Terrorizing the First Amendment

Here's a fascinating example of people who just don't get it:

The first time she felt numb. The second time she cried. Lillian Glass, a Beverly Hills psychologist, was stunned at the barbarity of terrorists beheading their hostages, right there on her computer screen. Equally surprising was how easily she found the video online.

"You can't imagine anything worse," she says. "Right now, they're coming into your home. It's like they're using technology as a vehicle for war."

Ritual beheading is as primitive as war gets. But 21st century technology is making the grisly details of such killings visible to millions around the world.

In what has become a war of images, the slayings of businessman Nicholas Berg, engineer Paul M. Johnson Jr. and South Korean interpreter Kim Sun Il have been publicized through both conventional media channels and the raw, unfiltered chambers of the Internet.

It is impossible to say how many people have watched the videos over the Internet. But "Nick Berg" was the second most popular search request on Google in May, following "American Idol (news - web sites)." Last week, the most popular search was for "Paul Johnson."

FBI Supervisory Special Agent Kenneth McGuire, who oversees the cyber-crime squad in Los Angeles, says that disseminating video of such violent acts over the Internet is a new form of cyber-terrorism — one proving difficult to contain.

Some Internet services have tried to shut down sites that host such videos, but the images continue to flow. Over the weekend there were new kidnappings and threats of beheading, and with them, the possibility of more videos to come.


First of all, considering the war over phraseology, shouldn't I be called a "cyber extremist" and not a "cyber terrorist"? More seriously, I think that if Special Agent McGuire can't distinguish between terrorists and an outraged citizen showing the terrorists' handiwork to others, then something is very wrong with him, and the FBI. He seems unable to understand that there are people in this country who are living in such a state of denial about terrorism that they believe Americans are the real terrorists. They've been inundated with images of abu Ghraib, and have lost perspective.

Obviously, there are squeamish people who should not watch beheading videos. Nor, obviously, should they watch the video of abu Ghraib atrocities under Saddam Hussein. So why on earth would they do so? And why would they blame the medium which made the videos available? For them to say that they have been "terrorized" when they've Googled a web site, downloaded a video and then watched it is preposterous. And I submit that if they feel terrorized, they ought to blame the terrorists who did the things depicted in the film. If they come here, they ought to bear in mind that I only did what they did; I found the video and downloaded it. I made it (and others) available for the reasons I have set forth here, here, here, here, and here.

And here's some dean of journalism, trotted out to echo the control freaks who want to censor the Internet:

Not everyone buys the explanation, posted by one website, that it aims to "discourage" terrorists by showing how evil they are. Tom Kunkel, president of American Journalism Review, called the justification a "fig leaf."

"Any news outlet — or any private individual, for that matter — who makes available footage of the actual beheadings is, to my mind, an accessory to the crime itself," says Kunkel, dean of journalism at the University of Maryland. "Those are the individuals who are essentially finishing the work of the terrorists, by delivering their grisly 'message.' "

Accessory to the crime by showing videos of the crime? I guess that means the Americans were accessories to Nazi war crimes by showing all the concentration camp footage all these years (including gruesome films of experiments on live prisoners made by the Nazis themselves).

Does the History Channel know about this?

As to the "explanation, posted by one website, that it aims to 'discourage' terrorists by showing how evil they are," I can't speak for others, but Kunkel completely misses the point (although curiously, and unlike most journalists, he uses the word "terrorist" instead of the de rigueur "extremist"). While it is true that the beheading videos show how evil the terrorists are, only a fool would claim that this would "discourage" them.

The only way to discourage terrorists is to kill them, Mr. Kunkel! And if seeing that video helps fuel the warrior spirit which is required, then that's reason enough to help make it available.

I can't speak for other blogs or web sites, but reading through the comments people have left shows that people are overwhelmingly outraged, horrified, and angry at the terrorists. Which they should be -- and this sense of outrage I don't think they'd get from watching the evening news or reading the daily paper.

If that's what's being done to Americans, why shouldn't they be allowed to see it?

And maybe -- just maybe -- if enough people are outraged and sickened, the cash won't flow as easily into terrorist coffers. There's evidence that even some of their supporters are sickened: according to Jim Dunnigan,

The terrorists have learned that the beheading routine is counterproductive and even offends many of their own supporters. (Link.)
How do you suppose the terrorist supporters became offended? If Special Agent McGuire and Dean Kunkel had their way, no one (except, I suppose, "the authorities") would have seen the videos. Just reports of heads being cut off.

Stuff like that you can read in history books, or certain religious books.

But seeing is believing.

And context is everything. The beheading videos are unedited, and show the cruelty and the demonic nature of our enemy, lest we forget.

No shots of an American president playing golf are spliced in.

UPDATE: Here's an example of the warrior spirit these beheadings engender:

From: AABufalo@aol.com
Date: Mon, 28 Jun 2004 08:37:43 EDT
Subject: Letter to the Terrorists in Iraq
To: AABufalo@aol.com

This letter is for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, ''Islamic Response,'' and the rest of the so-called "insurgents" in Iraq. I obviously do not have an e-mail address for these vermin, so I am forwarding this letter to my entire address book in the hope you good people will forward it to as many people as possible, and that eventually through the miracle of the internet it somehow ends up in the hands of the intended recipients. Thank you all for your assistance.

To the terrorists currently operating in Iraq,

I see that you have captured a U. S. Marine, and that you plan to cut off his head if your demands are not met. Big mistake. Before you carry out your threat I suggest you read up on Marine Corps history. The Japanese tried the same thing on Makin Island and in a few other places during World War Two, and came to regret it. Go ahead and read about what then happened to the mighty Imperial Army on Tarawa, Iwo Jima and Okinawa. They paid full price for what they did, and you will too.

You look at America and you see a soft target, and to a large extent you are right. Our country is filled with a lot of spoiled people who drive BMWs, sip decaf lattes and watch ridiculous reality TV shows. They are for the most part decent, hard working citizens, but they are soft. When you cut off Nick Berg's head those people gasped, and you got the media coverage you sought, and then those people went back to their lives. This time it is different. We also have a warrior culture in this country, and they are called Marines. It is a brotherhood forged in the fire of many wars, and the bond between us is stronger than blood. While it is true that this country has produced nitwits like Michael Moore, Howard Dean and Jane Fonda who can be easily manipulated by your gruesome tactics, we have also produced men like Jason Dunham, Brian Chontosh and Joseph Perez. If you don't recognize those names you should. They are all Marines who distinguished themselves fightin! g to liberate Iraq, and there will be many more just like them coming for you.

Before the current politically correct climate enveloped our culture one of the recruiting slogans of our band of brothers was "The Marine Corps Builds Men." You will soon find out just how true that is. You, on the other hand, are nothing but a bunch of women. If you were men you would show your faces, and take us on in a fair fight. Instead, you are cowards who hide behind masks and decapitate helpless victims. If you truly represented the interest of the Iraqi people you would not be ambushing those who come to your country to repair your power plants, or sabotage the oil pipelines which fuel the Iraqi economy. Your agenda is hate, plain and simple.

When you raise that sword over your head I want you to remember one thing. Corporal Wassef Ali Hassoun is not alone as he kneels before you. Every Marine who has ever worn the uniform is there with him, and when you strike him you are striking all of us. If you think the Marines were tough on you when they were cleaning out Fallujah a few weeks ago you haven't seen anything yet. If you want to know what it feels like to have the Wrath of God called down upon you then go ahead and do it. We are not Turkish truck drivers, or Pakistani laborers, or independent contractors hoping to find work in your country. We are the United States Marines, and we will be coming for you.

Andy Bufalo
MSgt USMC (Ret)

While I think it's true that there are people who went back to their lives, there are others who won't forget. They may not all be Marines, but the more the better. In my view, those who don't want Americans to see the graphic evidence of the terrorists' handiwork are trying to thwart this warrior spirit. As to their reasons, it's a matter of speculation....

posted by Eric at 05:19 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

The UN is at it again ... and by "it" I mean "doing nothing."

Nat Hentoff, with his usual perspicacity, once again slays the UN for it's (non-)reaction to Sudan, and closes with this bit on one American's response:

On May 4, American ambassador Sichan Siv, walking out of the U.N. Human Rights Commission in disgust after it had re-elected Sudan to membership, said to The New York Sun, "The least we should be able to do is not elect a country to the only global body charged specifically with protecting human rights, at the precise time when tens of thousands of its citizens are being murdered or being left to die of starvation." It's "Never Again" again.

He notes speculation that Bush has grown silent on the Darfur issue so as not to detract from the peace being brokered between the Muslim establishment and the Christian minority in the south.

Are we wtinessing tolerance of genocide because this time it's Muslim on Muslim crime? And what of the fact that the victims are black? Neighboring countries refuse involvement on the grounds that "it would constitute interference in a member state's internal affairs."

I recall my old sociology professor's caution that cultural relativism is often nothing more than a subtle kind of racism, citing the practice of female genital mutilation. He asked us how we'd react if this were reported in some remote Canadian town or in Ireland. He was right, and many in the class came to realize in an instant that their tolerance was little more than a dismissal of (to borrow an academic term) "the other."

But I guess the U.N. is a bit preoccupied these days.

posted by Dennis at 10:12 AM | Comments (2)

Easy to admire from afar....

Jim Dunnigan:

It's easy to admire terrorists from a distance, rather more difficult when they are terrorizing you. (Via GlennReynolds.com.)
While Dunnigan was speaking of popular perceptions in the Mideast, I immediately found myself thinking about popular perceptions in the United States, where terrorists, loathed after 9/11, are now finding respect.

Even admiration. Or whatever one wants to call this statement from Michael Moore:

The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow – and they will win.
Dunnigan is right.

It's easy to admire them from a distance.

And easier for some than for others.

posted by Eric at 09:35 AM | Comments (8)

Gracious sakes!

Via Andrew Sullivan, I found quite a book review by Gary Indiana. The following is just an excerpt:

[I]t's impossible to actually read this book without missing Clinton, for unlike his predecessor and his successor, the Spook and the Born-Again Cokehead/Booze Hound, he isn't mean-spirited, homophobic, racist, or idiotic, never confuses himself with Jesus Christ, and even when putting annoying people in their place, does it with a light touch. "Unfortunately, my relationship with Bill Bennett didn't fare well after I became President and he began promoting virtue for a living." "Vice-President Dan Quayle said he intended to be the 'pit bull terrier' of the election campaign. When asked about it, I said Quayle's claim would strike terror into the heart of every fire hydrant in America." Clinton is even gracious to Barbara Bush, a vicious old bag in pearl sets who could've given Angela Lansbury notes for her role in The Manchurian Candidate.

I will leave it to others to parse whether it is preferable, given the systemic and implacable evils of maintaining an empire that is inherently vampiric and suicidal, to have its declining years managed by Rapture-hungry mental dwarves, cretinous judges flapping about in Iolanthe-inspired Inquisition costumes of their own design, and megalomaniacs of indeterminable species such as Richard Perle; or by a plain-talking arriviste who can't resist a Big Mac and a strawberry milk shake, and once in a while needs a blowjob from somebody he isn't married to. I happen to think it does make a difference what kind of arse sits in the Oval Office and whether he governs with a sense of his own transience and imperfection or uses fear and intimidation to whip the population into line with whatever brand of pious bullshit makes him feel like Superman. For people who truly believe the Bush coup d'état has "restored honor to the Presidency," or however that tired tune goes, I recommend Bill Clinton's book as a good strong dose of the reality principle. Honorable people don't waste any time proclaiming how honorable they are, and sometimes honor consists in admitting you fucked up.

Yow! I fucked up too, and I have written about it in this blog. It's nice to know how honorable I am.

Normally, I hesitate to "parse" the thoughts of other people, but I just can't seem to take "the systemic and implacable evils of maintaining an empire that is inherently vampiric and suicidal" as a "given." Might as well parse out a sentence begining with "given that you are a child-molesting crack addict...."

I have never seen so many unsupported ad hominem attacks in a book review.

But perhaps he pulled a few punches, for the reviewer didn't accuse Bush of torturing children at parties. ("Gary Indiana", it should be noted, authored the famous fascist-erotic child torture film, Salò.)

Plus, he was fair enough to chide Bill Clinton -- if only for being gracious to Barbara Bush, the new queen of evil.

Are things getting nasty or what?

UPDATE: Mea culpa! As I previously acknowledged in a comment below, I mistakenly identified Gary Indiana as the author of Salo. (Hurried writing is the explanation, but not an excuse. If it matters, I did see Salo years ago and knew it was a Pasolini film.)

As the author was kind enough to write to me, I thought this deserved an additional notation, and an apology to Gary Indiana, who is NOT the author of Salo the film, but of this book about the film. The book is titled Salo or the 120 Days of Sodom.

Here's his email:

> Sweetie,
> I think you should go back to school for a while:
> Pier Paolo Pasolini
> made the film "Salo," a landmark of film history, in
> 1975, not me.
> Before you start faulting other people's logic,
> perhaps you should have
> a more direct encounter with the world of facts than
> you seem to have
> had thusfar.
> Best,
> Gary Indiana

Again, my apologies! I would certainly love to go back to school for a while. But I'm not sure that even that would prevent me from making such factual errors. All I can do is note them as I become aware of them.

MORE (10-4-04): Because this post is so old, I have updated the blog with a new post in response to the author's email.

posted by Eric at 08:42 AM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)

This is just to say something that isn't about war or politics.

I don't know why I had William Carlos Williams in my head, but I did and I stumbled across this bit of nonsensical criticism:

"It is interesting that Williams himself never quite understood the workings of his own prosody. Thus when, in an interview of 1950, John W. Gerber asked the poet what it is that makes "This Is Just To Say" a poem, Williams replied, "In the first place, it metrically absolutely regular. . . .So, dogmatically speaking, it has to be a poem because it goes that way, don't you see!" But the. . .stanzas exhibit no regularity of stress or of syllable count; indeed, except for lines 2 and 5 (each an iamb) and lines 8 and 9 (each an amphibrach), no two lines have the same metrical form. What then can Williams mean when he says, "It's metrically absolutely regular"? Again, he mistakes sight for sound: on the page, the three little quatrains look alike; they have roughly the same physical shape. It is typography rather than any kind of phonemic recurrence that provides directions for the speaking voice (or for the eye that reads the lines silently) and that teases out the poem's meanings."

I hope you've anticipated me. The scholar is of course in the wrong, mistaking meter as solely the province of iambs and amphibrachs which themselves are completely arbitrary. WCW never said anything about "phonemic recurrence," but rather called the poem metrically regular.

Put simply meter is anything by which poetry is measured.

All poetry was originally oral. That's what happens when people haven't invented alphabets yet. And so naturally meter was determined by the sounds and rhythms native to a given language. Greek meter was based on syllable length, while Latin meter was originally based on stress and later succeeded through an unlikely synthesis of stress and syllable length (a success incidentally that English never duplicated, as evidenced by anything consciously composed of iambs and amphibrachs).

Here the scholar, Marjorie Perloff, is oblivious to the fact that William Carlos Williams was not only literate (i.e. not an oral poet), but wrote with a machine that produced characters of fixed-width (i.e. a typewriter). Had she recognized this she quite easily could have concluded that the meter was dictated by the instrument used in creation, and that the printed poem, not it's sound, was being measured.


However, that too would be wrong. There is no illusion of metrical regularity in the tyopgraphy, as she claims. This is her coup against WCW, that he has tricked himself with his little visual play. In fact the "three quatrains" do not look much alike at all.

When you read the poem it certainly seems metrical though. So what then? If Williams is not using word stress or syllable length, and is not mistaking typography for meter, what is it?

It's sentence stress (present in Classical Greek, but little explored), which is elusive, but an infintely more sensible measure than word accent -- unless you're a robot.

If you've any doubts about the metricality of sentence stress in the poem, read it straight through as though you'd found it on your refrigerator, then read any old piece of prose. There's a flow (in Greek: rhythmus) that sounds natural, not contrived, yet not prosaic. Incidentally Greek and Roman metricians often observed that people speak in the meters of tragic and comic dialogue without knowing it. The more native a rhythm is to a language the less identifiable it is as a "poetic" rhythm.

posted by Dennis at 11:00 PM | Comments (1)

A Chip Off the Old Block

There's been a spate of statue smashings in Venice and despite published reports, I hardly think a vandal is on the loose.

Officials credit "an isolated lunatic," and the case of course brought to the reporter's mind Laszlo "I am Jesus Christ!" Toth.

What it brought to my mind was something others apparently see as wholly different, though it's equally insane.

What's a little stone?, some might say.

It's at once an achievement and a document, a tangible record. But I suppose that's the materialistic Western imperialist in me talking.

posted by Dennis at 06:00 PM | Comments (1)

If elected I will not serve!

I'm running in an election I can't really claim I want to win, because if I win I lose. Besides, the only reason I'm in the election is that my keyboard was broken, which wasn't my fault, so I'm a true victim of circumstance.

I refuse to campaign, and I refuse to debate.

I decided to look at my watch instead.

It's now a quarter past three.....

By the time the results are ticked off, so will I be!

But here's my pledge: Win or lose, I promise to be a sore loser!

posted by Eric at 03:16 PM | Comments (1)

News you won't see -- from Le Monde

Here's a report (by Olivier Guitta of The American Thinker) which isn't getting much attention, so I thought I'd link to it here.

As far as I know, the following story has not been picked up by the US media, and that is definitely a mistake. You will see why shortly. Out of all places, I found this amazing piece in one of the most virulently Anti-American newspapers in Paris, Le Monde, in the June 25, 2004 issue.

The French reporter tells the story of an Iraqi from Tikrit, Saddam's hometown, who recently saved the lives of four US soldiers.

This hero wants to be called “Ahmed” because he does not want his true identity revealed. Ahmed fears that if anyone found out, his house would be hit right away by a rocket. He adds that he can only speak to the reporter because he is in a café in Baghdad, and not in Tikrit. Ahmed is very upset by the terror instilled by the insurgents. He remarks that even in mosques, imams cannot speak about non-violence -- otherwise their lives are threatened.

Ahmed then explains what happened on a Friday in June around Tikrit. He was picnicking with his sister and nephews when they saw an overturned US Humvee. They approached the vehicle and saw that four American soldiers injured, including two unconscious ones. At first, the soldiers were scared because they were quite certain that Ahmed was going to kill them. But then when they saw the whole family around, the soldiers grew less worried.

Ahmed doesn't speak a word of English, but nevertheless remembered the word “relax ,” and tried to explain with his hands that he would take them to the hospital. But the soldiers began yelling “NO, NO,” and asked Ahmed to take them to the US base. So, Ahmed took the two unconscious soldiers in his car and drove them to the nearest American base, while his sister stayed with the other two.

Upon arrival at the base, Ahmed was arrested, because the American soldiers obviously did not understand his Arabic explanation. But a translator soon sorted out the situation and told the soldiers from the base to go with Ahmed to fetch the two injured remaining soldiers. And they did. The GIs wanted to thank Ahmed with money, but he refused categorically and told them that he did not need any reward. Ahmed wanted more than anything else that his identity be kept secret because otherwise he would be killed on the spot by the insurgents.

Ahmed's wisdom about the situation in Iraq is incredible. He is very grateful to the US. That is what he had to say: “The Americans did not come alone and without support in Iraq. Four million Iraqis residing abroad and millions of Iraqis inside the country were totally behind them. The proof is that nobody fought to save Saddam's regime. Today, an honest Iraqi citizen can only call for the American departure. But I believe we have to help them leave in a peaceful manner. The guerillas only sabotage. They are the biggest obstacle to the reconstruction of Iraq.”

There's more for anyone who's interested.

I suspect it isn't getting much play because in what passes for a morality play, the Americans are supposed to be the villains. (Or, at least, worse villains than Saddam Hussein or al Qaida.)

UPDATE: I knew of Le Monde's anti-American reputation, but still, until I read this, I hadn't appreciated the true perfidy of that vast coverup machine called The Washington Post. (To be sure, if ever cornered, they'd say it's all the fault of a 31 year old reporter who's in over his head, but considering the history of the Post I'm not buying):

Part of the explanation is Rajiv Chandrasekaran, the Baghdad bureau chief for the Washington Post. He spent most of his career on the metro and technology beats, and has only four years of foreign reporting, two of which are in Iraq. The 31-year-old now runs a news operation that can literally change the world, heading a bureau that is the source for much of the news out of Iraq.

Very few newspapers have full-time international reporters at all these days, relying on stringers of varying quality, as well as wire services such as Reuters and Agence France-Presse, also of varying quality. The Post's reporting is delivered intravenously into the bloodstream of Official Washington, and thus a front-page article out of Iraq can have major repercussions in policy-making.

This effect is magnified because of the Post's influence on what other news organizations report. While its national clout lags behind the New York Times, many reporters look to the Post for cues on how to approach a story. The Post interprets events, and the herd of independent minds bleat their approval and start tapping on their keyboards with their hooves.

....Don't take my word for it that the Post’s reporting is substandard and superficial. Take the word of Philip Bennett, the Post's assistant managing editor for foreign news. In a surprisingly candid June 6 piece, he admits that "the threat of violence has distanced us from Iraqis." Further, "we have relied on Iraqi stringers filing by telephone to our correspondents in Baghdad, and on embedding with the military. The stringers are not professional journalists, and their reports are heavy on the simplest direct observation." Translation: we are reprinting things from people we barely know, from a safe location dozens of miles away from the fighting.

....Since I saw Rajiv Chandrasekaran's integrity up close, I haven't believed a word he writes, or any story coming out of the bureau he runs. You shouldn't, either. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

The rest of the piece is so damning that it's worth reading every word, and if you read it, bear in mind that you're in a very tiny minority; most Americans think we have regular reporters doing their job. Instead, an inexperienced reporter has a virtual stranglehold on news stories, and presides over outrageous non-reporting, and (of course) outrageously biased reporting.

Imagine! The anti-American French are fairer to the American military than the Washington Post.

posted by Eric at 02:54 PM | Comments (1)

Whose blog is this?

After a long litany of being spammed with many hundreds of SPAM-comments, being publicly taunted and challenged by a spammer (or spam defender), and after months of abusive comments, I am now almost ready to turn off comments, because it is taking too much time and distracting me both from blogging and from life.

It isn't fun to wake up in the morning to 225 spam comments, or to abusive comments meant only to irritate, insult, or attract attention. I shouldn't have to be bothered to even delete them, and I'd rather not.

As Glenn Reynolds reminded me, some people think less of a blog because of comments on it! The logic puzzles me, because anyone who'd think less of person A because person B comes along and says something crazy or insulting is not being logical, because unless person B has intelligently and logically rebutted person A, his comments are irrelevant to A's argument, and A is under no duty even to address them. As Mindles Dreck observed,

I don't think a guns-blazing preaching-to-the choir rhetoric changes any minds.
Agreed. And if an inane (or blazing) comment left on a blog won't change anyone's mind on the merits, then why on earth should it cause anyone to think differently about the blog author? Even so, the other day I was quick to delete a comment about "sand niggers" -- precisely because I thought that there might be people who'd think I approved. (UGH! Does that make me a hypocrite?) No matter how I look at the problem, it isn't fair; in an ideal world, I shouldn't have had to have been bothered.

But we do not live in an ideal (or fair) world....

For now, I'm going to try installing a script to turn off all old comments, but life is too short for all this comment nonsense.

Right now neither script will execute, so I may be forced to turn them off entirely.

There's no rule I can see saying that blogs are supposed to be a public forum for anyone except the author. As Perry DeHavilland says, a blog is analogous to a home:

When you open your house to visitors, you do not give up the right to kick people out if they start insulting other guests and spray painting their opinions on the wall. Of course some people would say, "Oh but that is censorship if you stop them". Er, no, it is just maintaining control over what is and is not acceptable on your private property... but of course some people, the sort that I am now far quicker to ban, do not actually believe in private property (not when you pin them down), and often cannot see that censorship by the state of private media channels and editorial control over a private media channel (such as a blog, for example) are materially different things. But then to someone who thinks all interaction should be political (the usual term used is 'democratic' these days), such distinctions make little difference to them. I am not referring here to specific people but rather the general class from which our 'problem commenters' tend to spring.
If a blog is like a home, I'm wondering aloud whether this blog should be more like a Roman home: a private courtyard surrounded by walls.....

