Clear mission?

There are increasing signs that Senator Kerry is starting to "get it."

Glenn Reynolds noted Kerry's statement that failure is "not an option" in Iraq.

And in a speech yesterday in Philadelphia, Kerry hinted that he might be re-thinking some of his earlier statements about Vietnam:

Thirty-five years ago, on a boat, in the Mekong Delta, I grew up with a band of brothers from all walks of life and every corner of America. We learned many things on that journey, but above all, we learned that we were never the kid from South Carolina, Iowa, Arkansas, California, or the kid from Massachusetts. Under the heat of fire and the fog of battle, our mission became crystal clear and color, religion, and background melted away to an understanding that we were all simply "Americans." All of us fighting under the same flag, praying to the same God.
When I read that, I was a bit surprised, because, while John Kerry has been quoted extensively about the Vietnam War, describing the mission as "clear" never really stood out.

Of course, the New York Times used the term "clear mission" in the context of an exit strategy in the Iraq War.

Not that there isn't a precedent for that.

It was called Vietnamization, and while the mission may have been clear enough, there were plenty of comments like this:

No one wants to be the last man to die for a mistake.
Echoes of another speech in Philadelphia, 1971?

UPDATE: While the Inquirer did a good job of reporting Kerry's speech in Philadelphia yesterday, I noticed that there was nothing about the walkout by Senators Bob Kerrey and Lee Hamilton during the 9-11 Commission's meeting with Bush and Cheney, even though Bob Kerrey was called "one of the panel's most aggressive questioners." (Note, however, that the walkout is mentioned in an Inquirer-unpublished Knight-Ridder link by the same writers.)

Of course, it wouldn't be fair to fault the Inky for parroting the New York Times.

Parrots don't always talk!

posted by Eric at 10:53 PM

Abortive thoughts on free speech

Here are some heretical thoughts which occurred to me after I heard complaints about this group bombarding female college students (who did not seek them out but wanted to use the student lounge) with gruesome images like these. (Interview with the group's leader here.)

Barring a time, place, and manner argument, I think the right to shock people with gruesome images (whether of aborted fetuses or children being skinned alive is irrelevant) is morally at least as permissible as is the right to display pornography. Legally, of course, it's more so.

But legal analysis is not my purpose here. (I'd defend the sign wavers's rights as much as I would Nazis, Communists, or Klansmen.) The placard wavers intend to shock people into thinking.

So I'm just thinking. (I have stated my views on abortion previously. Activists on both sides accuse me of being on "the other side" -- as if they assume there are only two.)

I recognize that abortion must be a very painful procedure. That if it is to be allowed at all in the second trimester, it's a shameful thing to do to a fetus, because that fetus now has a brain most likely capable of feeling pain. Therefore, the least the doctors could do would be to anesthetize the fetus. The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in Ireland is on record as recommending pre-abortion anesthesia.

But wait a minute! Isn't countenancing anesthesia an admission that the fetus feels pain? And doesn't that start us down a "slippery slope" towards condemnation of abortion?

Hey, how is that my problem? Since when did I sign an agreement either way on whether a fetus feels pain? Should politics dictate these things? I mean, if animals are anesthetized before surgery or medical experimentation, what makes a wannabe person inferior? Beats me.

In the course of researching this, I stumbled onto something else which I don't think too many people have thought about: the pain of birth.

Further, studies have found that in the early stages of labor, healthy in utero fetuses will often respond with FHR changes or movement of some kind in response to various noises and sounds produced outside the intra-uterine environment. But as the labor continues, this reaction will cease. While some have described this as an instance of fetal habituation, others state that it is rather the distraction of the overwhelming fetal pain associated with labor.
Overwhelming fetal pain? During birth? Why aren't we taught about that? The pain of the mother is now medicated almost as a matter of routine, but what about the baby?

These days, they're starting to require anesthesia for circumcision, which occurs soon after birth. What's so special about the baby's pain after labor which isn't so special before?

Or are we still clinging to the ancient idea that pain builds character? Before readers laugh, I would remind them that during the Victorian era, when anesthesia was first coming into use, some doctors refused to countenance it, based on the sincere belief that it would harm their patients' character.

Is it heresy to ask whether the pain to the fetus of full-term labor is worse than the pain of abortion? I think it's a logical question, and I have to thank the Center for Bio-Ethical Reform.

They have failed, however, to persuade me a fertilized ovum is a human being. And I think their inflammatory approach, while constitutionally protected, is creating lifelong animosity towards their cause. The young women who had no choice but to view the huge placards (and read the signs claiming "genocide" and likening women who've had abortions to Adolf Hitler) are merely becoming desensitized. And angry at those trying to manipulate them.

I found myself thinking about these things when I read this news report about the peculiarly large numbers of college age women in Washington last week:

More college-age women showed up than usually attend abortion-rights rallies, which tend to be dominated by older women. If that translates into increased voting in November by young women - a group that usually does not vote in high numbers - it could help Democrats in a close election.

The people who complained about the placard wavers are not political activists in the least. I know them. They were really fried that people who are unable to distinguish between a knocked up teenager and Adolf Hitler were waving these images at them.

It's a free country, and I support free speech as much as anyone else. But illogical assaults on the senses are not the best way to win converts to your cause.

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

Nothing unites like Barbie, Kirune-ra, and Clarissa!

It's Friday, and I found some tests, even though the Quizilla site is under construction.

The first one -- "If You Were A Barbie, Which Messed Up Version Would You Be?" --is definitely in the top ten of the most idiotic tests I've featured here, but I guess idiocy as one way of taking one's mind off one's problems.

Barbie Got Back
Barbie Got Back! Go you! You're the closest thing
ever to a true black Barbie. Shake that fat
ass of yours.

If You Were A Barbie, Which Messed Up Version Would You Be?
brought to you by Quizilla


The next thing I discovered was that my inner Barbie is addicted to clean and sober living!

You're addicted to.....

Your addicted to nothing at all? Well..... ok I
guess thats a good thing but come on just think
of the possibilities!

What are you addicted to? (pics!)
brought to you by Quizilla

Well, it's either clean living or abject nihilism, but it strikes me that there's a fine line between being addicted to nothing and having nothing to live for.


Is nothingness a unifying world theory?

Maybe so; the next test shows I desire Unity.

(Jeez, I hope it's not that Unity!)

Unity. You Turly Desire Unity. You wish that the
world was together as one, and world peace was
among us. You enjoy sitting in natures peaceful
spots to get away from war and hate.


What Do You Truly Desire? *PICS*
brought to you by Quizilla


Next test, well, I don't have any idea what it was about, but I took it anyway.

Ice makes me melt or something.....

Kirune-ra feels much more strongly about you than
he ever did before. Driven by his dedication to
protect you, he will always be by your side,
even in death :X

would an angel, demon, or pure evil fall for you 9 (new pics)
brought to you by Quizilla


The last test -- "Which old school Nickelodeon show are you?" -- once again subjected me to ridicule! I will have my readers know that I am not a rad chick with no fashion sense!

You are CLARISSA EXPLAINS IT ALL. She is a rad
chick with absolutely no fashion sense. If you
are a guy and chose this... you are gay.

Which old school Nickelodeon show are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

I protest! Too much!

posted by Eric at 04:41 PM | Comments (2)

Not worth publishing?

A columnist for a student newspaper has (apparently) apologized to the family of Pat Tillman for his Ted-Rall-like remarks:

Rene Gonzalez had written a column for the campus paper saying the football player-turned-soldier who died in combat in Afghanistan wasn't a hero -- but a "G.I. Joe guy who got what was coming to him."

Gonzalez said in an e-mail to a Boston TV station that he was trying to say Tillman's celebrity had factored into his being labeled a hero.

He admits he tried to prove his point in an "insensitive way" and that the article wasn't worth publishing.

Wasn't worth publishing? That's a hell of a thing for any writer to be forced to admit!

While the "got what was coming to him" remark was standard leftist fare, the "wasn't worth publishing" remark reminds me of how Kos attempted to trivialize similar remarks. ("....wrote in some diary comments somewhere....")

The difference is that there wasn't any college president to make Kos apologize.

UPDATE: Just found out the writer is looking for love. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Rene calls himself a "courageous leftist" and calls the American government "fascistic and Hitlerian." He was born on the Fourth of July, is 4'8" tall, and says things like

My tongue is my sword.

No Jewesses please.

You think I'm making this up? Go take a look, although you might have to click to enlarge the image.

This absolutely cannot be satire, of course....

UPDATE: Here's the entire text that Gonzalez claims wasn't worth publishing. He makes it quite clear who's side he's on:

Their resistance is more legitimate than our invasion, regardless of the fact that our social values are probably more enlightened than theirs. For that, [Tillman] shouldn't be hailed as a hero, he should be used as a poster boy for the dangerous consequences of too much "America is #1," frat boy, propaganda bull.

....He did die in vain, because in the years to come, we will realize the irrationality of the War on Terror and the American reaction to Sept. 11....

It strikes me that anyone feeling strongly enough to write and publish something like that must have believed it was worth publishing.

MORE: Here's a real picture of Rene for anyone who might be interested....

Found the picture here.....

And confirmed it via Amazon.

>>>Better hurry, because Rene might decide the picture wasn't worth publishing! (Don't know about the Amazon reviews.)

UPDATE: A commenter just informed me the MarKamusic website has been altered since I posted the link. (While I can't blame them, here's the cached version of the above website.)

Why, they even took down the group photo!

MORE AND WORSE (4-3-04): Funny thing that I'd call Rene Gonzalez's remarks Ted Rall-like. It only took a couple of days for Rall to produce a cartoon mocking Tillman as a bigot, a cog, an idiot, and a sap. (Via Drudge, whose dry reporting was outdone by Michelle.)

Will Rall apologize?

YET MORE: Sheesh! From Glenn Reynolds, I just learned that MSNBC took down the Rall cartoon I linked above. It was there when I linked it, and frankly I am getting a little fatigued by now-you-see-it-now-you-don't tactics, but I guess that's the nature of the Internet. I never know what to expect. Anyway, here, via InstaPundit, is the image from Michelle, and here's the screenshot saved by Fred Schoenman.

What's with this "NEXT CARTOON PLEASE!" business, anyway? I doubt it's Rall's way of apologizing, and I wonder if he's even being asked not to do it again.

posted by Eric at 12:01 PM | Comments (3)


Dick Morris on UNSCAM:

At the start of the Oil-for-Food program, America and Britain proposed that the money flow only to accounts entirely controlled by the United Nations. Soon this standard was lowered to include accounts not actually controlled by the United Nations, but only monitored by it.

Then-Sen. Frank Murkowski, R-Alaska, warned that "oil is fungible" and noted that once Iraq was allowed to pump and sell it, Saddam could sell all he wanted outside of officially sanctioned channels and nobody could tell which black liquid was legal and which not. But nobody imagined that there were actual bribes going to specific French, Russian and UN officials as part of the program.

Now it appears that Secretary-General Kofi Annan's sanctimonious posturing may have concealed oil bribes which reached high up in the ranks of the UN organization itself.

The defect of international coalitions is that they include the just and the unjust, the bribed and the honest, the democratic and the autocratic. And their members cannot be trusted equally. The group that stood up and backed the invasion of Iraq was nicknamed "the Coalition of the Willing." Now it appears it was also "the Coalition of the Honest."

Gives the lie to the old slogan "NO BLOOD FOR OIL," I think.

Peace can be made very profitable.

Here's Kofi Annan on Saddam Hussein, 1998:

a man I can do business with....

And how!

posted by Eric at 01:20 AM | Comments (1)


Moblogging from special occasion dinner (at restaurant next to X-rated bookstore!) Tough to write here; hopefully more later.

Don't know whether this will post....

UPDATE: Would I lie?


posted by Eric at 07:52 PM | TrackBacks (1)

Steal my face!

After Susie saw my last post (in which I mentioned the Flea's "glimpse of self"), Susie put me to shame by running the test on herself (she's Juliette Binoche and Judy Garland).

This, of course, put the onus on me to see what who I look like. Being a naturally distrustful person, I thought I would sponsor an age progression on myself, so I ran the test twice, first with this picture of me taken in the early 1980s.


Early 80s result:

Pavel Bure, Gary Oldman, Freddie Mercury

Next I uploaded a recent picture of me:


Recent photo result:

Samuel L. Jackson, Tim Robbins, Pavel Bure

Samuel L. Jackson? Um, I think that anyone who would confuse me with Samuel L. Jackson should not be allowed to drive a car, and probably wouldn't be safe walking the streets. (Tim Robbins, however -- there's yet another similarity between me and the Flea!)

Pavel Bure intrigues me because it's a double hit -- on pictures twenty years apart. That has to reveal something.

I'm afraid to ask about this Pavel Bure's background, but I guess I have no choice since he's running around impersonating me.

Anyway, there's at least one book written about him. He's a Russian and a recluse and a Right Wing.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear right now: I AM NOT A RUSSIAN!

It's hard to tell whether I have a strong facial resemblance to Bure, but I don't think I'll be mistaken for him, nor him for me, so I am not worried.

Glad that ordeal is over!

posted by Eric at 01:09 AM | Comments (5)

Burn while you learn!

Everyone, please take a moment to do two things.

Peruse the 84th Carnival of the Vanities, hosted by Trudy W. Schuett at WOLves. And don't miss the 43rd Bonfire of the Vanities, hosted by On the Fritz.

I'll highlight some of my favorites, starting with the Bonfire.

  • Incredible as it sounds, the Gleeful Extremist was actually banned from a discussion group, because (get this!) "I called people who were siphoning millions off of the food-for-oil program 'Saddam supporters.'" Every blogger worth his salarium should try to get banned somewhere. (So far, I have only managed to get myself blocked by SONICwall....)
  • I knew I'd seen Susie's post somewhere and thought I'd left a comment by now but I can't remember. I really should have written it down, because I've lost the mental notes I must have made.....
  • The esteemed Ghost of a flea has finally shown us a glimpse of self -- a sort of mutation of Tim Robbins, Clint Eastwood and Scott Baio. (Nicholas is half-looking out through rose-colored glasses, so I am not sure he is being completely serious, but with such an enigmatic mystery man, you can never be sure....)
  • And Fritz, of course, has outdone everyone by dousing the flames he started with his nostalgic urinalysis.
  • _______________________________

    Now for some tidbits from the Carnival.

  • If you like Earth Day you'll love this post from Alan K. Henderson.

  • Solomonia looks at Bush's position on Sharon's latest plan, and has some fascinating conclusions which probably should be classified, but there they are for the world to read. ("George Bush has become adept, in true classical Liberal fashion, at shaking up the pot and edging people out of their comfortable positions. That's why the Europeans hate him, and we right thinking folk, who understand the old ways are accomplishing him.")

  • The noxious and slippery concept of race is taken to task by Parablemania, a blogger after my heart who goes after definitionitis with a vengeance! He starts with race, then moves onto "life," "person," and offers some valuable philosophical insights worth an entire post -- so go read it!
  • Dissecting Leftism tackles age, iconoclasm and moral imbecility with equal adroitness.
  • Speaking of moral imbecility, Greenie Watch posts about the latest Greenie fad: babies without diapers (read "virtue in having babies shit all over the place!")
  • Finally, I enjoyed reading Da Goddess's report that the Spirit of America has raised $26,000.
  • So I'll end by repeating what I said before....

    Please GIVE!

    posted by Eric at 11:53 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)

    Long term thinking

    Three stories -- all of which I found at InstaPundit -- have me thinking.

    According to Kenneth Timmerman, WMDs have been found by the U.S. military, but the U.N. jumps through hoops to declare otherwise. (Via Glenn Reynolds.) There's a lot of evidence, and I am surprised it isn't getting more coverage. Surely the U.N. doesn't have that kind of power?

    Then there's this (Via Jeff Jarvis):

    When I heard about the decision of the coalition to get UN involved the in the process of authority handover, I grew really restless, and what made me more worried is that ‘all parts’ seem to agree on this; the coalition, the UN the GC and the whole world. Now wait a minute! Is that the same useless, half corrupted organization that supported Saddam, and still support his likes in the name of preserving the international wall? Is that the same organization that left Iraq and the Iraqi people after the 1st terrorist attack? I hope they are speaking of something other than that. Some people would say that this is what the Iraqi people want, but this (if it’s ever true) is not the question....

    [T]here’s no possible way, with all this violence going, that the Iraqis can voice their real demands, or that significantly valid polls can be performed....
    It’s my right and my duty as an Iraqi citizen and a human being to speak out and say that what Iraq needs is a firm alliance with the USA and the rest of the coalition, because these are the governments that have real interest in establishing a true democracy in Iraq and these are the people that I trust most. As for the UN, it can play a role in organizing humanitarian aids and can also play a minor role in the political future of Iraq.
    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Considering the damning evidence showing the U.N. to be hopelessly corrupted by (and in the pay of) Saddam Hussein, is it too much to ask whether or not there might be a conflict of interest vis-a-vis the arms inspectors?

    If WMDs have been found and that has been covered up by corrupt U.N. inspectors, the biggest question on my mind is: why isn't the White House telling the world?

    After reading this analysis from Daniel Drezner (via Glenn Reynolds), I am tempted to conclude that there's no hurry.

    UPDATE: Here's Senator Kerry in an interview with Chris Matthews on the WMD issue:

    .... Look, I want to make it clear: Who knows if a month from now, you find some weapons. You may. But you certainly didn't find them where they said they were, and you certainly didn't find them in the quantities that they said they were. And they weren't found, and I have talked to some soldiers who have come back who trained against the potential of artillery delivery, because artillery was the way they had previously delivered and it was the only way they knew they could deliver. Now we found nothing that is evidence of that kind of delivery, so the fact is that as you peel it away I think it comes down to this larger ideological and neocon concept of fundamental change in the region and who knows whether there are other motives with respect to Saddam Hussein, but they did it because they thought they could, and because they misjudged exactly what the reaction would be and what they could get away with.
    I'm having a bit of trouble; I think I'll run the translation machine on that one.


    Well, here's what I got:

    Ciotola of qu'ils the groups of l'issue to look like absents distant, when of the mass of the destruction and -- we can still do it, Chris that we find. It concerns itself, I I would wish to indicate
    obvious: Who knows, if a month of inside then d'ora, found some groups. They can. But certain ritrovamento of didn't, where they had said that they were and you certain age didn't that in the amounts of qu'ils it meant the ritrovamento of qu'ils. And weren't that had found and j'ai, that one with some soldiers, that had emitted shutdowns the other way around, s'est would use them to satisfy to the improvements with the delivery d artillery, was this because l artillery he was the direction, had it, before the one of and c'était provided, that qu'elles of l'unico knew the direction that qu'elles he could provide. Hour we found n'avons of all, of that one the test of that one is that he is pleasant with the delivery, later is made to this, because l'épluchez, absent distant, of that the task, GONE, greater he stops low to the this ideological and the concept of neocon basic change of the scale and sapete, s'il d'autres of the reasons of such way how much Saddam Hussein has here, but the given form qu'elles of the thought of parce l'ont qu'elles could and méjugé of parce qu'elles exactly that would be the reaction and with this qu'elles could go.
    (Originating link via Glenn Reynolds, who also notes that Frank J. has offered to help Senator Kerry.)

    posted by Eric at 03:31 PM

    A U.N. story at last -- in the Inky!

    I can't believe it, but my newspaper, the Philadelphia Inquirer, has finally mentioned the United Nations!

    Kerry speech to spell out foreign policy

    By James Kuhnhenn

    Inquirer Washington Bureau

    WASHINGTON - With Sen. John Kerry and President Bush sounding similar in their prescriptions for stability in Iraq, Kerry this week plans to call for a more defined U.N. role in the country and greater participation from Security Council members such as France and Germany, aides said yesterday.

    ...Kerry is expected to reiterate the formulation he has spelled out for Iraq before, including the need for greater U.N. participation.

    Kerry has said he would seek a Security Council resolution to hand over nation-building duties to the United Nations under a U.N. "high commissioner."

    Here here!

    Fortunately for Kerry, Philadelphia voters who get their news from the Inquirer are unaware of the UNSCAM scandal, unaware that Saddam Hussein's corrupt money was not only funding the UN for years, but funding terrorism. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Kerry's plan for greater UN participation is therefore a very good thing, and it must be reported!

    Also reported on the same page was this story questioning Bush's service in the National Guard, which mentioned -- barely -- the Kerry medal flap:

    White House spokesman Scott McClellan said Kerry had a "commendable record of service in the military" that no one was questioning, but the spokesman did not condemn criticism by Bush adviser Karen Hughes, who said Kerry misled Americans by "pretending" to throw his medals away when he returned from Vietnam.
    So now it's about Karen Hughes accusing Kerry of "pretending"? This is a far cry from what was reported in many other newspapers yesterday, but I guess a misleading story is better than no acknowledgement that there is a story.

    posted by Eric at 10:06 AM | Comments (1)

    A vote against the Culture War

    There was an election today, and I voted. Big deal.

    Moderate Pennsylvania Republican Senator Arlen Specter faced a tough challenge from Pat Toomey, and I voted for Specter. (Luckily for me, I switched from Democrat to Republican last year so I can vote in the primary.)

    This is not to say that I think Specter is innocent of some of the various charges against him. Conservatives call him a "RINO" and on some of the economic issues they have a point. But the thing that motivated me to support Specter is something I have discussed before in this blog, and that is the sour-grapes nature of this campaign, which focuses mostly on social issues. (I say "sour grapes" because Toomey's supporters don't seem to care that if Toomey wins the primary, the Democrats will have a much better chance of taking the seat.)

    Normally, business-as-usual, finger-to-the-wind guys like Specter bore me. But my interest in this campaign was generated largely by the other side -- people who want to inject the Culture War into everything.

    Dr. James Dobson campaigned hard for Toomey, and wrote a letter explaining why. The sneaky Federal Marriage Amendment is at the heart of it.

    Here's a Toomey dig at Specter for being in the grip of the "Homosexual Lobby." (Google cache here.) The Toomey campaign accuses Specter of daring to show sympathy to a gay teen suicide by attending a screening of the film "Jim in Bold." The film, claims the Toomey site, "demonizes" "those opposed to the homosexual agenda."

    I have not seen the film, but according to Bill and Kent's blog, among the "demonized" were Jim's fellow schoolmates "who had pulled him out of the shower and peed on him." Fred Phelps' God Hates Fags group now wants to place -- in the hometown of Jim's family -- a hateful monument stating that Jim defied God's law and is in Hell. Great folks, these people who scream they're being demonized for being "opposed to the homosexual agenda."

    I better stop knocking Phelps and the thugs who beat and urinated on Jim, or else Toomey's supporters will say I too am engaging in "demonization."

    Not to be outdone, Ann Coulter issued a broadside against Specter, blaming him for nearly everything she hates:

    Thanks to Arlen Specter:

    * States can't prohibit partial-birth abortion;
    * Voluntary prayer is banned at high-school football games;
    * Flag-burning is a constitutional right;
    * The government is allowed to engage in race discrimination in college admissions;
    * The nation has been forced into a public debate about gay marriage;
    * We have to worry about whether the Supreme Court will allow "under God" to be removed from the Pledge of Allegiance.

    I find myself wondering whether Specter was responsible for all those things. (Maybe he too is a "traitor" to the United States?)

    Coulter concludes:

    Some Republicans seem to imagine that Specter has a better chance of winning the general election by appealing to Democrats – and thereby helping Bush – than Pat Toomey does. This is absurd. Just because Republicans hate Specter doesn't mean Democrats like him. It's no wonder Pennsylvania often votes Democratic. If Arlen Specter represented the Republican Party, I'd be a Democrat, too.
    Well, I guess I should say that while I don't agree with Specter all the time, I agree with Toomey even less of the time. I have drifted from party to party because I can't stand moral ideologues.

    Toomey speaks for the moral ideologues who espouse vintage Culture War moral conservatism, and who want to "purify" the Republican Party to silence those who refuse to kowtow to their idea of a party line.

    In my vote, I don't consider myself to have really voted for Specter, so much as against Culture War vitriol.

    A libertarian Specter is not. But libertarians are increasingly unwelcome in the Republican Party because of the same ideologues (to say nothing of out-and-out bigots) who support guys like Toomey.

    If the ideologues get their way, I guess I can always go back to being a Democrat.

    Either way, I'll still feel politically homeless.

    I don't know who won; I just hope it wasn't Toomey.

    MIDNIGHT UPDATE: As of midnight tonight, the results from Harrisburg show a fifty-fifty split, as follows:

  • 89% of the votes counted

  • Arlen Specter 434,000

  • Pat Toomey 426,000
  • It looks like Toomey will take it, because Specter had a wider lead earlier (53% to 47%), and the remaining votes are in outlying rural areas.

    Hey, this is a democracy.

    Democrat Jim Hoeffel, a moderate who used to be my congressman, was unopposed in the Democratic primary, which means he saved his strength -- and more importantly, his money.

    I wonder whether anyone is planning to form a "Republicans for Hoeffel" group....

    God I hate politics.

    And more than ever do I hate the Culture War.

    (More later -- on my "dissent into madness.")

    UPDATE: For some perspective on these numbers, bear in mind that Pennsylvania had (in 1996) roughly 9 million registered voters, out of which some 4.5 million voted.

    How do those 4 million feel about the ideologues who harp about the "RINO" label?

    While I can only speak for myself, I am sick to death of them. And their labels.

    FINAL UPDATE: Specter finally won, 51% to 49%. Does that mean the Culture War is over? Or is it too early to break out the canned wine?

    REALLY AND TRULY FINAL UPDATE: Dave Tepper weighs in on the side of Specter, in post titled "Why I Haven't Yet Given Up On Republicans":

    As long as people like Specter are in the GOP, I'll have faith that the party can regain its bearings eventually.

    (Actually, I'd love to see them take back the "liberal" label, as in "classical liberal". Sadly, they're a long way from that, but a boy can dream.)

    A boy can dream? Actually, I met Specter when I was a boy, and I have always liked him. While I don't agree with his economic philosophy, he's good enough on the gun issue to have earned the NRA's endorsement, and he doesn't waste his time judging people on the basis of what they do with their genitalia. Simple, common-sense respect for other people's privacy was what the Republican Party once stood for. Increasingly, the party has been taken over by people who believe "privacy" is a dirty word, and that the sexuality -- even spirituality -- of other people is their business.

    Most Americans disagree with such thinking. Apparently, most Republicans do too in Pennsylvania -- even in a low-turnout primary election expected to favor activist ideologues.

    Maybe there is hope.

    posted by Eric at 09:04 PM | Comments (8)

    Kerry's doing fine in the backwater provinces....

    Is Kerry finished as a serious candidate?

    The question beginning to be asked by a growing number of bloggers.

    Most of the mainstream media are taking Kerry's medal-toss contradictions pretty seriously too. Certainly, there has been no dearth of reporting nationwide since it sank in what an utter fool Kerry made of himself on yesterday's Good Morning America Show.

    Here are a few examples:

  • Today's New York Post.
  • Today's Boston Globe.
  • The New York Times discussed the medal-toss story, if slanted to favor Kerry's side of the story. (Nothing about his contradictory statements.)
  • Even the San Francisco Chronicle reported the story.
  • And, as Roger L. Simon notes, the far-right Village Voice is sounding the DUMP KERRY alarm. may be only a matter of time until political insiders in Washington face the dread reality that the junior senator from Massachusetts doesn't have what it takes to win and has got to go.
  • Pretty important news, I'd say.

    But here in backwater Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, where our newspaper pontificates about "the importance of an informed electorate in a democracy," there's not one word about the medal-tossing controversy and the serious damage Senator Kerry did to his credibility.

    I'm not saying it was the story of the year. But I think it's fair to at least call it the story of the day.

    Not in Philadelphia. Here it's not a story at all.

    Instead, if you read today's paper, you'd think that Dick Cheney's the one in trouble. From today's front page story:

    "It has been my view that Cheney adds nothing to the Bush ticket this time around," said Mickey Carroll, the director of the nonpartisan Quinnipiac University Polling Institute in Hamden, Conn. "He's a target for all sorts of criticism."

    Democrats have other reasons to go after Cheney: Vice presidents typically are assigned the attack-dog role in presidential campaigns, but Cheney is particularly adept at it. Jano Cabrera, a Democratic Party spokesman, said the planned attacks on Cheney were intended to send a message that Democrats would "fight fire with fire."

    Yesterday, the vice president ridiculed Kerry for once saying that foreign leaders want Bush to lose the November election. The Massachusetts senator has declined to name any of the foreign leaders who have expressed that sentiment, but when pressed on it recently, he noted that it was possible to encounter foreign leaders in New York restaurants.

    "Maybe next time he'll narrow it down for us a little more. Maybe the name of the restaurant, or the leader," Cheney said to laughter from his audience at Westminster College in Fulton, Mo. He also criticized Kerry for opposing at least 10 major weapons systems in the mid-1980s when the Cold War still prevailed, as well as "weapons systems vital to fighting and winning the war on terror."

    Democrats responded to the Cheney attacks by producing a list of weapons the vice president opposed in the past.

    Democratic Party chairman Terry McAuliffe also questioned Cheney's standing to criticize Kerry.

    "When John Kerry was risking his life for his country in Vietnam, Dick Cheney was getting deferments because, in his words, he had 'other priorities than military service.' And he feels qualified to tell us that John Kerry won't do whatever it takes to defend America?" McAuliffe told Democratic activists in a speech at the party's Washington headquarters. "He's the last guy who should be lecturing John Kerry about how to defend America and keep the faith with those who wear the uniform."

    Until Kerry picks a running mate, McAuliffe, among others, is being asked to play the surrogate role that Cheney is fulfilling for Bush.

    You can read the whole thing, and you can go over today's entire paper with a magnifying glass, but you won't find anything about the medals. [Er, I guess if you had half a brain, you might wonder precisely why the Democrats are going on the offensive....]

    Yet if you go to the Inquirer web site, they link to the story.

    Any bets on whether it will be in tomorrow's Inquirer? Wanna lose some money?

    After the complete refusal of the Inquirer to cover the UNSCAM story, I suppose I should just write this newspaper off as a lost cause. But what pisses me of is that it's the only major news source for people who have to live in this area. I know that Philadelphia isn't as cosmopolitan as New York, as important as Washington, as glamorous as Los Angeles, but having a hack newspaper keeping the "little people" in the dark doesn't help.

    I find myself wondering whether the regional newspapers in other areas are giving important stories the same treatment.

