-again DSL? The situation is absolutely chronic, and interferes with my ability to post! (Last night I had to drive to Starbucks in the rain.)

    UPDATE: While you're at the Future Pundit site, be sure to read his post on "Neophobia" -- which links to this article.

    Neophobe! Now that's a new one!

    Be scared! Be very scared!

    And die young!

    posted by Eric at 09:50 PM | Comments (3)

    Pregnant remarks

    Here's a fascinating comment (left anonymously to this post):

    I am against living in a world and a time that has no advance in science enough to turn all those gays and lesbians who refuse being so into...dads and moms with lots and lots of children.. with a family to care for to turn to when there becomes no one else to turn to. TO HAVE A LIFE FOR GODS SAKE!
    First of all, being "against living" because of alleged scientific deficiencies strikes me as counterproductive, because what is the alternative? Dying? What is to be gained from that?

    As to "no advance in science" to "turn" gays and lesbians into dads and moms, I am baffled. Has the commenter ever heard of the turkey baster? There are gay sperm banks. What does the commenter want? To want to have children? Where there's a will, there's a way.

    I don't get it. Really, I am scratching my head over this one.

    Is someone pulling my leg?

    Speaking of discriminatory health concerns, I found a fascinating analysis contrasting the "above-the-waist" Herpes Simplex 1 with the "below-the-waist" Herpes Simplex 2 (abbreviated as HSV-1 and HSV-2).

    The range and potential severity of HSV-1 infections lead some experts to view the virus as more risky than usually perceived. "This is heresy, but I think type 1 is a more significant infection than type 2," says Spotswood Spruance, MD, an oral HSV specialist at the University of Utah. "Type 1, and the morbidity associated with it, are underestimated."

    By comparison, HSV-2 is widely believed to be a painful, dangerous infection that affects only people with very active sex lives. The reality? Some 22% of adult Americans from all backgrounds, income levels, and ethnic groups have HSV-2. Like HSV-1, type 2 is usually mild-so mild that two- thirds of infected people don't even know they have it. Type 2 rarely causes complications or spreads to other parts of the body. It is the most common cause of neonatal herpes, a rare but dangerous infection in newborns; however, type 1 causes up to one-third of neonatal infections.

    The two types do behave somewhat differently depending on whether they are residing in their site of preference-the mouth and face for HSV-1, and the genital area for HSV-2. But both types are quite common, and under most circumstances neither is a major health threat. That's one reason medical professionals tend to dismiss HSV -2 despite the emotional trauma a diagnosis can cause for a patient.

    Despite the fact that these diseases are first cousins of each other, HSV-2 scares the hell out of people, while HSV-1 is considered "normal" Herpes. The "normal" variety is spread much more casually, through kissing or indirect oral contact, and infection rates approach 80%, whereas the genital variety, though less severe in its symptomatology, is "bad." (Bear in mind that either virus can infect genitally or orally -- which confuses people further.)
    If HSV infection is as easily transmitted from the mouth as from the genitals, then why do people take steps to prevent genital but not oral infection? Why don't we kiss through dental dams?

    "It's ironic, isn't it?" says Wald. "It's not about health, it's about social acceptability."

    Scientists can tell us all day that the main difference between the two viral types is simply their site of preference-whether they typically occur above the waist or below. But the unspoken attitudes of our society send a different message. That's just the problem, social attitudes whisper. Below the waist is bad.

    "People think of oral herpes as the "good" herpes and genital herpes as the "bad" kind," says Glover of the National Herpes Hotline. "It's partly that they don't understand the similarities between HSV-1 and 2. But it's also that good and bad is how our culture views sex and our bodies."

    The inescapable fact is that HSV-1 is usually spread through contact with infected lips, while HSV-2 usually spread through contact with infected genitals. From a social point of view, the problem is not the disease; it's how you got it.

    Well, the common cold is spread manually (and manual behavior would of course would be included in sexual intercourse). But the common cold is not considered an STD because its transmission is not primarily through sex. While HSV-1 and HSV-2 are both spread through sexual intercourse, HSV-2 is more often associated with sex, so it's the bad guy -- without regard to which virus does more damage.

    Double standards and problems with logic exist everywhere, sometimes even in science.

    Even so, I am not persuaded to be "against living in a world and a time that has no advance in science."

    But hey, here's the Muslim view on certain "advances in science":

    I. All cases introducing third parties into a marriage, whether a womb, an egg, a sperm or a cloning cell are not permissible.

    II. Ordinary human cloning, in which the nucleus of a living somatic cell from an individual is placed into the cytoplasm ofan egg devoid of its nucleus, is not to be permitted. If exceptional cases emerge in the future, they should be considered to verify compliance with the Shari'ah.

    III .All Muslim countries are called upon to formulate the necessary legislation to prevent foreign research institutes, organisations and experts from directly or in directly using Muslim countries for experimentation on human cloning or promoting it.

    Does that mean they're against the Rainbow Sperm Bank?

    What a world!

    I say, let's clone the prophet Muhammad! It could be done, you know.... There are plenty of his relics, just sitting in Turkish museums....

    As my commenter suggests, "HAVE A LIFE FOR GODS SAKE!"

    posted by Eric at 07:59 AM | Comments (3)

    Now I get to run -- from the issues!

    I don't know how I got nominated for such a thing, but I want to thank whoever was nice enough to do it -- as well as everyone who voted for Classical Values in the Best Marauding Marsupial Blog election. Frankly, I don't think I am in the same league with many of the blogs there, and I am still new to this (which is why I didn't even know I'd been nominated until I saw my blog's name there today).

    And the only reason I saw that I was nominated was because I went there to vote for my dear blogfather -- Alphecca -- who was nominated for the Best Large Mammal Blog category. (Yes, like the Romans I believe in shameless nepotism, which is why I also voted for my blog-grandfather -- if there is such a term.)

    Obviously, I have had no time to campaign, nor have I been able to seek any endorsements! I don't even know whether it is appropriate for me to solicit votes at my own blog (because I am not sure I even want to run against some of the fine blogs pitted by fate to be "running" against me).

    But if you like my blog, I have one request: VOTE FOR MY BLOGFATHER.

    Please do it now.

    posted by Eric at 06:13 PM | Comments (2)

    Whose blog is this?

    Might my blog be prohibited from endorsing candidates for office within the magic number of days before an election?

    Short answer: I don't know.

    Long answer: I still don't know.

    Via Eugene Volokh, I found and attempted to read today's Supreme Court decision upholding the McCain-Feingold Act.

    The decision is 298 pages long, so happy reading! I was concerned with language I found on pages 72, 80, 99.....

    But I still couldn't make much sense out of the decision because they kept referring to the Act itself.

    Looking elsewhere on the Internet, I finally found the McCain-Feingold Act.

    Guess what? It runs another 89 pages -- some 13,448 words.