UPDATE: I finally found another plugin and it seems to be working! It's set to block all comments on posts over 21 days old, which ought to get rid of at least some of the spam comments.

posted by Eric at 09:02 AM | Comments (11)


As Varius Crispinus reminds, the idea that anyone's mind can be changed by an illogical slogan on a bumpersticker is astonishing. Yet people obviously believe in the power of nonsense slogans, proudly displayed. One of my favorites: "POVERTY IS VIOLENCE." A demonstration that the driver of such a car does not think logically (something I don't need to be reminded of while driving).

Then there's the girl who hectored James Lileks about how the money that he earned should not be his:

Well, why is it your money? I think it should be their money.
Doubtless, she'd nod in absolute, profound agreement if she saw the "POVERTY IS VIOLENCE" sticker. Not because the metaphor makes sense logically, but because such metaphors are self-apparent to people who don't think (or who'd rather not).

Along this line of thought (?), the best bumpersticker I saw simply read, "WORDS ARE NOT TRUTH!" The problem was, it wasn't the only bumpersticker on the driver's car, which made me wonder whether the driver was lost in a sea of useless, lying words. One thing is certain: there is no winning or losing an argument with someone who believes (er, claims to believe) that words (er, some words) are not truth. (An old Lewis Carroll idea....)

Some words? Never mind which words! You wouldn't understand! We'll just call you names if you try!

I try to avoid accidents, so I try to stay several car lengths behind.

UPDATE: AN ECHO NOT A CHOICE? Hillary Clinton today sounded like Lileks' 18 year old girl all growed up!

We're going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
She's telling the truth. But I don't think she's quite ready to go door to door.

posted by Eric at 07:38 AM | Comments (7)

Of War and Sophistry

Returning from lunch today I saw a bumper sticker that read, "WAR Doesn't Decide Who's Right - Only Who's Left."

I couldn't help but think that the world is better left without the likes of Hitler.

Beyond that though there's something very naive in the logic. It presupposes that support for a given war effort is predicated upon the belief that war determines who's right. But who really believes that the good is determined by the stronger? This was the gist of Thrasymachus's argument in book one of Plato's Republic, but he also argued that injustice is the proper course of action.

Book one reads like one of Plato's shorter dialogues, which end without resolution (Socratic aporia) as Socrates concludes that he has not arrived at a definition of justice. Yet in this work the technique, and the foil of the sophist Thrasymachus, lead us into an extended exploration of justice and the ideal state, which variously touches upon warfare as an unavoidable reality, not as an exercise in determining right and wrong.

My hunch is (and now I'm suddenly interested in studying the Republic ...) that Plato would agree that war does not determine who is right, but must often be undertaken by those seeking justice as the ultimate answer to injustice.

The saturday-morning-cartoon-morality of the bumper sticker set assumes that there's more Thrasymachus than Plato in us (in point of fact the relativists opposed to war have more in common with the sophists), and we should do better than to counter that war does determine who's right.

It can, so long as the right keep up the fight and resist naive appeals to peace in the face of danger.

posted by Dennis at 06:37 PM | Comments (8)

Will bin Laden have a public defender?

The Supreme Court's ruling on the seizure and detention of suspected terrorists is in.

The ruling reportedly is that "both U.S. citizens and foreign nationals seized as potential terrorists can challenge their treatment in U.S. courts."

There are a number of tricky angles on this thing. I certainly wouldn't want to be locked away on suspicion without redress. Then again, I'm a U.S. citizen. The thing I fear about this ruling is the possibility that it opens the courts to non-citizens, enemy combatants, acknowledged terrorists -- legitimizing (for example) Michael Moore's senseless call to treat Osama bin Laden as "innocent until proven guilty."

What powers does the CIC have?

Thoughts on the ruling?

posted by Dennis at 01:56 PM | Comments (6)

What terrorism?

People expecting to find public declarations or documents linking al Qaida to its supporting countries are a bit naive, for they forget that al Qaida is inherently a clandestine organization.

The following letter from the Iranian leadership is illustrative of the elusive nature of the clandestine relationships enjoyed between al Qaida and its patron states.

...Future sessions have been assigned to further discuss the elimination of major obstacles, further implementation and improvements with regards to a higher level of cooperations with Al Qaida Network & Hezbollah towards a specific goal. At the end, with satisfaction and complete support of your work and understanding the importance of your duties, the supreme leader insists, “Be sure, there are no trace of any support for Al Qaida which could have negative and irreversible consequences, and limit it to the present relations with “Moghnie & Al Zarghavi”.

God be with you,
Ali Akbar Nategh Nouri

Head of Supreme Leader Intelligence Office

NOTE: Nouri was President Khatami's nominal opponent in Iran's last election.

In the above case, al Qaida's patron state happens to be Iran, via Hezbollah. (Yeah, that's the same outfit currently involved in a mutual patronization effort with Michael Moore.)

This doesn't come as news to me; I have previously posted about the Committee of Three and al Qaida's links to Iran and Hezbollah. None of this was especially controversial in the days of a Democratic admininistration. It's just that with Bush as president, terrorists must be denied out of existence. Or called "extremists," or "insurgents".....

Denial is always a good cover.

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

Friendly fire isn't

Mistakes are human. At least, so goes the conventional wisdom. But here's a story I found via my blogfather which just makes my blood boil:

Two officers of the Beaumont Police Department found one such danger when they entered a yard while responding to a call, and were surprised by a large rottwieler. Feeling threatened, they fired five rounds at the dog, killing it. There is only one problem. They were at the wrong house…

....The shooting took place Friday about 2 p.m., when a child in the house next door to Vanderford's mistakenly set off a silent panic alarm in the purse of the child's mother, Acosta said.

A responding officer went to Vanderford's house, thinking he heard that address over the radio instead of Vanderford's neighbor, Acosta said.

The two officers saw a garage door open in the back yard and an alarm placard on the house and assumed they had the right house, Acosta said. When they went around the back of the house, the dog came out of the garage and was 5 feet away when the first officer fired his weapon.

"Having no time to react, he didn't have time to retrieve the pepper spray, he felt the dog was rather large and too close, the officers reacted with their firearms," he said.

If some cops came into my yard and shot my dog, I would want to get even any way I could. Police tend not to apologize in these situations, because they feel they were just "doing their job."

Well, what about the dog? Wasn't he just doing his job too?

Mistakes like this can be intolerable, and can create lifelong rage. It's been more than 30 years since it happened, but I've never forgiven the cops who held guns (two pistols and a shotgun) to my head, made me lie on the ground and called me names, simply because they thought I was with the Symbionese Liberation Army, which had robbed a nearby bank. (I wasn't with the SLA; I was in my own backyard and had no idea a bank had been robbed.)

At least I was alive! People have been killed because of such mistakes.

Armed self defense is not always a good idea when dealing with police, because if you lose, you're dead, and you'll look guilty as hell. The problem is complicated further in the case of undercover raids; if your house is raided erroneously and you're not a drug dealer, you'll think you're being attacked by a gang of criminals, and..... well, it's not exactly a comedy of errors.

There needs to be accountability, yet often there isn't. Sometimes, the only remedy is to hire a guy like Johnnie Cochran. And I say this as someone who isn't anti-police (I've had many good friends who are cops), although I am anti-Big Brother. The laws and the legal system are out of control, and when that happens, those charged with enforcement can get caught up in it. When there's no remedy for such sloppiness as raiding the wrong house, or storming a yard without a warrant because a baby alarm went off, we all suffer.

posted by Eric at 10:26 AM | Comments (2)

Why not just blame the victim?

Arthur Chrenkoff reported an interesting quote:

"[t]he U.S. is not going to invade Sudan. That's not a plausible option. But we can pass a tough U.N. Security Council resolution authorizing troops, as well as more support for African peacekeepers. If Germany, France and Spain don't want to send troops to Iraq, then let them deploy in Darfur." (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
So writes Nicholas Kristoff, noting that Darfur is one among many places where genocide has been benignly neglected or ignored by the U.N.

It's rather tough to blame Americans for Muslim genocide, but I suppose that sooner or later somebody will. Lots of antiwar people blame the U.S. for Saddam Hussein, yet they oppose lifting a finger to do anything about him.

There's also a distinct but growing tendency (on the left for the most part) to blame Americans for being killed.

I offer an idea; a modest proposal, I guess....

Why not apply the same standard to the rest of the world? That way, whenever people anywhere are killed, we can just sit back and say that they deserved it, that they shouldn't have been there, that they provoked their attackers, or that they were obviously acting like cowboys!

If it's their fault, then they got what they deserved, just like the slaughtered hostages, or even the victims of September 11. And if people got what they deserved, it makes it far easier to deal with, for justice has prevailed.

End of story!

UPDATE: I didn't realize how thoroughly this kind of blame-the-victim thinking has become a national trend -- even to the point of infecting the upper levels of American leadership. But now I see John Kerry blaming repressed Cuban dissidents for their own repression! According to Pejman Yousefzadeh

In discussing whether he would support the Varela Project, which is designed to bring about peaceful democratic reform in Cuba, Kerry remarked that he found the Project "counterproductive." Why? Because the Project "has gotten a lot of people in trouble . . . and it brought down the hammer" of the Castro regime on dissidents who are now being persecuted as a result of their participation in the Project. ....

.....[Kerry] is essentially saying that those who decided -- of their own free will -- to participate in the Varela Project and further its goals of peaceful democratic change in Cuba (a goal endorsed by former President Jimmy Carter, among others) -- brought persecution on to themselves. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

A U.S. president who feels that Cuban dissidents brought it on themselves? No wonder Mr. Yousefzadeh concludes,
Perhaps this is the kind of thing that voters should keep in mind come this November.
Especially in Florida.

posted by Eric at 08:49 AM | Comments (2)

Take that phone and stick it....

Here's a news item that ought to be great for the cell phone industry:

Mobile phones cut sperm up to 30pc
By Helen Tobler
June 28, 2004

MEN who regularly carry a mobile phone could have their sperm count reduced by as much as 30 per cent.

Those who place their phone near their groin, on a belt or in a pocket, are at greatest risk, new research has revealed.

The findings, to be presented at an international conference this week, are the first to suggest male fertility could be affected by the radiation emitted by mobile phones, also long suspected of causing cancer.

The study by Hungarian researchers found the sperm that did survive exposure to mobile phone radiation showed abnormal movements, further reducing fertility.

But Australian experts advised men not to panic yet.

No need for all men to panic, but those wanting to have children who are having trouble might think twice about where they put their phones. I'm a licensed ham, and one of the things they drill into you when you study for the exams is the dangerous nature of radio emissions. (A cell phone, of course, is both a transmitter and a receiver.) Depending on the wavelength, exposure time, and proximity to the transmitter, radio emissions can cause cataracts and sterility.

Just one of the risks of life, however minute it might be. I don't know why anyone would be surprised.

It goes without saying, of course, that cell phones transmit from wherever they are located.

posted by Eric at 06:28 AM | Comments (2)

More shame mongers

In this blog, I have long complained about sexual shame.

Michael Moore has reminded me that there now exists a growing, very different kind of shame, of the sort which normally is against all common sense, against national interest, and possibly even less logical than sexual shame.

Moore and those who think like him want me to be ashamed to be an American. Now, if I am not going to be shamed by people who judge others not by the content of their character but by where they place their penises, why on earth would I allow someone to tell me I should be ashamed of my country?

Where do these people get off?

UPDATE: Here's where some of them get off; by assaulting people who dare to disagree with them, even slightly. (Via Glenn Reynolds.) I wouldn't be surprised if it gets worse.

A MORE VIOLENT FORM OF SHAME: Another American hostage captured and threatened with beheading:

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) - Arab television broadcast videotape Sunday of two men of Pakistani origin taken hostage by militants: a driver for an American company and a blindfolded man in military fatigues described as U.S. Marine lured from his base. Insurgents threatened to behead them both.

Also, militants hit a coalition transport plane with small arms fire after takeoff from Baghdad's airport, killing an American passenger and forcing the aircraft to return. Turkey rejected demands by militants threatening to behead three Turkish hostages unless Turkish companies cease business with U.S. forces in Iraq.

The U.S. military could not immediately confirm that a Marine had been abducted, but the video shown on the Al-Jazeera network showed a card identifying the man by a Pakistani name and as an "active duty" Marine. The man had a trimmed mustache and his eyes were covered with a white blindfold.

Al-Jazeera said the militants demanded the release of all Iraqis "in occupation jails" or the man would be killed. The group claimed it infiltrated a Marine outpost, lured the man outside and abducted him.

Do you suppose anyone will ask Michael Moore which side he's on?

UPDATE: Silly me! That question has already been answered, by (any wonder?) Michael Moore!

The Iraqis who have risen up against the occupation are not "insurgents" or "terrorists" or "The Enemy." They are the REVOLUTION, the Minutemen, and their numbers will grow – and they will win.
Something to think about while standing in line....

posted by Eric at 01:23 PM | Comments (8)

Moore terror in the aisles....

Lots of bloggers are mad as hell over Michael Moore's piece of anti-American, Hezbollah-supported propaganda, Fahrenheit 911.

Christopher Hitchens' and Jeff Jarvis both do an excellent job of fisking Moore and the film, and countless other bloggers (too numerous to list) have spoken up.

I am getting a lot of non-blogger traffic right now, and it occurred to me that people who don't have a blog might be wondering what if anything they can do.

Here's are a couple of things you can do:

  • download and print this flyer, then make as many copies as you want and hand them out in front of your local Michael Moore theaters.
  • Tell people that there is an alternative film coming out. More here.
  • UPDATE: I see that Varius Crispinus just wrote a post about the Hitchens piece, too! Now if he could go down to the theater with a few of those flyers, and a camera.....

    UPDATE: Fritz Schranck has written an utterly damning review of Moore and his "mockumentary":

    the idea that we are in this war for our own defense and in part for the defense of one of our closest allies is completely foreign to Mike Moore. Either that, or he simply chose to ignore anything that might conflict with his all-about-the-oilll argument.

    Moore’s attitude about his former fellow Flint residents is one of the most annoying aspects of this film. As Moore describes them, those who decide to enlist are essentially lower-class sheep, incapable of making up their own minds without falling prey to the blandishments of a pair of Marine recruiters. How insulting is that?

    One of the minor stunts he pulls off in this film also helps illustrate how fast and loose Moore is with the underlying facts.

    He goes to Washington, allegedly in an attempt to entice Members of Congress to enlist their own children into the armed services. At one point, you can hear him call out to Delaware’s lone representative, Mike Castle, as Castle walks past.

    Here’s a tip—if you want a Congressman to enlist his children in the Marines, you might first want to make sure he has some.

    Castle has no children, a simple, easy-to-confirm fact which Moore conveniently ignores for the sake of this shtick.

    This is now the third Michael Moore film we’ve watched, and whatever appeal he ever had as a filmmaker is now gone completely. That’s it. No more Mike Moore for me. He can spend his millions preaching to his own choir if he wants, but it’s obvious Moore has no interest in engaging those with whom he disagrees into anything like an honest debate of the issues.

    Life’s too short to spend any more of it with a man like that.
    (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    The fact that Representative Castle has no children is not relevant to Moore or the people who think like him, because he might as well have had children. Castle is presented as a mere "representative of a mindset" in much the same way that ideologues present all men as rapists, all white people as racists, all homosexuals as pedophiles, all gun owners as "crackers" etc.... If a given example is shown to be fictitious or dishonest, it's irrelevant to those with an agenda.

    MORE: In similar vein, there's a fascinating, must-read post (via InstaNonPunk'd) on "legitimate abuse of power," which demonstrates a common ideological justification of dishonesty and abuse of logic like Moore's by claiming that the other side (in this case Limbaugh, Coulter, etc.) does it too.

    Truth, as always, is irrelevant.

    MORE: Jim Lynch offers a very fair review of the film, and urges Moore haters to see it. Excerpt:

    If you’re a member of the Left or if you simply just hate Bush then this film is for you. This truly is the Passion of the Christ for the Left. Every negative caricature of Bush is here - the idiot, the liar, the fool, the frat boy, etc. It’s all there and you’ll enjoy every minute of it. As well you should and why not? This is raw, partisan red meat and it’s not meant to be “objective” at any point. So sit back with your favorite dainty and enjoy yourself.

    Is the film worth seeing if you’re not a leftie? Yes, I believe it is. As I said above, it is not objective, fair or even accurate in how it presents George W. Bush, 9/11, Afghanistan or Iraq at various points. This is Michael Moore’s vision and this is how he sees things. As such it is an interesting and entertaining look into how the Left views the world and, more importantly, how it views George W. Bush and various events in recent history.

    One minor point: Jim advises those opposed to the film to "get one of your left-wing friends to pay for the ticket for you so you aren’t supporting Moore financially." Here's a better way to handle the financial issue; go to one of those huge Metroplex style theaters, and buy a ticket for some other movie. Then, simply "infiltrate" your way in to the Moore monstrosity. I may get around to seeing it, but I have low tolerance for excessive propaganda these days.... Besides, I already have a pretty good idea of what, and how Moore thinks.

    Andrew Sullivan refuses to see Fahrenheit 911 at all, for similar reasons:

    I cannot bring myself to go to this piece of vile, hateful propaganda. I walked out of "Roger and Me" years ago, before Michael Moore was Michael Moore. I know who he is. I refuse to sit in a theater and subject myself to lies and hate.

    UPDATE: Something else to do. I suppose you can always write to Mr. Moore. (I'm assuming the following is his current address, because it's also listed as his business address):

    Michael Moore
    225 West 83rd Street
    Apartment 17L
    New York, New York 10024
    But speaking as someone who's written a lot of unsolicited letters to VIPs, I wouldn't hold my breath for a personal reply. I suggest being logical -- and above all, it's important to remain civil.

    posted by Eric at 02:20 PM | Comments (8)

    "Rock the vote, indeed."

    A friend has pointed out this piece by one of my favorite writers, Christopher Hitchens. It should be required reading for anyone who comes away convinced by Farenheit 9/11 (such as Howard Stern, who I'm pretty sure spent a sizeable portion of yesterday's show tongue-kissing Michael Moore).

    Here's an excerpt, and not even the most entertaining (some of that comes when he pits Moore's own contradictions against one another):

    I have already said that Moore's film has the staunch courage to mock Bush for his verbal infelicity. Yet it's much, much braver than that. From Fahrenheit 9/11 you can glean even more astounding and hidden disclosures, such as the capitalist nature of American society, the existence of Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex," and the use of "spin" in the presentation of our politicians. It's high time someone had the nerve to point this out.

    I'd quote more, but the whole piece is a joy to read and well worth it. Just wait until he hits upon Moore's recent (and racist) claim about what would have happened had there been more black passengers aboard the planes.

    posted by Dennis at 01:49 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

    Michael Moore Beheading video?

    Is Michael Moore guilty of making Islamic-style snuff films?

    Read this and decide. Or this. Or how about his latest film?

    Scenes include a public beheading in Saudi Arabia, Iraqis being burned by napalm, and the grisly sight of an Iraqi man dumping a dead baby into a truckbed filled with corpses.
    One of these days, I 'm going to have to really sit down and learn how to use Adobe PhotoShop.....

    posted by Eric at 12:56 PM | Comments (1)

    Bad "fashionism"

    Here's an example of fashionism: Gore calling his critics "brownshirts."

    Quite aside from the general inadvisability of calling your political opponents fascists, you'd think that if Al Gore wanted to call someone a fascist, the last synonym he'd pick from the thesaurus would be "brownshirt," considering that he was famous for literally wearing a brown shirt. I'm just distracted into thinking about that whole Naomi Wolf/alpha male business again. He's lost control of his imagery in more ways than one. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
    Extreme hyperbole is something I've seen for decades, but it used to be largely restricted to the far fringes, and limited to places like Berkeley. But when a former presidential candidate does this -- at a time when we need less ad hominem rhetoric instead of more -- it's very disheartening. Because it serves as a sort of official confirmation, at the highest levels, that civility is gone.

    Maybe bloggers can start a civility movement at the bottom, a sort of grassroots effort of the kind James Lileks discussed earlier:

    Look. We don't have to agree on the big hard issues, but we can certainly agree that we share common values that set us apart, and that it profits no one to identify the opposition as something outside the American experience. Liberals are not Communists. Republicans are not fascists. We have a nice window of opportunity here where we can come together by choice, instead of being thrown together by events. I say we get a head start on national unity, and turn on anyone who floats the Nazi analogy. Shun 'em. No links, no reviews, no radio interviews, no newspaper pieces, nothing. From now on, the Nazi parallel buys you bupkis. This means that the right doesn't get to parade around the mutterings of high-profile wackjobs as illustrative of the heart of everyone who votes D, and the left doesn't get to do the whole "he's wrong in his overheated critique, BUT" dodge. Enough. ENOUGH! For Christ's sake, enough!
    Even though I'm a First Amendment absolutist, I tend to agree, and I know I'm far from perfect. I engage in too much hyperbole and I say things I regret. But when you call people names -- especially saying they're evil or Nazis because they don't agree with you -- you're cheapening your own cause, and lowering the quality of political discourse. And you're also violating the basic rules of logic.

    I can't say I haven't done it, because I have. (I can be real nasty, and I don't like myself when I catch myself doing it.)

    I just wish people would try. Is that asking too much? And when you try and fail (as we will), there's always a thing called an apology.

    In any case, I think it's going to get worse before it gets better. But as long as there are some who at least try to remain civil, logical, rational, there will be hope for the growing, uncivil minority. (I hope.)

    EXTRA THOUGHT: Of course, that leaves satire....

    Some people don't like satire or sarcasm at all. Yet I think it's a less malicious, less heavyhanded, less sanctimonious way of making a point than screaming that someone is evil or a Nazi. And while it's true, as Lileks says, that liberals are not Communists, what do you call Communists who are not liberals? It strikes me that calling them liberals is about as fair to liberals as calling Nazis conservatives would be to conservatives. Humor helps!

    posted by Eric at 09:22 PM | Comments (3)

    Warnings, drinks and testing of patients....

    It's Friday, and Online Test Day at Classical Values, where I test my patience, and as the case may be, my patients.

    From the constantly enigmatic Cultural Cuisinart, Ghost of a flea, I found a quick way to make a Classical Values drink:

    How to make a Classical Values
    3 parts competetiveness
    1 part silliness
    1 part instinct
    Layer ingredientes in a shot glass. Add a little fitness if desired!


    Personality cocktail
    From Go-Quiz.com

    The Flea's "ingredientes" are different; 1 part intelligence, 1 part self-sufficiency, and 1 very mysterious, unlisted substance, which makes the drink impossible to replicate.... (But I can cheat, can't I?)

    I'll drink to either!

    Ahhh...... I feel better already....


    The Flea also links to "What Pulp Fiction Character Are You?" -- a test I found impossible not to take, because I liked the film, and I wanted to know whether I'd get the same result:

    What Pulp Fiction Character Are You? .

    You are the king of smooth -- enough said.

    Take the What Pulp Fiction Character Are You? quiz.

    Nick turned out to be Koons, who's described as "paranoid, and perhaps a bit whacked."

    Funny, because most of my friends think that would apply to me. Perhaps I am too paranoid to answer the questions honestly.....


    Meanwhile, Marie at Ordinary Galoot has been blogging up a storm, and I am delighted to see that her wit has been noticed by the great humorist Frank J.. Her IMAO-inspired post involves a cage full of hundreds of people doing time for perjury under Clinton, snake, Clinton head, cigar, and chained "No Time for Slime" clock ticking away. Making Frank feel dirty is quite an accomplishment, Marie! I never managed to do that!

    Marie also featured a quick, easy-to-take, warning label test, and mine did not disappoint:

    Classical Values may actually be a spider-human hybrid

    From Go-Quiz.com

    Oh what a tangled web we weave!


    That's it for the tests!

    But Marie had more, and it was something important.

    In a post near and dear to my heart, she discusses the shameful treatment meted out to the Pink Pistols by the forces of political correctness:

    [T]he parade people prefer that the Pink Pistols portray only the party line and port no pistols on parade.

