Dropping off....

The 39th Bonfire of the Vanities is hosted by Founder, Kevin Aylward, who reports that "the scheduled host dropped off the face of the earth."

The earth is a hell of a thing off of which to drop, but I admire Kevin's diligence, because I love the idea of a blog roast, and I try to never miss it. It makes me less self conscious to be able to offer posts knowing they'll be burned. Of course, Kevin did not forget me; he not only ridicules my "obsession" with reptilian sex, but he opines that "the guy with the panda blog was less than thrilled" to be mentioned in my post!

I am crushed, Kevin! Only a python could have crushed me more!

My old blogfriend Michael Demmons talks about those tunes you just can't get out of your head.

Then there's Alex and dirty underwear

I couldn't resist mentioning Susie -- discussing a Peace Plan from (major GULP!) Frank J.!

Or Kevin, now in love with Noam Chomsky!

What's the world coming to? Maybe I should turn on, tune in, and drop off....

posted by Eric at 06:56 PM | Comments (2)

Let a thousand daisies bloom!

(and a thousand petals of thought contend!)

A "daisy chain" of links can be seen at InstaPundit, where Glenn Reynolds offers non-judgmental coverage of a real puzzle: Senator Kerry and the mysterious dangling daisy which has appeared in a number of places and blogs.

While there is some controversy over the genuineness of at least one of the pictures, this one (the one which drew the Secret Service agent's "'WTF?' sort of expression") seems authentic, and the picture appears just below an account of a Kerry hug:

"I even got a hug. That was nice," said Idaho Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum. "He said thank you very much. Theresa (Heinz Kerry) definitely said thank you." (The picture follows.)
(I am curious about the use of the word "definitely" but that's getting off-topic....) There's another genuine daisy photo here too.

Bill Hobbs has more, and one of his commenters even asks whether Kerry is a "heretic" and mentions the "sign of the beast"!

Not so fast!

Here's a traditional Christian interpretation:

The daisy is a late (15th century) symbol of the innocence of the Christ Child. The daisy, less exotic and pretentious than the lily, was thought by some to be a more fitting symbol for the baby Jesus.
I searched far and wide for references to the daisy as a heretic symbol, but came up dry.

Well, there is this poem (but I think it's a stretch):

A Daisy Chain 4 Satan (acid and flowers mix)

Here where I sit alone lost
Here I will dream, why
Give me a drink, I need a think now
I have to rip my stinking brain

Black boots, highway broads
Dope forever, forever loaded
Black boots

(Flowers and Acid... I love flowers)

Call me a flaming liberal, but I just don't think it is reasonable to imagine that Senator Kerry had the above in mind.

There's also the possibility of the daisy as a birth flower:

Daisy (April) is pink with golden yellow hair. Her symbol is a yellow daisy symbol with a green stem. Her eyes are blue. Her Danish name is Marguerite. Thanks to Whirly for use of this photo.
But Kerry is a Sagittarius, so the birth flower is out.

The daisy as an Italian charm? (Kerry did sell his house in Italy, you know. But I think it's a tad conspiratorial to suspect an Italian plot.)

I think most fair-minded people would be willing to consider the implications of the daisy as a dream symbol, though:

Dream symbol: daisy, daisy, daisies

Plucking petals from a daisy may indicate being undecided or unsure of something
Needing to lighten up
Slang for a homosexual
Slang for something that is excellent
Something that is dead and buried, past or needing to be released, pushing up daisies

See also: death, flower, homosexual


I really don't feel like pushing any of the above daisy references.

But let's not break the chain!

Not yet!

The daisy is a multi-faceted symbol, and I want to be as thorough as possible, because Kerry hasn't been forthcoming so far, and research is what blogging's all about.

So, here are more possible meanings from The Daisy Pages: for survivors of child abuse

"It's Latin name may come from bellis, meaning beautiful, so Bellis Perennis can be translated to perennial beauty, as the daisy flowers for so long. Or bellis may come from bellum, Latin for war, because it grew in fields of battle, and can staunch bleeding and reduce bruising and shock. One of the daisy's old names is bruisewort.

The cheerful little daisy is a symbol of innocence because of its association with children, and of survival.

Daisies adapt to almost any landscape and soil type, and will survive being trodden underfoot and all the indignities of the hoe and the lawnmower."
-Anne McIntyre, Flower Power

About.com tells us that in art, the daisy symbolizes innocence:

Daisy: The most basic of flowers, a white daisy is a symbol of innocence.

Ditto here: ("Daisy: innocence, loyal love.")

And, considering my blog, it would be irresponsible in the extreme if I overlooked the ancients. A lovely website associates the flower with the Greek goddess Aphrodite, and more:

The actual name comes from Days eye, because the flower opens at sunrise & closes at sunset. Its Latin name may come from the Latin Bellis meaning beautiful so Bellis Perennis can be translated as perennial beauty. Then again it Bellis may come from Bellum, Latin for war because it grew in fields of battle & can stop bleeding & reduce bruising & shock. One of the daisies old names is bruisewort.
In fairness to Senator Kerry, I thought it only fair to point out the ancients' military use of the daisy:
The Roman daisy is a classic bronzed medal decoration used in Ancient Rome to enhance the gladiator's armour, soldier's leather belts, leather wrist bands.
And you can order your own daisy leather wrist band right there at the above site! After all the controversy, shouldn't Senator Kerry at least be allowed to be daring and dashing, to show a little flair, some panache, and butch it up just like a Roman soldier?

Notwithstanding this blog's interest in classical mythology, I think I'd also be remiss if I did not at least consider the symbol's modern political meaning as it relates to the important issues in the campaign.

How about, specifically, the war in Iraq?

Fortunately, the work has been done for me by AlterNet!

A Daisy For Peace
Posted by Lakshmi on January 16, 2003 @ 3:24PM

A powerul new ad put out by the Internet advocacy group MoveOn.org will hit televisions in Washington, D.C., New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Boston and eight other U.S. cities. The 30-second spot (Real Media Required), titled Daisy 2, reworks former Democratic President Lyndon Johnson's controversial election ad.

It shows a young girl picking petals off a daisy and culminates in a mushroom cloud. As the ad rolls through footage of burning oil wells and crowds of angry Arabs, the narrators voice says, "War with Iraq. Maybe it will end quickly. Maybe not. Maybe it will spread. Maybe extremists will take over countries with nuclear weapons." The final message: Let the Inspections Work.

The ad evokes not merely memories of the Cold War era but also the acrimonious election campaign of 1964, which pitted Lyndon Johnson against Barry Goldwater. Johnson's campaign withdrew the spot after a single airing due to Republican protests that it portrayed Goldwater as an extremist who could lead the way to global destruction.

There's also a site which offers reasonably priced daisy-peace-symbol refrigerator magnets! Give the daisy a chance!

Or how about a teddy bear? (If the daisy's really linked to the campaign, they'd go great with the JFK hat!)

This list is not intended as exhaustive, but as a humble contribution in the hope that the blogosphere can patiently discover the truth about the Kerry daisy.

As Glenn Reynolds says, "America really does want to know!"

Perhaps the truth here is like a daisy: delicate, symbolic, and composed of many different petals.

UPDATE: Now I see that the New York Times is removing the daisy (via Glenn Reynolds). I didn't know that when I wrote the above post, and now I'm wondering whether I should reconsider any of my thoughts....

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for his generous link to this post! Welcome all InstaPundit readers; hope you enjoy. I am of course open to more ideas, because as I said, this daisy chain does not claim to be exhaustive (although I wish I could say that I left no petal unturned).

Meanwhile Justin Case suggests that I take look at Logan's Run. Something about daisy-like flowers embedded in the hand -- a sort of biological alarm clock which turns black when your life is supposed to end. Unfortunately, I never read the book, which seems to spoof the so-called "Flower Power" generation. I'd hate to think that Kerry might be thinking along such lines....

On a more serious note, I am troubled by the allegations of airbrushing at the New York Times. Airbrushing simply cannot be done unintentionally, so I am wondering whether the Times did it on their own, or whether they were told to do it.

Either way, it looks bad. (Do they think we're still living in the days of unquestioning Pravda-like acceptance of whatever we are told is The Truth?)

UPDATE: In his own update, Boi from Troy no longer thinks the daisy was eaten by the Times, but they found a different photo of Kerry, with a more biker-like ski jacket. What a relief that they're not covering up daisies! I wouldn't have wanted that -- not on April Fools Day.

UPDATE: Justin supplied this URL showing the daisy -- next to a caption, "The Youth Rebellion Had Triumphed..." (Had is hard in Massachusettsian.)

TOUCHING UPDATE: More vintage daisy power:

[T]he demonstrators know what to do. There was a well-known poster that showed the technique. You walk up with a smile to the nearest soldier and stick a flower in the barrel of his gun. The symbolism cannot be missed by even the most dense. Who could shoot someone who had just given them a flower?

One thing I have always wondered about the Kent State shooting: when the first teenaged Guardsman aimed his rifle at the chest of a chanting girl and squeezed the trigger to blow a red hole through a tie-dyed shirt and through an ideal, did he sight the shot over the petals of a daisy?

You know, maybe I should rethink my whole position. If only we could outfit U.S. soldiers with daisies instead of guns! As the writer says, who could shoot someone who had just given them a flower? All atrocities and terrorism would stop, and people would finally get along!

Why, I can easily see a brand-new Mideast peace plan coming out of this!

(A secret plan for ending the war, perhaps?)

FINAL UPDATE: According to Glenn Reynolds, the daisy puzzle has now been solved! It turns out that Kerry was wearing this adorable plastic key ring. The ad states they're "available in fire orange, hot pink, signal green, saturn yellow, snow white and glow-in-the-dark." (I'm sure for an extra fee, the presidential seal could be embossed in the middle.)

UNFINAL, UNINTENDED, UN-UPDATE: I realize that this is getting speculative, but others have now speculated that the daisy keyring/zipper puller/whatever-it-is has something to do with rheumatoid arthritis.

Sorry, but I am not buying! Arthritis in no way forces a macho guy like Kerry to use a plastic daisy to help him find his zipper!

Hasn't anyone ever heard of Harley Davidson keyrings? They're available everywhere, and besides, Kerry is said to ride a Harley.

And, well, not to plug the online test which is going around (and which I recently blogged about) but just above the Harley Davidson keyring there's this Devil Duckie keyring. It'd be simply DIVINE!

Plus he could give it a squeeze every time he has to "duck" an issue -- and say the devil made him do it.

posted by Eric at 04:24 PM

Those who forget history....

Does anyone remember a place called Afghanistan? Christopher Hitchens does, noting that Richard Clarke, in his haste to call Bush hasty, would have us overlook the fact that the first thing Bush did was not to invade Iraq, but Afghanistan:

To listen to Clarke now, you could almost imagine that the invasion of Afghanistan and eviction of the Taliban—the actual first response of the administration to Sept. 11—had not taken place. To listen to Clarke, also, you would suppose that any Iraqi connection to terrorism was sucked straight out of Rumsfeld's or Wolfowitz's thumb. One theory that does collapse completely is that of administration foreknowledge—the Bush people were evidently in no shape to take any quick advantage of the events and seemingly hadn't bothered to plant even one Iraqi among the mainly Saudi hijackers. But in my experience, dud theories die only to be replaced by new and even dumber ones. The current reigning favorite is that fighting al-Qaida in Iraq is a distraction from the fight against al-Qaida.
Pretty damning.

But personally, I think it's a distraction from the real threat, which of course is the Internet.....

Clarke's pre and post-Y2K warnings are worth repeating again:

I want mankind to learn just once, the easy way about the horrifying dangers of the Internet while I'm still alive so I can take ex post facto credit for saving a third of humanity from those cyber-terrorists and cyber-wars I constantly screamed about before 9/11.
Isn't it about time to face the real enemy?

Ex post haste!

posted by Eric at 09:53 AM

April Fools came early this year!

The Carnival of the Vanities is hosted by Eric Berlin, and it's already up! It's posted right now for April Fool's Day, and foolishly, I missed the deadline by seven hours, so I thought I'd link to it early.

What really should be an April Fools joke (but which isn't, unfortunately) is United States v. Gould, called "The Road to Hell..." by The Smallest Minority.

Eric Berlin does a wonderful job of dividing the posts into four groups, each of which has "one fake blog in every group." If you can spot 'em, "you've got an excellent eye for separating real stories from fiction."

"one entry in each group is complete hokum. Nonsense. Tommyrot. Narrishkeit. (I have a hell of a thesaurus.)

Excellent! I won't give them away.

(Hint: the fake blogs all have good names which should have already been used.)

posted by Eric at 11:06 PM | Comments (2)

Straight from liberty to hell

Hello to fascism?

My blogfather Jeff has one hell of a good post on the sickening news that the Bill of Rights no longer applies in Louisiana.

Every two-bit corrupt cop can now just bust into your home and search it for what ever he/she wants without cause. Oh yeah, they would only use it with discretion. Right! This is fucking evil. This is anti-American. This is the most diseased Circuit Court decision ever handed down in the short history of our once (but apparently not anymore) great nation.

A very, very, very deep ditch with all of them. Dammit! I would hope that this quickly makes it's way to the Supreme Court but these days who the fuck knows how they would rule? It amazes me as to how much more wisdom our founders had than we seem to exhibit today:

"When the government fears the people, there is liberty. When the people fear the government, there is tyranny." (Jefferson)
"The man who trades freedom for security does not deserve nor will he ever receive either."

--Benjamin Franklin

Words to live by. And yet, we seem to have forgotten them. Certainly the cow-shit judges on the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals have. Damn them to hell.

Agree completely. Straight to hell with the lot of them. Jeff also asks why there's been no hue and cry:
I am just in awe of how citizens -- let's call ourselves "subjects" now -- have become nothing more than pods in The Matrix. And I see no hue-and-cry from anyone. Naturally the left is silent since this fits in with their plan to control all of our lives. But where --oh where-- are the libertarians' and conservatives' voices?
That's a good question. And why do I expect that we'll hear more from the former than the latter?

Might it be that no one (especially in the estabishment elite) really cares what happens to the "little people" who live down there in "flyover country"?

Or do they just assume that our Supreme Court will strike down this abuse? If there's one thing I've learned, it's that you don't assume anything. (There's even a growing movement to stop the Supreme Court from protecting what's left of our freedom.)

Anyway, read Jeff's whole post.

And weep.

posted by Eric at 05:10 PM | Comments (5)

Airborne arrogance?

The stuff you can find in leftist journals never ceases to amaze me....

Here's a story of unbelievably bad manners and outright arrogance displayed by John Kerry towards members of an Air Force crew flying him around Southeast Asia during the MIA/POW talks:

When we first flew him into Phnom Penh, he went to the back of the airplane and grabbed the pizza that was put aside for the crew and passed it around to his staff. He was never offered any pizza because they were supposed to have lunch with the Cambodian government once we landed. The pizza would have been our only meal that day.

Then when we picked him up in Cambodia, he was an hour late getting to the airport. We could not start the engines and therefore the air conditioning until he arrived. Phnom Penh at that time was over 100 degrees with 95% humidity and we were basically sitting in a greenhouse behind the cockpit windows.

When he finally did arrive, we were wringing out our clothes from the perspiration. He walks out of the air conditioned car, into the airplane and asks us 'Could you guys get the air conditioning running, I'm a little warm." The other pilot had to physically restrain me from going back there and picking a fight.

There's more, including Kerry ordering them to fly a potentially unsafe plane.

Whether this story is true, I don't know. I am sure Kerry would deny it.

But even at Indymedia they seem to be having a tough time debunking it.

If the story is true, I am not surprised at all, because it has the same hallmarks of arrogance displayed in the more recent skiing event.

Another illustration of the principle that the shit always flows downhill.

Even when airborne.

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

Flying with no convictions?

From the Philadelphia Daily News, here's a guy who apparently thinks that a thing is only as moral as its manufacturers:

Ronnie Polaneczky | Jail-made flags should't adorn vets' graves IS IT WRONG that those who have preyed on society are making the flags used to honor those who once protected it?

Matt Conway thinks so. He's a National Guard veteran, and he says, "When I die, I don't want the flag on my grave to be made by a rapist."

The man has a way with words. He also has a point.

As we speak, inmates in Pennsylvania and New Jersey state prisons are producing the American flags that will adorn veterans' graves on Memorial Day.

But this country has lost so much business to foreign countries whose low wages tamp down the price of the goods they peddle, it doesn't seem right for American manufacturers to lose work to our own prison-industry programs whose inmates are paid pennies per hour. Especially when what they're producing is the Stars and Stripes.

The problem I have with this is that a flag is a symbol, and it can be made from cloth or plastic material, by humans, machines, or I suppose even animals. Respect for the flag is fine, but I think it carries hypersensitivity too far to worry about the background of the people who might have made it. It's one thing to want to stop exploitation of workers (including prisoners), but even that does not render immoral the things that the workers made. Here, there isn't really an abuse being complained of; only that some people don't like the idea that a bad person might have made their flag. How do we know that bad people don't work in factories? Should mandatory background checks be done on all people involved in flag manufacture, and the factories prohibited from hiring ex convicts? For that matter, should bad people be allowed to own or fly flags? I mean, would you want a rapist or child molester waving a flag? Sounds scary to me. The flag could end up in the Goodwill or something, where an innocent victim could buy it! (And at what point did manufacturing start? Did the cotton or nylon fibers come from evil places where they might have been handled by evil men?)

I'll bet there are a lot of other things which bad people have touched, and we don't even know it. Why, the very food you eat could have been handled by a rapist!

Surely the government can protect us!

posted by Eric at 09:16 AM

Love is in the air!

In honor of Rachel Lucas, I think it's time for some "doggie action" photos! I mentioned Puff's girlfriend Emily in a recent post, and as luck would have it, today, while I had my camera, I suddenly saw Emily and her very jealous and possessive partner, Chester, walking along the road. I pulled over, opened the window and Emily immediately went into conniptions, as she dearly loves seeing her lookalike boyfriend Puff, and it's been some time. Her owner could barely hang onto her leash, but he was delighted to oblige for fun and games, so I opened the door for Puff to get out. Instead, Emily tried to get into my car, and this was complicated by Chester's best efforts to make sure that he was not ignored. I finally persuaded Puff that it would be a better idea if he got out of the car. Not easy for a 14 year old, but he finally dragged himself out.

Here he is waiting for Emily to make the first move. (She is much younger and far more agile.)


They reaquaint themselves, while Chester does his best to run interference:


In traditional canine custom, the sniffing begins. Emily went first!


And one good sniff deserves another, so here's Puff taking his turn:


And here's one last closeup of Emily, with Chester doing his level best to get into the picture.


I expressed remorse that Emily lost what it takes to make puppies, because the ones these two might have generated would have been irresistible. Her owner couldn't have agreed more, adding that "Emily would have been such a good mom!"

It's a crying shame these dogs have such a bad press.

(Of course, here's one blogger who's doing a great job of trying to counter it. Wish I could do more!)

posted by Eric at 11:12 PM

Intelligent design?

Via Drudge, I see that it's almost a fact.

Or would it be creation?

Perhaps creationists and evolutionists can all compromise now, and get along....

posted by Eric at 10:32 PM | Comments (1)

A "croc" of tears?

Did the hard-hearted Karl Rove make people cry when all they did was surround his house, pound on his windows, and frighten his children?

Attack the house tactics are not new:

Several hundred people stormed the small yard of President Bush's chief political strategist, Karl Rove, yesterday afternoon, pounding on his windows, shoving signs at others and challenging Rove to talk to them about a bill that deals with educational opportunities for immigrants.

Protesters poured out of one school bus after another, piercing an otherwise quiet, peaceful Sunday in Rove's Palisades neighborhood in Northwest, chanting, "Karl, Karl, come on out! See what the DREAM Act is all about!"

Rove obliged their first request and opened his door long enough to say, "Get off my property."

"Seems like he doesn't want to invite us in for tea," Emira Palacios quipped to the crowd.

Others chanted, "Karl Rove ain't got no soul."

The crowd then grew more aggressive, fanning around the three accessible sides of Rove's house, tracking him through the many windows, waving signs that read "Say Yes to DREAM" and pounding on the glass. At one point, Rove rushed to a window, pointed a finger and yelled something inaudible.


Palacios said that Rove was "very upset" and was "yelling in our faces" and that Rove told them "he hoped we were proud to make his 14-year-old and 10-year-old cry."

A White House spokesman said one of the children was a neighbor.

Palacios, trembling and in tears herself, said, "He is very offended because we dared to come here. We dared to come here because he dared to ignore us. I'm sorry we disturbed his children, but our children are disturbed every day.

"He also said, 'Don't ever dare to come back,' " Palacios said. "We will, if he continues to ignore us."

(More here.)

In tears?

Forgive me if I doubt the sincerity the tears of Emira Palacios, professional activist who spearheads this organization. Profile here, she's a "lobbyist" (if that's not too strong of a word), for things like making drivers licenses easier for illegal aliens to obtain, and hands out awards, like the Horse's ass of the year award, which went Dan Stein, Director of the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR). This was after another "action" during which Palacios "descended on the headquarters" of FAIR.

Menacing-the-home tactics are in my opinion the hardest of hard ball tactics, and considering what I have seen over the years, I am highly suspicious of people who organize such a thing and hide behind tears.

The City of Berkeley had an excellent City Manager whose house was subjected to a similar protest seige, causing him to resign his job later. I blogged about this in June:

Of course, when I was on the Police Review Commission, it escalated from mere words, and instead of worrying about definitions I found myself fearing for my life.

Leaflets were passed out by an angry mob with names and addresses of commissioners coupled with "take whatever action your conscience deems necessary" code language, my truck was burned, another Commissioner had his car torched, and police officers were directed to leave Commission meetings for legitimate fear of "officer safety" (leaving us to face the mob alone). I will never forget a meeting with Berkeley's City Manager, who related his horror story of angry activists visiting his home when he was at work, and threatening his wife and kids.

"YOU CAN HAVE THIS PLACE!" he told me. Shortly thereafter, he quit his job, and went on to greener pastures as City Manager of a lovely, more peaceful place, -- Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Such tactics can be effective at the City Manager level, because ordinary people don't like it when their kids are menaced by angry mobs.

I guess it remains to be seen whether they'll work with Karl Rove. I know there's that old saying "if you can't stand the heat...." but it's easy for me to say. I don't have kids. If people surround my house and bang on the windows, well, I am armed.

But the tears are a new wrinkle in this context. Not that I haven't been subjected to tears by professional activists trying to get their way. Once when I was in the unfortunate position of being a "swing voter" (I was not aligned with either Berkeley's Marxist left faction nor the McGovern Democrat "rightist" faction), I was pressured to vote for a woman on the Marxist side. She told me how hard it was as a single mom, and launched into a long rant during which she looked up towards the ceiling and actually started to cry. No sooner had I stated that I had already decided to vote for someone else than the "tears" stopped, her eyes narrowed, and her face took on a very cold, hard stare. She looked right at me, as if to say, "OK buddy, you're on!"

At the time I thought of a different kind of tears.

It didn't strike me as civilized discourse. The tears were just a tactic, and when they failed, it was time for other tactics to begin. This is not to say that hard-ball activists don't shed real tears, nor can I state definitively that Ms. Palacios was not shedding real tears.

But I just don't think surrounding a house and menacing someone's children is consistent with the moral high ground normally associated with being a victim.

And even if we assume the tears were sincere, were they tears of contrition?

I doubt it.

posted by Eric at 01:31 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (2)

Old mill stream

I like this local creek, which meanders along a nearby road. There's no way to park next to it, which has prevented me from photographing it properly (whatever "properly" means), and it just kills me that I wasn't able to take a shot of it while it was frozen, because it the rapids froze in place with lots of white caps sticking out all over the place. I suppose I'll have to wait till next year for that.

No retouching here!


My dog's girlfriend (a pitbull named Emily, whose markings are so similar that people think they're related) lives in an old stone millhouse next to this creek. So I always slow down in the hope of seeing her. (A rare occurrence.)

This will have to do for now. I had to put my flashers on just to jump out of the car and snap this one!

posted by Eric at 02:07 AM | Comments (2)

Steelworkers, tigers, and bears, OH MY!

On a blog today I found an analogy (responding to this post) which reminded me of yesterday's "post":

[Union guys] got their goddam unions--by fighting people who tried to and often did kill anyone who wanted to form a union. Or has Mr Smith forgotten his history? Margolis, by his own account, got into a shouting match with one of the union guys and all but dared him to go ahead and make something of it. Well, anybody from my neighborhood could have told him you don't challenge union guys to a duel, especially nowadays. They've been hammered by 25 years of radcon hatred and abuse. They've watched their unions be attacked as Communist, unAmerican, or subsidiaries of the Mob; they've had their company pensions stolen by their employers with the help and encouragement of Bush I; they've watched conservatives like Bush II disembowel worker protections, advance management powers, and eviscerate labor laws; they've seen the Labor Dept turned over to corporate shills who never worked a day in their lives; and they're painfully aware of how tenuous globalization and the Bush-engineered deficit make thier jobs. This is not the group some pissant, privileged college kid should be deliberately giving the finger to. These aren't intellectual liberals who talk things over; they're basically right-wing thugs, tough as nails and not prone to lengthy dialogue.

Not that I condone what they did. I wouldn't condone a grizzly mauling a camper, either, but if that camper had walked up to that bear while it was minding its own business and poked a stick in its eye, well, it would be kind of hard to work up any real sense of righteous indignation against the bear. Faults on both sides, don't ya know. Margolis, protected son of privilege as he no doubt is, has learned a valuable Nature lesson: Don't treat wild tigers as if they're house cats.

Don't treat wild tigers as if they're house cats? Is that advice? According to simple logic, what the blogger must mean is that if you are so stupid as to "provoke" "tigers" (in this case disagreement with steelworkers constitutes provoking tigers), then you must treat them as tigers. Or as grizzly bears?

And how does one treat a charging tiger or a grizzly bear?

That's not as silly a rhetorical question as it sounds. We are not dealing with humans, right? We are dealing with dangerous, wild animals who were "minding their own business" but then attacked people who "provoked" them by chanting for Bush. (Hardly a house cat sitting on a fence.)

Does this mean that there is no right to chant for Bush?