    Words like these -- which confounded me to no end:

    (a) IN GENERAL. Section 316(b)(2) of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 (2 U.S.C. 441b(b)(2)) is amended by inserting "or for any applicable electioneering communication'' before ", but shall not include''.
    (b) APPLICABLE ELECTIONEERING COMMUNICATION. Section 316 of such Act is amended by adding at the end the following:
    "(1) APPLICABLE ELECTIONEERING COMMUNICATION. For purposes of this section, the term 'applicable electioneering communication' means an electioneering communication (within the meaning of section 304(f)(3)) which is made by any entity described in subsection (a) of this section or by any other person using funds donated by an entity described in subsection (a) of this section.
    "(2) EXCEPTION. Notwithstanding paragraph (1), the term 'applicable electioneering communication' does not include a communication by an organization described in section 501(c)(4) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986 or a political organization (as defined in section 527(e)(1) of such Code) made under section 304(f)(2) (E) or (F) of this Act if the communication is paid for exclusively by funds provided directly by individuals who are United States citizens or lawfully admitted for permanent residence as defined in section 1101(a)(2) of the Immigration and Nationality Act (8 U.S.C. 1101(a)(2)). For purposes of the preceding sentence, the term 'provided directly by individuals' does not include funds the source of which is an entity described in subsection (a) of this section.
    "(3) SPECIAL OPERATING RULES. For purposes of paragraph (1), the following rules shall apply:
    "(A) An electioneering communication shall be treated as made by an entity described in subsection (a) if
    "(i) an entity described in subsection (a) directly or indirectly disburses any amount for any of the costs of the communication; or
    "(ii) any amount is disbursed for the communication by a corporation or labor organization or a State or local political party or committee thereof that receives anything of value from an entity described in subsection (a), except that this clause shall not apply to any communication the costs of which are defrayed entirely out of a segregated account to which only individuals can contribute, as described in section 304(f)(2)(E).
    Obviously, you cannot get any idea what the language "any entity described in subsection (a) of this section or by any other person using funds donated by an entity described in subsection (a) of this section" means without tracking down and reading subsection (a) of "this" (now-amended-but-not-present-in-McCain-Feingold-text) "section."


    So, another Internet search took me to the original Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971! (A monstrosity which runs a mere 225 pages....)

    But note that because section 316(b)(2) of the Federal Election Campaign Act of 1971 is actually 441b(b)(2), magical subsections like "(a)" don't exactly stare you in the face.

    QUERY: How are people supposed to follow the law when the law can't be found or read -- and (if found and read) understood without reference to Opinions running nearly 300 pages?

    Finally, I found the language:

    (a) It is unlawful for any national bank, or any corporation organized by authority of any law of Congress, to make a contribution or expenditure in connection with any election to any political office, or in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any political office, or for any corporation whatever, or any labor organization, to make a contribution or expenditure in connection with any election at which presidential and vice presidential electors or a Senator or Representative in, or a Delegate or Resident Commissioner to, Congress are to be voted for, or in connection with any primary election or political convention or caucus held to select candidates for any of the foregoing offices, or for any candidate, political committee, or other person knowingly to accept or receive any contribution prohibited by this section, or any officer or any director of any corporation or any national bank or any officer of any labor organization to consent to any contribution or expenditure by the corporation, national bank, or labor organization, as the case may be, prohibited by this section.
    OK, so that is what (I think) has been amended by McCain-Feingold.

    The Act seems to say that a "communication" -- if originating from a corporation -- is now a "contribution." This defies common sense, but I guess I should be glad that my blog is mine, and not published by a corporation.

    At least, I certainly hope it isn't. Some courts seem to have held that the ISP is indeed the publisher, and is analogous to a radio station:

    An ISP's role in the Internet is similiar to that of a radio station. They have the responsiblity to control how, when, and by whom the information is presented.
    Most ISPs are corporations, of course.

    Now, it may sound ridiculous to maintain that what I publish on my web site might be taken as a communication by my ISP, but don't laugh!

    ISPs have been successfully held liable in a variety of contexts as "publishers" of what their customers wrote.

    However, the trend seems to be in the other direction.

    For now.....

    Meanwhile, I share the concerns expressed by Eugene Volokh and Clarence Thomas.

    (The above was no fun at all to write. People should be paid for such pain.)

    UPDATE: On a related note, the inexplicably intelligible Glenn Reynolds links to an article which claims much legal writing is unintelligible!

    Nothing new about that!

    posted by Eric at 04:27 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)

    Not the "peace candidate" -- but the "smart war" candidate!

    Is Howard Dean trying to steal my idea?

    For some time, I have believed that Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell might be able to offer himself as an alternative to Hillary Clinton -- a sort of "anti-Hillary."

    Ed Rendell shows no signs of evolving into this niche, but recent developments make me think Howard Dean might be. When Al Gore's recent endorsement is coupled with Wesley Clark's desperate campaign tactic (offering Hillary the Vice Presidential spot), all the signs are there.

    Howard Dean is still largely unknown to the vast hordes of middle Americans, so attempts to characterize him as "left wing" go largely unheard.

    Might there be a good reason why Dean wants to cover up (for now) his largely conservative record as Governor? To remain true to the old adage of "to the left in the primaries; to the right in the general election," it makes a lot of sense for Dean to delay the truth as long as possible.

    More than makes sense; it may be political brilliance.

    Now, if he could just figure out how to time that Sister Souljah moment....

    Of course, Hillary's stance is pro-war, while Dean's is anti-war. That could be tough, for it artificially places Hillary to the right of Dean (something she most definitely is not).

    Were I Howard Dean, I would strongly attack such terminology and expose "Artillery Hillary" as a phony, unprincipled wannabe. (Whose husband's policies paved the way for this mess!) Then I would claim I'd been misunderstood, and "clarify" my downright Nixonian plan to end the war.

    Hey, these ideas are old.

    (It goes without saying that along the way, a number of conservatives will inevitably "discover" that electing Dean might be their only chance to stop the hated Hillary....)

    posted by Eric at 10:36 AM


    I am sorry to report that my very kind and wonderful blogfather Jeff is sick. Here's his post:

    I really feel like just dying...

    I hate being sick. And I'm too hot and tired and achy to do anything. I'll be back when I feel better, hopefully in a day or two if there's a God...

    It's the first time in well over a year that I've missed three days blogging and I feel bad about that but I feel worse physically right now and I'm just going to drink a gallon of water and go back to bed. What's weird is that I'm sweating so much while I sleep and I don't even have to ... you know... piss... probably because the fever sweated it all out... I'm sure this will pass and then I'll be back. See you soon.

    --sickly Jeff

    I hate being sick too, and, while I know it verges on superstition, I would like to harness what little part of the blogosphere I can to send Jeff a very sincere blogger get-well wish.

    Anyone reading this, why don't you stop by Jeff's site and send him a get-well greeting?

    Especially you Second Amendment supporters! Jeff's Weekly Gun Bias Report has become such a staple that we tend to take it for granted.

    Usually, Jeff has it up by Wednesday....

    Back in May, his Weekly Report (via this link) was precisely how I first found Jeff. I wrote to him, and he decided to adopt me as his first blogson!

    Since then I have been blogging in earnest.


    posted by Eric at 02:16 PM | Comments (1)

    "I think what you're feeling is wrong!"

    (Which is better than saying "I feel what you're thinking is wrong!")

    Glenn Reynolds dislikes the use of "feel" as a synonym for "think."

    I feel the same way. Which is to say that I don't like it either. Likes and dislikes are not a thinking thing; they are a feeling thing. In that previous post, I mentioned homosexuals who feel that they were "born that way" and who therefore (they feel) "have no choice."

    Such a statement, like most feelings, is not logical. There is no way I can argue logically with someone who feels he was born that way. Thoughts are logical, and feelings are not. Thus, whether there is some scientific evidence of prenatal factors which might produce a homosexual tendency in some people, its existence really isn't necessary for someone to simply "feel" that he was born that way -- or who "feels" that he belongs in a separate group called "homosexual" or "gay."

    Sexual attraction, of course, is a feeling. One does not think a feeling.

    The real danger in all of this, of course, is that some people allow their feelings to control their thoughts, and others believe that feelings should control thoughts. I don't care how strongly anyone feels; that has nothing to do with logic and should not.

    Mob "thinking" is often a feeling thing.

    One way this muddying of the distinction between thought and feeling plays itself out in our present-day world is with the increasing tendency to prohibit anything -- including the expression of logical thoughts -- which are alleged to cause hurt feelings. A recent example is the brouhaha over "Hitler wine" -- as opposed to "Stalin Wine." (Via Howard Stern.) There is no reason in logic why a bottle of wine with Stalin on the label should not be just as offensive as the same bottle with Hitler. Yet the former would be allowed to be sold on ebay -- but not the latter. It's all about feelings. Hitler on a wine bottle evokes stronger feelings than does Stalin.