    Actually, the Gay Pride People letter wasn't nearly as snotty as one has come to expect from the leftwing. It was worded in a downright civil manner! Frankly, I can kinda sorta see why they wouldn't want concealed carry in a parade, but on the other hand I can't see having a parade at all. It just blocks traffic and annoys people. On the third hand, I don't exactly see how they think they're going to confiscate anybody's weapon, and on the fourth hand, it'd be nice if they'd respect others' right just as much as they want others to respect their rights. and if I continue in this vein, I'll need an extra pair of mittens.

    There's more, and while it's typical to see Second Amendment advocacy stifled by Gay Neocommies, it's not as bad as in the old days.

    (Something I have posted about before, here, and here.....)

    My blogfather Jeff weighs in on the Pink Pistols' bout with official gay intolerance, and links to a very well-deserved spanking of the PC crowd by James R. Rummel.

    I find myself disgusted by the shabby treatment of the Pink Pistols, and if they're that sickeningly politically correct in Ohio, I shudder to think what would happen in San Francisco....

    My patience has been tested to the max!

    posted by Eric at 05:21 PM | Comments (3) | TrackBacks (1)

    I'm smoking mad!

    From the 'old news is good news so long as it's ridiculous' department ...

    Those who know better than you are gaining ground the world over.

    Following Canada's customarily laughable lead, Australia will now require cigarette manufacturers to display images of cancerous and diseased limbs and organs, a step the EU had agreed to take lat last year. (Similar legislation failed to make it through the House last year, despite the efforts of the AMA.)

    It's considered a success by fanatics in Canada who've recorded a 3% decrease in smoking, though Australian tobacconists are surely correct in calling the measure "a desperate tactic" that "will not alter smoking patterns."

    It's not that I favor smoking or have ever even considered smoking (it never appealed to me, and I never tried).

    It's the notion that the central government of any nation should be wasting its time with this kind of legislation, and that there are evidently legions of crusaders fighting the good fight against this most evil of threats against humanity.

    Does it strike anyone as odd that support for the war on cigarettes seems easier to obtain than support for the war on terrorism?

    I'm reminded of those obnoxious "Compliance Alliance" ads we're bombarded with on a daily basis in Pennsylvania.

    Apparently it is a real organization that recruits kids to entrap retailers who sell cigarettes by using any means necessary to convince them to sell without seeing ID (if their ads are at all accurate).

    Yet while they claim to be fighting Big Tobacco's manipulation of kids (their tag line is "Elimination of Manipulation"), they target $7 an hour cashiers, manipulating them into breaking the law. Their most insidious and distasteful ad is heard daily on the radio:

    A girl asks a male cashier for cigarettes, and he tells her that he needs to see ID. She of course gives him some old line about forgetting it, but she always buys her cigarettes here or something. He sounds a bit awkward and uncomfortable at being pressured, but still unwilling to sell. Her friend pipes up claiming to recognize him from a party, and they giggle and say that they thought he was cute.

    After flirtation and flattery he relents, but says that next time they need to remember their IDs.

    They turn on him instantly, laughing at him and telling him that what he did was "not cool" and that he'd just broken the law. And then there's the ominous warning that "the law is real and there will be consequences." If this had been a "real" compliance check, they inform him, he would have been "busted" (incidentally, "Busted" is the group's official name). He of course sounds embarrased and upset.

    This is obviosuly just a commercial, and all are surely just actors playing parts, but instilling the fear that big brother might come at any time in the guise of a teenage girl was intentional, as was the threat of legal action and subtle use of sexual humiliation.

    The state of PA has done a masterful job of manipulation itself in hiding the fact that "Busted!" is their operation even in this press release. The only indication is the blurb that they work in conjunction with the PA Dept. of Health. Throughout the site they claim that the organization is run by kids, for kids. This farce is maintained in part by the intentionally amateurish look of the site, though the site was registered by (hence probably designed by)a professional tech company with a competent design department that has produced many professional looking sites.

    There's no real information anywhere about how and when the group was formed, exactly how children organized and funded themselves, and why they cared enough to harrass minimum wage earners. But there's plenty of circumstantial evidence that the state has been behind the whole thing and has been trying to lend an air of "grass roots" legitimacy to it.

    Things like this power point document
    , or better yet this PDF of the Annual Report of the fiscal year july '02-june '03 which shows that the state spent well over $1 million on the program and "trained" the kids who "lead" the initiative.

    I'm just wondering why they go to such lengths to hide state involvement and the fact that the state created the organization.

    posted by Dennis at 04:38 PM | Comments (4)

    This will never be news!

    Here's a new report of WMDs found in (of all places) Iraq:

    The head of the U.S. team conducting the search for weapons of mass destruction in Iraq announced on Thursday that his group has uncovered at least ten more artillery shells filled with banned chemical weapons and is finding new WMD evidence "almost every day."

    "We've found ten or twelve Sarin and Mustard rounds," said Charles Duelfer, who replaced David Kay as head of the Iraq survey group earlier this year after Kay concluded that WMDs were unlikely to be found.

    "We're not sure how many more are out there that we haven't found," Duelfer added, in an exclusive interview with Fox News Channel's Brit Hume. "There are still surprises out there. We're finding things and we're getting reports of hidden caches almost every day which we have to investigate."

    Last month, the Pentagon confirmed that the first of the Iraq WMD findings - two shells suspected of containing deadly chemical weapons - were indeed filled with Sarin and Mustard gas.

    It matters not one bit whether the above story (which only adds to the growing evidence already documented) is confirmed or not.

    None of these WMDs will "count." The story won't be reported, because there has been an agreement that there are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

    And there never will be!

    What would it take?

    Will one of these shells have to explode and kill a few hundred soldiers? If that happens, then who will be said to have lied?

    (How does the rest of it go? "While people died"?)

    posted by Eric at 12:26 PM | Comments (4)

    Classical cloning continues....

    Readers may have noticed that the elusive Justin Case (whose interest lies in technology, science fiction, and other things of which I am woefully ignorant) has finally authored his first post -- a review of the thought processes in the mind of one of modern Luddism's pioneers, a guy named Jeremy Rifkin.

    For some time, I have tried to shame and pressure Justin into blogging, and I suspect once he saw that classical scholar VARIUS CRISPINUS was added as an author here, he finally felt comfortable enough to begin.

    Some of you might remember my various Leon Kass posts (best known of which was the ice cream post), which were inspired, aided and abetted by Justin. But that's not all. Justin, whom I have known for 30 years, is the guy I credit with making me start blogging. And I know how to return a favor. (At least, when I can.....)

    I cannot tell you how delighted I am by this development, and I hope readers like it, because the goal is more and better postings all the time.


    Ice cream I scream for more!

    posted by Eric at 09:46 AM | Comments (2)

    Renaissance of a loophole?

    Since it's recent launch, NRANews is not only doing well, they've expanded. The show can now be heard on Sirius Radio. Plus, if you don't have the Sirius equipment, there's a special offer for NRA members. I'd be an idiot not to take advantage of this, because it's a fraction of what you'd pay in the stores.

    NRANews is not only blogger-friendly, but host Cam Edwards is a blogger himself. (And the left is listening. Hmmm, I mean watching!) I heard one show featuring Dean Esmay and James Joyner, and more blogger interviews are in the works. (Dean, by the way, linked to NRANews' interview with Chief Wiggles.)

    Yesterday, there was this editorial in the Chicago Tribune:

    The National Rifle Association last week launched a daily satellite radio program, “NRA News,” to provide news and pro-gun commentary to an estimated 400,000 listeners. With that, the nation’s oldest gun rights group transformed itself into the nation’s newest news organization.

    At least, that’s how the NRA sees it. Critics say the NRA’s new radio show is actually a thinly disguised ploy to ricochet its way around campaign finance laws. Well, sure it is. And though we’re no fans of the NRA agenda, we’ll say this to NRA News: Welcome to the broadcast media world. You have every right to be there.

    Among the many grotesque distortions created by the McCain-Feingold campaign finance “reform” law passed in 2002 is a rule about how organizations can spend money on political speech close to Election Day. The law essentially forbids independent groups from buying political advertising that criticizes or praises candidates by name within 60 days of a general election and 30 days of a primary election.

    Yes, the law attempts to create a criticism-free zone for candidates.


    At least the law exempts the news media from this restriction. Apparently someone noticed that language about a ‘free press’ in the 1st Amendment.

    Since the law exempts news organizations, their editorial endorsements and the rest of their political commentary, the NRA intends to get its political message out through this radio program.

    Will campaign reformers or anti-gun groups challenge the NRA ploy? Go ahead, the association says, make their day. “Tom Paine was free to pamphlet,” said Wayne LaPierre, NRA executive vice president. “So are we.” Absolutely true. A legal challenge to NRA News would be offensive to this nation’s 1st Amendment principles of free speech and a free press. That has always been one of the failings of efforts to curtail political campaign spending and advertising. The government is in the position of determining which political speech is free and which is not. News reporting and analysis, in print or on broadcast, are exempt from legal restrictions, and so should other forms of political speech. The voters are intelligent enough to decide for themselves which political views they wish to support and which they don’t.

    First, though, voters must be free to hear those views.

    This newspaper often disagrees with what the NRA has to say—and we have the freedom to voice that in any edition of the newspaper. The notion that the NRA would be restricted in what it can say and when it can say it is offensive. In that spirit, NRA News should be welcome to fire away—with words, preferably, not live ammo.

    (And here are Dean Esmay's thoughts.) Some time ago, I posed the question whether bloggers might be subjected to McCain-Feingold, although I don't think anyone would dare try to use the law that way.

    But the question of what is journalism is a good one. Glenn Reynolds doesn't think that the First Amendment creates any privileged or protected groups, as we all have the same rights. Because as Glenn puts it, the First Amendment is part of our "general heritage of freedom, not as a license for elites to lie and spout off without consequences." Blogging opens up the playing field in ways never imagined before, as it is the technological equivalent of, say, every 15th Century citizen who desired having been allowed to have his own Gutenburg press, and print whatever he wanted.

    NOTE: For those unfamiliar with history, despite its severe limitations, the Gutenberg revolution was credited with making the Renaissance possible....

    Journalism as freedom? A marvelous, subversive -- even old -- concept.

    I am delighted to see NRANews -- and so many others -- now putting it to the test!

    It's getting to be more than a loophole.

    posted by Eric at 08:48 AM | Comments (4)

    What Entropy Means to Me

    Good News for Modern Man! The ever amusing Jeremy Rifkin is about to produce another work of comedic genius. I will, of course, wait for the paperback edition,and urge all other readers to do likewise. I should note that Mr. Rifkin, a longtime favorite of mine, has managed to reinvent himself yet another time.

    Our first meeting involved "Entropy", a leaden chunk of panic-mongering based on a fundamental misunderstanding of physics. I was charmed. Next up, "Algeny" an anti-biotech screed which scared the bejeebers out of far too many Whole Earthies. I was intrigued. But not enough to keep close tabs. Was "Beyond Beef" before or after "The Human Body Shop"? No matter.

    With his newest opus he may finally have shot himself in the foot.

    The European Dream: How Europe's Vision of the Future is Quietly Eclipsing the American Dream


    I'm gonna read it in the store...

    Now, I don't want folks to get the wrong idea. I'm not just gratuitously bashing the poor man. No way. With Jeremy Rifkin, Paul Ehrlich, Leon Kass, there is no limit or season. Bash early and often. It's no more than they deserve. Some higher minded folk advocate ignoring them. To call attention to their pernicious drivel merely empowers them. I must humbly disagree.

    It's only fitting that they be held up to ridicule, preferably by using their own words. Way back in the late 70's Rifkin co-authored a book called "The Emerging Order" (a steal at $2.78!) -- an exploration of the impending shake-up in US politics that Evangelical Christianity was sure to engender. Fair enough.

    But...the book is such an absolute jaw-dropper of a skyhootin' quote farm, it really is hard to know where to start. A veritable Golconda of anti-wisdom.

    A few choice quotes:

    Humanity doesn't need to get sidetracked on a long and futile journey technologizing people and nature. These special gifts, in turn, are more powerful than any scientific technique humans could ever invent. Speaking in tongues is a more powerful form of communication than any satellite network. It is direct communication from the source' God himself, and it is available to everyone. The gift of prophesy is more powerful than any computer information system.

    p 225

    Depleting resources, increased pollution, rising costs of production, spiraling inflation, low return on investments, escalating capital shortfalls and limits to technology all add up to one unmistakable reality. The Golden Days are over. United States productivity, which for the two decades following World War II led the world's economies, has now bottomed out.

    p 83

    Cancer is a direct reflection of the destruction of the natural ecosystem and its replacement with an artificial environment. Cancer represents the internalization of the high-entropy waste produced by modern science and technology......Cancer, then, is nature's way of signaling the end of the age of economic expansion and its unbridled use of science as a means of technologizing both nature and people.

    pp 220-221

    Well, who knew? This stuff is priceless. The man is a national treasure. Perhaps now you can see why I'm so excited about his new book...

    And our journey of discovery has barely begun. This one book contains so much gosh darned idiocy that a single posting is like just one ritz.

    posted by Justin at 12:49 AM | Comments (2)

    What sort of man loves the Culture War?

    HINT: He's rich, he's powerful, he talks to Jesus, Buddha, God, Hitler and Stalin. And he thinks gays are "dung-eating dogs" who should be roasted. (Precisely what they do to dogs where he comes from).

    This account of Sun Myung Moon's official "coronation" is not a new story. It happened in March, and the same blogger, John Gorenfeld, posted about it then.

    In fact, when I read Mr. Gorenfeld's report, I wrote (in March) a lengthy post about this (and more), but I never finished it because the research was taking up too much time. However, I have posted about Sun Myung Moon before, here and here. I'm not much of a fan of Moon, I'm afraid, and I wish that all politicians -- Republican and Democrat -- would sever their ties with him. I also wish that a group of legitimate Americans (conservative or libertarian) would buy The Washington Times.

    But my question is: why is this old story suddenly of interest to Peter Jennings?

    NOTE: I didn't see the show, which was apparently last night, but here's the link.

    Surely, they're not trying to establish a connection between Michael Moore and Sun Myung Moon, are they? I mean, just because Moore is a current news item doesn't mean that journalists would engage in tit-for-tat regurgitation of old news, does it?

    Interestingly enough, WorldNetDaily reported the March Moon Coronation story quite recently, so I don't think Moon enjoys as much right wing support as is commonly claimed.

    For what it's worth, I like Sun Myung Moon about as much as I like Michael Moore. They're both un-American hatemongers who fuel the Culture War and want to pit us against each other.

    I think Moon and Moore need each other.

    And here's my bottom line: nothing Moon has done in any way minimizes the perfidy of Moore, and vice versa.

    TECHNICAL "MISSING LINK" NOTE: The reason my March post is so weird-looking is that it strangely published itself and attracted comments even though I left it in rough draft form, and even though my blog still lists it as a draft. It needs cleaning up and contains a few factual errors, but I am leaving it that way because I can't figure it out for the life of me how an unpublished post could have been published. Any geeks out there who might be able to help?

    posted by Eric at 08:22 AM | Comments (6)

    There's power in numbers, and numbers don't lie!

    Last night, VARIUS CRISPINUS alerted me to a fascinating new poll which was featured right on the front page of a newspaper called El Hispano. At first I didn't get it, but he told me to study the numbers carefully. Finally, the realization set in.

    There are more Hispanic voters than we thought!

    Take a look:

    The above numbers are unassailable proof that Hispanic voters are indeed a force to be reckoned with. That more Hispanic voters say they're voting for Kerry than for Bush is only part of the story; the real shocker is the power of the total numbers.

    This is clear evidence that Hispanics outnumber even themselves!

    How many groups can make that claim?

    UPDATE: Reading through El Hispano's interior pages shed some light on a possible reason why there are more voters than there are voters: an article by Domenico Maceri titled "Let Non-Citizens Vote." There's no available online link to El Hispano's text, but I found the same article here. Excerpt:

    Allowing non-citizens to vote is viewed by some as the equivalent of living together without the commitment of marriage.
    Yeah, right. When you know your argument's a real loser, start talking about people's sex lives. It's about as relevant to citizenship as allowing children to see an "R" rated movie or forgetting to vaccinate your pet.

    posted by Eric at 08:11 AM | Comments (1)

    OK, so we're not princesses....

    The latest "threat" is starting to look old....

    Is there some sort of misunderstanding going on? I'm having some trouble at the theoretical level, and I think I need to back up. Way up....

    First of all, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (leader of al Qaida -- an organization said to be not terrorist, not in Iraq, and not representative of Muslims) has said that al Qaida will never stop doing what they're doing:

    In the audiotape, the speaker thought to be al-Zarqawi told Allawi that "we will continue the game with you until the end." The speaker said "we will not get bored" until "we make you drink from the same glass" as Izzadine Saleem, the Iraqi Governing Council president killed last month in a car-bombing claimed by al-Zarqawi's group.

    "We will carry on our jihad against the Western infidel and the Arab apostate until Islamic rule is back on Earth," the voice said.

    Wait a minute! I thought that all they wanted was the U.S. out of everywhere. Now the demand is Islamic rule on earth?

    Is the threat all that new?

    According to Muhammad’s sacralized biography by Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad himself sanctioned the massacre of the Qurayza, a vanquished Jewish tribe. He appointed an "arbiter" who soon rendered this concise verdict: the men were to be put to death, the women and children sold into slavery, the spoils to be divided among the Muslims. Muhammad ratified this judgment stating that it was a decree of God pronounced from above the Seven Heavens. Thus some 600 to 900 men from the Qurayza were lead on Muhammad’s order to the Market of Medina. Trenches were dug and the men were beheaded, and their decapitated corpses buried in the trenches while Muhammad watched in attendance. Women and children were sold into slavery, a number of them being distributed as gifts among Muhammad’s companions, and Muhammad chose one of the Qurayza women (Rayhana) for himself. The Qurayza’s property and other possessions (including weapons) were also divided up as additional "booty" among the Muslims, to support further jihad campaigns.

    The classical Muslim jurist al-Mawardi (a Shafi’ite jurist, d. 1058) from Baghdad was a seminal, prolific scholar who lived during the so-called Islamic "Golden Age" of the Abbasid-Baghdadian Caliphate. He wrote the following, based on widely accepted interpretations of the Qur'an and Sunna (i.e., the recorded words and deeds of Muhammad), regarding infidel prisoners of jihad campaigns:

    “As for the captives, the amir [ruler] has the choice of taking the most beneficial action of four possibilities: the first to put them to death by cutting their necks; the second, to enslave them and apply the laws of slavery regarding their sale and manumission; the third, to ransom them in exchange for goods or prisoners; and fourth, to show favor to them and pardon them. Allah, may he be exalted, says, 'When you encounter those [infidels] who deny [the Truth=Islam] then strike [their] necks' (Qur'an sura 47, verse 4)”....Abu’l-Hasan al-Mawardi, al-Ahkam as-Sultaniyyah." [The Laws of Islamic Governance, trans. by Dr. Asadullah Yate, (London), Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd., 1996, p. 192. Emphasis added.]

    Indeed such odious “rules” were iterated by all four classical schools of Islamic jurisprudence, across the vast Muslim empire.

    For centuries, from the Iberian peninsula to the Indian subcontinent, jihad campaigns waged by Muslim armies against infidel Jews, Christians, Zoroastrians, Buddhists and Hindus, were punctuated by massacres, including mass throat slittings and beheadings. During the period of “enlightened” Muslim rule, the Christians of Iberian Toledo, who had first submitted to their Arab Muslim invaders in 711 or 712, revolted in 713. In the harsh Muslim reprisal that ensued, Toledo was pillaged, and all the Christian notables had their throats cut. On the Indian subcontinent, Babur (1483-1530), the founder of the Mughal Empire, who is revered as a paragon of Muslim tolerance by modern revisionist historians, recorded the following in his autobiographical “Baburnama,” about infidel prisoners of a jihad campaign:

    "Those who were brought in alive [having surrendered] were ordered beheaded, after which a tower of skulls was erected in the camp." [The Baburnama -Memoirs of Babur, Prince and Emperor, translated and edited by Wheeler M. Thacktson, Oxford University Press,1996, p. 188. Emphasis added.]

    Recent jihad-inspired decapitations of infidels by Muslims have occurred across the globe- Christians in Indonesia, the Philippines, and Nigeria; Hindu priests and "unveiled" Hindu women in Kashmir; Wall Street Journal reporter, and Jew, Daniel Pearl. We should not be surprised that these contemporary paroxysms of jihad violence are accompanied by ritualized beheadings. Such gruesome acts are in fact sanctioned by core Islamic sacred texts, and classical Muslim jurisprudence. Empty claims that jihad decapitations are somehow "alien to true Islam," however well-intentioned, undermine serious efforts to reform and desacralize Islamic doctrine. This process will only begin with frank discussion, both between non-Muslims and Muslims, and within the Muslim community.

    Are the beheadings alien to Islam? I remember watching on TV many years ago a film called "Death of a Princess" in which a Saudi princess was publicly beheaded for having the wrong lover. (More here. ) Now, granted, this was years before any sort of public fatwa against all Americans, but still, I have to ask: if it's "Islamic" to behead a member of the Saudi royal family for illicit romance, how different are the beheadings of Daniel Pearl, Nick Berg, Robert Jacobs, Paul Johnson, Kim sun-il (along with future others unfortunate enough to follow)?

    Apparently, you don't have to be a princess....

    ADDITIONAL NOTE: Much as I would like to offer a link to "Death of a Princess," it seems that the original has been thoroughly censored:

    "Death of a Princess" is a 105 minute 1980 PBS documentary that secretly filmed the 1977 execution of an Arabian princess. Pressure from Saudi-Arabia and certain oil-companies protested the showing of this film on PBS. In spite of the protests, the film attracted one of PBS’s largest-ever audiences. It seems as though the Internet has been sanitized of this video. If anyone knows how to obtain a copy, please let us know.
    I won't hold my breath! If anyone knows how to obtain a copy, please let me know.

    Once again, I'm reminded of Stephen Green's words:

    Looking for the Paul Johnson video? You'll find this one more informative. It shows how our enemies treat each other. Doesn't take much imagination to figure out what they'd do to us, given the chance.

    UPDATE: Wretchard at the Belmont Club makes a good case that these beheadings are not aimed at the West, but constitute preaching to the choir:

    This supports observations that Al Qaeda has given up on directly confronting the United States in favor of a new strategy of trying to gain influence and power in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. The first would give them power over a large share of the world's oil reserves; the second would give them control of nuclear weapons.

    Al Qaeda has three audiences: the Islamic world, non-Islamic U.S. allies and the United States. In the United States, as al Qaeda surely knows, the impact of the beheadings ... will reinforce the feeling that al Qaeda must be resisted at all costs ... It is also not working particularly well among U.S. allies. ... That leaves the third audience, the Islamic world. ... Beheadings are a demonstration of will and ongoing capability.

    Al Qaeda may have come to the conclusion that if it hopes to win abroad, it must first of all win at home.

    If Wretchard is right, and these acts of savagery are intended to help win over Muslims in the Mideast, well, that just begs the question of whether something is wrong with the "choir."

    MORE: The resourceful VARIUS CRISPINUS has located the "Death of a Princess" video, and he emails as follows:

    UPENN's Middle East Center lists it among "Available Films":

    Apparently you can get the films pretty easily, and free of charge.
    Information at this link:

    UNC Chapel Hill has a copy on VHS, though theirs isn't available for rental:

    Here's their description:

    This docudrama of the alleged public execution of a Saudi princess and her lover for adultery caused a diplomatic furror in 1980 in the US and Europe. An earnest reporter, played by Christopher Ryder, attempts to find out the "truth" of many conflicting tales leading to the execution, which probably did take place. It is important to note that such an execution is legally based on tribal rather than Quranic law.

    The Internet Movie Database lists a full cast packed with veteran actors.

    How much was dramatized? Not even the 'journalist' is authentic. Is the footage of the beheading authentic, or is that dramatized as well?

    My only concern here is that a docudrama could prove a weak piece of evidence.