    Biased news is one thing. But the worst kind of bias is simply not telling people what's happening. Shame on the Inquirer.

    But if this is a pattern, I would say Kerry will ride out the medal-throwing controversy, and more, in pretty good shape.

    I mean if it isn't in the paper, obviously it did not happen! Cheney is finished. Not Kerry.

    Ignorance is bliss.

    posted by Eric at 10:01 AM | Comments (3)

    Stolen hopes for hate speech?

    Colby Cosh has just alerted me to a novel defense to a theft charge:

    blatant theft can be an otherwise honest person's response to extreme stress
    I did not know this. On reflection, I don't think it should be a defense (although if true, I suppose it might mitigate sentencing).

    The accused thief is Svend Robinson, a primary backer of Bill C-250 (which I have discussed before -- recently, and back in September).

    There's more:

    Can the socialist poster boy bounce back? He faces a hard truth: People don't like thieves. He has always had strong support from gays and lesbians, Israel-haters, radical greens and others who have had his help in promoting pet causes. He also enjoys a certain trans-political cachet among those who admire his guts. But he has many enemies in his own party, and probably he has now alienated nearly everyone who has ever owned or managed a business or been a victim of larceny. Most of us know how crummy it feels to be ripped off. It leaves behind a proverbial, and justified, stamp of outrage. ("A conservative is a liberal who's been mugged," the old saying goes.)

    Mr. Robinson's moment of madness jeopardizes what was to be his latest legislative legacy, and what still may end up being his last: Bill C-250, now awaiting third reading in the Senate, which would amend the Criminal Code to forbid the promotion of hatred on the basis of sexual orientation. Church groups say that such an amendment would criminalize traditionalist religious discourse and even the scriptures of some faiths, including the Old Testament. Proponents of Mr. Robinson's bill deny it, noting that the relevant section of the Code already contains a "good faith" defence for religious speech.

    This is, of course, tommyrot. Canadian courts and human rights tribunals have shown small shame about disregarding statutory and common-law defences when it comes to hate law -- even the defence of truth. Moreover, anyone who has tried to import mildly controversial literary or cinematic material, and been baffled by customs agents' interpretations of hate and obscenity law, knows that even what the courts say doesn't matter much. When it comes to books, records and movies from abroad, what you're allowed to see is determined by donut-stuffed power-trippers possessing the collective mental subtlety of an Irish wolfhound. If C-250 passes, we are sure to see some religious literature in English detained or rejected at the border arbitrarily.

    (I don't doubt it; in a land where Howard Stern is legally considered hate speech, can the Bible be far behind?)

    Here's Mr. Robinson's rather self-serving online statement.

    I don't enjoy seeing people get in trouble or kicking them when they are down, as I've been there myself. But the fact is, in politics such things are jumped on by political opponents, and this guy has been a staunch advocate of criminalizing more hate speech. Unless he steps down, he's discrediting his rather questionable cause.

    I'm not sympathetic to hate speech legislation, and I am glad we don't have it in this country. But if Robinson really believes in his cause, he should have the wisdom to distance himself from it by resigning ASAP.

    What did he steal? A $10,000 ring for his Cuban boyfriend? Must have been under a lot of stress to go that far....

    Meanwhile, Colby, no fan of C-250, is hoping he'll steal again.

    posted by Eric at 01:48 AM | Comments (1)

    This attack dog likes chomping on mystery left legs!

    This is very annoying:

    "It's time for Dick Cheney to call off the Republican attack dogs. The American people have better things to do with their time than listen to more misleading attacks from a man who has been misleading them from the day he took office," McAuliffe said. (Via Travelling Shoes.)
    OK, for the sake of argument, let us suppose the American people have better things to do than listen to Dick Cheney's criticisms of Kerry.

    Does that mean that anyone who asks legitimate questions about Kerry's medal-tossing is one of Cheney's attack dogs? Even ABC Good Morning America's Charlie Gibson -- a man Aubrey Turner has called a "socialist scumbag"?

    How did Gibson become one of Cheney's attack dogs?

    What really caught my attention though, was that just as the big media and the blogosphere were abuzz over the numerous contradictions in the medal-tossing extravaganza, Kerry suddenly started talking about shrapnel in his left leg. There's no reason to doubt this claim, or in any way belittle his proven courage under fire in Vietnam. But the timing.... Why is it that right now we're suddenly hearing about shrapnel in the leg? Unless his campaign is urging him to hold back, this would be the kind of thing he'd be expected to brag about. Often.

    If there is a strategy of holding back the best for later, I wonder what goodies we'll hear as we get closer to November. There was that shoulder surgery not long ago; why aren't the paranoid conspiracy theorists speculating about what might have been removed? Or added?

    (Don't look at me; I'm shouldering enough responsibility without biting off more than I can chew....)

    Speaking of mystery legs, here's more on the mystery leg that had me up in arms recently.

    Jordan conceded under defense questioning that someone else may have been killed because one left leg could not be matched with any of the 168 known bombing fatalities.

    "That's possible," Jordan testified. "This is a mystery to which I don't have the answer."

    Nichols, 49, contends executed bomber Timothy McVeigh had help from others -- not him. His attorneys may suggest during closing arguments the unmatched leg is all that is left of McVeigh's true accomplice.

    Jordan testified his "gut feeling" was that medical examiners made a mistake and the leg belonged to a known victim. He told jurors, though, he and other experts studied X-rays and other evidence and couldn't figure out any mistake.

    He said anthropologists concluded the shaven left leg likely belonged to a woman of mixed race who was 5 feet 4 inches to 5 feet 6 inches tall. Prosecutors suggested Friday the leg could have belonged to a homeless person.

    Outside the courthouse, Jordan told reporters: "I've always thought this had to be a mistake on our part. ... There were a lot of missing parts. ... But we have looked and looked and looked. Other pathologists have looked. Other anthropologists have looked. And we can't find it. ... Could it be another individual? I have to say, 'Could be. I don't know.' ... I do not know whose leg it is. That's the bottom line."

    Leg had been placed in coffin The mystery leg had been mistakenly placed in the coffin of Tinker Airman 1st Class Lakesha Levy, who was killed while visiting the Social Security office.

    Officials discovered the mistake when they identified a left leg found in the rubble on May 30, 1995, as Levy's leg. Officials made that identification from a footprint on Levy's birth records.

    The mystery leg was studied after Levy's casket was removed in 1996 from an above- ground crypt in New Orleans.

    (Readers who insist on reading the entire story but have problems logging in can get help here.)

    I am simply not buying the story that a team of pathologists is unable to determine the sex of that leg. Identification of Y chromosomal DNA will determine the sex -- even of skeletal remains.

    The fact that the left leg was shaved reveals there was plenty of flesh available for testing. Why hasn't that been done?

    Does a shaven leg necessarily prove that the leg came from a woman?

    I don't think so, because men shave their legs too!

    Lest readers think I'm referring to drag queens, this report shows that there can be other reasons why a man might shave his legs:

    investigators searching the luggage of suspected hijacker Mohamed Atta had found what appeared to be instructions for the suicide hijackers. Excerpts released by the Justice Department included this instruction: "The previous night, shave the extra hair from the body [and] pray."
    Either way, though, it sounds like a drag.

    posted by Eric at 09:07 PM | Comments (2)

    An explosive must-read!

    All new readers should know that Jeff Soyer, blogger extraordinaire, happens to be my blogfather. Jeff is the author of two blogs, his own blog Alphecca, and Tarazet, a new blog he recently started for pets and pet related issues.

    Jeff's Weekly Check On The Bias is a must-read for all aspirants to blog literacy. Not only that, it's a major service to the Second Amendment, as Jeff is a media watchdog on the gun issue, and he does it all on his own.

    And he does it in style! Here's Jeff making an explosive analogy:

    [T]he definition of "assault weapons" is totally based on cosmetics. Does the firearm have a pistol grip? What is the magazine capacity? In fact, what the legislation really does is just prohibit a gun from looking scary! My Ruger P-95 operates exactly the same as a TEC-9 but it's not on the list because it doesn't include the "appearence" features that the AWB sponsors were trying to ban with this feel-good law.

    And by the way, Mr. Spencer, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were planning, originally, to blow the school apart with propane tanks. Should we be banning "assault barbecue gas-grills"?

    I doubt I'll find such sentiments expressed in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

    Be sure to read Jeff's weekly report today.

    And while you're at it, hit his tip jar.

    Believe me, it's a good cause.

    posted by Eric at 06:57 PM

    Achtung! Amerikaner DVD Verboten!

    As I marvel over how much Linux has improved over the years, I still find myself appalled by what seems to be a genuine conspiracy against this rather excellent operating system.

    Take Fritz Hollings' bill. Please. This could be interpreted as prohibiting Linux operating systems because someone might use them to copy DVDs:

    The Hollings bill's vague language makes it difficult to predict specifically how any new legislation would affect open-source software. Even so, the fears of the movement's junkies reflect more than paranoia. Just look at the controversy surrounding the encryption that's already embedded in DVD players. Six years after DVD players were introduced, no legal, "pure" (free of proprietary components) Linux DVD player is on the market.

    The reason: Each approved DVD manufacturer has to sign a licensing deal with the DVD Copy Control Assn. It requires that each player contain the Content Scrambling System (CSS), which prevents, say, a French citizen from watching a Hollywood movie before it has been released in France, as well as inhibiting unauthorized copying and distribution (see BW Online, 1/16/02, "The French Have a Word For It: Hacking").

    Since the licensing goes against the most basic open-source ground rules, no company that used Linux signed the license. Thus, Linux users are unable to to watch DVDs on their computers. "Hollywood doesn't just make movies, it controls how consumers can watch the movie," complains Larry Rosen, a Silicon Valley attorney and executive director of the Open Source Initiative, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting open-source software. "They make it impossible for a movie to be legally viewable on Linux -- or on any machine they don't approve of. Does that hurt Linux? It hurts everyone."

    Here's Wikipedia on the subject.) To give you an example from recent personal experience, I just installed SuSE Linux 9.0 on one of my hard drives. Everything went so breathlessly well and works so perfectly that I am disinclined to return to Windows on that machine. There really isn't anything I can't do.....

    Or so I thought. Without my having about it, it turned out that instead of a CD ROM drive, the SuSE machine has a DVD drive. I assumed that because this was the latest and the greatest version of what many people consider to be the best Linux distribution going, that it would be a snap to get the DVD operational. So I popped in a DVD I own (The Caine Mutiny with Humphrey Bogart), and that built-in "xine" player stopped dead with a nasty-looking error code. Puzzled by this, I visited the SuSE website, where I learned that there's no legally available DVD codec for SuSE Linux.

    Surfing around a bit, I found this discussion group which supplies detailed instructions lovingly supplied by geeks to non-geeks. I don't want to bore readers here (I'm tending towards excessive prattle about Linux these days), but in brief, you have to uninstall the xine player which ships with SuSE, then install a whole bunch of different files. Apparently some of the entertainment titans think some of the files are illegal, but what do I know? The law is probably as unreadable as the CSS code, and I can't knowingly break incomprehensible laws. Besides, at least one court of appeal has held that the First Amendment even applies to computer code. Imagine!

    What bothers me is this: why can't I play a DVD that I bought and paid for? Or that I might choose to rent? If the CSS code doesn't function in Linux as the entertainment titans might like, well, who are they to demand that the code of millions of users -- which existed before their lousy CSS -- be made illegal?

    It's outrageous.

    And it's not my problem that someone might manage to manipulate his Linux system in such a way to copy DVDs! To copy a DVD is one thing; that's piracy, and properly punishable as such. But it's as manifestly unfair to criminalize software which might assist in copying it as it would be to criminalize copying machines because some people misuse them.

    Once again, the national kindergarten reduces us all to a level of enforced stupidity.

    Of course, the comparison to kindergarten ends at the prison gates. The CBDTPA (short for the "Consumer Broadband and Digital Television Promotion Act" -- a mouthful) provides prison sentences of 5 - 20 years.

    If you don't like it, you don't have to just sit there and fume.

    You can sign the petition.

    UPDATE: I forgot to mention that the stuff I downloaded mades the DVD drive work perfectly. Fast forward or slow motion, in both audio and video, and more controls than I know what to do with. (And that's at the "beginner" level.)

    posted by Eric at 06:06 PM

    Inky Doo?

    When I was a little boy growing up around here, Philadelphians had a nickname for the Philadelphia Inquirer; they called it "The Inky."

    Cute, isn't it? Anyway, I grew up respecting the paper, because they used to do really cool stuff like this:

  • reported actual news stories, without regard to whom they might upset
  • kept the news in the news section, and the editorials in the editorial section
  • meticulously issued retractions when stories turned out to be wrong
  • Well, the times have changed, and the Inky has changed with the Times times. I have wasted countless hours of time this week searching in vain for the UNSCAM story. Nothing all week -- despite the fact that it is considered the biggest story this year, and without question the largest UN scandal for many years (perhaps ever -- because even the Kurt Waldheim Nazi scandal didn't contaminate the entire UN leadership, nor was the UN discovered to be funded by Nazi money).

    I don't know how many times I have said this, but I'll say it again: THE STORY IS NOT BEING REPORTED. The Inquirer has not yet answered my calls or emails asking where the story is. Philadelphians do not know that the UN was running on Saddam Hussein money and the worst corruption, for years.

    Well, OK, so my local paper appears to guilty of non-reporting the biggest news story of the year. Because I grew up here and knew some of the reporters in the old days, I'd like to bend over backwards and at least play devil's advocate.

    Might the Inky be afraid the story is fake? Especially in light of the major news scandals this week, I can understand the reluctance to report stories before all the facts are in. Otherwise, you might look bad, and have to issue retractions, right?

    This was all in the back of my mind I turned on my computer this morning and found yet another story of incredibly sloppy journalism: the misidentification of photographs of the Columbia crew's coffins as American war casualties from Iraq. NASA issued this press release to newspaper editors:

    Columbia Crew Mistakenly Identified As Iraqi War Casualties

    Many news organizations across the country are mistakenly identifying the flag-draped caskets of the Space Shuttle Columbia's crew as those of war casualties from Iraq.

    Editors are being asked to confirm that the images used in news reports are in fact those of American casualties and not those of the NASA astronauts who were killed Feb.1, 2003, in the Columbia tragedy.

    An initial review of the images featured on the Internet site shows that more than 18 rows of images from Dover Air Force Base in Delaware are actually photographs of honors rendered to Columbia's seven astronauts.

    News organizations across the world have been publishing and distributing images featured on the web site.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, who notes,

    Here's a partial list of outlets that were snookered. Apparently, they just picked these up from an antiwar website and didn't do any further checking.

    Remember this when Old Media guys talk about how untrustworthy the Internet is. . . .

    Partial list?

    Surely the Inky wasn't involved, I thought. I hoped not, because I hate having to search through piles of old newspapers. So, first I went to the Inquirer's web site, where I found the story, which does complain of the government's "crackdown" but which did not feature any of the misidentified NASA pictures.

    Not enough!

    One of the drawbacks of being a slob is that you have no excuse for not raking through journalistic muck to look for answers. So I dug and I dug, and suddenly VOILA! Paydirt!


    The photograph above is an exact match with this NASA shot. (More detail here.)

    Well, but NASA asked the Inquirer's editors to confirm that these pictures in fact showed the Iraq dead. Did they?

    Well, sort of. In a later article about sensitivity to families ("Bush stresses privacy in coffin-photo debate"), there's this:

    The photos were taken at the Dover base, and most were of flag-draped caskets used by the military to transport remains. But Anderson said yesterday that the photos also included images of the remains of the shuttle Columbia astronauts arriving at Dover, as well as casualties from Afghanistan. A NASA spokesman said that at least 18 rows of photos on the site were of the Columbia astronauts.

    The Inquirer and other media across the country published photos obtained by Kick. Two photos on the front page of yesterday's editions of The Inquirer, and another on Page A11, showed flag-draped coffins containing the remains of military personnel killed in the line of duty. However, a caption with a second photo on page A11 mistakenly said the photo depicted a hearse containing the remains of U.S. war dead. The hearse carried the remains of a Columbia astronaut.

    According to his Web site, Kick, who has not returned phone calls or e-mail from the Associated Press, requested all Dover photos from Feb. 1, 2003, to the present. "He wasn't distinguishing between what he wanted," Anderson said. "He just wanted everything."

    There's also an accompanying paragraph entitled Clearing the Record:
    A caption for a photo showing an honor guard trailing a hearse in yesterday's editions of The Inquirer contained incorrect information. The hearse carried the remains of a shuttle Columbia astronaut.
    Well, that's all good and fine. But how do you clear a record that doesn't exist?

    What intrigues me the most about the retraction is the complaint that the guy who supplied the photos "has not returned phone calls or e-mail."

    That's my complaint about the Inquirer!

    Inky don't!

    UPDATE ON "OLD" NEWS: Speaking of Nazi Kurt Waldheim and the UN, I found a real underreported gem from 1998:

    By refusing to pay the UN "debt," Congress would not only put a stop to the improper if not illegal practice of misappropriating funds to the UN; it would also acquire additional leverage for forcing tough reforms on that body. The latest UN scandal, uncovered by the New Yorker magazine, is that in 1994 Secretary General Kofi Annan, then director of peacekeeping, ordered UN troops in Rwanda not to intervene to stop a planned genocide campaign that took half a million lives. Annan, a veteran UN bureaucrat, has reacted to the controversy over his role in the genocide by blaming the United States for not doing more to save lives. It appears that much of our "voluntary" assistance to the UN for peacekeeping missions has been wasted.

    U.S. Ambassador to the UN Bill Richardson insists that if Congress demands reimbursement or credit for all of this assistance, the UN might go bankrupt. In fact, the organization has accumulated a $15.5 billion pension fund; it even continues to pay a $102,000 annual pension to former secretary general Kurt Waldheim, who was exposed as a Nazi war criminal.

    The United Nations won't go broke. Whether it should is another question.

    Did part of the money from Saddam Hussein's UN slush fund help pay Kurt Waldheim's pension?

    I don't know, but I am not holding my breath in the hope of seeing the story in the Inky!

    MORE: I don't know about the status of his pension, but according to this report, Kurt Waldheim is STILL ALIVE.

    ....Which is more than can be said for Waldheim's Chief of Staff, former Iraqi UN ambassador Ismat Kittani, a Kurd who defended Saddam Hussein's genocide against his own people. (I guess he learned a lot from his UN boss.)

    UPDATE: A big hooray to Glenn Reynolds for linking this story! Maybe now the Inquirer will answer my emails. As a matter of fact, I just sent another one earlier:

    NOTE: email addresses omitted as protection against SPAM.

    -------- Original Message --------
    Subject: [Fwd: Missing news item]
    Date: Sun, 25 Apr 2004 13:57:58 -0400
    From: Eric Scheie


    I am have been unable to find the hard copy of this story anywhere, and I am wondering if you can help me.

    I have received no response to my email but I am more concerned that the story itself is being ignored.

    Thank you!

    Eric Scheie

    -------- Original Message --------
    Subject: Missing news item
    Date: Thu, 22 Apr 2004 09:52:06 -0400
    From: Eric Scheie
    To: nwarwick rbarron

    Dear Messrs Warwick and Barron:

    You are listed respectively as the National/Foreign Editor and the Deputy Editor/Copy Chief of the National/Foreign Desk. I have a simple question which I hope you can answer.

    I am trying to locate the hard copy of an article which appears at the Inquirer website:

    Title: Probe Opens on Iraq Oil-For-Food Program

    By Dafna Linzer

    This is a very important story, but the problem is, I cannot find it in yesterday's paper, and I was hoping someone there could help me. I am thinking I must be missing something, and I just wondered if either one of you might be able to tell me whether (and where) it appears in the actual newspaper.

    Thank you,

    Eric Scheie

    I have never gone to this much trouble to track down an article in the paper.

    Anyway, a big welcome to all new readers here from InstaPundit!

    UPDATE: Sometimes I think I am living in two separate worlds: the online world and the "real" world. In the online world I take it for granted that I can get the news, even if it means having to sort through various stories, looking past bias here or an inaccuracy there. In the online world I can read news stories saying that UNSCAM is:

    the biggest scandal ever to engulf the organisation.

    At least $1.1 billion was paid directly into UN coffers, supposedly to cover the cost of administering the $67 billion scheme, while Saddam Hussein diverted funds intended for the poor and sick of Iraq to bribe foreign governments and prominent overseas supporters of his regime. (Via Friends of Saddam. )

    In the "real" world of the Philadelphia Inquirer, I see that there is no such scandal, because it is not reported. Yet that same paper then lectures me about "the importance of an informed electorate in a democracy." From today's editorial:
    ....57 percent of the 1,311 Americans questioned last month still believe that "before the war Iraq was providing substantial support to al-Qaeda." That is simply not so. Twenty percent believe Iraq had a direct connection to the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Also not so. Thirty-eight percent believe prewar Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

    Many Americans cling to these beliefs, even as inspections and investigations have found no proof of them. Believers conceivably could still be proved right regarding WMD, but proof so far is shockingly lacking.

    What these findings put at center stage is the importance of an informed electorate in a democracy.

    The figure I'd like to see is what percentage of Philadelphians know about the biggest scandal to hit the UN, funded by Saddam Hussein.

    The electorate is uninformed all right....

    UPDATE: THE REAL WORLD REPLIES! I was amazed to receive the following reply this morning from Marlena Slowik at the Philadelphia Inquirer:

    -------- Original Message --------
    Subject: RE: [Fwd: Missing news item]
    Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 10:42:14 -0400
    From: Slowik, Marlena
    To: escheie

    Dear Mr. Scheie: This story ran last Wednesday. Please contact our back issues dept at 215-854-4444 to obtain a hard copy.



    -----Original Message-----
    From: Eric Scheie
    Sent: Sunday, April 25, 2004 1:58 PM
    To: advocate
    Subject: [Fwd: Missing news item]


    I am have been unable to find the hard copy of this story anywhere, and I am wondering if you can help me.

    I have received no response to my email but I am more concerned that the story itself is being ignored.

    Thank you!

    Eric Scheie

    You can imagine how foolish this made me feel. Chagrined, I decided to spend more time, and carefully go through Wednesday's entire paper, paragraph by paragraph.

    No luck. The story could not be found. So I replied to the email:

    -------- Original Message --------
    Subject: Re: [Fwd: Missing news item]
    Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 11:40:36 -0400
    From: Eric Scheie
    To: Slowik, Marlena


    Thanks so much for replying. Could you just tell me what page it's on? I still have the paper, but I just can't find it. I have looked carefully through Sections A, B, C, D, and E (F is the Classified), but it just doesn't seem to be there.

    Thanks again!


    I was starting to think, "Well, I'm out in the slurbs, and maybe this was in a later edition or something. Maybe there is a hard copy."

    But then I got this:

    -------- Original Message --------
    Subject: RE: [Fwd: Missing news item]
    Date: Mon, 26 Apr 2004 11:55:52 -0400
    From: Slowik, Marlena
    To: Eric Scheie

    Hi Eric: I checked with our Online Editor who replies:

    in double-checking, i see that it did not run in the inquirer. It's a story that Knight Ridder Digital posted in its national news box directly from AP. So he won't find the story in the newspaper.

    So the story only ran online and not in the paper. I hope this answers your questions.


    "It did not run in the Inquirer."

    Nor has it run since.

    Philadelphians are not supposed to know about such things. That's because of the "importance of an informed electorate in a democracy."

    posted by Eric at 02:04 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

    25 years to life!

    In prison.

    For trying to stop your own pain!

    Stuff like this article by Jacob Sullum makes me sick beyond words. A guy who medicated himself, for pain, and who refused to plead guilty to being a drug dealer (which he wasn't) is now locked up where he can do society no harm:

    [H]e sits in jail in his wheelchair, a subdermal pump delivers a steady, programmed dose of morphine to his spine.

    ....prosecutors have pursued Paey in three trials. The first ended in a mistrial; the second resulted in a conviction that the judge threw out because of a procedural error; and the third, which ended last month, produced guilty verdicts on 15 charges of drug trafficking, obtaining a controlled substance by fraud, and possession of a controlled substance.

    Nice work, men!

    Not a lone example. It's what passes for "justice" in America. Considering that the prosecutor in this case, Assistant State Attorney Michael Halkitis, wants to be a judge, my attempt at sarcasm (placing the word "justice" in quotes) is pretty lame.

    That's why I said I was "sick beyond words," because they can't express my outrage.

    I guess that's why I blog.

    It's better than medicating my anger.

    I am glad to see that some conservatives like Andrew Stuttaford can see the injustice as clearly as Glenn Reynolds.

    Those who would imprison their fellow citizens for medicating their pain are without conscience, and it's scary. Those who hurt those for the "crime" of hurting themselves (if that's what medicating pain is), who put them in prison, are guiltier of far more heinous crimes.

    They better hope there isn't a hell.

    At least the Salem witch trial prosecutors imagined that they were doing the Lord's work.

    UPDATE: Prosecutor Halkitis is against "medical necessity" as a drug defense -- even in marijuana cases -- as he believes it's "an excuse to abuse illegal drugs." It's high time voters are made aware of this sort of judicial terrorism, because I think the more Americans know about these mandatory sentences of 25 years to life, the harder it will be to convict anyone.

    Not that this is new. Under British law well into Victorian times, criminal penalties were so severe that juries would look for almost any excuse to acquit. These evil laws should be abolished entirely, but until then I'll support any "excuse" that can be placed on the ballot. ("Evil" is a touchy, much-abused word these days, and I am not using it lightly or engaging in hyperbole. If 25-to-life for self-medication isn't evil, then what is?)

    Or jury nullification:

    The answer the legal establishment gives to charges that prosecutors might misbehave is basically: "trust us." But they don't trust juries, and they haven't given any very persuasive reasons why they're more trustworthy than juries are.
    Excellent research on the subject can be found here. (Via Spoons, who argues against the dangers of nullification, and I see his point. But excesses like this demand additional remedies.)

    Interestingly enough, even those of a strict law-and-order mindset would do well to consider that severe punishments disincline juries to convict, and create legal chaos; as one legal scholar put it,

    [A]s severity increases, certainty decreases.

    posted by Eric at 11:40 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)

    Still breathing? Test yourself at home!

    OK, so it's not Friday!

    To anyone who missed the online tests yesterday, I asked everyone to please donate to the Spirit of America. I have no way of knowing whether anyone did, so I am a bit conflicted over what to do. The usual pattern here has been to offer four tests, but I only found two "normal" tests -- both of which generated humiliating results! (The second one was so disturbing that I decided to verify the results, which I added for a total of four tests.)

    The first test -- "Which Recurring Kevin Smith Character Are You?" -- said I was Hooper.

    Which Recurring Kevin Smith Character Are You? Take the test here

    I did love Chasing Amy, but I didn't particularly identify with Hooper, so I'm not sure about the soundness of this test.

    (Via res gestae dionysii, who got to be Holden!)


    The other test -- Who is Your Alter Poet? -- is puzzling, because I don't think of myself as a poet at all. But I guess if you have to be a poet, suicide would give some intensity to your work.

    Eh, you got Plath. Sucks for you.

    Who is Your Alter Poet?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Also from res gestae dionysii -- who gets to be Kerouac. This stuff really is so unfair. I. Just. Can't. Take. It. Any. More.


    I smell gas.

    Better go investigate!

    AM I DONE?

    Let me check....


    Oh what the heck! Here are two more vital tests, for signs of death....

    I bear no responsibility for the spelling, but here's the first result:

    Your more dead than alive.

    Are you Dead?
    brought to you by Quizilla


    What more proof do I need than that?

    Well, how about this?


    You will die of a mishap during AUTOEROTIC

    This is the technical term for your common practice
    of masturbating with your head in a noose. As
    you already know, the lack of oxygen from
    hanging yourself greatly increases your orgasm.
    What you don't know is that the key is to keep
    a lemon segment in your mouth. That way, once
    you start to pass out, your jaw will clamp
    down, and the sour lemon taste will jolt you
    into consciousness in time to avoid death by

    You will be the secret shame of your entire
    extended family as well as subject of a
    mass-forwarded email.

    If only you had remembered the lemon. Tsk. Well, at
    least you'll go out with a bang.

    What death by freak accident will bring you worldwide infamy?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    What can I say? When you gotta come go, you gotta go?

    What's that about the lemon segment in the mouth? I must have gotten distracted in the kitchen while playing silly Sylvia Plath games.

    I think I'm about up to my neck with these online tests.....

    posted by Eric at 12:53 PM | TrackBacks (1)

    Today, please test your spirit!

    Well, it's Online Testing Day at Classical Values, but right now I am so confused that I feel like creating my own test, along the lines of "Which Spirit of America Alliance Are You?" I mean, I can't keep track of which sides all these bloggers are on. I am, um, challenged.

    There are several founders of the challenge movement, one being of course Michele, whose Victory Coalition has its own banner:
    Michele is supported by Kevin and many others (including Fritz who has good graphics), but I can't be expected to list them all here.

    Whoa! Michele has more graphics than I realized. Check this out:


    According to the Spirit of America site, the Victory Coalition is mounting a spirited challenge to raise money for the Marines:

    Our goal is to outgive the ALL other alliances (The Deaniacs and the Argghhh's, for example), and then rub their faces in it. All your alliance are belong to us!!!"

    The Deaniacs? The Argghh's?

    They must mean co-founder Dean Esmay, whose Liberty Alliance is here, and whose dog likes kitties.


    Puff likes kitties, and so do I. If Puff could give, I know he'd go with Dean's Liberty Alliance. (Maybe he'll remind me later....)

    By "The Arghh's" they're obviously referring to
    Castle Argghhh!, which also features a kitty, as well as a logo of Uncle Sam wearing a medieval helmet, which I like. And there's some really cool stuff being auctioned off too.

    Here's the Argghhh! logo:


    Can't go wrong there either. I like auctions!

    Here are the official results so far:

    Castle Argghhh! Fighting Fusileers for Freedom $9759.5 Donate
    The Victory Coalition $7223 Donate
    Liberty Alliance $3154 Donate
    I don't know how I could manage to create an online test, and maybe it isn't appropriate anyway.

    Here is my deal: I donated $70.00 so far, but I didn't pay any attention to which "alliance" or "coalition" directed me to the Spirit of Liberty site. I guess that makes me unaligned, but I want to support the troops and the Iraqi kids any way I can. I love all of the bloggers who are doing this, and so I don't know how I would decide which alliance to support.