    Feelings brought Hitler into power, too.

    Stalin was more thoughtful, but he knew how to harness and exploit feelings. (My favorite Stalin quote: "Revenge is a dish best served cold.")

    Feeling is a good way to avoid thought. There have been plenty of times I have thought I was right -- but others have tried their damnedest to make me feel wrong. That is because feelings can be manipulated far more easily than can rational thought.

    A key element of brainwashing and psychological warfare involves the manipulation of feelings through various tactics, with the confusion of thoughts and feelings being a primary purpose.

    Logic saved my life. That does not mean I cannot feel, but I do know that allowing feelings to control one's life can make life very precarious. Feelings can be mistaken, and as they are often moods, they come and go like the weather. They cannot be tested and cannot be relied on the way thought can.

    There is no logical basis for saying that all feelings are equally valid, though. Frankly, I think the statement is not a thought, but a feeling about a feeling -- and an unfounded, unprovable feeling at that. True, feelings are not subject to rational debate -- but that does not give them more weight than rational debate. If anything, it gives them less.

    Anyone who thinks all feelings are equal should stop feeling and try thinking.

    I think some of the colloquial usage of "feeling" as a synonym for "thought" results from a polite desire to let people off the hook -- often in the hope of, if not winning arguments, then allowing one's adversary a polite way to retreat. This is because there can be no argument over feelings. If someone has a feeling -- particularly a "gut feeling" -- it's often easier to just let him "feel" it.

    Politics is so driven by feelings that in many cases people are wholly unable to supply rational arguments for their beliefs. Beliefs, of course, are a gray area in between thought and feeling, and their origin is thus extremely difficult to pin down with any precision. Anti-pornography activists who feel that pornography is evil will compile reams of statistics purporting to "prove" their feelings, and then in an almost magical process their feelings are lifted into the realm of belief, with many imagining themselves to be engaging in rational thought. Statistics, of course, are hard, cold, facts. But in the hands of someone with strong feelings about something, they can be used as "proof" for feelings! (Something I worry that the blogger I discussed in that last post may be doing too....)

    History shows that "proven" feelings can be very dangerous. That doesn't mean all of them are, mind you! It is possible for feelings to lead to correct thinking. However, reason is superior, because reason is thought. You can call this a belief on my part (and maybe even a feeling), but it was logical thought -- not feeling -- which saved my life.

    It's also called reason over emotion.

    Irrationalism (which emotion and feeling are) have their place and I do not deny their importance. But to allow them to run amok by declaring them to be as legitimate as thought itself, well, you might as well say hatred is superior to reason.

    This guy said so.

    posted by Eric at 08:34 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (2)

    Homosexuals (but not lesbians) are immoral. Homosexuals have penises. Therefore, penises are immoral!

    Leave it to Dean and Rosemary Esmay to get another interesting debate going on homosexuality. This time, the topic is homosexuality and morality.

    I did not start this debate, and obviously, I am not going to end it. I wish, however, to explore some assumptions commonly made, because much of the discussion seems to proceed without doing so.

    First of all, what is morality? The blogger who provided the kernel for the latest debate defines it as involving responsibility:

    Simply put: the basis of Christian morality is responsibility. The very first argument put forward by homosexuals as a group is: Homosexuality is not a choice. That is the very definition of denial of responsibility. When you start discussing the damaging consequences and correlations of homosexuality, the first responses are: any damaging consequences are soley due to a disapproving society, and HIV/AIDS is not a homosexual disease. These are also a complete denial of responsibility. I’m directing this to homosexuals of both genders, not just men.

    What I’m arguing is not the eradication of homosexuality, but the acceptance of responsibility by the homosexual population at large. I’m advocating for the establishment of a moral homosexuality. I don’t think it will ever happen.

    For the sake of this post, I am going to stick to Nathan's definition of morality (although I think morality is more complicated than accepting responsibility for one's actions, and there are many ways of accepting such responsibility).

    First of all, let's address the "choice" crap. Homosexual conduct is to me about freedom, and choice is irrelevant. People should be free to choose or not choose it -- regardless of whether or not some feel they have no choice. In the context of definitions of morality, whether one has a choice is a bit of a red herring. Because, a thing is either bad or it is not. Whether or not someone claims it is chosen does not affect its goodness or badness. Pedophilia, for example, may or may not be chosen depending on circumstances, but most people would agree it is immoral because of the presence of unconsenting victims who, even if they claim to consent, are deemed too immature to take such decisions. Plenty of other things are chosen or not chosen; if they are bad things, we do not entertain a defense that they were caused by accidents of birth. If someone was born nearsighted, he cannot be heard to offer that as a defense to his involvement in an automobile accident, because he should have controlled his condition by wearing glasses. Note that neither condition -- pedophilia or nearsightedness -- is immoral absent the afflicted person conducting himself in such a way as to cause harm.

    That of course, is the essence of what Nathan calls responsibility. I don't have much of a quarrel with it, except that I see no way to attach the label of "immoral" to those who behave responsibly because of the actions of those who do not. If I do not infect people with AIDS or other STDs, there is no logical way that I can be accused of immorality because of the actions of other people in my purported "group." Some homosexuals are celibate, some engage in faithful monogamous relationships, some do little more than masturbate with each other, and still others play phone games or cyber games. It makes no more sense to lump them all together than it does to describe all "women" as "loose women" because some women engage in prostitution.

    The odd thing about all of this is that I agree that morality does involve responsibility. But so what? How we can go from there to a declaration that "homosexuals" are immoral I cannot understand. I refuse to be judged or condemned on the basis of some social engineer's actuarial statistics, and I can think of few things more inimical to freedom.

    Once again, I am reminded of what the social engineers would do to my dear pet pit bull, Puff. Or what they would do to my guns.

    Regardless of how many pit bull owners engage in dog fighting or sic their dogs on two year old children, I do not do that, and I refuse to be lumped with them or treated like them. Ditto for guns.

    My gun is my business. It isn't to be judged by what others do with theirs.

    Similarly, my penis is my business. It isn't to be judged by what others do with theirs.

    Bottom line here is that I dislike having my life judged by "correlations":

    the extremely high correlation between homosexuality and all sorts of unfortunate consequences makes it very clear that homosexuality is not a good choice for long-term happiness in life.
    You could substitute "guns," "pit bulls," "tobacco," or "partially hydrogenated vegetable oil" for "homosexuality," and so what? Correlations do not equal immorality. (And I am not altogether sure that risk taking does either, but I don't feel like taking the risk of enlarging the debate right now....)

    Nathan ought to be careful, because such communitarian thinking has a poor track record in history.

    And speaking of "community".... Once again, I offer my apologies to the lesbians (more disease-free than heterosexual women) whom I ignored (only because Nathan ignored them too).

    Of course, I can see why. Had lesbians been factored into his actuarial table, he'd have had the gay "Promise Keepers" he seems to think "we" need!

    Identity politics, of course, invites this kind of debate.

    Whether identity politics is immoral is still another question....

    UPDATE: Be sure to read these two posts by Shell, at Across the Atlantic. (Not only is he thinking along similar lines, but he's spent more time grappling with the issue than I have.)

    UPDATE: I was WRONG AGAIN. "Shell" is a she, not a he, although my praise is the same. (See comments below.) If only I had such a team!

    posted by Eric at 07:48 PM | Comments (11) | TrackBacks (6)

    Dead letter? To the President?

    What do you do when no one will listen to you? I don't know whether my blog is the right place for stuff like this, and I hope I don't bore my readers too much by posting mundane, personal material, but I decided to anyway because I am so irritated by a complete lack of any accountability anywhere that I figured, hey, I have a blog; maybe it's a more efficient way to voice my frustration.