Or does it mean that if you dare to chant for Bush, you'd better be armed for bear?

I'm surprised at this logic.

(Of course, in my home town of Berkeley, even fence sitting never guaranteed personal safety. In that town, city commissioners have been known to kill each other.)

And in liberal, tolerant San Francisco, mere advocacy of homosexual self defense can get you physically attacked. I bring it up because I saw it first hand. Political disagreement can be dangerous to your health.

I remember an occasion where a city employee in Berkeley charged into a campaign headquarters wielding a baseball bat because he was upset over signs.

I suppose it could be argued that it constitutes "provocation" to publicly advocate anything which people might disagree with. Certainly the above blogger thinks so. And so does this guy (who's been quoted widely; and here's Glenn Reynolds's starting link):

Margolis, enjoying the privilege of an expensive college education, verbally pushed this guy first. The union guy probably didn't get the same advantage, so he fought back with what he had, his fists - and Margolis is, or should have been, smart enough to know that he was likely to do so.

There's a difference between voicing your opinion and abusing your First Amendment right by inciting violence and Margolis crossed the line.

Education being an "advantage," does this mean that if someone knows more than you do, why, you're justified in attacking intellect with fists?

Back in the 1960s, the "hard hats" used to beat up anti-war protesters, and guys like Spiro Agnew were said to be egging on the former. Well, today, the lefties sound like vintage Agnew:

You have this little smart ass college kid with too much time and money on his hands, all dewy-eyed because his hero, the Great Deceiver in Chief is in town and he gets in the face of burly blue collar worker who is struggling to meet his mortgage because of Bush's economic policies. What did they expect? That the union guy was going to thank this spoiled brat, whose parents are probably still paying his bills, for his input?
Pure 1960s right wing nostalgia! Both sides love to engage in class war rhetoric, and "smart ass spoiled college kids" are a wonderful target if the kids disagree with you.

But if they agree they're just fine.

As usual, hypocrisy abounds.

I prefer civility. But when civility fails, self defense is common sense.

Especially when dealing with tigers who consider slogans for Bush to be "fighting words."

What about a sign saying "SCABS FOR KERRY"? Is humor allowed?

posted by Eric at 04:09 PM | Comments (3)

Of cats and men

Not that I would ever do such a thing, but I saw this cat doing some fence-sitting, and it reminded me of politics.


Next I attempted to colorize it, and I ended up with what might be too artsy for me, but I am feeding it up because I want to see what the colors look like against the background of my blog.


I don't promise to leave this up, but it's Saturday, which means I get to be self-indulgent.

(Wouldn't want to have to discuss left-wing ultraviolence on a nice day like this...........)

Ultraviolet is more like it.

posted by Eric at 05:52 PM | Comments (2)

Last Minute Mutant Hybrid!

Not much time for tests today, but it's still Online Test Day and I just can't let well enough alone.

The first test today is "Which Mythological Form Are You?" I rather like my result:

You are Form 4, Gargoyle: The Fallen.

"And The Gargoyle mended his wings from the
blood of the fallen so he could rise up from
imprisonment. With great speed and
resourcefulness, Gargoyle made the world his
for the taking."

Some examples of the Gargoyle Form are Daedalus
(Greek) and Mary Magdalene (Christian).
The Gargoyle is associated with the concept of
success, the number 4, and the element of wood.
His sign is the new moon.

As a member of Form 4, you are a creative and
resourceful individual. You are always
thinking of possible solutions to problems you
face and you generally choose one that is
right. Much of your success comes from your
ability to look at things a little differently
than everyone else. Gargoyles are the best
friends to have because they don't always take
things for face value.

Which Mythological Form Are You?
brought to you by Quizilla


As to the next test, I am not sure how it fits....

A Monkees and Gargoyles crossover?

Who'da thought?

Take the Hey Hey, Which Monkee Are You? Quiz.

(Via Ordinary Galoot)

All things considered, I'd rather be a Gargoyle!

LAST MINUTE MUSIC REVIEW UPDATE: When I posted this late Friday night, I wish I'd noticed the reference to Daedalus in the gargolye description -- because I had just returned from a wonderful evening attending a concert by the Daedalus Quartet. They are on tour now, and I highly recommend them to anyone. I was placed in a genuine trance by their performance of Bela Bartok's String Quartet No. 4. Almost Grateful Dead-ish -- and composed in 1928. They do a nice job of explaining the background of the stuff they play too. I'd rate 'em 5 stars; my only complaint is that they weren't selling CDs.

posted by Eric at 11:55 PM | Comments (5)

Cutting slack for how long?

Connections between al Qaida and Iraq will not die. They just keep rolling in. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Not that the Iraqi-al Qaida connection is earthshakingly new; I have blogged about it previously here, and here. Something else which should not be forgotten are the revelations from retired Sixth Circuit Judge Gilbert S. Merritt. A man of unquestioned integrity with access to classified documents in Iraq, he concluded,

Saddam had an ongoing relationship with Osama bin Laden.
What's news (whether reported adequately or not) is that Clarke apparently knew about Iraqi connections to al Qaida -- even though he now downplays his prior knowledge in the hope of making Bush look like a man irrationally obsessed with finding an Iraqi connection. ("I now know that I didn't know what I knew then"?)

I can see why the man needs to cut himself some slack.

But, to me, the most intriguing recent nugget of information is Clarke's admission of a possible connection between Iraq and the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing:

On Page 127 [of his new "Against All Enemies"], Clarke notes that it's possible that al-Qaida operatives in the Philippines "taught Terry Nichols how to blow up the Oklahoma Federal Building." Intelligence places Nichols there on the same days as Ramzi Yousef, and "we do know that Nichols's bombs did not work before his Philippines stay and were deadly when he returned."

This ties in to the theory that Clinton quashed investigations into a foreign connection to Terry Nichols. The objective - blame Oklahoma City on right-wing wackos for political purposes. The subtle message - the people who voted for Newt and listen to Rush blew up this building. Hey, we report, you deride.

There's much more here.

I did a long post about this in January. Obviously, I do not have access to Clarke's sources, but the fact that someone at his level is starting to talk -- regardless of how accurate the man is -- should take this matter outside of the realm of crackpot conspiracy web sites, and hopefully lead to some serious and sober investigation.

What most fascinates me now about the Clarke book is that, if we assume something is being covered up, who would have been the one charged with covering it up? Clarke himself? (He's the guy who, after all "personally authorized the evacuation by private plane of dozens of Saudi citizens, including many members of Osama bin Laden's own family, in the days immediately following Sept. 11." Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Following the same link, there's this from the Boston Herald:

It's too bad Clarke cuts no one in the Bush administration the same slack he so easily cuts himself.
Considering the Oklahoma City remarks, might Clarke also be cutting himself some slack at the expense of the Clinton adminstration?

(Maybe it comes from years of CIA CYA thinking....)

posted by Eric at 06:58 PM | TrackBacks (1)

Blogs in the road to success?

This is disturbing. A favorite blogger, whom I have read for months, has shut down his blog because he is running for office, and apparently his political opponents (like this anonymous human) have seized on personal details in the hope of defeating him. I hate to see this happen, but because I am not running for office and know nothing about the complexities of the race he's in, I'm in no position to offer advice.

I like to think that if this happened to me, I would simply turn up the volume, and scream about my opponents' tactics in my blog. Perhaps bloggers who are contemplating a run for office might think about an advance strategy of making the blog a centerpiece of their platform from day one. That way, no one could play "gotcha!" and act as if they've found "dirt."

On the other hand, if you're really ashamed of something and don't want anyone to know about it, discussing it in your blog might cause problems later. But even then, if you disclose it in advance, I don't see how it could really be held against you by any fair-minded person.

Of course, "fair-minded" and elections are a bit like like tar and water....

Win or lose, I do hope notGeorge returns!

Bloggers are human beings too -- and I while I don't know the details, I suspect moral sanctimoniousness may be at work here.

As well as the usual political skullduggery.

posted by Eric at 02:30 PM | Comments (3)

Spur me on!

Pandas have thumbs! A cool idea for a new blog!

I am delighted to see that Timothy Sandefur is contributing to this group effort, and I only wish I could get Justin to join me here, because two heads are better than one. Sometimes I'm all thumbs, and I need help!

Now if I could only figure out why pythons have spurs....

What was God thinking? It's been said that women were created out of Adam's rib, and this was certainly the hard way to do it considering the chromosomal problems involved. But the python! These useless vestiges of what in most animals would be legs.... No function whatsoever! It has been argued that they scratch each other with them when mating, but isn't it a stretch that God would be thinking about reptilian sex? And after that same animal tempted the rib lady into making Adam eat la manzana prohibida?

Did the python earn its spurs?

posted by Eric at 01:53 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)

The EEK factor is sometimes right!

The 79th Carnival of the Vanities is up at Pete Holiday's excellent humor blog. My post about the FBI/FCC and restructuring of the Internet got an "EEK."

Considering recent controversy over Richard Clarke, I think I should amplify upon the EEK factor, because I see a conflict between those like Clarke who want to make the Internet safer from cyber attack -- and those like the FBI and the FCC, who want the Internet more vulnerable.

Yes, I did say vulnerable. And here I am almost sympathetic to Mr. Clarke, whose recognition that sometimes the hated hackers can make us safer by exposing holes and other vulnerabilities was praised by no less than Glenn Reynolds (otherwise a Clarke critic).

It's time to pose the question: might sweeping changes in packet-mode architecture, by installing a massive "trap door" for law enforcement, be simultaneously creating another lowest common denominator of weakness? A weakness that hackers and cyber-terrorists might be delighted to exploit to their own advantage?

Sweeping changes often have unintended consequences. Another reason we ought to be very careful about leaving something like this to government bureaucrats instead of the democratic, constitutional process.

I am not a cyber geek, but how about anyone out there?

Thank you Pete, for saying "EEK."

Might Leon Kass's observations about instinctive repugnance be implicated here? Repugnance might not be a logical argument, but I think that sometimes it can germinate logical thinking about things ordinary logic would otherwise cause us to overlook.

After all, even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

BY THE WAY: Please read the entire Carnival. They're all great, as usual, and made all the more delectable by the host's excellent taste and wit.

posted by Eric at 03:53 PM | Comments (2)

More implications from Dick's bag of tricks

I feel somewhat chagrined and at times like this I almost feel like apologizing. (Or at least implying an apology, as a sort of face-saver.)

I now see that Richard Clarke was "the driving force behind the government's Y2K efforts."

So says David J. Rothkopf, former Deputy Undersecretary of Commerce, chairman and CEO of Intellibridge Corporation and an adjunct professor of international affairs at Columbia University.

(There now! Isn't that a better source than Newsmax.com, or maybe even WorldNetDaily? It's all because I did this research under the strict supervision of Justin Case, who disapproves of my lazy tendencies and who insists I cite only the top-shelf sources.....)

Clarke's "Mr. Y2K" role is confirmed by the Christian Science Monitor:

At the top of the [Y2K] pyramid is Richard Clarke, the National Security Council terrorism czar who will coordinate domestic and international efforts. He will be backed by city and state police departments, US border guards, the Pentagon, the Justice Department, the State Department, the FBI, the CIA, and other agencies.

According to a November 2002 article -- Joshua Green's The Myth of Cyberterrorism, hype is nothing new to Richard Clarke:

Profit of Doom

At the center of all this hype is Richard Clarke, special adviser to the president for cyberspace security, a veteran of four administrations, and terrorism czar to Bill Clinton. Even though he was a senior Clinton official, Clarke's legendary bureaucratic skills saw him through the transition; and when replaced by Gen. Wayne Downing after September 11, Clarke created for himself the position of cybersecurity czar and continued heralding the threat of cyberattack. Understanding that in Washington attention leads to resources and power, Clarke quickly raised the issue's profile. "Dick has an ability to scare the bejesus out of everybody and to make the bureaucracy jump," says a former colleague. The Bush administration has requested a 64 percent increase in cybersecurity funds for next year.

Last month, I paid Clarke a visit in his office a few blocks west of the White House to talk about the threat and discovered that even he is beginning to wilt under the false pretense of cyberterrorism. As I was led back to meet him, his assistant made an odd request: "Mr. Clarke doesn't like to talk about the source of the threat, he'd rather focus on the vulnerability." And indeed, the man who figured most prominently in hyping the issue seemed particularly ill at ease discussing it.

While he might not enjoy discussing it, Clarke is not new to tricks. In fact, he thought that the Y2K clamor served as a neat "trick" to get people to do what he thought they ought to be doing:
During year 2000 IT modifications, the SEC required Y2K certification by public companies. "We got away with that because it was a one-year trick, and you can trick people for one year," Clarke said. That Y2K certification was a "device" to get CIOs in front of their boards of directors to provide funds for date change fixes, he said.
Clarke is such a tricky puzzle.

I'm intrigued by the use of devices and tricks, though and if I'd known Clarke was into that sort of thing, I would have taken more time the other day instead of hastily tacking him to a post which started out being about Mahathir Mohamad. I think I upset a commenter who responded by calling me names and stuff. I am so sorry this happened that I am thinking that maybe I should re-work my implication -- and imply that Kerry and Clarke aren't into appeasement.

Anything to appease.....

Let's see... how did I imply whatever it was I implied? I said,

if the idea is to realign U.S. foreign policy so as to avoid irritating al Qaida, I think it is fair to ask whether this might work. Isn’t that what so many people call appeasement? Can appeasement be made to work? If so, then Kerry is clearly the guy to make a case for it.
Now, let's rework that to make everybody happy:
if the idea is to realign U.S. foreign policy so as not to avoid irritating al Qaida, I think it is fair to ask whether this might work. Isn’t that what so many people call non-appeasement? Can non-appeasement be made to work? If so, then Kerry is clearly the guy to make a case for it.
Or am I not allowed to speculate about whether Kerry is a non-appeaser? I mean, do I have to speculate only one way? Both Clarke and Kerry are tough to predict; you never know what they'll say next. So I think in fairness to them and myself I ought to be entitled to speculate both ways.

But is it more "dishonest" to speculate one way than the other? Assume Kerry declares himself to be against appeasement. Is it dishonest to even speculate about whether that's true? Or to imply that it might not be?

Aren't bloggers allowed to speculate?

Does posing that question imply that they are?

In all honesty, I don't know what to imply or how to speculate about Richard Clarke -- whose statements imply many things, and are as amazing as they are amusing. Like this gem:

"every single time throughout recorded history, without a single exception, mankind learned its lessons the hard way numerous times about the dangers of every single technological advancement. I want mankind to learn just once, the easy way about the horrifying dangers of the Internet while I'm still alive so I can take ex post facto credit for saving a third of humanity from those cyber-terrorists and cyber-wars I constantly screamed about before 9/11."
I couldn't have implied it any better myself!

NOTE: There's more cool Clarke stuff here, here, and best of all here:

The year of the Clarke: 1999.
(Future Nostalgia implied, I think.)

UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking to this post, especially for the kind remark that stuff like the above is seldom found in newspaper accounts. A big welcome to all new readers!

MORE: The ongoing saga of Richard Clarke's numerous prevarications (link via Glenn Reynolds) leaves me aghast. I've been watching politics closely for many decades, and rarely have I seen a more thoroughly unreliable "whistle blower." (Of course, there's always John Dean, who I think history will eventually show to be the granddaddy of all prevaricators, but that's a bit off-topic.... Forgive my cynicism! If only they'd had bloggers back in the 70s....)

I don't know whether to take anything Richard Clarke says seriously. But I'll still try....

posted by Eric at 11:23 PM | Comments (2)

"Badge of honor" -- but where's the honor?

As Glenn Reynolds observed, hedging won't help Kerry avoid this story:

KANSAS CITY - (KRT) - Confronted with 32-year-old FBI records, Sen. John Kerry's campaign all but conceded he attended a 1971 Kansas City meeting where a fellow anti-war veteran called for political assassinations.
Nor will it help the Kerry campaign to push the story that Kerry was a victim of FBI, and that this was a badge of honor:
KETCHUM, Idaho - Reports that the FBI monitored John Kerry's antiwar activities in the early 1970s are both "a badge of honor" and a troubling example of government intrusion into peaceful and legitimate protest, a Kerry spokesman said yesterday.

"Revealed in page after page of FBI reports is the portrait of John Kerry at age 27 speaking with courage and conviction, leading veterans to Washington for peaceful protests, advocating nonviolent protests and moderation," spokesman David Wade said.

....."He knew it wouldn't be easy," Wade said. "The Nixon White House set out to destroy him because he was a credible voice speaking up for veterans. Now we learn that J. Edgar Hoover's FBI was following his every move."

The above "badge of honor" story was in my local (Philadelphia) newspaper. But the story about the assassination meeting was in the New York Sun.

If the stories of Kerry's attendance at a meeting where assassinations of members of the U.S. Senate were discussed (even voted upon) are true, then Kerry is ill-advised in portraying himself as a victim. (More here.)

Hoover's FBI -- or, for that matter anyone's FBI -- would have been seriously, dangerously amiss had they not kept track of people who took it upon themselves to attend meetings discussing the assassinations of United States senators.

Either Kerry is very foolish, or his handlers are incredibly stupid (possibly blinded by their ideology). Either way, it doesn't look good.

If he wants the stories about the assassination meetings to go away, why is Kerry literally bragging that the FBI's monitoring of him is a "badge of honor"? If it turns out that he was present while assassinations were discussed, what "honor" is he talking about?

To ordinary Americans (you know -- the kind of people who don't sit around and discuss assassinations of senators), it might begin to look anything but honorable.

Organizations that plot the assassinations of American politicians for political ends (or any reason) are hardly in the same league as Martin Luther King, Jr. Kerry's participation in the debate -- confirmed by witnesses -- requires an explanation as to why he never notified authorities of the plot, even if he did argue against it and resigned shortly afterward.
In Kerry's defense, it should be noted that he says he resigned from VVAW before the assassination discussions took place.

Well, I guess we should be glad to hear that, and we should hope it's true. After all, we don't want a president who actually attended meetings where such things were discussed.

Do we?

I think that under the circumstances, though, some people might still be confused about how being monitored by the FBI was a badge of honor.

If I were Kerry, I'd lose this badge as fast as I could.

posted by Eric at 01:41 AM | Comments (3)

A well read roast!

Bonfire of the Vanities is up at MTPolitics!

Craig really knows how to roast 'em, too, which makes this a pleasure to read!

My post (in which I railed about my bad keyboard) was truly the worst of the worst, and I am proud to be ashamed of it. It's so bad that I should not have posted it at all -- except that my selfish side was angling for free geekie advice, and I wanted my readers to be sure to feel my pain!

More highlights:

  • My esteemed comrade Ghost of a flea has made an important endorsement for President of the United States, which should have been taken far more seriously than it was.
  • Here's a picture no one can see (because it's not there!).
  • Old blogfriend Susie is somewhere else, and I don't know why.
  • Josh Cohen's book, The Fallen, is for sale at Amazon, and I'd like to read it.
  • Kevin Aylward discovers that Gale Norton is now the White House decorator. (I knew they demoted Richard Clarke from Terror Czar to WiFi Whiner, but you'd think they'd learn that demotions lead to resentments -- and lucrative book contracts....)
  • That's not all folks; they're all very funny -- and made funnier by Craig.

    Read 'em!

    posted by Eric at 11:52 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)

    And now for something even more disgusting than eating ice cream in public!

    A blog by Joe Carter, called Evangelical Outpost" (via Glenn Reynolds -- whose views Mr. Carter characterizes as "radical libertarian") has taken issue with the criticism Leon Kass's ice cream quote has received in the blogosphere.

    While Mr. Carter has as much right to his opinion as anyone else (including Kass), he seems to have a feeling that religion is implicated, and I want to address that.

    First of all, let's not forget that Kass wrote what he wrote. I didn't, nor did any of the people commenting on it. To insinuate that it is playing dirty pool to quote what the man said strikes me as too extravagant a position to require a serious response.

    On to "religion" (or what passes for it)....

    Whether or not a view is religious in origin has nothing to do with its validity, and still less to do with whether other people should agree with it. Religion is personal, and if one does or does not do something for religious reasons that is not an argument for or against anyone else doing it.

    In Kass's case, though, no argument was made by the doctor against ice cream from a religious perspective. But as Glenn Reynolds observes, even if he had done so, it would change nothing except possibly make him appear more ridiculous in light of his powerful position as head of a government commission (and his stated championing of the "yuck/disgust factor").

    What I want to know is why a religious motivation should render an opinion or an action any more immune from criticism than the lack thereof. Do Islamic terrorists, because of their allegedly "religious" motivations become less blameworthy than Marxist terrorists? I see no reason why. Yet I see more and more people attempting to hide behind religion as if it immunizes them not only from all criticism, but from having to defend the logic of their positions.

    What ticks me off about Kass is that, regardless of whether he's motivated by religion or philosophy, he wants his views made into laws enforced by the power of the state. To my mind, this heightens the duty to disagree or criticize him. Because if I don't, and his laws are imposed on me, the disagreement will morph into something quite different from a mere difference of opinion. The "opinion" that people should go to jail becomes a present threat once that opinion becomes the law of the land.

    Not that I worry about criminalization of ice cream, mind you. But state power shaped by crazy opinions can lead to crazy laws.

    (I am reminded of the criminalization of water not long ago....)

    Did I just mention "water"? This renewed interest in ice cream etiquette has reminded me that I am long overdue for Part II of Dr. Kass's star profile.


    All who are disgusted by Astrology are hereby warned to stop reading now, or forever hold your disgust, your instinctive revulsion, or whatever you might call your feelings of outrage.

    In a post last week I began with Dr. Kass's Sun/Moon combination, "The Dilettante." I promised to continue with the other major planets, so here they are.


    Most people have heard about Mars and Venus as the male and female planets, which they are. I like to use Debbi Kempton-Smith's traditional (although compassionately humorous) treatise, Secrets from a Stargazer's Notebook (Bantam Books, New York, 1982.), and the following are her observations. The following material is offered along with my standard disclaimer (see my previous post), and is based on the assumption that Dr. Kass was born on February 12, 1929.

    Mars is known as the male planet, and Ms. Kempton-Smith calls it "How You Drive People Crazy", and here's a partial excerpt explaining why:

    Mars likes war. Mars makes enthusiasm too, but it'll settle for trouble. Mars is your energy, what you put your energy into, your drive and your courage. Mars stands for lust and drive and passion. Mars burns for things. If someone has Mars on your Venus, they'll burn for you.

    The sign Mars shows what kind of special sparkle you have. Think of a peacock showing off in a courtship. Some Mars signs strut more successfully than others.

    Things that make you angry are Mars things.

    Dr. Kass's Mars is in Sagittarius, and, on a point of personal privilege, I should state here that my Mars is also in Sagittarius, so anyone who thinks I am being mean to Dr. Kass here should bear in mind that the following can also be used against me!

    Mr. and Mrs. Leave It To Beaver, that's you! You've got that clean-cut twinkle in your eye, and you're kind and funny. You like to pretend you're an animal in bed. You are. You joke a bit much at romantic moments, but your honey thinks you're adorable, a philosopher. Travel excites you. You turn people on with generosity, bonhomie, and natural love of the underdog. You are nothing if not charitable. You'll turn people on with a rousting debate, but your most successful sexual asset is that laugh. Your laugh burbles up from a place somewhere deep inside of you, and your laugh is the sound of pure joy. You will har-dee-har-har anyone to the casbah, and you always have a good laugh when you leave a loved one. You like having the last laugh, too.

    And when the going gets tough, the tough get going. It's not that your leaving upsets people, it's how you leave. So intent are you on the new goal and the Wide Horizon that you blind yourself to the unholy mess you leave behind and the long-term effects of your actions on other people. You don't want responsibility and force others to be responsible for you. At your worst, your worm' s-eye view allows you to laugh at other folks' serious attempts at maturity. You love animals. It's the people who detest you when you act like a schmuck.

    OK, so much for Kass's Mars. (And so much for me!)

    We now come to the planet Venus -- described by Ms. Kempton-Smith as the planet of "Sleazy Sex and Eternal Love." Dr. Kass's Venus is in Capricorn:


    The connoisseur. Think of them as Englishmen or women in love -- they still think sex is frightfully naughty. Men in pinstripes and women in black stockings and garter belts feature in their guilty fantasies. Ask anyone riding on the London underground, if you dare.

    There are two kinds of lovers for them: the saucy lower-class chambermaid or rough and ready gamekeeper, or the sort of specimen you take home to meet Daddy. If you've got both qualifications, they'll fall deeply in love with you. Don't ever show affection in public, and don't keep your hands off them in private. The men like long-legged ladies, oval faces, and lots of black clothing, and the women like their men with a six-inch bank account -- or the prospect of same.

    You can look like Bizarro if you've got money, power, or fame, so don't sweat the small stuff. Venus in Capricorn folks do have one odd kink, however. They are fascinated with bone structure. Your body is the way they like to study architecture, whereas the folks with Venus in Sagittarius just don't give a hang about your body as long as you like to boogie-woogie. Venus in Capricoms are attracted to moody loners, and you can never be too rich or too skinny. Remember Cassius' lean and hungry look.

    Forget keeping them around unless you can be useful to them, especially in their work. Show them how you fix a doorknob, type, or Make Yourself Useful. Weirdly, they are more often exploited themselves because they feel inadequate about their own worth. So they may try to "buy" you in some way. The men may actually tell you to go away and come back when they've made their mark in the world; they’ll live in barren conditions, though, telling you that's their way of keeping the gold-diggers away. They trust only the friends who stick with them in hard times. They get good at making money. Both sexes believe that the best partners won't be theirs unless they "earn" the partner's devotion. This pound-wise, penny-foolish attitude on their part wrecks many budding romances. People don't like to think of love in the same breath as worldly affairs. Venus in Capricorn people need two things only: a kick in the pants for being too worrisome and mercenary, and lots and lots of kisses along the spine. These weird, frosty people are lusty beyond belief. NEVER grab them in front of business or social acquaintances unless they want you to, as a status symbol. They will let you know, by post.