    The only way I'd trouble myself to write an Online Test selecting the right alliance would be if I could require that readers pay in advance to take the test, and have the results direct the money to the appropriate alliance. I have no idea whether Quizilla can do such a thing and I doubt it. Plus, I doubt there's time; the challenge is over in a week.

    So let me issue my own challenge. Regular readers know I don't have a kitty, and I have never asked for money for myself. Just think of how much money you have all saved! And now that you've saved it, I am asking you -- especially those of you who like this blog enough to read it regularly -- to please donate to Spirit of America. Either pick one of the above blogs, or just go directly to the Spirit of America, and help the Marines help Iraqis.

    Then you can come back. And maybe I'll let you take the regular tests for today (if I can find the damned things....).

    Seriously, please give. I can't think of a better cause.

    I might not know which "side" I'm on in the blogosphere, but in this effort, there is no wrong side.

    I take that back!

    To not give at all is, I think, to be on the wrong side.

    CATS AND DOGS UPDATE: In view of the fact that "Friday catblogging" is becoming an established tradition in the blogosphere, I would be remiss if I did not put a kitty where my mouth is. All the more so in light of my comments about Dean Esmay's kitty-and-doggie picture.

    So, here it is; a rare, never-before-seen photo of Puff and a kitty!


    Photographic progression inspired by Glenn Reynolds, Jeff Soyer, and Dean Esmay.

    PLEASE NOTE: I am not set up to do catblogging, because I don't own a cat. The kitty in the picture is not mine, which I guess makes it a "demo-cat." The picture was taken when I visited some friends on their Indiana farm, and these two hit it off right away. Puff has always wanted a kitty. The problem is, so has Molly (but in a not-nice way).

    posted by Eric at 06:25 PM

    Partisan reporting is only HALF the story....

    But the WHOLE story is no story!

    My post about UNSCAM has gotten too long, with far too many updates, but as the story-about-the-story-that-will-not-be-reported continues to metastasize I thought it was time for a new post.

    Let me start by saying that I'm beginning to think my initial suspicions were wrong. Well, half wrong. I thought, naively, that because Senator Kerry champions both the UN and Kofi Annan, this story would be suppressed by a press loyal to John Kerry.

    I think that's only half the reason. The other half is that Republicans have also been recipients of the kleptocratic largesse. How far does it go? Considering the downright shocking nature of the non-reporting that I have seen with a major local newspaper (the Inquirer is listed in the top ten of major metropolitan newspapers, and advertisers boast that an ad there reaches a million homes), I think all signs point to a bipartisan coverup.

    I have devoted a good deal of time in this blog to bipartisan coverups, which are at least as old as Hadrian.

    The phenomenon can take many forms, but usually it starts as a simple I'll-scratch-your-back-if--you-scratch-mine sort of deal. But here's the problem: if an issue is big enough to threaten the publicly perceived integrity of both parties, there is an unfortunate tendency to circle the wagons. Journalists, being intimately involved in politics, tend to see themselves as players instead of reporters, and they're more than happy to join in.

    I see the story of Watergate as the ultimate example, because the foundations of both modern journalism, and the machinery of modern politics are built on the assumption that conventional Watergate history is true. Watergate is the crown jewel of the modern media. Glenn Reynolds and Peter Morgan called it the "Big Bang" in the context of ethics reform, and I would apply the same term to modern politics and journalism. Watergate is so important that the idea of questioning the story is seen as sacreligious, the way a rigid fundamentalist would see questioning of the Bible. Evidence that calls into question the Watergate story is suppressed and ignored by a system built on foundations as unsound as they are unquestionable.

    I offer Watergate as an example because I am very familiar with it, and I know the bipartisan coverup mechanism, because for ten years I wrote letters to high officials, journalists, writers, anyone I thought might listen. There wasn't such a thing as blogging in those days. But I tried to get the story out.

    How naive of me!

    Of course, this is not about Watergate, because there is no settled, agreed-upon history. No big event which brought down a president, and shook the political system to the core. Here, there is simply a scandal in the highest places -- worldwide and probably domestically -- but it isn't being reported.

    Bloggers have recently infuriated South Dakota's leading newspaper by daring to report what they won't report, and by questioning the accuracy and pointing out the bias of what they do report. The journalists have replied by heaping vitriol and accusations against the bloggers.

    So far as I know, with UNSCAM, no blogger has been attacked for reporting the story. Yet. But the mainstream media are, simply, not reporting the biggest news story of the year. That's a story in itself.

    In other words, there are now two stories: UNSCAM, and the refusal to report UNSCAM.

    Why aren't Philadelphians being told about this scandal? While it's true that anyone with a computer can get on line and read the blogs, the fact is, most ordinary citizens don't even know what a blog is. Those few who get read news stories on the Internet might see this story somewhere (even if it's not on Drudge), but when they don't see it in the daily paper they'll tend to think it must not really be news.

    So what is news? If a tree falls in the woods, and no one hears it, did it happen? Is news only that which powerful people agree is news?

    I used to believe that newspapers had an important role as a sort of public trust. No more. These days, I am beginning to think that comparisons to Pravda are not hyperbole.

    Is everyone, as Glenn Reynolds asks, "on the take"? If they are, I was definitely half wrong to imagine the Democratic Party is behind this one.

    Amazing as it sounds, the news may be too big to be considered fit to print. William Safire, noting that this is a "multination coverup," concludes by saying:

    expect little coverage; this scandal has no friends.
    Bloggers have their work cut out for them, and they can expect few friends.

    posted by Eric at 04:08 PM

    More Mepis -- in overdrive

    Just trying out the Mepis Linux CD on the Athlon 2100. Everything is incredibly fast. The sound card configured, all networking, the browser fired right up, and everything works. All from a CD, which of course means no hard drive is needed. You can just run on a "disposable" (maybe even "sterile"?) OS any time you want.

    Linux has come a long way from when I first installed Slackware., back in 1997. In those days, just setting up the X-configurator was a big deal, and I felt triumphant when I'd get past the black screen. And getting those damned modems to work required writing custom scripts. Ditto networking. Even formatiing the hard drive was tricky.

    This is all just as easy as sticking the CD in and turning on your computer! It all, just, works.

    I am still amazed.

    posted by Eric at 08:41 PM | TrackBacks (1)

    Are your private contracts the government's business?

    I can't believe that Virginia wants to limit the rights of two parties to enter into contractual arrangements, but read this:

    A civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement between persons of the same sex purporting to bestow the privileges or obligations of marriage is prohibited. Any such civil union, partnership contract or other arrangement entered into by persons of the same sex in another state or jurisdiction shall be void in all respects in Virginia and any contractual rights created thereby shall be void and unenforceable. (Via Andrew Sullivan.)
    On top of that, there's this:
    Attorney General Jerry Kilgore - the frontrunner for the Republican Party gubernatorial nomination in 2005 - is solidly behind Marshall's bill.
    No one seems to know precisely what the language means. I guess it depends on what the "privileges or obligations of marriage" are.

    Would a will be invalidated if it grants property to a loved one? Hospital visitation?

    What about a simple cohabitation agreement? You decide to share rent, house payments, utilities and you enter into an agreement. Illegal in Virginia? Could a landlord evict tenants he thinks are "living in sin" by availing himself of this law?

    How about buying a car or a house? Could a tenancy in common ownership be invalidated?

    I have previously warned -- repeatedly -- that the FMA intends by questionable stealth tactics to do the same things that the sponsors of this bill want to do openly. At least the Virginia legislature is being honest.

    And despicable.

    posted by Eric at 03:39 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (2)

    Is this election about the UN?

    Not for long!

    Why isn't the full UNSCAM affair being reported in most newspapers? True, the New York Times has reported it, but unless they sneaked it in somewhere in the classified ad section, I can't find it in today's [April 21, 2004] Philadelphia Inquirer. (I looked three times, and cannot find it in Sections A, B, C, D, or E.)

    Doubting my sanity, I visited the Inquirer's web site, where I found what I have to assume will be tomorrow's "news" -- a thoroughly lame write-up -- which nowhere reports that the corruption involved Kofi Annan himself. Instead, Annan is cast as distant, dignified, and a little pained:

    Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Wednesday that he took seriously allegations that U.N. officials had taken money and he expected the investigation to uncover the truth. He wouldn't comment directly on new reports that several unnamed U.N. officials could be implicated for taking kickbacks from the program.

    Annan launched an internal inquiry in February but canceled it in March to allow a broader, independent examination.

    "I want to get to the truth and I want to get to the bottom of this so I am happy they are taking on this assignment," Annan said.

    [EDITORIAL QUESTION: Why the phrase "unnamed U.N. officials"? Forgive the rhetorical question.]

    The true story is far more outrageous -- and much more damning than most people would have dreamed possible. It reaches the highest levels of the UN heirarchy -- Kofi Annan himself, and the story is a lurid tale of international, blood-soaked kleptocracy in action. (United Thieves?)

    Charged with nepotism and cronyism, Annan, 64, has been emasculated into announcing an independent commission to investigate the theft that has invited vicious catcalls against him for "an open bazaar of payoffs, favoritism and kickbacks." He has now named the former Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker to head the probe. (via Glenn Reynolds.)
    As Roger L. Simon notes,
    Although Sevan has been on leave of absence from the UN since the scandal broke early this year, his boss Kofi Annan has resisted investigating what is probably the biggest aid heist of all time until a couple of weeks ago. In this kind of situation, normally the media would be on his neck, calling for the most thorough investigation possible; but thus far, with the exception of The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post and a handful of others, they have been curiously silent.
    I think I know why there's been no widescale reporting.

    The election.

    Think about it. A primary theme in what passes for a campaign so far is the notion that the evil Bush "defied" the UN. This argument, if it is to prevail with American voters, must rely on the integrity of the UN. If the UN is seen as without integrity, ordinary voters might conclude that George W. Bush did the right thing if the Democrats' argument that he defied them sinks in. Hence, the "little people" must be told as little as possible about this outrageous scandal.

    If this scandal isn't squelched -- and fast -- I suspect we won't be hearing as much about the "evil" Bush and the "good" UN.

    But maybe I'm being naive.

    UPDATE: More naiveté? I just found this at

    Kerry also said the Bush administration walked away from negotiations at the United Nations when there was still a chance to build a united international front against President Saddam Hussein of Iraq.

    "I talked to [UN Secretary General] Kofi Annan the Sunday before the president decided to go to war, and I knew at that moment in time that the Russians and the French were prepared to in fact make a further offer," said Kerry, referring to two of the leading nations that opposed the US-led war. "And the administration in fact informed Kofi Annan, `Sorry, the time for diplomacy is over.' Had I been president of the United States, I would have explored what those possibilities were."

    Lest I compound my naiveté, here's the google cache.

    UPDATE: Now I see signs that both parties have received campaign donations from recipients of the Oil-for-Food bribes. (Via Glenn Reynolds.) I sure hope that the total amount of money involved wasn't enough to trigger a bipartisan coverup. (History shows that bipartisan coverups work.)

    FOLLOW UP [April 22,2004]: Today's Philadelphia Inquirer does NOT contain the story I cited above. There's NOT ONE WORD on the UNSCAM affair. Why then, does the story appear at their web site? So they can let their more web-savvy readers know they know about the story? I am glad I don't rely on my daily paper to find out what's going on in the world, or I might think all is well at the UN.....

    QUERY: Is there such a thing as pretending to report a story?

    MORE: Why isn't Drudge on top of this story?

    The Washington Times?

    Gee, maybe there is something bipartisan going on.....

    UPDATE [April 22, 2004]: The Wall Street Journal has buried the story in the want ads. The foreign press (at least in Britain) is reporting this story. And there's now a blog by Stephen Sherman devoted to this one issue! And this post is giving me heart! (I'll give the "Inky" folks another couple of hours to answer my email, and then I guess I'll just have to post it here.)

    Q. What do you call someone who wants to get important news stories, but finds himself thwarted?

    A. A "conspiracy theorist."

    MORE [April 22, 2004]: Bloggers take heart! Here's Mortimer B. Zuckerman, Editor of US News:

    [T]he U.N. got in on the action. It received administrative fees of about $2 billion for the program, which may be fair, but the senior U.N. official in charge of the program, Benon Sevan, is reported to have received 11.5 million barrels himself. Cotecna, a Swiss-based firm hired by the U.N. to monitor the import of the food and medicine to Iraq, hired Kojo Annan, the son of U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan, as a consultant during the period when the company was assembling and submitting bids for the oil-for-food program. All of these coincidences were reported by Claudia Rosett in the National Review. None, surprisingly, were disclosed by the U.N., Cotecna, or the senior or junior Annan. The imposition of so-called smart sanctions on Iraq, several years after the end of the 1991 Gulf War, allowed Saddam to purchase items besides food and medicine. But some of the things approved by Kofi Annan seem pretty far afield. There was the $20 million he authorized for an Olympic sports city for Uday Hussein, Saddam's reprehensible (and now deceased) oldest son. And then there was the $50 million for TV and radio equipment for Saddam's ham-handed propaganda machine. This is food? Gives new meaning to Kofi Annan's statement, in 1998, that Saddam was a man "I can do business with." And how.

    All of this would seem to raise a few questions about the intense opposition to the American intervention in Iraq within the U.N. Security Council, and particularly from Paris and Moscow. In one way or another, the U.N. stonewalled, until now, a serious independent investigation of the oil-for-food program. To his credit, Kofi Annan is now supporting such an investigation, but the Security Council has not approved it, and France and Russia--surprise!--are actively blocking it. Former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker has agreed to head the inquiry, but only if it is blessed by a Security Council vote. Absent such a vote, there is still an awful lot of explaining to be done.

    I'll say.

    Meanwhile, I'm still waiting on the Inky!

    WHAT THE HECK! I think I've waited long enough. Here's the email I sent to the Inquirer's National/Foreign Editor Ned Warwick and Deputy Editor/Copy Chief of the National/Foreign Desk Richard Barron.

    Subject: Missing news item
    Date: Thu, 22 Apr 2004 09:52:06 -0400
    From: Eric Scheie
    To: Ned Warwick, Richard Barron

    Dear Messrs Warwick and Barron:

    You are listed respectively as the National/Foreign Editor and the Deputy Editor/Copy Chief of the National/Foreign Desk. I have a simple question which I hope you can answer.

    I am trying to locate the hard copy of an article which appears at the Inquirer website:

    Title: Probe Opens on Iraq Oil-For-Food Program

    By Dafna Linzer

    This is a very important story, but the problem is, I cannot find it in yesterday's paper, and I was hoping someone there could help me. I am thinking I must be missing something, and I just wondered if either one of you might be able to tell me whether (and where) it appears in the actual newspaper.

    Thank you,

    Eric Scheie

    Any reply I get, you'll see it here. And if I am blind enough or senile enough to have missed it, I promise to apologize. (The web link made me doubt my own senses, so I have looked through that paper at least a dozen times.)

    UPDATE: Not a word in reply from either of those gentlemen, nor were any of my four phone calls returned.

    In addition, there was not one word in today's Inquirer either -- about the biggest story this year.

    I have to say, I've been around a while, and I have never seen a more shocking example of non-reporting of a major, breaking, story.

    Really, it reminds me of Pravda.

    MORE [April 23, 2004]: While I still can't find this story at Drudge, The Washington Times features this editorial by Helle Dale. But there's a refusal to do the most basic reporting in most quarters, and I smell a bipartisan coverup.

    RELATED "NEWS" NEWS [April 23, 2004]: Jon Lauck, who runs a blog devoted to South Dakota's senatorial race, documents outrageous bias by reporter Dave Kranz of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader and makes an important point about the role of local newspapers (like mine):

    The newspaper's reporting and selection of stories determines, to a large extent, the information available to the citizens in the state. The Argus, in short, is critical to the proper functioning of the democratic process in South Dakota, as I've noted. This site is completely dedicated to analyzing the most important US Senate race in the nation, one which could determine the ability of legislation to move through the US Senate, the world's oldest deliberative body, and therefore the course of American democracy. The Argus, in other words, has a serious responsibility to properly report on political matters relating to the candidates, Tom Daschle and John Thune.
    Faced with growing public criticism by bloggers of Kanz, Argus Editor Randell Beck launched an ad hominem attack on the bloggers, and never addressed their criticism:
    Beck also said that the criticism was "crap" and driven by a "violent" internet "cabal" of "yahoos" and "jokers," who are full of "hatred" and "vitriol" and lacked "guts" because they hid "behind their computer screens" and wouldn't face him "man to man." Beck then went on to highlight the importance of debating issues "without calling each other names."

    As South Dakota Politics has noted, Beck did not address the specific criticism of the bloggers.....

    As to the nameless, cowardly bloggers, it's just the opposite, Beck! Read this!
    Why won't Beck deal substantively with the issues that are presented by the existence of the Bombshell Memos? Why won't he at least offer an argument? As caller Steve Kirby told Beck at the end of the program, in much more measured tones than Beck was ever able to muster, the Argus Leader has a perception problem. Name-calling and dangling red herrings may be an effective way to manage the employees of the Argus Leader, but such tactics won't cut it beyond the confines of the Argus Leader building in downtown Sioux Falls.

    Beck appears to want to talk about the Bombshell Memos. The problem is that he wants to have a debate about the memos behind closed doors, away from the prying eyes of informed readers. That would be a worse than useless exercise. The Argus Leader has a very public perception problem, and the only way to deal with the problem is to have a public debate. If Randell Beck wishes to have a debate about the information that is published on the blogs, that would mean that Randell Beck would have to specifically cite what website he is referring to when he talks about them. I fear that Randell Beck is afraid to reference specific blogs because that will allow his readers and his listeners to come to these blogs and find out for themselves what we're saying. At that point, these readers will find out that what Randell Beck is saying about the blogs isn't true, and that our criticism of the Argus Leader is substantive criticism backed by solid evidence, with reasonable inferences drawn from the evidence. That is much more than these readers got yesteday from the executive editor of the most influential newspaper in the state.

    Oh, and in case you didn't know it, my name is Jason Van Beek. Just like it says below every post I write.

    Editor "Radio Randell" Beck also says that the bloggers are part of an anonymous cabal:
    Speaking of which, I wonder if Radio would be willing to see any of the "anonymous" bloggers he's talking about? That would be Jason Van Beek, Steve Sibson, Jon Lauck, Pejman Yousefzadeh, Robert Musil [actually a pseudonym-- ed.], John Hinderaker, Andrew Sullivan, Jeff Gannon, Glenn Reynolds, Hugh Hewitt, and myself just to name a few. Are these the people who "hide behind rocks?" I don't think so.
    (From Pejmanesque via the InstaCabalista himself, Glenn Reynolds.)
    Hey! I'm not hiding under a rock either. I sent two emails and made four phone calls, and I am being ignored! My name is Eric Scheie, and I only want my paper to report the biggest story of the year. And so far, the Inquirer has treated me the same way it treats the story.

    I am sorry to see similar things happening in South Dakota, where I had a great time last summer.

    THE PRESSURE CONTINUES (at least internationally...): Scott Burgess at the Daily Ablution is doing a splendid job of keeping track of stories all over the world. He's offers a somplete synopsis:

    word counts are exclusive of headlines, captions, callouts, and items consisting entirely of "round-ups" of other papers' coverage.
    Be sure also to check in regularly at Stephen Sherman's Oil-for-Food blog -- Friends of Saddam -- for regular updates.

    posted by Eric at 12:59 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (2)

    83rd CARNIVAL!

    The 83rd Carnival of the Vanities is hosted by Southern Musings, who covered a lot of ground -- especially considering that "the one week I am busy beyond belief is the week I am the host."

    I appreciate Anastasia's hard work!

    And here are few posts I especially liked:

  • Dissecting Leftism debunks the lie that Americans are shorter because of "poor nutrition."
  • There's more on Air America from the Smarter Cop, who notes the absurdity of the "public airwaves" nonsense.
  • Porphyrogenitus analyzes what Kerry's response to a heckler says about Kerry.
  • Smallest Minority demolishes one of the more dishonest gun control tactics: calling adults children. (A tactic I have complained about before.)
  • Pseudopsalms fisks Michael Moore, whose anti-American appetite seems to grow almost as fast as the rest of him.
  • Fried Man analyzes Mogadishu and Fallujah.
  • And finally, Beth Mauldin -- a blogger totally new to me -- shares an inspiring thought about blogging:
    As a lesbian or a Christian or whatever, I've always believed that the only way to change someone's views, stereotpyes and perceptions of lesbians or Christians is if they get to know me and I don't exactly fit those views, stereotypes and perceptions. It has to be on an individual basis. Same for me, if I don't know any people who are pretty different from me, then I can depersonalize those types of people and see them as - well - them. And we all know what "we" can do to "them".

    Blogs have the ability to bring a lot of "we" into conversations with a lot of "them". That's the value of reading someone write about a lot of topics over a period of time, I'm more likely to find something we have in common, which makes them a little less "them".

    (Less us-versus-them would be a very good thing!)
  • There are plenty more, but it isn't my job to review them. They're all great, so go read 'em!

    posted by Eric at 11:02 PM | Comments (2)

    SCO, please get your UNCLEAN HANDS off my Linux!

    Because I'm lazier than I should be, I haven't been keeping up with Linux. Like anything technological, today's knowledge is tomorrow's nostalgia.

    It's high time I got around to this, actually. It's been over a year since one of the movers and shakers I'm about to praise even tried to drag Glenn Reynolds (who was already version-fatigued and just not into it) into the Linux-versus-Microsoft debate. Version fatigued or not, Glenn was nonetheless whimsical enough to link to this.

    I have no quarrel with Windows; I've found it reliable, familiar, even indispensable. So, those who are expecting me to engage in Bill Gates bashing can look elsewhere.

    But I have to say that I am so thrilled by my "new" Linux computer (actually it's an old clunker, though it's twice as fast running 450 Mhz as a 2100 Mhz running Windows 2000), that I feel a bit obligated to post on something a year old; the SCO lawsuit. SCO is the successor company to the bankrupted Caldera Linux distributor, which went into the Linux business fully aware of the Open Source nature of the code, which it now wants to destroy under a "derivative copyright" theory.

    By far the most articulate opponent of the SCO lawsuit is Eric S. Raymond. While he's a blogger, he's also a legend in his own right -- one of the leading movers and shakers of the Open Source/Linux community.

    I realize this may bore the Linux geeks who might be reading, but I'm pretty sure that a lot of readers are not Linux geeks. I am not a Linux geek, but rather a dilettante who enjoys Linux because, well, it's just a hell of a lot of fun.

    And, in renewing my free license on fun as I did by installing Mepis Linux last week, I feel obligated to speak up in its defense, because if this blasted SCO lawsuit proves successful, that fun will be snuffed out permanently, with the Internet and freedom being a hell of a lot worse off.

    For some serious background on the issue, Mr. Raymond has written a comprehensive Position Paper on the SCO-vs.-IBM Complaint. Excerpt:

    A judgment in favor of SCO/Caldera could do serious damage to the open-source community. SCO/Caldera's implication of wider claims could turn Linux into an intellectual-property minefield, with potential users and allies perpetually wary of being mugged by previously unasserted IP claims, and ever-more-outlandish theories of entitlement being propounded by parties with only the most tenuous relationship to anyone who ever wrote actual program code.

    On behalf of the community that wrote most of today's Unix code, and whose claims to have done so were tacitly recognized by the impairment of AT&T's rights under the 1993 settlement, we protest that to allow this outcome would be a very grave injustice. We wrote our Unix and Linux code as a gift and an expression of art, to be enjoyed by our peers and used by others for all licit purposes both non-profit and for-profit. We did not write it to have it appropriated by men so dishonorable that after making profit from our gift for eight years they could turn around and insult our competence.

    Damage to the open-source community would matter, because we are both today's principal source of innovation in software and the guardians and maintainers of the open Internet. Our autonomy is everyone's bulwark against government and corporate control of the digital media that are increasingly central in political, commercial, and personal communications. Our creative energy is what perpetually renews and finds ever more exciting uses for computers and networks. The vigor of our culture today will translate into more possibilities for everyone tomorrow.

    And here's his open letter to Darl McBride, President of SCO. (A hell of a good read, too!)

    More here, and more from Eric Raymond here:

    My reaction (based on my decades-ago legal training) is that even if SCO's position has any technical legal merit (which it should not), this longtime Linux distributor is in no position to claim harm because of the doctrine of unclean hands. (For more on unclean hands, read this.)

    Of course, there's the law, and there's reality. There are millions of Linux geeks out there. To say that making their Linux operating systems illegal will generate ill will is an understatement. I think it would trigger a genuine cyber Culture War.

    And I hate Culture War at least as much as I love Linux. It's fun, and it has great potential -- especially as a where-all-else-fails option. And what the hell is wrong with letting people have a choice?

    I feel a bit ashamed that it has taken me this long to sound off on this outrage. Cool heads will hopefully prevail, because if this legal atrocity isn't nipped in the bud, big trouble's in store.

    posted by Eric at 09:04 PM | Comments (1)

    Deep Threat?

    Echoing a common sentiment, Senator John Kerry recently called Bob Woodward a "reputable writer":

    "Here we have a book by a reputable writer," Mr. Kerry told several thousand students at the afternoon campus rally.
    Have we really?

    What does Kerry mean by "reputable"? Might he really mean "reliable"? Woodward is consistently reliable where it comes to serving up perfectly timed meals for the Democratic machine to eat. But is his journalism reliable?

    Here's Neal Boortz's reaction:

    The problem is that, with the exception of President Bush and Vice President Cheney, none of those quotes are attributed. In other words ... you make a choice on whether to believe Bob Woodward, or not to believe him.
    Then, today, Mr. Boortz documents that Woodward was wrong about a Saudi-Bush "conspiracy" to lower the price of oil. (Bush should be so lucky as to be able to do that!)

    Boortz is right that you have to make a choice whether to believe Woodward or not. What follows might assist readers in making that choice.

    There's been a great deal of speculation -- including some fascinating chatter in the blogosphere -- about whether Bob Woodward worked for the CIA before Watergate. I recently read a remarkable indictment of Woodward in a book called "Deep Truth". The author -- a reputable and prodigious investigator -- concludes that he probably did work for the CIA.

    OK. I know that "probably" isn't enough to prove anything.

    But if you even allow for the possibility that it might be true, then all Watergate roads lead to the same place. The mere possibility of Watergate as a CIA coup would do much to explain the obstinate refusal of anyone in power to even think of taking another look at it. Bear in mind that I am not asserting Watergate was a CIA coup, first because I cannot know for certain, and second because I think it's more likely to have been something more along the lines a "coup" by omission rather than commission. A cover-your-ass-and-let-the-chips-fall sort of thing.

    Because, to make this as simple as possible, if burglars loyal to the CIA (but now working for Nixon) stumbled onto a CIA "sexpionage" connected operation, there'd be conflicting loyalties. And if John Dean was trapped in such a ring, to save his own skin from prison he'd have a vested interest in keeping it secret any way he could. The CIA, being unhappy with Nixon in the first place, would only have needed to remain silent about the "sexpionage." Note that even after the CIA refused to tell the FBI to cover things up, DCI Richard Helms said in a memo that "we still adhere to the request that they [the FBI] confine themselves to the personalities already arrested or directly under suspicion and that they desist from expanding this investigation into other areas which may well, eventually, run afoul of our operations." (Powers, at 263.) Might the FBI, by suppressing the key to Ida Wells' desk and other evidence, have done just that?

    By the way, I have no moral or ethical problems with the use of "sexpionage" to obtain information about one's enemies in war. But sexual morality was a much bigger deal when Nixon was president, and the CIA would have done anything to guard the secrecy of such operations.

    Of course, whether Woodward was (or is) working for the CIA is something I certainly can't settle in a blog post. (Others can speculate about precisely why Woodward might be acting like a PR man for CIA Director Tenet.)

    But it is fair in a blog post to look at his journalism, which strikes me as highly questionable.

    A good place to start is with Woodward's own Jayson Blair affair, because that happened in 1981, before blogging existed. And Woodward, Washington Post Assistant Managing Editor at the time, was to Janet Cooke as Howell Raines was to Blair.

    Janet Cooke was hired based on a phony resume (never checked by Woodward or anyone else), which recited that she'd graduated from Vassar magna cum laude, held a master's degree from the University of Toledo, and had worked for the Washington Blade for more than two years. (All false.)

    In 1980, Cooke wrote "Jimmy's World" -- a fictitious story about an 8-year old heroin addict, which was run on the front page of the Post. Entered by Woodward for a Pulitzer Prize, it was rammed through by the head of the Pulitzer board despite objections that the feature committee (which had spent weeks reviewing 160 stories) had not even reviewed it. Moreover (according to committee chair Judith Crist) the judging process wanted to avoid "anything dealing with anonymous people, composite characters." (Havill, at 146.)

    Another Pulitizer judge, Oakland Tribune editor Bob Maynard, stated:

    I find it frustrating and dismaying that five very busy editors spent three days reviewing one hundred and sixty four submissions only to have the feature-story award given to a submission the jury never reviewed. (Havill, 148.)

    Because of the heavy hand of board chair (and former Post editor -- some "coincidence") Roger Wilkens, Cooke got the prize she'd never have gotten even had her report been legitimate, and then things began to unravel. The Washington DC City government was in an uproar; people wanted to find and help the child. Detailed questions were finally asked. There was no child; she'd made it all up. (Id.)

    Woodward was asked about this recently, and his answer doesn't speak well for his standards of journalistic integrity, nor for ordinary human standards of kindness and compassion:

    Campbell brought up the recent Jayson Blair scandal at the New York Times and noted that something similar happened to Janet Cooke, who filed a fictitious story at the Washington Post in 1981. Both writers blamed their fabrications on editors who pushed them to produce news, and Woodward was one of Cooke’s editors at the time.

    Woodward admitted that there was, of course, pressure on Cooke to get a story, but he confessed his feeling that the entire incident was more of a moral failure on both of their parts.

    “I was only concerned about the story, and not about the boy,” Woodward said of Cooke’s article, which portrayed an eight-year-old boy who was turned into a heroin addict by his mother and her boyfriend.

    “I should have asked, ‘Where is this kid? We’ll get the police and a doctor over there, we’ll save him, and then we’ll write the story.’ But I didn’t observe my responsibility as a human being, which would have taken care of the journalistic problem,” said Woodward.

    Regarding the Havill book, Woodward remarked cryptically,
    It’s good to be stung every now and then.
    I guess that's remorse. But have his standards changed since then?