    So, to all who see what's coming and are already bored, my apologies. But if you are like most people, in your dealings with corporate bureaucracy you have been put on hold, asked meaningless questions, been lost in voicemail, and talked to "supervisors" who have no power to do anything at all. Who knows; maybe this will amuse you.

    This latest example is not much different than the usual corporate callousness, except it involves my mom who died four years ago, and a company which will not recognize that simple fact despite my best efforts. Without any prompting by anyone, the company, Wachovia, sent my mother a brand-new credit card at my home address, where my mother never lived. This bothered me, because identity thieves often rifle through people's mail looking for just such items, and while I might keep an eye open for things like that done to my credit, it would never occur to me to police my mom's credit -- especially since she passed away over four years ago. So, I called them to cancel the card, and instead of being grateful, they gave me the runaround as if I had no right to interfere in my mom's affairs. I told the guy that I was her executor and that what they had done invited identity fraud, and the guy agreed -- albeit reluctantly -- to cancel the card.


    But over and done with? Hardly!

    Last week, my dear departed mom received a letter urging her to "reconsider" her "decision." I won't bore you by scanning and posting that letter, but I thought it over, and decided that the only way to get through to Wachovia would be to write to the President.

    Before you get the wrong idea... I mean the president of Wachovia, folks! The company!

    (But seriously, don't you think "Wachovia" sounds like the name of some tinpot dictatorship in a 1930s WC Fields movie?)

    Anyway, here is my letter. To the President. Um, I mean the CEO.

    Of Wachovia.


    December 8, 2003

    Mr. Ken Thompson, CEO
    1525 West W.T. Harris Blvd.
    Charlotte, NC 28288-0376

    (Your account number XXXX XXXX XXXX XXXX)

    Dear Mr. Thompson,

    Not long ago an unsolicited credit card was issued in my deceased mother's name and somehow mailed to her at my address. Considering that my mother died four years ago and never lived here, naturally I was concerned. Anyone could simply start using that credit card (which had a very large limit), and there would be no recourse, because my mother's estate (of which I am executor) has long since been closed and settled.

    I assumed that Wachovia would immediately understand the problems presented by a situation like this, and I assumed that I could clear this up with a phone call simply informing Wachovia of my mother's death -- and canceling the credit card erroneously issued in her name.

    Imagine my surprise when I received a letter from Ms. Gail Knapp (describing herself as Wachovia's "Customer Satisfaction department") dated November 19. Addressed to my mother (despite my telling Wachovia that she died four years ago), the letter urges my mother to "reconsider this decision" and to "reopen the account." Not only that, Ms. Knapp advised my deceased mother to "be sure to notify those companies that may post recurring charges to this account to pay for products or services such as Internet access, health club memberships and subscriptions, that the account is closed."

    Let me state again: my mother died on November 5, 1999. She will not be reopening an account which as far as I know she never opened, nor will she be notifying any companies not to post recurring charges to that account.

    Forgive me for being frank, but I don't think Wachovia's performance speaks well of your company. It's bad enough for Wachovia to invite identity theft by sending an unsolicited card to an address where the "cardholder" never lived. But to ignore a clear and simple communication from her son that the cardholder has passed away -- and continue unsolicited communications with her -- borders on callousness.

    Normally I wouldn't write to the CEO of a company over such a trivial matter. But considering how poorly my first call was handled (and this sequelae), I don't see the point of communicating yet again with people who obviously do not understand a matter so basic -- and so final -- as death.

    While I realize that the concept of corporate accountability has become so old-fashioned as to be considered almost oxymoronic, I do hope that you will be able to at least see to it that my mother's name is removed from any further solicitations, and I thank you for your courtesy and cooperation in this matter.

    Sincerely yours,

    Eric Scheie

    Well, I guess since I have posted this here I should promise to keep readers apprised of any response. (I just hope my mom doesn't get another letter -- this time from the president -- wishing her a speedy recovery.)

    NOTE: Technically, letters written to dead people are not "dead letters," although this site seems to feel otherwise. The link I just provided will generate a random dead letter; if you want to explore on your own, here's their home page. As my luck would have it, the first "dead letter" generated for me was this:

    hey dude
    is sex fun because its messy or because of the orgasm.i like alot of messy things.:

    finger gets cut on thr telephone that means nobody is home
    organization is a fuss, a clean break on the cusp
    there is an eye an eye on the wall
    and its never never never gonna fall
    'cause it secures its place as a monument to lost face
    i cut my finger on my phone and it recreates that same sacred tone
    its the exact same sound as

    come see Lovecraft @ he is lonely

    Hope the dead aren't trying to tell me something.....

    (And please, no comments about needing a stiff one!)

    posted by Eric at 05:09 PM | Comments (1)

    May all your Christmases be white lies?

    Everyone who gets email gets SPAM, but I don't know how many of my readers get bogus Christmas emails like this:

    The Story of the "Twelve Days of Christmas" the Christmas Carol

    There is one Christmas Carol that has always baffled me.

    What in the world do leaping lords, French hens, swimming swans, and especially the partridge who won't come out of the pear tree have to do with Christmas?

    >From 1558 until 1829, Roman Catholics in England were not permitted to practice their faith openly. Someone during that era wrote this carol as a catechism song for young Catholics.

    It has two levels of meaning: the surface meaning plus a hidden meaning known only to members of their church.

    Each element in the carol has a code word for a religious reality, which the children could remember.

    The partridge in a pear tree was Jesus Christ.

    Two turtledoves were the Old and New Testaments.

    Three French hens stood for faith, hope and love.

    The four calling birds were the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke & John.

    The five golden rings recalled the Torah or Law, the first five books of the Old Testament.

    The six geese a-laying stood for the six days of creation.

    Seven swans a-swimming represented the sevenfold gifts of the Holy Spirit: Prophesy, Serving, Teaching, Exhortation, Contribution, Leadership, and Mercy.

    The eight maids a-milking were the eight beatitudes.

    Nine ladies dancing were the nine fruits of the Holy Spirit: Love, Joy, Peace, Patience, Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness, Gentleness, and Self Control.

    The ten lords a-leaping were the ten commandments.

    The eleven pipers piping stood for the eleven faithful disciples.

    The twelve drummers drumming symbolized the twelve points of belief in the Apostles' Creed.

    So there is your history for today. This knowledge was shared with me and I found it interesting and enlightening and now I know how that strange song became a Christmas Carol...

    I just received that, and it didn't make much sense to me, so I decided to check its reliability at the Snopes Urban Legends Reference Page. Sure enough, it's bogus!

    So is this poignant "Candy Cane" story:

    The candymaker made the candy in the form of a "J" to represent the precious name of Jesus, who came to earth as our Savior. It could also represent the staff of the "Good Shepherd" with which He reaches down into the ditches of the world to lift out the fallen lambs who, like all sheep, have gone astray.

    Thinking that the candy was somewhat plain, the candymaker stained it with red stripes. He used three small stripes to show the stripes of the scourging Jesus received by which we are healed. The large red stripe was for the blood shed by Christ on the cross so that we could have the promise of eternal life.

    The problem is, these emails are lovingly, painstakingly circulated by elderly relatives who barely know how to use a computer and who genuinely love the people they send them to. They want very much to believe in the truth of these "Urban Legands."

    And then some smartass (like me) comes along and spoils it for them by saying something like, "Aunt Martha, you're a chump! It's all an urban legend!"

    I feel about an inch away from being the Grinch, and I don't like it. It's almost like telling a small child that there is no Santa Claus, no Easter Bunny! No tooth fairy?

    It's cruel, and whatever people might think of my ideas, I don't like being cruel -- especially to people who were kind enough to pass along something they thought was nice.

    But how far does this go?

    Santa Claus is one thing, but should children be taught outright lies about the founding fathers? A lie about a nonexistent cherry tree (no matter how many cherry trees were given to the District of Columbia by the Japanese in 1912) -- in the name of imparting "honesty"?