    The planet Saturn is described as "What's Stopping You From Getting There?":

    Saturn is the symbol of all living things that scare the living daylights out of you. Astrologers call it The Great Teacher, but they're jiving if they fail to inform you of the pain that comes with the lessons. Most of this pain comes from ignorance. Saturn shows what got distorted in youth. It shows the things we never got or what we got too much of. Worse still, if someone offers those things we want most now, we don't know what to do with the goodies. Psychologists and astrologers are constantly astonished at how human beings push away the very things that could make us feel secure. We're afraid to want the things of our Saturn, so we pretend we can do without them. We do do without them, but at a cost to our willingness to gently work on facing our fears.

    There's more, but Saturn is called the "DON'T CROSS THAT LINE" planet.

    And now, with compassion and understanding, readers may venture across Dr. Kass's "line."


    "The definition of cowardice is to see what is right and not do it."

    So many comedians are born with Saturn here. I guess they're afraid people will laugh at them anyway, and Saturn, always practical, might as well get paid for it. These are very serious folks, but they try their damnedest to hide the fact.

    In childhood they weren't allowed a normal, healthy, show-off ego. The parents said, "Don't be selfish—share." Parents played with your presents before you got them, and it was rare that you ever got the luxury of pure. new "vibes" on anything.

    People with this Saturn are afraid of the things Aries is afraid of—that you won't like them. They want to come first in your life. but they're afraid to ask or act like they have the right. You can win them forever by treating them as Number One. They burn to be leaders—inwardly they yearn to be Superman. They're terrified to show how much they want it. They have terrible guilt complexes about their egos: often this is the position of the over sheltered but neglected child. Parents force them to be grown-up too fast.

    No wonder so many of these folks stay single, or even become priests to breathe the heady air of self-hood, which their parents taught them was obscene. The loner image is a sham—they're greedily desperate to prove their independence . . . to themselves. They're afraid they can't do it all themselves.

    No one ever taught them how to build up their charisma, how to dress right, how to please themselves first. Past lifetimes, if you buy them, have given them quiet courage, wisdom beyond their years, and the memory of having been pushed around a lot by other people. They remember being pushed out of the spotlight. being passed over, and they're not going to let that happen this time. It is sheer hell getting them to let go of power—as bosses they're awful at delegating authority. Or they get so bossy they forget what leadership really is. Then they see everybody as a threat to their own seat.

    They are anxious about their bodies or looks in some way. They've been crippled or limited in their movements in the past, and they're touchy about it.

    Once there were two friends. One was known as a maverick, and the other friend was known as a "yes-man." He had Saturn in this position. One night the maverick stood up before their club and mentioned the corruption that was creeping in; the group had been acting cruelly and breaking rules. The maverick pushed for some reforms, while Martin, his friend, let the group tear the maverick to pieces. Privately he supported his friend's cause, but he was unable to act with the wild, jazzy, you're-terrific-even-if-you're-a-madman courage. No one had ever taught him how.

    If they avoid the two extremes of "yessing" people to death or monopolizing the whole show, they're doing A-OK.

    Nudge them. but don't push them. Praise their appearance lavishly. Note their wise courage. Let them lead whenever possible. They were starved of the chance as children. Cheer them up—they get depressed. Gently show them that if they allow you to work in your own way you are freeing them of details so they can be leaders. Emphasize their uniqueness—they've worked hard for it.

    The sweetest qualities of this position are wit, depth, dependability. chivalry, humility, wisdom, and the ultimate realization that one does not have to lake oneself seriously, but one must treat oneself seriously and with respect.

    My sincerest apologies to all who are disgusted by Astrology (which, I suspect includes at least as many atheistic and secular libertarians as it does people with religious objections).

    So much for another labor of love.

    (As the saying goes, "No good deed goes unpunished....")

    posted by Eric at 09:41 PM | Comments (3)

    CARNIVORE was only an appetizer....

    I may be old-fashioned, and I may be prone to overreacting where it comes to things like free speech and the FCC. My numerous posts about Howard Stern are a good example; I tend towards an absolutist, untrammeled view of free speech.


    I think that the ability of citizens to freely communicate is the essence of free speech. The Internet, with all its problems, foibles, spam, viruses, is the pinnacle of human communication right now. More than simply free speech, it is no understatement to call it the highest and best use of free human communication in the history of man.

    Thus, I feel personally threatened by developments like this:

    SAN JOSE, Calif. - Before 8x8 Inc. launched an Internet phone service in late 2002, it drafted a business plan, set up its equipment, posted a Web site, and began taking orders from customers. As with most online ventures, U.S. government approval was not needed.

    That would change if the Department of Justice succeeds in persuading federal regulators to require new online communications services - such as Internet calling - to comply with wiretapping laws.

    Critics, including some online businesses that are working with authorities to make their services wiretap-capable, say the Justice Department proposal is not just unprecedented and overzealous, it is also dangerously impractical.

    It would chill innovation, they say, invade privacy, and drive businesses out of the United States.

    "No one in the Internet world is going to support this," said Bryan Martin, chief executive officer of 8x8, which sells the Packet8 phone service. "It's counter to everything we've done to date in terms of building the Internet as a free, anonymous and creative place."

    The Justice Department, the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration are seeking what they call a clarification to a wiretap law called the Communications Assistance to Law Enforcement Act.

    That act is known as CALEA. It was passed in 1994, and was intended to regulate the telephone industry, not the Internet (which existed in 1994 when the law was passed, and which was able to blossom and largely transform the United States economy because of this policy of keeping it as free as possible from government regulation).

    As the article states, law enforcement wants more than what they got in 1994:

    The Justice Department says that, as the nature of telecommunications changes, [CALEA] is simply not working.

    Without citing examples, the agency's lawyers say some providers of new communications services are not complying and, as a result, surveillance targets are being lost and investigations hindered.

    "These problems are real, not hypothetical, and their impact on the ability of... law enforcement to protect the public is growing with each passing day," according to a petition sent to the Federal Communications Commission recently signed by Deputy Assistant Attorney General John G. Malcolm and colleagues from the FBI and the DEA.

    To fully understand the details of what is going on, it is necessary to read this. (I read it last night and did not sleep well.) The FBI is attempting to order the FCC to declare most ISPs to be telephone communications providers, thus regulating them in the same way it regulates telephone companies. The petition is 83-pages long, heavy-handed in tone, and reads more like an order than a request -- speaking in terms of getting tough, allowing no extensions, demanding tough enforcement by the FCC (including criminal forfeitures and more).

    It’s complicated but understanding packet mode switching is the key to understanding the problem – which goes to the nature and heart of the Internet.

    If you don’t feel like reading all 83 pages, the Center for Democracy and Technology has an excellent position paper here, which explains why the proposal will harm the country by shackling Internet development and interfering with user privacy.

    I hope I am not overreacting, but I think this may be the biggest threat to the Internet so far. Because the regulation of packet mode switching is not possible without a wholesale rewriting of the very structure of the Internet.

    Such a drastic and draconian remedy, with the direst possible consequences to free speech and continued economic health of this country, should not, in my opinion be something that should be accomplished by a preemptive bureaucratic surgical strike -- with the following result:

    the architecture of the Internet will depend on the permission of the F.B.I.
    Shouldn't such a vast change -- a clear-cutting, really -- of the entire Internet, at least require some congressional legislation? If this CALEA scheme doesn't give the government the power to do that (which it does not), then isn't it a bit irresponsible even to allow the FCC to entertain such a "petition"? The FBI and the FCC might want to do this, but is it their function?

    I don't think so.

    I think that even if Congress were to pass a new CALEA law, there'd be plenty of debate, and many would argue that it would be unduly burdensome, a prior restraint of free speech, and a lot of other things. It might be held unconstitutional, as was the Communications Decency Act.

    But at least in the case of the CDA, Congress had to pass the damned thing. This looks more like a sneaky end-run around the legislative and judicial process to me.

    And the consequences are far greater. Back to my local newspaper:

    ....[The petition] argues, in effect, for establishing a government approval process that would be required before any new communications services launch.

    "If the FBI had this power all along, would we even have the Internet today?" said Lee Tien, senior staff lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

    Foreign companies, of course, would be the direct beneficiaries of the sweeping changes, becase they are not covered.
    [C]ompanies outside the United States would not have to cooperate.

    He mentioned Skype, a peer-to-peer-based telephony service with offices in Estonia and Sweden. Unlike major U.S. providers, Skype scrambles conversations, making it nearly impossible to decipher conversations quickly. Skype spokeswoman Kat James, reached via e-mail, declined to comment.

    Justice Department officials declined to comment beyond the filing, which requested and appears to have received expedited review by the FCC.

    Why the hurry to hamstring American companies without so much as a single debate in Congress?

    Here's what the foreign companies are already doing:

    Skype, built by the same people who brought us Kazaa, is a totally distributed peer-to-peer network, with no centralized routing computers. (That's possible in part because Skype calls can only be sent and received by computers—you can't call a friend with an analog phone.) As a result, the company's network looks more like a tangled spider web, and the packets that make up your voice in a Skype call are sent through myriad routes to their destination. Part of the brilliance of the Skype software is that it has learned to use desktop PCs as "supernodes," each sharing some of the load needed to route Skype calls quickly to their destination. From the caller's perspective, this is all invisible: The call just works.

    Since it's exceedingly difficult to follow the path that a Skype call makes through the network, law enforcement agents would be hard-pressed to figure out where to place a tap. But even if they could, the company has built in such strong encryption that it's all but mathematically impossible with today's best computer technology to decode the scrambled bits into a conversation. Here's how Skype explained it: "Skype uses AES (Advanced Encryption Standard)—also known as Rijndel—which is also used by U.S. government organizations to protect sensitive information. Skype uses 256-bit encryption, which has a total of 1.1 x 1077 possible keys, in order to actively encrypt the data in each Skype call or instant message." The point of all this mumbo-jumbo is that Skype uses an encryption algorithm* known as 256-bit AES. The National Institute of Science and Technology states that it would take a computer using present-day technology "approximately 149 thousand-billion (149 trillion) years to crack a 128-bit AES key." And that's for the 128-bit version; Skype uses the more "secure" 256-bit standard. Since computers have a way of quickly getting more powerful, the institute forecasts that "AES has the potential to remain secure well beyond twenty years."

    Moreover, Skype says, the company does not keep the encryption "keys" that are used to encode each Skype transmission—each one is generated and then discarded by the computer that initiates the call. So government agents couldn't force Skype to turn over the keys needed to decrypt a call either.

    Last Thursday the FCC held an open hearing on the future of VoIP telecommunications. In a 4-1 decision, FCC commissioners, supported by Chairman Michael Powell, voted that a VoIP provider called Free World Dialup should not be subject to the same regulations as traditional phone companies—including the particulars of CALEA compliance. Instead, the FCC decided to put off the issue, stating that it would initiate a proceeding "to address the technical issues associated with law-enforcement access to Internet-enabled service" and "identify the wiretapping capabilities required." One commissioner, Michael J. Copps strongly dissented, calling the postponement "reckless."

    But even if the FCC had ruled differently on Thursday, mandating specific rules for Internet phone calls and CALEA compliance, it couldn't have been the definitive word on the subject.

    "Reckless"? What would really be reckless would be to allow wholesale restructuring of the Internet by a small group of bureaucrats.

    Last night I wrote a very emotional and long-winded post about this thing, and I was so upset I didn't post the draft. I am glad I didn't, because this kind of thing requires much thought and reflection, and by a lot more people than the FBI and the FCC. (Or a few upset bloggers like me.....)

    Freedom is too important to be left up to the whims of a few bureaucrats. Free communication is increasingly being seen as a "loophole."

    Yes, free speech. And the FCC. It isn't just whether Howard Stern gets to talk on the radio. It's anyone with a computer.

    I am reminded of the Clipper Chip showdown, when the government wanted every computer owner who wanted to use encryption to be forced to provide a "back door" to facilitate government snooping.

    It's one thing if the government has evidence of crime and obtains a warrant. They can then search, and in some cases they might have to work a little harder than in others. But what they want here is to force everyone to make their search as easy as flicking a switch. Should the government be able to prohibit locks on doors which might make it tougher for their agents to break in? Or prohibit flashpaper which self-destructs before police could seize it and read it? Require sewer traps on all plumbing to prevent immediate flushing in the case of drug raids? Force firearms manufacturers to build in mechanisms to render all firearms unfireable if the government suddenly didn't want people to use them? What's the difference in requiring citizens to make their speech freely monitorable? I can't think of a more clear prior restraint of citizens' free speech rights, because the Internet is nothing more than a vast communications network. If you cannot communicate any way you please, then speech is no longer free.


    NOTE: For all who are interested, I have many more links on this and related matters, and in the interest of brevity I'll just list them.

  • Telephone revolution on campus
  • Wiretapping is a common occurrence; nothing is secure unless secured
  • Easing of Internet Regulations Challenges Surveillance Efforts
  • FBI targets Net phoning
  • Public WiFi
  • WIRED pice on growth of WiFi freedom fighters
  • Proposal to OPEN THE SPECTRUM
  • New Hampshire assists "WiFi civil disobedience"
  • No more phone bills, ever, thanks to wireless
  • Pain-to-Pain networking (HUMOR!)
  • These Wires Were Made for Tapping (It started with CARNIVORE)
  • Long history of government overreaching
  • posted by Eric at 10:27 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

    Kerry fell down and can't get up!

    Roger L. Simon reflects on John Kerry's fall -- for which he not only blamed the Secret Service, but added insult to injury -- calling the guy a "son of a bitch":

    "I don't fall down," the "son of a b*itch knocked me over."
    I don't think this is going away, at least not for me. Consider this: Kerry just treated with contempt a man who is supposed to take a bullet for him.
    It won't go away for me either. By behaving like an arrogant snot, Kerry shows that he is out of touch with ordinary people, lacks the common touch, and may in fact be a genuinely mean-spirited man. When this is added to his response to the question about his foreign endorsements ("None of your business!"), I think it is fair to ask whether he has the temperament that should be expected of any public servant, especially a president.

    My father has been dead for many years, but I'll never forget what he told me about evaluating powerful people. Watch how they treat the little people, he said; like the ordinary workers, servants, waiters, secretaries, etc. The kind of guy who's rude to a waiter or who yells at his secretary is the same sort who'll stab you in the back, welch on a deal, and treat you like shit if he ever has power over you.

    So far, Kerry has failed my dad's test, my test, and Roger L. Simon's test.

    I don't know how he can rehabilitate himself.

    Kerry's arrogance has been commented upon in a number of places, but this incident is more than just arrogant. Arrogance can be defensible, even noble, depending on where it is directed. Our founders were arrogant towards Great Britain, as was Winston Churchill towards his enemies. But to blame, belittle, and insult a Secret Service agent whose job is to protect your life -- that's outrageously petty and mean. It's like insulting a nurse taking care of you in a hospital, and there'd be no excuse for even an underprivileged, uneducated man behaving that way.

    With Kerry, there's less than no excuse. It's pretty arrogant of him to assume all those "little people" will vote for him, but I guess he thinks they're so stupid he can treat them with the same contempt as Secret Service agents (and doubtless he'll blame them if he loses).

    Power breeds unaccountability and disrespect by its nature, and power can cause even good men to become arrogant and unaccountable. That's because, in government as in life, it is elementary that shit flows downhill from the top.

    Even on a ski slope.

    posted by Eric at 02:30 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (3)

    The sick sheik's sixth sheep sleeps

    Bah, humbug!


    posted by Eric at 01:46 AM

    Networking endorsements....

    The world is reported as erupting in antiwar protests, while Kerry the antiwar candidate continues to rack up endorsements. The most notable is of course, former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, noted anti-Semitic and anti-homosexual bigot:

    PUTRAJAYA, Malaysia - Former Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad endorsed Democratic contender John Kerry (news - web sites) in the U.S. presidential race Thursday, saying he would keep the world safer than President Bush (news - web sites).

    "I think Kerry would be much more willing to listen to the voices of people and of the rest of the world," Mahathir, who retired in October after 22 years in power, told The Associated Press in an interview.

    "But in the U.S., the Jewish lobby is very strong, and any American who wants to become president cannot change the policy toward Palestine radically," he said.

    Mahathir, who was one of the most outspoken leaders in the Islamic world, also said the March 11 train bombings in Spain demonstrated that the Iraqi war has aggravated international terrorism and raised hostility toward Washington and its allies. (Via Right Wing News)

    (In fairness, it should be noted that Kerry does not want Mohamad's support -- any more than he wanted Ramsey Clark's.)

    Silflay Hraka offers a collection of Mohamad's anti-Semitic statements like this one:

    The Europeans killed 6 million Jews out of 12 million. But today the Jews rule this world by proxy. They get others to fight and die for them.

    If the Arabs who before were not terrorists are today willing to commit suicide in order to fight against the Israelis or Americans, there must be a reason for it. And the reason is that they feel that Americans and the Jews and the Europeans have been unjust to them."

    And I previously posted about Mohamad's virulently anti-homosexual statements.

    But let's assume that Mahathir Mohamad were to get his way. Who would he and the antiwar demonstrators have rule the world instead of the Jews and their "proxies"? The answer to the "proxy war" in Iraq is of course total U.S. withdrawal. But al Qaida fighters have been pouring into the place, which, in the post-Saddam power vacuum, would only mean growing terrorist hegemony.

    There is said to be "no connection" between al Qaida and Iraq. Then why has al Qaida made Iraq its central focus? I see no one seriously denying that the purpose of the 3-11 attack was to stop Spain from supporting the war in Iraq. I think it is reasonable to assume that their next attack will also be related to the war in Iraq. Which means that to the extent the targeted countries comply with al Qaida's demands as Spain has, al Qaida will be winning.

    Unless, of course, one maintains that there is no connection between al Qaida and Iraq, and that this is all some Jewish plot to rule the world by proxy.

    Then there's this report from Richard Clarke, that the Iraq war inflamed bin Laden:

    Clarke also harshly criticizes Bush over his decision to invade Iraq, saying it helped brew a new wave of anti-American sentiment among supporters of Osama bin Laden (news - web sites).

    "Bin Laden had been saying for years, 'America wants to invade an Arab country and occupy it, an oil-rich Arab country.' This is part of his propaganda," Clarke said. "So what did we do after 9/11? We invade ... and occupy an oil-rich Arab country, which was doing nothing to threaten us."

    This fits right in with the prevailing meme that the world is more dangerous not because of al Qaida, but because Bush and the war in Iraq pissed off al Qaida.

    I have no idea whether Richard Clarke is endorsing Kerry (although his close friend and teaching colleague, Rand Beers, is Kerry's National Security advisor and may have recruited Clarke by now), but if the idea is to realign U.S. foreign policy so as to avoid irritating al Qaida, I think it is fair to ask whether this might work.

    Isn't that what so many people call appeasement?

    Can appeasement be made to work?

    If so, then Kerry is clearly the guy to make a case for it. The problem is that appeasement has not worked before; it only emboldened al Qaida.

    In any case, Clarke's job dealt with cyber-security, (see this interview) and I am not sure whether his revelations will be as earth-shaking as the media hoopla might make them appear.

    Clarke's was known as the prophet of an "Electronic Pearl Harbor" (which didn't quite pan out as Clarke warned). Maybe that's why he resigned?

    In any case, the enemy is al Qaida.

    Not WiFi.

    UPDATE: ANOTHER ENDORSEMENT of John Kerry, by Noam Chomsky! Chomsky doesn't sound terribly enthusiastic (calling Kerry "Bush-lite") but hell, every little bit helps.

    MORE: And here's DICK CHENEY on Clarke:

    "The only thing I can say about Dick Clarke," Cheney told radio host Rush Limbaugh, "is he was here throughout those eight years going back to 1993, and the first attack on the World Trade Center in '98 when the embassies were hit in east Africa, in 2000 when the USS Cole was hit.
    But that was before he realized the true nature of the WiFi problem now menacing us!

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking to this post! And a big welcome to all InstaPundit readers.

    AND MORE: Via Little Green Footballs, here's Richard Clarke's Legacy of Miscalculation:

    The outgoing cybersecurity czar will be remembered for his steadfast belief in the danger of Internet attacks, even while genuine threats developed elsewhere.
    I suggest reading it all.

    ANOTHER UPDATE: Randy Barnett reviews the Bush administration's response to Dick Clarke, and concludes,

    Because valid criticisms will now be hard for the public to distinguish from unfounded politically-motivated assertions, the pervasiveness of rejectionism by Bush haters is likely to retard rather than enhance our understanding of the failures that led to 9/11. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
    Simply getting the facts has become like pulling teeth. Objective analysis of valid criticisms has become almost impossible.

    MORE: Noting an additional Clarke remark (contradictory in nature, and so far largely ignored) Glenn Reynolds adds a musical rejoinder:

    You want a revolution in antiterrorism? Fine. We'd all love to see the plan.

    ANOTHER ENDORSEMENT? I've fallen behind, and I am having trouble keeping track. But Kerry seems to have picked up another endorsement while I wasn't looking. Hugo Chavez, of Venezuela. I'll have to sleep on this for now. Meanwhile, the whole world is watching -- especially CNN, which notes that Kerry is not Chavez-friendly:

    Kerry has attacked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez as a dubious democrat hostile to U.S. interests, delivering a slap in the face to the leftist leader who had portrayed Kerry as a potential friend.
    What's the matter with Chavez, anyway? If he wants Kerry to win, why endorse him? Who's he working for? Karl Rove?

    posted by Eric at 10:12 PM | Comments (18) | TrackBacks (1)

    A "cursory" glance at "Misery"

    Let's try an experiment to see whether I have wasted my money on a new keyboard for this laptop. (It has not arrived yet, I should add, so this is the old one.)

    The other day when I was trying to do a post, the keys seemed to bounce all around, although rig

    ---- there! just when I was typing the word "right" it flew away from me. I think it has something to do with the mouse (the built in mouse) on the keyboard. Something is worn out, and it only happens occasionally, annoyingly....

    But I don't want it to happen at all. ced th

    I especially don't want it to happen when posting, because you should see the way this thing positively flies right out of the "Entry Body" space in Movable Type -- instantly transforming it into Movable Typo!

    It threw me out of the current screen without warning, then I was back to the "Edit Entries" mode.

    I could easily lose an unsaved post that way.

    I am still not convin


    Suddenly, without my doing anything but continuing to type, the cuersor flew to the end of a line several lines abov

    SEE THAT???? I did NOT type the word "cuersor" above; I typed "above" above, and the "e" inserted itself into the word "cursor."


    Back to what I was trying to say before the cursor misery. (Remember Stephen King's typing problems in Misery? This machine is at least as disobedient as his manual typewriter, but I do get to keep all my f)

    ---- WHOA I spoke too fast there. As the above shows, my fingers were just sliced up by the scimitar edge of that dangling, Damoclean parenthesis! Scary.....)

    As I was trying to type "I am still not convinced" it stopped at "I am still not convin" and the "ced" appeared TWELVE LINES above, like this:

    But I don't want it to happen at all. ced th

    The possibilities for misery and grief are endless.

    Still, I am wondering whether Movable Type might be the problem, because I opened Word and tried to get this to happen without any success.

    Any experts out there? (I am running a Dell Latitude C600, Movable Type 2.64.)
    I love this machine, though, which is lightning fast with the internal mini pci WiFi card I just installed. (Frankly, I think it';s f

    ----WILL YOU LOOK AT THAT? tried to type "faster" and "aste" suddenly jumped to just above "I love this machine."

    Funny, the things I fall in love with.....

    posted by Eric at 05:06 PM | Comments (5)

    Oy vey, Homer! I don't give a damn! (And I don't believe in ESTP!)

    Did I need reminding that it's Online Test Day at Classical Values? Take this test -- please! Take my blog -- please!

    What better way to begin the Sabbath than to find out you're Jewish and didn't even didn't know it! From Dean Esmay, I found a test which shouldn't really have surprised me, because for most of my life people have thought I was Jewish (I don't know why exactly), and I have been told by Jewish friends that I just "seem" Jewish. I am not aware of how I seem that way, but this test seems to confirm it:

    incredibly jewish
    You're incredibly Jewish!

    How Jewish are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    What can I say other than "Oy vey" -- which rhymes with Dean Esmay, who's at least as Jewish as I am!

    THE BAREST TRUTH: Although I was not baptized, I was sent to a Christian school, and my dad was a borderline atheist who nonetheless took me to Catholic and Unitarian churches.... But enough kvetching about the personal details of my life, OK?


    I am not entirely sure about the relationship between my Jewish tendencies and Harry Potter (something which might require heady theological research), but the next test -- from the Blogosphere's Great Test Giver, Ghost of a flea -- revealed this:

    Pirate Monkey's Harry Potter Personality Quiz
    Harry Potter Personality Quiz
    by Pirate Monkeys Inc.

    Once again I broke with my usual pattern of having the same result as the Flea, who is Severus Snape, an INTJ.

    I am not sure about these psychological profiles, and I am reminded of my days as a freshman in college, when the graduate students forced all Psychology 1A students to take detailed psychological inventory tests. I did not like my results, and, being an inquisitive sort who only wanted to learn, I asked to examine the mechanics of the scoring -- something the know-it-alls refused to allow because (they said) "That information is only made available to graduate students."

    "Elitist pricks," I thought, and I dropped the course. (Another career nipped in the bud, in the interests of "higher learning.")

    And now I see that my character (Draco Malfoy) is "the archenemy of Harry Potter and all those who befriend him."

    Once again, I really should protest (but methinks not too much....)


    So here I am, 32 years after dropping Psych 1A, still looking for answers. Dave Tepper helped out with a very cool test -- "Which famous poet are you?"

    You are Homer! An epic poet circa 800 B.C., Homer
    is the expression of the ancient Greek ideal.
    His characters embark upon long and wordy
    quests and engage in battles of heroic length.
    Monsters are slain and cities are razed. Fun
    and glory all around!

    Which famous poet are you? (pictures and many outcomes)
    brought to you by Quizilla

    The old gods will, I hope, be happy with my result, which might not count towards a degree in anything, but at least offers some validation to my ongoing love affair with the ancients (and my defensiveness about those who would abuse ancient knowledge to empower modern statism).

    Life's an odyssey, and I think we should make it last as long as possible.


    But what Classic novel is appropriate for a Jewish, Homeric ESTP, trapped in the modern world and in love with the ancients? From Ordinary Galoot, I found an old favorite:

    Darling, it seems that you belong in Gone with the
    Wind; the proper place for a romantic. You
    belong in a tumultous world of changes and
    opportunities, where your independence paves
    the road for your survival. It is trying being
    both a cynic and a dreamer, no?