    The information is often conflicting. Some people discuss it as a dramatic reenactment of probable events, some treat it as a pure documentary, while Mobil and Exxon are variously invoked as pressuring PBS.

    I'm just interested in getting the facts, and I'm leading toward believing it simply because the facts are so confused and hard to come by.

    A jpeg which appears to be taken from the film can be accessed here:

    With accompanying text here:

    My thanks to VARIUS CRISPINUS for this excellent research, and logical analysis!!!

    UPDATE (April 19, 2005): I see that "Death of a Princess" is being rebroadcast this week on PBS. In the Philadelphia area, the next broadcast is this Saturday, April 23, 1:00am, on CHANNEL 12 (WHYY). Welcome any new visitors who've reached this site because of renewed interest in the film! Hope you stay and check out the blog's main page.

    posted by Eric at 03:14 PM | Comments (3)

    Relativism and Republicanism

    That was refeshing.

    I'm just back from lunch where I caught bits of a conversation on everyone's favorite subject: American policy.

    On a college campus you come to expect superficial radicalism. (And I say superficial because it's little more than name-dropping obscure or cred-setting bands at a party--Dennis Kucinich is worth a Ben Gibbard, Chomsky is Fugazi, but Foucault is little more than Iggy Pop these days.)

    But here I had an American woman stringing together nonsensical statements like, "America was, like, the last country to declare its independence," and "Reagan's whole thing was bullshit." As a matter of fact, she had a lot of "things." There was, "Reagan's thing," and "Bush's thing," "the thing is," and "my big thing with the whole Iraq thing."

    It seems that when you have little of substance to say, a little "thing" goes a long way.

    She was saying this to a group comprised of two European women and one American man. It seemed plain that the Europeans had either had personal experience with communism or had at least the stories of their families to tell.

    From the pieces of the conversation that slipped through the noise of the crowded cafe, I learned that life is eminiently better in this country, that capitalism improved life in their home countries, and that communism was brutal and meritless.

    So now to the refreshing part. The American man piped up at one point to note the atrocities committed in furthering the goals of Communism. Addressing one of the European women he said, "I'm really glad you set me straight on that. How many people did Stalin kill?"

    It seemed the American women had no idea that these things had ever happened, but easily enough returned to her "things" and started babbling about South America and how there was little violence under communism at the end of the Cold War anyway.

    Her willingness to dismiss communism's brutal history got me thinking about relativism, which always leads me back to Carneades, the leader of the New Academy who had been sent to Rome among a troupe of leading philosophers to lobby for a reduction of the tribute.

    As an undergradute I once took a survey course on the Roman Republic. In the end we were led to the conclusion that Carneades -- through his ability to effectively argue for and against the same issue, and his insistence that there are no universal values but only the values of the dominant group within a given culture -- was ultimately responsible for the fall of the Republic. Writers through Cicero's time felt compelled to answer him but failed.

    He seemed like a second Socrates, taken to extremes. Socrates would say that he knew nothing, but Carneades wasn't even sure of that.

    The fashion of Carneades' radical skepticism killed the Roman spirit. Patriotism gradually dwindled and disappeared, all sense of duty to Rome as a concept was gone, and the defense of the nation depended upon the frontiers. In time the guards of the city would be hired mercenaries from the north, and the rest is history.

    She wept. My professor, that is. She wept often over Rome, and I wonder now whether she hadn't seen the parallels.

    (Apologies for the lack of links, but this web browser has been acting up and erasing the entire entry everytime I try to add one.)

    posted by Dennis at 02:42 PM | Comments (3)

    Moral conservatives are not monolithic

    Via Andrew Sullivan, here's Bob Barr (no friend of gay marriage) on the FMA:

    I am not new to my conservative principles. No one has ever tried to accuse me of being a liberal Republican or a moderate Republican; I have only been a conservative Republican. And, as a conservative Republican, I have never compromised my basic principles - limited government, the free market, steadfast adherence to civil liberties including the right to keep and bear arms and the rights of the states - in the search for higher office. I appear before you today in that spirit of consistency with conservative ideals... I, along with many other conservative opinion leaders and lawmakers, strongly oppose the Federal Marriage Amendment for three main reasons. First, by moving what has traditionally been a state prerogative - local marriage laws -- to the federal government, it is in direct violation of the principles of federalism. Second, in treating the Constitution as an appropriate place to impose publicly contested social policies, it would cheapen the sacrosanct nature of that document, opening the door to future meddling by liberals and conservatives. Third, it is unnecessary so long as DOMA is in force.
    And, to the right of Bob Barr, there's Judge Roy Moore:
    "I don’t think you can make a constitutional amendment for every moral problem created by courts that don’t follow the law of their states,” said Moore, who is currently waging a legal appeal to get his chief justice job back. "If you do, you pretend to do what God has already done and make it subject to the courts. I think it’s a problem to establish morality by constitutional amendments made by men when the morality of our country is plainly illustrated – in Supreme Court precedent and in state-law precedent and in the common law – as coming from an acknowledgement of God.”
    Once again, I predict that the FMA will never become part of the Constitution. (Thank God!)

    posted by Eric at 02:13 PM | Comments (2)

    I gotcha protest, hangin'!

    Eric pointed me toward a link posted at Instapundit yesterday, and I thought it was pretty great. It reminded of something I did in high school that never went as far, and was never as serious, but still it makes me smile.

    The vegans had posters throughout the halls advertising for the Great American Meat Out, a day on which they hoped people would join them in not eating meat (or in their words, to "kick the meat habit (at least for a day) and explore a wholesome, nonviolent diet of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains." No one's told them about the vegetable scream.).

    I was in the graphic design club and had access to the computers and printers, so I designed a few signs with slogans like, "MEAT: It Does a Body Good," and "MEAT: Animals Eat it Too." I recruited a small group of students (which I dubbed "the Omnivore Society"), and away we went.

    The vegan ring leader would race through the halls tearing down our posters and we'd just sit back, smile, and watch with piles of replacements. She'd scream in frustration, "where are they coming from?"

    She eventually gave up.

    A few years after high school I ran into an old acquaintance and somehow the Omnivore Society came up. He said, "That was you?!" Apparently it had some kind of impact.

    And if just one vegan ate a chicken McNugget, it was all worth it.

    posted by Dennis at 10:44 AM | Comments (6)

    The sensitive versus the desensitized?

    Perhaps because I am so tired of these things, I didn't give as much consideration to morality (which is so often seen in terms of sexual shame) in my post on liberalism as I might have.

    But I do wonder, despite all the attention paid to the matter, how many Americans believe that Janet Jackson's Superbowl breast is the biggest "issue" facing the nation -- or even that it represents an underlying major issue. There is continued interest by some people though, who seem to view the breast as a major showdown in American politics.

    Is it?

    Or is this another one of those things which will only further alienate the common-sense majority? Sure, lots of people don't want their children seeing breasts at the Superbowl. But they aren't going to turn it into a huge cause, and I don't think they appreciate people who demand that they do, and threaten to write them off as immoral (or "desensitized" by the evil MTV) if they don't.

    Let me confess, I did not watch the Superbowl or Janet Jackson's breast. Sure, I would have been surprised had I seen it. But traumatized? Desensitized? Desensitized from what? From seeing the human body? Don't we all have one? From where comes the idea that we're supposed to be shocked? Or is the "violent" way in which the breast was exposed the issue? It's hard for me to see a staged performance as any more violent than what goes on in most contact sports, because after all, in both cases the parties are consenting adults.

    Anyway, I am not shocked, nor have I been desensitized as far as I know. To become "desensitized," first there must be an underlying sensitivity. It strikes me that, because we all have bodies with genitalia and we've alll seen other people naked, sensitivity to nudity would have to be taught. Now, I am as much of a prude as anyone else about not wanting to be stripped of my clothing publicly, because I value my privacy. But that doesn't make my own nudity shocking to me, nor does it make me shocked by the nudity of others.

    While I hesitate to judge others based on my own reactions, still I wonder how shocked they really are. Might not some of this be as staged as Janet Jackson's breast? I know they're yelling at everyone about how "desensitized" we've "become" but has anyone stopped to ask first, whether this is true, and second, whether such underlying "sensitivities" are necessarily good things?

    When I was in Cyprus I saw a statue of the Roman Emperor Septimius Severus. A huge, larger than life, bronze nude that they'd just dug out of the ground and stuck in the museum. I was not allowed to photograph it, and the museum sold no postcards of it. I walked around the local kiosks, and found that there were no postcards for sale. The local Cypriots, unaware of what a great treasure they have, actually seemed ashamed of the statue when I asked about it.

    I think they are ashamed of the statue; one of the best Roman statues I've seen. It's barely mentioned at all on the web, although I found this reference (no pictures, of course....):

    The towering bronze statue of the Roman Emperor Septimus Severus is an outstanding work of Roman-Cypriot art; and a fine example of the self glorification of the Roman Emperors. the nude emperor strikes a pretty pose
    I wonder what the emperor would say. I think he'd be shocked, and a little amazed, for obviously he was proud of his body and didn't mind displaying it. Not that Janet Jackson's breast ranks with Septimius Severus (or other emperors without clothes), but why is there such a wide gulf between the moderns and the ancients over something so universal and natural? Why the modern shame over something which was a source of ancient pride?

    I recognize that there are modern sensitivities, but I have a problem with being told that I have been "desensitized" so I think it's in order to inquire about precisely what that means, because I am unaware of ever having had such "sensitivity." While I see nothing wrong with time, place and manner restrictions which take into account sensitivities (recognizing that other people have them), I do wish they wouldn't scream and yell so much, and act as if there is something wrong with people who don't share them.

    Perhaps I am in need of sensitivity training here. (People can be trained to respect each other's sensitivities; maybe "civility training" is better terminology.) Just don't expect me to be shocked or ashamed, because such things have to be felt.

    Sexual shame is like fear of snakes; you either have it or you don't. It is illogical, however, to assert that not having a feeling necessarily means that one has been "desensitized." Studies have shown that infants have no innate fear of snakes, and that adults have been taught to fear them. While adults can be trained to overcome such a fear by a gradual process which includes, ultimately, handling harmless snakes (this can properly be called "desensitization"), it is as unreasonable and illogical to assert that all people who lack fear of snakes have been "desensitized" as it is to make that assertion about those not shocked by nudity or pornography.

    This may touch on mutual respect for the differences between people; something sorely lacking everywhere. I'd be willing to respect the sensitivities of others if they would respect the fact that I don't share them. It's like, "I won't wave my snake in your face as long as you don't yell at me for liking them and stop trying to pass laws telling me I can't own them."

    But is Culture War (in this case between the "sensitive" and the "desensitized") really the answer?

    It can be carried too far....

    posted by Eric at 07:33 AM | Comments (13)

    Liberalism, defined conservatively....

    It's becoming very difficult to discuss politics at all without being shouted at or called names, or being lumped into one or more odious categories (usually by self-appointed spokespeople for one category or another).

    Any discussion of politics is hamstrung by what can only be called fanatic devotion to a showdown between an increasingly shrill left, and an increasingly "religious" (a term I use for lack of any alternative, save "fundamentalist") right. This showdown is motivated by the desire of both loud minorities to make America "choose" between two sides the majority don't wish to choose: fundamentalism or Marxism. The 9/11 attacks initially united most Americans, but the seeds of the present nastiness were planted right at the beginning, when defensive leftists as as well as defensive fundamentalists blamed America for the attack. (Not surprising, considering that the ferocious fundamentalism of the America's new enemies was matched only by their slick utilization of anti-American multiculturalism.)

    It has been all too easy for both parties to go with this flow. Thus, we are increasingly seeing the emergence of the shrill Party of God versus the equally shrill Party of Michael Moore -- both of which, by their incessant noise, make it as easy as possible to mutually characterize the two loudest noises as the only two choices.

    That Americans don't want to be run by the Party of God or the Party of Marx/Moore/Foucault is not only irrelevant, it's become an opportunity, because when the majority is turned off, the minorities run amok.

    I wish I could see a solution, but I don't. Goldwater Republicans and Lieberman Democrats have lost out, because they are liberal in the classical sense, and classical liberalism is no longer on the political chart.

    The following is not my definition of political liberalism, but it comes from a dictionary written when the word liberal was definable. When being liberal did not mean atheist, communist, RINO, DINO or mealy-mouthed, easily-manipulated sellout. For what it's worth, here it is:

    Not bound by authority, or orthodox tenets, or established forms in political or religious philosophy; independent in opinion; not conservative; often often specif., having tendency towards democratic or republican, as opposed to monarchical or aristocratic, forms; as liberal thinkers, liberal Christians, liberal ideas in politics; -- hence [cap.], adopted as the designation of of political parties in some countries, notably England. In England the designation of liberal was first applied in the first quarter of the 19th century to the more radical elements of the Whig party, with an element of reproach, but soon supplanted Whig both as an adjective and a noun, as, about 1830, Conservative supplanted Tory, the earlier names being reserved for the conservative minority in each party. See CONSERVATIVE, adj., 4. RADICAL, adj., 3. TORY, 3; UNIONIST, 2 c, WHIG.
    Syn. -- LIBERAL, GENEROUS, BOUNTIFUL, MUNIFICENT. As applied to living, LIBERAL suggests freedom or abundance, GENEROUS emphasizes the idea of a warm-hearted readiness to give; as, a liberal (cf. a generous) provision for one's needs; a liberal offer, a generous portion. Liberal also suggests freedom from prejudice or narrowness; generous, magnanimity, esp. in judging; as liberal opinions, liberal in one's religious views; a generous opponent; generous in praise of a rival. BOUNTIFUL suggests abounding liberality; MUNIFICENT, splendid or princely generosity; as "a worthy gentleman.... as bountiful as mines of India" (Shak.): "Lady Bountiful" (Farquhar); a munificent endowment. Cf. PLENTIFUL, PROFUSE.
    Ant. -- Stingy, grudging, mean, narrow, bigoted. See PARSIMONIOUS. Webster's New International Dictionary (Second Ed., 1958), at 1424.
    Note that the word "CONSERVATIVE" is not listed as an antonym. That's because its definition ("having power or tendency to preserve in a safe or entire state; conserving, preservative") does not absolutely preclude the possibility that one could be liberal in some respects and conservative in others.

    Not today!

    Obviously, words change. (Interesting discussion here.) Liberal is no longer liberal, and conservative is no longer conservative. But changing definitions don't change human nature, and there are still plenty of liberal thinkers ("not bound by authority, or orthodox tenets, or established forms in political or religious philosophy; independent in opinion") in the United States.

    Such people are like fish out of water.

    Maybe that's why so many of them are ready to walk.

    ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: Factor in morality and things get even more complicated. Whether morality is liberal or conservative (or right wing or left wing) depends on much more than one's personal morality. Amazingly, one can be very conservative morally (even a total prude), yet not be considered a moral conservative. By today's standards, "moral conservatism" has little to do with personal morality. Unless one wishes the government to dictate moral standards (including, if necessary, by the use of force), it is unlikely that the dominant moral conservative ideologists will allow one to make a claim of being a "moral conservative." (You can be, for example, personally opposed to pornography, and even hate it, but unless you believe that the government should imprison people for it, you'll be called "pro-pornography" and a "moral relativist." On the other hand, you can be a drug-taking hedonist, and as long as you insist that these activities be criminalized, you're a moral conservative. You're judged not by what you do, but by what you'd force others to do.)

    posted by Eric at 05:50 PM | Comments (2) | TrackBacks (1)

    South Korean Beheaded

    The enemy strikes again, this time by beheading South Korean Kim Sun-il:

    CAIRO, Egypt (AP) - An Iraqi militant group has beheaded its South Korean hostage, Al-Jazeera television reported Tuesday. The South Korean foreign ministry issued a statement confirming the report.

    Kim's body was found by the U.S. military between Baghdad and Fallujah, west of the capital, at 5:20 p.m. Iraq time, said South Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman Shin Bong-kil.

    The South Korean embassy in Bagdad confirmed that the body was Kim's by studying a picture of the remains it received by e-mail, Shin said.

    "It breaks our heart that we have to announce this unfortunate news," he said.

    Kim, 33, worked for a South Korean company supplying the U.S. military in Iraq and was abducted last week, according to the South Korean government.

    Kim was shown in the videotape kneeling, blindfolded and wearing an orange jumpsuit similar to those issued to prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

    The tape showed five hooded men standing behind Kim, one reading a statement and gesturing with his right hand. Another captor had a big knife slipped in his belt.

    One of the masked men said the message was intended for the Korean people. "This is what your hands have committed. Your army has not come here for the sake of Iraqis, but for cursed America."

    The Japanese did many more terrible things -- both to soldiers and civilians -- during World War II, and it's amazing to me that the enemy would think that these tactics of murdering individual prisoners (or intimidation by displaying images of the carnage) would work today. The problem is, people tend to forget the nature of war, and they think that wishing it away or running away will make the war go away.

    This beheading could just as easily have happened in Saudi Arabia, or anywhere else. It's going to go on for a long time, and I think it should heighten -- not weaken -- the determination of the people it was intended to shock.

    UPDATE: The video can be streamed here. (Link via Kevin Aylward.)

    UPDATE: If the above does not work, try this link.

    posted by Eric at 02:10 PM | Comments (4) | TrackBacks (1)

    The family grows!

    I'm trying to get caught up, which is something that by definition never happens in blogging.

    But I am glad to have help here, in the form of a genuine classical scholar, who's writing under the name of VARIUS CRISPINUS. (If that sounds too much like a cereal brand name to you, do some research!)

    His first post is about Howard Stern, with whose radio show I've been intransigently in love for ten years (and which makes me admittedly very biased). I don't know whether I agree completely with VARIUS (as I haven't thought it over yet, and I reserve the right to remain silent -- as perhaps I should have been about Andrew Sullivan....) but I'll say this; he can say anything he wants without any editorial control by me.

    VARIUS (who right now is "off to Euripides"), describes himself as:

    .... a dabbler with many gaps to fill, but I've tended to favor Greek poetry of all periods and the reception of Greek poetry among Roman poets of the late Republic and early Empire.

    I tend to become preoccupied with linguistics and textual analysis, and have to remind myself that this stuff has a historical context.

    But I'm far from an expert in anything.

    If it matters, I had a brief spell as a (churchless) Christian in high school and was involved with the Bible study club, where I occasionaly ruffled the feathers of the leaders by quoting scripture against their pastors and taught the kids how to prove that Jesus was the messiah through a close reading of the Old Testament.

    And I once was appointed Chief Justice of the mock Supreme Court in my 9th grade social studies class for receiving a perfect score on our constitutional law exam.

    VARIUS is more complicated than that, and is obviously more modest than even he allows. Or I will allow, for that matter. He's talented, and I hope he'll add new meaning and put new muscle in the "CLASSICAL" part of Classical Values.

    WELCOME VARIUS! (I hope this will take some of the pressure off my sense of daily blogligation.....)

    What really has me puzzled now is how to break this news to my beloved blogfather Jeff. For he is the blogfather of Classical Values, and now that Classical Values has more than one author, Jeff deserves another cigar!

    Jeff, by the way, was recently hailed in Outdoor Life Magazine, which even featured a snapshot of Alphecca. That's real status, hard copy and in living color!

    Double congratulations to Jeff! (And while you're at it, go read his Weekly Check on the Bias.

    And a warm welcome to VARIUS CRISPINUS.

    posted by Eric at 11:26 AM | Comments (3)

    Stern's Reductivist Palette

    I know how much Eric enjoys Howard Stern, and I'm no stranger to the show (it's how I wake up in the morning, and I've been listening for the better part of my life). But that cat (H., not E.) has fallen prey to the kind of illogic that fills Rock the Vote! tents at music festivals and crowds the pages of campus newspapers.

    "We gotta get this guy out of office!"

    That's the refrain sung by a mixed bag of dissatisfied people clinging to pet issues (guns, fetuses and the like) and banding together for a perceived lesser evil, and it helps to perpetuate the myth of presidential power while ignoring the complexity of American political life. (The fact is that the President is not a king and real challenges to the status quo are made through congress and the courts. This endless trend toward beheading the government leads the ignorant masses to bewilderment as another head takes its place atop the body politic. The heart of the beast is never at rest.)

    Returning to Stern, who once led the pack in his support of Bush, his battles with Clear Channel and the FCC convinced him that he was a target of this administration because he'd changed his views on Bush and the war. But he has gone far beyond the individual issues at hand and has begun unilaterally attacking and denouncing Bush on every ground to the point that he (in accord with Michael 'Canadian Bacon' Moore, himself a shady character with connections to the Saudi establishment and the Islamist fringe) now considers the President to be the lapdog of the Saudis and a danger to the American people. That's quite a leap, but one not rarely made by the politically naive.

    It's sad to see the Stern show devolve at times into paranoia and blanket attacks on all things Bush, but more than that it's irresponsible--or at best simple-minded--to advocate the removal of the president as a cure-all for issues that your congressional representatives created or ignored. I'm reminded of the vitriolic conversations I avoided in college and still avoid at parties, with wide-eyed moonies proselytizing the politics of moral superiority. (I think I grew tired of being treated like a child molester because I don't hate Republicans.)

    This approach to politics is on a par with (e.g.) disruptive protest, which eschews all traditional avenues of civic input through a rejection of the legitimacy of American government and which is normally followed by outrage at arrest, patently missing the point of civil disobedience: to be arrested and challenge the law in the courts.

    President Bush didn't pass the Patriot Act (PDF) on his own ("Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives ..."), nor does he direct the FCC ("... directly responsible to Congress"). And John Kerry can't do anything to change either one.

    Of course life is eminently easy when you can reduce your ballot to (A) Bush and (B) Not Bush. And all the (negative) focus on Bush might make the alternative easier to stomach ... though not quite.

    posted by Dennis at 11:02 AM | Comments (2)

    NPR tours the "blog-o-sphere"

    Via a phone call I just learned that National Public Radio (which I rarely hear) is featuring a program today on blogging. And to show what a total ignoramus I am after a year of blogging, I'm only familiar with two of the guests. Here's the guest list for today's show:

    Lev Grossman
    *Staff writer for Timemagazine, author of recent article "Meet Joe Blog"

    Steve Rubel
    *Publishes the blog "Micro Persuasion"
    *Vice-president of client services with Cooper-Katz, a public relations firm in New York

    Dan Gillmor
    *Columnist and blogger at The San Jose Mercury News
    *Author of soon to be released book We the Media

    Ana Marie Cox
    *Writes and edits blog wonkette.com, a political gossip blog on life in Washington

    I added the links, so that anyone reading this can at least visit the blogs. Why NPR would feature blogs without links on its web page escapes me.

    I'm sure the show will be interesting, but I wonder whether it will give a fair representation of what they call "a guided tour through the blog-o-sphere."

    Unfortunately, I won't be able to listen (the blogging segment starts at 6:00 p.m.)....

    Speaking of listening, I was intrigued by an essay from longtime favorite P.J. O'Rourke, whose thoughts on conservative talk radio may apply to all talk radio -- or even politics in general:

    Arguing, in the sense of attempting to convince others, seems to have gone out of fashion with everyone. I'm reduced to arguing with the radio. The distaste for political argument certainly hasn't made politics friendlier—or quieter, given the amount of shouting being done by people who think one thing at people who think the same thing.

    But I believe I know why this shouting is popular. Today's Americans are working harder than ever, trying to balance increasing personal, family, and career demands. We just don't have time to make ourselves obnoxious. We need professional help. (Via Andrew Sullivan.)

    I have noticed a growing amount of shouting in the blogosphere; even occasionally in comments left (and right) on my blog. Whether it's a form of therapy or demonstrates a collective need for therapy is beyond my competence!

    And Glenn Reynolds' remarks about taking things too seriously are well worth, er, taking seriously!

    (Seriously, did I just contradict myself?)

    Free speech is not without its costs.

    posted by Eric at 04:12 PM | Comments (4)

    Mainstreaming leftist lunacy

    The debate over whether the war is the number one issue facing American voters -- and whether Bush or Kerry would be a better steward of that war -- might be obscuring a debate more profound, and more disturbing.