    How about teaching people lies about their history to improve their self esteem?

    Not sure I have the answers, and I am not sure at what point too much honesty becomes brutality.

    I guess this is why the "white lie" was invented.

    This isn't the first time I've complained about mythology, and it won't be the last. As someone who loves the classics, I have no objection to mythology, mind you.

    I'm just not comfortable seeing it packaged as truth.

    And I am even less comfortable seeing mythology bought as truth by people who should know better. (But who should know better, and who shouldn't -- that's the $64.00 -- no, the $64,000 -- question.)

    posted by Eric at 02:43 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)

    The "Counter" Culture?

    Here's a humorist (via Emperor Misha) who, reflecting on the recent Blogosphere election results, displays a mood I would characterize as morose:

    I think what we're seeing proves an axiom I originated here: in the Blogosphere, age equals success. There was a time when you could upload a blank page with a photo of your ass, and it would get 20,000 hits a day. Mediocre people gained popularity in a hurry. Now, you have to compete with grammy's blog and grampy's blog and your dog's blog. You have to compete with a million people posting things like, "Wow, it rained here today. More later."

    Even Dave Barry doesn't do that well here. His blog is new. Yes, he's way up on the traffic list, but look at the people above him and think about how famous and talented he is, and ask yourself if it makes sense.

    I know I just killed my tiny chance of ever getting an Instalanche [ED. NOTE: Disagree here!], but the truth is the truth. And who cares if I never get a sudden flood of hits from a Reynolds link? It's not like I get paid by the visit. I stopped worrying about links and traffic long ago. I like seeing the number rise, but let's face it: it has no positive effect on my life.

    I flipflop back and forth. Sometimes I don't care, but other times I do care. When I need a lift, I go to my AWSTATS -- because I am always surprised by how many hits I really get. The Site Meter, for reasons not understood by me, is not accurate. (There are in fact more of you than you think.)

    But when I first started this I was told not to worry about links or hits or any of that stuff "because you'll drive yourself crazy." That was the best advice I ever got. When I started last May, I saw maybe five or six hits each day, and I thought, "Wow! If five people are reading me, then it's worth doing this!"

    I don't know that age is necessarily success, because there are bloggers who have been blogging for years who can't come close to some of the newer, slicker, "instant success" bloggers (many of whom started blogs after success or fame in other endeavors).

    There really isn't any quantifiable justice, nor should there be. The justice (and the true magic, in my view) is that anyone who is determined to write can do this. It's just writing. If you have something to say, you say it. The rest is fluff -- a bit like social climbing. If that is why you're blogging -- to be a "blogger climber" -- that might help get you established, but you'll end up with nothing to say, because your thoughts and writing will be contaminated by worrying about what people think of you, whether you're getting hits, and stuff which in truth is a distraction from what you're doing.

    (QUERY: If you could force yourself to see your blog is as a manuscript in progress, might you be able to shed any and all consideration of hits and links? Would this be beneficial?)

    Sometimes I wish I didn't have any sort of counter, because the whole thing is a distraction from my real purpose. But there is no hiding from reality. I check my hits just like everyone else. And I love every last one of my hits, because they and the comments are the only tangible evidence of you, my readers.

    But my goal -- to counter the absurdities of the damned Culture War -- that's the "counter" that ultimately drives this blog.

    UPDATE: In light of the Blogosphere's cheating scandals, and even attempted hostile takeovers by bullshit blogs, I admire independence and integrity more than ever. Bloggers who don't have the latter can never "take over," because they obviously prefer bullshit to writing.

    No one will read them!

    posted by Eric at 10:24 AM | Comments (1)

    Does Phelps really hate fags?

    (Or does he just enjoy putting words in God's mouth for effect?)

    Speaking of satire, I hate to say this, but Fred Phelps's position that a monument condemning Matthew Shepherd to Hell is analogous to the Ten Commandments is a very clever way of mocking the Ten Commandments by satire.

    Simply put, it's a moral equivalency argument ad absurdum. Phelps is declaring that he knows that God sent Matthew Shepherd to Hell, and his legal position is that this is analogous to the Decalogue (which of course is claimed to be a set of orders from God).

    The difference is in the numbers: millions believe the Ten Commandments came directly from God, whereas Phelps's adherents number only in the hundreds (if that).

    As gay activists acknowledge (link via InstaPundit), any success by Phelps will ultimately derail future displays of the Ten Commandments.

    Calling the monument's message "reprehensible," Lara Schwartz, senior counsel for the gay-rights advocacy group the Human Rights Campaign, said the church nonetheless has a "very good legal argument."

    The Casper City Council avoided accepting the monument by removing a Ten Commandments memorial from city land, she said.

    Fascinating to see covert alliances in action.

    And you know, taking the broad general view of things, Phelps's position on gays isn't any different than his position on anyone who disagrees with his "5 Point Calvinist" theology: they're all going to Hell!

    Anyone preaching otherwise is a Hell-bound false prophet, a messenger of Satan, to whom we say, Anathema Maranatha! and, Let him be accursed of God!

    To every lover of Arminian lies -- believing and preaching that God loves every individual of mankind -- we say, You are going to Hell! Period! End of discussion! God's decree sending you to Hell is irreversible! Hypocrites! How can ye escape the damnation of Hell?!

    I think that's about as inclusive as you can get.

    Phelps is obviously a very fair man.

    (And I am sure he's loads of fun to work with!)

    NOTE: If any of you are as intrigued as I am by such double-dealing mind-fuckery, this piece -- "The Enemies of our Enemies" by Isaac Bonewits -- is sure to entertain.

    I know I am straying from my point, but.... Is Phelps a Satanist?

    posted by Eric at 08:26 PM | Comments (5)

    Hair splitting satire in the name of "Culture War"?

    Andrew Sullivan is keeping a sharp eye on weird utterances over at National Review Online:

    DERBYSHIRE WATCH: Defenders of John Derbyshire at National Review argue that he simply holds arguments against homosexual relationships or sex and is not "anti-gay" or prejudiced. This despite the fact that he has in the past simply avowed that he doesn't "like" homosexuality. Look, it's a free country. Derbyshire should be free to like or dislike whatever he wants. But these are not arguments. They're, well, prejudices. Then he writes something like this: "The goatee is an abomination, and engenders a cloud of suspicion about the wearer's sexual orientation." I'm not defending the goatee. And I understand he's trying to make a jocular comment. But, even in the context of jest, this is a simple, bald declaration that someone's orientation alone - their involuntary identity, not anything they might or might not do - is "suspicious." Again, imagine if someone had written that he despised beards because they "engender a cloud of suspicion about the wearer's possible Jewishness." Would anyone pass this off as simply humor? Would any serious person publish it? Is National Review endorsing this? And they wonder why "social conservatives have been losing the political debate over gay marriage."
    Just how satyrical is satire?

    Considering that some of Mr. Derbyshire's colleagues have been known to sport goatees, I think this may be a joke.

    Now why did I say "may be"? Because, if it's serious, well, er, um, uh....

    Not only would Derbyshire have insulted some of his colleagues, but he would have cast aspersions on heroes throughout the centuries.

    I think it's time to offer a classical perspective on the subject of facial hair.

    This is a start.

    The Romans generally considered facial hair on men to be the sign of a barbarian.

    And while I am not about to take sides on such a hairy issue (although in fairness I should point out that I am clean-shaven), I think Mr. Derbyshire would do well to consider the words of wisdom from early Christians such as Saint Clement of Alexandria, who saw the shaving of the face as decidedly, dangerously effeminate:

    But for one who is a man to comb himself and shave himself with a razor, for the sake of fine effect, to arrange his hair at the looking-glass, to shave his cheeks, pluck hairs out of them, and smooth them, how womanly!