    Which Classic Novel do You Belong In?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    I read and reread that novel when I was in my teens, and I don't mind being assigned a "proper place" in it.

    As to what my proper place is, well, do I give a damn?

    Do I have to answer that question?

    No; it would break the suspense!

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

    Warm and glowing impalement!

    Tim Blair unearthed a rare gem which has cracked me up to no end.

    Here's an excerpt:

    We have to strip away our daily concerns, take it all off, and sit there, free. Peaceful. We feel the quiet descend on us. We become aware of our breathing. Breathing in. Breathing out.

    There. Down we go. Into the depths. We are on our way in.

    The first thing we see is that it’s big. For twenty million people it’s bound to be...but isn't it strange, we don't see twenty million people. We don't see any people at all. We see a kind of an organism, where the oceans of peoples’ hearts and the universe of their minds sort of melds together, moving gently, warm, just seeming to move over itself. All sharpness and hardness went long ago. We are inside the warm soft pulsing body that is our nation’s heart and mind. It seems to just want to experience itself. That’s all it seems to want to do, to feel itself, explore itself, enjoying itself, slowly and timelessly. It seems to delight in its very own existence, as though that delight is reason enough for its being.

    It’s sensational! Are you smiling a little? That’s it, right there.

    To which I must add a quotation from my research assistant Justin Case:
    I am a valid human being, attempting to make contact!

    This calls for another lamp. And another!


    posted by Eric at 10:46 PM

    Free speech for me but not for thee?

    More CRUSHING OF DISSENT at another American university!

    And who's accused of being behind it?

    Is it Bush? Is it Ashcroft?

    No, I am sorry to say that it's the ACLU -- in the form of its National Field Coordinator, Matt Bowles.

    The guy has written for a pro-terrorist Egyptian journal, the Al-Ahram Weekly, and here's a sample (in which he attacks not not terrorism, but the word "terrorist"):

    The politically vacuous "terrorist" label is a prominent fragment of highly racialised hate rhetoric used to demonise Third World people of colour in general and Arab and Muslim people in particular. Ironically, since "terrorism" is the central discourse currently justifying the US conquest of the Middle East, Arab- American "leaders" who wish to build ties to the White House do so at the expense of confronting such labels or developing a politically useful critique of US imperialism.

    Paradoxes abound, as some mainstream Arab-American organisations opposed the invasion of Iraq while endorsing the invasion of Afghanistan. Further, some rhetorically decried discrimination against Arabs and Muslims, but then encouraged Arabs and Muslims to contact their local FBI -- the primary government agency attacking their community -- if they had any trouble, and to cooperate with voluntary federal interrogations based on racial profiling. Such hypocritical advice is neither helpful nor empowering to the Arab-American community.

    Do I really need to fisk that?

    He has also written for the ferociously anti-Israel Palestine Monitor -- and is featured in this leftist conspiracy site which claims Bush is behind 9-11.

    Mr. Bowles is the National Field Organizer for the ACLU, and that's an organization of which I have been proud to be a card-carrying member. In a fit of idealistically driven frenzy a couple of years ago, I had the naive idea that somehow those who belonged to both the ACLU and the NRA could join together. Very foolish of me -- especially now that I see the types of people who appear to be in charge of the former.

    (Everyone makes mistakes, I guess.)

    NOTE: I know that "CRUSHING OF DISSENT" constitutes proprietary language, but I am hoping that I can get away with it while Glenn Reynolds is on vacation....

    posted by Eric at 01:36 PM | Comments (4)

    M.D. (Medieval Doctor?)

    How does one fight medieval thinking?

    Well, one way is with more medieval thinking.

    Leon Kass has shown himself to be a deep medieval thinker, and the man has been much derided in the blogosphere. I tried to answer his ancient thinking with more ancient thinking, with mixed results. (Some readers take satire a bit more seriously than maybe they should. But I'm glad they're reading and I welcome input.)

    However, late the other night I heard ancient voices.

    Soothsayers, maybe?

    They told me to "look to the stars!"

    And I realized that no one (at least no one that I know of) had bothered to do anything like a serious astrological analysis of the good doctor.

    Astrology is still respectable enough to at least be worthy of consideration, isn't it? I mean, I may not be Joan Quigley, but I am at least competent, and I try to live up to my occasional title of "Eric G. Scheie, Astrologer at Law."

    So, in the interests of giving a fair medieval shake to a fairly medieval man, I thought, "Hey, at least run an 'astro check' on the guy!"

    Let me begin with my standard disclaimer. I am one of those amateur dabblers in astrology -- a dilettante, if you will -- who does not take it too seriously, and hence I dislike wasting time preparing elaborate "charts" -- which are a confusing mishmash of squares, trines, quincunxes and other meaningless gobbledygook. I think it's more fun to zero in on the most important (read most entertaining) stuff. Astrology is for me entertainment, and I would never base any important decisions on it. But I do enjoy it. And I offer the following in that spirit.

    I lack Dr. Kass's time of birth (which would be helpful) but I do have his date of birth: February 12, 1939.

    This is enough for me to decrypt the single most important aspect of his profile: his Sun Moon combination.

    Kass is an Aquarius-Sagittarius.

    The following comes from Jefferson Andersen's Sun Signs/Moon Signs (New York, Dell Books, 1978).

    Sun in Aquarius/Moon in Sagittarius: The Dilettante

    You are a deep thinker, given to the abstract and the philosophical. Extremely independent and imaginative, you are broadminded and fond of the exotic. Easily bored with the tried and true, you continually search for novelty and adventure. Inspiration is the key to your nature, but unfortunately your inspiration is not always grounded in practical reality. Your combination can sometimes produce the reckless drifter, content to wander from one new experience to another, always experimenting, hut never mastering. Dilettantism is all too apparent in the unique combination of Aquarius-Sagittarius.

    Although intellectually inclined, you believe that experience is the best teacher and action the best use of knowledge. Forsaking the scholarly or the academic, you prefer instead to discover and create your own worlds and ideals. You have a thirst for travel, particularly in youth when your desire for independence reaches its peak. Settling down and applying your gifts doesn't come easily, especially then. The challenge for you is to give practical expression to some of those visions by focusing your talents on a single pursuit. You are honorable and conscientious, but any commitment to work, study, or profession too often feels like an imposition on your freedom, making it extremely difficult for you to develop the discipline and dedication necessary to accomplish something substantial.

    Your independence is admirable and attests to your courage, but it's important for you learn to adapt to life's realities. Your rebelliousness may extend late into life, and eventually all that nonconformism may seem to have been simple selfishness. If you can learn to control that tendency, there is little you cannot accomplish. Natives of your combination include Charles Dickens. Charles Lindbergh, and Mozart.

    A Sagittarius Moon can uplift the creative imagination arid originality of Aquarius, resulting in a very inventive and pioneering individuals—whether in politics, the arts, or the sciences. Your positive outlook and your casual, irreverent manner always attract people to you. Some may find you a bit peculiar because, like all Aquarians, you are eccentric. And some of your more unconventional interests may seem a little weird to most people. But you just love being different! Civilization be damned! You'll go your own way everytime, because you prefer it that way.

    In love, you are an idealist and a romantic, but your curiosity about members of the opposite sex is endless, so you will undoubtedly have many affairs. Because of your extreme individualism, you may not fare well in a traditional marriage. If you should choose to settle down permanently, make sure you have an unconventional living; arrangement. Find a partner who respects your freedom and fans your intellectual enthusiasm.

    Hey, I can begin to see why so many people who meet Kass like him! He's downright, well, likeable.

    Bear in mind that this reveals the individual's basic Sun/Moon profile, as yet unaffected by the other positions of his planets. Such major negative tendencies as dilettantism (if that is a negative) can also be overcome, and in Kass's case the argument may be made that it has been. But it is interesting to note that the man did drift around quite a bit -- as a physician, a biochemist, a philosophy professor, a ethicist, and finally, as a, um, politician? He's done a lot of things.

    And what's the difference between a Renaissance Man and a medieval dilettante, anyway? A few centuries? Didn't yesterday's alchemists and barbers become today's scientists and heart surgeons? Why, I think one might be able to make the case that moral relativism is on the side of Dr. Kass!

    Enough editorializing.

    On to the Major Planets of Doctor Kass.

    Can't you just feel the suspense?

    (to be continued.....)

    UPDATE: I have had Jefferson Andersen's Sun Signs/Moon Signs for a long time, and my copy is beginning to look like the medieval relic that it is. I thought it might be worth looking for a replacement copy, but alas! No Amazon used (although Amazon confirms its existence, and offers rave reviews); in fact the only mention I could find of it was here:

    Andersen, Jefferson, Sun Signs. Moon Signs
    This is my favorite book of all time, the one I turn to as soon as I learn someone's birthdate. Unfortunately it's out-of-print and I haven't been able to find it online. My copy is a little paperback published by Dell in 1978. It lists a clever title and a brief description for every sun/moon sign combination and I've found it incredibly accurate (only wrong once about a totally psycho boyfriend). I've been wanting to publish it online for years (since it seems to be unavailable otherwise and I think it's so valuable).
    I couldn't have done a better job of taking the words right out of my own mouth! In fact I'll go one better; it has never been wrong about anyone -- not even the many "totally psycho" types I have known over the years.

    Of course, there's always the first time!

    posted by Eric at 11:43 PM | Comments (5)

    God hates evolution AND fags!

    My blogfather Jeff has just torn the commissioners of Rhea county, Tennessee a much-needed new one!

    (The eight commissioners voted unanimously to ask the state legislature to amend state law so the county can charge homosexuals with crimes "against nature", and also seek to prohibit homosexuals from living in the county.)

    Noting that this blessed place was the site of the famous Scopes "Monkey Trial" (of a teacher tried for another crime against nature -- teaching evolution), Jeff appeals to their evolutionary spirit:

    Although fire and the wheel haven't yet reached this paleolithic area of the country, I would hope that the unicellular inhabitants would realize that short of actually committing a crime, they can't actually prohibit a category of folks from moving, relocating, or living in their stagnant pond.

    I suppose that having lost the battles to keep Blacks, Jews, and Hispanics off of their barron lands -- along with anyone else who doesn't have 6 or 7 fingers on each hand and webbed-feet in solidarity with the local population -- they will now try to eradicate their night-time fantasies to eliminate any (incorrectly perceived) competition with their evening rape of their church alter-boys.

    Jeff has warmed the cockles of my heart.

    The county fathers have probably not read much about Bonobo chimps, but I want to offer them a present -- a shining light -- in the hope that they'll evolve towards the simian level.


    Why not have another Monkey Trial in Dayton? Here's what H.L. Mencken said there during the Scopes Trial:

    It serves notice on the country that Neanderthal man is organizing in these forlorn backwaters of the land, led by a fanatic, rid of sense and devoid of conscience.
    That's about as true today as it was in 1925.

    But even though I speak only as a Large Mammal, I think Mencken might have been a little generous with his "Neanderthal" characterization....

    ATTENTION READERS: My blogfather Jeff could really use some funds right now, and as you know I do not have a tip jar. If you have enjoyed reading anything here I would greatly appreciate it if you could consider sending a little money Jeff's way.

    In fact, I'll make it easier for you than going to Jeff's blog and finding his kitties. Just click on the link which follows:

    posted by Eric at 09:01 PM | Comments (1)

    First they came for Howard Stern....

    ....and if we're not careful, we'll all find ourselves in the same bureaucratic soup!

    Here's an appalling development:

    A far-reaching FBI proposal would require all broadband Net providers, including cable modem and DSL companies, to rewire their networks to support easy wiretapping by police.

    The FBI's request to the Federal Communications Commission aims to give police ready access to any form of Internet-based communications. If approved as drafted, the proposal could dramatically expand the scope of the agency's wiretap powers, raise costs for cable broadband companies and complicate Internet product development.

    Legal experts said the 85-page filing includes language that could be interpreted as forcing companies to build back doors into everything from instant messaging and voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) programs to Microsoft's Xbox Live game service. The introduction of new services that did not support a back door for police would be outlawed, and companies would be given 15 months to make sure that existing services comply.

    "The importance and the urgency of this task cannot be overstated," says the proposal, which is also backed by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Drug Enforcement Administration. "The ability of federal, state and local law enforcement to carry out critical electronic surveillance is being compromised today."

    Because the eavesdropping scheme has the support of the Bush administration, the FCC is expected to take it very seriously. Last month, FCC Chairman Michael Powell stressed that "law enforcement access to IP-enabled communications is essential" and that police must have "access to communications infrastructure they need to protect our nation."

    The request from federal police comes almost a year after representatives from the FBI's Electronic Surveillance Technology Section approached the FCC and asked that broadband providers be required to provide more efficient, standardized surveillance facilities. Such new rules were necessary, the FBI argued, because terrorists could otherwise frustrate legitimate wiretaps by placing phone calls over the Internet.

    Anyone who doesn't think the FCC wants power over the Internet should read the above carefully.

    And weep.

    Particularly appalling is the statement that "the introduction of new services that did not support a back door for police would be outlawed."

    The word "services" is not defined, but I am assuming they include ISPs. Which means an end to independent operators of ISPs, an end to confidentiality, and ultimately, an end to the freedom we have enjoyed on the Internet. Of course, there'd be nothing to stop offshore ISPs, unless that too becomes a crime.

    "The DEA is behind this," says Glenn Reynolds.

    Yeah, and the FBI, and now the FCC. This is the latest incarnation of Admiral Poindexter's Total Information Awareness program.

    Americans have fought and died in battle for hundreds of years to preserve our freedom. And now the current generation can watch it dissolve gradually in a sickening brew of bureaucratic alphabet soup, the letters of which are ever-closer to spelling the word "F-A-S-C-I-S-M."

    But who wants to read the soup we're in?

    posted by Eric at 07:43 PM | Comments (1)

    Now you see it, now you don't!

    I do not know why, but the Majorca Daily Bulletin no longer has their story quoting President Zapatero's campaign promise that "The first thing I will do when I am elected is to go to the United States and support John Kerry...."

    The story was there yesterday.

    This is not the first time that news stories have disappeared, and I am glad I thought to post the Google cache version of it, because otherwise I'd look like more of a fool than I am!

    If, because of politics, the story was pulled deliberately from the web site, I can see at least two possible reasons. One is because of Zapatero's campaign promise that the first thing he'd do would be to work for Kerry's election, and the other (possibly even more damning) is the headline that Zapatero was, as of last week, the losing candidate. The Majorca Daily Bulletin's bold headline was:

    Zapatero fights losing battle

    This flies directly in the face of the canard now being circulated by major media that Aznar attempted to "manipulate" the press, that Zapatero was already ahead in the polls, and thus did not benefit from the March 11 attacks.

    I don't buy into this theory at all. But UPI does, and I guess it remains to be seen how the spin will evolve in the American media. (You can read my previous post here.)

    (As the old line goes, "fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice shame on me.")

    posted by Eric at 04:47 PM

    Fit to print©

    Here's one of the best Amazon.com reviews I have seen so far. While it is written by the author about his own book, the man was way ahead of his time:

    Bad News was written over a period of a dozen years in response to Richard Nixon's disgrace. It contrasted John F. Kennedy's disastrous foreign policy (Bay of Pigs, Vienna summit, Berlin Wall, Vietnam war) with Nixon's brilliant one that left the Soviet Union dying, until it was revived temporarily during Jimmy Carter's tenure. I had covered many of the events in it.

    I argued that Nixon's Watergate cover-up did not rise to the level of an impeachable offense, but the news media, led by The New York Times and Washington Post and backed by Hollywood, became what I called a jackal pack. The last page predicts the demise of the Soviet Union. The book's working title was Style and Substance: Kennedy and Nixon. But during research The New York Times turned up so consistently, I put the newspaper in the title, breaking another tabu. In the years following Kennedy's martyrdom, the media regarded it as blasphemy.

    Henry Regnery published it against the advice of an editor, who tried to kill it. It received excellent reviews from Joe Sobran, Tom Bethell, Herbert London, Philip Gold, Stan Evans, James O'Malley, C. Lowell Harriss, Bernard Norling, Lev Navrozov, Michael Grossberg, and Medford Evans, and was praised by Arnaud de Borchgrave, Midge Decter, Brian Crozier, and British historians Paul Johnson and Jonathan Aitken. Major media did not review it, and the only slam I saw was a parenthetical remark by Elizabeth Pond in a Christian Science Monitor piece on disinformation.

    It is still timely, as an antidote to Ted Turner's 24-episode falsification of Cold War history on CNN (see Charles Krauthammer). It is also a perfect fit with today's news media support of Bill Clinton's White House, where many on the Watergate prosecution team now work, or lurk in the bushes, including Charles C. Ruff, Terry Lenzner, Hillary Rodham, Bernard Nussbaum, Richard Ben-Veniste, or are planted in the enemy camp, Sam Dash.

    If the openness of Amazon.com had existed in 1984, the book would have had a chance. Go Amazon! The publishing establishment could use a shakeout. Russ Braley January 3, 1999

    I bought the book in 1997, and it did much to confirm what I suspected.

    The heirs of Walter Duranty continue their rule.

    Hence, I was honored to jump at the opportunity to join in the successful parody. I would do it again in a heartbeat.

    Anyone seriously interested in the much-covered-up background of the New York Times should must read Mr. Braley's book!

    The only thing I would add to Mr. Braley's review is "If the openness of the blogosphere had existed in 1984, the book would have had a chance."

    NOTE: The above is posted simultaneously at blogcritics.org.

    posted by Eric at 05:01 PM | TrackBacks (1)

    78th Carnival of the Vanities...

    ....is up at Patterico's Pontifications.

    Great posts all! It never ceases to amaze me how many brilliant new bloggers there are that I have never read before. Quite humbling.

    posted by Eric at 03:55 PM

    More lovely and more temperate

    I'm jealous that "IT'S TURNING INTO A LOVELY SPRING DAY" -- somewhere other than here.

    If it's nice where you are, don't follow my example -- try to get out and enjoy it. Life's short.
    No advice on what to do if it's not nice. But, eternal optimist that I am, I'm still convinced that Spring is coming -- notwithstanding the fact that this is a Charles Addams-style day.

    Here's photographic proof (taken minutes ago, from inside of course....)


    posted by Eric at 01:21 PM | Comments (1)

    Another Kerry endorsement

    Which foreign leaders are endorsing Kerry?

    Well, shortly before his election last week, Spain's new president-elect Jose Rodriguez Zapatero said he wanted Kerry to win:

    But opinion in Spain, as in Britain, is divided. The Spanish opposition leader in the general election this Sunday, the socialist José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, said yesterday: "I think Kerry will win. I want Kerry to win."
    I think when you say you want someone to win, that's an endorsement.

    I hope no one is denying this....

    (I first heard about this on the G. Gordon Liddy Show, which led me to find the Guardian article.)

    UPDATE: More details here (from the Majorca Daily Bulletin) on what Zapatero actually plans to do for Senator Kerry:

    Zapatero fights losing battle

    “THE latest opinion polls are like the Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq. A complete fabrication.” This was socialist candidate for Prime Minister Jose Luiz Zapatero in buoyant form in Palma on Thursday night. Zapatero is well behind in the opinion polls and looks set to be defeated by the conservative Partido Popular leader Mariano Rajoy in the general elections on March 14 but he certainly got his message across. The words too little too late come to mind because what he said in Palma should touch a chord with many voters. “The first thing I will do when I am elected is to go to the United States and support John Kerry, my allies will be the students and families who can't afford their own home,” and on the question of the Balearics “the PP's model for these islands is build without limit”. The party faithful just loved it and he will certainly have raised morale. But barring any last minute change Zapatero will not be going to the United States, well not as Prime Minister anyhow. His comments on Kerry come as no surprise; he is a socialist and naturally a Democrat in the White House would suit him quite nicely. Zapatero is fighting a losing battle against a Partido Popular machine which is modern, forward thinking, and very much Madrid based and big on the international stage. The socialist leader could do with a helping hand. Who better to help Zapatero than another socialist candidate who was even more impressive than the young Spaniard. Of course I am referring to Mr. Anthony Blair who has not uttered a single word of encouragement for his Spanish counterpart, in fact he wined and dined Rajoy at Number 10, just recently. You can understand why there is no love lost between the Zapatero camp and Blair. Surely a socialist government in Spain would be better for Blair?

    Obviously not.

    So, this isn't just a passing remark; coming to the United States and working for Kerry is the "first thing" Zapatero will do!

    At least, that was his campaign promise....

    Once again, I have not read my local newspapers in detail, and it is possible that all of this is being reported. (I have not see it anywhere in the American press, though.) When I find out that it has been, I promise to update this post.

    Till then, should I hold my breath?

    MORE: Here's the cached version of the Majorca Daily Bulletin report -- along with the cached Guardian story. (I'm not feeling very trustful these days....)

    MORE ON THE GUARDIAN: I'm glad I posted the cache of the Guardian article because, as Andrew Sullivan points out, the Guardian's policy is one of "complete moral nihilism in the face of unspeakable violence":

    In Europe, there are no bad guys, even those who deliberately murdered almost 200 innocents and threaten to murder countless more. Ask yourself: If the Guardian cannot call these people "bad guys," then who qualifies? And if the leaders of democratic societies cannot qualify in this context as "good guys," then who qualifies? What we have here is complete moral nihilism in the face of unspeakable violence. Then we have the absurd canard that there is a "divide between Muslim and Christian communities." There is no such divide. There is a divide within Islam between a large majority and a small minority of theocratic, extremist mass-murderers, men and women who have killed Muslim, Christian, and Jew alike, young and old, and almost always innocent bystanders in free societies. That small minority has terrorized large populations, enslaved women, killed Jews and homosexuals, launched a war against Western civilians, taken over whole countries, and targeted individual writers and thinkers for murder. With them we need a dialogue? With them we need an unremitting, unrelenting, unapologetic war. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
    Appallingly, the Guardian said that "We need to get beyond the them and us, the good guys and the bad guys." I don't think it's unreasonable to imagine that a newspaper refuses to call the killing 200 innocent civilians "bad" might alter its records.

    It's very worrisome to me that there are so many people who think wars can be voted out of existence.

    MORE: According to a UPI report, the election had less to do with Al Qaida than Aznar's machinations:

    [I]nterpreting these events as Spain's surrender to terrorism would be gross oversimplification of the facts.

    By voting Aznar and his Popular Party out of office and opting for the Spanish Socialist Labor Party -- or SPOE -- to lead them through these tumultuous times, Spaniards did not capitulate to terrorism -- domestic or international -- as many pundits have professed. Instead, Spaniards have chosen to send a clear message to their elected leaders. The message is: "Stop lying to us."

    As workers continue to untangle the twisted remains of Madrid's ill-fated trains, another story is also starting to rapidly unfold -- one of how Aznar tried to manipulate Thursday's unfortunate events to his electoral advantage.

    While all signs pointed to Islamist terrorists, Aznar incessantly tried to railroad public opinion into supporting the Basque thread.

    Aznar now stands accused of "manipulating" the press following last Thursday's murderous bombings that claimed 200 lives and wounded about 1,500 morning rush-hour commuters. (Link from Harry's place, vis Glenn Reynolds.)

    Manipulation of the press?

    Can't two play at that game? Who did "the press" favor before? Were they in fact "manipulated"?

    Independent polls carried out on Wednesday, the day before the bombings, showed the Socialists ahead with a slight majority.
    If this is true, then why the claim now of manipulation?

    It seems to me that this claim would have been made regardless of who won the election. Surely Al Qaida realizes they had absolutely nothing to do with it. Maybe Bush is behind it all.

    I don't expect to hear much more about Zapatero and Kerry.

    It's none of my business.

    IMPORTANT UPDATE: I guess I wasn't paying enough attention, but the real issue seems to have finally surfaced. David Kaspar reports, via Germany's number one news agency, that ZAPATERO IS CUTE:

    Zapatero is a little like what many women imagine as the ideal son-in-law. He comes accross as charming and friendly with his boyish face. On top of that he is athletic, thin and good-looking.
    I'm glad that's settled! Appearances are everything!

    EVEN MORE -- AND EVEN MORE UNBELIEVABLE: Thank God for Google! The Majorca Daily Bulletin site from which I got the above story has pulled it. (At least it no longer works today, so you have to go to the Google cache. Unbelievable!)

    This is almost enough to engender linkophobia.

    Surely the Spanish press isn't trying to "Kerry" favor?

    posted by Eric at 01:19 PM | Comments (3)


    I just learned that the New York Times, after having gone eyeball to eyeball with the blogosphere, has finally blinked!


    Blogosphere 1, New York Times 0


    Robert Cox
    Managing Editor

    Robert Cox is one hell of a dude to have done this, and he deserves the gratitude of every blogger. It's no fun getting embroiled in litigation.

    Amazingly, though, "even in admitting they were wrong they get it wrong."

    Read the whole thing!

    posted by Eric at 01:17 AM | Comments (1)

    My turn for corrections!

    Wow! This is the week for mistakes. (Ides of March and all that; maybe I should keep my fingers off the keyboard!)

    Unlike the New York Times, I try to correct my mistakes as soon as I notice them or as soon as others point them out to me. That last post was written on the fly, and edited by means of updates, as I just don't have the heart to delete and rewrite posts. I'd rather have the errors staring me in the face as a reminder that I make them.

    Anyway, I had to run out before I had a chance to think much about that last post, and I want to add another thought. While it's fine that the old Kerry news has finally made unburied itself and managed to get major media play, I am still struck by the scorn hurled at this Cedric Brown guy for daring to question Senator Kerry. He's been excoriated as a "heckler," as a Republican, and I am sure he is now considered a right wing nut.

    But the story is not so much that he had to yell and make a spectacle of himself in order to draw attention to Kerry's supreme arrogance. Rather, the story really ought to be about why it is that some angry man had to do what it is supposed to be the job of mainstream reporters to do.

    Why didn't they press Kerry for details? Why does it take a "heckler" to crash a Kerry-friendly forum to ask what it is the responsibility of others to ask? Cedric Brown is an amateur. They're the "professionals."

