Reich 'n' Roll!

I'm sure it has to be a coincidence, but get a load of this photo of Bush (appearing to give the Nazi salute) from the front page of today's Philadelphia Inquirer:


Such utter childishness. (I guess they now have a better photo for this kind of stuff.....)

Is someone getting even for the bunny suit? I think they're really scraping the Nazi thing for all it's worth. (What's next; Nazi armbands with black "W" replacing the swastika? Nah! Probably been done.....)

posted by Eric at 03:21 PM | Comments (2)

Rock the vote boat!

In last night's speech, John Kerry failed to take my advice that he distance himself from Michael Moore. Perhaps he thinks that Dale Earnhardt's support of Moore means that Moore's message plays well in middle America. In any event Kerry seems to be following Moore's advice.

Here's an excerpt from Moore's July 26 speech in Cambridge:

The Democratic Party of 2004 is not the Democratic Party of 2000. The threat that you posed in 2000, they got the message. And it was carried on by Howard dean and Dennis Kucinich and others in this year. And they helped push the Democrats toward where the majority of Americans that liberal progressive majority, is at.

You did a great thing and now, they are in a better place. You have to admit that. Even Al Gore of 2004 isn't the Al Gore of 2000. He's moved! And all you have to do, if you think the Democrats this year are the same as the democrats four years ago, ask yourself this question. Do you think john Kerry will ask Bill Clinton not to campaign in Arkansas for him? Hum? I don't think so. So my appeal to the Nader voters, to the greens out there, is that we have a different job to do this year....

I think that when it comes to that day people will know what to do. But I would not have the Democrats spending any time attacking Ralph Nader. All right? That is the wrong way to go. What the Democrats should be doing, and I have heard Kerry say this, is we need to give, we need to give those who are thinking of voting for Ralph Nader, a reason to vote for John Kerry. That is the right answer.

When I was in Cannes with the movie, I showed it to the American students whose were working there. There were about 200 of them. At the end of the movie, I asked them, let me just ask you a question, how many of you are college-aged student, how many of you are thinking for Ralph Nader? Nearly had a lot of them raised their hand. I invited Kerry's daughter, Alexandra, to come and sit in the back. They didn't know she was there. And she witnessed this. And we went out to lunch afterwards and she was shocked. How could they, after watching this movie, for two hours, with the message of the movie that seems to be that Bush must go, that nearly half of them would say they are still considering voting for Ralph Nader?

I think I saw one poll recently that said 12% of 18-25-year-olds are planning on voting for Ralph Nader. And I said to her, I said you have to tell your dad that, you know, because they, some of the kids that gave their reasons and they spoke with all that great honesty that comes out of an 18 or a 19-year old. Right? Because there's [beep] right? When you are 18 and 19. And they call you on it really quickly. I said you need to tell your dad that the way to deal with this is to take the strong stand that needs to be taken. The majority of Americans are already with you. Don't be afraid. Speak out on these issues. Speak out about health care in the right way. Don't put ads on TV that say we will provide health care for nearly all Americans. Don't do that. Stand up for something. Don't be afraid. Don't try to be the hamburger version of the Republican Party. And I think he got that message. And I think that from what I've heard in recent weeks, I got to say this and I've said this to everybody here who's been asking me about the war.

One thing I do know about Kerry, he will not invade a country like George W. Bush did. I believe in my heart of hearts – that this man, because you know, when you have been shot three times and you have been in that situation and you know this – if you have family members whose have been to war, if you have parents who were in World war II, my dad always says to me, he was in the Marines in the south pacific and he said, you know, if you have been there, you never want to see anybody else go there. And you want it to be the last resort. And so in my heart, I trust that when he says that. In closing, I just want to thank you for everything that everyone here has done. We are all in the same boat together....

I am glad these rallies are taking place, because, you know, I don't know how the press will write about these gatherings of these rallies.... This is not a niche of the Democratic Party. The things that the people in this room believe in is where the American public is at. Especially where I believe a large chunk of that 50%, that non-voting public, is at. And it's going to be our job to get them out on November 2 and that's what we are all going to do. Thank you very much for being here. Thank you.

Now for some comparisons.



One thing I do know about Kerry, he will not invade a country like George W. Bush did.


I will bring back this nation's time-honored tradition: the United States of America never goes to war because we want to, we only go to war because we have to.

.....And on my first day in office, I will send a message to every man and woman in our armed forces: You will never be asked to fight a war without a plan to win the peace.

..... I know what we have to do in Iraq. We need a president who has the credibility to bring our allies to our side and share the burden, reduce the cost to American taxpayers, and reduce the risk to American soldiers. That's the right way to get the job done and bring our troops home.

.....Here is the reality: that won't happen until we have a president who restores America's respect and leadership - so we don't have to go it alone in the world.


Here's Kerry on the American flag:

That flag doesn't belong to any president. It doesn't belong to any ideology and it doesn't belong to any political party. It belongs to all the American people.

Well, who said it belonged to any president, political party or ideology? Michael Moore, that's who!

I don't know what it is with right-wingers and Republicans. They seem to have hijacked over the years the word "patriotism", the American flag, these things.
Similar statements were voiced earlier by Moore:
For too long now we have abandoned our flag to those who see it as a symbol of war and dominance, as a way to crush dissent at home. Flags are flying from the back of SUVs, rising high above car dealerships, plastering the windows of businesses and adorning paper bags from fast-food restaurants. But these flags are intended to send a message: "You're either with us or you're against us," "Bring it on!" or "Watch what you say, watch what you do."

I honestly can't recall Republicans or war supporters ever saying that the flag belonged only to their president, their party, or war supporters. Flying the flag became very popular after September 11, and while flag waving did wane, neither Kerry nor Moore (who's really the champion of this idea) have shown that this happened because Republicans "hijacked" it. Surely they're not suggesting that Republicans made network correspondents stop wearing flag lapel pins, are they?


Then there's the Kerry-Moore Saudi theme.


I want an America that relies on its own ingenuity and innovation, not the Saudi royal family.

I too want a self reliant America, but does the country really rely on the Saudi royal family? Michael Moore thinks the Saudis control the Bush administration, somehow via bin Laden (even though he's waging war against the Saudi royal family).

The fact is, Saudi oil accounts for only nine percent of American oil consumption. Hardly control.

What gives here? Another thinly disguised jab at Osama Bush?

Might Kerry have been listening to Moore's pronouncements about Saudi and Disney? Again, Moore:

You know the old saying that the rich man will sell you the rope to hang yourself with if he can make a dollar off it? That will eventually be their undoing. But this time it didn't happen. This time a film made for a very small amount of money that will now make, you know, at least a quarter billion dollars around the world by the time it's done, the greed didn't motivate them to release this film. I couldn't figure it out for the longest time and it took a Canadian journalist to finally do the story and thank god for the Canadians, you know?... The Canadians really do like us. They just wish we would read a little more and – but it took a Canadian journalist to write that perhaps one of the problems that Mr. Moore had with Disney is the fact that the Saudi world family owns almost 17% of Euro-Disney. And that in 1994, Prince Walid, one of the richest men in the world, and a member of the Saudi Royal Family, wrote Michael Eisner and Disney a check for over $300 million to bail out Euro-Disney. And the people that helped put the thing together to bring the two together was a company called the Carlyle group.

I know this craziness goes in circles, but why would the "Saudi-controlled" Miramax underwrite the film in the first place?

There are so many contradictions inherent in Moore's Saudi conspiracy claims that (hardly a bastion of Bush support) posed a few good questions:

The stated implication is that Bush is more loyal to the Saudis than he is to America.

Huh? Here are some questions for Moore: If Bush is so “in the pocket” of Saudi Arabia, why is he Ariel Sharon’s strongest backer? Why, when he had Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah down at the Texas ranch a few years ago, did he flip off the Saudi’s peace plan? And most important, why did he invade Iraq—since Saudi Arabia was strongly opposed to the U.S. invasion of Iraq? Why did he launch his Iraqi adventure over Saudi objections, with many of his advisers chortling that Saudi Arabia would be “next”? Why did he stock his administration with militant neocon crusaders who see Saudi Arabia as the main enemy? Why, Michael?

I won't hold my breath for answers from Moore. He's one of those guys who sees his beliefs confirmed by anything that happens.


John Kerry loves to invoke the boat as a grand metaphor:

I learned a lot about these values on that gunboat patrolling the Mekong Delta with young Americans who came from places as different as Iowa and Oregon, Arkansas, Florida and California. No one cared where we went to school. No one cared about our race or our backgrounds. We were literally all in the same boat. We looked out, one for the other and we still do.

That is the kind of America I will lead as President: an America where we are all in the same boat.

Compare with Moore's closing remark about Kerry:
if you have family members whose have been to war, if you have parents who were in World war II, my dad always says to me, he was in the Marines in the south pacific and he said, you know, if you have been there, you never want to see anybody else go there. And you want it to be the last resort. And so in my heart, I trust that when he says that. In closing, I just want to thank you for everything that everyone here has done. We are all in the same boat together
Are Kerry and Moore in the same boat? I have a sinking feeling that they are.

UPDATE: Arnold Kling puzzles over Kerry's new isolationism, which of course constitutes a policy flip-flop on Kosovo and Haiti. (Via Glenn Reynolds.) Well, here, from 1999, is Moore on Kosovo:

Now, it is time for all of us to stop Clinton and his disgusting, hypocritical fellow democrats who support him in this war. It is amazing to watch all these "liberal" congress members line up behind the President. In a way, I'm glad it's happening, if only to show the American people there is little difference between the Democrats and the usually war-loving Republicans.
Things are different now. The party (and Kerry) have moved to Moore's way of thinking. I don't think Kerry has to formally hire Moore as a foreign policy consultant to prove it, either.

MORE: Moore-Kerry linkage in this video.

EVEN MORE: If it seems unbelievable that Senator Kerry might take foreign policy advice from his daughter via Michael Moore, consider this Newsmax report:

Alexandra Thorne Kerry was just 16 years old when she persuaded her father to vote against the first Gulf War.
Newsmax lists as their source a 1996 interview by the Boston Globe of Alexandra's mother, Peggy Kerry.

If it's true, Alexandra would seem to have a real influence on her dad's foreign policy.

Which means Michael Moore might very well be right about Kerry getting the message.

posted by Eric at 04:12 PM | Comments (1)

Don't Get Kerried Away, Now ...