    ...This, then, the mark of the man, the beard, by which he is seen to be a man, is older than Eve, and is the token of the superior nature.

    Does Mr. Derbyshire side with the effeminate Romans instead of the manly Christian men?

    At the very least, I have to agree with Andrew Sullivan that under the circumstances Mr. Derbyshire ought to shy away from using the term "suspicious."

    UPDATE: Stephen Green wins the Derby -- by a whisker -- in an amusing exercise best described as "CONNECT THE DOTS."

    posted by Eric at 02:26 PM | Comments (4)

    White power!

    Well, since everyone (in the tradition of Rachel Lucas) has been putting up their dog pictures, and since the ground is covered with snow, I thought I'd combine both elements -- and put up a picture of a very exasperated Puff impatiently contemplating my attempt to dig out. (A never-ending, Sysiphean process.)

    Clearly, Puff is thinking about California....

    posted by Eric at 08:12 AM | Comments (3)

    Please waive my hallucinations!

    Tony Kushner in the South? How did he get in? Will he get out alive?

    These questions vexed me as I read this article (link).

    The article claims that Kushner is from the South (Louisiana), and answers an apparently groundless charge that Confederate flags were displayed (doubtless in a threatening manner) from dormitory windows at Tennessee's Vanderbilt University during Kushner's lecture there. Thus spake New York Times Reporter Alex Abramovich -- who "followed along as Kushner trekked to a lecture at Vanderbilt." Never mind that there weren't any flags; even after being corrected, "the writer of the story still says he saw Confederate flags.

    QUERY: Did Abramovich hallucinate, or was he merely engaging in Blairization?

    Either way, all I have to say is "Harrumph!"

    I don't like Kushner (a Marxist gay activist whose talent I do not deny but whose philosophy I abhor) and I don't care whether he claims to be from the South, or from anywhere else.

    But there is one little gem I wish the Nashville "Scene" had read. I believe this is the best fisking of Tony Kushner, by anyone, anywhere. Here's a sample (and please read the whole thing; the occasion was a commencement speech by Kushner):

    Mr. Tushner employs the standard rhetorical trope of cascading polarities. He employs it in the same way the state railroad of India employs bureaucrats---at world record levels.

    He sets in motion a good versus evil chain reaction that would threaten the whole planet--if the whole planet was made of newspaper and gasoline, and Mr. Whoosh!ner was in charge of the safety matches. Funny how the Shush!ner left thinks Bush's invocation of the concept of "evil" is indicative of his essential theocratic barbarism. But Bush is Barbar the benevolent elephant compared with Bushner. The happy pachyderm's axis of evil was comprised of the governments of three tyrannies. Tony the avenging donkey's coalition of the just comprises only 40% of the population, once all fallen and craven humans are eliminated from the company of the angels....

    Pure genius. I hereby nominate the author to be an Honorary Southerner.

    For Mr. Kushner, all I can do is offer the following flag. Perhaps this is what Mr. Abramovich should have hallucinated.


    Too many hallucinations these days.

    Might I be getting too old to be a Deadhead?

    posted by Eric at 02:29 PM | Comments (3)

    The professor may be wise, but he is a wolf!

    Hey, it's Friday!

    That's of course Online Testing Day at Classical Values, but I will have to be brief, because there's about three inches of snow already covering the ground and if I don't start shoveling soon I won't be able to get out of my driveway.

    The first two tests I didn't find at any blog, but at some test site depository -- the location of which I have lost. So, my thanks to the depository -- whoever, whatever, and wherever you are!

    The first test asks, "What Kanji word best suits you?" -- and I am pleased to discover that mine is wisdom!


    What Kanji word best suits you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Armed with my illusion of wisdom, next I foolishly sought to find out "What Animal Would Your Daemon Settle As?"

    I am happy to be a wolf (and by the way, this is the second time I have tested out as a wolf!)

    Wolf Daemon
    Your WOLF DAEMON shows that you are solitary,
    ferocious, and often intimidating, but not
    without your sufficient loyalty and poise.
    People tend to misunderstand you, but you
    prefer your own company, anyway.

    What Animal Would Your Daemon Settle As?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Last but not least, I tried yet again to ascertain whether there is any difference at all between me and that Champion of Educational Online Testing, Ghost of a flea. This time, the test was "Which X-Men character are you most like?"

    And once again, we got the same result!

    professor x
    You are Professor X!

    You are a very effective teacher, and you are very
    committed to those who learn from you. You put
    your all into everything you do, to some extent
    because you fear failure more than anything
    else. You are always seeking self-improvement,
    even in areas where there is nothing you can do
    to improve.

    Which X-Men character are you most like?
    brought to you by Quizilla


    Well, if I ever take a vacation, maybe I can pay the Flea to be my blogsitter!

    posted by Eric at 08:50 AM | TrackBacks (1)

    Pink Elephants Unite!

    Tom's Nap Room has reported on one of the most ridiculous attacks of PC-itis ever:

    A "Conservative Coming Out Day" at Pennsylvania State University was denounced ahead of time as hateful because the phrase mocks an annual gay rights event and alienates members of that community on campus, reports the Collegian.

    Sponsored by the Penn State College Republicans, the event was intended to show how marginalized political conservatives feel on campus. One student told the rally how an English teacher introduced herself on the first day of class by saying, "I hate Republicans."

    Gay rights groups on campus expressed concern about the language on fliers advertising the event, saying the conservatives’ pledge to "come out of the closet" mocked their own struggles for freedom and justice.

    All I can say is "PUH-LEEEZE!"

    Have any of these people any sense of humor? At all?

    What do I need to do to stop this tyranny?

    How about if I hold a press conference and announce that I am officially going back into the closet?


    Guess I can't do that, because I never had a closet. I was too young. You can't go back to something you never had.

    How about Windows for Closets? Would that work?

    /_ _ )
    ( . . )
    ( / )

    /_ _ )
    ( . . )
    ( / )

    It's late and I'm starting to hallucinate.

    UPDATE: Definitely hallucinating; I just thought I saw a post by Glenn Reynolds bragging about the University of Tennessee's Centaur collection as well as "Centaur scholarship." Now you know that just can't be!

    posted by Eric at 11:36 PM | Comments (1)

    Solution without a problem?

    Eugene Volokh is mad as hell about penis spam, but not for the usual reasons:

    Wrong, wrong, wrong: Just looked closely at a recent piece of spam, and for the first time noticed the headline: "The only solution to Penis Enlargement." What do they mean, to? Is it something you get if your penis is enlarged, and you need a solution to that problem? Does that mean that if you buy it and it shrinks your penis, you can't sue, since that's how they marketed it to you in the first place? Spam I can forgive -- but linguistically incorrect spam, never.
    He's right, of course. I can't forgive linguistically incorrect penis spam either.

    And, well, I hate to be a moral relativist on the expansive subject of priapism.


    Perhaps Mr. Volokh has not seen this web site. It's the Research Center For Multiple, Sexual Orgasms.

    I think it is possible that if all went as "well" as the site claims, there might just be a market for precisely the sort of "solution" derided above.

    Just a thought....

    And by the way, here's what the ancients had in mind.

    posted by Eric at 10:29 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

    Time to upgrade the ancient scroll?

    I don't mean this as a shameless plug, but I have been a daily Howard Stern listener since 1995. The guy gets me up in the morning, and I highly recommend him as an alarm clock. His bad rap comes from people who just don't understand his brilliant form of satire (directed at least as often at some of his more mindless fans as it is at his moral conservative critics). Howard is a genius, a sensitive guy with a unique pixieish charm, and his delightful way of making fun of everything and everyone really grows on you. For those who never liked him because they bought into the stereotype, I suggest trying him out daily for three weeks. (Most likely, you'll never stop listening.)