    And I am also an amateur at this business. I am not a reporter, but simply someone who has been blogging for -- what is it? -- just over nine months now. One of the reasons I am doing this is that the people who are supposed to be reporting are doing the opposite; they often obfuscate instead. And when they make mistakes, there isn't much of an accountability system.

    Blogging is more like ebay. You get positives if you're good, negatives if you're bad, and hopefully, if you get enough "positives" you'll have a little credibility. It takes constant maintenance, though, and constant correcting. Self correcting -- which the big guys don't seem to feel they have much need to do.

    And I just found out about another mistake in one of my posts. I changed the sexes of the two authors of an excellent National Review post comparing Khomeini to Savonarola! I called the husband the wife, and the wife the husband, and had they not been nice enough to notice it and write to me, it would have remained that way.

    Here is what I said:

    The National Review features an opinion piece by Iranian activist Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi and his wife Elio Bonazzi which compares Khomeini to the Renaissance's most famous enemy, Savonarola
    And here is what I should have said:
    The National Review features an opinion piece by Iranian activist Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi and her husband Elio Bonazzi which compares Khomeini to the Renaissance's most famous enemy, Savonarola
    This is a particularly embarrassing mistake, changing the sexes of people you are citing with approval, and I don't know how I managed to do it. I guess I was so caught up with what they were saying that I paid little attention to who they were.

    But I did get a very nice email, titled "gender confusion":


    MRS. Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi here...The husband in the equation is MR. Elio Bonazzi! We're grateful for your kind regard in posting our article about Savonarola and Khomeini but you've got the genders all wrong!!!!!!!!

    Thank you,

    It's not the first time I have gotten people's genders all wrong, and let me just say that I stand corrected and am truly sorry.

    (I won't even try to blame my many years in the San Francisco Bay Area....)

    posted by Eric at 11:20 PM | Comments (1)

    This is none of your business!

    I just found out about something important that happened in my own state. Glenn Reynolds (who's in Tennessee) does a better job of keeping me informed than the Philadelphia Inquirer, or the New York Times, or Dan Rather, or my local news.

    But here it is -- Pennsylvania news (and it should be national news) -- reported straight from Tennessee:

    The town meeting was contentious at times, with 52-year-old Cedric Brown repeatedly pressing the candidate to name the foreign leaders whom Kerry has said are backing his campaign.

    "I'm not going to betray a private conversation with anybody," Kerry said. As the crowd of several hundred people began to mutter and boo, Kerry said, "That's none of your business."

    Can you imagine the outcry if George W. Bush had said exactly the same thing?

    I thought this was a national election. If a candidate brags that foreign leaders are backing his campaign, how is that none of the public's business? Kerry's contention that his foreign endorsments are a private matter is one of the most arrogant statements I have ever seen in an election, and I think it ought to be attracting big attention in the mainstream media, not a passing mention in a local affiliate web site.

    Then I learned that the local NBC affiliate left out this question from Mr. Brown:

    "Were they people like the president of North Korea?" Cedric Brown, 52, shouted at Kerry during an eight-minute exchange Sunday afternoon. "I need to know that."
    It's not my business here in Pennsylvania, not the voters' business nationally, and certainly not generally the business of the mainstream media! I don't get the LA Times, nor do the voters in Pennsylvania. Nor, I suspect, do most voters.

    At the rate things are going, this election will be more about what gets reported than what's newsworthy.

    But I can see why they don't want this reported. I already commented on the Tehran mullahs' enthusiasm for Kerry (which I got from BLOG IRAN), and thanks to Glenn Reynolds, I already knew about the notorious Kim Jong Il endorsement. Other than Iran and North Korea, I don't know which countries have endorsed him. (OK, I guess you could call Ramsey Clark (link) a "foreign leader" of sorts.... )

    That's because it's none of my business. It's between Kerry and um, the mullahs. Or Kim Jong Il. Besides, Kerry's foreign endorsements are old news. Let's move on!

    Yeah, let's move on. Let's be fair. Maybe candidates should be entitled to accept foreign endorsements in the privacy of their own elections.

    UPDATE: Spoke too fast about the good old Philadelphia Inquirer! (Well, not really, because all I said was Reynolds does a better job.) They did run the above story, without the Kim Jong Il reference. And according to FortWayne.com, the White House is now asking Kerry to name his foreign supporters. (Maybe this will be somebody's business after all....) Now where's my New York Times?

    MORE: COOL! To the Times' credit, they not only reported the story, they included the words about North Korea! The most telling moment in the Times story is that the questioner turned out to be -- gasp -- a Republican!

    Does that mean the question was wholly out of line?

    FINAL NOTE: Kerry's only foreign endorsements (barely reported anywhere) are from Tehran and North Korea.

    My question remains. Why isn't it in the news?

    posted by Eric at 03:25 PM

    Socialismo o meurte?

    Al Qaida should be very happy that it has influenced the Spanish elections:

    MADRID, Spain — Voters punished Spain's ruling party in elections Sunday, with many saying they were shaken by bombings in Madrid and furious with the government for backing the Iraq war and making their country a target for Al Qaeda (search).

    Does terrorism work?

    Until the bombing, the conservative Popular Party was projected by most polls to beat the Socialists, although perhaps without retaining their majority in the 350-seat Congress of Deputies.
    Assuming this report is correct (I just saw it on Fox News on TV, and this was the only report I found on the Internet), I would say that terrorism influenced the election.

    And not in the way it should.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: "Socialism or death!" might not be a bad campaign slogan....

    MORE: Reading through this article, I am struck at what I can only call a potentially dishonorable election result. I say "dishonorable" because Spain sent soldiers to Iraq and Aghanistan for the country's national defense (as part of an international war against terrorism). The attack on Spain in retaliation actually vindicates the decision to fight the terrorists -- precisely because it shows the true murderously evil nature of the enemy Spain has been fighting to defeat. To withdraw their support now because of such an attack would constitute surrender. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    On the tape, a man speaking in Moroccan-accented Arabic said al-Qaeda had retaliated for Spain's support for Washington.

    "If you don't stop your injustices, more blood will flow and these attacks are very little compared with what may happen with what you call terrorism," he said, according to a transcript in Spanish from the Interior Ministry. The tape was not released.

    The man, who said he was speaking for Abu Dujan al Afgani whom he described as military spokesperson of al-Qaeda in Europe, referred to Iraq and Afghanistan where Spain has troops.

    The caller noted the March 11 blasts occurred exactly two-and-a-half years after the September 11 attacks on the United States.

    Surrender -- particularly after savage attacks against civilians -- would in my view be dishonorable. And make no mistake about it; it's no longer a question of whether Spain supports its ally the United States, but whether Spain supports Spain and stands up to Al Qaida.

    I hate to see terrorists win.

    I hope they don't.

    posted by Eric at 04:46 PM | Comments (1)

    Keeping the Jews in their "place"?

    More "definitionitis" -- this time in my local newspaper:

    [A]n edition of Merriam-Webster's dictionary reprinted in 2002 has angered Arab Americans by linking anti-Semitism to Zionism and Israel.

    The Third New International Dictionary, Unabridged, defines anti-Semitism as: "1: hostility toward Jews as a religious or racial minority group often accompanied by social, economic, and political discrimination - compare RACISM.

    "2: opposition to Zionism: sympathy with opponents of the state of Israel."

    In a letter of protest last Sunday, the American-Arab Anti Discrimination Committee called on Merriam-Webster to "repudiate" the latter meaning and retract it.

    Equating opposition to Israel with anti-Semitism, the Washington-based group said, "smears and impugns the motives of all those who support the human and political rights of Palestinians" and "stigmatizes perfectly legitimate political opinions and activities."

    Arthur Bicknell, a spokesman with Merriam-Webster in Springfield, Mass., said the definition was written in 1956, eight years after Israel's founding.

    What exactly is anti-Zionism? The belief that Jews have no right to be in Israel?

    Apparently. From what at least one Muslim scholar has to say, anti-Zionism is the belief that Jews should not own land:

    Mohammed, a Muslim from Guyana, is a featured speaker at an international conference on anti-Semitism that opens in Montreal this weekend. He said that "in most Arab and Islamic concepts, Jews are not supposed to have land, ever," which stems from a belief that "God is angry with [Jews] because they had something to do with the killing of Jesus."

    Criticism of Israeli policies is not necessarily anti-Semitic, he said. "It becomes anti-Semitic and racist where it's against a Jew as a Jew."

    Oh, OK, then.

    "Nothing personal against Jews; I just don't think they should be allowed to have land, ever!"

    "Otherwise I have nothing against them at all!"

    That's not anti-Semitic?

    I would have been more likely to ignore the above article had it not been preceded by a sympathetic report on muhktars in Gaza -- described as "respected elders in [Palestinian] tradidion-bound Islamic communities" whose "reputations are such that a muhktar's word is accepted as law":

    The first order of business was brewing the coffee. Copper urns with spouts shaped like bird beaks were set atop a low-slung brazier's glowing coals.

    Waiting for the families to arrive, Hijazi reflected on the changes in his age-old profession brought on, he said, by three years of Israeli-Palestinian fighting.

    "In the last two years, muhktars are seeing more problems with guns, drugs, thefts and robberies," he said.

    In the old days, it was mostly divorces, marriages and property-line disputes. Because drivers often look to the skies at the sound of Israeli gunships, he said, there are more car accidents.

    "People get the guns to defend against Israeli incursions," added Gherbawi, "and sometimes they are misused."


    I just thought of a brilliant defense strategy for almost any client in almost any case (even domestic disputes): "The Jews made me do it!"

    Nothing anti-Semitic about that; after all, they shouldn't be allowed to own land because God is angry at them.

    How dare the dictionary imply otherwise!

    posted by Eric at 12:41 PM | Comments (1)

    Strange bedfellows in the politics of blame?

    Let's see. According to the New York Times, we do not have enough information to know whether the latest terrorist attack was Marxist, or Islamofascist in nature.

    But at least they admit the ETA is Marxist.

    What I can't help notice is that there already seems to be a political division where it comes to finger pointing. Those on the "right" such as Fox News, lean towards Al Qaida, while those on the left clearly seek to have the ETA blamed.

    But isn't radical Islamic fundamentalism right wing, and ETA left wing?

    Why would the "left" be so keen to blame its own?

    I certainly hope the decision has nothing to do with which terrorist group is a greater threat to the United States!

    UPDATE: Since I wrote the above, more evidence has come in linking the attack to Al Qaida -- Spanish intelligence now being 99% convinced "that bombings were Islamic terrorism and not ETA." Unbelievably, demonstrators are already blaming their own country -- and presumably Bush -- instead of the attackers. Jeff Jarvis has more. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Precisely what I feared in my previous post.

    Does that mean if it had been the ETA it wouldn't have been their country's fault?

    posted by Eric at 02:24 PM | Comments (1)

    Fumes from the past....

    Here are a couple of pictures I took while visiting one of the uninhabited small volcanic islands in the Aegean Sea.

    I'm not an expert on the difference between "dormant" and "extinct" volcanoes, but what I liked about this one hole I photographed is that even though it was quite warm to the touch and emitted sulpherous smoke, I could walk right up to it, and use the macro lens on my camera, to peek inside.

    Here's a view of the hole:


    And here's a view of the hill leading up to it. No actual lava; just accumulated deposits mixed in with what appear to be sulpher-friendly lichens:


    I have no idea how long this has been smoldering, because there wasn't any guide to speak of. This was one of those low-cost excursions where a bunch of young people just paid ten dollars to pile into a boat to be dropped off on the island for a few hours. Nice volcanic swimming area too, formed by a tiny cove where the ocean water was very hot! You had to be careful where you swam because the water was uncomfortably hot in some places.

    No one was in charge. (Unlesss you believe in Poseidon, or Hephaestus, aka Vulcan....)

    Speaking of sulfur, read Michelle's reflections on recent terrorism:

    "We bring the good news to Muslims of the world that the expected 'Winds of Black Death' strike against America is now in its final stage...90 percent (ready) and God willing near."

    That's what yesterday's alleged letter from al Qaida read.

    Yet the left keep opposing the war on terror. They oppose our intolerance for radical Muslims. And all their bitter opposition sounds like cheers to to our enemies.

    I stand next to these people and I can sense the negativity. They sweat hatred. You can smell it. It smells like sulfur.....

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)


    Fumes from the past....

    (I hope.)

    posted by Eric at 01:26 PM

    Keep 'em guessing!

    Denied terrorism fascinates me, because it is so counterintuitive. Traditionally, terrorism is a tactic used by a small group to force a large group -- the world, even -- into paying attention. The goal is to dramatize the cause as well as make people fear the terrorists.

    Since Al Qaida, the old rule seems to have changed. There has still never been a claim of responsibility by Al Qaida for September 11. Osama bin Laden denies involvement with 9-11 as well as with other attacks. Instead, the group hides behind vague statements of support -- which conveniently allow their supporters to blame "Bush", or "the Jews" or whatever Great Satan is preferred. In most cases, shadowy front groups with vague connections to Al Qaida issue ambiguously worded claims tenuously linking Al Qaida (precisely what happened after the latest attack in Spain).

    It's puzzling to me, but that seems to be a hallmark of al Qaida. It may involve the group's desire to intimidate as much of the world as possible, by building into its attacks a "now you see us, now you don't" mechanism so that no one knows which country is next.

    The Basque group ETA, on the other hand, has a long history of attacks in which it has always claimed credit.

    Prior to Thursday, ETA (Euzkadi Ta Askatasuna) had taken responsibility for more than 800 deaths in its decades-old campaign. Those were typically assassinations and smaller-scale attacks, the largest of which was a supermarket blast in Barcelona that killed 21 people in 1987.

    Arnold Otegi, leader of Batasuna, an outlawed Basque party linked to the armed separatist group, denied it was behind Thursday's blasts and suggested they were the work of "Arab resistance" elements.

    He told Radio Popular in San Sebastian that ETA always phones in warnings before it attacks. The interior ministry said there was no warning before Thursday's attacks, according to the AP.

    Obviously, ETA thinks that committing a terrorist act without taking credit for it would be pointless. And indeed it would be. If you blow something up and issue no statements or demands, no one would know who to fear, who to blame, which demands to consider meeting, etc.

    I see no rational way that the latest attack advances ETA's agenda.

    Al Qaida, though, relishes in people playing precisely these guessing games.

    NOTE: Interestingly (according to the article), Spain is the only country to have indicted bin Laden for the 9-11 murders:

    Spain served "as a place or base for resting, preparation, indoctrinating, support and financing" of al Qaeda, Garzon said in a nearly 700-page document.
    Hope they don't drop the indictment!

    posted by Eric at 12:11 PM

    There's no magic in those numbers!

    Everybody is now talking about numbers. 9-11, and now 3-11. And 3-11 came exactly 911 days after 9-11.


    If this numbers game is intended as psychological warfare, it reveals how weak and superstitious its proponents are. Are they so medieval as to imagine that numerology will reduce the West to quivering obsequiousness, ready to surrender to some magical, almighty Caliphatic dhimmitude? (Quivering in fear of -- gasp! -- 4-11????)


    The people who blew up that train are simply terrorists who hate freedom. I think it would be nice to simply execute 911 terrorists just to show the contempt in which we hold them. But that would be aping their tactics, plus it would be a reaction based in anger.

    Better to clone the "Prophet" and raise the boy in the free West! Then the bastards can hear the truth from his own mouth.

    I only wish that more Americans would realize that this is NOT a war between Islam and Christianity, or Islam and an ill-defined entity called "Judeo-Christianity." It is a war (by certain Islamic fundamentalist crackpots) against all freedom. The right to be left alone and decide what -- if any -- religion one wants. That is why the West is hated.

    Trains -- occupied by free people simply going wherever they wanted to go -- were called "trains of death" by the terrorists because they want free people to die, die, and die some more, until they surrender their freedom by acknowledging the superior power of terror, and then submitting to it.

    It's better to fight. Let's remember that they want to die and we want to live. We can make that happen, because there are far more of us who want to live than they who want to die.

    What we need to work on is the quite natural aversion so many people have to killing our enemies. The attacks on civilians, are, I believe, an attempt to exploit this aversion, because civilians tend to be more afraid to do the killing, and more likely to demand, to sue for "peace" -- even if it means surrender.

    To me it's common sense and simple logic that people who are trying to kill you should be killed. It's basic self-defense, and if it involves an organized enemy it's called war. If they bring the war to your city, then you kill them wherever and whenever you find them.

    I worry, though, that things are getting to the point where "anti-war" means "anti-self-defense." That is what the terrorists are counting on. A massive "anti-war" effort to stop people from fighting back.

    I'm hoping an entire country doesn't surrender because 200 people were killed on 3-11, 911 days after 9-11.

    The math is wrong!

    (Of course, it's not really a mathematical calculation; it's superstitious reasoning, which is based on fear.)

    UPDATE: In explanation of the bombing of the Masonic lodge in Istanbul recently, Little Green Footballs links to one of the nuttiest essays I have ever seen, attempting to link the Masons to the Simpsons and the Eagles and the Jews, and.... to that infamous enemy of god, Coca-Cola!


    Did I just mention superstition?

    (Or did I just parody a copyrighted image?)

    UPDATE: Readers who think I might be overreacting to the mass murders in Spain should read what Emperor Misha has to say:

    The Useless Nitwits on the East River may have rushed to place the blame squarely on ETA, but we think we recognize the slimy trails of sand maggots when we see them. Still, we guess that time will tell. Not that it matters, really. All that DOES matter is that everyone even remotely connected to this atrocity is rounded up and tortured to death.
    And he's just getting warmed up there....

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking this post, and a warm welcome to all. If I could add anything, it would be to simply ask -- even insist? -- that if you haven't done so already, to contemplate these pictures, (this one too) and read the links. 2 million people turned out. All those umbrellas, in the rain.... It looks like an entire city emptying into the streets in a moving display of unity against terrorists.

    Yes, terrorists. Not "militants." Not "guerillas." Not "resistance fighters."


    I don't know whether we had that many in the streets after 9-11, and frankly, I'm afraid to research it..... But there's no way I can equal those pictures with words.

    MORE: Jeff Jarvis said

    I only wish I could march alongside them, our allies.

    This is everybody's war.

    I did the only thing I could think to do from my computer, which was to send flowers. I hope the Spanish Embassy gets a lot more.

    TECHNICAL QUESTION: People are pointing out correctly that the attack happened 912 days after 9-11, not 911 days. A report cited by Drudge earlier today put it this way:

    The attack occurred exactly 2 1/2 years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States - and there 911 days in between the terror attacks in Madrid and those in New York and Washington. It also was Europe's worst terror attack since the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jetliner over Lockerbie, Scotland, killed 270 people.
    911 days between 9-11-04 and 3-11-04 means 912 days after.

    Does that end the inquiry into Islamic numerological hocus-pocus theories?

    Well, that depends. Here's how the Islamic leap year works:

    While the Gregorian calendar begins with the birth year of Jesus Christ, the official Islamic calendar begins with the year of Muhammad's hegira and runs in 30-year cycles. Hence, leap years occur on the second, fifth, seventh, 10th, 13th, 16th, 18th, 21st, 24th, 26th and 29th year. Normally, years contain 354 days, except on leap years when there are 355 days. Each year is divided into lunar months, each one 29 or 30 days long except when the leap year day is added to the last month.

    Although this may sound complicated to westerners, so too is the Gregorian calendar. Because the Islamic calendar is based upon lunar months, its numbered years and months vary from the Gregorian calendar. Hence, the present Islamic year of 1422 began on March 26, 2001, and will end on March 15, 2002 on the Gregorian calendar.

    So what the hell day is it now?

    How would I know? Islamic years are shorter than the Western years -- by eleven days.

    Look at this! This gets so complicated that you can't even print an Islamic calendar in advance!

    Anyone who can figure it out can go work for the State Department, I guess.

    (Whether measured by the 911 day interval or the 912th day, it seems close enough for terrorist work -- and close enough to satisfy the psychotic minds which obsess over numerological magic. I don't; I just want the terrorists killed. But for the sake of utter nit-pickiness, what if we were to factor in the worldwide nature of terrorism, as well as time, and measured days by 24 hour increments beginning with 9-11? The train explosion occured at 07:39 Spanish time, which was 01:39 US Eastern Time on 3-11. Counting the days as 24 hour increments beginning from the time of the 9-11 attacks, the terrorists still had until 08:46 US Eastern Time before the 912th day officially started. I realize this sounds crazy, but in my hometown of Berkeley, California, the Spanish attacks happened on 3-10!)

    MORE: Roger L. Simon reported this ominous statement from the BBC:

    "The BBC's security correspondent, Frank Gardner, says the nightmare scenario for Spain would be a collaboration between Islamic and Basque groups. He says recent events in Iraq have shown how different groups can work together in a common cause."
    It certainly would be a nightmare scenario, but what strikes me right now as not exactly a good dream is the fact that the BBC appears once again to have pulled the quote!

    Unless it "reappears" later, Roger's headline quote simply isn't there! Not the first disappearing quote from the BBC, either.....

    I suspect the reporting of this story is influenced by high political stakes.

    Maybe also the non-reporting.

    (Or is this "un-reporting"?)

    AND MORE: InstaPundit readers who have just arrived might want to read my latest post on terrorist denial.

    FINALE: I hated to see this happen, but it appears that the Spanish elections were a affected by terrorism.

    Al Qaida got what it wanted.

    posted by Eric at 05:56 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (2)

    Racist Turtle Toaster Hero!

    Did you ever want to know your "Superhero Identity"? I didn't, but this test found it for me, and it's Friday, Online Test Day at Classical Values, where each week I share my innermost angst, and bare my most embarrassing truths.

    Here, then, is my Superhero profile:

    hero picture

    Your Superhero Identity For Today Is:

    Name: Black Snake

    Secret Identity: Eric Scheie

    Special Power: Invisibility

    Transportation: Nuclear Skateboard

    Weapon: Neutron Blade

    Costume: Kevlar Cape

    Sidekick: Samwise

    Nemesis: Melvin the Puzzler

    Tragic Flaw: Fear of heights

    Favorite Food: French Fries

    You too can take this test -- at Humorscope.

    (I found it at David's Sketches of Strain who in turn got it from DramaQueen. Great bloggers both!)


    Do heroes get to be racists? I'm not sure, but I found a rather fun test with the provocative title of "What Kind of Racist are You?" and I'm the kind of racist who gets away with being racist: the Minority Racist!

    You're A Minority Racist!
    You're A Minority Racist!

    What Kind of Racist are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    (Via The Black Hole.)


    Well, if I am a minority racist, then what minority am I? A turtle, apparently. According to this test from Jay Solo, I'm "CRUSH, the wave-riding turtle and master of philosophy."

    You are CRUSH!
    What Finding Nemo Character are You?

    brought to you by Quizilla

    I'd like to just retreat into my shell and ponder the meaning of life.....

    Except today I am supposed to be driving to New Jersey!


    Last of all, via Ordinary Galoot, I found a test called "Which Weird Latin Phrase Are You?" -- and the result, while true enough, just doesn't seem to address the real me:

    I don't want a toaster.
    Furnulum pani nolo.
    "I don't want a toaster."
    Generally, things (like this quiz) tend to tick you
    off. You have contemplated doing grievous
    bodily harm to door-to-door salesmen.

    Which Weird Latin Phrase Are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    (Via Ordinary Galoot.)

    I mean, I might not particularly want a toaster right now (I already have one), but should that be the focus of my life?

    I mean, aren't there more important issues?

    Or am I toast?

    (Definitely toast; as I said, I'm on my way to New Jersey.....)

    posted by Eric at 09:17 AM | Comments (5)

    With IMAO Like This, You Don't Even Need VP

    I always thought that if the Republicans had any sense (a mouthful in itself) that they'd hire Frank J. as a ghostwriter.

    Well I think they have!

    Dave Broder: "How would you accurately describe your role in this administration? Be honest."

    I would say that I am a dark, insidious force pushing Bush toward war and confrontation. . . .


    Helen Thomas wants to know, "How do you justify attacking innocent dictators?"

    Helen, let me get back to you on that. I need to talk to Richard Perle.
    (Via Peeve Farm.)

    I note that the Weekly Standard does not name the author of the above. Instead, it says,
    "by Special to The Daily Standard"
    (Yeah! Sure!)

    And, even more damning:

    "Although the speech is off-the-record, they were obtained by The Daily Standard"
    (Come on!)

    Finally Frank's feeble attempt at dissembling -- "Thanks to Orion for pointing me to this" -- does not fool me one iota!

    Case closed.

    Congratulations, Frank!

    posted by Eric at 10:48 PM

    For crying out wolf!

    Yesterday, Jeff Jarvis reported the latest horror from the FCC:

    By a one-vote margin, the committee defeated an attempt to extend FCC censorship to cable and satellite.

    Listen: The First Amendment should prohibit what the FCC already does to TV and radio but, of course, its regulation and censorship is kept in place by the flimsy tissue of the idea that these are the scarce "public airwaves." Well, cable and satellite are not public property; they are private property. If the government goes in to regulate and censor what happens there, then there is nothing stopping them from regulating and censoring books, music, concerts, comedy clubs... and the Internet.

    Jeff Jarvis is absolutely right, but unfortunately, the distaste many people have for Howard Stern prevents them from worrying about the implications of any of this. In today's news, the FCC is asking Congress to give it the power to regulate cable TV. Can the Internet be far behind?

    I'll put it to the Howard Stern haters this way: assume he's off the air and you're all happy. Do you really think the hard core activists who've been after Howard Stern all these years are going to just pack up and go home? I think they'll view it as a good first step. They have been trying to censor the Internet for many years now, and a victory over Howard Stern will only embolden them. That is why I call him the canary in the mine. But Howard is not as intrusive as a canary, because you don't have to hear him sing. You can turn off your radio!

    On the other hand there's at least one optimist, Reid Stott (link via Glenn Reynolds), who thinks this is mainly a matter of Howard Stern "crying wolf", that he's been kvetching for years, and will stay on the air.

    Let's hope he's right -- because, wolf-cryer or not*, I want Howard to remain on the air!

    While I am at it, I have to disagree with Mr. Stott that Jeff Jarvis' refusal to spell out the "F" word (and his deletion of expletive-laced comments) makes him guilty of the same censorship he condemns:

    “F Michael Powell. F the FCC. F Clear Channel.”