We know that Kerry mispronounced a woman's name as he misled America last night, but did you catch this?

This is where I ended up scratching my head:

I ... I wish, I wish my parents could share this moment. They went to their rest in the last few years. But their example, their inspiration, their gift of opened eyes, of own ... open mind, and, and endless heart, and, and world that doesn't have an end are bigger and more lasting than any words at all.

Now if someone had told you George W. Bush said, "gift of opened eyes, of own ... open mind, and, and endless heart, and, and world that doesn't have an end are bigger and more lasting than any words at all," you'd believe it and you'd roll your eyes, or laugh.

The official transcript made sense out of it:

I wish my parents could share this moment. They went to their rest in the last few years, but their example, their inspiration, their gift of open eyes, open mind, and endless world are bigger and more lasting than any words.

PBS too reproduces the official "transcript" which is not at all a transcript: "a written record (usually typewritten) of dictated or recorded speech."

Interestingly, both also omit the silly opening line, "I'm John Kerry, and I'm reporting for duty." It struck me immediately as a mistake, and I would suspect that his handlers felt the same way, hence its quiet demise in the official version. It felt like a cheap line, and it was surely meant to conjure images of Kerry the soldier.

However, they do retain the bit about being born in the "west wing" -- of the hospital.

Then there was the anecdote about riding his bike into Communist East Berlin, and there's little doubt that it changed him. Before long he was riding his political career into communist apologetics, and has spent the better part of his adult life passing freely from one side of the divide to the other as it suited him.

But enough about the past. John Kerry doesn't want to talk about his lies about war crimes in Vietnam. That would damage his current claim to war heroism. It's time to look at his record, as he invited us to do last night.

And according to John Kerry his record is this:

I ask you to judge me by my record: As a young prosecutor, I fought for victim's rights and made prosecuting violence against women a priority. When I came to the Senate, I broke with many in my own party to vote for a balanced budget, because I thought it was the right thing to do. I fought to put a 100,000 cops on the street.

And then I reached across the aisle to work with John McCain, to find the truth about our POW's and missing in action, and to finally make peace with Vietnam.

Now that's some record. I'm curious first how many (assistant) prosecutors don't care about victims, and how many pick and choose which the kinds of cases they prosecute. I wonder if Kerry ever said, "violence against a man? Let's put that case on the back burner." Of course not. That's just silly. But claiming that as a county prosecutor he made prosecuting violence against women a priority is equally silly. His jobwas to prosecute, not to prosecute certain cases, or to prosecute in certain ways. This kind of rhetoric is designed to buy the votes of women, and true to the leftist mindset, it fails to give women credit for seeing through cheap appeals.

Every prosecutor prosecutes violent offenders regardless of the gender of the victim. Your pain hurts no more than my own.

Now, in two decades as a senator Kerry did only three things:
1. He voted for a balanced budget.
2. He voted to put cops on the streets.
3. He worked with John McCain on POW/MIA issues and Vietnamese relations.

But now he's just being modest. He has apparently led the fight on numerous issues in the Senate.

In fact, while he only claims to have broken with his party to vote for a balanced budget, as recently as January he claimed that he led the fight:

[C]laiming to have "led the fight" for the balanced-budget measure is political puffery.

The measure was actually drafted by two Republicans, Sens. Warren B. Rudman of New Hampshire and Phil Gramm of Texas. Kerry became one of about 40 co-sponsors.

At a 1985 news conference Kerry actually followed behind another Democrat, Chris Dodd of Connecticut, who spoke in favor of it. The Washington Post described what happened next:

"Sen. John F. Kerry (D-Mass.) entered the room as the news conference broke up, saying he supports the measure now that he has been assured Social Security would not be cut."

Now there's leadership. Consider the fact that from his two decades in the Senate he listed three accomplishment when asking us to look at his record, and one of those accomplishments consisted of walking into a room at the end of a news conference and saying, essentially, "well, okay."

As for the 100,000 cops (a number never actually reached), thank not John Kerry, but Joe Biden of Delaware, who was at the head, and who is one Democrat who might make a serious run with the American people (which means the Democrats will never nominate him). And yet, this bill is remembered not as the project of any senator, but as the project of President Clinton. (One more note. Don't forget that the bill ultimately failed. Republicans were right: the new police went where they were needed least.)

Which leaves the record Kerry outlined for us with one issue: John McCain and Vietnam.

Okay. So John Kerry worked with John McCain, and supported two bills led by others. Is there nothing else in his record he could direct us to? Is it that his Senate career has been uneventful, that he has authored only 8 bills, and that the bulk of them had no real importance?

Asked recently what he has accomplished that wouldn't have happened had he not served in the Senate, Kerry replied: "There are actually a lot of things."

"Can I say that it wouldn't be done, that somebody else might not have picked up the cudgel?" he said in an Associated Press interview. "I don't know. But I know I led a lot of fights in the Senate that nobody else was doing and that made a difference."

His response prompted an examination of his record. Kerry has been the lead sponsor of eight bills that have become law. Two are related to his work on the Senate panel on oceans and fisheries - a 1994 law to protect marine mammals from being taken during commercial fishing and a 1991 measure for the National Sea Grant College Program Act, which finances marine research.

In 1999, President Clinton signed his bill providing grants to support small businesses owned by women.

The rest of the laws he saw passed were ceremonial - renaming a federal building, designating Vietnam Veterans Memorial 10th Anniversary Day, National POW/MIA Recognition Day and World Population Awareness Week in two separate years.

As I said above, that's some record.

Now, there wasn't much else of interest. Of course it was fun to see Jack Tripper, I mean John Edwards, appear to be directing an airplane with those rigid gestures, the point and then the thumbs up, over and over again when Kerry acknowledged him.

And it was a challenging to grapple with Kerry's new math which makes it four years since 9/11 (I finally decided he must be counting inclusively, which means he has at least one classical value).

And we saw that the piercing logic of John Edwards is as strong in Kerry:

You don't value families by kicking kids out of after school programs and taking cops off our streets, so that Enron can get another tax break.

That's almost as sensible as the line about "senators and menators [sic] of congress," which the official "transcript" corrects to "senators and members of congress."

Now, why am I picking on flubs? Because, by gum, enough misstatement by Bush makes the rounds unedited, while these cats get a white-washing!

Oh yeah ... and because "menators of congress" just cracks me up.

posted by Dennis at 01:30 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)

Looters with golden parachutes descend on psychiatrists!

Details, details!

Last night John Kerry singled out a local Philadelphia woman as an example of how America can do better:

BOSTON - In his acceptance speech last night, to flesh out his theme that "America can do better," John Kerry mentioned a number of people who suffered misfortune in the last few years.

One was Deborah Komins, a psychotherapist from Center City Philadelphia - whose name he mispronounced as "Kromins."

Kerry described her as a woman who had worked and saved "all her life only to find out that her pension has disappeared into thin air - and the executive who looted it has bailed out on a golden parachute."

Komins, 68, who has never met Kerry, said last night in a phone interview that she lost an unspecified nest egg when "the stock market went bust. I thought I had a safe investment in mutual funds, but the fund invested heavily in Enron stock. It went down the tubes."

Former Enron Corp. executives have been charged in connection with the December 2001 collapse of the company. The Securities and Exchange Commission contends that Kenneth Lay, Enron's former chairman, personally profited by selling stock, pulling in more than $90 million.

Golden parachute? Last time I looked, it appeared that Lay will be going to prison where he belongs.

But did Lay actually loot this woman's pension? (Actually, the victim, Dr. Komins, described her investment as a "nest egg," so I'm not sure it's properly called "her pension." Plus, she's still working -- as a psychiatrist/psychotherapist in Center City Philadelphia -- so I suspect she's not quite as ragged and bereft as Kerry's audience imagined.) Whether Lay even looted Enron is questionable: he manipulated the books to conceal losses and sold off stock before the losses were generally known. Dr. Komins had invested money in a mutual fund which owned Enron stock. How Lay's conduct looted her pension escapes me.

From what little I remember about corporate law, fraudulent accounting practices and insider trading are not the same thing as looting (the misappropriation of corporate assets). And even if Lay did engage in looting, he didn't loot from Dr. Komins' mutual fund.

Except Kerry says he did.

Can anyone explain?

posted by Eric at 10:16 AM | Comments (2)

They Really Weren't Ape...

We here at Classical Values thought Dr. Ehrlich deserved some rebuttal space after the casual dismissiveness of Norman Borlaug.

Accordingly, we dispatched Peabody and Sherman to 1974, where they found this treasure.

It's not quite as over the top as I might have liked, but I would urge all readers to click over for the pictures alone. Dig on the sideburns, while Plowboy asks the scary questions. Here are just a few highlights...

You see this is going on all over the world with the so-called Green Revolution. Native strains are being replaced everywhere. There's one place in Turkey where they had 35 indigenous varieties of wheat growing 20 years ago and now they have one.
This is a very dangerous trend, you know, because you've got to remember that today's high yields in agriculture are due not to pesticides and not to other chemicals . . . but to plant genetics. Despite the claims made by the big agribiz companies, we really don't do any better job of protecting our crops now than we did in 1935. The bugs get resistant to pesticides very quickly. The pests that want to eat our crops are always evolving-always trying to find ways through the defenses we set up-and -the plants we raise, in turn, are always evolving ways to slap down the pests.
Trying to explain this to the agencies that control the money which gets spent to support chemical agribiz, however, is like trying to explain alternate-day gasoline rationing to a cranberry. I mean you're talking to a blank wall. It's absolutely incredible.

Paul....maybe it's all in your presentation.

If you want to know the truth, I'd say that the biggest mistake mankind ever made was the agricultural revolution. We were a great hunting and gathering animal. If you look-and I have, I've lived with Eskimos and seen bushmen and aborigines and so on-you may be struck, as I have, by the fact that each individual in that kind of society was-at least before they had contact with us-almost a carrier of a full culture. Every individual knew exactly where he or she fit into the picture, had more personal worth and was less alienated than any member of our modern civilization.

Every individual...had more personal worth...than any of us.