    I think it not only goes to the heart of the attitudes underlying the war issue, but touches on something much deeper: the right of self defense, and of individual survival.

    I'll start with Kerry's much-quoted recent remarks:

    Mr. Kerry also told the largely black crowd at the day care center that there are more blacks in prison than in college.

    "That's unacceptable," he said. "But it's not their fault." (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Kerry (and many Democrats) think being in prison is not the fault of criminals, because it's the fault of others.

    That means that if someone else (depending, I guess, on his race) commits a crime, I am responsible.

    Communitarians who think this way tend to think that if terrorists kill Americans, it is not the fault of the terrorists (who of course shouldn't even be called terrorists), but it's the fault of the Americans for being there, the fault of American policies, the American government, or George W. Bush.

    But the terrorists? It's no more their fault that they kidnaped an American and cut his head off than it would be if some criminals did the same thing here in a street crime.

    The problem with this thinking is that it leads to the stigmatization (and ultimately, to the elimination) of self defense. If the criminal who breaks into my home is not at fault, then how on earth can I be said to have a right to defend myself by harming him? If I have guns, why, they must be taken away, lest I delude myself into thinking that I have the right to use them for anything but target shooting and licensed hunting.

    Likewise, if the United States is attacked by people who are clearly not at fault, national self defense would be just as criminal as individual self defense.

    It all flows logically, once you accept the underlying premise that crimes are not the criminal's fault. Fault is to be determined based on things like power imbalances. If the less "powerful" attack the more "powerful," why, that is not crime. It's not an attack. In fact (though I'm sure Kerry's speechwriters would never acknowledge it), it's a form of "JUSTICE."

    I had thought such thinking was limited to the far left, but I guess it's now mainstream.

    UPDATE: In other mainstream news, the New York Times' Frank Rich is now going to bat for Ted Rall....

    ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: In my haste this morning, I almost forgot that many of the antiwar theoreticians want terrorist attacks treated not as acts of war to be defended against, but (you guessed it!) as "crimes" to be prosecuted.

    This means that even discussions of criminal fault have now taken on global proportions....


    UPDATE: More on terrorists-as-victims from Ralph Peters:

    Arab extremists and dictators have become the ghetto blacks of hard-Left foreign policy. They’re all victims of Washington and bear no personal responsibility for their own errors, failures or crimes. It isn’t the Saddams, Abdullahs, Assads or Mubaraks who oppress the Arab masses, you see. Despots are never guilty--unless they get too chummy with the Americans. Anyway, dictators are victims, too. The mass graves and misery that haunt the Middle East (if such inconveniences must be mentioned at all) are my fault. And yours, dear reader. We’re to blame for all that’s wrong with the world. And don’t you forget it!
    Will someone please explain to me how 9/11 is any more my fault than it would be my fault if someone broke into my house and attacked me?

    MORE: And here's a similar thought from James Lileks:

    ....[B]laming America for the ravings of medieval theocrats is now a legitimate argument in polite society. I’d almost venture to say that a third of the country would conclude that a radiological device exploded in Manhattan would be Bush’s fault, because he made the “evil doers” (roll eyes) super-extra-fancy-grade-AA mad.
    It's our fault because we made them mad by fighting back?

    What next; will teachers tell kids that it's their fault they got beaten up because they made the bully mad? (I'm afraid to ask.....)

    posted by Eric at 08:54 AM | Comments (5)

    Caliph ate here!

    I'm in the mood for satire. And, as a commenter earlier stressed the importance of the Big Mac as an evil American symbol, the more I thought about it, the more I thought, well, why not?

    How about a new American Victory Arch?


    It's an old idea, updated for the times....

    And speaking of old ideas updated for the times, here's another image (at the risk of being morbid -- again). Enemies who enjoy presenting Americans with severed heads of American civilians (and their supporters who think it's justified or that "we" did it) would do well to remember history.


    Yeah, I know. The above is Roman history (Trajan being presented with Dacian heads). Classical Values always looks for answers from ancients, whether on war or on human sexuality.

    But here's some American history:

    Professor Donald Miller: And what’s happening, too, is, a book’s written there, you know, by an American reporter, you know, Guadalcanal Diary.

    Lawrence R. Velvel: Mmm, mmm.

    Professor Donald Miller: And he’s there observing this, and we get this first sense that we’re fighting an enemy that won’t give up.

    Lawrence R. Velvel: Mm hmm, mm hmm.

    Professor Donald Miller: An enemy that has suicidal tendencies that would attack with banzai charges and things like this.

    Lawrence R. Velvel: Mm hmm. Mm hmm.

    Professor Donald Miller: There’s no kamikaze warfare in the area. But, and also, there are, words start to filter out, there are atrocities being committed. And the Marines fall into this. And the jungle, the climate, the heat, the rain, everything, and, and, and just the wearing down of the warfare start to get to people, the mental wearing down where you’re in like a mental torpor.

    Lawrence R. Velvel: Mm hmm.

    Professor Donald Miller: And almost, conscience disappears and, and there’s a, there’s a devolution of morality there, if you will, and that the soldiers admitted to, where they see Japanese atrocities, the beheading, for example, of American prisoners.

    Lawrence R. Velvel: Yeah.

    Professor Donald Miller: And they’re putting Japanese heads on the poles and displaying them to the Japanese.

    Lawrence R. Velvel: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah.

    Yeah, yeah, yeah.....

    Heads you lose!

    posted by Eric at 07:49 PM | Comments (2)

    Armor forever

    This is great stuff, and until today I had no idea that Glenn Reynolds was into it!

    Made his own armor, even?

    All I can say is far out!

    The only thing I would disagree with is the notion that it's geek!

    It's Roman!

    You can see my American version of the Roman gladius here.....

    posted by Eric at 12:40 PM | Comments (1)

    Bush's latest endorsement

    Here's a novel theory in the form of a book by "Anonymous" -- a CIA operative who claims that al Qaida wants to keep Bush in power.

    Anonymous, who published an analysis of al-Qaida last year called Through Our Enemies' Eyes, thinks it quite possible that another devastating strike against the US could come during the election campaign, not with the intention of changing the administration, as was the case in the Madrid bombing, but of keeping the same one in place.

    "I'm very sure they can't have a better administration for them than the one they have now," he said.

    "One way to keep the Republicans in power is to mount an attack that would rally the country around the president."

    This ties in quite well with the well-worn canard that Bush supports al Qaida, of course. It sounds as if someone wants to pre-empt any damage that a terrorist attack might cause the Kerry campaign.

    But if the theory is right, then that must also mean that if al Qaida fails to launch a pre-election attack, that they pulled their punches to help Kerry.

    By making the voters think what? That everything is OK now, so there's no need to keep a hawk in the White House? Then what? That there'd be no more attacks -- in order to keep Kerry in?

    Somehow, it's not making a whole lot of sense to me.

    UPDATE: I was gone all day, and I now see that Glenn Reynolds has linked to this post! Many thanks, and a warm welcome to new readers from InstaPundit!

    posted by Eric at 02:20 PM | Comments (23)

    Self respect comes in more than one flavor....

    Let me start by saying that I greatly respect Andrew Sullivan, and I didn't enjoy writing this post at all, but I felt compelled to do it, because a central reason I blog is my opposition to identity politics. (I'm hoping that maybe what's got me upset was just an offhand, ill-thought-out remark; I make 'em all the time. But who knows?)

    Anyway, Andrew Sullivan recently declared that "no self-respecting gay person could vote for Bush."

    Is this logical?

    Considering the many times Sullivan has defended the war in Iraq (which is the number one reason most people give for being anti-Bush), I will have to assume that Sullivan equates "self respect" with support for same sex marriage.

    If that's the case, I must disagree. Homosexuality is not heterosexuality. There are many differences between gay and straight relationships. The laws and social mores designed for the heterosexual scheme of things reflect these differences. I see no reason why homosexuals should feel the need to ape heterosexuals, and even less reason why they should be forced to do so. This is my biggest objection to same sex marriage. It would place undue pressure on what were once private relationships outside the sweep of society's radar. It would allow gay palimony, gay divorce, and bring the heavy hand of the state where it does not belong. Same sex marriage would not be limited to a "right" chosen voluntarily, because it would create new duties and causes of action which could be used even against homosexuals not wishing to marry. I realize that many do not share my concerns, but I think that to call people who neither need or want the state to enter their lives in such a manner lacking in self respect is a bit of a stretch.

    However, the FMA is another issue, because it would, by making incidents of marriage a suspect category, bring the state into private relationships in another, horrendous, way. I vehemently oppose the FMA, and I disagree wholeheartedly with Bush's support of that ill-written amendment. Why, though, would Bush's support for the FMA make homosexuals who vote for Bush lacking in self respect? What about the many heterosexuals who don't support the FMA? Are they too lacking in self-respect if they vote for Bush? Or must "self respect" touch on important, personal, hot-button issues?

    Let's see..... I am annoyed by many things Bush has done, but I can't say they rise to the point where I'd question my self respect if I voted for him. But I try to separate the personal from the political. As a gun owner and Second Amendment advocate, why isn't my self respect implicated by Bush's support for the assault weapon ban? What about doctors and scientists who are appalled by the ban on cloning and the antics of Leon Kass's Commission? Women who are furious about the abortion issue? Blacks who are furious about a lack of commitment to affirmative action? Are they and many others with pet causes all lacking in self respect if they vote for Bush? And even if someone's feelings about a particular issue are so strong as to implicate that person's self respect, is it then fair of him to judge the self respect of others?

    What about self respect as it applies to the country? Isn't there such a thing as national self respect? Why, I could imagine even homosexuals wholly in favor of same-sex marriage who might be able to put the country's interests ahead of their own (or at least believe in good faith that they were doing that), without suffering from any loss of self respect.

    This is by no means an endorsement of Bush. But I do believe strongly that if homosexuals are free citizens, they should be able to make up their own minds without being shackled to identity politics.

    Thus I am disappointed in Andrew Sullivan's remarks, not because he's decided against Bush, but because he seems to be invoking identity politics.

    And I hate to see identity politics labeled as self respect, because it strikes me as exactly the opposite. It's a form of groupthink. If I had to follow a group, I would not be a free citizen. I could never respect myself.

    MORE: Here's Glenn Reynolds on Andrew Sullivan. Despite many disagreements with Bush (stem cell/biotech/bioethics issues, abortion, gay marriage, the Drug War, etc.), for Glenn Reynolds, the war is

    the number one issue. For Sullivan, I guess, it's not. I had thought that it was.
    I had too.

    But that is not why I am disappointed.

    UPDATE: Much to his credit, Andrew Sullivan addressed my central concern (which was NOT same sex marriage, but identity politics) here:

    One reason why I was so surprised by Jonah Goldberg's assertion last week that I was playing to the gay audience with my non-endorsement of Bush is that I have spent much of my career alienating the gay establishment by arguing against some of their shibboleths. I have opposed hate crime laws; I have had reservations about employment non-discrimination laws; I favored the right of the Boy Scouts to practise discrimination (even while I deplored the discrimination itself); I have challenged AIDS orthodoxy: I have battled victimology in the gay world; I endorsed Dole over Clinton in 1996 and Bush over Gore in 2000; I have praised the drug companies' successes in HIV treatment. Very few members of a minority have been as controversial as I have in the gay world. It just happens that I believe that the Constitution is not the place to decide social policy and that civil marriage is a civil right for all Americans, not just the straight ones. I say that to all audiences. Always.
    That's fair enough for me, and had I read it before I wrote the above post, I probably wouldn't have bothered. (I was beginning to think that either he changed his mind over the years, or else thought that gays who didn't agree with him lacked self respect.)

    posted by Eric at 12:00 PM | Comments (17)

    Moving on without gore....

    All the gore notwithstanding, I was reminded that today is Friday, which is still supposed to be Online Test Day at Classical Values.

    So here we go.


    From the one and only Ghost of a flea, the first test -- "What 'Buffy' Character Are You?" revealed (much to my relief) that I am Angel:

    You are


    "I could see your heart. You held it before you for everyone to see. . . . And more than anything in my life I wanted to keep it safe, to warm it with my own.""

    What "Buffy" Character Are You?

    I note that Nick got the same result. (Always a good omen!)


    The Flea also links to another test -- "Which Jane Austen Character Are You?" -- but the Quizilla link would not load!

    This makes me feel like cheating once again, and I hate to do it, but I think Nick will forgive me, because I have read enough Jane Austen to know I am not in any of her novels.

    So here's my shamelessly cribbed result:

    You aren't a Jane Austen Character!
    What are you doing here? You aren't in any
    of Jane Austen's novels! Go find another quiz!

    Which Jane Austen Character Are You?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    Sorry Nick! You may take whatever disciplinary action you deem in order!


    Speaking of discipline, while I coudn't find any of Marie's usual tests at Ordinary Galoot, she does propose killing all law students.

    I'm grandfathered in, of course.....


    Back in the good old days, there weren't any law students, nor Buffy, nor Jane Austen novels. All we could do was grunt....

    So here's a test from that era, the "Grunty Caveman Test."

    Grrr arrr Rum and Monkey.

    Nggghhaahhh! to you too!


    And here's a small step forward -- to the next stage in human evolution: the ROCK BAND:

    Your The Offspring
    Your The Offspring

    Which Band are you
    brought to you by Quizilla


    I always save the most humiliating test for last, and this one, which makes absolutely no sense, did little more than humiliate me. It's called "What type would fall for you?"

    Ah, the ever so lovely Damien has fallen for you
    cherie. Just look into those eyes. He's dark
    and admirable so be careful. However, I think
    he loves you enough not to hurt you. Or does

    What type would fall for you?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    The problem is, I'm not sure that "Damien" is my type!

    Despite what some of the new readers might think, I'm really not into GORE!

    But for those of you who haven't had enough GORE, well, have I got a treat for you! It's old now, and it was probably too grotesque for most people to handle then, but here it is anyway:


    Again, not my type!

    posted by Eric at 07:34 PM | Comments (4)

    Paul Johnson beheaded

    I just found official confirmation that American civilian Paul Johnson has been beheaded in Saudi Arabia. If you scroll below to my earlier post, you can read more about this sickening story, with links.

    Unfortunately, there are people who do not believe that the enemy is evil, or even that there is such a thing as evil.

    I wonder whether this will have any effect on them.

    UPDATE: More details here, and here.

    UPDATE: Originally posted at 1:48 p.m., but a glitch caused the above to be double posted. I tried to delete one, but both posts still appeared. This will be reposted again if they disappear again.

    More here, along with this statement posted along with the still photographs of Mr. Johnson's beheaded body:

    “In answer to what we promised … to kill the hostage Paul Marshall after the period is over. … The infidel got his fair treatment. … Let him taste something from what Muslims tasted who were long reached by Apache helicopter fire and missiles,” the statement said.

    UPDATE: The pictures may be viewed at the Drudge Report. (Via Wizbang.)

    In case the above link fails (or the photos are taken down), I have posted them here.

    CORRECTION: The link to Wizbang above was wrong; it should be here.

    MORE: I just left the following comment at Wizbang, because I feel strongly that these pictures should be available to all Americans, for the same reasons I gave when I posted the Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg videos:

    I think it is important to make these pictures available to Americans, for the reasons I gave when I made the Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg videos available. There are people who do not think Americans should see them, and that's enough reason to make sure they can be seen. I doubt they'll be shown on the evening news, as there is a persistent resistance to reporting anything which shows our enemies to be evil.

    Had Matt Drudge not posted them, I doubt I would have found them. Probably because of web traffic, Drudge is not loading properly, right now. He may take them down, and I think they should be available to every American who wants to see them. (Especially to those who are unfamiliar with or unwilling to confront the reality of evil.)

    Furthermore, I think all Americans should download and watch the video of what went on daily and routinely at the Abu Ghraib prison under Saddam Hussein.

    Perhaps people can learn to stop expecting the enemy to be reasonable, and to stop judging demons by American standards.

    Or, to echo Steven Malcolm Anderson in the comment below, "Let's roll!"

    UPDATE: Michele Catalano does not think that the pictures of Mr. Johnson should be posted -- anywhere -- and gives this opinion as to why:

    You are whores.

    There is no reason to post these pictures or host them. Wasn't Nick Berg enough? I almost understood then, that people needed to see the capability of evil. Great, we saw it then. It's no different now. I cannot fathom any reason for hosting these pictures except for the rise in stats. It is ghoulish. What difference will a picture of another dead American do? What purpose does it serve? None that I can see.

    From Drudge on down, you all are all snuff vendors. Enough already.

    Much as I respect Michele, I think that Americans need to see these pictures just as much as the Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg videos. If the pictures were on tonight's evening news or in tomorrow's Philadelphia Inquirer, then there'd be no need for anyone to post them on the Internet. I saw no rise in traffic when I posted the Daniel Pearl video, and although my traffic spiked after the Nick Berg video, I would have done the same thing regardless.

    In fact, I felt this way more than two years ago, when I hadn't really begun blogging, had no traffic and no one cared at all.

    Does the question of whether this is "whoring" depend on whether one sees an increase in traffic because of it? Should the fear of such an accusation be a reason not to post about something you feel strongly about? Is there a rule that if you're a smaller blogger who wants more traffic, that you shouldn't be allowed to post gruesome images? What's the logic of that? If I waited until I had lots of comfortable traffic, why should that make any difference?

    All who feel I am a whore can either accept me as I am, or go elsewhere, because I am going to continue to not only to post about things I believe in, but provide links, videos or photographs as I deem it appropriate.

    ADDITIONAL THOUGHT: I seriously doubt that the posting of the pictures of Paul Johnson's beheading would generate any more web traffic than the discussion of the beheading, because Google hits occur because of searches by words. (For example, Paul Johnson beheading.) Thus, the mere discussion of the beheading would yield the same number of hits regardless of whether photographs were posted.

    Something those who discuss this matter at all might want to think about....

    Further, if it is wrong to post the images, then how is anyone to see them? For that matter, who should be allowed to see them? The authorities only? Dan Rather?

    I am reminded of the images of people jumping off the Twin Towers, which were said to be "old news" on the anniversaries of September 11, and thus "inappropriate." I don't think it was inappropriate to post photos of the jumpers, either when they were new, or on anniveraries, and I don't believe that only certain people should have been allowed to see them. It's war, it's gruesome, and considering the levels of denial among so many Americans, the argument can be made that it's inappropriate to sanitize it.

    MORE: Abdulaziz al-Moqrin, the leader of al Qaida in Saudi Arabia was reported killed. At least there's partial justice.

    And Andy McCarthy poses a good question for the big media:

    Every time you parade the Abu Ghraib photos, every time you parrot the patently ridiculous pretension by these repulsive murderers that decapitations are motivated by what those photos depict -- rather than by a belief system that exudes hatred and murder -- you are guaranteeing that there will be more Daniel Pearls, Nick Bergs and, now, Paul Johnsons. You are telling these monsters that they get a free ride: They get to kill, which they would do anyway, and they get to have you tell the world that the proximate cause of the killing is the U.S. government rather than militant Islam. Scorecard: al Qaeda - win, win; America: lose, lose; Americans: die, die.

    There are two possible story lines here: choice (a) Paul Johnson was viciously beheaded today, becoming just the latest of thousands of victims slaughtered by a menace that cannot be managed, need not be culturally understood, and must be totally eradicated; or choice (b) Paul Johnson died today; an Arabic website, upon first breaking the news, explained that his death was retaliation for the scandalous abuse of Iraqi prisoners by occupying U.S. forces in Baghdad, where the Bush administration is alleged to have employed harsh interrogation tactics -- in violation of the Geneva Conventions -- in order to press for intelligence about weapons of mass destruction which have yet to be found.

    Anybody have the slightest doubt which choice we'll be reading and seeing? (Link from Ed Driscoll, via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Not the slightest doubt here. Only the United States can be portrayed as evil. Pictures like those of Paul Johnson shouldn't be shown to the "little people" -- lest they get all upset and get the wrong idea.

    MORE: Michele has apologized for using the word "whore" but stands behind what she said. For newbies here, Michele is one of the best writers (and highest ranked bloggers) in the blogosphere. Someone of her caliber could easily get away with never apologizing for anything -- so this speaks highly of her character.

    She made a good point in her criticisms, though. Still, I have to respectfully disagree, because I think that every one of these incidents should be engraved into our national psyche. Americans have too short of a memory span.

    That said, I completely agree with Michele and Stephen Green on a related matter:

    Looking for the Paul Johnson video? You'll find this one more informative. It shows how our enemies treat each other. Doesn't take much imagination to figure out what they'd do to us, given the chance.
    I downloaded the above and it's truly horrendous.

    In a similar vein, today's Philadelphia Inquirer has a report on grisly Muslim-on-Muslim racist atrocities -- in the Sudan:

    KAILEK, Sudan - The white-robed men on horseback shot two of Hamid Rahman's boys on that scorching afternoon. They were 3 and 6 but weren't the youngest or the weakest to die. The Arab marauders targeted the blind, the disabled, women carrying children - anyone who couldn't run fast enough.

    "They killed even babies," said Rahman, 40, a thin, bearded survivor with sad, glassy eyes that reflected his loss.

    Here, in the furnace of Sudan, an ethnic and political war is burning through the sandy, barren province of Darfur, killing mostly the helpless. It ignores cease-fires and international condemnation while tossing its survivors into a humanitarian abyss.

    The roots of the conflict lie in a long-standing rivalry between nomadic Arab herdsmen and black African farmers amid a government policy of "Arabization" in a province where many inhabitants are black. At least 10,000 people have died and perhaps one million have been chased from their straw huts to temporary refuge as far away as neighboring Chad. Andrew Natsios, the head of the U.S. Agency for International Development, has warned that as many as a million people may die if aid does not reach them soon.

    Government officials attribute the violence to a rebel movement that took up arms 15 months ago, seeking economic development for Darfur and a share of political power. They deny reports of atrocities.

    "There is no ethnic cleansing. There is no genocide," Eltigani Salih Fediel, Sudan's deputy foreign minister, said during an interview in the capital, Khartoum.

    But U.N. officials and human-rights groups are using terms such as ethnic cleansing, genocide and war crimes to describe what is unfolding.

    A U.N. report on conditions in the village of Kailek accuses local government officials of ordering "a policy of forced starvation" and says the government "deliberately deceived the United Nations" by insisting villagers faced no hardships after an anti-rebel sweep.

    Kailek isn't the only place in Darfur to have suffered. But its story, told to a reporter by former residents during a rare government-sanctioned trip last month, is one of a murderous rampage by government-sponsored Arab militias, followed by two months of torture, starvation and systematic rape.

    At the heart of the tale is the role of the militias, called janjaweed - "the men on horses." Across Darfur, they have unleashed their fury on black African tribes - the Zaghawa, Fur and Masalit - that the government says are allied with the rebels.

    According to survivors, hundreds of janjaweed arrived in the Kailek area in early February, wielding swords and guns. They galloped from village to village, slaughtering hundreds of black Africans, all Muslims like themselves. Truckloads of government soldiers in camouflage fatigues helped them.

    What's the U.N. doing about it? Obsessing over the big bad United States!

    (Frankly, I was surprised to see the above in my newspaper.)

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds has much more (with many links on the Sudan/Darfur carnage). All worth reading, with much more detail than the above story.

    MORE: Ted Rall reflects on the Johnson beheading:

    As we consider these gruesome murders, we should consider them on par with the gruesome murders of 800+ American servicemen and women and close to 100,000 Iraqi and Afghan civilians and soldiers killed during Bush's two wars. Bush's hands are dripping with their blood, just as surely as the men who drew the knives across Berg and Johnson's throats. They're all tragic; unnecessary and pointless. The difference is that their deaths aren't on tape.
    Rall is among the many who think Bush is responsible for virtually all terrorism in the world today. (Never mind Somalia, the first attack on the World Trade Center, Khobar Towers, the African embassy bombings, the U.S.S. Cole, etc.....)

    UPDATE: The Paul Johnson video has now been made available. More here.

    UPDATE: People who are showing up here might also want to read my more recent post about dedicating these beheading videos to a "great American patriot" who has voiced support for the beheaders:

    ....in addition to a warning about the violence, I ought to have a dedication before every video.

    Let's see, how does it go?