    This really gets me. Jeff shortens the word he really wants to use to “F”. As is his right on his site. He also has been known to delete comments from others that spell out the “F” word. As is his right on his site. But those acts imply that there are certain lines you just don’t cross, when you are speaking to the public. Not out of worry about fines or “censorship,” but out of decency. And on his site, they are lines that are enforceable, free speech or not.

    Yet in an update, Jeff adds: “I abhor this culture of offense. We are becoming ruled by what offends a few of us. If it’s offends somebody, then it must be wrong and it must be shut up. Well, I don’t need anyone -- government or corporate nanny -- to protect me from that which might offend me.”

    Then why not just spell out the “F” word when you write, Jeff? Why do you delete the comments of others that use the word? Because your son might read the site, and it’s not appropriate content for him? Well, a lot of people feel the same way about their morning radio.

    Their morning radio? Who are "they", and who makes them or their sons tune in? What about their morning cable television? Their morning Internet?

    I see a logical problem in analogizing between a talk radio show and a blog. Jeff Jarvis has every right to use or not use the "F" word, and if he decides to allow comments, they become part of his blog, and if he doesn't use the "F" word (or the "N" word, or any other word), why, he is free to delete or edit the comments in any manner he pleases. No one is standing over him saying he must do either.

    Many times I have read Jeff's reminder to those who disagree with his comments policy -- "START YOUR OWN BLOG!" Self censorship is not censorship at all, because no one is making you do anything. (And, if you think about it, any time you say something or don't say something, you're engaged in "self censorship.") The only blogger analogy to Howard Stern which might make sense to me would be, say, a blogger told to censor something by means of a legal or government threat. (Like Robert Cox.)

    In fact, Jeff Jarvis and Howard Stern already do pretty much the same thing. If Jeff doesn't like a comment, or finds it offensive, he deletes it. (Many bloggers don't allow comments at all.) If, for whatever reason, Howard Stern does not like a caller, he doesn't put him on the air. If the caller says something that they don't want to go out, Stern's people have eight seconds (now I guess it's being upped to five minutes in some places) to "delete" it. Once it goes out over the air, the "damage" is considered done. And unlike something which goes out on the Internet, there is no way to un-say it. (Although even in the Internet, there are ways of retrieving things that were "un-said.")

    But no one -- yet -- has the right to censor Jeff Jarvis, or me. That's the crucial difference. I dislike censorship by others, whether corporations or governments. If my ISP decided it hated me and my blog, and refused to provide me with service, and there existed a list of "NO SERVICE ALLOWED" blogs, I would be effectively censored. They can't do it now, but I believe there are people who want them to be able to do it, and are seriously working on it. (Suppose Verizon and Comcast decided to prohibit certain blogs from being accessed as SonicWALL does?) The taking out of Howard Stern will embolden them, and as I've said before, harm the quality of my life.

    What is it about turning off the radio that people cannot seem to understand? There are numerous web sites which offend me. I can visit them and get all apoplectic, or I can decide not to visit them. Why should radio be any different?

    And what is "public" about the airwaves that isn't "public" about the Internet?

    One ray of hope: so far Howard Stern is not losing advertisers.

    * At Reid Stott's blog, I posted the following comment about crying wolf (which I hope I am not doing by reprinting it here):

    The long list of Howard Stern’s incidents of indecency proves mainly that he has been indecent for a long time. I have been a daily listener for ten years, but I have never seen anything resembling this -- being yanked off six stations simultaneously while his enemies yell for shutting him down completely. Your central argument is that it’s nothing new. Well, it’s new to me, and I don’t like it, because I want to listen to Howard Stern, and because I don’t think the drive for “cleaning up the airwaves” will stop with him.

    Much is made of Howard crying wolf, although it’s obvious you realize that is part of his shtick. Yet in logic, crying wolf has nothing to do with the presence or absence of an actual wolf. The legend itself is a lesson in warning people not to complain about things which aren’t really happening. The fact is that people who kvetch about “persecution” ARE sometimes persecuted. (I hope you don’t think that unfounded complaints justify genuine persecution.)

    I hope you are right in your assessment that none of this will amount to anything, because I don’t want to lose Howard Stern, who I think is one of the most original, most refreshing artists in the country. If you are right, then he’s a boy crying wolf. If you are wrong, then my quality of life will suffer, because I won’t be able to turn on my radio in the morning and wake up to him.

    Those who don’t like Howard Stern don’t have to listen to him, so their quality of life will not be affected either way. (Except, I guess, for the small minority whose quality of life improves if others are prevented from hearing what they hate.)

    Sometimes I wonder whether much of this argument is driven by whether people like Howard Stern or not. People who like him don’t like what is happening, while people who hate him think it’s great. (The rest being largely window dressing.)

    I was promptly put in my place by someone who said that
    There’s nothing worse than a self-proclaimed outlaw, a envelope-pushing risk taker, who cries like ten thousand babies when the perfectly logical consequences hit him in the ass every few years or so.
    To which I answer "I WANT HOWARD!"


    That wasn't long enough.....


    Once more:


    (There are some good comments there, and Mr. Stott has done an excellent job of sticking to his guns. I plan to stick to mine, too!)

    posted by Eric at 09:09 PM | Comments (1)

    Uncompromising Carnival!

    The 77th Carnival of the Vanities is up at Aaron's Rantblog. Many gems, (which I am not so arrogant as to say includes my own offering, "Blood and Guts") but here are some of my favorites:
    Solomon's post about "media-manufactured piffle";
    why Dean Esmay hates school;
    Blogs: the Next Generation Internet;
    how to stop SPAMbots;
    a reminder that we're at war;
    John Kerry's Instant Karma;
    zero tolerance for scissors;
    America has a brain; and

    One of my major shortcomings is that I don't read as many blogs as I should -- and that especially means reading blogs which are new to me. For example, one of the Carnival posts links to this hilarious post offering a "Biblical Marriage Amendment." Intrigued, I browsed around and found a really fun test --the "Libertarian Purity Test" by Bryan Caplan. I pride myself in being as impure as hell, so I was intrigued.

    The test gave me a score of 105. What does this mean?

    91-130 points: You have entered the heady realm of hard-core libertarianism. Now doesn't that make you feel worse that you didn't get a perfect score?
    I don't know how that makes me feel -- but considering that I have been called a "pseudo-libertarian" quite recently, being called "hard-core" would at least appear to be partial vindication.

    But I reserve the right to be a heretical, compromising sellout if I deem it the best way to avoid worse horrors.

    Read 'em all!

    posted by Eric at 01:24 PM | Comments (3)

    Go ahead! Make me swoon!

    Hey, anyone new to this blog, be sure to check out my blogfather! He is a credit to the Second Amendment, and right now his famed weekly check on the gun bias is up. Take a look at the picture he has posted of the drooling anti-gun vultures, shown after their latest gun-grab vote. Kerry, of course, is flanked by his friends Schumer, Feinstein and Kennedy, and they couldn't look happier! Jeff reflects on the festivities:

    Isn't that a cozy quartet! Chucky Schumer, Dianne Feinstein, Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, and Edward Kennedy leaving the Senate after the vote. Go ahead and retch because these are the Democratic power brokers who killed this bill to protect an industry from the ravishes of greedy city mayors and their sponsors, the American Trial Lawyers Association (the largest contributor to the Democratic Party.)

    Kerry, the senator with the most "liberal" voting record in the senate, certainly surrounds himself with his "kin" and that should be a warning to all of you who might be pissed-off at G.W. Bush for various issues and are considering a protest vote. As the saying goes, you're known by the company you keep and you can see who Kerry hangs out with.

    Stare at that photo for a moment and think about this: Is this the crowd you want making decisions for our country for the next four years?

    I sure don't. And I think that even the Bush haters ought to at least consider that the anyone-but-Bush meme has, by foisting Kerry on the public, brought about a growing anyone-but-Kerry meme!

    And here's Jeff on the detestable New York Times:

    I have been writing this weekly report on bias against guns by major media for a year-and-a-half now and I certainly knock papers such as SF Gate and the LA Times. But I also have to admit that some of their writers occasionally pen a straight-forward news story with equal quotes from both sides.

    That is in sharp contrast with the supposed leaders of the press world -- the New York Times and the Washington Post -- whose reporters (and editorialists) have NEVER published an objective story on firearms and the Second Amendment.

    The New York Times is the most grievous, and it is just one reason that while other bloggers suck-up to them and put them on a pedestal, I have NEVER done so and in fact, I consider them an irrelevant paper other than for their influence over swooning liberals.

    I don't put them on a pedestal either -- and not only because of their anti-gun bias. The New York Times has now delivered an ultimatum to the blogosphere: DON'T MAKE FUN OF US! Because if you do, our lawyers will squash you like a bug!
    Your actions are deliberately designed to confuse people and are clearly illegal. By using The Times's name, logos, advertisments, live links, design and layout, you are blatantly infringing upon our exclusive rights under trademark and copyright laws, as well as the rights of our advertisers. And you are compounding the offense by encouraging others to follow your lead.(Link via Glenn Reynolds.)
    I hereby compound the offense further, as I consider it my civic duty to encourage others to follow Robert Cox's lead!

    Go ahead! Create your own New York Times corrections page! It's a public service to correct a rag that is anything but!

    Let the "swooning liberals" swoon!

    Jeff also praised my film review very highly (making me blush by calling me "a rapidly rising star in the blogosphere") and I'll take this opportunity once again to say that without him I would not be blogging. I can't tell you how many times I have been exasperated, drained, emotionally distraught, and on the verge of burnout, and Jeff has always lifted my spirits with heart-felt encouragement. I don't have a tip jar, but if there's anyone out there inclined to send money to a deserving blogger, there isn't a more deserving one than Jeff.

    Thanks Jeff! You are to me as the Times is to liberals; you make me swoon!

    UPDATE: Regarding the Times, Glenn Reynolds adds:

    [T]he Times is being a bully. If, say, Rush Limbaugh were doing this to a critic under the same kind of circumstances, I suspect the Times would be all over him for it.
    Michael Savage sued his critics after they parodied him by using his name and image in web pages. I don't recall the New York Times screaming about Savage's digital rights being violated either. (Hell, I don't even think the Times was on Fox News' side when they sued Al Franken. I wonder why....)

    And now they're using Savage tactics to savage bloggers....

    Tut tut!

    MORE: As Eugene Volokh pointed out during the Fox v. Franken flap, such claims that parody will be "confused" with reality are a "heavy-handed and legally ill-founded attempt to suppress criticism."

    UPDATE: Read this article in the New York Daily News; "Tough times for parody":

    A cyber-gadfly, hit with a copyright-infringement charge by The New York Times, yesterday stripped his Web site of a Times parody and watched it pop up elsewhere online.
    At issue is the devilishly realistic Times "Columnist Corrections" page that Robert Cox created for his site, TheNationalDebate.com ("Where Policy, Politics and the Media Meet").

    Though dated "February 30," Cox's "Corrections" looks like a page from NYTimes.com and indeed "corrects," in a Timesian manner, perceived factual lapses in Times op-ed columns.

    One Cox correction challenges columnist David Brooks' assertion that the Democratic Party "won't nominate a guy unless his family had an upper-deck berth on the Mayflower." Cox also questions columnist Paul Krugman's use of economic data and a government report on Medicare.

    "Your actions are deliberately designed to confuse people and are clearly illegal," Times copyright counsel Nancy Richman scolded Cox in a letter that, of course, he posted on his site.

    Richman insisted that Cox "remove the page from public display immediately."

    Worse for Cox, his Internet service provider Verio, which also heard from The Times, told him it would suspend his account today if the offending material was not removed.

    Before that could happen, Cox pulled the "Corrections" from his site - at 4:05 yesterday afternoon - but listed where in the sympathetic, so-called "blogosphere" it could now be found.

    Cox, 40, a self-described Internet entrepreneur and lifelong Times reader in Westchester, said he doesn't have the bucks or legal resources to argue that "Corrections" is a parody.

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    (Shouldn't they have capitalized "times" in the headline?)

    For what it's worth, I am only too glad to help out, and my parody mirror is up, right here!

    Go ahead! Make me swoon, ye swine!

    posted by Eric at 11:23 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)

    More fire and repentance!

    Speaking of Savonarola, the 36th Bonfire of the Vanities is up at Dan K. O'Leary's Pragmatic Conservatism. I like Dan's style, wit, and and humor, and he did an excellent job despite cramming for finals at a school he hates!

    Read his entire "Roast of Repentance."

    And repent aplenty!

    posted by Eric at 03:30 PM

    "Reformers" -- past, present and future

    The National Review features an opinion piece by Iranian activist Banafsheh Zand-Bonazzi and his wife Elio Bonazzi which compares Khomeini to the Renaissance's most famous enemy, Savonarola (viewed here -- perhaps ironically -- as a sort of prophet of the Protestant reformation):

    Girolamo Savonarola, an influential preacher, managed to create a theocracy that bears similarities with Khomeini's Iran. Illustrious Renaissance figures, like the painter Botticelli, even bought into Savonarola's zeal; the former voluntarily burned many of his paintings in the belief that they were vain and pagan.

    Savonarola, born in 1452, was a monk who hailed from an old family of Ferrara. In early 1482 he was sent by his superior to preach in Florence. His profound concern with the widespread depravity of the era established him as a powerful sermonizer at the peak of the Renaissance; he fervently lashed out at the immoral, pleasure-seeking life of the Florentines.

    ....The Basijis, the "morals police" of the Islamic republic of Iran, target women who do not observe the religious dictates of veil and dress — exactly as Savonarola's young brotherhood did in Florence.

    The list of similarities between Savonarola's and Khomeini's theocracies goes on, but we will stop here for the sake of brevity.

    In the more recent past, Western civilization was finally able to exorcise religious fundamentalism, and now looks back at its worst moments with shame and contrition. Secularism brought us the notion of separation between Church and State.

    The fact that in the last few years European powers have helped perpetuate the Islamic republic of Iran, thereby bestowing an aura of international legitimacy on Tehran in exchange for cheap oil, gas, and copper, betrays once again the old-time colonialist policy of allowing "the natives" to do as they wish amongst themselves so long as they do not threaten the interests of the empire.

    Religious fundamentalism wouldn't be tolerated in any of the European nations. Any nation attempting the fundamentalist "experiment" would immediately become a pariah, and would be economically blackballed by the other European nations. When Joerg Haider, the controversial, extreme right-wing Austrian politician, formed a coalition government where his party would have had a few ministers, the 14 member states of the EU immediately cut off all bilateral contracts with Austria, forcing Haider to resign as secretary of the party.

    It is likely that the same treatment would be reserved for European nations attempting to implement religious fundamentalist policies. But Iranians are not Europeans; they are the "natives" of a distant world, one subjugated to the economic interests of a still-colonialist Europe. So, instead of applying economic, diplomatic, and political pressure to Iran in order to force secularism, EU nations have preferred to maintain the status quo, thereby exploiting the situation to their own economic advantage.


    I am glad to find such condemnation of the horrors of fundamentalist theocracy in the National Review. I am not at all convinced, though, that there aren't various Savonarola-like movements in the West, although I certainly hope they never get their way.

    At least in this country we've learned, and we have safeguards against neo-Vandals like Savonarola from committing acts of cultural destruction. I mean, why repeat history?

    While Leon Kass has been compared to Savonarola, I think the argument can be made that Kass is worse, because he hides behind a veneer of apparent moderation. An aura of professorial modern sophistication conceals an agenda more medieval than classical, and which frankly smacks of the very totalitarianism it claims to be opposing.

    While Savonarola attacked art, Kass's targets are science, technology, and medicine. While his critics tend to think of him as wanting sick people to die, and wanting the human lifespan to remain traditionally short, I want to address a menacing central premise recently enunciated by one of his fellow Council members. Writing in Tech Central Station, PCB staffer Yuval Levin (that's that harmful PCB, folks -- the President's Council on Bioethics) argues that it comes down to science versus political authority:

    Today, in some limited but prominent libertarian circles, utopianism is back. The focus of its hopes and energies is not government, of course, but rather, once more, modern science -- in this case particularly biomedical science and biotechnology. Advances in biotechnology in recent decades, and the plausible promise of much more significant advances to come, has convinced some that the way to radical liberation leads through the laboratory. In its extreme form, the desire for this liberation has been expressed as a genuine wish to escape our human bonds -- in transhumanism and extropianism. In more moderate forms, it shows up as a profound enthusiasm for new biomedical possibilities beyond medicine, and an ardent committed desire to hold back all attempts at political regulation of biotechnological techniques.

    ..... American libertarians on the whole have a healthy (and at times maybe excessive) skepticism about human power when it is exercised by governments and polities. But somehow they have not applied the same skepticism to the potential for a far greater and more extreme exercise of the power of man over man, through science. They (or, to be precise, a subset among them) are the new utopians -- strident, rationalist, atheist, materialist proponents of a technical substitute for political authority. But they are also deeply committed to liberty, and this makes them different and better than most of the cold-blooded dreamers of old. We could certainly do worse.

    The same criticism which is leveled at advocates of laissez faire science could be leveled at advocates of the free market. The charge that advocating freedom constitutes "utopian thinking" is particularly dishonest, as is the writer's attempt to link unregulated science with the horrors of Nazism and Communism (where science was not free at all, but instead completely controlled by government!) If anything, utopian thinking is a belief that government-controlled science is better.

    It is the phony dichotomy between "unrestrained science" and "political authority" which I find the most chilling. Note carefully the phraseology: "potential for a far greater and more extreme exercise of the power of man over man, through science." What is the premise here? That science will control man? Or that men will want advantages that science might convey to those most interested in obtaining them (or most able to pay for them)? Marxists say precisely the same things about the free market -- which they see as allowing the exercise of the power of man over man. The answer in both cases is governmental authority.

    The entire premise underlying the Kass Council is thus utopian, and, I believe, based on the constitutionally mistaken notion that the federal government has the right to control science. Nothing in the Constitution gives the federal government such power.

    I wonder what Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin would say? Does anyone honestly believe that these scientists would have ever imagined that they were giving the federal government power to regulate science?

    At least Savonarola didn't have to worry about trifles like a Constitution. Let's hope it still exists, because there is nothing in it allowing "government oversight" of medical research and treatments.

    How Republicans can support such nonsense is beyond me.

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

    Welcome Slate readers!

    I just learned that Timothy Noah was kind enough to link to my July 29 post about Leon Kass's views on eating.

    My deepest thanks to Mr. Noah, and a big welcome to all visitors from Slate!

    Special thanks first and foremost to Glenn Reynolds for linking to the "ice cream post" (which I suspect is how Mr. Noah found it), and of course once again I want my readers to note that the post was only possible because of the original research of Justin Case. (Who'd better join this blog as a co-writer to prevent me from developing blogger burnout syndrome....)

    For readers who are interested, I have more posts about Dr. Kass here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

    Welcome all!

    posted by Eric at 04:13 PM | Comments (1)

    Blood and guts?

    Tonight I finally saw "The Passion," and I don't know whether this is a review, because I am not sure how I am supposed to analyze the film. (Should this be a review of politics? Religion? Or art?)

    Bear in mind that I like these types of films in general. I enjoyed "The Robe," "Quo Vadis," "Demetrius and the Gladiators," "The Sign of the Cross," etc. This one was a lot gorier and a lot bloodier, and I think if I were still a kid I would have been even more excited than I was. Artistically and technically, it was a well made film. I saw it with a friend -- a liberal Democrat whose wife did not want him to see it, although neither of us perceived quite as much anti-Semitism as many did. (But then, we're not Jewish.) I think anyone who watches that film and hates Jews because of it is a lost cause, and perhaps mentally ill. Sure, there were plenty of villainous Jews, but there were many sympathetic Jewish characters. And the small mob shouting in Pilate's courtyard, while that may have been Biblically accurate, it no more typified Jews than a Southern lynch mob typified the South. (The negative portrayal of Jewish religious leaders, though, is more problematic, although I would still question the sanity of anyone who would even remotely factor them into the consideration of any Jews alive today.)

    The Romans were portrayed as by far the most sordid and evil of the bunch, and as I said before, history offers scant evidence of what actually happened, so the film has to be seen as one man's interpretation of the Bible. I think he went overboard with the scourging, which is definitely the bloodiest and most sadistic flogging scene in any movie I've seen. But in fairness, the real thing would have been pretty bad to watch, because near-death scourgings were common, and the goal here was to kill the guy. Considering that all Biblical accounts show the man dying after only a few hours on the cross, I think it's a fair guess that they did in fact scourge him nearly to death beforehand. And if you think about it, half killing a guy would make the whole thing easier to accomplish. Try taking a healthy young man and nailing him to a cross. You'd need a dozen strong soldiers just to hold him down. But if you beat him nearly to death, cause him to lose half his blood, he'd be in a state of hypovolemic shock and it would be easy to nail him up. (Repeatedly falling down while attempting to carry the cross also indicates a man on his way out, so, if the stories are taken literally and common sense factored in, extreme scourging seems likely.)

    Whether the focus on the details of the death of Jesus is the best way to promote Christianity depends on your perspective. I don't share Gibson's background or religious philosophy, so if I made a religious film about Jesus I probably wouldn't do it the same way.

    Personally, I have always been partial to Jesus, and when I like someone I focus on what I like. Perspective, I guess. (But I'm a Christian-Pagan with a broadly heretical, generalized view of things.....)

    There were some gratuitous asides with which, because of my background I could not identify and did not like. I thought it unnecessary to create effeminate villains, and this is the third film in which Gibson seems to go out of his way to inject effeminacy into evil. He may not think he's doing that, but it certainly appears that way. And it fails to persuade me of anything at all, because I do not consider effeminacy to be evil -- any more than I consider Jews evil. The devil looked like many of the young gay nightclub types I have known, and while many of them do not live lives of high virtue, linking them to Satan strikes me as ridiculous -- if that was what Gibson meant. (King Herod and his entourage border on being a drag queen show. Why?)

    And what's more, Gibson shows Jesus as stomping on a perfectly harmless albino Burmese python. Why? So that I can get all defensive about snakes in my blog, and complain about them being unfairly maligned? (At least he didn't show the Romans with pit bulls! Had he done that I'd really have gone ballistic....) Snakes are not evil, OK? I hate to call it herpetophobia because that sounds very PC, but come on!

    So, in light of my defensiveness about effeminacy and snakes, I can understand the concerns about negative Jewish stereotypes. Still, how any rational person who wasn't already bigoted could become bigoted as a result of this film escapes me.

    Are there irrational people in this world who will freak out and go on rampages? I don't know -- but I think people should be held responsible for their own actions, and blaming Gibson for their antics makes about as much sense as blaming Howard Stern for creating a "climate" in which Janet Jackson bared her breasts.

    Before I saw the film, my friend made me read Frank Rich's review of it from the Sunday New York Times. Rich accuses Gibson of creating a climate, and I generally dislike climatic theories, because they allow people who are wrong to escape individual culpability by blaming others who planted wrong ideas in their heads. Even if Gibson is an anti-Semite and deliberately intended to stir up hatred towards all Jews, this does not make him responsible for the actions of individual crackpots. (But as I said, I just don't see how any thinking person could see that film and seriously blame Jews for poorly recorded events of 2000 years ago.)

    Then there's this passage:

    There is no question that it rewrites history by making Caiaphas and the other high priests the prime instigators of Jesus' death while softening Pontius Pilate, an infamous Roman thug, into a reluctant and somewhat conscience-stricken executioner.
    The problem with that is that Gibson can't rewrite history, because the actual history of Pilate is very scant (see my previous post, especially this link). And whether Rich or anyone else likes it, the Biblical accounts do show Pilate as precisely the "reluctant and somewhat conscience-stricken executioner" he says is a "rewrite" of the history which we do not have.

    Just to refresh my own memory, I checked the Bible, and here is what I found:

  • Matthew 27: a clearly waffling pilate who puts the blame on Jews, offered them Barabbas, claims that Jesus has done no wrong, and asks "what shall I do?"
  • Mark15 (same story)
  • Luke 13 Pilate says "I find no fault with this man"; wanted to release him; "Crucify him! the mob chanted..."; Pilate then "delivered Jesus unto their will"

  • John 18-19: Pilate poses interesting questions to Jesus, then says, "Take ye him and judge him according to your law."; Jews reply, "It is not lawful for us to put any man to death"; Pilate asks "Am I a Jew?", "what is truth?"; then says, "I find in him no fault at all", offers to free Jesus, then offers "Not this man but Barabbas" and says again, "I find no fault in him"; mob screams "Crucify him, crucify him"; Pilate answers "Take ye him and crucify him: for I find no fault in him"; answer is "We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God"; Pilate, fearful, again tried to get Jesus to defend himself, and asks "Whence art thou?" (no answer), "Speakest thou not unto me? Knowest thou that I have the power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee?"; finally Jesus says "Thou couldst have no power at all against me, except if it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin"; "Pilate again sought to release him, but the Jews cried out, saying 'If thou let this man go, thou art not Caesar's friend: whosoever maketh himself a king speaketh against Caesar.' (That clinched it for Pilate, and he handed him over).
  • Thus, it becomes inescapable that according to all four accounts (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) Pilate acceded to the demands of the mob. Had Gibson done other than portray Pilate this way, he would not be following the Biblical accounts. He may be an anti-Semite, but to accuse him of "rewriting history" in the face of overwhelming Biblical evidence strikes me as unreasonable. (Which is not to say that the Bible itself doesn't contain anti-Semitic bias, but hell, rewriting the Bible is not a primary goal of this blog. But I do hate stereotypes and I recognize that they exert power over ignorant minds; imagine if the Bible had described the mob as consisting mostly of "Sodomites.")

    Perhaps Mr. Rich has some passions of his own, because he is certainly upset about Gibson's offer to put Frank Rich's "intestines on a stick":

    If you criticize his film and the Jew-baiting by which he promoted it, you are persecuting him — all the way to the bank. If he says that he wants you killed, he wants your intestines "on a stick" and he wants to kill your dog — such was his fatwa against me in September — not only is there nothing personal about it but it's an act of love. And that is indeed the message of his film. "The Passion" is far more in love with putting Jesus' intestines on a stick than with dramatizing his godly teachings, which are relegated to a few brief, cryptic flashbacks.
    I didn't see anything about intestines on a stick, and while I hate to be put in the position of defending Mel Gibson (who I suspect would not like many of the people I have loved), the man is not new to putting intestines on sticks. That's precisely what he did in Braveheart with his own intestines! Maybe that's why he feels free to utter such threats. (Not a new idea, I'm afraid....)