PLOWBOY: And we are destroying the world . . . in an ever increasing number-of ways: with strip mining, clear cutting, industrial pollution, chemical warfare, nuclear waste and hundreds of other "weapons" that our ancestors never dreamed of. Since we've been talking about agriculture, however, let's stick to that subject just a little longer. Look at what agribiz is doing to this country. Look at what it's doing to this state-California-alone! How long are we going to continue silting and salting out the valleys of California so that Chicago and New York can eat through the winter?
EHRLICH: Well what can you do but raise more and more salt resistant crops? There is a limit to that game, of course, but we never seem to learn. We're not only wearing out the soil, we're covering it with houses. According to Ken Watt, half the good farmland in California will be covered with subdivisions and concrete by 2020 if we continue building developments at the current rate. But what the hell . . . the "experts" tell us that we'll just use some scientific magic to either grow twice as much on what's left or to make artificial foods of some kind.
PLOWBOY: And what do you see coming? What's the best we can expect?
EHRLICH: Taking the world view, the best we can hope for will be that humanity will finally come to its senses and organize to ameliorate the time of crisis we're coming to. This means that, although a lot of people will die young, the whole system won't quite break down because even the people who are in trouble will realize that other people are trying to help them and it will all become a cooperative operation. Now that is utopian to say the least and I don't expect to see things go that well. save a lot of energy and, in my opinion, have a great deal more fun. At any rate, that's the best practical case I can see-the planet's population will fall drastically sometime in the next decade or two for very unfortunate reasons, but the whole world will not be totally destroyed in the process-and it means that an awful lot of poor people are simply going to be written off.

That's the BEST? We won't QUITE break down? Paul! You're scaring the kids.

PLOWBOY: Paul, you paint a damn realistic and an awfully pessimistic view of the future. Yet you point out all of these horrible scourges and catastrophes hovering there on the horizon with the warmest good humor and the calmest attitude imaginable. How do you manage to keep your sanity when-day after day-you peer into the coming decade and see so many possibilities for complete and utter calamity?

Was it the Genius Grant Paul? No, wait, that's still years in the future.

EHRLICH: Listen, once you understand the forces that mankind is playing with and once you've reviewed our track record and projected it ahead a few years, you have two choices: A, you can put a gun to your head and pull the trigger. Or, B, you can do everything within your power to change the course of history while you simultaneously delight in the natural wonders of this magnificent planet. I prefer the second.

Man, I just HATE those awkward binary choices!

Don't you?

UPDATE: File these under too good not to print.

"any scientist who thinks he's any good is egotistical, but my ego is tied up in arcane arguments about numerical taxonomy. I don't have any ego involvement in giving out autographs. At the same time I'm not sitting around feeling oppressed about it either, I don't find it difficult to shoot my mouth off."

"Most of the people who are vitally concerned about the future of the planet and its inhabitants, though, do nothing but cheer every time Paul speaks."

"Paul Ehrlich is a long, lean, physically fit dynamo..."

UPDATE: If you enjoyed the salt water farming links above, you might also like this cached thread from Metafilter. There's a teensy lil' bit of Green GMO paranoia to it. You get the feeling that at least one poster would like the project better if didn't depend on corporate funding. I particularly liked their link to this Kaplan piece in Atlantic Monthly. Also, a possibly "sinister" connection is uncovered, which leads us to iconoclastic billionaire John Sperling. Good Stuff.
How many people do you suppose are aware that Malthus changed his mind?

posted by Justin at 07:23 PM | Comments (2)

Parody or satire?

By now most people who read blogs will have watched the JibJab political spoof song, which is unfortunately becoming another classic example of copyright laws being used to destroy free speech.

The song parodies the famous Woody Guthrie classic -- This Land is Your Land" -- or, does it satirize it? This may sound like semantics, but according to U.S. copyright law, parody is an authorized use of copyrighted material, but satire is not!

The germ of parody lies in the definition of the Greek parodeia . . . as "a song sung alongside another." Modern dictionaries accordingly describe a parody as a "literary or artistic work that imitates the characteristic style of an author or a work for comic effect or ridicule," or as a "composition in prose or verse in which the characteristic turns of thought and phrase in an author or class of authors are imitated in such a way as to make them appear ridiculous." For the purposes of copyright law, the nub of the definitions, and the heart of any parodist's claim to quote from existing material, is the use of some elements of a prior author's composition to create a new one that, at least in part, comments on that author's works. If, on the contrary, the commentary has no critical bearing on the substance or style of the original composition, which the alleged infringer merely uses to get attention or to avoid the drudgery in working up something fresh, the claim to fairness in borrowing from another's work diminishes accordingly (if it does not vanish), and other factors, like the extent of its commerciality, loom larger. Parody needs to mimic an original to make its point, and so has some claim to use the creation of its victim's (or collective victims') imagination, whereas satire can stand on its own two feet and so requires justification for the very act of borrowing. [footnote: Satire has been defined as a work "in which prevalent follies or vices are assailed with ridicule," or are "attacked through irony, derision, or wit."] (Via Eugene Volokh.)
I have a legal education and Varius is a classics scholar. Perhaps between the two of us we can figure out what's going on.

In a truly fair world, none of this should matter, because Guthrie himself clearly manifested an intent to give the song away:

"This song is Copyrighted in U.S., under Seal of Copyright #154085, for a period of 28 years, and anybody caught singin it without our permission, will be mighty good friends of ourn, cause we don't give a dern. Publish it. Write it. Sing it. Swing to it. Yodel it. We wrote it, that's all we wanted to do." (From Jesse Walker, via Eugene Volokh.)
This kind of nonsense irritates me to no end. Certain things ought to be in public domain -- especially "This Land is Your Land."

Sheesh! Next they'll be telling me I can't satirize parody satirize or parody Air America!

Either neither or none!

posted by Eric at 04:33 PM

Hijacking The Classics

Deep, deep thoughts on the classics, from the Chairman:

Having a limit to the drama is one of the conditions for taking life seriously and trying to make the most of it. Homer, in The Iliad and The Odyssey, showed us the alternatives. He contrasts the mortals with the immortals…Zeus, Apollo and the like…who, if you look at them, they lived just shallow and frivolous lives. And their amusement depends upon looking and watching what the mortals do, because the mortals are the only ones who do anything that really matters. It’s mortality which makes life matter.

Leon Kass, speaking to Ben Wattenberg on "Think Tank."

In the Iliad, Sarpedon exhorts his comrade to greater feats of valor in battle. Toward the end of his argument, this gem leaps out.

My good friend, if, when we were once out of this fight, we could escape old age and death thenceforward and for ever, I should neither press forward myself nor bid you do so, but death in ten thousand shapes hangs ever over our heads, and no man can elude him; therefore let us go forward and either win glory for ourselves, or yield it to another.

A sensible chap, it's too bad he gets killed. Now for a bit of re-cycling.

Homer in The Iliad and The Odyssey presents human beings whom he names as mortals. That is their definition in contrast to the immortals. And the immortals, for their agelessness and their beauty, live sort of shallow and frivolous lives. Indeed, they depend for their entertainment on watching the mortals who, precisely because they know that their time is limited, and that they go around only once, are inclined to make time matter and to aspire to something great for themselves.

Leon Kass speaking to Morton Kondracke on "Sage Crossroads". Comes with tasty professorial video!

During his travels, Odysseus visits the land of the dead, and amongst much palavering meets the shade of Achilles, who seems a trifle out of joint...Odysseus tries to cheer him up. for you, Achilles, no one was ever yet so fortunate as you have been, nor ever will be, for you were adored by all us Argives as long as you were alive, and now that you are here you are a great prince among the dead. Do not, therefore, take it so much to heart even if you are dead.'

Achilles isn't buying any.

"'Say not a word,' he answered, 'in death's favour; I would rather be a paid servant in a poor man's house and be above ground than king of kings among the dead.

I like that line so much, I'm giving you a twofer. Here's an earlier translation.

In life thy eminence was ador'd of all,
Even with the Gods; and now, even dead, I see
Thy virtues propagate thy empery
To a renew'd life of command beneath;
So great Achilles triumphs over death.'
This comfort of him this encounter found:
'Urge not my death to me, nor rub that wound,
I rather wish to live in earth a swain,
Or serve a swain for hire, that scarce can gain
Bread to sustain him, than, that life once gone,
Of all the dead sway the imperial throne.

Be grateful it's not Alexander Pope.

Now, I had read the Iliad and the Odyssey a couple of times each before I was twelve. I read them again in college. Great books, both of them.

Our next quote may have a certain familiarity...

To number our days is the condition for making them count. Homer’s immortals—Zeus and Hera, Apollo and Athena—for all their eternal beauty and youthfulness, live shallow and rather frivolous lives, their passions only transiently engaged, in first this and then that. They live as spectators of the mortals, who by comparison have depth, aspiration, genuine feeling, and hence a real center in their lives. Mortality makes life matter.

Leon Kass, writing in "First Things."

Waste not want not, eh? Shame to let a good soundbite languish. And yet, I am filled with disquiet. Much as I loved both books, I'm not sure Bronze Age Epics are quite the thing, when it comes to looking for timeless wisdom about mortality.

Especially when they contradict you.

And for all you bright-eyed Chicago undergrads out there, save your emails.
I already know Kass knows the Achilles quote.

It's right there in "Toward a More Natural Science", on page 308.

UPDATE: If you don't check out the links, you'll miss some truly fine stuff. The following are excerpts from the Sage Crossroads interview. Take it away, Mr. Chairman!

We are still early enough in the game, I think, that at least a certain amount of public discussion might be in order. We might try to hope to separate those interventions that deal with the degenerations that are not necessarily life-prolonging.
I mean, if one could do something about Alzheimer's, if one could do something about chronic arthritis, if one could do something about general muscular weakness and not, somehow, increase the life expectancy to 150 years, I would be delighted.

Behold Bioethics in action. A private practice would definitely have been the wrong career move...

...this gives me an opportunity to say I am not a Luddite, I am not a hater of science. I esteem modern science and I regard it as really one of the great monuments to the human intellect, even as I worry about some of the uses of some of the technologies that science is bringing forth.
And if everybody else was worried about it, you would find me as one of its defenders. I am taking up the side that is weaker here, that needs articulation.

That last sentiment is worth an entire post.

posted by Justin at 03:05 PM | Comments (4)

Dems da breaks!

First let me begin by saying that Al Sharpton upstaged John Edwards despite his innumerable innacuracies and anachronisms. Aside from the popular lie about 40 acres and a mule.