    "The beheading video you are about to see is dedicated to Michael Moore -- a great American patriot who is spreading the truth."

    Just giving credit where credit is due, folks! As long as people are willing to stand in line to support this great American patriot, I think it's the least I can do....

    posted by Eric at 01:48 PM | Comments (30) | TrackBacks (3)

    Where were you in '72?

    Today being the 32nd Anniversary of Watergate, I should observe it by making a rather odd observation: but for Watergate, blogging as we know it would not exist.

    That's because Watergate was much more than the downfall of Richard Nixon; it was the triumph of a new, unelected power in America, the modern mainstream media, or Big Media.

    Yet the Big Bang of Big Media was built on a Big Lie.

    When I realized what had happened with Watergate (that in their haste to nail Nixon, nobody ever did a thorough investigation of the burglary which led to the coverup and resignation), I devoted an enormous amount of time trying to do what one person could to rectify it. There wasn't any such thing as blogging.

    There was talk radio, though. That started as a way for the "little guy" to have his say about Big Media, as well as talk back directly to Big Media. And talk radio paved the way for blogging as we know it today.

    I have said this many times, and I'll say it many more times: Had there been such a thing as blogging, the underlying sex/prostitution scandal (hidden as it was in plain sight) would have been made known, and the operatives in both parties would have been sent scattering back to the drawing board.

    I know that's a big what-if, and I am not trying to write an alternate history here. I only want to pause to take this anniversary occasion to thank the blogosphere for existing, with a hat tip to the foundation of modern Big Media -- the unresolved scandal and coverup called Watergate.

    Truth's a lot harder to hide because of the blogosphere, and Big Media's Big Wall is starting to show cracks.

    posted by Eric at 06:04 PM | Comments (6)

    Virginia voids private contracts

    Here's a new report on Virginia's attempt to block private contracts between homosexuals.

    The law says, “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.”

    Gov. Mark R. Warner attempted to amend the bill last month to eliminate its sweeping references to contracts and other agreements, but legislators overruled him and approved the original wording.

    The author of the law, Del. Robert G. Marshall, R-Prince William, said it is worded to prevent any type of civil union or domestic partnership from being recognized in Virginia. Although Massachusetts and Vermont are the most permissive states, other states, individual cities and businesses allow couples to register as domestic partners.

    A specific list of rights is attached to such partnerships, and some are so extensive that they are similar to civil unions.

    “Civil union is a proxy for marriage,” Marshall said. “Domestic partnerships are a proxy for civil unions. You’ve got to cover all these bases, or they’ll find a loophole. That’s why this law is very thorough.” (Via Wizbang.)

    It is one thing not to allow same sex, state-sanctioned marriage, but for a state to refuse to allow private contracts which grant "privileges or obligations of marriage" is an unbelievable invasion of human freedom.

    I think this statute is unconstitutional, but it shows the vindictive nature of those who spend their time (and taxpayers' money) obsessing over the morality of people's private lives.

    As I've said before, the Family Marriage Amendment is a back-door attempt to do the same thing. Instead of merely prohibiting same sex marriage, it transforms the "incidents of marriage" into a suspect category.

    Whether or not the country wants same sex marriage, I seriously doubt that the majority of Americans want the government (or self-appointed busybodies) scrutinizing people's lives and private contracts to eradicate conduct which might be called "incidents" of marriage.

    There are some people, though, who think that merely living together and enjoying sexual relations are "incidents" of marriage which should be prohibited. (A modern alternative to sodomy laws, perhaps?)

    Long term, I think they'll lose.

    posted by Eric at 05:30 PM | Comments (5)

    Rats, vermin, and Michael Moore....

    Via Glenn Reynolds' link, I learned that the Hezbollah-supported Michael Moore has hired veteran Democrat dirt digger extraordinaire Chris Lehane to do what people like that do:

    Michael Moore is so afraid of a loose, informal, web-based movement of hardworking American citizens who would dare to question him, that he has now hired a man as reviled as Chris Lehane to protect his movie and the box office glory he so desperately, desperately craves
    Lehane (fired by John Kerry, and returning fire when hired by Wesley Clark), is no more popular with the left (Kos called him an "asshole") than he is with the right.

    An AP report states:

    his ferocity strikes fear into opponents´ campaigns. ...

    Lehane referred to himself as a "master of disaster."

    And here's Brent Barksdale:
    Chris Lehane and Mark Fabianni are good at what they do. They know how to get their clients out of a jam by going on the attack and changing the issue. During the Clinton years they were responsible for digging up dirt on Senators, Congressmen and Special Prosecutors who dared investigate the numerous Clinton scandals including Whitewater and Vince Foster. They did the same to those who were pursuing Gore’s 1996 fundraising scandals. And don’t even get me started on the DUI leak from Kennebunkport, Maine (Chris Lehane’s hometown).

    (Hey, and let's not forget the Kerry intern scandal....)

    John Cole is less subtle in his assessment of Lehane:

    Lehane is without a doubt the sleaziest human being in politics (move over Blumenthal), a thoroughly reprehensible loud-mouthed little punk who is now only the second person to make me physically angry every time I see him on tv (Michael Savage, who I saw twice on MSNBC, is numero uno- even Lehane can't shake a stick at that disgusting piece of bile). I wish Lehane had been in the studio with Matthews, because I bet he would have puched the little twerp. At anyrate, I would love to see John Kerry make it so this smug punk never works in politics again.
    Then there's this from Ace of Spades:
    As odious as Chris Lehane is, I am convinced he's working for our side.

    Oh, he might not think he's working for our side. But objectively he is. Even liberal reporters recoil from him as if he were a stinking rummy with his dick hanging out of his haggard pants.

    He's kind of like a metrosexual Nosferatu. Every time this lisping nightwalker appears, I get the willies something awful.

    I am convinced he has the power to command rats and vermin with his voice. Somebody must take his simpering seriously, I figure.

    It's a mystery to me how someone so bereft of charm, grace, or rhetorical persuasiveness could have possibly worked himself up to such a high position in media relations.

    Well, I guess it depends on how you define "media relations...."

    Lehane, by the way, blamed George W. Bush for his stolen laptop.

    Kerry was smart to get rid of him.

    Was Moore dumb to hire him? Moore and Lehane seem to be cut from the same cloth.

    I have no idea whether this an indication of Democratic Party strategy, although John Cole argues that the Moore-Lehane alliance is "evidence that the DNC is reaching out to embrace Moore, and fully intends to use his agitprop to their political advantage."

    I guess we'll stay tuned, like it or not.

    I will say this: my tolerance for Michael Moore ended with Bowling for Columbine, and my intolerance was cemented firmly into place with his September 11 remarks. If the Democratic Party embraces him, that will mean that they have finally rejected liberalism in favor of anti-American leftism.

    MORE ON MOORE: Christopher Hitchens makes an offer that I suspect Michael Moore's hired goons will be certain to refuse:

    [A]s for the scary lawyers—get a life, or maybe see me in court. But I offer this, to Moore and to his rapid response rabble. Any time, Michael my boy. Let's redo Telluride. Any show. Any place. Any platform. Let's see what you're made of. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    UPDATE: There is no 9/11 survivor more articulate than Jeff Jarvis, who reviews Fahrenheit 911 here:
    ....Moore is just he mirror image of what he despises. He is the O'Reilly... the Bush of the left.

    After leaving the theater and walking by the black man now shaking his head at what Moore had wrought and the people with bring-down-Bush clipboards, I made my way back to New Jersey through the PATH train at the World Trade Center where, most of you know, I was on 9/11. And now I was shaking my head. Michael Moore did not present bin Laden and the terrorists and religious fanatics (from other lands) as the enemy who did this. No, to him, our enemy is within. To him, our enemy is us. And that's worse than stupid and sad and it's most certainly not entertaining. It's disgusting. (via Glenn Reynolds.)

    The review is so good it's worth an entire post. So go read it!

    AND STILL MORE: (Also via Glenn Reynolds) Roger L. Simon points out that Moore can't -- won't -- even answer a simple question put to him by a 17 year old:

    ....[H]e asked the budding mogul what he thought of Hezbollah being involved in the distribution of Fahrenheit 911. "Shockingly," Moore shined him on with some comment about some people believing there were Martians on Earth (or the equivalent). But Ledeen came armed with a follow-up, having phoned Moore's distributor who had already affirmed the rumor. Then the "courageous documentarian" simply stonewalled and changed the subject.
    What a man! It takes real courage to belittle a 17 year old who's done his homework!

    posted by Eric at 12:05 PM | Comments (3)

    My camera almost had an incident....

    Earlier this afternoon I was stuck in a HUGE traffic jam on I-95 South in Maryland, bumper to bumper, moving at the rate of barely a tenth of a mile per minute. Fortunately I had my camera, and here's the thrilling scene:


    It's maddening not to know what's going on, but finally I got closer to the action, which looked like this:


    I had noticed that there were far more cops whizzing by than is usual, and when I got to the scene, there were at least ten police cars, maybe more. A large group of officers were standing around talking animatedly; they definitely appeared excited about something. Odd, because I couldn't see any pile-up or anything like that.

    At last I saw the wreck, and understood what the excitement was about:


    (And I'll have my readers know that I was glared at for taking that last picture!)

    posted by Eric at 08:45 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)

    No Geneva Convention rules here!

    Buried in an article on teenage rent commissars at the Berkeley Daily Planet, I found confirmation of one of my pet theories about why aggrieved citizens refuse to involve themselves in the political process. The reason given here -- by Berkeley landlord Michael Wilson, who refuses to run for the Berkeley rent control board -- is a classic:

    "Paying for this bureaucracy is a joke," said BPOA President Michael Wilson. "They refuse to come to grips with the fact that instead of spending $3 million on a program that is less and less important, the money should go directly towards needy tenants."

    So does Wilson plan on running a landlord slate to regain a foothold on the board for the first time since 1998?

    "People would rather have their fingernails pulled off with rusty pliers than sit through those meetings," he said. "The answer is no."

    The problem is, leftist windbags (and doubtless, some ideologues from the other side) love nothing more than to sit through these endless meetings. They feel important, and they can pontificate and debate all night.

    I know. I used to attend such meetings.

    Public torture. After a while, you're ready to agree to almost anything if only they'd just shut up and let you go home. (That's exactly how they win.)

    posted by Eric at 11:11 AM | Comments (4)

    More from the enemy....

    This looks grim to me. (Al Qaida's demons have released video of the captured American Paul Johnson, showing him in a very tormented state, clearly being threatened by a horrible death.) Picture here.

    I suspect there's another Islamist snuff film coming. (Take a look at this site.)

    Sickeningly familiar pattern:

    "My name is Paul Marshall Johnson, Jr.," the seated hostage says in the tape, an elaborate tattoo on his left shoulder. "I am an American. ... I work on Apache helicopters."


    While I don't know whether they've killed Mr. Johnson, I think it's important that Americans see the nature of the enemy to the extent they can stand it, and therefore (as I did with the Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg videos) I am making the video of this sickening incident (what the enemies have released so far) available for downloading here.

    NOTE: Please be patient, as it took me some time to upload the video -- which is in the form of a zip file. (If it doesn't work, try later.)

    UPDATE: The video (which is in Real Audio) can also be streamed here.

    MORE: Notwithstanding worldwide reports like this calling the al Qaida hostage takers terrorists, today's Philadelphia Inquirer nonetheless describes them as "extremists."

    Does that mean we should declare war on extremism?

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links to a fascinating story about things you won't see:

    June 16, 2004 -- THE video only lasts four minutes or so — gruesome scenes of torture from the days when Saddam Hussein's thugs ruled Abu Ghraib prison. I couldn't bear to watch, so I walked out until it was over.

    Some who stayed wished they hadn't. They told of savage scenes of decapitation, fingers chopped off one by one, tongues hacked out with a razor blade — all while victims shriek in pain and the thugs chant Saddam's praises.

    Saddam's henchmen took the videos as newsreels to document their deeds in honor of their leader.

    But these awful images didn't show up on American TV news.

    In fact, just four or five reporters showed up for the screening at the American Enterprise Institute think tank, which says it got the video via the Pentagon. Fewer wrote about it.

    No surprise, since no newscast would air the videos of Nick Berg and Wall Street Journal reporter Danny Pearl getting decapitated, or of U.S. contractors in Fallujah getting torn limb from limb by al Qaeda operatives.

    But every TV network has endlessly shown photos of the humiliation of Iraqi prisoners by U.S. troops at Abu Ghraib. Why?

    Why indeed....

    MORE: The terrorists' web site has been shut down, with the following explanation:

    This site has currently been removed for violating our TOS/AUP

    We have received a lot of emails from viewers, concerned with the nature of content in which we host. We would like to inform you all, that HostingAnime does not support terrorism or attacks against our Country/Soldiers in anyway, shape or form..

    Meanwhile, the U.S. refuses to negotiate with the terrorists, the so-called "Fallujah Brigade," which has issued this statement:
    "The Fallujah Brigade has killed the director of this team and kidnapped one of its engineers, Paul Johnson, and if the tyrannical Saudi government wants their American master to be released, then they have to release our holy warriors that are held in Ha'ir, Ruweis and Alisha prisons within 72 hours of this statement's date."
    More detail here.

    MORE: What has not received quite as much attention was the same group's murder and apparent beheading of another American, Robert Jacobs, who also worked in Saudi Arabia:
    Jacobs was shot dead last week near his home in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He worked for the Vinnell Corp, which trains the Saudi National Guard.

    The killers -- there are two -- chase Jacobs, who screams, "Wait, wait! No, no!"

    He is then shot several times in the head.

    At least three casually dressed men were involved. One who isn't seen firing shots at Jacobs appears in the next video sequence. It looks like he's cutting Jacobs' throat.

    No gore, like the beheadings of Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg. The only similarities are these: All three killings were videotaped, and all three men were Jewish. The latest video even describes the victim as "American Jew Robert Jacobs, who worked for the spy group Vinnell."

    The videotape (a Real media file) can be found here. It begins and ends with the expected propaganda. It also deserves your thought. The same alleged Qaeda cell that claims Jacobs as a trophy also says it has kidnapped another American in Riyadh -- all part of a campaign to drive infidels from their land.

    I agree with Senator McCain, who thinks the Saudis' game is catching up with them:
    Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said Wednesday the Saudis were "paying a price for funding organizations that carry on active terror around the world.''

    "The Saudis for years had some kind of a tacit agreement with the al-Qaida and other terrorists that they would not carry out acts of terror within Saudi Arabia in return for a wink and a nod on the part of Saudis about a lot of their activities,'' McCain said on NBC's "Today'" show.

    The Saudis have been playing -- and overplaying -- this double game for far too long.

    Why not a Hashemite restoration?

    Must we continue to support a dysfunctional regime which deliberately lets terrorists escape?

    UPDATE: Stephen Green suspects that Paul Johnson is already dead, and his argument makes a lot of sense. Why should terrorists bother keeping the guy alive and making demands they know are sure not to be met?

    If he is dead, it's one way to buy time while Saudi authorities search for them in the futile hope of saving Paul Johnson. The terrorists might not even be in Saudi Arabia right now.....

    More from Kevin Aylward, and from Joe Gandelman.

    Might the terrorists think that this new tactic -- releasing a video of an about-to-be-killed hostage coupled with demands -- is a good way to persuade Americans of anything? I certainly hope that Paul Johnson is still alive, but I can't see how any of this would soften our resolve. If anything, it might intensify it. If they seriously believe that Americans will now want to "reason" with them, they're more deluded than I thought.

    MORE: The horrific Iraqi torture video mentioned above has been available (for downloading) by Stephen Green and is also available at the American Enterprise Institute's site. (Via Stephen Green.)

    UPDATE (6-18-04): I just heard the news that Paul Johnson's captors have announced his beheading, and have released photos on the Internet.

    posted by Eric at 09:55 PM | Comments (3)

    Hamsters don't waffle!

    Lest anyone continue to think John Kerry is a waffler, my old favorite Jodi Wilgoren has leaped to his defense in a piece called "Behind the Scenes, a Restless and Relentless Kerry." Her spin is that Kerry's not a waffler, but a very busy, eclectic hamster-man, who's so complicated that it really isn't fair to characterize him at all unless you get to know him:

    BOSTON, June 12 — Like a caged hamster, Senator John Kerry is restless on the road. He pokes at the perimeter of the campaign bubble that envelops him, constantly trying to break out for a walk around the block, a restaurant dinner, the latest movie.
    It's tough to know what to make of this. Could Jodi be up to her old tricks? Is this a stab in the back disguised as flattery, or is it real praise? Already, conservatives have picked up on Kerry the hamster (and it certainly seems that comparing a candidate to a rodent is not usually a form of adulation), but I must note that Jodi Wilgoren's idea is neither new nor original.

    Before the Wilgoren article "KERRY IS MY HAMSTER" T-shirts were proudly marketed by Kerry supporters -- the theory being that "I'd vote for a hamster if I thought it would get Bush out of office!".

    The idea definitely needs a little exploration. Hamsters lead very busy and restless lives, without regard to habitats or habitrails. Male hamsters have very large, prominent testicles. (They also live short lives, tend to develop untrustworthy personalities, and are susceptible to bladder stones.) Hamsters are sophisticated international critters (major varities include the Syrian, Dwarf Campbells Russian, Dwarf Winter White Russian, Chinese, and European Hamsters) are nocturnal, and have incisors. OK, they're restless, and, er, incisive.

    This restlessness is one of many facets of Mr. Kerry's style and personality that is all but invisible to most voters in this era of stage-managed politics, where authentic insights into the people who would be president are precious few. Though it is impossible to know what Mr. Kerry is like when no one is watching him, observations on the campaign trail over several months, combined with interviews with politicians and aides who spend time by his side, help flesh out the one-dimensional portraits of Mr. Kerry as war hero or waffler proffered by the two sides' television advertisements.
    Here are some choice glimpses of Kerry on the campaign treadmill:

    relentless polisher, going over and over even well-worn sections of his stump speech until moments before delivery.

    a diligent greeter, never speeding through a hotel kitchen without handshakes. He is chronically and unapologetically late — for campaign events, for meetings, even for church

    an avid and able athlete, though he sometimes seems physically awkward, with custom-made clothes hanging off his lanky frame as he pumps a fist at rallies

    A former prosecutor, he employs a Socratic style in policy talks with aides and advisers, though he rarely goes beyond chitchat in conversations that could be caught on camera.

    His formal statements are filled with multisyllabic upper-crust phrasing — his campaign had an intern whose main responsibility was to look up all the unfamiliar words Mr. Kerry uttered — but one on one, he calls strangers "man" or "brother." He is careful to use people's names — he has interrupted himself more than once to introduce sign-language interpretations — yet he rarely remembers them.

    strums his Spanish classical guitar in a kind of musical meditation. Lately, in the private front cabin of his campaign plane, he has been learning a new (old) song, "This Land Is Your Land."

    Up on pop culture more than most people running for president; at the same time, he's read all these books by people whose names I can't pronounce."

    "An awful lot of what appears to be standoffish is a sort of shyness in him."

    Mr. Kerry is anything but simple and straightforward, a man of many sides and surprises, some seemingly contradictory.

    constantly on a cellphone, seeking counsel from a wide circle or conveying concerns to staff members

    the least interested in polling data of any politician they have known, rarely reviewing drafts of questions as Mr. Clinton did or calling for overnight updates like former Vice President Al Gore. But he is deeply involved in tiny details on policy, and spends hours fiddling with speech drafts. (This is an improvement; before a speech at Georgetown University that helped open his campaign in January 2003, Mr. Kerry was so preoccupied with the speech that he had to trim his fund-raising activities for three days.)

    "He doesn't take anything as a given. He wants to understand and internalize and come to grips with everything in his own way and understand everything as completely as possible. He's not satisfied until he's achieved a level of perfection he's willing to call his own."

    Then there is John Kerry the father figure, who drove an hour after landing from an overseas flight to attend the 2001 nuptials of his press secretary, David Wade, who has not seen his own father since he was a baby. And Mr. Kerry arranged his schedule last month to attend the Washington wedding of Jill Alper, a longtime political aide, sitting next to her single mother during the ceremony. He took a break from the Iowa Jefferson-Jackson Day Dinner to give a toast via telephone to the Florida marriage of a Navy crewmate, Del Sandusky.

    John Kerry the athlete is constantly on display. In New Hampshire in January, there were hockey games with the pros. This spring, there were ubiquitous pictures of him snowboarding. And now, a day off rarely passes without a photo opportunity of him whizzing by on a bicycle. It is not, as with Mr. Bush, mainly an exercise regimen; there remains in Mr. Kerry a prep-school cultivated competitive sensibility

    chafing at the confines of his celebrity. He had been to a Sox game a few days before, in the fourth row between the plate and third base, with a stop at the owners’ box. He spent much of the afternoon signing autographs and saying hello.

    “I hardly got to see any of the game,” he lamented.

    Hey, it's tough being a hamster!

    And I have nothing against hamsters personally. Well, when I was a kid we had a pair who ate their babies, but I'm sure Kerry doesn't do that. But is this a winner as a campaign strategy? Not sure, but it's an old idea.....

    Only time will tell.

    UPDATE: Hamsters are legendary for their cheeks. Teresa Heinz Kerry has just described herself as "cheeky."

    Coincidence, no doubt!

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

    I got my column out just in time!

    Timing is everything, and I haven't had much lately. Today I installed a new steering column in my Jeep. An '89 YJ I hardly use anymore, it sat around too long outside, and the wiring inside the column (which contains the ignition switch/steering lock assembly, turn signals, wiper controls, squirter unit, flasher unit, headlight switches, and God-knows-what else) was so messed up that the Jeep would not start or run. Yesterday -- thanks to the Internet -- I found a steering column from a '91 Wrangler which included the stock steering wheel.

    Complete, local, and cheap (fifty dollars less than ebay!).

    It wasn't terribly easy getting the old one off, as nuts were rusted, and I wasn't terribly familiar with how to disconnect everything, but it finally came out, and of course putting the new one in was much easier.

    It started right up, the turn signals work, the windshield wipers and squirter work, and the steering wheel was centered perfectly without my having to remove it and put it back on. (A relief, as I don't have a steering wheel puller handy!)

    I just drove it around the block and it seems fine. No pull or anything like that.

    And just as I finished, Tllaloc struck, and the rain started to pour. I set the old column down on my front porch, and I thought it looked so much like a lamp that I put a globe on it.


    I suppose it could still be useful as a lamp. (There's plenty of room inside for wires.)

    If only I had this statue of Tlaloc to go on top of it.... I might be able to steer the weather!

    posted by Eric at 04:59 PM

    Death sucks at least as much as gun control!

    Is there a constitutional right to live forever?

    While only a fool would maintain there is (at least in the sense of positive rights), it's quite another thing to proclaim that the government (or anyone else) has the right to stop us from living as long as we want.

    As long as we want.

    That's the key here. Clayton Cramer (responding to Glenn Reynolds' Tech Central Station article) doesn't share the view of others who might want to extend their lives, arguing that he wouldn't want to live longer himself:

    As you get older, your high hopes and ambitions inevitably collapse around you. The wonders of travel turn into a series of disappointments. Your high hopes for your children come crashing down, especially when you discover the moral ugliness of the culture in which you are raising them. (Via InstaPundit.)
    While I haven't seen my high hopes and ambitions collapse (for they were never that high to begin with) there's no way I can disagree with someone else's assessment of life, and in any event no one should ever be able to tell anyone how long he or she should live. Mr. Cramer is not happy with political and cultural directions in this country and so (unless I am reading him wrong), he does not want to extend his life. He does not say that others shouldn't though.

    I could see how the same argument (that society is headed in the wrong direction) might just as well be an argument in favor of living longer, though. How else to influence things so that one might make a difference?

    Life for me has never been "fresh and new" or "full of optimism and hopes." I think it's better now than it has been for a long time, but that may change. Nearly two decades ago, I sank into a decade-long depression, and I refused all medication and gave up on therapy of any sort. I took charge of my own life, and eventually, things got better (something I have posted about before). But it's really my business how I want to live my life, and whether I want to live longer or not. Just as no one should have the right to force me into their kind of therapy, nor should anyone have the right to stop me from refusing it.