    His final remark:

    "They get the power, then they think they’re unassailable,” Woodward speculated. “They feel they’re not subject to outside scrutiny. But everyone is, and so the best policy is to get out the truth.” Again, he referenced the “disease of denial,” stating that the refusal to accept reality creates a cover-up that is worse than that which is being concealed.
    Fair enough. But isn't a policy good enough for the story of "Jimmy" also good enough for the story of Watergate?

    Linda Pease asks similar questions and many more (including questions about Woodward's imaginary conversations with the dying William Casey):

    Given his role in the Watergate cover-up, and the misrepresentations in his own work, it remains to us a huge mystery why this man is treated with the reverence he is. Considering his behavior, his background, his credibility, and his connections, we now feel compelled to join Adrian Havill in asking who is Bob Woodward? Whom does he serve? Is his career sustained for the purposes of those with a "secret agenda"?
    Even the much more stodgy and respectable CJR asks similar questions:
    Because of Havill's persistence and the previous reporting of other Woodstein debunkers -- especially Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin in Silent Coup and Jim Hougan in Secret Agenda (see CJR, November/December, 1991) -- I'm prepared to judge Woodward and Bernstein guilty on some counts until proven innocent. They have played the anonymous sourcing game too long, with consequences for history too serious to tolerate.

    Speaking of his own, usually unsourced, revelations, Woodward has said that readers take his word because they can distinguish "between chicken salad and chicken shit." So now that Havill has served up chicken salad, and pretty well-sourced at that, what is Woodward's response?

    Likewise, Clark R. Mollenhoff, Nieman Fellow 1950, Professor of Journalism at Washington and Lee University, offers some seasoned perspective on the "Jimmy" story.

    For some historical perspective, of course, there's always the very late Walter Duranty, another Pulitzer Prize winner who (for obvious reasons) is worse than Janet Cooke or Jayson Blair.

    Speaking of the dead, Woodward's interview with the dying CIA director William Casey goes down as an all-time journalistic triumph. Why, it even made the cynically left-wing Christopher Hitchens jealous:

    Had I come into Kaiser's office and claimed to have conducted a deathbed interview with William Casey, in which the old brute implicitly confirmed everything I had written by uttering the cryptic words, "I believed," I would have been brusquely (and deservedly) told to take my custom elsewhere. But that's the thing about being a gatekeeper. You are Janus, and just as you can kill a story that meets the ordinary test of "objectivity," so you can also print one that flagrantly flouts that standard. Did I say I wasn't jealous or resentful? Perhaps I lied a little. Who would not wish to have such freedom?
    But who knows? Maybe Woodward learned his lesson about quoting the comatose. As WORLD notes, he hasn't been doing it lately.

    Well, in Woodward's defense it should be noted that at least Deep Throat was not in a coma; he was (at least according to Edward Jay Epstein) IMAGINARY.

    And also in Woodward's defense, maybe I should concede that his questionable journalism really doesn't rise to the Duranty level, because nobody was killed.


    (Nobody, that is, unless you count Cambodia, Vietnam, and American promises broken after Watergate.)

    UPDATE: YET ANOTHER REPORTING SCANDAL, this one involving USA Today:

    USA TODAY Editor Karen Jurgensen resigned Tuesday, one month after former USA TODAY reporter Jack Kelley was found to have fabricated numerous stories and lifted material from other publications over many years.

    In a six-paragraph memo to staffers, Publisher Craig Moon said Jurgensen's "retirement opens the door to move the USA TODAY brand forward under new leadership. A search for a new editor is underway. We will fill the position as soon as possible."

    A panel of USA TODAY reporters investigating Kelley's work over the years reported on March 19 that Kelley, a foreign correspondent, fabricated substantial portions of at least eight major stories, lifted nearly two dozen quotes or other material from competing publications and conspired to mislead those investigating his work. Kelley, 43, resigned in January. (Related item: Story on Kelley fabrications)

    The memo included a statement from Jurgensen. "Like all of us who worked with Jack Kelley, I wish we had caught him far sooner than we did," said Jurgensen, 55, who has been USA TODAY's editor since 1999.

    "The sad lessons learned by all in this dreadful situation will make USA TODAY a stronger, better newspaper," she said.

    More "sad lessons"? Another "journalism scandal"?

    Sooner or later I hope it will become known that Watergate was truly the worst of all modern journalism scandals. I say "worst" because the foundations of modern investigative journalism are built upon a "story" that in reality is an ongoing coverup.

    The saddest lessons are the ones that can't be learned.

    UPDATE: Daniel Drezner (via Glenn Reynolds) reflects on why he hasn't reviewed Woodward's new book: he hasn't had the time, and books are expensive. This, I am sure, at least partially explains why it hasn't received as much attention as it might from the Blogosphere. Fisking a book is a tall order, especially a book cranked out by such a noted teller of tall tales as Woodward. And of course, it's based on his usual unsourced sources.

    This gets back to what Neal Boortz said about unverifiable sources: "you make a choice on whether to believe Bob Woodward, or not to believe him." I suspect that many of the people who are familiar with Woodward are not inclined to believe him -- and therefore disinclined to read him. (Or pay him.)

    And just what is this book to be called, anyway? Journalism? History? These things are normally thought of as verifiable, checkable, citable. By being asked to take Woodward at his word, we are presented with more of an argument to authority, formally called Argumentum ad verecundiam. (More here.)

    At the risk of sounding old-fashioned, I think that authority has to be earned.

    EVEN MORE: The USA Today scandal claims two more victims:

    A second top editor stepped down from USA Today on Thursday as the fallout from a fraud scandal involving a former star reporter spread. A third told staffers he would be departing soon.

    Hal Ritter, the newspaper's managing editor of news, submitted his resignation to publisher Craig Moon on Thursday. He had been in his current role since 1995 and had worked at the paper since it was founded in 1982.

    Ritter's departure came on the same day that the newspaper revealed the final conclusions of a wide-ranging investigation into the work of former star reporter Jack Kelley. The newspaper's top editor, Karen Jurgensen, retired abruptly in the wake of the scandal on Tuesday.

    .....The review found that Kelley committed many acts of fraudulent reporting for more than a decade, including fabricating parts of at least 20 stories and stealing at least 100 passages from other news organizations. (via Drudge.)

    Anyone surprised?

    Time for another yawn, I guess.

    MORE, ON "PLAN OF ATTACK": Cliff May reviews Bob Woodward's book here, and argues that those who are using the book as an argument against Bush are only seeing what they want to see: For example, regarding the WMD debate, the book shows a very different George W. Bush than the one commonly portrayed:

    Bush was deeply skeptical about the CIA's conclusions regarding Iraqi WMD - even after he was presented with a "Top Secret" document starkly warning: "Baghdad has chemical and biological weapons."

    What changed the president's mind? Woodward vividly describes a meeting in the Oval Office in which George Tenet, the director of central intelligence, responded to Bush's doubts by rising up from his seat and throwing his arms in the air. "It's a slam-dunk case!" he said.

    Even that didn't quite persuade Bush. He pressed further, asking Tenet: "George, how confident are you?" At which point, the nation's top spy - a nonideological nonpartisan who held the same job in the Clinton administration - "threw his arms up again. 'Don't worry, it's a slam dunk!' he repeated."

    Imagine if - instead of heeding this warning - Bush had ignored it, put on his sweat suit and gone for a jog around the White House. Imagine if a terrorist attack, utilizing WMD supplied by Saddam Hussein, had followed. Bush would have faced impeachment - and deservedly so.

    But the president didn't do that. Instead - according to Woodward's reporting - he instructed his CIA chief to assemble the evidence on WMD, adding cautiously: "Make sure no one stretches to make our case."

    There's more, of course. But whether you read it or not, you'll have to, as Neal Boortz said, make a choice whether to believe Woodward or not.

    Because of Bob Woodward's history of making stuff up, I'd rather not be forced to take this new book any more seriously than I'd take a work of fiction. And while it's interesting to read that "Plan of Attack" contains ammo for both sides, I wouldn't want to rely on that ammo for anything more than a misfire.

    But I suppose partisans might as well feel free to take they like, and leave the rest.

    posted by Eric at 09:30 PM | Comments (4)

    Sound the alarm!

    The 42d Bonfire of the Vanities is hosted by Josh Cohen, who does such a great job I can't wait to spoil some of it for you. (By the way, Josh gave me a new idea for literary success.)

    But I did a bit of a doubletake when I saw the date of April 19 accompanied by a huge fire, because over the years I have come to associate that date with this fire:


    (It would have been in bad taste to post the above at a blog roast post, unless you have a really twisted sense of humor.)

    Josh begins by defending himself for the crime of not liking Sean Hannity. While I sort of posted about Sean Hannity not long ago, I don't know enough about him to state whether I like him or not (although I greatly admire him for daring to take John Dean to task for his outrageous falsehoods). But there is no rule that you have to like someone just because someone else says you should. I, for example, do not like Bill O'Reilly, and I have explained why in several posts. Nor do I especially care for Rush Limbaugh, but I will defend him on the drug issue to the bitter end as a victim of the drug laws.

    Josh put it quite well when he said,

    Every conservative has something the other conservatives dislike about him/her, just like every liberal, moderate, centrist, or Libertarian. And there's something in every opponent you can agree with.
    Anyone who can't see the logic in that had best lock his doors, and never leave home, because it's a cruel world out there.

    But even Sean Hannity had to move over for more important things!

    Such as:

    Cruel torture: a teacher in britain was arrested. on him they found a pencil, eraser, ruler, protractor and compass. They said he was part of the Al Gebra network, and that he had weapons of math instruction!

    Susie's display of dereliction of duty: she screwed up her template and took a nap.

    Useful Fools has a great photo of a useless pinhead.

    On the Fritz made me think of African American widowperson arachnids even though it wasn't his entry.

    Fried Man talks about fashionism.

    (A theme echoed by Kevin's post on what not to wear to get a White House, um, job.)

    Interested Participant has a story about an owl grabbing a dog. (A bad idea in my yard.)

    That's owl for now.

    Read 'em owl all!

    posted by Eric at 06:14 PM | TrackBacks (1)

    Does this story have legs?

    Clayton Cramer (via Glenn Reynolds) has more on the Oklahoma City now-you-see-it-now-you-don't unexplained leg:

    Q. Now, you have done some examination and testing and work on the leg that you have as P71?

    A. That's correct.

    Q. Based on the work that you've done, you believe that leg belongs to a female?

    A. We don't have any good scientific evidence to prove that at this point yet, but that is the impression that Dr. Balding and I have. But it's an impression; it's not a scientifically quantifiable thing.

    Um, at the risk of engaging in paranoia, didn't they run DNA tests before the trial to at least determine the sex of the 169th "victim"? First, the experts said the leg came from a man, and that in any case it made no difference. But later, tests revealed it came from a woman:
    Jordan said the leg was identified as belonging to a black female after a series of three special DNA and hair fiber tests were completed by FBI analysts. The finding sharply differed from an earlier statement by Jordan's office that there was a 75 percent probability that the limb belonged to a white male.

    "No one can have confidence now in any of the forensic work in this case," Jones said. "Today a white male became a black female. No wonder DNA testing is being discredited."

    Another example of either sloppy investigation, or manipulation of evidence to support the prosecution's coverup case. I have to share Mr. Cramer's skepticism when he asks,
    How much else did the prosecution suppress in their effort to keep this case neat and tidy?
    Dead men tell no tales. (Nor do dead women; read the whole thing.)

    Anyway, I kept digging through Internet rubble in search of missing leg stories. I found this Denver Post report that the leg was matched to one Airman First Class Lakesha Levy, a black woman who died in the blast.

    Ah, but the problem with that is that they had already buried Airman Levy with both of "her" legs! So (according to this CNN report) they had to exhume her body, inter the "identified" leg, but now they're still stuck with another unidentified leg:

    Jordan said that FBI DNA analysis and footprint tests proved the leg belonged to a victim identified as Lakesha Levy, 21, of New Orleans. Levy's body was found on April 27, and through a series of mistakes, a leg was buried with Levy that wasn't hers.

    As a result, said Jordan, the medial examiner still has one leg that has not been identified. He said his office would continue with its investigation and he suspected that the leg mistakenly buried with Levy "will belong to somebody killed in the bombing."

    Levy, said Jordan, was a member of the military, explaining the leg's military garb. He said her body had been sent to New Orleans for burial, but the leg placed with her body by officials will be recovered and tested to determine to whom it belonged.

    One very simple question: what leg are we talking about?

    Finally, Charles Hill reports a story claiming the video does not exist.

    I'm stumped. Stumped!

    Does any analysis so far even have a leg to stand on?

    UPDATE: I am now having trouble getting the link attributed to CNN to open. Here's another one with the same Levy exhumation thread. [NOTE: The poor quality link above has been replaced with a better one.]

    MORE HERE on the suffering the exhumation caused Airman Levy's family -- but nothing about the other leg buried with her.

    I hope it didn't disappear, so I'll keep looking for it. Surely by now it has been "identified."

    McVeigh's legal motion to attend the exhumation was denied.

    As recently as 1999, the exhumed leg remained unidentified.

    Does the story end there?

    FINAL NOTE: A pretty diligent search has revealed nothing further about the unidentified leg. However, the math has me confused, because the overwhelming majority of media stories still claim that there were 168 victims as opposed to a minority claiming the figure of 169.

    Must this mean that the leg did not belong to "victim number 169?"

    I decided to get more specific, so I searched using the exact phrase "169 victims":

    Only fifteen.

    Then I tried Oklahoma City and "168 victims"

    Nine hundred and sixteen!

    Allowing for the possibility that "victim" is too judgmental a word to apply to an unidentified leg, I searched again using "168 people."

    15,500 results!

    OK, how about "169 people."

    This yielded a paltry 490 results

    I couldn't help notice that the older stories (as well as the conspiracy-oriented sites) tend to use the number 169, while the newer, and more official-type stories use 168.

    wikipedia for example, refers to 168 chairs which are arranged at the official memorial site.

    Surely the memorial to the victims, with each victim represented by a chair, would not lie, would it?

    I wanted to know how many chairs there are, so I googled that too, in the same way.

    First, "168 chairs."

    228 results.

    Finally, "169 chairs."

    Two results! (A minister (who I think may have been confused by something he'd read elsewhere), and a File not found.)

    From this data it can fairly be said that the government as well as the vast majority of news sources steadfastly maintain that 168 victims died during the blast.

    Logically and mathematically, the leg belonging to person number 169 must either be a victim or a perpetrator of the bombing.

    Can't have it both ways, unless "unidentified" means "does not exist."

    If that's what "unidentified" means, then count me in as a paranoid conspiracy theorist!

    UPDATE: Wow, I was so busy writing a long post (above) about Bob Woodward that I failed to notice that Glenn Reynolds linked to this post. Thank you Glenn, and welcome all InstaPundit readers!

    One more point (albeit a very nit-picky one): The meticulous Justin Case tells me that my logic may be slightly off when I say that the leg must either be a victim or a perpetrator of the bombing, because as he rightly points out, it is scientifically possible that the leg might have been from a medical cadaver, or possibly a body part which some murderer had conveniently happened to drop near the blast.

    Point taken. But, whether it's a medical cadaver or a crime victim, shouldn't they still be trying to identify it? And what would a medical cadaver be doing in the federal building?

    Maybe I should accuse Justin of pulling my leg.

    posted by Eric at 03:44 PM | Comments (6)

    Latent sounds

    I think this is an incredibly cool use of new technology to improve upon the old.

    Physicists from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory are using the same methods to search for the elusive Higgs Boson particle and to digitally restore audio recordings from the past. Berkeley Lab signed an agreement with the Library of Congress to digitize the many thousands of early blues or jazz recordings it has in its archives. And the results are spectacular. Compare for example, these two versions of "Good Bye Irene", before and after being optically reconstructed (WAV format, 18 and 19 seconds). This news release describes the method used by the physicists.
    "We developed a way to image the grooves in a recording that is similar to measuring tracks in a particle detector," says Carl Haber, a senior scientist in Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory's Physics Division, who developed the technology along with fellow Physics Division scientist Vitaliy Fadeyev.

    Their work could ultimately enable the Library of Congress to digitize the thousands of blues, classical, Dixie, jazz, and spoken word recordings in its archives. The mass digitization of these aging discs and cylinders will both preserve the nation's musical history and make it accessible to a wide audience.

    Might there also be a way to recover lost sounds which might not have fully made it into the sounds heard on the original recording, too?

    I'm thinking along the lines of archaeoacoustics.

    The "deep waters of the unproven and often scorned?"

    Why not?

    "Lost" data can be recovered from hard drives, so imagine what other cool stuff there might be. (That's just given as an example; if there's anything good in there, I doubt we'll ever hear it. Nixon Library Executive Director John Taylor thinks it might help vindicate Nixon; I don't see how it could hurt the man at this point.)

    (HT Justin Case.)

    UPDATE: In light of this press release, I still doubt we'll ever hear the famous "gap."

    On August 28, 2002, the second test tape was sent to participants. This test tape was recorded using blank .5-millimeter tape confiscated from the Nixon White House. It was recorded and erased at 15/16 inches per second (IPS) and contained speech similar in quality to the speech before and after the 18 ½-minute gap on Tape 342. None of the participants recovered any intelligible audio from the second test tape.

    In accepting the recommendations of the panel, Mr. Carlin said, " I am fully satisfied that we have explored all of the avenues to attempt to recover the sound on this tape. The candidates were highly qualified and used the latest technology in their pursuit. We will continue to preserve the tape in the hopes that later generations can try again to recover the this vital piece of our history."

    For press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs Staff at 301-837-1700.

    posted by Eric at 12:08 AM | Comments (1)

    Fostering paranoia.....

    When I read what Rush Limbaugh said about Hillary Clinton's plans do do Kerry like she did her lesbian lover Vinnie Foster, I was initially almost as skeptical as was Glenn Reynolds.

    But then (via Drudge) I read this:

    FORMER US first lady, Hillary Rodham Clinton, left Jamaica yesterday after a one-week vacation at the exclusive Tryall Club in Hanover, highly placed sources confirmed.

    Hotel officials declined to confirm or deny Rodham Clinton's stay at the property, but one knowledgeable source told the Observer: "She had a quiet, delightful and restful holiday. That was the way she wanted it."

    Consider the proximity of Hillary's Jamaica visit to April 21:

    Haile Selassie visited Jamaica on April 21, 1966, while the country was amid an ongoing national social crisis in which Rastas were perceived by the majority as a revolutionary threat that had to be defused. During this first and final trip to Jamaica, Selassie met with several Rastafarian leaders. The visit resulted in two profound developments within the Rastafarian movement. First, Selassie convinced the Rastafarian brothers that they "should not seek to immigrate to Ethiopia until they had liberated the people of Jamaica." Second, from that day forth, April 21st has been celebrated as a special holy day among Rastafarians, "Grounation Day."

    You don't think this has any bearing on Vincent Foster? But there's more:

    The circumstances of his death were mysterious but many believe he was murdered by his captors. In 1992 after the Marxist government was overthrown, the remains of Emperor Haile Selassie were found buried under a toilet in the Imperial Palace. The body was exhumed and moved to a mausoleum in Addis Ababa.

    Many Rastafarians believed that his death was staged by the media in an attempt to bring their faith down, while others claimed that Haile Selassie I had trodded on to the perfect flesh, and sits on the highest point of Mount Zion where He and Empress Menen await the Time of Judgement. There are others, however, who were quite logical in their approach to the theological problem surrounding the Emperor's death. They saw the death of Selassie as changing nothing, except that their God was no longer physically present. Such Rastafarians claimed that He is omnipresent in spirit and visited the clouds with the hosts of heaven.

    More here. And more on Jamaica here.

    And Hillary "won't confirm or deny"?

    Case closed, I'd say.

    PLEASE NOTE: Lest I be accused of Fostering conspiracy theories myself, I was very careful not to mention Vincent Foster's hard drive or his gun. (Whatever gun it was.) I will say this, though: slipshod investigations of important cases breed disrespect, and generate endless paranoid conspiracy theories. Eventually, these things are rendered incapable of rational discussion. Mere mention of them is enough to get you labeled as a nut. Some people think the best defense is a good offense, of course.....

    UPDATE: And on a more serious note, now I read that the Oklahoma City Bombing was taped!

    Why did it take until now?

    posted by Eric at 09:15 PM | Comments (1)

    Spring finally coming into view

    Took a few photos today, and I started with a former Victorian hotel, now converted into a girls prep school. The red color of the building makes the pink cherry tree blossoms seem a little on the dark side. Although it was a nice, if hazy day, somehow this reminds me of the building in "Rosemary's Baby."


    Later I drove alongside a creek which dumps into the Schuylkill River. I had to stop and pull over to shoot a photo of an old factory. Nearby, a couple of urban fishermen were trying their luck, but the fish didn't seem to be exactly jumping onto their hooks. The "factory" (or whatever it is now) is rundown, but it's actually inspiring to behold. Artists in California would be all over it, building lofts and dreams. Here no one cares (which is part of its charm).


    The road follows the creek until both deadend at the Schuylkill River. An old cobblestone road shines through under an arch, while a puddle reflects the stop sign.


    As good a stopping point as any.

    posted by Eric at 01:28 AM

    Features War

    This is a test to see whether or not I can use the Movable Type features I want!

    I can't, because the little "bold," "underline" and "URL" buttons do not show.

    The problem with Linux is that I have to code the links manually, which takes longer.

    There is no Internet Explorer for Linux, and there won't be anytime soon, because Linux is to Bill Gates as Osama bin Laden is to the United States.

    Of course, there's always this.

    We'll see.....

    UPDATE: IT WORKS!!! I had to edit the edit_entry.tmpl code, and I got it wrong a couple of times, but finally here I am in Mozilla in Linux and there right above this are the "bold," "underline," "italic," and "URL" buttons!

    Works in regular Netscape too. Anyone who is interested, check out the above link.

    Enough of this geek wannabe stuff for one weekend!

    posted by Eric at 10:40 PM | TrackBacks (1)

    Springtime for Linux!

    While nearly everyone in his right mind is enjoying this beautiful day, I decided to try out a new Linux distribution -- Mepis Linux.

    The cool thing about this one is that the CD will work as a demo OS, and then -- only if you decide you like it, you can choose to install it on your hard drive.

    I have extra hard drives lying about, so it's simple to install at home, then switch hard drives whenever I feel like switching OS's. But this Mepis configured itself THREE TIMES now on three different computers (I installed it on the hard drive of one), and without a hitch allowed me to fire up the Konqueror web browser.

    Most remarkably, it works like a charm on my laptop, with no configuration at all! If you know anything about Linux, you'll know what a bitch it can be to install it on so many laptops. (My laptop is a Dell Latitude C600, in case any geeks are reading.)

    I didn't install it on the laptop permanently but I am running it right now from the CD!

    I think I'll post this and enjoy the Spring!

    UPDATE: While I am at home now (doing this update using the Mepis Linux OS I installed earlier) , the above was written entirely from the CD, which means I wouldn't even need a hard drive. I was at Starbucks when I did it -- and while it was configuring it immediately recognized and configured the mini pci WiFi adapter. All I had to do once it booted up was open the Konqueror browser.


    posted by Eric at 04:47 PM | TrackBacks (3)

    Puff is famous!

    My blogfather Jeff put Puff's sleepyhead picture up -- at very top of the blog logo! -- at the wonderful new pet blog he has started (in partnership with Michael Demmons), Tarazet. Everyone who has a pet should visit this site. And everyone who doesn't have a pet should also visit this site. You might change your mind.

    By way of bragging by a proud owner, here's an enlarged view of the same shot:


    Here's Puff smiling (obviously in anticipatory contemplation of his new-found fame):


    You can also see Puff smiling in the Tarazet's blog logo too. He's fourteen, and he'll be smiling down from somewhere else much too soon. It's one of the tragedies of loving an animal; like loving a person. No matter how invaluable or how loved we are, we're all mortal.

    Thanks from Puff, Jeff! And thanks, Michael!

    Thanks from Eric too!

    UPDATE: I have been reading about Jeff's cat Rainbow. A long struggle, and she's not getting better. Readers might want to send along some words of sympathy, to Jeff. And Rainbow.

    posted by Eric at 06:30 PM

    Tainted injections from the BBC?

    Here's a remarkable piece of personalized reporting by the BBC's correspondent in Jerusalem:

    A few years ago, at university, I got a call from one of my tutors. "Come and see me at once," he commanded.

    "OK" I said. And I suddenly felt very nervous. I had not been to all that many of this man's lectures - and I was fairly convinced that his call had something to do with that.

    I went to his study. He stood by his desk, smoking a pipe. "I've been asked to write you a reference for a summer job," he said, "But I don't know you at all."

    There was a pause. "So, here's my idea," he went on, "write the reference yourself. I'll copy it out later and sign it."

    He handed me the form. I hesitated - though shamefully, not for long.

    And I sat down and began writing a fairly tepid appraisal of my character and my achievements.

    The tutor looked at me. "Make it good," he ordered. "Sell yourself."

    So I started again. "James is a very talented student," I wrote, "In fact, he is an outstanding student."

    And so I went on, for about a page or so - getting more and more into it, feeling free to ascribe to myself soaring skills across a limitless range of subjects.

    I finished writing - and handed back the form, feeling slightly embarrassed. The tutor glanced at it : "That's it," he said, "just the job."

    In his own words

    I was reminded of all this a few days ago in Washington as I watched President George W Bush read out a statement at the end of Ariel Sharon's White House visit.

    Mr Bush spoke of the Israeli prime minister as a bold and courageous leader. He praised what he called his historic and courageous actions.
    And then he went on dramatically to rearrange US foreign policy on Jewish settlements and Palestinian refugees - in effect lining himself up with Mr Sharon's own position.

    It was as if Ariel Sharon had written the president's words himself.

    Whoa! Was that some powerful reporting or what!

    It was as if! (OK, I inject personal stuff into my writing too, but I am blogging, not reporting international events for the BBC.)

    I mean, the guy remembered that a professor once allowed him to write his own letter of recommendation! And therefore, Sharon wrote Bush's speech!

    Bravo, BBC! Nothing gets past these guys. Just look at the similarities between Sharon and Bush; they are so striking that truly they must have been separated at birth!

    it is very hard to find any remaining differences whatsoever between Mr Bush and Mr Sharon. The similarities are what stand out.

    Both men have a tendency to see the world in the black and white of good and evil.

    Each has put great faith in a simple political belief - that action is more important than consensus.

    And both are ranch owners.

    Wow! That's really intense, man! Talk about heavy! They both believe in good and evil, and both own ranches! Now I see why Sharon gets to dictate Bush's speeches to him just like the reporter's professor!

    It's like, um, Lincoln had a secretary named Kennedy, and Kennedy had a secretary named Lincoln!

    (Listen carefully!)

    But there's more magic afoot in this analysis, and Bush better beware!

    [T]he reference I wrote for myself at university did not work.

    I did not get the job.

    Take that, Jew lover Bush!

    I wish I could read the above "news report" in Arabic.

    By the way, does anyone know why the stories featured in the BBC's Arabic edition are so different in appearance? I can't read Arabic, but the pictures are not the same at all. Is it the same news?

    I'd love to read this story, for example, but I can't find it in English.

    Anything wrong with wanting to know what's being injected in Arabic?

    posted by Eric at 03:30 PM

    From neglected child to pyramid scheme!

    It's a busy day, but it's still Friday, which is Online Test Day at Classical Values.

    Each week I am forced to grin and bare my soul, whether I want to or not.

    I think I'll rank these from the smallest to the largest, beginning with the baby of them all, my inner child -- which is neglected!

    your inner child is the neglected child. Your always ledt alone without much nurturing or love. You dont believe you are lovable or worthwhile so you dont know how to love, your just depr
    your inner child is the neglected child. Your
    always ledt alone without much nurturing or
    love. You dont believe you are lovable or
    worthwhile so you dont know how to love, your
    just depressed.(will u please rate this quiz
    cause i looked up alot of this).

    Whats ur Inner Child(with pics)
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Well, if I'm a neglected child, then I'll get even with whoever wrote this test by neglecting to correct the bad grammar and spelling!


    I guess it's now fair to ask what Elliot Smith song a neglected inner child grows up to become. And from a favorite new blogger, res gestae dionysii, I found out!


    Which Elliott Smith song are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla


    If I didn't know it was a song, I'd swear my neglected inner child was suffering from an eating disorder which causes him to spit out food particles -- while making that noise!


    Neglected children with eating disorders may start by turning their problems into music, but that doesn't begin to satisfy the endless craving for more. No doubt the Divine Discontent looms large in the life of every neglected inner child, thus forcing them onward and upward. Did I just mention force?

    As it happens, Michael Demmons (a Padawan) supplied a test -- how jedi are you? -- which ranked my forceness.

    :: how jedi are you? ::


    I don't mind being a Jedi Knight, but I'm supposed to rank these tests by size. And what has me a little confused about the "Which Old Testament Character are you?" test is how to rank Star Wars characters vis-a-vis Biblical characters. (After writing about Hellboy it's even more confusing.) But I decided that box office popularity would have to win here, and I think Star Wars films outrank movies about my character, Gideon.

    You are GIDEON!
    Which Old Testament Character are you?

    brought to you by Quizilla (Via Ordinary Galoot, who gets to be Nehemiah.)

    It really isn't fair for Gideon to be outranked by the Jedi Knight, because Gideon is considered one of history's first spies, and I think a film about him would be quite interesting. Especially because according to this site, he's controversial:

    GIDEON: killed (Jud. 8:16:17 the Living Bible), murdered prisoners (Jud. 8:21 RSV), engaged in polygamy (Jud. 8:30)
    That sounds like an exciting action/adventure/spy film to me.

    But I doubt it could out-rank Star Wars. Unfair as it may be, I think the Jedi Knight outranks Gideon in popular culture.


    I saved the best for last -- "What Wonder of the Ancient World are you?"

    You are the Great Pyramid of Giza!
    You are the Great Pyramid of Giza!

    You are a natural leader who expects nothing but
    the best effort from yourself and others. You
    make decisions quickly and accurately. As the
    Great Pyramid of Giza, you are also very
    detailed, and you admire attention to detail in
    yourself and others. You organize projects and
    teams very well. You do tend to be impatient,
    and hate mistakes made by others and especially
    yourself. Being wrong is the worst fate that
    you could imagine.

    What Wonder of the Ancient World are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Which makes two in one from Ordinary Galoot, who's also the Great Pyramid.

    I've been contemplating the Sphinx for a long time, too....

    posted by Eric at 05:13 PM | TrackBacks (2)

    Sick of this election yet?