According to Sharpton, while it is true that Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation, there was an unfulfilled commitment to 40 acres and a mule. This is at the very least a misleading statement.

General Sherman, the scourge of revisionist Civil War history, was the source. And what Sharpton fails to tell you is that the congressional bill intended to follow up on that promisewas vetoed by Democrat Andrew Johnson, who assumed office upon Lincoln's assassination. Andrew Johnson was both an enemy of civil rights and a friend to the secessionists, which led to his impeachment.

And yet Sharpton's most glaring error was perhaps proudly shouting the name "Obama Barack," evidentally revealing his relative unfamiliarity with the Democratic Party's newest star, Barack Obama.

But let's give Sharpton, Al the benefit of the doubt.

John Edwards, as expected by all reasonable people, said absolutely nothing last night. But I was given many reasons to vote for him. For example, did you know he used to dress up as Santa Claus? Besides that, the guy looks like John Ritter. The one fault I just can't seem to get past is his use of 'myself' for 'me,' though Jerry Springer has nearly desensitized myself me to pronominal ignorance.

I'll run roughly through a few points of interest.

1) Edwards perpetuated the line about Kerry's heroism. One wonders then why more than 220 men who served with him have organized against him.

Edwards also claimed that captaining swift boats was "one of the most dangerous" jobs in Vietnam.

I wondered how the tunnel rats felt at that, the medevac workers choppering into combat zones, or men like my father who spent their days and nights amidst the spray of agent orange and enemy fire south of Da Nang, men who didn't apply for a purple heart everytime they cut themselves shaving. And I thought about a young J.F. Kerry scurrying for a quick tour to command the closest thing in 'Nam to J. F. Kennedy's PT boat.

Among those protesting are veterans who feel betrayed by Kerry's lies about atrocities. They cite his well-known ambition, his efforts at emulating Kennedy, and the exaggeration of commonplace events that led, for example, to a silver star and swift ticket home.

(None of the news outlets on the web seems to be carrying remarks I heard on NPR by one man who served with Kerry and claimed that his desire to be like Kennedy was known to everyone. He echoed what has been said well elsewhere: that Kerry collected medals faster than Audie Murphy.)

And they resent the fact that while they were villains and war criminals when it served Kerry's political career, they are now allowed to join him when his career demands a war hero.

There's little noise being made about the Vietnamese marching alongside the veterans. They call Kerry a coward, a traitor, and a communist apologist.

But John Edwards calls Kerry a hero for turning his boat around and for hunting down and killing a fleeing and wounded enemy, despite the old party line that the Vietnam war was a mistake and a crime, its participants on each side victims.

Following the collapse of French imperialism in the East, the Geneva Accords threatened an imbalance of power in favor of the communists in Vietnam. President Eisenhower supported anti-communist forces in the south, forming the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization. Kennedy, in his understandable fear of communist proliferation, stepped up U.S. involvement as conflict escalated between the communists and the counter-revolutionaries. Finally, after Kennedy's assassination, Lyndon Johnson made a bolder commitment and created the Vietnam war as we know it. (By no stretch of the imagination was Vietnam "Nixon's war," as Kerry has claimed.)

The victims were the Vietnamese who were subjected first to French imperialism, then to Democratic mismanagement, and finally to communist rule.

2) The best argument Edwards could make for receiving our vote was that the GOP has said mean things about Kerry. Aren'tcha just tired of it, y'all? See, people, you can do something about negative campaigning. Vote for us.

Compelling stuff.

3) How's your Aristotle? Ready for a syllogism? Here goes ...

A. Edwards's parents were working class.
B. He's a democrat.
Therefore, the working class should vote Democrat.

4) Vote Democrat because John Edwards spent his career suing HMO's.

I'm not making this up. This was his argument. I'm somehow expected to be convinced to vote for a trial lawyer who helped raise my health insurance premiums through litigation?

5) Say goodbye to the Two America's, and say hello to Utopia!

5 a) John Edwards promises that there will no longer be two kinds of health care, that for those who can afford the best, and that for the rest. How this will be possible without mandatory state-administered health care is unclear, but in the same breath he promised tax cuts to help pay for healthcare.

5 b) There will no longer be two kinds of public education under Kerry and Edwards, which means that the executive branch will in some way bypass congress as well as every state and local government and magically transfer the administration of public education to the federal government.

5 c) There will no longer be two economies, one for those who have lots of money and one for those who don't.

Am I crazy, or is this a promise of the redistribution of wealth? Is a vote for Kerry/Edwards a vote for communism? Once again, how can the executive branch promise anything of the sort? Perhaps we should examine the "specifics" as outlined and emphasized by Edwards:

  • They will create "good paying jobs."
  • They will not give tax breaks to companies which move jobs overseas, but will in fact offer tax breaks to companies which do not move jobs overseas.
  • They will invest in future technologies (and here he lost me saying "because jobs are about dignity.")

But wait! There's more...

  • Through tax breaks and health care reform you will save nearly $1000.
  • You will be eligible to receive a $1000 credit for childcare.
  • You will be eligible for a $4000 tuition credit for college

How might we pay for this, you ask?

The wealthiest individuals and corporations will pick up the slack. Hm. Keep that in mind.

6) There are 38 million impoverished Americans, and Kerry and Edwards will do something about it "because it is wrong," as if anyone else thinks it's right.

But what will they do?

  • Raise the minimum wage.
  • Reform welfare.
  • And, once again, create good jobs.

By now you're probably wondering how productive it might be to increase corporate taxes while forcing companies to pay higher wages. Couple that with tax incentives for keeping jobs in the States, and we have a genuine problem. If the tax breaks are significant enough to keep companies from using overseas labor, then every eligible corporation will seek these tax breaks, significantly decreasing the Kerry camp's major source of tax revenue. If not, corporations will take the new tax penalty and seek the cheapest available labor in the world, destroying any hope of creating good jobs at home and taxing their proposed tax scheme.

The Democratic party needs to learn at last that you can not promise the stars. The overall message seemed to be, "Dreams can come true," and I thought to myself, "Kennedy had Camelot, but Kerry has DisneyWorld."

Quite by chance as I crawled into bed I picked up Christopher Hitchens' Letters to a Young Contrarian. Chapter three seemed apt, so here's an excerpt, beginning with a quote from Huxley's Brave New World:

"Homer was wrong," wrote Heracleitus of Ephesus, "Homer was wrong in saying: 'Would that strife might perish from among gods and men!' He did not see that he was praying for the destruction of the universe; for if his prayer were heard, all things would pass away." These are the words on which the superhumanists should meditate. Aspiring toward a consistent perfection, they are aspiring toward annihilation. The Hindus had the wit to see and the courage to proclaim the fact; Nirvana, the goal of their striving, is nothingness. Wherever life exists, there also is inconsistency, division, strife.

You seem to have grasped the point that there is something idiot about those who believe that consensus (to give the hydra headed beast one of its names) is the highest good. Why do I use the offensive word "idiotic?" For two reasons that seem good to me; the first being my conviction that human beings do not, in fact, desire to live in some Disneyland of the mind, where there is an end to striving and a general feeling of contenment and bliss. This would be idiocy in its pejorative sense; the Athenians originally employed the term more lightly, defining as idiotis any man who was blandly indifferent to public affairs.

My second reason is less intuitive. Even if we did really harbor this desire, it would fortunately be unattainable. As a species, we may by all means think ruefully about the waste and horror produce by war and other forms of rivalry and jealousy. However, this can't alter the fact that in life we make progress by conflict and disputation. ...
... I am quite sure of two things. The first is that even uneducated people, whether sunk in the theocratic despotisms of yore, or the more modernised totalitarianisms of today (or the other way about, if you prefer) have an innate capacity to resist and, if not even to think for themselves, to have thoughts occur to them. ...

The second, which is only a corollary to the first, is that we do not naturally aspire to any hazy, narcotic Nirvana, where our critical and ironic faculties would be of no use to us. ... Only one other sacred text mentions "happiness" without embarrassment. But even in 1776, this concept was thought to be mentionable only as the consequence of bitter struggle, just then being embarked upon. The beautiful word "pursuit," however we construe it, would be vacuous in any other context.

Edwards would doubtless not get it. He plowed on ahead with his justification for one America, picking up Kerry's gross mis-interpretation of the Pan-African nationalism of W.E.B. Dubois. For Edwards, in sharp contrast to the willful black separatism espoused by the early socialist leadership of the NAACP, the segregation of the past fuels the need for "one America" today.

This is crucial. Edwards compared racial segregation with economic disparity. I can not imagine a bolder socialist statement in a relativley mainstream forum. The civil rights movement of today, for Kerry and Edwards, is the redistribution of wealth, or if not that then the effort of the federal government to reduce as much as possible whatever difference exist between any two people.

This is a drive toward conformity, sameness, and entitlements as rights.

Once again Edwards failed to make any sense. On this point he added that their goal was that their grandchildren's be the first generation to grow up in "one America" because ... we're at war.

This fails to explain the politics of division which holds this 'empty' war at its core.

In truth this was simply a weak transition as Edwards moved swiftly on to the hawkish posture necessary to seriously challenge the President in a hostile world. Despite criticising the President for going too far Edwards sketched in outline just how far he and Kerry would go:

  • They will do more!
  • They will act faster and be better!
  • They will listen to the 9-11 commission! (Ignore the fact that Bush is listening.)
  • They will form strong alliances.
  • They will support our emergency services.
  • The will always use force. (emphasis not mine)
  • And finally, their message to al Qaeda is, "You can not run. You can not hide. We will destroy you."

Keep in mind of course that the new party line is to criticize the Bush administration for doing too much, too fast, not to mention his use of force. From here we learn that 4 months in a swift boat qualifies Kerry to be commander in chief, are assured that he will win the war, and are treated to a verbal parade of the infirmity and death among our troops because of this war and promptly assured that the war will go on. What's more, under Kerry and Edwards the military will be strengthened and 'modernized' (no more muskets—finally!), that numbers will be doubled, and funding increased.

They really are planning to get a lot of money out of the top 2% of wage earners, aren't they? Soon enough Bill Gates will enter my tax bracket. Keep in mind the records of these senators on defense spending and conclude what you will of their veracity.

But the magic never ends in Disneyworld. Edwards also promised the respect of the world, an end to terrorism, and end to nuclear proliferation, and—here's the kicker—"that's how we'll keep you safe."