    Thus, I am completely supportive of at least the right to pursue life extension, just as I support the right to pursue happiness as long as no one else is harmed. I have no idea whether I will want to avail myself of new technologies.

    But I am no more willing to allow others to prevent me from having them than I am willing to let them take away my right to self defense.

    Yet, just as there is a serious gun control movement, there is a serious life control movement. These things are not the government's business. If you don't like guns, don't own them. If you don't want to live longer, then don't.

    But just as they are my guns, it's my life!

    NOTE: One of these days I am hoping to persuade Justin Case (who's much more knowledgeable about life extension than I) to start posting on these matters.

    posted by Eric at 05:19 PM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

    Liberal or leftist?

    Here's an interesting distinction for those like me who are plagued by ideologues who love to define other people by using undefined terms:

    If you tend to regard America as a primarily flawed, evil, unjust, racist country (or at least when Republicans are running it), and most importantly, believe that the US is the primary threat to world peace internationally, then you are a leftist, and not a liberal..... (Via Donald Sensing.)
    Donald Sensing offers much more, including these brilliant insights from Michael Totten :
    Broadly defined, a liberal is a person who believes in social, political, and economic freedom. In the United States, both major parties are liberal. Most members of both support democracy, civil and human rights, and a market economy. ...

    Each party is more liberal than the other in certain ways. ... Both parties champion freedom in different ways, and they do it on principle. Both parties have different liberal priorities, but they’re both generally liberal. ...

    A liberal (substitute with Democrat if you want to) believes in reform. And a leftist supports revolution. Liberals (Democrats) are the left-wing of the Establishment. Leftists are radicals who seek to overthrow the Establishment (either through violence or the ballot box) and replace it with something else. ...

    Liberals see America as the land of opportunity and freedom. Leftists see America as the bastion of Imperialism, Racism, and Oppression.

    Liberals want higher taxes on the rich because it’s fairer to the middle and working classes. Leftists want to soak the rich out of class hatred.

    Liberals want universal access to health care while leaving the system as market-driven as possible. Leftists would destroy the health care industry altogether and replace it with a state-run monopoly.

    Liberals want to ban clear-cutting. Leftists want to ban the logging industry.

    Liberals support globalization and trade and see it as an opportunity for economic growth and also as an opportunity to boost labor and environmental standards in the Third World. Leftists hate trade because they think it’s all about the West raping the rest.

    Liberals blame the September 11 attacks on religious and political extremism in the Middle East. Leftists blame the September 11 attacks on America.

    Donald Sensing (whose post is a must-read) concludes,
    liberals affirm while the Left despises the idea of America.
    According to the above, I am a liberal. The problem is that so are many conservatives. Yet many who call themselves liberals call anyone who fits the above definition (but who is not a leftist) a "conservative." And many who call themselves conservatives use the terms "liberal" and "leftist" interchangeably to describe anyone who doesn't agree with them on every point.

    The problem is that if Sensing is correct that "today's conservatism is awfully similar to JFK liberalism, and much of today's liberalism is similar to old-style conservatism" then the labels are losing any true meaning.

    Which means that open-minded Americans -- who agree that freedom is a good thing and America is a good country -- can find much in common.

    (Including, unfortunately, the fact that they'll be attacked by ideologues who hate open minds, and love false dichotomies....)

    UPDATE: In a timely and related post, Jeff Jarvis debunks the Culture War as a product of politicians as well as the wishful imagination of journalists, and concludes by asking why these manufactured divisions prevent big story from being reported:

    But there is still a big story to be reported and written here: Are we really a nation divided? And if not -- and I see evidence here that we are not -- then how did this become the accepted wisdom of media and politics? Who benefits from this chronic illusion of internal war? Who helped foster this myth? What questions did reporters and editors fail to ask? When we concentrate on disagreements in a democracy, are we painting democracy as a failure? But when we concentrate on the agreements in a democracy, don't we instead paint a picture of the shared values of the nation?

    And why aren't media reporting -- admiting -- today that we are a nation? Just that: A nation.

    We are America. Today, of all times -- as others attack us because we are American -- it is vital that we acknowledge our nationhood and define it, not out of patriotism or ethnicity (we have none) but as a matter of principle, the principle we are defending and fighting for.

    We are not a nation divided. Hell, we are not even a world divided. Most Americans, most people, are just people trying to get through a day and a life and do the decent thing and improve their future and avoid politics. It is a mistake -- it is a damned and dangerous lie -- to paint the extremists as normal, whether those extremists are of political or religious.

    We're not red v. blue. We're Americans. It's the world vs. America. It's Islamic nut jobs vs. America.

    There's the story that needs reporting. (Via InstaPundit.)

    I'm very tempted to say "Amen."

    posted by Eric at 02:28 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)


    Do I hear a drumroll?

    It's official ribbon-cutting time......

    So, a warm, brand new WELCOME to all, here at the newly redesigned Classical Values!

    I hope everyone likes the blog's new layout and graphics. While I very much liked the old one, it's been a year and I thought it was time for a "facelift."

    My deepest thanks to Sekimori's brilliant designer Robyn L. Pollman, (whose portfolio can be seen here). Robyn has worked with me for weeks on this, and deserves a medal for putting up with my neurotic demands.

    Last but not least, I want to thank you, all my readers, for continuing to inspire me to do this.

    (And Robyn, now it's time for your victory dance!)

    UPDATE: Out of deference to President Reagan's funeral, I'm post-dating (?) this post to Saturday, June 12. The champagne will have to wait till after the funeral.

    But remember, life goes on.

    On a rainy day like this, I wish I could fly to sunny California, of which Ronald Reagan said,

    If the Pilgrims had landed in California, the East Coast would still be a wilderness.

    posted by Eric at 09:51 AM | Comments (13) | TrackBacks (1)

    Classical pretty boy finally puts out!

    (But not the way you might think.....)

    Last night I was pleasantly surprised by the movie Troy. I'd heard it wasn't historically accurate, but the real history of Troy is still so much in dispute that I wouldn't allow that to deter me. I have never been much of a Brad Pitt fan either, because I can't stand hype, and he always seemed to be relying on his pretty boy image.

    Well, I have to admit to a new respect for Brad Pitt as an actor. His Achilles really worked for me. Achilles was the ultimate pretty boy anyway; after all he was a Greek demigod. I never noticed it before, but Pitt actually has the archaic smile, and even archaic eyes. Peering through the visor of his helmet, there is something distinctly magical about the whole look. And as a classical actor, Pitt held his own against the great Peter O'Toole, who at age 72, delivered a fantastic performance as Priam, King of Troy.

    Achilles' relationship with Patroclus did seem a bit constrained by Hollywood realities, especially considering the traditional story. I'm sure that Brad Pitt's agents wanted to avoid the kind of fallout which would have inevitably resulted had his female fans been forced to witness their heart-throb deliver lines like this to his dearly departed Patroclus:

    You had no consideration for my pure reverence of your thighs, ungrateful after all our frequent kisses.
    There are limits to ingratitude.... (And in Hollywood, things which might appear to be morality are usually driven by money.)

    I know that others disagree, but I think that the Bowdlerization of love (or money-driven morality) in this film is a relatively minor point, especially considering that butchering even recent history is standard Hollywood fare. The film is fun, and the showdown between Brad Pitt and Peter O'Toole is alone worth the price of admission.

    Besides, the historical butchery could have been much worse. The last time I saw a depiction of Agamemnon, the producers went out of their way to make him look exactly like George W. Bush!

    posted by Eric at 04:28 PM | Comments (9)

    Strange bedfellows, Phelps and Rall....

    Move over, Ted Rall! Fred Phelps is your new competition!

    The "REAGAN IN HELL" signs pictured here puzzled me at first, because the accompanying story (and the link in Drudge) said nothing about the demonstrators who held them. I almost assumed they were the usual leftists, but then I noticed that the signs were done in the same style as the ones waved by Fred Phelps and his followers at the "GOD HATES FAGS" rallies. Take a close look here and you'll see a clear resemblance. In today's story, the sign over to the right of the "REAGAN IN HELL" signs says "THANK GOD FOR AIDS."

    Has someone's crossed Rall with Phelps? Or was Phelps ahead of Rall on this one?

    A quick visit to the Phelps hate site discovered this flyer which confirmed my suspicions:

    WBC to picket funeral proceedings of Ronald Reagan June 10 at the Capitol Rotunda and June 11 at the National Cathedral -- in religious protest & warning to a doomed nation:

    Reagan is in Hell!

    He betrayed the Great King! He gave America to sodomites!

    Phelps thinks that being friends with Rock Hudson is a betrayal of America.

    Which makes about as much sense as Rall's rantings.

    But here's a comforting, warm thought: Rall and Phelps will be together for all eternity.

    posted by Eric at 02:05 PM | Comments (9) | TrackBacks (2)

    Ripping through Denial

    It's time for me to attempt to get caught up with my weekly online tests.

    Last week I was gone all day Friday and Saturday, and had no time to look for these damned things (to say nothing of taking them and commenting on the results), and I really had no time until yesterday.

    Fortunately, a couple of favorite bloggers helped me out by posting online tests, so I'll begin with them.

    From the esteemed Ghost of a flea I found a test called "Which Breakfast Club Character are you?"

    I am Claire Standish -- a princess with a dysfunctional family!

    You're Claire Standish! A "princess" with
    a dysfunctional family. You're known to:
    shop,being center of attention, and playing
    miss popularity. But really though you hate
    it... with john Bender as a boyfriend, I'm sure
    people will start to get the hint.

    Which Breakfast Club Character are you?
    brought to you by Quizilla


    Naturally, if I were a princess with a dysfunctional family I would want to run away from it all, so I took the next test -- "Which Extremity of the World Are You?" -- to find out where.

    I am the Nile!
    Which Extremity of the World Are You?
    From the towering colossi at Rum and Monkey.

    Not a bad result for a dysfunctional princess! Aren't such people said to live in "denial"?

    (My thanks to Marie at Ordinary Galoot, who's also the Nile, not denial!)


    What's a dysfunctional princess in denial supposed to do for entertainment? I looked and I looked, and all I could find was an inexplicably weird test which warned only, "YOU ARE - F O R B I D D E N - TO TAKE THIS QUIZ!!"

    Here are my dysfunctional results:

    You are granted the gold star of cool
    peepsieness..You are a person that shines with
    an inner golden light, gifted with genorosity
    and the gift of a freely given kindness that is
    rare in this world. So na! na! poo poo to all
    those who say otherwise!......Click Slake's or
    Lilith's or both 8P

    brought to you by Quizilla

    Gold star of peepsieness? I didn't know what to make of it, but I definitely didn't like it.


    Which led me to balance out my goodie-goodie karma with some bad karma, by taking a test called "Which Evil Criminal are You?"

    I'm Jack the Ripper!

    I am Jack the Ripper. Come here, my pretty ...
    Which Evil Criminal are You?
    A Rum and Monkey crime.

    Now that buoyed my spirits!

    Much better than drowning in de Nile.....

    posted by Eric at 07:25 AM | Comments (2)

    Even SATAN can't beat the SPAMMERS!

    I am being subjected to serious amounts of comment SPAM. Last night there were 205 of them from a single author in India, who is selling "Cialis." The spammer's IP address -- -- is in New Delhi. As a public service I am also providing the contact information (obtained from APNIC) for the registrant of the company name listed in each of the 205 loathsome comments:

    Rahul Dutt rahul@infinityinformations.com 8630126
    Infinity Informations (P) Ltd.
    A-30, Kailash Colony
    New Delhi,ND,India 110048

    Domain Name:dentalclinicsindia.com
    What is it about this damned "Cialis"? Why is it everywhere? I entered the word in Google, which yielded 3,240,000 hits.

    Naturally, such a large Google figure over a very stupid word aroused more than my hackles; the data aroused my curiosity. I decided to do a poll, and see how "Cialis" stacked up against some well-known entries. The results, ranked by size, contain a number of surprises (remember, the following are all out-ranked by CIALIS):

    Satan 3,130,000
    Blogging 3,070,000
    George Washington 2,920,000
    George Bush 2,690,000
    John Kerry 2,500,000
    Bill Clinton 2,440,000
    Thomas Jefferson 2,210,000
    Saddam Hussein 2,130,000
    Benjamin Franklin 1,900,000
    Abraham Lincoln 1,480,000
    Albert Einstein 1,440,000
    Homosexuality 1,380,000
    Osama bin Laden 1,320,000
    Ronald Reagan 1,260,000
    Marilyn Monroe 1,230,000
    James Madison 1,100,000
    Howard Dean 1,040,000
    Nick Berg 910,000
    Marilyn Manson 830,000
    Winston Churchill 756,000
    Watergate 620,000
    Julius Caesar 587,000
    Hillary Clinton 542,000
    Adolf Hitler 522,000
    Sigmund Freud 334,000
    Rasputin 310,000
    Charles Manson 198,000
    Iran-Contra 174,000
    Bisexuality 160,000
    Napoleon Bonaparte 158,000
    Al Capone 154,000
    Monica Lewinsky 150,000
    Pol Pot 142,000
    Joseph Stalin 123,000
    Heterosexuality 121,000
    Timothy McVeigh 105,000
    Jerry Falwell 94,900
    Lee Harvey Oswald 84,200
    Idi Amin 69,000
    Sun Myung Moon 37,400
    Vincent Foster 27,700
    Fred Phelps 19,800
    Sirhan Sirhan 11,400

    I am amazed that all of the above were beaten by "Cialis."

    What, you may be asking, is more popular than "Cialis"?

    I'm not about to spend all day on this, but I found six examples:

    God 58,200,000
    Madonna 6,180,000
    J. Lo 6,060,000
    The Beatles 5,220,000
    Jesus Christ 5,090,000
    (Hmmmm..... I remember when John Lennon got in trouble for such an out-of-context comparison.)
    Allah 3,410,000.
    (Don't look now, Mr. Moon God, but Cialis is closing in fast!)

    What does this mean to me? At the rate I'm going, I may have to turn off all comments, because MT-Blacklist just isn't stopping the SPAM. But I don't want to do that, because I enjoy getting serious comments.

    Maybe I should pray....

    UPDATE: My prayers may have been answered. Dean Esmay points out that there's a new version of MT-Blacklist.


    (And I am in the middle of upgrading this blog....)

    MORE: I notice in today's news that art museums are now getting gratuitous penis spam -- in the form of exhibits! (Maybe I shouldn't take it so personally.)

    posted by Eric at 08:38 AM | Comments (12)

    Ignorance is Strength

    Here's an excellent argument against having kids: a schoolteacher working for American defeat who believes that her public school students should be indoctrinated with socialist doctrines.

    And here are teachers who lost their jobs for trying to answer students' questions. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Lesson? Don't have children, and don't teach!

    It is unreasonable to expect teachers who are being dumbed down to offer their students anything other than what is expected of them. Students who don't pay attention to their drivel are being forcibly drugged, and parents who resist are threatened with jail. (And the police who arrest them are also being dumbed down; the latest trend is to limit officer IQ.)

    In order to teach, one must first obtain a degree in "education", which usually means having to learn Newspeak. Students who used to be graded on their ability to read and understand English are now given passing grades in "language arts," while an "honor student" often means a student who simply attended his classes and wasn't a truant. Of course, in some jurisdictions they're but the latest trend is to abolishing honor rolls entirely.

    Why would so many teachers be creating an educational system in which only the rich can afford a decent education for their kids?

    posted by Eric at 09:52 PM | Comments (2)

    Burning the daft

    The Bonfire is crackling at IMFO this week, with Camille describing the posts described as "sadly daft." Nice combination; here are some of the dafter ones.

  • Kevin is into some very kinky sounding ultraporn.
  • The very esteemed Ghost of a flea offers a quiz near and dear to my heart -- the Barking Moonbat Quiz! (I scored a perfect 50!)
  • Susie has an entry which wrote itself but won't mow her lawn. Hmmmmm.....
  • The American Mind said something about service. (Or, perhaps I insinuated.)
  • Aaron has a cute leftist sock puppet, inspiring Rumsfeld to dance.
  • And check out Mind of Mog's kitties!
  • Finally, I'm with the Everlasting Phelps on linkwhoring!
  • Read 'em all

    posted by Eric at 09:37 PM

    Dying to be left alone?

    In a post at Tech Central Station (via InstaPundit), Professor Bainbridge does an excellent job of defending Ronald Reagan's small government philosophy:

    Reagan was a proponent of negative rights; most notably, Reagan espoused the right to be left alone.
    Bainbridge takes issue with so-called "positive rights" -- the nonsensical notion that there is (or should be) a "right" to have something at the expense of others.

    This right to be left alone is the most fundamental of all rights, and it is what the constitution -- with its central idea of limited government -- was designed to protect. Reagan saw correctly that the role of government had grown way out of hand, and I think he tried to do what one president could to roll it back. But that was nowhere near enough; in the years since he left office, the federal government has continued to grow in size and power, and no matter who's president, he's about as powerless to stop it as King Canute.

    That's because the one thing that once stood in the way of large government -- the constitution -- has been rendered meaningless.

    If you think I'm exaggerating, well, I do keep a copy lying around, and I read it occasionally when I can stand it. Enumerated powers? Ninth and Tenth Amendments?

    Amendment IX

    The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

    Amendment X

    The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

    What a laugh! I see examples daily. There isn't anything which isn't regulated by the federal government, which must give permission to whether, where, and how we are allowed to work, how we live and die, how much we are to be paid, what we are allowed to eat, drink, ingest, or even hear, where we are allowed to live and what we are allowed to build. (Last night some neighbors told me the federal government forbids them from putting a pool anywhere in their two acre yard because it's too close to a local creek and therefore a "federal wetland.") The federal government now must approve every sale of every private home.

    Show me how the Tenth Amendment isn't now just a joke and I'll stop laughing.

    Anyway, what Ronald Reagan said twenty years ago was absolutely right then, and it still looks pretty good when you read it today.

    It's just that it didn't happen.

    Look at the numbers showing the hopelessly, constantly metastasizing federal government.

    And it isn't just about money. While our freedom would be safer if they just piled up the money and burned it, unfortunately, that money goes directly into oppressive regulatory programs that strangle freedom:

    Our out-of-control budget also erodes personal freedom. When government grows, as Thomas Jefferson once famously put it, "liberty yields." Dollar by trillion dollar we are voluntarily giving up our liberties for a government that promises us, in return, a blanket of protection from cradle to coffin. Republicans are steering us in the direction of the "workers' paradise" of a European socialist welfare state. The reply from the Democrats is faster, faster.
    Long ago, we lost the right to be left alone. We're all crowded together on a one-way train towards a paradise of positive rights -- a world in which we are all our brother's keeper, whether we like it or not. A world in which no one has the right to be left alone.

    We can't vote whether to get on or off the train; the only purpose of voting is to elect people who will set its speed to slower or faster.

    Reagan couldn't stop it. Can anyone?

    UPDATE: Megan McArdle offers more on positive "rights" and the tactics of Newspeak:

    make revolution unthinkable by making it impossible to communicate contrary thoughts
    I don't need a dictionary to tell me that "the poor" have no more right to my property than did the British king. I have no duty to either. No amount of obfuscation over the definition of rights can transform one's right to property into a right of others to take it.

    posted by Eric at 08:49 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)

    Hatred as a form of honor

    I didn't want to contaminate my post about Ronald Reagan by reporting Ted Rall's especially vicious remarks on the occasion of his death. But now I see that the link to Rall's hate site has been down for 24 hours. This may mean that Rall has backed off his remarks, although I doubt it. Nonetheless, I think they should be reported, for a couple of reasons. One is that Rall shouldn't be allowed to pretend he didn't write this smear of a much-loved president. Another is that if you think about it, Rall is such a hateful creep that this attack should really be seen as a tribute to Ronald Reagan. To be hated so much by a guy like Ted Rall is an honor!

    In any event, here are Rall's hateful words:

    How Sad...

    ...that Ronald Reagan didn't die in prison, where he belonged for starting an illegal, laughably unjustifiable war against Grenada under false pretenses (the "besieged" medical students later said they were nothing of the sort) and funneling arms to hostages during Iran-Contra.

    Oh, and 9/11? That was his. Osama bin Laden and his fellow Afghan "freedom fighters" got their funding, and nasty weapons, from Reagan.

    A real piece of work, Reagan ruined the federal budget, trashed education, alienated our friends and allies and made us a laughing stock around the world.

    Hmmmm...sounds familiar.

    Anyway, I'm sure he's turning crispy brown right about now.

    While it's not the first time he's attacked the deceased, Rall obviously enjoys out-sliming even his slimy, sanctimonious self.

    But I'm having a little trouble with one thing: what's wrong with "funneling arms to hostages"?

    Likewise, the honors poured in from Cuba's official government media, which reacted exactly how Jonah Goldberg "would want Communist regimes to react to Reagan's passing."

    He would certainly have it no other way. From the Associated Press:

    HAVANA - Cuba harshly criticized former President Ronald Reagan and his policies on Monday, saying he should "never have been born.'' In the first reaction to Reagan's death from the communist government, Radio Reloj said: "As forgetful and irresponsible as he was, he forgot to take his worst works to the grave,'' the government radio station said. "He, who never should have been born, has died,'' the radio said.

    Anybody who garners such vicious hatred after his death -- from geriatric Stalinist murderers and from the execrable Ted Rall -- has been honored by such haters.

    Imagine being loved by the likes of Fidel Castro or Ted Rall! That would be the real disgrace.

    Wherever he is, President Reagan must be very proud.

    As to the "turning crispy brown" remark, I guess it means that Rall believes in hell, but thinks it's run by Communists.

    (He may be getting warm....)

    posted by Eric at 09:02 AM | Comments (3)

    Rebirth of old ideas?

    While it's a bit late to call this a movie review, I saw D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation in its entirety over the weekend. For a silent film, it's quite watchable, notwithstanding its outrageous racism and shameless advocacy of a crackpot cause. It's artistic qualities rank with Leni Riefenstahl's Triumph of the Will, and, symmetrically, the ideologies behind both films are equally nonsensical. This 1915 film is credited by many historians with provoking riots (including riots against the film) throughout the century -- one modern riot, I am told, was responsible for the closing of San Francisco's Richelieu Theater in 1981. (Longer general discussion here, with a New Republic review is posted here.)

    A sympathetic look at the Ku Klux Klan, in its time it was the biggest epic movie sensation ever made. Unfortunately, it led to a dramatic rebirth of the almost extinct Ku Klux Klan. (The original Klan had been disbanded by Nathan Beford Forrest in 1869, who felt that the original purpose of restoring white rule had been accomplished and that the Klan had become too violent and lawless.)

    That this oddly named film would give birth to the new, modern Klan is only one of the contradictions which fascinate me. (I'm also fascinated that the most evil character in the flim is a mulatto, Silas Lynch, because of the unexplained assumption that race mixing produces a greater evil than either of the two mixes. From where derives such shameful logic?)

    Another is its contributition to the rise of censorship.

    1915 was the landmark year in the battle for free expression as that is the year that the movies lost the fight. In an attempt to show their controversial film ‘Birth of a Nation’ (what many consider to be the first American movie), the Mutual Film Corporation challenged the legality of the Ohio Film Board in court on the basis that the Board violated Mutual’s right to free speech. The case went all the way to the United States Supreme Court, where Mutual lost. Justice Joseph McKenna, who wrote the decision for a unanimous court, discussed the dangers of exciting the purient interests in children and audiences of mixed sense and stated that films were a business and not a part of the press. He elaborated:

    "(Films) are mere representations of events, of ideas and sentiments published or known; vivid, useful and entertaining no doubt, but…capable of evil, having power for it, the greater because of their attractiveness and manner of exhibition.”

    Considering what it did for the Klan, The Birth of a Nation certainly makes as good a case for censorship as can be made, for the country really would have been better off without the film ever having been made.

    Not that this changes my mind about censorship. I think people have grown up a great deal since 1915, and are far more cynical, in the healthy sense of that word. Michael Moore can churn his hateful and biased propaganda (while other nuts can call for the extermination of Republicans), and we need not fear that any of it will cause millions of people to join crackpot organizations like the Ku Klux Klan.