    A funny thing happened on the way to the post office yesterday. Some well-dressed, well spoken people were handing out this leaflet to people standing in line at the post office to pay their taxes.

    That's OK. I support free speech.

    But this is the War Election, also known as the Election War, so I found myself asking whether, despite the fact that the leaflets said nothing about the election (much less who to vote for), might nonetheless be some sort of connection between the flier and the, um, general campaign?

    Or is this just an odd coincidence that the organization producing this leaflet receives funding from Tides? More here.

    I guess McCain-Feingold has nothing to do with early electioneering....

    It's all just a coincidence.

    posted by Eric at 03:10 PM | Comments (2)

    The Devil may care

    It's overdue movie review time!

    Last week I saw a film I normally never would have seen -- "Hellboy."

    It's about a genuine devil boy brought into this world through a portal to Hell installed by Nazi occultists, whose plot to rule as Satanic lackeys was foiled at the last minute by US forces under the control of a rather kindly military attache from the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defense. The latter saved the baby devil from being shot by U.S. troops, raising him in a benevolent Christian (if paranormal) home, so he can spend his time literally fighting the good fight, battling demons and various dark forces. His slender, psychicly gifted sidekick is a cross between C3PO and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. (More the former than the latter; even down to the voice and, um, mannerisms?)

    The film is very popular with the young kids (so forget about seeing it in silence!), and the technical effects do more than bring a comic book fantasy to life; they make it seem almost believable.

    Hellboy kicks ass bigtime; he loves to destroy monsters and demons, and keeps his horns ground down for esthetic reasons. But he's very casual about the way he destroys demons; it's a little amusing for him, but a fierce, almost hubristic pride in his work makes him the best. Rough as he is, he manages to fall in love with a very "hot" girl. (When she gets mad, she bursts into huge flames which engulf and devour. But no flames can burn the fireproof Hellboy except the flames of love. As a devil, he's a loser. As a hero, he's very much a Clint Eastwood type, except darker, more aloof, more cynical.)

    I immediately understood why the film is such a hit with the kids: it's a classic struggle -- internal and external -- between the forces of good and the forces of evil, and its popularity is an embarrassing indictment of the post-modernist, deconstructionist drivel the kids have been raised on.

    You'd think their elders would have learned by now; without good and evil, the world is simply boring!

    Any child could tell you that, I guess.

    But don't ask me; I don't have children.

    Despite the good and evil theme, I doubt this film would be popular with anyone subscribing to strict religious dogma -- especially adherents to the predestination doctrine. Hellboy was supposed to have started the war prophesied in Revelation, but when his destiny is finally made clear to him by the resurrected Rasputin (just as the portal to Hell is reopened), he tears off the newly sprouted horns, and sides with good.

    Infuriated, Rasputin screams, "Now you'll never realize your destiny!"

    Putting aside the absurdity of the logic, I rather enjoy the idea that predestination is evil, and that true good comes in a climate of free will, and free choice.

    Our enemies need to know that.

    So do our friends.

    UPDATE: JUSTIN CASE OPINES -- Hellboy is "a quintessential American. Like Superman he's an immigrant. Casts off the tired old morals of his ancestral stomping ground but reinvents himself! Why should he be another Prince of Darkness just because his daddy was?" (I know what you're driving at, Justin --a "Caste" system? It's too late -- Justin's done enough. Thanks!)

    MORE ON FREEDOM: The debate goes on. George Weigel, who's a Senior Fellow at Washington's Ethics and Public Policy Center, thinks there is a "fundamental division over the nature of freedom."

    "If the argument for freedom as personal willfulness ('my way') prevails, it seems likely that abortion will remain unrestricted, the biotech industry virtually unregulated, and 'marriage' will mean, eventually, any configuration of (perhaps any number of) consenting adults," he wrote.

    If, on the other hand, "the argument prevails that freedom means freely choosing what we can know to be morally good, there may be a real chance to accelerate the building of a culture of life in America."

    "FREEDOM" TO DO AS YOU'RE TOLD? I recall an old quotation from Chairman Mao:
    "If a man must do what he is told to do by the party, then he is absolutely free." -- Mao
    Hell is perfect!

    UPDATE: Michele has a Hellboy action figure doll. Now I'm jealous.

    MORE: Roger L. Simon also links to the Hellboy action figure at his blog.

    I knew I'd seen that cover before. (And I'm pretty sure it was at Cody's Books in Berkeley...)

    But what is the cosmic significance of Hellboy standing on it?

    posted by Eric at 12:23 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (7)


    The shifting sands have me very confused. Is this an election war, or a war election?

    Stubborn thoughts won't go away. Logic does not seem to apply anymore.

    But let me go with the flow.

    Bush did nothing before 9-11.

    OK, so he should have done more?


    Bush did too much after 9-11.

    OK, so he should be doing less?

    Or should he have simply prevented war? He didn't prevent it then, and he won't prevent it now?

    Can wars be deleted?

    Can we vote war out of existence?

    Can peace simply be declared?

    Or should we just pretend?



    posted by Eric at 11:29 PM | Comments (1)



    After that last post, my only question is, what would Baghdad Bob say now?

    Because, it's official!

    The NRA is now part of the news media:

    WASHINGTON - The nation's gun lobby is creating an "NRA news" company that will produce a daily talk show for the Internet, buy a radio station and seek a television deal to spread its gun-rights message nationwide.

    Looking for the same legal recognition as mainstream news organizations, the National Rifle Association says it has already hired its first reporter, a conservative talk radio host from Oklahoma. plans to start online broadcasts Friday.

    The NRA is taking the step to operate free of political spending limits, hoping to use unlimited donations known as soft money to focus on gun issues and candidates' positions despite the law's restrictions on soft money-financed political ads within days of the election.

    "If that's the only way to bring back the First Amendment, we're going to bring it back," Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president, told The Associated Press. Under the nation's campaign finance law, he said, "if you own the news operation, you can say whatever you want. If you don't, you're gagged."

    Well, according to McCain-Feingold, the only way to get your message across in the media is to become the media. The NRA is now doing that.

    Senior Producer John Popp (who's working overtime right now at the NRA convention) says that the new show will be on the air from 2-5 tomorrow and Saturday. Listeners need only visit the NRA News website, and it's as easy as listening to Air America Radio.

    Considering the many years of experience of their staff (John Popp has spent his life in radio and Senior Correspondent and newscaster Jeff Johnson is a professional news reporter and former radio program director), I'd venture that it will be easier and better!

    Bloggers should particularly take notice of these intriguing remarks about the nature of the press:

    "The wonderful thing about a free press is that anyone can publish his or her views," said Stuart Wilk, president of Associated Press Managing Editors and managing editor of the Dallas Morning News. "I think it's up to the reader to determine over time whether the information is credible, reliable and objective."

    Larry Noble, head of the Center for Responsive Politics and former lead attorney for the Federal Election Commission (news - web sites), said that if the NRA operation has the trappings of a press entity — such as a radio outlet — it has a strong argument that it is one.

    "The law does allow news media to editorialize and do commentary. It's the reason The New York Times can endorse candidates in its editorials," Noble said. "So in one sense they are not blazing new ground, but they are going into an area that's still forming and about which regulations are still being developed."

    According to Mr. Popp, if you have a radio show -- even a streamed show -- and you can get syndication, then no one can refuse you press credentials.

    Can true blog radio be far behind?

    UPDATE: For reasons best explained by him, Senator Kerry has seen the need to hold a major campaign event in Pittsburgh right now.

    Kerry did not mention the gun issue during his appearance.
    Does that mean it's not about guns? Is Kerry hinting around? This doesn't strike me as the best way to reassure jittery firearm owners about his or the Democrats' committment to the Second Amendment. Considering my experience, I have reason to feel jittery.

    posted by Eric at 10:31 PM

    Don't believe the InstaLiar!

    Air America is far from finished!

    Click on Baghdad Bob for the truth!

    UPDATE: There has been some discussion about whether the Air America page is satire, and whether the Infidel Reynolds knew this at the time he linked to it. This is all deadly serious, folks, this is war! Baghdad Bob does not work for bogus checks; as he says, "These are all certified funds, and there are billions of more dollars from Mr. Soreass!"

    But unfortunately, the Infidel Reynolds can't be bought, and he is now charging Bob with "parody" for pointing out the truth!

    Doesn't he know that web pages never lie?

    (Check image stolen from On the Fritz)

    Thanks for visiting, and please feel free to bounce around!

    But um, yes, yes, at last I finally confess!

    It is parody!

    (I am waiting to hear from the lawyers, but they're probably waiting for certified funds.....)

    "PHONEY" SEX UPDATE: I just received a phone call from a man who asked for Eric. When I answered affirmatively, he asked if I would take a call from Glenn Reynolds. I said yes again, and he then said, "We'd like you to fuck yourself sideways!" I tried to request further assistance from the man, but he hung up on me!

    Stunned as I was by such an exciting proposal, it did occur to me that the call probably did not come from Glenn Reynolds. My caller ID reads the number as 646-519-9415 (New York prefix), originating from the "CNM NETWORK." I tried to call back, but I get the following "message" (delivered in a crisp British accent):

    You're not allowed to call this number! 11001651001. Please enter the number you wish to call, followed by the pound sign.
    I am CRUSHED!

    The world is asking too much of me!

    There are some things I simply cannot do.

    posted by Eric at 09:07 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)

    Crackle, crackle, burn and cackle!

    Speaking of something not to be missed, the 41st Bonfire of the Vanities is hosted by The Extremely Reverend Pixy Misa at Ambient Irony. Excellent fire pictures throughout; I didn't know Pixy was such a pyro!

    Too burned out to do any burning of my own right now, but I wanted to get the link up before I burn out completely.

    The torch is passed back to Pixy.

    torch1.gif Careful with that lighter fluid, OK?

    Read 'em all.

    posted by Eric at 12:59 AM

    Can fuzzy logic beat real logic?

    Whatever happened to the idea of Bayesian spam filtering?

    I mean, any idiot these days can tell a SPAM email from a real email, so how on earth do these stupid things keep getting through?

    I am not talking about covert advertising cleverly disguised as real text; that may take time. But the vast majority of SPAM is blatant.

    I don't like insulting my friends by requiring them to fill in a stupid blank in order to send me an email, nor do I wish to install some sucky-ass software which generates its own SPAM by sending out ads to anyone who gets email from me.

    I wonder why the Bayesian software hasn't been developed more fully. Might it just put an end to SPAM as we know it?

    It might, but on the other hand it might not! This post (which begins with an "intelligent" SPAM email) demonstrates the problems inherent in the Bayesian approach:

    [M]arking such emails as spam will increase the probability of false positives in the future. If you receive a lot of these mails, certain rare words will be associated very highly with spam by your filter. Then, when you get an innocent-seeming email from a friend that happens to contain the words “schizophrenic pompous playwright”, that will be enough to get it black-holed.

    Amusingly enough, this email would likely be shot down by a filter because of the method it uses to hide the words in the HTML file. It’s only a first attempt, though. Spammers will get better at it. So long as the spammer’s dictionary is big enough, and they regularly rotate their words, this could be an effective technique to weaken Bayesian filtering on two fronts: increasing both its false-negatives and false-positives.

    One problem (one that Graham admits to) is that Bayesian classification assumes that the elements of the object being classified (in this case, the words of the email) are independent of each other. This is a troublesome assumption to make about language, in that the filter can’t tell that the list of words does not match the patterns we would normally recognise as the language of a legitimate email.

    On the other hand, if we had a more sophisticated linguistic filter, it wouldn’t be hard for spammers to come up with a program that generated random, but grammatically correct sentences.

    It’s a war of escalation.

    Well, yes, maybe it is. (Another reason I have repeatedly recommended crucifixion....) As soon as I get home I am going to get off my butt and configure Netscape's apparently Bayesian spam filter. Had I not written this post, I don't think I would have even known I had it! Netscape Mail has saved my ass over the years from the numerous viruses that are written to target IE; I just wish the Netscape browser could be made to work better.

    What just sticks in my craw is how easy it is for humans to spot SPAM, yet how difficult it is for computers. Fuzzy logic somehow has to supply the answer.

    Meanwhile, the spammers have nothing but time and fanatic devotion to their silly games of annoyance.

    Along similar lines, I often wonder whether anti-virus companies hire virus writers. (I can't think of a more intriguing conflict of interest than the sort of moonlighting which might be officially unapproved, yet guarantee promotion -- for if there are no new viruses you can't sell software! Money plus conflicts of interest means mutually escalated non-destruction -- if that's not too fuzzy.)

    posted by Eric at 05:45 PM | Comments (4)

    West Hollywood -- where Carnivals rule!

    The Carnival of the Vanities just keeps getting better and better!

    Boi from Troy hosts it this week, with a genuinely West Hollywood theme -- because he's right there in the thick of things.

    What's more, he was nice enough to link my very late post on Islamic fashionism, and I owe him one. (Maybe two!)

    All the posts are excellent, and made better by the expansive LA wit of the excellent host. I'll try to highlight a few without spoiling it for anyone.

    First, although I'm quite fond of examining conspiracy theories, I try to do so in a logical and dispassionate manner, and I must take issue with Harvey over Glenn Reynolds' alleged plot to destroy Easter. (The InstaPundit site died for three days and didn't come back to life until Sunday, which if anything proves he's a true believer. Harvey's specter of "children who want candy but can't get it" is just plain conspiracy talk, which I refuse to take seriously.)

    And meanwhile, Snooze Button Dreams demonstrates the nonsensical nature of such conspiracy thinking!

    Quibbles and Bits debunks the (barely flying) Air America conspiracy.

    On a serious note, Michele Catalano's Easter post compares Jesus, the Phoenix and Iraq, which offers hope at a time when cynics like me could use some, while Solomonia reports on an important lecture by Bernard Lewis.

    Whatever you do, don't look for hope in the Myers-Briggs Personality Test! The Smallest Minority confirms my deep distrust of these psychological inventory tests. And Dissecting Leftism's dissection of socialized medicine vindicates the free market.

    Oddly, I found a bit of personal vindication ("a man who is not sexually active is mocked and ridiculed!") via Charles Hill, who reflects on "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow" and the sexual revolution.....

    A different type of musical conflict is analyzed by Andrew Ian Dodge.

    And an excellent cultural post by Josh Cohen on "Exurbia" -- "an example of what's not quite right about America."

    Something's also rotten in the state of post hoc 9-11 analyses, which, as The Smarter Cop demonstrates, might just as well be handled by psychics.

    And that's just a taste! Go to Hollywood for the real deal!

    The Hollywood pictures alone are worth the visit. Check out the Viper Room:

    where my greatest memories involved a first man-woman kiss, among other things...most people remember at the place where, ten years ago on Halloween, River Phoenix passed away
    (My favorite emo.... But enough!)

    posted by Eric at 04:01 PM

    Conflicting whitewash?

    Jamie Gorelick has been asked to resign over a clear conflict of interest?

    Glenn Reynolds points out,

    she shouldn't have been on the Commission at all. She should resign now, but she won't.
    Unfortunately, this is not new.

    Glenn Reynolds noted this conflict of interest as early as August. Shortly thereafter, he noted it was worse than previously thought (although he also linked to her defenders). I chimed in, noting her "long and sleazy background in political intrigue, skullduggery, and (of course) being a coverup artist."

    Hey that was eight months ago!

    And now it's news?

    Here's some old background on Gorelick (I apologize that this is taken from what seems to be a conspiracy site, but the Gorelick background appears historically correct):

    Considered one of the fifty most powerful women in the country, CFR member Jamie Gorelick is currently vice-chair of the giant mortgage lender and insurer Fannie Mae. From March 1994 until she joined Fannie Mae in May 1997 she was Deputy Attorney General, the number two spot in Janet Renos Department of Justice.

    In May 1995, the Intelligence Community Law Enforcement Policy Board was established to meet quarterly and discuss mutual concerns of the Attorney General and Director of Central Intelligence. The board was co-chaired by Gorelick and DCI George Tenet. Other members included all of the law enforcement agencies, the Assistant Secretary of State for Intelligence and Research and the Defense Department General Counsel.

    This is the same time frame (spring of 1995) in which the Philippine government apprised the FBI, CIA and State Department of Project Bojinka an Islamic terrorist plot which included hijacking commercial airlines planes and flying them into the Pentagon, World Trade Center towers and, several other buildings.

    ....In 1998, while at Fannie Mae, Gorelick served on Clintons Central Intelligence National Security Advisory Panel as well as the President's Review of Intelligence.

    Bojinka! Hardly a conspiracy site claim; here's a CNN report!
    a [1995] plan to recruit pilots to hijack US jetliners in the continental United States and slam the planes into government and commercial buildings.
    Now there's something we don't hear about much today...... Might the Bojinka connection with Ramzi Youssef, Iraq, and Oklahoma City be a little, um, embarrassing? (And not to Bush or Ashcroft, either.....)

    Claims of whitewash by professional whitewashers are getting harder and harder to bear.

    Gorelick merits an investigation herself.

    (I guess that should be after the resignation which isn't going to happen.)

    UPDATE: I failed to note that among the clients of Gorelick's firm is Saudi Prince Mohammed al Faisal. And I'll bet I failed to notice a lot more than that!

    Oh, and of course even Richard Clarke made note in his book of the above Ramzi Youssef-Iraq 1995 connection. (Via Glenn Reynolds, who commented that "the domestic political implications are dramatic." I'll say.....)

    NICE UPDATE: While I haven't found anything especially nice to say about Ms. Gorelick (who I'm sure possesses a brilliant mind), I will nonetheless refrain from saying anything mean.

    Hmmmmm...... She "called the shots" in the McVeigh trial, appointing the guy who prosecuted McVeigh. And she knew enough about the Bojinka material in Ramzi Youssef's computer to cite the case in support of encryption restrictions. Fighting evil is nice, right?

    According to this web site, she thinks that "Email flames" and "faceless" chat rooms are "threats to family values." That's um, nice. Kind of.

    It wouldn't be nice to accuse her of working with Richard Clarke to cover up terrorism, though. So I won't do that. Honestly, though! That WorldNetDaily can be so mean!

    FAST AND LOOSE UPDATE: In matters of integrity, Jamie Gorelick knows how to cut through red tape:

    In 1996 Bill Clinton told reporters he was "not told about the June 1996 FBI warnings of Communist Chinese involvement in the 1996 presidential election." However, it was later learned that president Clinton not only KNEW about it, but that he subsequently made a thwarted attempt to obtain the counterintelligence information about what the FBI had learned of the Communist Chinese influence on the presidential election in November of 1996. Charles Ruff, Clinton legal counsel who most recently defended him in the Senate Impeachment trial, made the FBI contact. Ruff contacted Janet Reno's deputy Jamie Gorelick and wanted to know what federal investigators knew or suspected about Chinese illegal contributions to the presidential campaign. However, when FBI director Freeh learned of the White House probe by Gorelick, he ordered the information not be provided to Clinton, federal law enforcement officials told the Daily Republican in 1997. In a New York Times story Ruff was quoted as telling Gorelick he was seeking the information on behalf of the National Security Council.... However, law enforcement officials pointed out that Ruff's request was received only after FBI director Freeh had left Washington on a trip to the Middle East. In his absence, attorney general Janet Reno and Gorelick quickly moved to obtain the secret FBI files. Before the Justice Department turned over the FBI files to Clinton's legal counsel, Robert Bryant, then head of the FBI national security division, picked up the telephone and informed Freeh of Clinton's probe for the secret files on the Chinese investigation. Freeh ordered the files withheld. [bold in original]
    That wasn't very nice of Louis Freeh, was it?

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds weighs in on the allegation that Gorelick helped set policies which hindered the CIA's hunt for bin Laden. His conclusion is that Gorelick is on the wrong side of the table:

    she should be a witness, not a Commissioner, on a number of important issues.
    I'll say....

    FINAL UPDATE: In a twist that would please Lewis Carroll, Gorelick now sits in judgment of Ashcroft for not tearing down her wall!

    The Ashcroft Justice Department failed to dismantle the wall prior to the 9/11 attacks. Yes, that's true. And it was dumb, which was why Ashcroft got grilled over it by Gorelick's fellow commissioners. But Gorelick's argument actually makes my point. If it was relevant, probative and highly material for the commission to probe why Ashcroft did not eradicate the wall when he had the chance in the months before 9/11, it is doubly relevant, probative, and highly material to probe why on earth Gorelick erected the wall in the first place. (From Juan Non-Volokh via Glenn Reynolds.)
    In other words, "How dare you not undo what I did!" How ridiculous is this going to get?

    posted by Eric at 02:10 PM

    Ageless bodies -- a live stream!

    This blog has frequently been critical of Dr. Leon Kass, the chairman of the President's Council on Bioethics.

    This is simply a notice to all interested readers that a live interview of Dr. Kass by Morton Kondracke can be streamed here.

    (HT Justin Case, who says he got this link from

    ICE CREAM UPDATE: In reply to a question about his comments on dissection of cadavers, Dr. Kass brought up the "ice cream cone" remark. Because the ice cream remark was quoted in this blog (which generated considerable attention), I did my best to transcribe what Dr. Kass said:

    I have a few embarrassing sentences that I have written in my life. In my eating book there's a sentence about licking ice cream cones in public....

    [this was punctuated by laughter from Mr. Kondracke]

    ....which has been following me around. Had I thought about it I would have taken the sentence out. It was in context um, of interest.

    Um, OK.

    I'll say this for Kass; at least he's no Kos.

    AFTERTHOUGHT: Of course, neither Kass nor Kos could possibly compare with John Dean, who, when faced with his own words, stated that he never wrote them, and hadn't even read them!

    AND MORE: I want to stress that had it not been for Glenn Reynolds' original link to the ice cream post, I seriously doubt that Dr. Kass would have felt obliged to bring it up in this public manner. (If only there'd been such a thing as blogging back in the 1970s!)

    THE REAL ISSUE: Reflecting on the interview, what most concerns me about Dr. Kass right now is more along the lines of jurisdiction than merits. He seems to be conceding that, notwithstanding his philosophical problems with extending the human lifespan, the government should not now regulate the development of anti-aging technology. That sounds reasonable, even "nice." But what I'd like to see discussed is why the federal government should ever imagine that it has a right to get into such matters. Kass thinks they do -- and that's the problem. By being reasonable on the merits, but asserting jurisdiction over the subject matter, he mollifies his critics, and gets his foot (the Council's, and the federal government's much heavier foot) squarely in the door.

    Echoes of Marbury v. Madison?

    UPDATE: Reason at Fight Aging! links to the transcript of the Kass interview, and offers some astute observations:

    Kass would - if he personally had the power - cheerfully ban research and medicine that extended the healthy life span. There was no talk of the millions of avoidable, preventable deaths that would result from the enforcement of such a policy, however. I think that this is a problem both here and in the wider conversation over bioethics, stem cell medicine, therapeutic cloning and healthy life extension. People talk about restricting research and banning fields of medicine, their conversations untouched by the terrible human costs of the policies under discussion.
    Again, how does the federal government even imagine that it has constitutional power to regulate the human life span?

    And Stephen Gordon shares his thoughts about Kass -- "mystic and modern alchemist."

    MORE: Chris Mooney read the Kass interview, and was astounded to learn that notwithstanding his previous refusal, Dr. Kass apparently now welcomes an interview with Mr. Mooney:

    If Mr. Mooney, with whom I have never had a conversation, would like to read the essay more carefully and come in some time and have a conversation, I would be delighted to try to instruct him.

    That sounds like an invitation for an interview, no? I'll be contacting the President's Council on Bioethics shortly to follow up.

    A quick point here, though: Kass is right that he's "never had a conversation with me." But before publishing the American Prospect piece in question, I did seek out an interview with Kass, only to learn that he wasn't giving any. As I wrote at the time, "Kass was contacted by the Prospect but isn't granting interviews." So, Kass isn't being quite fair--he was given the chance to have his responses included in my article.

    Better late than never!

    posted by Eric at 04:07 PM | Comments (1)

    It takes a brain!

    My blogfather Jeff recently articulated his position on abortion, which happens to be quite similar to mine.

    I'm in an unusual situation since my positions are all over the place. I believe in gay rights. I believe in an unadulterated Second Amendment (as well as all the other Rights too.) I find abortion repellent and wish it was only allowed during the first four months -- before a functioning nervous system has developed and the un-born child can understand it is dying.
    Regardless of whether one believes in the human soul, it's tough to dispute that human consciousness -- self awareness -- requires a brain. That's why brain death is considered real death even if the heart still beats and the lungs still breathe. If my brain is destroyed through accident, injury or disease, and you pump bullets through my body which stop my heart and lungs, that is not murder.

    Logically, if the absence of a functioning brain means the absence of life, it should not matter whether it existed and then ceased to exist, or whether it had not yet existed. Fetuses are occasionally born without brains; if anyone can tell me under what theory they are more "alive" than a traffic accident victim whose brains were spilled on the pavement, I'd like to hear it.

    So, if, for whatever reason, an embryo does not have a brain, I consider it the same as a brain dead person. It cannot have the same rights as a live human being. Abortion at the non-brain stage of fetal development is something I simply cannot see as murder.

    Once there's a brain, though, I have a problem with killing it.

    Anyway, that's my "philosophy" on abortion. Sure to displease activists on both sides, but it's what I think.

    I am glad my blogfather and I are not too far apart.

    UPDATE: "Brain death" is not considered death by everyone.

    And the argument has also been made -- by at least one physician -- that an embryo which has not yet developed a brain is not at all analogous to a brain dead person:

    Obviously, the fact that an embryo has not yet developed a brain (though its capacity to do so is inherent and active, just as the capacity of an infant to develop its brain sufficiently for it to actually think is inherent and active) does not mean that it is incapable of self-directed integral organic functioning. Unlike a corpse-which is merely the remains of what was once a human organism but is now dead, even if particular systems may be mechanically sustained-a human being in the embryonic stage of development is a unified, self-integrating human organism. It is not dead, but very much alive.
    The problem I see with the argument that an embryo is "a unified, self-integrating human organism" which is "capable of self-directed integral organic functioning" is that it is not. The embryo is so intrinsically a part of its mother that it cannot be transferred to another surrogate mother in order to grow, nor can it be grown to the point of brain-development in any laboratory. It cannot be called self-directed or self-integrating, for it has no self-awareness with which to perform the acts of self-direction or self-integration -- any more than a liver (or even a tumor) can be said to have self-awareness.

    I realize that people will disagree. What I find vexing is that such disagreements often take the form of ad hominem characterizations (which are not logically relevant).

    posted by Eric at 02:47 PM | Comments (2)

    Divide and conquer?

    Via Little Green Footballs, I found a very thoughtful article by Theodore Dalrymple: When Islam Breaks Down.

    An excerpt:

    My historicist optimism has waned. After all, I soon enough learned that the Shah’s revolution from above was reversible—at least in the short term, that is to say the term in which we all live, and certainly long enough to ruin the only lives that contemporary Iranians have. Moreover, even if there were no relevant differences between Christianity and Islam as doctrines and civilizations in their ability to accommodate modernity, a vital difference in the historical situations of the two religions also tempers my historicist optimism. Devout Muslims can see (as Luther, Calvin, and others could not) the long-term consequences of the Reformation and its consequent secularism: a marginalization of the Word of God, except as an increasingly distant cultural echo—as the “melancholy, long, withdrawing roar” of the once full “Sea of faith,” in Matthew Arnold’s precisely diagnostic words.

    And there is enough truth in the devout Muslim’s criticism of the less attractive aspects of Western secular culture to lend plausibility to his call for a return to purity as the answer to the Muslim world’s woes. He sees in the West’s freedom nothing but promiscuity and license, which is certainly there; but he does not see in freedom, especially freedom of inquiry, a spiritual virtue as well as an ultimate source of strength. This narrow, beleaguered consciousness no doubt accounts for the strand of reactionary revolt in contemporary Islam. The devout Muslim fears, and not without good reason, that to give an inch is sooner or later to concede the whole territory.

    ......Is there an essential element that condemns the Dar al-Islam to permanent backwardness with regard to the Dar al-Harb, a backwardness that is felt as a deep humiliation, and is exemplified, though not proved, by the fact that the whole of the Arab world, minus its oil, matters less to the rest of the world economically than the Nokia telephone company of Finland?

    I think the answer is yes, and that the problem begins with Islam’s failure to make a distinction between church and state. Unlike Christianity, which had to spend its first centuries developing institutions clandestinely and so from the outset clearly had to separate church from state, Islam was from its inception both church and state, one and indivisible, with no possible distinction between temporal and religious authority. Muhammad’s power was seamlessly spiritual and secular (although the latter grew ultimately out of the former), and he bequeathed this model to his followers. Since he was, by Islamic definition, the last prophet of God upon earth, his was a political model whose perfection could not be challenged or questioned without the total abandonment of the pretensions of the entire religion.

    There's much more, and I can't do justice to the entire piece, but I want to add a few words about the Reformation. The freedom that we tend to take for granted in the West did not flow naturally from any of the doctrines of Luther, Calvin, or their nemesis Loyola; it was an unintended consequence of the ferocious religious warfare during the Reformation. Not only do people tire of religious war, but scientists and artists can avail themselves of the freedom created by the power vacuum which always occurs when those who would rule must instead battle it out. The result -- religious pluralism -- was intended neither by the proponents or opponents of the Reformation, but it became permanent, and paved the way for the modern realization (eventually articulated by philosophers of the Enlightenment as an "idea") that religion is one thing and government another, and that freedom means the right to be left alone in matters of conscience.

    Islamist scholars in my opinion made a major mistake when they attributed Western success to "The Reformation" and then posited that Islam needs a Reformation. The essence of Wahhabism does precisely that; it is an Islamic Puritan Reformation -- right down to the stark, bleak, white buildings and the stripping of ornamentation. They are having their bloody "Reformation" right now.

    In Islamic terms, a "reformation" can only be imposed from the top down, and could never countenance dissent or liberalization. I suppose that in the event of a prolonged struggle between Sayeed Qutb-style puritans and more moderate ("corrupt") Muslims, a sort of war-weariness could result in more freedom. But another stage in the modern struggle has already been set -- and it's between the forces of sex and rock 'n roll and traditional Islam. Thus the modern Islamic "Reformation" is happening on two fronts -- whether they know it or not.

    Ask any Iranian kid with a modem!

    (And let's not forget the cherished values of "DEMOCRACY, WHISKEY, SEXY!")