Wait ... how? You never said how. Oh, it doesn't really matter, anyway, because (cue the chorus) ... HOPE IS ON THE WAY!

In the end we've been promised far more than 40 acres and a mule. We've been promised the promised land. And when the Democrats don't deliver, will Sharpton come to see that only an elephant, and not a donkey, can ford the River Jordan?

Well, no, because that's just empty rhetoric. The kind a second rate reverend makes his bread and butter on.

posted by Dennis at 10:50 AM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)

Time to accessorize!

Does anyone remember the mysterious daisy?

I did a whole bunch of research at the time, but I was short on conclusions. Finally, the mystery was solved.

Of course now, four months later, "Kerry flip flop" is a more popular Google entry than "Kerry daisy". Can the "Kerry bunny suit" be far behind?

Well, I just found a not-to-be-missed gift item!


Give your loved one a hot foot today!

And, if you're looking to have hot feet, you can't hold a candle to this Ebay item, but you better hop over there now, because the sale ends today (at 8:10 p.m. EST).

Personally, I don't think daisy flip flops would clash with the bunny suit, but I'd have to ask the experts on fashionism.

(Now I've got to hot-foot it out of here.....)

posted by Eric at 10:49 AM | Comments (1)

The Real Good Guys

Not that you could easily tell, but I try not to be negative. It just isn't healthy.

So you may wonder why all the negative coverage on Rifkin, Ehrlich, Kass und so weiter?

Well, I figure it's not really negative if it generates wholesome enjoyment.
Plus, it's a public service.

But even so, I sometimes tire of transcribing idiocy, and at times like that I enjoy reading about genuine heros.

Norman Borlaug fills the bill nicely.

Borlaug is an eighty-two-year-old plant breeder who for most of the past five decades has lived in developing nations, teaching the techniques of high-yield agriculture. He received the Nobel in 1970, primarily for his work in reversing the food shortages that haunted India and Pakistan in the 1960s. Perhaps more than anyone else, Borlaug is responsible for the fact that throughout the postwar era, except in sub-Saharan Africa, global food production has expanded faster than the human population, averting the mass starvations that were widely predicted -- for example, in the 1967 best seller Famine -- 1975! The form of agriculture that Borlaug preaches may have prevented a billion deaths.
That's an excerpt from a Gregg Easterbrook article originally in the Atlantic Monthly. You can read the whole thing here. Here's a little bit more.

...the Midwest was becoming the Dust Bowl. Though some mythology now attributes the Dust Bowl to a conversion to technological farming methods, in Borlaug's mind the problem was the lack of such methods. Since then American farming has become far more technological, and no Dust Bowl conditions have recurred. In the summer of 1988 the Dakotas had a drought as bad as that in the Dust Bowl, but clouds of soil were rare because few crops failed. Borlaug was horrified by the Dust Bowl and simultaneously impressed that its effects seemed least where high-yield approaches to farming were being tried. He decided that his life's work would be to spread the benefits of high-yield farming to the many nations where crop failures as awful as those in the Dust Bowl were regular facts of life.

For a slightly different take, try this article. My favorite:

Borlaug recalls, "We were to help Mexico solve its own food problems. In other words, alongside our own work we were to train local scientists and ease them into our jobs. Moreover, we were to be neither consultants nor advisors, but working scientists getting our hands and boots dirty, and demonstrating by our own field results what could be done."

...But in the process Borlaug had to fight some aspects of Mexican culture, in particular the conviction that scientists were above hand labor or getting dirty. He was told by one of his colleagues in the early days, "Dr. Borlaug, we don't do these things in Mexico. That's why we have peons. All you've got to do is draw up the plans and take them to the foreman and let them do it."
Borlaug lost his temper (it wasn?t the last time). He yelled back "That's why the farmers disrespect you. If you don't know how to do something yourself, how can you possibly advise them? If the peons give you false information, you wouldn't even know. No, this has to change. Until we master our own efforts, we will go nowhere in this project."

Nice to see the American virtues unambiguously displayed, isn't it?

If you like what you've read so far you might want to check out this interview with Ron Bailey, the science correspondent for Reason magazine.

On the other hand, if the first two articles are too long for you, the interview makes a pleasantly sized introduction.

Reason: What do you think of Paul Ehrlich's work?
Borlaug: Ehrlich has made a great career as a predictor of doom. When we were moving the new wheat technology to India and Pakistan, he was one of the worst critics we had. He said, "This person, Borlaug, doesn't have any idea of the magnitude of the problems in food production." He said, "You aren't going to make any major impact on producing the food that's needed." Despite his criticisms, we succeeded, of course.
Reason: When an alleged expert like Ehrlich is being negative like that, does that discourage people? Does it hurt the efforts to boost food production?
Borlaug: Sure, because we were funded by a foundation....They'd hear his criticisms, and I'm sure there were some people at Rockefeller saying, "Maybe we shouldn't fund that program anymore." It always has adverse effects on budgeting.
Reason: Why do you think people still listen to Ehrlich? One can go back and read his doomsday scenarios and see that he was wrong.
Borlaug: People don't go back and read what he wrote. You do, but the great majority of the people don't, and their memory is short. As a matter of fact, I think this [lack of perspective] is true of our whole food situation. Our elites live in big cities and are far removed from the fields. Whether it's Brown or Ehrlich or the head of the Sierra Club or the head of Greenpeace, they've never been hungry.

Maybe I am feeling just a little negative....

posted by Justin at 05:25 PM | Comments (3)

Flipper and the whale?

This Kerry Flipper film (linked by Glenn Reynolds and discussed below by Varius) is quite remarkable. The guy's flip-flopping is even more blatant than I realized.

The website supplying the video also links to this gem of a comment about 9/11 by Michael Moore:

Three thousand Americans were killed. There's 290 million Americans, all right? The chance of - of any of us dying in a terrorist incident is very, very, very small.

OK, for the sake of argument let's give Moore the benefit of the doubt here.

9/11 was a mere statistical trifle of little concern to any of us.

So why subject the entire country to an elaborate, highly polarizing piece of propaganda devoted to blaming Bush for it?

The only answer I can come up with is that he really must think Americans are as stupid as he says they are.

Will Kerry disavow Michael Moore?

If he has any sense at all, he will. At least one columnist has speculated that this situation presents an ideal Sister Souljah moment:

A clever Kerry move would be to turn Michael Moore into his Sister Souljah. In his 1992 campaign, Bill Clinton criticized black rapper Sister Souljah for talk about killing white people. Repudiating an extremist who would normally back one's candidacy was a brilliant tactic. Likewise, Kerry could give Moore a light spanking for his simple-minded sermons on the evils of war.

But he shouldn't leave any marks on Moore's rear. The filmmaker does have followers, and their votes will be helpful. The Democrats have little choice but to let the Nader Traitors join their parade — but preferably in the back, and with bags over their heads.

That Jimmy Carter/Michael Moore photo was bad enough for the Democrats. Middle America remembers....

Kerry has an opportunity here.

If he doesn't take it, he'll be sorry.

(Howard Dean missed a similar opportunity.)

MORE: Not surprisingly, Fahrenheit 9/11 is having a devastating effect on the morale of our troops:

Michael Moore's film, Fahrenheit 9/11, is making the rounds here at U.S. bases in Kuwait. Some soldiers have received it already and are passing is around. The impact is devastating.

Here we are, soldiers of the 1st Armored Division, just days from finally returning home after over a year serving in Iraq, and Moore's film is shocking and crushing soldiers, making them feel ashamed. Moore has abused the First Amendment and is hurting us worse than the enemy has.

There are the young and impressionable soldiers, like those who joined the Army right out of high school. They aren't familiar w/ the college-type political debate environment, and they haven't been schooled in the full range of issues involved. They are vulnerable to being hurt by a vicious film like Moore's.

(Via Andrew Sullivan.) Read the rest. And remember that Moore is being hailed as a hero by the Democratic Party.

I didn't think things would ever get this bad. I always thought of Michael Moore as fringe.

Bush is lucky I am not working for Kerry, because I feel quite strongly that if he slammed Michael Moore -- hard -- right now, he'd draw some boos at the convention.

And win in November.

posted by Eric at 05:08 PM | Comments (6)

"They call him Flipper..."

The GOP's 12 minute video chronicling Kerry's flip-flop on the war issue is now available.

One apologist has already tried to soften the blow:

"There's no question that comments here or there, taken out of context and thrown together, are intended by Republicans to try to simplify or dumb down a crucial issue of war and peace into a simple yes-no question," said James Rubin, a senior foreign policy adviser to the Kerry campaign.

But that's not the video they produced. Rather than "comments here or there, taken out of context and thrown together," we're treated to extended arguments that change year by year.

My favorite bit is perhaps in 1998 (9:19 into the video) when Kerry proclaims himself at the head of the pack, proudly ahead of the Commander in Chief, in urging the use of force against Saddam Hussein's impending threat. He even says that we must do "whatever we can to disrupt his regime." A simple bombing campaign is not enough, he adds, and justifies action for the ramifications it will have on surrounding nations.

Aside from that the video does a good job of showing that Howard Dean was the better candidate, that the Democrats made a mistake.

And honestly, I might've voted for Dean. For awhile Kucinich was my guy.

posted by Dennis at 01:00 PM | Comments (1)

PBS: pure-bred simpletons?

Where's the aftermath of the close of last night's Newshour coverage of the Democratic Convention?

There is no link to the transcript, and near as I can tell no one is talking about it.

Mark Shields, in gushing over Barack Obama, called him Tiger Woods, a comparison which is valid if one considers his youth, the excitement he is generating throughout the party, and his meteoric rise to stardom.

But Shields didn't mention any of that.

Instead he said that Obama is of mixed-race (just like Tiger Woods). He qualified that by saying he can appeal to everyone. Jim Lehrer laughingly added that people once said that about someone else (whose name I missed -- let me know if you caught it), to which Shields quipped:

"He was purebred!"

Lehrer, laughing, echoed him.

"He was purebred."

And then it was good night, America.

I was honestly stunned.

posted by Dennis at 12:13 PM | Comments (8)

Fahrenheit 1973?


I am being misunderstood!