    Reading Rich's review gave me irritable bowel syndrome.

    These days it takes guts just to remain logical....

    posted by Eric at 11:28 PM | Comments (5)

    Get your filthy hands off my radio!

    Here's more on Howard Stern:

    This ain't Orlando. Or Pittsburgh. Or Miami. Or Rochester. This is Washington DC. The city that gave Howard Stern his big push toward fame. It was Stern's stint at DC101 in the early 1980s that caught the notice of some radio execs, who brought the "shock jock" to NYC - and eventually national distribution. And, for the past two decades, Stern has been a morning radio staple. Yeah, some of his humor is on the edge. But like or dislike Stern's brand of rant, as long as he generates ratings he deserves to be heard. Now, there's increasing talk that the FCC has targeted Stern for removal from the airwaves. Why? Too anti-Bush? Too potty-mouthed? Vulgar? Whatever. That's not important. What is important is that like Rush Limbaugh and Tom Joyner and Sean Hannity and Diane Rehm and G. Gordon Liddy and Tavis Smiley and Dr. Laura and Elliot Segal and Russ Parr and Michael Savage and Don Geronimo and Doug Tracht, Stern must not be silenced by a group of spineless corporate radio suits that seeks favors from fat-cat Capitol Hill politicos. If Stern is taken off the airwaves, we all lose. Our freedom. That's why it's important for us to "be prepared." Make a mental note of the sponsors on Stern's DC radio station - WJFK-FM. Especially the local ones. The car dealers. The jewelry stores. The cell phone and beer companies. And get ready to spread the word that if Stern is dropped from his DC radio perch, we're not afraid to use our economic "stick" to show our displeasure. Also, we must use the ballot box to throw out politicians who are using this so-called "indecency" campaign to silence popular radio personalities. Even in this age of "big media," the power still rests with us. You. The voter. The citizen. The listener.....
    Yes. We all lose. This is what I have been trying to point out in previous posts. This isn't just some upstart, here-today-gone-tomorrow, radio talk show; Howard Stern is an American institution.

    And Jeff Jarvis shares the following observation (with which I wholeheartedly agree:

    Being "offended" may by the height of victimhood of the age but it must not become the standard by which we gauge who may and may not speak.

    I am offended by Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell. But they have a right to speak, even on my/our/public airwaves. Some are offended by Coulter others by Moore or Franken, but I don't want them shut up, certainly not by government. Some are offended by The Sopranos or Queer Eye or even Friends but if they are, then they should change the channel.

    Offensiveness is not a crime and it damned well better not be. I don't need anyone -- especially not government -- to tell me what is offensive or to protect me from it; I can handle both jobs just fine myself, thank you.

    This is the age of offense and that offends me.

    It offends me too. I wish the Stern critics would follow one simple principle:
    If thine radio offends thee, TURN IT OFF!
    (I think that was in the Bible somewhere; if not it should have been.....)

    Jeff Jarvis also links to this from Doc Searls:

    Cards on the table: I trust what Howard says about what's going on more than anybody else out there. Even when he exaggerates, throws out red herrings and otherwise wrings entertainment value out of everything he does. Why? Not just because he's honest (that's part of his rap, as well as his rep), but because he knows, better than anybody else in the business, both how it works and what he's talking about. How else could he play the whole industry like an instrument for the past 25 years, getting advertisers their money's worth through a show that runs (sometimes as long as an epic movie), every day?

    Also, his sense of the prevailing political winds, especially as they blow through the broadcast regulatory regime, is extraordinarily acute. We've been watching those winds blow through other regimes — on trade, on the environment, and so on. And now we're about to see them blow through broadcasting. Whether you like or hate the man, listen to what he's saying about the politics around broadcasting today. The deeper subject is what you're not supposed to be hearing. And not just on the Stern show, either.

    I called Howard the (proverbial) "canary in the mine" and I think that's a fair assessment. He's been on the air for three decades, doing pretty much what he's still doing.

    If he is silenced, it will be bad for the country. It will make my life just a little bit more miserable, my already cynical outlook even more cynical. And as I tried to point out, it will hurt millions of Stern fans, who use the guy to get through their days. The war against Stern is part of the damned Culture War, and I think it is mean-spirited, dour, humorless, and evocative of what was done to Charlie Chaplin.

    To the people on the other side of this war, I say, if you don't like Howard Stern, fine. I am not making you listen to him. But when you prevent ME from listening to him, you violate the Golden Rule, and steal something from my life that I once had.

    I might not be as sympathetic to complaints about things like religious "persecution" as I generally am, and I might not be as inclined towards compromise.

    And I suspect I am not alone.

    MORE: Jeff Jarvis has another post up about Howard Stern (who he thinks should start a "SternSpace.... to mobilize fans and followers") Highlight:

    Once the government gets in the business of content [and to answer one particular commmenter, no, I don't mean the finance of content, I mean government turning into everybody's editor] then there is no stopping them. Slide down that slippery slope. Today, Howard Stern is offensive. Tomorrow, Sandra Tsing Loh on knitting is. Tomorrow, they try to regulate cable and not just broadcast. The next day, they go over the Internet (where, after all, there's lots of dirty, nasty, offensive stuff). This isn't about Howard. It's about you.

    UPDATE (3-10-04): Glenn Reynolds offers a reminder of the bipartisan, even populist nature of the reaction against indecency (including, of course, Senator Kerry's support of the dropping of the Howard Stern Show), and adds this thought:

    the unanimous passage indicates that there are a lot of people out there who want this. You may think that's a bad idea (in fact, I do) but it's not a sinister plot by a theocratic Republican minority. And, in fact, I think that opponents of the indecency ban have hurt their cause by engaging in Bush-bashing instead of addressing genuine popular sentiment head-on.
    Might Howard Stern may be mistaken to abandon his previous support for President Bush? I understand his outrage, but the Machiavellian in me is very slow to burn established bridges....

    posted by Eric at 04:56 PM | Comments (6)

    Looking at nature

    No time for blogging today, but I realized that I posted a couple of pictures -- in draft form only, and they might be relevant to recent events.

    Mortality is of course natural. Laura at Oddly Normal was kind enough to link to my post on Leon Kass, and she adds a new observation:

    [Dr. Kass] recently turned sixty-five years old and is still living and lecturing us that attempting to prolong life beyond "normal limits" is immoral. As Dr. Kass is no doubt aware in his more lucid moments, living to sixty-five is not bloody normal by any standard except that allowed by modern medicine in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. By what rights he presumes to dictate that the raising the mean lifespan from approximately 35 in the wild to 77 in the modern world is fine*, but extending it to 120 or 160 or 300 would be grave heresy, I should like to know.
    I'd like to know too.

    Why should anyone have the right to tell other people that it's time to die? Modern medicine has extended the human lifespan, and it is our destiny to do so. Kass -- a man trained as a medical doctor -- would thwart that destiny. Perhaps he forgets that famous First Principle, originally enunciated by Hippocrates: DO NO HARM. To thwart those who would stop or reverse the ravages of natural decay -- which it is man's destiny to do -- is certainly not in the spirit of that oath.

    Freddie pointing to natural decay:

    Well, that's the traditional view. Die and rot away!

    But if man can prevent or reverse such things, is it not also natural? Are not advances in science and technology also part of man's nature?

    Would we be better off keeping life as nasty, brutish and short as we can? (Until Dr. Kass came along, I would have thought that a rather foolish rhetorical question.)

    Two or three minds on the subject:

    Everyone, Kass included, is entitled to his opinion. But I think a line is crossed when someone enforces his opinions by wielding the power of the state. I have watched too many people die. That may have been "nature's way" -- but it's our nature to fight it.

    Kass is part of the "natural decay" that humanity has been striving over the millenia to overcome.

    To me, he represents true decadence just as surely as any "natural" disease.

    UPDATE: Leon Kass (who was trained as a physician) does not like something he calls "medicalization":

    The “beyond therapy” project has several times touched on the matter of the creeping “medicalization” of life—not only of mental life through the offices of psychiatry, but also of procreation in screening of fetuses and embryos, of the life cycle in dealing with aging or memory, or of athletic and other performances through enhancement technologies. We have so far not made this subject thematic. To do so, we should ask: what IS medicalization—as an idea, as a practice, as social/institutional attitudes and arrangements? Is it really on the rise? If so, what is responsible for it? What are its consequences? Why should we care? What, if anything, could/should be done about it—or some aspects of it? Formulated this way, it is a very big topic, certainly too big for the Council right now, and certainly too big for one session at one meeting. But it is one of the big themes of what ought to concern us.

    ....[T]he push toward medicalization is thus only partly driven by new technologies, though the availability of effective drugs and other instruments lends much support to a medical conception of the problem, and contributes to creating demand for medical services as treatment. It is also driven by deep cultural and intellectual currents: for example, to see more and more things in life not as natural givens to be coped with, but as objects rightly subject to our mastery and control; to have compassion for victims more than to blame perpetrators, even when the victims are victimized by their own perpetrations; to see the human person in non-spiritual and non-moral terms, but as a highly complex and successful product of blind evolutionary forces (which still perturb him through no fault of his own). It is also driven by commerce and the love of technique, the inflation of human desires to remove all obstacles to our happiness, etc.

    While Kass is discussing psychiatry here, I think the above is a fair statement of his views in general.

    Kass's whole "what should be done" approach assumes there is a problem, and that Kass has the solution.

    My question is who the hell elected this man to sit in judgment on a profession he obviously deserted in favor of philosophy? And he's doing a lot more than sitting in judgment. His Council is pushing for limits on the human lifespan. The ethical problem I see is far more profound than Kass will admit. He is trying to utilize the brute force of the state to limit medical practice (the relationship between doctors and consenting patients), simply because, in his view, "nature" should dictate that life not be extended.

    I cannot think of a more profound violation of the Hippocratic Oath than a doctor trying to stop other doctors from helping their patients. The people (mostly Kass sympathizers, as far as I can see) involved with the "DO NO HARM" website I cited are in my view unaware of the meaning (at least in the life extension context) of the very oath they claim to champion. Talking about harm to embryos (which they see as people, and as a superior form of life to living humans, or even fetuses!) misses the most odious aspect of Kass's mission -- to limit life.

    Setting limits to human life (note carefully his carefully chosen code language of "the life cycle") contravenes a central goal of all medicine, whether ancient or modern.

    I think Kass hates modern medicine, but he is not honest enough to admit it.

    Readers interested in another take on "DO NO HARM" (on the stem cell debate) can also read this piece by Ronald Bailey.

    Once again, a seed is not a tree.

    posted by Eric at 09:52 PM | Comments (5)


    Oh baby!

    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    I'm too wiped out to blog late last night.....

    Gone most of the day Sunday, but I'll try to check back later.

    posted by Eric at 12:41 AM

    Divine pursuits ARE Classical! (while embracing death is "Kassical"!)

    Here's Virginia Postrel on the Kass Council:

    This sort of indirect genetic evidence for human evolution is going to pile up until it resembles the overwhelming geological case against believing the earth is a few thousand years old. More important, and more interesting, will be how understanding the genetic origins of brain functions lets us affect how our minds work. With the Kass Commission hot to talk about brains, can proposals for new criminal laws against neuroscience be far behind? After all, that research might threaten classical conceptions of the mind. And if they were good enough for Plato, they're good enough for us.
    (via Glenn Reynolds.)
    The ancients would be turning in their grave!

    But seriously, I don't think that "classical conceptions of the mind" are really the problem.

    Rather, the problem is "Kassical conceptions of the mind"! Our argument is not with Plato, it's with Kass as Plato's spokesman. Unless Kass knows more about Plato than Plato himself, I don't recall reading anything in Plato which gave Kass permission to summon him from the dead, stuff words in his mouth, and then bootstrap that into big government edicts which We Must Live By.

    (And die by!)

    Plato was a classical thinker, but there were many others. Thought did not stop with ancient philosophers -- much less any particular one. They died, though, and their thoughts reflected the sum total of knowledge available to them during the times in which they lived. While we stand on their shoulders philosophically (please read my cautionary essay about not throwing the classical baby out with the medieval bathwater), their words and thoughts do not bind us. Reading them is a great way to gain great insight, but I think they ought to be allowed to speak for themselves, and be evaluated accordingly. Kass has no monopoly on ancient thought.

    What I do not like about Leon Kass is that he is not just an ordinary classics teacher with odd opinions. He sits in an elevated position of authority -- waiting for the next opportunity to tell us what to do. And to do that, he invokes the ancients, not to encourage the pursuit of such things as wisdom and truth, but to set rules and limits.

    Plato was a student of Socrates, who was the first to admit that he knew very little, but questioned a great deal. This picking and choosing of Plato and Aristotle reminds me of the Quotations from Chairman Mao. I think it is a perversion of ancient thought.

    Take the notion of immortality, for example. Leon Kass would have us believe that because flowers die, and because he is an expert on Plato, that immortality is bad. Although Plato and Socrates did not agree on immortality (Socrates tended towards the view that the soul was not immortal -- his "agnosticism about the soul’s fate after death in Apology 40c may reflect that dialogue’s emphasis on the avoidance of unjustified claims to knowledge"), Aristotle, on the other hand, thought that the pursuit of immortality was a good thing:

    Aristotle did not take up the Platonic project of proving the soul’s immortality or of providing eternal rewards for virtuous conduct. Indeed, by defining the soul as the ‘first actuality of an organic living body’ (On the Soul II 1), he seems to have precluded the possibility that any soul can survive the dissolution of the body whose actuality it is. Two lines of thought complicate this story and seem to make room for some immortal element in the soul. The first is the caveat, stated twice (On the Soul I 1, II 1), that the continued existence of any part of the soul in separation from the body is impossible, unless there is some activity of the soul that is not a complex activity of the soul and body: thinking is explicitly offered as a possible example of this, in contrast to such activities as feeling fear or anger, which clearly involve psycho-physical cooperation. The second and related complication is that in his analysis of intellect and intellectual thought (On the Soul III 4–5), Aristotle refers to a mind that is ‘immortal and eternal’ and is somehow involved in human thought. If we connect these two strands together, we may conclude that we have found something like the rational part of an individual human being’s soul and that we are being assured of its immortality. However, another line of interpretation will make this immortal and eternal mind (what later tradition calls the ‘active intellect’) a force external to the individual, whether a divinity that may be personal in its own right or a reservoir of impersonal thinking power. On views of this sort, what Aristotle is offering us falls far short of anything that might be considered personal survival (see Aristotle §§16, 19).

    Nor does Aristotle make use of the arguments we found in Plato that a certain form of life is to be preferred because of its consequences in the hereafter. It is true that he argues for the superiority of the life of philosophical contemplation on the grounds that the philosopher will most resemble the gods, be dearest to them and be most likely to earn their favour (Nicomachean Ethics X 8). But these benefits belong to this life, not the next. So too when his advocacy of contemplation culminates in the call to ‘be immortal, to the extent possible’ by employing our reason, the divine element in us (Nicomachean Ethics X 7). There is nothing about the afterlife in this appeal, only a striking shift of meaning. Immortality has here come unmoored from survival after death or eternal existence and now simply denotes a kind of activity that a participant may share in for finite, even fleeting, periods of time.

    On the other hand, Aristotle’s commitment to the literal immortality of the gods is unequivocal (see Aristotle §16). The heavens and earth are eternal in past and future, and the eternal movements of the heavens are the result of the eternal activity of gods who keep them in motion (Physics VIII 6; Metaphysics XII 7–8; On the Heavens I 3)

    Perhaps that's why Kass prefers flowers.

    posted by Eric at 06:11 PM | Comments (3)

    Where have all the flowers gone?


    Long time Kass-ing, I guess...

    But here's another Kass quote which will not go away:

    "Could the beauty of flowers depend on the fact that they will soon wither? . . . How deeply could one deathless ‘human’ being love another?"
    Is love conditioned upon death? I thought love was theoretically "eternal."

    But I want to allow Kass as much latitude as possible -- and I do mean latitude, because in Chicago the flower season is short. Maybe even brutishly short. Californians, on the other hand, do not see the seasons quite the same way, and I'd be willing to bet are not as inclined to define the beauty of flowers based on their mortality.

    Besides, I see a logical error in identifying mortality with flowers in order to "beautify" death. Plenty of ugly things also die, yet Kass would not cite them as arguments in favor of the beauty of mortality. Or would he? Guys like Kass are often inclined to factor anything that happens as favoring their arguments, so perhaps the death of more obnoxious life forms is also an argument in favor of mortality.

    (I suspect he uses flowers as a selling point because they invoke a more predictable emotional response than say, the death of plague-infected rats.)

    Continuing the Kass logic, however, let us try for a moment to imagine what an awful world it would be if flowers never died! Why, there'd be so many flowers, no one would think they were beautiful, right? (Tell that to the breeders of perrenial orchids!) Great works of art are not said to be mortal. Would, say, the Mona Lisa or the Pieta be "improved" if some nutcase like Laszlo Toth managed to destroy them? I can't see how.

    The whole notion of placing limits on things by invoking nature and the ancients is problematic at best, because there are always other ways of seeing the same ideas.

    Perhaps Mao knew what he was thinking when he announced, "Let a hundred flowers bloom!"

    Maybe we need some slogans to really get this "mortal conservative" movement of neo-nihilism going....


    All flowers must die!

    Death is beautiful!

    Immortality = immorality!

    All good things must come to an end!

    (And so on.....)

    posted by Eric at 03:02 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

    Free, city-wide WiFi? (Or a new form of urban warfare?)

    I hope this new trend will catch on:

    Having decided to make the capitol in Phoenix a wireless hot zone, the Arizona legislature can claim bragging rights over their colleagues in other states, at least for a little while.

    Any portable computer user with wireless local-area network 802.11b or 802.11a capability can now surf the Web or collect e-mails in the House and Senate areas of the Arizona capitol, as well as other public areas. The service was turned on last month, and access is free to the public.

    And here's Oregon:
    With construction of one of the country's biggest regional wireless networks almost completed, an Eastern Oregon public/private partnership already has plans to expand the system.

    The first phase of the broadband network, which will provide Internet data services at up to 15 megabits/sec to first responders, government agencies and eventually private homes, should be finished by the middle of March. A second phase, which could also include voice-over-IP service, is expected to begin in the summer. That will add seven more cities and 200 square miles to the system's area of coverage.

    The first phase will provide service to four eastern Oregon and Washington counties and seven cities, over a total of 600 square miles.

    I found the above links at NetStumbler (a site dedicated to WiFi scrounging and distance antennas. And if you like that, be sure to check out WarDriving -- a term defined, simply, as "driving around looking for wireless networks." Or even WarSpying!)

    As it is now, depending on where you live (and whether you want to set up antennas), you can have free Internet in many urban areas.

    All great news, but as the idea spreads, I am concerned that the FCC will be increasingly pressured into regulating the Internet. (With content filtering or other forms of censorship beginning to creep into the equation...)

    After all, WiFi is radio!

    And government is government!

    NOTE: So far, the gummint has backed off:

    The Federal Communications Commission, the government organization which regulates the airwaves, has reserved the frequencies used by wireless networks for public use, meaning that anyone is allowed to broadcast what they like on them and all devices listening to those "stations" must be prepared to receive unexpected interference. Most people with a wireless network pay a fixed rate for Internet access. Thus, it doesn't cost them anything if others use their signal and is unlikely to harm, or even slow, their system. Advocates assert that sharing with strangers is a generous, not criminal, thing to do.

    "I'll stop mooching off other people's wireless connection as soon as the 80,000,000 spam companies stop mooching off mine," a post from a user calling himself Anonymous Hero read. "The idea of warchalking is beautiful, community oriented, not slave-of-the-man oriented.

    "It's sort of disappointing that we have the possibility of providing free Internet access for the entire country, and the first thing people think of is whether it should be considered criminal."

    "Get away from my bandwidth sonny, or I'll blow you away!"

    Oh, and while I'm at it, here's "warchalking" (and didn't this all start with "warblogging"?):

    Wardriving is accomplished by using a portable computer, wireless card and global positioning system (GPS) to mark the locations of wireless access-points. The FBI claims that using an open 802.11 access point without explicit authorization may be a federal crime ("theft of services, interception of communications, misuse of computing resources, up to and including violations of the Federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Statute, Theft of Trade Secrets"). Warchalking is the practice of marking a series of symbols on sidewalks and walls to indicate nearby wireless access. That way, other computer users can pop open their laptops and connect to the Internet wirelessly. It was inspired by the practice of hobos during the Great Depression to use chalk marks to indicate which homes were friendly.
    A thought. If I'm paying for my connection, and I set up an 802.11b access point, am I then responsible for what people do on "my" bandwidth?

    I don't think I should be -- but it's a sobering thought I don't particularly need!

    UPDATE: Myria at "It Can't Rain All The Time" thinks I presented an overly optimistic view of these WiFi trends. (Which is funny, because I thought my post was rather pessimistic.) Many good points, although I should point out that my reference to "warblogging" was largely linguistic. (I am fascinated by how these new words creep into the language.)

    No serious political comparison was intended -- much less disagreement....

    However, I can imagine that proponents of the mp3, let's-share-everything philosophy might be inclined to allow untrammeled public use of their bandwidth -- in much the same way that some musicians encouraged free recording and downloading of their music (while others considered the same thing theft).

    posted by Eric at 09:49 AM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (2)

    Offensively affectionate?

    Glenn Reynolds, Jeff Jarvis, and others have exchanged many words about Howard Stern, and I've contributed a few myself.

    But I want to talk about one word right now.

    The infamous "n" word. While not on the FCC's list of seven deadly words, in reality, it is considered far worse. Quite possibly the most taboo word in the English language. (So much so that there is serious discussion of censoring it from dictionaries.)

    Many have objected to this, not so much in defense of the word, but because hyperstigmatizing something often tends to empower it.

    Here's Patti Smith, in one of rock's classics; Rock N Roll Nigger (1978):

    Jimi Hendrix was a nigger.
    Jesus Christ and Grandma, too.
    Jackson Pollock was a nigger.
    Nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger,
    nigger, nigger, nigger.
    Could Howard Stern could get away with reading the above lyrics on his show today?

    Has something changed since 1978? If so, what?

    A regular on the Howard Stern Show is a man named Daniel Carver of the Ku Klux Klan. He calls black people niggers, and I have heard him call Robin a nigger. (She laughed.) Howard uses the word "fag" but in such a way that no gay person with any understanding for the show should feel offended.

    However, there are gay activists (often who do not listen to the show) who are very offended. (GLAAD, for example.) As a matter of fact, in Canada, the government has officially declared Howard Stern "homophobic."

    Context is everything. (Here's a bit of an explanation -- and here's another.....)

    Here's an offensive song of affection.

    If you don't like it, move to Canada!

    NOTE: I am biased in favor of Howard Stern and I freely admit it. I also think that the best defense is a good offense. (And I LOVE Howard's offensiveness!) There are many people who believe in censorship, who hate the First Amendment, and who've been gunning for Howard Stern for years. While he is doing nothing new (if anything he's grown more tame over the years), I am glad he's there. His presence on the air is a good barometer of our freedom. He's the proverbial canary in the mine. And I will continue to support him, come what may.

    posted by Eric at 07:56 PM | Comments (1)

    Family shot!

    (Or maybe "Family not shot" depending on your preferences. "Family head shots?" Well, it is a family!)

    Just let the dogs out and they ran some deer out of the yard. But they didn't go that far, so I was able to get close enough to snap this:


    If I had a good zoom lens I bet I could get a closeup of their Lyme-infected ticks!

    (Maybe I should ask first, "Hey baby, can I take a picture of your ticks?")

    posted by Eric at 05:23 PM | Comments (3)

    Hated, misunderstood, and drinking!

    This is not a happy day, either for me or for today's online tests. While I do not feel my test results are accurate, I nonetheless present them -- in the interests of accuracy.

    It's nice to know that I've been hated as long as this first test -- "Which Survivor of the Impending Nuclear Apocalypse Are You?" -- says I have, because if I have been hated that long I can't do much to change it now.

    Still, at least I can be expected to survive the coming APOCALYPSE!

    Which Survivor of the Impending Nuclear Apocalypse Are You?
    A Rum and Monkey joint.

    That kid you hated at school!

    More irritating than even that kid who you took a dislike to at school, you'll live on as one of the many reasons you'll never want to go back to being a child. The annoying laugh, that needling competitiveness with everything you do, the desire to be better, meaner, first, first, first, first, first ...

    Remember when you taped his buttocks together, hung him from a tree and then swung from his gonads, chanting "I am the monkey king"? Even a full scale nuclear apocalypse won't shake off the little bastard, apparently.

    Link to this test courtesy of Ghost of a flea, who gets to be a Media Professional.

    Kids who were hated in school never get to be Media Professionals.

    Maybe I can be a Media Unprofessional?

    (The Flea, by the way, got this test from the Raging Kraut, who got a really cool result in the "What gun are you?" test. Cooler than mine!)


    As if to further demonstrate how totally misunderstood I am, the next test revealed that I am an alien!

    Not the extraterrestrial kind, but the South-of-the-border variety.

    How MEXICAN are you?
    Brought to you by the good folks at sacwriters.com

    Well, that calls for a quote from Unamuno!

    El hombre de carne y bueso sufre y muere. Sobre todo muere.

    It sat on my hard drive so long I almost forgot the origins of the above test. (Indirectly from Clareified, originally via Glenn Reynolds.)


    Quite understandably, after all that I needed a drink, and I found one at Ordinary Galoot, whose test -- "What Drink Are You?" -- makes me a Black Velvet!

    Smooth and dark, you are potent and bitchy yet seductive and irresistible
    Congratulations! You're a black velvet!

    What Drink Are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Persnickety was tequila, which would have better suited my nationality, but go figure!

    posted by Eric at 04:20 PM | Comments (1)

    Running with ZOMBIES!

    Here's InstaPundit on when the left lost their teen spirit:

    I think it happened in the 1980s, when Kitty MacKinnon and Tipper Gore decided to launch the Left's anti-sex purges. Danny Goldberg sort of agrees. He also asks the vital question: "How did we get these fucking zombies as our candidates?"
    Now that is indeed a vital question, and I think I may be able to shed a little light on it.