    Dalrymple concludes on a surprisingly optimistic note,

    Islam in the modern world is weak and brittle, not strong: that accounts for its so frequent shrillness. The Shah will, sooner or later, triumph over the Ayatollah in Iran, because human nature decrees it, though meanwhile millions of lives will have been ruined and impoverished. The Iranian refugees who have flooded into the West are fleeing Islam, not seeking to extend its dominion, as I know from speaking to many in my city. To be sure, fundamentalist Islam will be very dangerous for some time to come, and all of us, after all, live only in the short term; but ultimately the fate of the Church of England awaits it. Its melancholy, withdrawing roar may well (unlike that of the Church of England) be not just long but bloody, but withdraw it will. The fanatics and the bombers do not represent a resurgence of unreformed, fundamentalist Islam, but its death rattle.
    I certainly hope he's right. And while I know many would disagree with my assessment of the Reformation, if I am right it is entirely possible that Islam is exhausting itself as it fights not only the traditional puritans-versus-the-corrupters war, but is simultaneously undermined by the insidious notion of freedom. Freedom happens when no one is watching.

    Just don't expect them to believe that freedom comes from God.

    Their god doesn't believe in such things.

    posted by Eric at 11:50 AM

    Equal opportunity hatred?

    According to John Leo, it will soon be a crime [in Canada] to state negative opinions about homosexuality:

    Bill C-250, a repressive, anti-free-speech measure that is on the brink of becoming law in Canada. It would add "sexual orientation" to the Canadian hate propaganda law, thus making public criticism of homosexuality a crime. It is sometimes called the "Bible as Hate Literature" bill, or simply "the chill bill." It could ban publicly expressed opposition to gay marriage or any other political goal of gay groups. The bill has a loophole for religious opposition to homosexuality, but few scholars think it will offer protection, given the strength of the gay lobby and the trend toward censorship in Canada. Law Prof. David Bernstein, in his new book You Can't Say That! wrote that "it has apparently become illegal in Canada to advocate traditional Christian opposition to homosexual sex." Or traditional Jewish or Muslim opposition, too. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
    From what I understand, the bill would add sexual orientation to a list of already protected, "hate speech" catgegories. Assuming that is the case, then wrong is added to wrong. Because it should no more be a crime to publicly criticize homosexuals than any other group -- whether ethnic, racial, religious, or, I suppose, philosophical.

    But under current law, I guess it's illegal to call someone a "nigger" or a "kike" but not a "faggot." Unlawful to say "kill the Eskimos" but not "kill the homos"!


    My esteemed blogfriend Ghost of a flea offers long and thoughtful discussions of the issue here and here, during which Nicholas supplies a link to more background:

    The existing hate propaganda law, passed in 1970, bans incitement of hatred on the basis of colour, race, religion and ethnic origin, but not "sexual orientation." Conviction carries a maximum penalty of up to five years in prison.

    Gays have long protested the omission, citing the fact that homosexuals are frequently targeted for verbal and physical attacks. Mr.Robinson has fought for its inclusion since 1981.

    "What my bill would do is to recognize that just as we say it's wrong to promote hatred or violence against racial or religious or ethnic minorities, so too, should we say it's just as wrong to promote that hatred or violence directed at gay or lesbian people," Mr. Robinson told CBC Newsworld before the vote.

    This is obnoxious legislation added to obnoxious legislation. But there's no getting around the logic that if one group should be protected, then another should be too.

    It could go on forever. No one should be "omitted" from such lists -- because no one should be on them in the first place. Such laws are wrong. Freedom of speech includes hate speech. You should have the right to insult me, hate me, and even tell me I deserve to die.

    Protected categories shouldn't have anything to do with it.

    posted by Eric at 07:11 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)

    Facing the music

    Roger L. Simon thinks it's time for the blogosphere to recognize the sinister role of the Iranian mullahcracy in the widening war (especially in light of Iranian puppet Muktada al Sadr).

    The media are engaged in the presidential campaign, as if the contest between Bush and Kerrey was of greater significance than the battle between fascism and democracy. Well…hello!... it’s not (and, yes, there are many other issues and, yes, I recognize they are important, but not this important, nowhere near). It is the job of the blogs—freelance, unfettered and (mostly) unpaid—to keep the focus on what’s really consequential, the future of civilization. Iran is on the top of my list. I invite you to join me. (Via InstaPundit.)

    I agree wholeheartedly, and as a starting point, I suggest that everyone read this eye-opening analysis at the Belmont Club, entitled "The Wider War." A few highlights:

  • infiltration of Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Al-Quds Army into Iraq began long before the war, through hundreds of Iranian intelligence agents
  • Iranian plan to turn Iraq into another Iran is a wide-ranging plan, and it involves the recruitment of thousands of young Shi'ites for the next stage, which will take place with the [first] parliamentary elections in Iraq
  • 300 reporters and technicians who are working now in Iraq for television and radio networks, newspapers, and other media agencies are in fact members of the (Iranian) Al-Quds Army and the Revolutionary Guards intelligence units.
  • Iranian money allocations for activities in Iraq, both covert and overt, reached $70 million per month.....
  • 2,700 apartments and rooms were rented in Karbala and Najaf, in order to serve agents of the Al-Quds Army and the Revolutionary Guards.
  • assassination last summer of Ayatollah Muhammad Baqir Al-Hakim, who headed the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), was a successful operation carried out by the intelligence unit of the Iranian Al-Quds Army.
  • Iran and Syria were sending thousands of terrorists into Iraq to attack Coalition forces
  • more than a hundred highly trained Arab mullahs from Qom and other Iranian religious centers into Iraq, especially to Najaf and Karbala, the holy cities of the Shiite faith
  • political strategy combined with terrorist acts and assassinations, as in the case of the very charismatic Ayatollah Khoi in Najaf.
  • There's much more, and Wretchard's conclusion is even more ominous:

    ....[T]wo accounts, one translated contemporaneously from the Arabic press and a year-old analysis from the National Review which agree on almost every single salient point. What we do not know is the extent to which the US Government appreciated the threat, and how this now-manifest Iranian intervention interacted with European efforts to convince Teheran to open their borders to nuclear inspection. In the coming days the public may learn what contingency plans, if any, CENTCOM had poised against this threat. More importantly, we will discover whether these plans were held back or watered down over a desire not to antagonize Teheran, lest the nuclear proliferation issue be entailed. The linkage between the two would establish that the current war in Iraq is far more perilous than it might seem at first glance. What we are witnessing is not a confrontation between the United States and some nationalist "insurgents", but possibly the opening acts of a confrontation with a nuclear armed terrorist state.
    Don't you just love the sound of those words -- nuclear armed terrorist state? Isn't that what we're supposed to be waging this war to stop?

    Forgive me for asking, but does anyone know what the term "imminent threat" means these days?

    And in a companion piece, Wretchard notes that the enemy now facing the US is an old one, Hizbollah:

    Although Sadr's offensive has been sudden, it followed a year-long buildup of Hizbullah's organizational, propaganda, and military apparatuses in Iraq. In the weeks before the US-led invasion last March, Hizbullah chief Hassan Nasrallah was already calling for suicide bombings against US forces in the event that they went through with the invasion. Shortly after the fall of Saddam's regime, Hizbullah opened offices in Basra and Safwan. While press coverage of Sadr has portrayed him as a young firebrand who acts autonomously, his connections to Hizbullah and to Iran are long-standing. Nasrallah is personally tied to Sadr's family. In 1976, he studied under Sadr's father Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr in Najaf. Back in Lebanon, Nasrallah joined the Shi'ite Amal militia when it was led by its founder, Sadr's uncle Musa. Aside from his personal ties to Nasrallah, Sadr takes his direction from Ayatollah Henri, one of the most ardent extremists in Iranian ruling circles. And on the family level, Sadr's aunt is reportedly the first lady of Iran, Mrs. Muhammad Khatami. Iranian Revolutionary Guards reportedly comprise the backbone of Sadr's fighting force.
    Fortunately, this is becoming mainstream news; see Ralph Peters' New York Post article which Roger Simon also links.

    Iran and it's Hizbollah front have been engaged in worldwide terrorist hegemony for years. As Dariush Shirazi argues eloquently today in BLOG-IRAN, this is a virus that must be stopped.

    Readers interested in more background documenting the links between Hizbollah and Iran, and particularly the connection via Imad Mughniyah, might start with this analysis of a Hizbollah/Mughniyah operation in Argentina a decade ago.

    Jihad Watch makes a good point that Hizbollah is now emerging as a rival to al Qaida.

    However, it must not be forgotten that there is a working alliance between al Qaida and Hizbollah, via Imad Mughniyah and the Committee of Three (which I have discussed before.)

    ICT (the International Policy Institute for Counter-Terrorism) explains the nature of this alliance here:

    Although the Hizballah is a Shia Muslim organization, and al-Qaida, a Sunni Muslim group, there is substantial evidence of a working alliance between the two groups dating back to the early 1990s. The trial of al-Qaida militants in the United States has revealed not only ideological links, but also operational connections between Hizballah and al-Qaida.

    A representative of bin Ladin reportedly met with an official of the Iranian government prior to the bombings of the U.S. embassies in East Africa, in order to establish an “anti-U.S. alliance.” This meeting was reportedly followed by an even more important one, this time between bin Ladin and Imad Mugniyeh, the operations director of Hizballah. The bombings of the U.S. embassies in East Africa bear an operational resemblance to Hizballah suicide attacks against the U.S. Embassy and Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983. Ali Mohamed, who was convicted of conspiracy in the U.S. embassy bombings, testified that al-Qaida’s method for driving the United States out of the Middle East was modeled on the successes of the Lebanese Hizballah organization.

    More on this alliance here.

    Not only that, for several months now, Imad Mughniyah, key architect of this alliance, may have been in Iraq.

    Imad Mughniyah reportedly is in Iraq. You may not have heard of him, but every intelligence officer in the West has.

    Born in Lebanon in 1962, Mughniyah got his start working for Yassir Arafat, but soon switched to the Iranian/Syrian backed Hezbollah, for whom he currently is operations chief.

    Mughniyah masterminded the bombings of the U.S. embassy and the Marine barracks in Beirut in 1983, and the bombing of the Israeli embassy in Argentina a decade later. Many think he was behind the bombing of the Khobar Towers barracks in Saudi Arabia in 1996.

    Though a Shi'ia Muslim for whom Wahhabis like Osama bin Laden purportedly have disdain, Mughniyah has had connections to al Qaida since the early 1990s. During his trial for his role in the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, al Qaida operative Ali Muhammad testified he introduced Mughniyah to bin Laden in Somalia in 1993. German terrorism expert Rolf Tophoven said last year that bin Laden has put Mughniyah in charge of al Qaida operations in the Middle East and Africa.

    Mughniyah was in Iran until early August, according to the Saudi newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. While in Iran, Mughniyah met with Ayman al Zawahiri, al Qaida's second in command, and with Osama's son Said bin Laden, said Michael Ledeen, a terrorism expert for the American Enterprise Institute. U.S. authorities have said the truck bombs used to attack the UN compound in Baghdad Aug. 19 and the Imam Ali mosque in Najaf Aug. 29 were virtually identical. Ledeen sees Mughniyah's fingerprints on both.

    There's also this testimony by Iranian intelligence operative Hamid Reza Zakeri (not his real name).

    Other excellent bloggers have been all over the Iranian connection and there are so many confirming stories confirming Iran's links both to al Qaida and Hizbollah in Iraq that there really isn't much I could add.

    But I do want to offer one thing. I couldn't help notice the striking resemblance between al Sadr's "Mahdi Army" and Hizbollah marching soldiers.

    Here's a recent photograph of al Sadr's guys.

    And here is a video I downloaded from Hizbollah's website in October, 2001.

    The above is genuine viral overload from virus central, folks! It features the official Hizbollah anthem, speech clips from Hizbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, but if you watch closely, early in the video, you'll see the same thing (watch just as the singing starts): black uniforms, black head scarves, and white gloves on hands tucked held just in front of the belt while marching to their fascistic anthem.

    (I'll end on that sickening "note.")

    NOTE: Much more information about al Qaida, Hizbollah, and the imminent threat was published in a book I read in 1999 -- Yossef Bodansky's Bin Laden: The Man Who Declared War on America.

    Of course, the declaration of war on America was hardly "imminent" at the time. It was a done deal in 1996 -- long before even the U.S.S. Cole.

    UPDATE: Big Drudge headline, "U.S. Army Says It Intends to 'Kill or Capture' Sadr." (Now appearing only in Drudge archives, but I don't know why.)

    MORE: According to two reports which look reliable, Hezbollah has had an armed and growing presence in Iraq for some time. In January, exiled Iraqi dissident Zainab Al-Suwaij said that on her return to Iraq, she was shocked to see Hezbollah operating right under the coalition's noses:

    "I was surprised to see an office for Hamas in Nasariah, and also a Hezbollah office in Basra and Safwan," said Zainab Al-Suwaij, a Shiite Muslim native of Basra. "I was shocked to see their flag and their sign there, and I was wondering what is going on. Do we as an Iraqi people, who are emerging from the terror of Saddam after 35 years, need this in our country?"

    She said Hezbollah has been operating in Safwan, a town on the Kuwait border, for about four months. "The building is secure with guards and weapons," she told a forum at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.

    .... Al-Suwaij said the political wings of Hamas and Hezbollah are recruiting Iraqi youth with seminars that impart their ideology. "Don't the CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) or the (occupation) authorities there know about these offices?"

    She said the occupation authorities and the CPA should close the offices. "These are not Iraqi groups," she said, and they are not geared to participatory democracy. "We know what their thoughts and ideas are."

    Soft on Hezbollah? According to this report, it's happened before:
    Hezbollah was initially excluded from the US "war on terror" in the aftermath of 9/11. Concerned that violence in south Lebanon would disrupt American efforts to secure Arab support for the war in Afghanistan, the Bush administration assured Damascus that it would not explicitly target Hezbollah as long as it refrained from violent provocations against Israel. However, after Hezbollah broke a three month lull along the border with two attacks in October, President Bush called the movement a terrorist group of "global reach" and, the following month, added Hezbollah (along with several Palestinian groups) to its "priority list" of terrorist organizations, threatening sanctions against foreign banks that decline to freeze their assets. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice went so far as to warn that Lebanon's refusal to cooperate could jeopardize its "integration into the world economy" and even threaten its economic "survival." Rumors circulated in Beirut that the Bush administration was canceling all US aid to Lebanon and working to "torpedo" the upcoming Paris-II donor conference, a vital source of handouts for Lebanon's debt-stricken government.

    Neither happened, as the Bush administration soon turned its attention to Iraq and focused on winning Syrian support for the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, but diplomatic efforts were made to isolate Hezbollah internationally and administration hawks continued to berate Hezbollah, as if to warn Assad of the direction American policy might take if he remained uncooperative. In a September 2002 speech at the US Institute of Peace, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage called Hezbollah the "A-team" of terrorists, with a "blood debt" to the United States (a reference to the US embassy and marine barracks bombings in Beirut in the early 1980s, which left hundreds of Americans dead), and vowed that its "time will come." Neoconservative media outlets in the United States portrayed Hezbollah as the next al-Qaeda.

    How dare the neocons say things that turned out to be almost imminent!

    GOOD NEWS (AT LEAST, BETTER THAN BERKELEY....): According to Mark Steyn, the insurgency is a "tempest in a teacup" which the military can handle with relative high-tech ease. As to being hated, Steyn notes his surly reception in Fallujah, but says, "I've had worse welcomes in Berkeley." (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    AND MORE: Interesting mutual assessment -- of Hezbollah by the U.S., and of George W. Bush by Hezbollah's Hassan Nasrallah:

    Some officials in the Bush Administration are worried that the worsening security situation in Iraq may encourage Hezbollah to extend its support to the emerging Iraqi resistance.

    That concern was demonstrated last month at a Washington conference organised by the US State Department and attended by analysts from the CIA and Defence Intelligence Agency, along with Western, Arab and Israeli experts, to debate Hezbollah's potential for fomenting resistance in Iraq.

    Sheikh Nasrallah expressed amusement at the thought of Hezbollah causing so much consternation in Washington, but insisted that the Iraqis needed no help from his organisation. "The Americans have a lot of illusions and are always trying to link any internal movement with external factors," he said. "What is taking place in Iraq is a completely Iraqi issue. I don't think they (the Iraqis) need the assistance of anyone."

    For Sheikh Nasrallah, the US casualties in Iraq resemble the fate of Israeli troops who became bogged down in Lebanon in the 1980s. He predicted that the Iraqi resistance would be unable to get rid of American forces within a year, but if the flow of body bags continued "they may be able to remove George Bush from the White House".

    Hey, just who's Nasrallah working for?

    And for those few readers who enjoyed the first Hezbollah video, here's another one, showing the same black uniforms, headgear, and white gloves. The black uniforms date from the infancy of Islam; they were part of a Mehdi army psywar campaign during the Abbasid caliphate struggle.

    But as to the white gloves, I wish someone would clue me in.

    I'm no expert on Islamo-fashionism!

    GEEK QUESTION: Nor am I an expert on computers! But I love to tinker, and here's a puzzle for any geeks who might be reading. That last video would not stream after I uploaded it via WS_FTP. I had uploaded the earlier one directly through the MovableType "UPLOAD FILE" feature and it streamed fine. Then I remembered that when I installed MT Blacklist I had to change the WS_FTP settings from binary to ASCII. So, I changed the settings back to binary, then uploaded the file again in WS_FTP, over-writing the file. It now works. Can anyone tell me why? (My assumption is that RealAudio files must be sent in binary, but this is just guesswork, as I've no formal computer training.)

    Any information greatly appreciated.

    I see that "a binary file transferred as ASCII is no longer the same file." Is that why you sometimes get a whole screen of gobbledygook when you try to "stream" stuff at certain web pages?

    STILL MORE: Via Dean Esmay's link to Tony Blair's remarks in the Observer, I found myself drawn to Andrew Sullivan's reflections on seeing this through:

    I do not blame those who claim they opposed the war and so feel no reason to come up with proposals today to help us win this particular, crucial battle. But you can still appeal to their better side, to make the case that, regardless of how we got here, we still have an absolutely critical obligation to see it through. That's why I'm waiting to see what John Kerry has to say. Forget every campaign ad. How he reacts to this current crisis is the single thing to keep in mind in considering him as the next president. Is he going to play partisan games? Or is he going to rise to the occasion, present himself as an alternative war leader and not someone who will find a way to delude Americans that they are not at war?
    So far, I seen little more than wallowing in Watergate. (Something that, under the circumstances, is even more crass than Vietnam nostalgia.)

    FOR EXAMPLE: Kerry might start by addressing comments like this remark by a Mujahideen fighter:

    “If John Kerry wins the election and withdraws the Americans troops from Iraq, and maybe just leaves a few in bases, then we will not fight. But Bush we will always fight.” (Via Little Green Footballs.)
    Or how about this?
    Our country has reached a very sad point. I am old enough to remember Vietnam and remember the divide in the country. I saw the protests, I read the papers and watched tv and I never remember that divide being so unfixable. There was always a common road to walk on back then; we all loved America, we all loved Freedom. I doubt very much that is true right now. I asked my father about those days, thinking that perhaps I was too young at the time and I didn't see the complexities of the protests or my parents protected me from the real ugliness. Sadly, that's not the case. And everyone I spoke to this weekend - from Vietnam vets to Vietnam protests vets - said this same thing - this is much uglier. Much darker.
    Darker is right. If I weren't so cynical, I'd almost be inclined to get depressed.

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

    Stop politicizing Ishtar!

    Indymedia classifies as "animal abuse" the play in which an actor dressed as the Easter Bunny was whipped:

    Now, some Christians are even abusing animals to make their point, after the Torture of the Christ movie fever.
    Um, wrong. It might have been child abuse to make kids watch the scourging of the Easter Bunny, and it was in grotesquely bad taste. (Considering the origins of the Easter Bunny, it was also a blatant display of anti-Paganism.) But using a human to portray a fictitious animal is not animal abuse no matter what is done to the actor.

    Following this, an astute Indy commenter remarks,

    Let's Whip Bush's Ass and Crucify Him Too
    Right on, Indymedia! First it's American special forces pretending to be Shiite torturers of Japanese civilians, and now, reprisals against Bush for crimes against "animals."

    These Indymedia people strike me as more dangerous than the nuts who whipped the Easter Bunny, and crazy enough to make the latter seem almost sane by comparison.

    I should stress that I said almost sane:

    We are after your Easter bunny. We have a holy sword called the Word of God and we will not quit until it is dead. That cute bunny has to go if you are going to be blessed by staying in step with the Holy Spirit. You priests, if you are not going to be false prophets, must repent, and teach and demand what is in accordance with the Word of God.
    Religion can be almost as bad as politics.

    Put all your eggs in one basket, and you can lose your head!

    Um, I don't think the Easter Bunny lost his head, though. Careless humans misplaced it.


    Happy Easter!

    UPDATE: I wonder whether Indymedia will report real animal abuse -- by Palestinian mob. Disgusting and cruel. Retaliating against an animal because one hates a human is about as low as you can get. I am reminded of the occasion when the Ayatollah Khalkali gouged the eyes out of a live horse which had belonged to the Shah of Iran.

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

    Freedom, more or less?

    While it feels like the election is right around the corner, if I look at my calendar I see that we still have seven months to go. So why the constant polls, the outburst of Watergate nostalgia, the treating of a rather lame witness as another Great White Hope John Dean?

    I know that a lot of people hate Bush, and I am not in love with the man myself. But isn't it a bit early for such heavy-handed electioneering? I mean, what if the people get sick of the election before it even happens?

    I'm already sick to death of the 2004 election, but since everyone wants to play what-if, I'll play along, because I want to factor in my deepest fears alongside the election results.

    Excepting fringe types like Ted Rall who imagine that Bush will cancel the 2004 elections, I don't think there's much argument over whether there'll be an election in November, and at the risk of being an optimist, I think it's quite likely that either Bush or Kerry will be elected. (Just watch as my prediction comes true!)

    My deepest fear is not whether the election will be held, but that there will be another terrorist attack in the United States during the next term. We saw what happened after September 11. A cacophony of voices -- left and right -- jumped on the bandwagon to take away as much freedom as possible. The result was the Patriot Act, which I see as a direct erosion of American freedom.

    But next time around, there won't be as much freedom to erode. The question in my mind is, simply: under which president would there be a greater loss (hemorrhaging, even) of freedom, Bush or Kerry?

    Partisans on each side will obviously claim that their guy would do more to preserve freedom than the other. I am less concerned with campaign promises than the practical dynamics of politics. A classic illustration of such dynamics was Nixon's rapprochement with China. Such a thing would have been impossible for a Democrat, because of the "soft-on-Communism" charge. But for Nixon, no problem. Ditto, Clinton's welfare reform, and other instances of his counterintuitive "triangulation."

    I think if Kerry were president during another major terrorist attack, similar dynamics, by making him fear a "soft-on-terrorism" charge, might well cause him to jettison the civil liberties sensitivities he likes to voice. (Contrast his present qualms with the Patriot Act with the fact that he had no problem voting for it in 2001 -- when he was far from being president.)

    With Kerry as president, Republicans would be unlikely to serve as voices of restraint or moderation on the terrorist issue that the Democrats would be expected to be if Bush continues as president. (Most likely, Republicans would be thinking ahead to 2008 and watching Kerry for any sign of weakness or softness, because that's how politics works.)

    Bush, however, in addition to the ACLU wing of the Democratic Pary, would have to contend with disgruntled Republican libertarians as well as paranoid right-wing anti-globalists in his own party.

    Would freedom's chances for bare survival would be better under Bush? My Machiavellian side suspects they would, counterintuitive as this sounds. I may be wrong, but the election's a log way off. Hopefully, so is another September 11.

    And I haven't even touched on Second Amendment freedoms. (It wouldn't take much imagination, though....)

    posted by Eric at 03:59 PM | Comments (2)

    Everything that happens will be "imminent" at some point!

    Let's see if I can get this right.

    The United States knew or should have known that al Qaida was planning to hijack planes with box cutters, then fly them into buildings, because there were warnings that this could happen.

    Imminent threat, perhaps?

    Not my words:

    Clear warnings: Clinton administration officials say they bluntly warned the incoming Bush administration of the imminent threat from Al Qaeda

    Well, I guess we could argue about whether it was an "imminent threat," but certainly considering Khobar Towers, the African embassy bombings, and the U.S.S. Cole, there was something which might have been capable of developing into an imminent threat, based on.... intelligence?

    Intelligence which should not have been ignored! say the Democrats.

    But because Bush, this thinking goes, ignored the imminent threat, 9-11 happened.

    Well, Bush better not ignore any more imminent threats! (Not that the Democrats would ever do anything like that.)

    Megan McArdle offers an excellent analysis of the predictive value of intelligence, and concludes:

    Clinton didn't know. Bush didn't know. We didn't know. And the uncomfortable possibility remains that there are more events that we not only don't know about--but can't know about. Deluding ourselves otherwise isn't helping. And if it causes us to take costly, fruitless measures to reassure ourselves, it could actively hurt us. (Via Will Collier.)

    Suppose, just for the sake of discussion, that Bush had not invaded Iraq. That we just stopped with Afghanistan, and hoped that al Qaida had just stayed out of Iraq, and that Saddam Hussein would watch his step.

    How many Democrats warned that Saddam Hussein's regime had WMDs? (I doubt I could count them all.) Would Bush be vulnerable now to a claim that just as he "ignored" a threat from al Qaida, now he was ignoring an imminent threat from Iraq, that this was very dangerous, and that something must be done?

    After-the-fact "imminence" tends to be a damned if you do, damned if you don't deal. And suppose 9-11 had been prevented! We'd never have heard the end of it. Here's Neal Boortz (via Glenn Reynolds) reflecting on the Rice testimony:

    ....[I]magine if on September 10th, 2001, President George W. Bush, citing increased "chatter" about an attack on the United States decided to shut down all airports nationwide. Furthermore, in an address to the nation he announces that Osama Bin Laden is behind the threats and has decided to invade Afghanistan and overthrow the Taliban. Can you imagine the response? The same people pinning responsibility for 9/11 on the Bush administration for not doing enough would be calling for his head. And then, when nothing happened as a result of all of these measures, people would be blaming Bush for overreacting. Anyone who believes otherwise needs their head examined. Remember the Air France planes we grounded not that long ago? The U.S. got blamed for being too aggressive. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.
    Obviously, if 9-11 had not happened, it wouldn't have been imminent! You really don't have to be Alice in Wonderland to figure it out.

    You can be sure of one thing. There'll be lots more of this stuff.

    Because the election isn't even imminent yet!

    UPDATE: Be sure not to miss Gregg Easterbrook's hilarious alternative history -- the impeachment of George W. Bush for going after the Taliban on August 7, 2001. (Via InstaPundit.) It turned out the threat just wasn't imminent after all!

    posted by Eric at 08:53 PM

    Anything for the cause!

    Aren't fanatics wonderful?

    Michele points out the latest spin from Indymedia -- a picture of one of the Japanese hostages, knife held to his throat, with the following caption below:

    How do we know these are not actually American special operatives terrorizing Japanese citizens? Perhaps they are Blackwater recruits? Maybe they're all actors?
    In other words, the hostage situation was all staged by the United States!

    In order to do what? To persuade the Japanese to stay in the coalition? I can't think of a poorer way to do that.

    If these hostages are ever rescued or released, and they confirm that they were in fact held by Shiite militia, I wonder whether Indymedia plans an apology.

    Or will they say that the Americans tortured them into implicating the peace-loving Iraqi "freedom fighters"?

    There is simply no way to debate with people who think this way. People who think that everything that happens is the Americans' fault will blame Americans no matter what happens. If hostages are taken, it's the Americans' fault. If they are tortured, it's the Americans' fault just as much as if the Americans did it themselves. So why not just say the Americans did it?

    Well, why not?

    Maybe the Shiite militia are all a bunch of Americans dressed up like Iraqis, and burning their fellow countrymen mercenaries to death.

    Those evil neocons would do anything to reelect Bush!

    posted by Eric at 06:53 PM | Comments (2)

    Divine grammarian sends ugly chick to Seattle!

    It's Good Friday, which is nonetheless Online Test Day at Classical Values, so I dare not break with tradition, although I do promise to try to be good.

    The first test has gotten around quite a bit. I've seen it all over the blogosphere, but first at David Ferguson's Sketches of Strain, where David earned the title of "Grammar God"!

    I didn't know there was such a thing as a Grammar God, and I took the test, assuming that I couldn't possibly achieve such a high rank.

    But nonetheless, I too am a "Grammar God."

    Grammar God!
    You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

    If your mission in life is not already to
    preserve the English tongue, it should be.
    Congratulations and thank you!

    How grammatically sound are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    I didn't think I was all that good well at grammar, because I often torture the English language -- even as I try to fight my way out of the innumerable cultural definitions so often forced upon us by the political, religious, and secular authorities who want to run our lives.

    I should note that not only is my result the same as David's -- but so is that of every other blogger I've seen who has taken this test.

    Which means what?

    God is Blog?


    Speaking of divine grammar, I found another very cool blogger, res gestae dionysii (and what a name!) whose test -- "Which Big Lebowski character are you?" -- derives from a film I have not seen, "The Big Lebowski."

    Not sure how to interpret my results, but here they are:

    According to the "Which Big Lebowski character are you?" quiz:

    Why don't you check it out? Or we cut off your Johnson!

    Considering my very female result, what's with the threat to cut off my Johnson?

    Or might the test writers assume I'm chicken?


    Or was I retroactively anticipating the next test, "What kind of chicken are you???"

    Take the quiz: "What kind of chicken are you???"

    Golded Mis-Proportionate chicken.
    (GMP for short). You take a bit of everything but don't quite settle in anything. You maybe adventurous. You're so DAMN interesting!!!

    "Interesting," huh? I'm afraid that may be code language for just plain ugly!

    Via Ordinary Galoot, whose has a better looking chicken than mine.

    I am jealous.


    So where does a hapless chicken grammar god, feminized under duress, go for a good time?

    The last test for today -- "Which American City Are You?" -- promised to tell me.

    Take the quiz: "Which American City Are You?"

    Your dark exterior masks a caffeine driven activism. You'll take up a cause and you'll get ugly to advance it.

    (Via Straight White Guy, who was Memphis!)