A commenter is upset not by something I have done, but by an idea I had recently. When I read that there were going to be more beheading videos, it occurred to me that some of the beheaders might feel, well, inspired by Michael Moore and his antics. After all, he did compare them to America's early revolutionaries, and he did say, "and they will win."

Those are words of encouragement and inspiration by any standard that I know of.

And I am tired of the beheading videos. At least as tired of them as some people (like Michele Catalano) are of certain 1970s songs....

So what I did was simply to opine that maybe -- if the beheadings continue (as threatened) and if I continue to link to them -- I ought to dedicate them to Michael Moore.

Anyway, the commenter takes me to task in an almost lawyerly manner:

Moore's comments were about the insurgents in Iraq. Of the videos you mention, only Nick Berg was beheaded in Iraq. Pearl was beheaded in Pakistan, and Johnson was beheaded in Saudi Arabia. The connection you are making of Moore's comments about Iraq to the beheadings that are occuring outside the Iraq insurgency is uninformed and ridiculous.
Connection? Come on, it's a DEDICATION! To inspiration! While it is true that Moore's comments only praised the Iraqi insurgents, isn't it possible that others were also inspired? That they might share at least some of the goals of the Iraqi insurgents? Here are Paul Johnson's beheaders, in their own words:
“This American hostage got what he deserved,” the statement said. “He tasted what many Muslims tasted from the fire of Apache helicopter attacks.

“We are moving forward to fight the enemies of Allah and to avenge our brothers in Iraq, Palestine, Afghanistan and the Arabian Peninsula.

“To Americans and to infidels united in a war against Islam, this is retaliation and a lesson to those that come to our country: This will be their fate,” it added.

Hey and what about South Korean Kim Sun Il -- also beheaded in Iraq? Why doesn't he count?

Ever heard of artistic license? I know I don't rank with Ronstadt or Moore, and this is only a lowly blog, but sheesh!

True, my idea was not original. Quite shamelessly, I copied Linda Ronstadt -- who dedicates "Desperado" to Michael Moore. And now, because I do try to answer criticism, I have forced myself to read the song's lyrics. In all honesty, I still don't fully understand the connection between Moore and this stuff from 1973:

"These things that are pleasing you will hurt you somehow"

"you only want the things that you can't get"

"Open the gate"

"Let somebody love you before it's too late"

Some critics might argue that the connection Ronstadt is making between Michael Moore and Desperado is itself "uninformed and ridiculous." Actually, Frank J. has speculated that Linda Ronstadt might be attacking Michael Moore. The following excerpt is limited to the phrases I selected above; to do justice to Frank you should read the whole thing:
These things that are pleasin' you(fried cheese)Can hurt you somehow (high cholesterol; heart attack)

you only want the ones that you can't get (no matter how much money he makes, he can't get what he really wants: everyone to mindlessly hate President Bush)

open the gate (again the image of some fence supporting Moore's weight is just too ridiculous)

You better let somebody love you, before it's too late (too late being the inevitable heart attack from eating fatty foods and shouting angrily all the time)

So come on! As Moore himself would say, it's just a DEDICATION.

Any artist should know what artistic license is all about.

Dude, where's your head?

UPDATE: Rachel Lucas weighs in on "Desperado":

Every time I have ever been in a place where that song has come on and most of the people around me started acting like total dopes, as though the song was a brilliant piece of musical workmanship, I've wanted to just die.
With that in mind, let's contemplate Michael Moore's syllogism:
1. "Every American loves 'Desperado'"

2. "Americans are possibly the dumbest people on the planet."

If Moore believes these assertions are logically consistent, it's fair to ask whether even he likes the song. Linda Ronstadt ought to be concerned.

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

What I Wanna See...

This convention is boring! I wanted excitement and I think everyone else does too! So what to do, huh? Huh? Here's my big idea.

What I wanna see is John Kerry fighting Wolfman.

Don't you dare laugh. It's perfect, see. For many reasons.

First John Kerry gets to dress up in tails and an opera cape. It is SO perfect for him! See, the cape hides his thin, insect-like limbs. Aaaand, he's a natural aristocrat, so he will finally look all comfortable and stuff. And the outfit goes with his head.
He LOOKS undead, so this is like PERFECT branding for him!

So anyway, here's how I see it playing out...

The stage is dark, see ...spotlight on Elsa Heinz Lanchester.
She's got high hair with a dyed platinum squiggle in it.
Major Goth identification.
She's leading Al Gore on a leash, and he's made up to look like Frankenstein.
The monster that is, not the mad scientist, that will be Bill Clinton...Anyway, he's you know ...Big...and he's got these honkin' bolts in his neck and best of all, he's GREEN, get it?
Maybe this will be too subtle...

Anyway, Teresa Lanchester says to Green Gore, 'Our power grows weaker and weaker' and he's all like, inarticulate and stuff.

And she's like, ' Our age is past, I can smell it in the air...the water...the earth...The Villagers come, with Fire and Cold Iron...' and Al, he's like moping up a storm.

Cue the dry ice and (small) explosion...It's Count Dracula! (really it's just John F. Kerry dressed up as Dracula). Would college kids in the audience be scared, do you think? Oh who cares, "Screw Them" hahaha.

Anyway John F. Kerry turns to Elsa Heinz and makes this really really arrogant face, like a...sneer or something...and the audience can tell she really digs it. We may have to use some body language here.

And John Kerry makes this sweeping, imperious gesture, and She's all like UNABLE TO RESIST!

And he's all 'Fear them not, for know that I HAVE that POWER! ....and Frankenstein (Al Gore) is instantly down on his knees, slobbering and weeping and stuff, and Elsa Kerry is all hypnotically approaching him, like a bird and a freakin' SNAKE man, when theres this shhh-thump...shhhh-thump...shhhh-thump and out comes Jimmy Carter all dressed up like the Mummy in rolls of cardigan mufflers, dragging his leg like the real Mummy would!

(Note: Is Jimmy Earl physically capable of this? Check w/doctors first)

The crowd will like seeing the old geezer, but it's a cameo only, see. We keep focus on the candidate.

The Mummy will be like, all muttering in some weird egypto-mummytalk and John Kerry will just crook his fingers all sinister kung fu style and Jimmy will bow down and Make Obeisance to him. It's a new Party, baby!

But, all this is just...the...warm-up!

There should be a crash of thunder and lightning and then out runs Wolfman!

But... its really Howard Dean! Yeeargh!!! YEEEARGGHHH!!!

He should be dressed in authentic Wolfman get-up, torn pants, no shirt, raggedy open vest. No shoes!

And then they fight. They grapple. They clinch tight, then break, then grapple more. Finally, after a hellacious, special effects laden ASS KICKING, complete with Crouching Tiger style mid-air wirework, they wind it down.

And Kerry is all suave and cool, he just stands there giving Dean The Look.

And Dean is all panting and bloody and whining with excitement, and he growls and snaps at the air.

And Kerry just stands there without a hair out of place and looks down his nose and smiles a tiny, cold smile.

And Dean says ' Gives it back...We wants it...'

And Kerry is like 'Your time is ended...slink now, back to your obscure rustic hole, and I may yet spare your plebeian life'.

And Dean is like...wait for it...'Yeearggh!!!' (It should be his best one yet, I think) And he leaps! And Kerry does a super-kung fu move and sends him just flying!

And Kerry says 'That is not dead which can eternal lie...Think you to fight ME little doggy? I, who commanded troops in Vietnam, long before you were born? My electoral strength is TEN times that of yours! Begone!'

And he just stands there looking all bad.

And Dean leaps again, but now we see that the whole big fight from before was just Kerry TOYING with Dean, cause now Dean is getting his clock cleaned and Kerry is just twitching his fingers in cryptic mystical patterns, and Dean is getting the TAR beat out of him, nolo contendere!

But he's a plucky one he is, and won't quit till he's decked cold, at which point Kerry raises his upper mantislimbs in an unholy invocation of The Dark, and Heinz Elsa is just looking at him like, 'Oh! Now John....Now...Now...NOW! (And so are Jimmy and Al) and then she goes over and KICKS WolfDean, and he screams like a little girl...and Kerry is all with that cold, small smile....

And then Elsakerry says 'What shall we do with him my master?'

And Kerry is like 'His fate need not concern such a one as you'

And then Dr. Frankenstein and Igor come onstage, but it's really Bill and Hillary dressed up in costume, and that is just so funny, cause they'll be dressed as DOCTORS! Well, anyway.... I thought it was funny... and they drag Wolfman off.

And then Frankenstein and Mummy leave too.

And then it's just Dracula and The Bride.

And he's all, 'Come to me my love...feed my hunger...forever.'

And she's all, 'YES!...YES!!'

Fade to Black.

Now, that's what I wanna see...

With apologies to Frank J., Universal Studios, and Abdul Al-Hazred.

posted by Justin at 07:07 PM | Comments (4)

A tyrant for our time?

Much as I hate elections, I couldn't help noticing that poor Domitian hasn't gotten a single vote in the evil emperor contest over on the right hand side of this blog. This is understandable, and generally speaks well of the knowledge of history of Classical Values readers. For Domitian is probably the weakest candidate for most evil emperor, although I felt obliged to include him because the traditional view of him is so negative.

However, it has occurred to me that some readers may have overlooked Domitian because they don't know much about him, in much the same way that voters overlooked, say, the candidacy of Dennis Kucinich. (And no, that is not in any way a suggestion of moral equivalency!)

I hesitate to call this an endorsement of Domitian, though. Perhaps it should be called a get-out-the-vote sort of infomercial.

For starters, Domitian is considered to be a persecutor of Christians -- a charge many historians consider overstated, if not unproven. (Here's the traditional Christian view.)

But without dwelling on whether or not the Christian persecutions may be laid at his doorstep, what kind of guy was Domitian? The following is along the lines of the traditional view:

Historians have described Domitian as "crazy and unbalanced". He suffered from social inadequacy and preferred solitude to the company of people. He had a distrustful nature and was constant in fear of conspiracies; the pillars of his palace were made of white reflective marble so that he could see what was going on behind him. Like Caligula, Domitian was very sensitive of his baldness and official portraits continued to show him with flowing locks of hair. Domitian was also notorious for his cruelty. He is supposed to have invented a new method of torture: burning the sexual organs of his victims. Domitian was capable of inviting an erring official to supper, dismissing him in such a way that the man retired happy and carefree. Nevertheless, the next day he was executed. Domitian also enjoyed asking senators to dinner-parties at which all the equipment was black, so that the guests were numb with fright. Like Vespasian, Domitian persecuted Stoic philosophers and Jews. He had all Jews, who claimed descent from King David, tracked down and killed. Very peculiar was Domitian's pleasure in catching flies, stabbing them with the point of a pen and tearing their wings out.