    This is the second time I will have posted some of Robert Williams' art (the last time being a photo from a series called "Zombie Mystery Paintings"), and I'm just tickled pink to do so.

    This one's a real gem:


    It's a scan (front and rear) of a comic book I greatly treasure, for there are very few of them around. Tipper Gore irritated Robert Williams by going ballistic over this cover he did for the rock group Guns N' Roses, and demanding that he (and Guns N' Roses) be censored.

    Actually, he was. Guns N' Roses eventually had to rerelease their album minus Williams' cover art:

    From the start, the band was drawn to controversy. The cover of Appetite for Destruction featured a graphic, sinister Robert Williams painting depicting a rape that eventually got the album banned from major retailers. Even with a new cover, however, the album stalled upon its release. It wasn’t until MTV began playing the video for “Sweet Child O’ Mine” that Guns N’ Roses exploded into the living rooms of America’s youth. “Welcome to the Jungle” and “Paradise City” shot the band to superstardom. By the summer of 1988, Gun N’ Roses ruled the roost.

    Here's some more background:

    The music business was in a bad way. It was hemorraging style so quickly that even New Country was starting to look cool.

    But, in L.A. there was a band that was about to come to the rescue. Little Billy "Axl" Rose, Slash, Duff McKagen, Steven Adler and Izzy Stradlin had taken the music business by storm. There had always been drug taking and swearing in rock music, it went with the territory, but GnR had elevated it to a new level. They cursed a blue streak in their live shows, on their "Live like a Suicide" EP and in interviews. Perennial silly bitch and God-girl Tipper Gore had, well and truly, got her panties in a bunch and was virulently peddling her outrage down South. She whipped up the Bible Belt into a such a frenzy that laws were passed requiring CDs to display the Parental Advisory stickers that we so love. Just as Mary Whitehouse had done with Alice Cooper, in the UK in 1972, Tipper rode GnR to prominence. Now call me cynical, (I'm waiting...) but she, and her idiot husband, were a hell of a lot more prominent after that fiasco, than before. Hmm, did someone see a bandwagon to jump on? (Tipper, a bandwagon-jumping whore? No, I can't accept that...)

    Well, the zombies caught up with her after Bobby Williams' wonderful comic book.

    You get zombies when you oppress artists!

    You also become a zombie when the zombies catch up with you (as poor Tipper learned).

    I can't find the quote, but years ago Hunter Thompson warned politicians never to piss off artists. (Oh, hell, this article (via Glenn Reynolds) makes the same point.)

    They never seem to learn.....

    AN ASIDE: Please bear in mind that Howard Stern was a "vocal Bush supporter" until not long ago, and they never bothered to even thank him.

    posted by Eric at 05:46 PM | TrackBacks (2)

    Carnival is up!

    That's Carnival of the Vanities #76, to be exact.

    Andrew Ian Dodge is hosting.

    Please go read them! I have been gone ALL DAY, on the road (and thus unable to link), but I shall return shortly.

    posted by Eric at 09:11 AM

    Completely unknown views from Star Trek -- and the Flood!

    Is immortality bad?

    Leon Kass's new appointee to the President's Council on Bioethics, Diana Schaub offers a few thoughts (of which I supply a couple of excerpts, but I seriously suggest reading the whole thing):

    [D]irect and general age retardation....[]... holds out the truly radical promise of combatting senescence and extending the maximum human life span now fixed at 122 years. According to the report, it's only this last approach that raises the most significant physical, social, and moral consequences. Now, the whole business is not as science-fictiony as it sounds. Age retardation is already being pursued with quite remarkable results in animals. Through genetic manipulations, researchers have achieved a sixfold increase in the life span of worms. Genetic manipulations coupled with caloric reduction have produced a 75 percent increase in the life span of mice.

    So now would be the time, before a dramatically extended human life span is on the horizon, to conduct some thought experiments aimed at ascertaining whether longer life holds promise or peril for us. The report does this by speculating about possible transformations in our outlook on life and death, our level of commitment and aspiration, and our familial and societal relations. It struck me while reading the report that science fiction has always been a good source of these sorts of thought experiments, and perhaps also that science fiction could help informing the sort of public opinion that will be necessary to stave off some of these developments.

    Dr. Schaub's "science fiction" consists of a couple of "Star Trek" television episodes ("the original series, of course, not any of the second-rate sequels"): "Miri", and "Requiem for Methusaleh."

    OK. Is that all science fiction has to offer in the way of life extenstion or immortality? Two Star Trek episodes?

    Well, so much for science fiction, I guess....

    From science fiction lessons Dr. Schaub moves to more traditional material (the Great Flood):

    My years watching Star Trek have left me receptive to the view that mortality is, if not precisely a good thing, then at least the necessary foundation of other very good things, and that there is something misguided about the attempt to overcome mortality. Still, one can’t help but wonder "what if…?" Knowing that Mr. Kass has recently published a book on Genesis, I have just one question. We are told in Genesis that the earliest generations of men, through Noah, had lifespans closer to a millenium than a century. We also know that things ended rather badly for them. While Star Trek’s "Methuselah" reforms, the Biblical Methuselah was done away with in the Flood. Would greater longevity for modern man result in the same incorrigibility? Or do we have more resources now-psychological, political, religious-for dealing with the consequences of longer life? Antediluvian man was unfamiliar with death. Perhaps our sense of mortality is sufficiently well-established to allow us to delay the actual blow. So long as we still die, and we know we still die, no matter how far in the future that date is, won’t we still have the experience the poet speaks of: "But at my back I always hear / Time’s winged chariot hurrying near"? And if so, if time still presses us, won’t the salutary human responses to death perdure? Wouldn’t even long-lived men walk the now well-worn paths of transcendence: procreation and poetry, philosophy and faith? Since the quest for immortality will never be satisfied through an ageless body, won’t human beings still seek participation in the eternal?
    I'll leave the science fiction research as well as the Biblical research to more capable bloggers than I, but I would be willing to bet that somehow, somewhere, there are brighter views of life extension to be found than in the sources cited by Dr. Schaub.

    I'll move on to the more important issue of credibility.

    Gary Farber cites an additional report that Schaub has "effusively praised Kass and his work." This intrigued me, because what started me along this vein was Kass's op-ed in the Washington Post, in which he states that Diana Schaub's "personal views on the matters to come before the council in the coming term are completely unknown."

    Um, OK.

    Ronald Bailey (at Reason) takes a very different view -- noting that Dr. Kass was sitting at the same panel when the above remarks about Star Trek and the Flood were made.

    I have no idea whether there are any previous academic connections between Drs. Kass and Schaub, but I see that Dr. Schaub received her Ph.D. from the University of Chicago:

    Dr. Schaub earned her bachelor’s degree with highest honors from Kenyon College in 1981. Her master’s degree and doctorate are from the University of Chicago. Prior to entering academe she was assistant editor of The National Interest magazine in Washington, D.C.

    She is a member of the American Political Science Association, the Society for Greek Political Thought, The Montesquieu Society, and the National Association of Scholars.

    The University of Chicago, of course is Kass's home turf. I don't know whether the two knew each other there, but as to Dr. Schaub's views being "completely unknown" to Dr. Kass, consider the following:

    In October of 2002 at the American Enterprise Institute Book Forum featuring "Human Cloning and Human Dignity," the report on human cloning by The President’s Council on Bioethics, Diana Schaub, associate professor of political science at Loyola College in Maryland and a participant in the forum made the following statement: "Cloning is an evil; and cloning for the purpose of research actually exacerbates the evil by countenancing the willful destruction of nascent human life. Moreover, it proposes doing this on a mass scale, as an institutionalized and routinized undertaking to extract medical benefits for those who have greater power. It is slavery plus abortion."

    Dr. Kass, in his remarks, made this troubling comment: "Yes, new lives would be created, and on a mass scale, purely to serve other people’s purposes. And, yes, such innocent, nascent lives would be willfully exploited and destroyed. But, I am not sufficiently confident about the ontological or moral status of a five-day-old embryo to speak in such abolitionist terms."

    Says Reason: "Such a forceful statement must have caught Kass' attention."

    Such understatement!

    It more than caught his attention; it provoked his response! Dr. Kass, after hearing the views of Dr. Schaub, publicly positioned himself as being to the "left" of her. (I use the term "left" with great caution, as I smell at least a hint of an aroma of a credibility issue....)

    (The above is taken from the Republican National Coalition for Life's website, which is against even the current moratorium on "cloning for biomedical research" as "unacceptable" because "all cloning is "reproductive" and "it must be banned.")

    ED NOTE: The web site linked in the Reason piece characterizes the Kass response as a response, and not as "remarks":

    Dr. Kass, in his response, made this troubling comment: "Yes, new lives would be created, and on a mass scale, purely to serve other people's purposes. And, yes, such innocent, nascent lives would be willfully exploited and destroyed. But, I am not sufficiently confident about the ontological or moral status of a five­day­old embryo to speak in such abolitionist terms."
    I can't account for the difference, but Kass was there, he heard Schaub, and he understood her views sufficiently to carefully craft what strikes me as a political response.

    Reason concluded that Kass

    simply cannot with a straight face make the claim, as he does in Washington Post, that the "personal views" of Schaub and Lawler are "completely unknown" to him.
    Oh yes he can! That's because Kass is one of our nation's leading advisors!

    On ethics!

    To answer the question of whether immortality is a bad thing, that might depend on what is meant by such terms as "views" and "completely unknown."

    Maybe "completely unknown" actually means that which is cleverly obfuscated (even by the obfuscator, to himself) and glossed over with reference to classical philosophers who never asked to have words put in their mouths.

    That shouldn't be too hard to do. "Especially for an ethicist."

    UPDATE: Thank you Glenn Reynolds! (Who was just kind enough to linked to my ice cream post). Earlier in the same discussion, Glenn linked to Ramesh Ponnuru, who says that the Council

    now seems likely to turn to the subjects of neuroscience and the treatment of the age.
    Is "treatment of the age" among the "matters to come before the Council"? If that means life extension, I'd say Dr. Schaub's views can hardly be called "completely unknown."

    posted by Eric at 06:24 PM | Comments (3)

    Rebooting, crashing, reinstalling

    What an analogy!

    Reboot: My father, who has worked with computers his whole life, called to wish me a happy birthday. I had just turned 36, and 36 is how old my father was when my parents, Sasha, and I emigrated from Russia to America. You're turning 36 the way people are supposed to, he told me: You're settled, established in your profession, everything's on track.

    When he was 36, he said, he was rebooting: He had to throw away everything he'd built up in Russia, and started from scratch in America. And true enough, he was as well set in Russia as most people could be; when we came here, he had to start again at minimum wage as a computer operator, taking two buses to get to work, and having to work two jobs for a while. He said this without rancor -- he's done very well for himself and his family (he and I are partners in the small software business we cofounded), and his decision to reboot has been proven sound many times over. But it was an interesting reflection on the difference between his life and mine. If only lives were as easy to reboot as computers.
    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    36 is about right for me too! My father had just died, and I decided to terminate psychotherapy which I'd been in for four years. (I started that because from 1984-1995 everybody just kept dying, and my background growing up in a medical culture hadn't raised, programmed or trained me to deal with non-wartime deaths of healthy young men; quite the opposite, in fact! Modern medicine had proved useless to stop my friends from dying. So did psychotherapy -- which also failed to stop the pain of my constant, growing, losses. AIDS was new, and everyone died -- including almost all my close friends and lovers -- all people I'd assumed would accompany me through life. Drugs and alcohol only acted as temporary anesthesia -- plus there's the impossible, unreachable tolerance: "the more you need, the more you need!")

    Rebooting didn't help much. People just kept dying.

    SO.....I rebooted again.


    Tried again.

    Crashed my whole OS.


    Then reinstalled a new OS.

    Crashed and rebooted too many times to count. Unfamiliarity with the new system made it very difficult to learn. Had to reformat too!

    Be 50 soon. The system is tougher and tougher to crash.....

    As Eugene Volokh laments, "If only lives were as easy to reboot as computers."

    To that I add, "If only they recovered as well from total crashes!"

    If only operating systems could be installed more easily, though.

    (Especially new and unproven operating systems!)

    But on a happy note, once you start seeing yourself as a machine, all this rebooting, crashing, and reinstalling gets easier and easier to do....

    I guess, "What does not destroy my hard drive makes me stronger?"

    In retrospect, its almost funny.

    (But that's gallows humor....)



    (My thanks to Steven Malcolm Anderson for encouraging such daring decisiveness!)

    posted by Eric at 12:13 AM | Comments (2)

    Burnt well done!

    The Bonfire of the Vanities is hosted this week by Heather at angelweave, and she does a really nice job!

    I have a lot of fun reading these, and I am almost tempted to comment on them all, but that would spoil the fun, and it ain't my job!

    A few of these notable posts:

    Argus offers monkey business. (In deference to Don Watkins and Frank J. I never talk about monkeys, though....)

    Harvey complains that he "often gets strange looks from people after I make... certain innuendo-laden statements." (I know how he feels. I hate strange looks -- which is why I prefer blogging!)

    Josh Cohen wants validation, and after his astute analysis of the Kerry stampede I'll validate him early and often!

    Heather, by the way, is glad I didn't call her a "Crumb girl!"

    But speaking of Crumb girls (and whatever the male equivalent of that might be called), Andrew Sullivan links to this fascinating discussion of "samish-sex marriage" (which I find a bit, um, embarrassing):

    Take, for example, K, a male friend of mine, of slight build, with a ponytail. K is married to S, a tall, stocky female with extremely short hair, almost a crewcut. Often, while watching K play with his own ponytail as S towers over him, I have wondered, Isn’t it odd that this somewhat effeminate man should be married to this somewhat masculine woman? Is K not, on some level, imperfectly expressing a slight latent desire to be married to a man? And is not S, on some level, imperfectly expressing a slight latent desire to be married to a woman?
    Sheesh! Where does it end? (There's much more, here.)

    Can't We. All. Get. Along?

    posted by Eric at 10:38 PM

    Life without due process?

    Is there life on Mars? A number of scientists say the answer is yes!

    But for reasons not clear to me, they are remaining tight-lipped:

    There is a palpable buzz here at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California that something wonderful is about to happen in the exploration of Mars.

    In a small patch of Martian soil, scientists see spheres and fragmented pebbles, sand grains and finer material, and a range of colors suggesting different compositions.

    Several images from Opportunity's microscopic camera were stitched together to reveal BB-sized spherical objects on the Martian soil.

    Opportunity made this close-up images of spherules embedded in the wall of a trench it dug with one wheel. These spheres are more reflective than those previously found on the Martian surface.

    There is no doubt that the Opportunity Mars rover is relaying a mother lode of geological data. Using an array of tools carried by the golf cart-sized robot -- from spectrometers, a rock grinder, cameras and powerful microscopic imager -- scientists are carefully piecing together a compelling historical portrait of a wet and wild world.

    Where Opportunity now roves, some scientists here suggest, could have been underneath a huge ocean or lake. But what has truly been uncovered by the robot at Meridiani Planum is under judicious and tight-lipped review.

    Those findings and their implications are headed for a major press conference, rumored to occur early next week -- but given unanimity among rover scientists and agreement on how and who should unveil the dramatic findings. Turns out, even on Mars, a political and ego outcrop hangs over science.

    A political and ego outcrop?

    Did I hear that right? What does politics have to do with such a simple question? Egos, sure. Everybody wants to be the first to say, "I FOUND IT!"

    But what are the political implications?

    I mean, I can see that in some people's minds, there might be religious implications, although even that's a stretch. The Bible does not say that there isn't life on Mars. "God created the heavens and the earth" would seem to include Mars, and the sentence, "Let there be life" in no way limits life to earth.

    Or might they think it constitutes some kind of slippery slope towards moral relativism if ordinary mortals are allowed to know that there exists life somewhere else?

    According to one scientist, Gerald Levin (who maintains that the existence of life was confirmed in the earlier probe), there is indeed a fear of acknowledging even the existence of water, much less life -- precisely because water is a slippery slope:

    Levin said that brine on Mars is a code word for liquid water. He senses that great care is being taken by rover scientists because the liquid water issue starts the road to life.

    "That's the monument that they are afraid to erect without real due process," Levin concluded.

    Perhaps we could settle this whole matter by defining life as occurring only on Earth!
    Life shall consist only of life on earth. Neither this Constitution or the constitution of any state, nor state or federal law, shall be construed to require that life or the legal incidents thereof be conferred upon life which might be discovered, or which is alleged to have been discovered, any other planet.
    That way, life on Mars would simply be unconstitutional. A nullity.

    Terraforma incognita!

    The die is Kassed?

    UPDATE: After spending an hour researching and writing the above, I now see that Glenn Reynolds reports that water has been found. I'll stay tuned for life.

    posted by Eric at 03:53 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

    Good omen!

    Robins in the 'hood!


    These guys don't mess around with the white stuff!

    They EAT it!

    posted by Eric at 02:07 PM

    Preserving and protecting classical family values....

    Back in November, I wrote a post (entitled Join the anti-anti-family family!) in which I cited the Roman definition of family as including "all members of a household: relatives, non-relatives, servants, slaves, and other employees."

    While it's nothing new, this has been confirmed again by what has been described as a "landmark analysis" based on thousands of inscriptions on Roman tombstones:

    Analysis of Roman epitaphs alters concept of 'family'

    February 11, 2004

    If ancient Romans observed Family Day, their celebrations would have included wet nurses, slaves and possibly many others who had no blood relationship, according to new University of Calgary research.

    nielsenA landmark analysis by classicist Dr. Hanne Sigismund Nielsen of more than 4,500 inscriptions on Roman tombstones shows that our concept of the Roman family needs to be broadened to include much more than just parents, grandparents and children.

    "Roman families did not at all look like our family structure today," says Nielsen, who spent more than 10 years examining the Latin inscriptions. "Quite a few family relationships existed by choice and were not at all contained in the biological family." For example, slaves were often related to their masters by choice, families frequently included foster parents or children, and wet nurses were especially honoured. (HT Justin Case, who I might start calling "Justine" if he doesn't start posting something!)

    The word "family" is a Roman one, and a very old one.

    Roman families included, but were not limited to, people related by marriage.

    Language itself is often redefined by activists for political purposes.

    At least no one is trying to redefine "family" in the Constitution!

    (That would really be THE END.)

    posted by Eric at 08:03 PM | TrackBacks (1)

    Frank's forward-thinking format

    Frank J. is angry about sneaky attempts to insert amendments into new federal gun legislation intended to stop frivolous lawsuits from shutting down the gun industry. So am I. Here's Frank:

    ....[T]he Democrats are trying to ruin a perfectly good bill stopping useless lawsuits against gun manufacturers.

    I hate Democrats!

    Anyway, there are like these people trying to sue gun manufacturers out of business, and then they'll destroy our Second Amendment rights because it doesn't matter if you have a right to guns if you can't buy any. It's just like people ruining the First Amendment by stopping the manufacture of... uh... speech.

    I previously noted that Frank J.'s blog (along with many other great blogs) is being blocked by new "content filtering" software which many public libraries have installed.

    Blogs are the essence of speech manufacturing, too!

    And if people can't read your blog, what's the point of writing it? So that only some select group of insiders can manage to open it and read it on certain unfiltered computers? What guarantee have we that the federal government (whether as part of the war to "protect the infrastructure" or if the FCC decides to "clean up the Internet" as they're busily doing with radio) will not decide that Comcast, Verizon, and other ISPs should install content filters everywhere -- in some sort of "voluntary compliance" to "avoid liability" and make everything easier?

    Wouldn't it be a safer, cleaner world?

    While I'm at it, I want to thank Frank for his very kind words about me, and for an excellent interview with G. Gordon Liddy.

    Now what I'd really like to see is Frank J. taking over the entire radio industry. The nitwits who run things there aren't creative enough to realize that guys like G. Gordon Liddy and Howard Stern (both of whom were targeted by government officials, and lost stations soon afterwards) should have their shows syndicated together. That way, the right-leaning Liddy could follow the left-leaning Stern, increasing their audiences (and generating wonderfully exciting calls) dynamically. They used to do this in the old days, when Stern and Liddy were both on at WJFK. (It was always exciting; check out the bizarre accusations of mental torture by this irate listener!)

    Well, that's just me ranting, but I still think united beats divided, and again my hat's off to Frank.

    Today the blogosphere. Tomorrow, who knows?

    FAST FORWARD (to something I never knew): Glenn Reynolds now says that he "always thought Frank J. was G. Gordon Liddy." This is one of the problems with the Blogosphere. There's really no way to know who's who. (Only Don Watkins could decipher this puzzle all the way to the the end!)

    posted by Eric at 04:09 PM | Comments (3)

    Guns, penises, and now tongues?

    The following story was sent to me in an email from Newsmax.com:

    Rolling Stone Blames Obscenity Worries on Republicans

    A Rolling Stone article entitled "Republicans Blast Bono" details the bi-partisan support of an FCC crackdown on broadcasters who allow words like f***, which the singer uttered on the 2003 Golden Globes awards show.

    Despite the magazine's headline, a few Democrats don't like the obscenity. South Carolina Democratic Senator Ernest "Fritz" Holings has teamed up with other Republicans to ask the FCC to revoke the license of television stations that broadcast repeatedly material that is indecent.

    The resolution was a response to FCC chairman Michael Powell's speech to the National Press Club attacking profane speech as abhorrent and irresponsible. Rocker Steve Earle defended Bono, saying that no one except the Christian right "gives a f***" about whether someone uses profanity over the airwaves.

    And one network spokesman, Scott Grogan, said such "unguarded moments" are exactly what makes live T.V. so exciting and "vital."

    For his part, Bono's excuse was simply that it's hard to control your tongue when you use such profanity in everyday speech. No offense.

    OK, let's assume the movement to "clean up" the airwaves is as much coming from the left as it is from the right. What the hell difference does that make?

    My objection to this "movement" is not based on whether "Bush is behind it" or whether "the Democrats" are behind it. I just don't like it, period.

    Americans -- without regard to political affiliation -- should oppose government meddling with what we want to hear. People get all exercised about such things as low-flow toilets which don't flush. Is interference with the free exercise of speech any less invasive?

    Or odious?

    If anything, the fact that the left and the right join hands in promoting a more "muscular" approach to "tongue control" only confirms what I have been saying all along about the phony choices we are offered. One side wants gun control. The other wants penis control. Now, according to Newsmax, BOTH want tongue control.

    If history shows anything, it's that tongue control can be carried too far!

    posted by Eric at 02:28 PM | Comments (3)

    Do not read this unless you have a "Kassed" iron stomach!

    During a recent visit to a brew pub, Glenn Reynolds asked a good question:

    I wonder if there were people who feared brewing technology when it was new? "They put in water and stuff, and out comes beer, which alters your consciousness. It's evil magic!"

    Actually, I'm pretty sure that there were people like that. Would Leon Kass have been one of them, had he lived back then? I'm just, you know, asking.

    While I don't know his exact position on home-brewing or beer-drinking, Leon Kass definitely hates ice cream cones, and cone-licking!
    Worst of all from this point of view are those more uncivilized forms of eating, like licking an ice cream cone --a catlike activity that has been made acceptable in informal America but that still offends those who know eating in public is offensive.

    I fear I may by this remark lose the sympathy of many reader, people who will condescendingly regard as quaint or even priggish the view that eating in the street is for dogs. Modern America's rising tide of informality has already washed out many long-standing traditions -- their reasons long before forgotten -- that served well to regulate the boundary between public and private; and in many quarters complete shamelessness is treated as proof of genuine liberation from the allegedly arbitrary constraints of manners. To cite one small example: yawning with uncovered mouth. Not just the uneducated rustic but children of the cultural elite are now regularly seen yawning openly in public (not so much brazenly or forgetfully as indifferently and "naturally"), unaware that it is an embarrassment to human self-command to be caught in the grip of involuntary bodily movements (like sneezing, belching, and hiccuping and even the involuntary bodily display of embarrassment itself, blushing). But eating on the street -- even when undertaken, say, because one is between appointments and has no other time to eat -- displays in fact precisely such lack of self-control: It beckons enslavement to the belly. Hunger must be sated now; it cannot wait. Though the walking street eater still moves in the direction of his vision, he shows himself as a being led by his appetites. Lacking utensils for cutting and lifting to mouth, he will often be seen using his teeth for tearing off chewable portions, just like any animal. Eating on the run does not even allow the human way of enjoying one's food, for it is more like simple fueling; it is hard to savor or even to know what one is eating when the main point is to hurriedly fill the belly, now running on empty. This doglike feeding, if one must engage in it, ought to be kept from public view, where, even if WE feel no shame, others are compelled to witness our shameful behavior."

    Kass, Leon: The Hungry Soul at 148-149. (University of Chicago Press, 1994, 1999)

    I think it is fair to say that if eating in public, yawning and "enslavement to the belly" are bad, then beer must be positively Satanic!

    I could be wrong, of course....

    (Readers whose appetites were whetted by the above and hunger for more might enjoy my previous post, "Quotations from Chairman Kass.")

    UPDATE: Yup, beer is definitely Satanic. Read this tidbit (via Glenn Reynolds):

    The Babylonians made sixteen kinds of beer, using everything from white and black barley to wheat and honey. Beer was extolled in the Egyptian Book of the Dead, where the varieties listed include "beer of truth" and "beer of eternity."
    Beer of eternity? I can't think of a more egregious breach of bioethics than that! (Evil magic indeed!)

    UPDATE (3-25-04): I just learned that this post was linked by Farhad Manjoo in a very scholarly analysis at Salon.com. Many thanks to Mr. Manjoo, and a warm welcome to all visitors from Salon.com.

    Readers might also enjoy this hysterically funny post by Elizabeth Riba, documenting the little-reported fact that according to Miss Manners, Dr. Kass is wrong about ice cream etiquette!

    Those with an interest in an offbeat, occultish look at Dr. Kass can read about his planets here and here.

    Finally, I have more archival posts about Dr. Kass here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here.

    Once again, welcome Salon readers!

    posted by Eric at 11:01 AM | Comments (8) | TrackBacks (1)

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