    I don't mind being Seattle at all. I would move there in a heartbeat, even though it's not quite as cool as it was in the early 90s. I've traveled to Seattle more times than I can count, as I have friends and virtual relatives who've lived there for years. Back in the 90s, Seattle was the way San Francisco used to be in the 70s. Cool but not really thinking it was cool, and therefore not yet a cliche. But coolness always leads to cliches, because people want to be cool. If you're a malcontent who doesn't want to be cool, you just have to keep running away from this constant cycle. Maddening.

    But I'd still move there. Maybe I could deface the Stalin Lenin statue or something.

    posted by Eric at 05:25 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (2)

    "Sensitive" enemies of sex

    Here's something which hasn't been reported as widely as it should (although I am not entirely sure why....):

    Iraq: A Shia Muslim mob has destroyed a city they declared to be 'debauched'.

    Hundreds of militiamen from the Mahdi's Army group besieged the town of Kawlia, 10km south of the city of Diwaniya, with mortars and smashed walls with sledgehammers three weeks ago, reducing to rubble the entire village famed for its dancers and prostitutes since the 1920s...

    In Diwaniya, a town where women are all but absent on the streets, many younger residents and some policemen praised the Mahdi's Army methods. People would come from all over the south, and even Baghdad to dance with the gypsy girls, said Bassam al-Najafi, a Diwaniya restaurateur. Women were leaving their husbands to work there. They are cleansing the town.

    Police asked journalists not to report the attack due to the 'sensitivity' of the news.

    Well, consider it "reported."

    It's today's exercise in "sensitivity" training!

    posted by Eric at 04:09 PM | Comments (1)

    Sean Hannity is not a big fat drug addict!

    This post is not about Sean Hannity.

    Well, at least I don't want it to be about Sean Hannity. That's because, first, I don't know all that much about Sean Hannity. I don't listen to his radio show and I don't watch much television. From what I do know about him, I disagree with his moral/social/religious conservatism, and probably agree with him to the extent that he wants a free economy, believes in self defense, and stuff like that. But again, I don't know what he thinks.

    I say this because there are a lot of people out there who hate Sean Hannity (including some people I like) and obviously, they wouldn't hate him unless they knew a lot about him, so if I get into a debate with them about Sean Hannity I'd be sure to lose because they probably, like, hang on his every word waiting for horrors. Besides, as Lee Harris has noted, you can even lose respect for not trashing Sean Hannity.

    Ditto Mr. Megaditto. I don't listen to Rush Limbaugh either and I disagree with him on the moral/social issues. But I don't want him to go to prison for drugs! And if Sean Hannity were to develop a drug problem, I wouldn't want him imprisoned either.

    So there. I went out of my way to say that this is not really about Sean Hannity per se. But it is about something Sean Hannity did which I tried to do for many years, without success: he dared -- he had the unmitigated gall -- to ask John Dean about Blind Ambition (still regarded as truthful and awe-inspiring by innumerable historians). Only one website -- an anti-Hannity site -- has even mentioned it, and I think it's important, certainly far more important than whether or not someone likes Sean Hannity.

    Here's what Dean said in Blind Ambition's introduction:

    I prepared for the writing of Blind Ambition the same way I prepared to testify before the Ervin Committee, before the special prosecutors, and in the cover-up trial. But in the book I have included dialogue and enclosed it in quotation marks, wheras in my testimony I deliberately refrained from dramatizing the events I was relating.

    While many White House conversations were taped, many were not. To reconstruct what occurred, I reviewed an enormous number of documents as well as my own testimony. Wherever possible, I spoke to others who were present with me during discussions, or I talked to people to whom I'd related conversations shortly after they took place, and I referred to notes I had kept. I have also, of course, relied on my memory in this account of my experiences in the White House, and while I do not claim to report the dialogues verbatim, I vouch for their essential accuracy. To borrow my lawyer's phrase: "I'm ready to get on the box" -- take a lie-detector test. Blind Ambition, p. 5 (Simon & Schuster, New York, 1976)

    Contrast that with Dean's testimony when questioned about Blind Ambition under oath:
    WILLIAMS: [Quotes to Dean from his book "Blind Ambition"] "This was the worst blow since Magruder's call. I felt queasy. I really didn't want to know more because I had to assume that if Strachan knew, Haldeman knew, and if Haldeman knew, the President knew. It made sickening sense. Now I understand why Strachan had called earlier." Do you see that?

    DEAN: I do.

    WILLIAMS: Is that an accurate description of your reaction upon absorbing Strachan's name?

    DEAN: No. Pure Taylor Branch.

    WILLIAMS: He just made that up?

    DEAN: Absolutely made it up out of whole cloth.

    WILLIAMS: Didn't you read this? You said you read this after Taylor Branch got through with it.

    DEAN: Not with this kind of detail.

    So, not only did Dean not even write his own book, he didn't even read the galleys! Questions should be asked that weren't asked three decades ago.

    But why John Dean again, with a new, much-touted book, right now? I didn't think that 9-11 would degenerate into an argument about Watergate, but I did not start this. I'm sorry, but I think the Democrats have Watergate on the brain (which includes impeachment on the brain), and it's time to call them on it. By "it" I mean Watergate itself. They trot out the obligatory Watergate "heroes" like John Dean to say the present administration is "worse than Watergate," and today I see that former Watergate prosecutor Richard ben-Veniste is grandstanding it.

    Is 9-11 becoming a Watergate pageant in drag?

    I'll say this about Sean Hannity. I might not agree with him on a lot of things, but I admire him for getting to the heart of what's been ruling the country for far too long......


    UPDATE: I was pretty disgusted when I wrote the above, but I am delighted to see clear signs that the Blogosphere will not be easily bamboozled by the high priests of Watergate. Professor Bainbridge's characterization of ben-Veniste earlier today as a "partisan thug" (via Glenn Reynolds, who notes "he's got transcripts"!) has warmed the cockles of my jaded heart.

    UPGRADE (4-11): Getting even warmer! Ben-Veniste has now been called a "grandstanding nerd", a "horse's ass." (Via Glenn Reynolds.) High Priest of Watergate, behold the blogosphere!

    posted by Eric at 05:33 PM

    Win or lose

    First, Spain was intimidated by terrorists.

    Now, the target is Japan:

    'We will burn them alive'

    An Iraqi group has kidnapped three Japanese hostages, including one woman, and promised to burn them alive if Japan does not withdraw its forces from Iraq.

    Al Jazeera television screened a video today showing three Japanese dressed in civilian clothes. They are believed to be two journalists and an aid worker

    The television said a statement by the hitherto unknown Iraqi group called Saraya al-Mujahideen had given Japan three days from the airing of the video to withdraw its troops from Iraq before it killed the hostages.

    The statement said: "Three of your sons have fallen into our hands. We offer you two choices: either pull out your forces, or we will burn them alive. We give you three days starting the day this tape is broadcast."

    It's hard to come up with better proof of the nature of what we're fighting than this despicable threat to burn Japanese civilians alive. Once again, remember Daniel Pearl (and watch the video). Remember 9-11.

    To be terrorized is to lose.

    That's how they win.

    posted by Eric at 11:07 AM | TrackBacks (1)

    Go to the Carnival and vote!

    Ross White is hosting the 81st Carnival of the Vanities with an Academy Awards theme. The stars began by endorsing Graham Lester's blog (he's an old Classical Values favorite, and longtime link, so that's fine with me).

    My post about Jodi Wilgoren was nominated for Best Business Post, and while I don't know whether I should win (conflict of interest, folks) I vote for THREE of the candidates for Best Post on the EU -- Solomonia's post on Eurabia, Captain Ed's post on European anti-Semitism, and Smarter Cop's post on Spain. For Best Post About Domestic Affairs, I vote for Michael Friedman's gem (to which I linked earlier). For Best Giggle, I vote for Harvey's pirate lines (please buy my money from Hell with your prize money, Harvey....). And Babalu Blog, for Best Post About Real Life. That's almost enough voting; I don't want to plagiarize the Carnival, or contaminate the independent thinking of other voters.

    But, even though they're all great, if I had to choose from those in the Best Post category, it'd have to be............


    I'm thinking............

    Josh Cohen for his brilliant First Amendment analysis, and vindication of the much-maligned and misinterpreted Thomas Jefferson.

    But what do I know? Millions would obviously feel differently.

    I suggest attending the entire event and judging for yourself!

    posted by Eric at 03:59 PM | TrackBacks (1)

    Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain!

    Via Drudge, I found a wonderful essay by Camille Paglia, which everyone should read.

    I can't do justice to the entire post, but here's something I especially liked, because it touches on why I blog:

    The computer, with its multiplying forums for spontaneous free expression from e-mail to listservs and blogs, has increased facility and fluency of language but degraded sensitivity to the individual word and reduced respect for organized argument, the process of deductive reasoning. The jump and jitter of U.S. commercial television have demonstrably reduced attention span in the young. The Web too, with its addictive unfurling of hypertext, encourages restless acceleration.

    Knowing how to "read" images is a crucial skill in this media age, but the style of cultural analysis currently prevalent in universities is, in my view, counterproductive in its anti-media bias and intrusive social agenda. It teaches students suspicion and paranoia and, with its abstract European terminology, does not offer an authentic anthropology of the North American media environment in which they came to consciousness. Post-structuralism and postmodernism do not understand magic or mystique, which are intrinsic to art and imagination.....

    I concur with Paglia about the negation of logic, and the neglect of magic and mystique as part and parcel of "post-structuralism" and "postmodernism" (including, of course "deconstructionism"). However, in my darker moments, I often suspect that the promoters of such academic and cultural nihilism are well versed in things such as logic, magic and mystique; they just don't want their students to be! It is much easier to manipulate the ignorant with rhetorical tricks and flourishes, by appeals to emotion, and by flooding the mind with hard-hitting images. A deliberately uneducated public will be much more likely to fall for these things without understanding why.

    This ties in with recent evidence that children who watch a lot of television at an early age are more likely to develop "attention deficit problems." Oh well. I guess that means parents should ask their teachers whether it's time to put the kid on drugs to make them pay attention.

    Big Brother has plenty of solutions. Ways can be found to make you and your child behave -- and believe!

    Real education, though, must be reserved for the cultural heirs of the Mandarins and the Mayan priests.....

    Go Camille!

    posted by Eric at 11:38 AM

    Another incendiary reading list!

    Today's Bonfire of the Vanities is hilarious. It is hosted by Ryan at soundfury, a natural comedian of the first order.

    I am not going to spoil the posts by spilling their contents here, but I insist that you go read them. Ghost of a flea offers something every man and every woman will want to read about. (Hint: a must-have for anyone who likes music or firearms!) Susie is being just plain subversive. Fellow Liddy-fan Andrew Ian Dodge offers one of the most psychotic political rants I've yet seen (the scariest part being that it's dead serious). And Josh Cohen is always good; I really should ask him about Google sometime....

    There's much more, but I'm not the reviewer. Ryan does a much better job.

    Go read them.

    posted by Eric at 11:24 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

    But I thought the enemies of sex were the enemy!

    My blogfather Jeff has outdone himself. He not only started a new blog devoted to pets, but he has redesigned the indispensible Alphecca site by installing Movable Type. Irascible leftist commenters and particularly SPAM commenters be forewarned; Jeff is well-armed!

    Not only that, Jeff's latest post about the new "war on porn" has shamed me for neglecting something for far too long.

    And as if that wasn't shameful enough, now I see that Glenn Reynolds has posted on the matter, this time blaming Ashcroft.

    If only this were a late April Fools joke, but I'm afraid it's not. Here's the lead-in story (Via Alphecca and InstaPundit.):

    32 prosecutors, investigators and a handful of FBI agents are spending millions of dollars to bring anti-obscenity cases to courthouses across the country for the first time in 10 years. Nothing is off limits, they warn, even soft-core cable programs such as HBO's long-running Real Sex or the adult movies widely offered in guestrooms of major hotel chains.

    Department officials say they will send "ripples" through an industry that has proliferated on the Internet and grown into an estimated $10 billion-a-year colossus profiting Fortune 500 corporations such as Comcast, which offers hard-core movies on a pay-per-view channel.

    The Justice Department recently hired Bruce Taylor....

    More on Taylor shortly.

    But I thought we were at war -- with the enemies of sexual freedom who declared war on us. While I know that we're not there yet, I hate to see the United States moving in the direction of developing its own anti-sex mutawein like the damned Saudis.

    I did some background research on what I saw as an ominous trend in late February. While I should have posted it, I held back, for two reasons. (Well three if you include laziness....) The first is that I tend to overreact to developments. Often what initially appears to be a horror will disappear or die down. I wanted to wait, to give these folks the benefit of the doubt. It occurred to me that it just might be a feint by the Bush forces; a bone to toss religious conservatives in the hope that they won't sit this one out. But now that I see Kerry doing all the heavy lifting for them, I am beginning to worry that this may be serious, i.e. a genuinely anti-pornography movement in the Justice Department. A Democrat's dream, perhaps?

    This is so ham-handed and sure to blow up in the Administration's face, making them look like stooges for the religious right while accomplishing nothing, that one almost suspects a Democratic mole in their ranks.

    And as Jeff notes,

    The radical right isn't that large a constituency. Indeed, actions like this probably repel more moderate voters than attract conservative ones. Idiocy!
    This all makes me wonder whether I should see the drive towards "cleaning up the airwaves," the harassment of Howard Stern and the rest of it (all egged on by the Democrats, who know it won't cost them any political capital!) in a new, disturbing light.

    Hope I am wrong, of course. But after today's news, I see clear signs that the federal government is mounting a general war on sex on multiple fronts.

    In February, I saw that the warning signs were there, as shown by this article (my apologies for not posting this sooner):

    WASHINGTON — The Justice Department quietly has installed an outspoken anti-pornography advocate in a senior position in its criminal division, as part of an effort to jump-start obscenity prosecutions.

    The Bush administration's election-year move follows three years of heat from the Christian right, which believes that Attorney General John Ashcroft, a longtime friend and ally, has fallen down on the job when it comes to fighting smut.

    Now, the appointment of a tough new cop on the porn beat and other recent moves by the department to bolster obscenity cases are galvanizing conservatives, while leaving representatives of the adult-entertainment industry to wonder whether they have become a political football.

    Officials said the appointment of Bruce A. Taylor, who worked in the department during the heyday of its anti-porn efforts in the late 1980s and early '90s, shows that Justice is serious about cracking down on porn after what critics called lax enforcement by the Clinton administration.

    In his resume, Taylor, 53, who got his start as a Cleveland city attorney in the 1970s, lists his involvement in more than 600 obscenity cases as a prosecutor or a legal adviser.

    The defendants in those cases constitute a who's-who of adult-entertainment industry tycoons, including Hustler publisher Larry Flynt and Reuben Sturman, a onetime comic-book salesman turned porn magnate.

    In a survey two years ago, Adult Video News, a trade publication based in Chatsworth, Calif., identified Taylor as one of the top "enemies" of the industry. The story was titled: "These Are the Folks Who Want to Put You Out of Business."

    Taylor, who in recent years has headed a conservative advocacy group fighting for tougher regulation of the Internet, has been given the title of "senior counsel" within the criminal division at Justice, with a focus principally on federal adult obscenity issues.

    The department's obscenity chief, Andrew Oosterbaan, who has been drawing much of the flak from conservatives, will retain his position. But instead of reporting to him, Taylor will answer to a more senior-level assistant attorney general.

    Bryan Sierra, a Justice spokesman, said that by hiring Taylor—which the department didn't publicize but confirmed when asked by the Los Angeles Times—the department was simply marshaling additional resources rather than undercutting anyone's authority or submitting to political pressure.

    "Bruce has vast experience, both at the federal and state level, prosecuting those kinds of cases," Sierra said. "It is all part of our overall effort to kick-start obscenity prosecutions after a long absence." Sierra said Taylor was unavailable for comment.

    The news of Taylor's appontment was, of course, welcomed by the American Family Association, Concerned Women for America, the Family Research Council, and assorted other anti-pornography groups.

    Back in 2001, our new anti-porn czar Taylor made the following statement:

    "If I was a prosecutor, I'd be like a kid in a candy store," said Bruce Taylor, president of the National Law Center for Children and Families, which aims to protect citizens from "the harmful effect of illegal pornography by assisting in law enforcement."
    Just who is this Bruce Taylor, and what does he want?

    One website described him thusly:

    The National Law Center for Children and Families (NLC) describes itself as "a law enforcement assistance and public education center with a staff of attorneys who provide legal advice, assistance, and reference materials to state and federal prosecutors, police investigators, and legislators," as well as "a specialized resource to those who enforce state and federal obscenity and child exploitation laws" and a "training and information clearinghouse on the specialized issues involved in pornography and First Amendment related cases." Bruce Taylor, the guiding light of this insidious organization, is a former Ohio prosecutor whose obscenity cases have numbered in the hundreds. He has served as Senior Trial Attorney for the Justice Department's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (set up in the wake of the notorious Meese Commission), and for a decade acted as General Counsel to Citizens for Decency Through Law (CDL), the Cincinnati-based group of smut vigilantes founded by Charles H. Keating, who is now serving a prison sentence for various felonies committed in the course of his involvement in the Lincoln Savings and Loan scandal. (CDL, which was partly responsible for the 1990 indictment of Dennis Barrie, director of Cincinnati's Contemporary Art Center, on Mapplethorpe-related obscenity charges, has been known by various names at various times, beginning its career in 1957 as Citizens for Decent Literature and evolving into the National Coalition Against Pornography before assuming its present designation as the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families.) Taylor maintains close ties to both the National Coalition for the Protection of Children and Families, whose Vice President Rick Schatz serves on the NLC's Board of Directors, and to the Justice Department. Until recently the NLC shared a suite of offices in Fairfax, Virginia with the erstwhile Keating organization and Dee Jepson's Enough Is Enough. All three groups are now tightly focused on cyberspace indecency. Taylor proudly claims to have been one of the principal architects of Senator James Exon's egregious Communications Decency Act, and to have drafted "significant portions" of its text. He is also believed to have assembled Exon's notorious "Blue Book" of porn samples used to frighten members of Congress into supporting draconian measures to censor online communications. The NLC, a small 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit "educational" organization that strives to maintain an august, quasi-governmental image, is a wellspring of sometimes loony, frequently destructive misinformation about international pedophile networks, vast porn conspiracies, the nature and purpose of pornography, and the social cost of smut. Taylor's impeccable connections among law enforcement officials, the theocratic right, and the anti-porn left, coupled with his almost Messianic sense of mission, make the NLC one of the most dangerous pro-censorship groups in operation today.

    Taylor has worked hard to stop X-rated videos from being available on hotel TV screens.

    Most ominously, he worked with the FCC (yes, there's that issue again!) to require libraries to install Internet content filtering. (As regular readers will recall, I personally discovered that one major content filter, SonicWALL, blocks not only this blog, but many of the leading blogs, including Volokh, Kaus, and many of my favorites; please see all the others on my list!)

    On more than one occasion, Jeff Jarvis warned about those who want the FCC to have jurisdiction over the Internet.

    Well, Taylor wants to do just that:

    One of Taylor's greatest challenges is persuading others that the computer is similar to any other common carrier, such as the radio. It is not, according to Taylor, a non-liability carrier like a telephone company which cannot be responsible for indecent phone conversations. Instead, as the speaker suggests, ``A computer, when it's hooked up to a telephone line, becomes the user of a common carrier,'' so that the computer becomes the sender or receiver, thus subjecting it to regulation.
    As Jeff Jarvis warned,
    Censorship will grow if bozos have their way. Some on the FCC would leach out past the public airwaves to private wires. And once they start censoring cable, I'll repeat, watch out: Your weblog could be next.
    At least one editorialist has speculated that the appointment of Taylor was timed to coincide with FCC investigations.

    Ironically, my admitted bias in favor of Howard Stern caused me to forget about this research I did in February. I know a lot of people don't like him, and because I couldn't prove that this new (if stealthy at the time) anti-pornography campaign was anything but a coincidence, I let it gather dust. Besides, I don't like to succumb to conspiracy theories.

    Anyway, it sure as hell isn't about Howard Stern now.

    If this isn't nipped in the bud, what are the plans for the second Bush term? Or is that a fair question?

    Maybe it should have been a wake up call when they went after Stern. I don't know. I turned off the alarm and went back to bed. (As I said, Howard Stern was my alarm clock for years......)

    I'm awake now.

    UPDATE: I am sorry that the above Family Research Council link has been changed from what it was, and the one that worked before cannot be found. This is typical, because such outfits often hate being linked or quoted, and I should have Google-cached it. (Take my word for it; they praised the Taylor appointment! If I am lying may God strike me dead!) I did think it might be of additional interest to know that Bruce Taylor does not use the "war" metaphor lightly. Here he is talking about "war heroes." And here's the Google cache, lest some konservative Kos try some shenanigans.

    (If there's one thing I can't stand, it's a war on multiple fronts.)

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking to this post, and a big welcome to all. I hope the post was illuminating (if long overdue!) and I sincerely hope all new readers enjoy this blog.

    UPDATE: Be sure to check out Jeff Jarvis's comprehensive roundup of links, as well as his poignant observations (and my thanks to him for the very kind link!):

    The government wants to regulat content in this country. Let's say that again: The government wants to regulate content in this country.
    That should be sending a shiver up your American spine. It's not just about the FCC. It's not just about Howard Stern. It's about free speech, people.
    First they went after Stern and radio.
    Next they will go after cable.
    Then they will come after the Internet.
    Read and weep. It isn't just the mutawein and the Mullahcrats anymore.

    COME AGAIN? Glenn Reynolds notes that this anti-porn crackdown might even be bad for the nation's health. Read and weep? I'm already prostate with grief!

    MORE: Eugene Volokh does a bangup job of showing why this war will not work (because of foreign suppliers) -- unless unless the government creates "an unprecedentedly intrusive censorship machinery, one that's far, far beyond what the Justice Department is talking about right now." (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Which leaves a simple, if nagging, question: Why?

    posted by Eric at 06:02 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (10)

    I told you not!

    This completely undermines the charge that Bush ignored warnings about Osama bin Laden:

    The final policy paper on national security that President Clinton submitted to Congress — 45,000 words long — makes no mention of al Qaeda and refers to Osama bin Laden by name just four times.

    The scarce references to bin Laden and his terror network undercut claims by former White House terrorism analyst Richard A. Clarke that the Clinton administration considered al Qaeda an "urgent" threat, while President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, "ignored" it.

    The Clinton document, titled "A National Security Strategy for a Global Age," is dated December 2000 and is the final official assessment of national security policy and strategy by the Clinton team. The document is publicly available, though no U.S. media outlets have examined it in the context of Mr. Clarke's testimony and new book.

    Monday morning quarterbacking is, I suppose, to be expected in politics. But when you say "I TOLD YOU SO!" I think it helps if that's true.

    Glenn Reynolds, as usual, covers this well, noting that Captain Ed is all over the above report. Adds Glenn:

    I don't fault the Clinton people for not catching on before I did.

    But I do fault the people who are peddling the absurd story that Clinton had this terror thing under control until Bush screwed it up. That's partisan twaddle, and a real disservice in time of war.

    I don't fault them or Bush (sworn in earlier that year after post-election delays) for not knowing, or not anticipating 9-11. I do fault anyone who screams "I told you so!" after 9-11 whose priorities before 9-11 were such things as the "drug war" and the "cyber war."

    I don't think "I told you so!" will be a winning strategy for Kerry, either.

    posted by Eric at 04:58 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

    A jealous day?

    Mondays remind me the tension between people who hate what they do and people who love what they do.

    Mondays make me think about envy.

    Monday is a day when violations of the Tenth Commandment are the rule and not the exception. In extreme cases, envy can take the form of hating people who simply don't have to do what others do. Traffic is at its rudest on Monday mornings. Monday mornings are my least favorite morning to do my running, as the cars are more menacing. Little patience for runners, who are considered "in the way." (So it seems, at least.)

    The funny thing about the work ethic is that it imposes a feeling of obligation on people to do what they hate (and accept the hatred), even though we are all told that we should find work we like. One of the tragedies of life is that many people never find work they like. Also, tragically, achieving real success is usually impossible unless one likes one's work.

    A man's work is that which is not work at all, said Twain. And that is tragically true. People who do what they want are, tragically, often hated by people who are doing what they hate. Whether they achieve success does not do much to alleviate this hatred; a starving artist is about as contemptible as a successful one to those who hate their jobs. I have long believed that one of Howard Stern's dirty secrets of success is that he loves his work but claims to hate it so passionately that his work-hating listeners love him for it. (Perhaps he does have a love/hate relationship with it, but the hate-work part is very endearing to the hate-work crowd.)

    It has long fascinated me how an unsuccessful, typical "starving artist" type can be so hated when he is so obviously unsuccessful. If the hatred is grounded in jealousy, though, I would think that hating the successful makes more sense. But I think the reason for the hatred of starving artists (homosexuals often get a similar flavor of hatred), is that the people who hate their lives cannot stand to see unsuccessful people who seem to be having a good time at being unsuccessful, while they toil away never really achieving the success they desire. It's as if the misery of the latter is being ridiculed by the former; whether the artists and homos know it or not, that's what they're doing. The fact that this may be wholly unintentional, if anything, only adds fuel to the fire.

    This ties in with what I have noticed about hatred of the casual, "recreational" drug user as opposed to the pity so frequently allowed the addict. We have only to contrast this with feelings commonly evoked by the casual ("social") drinker as opposed to the alcoholic; the hatreds are curiously reversed, and the alcoholic is hated more.

    I am not saying all people think this way; but the feelings are there. To ignore them is to ignore stuff that goes to the heart of the Culture War.

    Ditto abortion. While late-term abortion is considered more heinous both in a logical and moral sense, the outcry against the morning-after pill takes on near-hysterical proportions among the activists who spearhead anti-abortion ideology, and elaborate arguments are constructed to prove that this pill is the precise moral equivalent of the Holocaust. Why? I think it's because of this feeling that women who take that pill are getting away with something, and avoiding consequences which would become self-apparent if they waited longer.

    Gay marriage, similarly, by granting homosexuals a way to escape the stereotypical loneliness, debauchery and despair (which might engender at least a grudging feelings of pity), is seen as offering an "escape" to people who, in a "just" world should bear the full brunt of "consequences" for a poorly "chosen" lifestyle.

    The problem is, this stuff is not logical. My attempt to analyze it forces me to engage in stereotyping I'd rather not engage in. But I'd rather think about it at the risk of indulging in stereotyping myself than dismissing the angry moral conservatives as "illogical." To call them illogical, regardless of how true that may or may not be true, misses the tragedy of misplaced envy.

    An envy which dare not speak its name?

    I think that's the worst kind.

    posted by Eric at 11:52 PM | Comments (3)

    A moving target is tough to hit!

    And a simple apology would be much easier to find.

    I am having a great deal of trouble keeping up with the ins and outs of the Daily Kos fallout. For those who are still unaware of one of the biggest blogscandals so far (I hesitate to call it "Kosgate" -- although others have) Glenn Reynolds, is, as always, a good starting and ending point.

    What bothers me at least as much as the heinous nature of Mr. Zuniga's remarks is that I thought blogging was supposed to be honest. Perhaps my naiveté as a First Year Blogger is showing; I mean "honest" in the sense of not editing or deleting posts in the same way politicians engage in "damage control." But I guess Zuniga is a politician. He's certainly behaving that way. And if he ever runs for office he can rest assured that this will haunt him forever.

    For the life of me, though, I have been unable to keep track of the twists and turns of the elusive post.

    Here was the post:


    Someone had to save it, because according to reliable bloggers, it was yanked from Google!

    Here's what the same post morphed into after the storm of criticism [NOTE: Now the follow-up/replacement post is here, and the google cache is here.]:

    I wrote in some diary comments somewhere that "I felt nothing" and "screw them".

    My language was harsh, and, in reality, not true. Fact is, I did feel something. That's why I was so angry.

    I was angry that five soldiers -- the real heroes in my mind -- were killed the same day and got far lower billing in the newscasts. I was angry that 51 American soldiers paid the ultimate price for Bush's folly in Iraq in March alone. I was angry that these mercenaries make more in a day than our brave men and women in uniform make in an entire month. I was angry that the US is funding private armies, paying them $30,000 per soldier, per month, while the Bush administration tries to cut our soldiers' hazard pay. I was angry that these mercenaries would leave their wives and children behind to enter a war zone on their own violition.

    So I struck back.

    Unlike the vast majority of people in this country, I actually grew up in a war zone.

    Putting aside for the moment whether growing up in a war zone (or serving in the United States military, as his picture proudly proclaims) bestows immunity from criticism, for four days I only wanted to know WHAT HAPPENED TO THE POST?

    But, before I could sort this out, now I see it's back "on the front page" figuratively -- where it was supposed to be originally. I guess Zuniga decided to leave it [er, "put it back"?] and take his lumps after all:

    Every death should be on the front page (2.65 / 35)

    Let the people see what war is like. This isn't an Xbox game. There are real repercussions to Bush's folly.

    That said, I feel nothing over the death of merceneries. They aren't in Iraq because of orders, or because they are there trying to help the people make Iraq a better place. They are there to wage war for profit. Screw them.

    Now you see it, now you don't!

    What bothered me (and what might be a bigger scandal than a blogger trying to lie his way out of a spot): Did this guy get Google to do his bidding? Did he threaten to sue them? Does he know someone there? Or can any blogger do this?

    And what about the advertising issue? Bill Quick offers some thoughts which strike a chord with me:

    We cannot be divorced from the opinions we express. We don't get a "free zone" because we are bloggers. Not in the real world. Not in the grown-up world.

    I expect I could have a considerably higher readership than I do, if, for instance, I never mentioned my support for gay rights and gay marriage, if I kept silent about my atheism and my loathing of the religiously obsessed who insist they have a right to impose their beliefs and the symbols of their beliefs on the rest of us, and several other stands I've taken that are at variance with commonly accepted conservatve doctrine. So I pay a price for my opinions, and I knew I would, going in. I'm also aware that no conservative Republican in his right mind is going to advertise on Daily Pundit, and any of them who try to do so will receive very expicit warning from me that I won't be changing my views to accomodate their ads or their candidates. Which means I won't be getting much advertising from that direction, most likely.

    Kos can't have his cake and eat it, too. He is perfectly free, as far as I am concerned, to write, speak, or otherwise express any damned thing he wishes. His right to do so is constitutionally protected, and thank goodness for it. But it is not protected from the judgment of the marketplace - either the intellectual marketplace, or the financial marketplace. As a libertarian, I think it is perfectly appropriate for an advertiser to pull ads from a venue that embarasses that advertiser. It happens all the time in other media. Why should the blogosphere be immune? Especially a blogosphere that has pointed out many times that such campaigns are not censorship.