    I could be wrong, of course. But I hope not!

    In any case, I maintain that people are responsible for their own actions and opinions; not film makers for allegedly "inspiring" them. Anyone so weak-minded as to be transformed by propaganda films (whether Griffith's Liefenstahl's or Moore's) is unworthy of respect. Censorship is never warranted, for it stifles critical thinking -- the latter in my view being the only way to fight stupidity.

    I do recommend seeing The Birth of a Nation, though, because it's a lesson in the history of film, and the history of popular hysteria.

    More links:




    posted by Eric at 03:16 PM | Comments (2)

    The importance of freedom

    I won't have much time for blogging until tomorrow (like my blogfather, I have had some social obligations), but I can't let the 60th anniversary of D-Day pass without at least mentioning this excellent collection of links. (Via InstaPundit.)

    People forget the sacrifices which were made.

    Jeff also has a very thoughtful and articulate post about Ronald Reagan, whose passing, very appropriately, marks the commemoration of D-Day.

    Jeff notes the appalling fact that certain people on the left take advantage of this sad occasion to bash Ronald Reagan. Unfortunately, it's quite understandable that they hate him so bitterly, for the man's greatest contribution to history -- and humanity -- was ending the Cold War, and putting the final coffin nails in Communism, the greatest system of mass murder in modern times. For that alone, he'll be remembered as one of the greatest American presidents in history. (And, of course, hated by the hard left.)

    Jeff's words are worth repeating:

    Folks, I have no idea where my own "spiritual feelings" are. And I was rather young at the time President Reagan was in office and frankly, I wasn't paying much attention.

    But here is what I believe: Ronald Reagan was a decent man who held some principles dear to his heart. He led our country accordingly. I don't agree with all of those principles but I never for a second believe that President Reagan made decisions based on political expediency; he "stuck to his guns" on his principles. He was (thanks to his Hollywood training) a brilliant speaker but I -- maybe naively -- felt that HE believed in what he said and the policies he implemented. I feel the same way about GW. I disagree with much of it, but I will never accuse him -- unlike Kerry -- of shaping his ideals to fly in the prevailing winds.

    I rarely speak of my family or work here. That's intentional. But I do come from a very liberal based family. I don't think they approve of my current politics.

    I used to be a "liberal." I grew up. I won't go into all of that now. Let's just remember Ronald Reagan as a decent man who really wanted to make America the best it could possibly be. He absolutely believed in democracy and in America. It was contagious. It was real. It was wonderful and optimistic.

    Wish I had more time, but I want to thank Jeff for speaking from the heart, and saying what I wish I had time to say, but couldn't have said as well even if I had the time.

    Rest in peace, Ronald Reagan, along with the others of your generation who are now being remembered as heroes for freedom.

    And finally, here's Ronald Reagan, on the 40th Anniversary of D-Day -- with words worth remembering today:

    We in America have learned bitter lessons from two World Wars: It is better to be here ready to protect the peace than to take blind shelter across the sea, rushing to respond only after freedom is lost. We've learned that isolationism never was and never will be an acceptable response to tyrannical governments with an expansionist intent.

    But we try always to be prepared for peace; prepared to deter aggression; prepared to negotiate the reduction of arms; and, yes, prepared to reach out again in the spirit of reconciliation.

    We are bound today by what bound us 40 years ago, the same loyalties, traditions, and beliefs. We're bound by reality. The strength of America's allies is vital to the United States, and the American security guarantee is essential to the continued freedom of Europe's democracies. We were with you then; we are with you now. Your hopes are our hopes, and your destiny is our destiny.

    Here, in this place where the West held together, let us make a vow to our dead. Let us show them by our actions that we understand what they died for. Let our actions say to them the words for which Matthew Ridgway listened: "I will not fail thee nor forsake thee."

    Strengthened by their courage, heartened by their [valor], and borne by their memory, let us continue to stand for the ideals for which they lived and died.

    Thank you very much, and God bless you all.

    posted by Eric at 10:41 PM | Comments (1)

    Trying to drive at something....

    Damn! A whole day went by without a post! I just returned from a long drive in horrid driving weather, and I'm going to attempt to use my blog as a way of processing my unresolved anti-traffic bigotry.

    While I normally hesitate to stereotype or judge people, I wish to offer a few observations and generalizations about drivers.

    For brevity's sake, and because it's late, I'll limit myself to three stereotypes tonight.

    1. Drivers who are obsessed with finding, then zipping in and filling any gap or space which appears between any two cars ahead of them. It was brought to my attention that this type is usually young enough to have grown up playing video games, which conditioned him to drive that way before he ever learned to drive. So, it's second nature for this clown drive as he'd play a video game. Spot the gap and zip in, regardless of manners or safety (neither of which apply to video games, of course).

    2. Elderly drivers who wear hats. I don't know whether hat-wearing causes bad driving, or merely evidences the personality of this driver, but elderly hat wearers tend to hug the middle of the road, and go much too slowly, often gripping the steering wheel with both hands at the top of it, while peering over the dashboard with a blank stare. Scary. Don't get behind them.

    3. Drivers with more than twelve stuffed animals arranged on the inside ledge of the rear windshield. This type is also slow and erratic, and often in a bizarre and unpredictable manner. Not sure why; perhaps there are medication issues.

    And I'm afraid that's the end of the road for tonight!

    posted by Eric at 11:55 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)

    The logical next step?

    New York pictures are in vogue right now: both the beautiful (via InstaPundit), and the forbidden (id).

    I don't know whether the following photos fall into the beautiful or the forbidden categories, but while walking through New York's Grand Central Station last weekend, I noticed (and believe me, it was hard not to notice!) Air America Radio's major advertising blitz, and I took a couple of photos:



    There are many more ads, with huge pictures of every major villain the left loves to hate -- each one with Air America's red map of the United States superimposed thereon. (Obviously, this high priced grafitti is the logical next step to "mob violence" -- and nearly as disrespectful as defacing New York Times machines!)

    The ads can't be cheap, so Air America must be making money, right?

    Would Baghdad Bob lie?

    posted by Eric at 02:03 PM | Comments (1)

    Burn a homo for the religion of peace!

    Amidst the recent chaos, I missed something which I think most Americans were intended to miss: more evidence of the malevolent nature of the hateful Wahhabi strain of Islam which, thanks to politically correct media complacency, has gained much cultural hegemony among Muslims living in the United States.

    Recent accounts about accused terrorist Adam Gadahn mentioned his mentor -- one Muzammil Siddiqi -- by name, but make Siddiqi appear to be a moderate!

    GARDEN GROVE, Calif. - Adam Yahiye Gadahn was 17 years old when he walked into the Islamic Society of Orange County and asked for permission to worship there. The farm kid who grew up in a home with Christian roots declared himself a Muslim, ready to immerse himself in his new religion.

    But his devotion eventually spiraled into trouble — and an arrest.

    Gadahn, who was named Wednesday as one of seven suspected al-Qaida operatives sought by the FBI (news - web sites), was later expelled from the mosque after attacking an employee. Records show he pleaded guilty to assault and battery charges in June 1997 and was sentenced to two days in jail and 40 hours of community service.

    "He was becoming very extreme in his ideas and views," said Muzammil Siddiqi, the society's religious director. "He must have disliked something."

    Extreme? Must have disliked something?

    Well, look at who's asking that question. Muzammil Siddiqi is the director (as well as past president) of the Islamic Society of North America. A Wahhabist through and through, he maintains that homosexuals should be burned. (Via the esteemed Ghost of a flea.)

    How does burning homosexuals square with the notion that Islam is a "religion of peace?"

    Not that this remark has gotten much attention from liberals or conservatives. Too threatening to their mutually agreed agendas. As Andrew Sullivan notes,

    What staggers me is how silent the gay establishment is about these obscenities. If a religious right figure had said them, there would be hell to pay. But the multi-culti left still has a stranglehold on official gay discourse and won't condemn Islamist bigotry. Why not? These mullahs are fanning the flames of anti-gay violence with literally incendiary rhetoric. Burn gays? Yep, that's what the cleric said.
    Just in case anyone has forgotten, both the Flea and I have noted that the Islamic Society of North America has attempted to ingratiate itself with religious conservatives by joining in an alliance of strange bedfellows:
    JewishWorldReview.com has discovered that prominent religious conservatives — Jews, Catholics and Evangelical Christians — are allied with a radical Islamic group to stop gay marriage. Pushing a constitutional amendment that would restrict marriage to heterosexuals, they work with the Islamic Society of North America. What is ISNA? According to terrorism expert Steve Emerson, ISNA:
    * has held fundraisers for terrorists (e.g., after Hamas leader Musa Marzuk was arrested, it raised money for his defense, claiming he was innocent and not connected to terrorism)

    * has condemned US seizure of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad assets in the United States after 9/11

    * has consistently sponsored speakers at their conferences that defend Islamic terrorists. Recently, a leader denied in an interview with an NBC affiliate that ISNA took any Saudi money but that was a brazen lie as evidenced by a recording of an ISNA conference in which it was revealed that money came from Saudi Arabia.

    "ISNA," says Emerson, "is a radical group hiding under a false veneer of moderation."

    What better way for ISNA to maintain its "false veneer of moderation" than by working side by side with prominent religious figures that also bring the prestige of their institutional associations? How can critics plausibly depict the organization as extremist if it boasts the company of so many prominent Jews and Christians? Even Martin Luther King couldn't boast a working alliance with this many different members of the religious community.

    Who are these religious conservatives? The Jews include a vice-president of the highly regarded Rabbinical Council of America, who is also known as "Lieberman's rabbi" because the Connecticut senator and presidential candidate attends his synagogue; one of Reform Judaism's most highly visible rabbis known for his frequent TV appearances as the Jewish half of the two man "God Squad,"; an Orthodox rabbi who is one of the heads of the most highly regarded kosher supervision agency in America; a former aide to President Ronald Reagan and official in the subsequent Bush administration; and an Orthodox rabbi who wants to unite Christians and Jews.

    ISNA's newfound Christian friends also boast sterling credentials. They include President Clinton's ambassador to the Vatican; the Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia: a Harvard law professor and former Clinton advisor; the president of a prestigious Evangelical school; and a neo-conservative author who edits a small, but influential magazine, that serves as the unofficial bible of many religious conservatives.

    I am beginning to see why the Siddiqi remark has been ignored by the mainstream media.

    However, neither Siddiqi nor the ISNA have been ignored by the fearless Charles Johnson, who wonders (rhetorically) why no one cares:

    So far, not one mainstream media source has had the simple professionalism to investigate Dr. Siddiqi, the leader of the mosque where Gadahn apparently became radicalized. They would have discovered, if they cared, that Siddiqi himself is a radical Wahhabist—as I wrote yesterday.
    I think they know damned well what's going on with Siddiqi and with the wretched hate outfit he runs.

    They just don't want us to know.

    Strange bedfellows, of course....

    posted by Eric at 12:42 PM | Comments (1)

    Definitions are swallowing thought!

    An article in the Christian Science Monitor points out that only seven percent of journalists will dare to call themselves conservatives. Examining the Pew Research study itself, I am more than a little annoyed that the only choices given are liberal, conservative, moderate, and "don't know."

    Were I asked to measure myself this way, I'd be hard pressed to supply an answer.

    Editor and Publisher offers a little more breakdown:

    At national organizations (which includes print, TV and radio), the numbers break down like this: 34% liberal, 7% conservative. At local outlets: 23% liberal, 12% conservative. At Web sites: 27% call themselves liberals, 13% conservatives.

    So, why no "libertarian" category? Despite the fact that they don't include one, there's this intriguing tidbit:

    In an essay accompanying the survey, the directors of the sponsoring groups -- Bill Kovach, Tom Rosenstiel and Amy Mitchell --declare that broad conclusions about the political findings should be tempered by analyzing some of the details in the findings. For example, they identify strong "libertarian" leanings among journalists, including doubts about the role of "big government."
    Why analyze? Why didn't they just ask? If you find this as inexplicable as I do, read the comments on the study by Pew's own people:
    ....[W]hat does liberal mean to journalists? We would be reluctant to infer too much here. The survey includes just four questions probing journalists' political attitudes, yet the answers to these questions suggest journalists have in mind something other than a classic big government liberalism and something more along the lines of libertarianism. More journalists said they think it is more important for people to be free to pursue their goals without government interference than it is for government to ensure that no one is in need.

    This libertarian strain is particularly strong among local journalists, who are also more likely to describe themselves as moderate.

    More research here is probably useful.

    But forget about more research; in what passes for political dialogue these days, people are being forced to define themselves as liberal or conservative based on little more than their opinion of what people do with their genitals. If you think I'm exaggerating, read the study; homosexuality is portrayed as an all-defining core issue. If you think homosexuality should be "accepted," you're a liberal! If you think it should be "discouraged," you're a conservative!

    Has the penis become America's political yardstick?

    If so then why? No reason whatsoever is given. Why not guns? Taxation? Crime? Multiculturalism? The war in Iraq?

    While I think the percentage of conservatives in the blogosphere is considerably higher than in the mainstream press, most likely the word "libertarian" would be self-applied by an even higher percentage. And I don't think most bloggers particularly want liberalism and conservatism reduced to the issue of where a man ought to be placing his penis. (At least I hope not.)

    Part of this depends, of course, on the definition of "journalist." There's also the stubborn issue of defining conservatism. I am wholly unable to define myself as a conservative, because I will be called a liar and a RINO by those who claim a monopoly over that label. Plus, if definitions are arrived at with reference to other people, well, I know that I don't agree with many of the people who call themselves conservative, so how can I be one of them? (A very stimulating discussion of this issue can be found here; the only thing I'd add to it is that Barry Goldwater would today be a South Park Republican, because his principles of freedom and small government, while once conservative, are increasingly derided by those who have transformed conservatism into big government social engineering, fueled by culture war politics and ad hominem attacks.)

    But if I call myself a liberal, the same thing happens. They'll say I'm not, plus I hate socialism, anti-Americanism, and nihilistic deconstructionism. (The term "classical liberal" is largely meaningless today, because liberalism now means more big government social engineering, fueled by culture war politics and ad hominem attacks.)

    So where does that leave me? I keep taking online tests which report that I'm a libertarian, but then there are people claiming that label too, who'll say you're not a "real" libertarian unless you agree with them that the war in Iraq is wrong. They'll call you a "pseudo-libertarian." Or (better yet) an "ersatz libertarian gay-friendly hawk."

    There's no winning with definitions. They're at the heart of the Culture War, and they are meant to divide us, make us hate each other, and above all else, prevent us from being allowed to simply think what we think. Instead, by these rhetorical, ad hominem-based sleights of hand, we are all told that we must think what others think, and get on one "side" or the other of the social engineering bandwagon. (Without stopping to wonder whether something's wrong with the whole concept of social engineering in a free country.)

    Anyway, forgive me for not being terribly impressed by the Pew study, and its rather lame attempt to expand the length and breadth of penis politics.

    Once again, the Culture War sucks!

    UPDATE: I should add that the Pew Research Center is decidedly liberal. This means that not only do they have a liberal bias, but they have an even stronger bias which they share with conservatives: that politics is divided into liberal or conservative, as defined by liberals and conservatives. This is about as logical as it would be for Christians and Muslims to agree that the world is either Christian or Muslim, but we're not talking logic here. While enemies, liberals and conservatives are allies where it comes to the overarching need for political self-preservation. Hence, Culture War uber alles! Both sides agree on the need to take away certain freedoms, so whichever side wins, freedom is the constant loser.

    If they win this war, the rest of us may yet be forced to "choose" between fundamentalism and Marxism. It hasn't happened yet -- but I'm getting worried.

    posted by Eric at 02:53 PM | Comments (5)

    If martial virtues are not civic virtues, we all lose....

    I haven't had as much time as I would like for blogging lately, but there's a particularly good post by Professor Bainbridge which merits attention. He begins by quoting G. K. Chesterton on the ancients, and correctly concludes,

    Chesterton's point is that the evils of militarism tend to arise when the martial vitues cease to be civic virtues. Alternatively, I suppose, the disconnect between martial and civic virtues may put a society in the position of, say, late Roman Gaul, powerless to resist the engulfing tide. Either way, while not claiming there are easy answers, I would claim that the growing disconnect between the martial and civic virtues is cause for grave concern. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
    I couldn't agree more about the importance of martial virtues as civic virtues (the loss of which were a major reason for Rome's decline), and I like Bainbridge's conclusion -- an exhortation from George Washington about the importance of "elevat[ing] the minds of the youth in the paths of virtue and honor."

    The ancients, and George Washington are in accord not only with each other, but with common sense.

    Instead of taking George Washington's insights seriously, the attacks on George Washington have intensified in recent years to an all time high. Even schools bearing the name Washington are being renamed!

    George Washington, and all the virtues he embodies, has been downgraded to the point where students are taught that he is less important than Marilyn Monroe.

    Washington is constantly attacked as a slave owner, as if that's all that matters. Never mind that in freeing his own slaves, he showed he was ahead of his time.

    The Romans and the Greeks owned slaves too. They were white and they are dead. But their virtues are eternal, and are no more discredited by the eventual abolition of slavery than Washington's or Jefferson's.

    Jefferson was a slave holder too, and he engaged in cock-fighting. To say that these things make his immortal views on freedom incorrect is more than illogical. It makes me wonder whether the real agenda is to destroy freedom.

    Why aren't Marx and Lenin attacked as dead white males? How many did Stalin and Mao force into "progressive" slavery? Their war wasn't against dead white men, or even slaveholders per se. The belief in freedom -- and in such virtues as courage and honor (without which freedom cannot be preserved) -- were what had to go, to be destroyed by any means necessary.

    I'm with the ancients on this one -- as well as George Washington.

    posted by Eric at 07:24 PM | Comments (4)

    Mosque raid shakes WHOSE "community"?

    Here's a local story -- "Mosque raid shakes community" -- which has attracted international attention:

    PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Federal agents raided a mosque and two homes in Philadelphia on Thursday and took a Muslim cleric into custody on immigration charges, authorities and witnesses said.

    Internal Revenue Service agents executed a search warrant at the Ansaar Allah Islamic Society and an adjacent home in the city's Bridesburg section, plus a third home in Northeast Philadelphia, according to IRS spokesman Skip Bedics.

    No one was arrested on criminal charges, but immigration authorities detained Mohamed Ghorab, an Egyptian who is the imam at the small mosque, which is housed inside a cinderblock garage.

    FBI agents were also on hand for the raid, but the bureau's Philadelphia spokeswoman, Jerri Williams, said they were present only to offer support. She declined to discuss details of the case but said it had "no direct connection to terrorism.''

    Ghorab's wife, Meriem Moumen, said armed agents seized her husband as the couple dropped off their daughter at school a few blocks from the mosque.

    Moumen, 33, said one of the agents accused her of being involved in terrorism. She said her husband is peaceful and has no ties to any terrorist groups and, sobbing, insisted that they were "just a regular family.''

    "He's only the leader of the mosque. He's not involved in anything,'' she said. "We were treated like dogs.''

    A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Philadelphia declined to discuss the case. Bedics would not say what IRS agents were looking for.

    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman Michael Gilhooly said Ghorab, a visitor to the United States, had been ordered deported by an immigration court, but had been free on bond while he appealed the decision.

    Gilhooly said that during the search, ICE agents "determined that the conditions of Mr. Ghorab's bond had changed and he was taken into custody pending removal from the United States.'' He declined to elaborate.

    Worshippers gathering at the mosque hours after the morning raid said agents had broken down doors, opened cabinets and taken away boxes of records.

    Hany Gab, a member of the mosque, said Ghorab was a father figure who simply wanted to remain in the United States to teach Islam.

    "He is against killing anyone at anytime, anywhere,'' Gab said. (More, plus pictures, here.)

    Is Ghorab really "against killing anyone at anytime, anywhere"?

    Then what about this?

    Some people, according to one activist speaking privately, had nicknamed Ghorab's Ansaar Allaah Islamic Society "the Taliban mosque," an allusion to the strict code promoted by the former rulers of Afghanistan.

    ....Brother Ronald Saleem Rashed, 65, a convert to the faith, recalled a recent prayer service when several congregants walked out after a speaker made reference to "our hero, bin Laden."

    "I thought, 'That blankety-blank has to be out of his mind,' " Rashed said.

    If we are in a war against people who want to kill us, then aliens who support the enemy (and references to bin Laden as "our hero" are certainly that) simply should not be in this country. It strikes me as common sense to deport them as dangerous enemy aliens.

    Otherwise, if things heat up with another big terrorist attack, and the government hasn't done anything about them, individuals (like this man who apparently targeted Ghorab) may start engaging in vigilante actions.

    (More here, including pictures of Ghorab's drive-through mosque.)

    posted by Eric at 10:20 PM | Comments (1)

    How fickle is a finger?

    Here's an interesting, controversial, story which is not being reported in the mainstream media: John Kerry gave the finger to a heckler.

    Democratic senator - and certain presidential nominee - John F. Kerry gave the middle finger to a Vietnam veteran at the Vietnam Memorial Wall on Memorial Day morning, NewsMax.com has learned.

    Ted Sampley, a former Green Beret who served two full tours in Vietnam, spotted Kerry and his Secret Service detail at about 9:00 a.m. Monday morning at the Wall. Sampley walked up to Kerry, extended his hand and said, "Senator, I am Ted Sampley, the head of Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry, and I am here to escort you away from the Wall because you do not belong here."

    At that point a Secret Service officer told Sampley to back away from Kerry. Sampley moved about 6 feet away and opened his jacket to reveal a HANOI JOHN T-shirt.

    Kerry then began talking to a group of schoolchildren. Sampley then showed the T-shirt to the children and said, "Kerry does not belong at the Wall because he betrayed the brave soldiers who fought in Vietnam."

    Just then Kerry - in front of the school children, other visitors and Secret Service agents - brazenly 'flashed the bird' at Sampley and then yelled out to everyone, "Sampley is a felon!"

    Kerry was referring to an incident 12 years ago when Sampley confronted Sen. John McCain's chief aide, Mark Salter, in a Senate stairwell after McCain repeatedly offended POW families at a Senate POW hearing. Sampley, whose father-in-law at that time was MIA in Laos, followed Salter into the stairwell and, when they emerged, Salter had a bloody lip and a broken nose.

    Sampley's group, Vietnam Veterans Against John Kerry, has garnered huge national attention and has been featured in the New York Times, the Washington Post and on MSNBC's "Scarborough Country." Tens of thousands of Vietnam vets have registered their opposition to Kerry through Sampley's group.

    Clearly Sampley has gotten under Kerry's skin once again.

    I heard about this on the radio today, and then I saw that Little Green Footballs has also reported it.

    There are nearly 400 comments, with much discussion centering on the character of the heckler (Sampley), as well as the reliability of Newsmax.com. Here's a comment typifying such skepticism:

    They may have made it up, they have gotten it from a dubious source, or they could actually be telling the truth. NewsMax is not, in and of itself, a credible source regardless of how in character you believe the reported incident to be. If it appears elsewhere or we get a picture of the incident, then I might believe it. Until then, I would consider this story to be unsubstantiated BS.
    While I understand skepticism about Newsmax, it should be remembered that if a similar story was reported about Bush by a left-wing news site, it would not remain ignored for long. Bush would be asked about it, and given the chance to confirm it or deny it.

    Has anyone asked the Kerry campaign? I see no mention at his campaign blog, even though it does mention his visit to the wall. Whether or not Newsmax is liked by its critics, merely asserting that the story comes from Newsmax should not end the inquiry.

    Nor is Sampley's credibility particularly relevant. Assuming he is as bad as John McCain has said (even Bob Smith once condemned him), what matters is whether Kerry gave the guy the finger in public. If he did, then it's news worth reporting.

    If George W. Bush gave the finger to someone like Ted Rall, I don't think the reports would be limited to, say, Indymedia. We'd be hearing more about it.

    The funny thing is, I can find no one saying the incident didn't happen; only attacks on Sampley and Newsmax.

    That's not enough to give Kerry a pass.

    posted by Eric at 05:40 PM | Comments (5)

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