    While I've seen Stern mentioned at the BuzzMachine before, today Jeff Jarvis pointed out that Doc Searls is also a Stern fan.

    I love reading stuff like this. Anyone who likes Howard Stern is automatically Good People! (That includes this blogger, of course....)

    Quite incidentally, Jeff Jarvis and Howard Stern also share the same excellent taste in PDA/telephones:

    Howard Stern has my phone, which means that I now have the hip phone. He was showing off his new Treo 600 to the gang this morning. He takes a picture so we can all hear the neat sound it makes. He is proud.
    To think that I imagined I was cool just for buying the Treo 180! Well, in my defense I will say that it was a personal display of cheapskate triumphalism. I only paid $75.00 for it, and it does almost everything but wipe your ass for you. The 600, though, does more than that; it has a camera, an MP3 player, full color web browser, upgraded QWERTY keyboard, and more.

    My respect for the blogosphere has just been upgraded.

    Now I'll have to think about the special Treo 600 upgrade for committed cheapskates like me.....

    (Well, the cheapskate in me does have one question: why is the Treo 600 free if you live in England?)

    UPDATE: Jeff Jarvis is even more of a Stern addict than I previously suspected. If you zero in closely on his blog picture, you will see, on the bookshelf immediately behind his right ear, Howard Stern's "Miss America."

    posted by Eric at 03:43 PM | Comments (3)

    Do hard drives get depressed and commit suicide?

    Today's news revisits old conspiracy theories:

    Favish, known as a Clinton antagonist, told the court that the Freedom of Information Act did not give any special privacy rights to relatives.

    He is backed in the case, Office of Independent Counsel v. Favish, by media groups. They argue the government is trying to get a ruling that would keep too much information off-limits and hurt journalists trying to uncover wrongdoing and abuse in federal agencies.

    Is it any more relevant whether this Favish guy is a "known Clinton antagonist" than whether another activist might be a "known Bush antagonist"?

    The legal issue seems to be whether Vincent Foster's family's potential embarrassment (over pictures of the dead White House Counsel) outweighs the public right to examine documentary evidence of a possible government coverup.

    Well, Foster is as dead as JFK. But his hard drive lingers on. My tax dollars paid for it, and I don't see what is so unreasonable about wanting to know what's in it.

    Sure hope this isn't another bipartisan coverup....

    Hey! Can I be nominated for the position of "known Vincent Foster hard drive coverup antagonist"? That sounds like the job for me!

    (For those of you who missed my first post on the subject, this quote from Boris Badenov pretty much sums up my feelings.)

    posted by Eric at 02:23 PM

    Some fascinating new facts!

    Forget about everything you have learned, for I am about to let you in on some new facts which will blow your mind!

    All amazing but true!

    Did you know that:

  • homosexuality is actually a CIA plot!

  • The "homosexual revolution" was sponsored by Hugh Hefner and Playboy Magazine!
  • George W. Bush and Osama bin Laden both work for "a diabolical multi generational conspiracy" -- a "Satanic, criminal cartel [which] has subverted all social institutions....."
  • !

  • Arnold Schwarzenegger is actively working for the infamous Rothschilds!
  • (Aren't they Jewish? Gee, this whole time I thought he was supposed to be a Nazi!)

    And, of course, last but not least:

  • 9-11 was an elaborate hoax, and the buildings were destroyed by controlled demolition -- all the work of aliens!
  • (I recognize that the truth sometimes hurts, but it is the policy of this blog to leave no stone unturned in an effort to keep my readers up to date with the facts, and armed with the truth!)

    posted by Eric at 07:27 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (2)

    Follow your dreams (even at the risk of having nightmares?)

    That last post (about Biblical penis control versus liberal gun control) was pretty gloomy, and I am glad I found a few things to cheer me up.

    This post (link) renews my faith in the vibrancy of a phenomenon I have praised in this blog before -- and that is "South Park Republicanism":

    The Republicans have a moment here that they could seize. They can dig in with the conservatives and continue to muck about with the peripheral issues; or they can shed the conservative tag, embrace the reptilian “South Park Republicans” and get to work on the fundamental issues: freedom, prosperity, promise.

    The sooner the Republicans draw up a platform that concentrates only on those functions designated to the government (national defense, protection of individual rights, enabler of free-enterprise) and simplifies all the rest (flat tax, voluntary Social Security), the more futuristic they will look and the more friends they will find they have.

    It would be music to my soul -- regardless of whether you call them South Park Republicans, or, as the title of the piece refers to them, "Republican Not Conservative."

    The trouble is, they will be called RINOs by the Biblical penis control people, just as surely as they will be called right wing wackos by the liberal gun control people.

    QUERY: Will a true South Park Republican live in fear of being called a RINO?

    Let me pause to point out something which is often forgotten. I have no objection to anyone practicing Biblical morality, personal penis control, or even personal gun control. If you don't want to engage in anything but heterosexual missionary position sex and that only after marriage, fine. If you don't want to own a gun, fine. These are personal decisions. What bothers me is when people demand that others live the way they live. I am anything but the libertine many might assume me to be. But my lifestyle has nothing to do with what others should do -- and even less to do with what I would want the government to make them do. Why people cannot understand this distinction, I don't know.

    Smoking is bad for one's health and I don't smoke. But I strongly oppose the anti-smoking movement, and would do almost anything to prevent the criminalization of tobacco. It's the same as sex, drugs, guns. Freedom is more important than how you manage the details of your life. Opponents of freedom often like to cite horror stories of ruined lives which, it is argued, could have been "saved" had there not been such an overabundance of freedom. Any form of social engineering which saves lives or prevents misery is seen as good.

    But isn't that also an argument against economic freedom? How many lives have been ruined by capitalist oppression? By gambling? By allowing people to spend their money on whatever they see fit?

    Social freedom, like economic freedom, does not guarantee prosperity or happiness. There are risks -- most notably the risk of failure.

    (And I am not the first to note that without failure, there would be no such thing as success.)

    UPDATE: While I would never compare American fundamentalists (who do not kill heretics) to Islamofascists (who do), this alliance is very disturbing: has discovered that prominent religious conservatives — Jews, Catholics and Evangelical Christians — are allied with a radical Islamic group to stop gay marriage. Pushing a constitutional amendment that would restrict marriage to heterosexuals, they work with the Islamic Society of North America. What is ISNA? According to terrorism expert Steve Emerson, ISNA:

    * has held fundraisers for terrorists (e.g., after Hamas leader Musa Marzuk was arrested, it raised money for his defense, claiming he was innocent and not connected to terrorism)

    * has condemned US seizure of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad assets in the United States after 9/11

    * has consistently sponsored speakers at their conferences that defend Islamic terrorists. Recently, a leader denied in an interview with an NBC affiliate that ISNA took any Saudi money but that was a brazen lie as evidenced by a recording of an ISNA conference in which it was revealed that money came from Saudi Arabia.

    "ISNA," says Emerson, "is a radical group hiding under a false veneer of moderation." (via Ghost of a flea)

    I know that politics makes strange bedfellows, but this is very strange indeed.

    Interesting alliance, and the guilty parties don't return phone calls. Read the whole thing, as they say.

    My reaction? Well, the people involved in this alliance are some of the most outspoken opponents of "diversity." And yet here they are, joining with people who are not only advocates of the terrorism this country is supposed to be fighting, but who are known champions of polygamy.

    Whose Culture War is this, anyway?

    UPDATE: Stephen Stanton (whom I mistakenly thought had first coined the phrase; it was actually Andrew Sullivan), offers new thoughts on South Park Republicans:

    The GOP's hold on South Park Republicans could quickly fade. Their vote is clearly up for grabs. You never know what might be the straw that breaks SPR backs, between GOP spending hikes, tariffs, anti-smoking legislation, and the specter of "conservative" laws that might compromise privacy and liberty.