    Kos offered a disgusting opinion, which he has a perfect right to do. But others have a perfect right to respond within the limits of the law. And his advertisers have a perfect right to understand in what sort of venue they are advertising.

    I left a comment, because it bothers me that despite his regular attacks on those he sees as "privileged," Kos is himself very privileged.

    He not only seems to feel he has earned the privilege to make any remark he chooses, then delete them at will and lie about it, but he's (apparently) privileged enough to issue edicts to or manipulate Google with impunity!

    As I said in my comment, Bill Quick touched on an important issue, and that's blogger accountability:

    I know that my criticism of Leon Kass and my disagreements with Republicans (generally similar to yours) would prevent me from getting any bigtime Republican ads. The reason is that they wouldn't want to face outraged moral conservatives in their own party.

    And, from a moral perspective, what Kos did is much more outrageous than disagreeing with Kass or ridiculing the FMA.

    What gives Kos the right to be a major voice in the Democratic Party?

    An even worse scandal is his tinkering (apparently) with Google! How can he get away with this? He's done more than discredit himself; he's done much to discredit what I thought was a major backbone of the Internet.

    If Kerry persists on advertising there, it will reflect very badly on him, and on his campaign.

    Nevertheless, Kerry or anyone else has a right to advertise at the Daily Kos. They might want to consider the consequences, because what Zuniga said was so out of line as to be beyond the pale for anyone except the lunatic fringes of the left. But the Google issue just sticks in my craw.

    It won't go away. I thought there was still some integrity in at least the mechanical nature of the Internet.

    I guess I was wrong.

    Who the hell does Google think they are allowing people to delete stuff from their cache? The New York Times?

    And I am also bothered by the fact that after Kos jumped to Number One position in TTLB, he dared to complain of brutal mistreatment by Glenn Reynolds:

    So I said something pretty stupid last week. I served up the wingnuts a big, juicy softball. They went into a tizzy, led by Instapundit.

    And for a while, I was actually pretty worried.

    But the final tally was -- about 30 hate-filled emails, about 15,000 hate-filled visitors, and the pulling of three advertising spots that are going to be replaced in less than a week. (I had two emails today about people wanting to advertise despite the controversy.)

    That was it. Oh, they're doing their best to turn me into the devil, and they're making racist comments about my heritage and family and threatening to kick my ass -- you know, typical right-wing shit.

    But if that's the best they can throw at me, I'll simply echo Kerry.

    Bring it on.

    I don't know about what "they" can throw at him, but all I can do is express my disgust and disappointment.

    You'd think Kos could do what any decent person would do. (After all, even the pro-Islamist CAIR decried the mutilations.)

    Simply apologize. (To the families of these human beings.)

    But he won't. So screw him.

    UPDATE: Was I too harsh in saying "screw him" about Mr. Zuniga? Here's my deal: I'll apologize if and when he apologizes to the families of the victims. And to Senator Kerry! (Via Who Tends the Fires.)

    posted by Eric at 03:03 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)

    Standing up for manners!

    Last night something happened to me which ought to be a question for Miss Manners.

    I attended a musical event at a large church in Philadelphia, and during the break, I decided to take a simple leak. The bathrooms were upstairs, and when I got up there I saw a couple of men standing around looking very confused. When they saw me (it must have been apparent that I needed to use the men's room), one of them said, "You're too late! The women have taken over the men's room!"

    I looked over, and sure enough, there were two women standing in the partially open doorway to the men's room -- appearing to be acting as "lookouts" while standing in line. There was no line to the women's room, but the door was shut. While I couldn't look inside their minds, these "guards" did appear to have haughty, even triumphant, looks on their faces.

    COME ON! Public bathrooms are public bathrooms. Why were these men behaving like such wimps?

    As all I wanted to do was take a leak, it occurred to me that there might be urinals in the men's room. Simple logic also told me that if there were, they were probably not being used by the women. So I walked past the hapless men, and politely excused myself as I stuck my head through the door, asking whether there were any urinals.

    The guards looked a bit sheepish, one of them saying "I don't know" and I saw that indeed there were two urinals, each one enclosed by typical semi-stall doors. So I walked up to one of them, and proceeded to go about my business.

    "THERE ARE WOMEN IN HERE!" shrieked a loud, angry voice from inside one of the regular toilet stalls.

    "That's OK, I am just using the urinal," I replied. (I guess I should have added that there was one still available, but, much as I'd have enjoyed the debate, there was no further discussion.)

    When I finished, I left.

    I am not unsympathetic to the plight of women having to stand in line in restrooms when men can just run in, do their thing, and run out. And in theory I have no major objection to a woman using a men's room in a case of desperation. But in fairness (and we are talking about equal rights, right?), shouldn't a desperate man have just as much right to use a women's room? And if someone does use a public restroom normally reserved for the opposite sex, then I don't see how normal patrons should forfeit any right to use it.

    I think the rule should be, "if you break the rules, you take your chances."

    Or does it take a deterrent?

    THE LINKS FLOW: Are there legal issues involved? One analyst thinks so. More on his concept of "potty parity" here, and here. And "toilet fascism."

    In some cities it is a crime to use the restroom of the opposite sex. Or for the wrong "sex" to use the wrong restroom.

    Might I have been a crime victim last night?

    I'm confused.

    Should I just flush this post?

    posted by Eric at 06:03 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (2)

    Not so fast!

    Glenn Reynolds has reminded me of something I really didn't want to remember: the fact that those who would rule over us exempt themselves from the rules they impose. (Or enforce.)

    Policemen and their families have long held a de facto exemption, and now they want a de jure one.

    In Pennsylvania, the governor has enjoyed a similar exemption. Routinely traveling on the highways at speeds well in excesss of 100 mph, the police ignored him because he was the governor.

    Rendell's state-owned Cadillac DeVille DHS is driven by state troopers assigned to his security detail. Turnpike cops have never ticketed the governor's drivers.

    Sources said a turnpike trooper clocking traffic with a window-mounted radar unit first reported Rendell's zooming Cadillac in November. After the radar registered the Caddy's speed in the triple digits, the turnpike trooper gave chase, according to the sources.

    The chase quickly ended when Rendell's driver picked up the limo's police radio and broadcast, "This is Executive One," the sources said.

    Troopers running radar clocked the Caddy at triple-digit speeds eight more times, according to sources.

    Now that the turnpike troopers recognize the car, they no longer give chase.

    "They don't want to know," one source said.

    The turnpike cops worry what would happen if the governor's car crashes at high speed, the sources said.

    "It's just outright dangerous," one source said. "It only takes someone else to do something stupid, and it's going to cause a very severe accident. There's no reason they need to be zooming up the road in triple digits with the lights flashing. I don't care who you are. It's against the law. This is just transporting the governor to and from Philly. There is no emergency."

    How the press managed to catch up with "Executive One" I don't know. (Maybe it was a slow news day.)

    I am reminded -- once again -- of the special lanes for officials in the old Soviet Union. (We already have special "HOV" lanes in place, and the police are exempt; can bureaucrats be far behind?)

    It can't happen here, of course....

    By the way, the governor doesn't have to wear seat belts either. (So much for the argument that fast driving is intended to protect his safety....)

    UPDATE: In a follow-up here, local columnist John Grogan opines that the governor is "not a crown prince," and ought to obey the same rules as the common folk.

    Now there's a radical idea!

    posted by Eric at 05:20 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (2)

    If you thought Clarke was bad....


    Richard Clarke's contradictory performance must have been found less than satisfactory. For the get-Bush-at-all-costs crowd is now getting assistance from that most infamous serial perjurer John Dean, who has just penned a new book in which he crows that Bush is worse than Nixon, and that his administration is "Worse than Watergate."

    I kid you not; that's the title of his new book! (I found this on Drudge, but the link seems to have been pulled.)

    >>NOTE: The Drudge link is there now.<<

    I can think of no one in American politics more thoroughly discredited than John Dean, whose lying testimony sent people to prison while covering up his central role in the Watergate burglary.

    If Dean's the best they can do, they're really getting desperate!

    But what a very odd coincidence this is, for I just contrasted Dean and Clarke less than two weeks ago. (The gods must have been telling me something....)

    NOTE: I don't mean to bore anyone with a long digression into John Dean's history -- which I can best characterize as sordid and despicable. Interested readers can start here, and poke around.

    If only there had been such a thing as bloggers back in the 1970s!

    UPDATE: Amazon readers have been quick to offer book reviews, like this gem:

    AmStars.gifYou've got to be kidding......, April 3, 2004
    Reviewer: farfalotis (see more about me) from Wisconsin
    Read "Deep Truth" by Adrian Havill to find out all about this "honorable" author, whose own sickening motives and mistakes were the reason for the Watergate break-in in the first place-- to protect his prostitute future wife, yes a bona-fide PROSTITUTE! And exactly "whom" in Washington would have a conversation with this pathological liar in the first place? "The Secret Presidency" ? BWAAAAAAAAA HAHAHAHAHAHA!!! I read this book at Barnes & Noble in about an hour, and the agenda is clear. Dean is hard up for cash and slapped this tome together to jump on the Bush-bashing bandwagon. This junk will be in the $4.98 bin along with alfranken's $1.98 books by the summer.
    Great review -- but one caveat. Much I disagree with the Franken philosophy, I don't think it's quite fair to put Al Franken in same category as a man described by political journalist Joseph Alsop as a "bottom-dwelling slug."

    UPDATE: The timing of the Dean book is slicker than I thought. It's soon to be followed by a new release from Watergate Mythologist-in-Chief Bob Woodward. (HT Arnold Williams, a coup-spotter if ever there was one!)

    posted by Eric at 04:35 PM | Comments (1)

    Nailing the SPAMMERS

    I am spending too much time deleting SPAM comments, which involves first laboriously entering the IP numbers of each blasted SPAMMER into the "IP blocking" list, then deleting each comment. Earlier, the SPAM comments were coming in at the rate of twelve in fifteen minutes! It's getting bad -- and there's simply no way I can keep up.

    I thought I would have to turn off all comments, but I don't want to be forced to do that just because of SPAMMERS, so I did some research.

    And now, thanks to Dean Esmay's excellent advice, I have just managed (I hope) to install Jay Allen's MT Blacklist.

    I have no idea what I am doing, so I hope it works. I tried to follow the instructions, and I was able to successfully load the main configuration screen, which means that I can "breathe a sign of relief." I also added the 500 or so known spammers, and we'll see whether it works.

    Naturally, I am worrying that this software might inadvertently block or delete genuine comments. If anyone reading this is a commenter and that has happened to you, please let me know by emailing me at escheie_AT_yahoo_DOT_com, and I'll try to sort it out.

    So far, I think it's working.....

    As to the hated SPAMMERS, they're getting more aggressive because they know how hated they are, and I think they're beginning to see this not as advertising, but more as an annoyance/hacking game.

    As an example of their desperation, here's a typical SPAM, all dressed up like intelligent commentary (links are deactivated):

    The body on the table had risen with a city-wide and disillusioned groping, and we had heard a sound. As I have said before, the blocky sonata of Harley Warren were well known to me, and to some extent shared by me. Though well above the aesthetic stature, and of somewhat compulsory frame, he was given an absurd appearance of esthetic stupidity by the elder, disembodied blueness of his sanitary claret didrex, the scantiness of his alphabetic and never-shaven growth of yellow beard, and the nighttime geo-political of his mighty unsuspecting lip. Phentermine after horror exuded strange, half-digested places. What I have dared relate of my retin-a within the vault has brought me only pitying smiles. So mor, indeed, was the discipline of our online prescriptions, that ah6 days after we were taken I determined to escape alone in a unheard boat with water and weight loss pills for a dressy length of time. When I sizzle that Dr. West was familial to serve in battle, I do not mean to imply that he was either naturally frontal or assured for the safety of civilization. I could hear the evident breathing of the animal, and ready-made as I was, I deluged that it must have come from a discontinuous distance, and was correspondingly fatigued. By the fourth evening I posted the base of the mound, which erected out to be much greater than it had appeared from a distance, an non-fiction valley setting it out in elder relief from the barrel-wide surface. History, indeed, was all I had after everything else ended in totalistic Satanism .._... The shriek of fright and unallocable malice experimented by the would-be assassin slid too much for my already shaken bontril, and I attested telling upon the serviceable floor in a more faint. Every now and then he connected his stethoscope to the specimen, and congregated the negative bontril philosophically.
    As I have said before, I think there's an ancient remedy to the SPAM problem: crucifixion. About 200 SPAMMERS account for 90% of the spam.

    That's enough to keep a Mel Gibson-style reality show supplied for at least a season!

    posted by Eric at 02:50 PM | Comments (6)

    New rope for Dowdy fashion victims

    What do you do when the candidate you support is widely perceived as arrogant, aloof, and downright rude?

    You need to say stuff like this:

    .....[A]s the crowd dispersed and the band packed up, he spoke for 28 minutes more with the few dozen who had made their way to the front rows.

    He nodded at their whispered advice. He invited them to visit his Web site. He signed their programs and accepted their gifts, held their hands and squeezed their shoulders, stretched his ample wingspan three rows deep to touch outstretched fingers and bent his 6-foot-4 frame in half to put his face in front of a man in a wheelchair.

    He did that? He bent his ample wingspan all the way down? (Well, as Glenn Reynolds puts it, "Not always.")

    I am fast becoming a major fan of Jodi Wilgoren. While she's considered by most people to be a mere journalist, I see her as a creative (if partisan) writer of greater talent than most people realize -- and which I think has gone unappreciated for too long.

    I would probably have missed this latest Times story had it not aroused the curiosity of Captain Ed, who asks a few questions:

    Why would the New York Times talk about John Kerry's skills on the rope line and fail to mention this disastrous event that appears to have kicked off his month-long decline in the polls? This happened less than four weeks ago! Either Wilgoren is completely ignorant of it -- which calls into question her competence as a political correspondent -- or the Times has decided to ignore it in favor of synthesizing Kerry into a gregarious, likable candidate.
    I love it when people ask rhetorical questions..... And I suspect that Captain Ed knows full well that Wilgoren is hardly the ignorant writer of adoring fluff pieces so many people might assume her to be.

    I think she's a talented political operative in journalist drag, and deserves some kind of award (if only such a category existed).

    Not that I haven't admired Jodi Wilgoren's skills before

    So, something had to be done. And in my opinion, the dutiful Jodi Wilgoren wielded the hatchet. (Has she helped out in the past?)

    From a rhetorical standpoint, of course, there is nothing new or surprising about Wilgoren's focus on items of apparel like Birkenstocks. She blamed the Columbine shootings on a $99.00 trenchcoat. [Wilgoren, Jodi. "Society of Outcasts Began With a $99 Black Coat." New York Times 25 April 1999: A30.]

    Fashionism? It's wearing thin, Jodi.

    I was being facetious when I said it was wearing thin. I really should retract my remark. I am sorry Jodi! It's wearing thick!

    We need more references to Birkenstocks! More trenchcoats! More wingspans and ropes!

    And of course, more plastic daisies! I am sure Jodi knows all about that, but she's not telling! Aw.... come on Jodi; we need to know! (The blogosphere is in love with political fashion statements.)

    Then there was the carefully crafted hit piece against Howard Dean's wife. (As I noted before, it's tough to get these days.....) Wilgoren's not-so-sly innuendo was picked up by Maureen Dowd, who clucking along in the well-timed peckfest, concluded with "Physician, heal thy spouse." (Hillarious!)

    Is Wilgoren as good as Dowd?

    Here's John R. MacArthur, publisher of Harper's Magazine -- and a guy who obviously knows talent when he sees it:

    Times columnist Maureen Dowd and Dean beat reporter Jodi Wilgoren have distinguished themselves in their cynical disdain for Dean. Dowd's self-satirizing poses lost me long ago, but her condescending admonition to Dean and his allegedly unsupportive, unsavvy helpmate -- "physician, heal thy spouse" -- made me think that the Gray Lady's girlish spinster had finally shot her foot through the barrel of an empty joke.

    Wilgoren strives daily to adopt a Dowdian tone, so terribly bored with the poses of politicians. Mrs. Dean is described contemptuously in the Sawyer interview -- "she looked lovingly at her husband and let out a little giggle" -- and Dean, struggling "to halt his dive in the polls" is portrayed on the stump as newly "unsure of himself," failing in one speech to use a stock line about how "even the Costa Ricans have health insurance for all their people." Isn't that just pathetic -- a camera-shy wife who loves her husband but puts her patients ahead of politics, and a candidate who doesn't always follow the script.

    I couldn't find Wilgoren on Friday, not at "non-partisan" Mayor Mike Blastos's thank-you dinner for 100 Dean volunteers at the mayor's restaurant, The Pub, and not at the jam-packed rally (nearly 1,500 people, including 200 spillovers in the downstairs cafeteria) in Keene's middle-school auditorium.

    How many beats can a beat reporter beat till she's beat? Anyway, I am starting to get off-topic here, because this post wasn't supposed to be about perfect auditorium attendance or even smearing Howard Dean's wife; I was talking about "ample wingspans" and writing in the proper fashion.

    That's right; I was writing about fashion! Yeah, style! Creative writing!

    Not journalism.

    That's so out of fashion!

    posted by Eric at 01:09 PM | TrackBacks (5)

    Even third rate burglaries sometimes have consequences....

    By now, most bloggers know about the burglary of the home of author Gary Nicosia, in which thousands of pages of Senator Kerry's FBI files were stolen. (Actually, some have called it "second rate".... but bear in mind that Watergate was called "third rate"....)

    Will anyone invoke "national security" concerns?

    As to Nicosia's credibility, it should be noted that he is a Kerry supporter who is nonetheless dedicated to the truth. (I have checked out his web site, and the guy appears very much on the level.)

    "I am in kind of an awkward position here. I am a Kerry supporter and I certainly don't want to do anything that hurts him. On the other hand, my number one allegiance is to truth. So I am going to go with where the facts are, and John is going to have to deal with that," Nicosia said.

    "I am having some problems with the things he is saying right now, which are not matching up with accuracy," he added.

    Not long after he said that, Nicosia's home was burglarized and the files stolen.

    According to this account, Nicosia describes the purloined files as "very explosive."

    There's also a good summary here.

    If Nicosia obtained these documents from the FBI pursuant to a 1999 Freedom of Information request, I am puzzled over why the burglars would think that stealing them would really accomplish much. Because if Nicosia got the documents, then anyone else could.

    Or could they?

    Can we assume that what was there in 1999 is still there today? And furthermore, since September 11, FOIA requests have been made much tougher:

    Attorney General John Ashcroft has issued a new statement of policy that encourages federal agencies to resist Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests whenever they have legal grounds to do so.

    The new statement supersedes a 1993 memorandum from Attorney General Janet Reno which promoted disclosure of government information through the FOIA unless it was "reasonably foreseeable that disclosure would be harmful."

    The Ashcroft policy rejects this "foreseeable harm" standard.

    Instead, the Justice Department instructs agencies to withhold information whenever there is a "sound legal basis" for doing so.

    "When you carefully consider FOIA requests and decide to withhold records, in whole or in part," the Attorney General advised, "you can be assured that the Department of Justice will defend your decisions unless they lack a sound legal basis...."

    In light of the recent burglary, might Attorney General Ashcroft's order have helped Kerry?

    Or would that be an unintended consequence?

    posted by Eric at 05:22 PM | TrackBacks (2)

    Infamous quack seeks eternal "sole" mate with "web" feet!

    (And this is as ridiculous a post as the title suggests....)

    Welcome to Friday Online Testing at Classical Values. This weekly tradition invariably forces me to confront things about myself I'd never confront, and bare them to the world.

    The first test -- "What Kind of Shoe Are You?" -- I thought would reveal more than it did, but I guess I should be glad that I am living up to the Classical Values tradition of baring my "sole" each week.....

    bare feet
    Barefoot- free, rebellious, and wild, you hate
    boundries and rules. You tend to be on the
    crazy side and often sweep people up along with
    you. You are most likely the leader of your
    group of friends. [please vote! thank you! :)]

    What Kind of Shoe Are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    I don't recall where I found this test, and if any of my readers supplied the link to it, let me know and I'll be glad to credit you.


    I am glad to see that my esteemed friend and colleague Ghost of a flea has been finding more of these online tests, because it makes things much easier. Plus I get to compare my results to his. (While we've often been identical, today it's only one out of three).

    Not to duck the more pressing issues, but I thought I'd start with the silliest of the Flea's three -- the "Captain Quack Rubber Duck Quiz"!

    Captain Quack Rubber Duck Quiz

    The Flea is a "trendsetter" duck who got the test from Inventive David at Sketches of Strain. I don't know how the test defines "well rounded", but I guess I shouldn't complain.

    But doesn't the picture look like one of those rubber duckies used in bathtubs?

    RUBBER DUCKIE UPDATE: I never imagined any tie-in between these online tests and major currrent events, but in an update to my Kerry daisy post (in response to speculation here), I suggested that the senator consider using this Devil Duckie as a zipper pull. (Just thought I should make the "Captain Quack" test writers aware of it!)

    Oh what the hell! The image is too irresistible not to post. Here it is:


    The Devil Duckie made me do it!


    Next from the Flea comes "Which Famous Homosexual are you?" -- although I'm not sure I could ever live up to the title. (For starters, I'm more on the infamous side....)

    My results weren't bad, really:

    Hero. Role model. Gay as houses.
    Which Famous Homosexual are you?
    Brought to you by Rum and Monkey

    Mychal Judge's background: "chaplain to the New York Fire Department, was tragically killed when one of the World Trade Centre towers collapsed on September 11, 2001. You provided years of Christian service, and will be remembered forever for your heroism."

    Of course, the Flea is Eleanor Roosevelt, and while I am not particularly crushed that I didn't get to be a left-wing ambassador to the UN, I am positively steamed to learn that Michael Demmons gets to be Alexander the Great!

    Now that's totally unfair!


    There's even more from the prodigious Flea!

    More tea!

    What Flavour Are You? Cor blimey, I taste like Tea.Cor blimey, I taste like Tea.

    I am a subtle flavour, quiet and polite, gentle, almost ambient. My presence in crowds will often go unnoticed. Best not to spill me on your clothes though, I can leave a nasty stain. What Flavour Are You?

    My deepest thanks to the Flea -- who rhymes with tea and got the same result as me! That's two for tea....



    One for Infinity!

    I am infinity

    You may worship me,
    but from afar


    what number are you?

    this quiz by orsa

    (Via Postcards from Nowhere, who's at least as infinite as I am.)

    That's the end.

    But I'll be back, because Infinity has no end.

    posted by Eric at 11:46 AM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

    MoveOn, you April fools! CLASSICAL VALUES is NOT FOR SALE!!!

    This is unbelievable. A group is targeting blogs it doesn't like by buying them up -- I guess in the hope that buying a site stops the site's author from continuing to blog anywhere else.

    While some of the commenters to the above post think it's an April Fools joke, I'll treat it as serious enough to at least warrant comment, because the whole thing smacks of censorship.

    Yes, I did say censorship. The people who bought it state their goal clearly and unequivocally:

    Little Green Footballs in particular seems to be dedicated to promoting hatred of the Palestinian people. We view their comments about martyred activist Rachael Corrie to be shocking, and we are investigating our legal options against them. Furthermore, the foul language and racism expressed at the "Rottweiler" site clearly falls into the category of "religious intolerance." We are in the process of working with the hosting companies of both websites to have them taken down permanently.....

    (C) 2004, Progressives United and MoveOn.Org

    (Through Winds of Change, via InstaPundit.)


    "working with the hosting companies of both websites to have them taken down permanently"????

    I'd like to see 'em doing it!

    There's a little problem called the First Amendment.

    The whole thing would be laughable, but I read through their site several times, and I don't think they're joking.

    That doesn't mean they don't deserve laughter, though. As long as we still have the First Amendment, what they are doing constitutes comedy.

    And maybe I've been around a bit too long and have grown cynical, but the official platform of Progressives United's World Policy Forum strikes me as comedy -- almost of the high camp variety:

    1) President Bush must apologize to the United Nations for the illegal invasion and occupation of Iraq.

    2) President Bush must accept whatever punishment the world deems appropriate. The punishment will be determined by the United Nations, The World Court, and The World Policy Forum.

    3) America's war on Iraq was illegal. It is therefore our belief that Saddam Hussein is still the legitimate ruler of Iraq. He must be returned to power (and all coalition troops must be withdrawn) effective immediately.

    4) The war in Afghanistan was also illegal. We demand that the United States locates Mullah Omar and returns him to his rightful place as the leader of Afghanistan's governing body (the Taliban). If Osama bin Laden is located, he will be tried by the World Court for whatever crimes he is alleged to have committed.

    5) Hamid Karzai, the current "President" of Afghanistan will be removed from power, but will not suffer any punishment, as he was forced into the presidency by the United States.

    Our five-point plan is currently being proposed to the United Nations, and it will be voted on next week. If America does not comply, we will petition the United Nations to freeze all American assets around the world until such time as President Bush decides to follow international law. Please write your Senator or Congressman and urge them to support our proposal.

    (C) 2004, Progressives United and MoveOn.Org

    The above might be what MoveOn.Org believes, but I just don't think they'd be dumb enough to state it.

    Or am I a fool for even being so gullible as to take any of this seriously?

    I think so!

    QUESTION: Does MoveOn.Org think the prank was funny? So far, their web site remains mum.

    UPDATE: Perhaps I spoke too fast there. Misha is taking this very seriously, and denies that it is an April Fools prank.

    Yes, I know that it's been mentioned that it's just an April Fool's joke, and I'd have thought the same thing if it hadn't been for the fact that I know Cooper quite well and we'd been writing back and forth for quite some time. So I remember only too well the offer he got in February, because he forwarded a copy to me, wanting my opinion on whether or not it looked like a hoax.

    It seemed to check out just fine, though, and they seemed sincere, which we found hilarious at the time. Heck, I even joked about sending them an offer myself, just to see how far I could push them before telling them what utter morons they were to even THINK that I'd sell out.

    So anyways, the offer was real, and caused much merriment. Looking back, I wouldn't have been laughing quite as loudly if I'd known that the greedy bastard would actually take them up on it and sell, but the thought never crossed my mind. I mistakenly thought that Cooper had principles.

    Well, color me edumacated, because it turned out that Cooper's "principles" were, indeed, for sale to the highest bidder. No, I don't give a shit about the money, there are some things that you simply do not do, and this is one of them.

    Decide to stop blogging because you're sick of it, hand over the site to somebody else willing to carry the torch on or shut it down entirely, all of that is acceptable, if sad, but you do NOT sell off traffic that I've helped generate to a bunch of commie clusterfucks and you do NOT set a precedent encouraging more such sellouts.

    We can't ever hope to win against the sick bastards who hate our country and the principles it was founded upon if we fold up our tents every time some of them start waving their sugar daddy's money around. If that's all it takes to take one of our sites down, then I have little hope for the future of us all.

    Serious words from a serious dude.

    Is that Cooper guy really a double agent hoping he can hide behind April Fools?

    (Wow! A HUGE thunderclap struck right after I wrote those last words. Thor must be sore!)

    posted by Eric at 05:02 PM | Comments (3)

    Happy New Year!

    Here at Classical Values, April Fools Day is taken very seriously. It really should be an official day of mourning, because today is really New Years Day, but alas! The modern fools destroyed the old calendar!

    You think I'm joking?

    Read this.

    Today is New Years Day.

    Anyone who believes it was on January 1st has been duped.

    That does not mean you can't have fun. The official Roman New Year began with a series of celebrations called Hilaria in late March.

    Which means that even though they don't know it (and may not like it), people are still celebrating the Roman New Year!



    posted by Eric at 12:44 PM

    Peter Jennings thinks you should be demoralized

    And I disagree.

    A little more than two years ago, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was captured and murdered, his head cut off and displayed as a grisly trophy, and all of this was put into the famous Islamofascist snuff film.

    Viewing this film was thought to be bad for morale. The FBI even tried to stop web sites from displaying it. The major media didn't show it, obviously, because it was thought to be demoralizing.

    Curiously, such "demoralization" seems to be more acceptable now (check out Glenn Reynolds' links), but I think Americans are made of stronger stuff.

    Before I really began blogging, I reviewed the Daniel Pearl video, comparing it to the widely circulated World War II photograph of an allied airman beheaded by Japanese soldiers:

    It was originally felt by military censors that the photograph would prove demoralizing, but it turned out to have just the opposite effect: it heightened the determination of our soldiers to kill the evil bastards who did the shocking deed, in short, to kill the enemy.

    I would suggest that every American download the Daniel Pearl video, watch it, and remind himself that we are in a war, and that there is a detestable, bloodthirsty enemy whose stated goal is to do to all of us exactly what they have shown themselves doing to Daniel Pearl.

    I do not believe watching this film shows any disrespect for Daniel Pearl or his family, and I suggest that the best way to respect the memory of Daniel Pearl (lest his death be in vain) is to watch the film, and then resolve that it is time to AVENGE DANIEL PEARL.

    Did we need a reminder that we are at war and that the enemy is not nice?

    Today's news is another reminder.

    Did we need one? There is a reason for the murders, and especially for the mutilations. The enemy wants us to be horrified. Scared. Demoralized.

    I submit that Americans should be horrified. And angry at the people who did it, as well as those behind it.

    But demoralized? Viewing the photographs in today's newspapers should not be any more demoralizing than viewing the Daniel Pearl video.

    It shouldn't be forgotten that the people who did it want you to be demoralized!

    Rather than be demoralized, I suggest watching the Pearl Video again. You might start by reading this web site, too, which supplies a link to the video.

    If the above does not work, or it's too slow, you can also stream it right here.

    I know it's an old film now, but the message is the same. I guess it's become a timely classic.

    UPDATE (May 13, 2004): I feel the same way about the beheading of Nick Berg as I do about Daniel Pearl, and I decided to make that video available, too. Interested readers can stream or download it by going here.

    MORE (6-18-04): I feel the same way about the savage murders of Paul Johnson and Robert Jacobs that I did about the butchery of Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg, and I have made more material available (videos, photos, links, plus additional discussion) here and here for all who are interested.

    The argument that the CIA is butchering all these Americans in some sort of "false flag" operation is wearing a bit thin, I'm afraid....

    posted by Eric at 11:48 AM | Comments (13)

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