Worth a vote or two maybe?

But according to the more modern view, Domitian "governed the empire well."

Yeah, well why did his own father (and predecessor, Vespasian) not want him on the throne? Why was there such rejoicing in his assassination (a plot even his wife joined)?

I decided that because Domitian hasn't gotten a single vote, that it's fair for me to put in at least one bad word or two for his candidacy.

From a libertarian standpoint, the man's autocratic style was dreadful:

Domitian was an authoritarian figure for whom people were a means to an end. The elaborate facade of grandeur that he built for the office of emperor has been impossible to breach to find the man behind the mask. His morality was strict and punitive, as was his inflexible application of the rule of law. A quote of Domitian that nobody believes in conspiracies until the emperor is dead reveals the paranoia that motivated him, particularly following the rebellion of Saturninus. Greater security, however, was his ultimate undoing. It is ironic that Domitian’s courtiers were those who murdered him, fearful of the unpredictable nature of their master, while the Senate remained impotent to take action.

After Domitian’s death, aristocratic members of the Senate rejoiced. They saw to it that a damnatio memoria that was passed but this measure appears to have had mixed results. Only 37% of Domitian’s extant inscriptions throughout the empire were re-cut.[4] The reign of Nerva, in contrast, was greeted as a restoration of liberty. But his fellow-consul, Fronto, had the last word on his colleague remarking, "that it was bad to have an emperor under whom nobody was permitted to do anything, but worse to have one under whom everybody was permitted to do everything." (Dio 68.1.3).

Regarding that last quote, it appears that false dichotomies are nothing new.... And I seriously doubt that "everybody was permitted to do everything."

This account is, I think, typifies the modern view of Domitian. Excerpt:

In many ways, Domitian is still a mystery - a lazy and licentious ruler by some accounts, an ambitious administrator and keeper of traditional Roman religion by others.[[24]] As many of his economic, provincial, and military policies reveal, he was efficient and practical in much that he undertook, yet he also did nothing to hide the harsher despotic realities of his rule. This fact, combined with his solitary personality and frequent absences from Rome, guaranteed a harsh portrayal of his rule. The ultimate truths of his reign remain difficult to know.
I don't want to ask how they might define ultimate truths....

Anyway, this view is taken to task by Peter Wiseman, who goes so far as to call Domitian The Saddam Hussein of the Roman Empire:

Why is it, then, that modern scholars are eager to whitewash Domitian? His latest biographer, Brian W. Jones, announces in the preface to his book that `the traditional portrait of Domitian as a bloodthirsty tyrant has not completely disappeared and still needs emendation'. Dr Jones begins his section on Domitian and the Senate with a reference to Suetonius' list of eleven ex-consuls put to death, and he rightly notes that it represents `only the most eminent' of Domitian's senatorial victims. But his conclusion runs: `So Domitian's attitude to the aristocracy was that of a benevolent despot.' If that is benevolence, what would count as malice?

....Suspicious and implacable, with a manner deliberately calculated to emphasise the supremacy of his power, he picked out and destroyed his victims with what seemed to contemporaries a gratuitous and sadistic cruelty. How many of them were genuine threats to his security, we cannot know. The way Pliny and Tacitus saw it, to be denounced was itself a sentence of death. Are we really in a position to say that they were wrong?

The main reason, I think, why modern biographers are predisposed to minimise the despotism of emperors is that they live in liberal democracies. Dr Jones is Australian, Professor Barrett Canadian. In their countries, as in Britain and the United States, unfettered autocracy has become something practically inconceivable, especially to we academics, who lead the obscure and blameless lives appropriate to our station. People just do not do such things. If our sources say they did, then our sources must be systematically unreliable.

It would look different to a Russian who had lived under Stalin, an East German who had lived under Honeker, a Romanian who had lived under Ceaucescu. And that is to restrict oneself to Europe; what about Marcos, Bokassa, Pol Pot? Our age has seen examples enough of the effects of irresponsible total power, and it is a mere failure of the imagination to assume that such things did not happen in Imperial Rome. `Just remember', Caligula is reported to have said to his grandmother, `I can do anything to anybody.' It seems to me to be a kind of treachery to the dead to disbelieve Tacitus and Pliny on merely a priori grounds. Are we to doubt their word just because they survived the experience they describe? It may well be that their conduct in Domitian's Senate was less than heroic, but would you or I have done any better?

Some historians avoid the issue by the strategy of dismissing Imperial biography altogether.

.... If we resist the temptations of facile `source-criticism' on the one hand, and inappropriate devotion to the longue duree on the other, we may be able to get the feel of Roman autocracy in the developing Principate by comparing it with a modern analogue, the rule of Saddam Hussein. Of course there are very wide differences in the two historical situations, but there are some striking parallels too: the importance of the family, with the concomitant necessity sometimes to execute close relatives (in Domitian's case, his cousins Sabinus and Clements); the importance of military success, with grandiose triumphal monuments to commemorate it (Saddam's twin-scimitar arch is worthy of an emperor); the importance of the personality cult, with images of the leader everywhere (Domitian's great equestrian statue dominated the Roman Forum); and of course the importance of a totally loyal and ruthlessly efficient security machine (though Domitian's failed him in the end).

Saddam Hussein took over the Presidency of Iraq from Ahmad Hasan al-Bakr in July 1979. Two weeks later he called a meeting of the Baath Party Regional Congress to announce that a plot to overthrow the regime had been uncovered. Not only that, but the guilty men were present in the hall. Muhyi Abd al-Hussein al Mashadi was called to the podium to confess. Saddam sat calmly smoking a cigar. In horrified silence the audience listened as Mashadi named a long list of fellow-conspirators. Each man in turn was made to stand up, and led out of the hall by armed guards. When it was all over Saddam spoke of the need for loyalty. The survivors stood and fervently applauded.

The entire proceedings were recorded on videotape for the benefit of the party faithful. Copies were sent to friendly governments, and thus eventually became available in the West. The film was shown on television in Britain at the time of the invasion of Kuwait, and I am sure no ancient historian could have seen it without thinking immediately of Tacitus and Pliny on Domitian's reign of terror.

Of course, it took around 1900 years for the modern revisionists to pooh-pooh Tacitus and Pliny, and decide that Domitian wasn't such a bad guy after all.

Saddam Hussein is way ahead of that game.....

So far ahead, in fact, that I'd be willing to speculate that by comparing Domitian to him, Mr. Wiseman has inadvertently assisted the modern relativistic view. (I can see it now: "Like Saddam Hussein, who governed Iraq well, Domitian has been much misjudged and misunderstood....")

But bear in mind that Wiseman was writing way back in 1996.

A time when nearly everyone thought Saddam Hussein was bad....

posted by Eric at 05:18 PM | Comments (3)

Rodham 'Dubya' Heinz

Teresa Heinz Kerry, wife of Democratic hopeful John Kerry, has some interesting things to say. I'm not referring to "shove it" (which, incidentally, makes her tough and sexy--a woman who knows when to say 'enough!'; it's also shorthand for "shove it up your ass", the sort of thing Dick Cheney would be roasted for).

I'm talking about her Hillary-styled ambition. I'm also talking about her mangling of the English language which rivals the President's.

First there's the quote I heard on the radio this morning. There is as yet no web link available, but Teresa Heinz Kerry thinks that we would like to know that the President and his wife are able to check one another. She also thinks it's important that we know she and her husband enjoy being leaders.

So keep that in mind. When you elect John Kerry you elect co-president Teresa Heinz Kerry.

Now try to wrap your mind around this quote:

“I don’t mind criticism, provided it’s intelligent, not gratuitous,” she said. “I’m not perfect, Lord knows. And I have opinions and so do other people. The only thing one hopes is that when people criticize you, they’ve really thought about it. And I would hope that my friends and those that are not my friends, but would think about whatever, would criticize me with that in mind, which is to make it be better. That’s what criticism should be for. Other kinds of criticism, you know, it’s a free country.”

Setting aside the confusion between 'one' and 'you' (a forgivable error and one commonly made by people trying to sound smart), no sense can be made of the sentence, "And I would hope that my friends and those that are not my friends, but would think about whatever, would criticize me with that in mind, which is to make it be better."

Come again? But it's followed by another gem. Asked about her emotional response to her husband's decision to run she managed another string of disconnected words:

“Scared,” she said, “Of the awesomeness of this job. Not responsibility. You can see the faces of presidents when they go in and when they come out. It’s a huge weight, a great honor, obviously, but it’s weight and you lose for a time being, anyway, some freedom, movement.”

That reads like a Leelee Sobieski poem (the poem in question, "This Day And All the Rest," sadly -- and unbelievably -- is not on the internet. If anyone finds a transcript I will be forever gratefeul). [UPDATE: You can download an mp3 of the infamous poem, but I warn you, it may cause vomiting or excessive laughter.]

I'm not going to go so far as to criticize her claiming to call herself an African American because the only source on that seems to be NewsMax, and the sources it cites seem nonexistent. Still, that's just the sort of thing Kerry supporters do to their enemies.

UPDATE: Eric pointed out in the comments here that the NewsMax story is accurate despite the fact that it no longer appears on the Baltimore Sun website. For some reason the story was not archived, but I dare not speculate as to why. The story, however, survives intact on a Peace Corps message board.

And I've decided to archive it here as well since such a seemingly innocuous piece has proved so hard to find.

NB: the link, of course, is dead.


Continue reading "Rodham 'Dubya' Heinz"

posted by Dennis at 11:23 AM | Comments (7)

Drooling is more civilized than frothing

In summarizing the Democratic Convention, Jeff Jarvis delivered one of the the best one liners I have seen:

Nothing is going to happen there. It's not news when nothing happens.
Words of wisdom by someone who knows.

Yet it will take 15,000 reporters and Lord knows how many news articles to report a done deal we already know about.

Of course, something might happen.

But, despite the concentration camps (with more crushing of dissent), it's not yet 1968....