    After all, Democrats could start making more sense (free trade, fiscal discipline, libertarian social policy), and Republicans could start making less (anti-vice legislation, federal marriage amendment, nationalizing healthcare under the guise of Medicare "reform"). A party can only remain the lesser of to evils so long as the other remains worse. A certain former First Lady just spent some time in Iraq and Afghanistan saying some sensible things that might raise the bar much higher for the GOP in 2008.

    The Republicans must stitch together a tent big enough to house social conservatives, fiscal conservatives, moderate libertarians, and centrist refugees from an increasingly radical Democratic party. The Republicans can't maintain the majority without the South Park Republicans; and they can't keep the South Park Republicans by pretending they don't exist. (via InstaPundit.)

    I think this is terribly important (or I wouldn't be repeating it), and were I a Democratic operative, I would be strategizing about how to drive a wedge between the SPRS and their party.

    posted by Eric at 07:11 PM | Comments (2)

    Religious wars suck!

    This story furnishes more evidence (as if more evidence is needed) that politics is becoming a religious war.

    Want to know how Americans will vote next Election Day? Watch what they do the weekend before.

    If they attend religious services regularly, they probably will vote Republican by a 2-1 ratio. If they never go, they are likely to vote Democratic by a 2-1 ratio.

    This relatively new fault line in American life is a major reason the country is politically polarized. And the division over religion and politics is likely to continue or even grow in 2004.

    Of course, the damned "Culture War" is largely also a religious war. And (according to an evangelical leader quoted in the Boston Globe) that means a war between religion and sex -- especially homosexual sex and fundamentalist Christianity.
    Homosexuality is a defining issue for evangelicals, Chang says, because "it calls into question what the authority is governing your beliefs and your group. Is it changing public opinion or is it Scripture?" He argues that the debate is really a table-setter for the biggest issues to come, when genetic cloning and manipulation of human biology take center stage. "At root is: Do we all have the right to self-define?"

    He fears that if evangelicals cede too much ground on homosexuality in the battle to preserve their welcome in intellectual hothouses like Boston, they may ultimately sacrifice their ability to win the war. (via Instapundit.)

    Win the war? Hey, I thought the war was in Iraq! Now it's (yes!) a war over definitions!

    The bottom line, according to an increasingly large, constantly growing number of people, is that we have a religious war right here in the United States. Party of God versus Party of Secular Heathenism?

    (And if you don't fit, about all you can do is get all pissed off and blog.)

    Is religious war in the United States a good thing? I have complained about it from day one, and I can't stand it. I want it to stop. I want the Republicans to go back to being decent, civilized human beings who believed that Americans' privacy was their own business and not that of government. Religious wars should be fought somewhere else, because religion is personal.

    Hey, isn't sex supposed to be personal too? I can remember the time when both religion and sex were personal. But now, even the most personal things we do are everyone else's business -- and therefore the business of government.

    Last night I posted (as a long update) an email from a man named Vernon Robinson who clearly thinks heavy-handed fundamentalist religious views must be promoted, aided and abetted by government. Prominent, mainstream Republicans are backing him. The philosophy appears to be that it's OK for him to be doing that, especially because his anti-sex pitch masquerades as minority self-help:

    For instance, the greatest threat facing young blacks today has nothing to do with white racism or displaying the Confederate flag - it is ILLEGITIMACY, which has reached a shameful 71% among American blacks.

    A lack of morality and personal responsibility is at the root of the problem.

    And that's just a "for instance." Liberals, on the other hand, tend to see the problem not as requiring Bible-based penis control, but gun control.

    I do not countenance social engineering of either the "conservative" or the "liberal" variety. That it must be excused because it happens to be directed towards black people strikes me as patronizing in the extreme. Black people are not children -- any more than the American people are children.

    Unless, of course you think that we're all in a vast national kindergarten -- or that the American people are all a bunch of sheep in need of a shepherd.

    I don't. And I am staying on the "anti" side of this detestable "Culture War." Sex versus religion is a false dichotomy -- at least as false as guns versus penises.

    The whole Culture War stinks.

    Definitely un-American.

    UPDATE: You'd think that after all my howling about false dichotomies, I wouldn't have missed that first one (the quote from Chang in the Boston Globe) staring me right in the face:

    [which] authority is governing your beliefs and your group. Is it changing public opinion or is it Scripture?
    "Changing public opinion" versus "the Scripture"? "Governing" my beliefs? People like that really think Americans are sheep to be led. Putting aside the issue of what "Scripture" is or how it is to be interpreted, "public opinion" does not and should not "govern" the beliefs of any free American.

    A classic false dichotomy; a non-choice being cast as the only "choice."

    Right there, staring me in the face. And I missed it!

    (Well it was early this morning, and I was feeling rushed....)

    posted by Eric at 08:00 AM | Comments (1)

    Classical Christmas?

    Well, almost....

    A guy named Garner Ted Armstrong thinks Christmas is pagan!

    Read all about pagan tree worship, yule logs, wassailing, and other acts of sorcery!

    Link via WorldNetDaily.

    "Blogging and email are hard. I'm glad they haven't been invented yet."
    Indeed, Caesar.

    Both take a lot of Gaul.

    UPDATE: Leave it to InstaPundit to point out this hideous example of secular neopagan moral equivalency. (As if we needed more proof that Christmas trees have roots in Hell!)

    posted by Eric at 07:03 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)

    Expensive appetites

    I posted about Rush Limbaugh and the money laundering laws recently, and now I see that Mark Kleiman offers a thoughtful analysis of the whole issue. (Via The Modulator.)

    I really suggest reading it in its entirety, but here's his conclusion:

    The sad story of Limbaugh's drug addiction wouldn't be a total loss if it helped his fans and political allies rethink their position toward drug addicts in general. Noticing that they aren't actually willing to apply the principles of tough love and zero tolerance to someone they care about, they might start to wonder whether those principles are really the ones we ought to be applying to drug addicts who aren't famous or rich or well-connected. Instead, they've just gone into denial about the fact that Limbaugh's case strongly resembles the case of other drug abusers.
    The only thing I would add to that is what I said before: the money laundering laws violate every libertarian principle, and mean your money is no longer yours.

    Criminalization of the financing of one's appetites (the shifting of sums large enough to pay for large appetites) flows naturally from the criminalization of the appetites themselves. If an appetite is immoral, then so is paying for it. And so is the money!

    We're still close enough to Thanksgiving that I guess I should be grateful that the government doesn't go the way of the Khmer Rouge, and punish appetite itself.

    After awhile, such "morality" creates its own appetite.

    posted by Eric at 10:48 PM

    Blogicide intervention

    It's a hell of a way to start the week, but it happened today: Don Watkins actually threatened to quit. Not funny, even if it was a childish cry for help. Intervention is always an option, Don, and I know what you look like, as well as which Metro station you live at.

    Too many bloggers have either quit or threatened to quit. And they're all good bloggers! Why don't the bad ones quit?

    This is not a new gripe for me, and I don't take kindly to blogicide.

    BLOGGERS BEWARE: I hereby warn you, if you link to me, and you think you can later quit blogging, you are wrong! I will find out who you are, and I will hunt you down, and bring you back to life! Whether you like it or not.

    "DO NOT RESUCITATE" orders do not apply to blogs!

    David at Sketches of Strain managed to get a pass, for now -- but only because he quit before I established this rule.....

    But look at this! Has there been... a miracle?

    I don't even feel like posting anything today. It's Monday, and I had a great weekend. Mondays suck anyway, but all the more so after a great weekend. Yet here I am, posting anyway, because I feel it is my civic duty to thwart another blogicide threat.

    And the worst part of this latest outrage is that Don's post is dated December 2. He hasn't even threatened yet.

    I think that means this post must not have been written yet either.

    Small comfort.

    posted by Eric at 05:53 PM | TrackBacks (1)

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