Instead of mob rule, so far it's more like mob drool; the most entertaining thing I've read about was a "doddering pit bull." (Ouch!)

Better doddering than rabid, I suppose.

UPDATE: Drudge is calling the convention "the big yawn":

At least no one is talking about "Blogbuster ratings."


posted by Eric at 09:02 AM | Comments (1)

Six Star Rating!

Speaking of documentaries, yesterday I saw a real documentary.

Last week I bought a copy of Six, a riveting documentary about teen murderers produced by forensic psychologist Dr. Karen Smith (the wife of Glenn Reynolds). If, like me, you're a person who does not watch documentaries in order to be led, this is well worth buying and watching, because all the facts are presented, but you're left free to draw your own conclusions.

By any standard, what happened is appalling. Numbingly grotesque. A group of extremely antisocial "Goth" type teens (with all the trappings of Satanic cultdom) was approached by a religious family who naively imagined they could "help" the kids by a little friendly religious proselytization. Instead of being saved, the Goths hijacked the family's van and savagely murdered the man, his wife, and one little daughter, and severely wounded their infant son. (Longer review, with more detail, here.)

While recognizing the obvious horror of the crime, the film neither sensationalizes nor takes sides, but instead, starkly and honestly presents the kids' own side of the story, and interviews their familes and friends. This lack of editorializing allowed me to render my own judgments about these people, and I am still thinking about them. Kids committing such a heinous crime is the kind of thing well worth a good meditation or two, and I don't do a very good job of thinking when I'm first told what to think and then have to spend my time debating the merits or biases of someone else's opinion.

The prosecuting attorney, the defense attorney, and several trial witnesses are interviewed, along with experts on religion and clinical psychology. In terms of data, no stone is left unturned, and I feel that I have as good an idea of what happened as it is possible for a non-expert in the case to have. One thing is clear: "the system" failed to prevent the crimes.

Any moral lessons to be drawn will be my own.

Six is what I think a documentary should be, and I highly recommend it.

In fact, I like it so much, that I won't spoil it by blaming our evil society, the climate of violence, the murderous military, the easy availability of handguns, the moral decay of today's youth, Satan, the Goth scene, high school bullies, religion, or lack thereof.

Buy a copy and decide for yourself who or what is to blame!

posted by Eric at 04:40 PM | Comments (1)

Some facts are stubborn things to check!

In his last post, Varius made the following point:

To question the timing, to speculate about the worst cause of an unclear event (like those who wondered whether Bush 'went AWOL' to avoid drug testing), and to counter a valid argument through an ad hominem attack is part and parcel of the leftist worldview.
My curiosity was aroused, so I poked around and saw that the story about drug testing is based on the following assertions in a piece by Senior Editor Eric Boehlert:
Did Bush drop out of the National Guard to avoid drug testing?
The young pilot walked away from his commitment in 1972 -- the same year the U.S. military implemented random drug tests.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
By Eric Boehlert

Feb. 6, 2004

One of the persistent riddles surrounding President Bush's disappearance from the Texas Air National Guard during 1972 and 1973 is the question of why he walked away. Bush was a fully trained pilot who had undergone a rigorous two-year flight training program that cost the Pentagon nearly $1 million. And he has told reporters how important it was to follow in his father's footsteps and to become a fighter pilot. Yet in April 1972, George W. Bush climbed out of a military cockpit for the last time. He still had two more years to serve, but Bush's own discharge papers suggest he never served for the Guard again.

It is, of course, possible that Bush had simply had enough of the Guard and, with the war in Vietnam beginning to wind down, decided that he would rather do other things. In 1972 he asked to be transferred to an Alabama unit so he could work on a Senate campaign for a friend of his father's. But some skeptics have speculated that Bush might have dropped out to avoid being tested for drugs. Which is where Air Force Regulation 160-23, also known as the Medical Service Drug Abuse Testing Program, comes in. The new drug-testing effort was officially launched by the Air Force on April 21, 1972, following a Jan. 11, 1972, directive issued by the Department of Defense.

The official regulations look very authoritative, and would appear to settle at least the matter of when drug testing was instituted in the Air Force, right down to the date of directive, date of implementation, and the exact regulation number.

Surely these facts were checked and rechecked, I thought.

But the problem is, I lived in Hawaii in 1975-1976, and I knew a number of guys in the military. I got high with some of them (should I say I never inhaled?), and even discussed my own thoughts about possibly enlisting (something I ruled out -- but not because of drug testing).

In fact, I can state from my own memory that a lot of guys in the military in Hawaii in the mid 1970s did drugs. There was no routine drug screening. Drug testing was in its infancy at the time, and drug use was rampant in all branches of the service. All rules were liberalized, and there were even on-base beer dispensing machines. It wasn't until the late 1970s that there was talk of drug testing.

According to what I can discern, drug testing in the military started in 1981.

Here's an article from the Honolulu Star-Bulletin:

When the U.S. Navy thought too many aircraft were crashing into carrier decks during the late 1970s, it instituted mandatory drug testing and found almost 50 percent of those tested were positive for marijuana, according to Carl Linden, scientific director of toxicology for Diagnostic Services Inc. in Honolulu.

Between 1981 and 1986, Linden said, the Navy enforced mandatory, random drug testing on ships and drug use dropped to a few percentage points.

The 1981 date finds confirmation here, here, here, and here. And in an editorial letter to the Washington Times, Retired Air Force Colonel William Campenni says:
...[T]he formal drug testing program was not instituted by the Air Force until the 1980s and is done randomly by lot, not as a special part of a flight physical, when one easily could abstain from drug use because of its date certain.
So who's lying? What about the "official" dates and regulations cited by Eric Boehlert?

I shouldn't have to go to so much trouble, but the idea that official regulations and dates might be made up is a possibility too disturbing to ignore. Surely, I thought, a little research should clear this up.

So I googled "Air Force Regulation 160-23", and found 33 hits -- all pointing not to any actual Air Force regulation, but to Eric Boehlert's language.

Then I googled "Medical Service Drug Abuse Testing Program", and I got the same 33 hits to the same language.

Same thing for the dates: "April 21, 1972" "drug testing" and "Jan. 11, 1972" "drug testing", as well as when the April and January dates are googled together.

None of this proves conclusively that the regulation wasn't instituted, of course.

How might I confirm something so basic? Are we to assume that the author contacted the Air Force? He lists no Air Force spokesman, links to no official web site, and no matter what I google, it's a closed loop.

NOTE: Considering that Boehlert is said to be a writer of "fiction", even if the story of Air Force regulations proves false, I may be completely overreacting.... After all, these days, a documentary doesn't have to be true, so why should a story in an online news magazine?

UPDATE: I'm sure this could all be cleared up if I just knew the right people. Maybe I should go on this cruise to find out who carries the water. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

posted by Eric at 04:12 PM | Comments (2)

One nation under whom?

I don't know why, but the following political insight has triggered a Sunday rant:

Every time you see them bickering about extending tax cuts, gay marriage, flag burning, and other “hot button” partisan issues, know that they think those are the things that are most important. Those are the topics they think will “fire up the base” and get them re-elected. We need to change their mind about that.

We need to point out, “the last time I saw a flag burning, it was flying in front of World Trade Center Building 5 on the morning of 9/11, and that’s the kind of flag burning I want Congress to prioritize and stop.” There is no more important matter, and we should be holding our elected representative’s feet to the fire.

Now. (Link via Glenn Reynolds.)

Speaking of bickering, I would like to know something: Is God on the right? Is God on the left? Or is it absurd to pose such questions?

I don't mean to be facetious about this at all. There is a growing movement in this country which is dedicated singlemindedly to the proposition that the American founding is not merely based upon God, but somehow upon religious texts. Certain political powerbrokers and ideologues (mostly Republicans) believe that the more closely they adhere to their interpretations of these texts, the worthier they are to hold political office.

Or (worse) to rule.

Is this logical? For the sake of this argument, I politely ask my readers to suspend disbelief, and please take it as a given that God exists, and that most of the country's founders believed in God. That being the case, they were respectful enough of whatever deity they believed in to refuse any mention of him in the Constitution, and they specifically disallowed any religious test of any kind for holding political office.

Yet still, there is a determined belief that if only God (and not God in the general sense but God in the form of certain religious texts) can be insinuated into the country's founding, this nation will be better off.

This belief goes hand in hand with the view that all things must bow to a greater power (God), and that because God is the author of everything we have (including the Constitution), there are limits beyond which no government may go. This, it is claimed, is the ultimate restraint on power.

Is it? I would like to think that in the philosphical sense it could be, for God is not truly knowable -- not by any single belief system text, or group of texts. The founding fathers certainly knew this intimately, for European religious wars were an ongoing problem -- one which the First Amendment was written specifically to avoid.

But I am worried that one of the biggest splits between the two parties is over an idea of the country's founding: whether God is a sort of final arbiter or brake on government, and if so, whether that means that the party claiming that is better suited to rule.

It would not bother me if they believed that God was in the ethereal sense a higher authority than any man or government, or even that God was the ultimate author of American freedom. What bothers me is the idea that this "author" can be specifically identified, quantified, and spoken for. To breathe God into the founding in any more than the most general philosophical sense is in my opinion to do what the founders refused to do, and to violate the First Amendment.

Merely because the argument takes the form of "putting God back" does not end the inquiry. It only begins it.

As good a starting point as any is the "one nation under God" debate. These words are nowhere in the Constitution, but were added to the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954. Regardless of whether their inclusion was a good idea, the partisanship surrounding this issue of a non-constitutional nature is remarkable, and more heated than even the gay marriage debate. I think some of that is because the argument is being driven by atheists on one side who want no mention of God and by partisan would-be theocrats who think the words mean that the country must be ruled in accordance with religious texts.

This book review offers insight into the debate:

The words "under God" were placed in the pledge during the Cold War when Congress wished to make even more clear how our beliefs differed from those of the Communists. It is sometimes suggested that the words are therefore illegitimate—that they are tied to an obsolete historical situation or reflect an anti-Communist extremism. But the Communist threat was merely the occasion that reminded Congress of something fundamental. As Fornieri points out, "The ideologies of Communism and fascism both sought to murder the Judeo-Christian God and to replace Him with a human power that was beyond good and evil and freed from any higher moral obligation." The result was the rule of tyrants who "sought to wield both the sacred and the secular swords with absolute power, becoming a law unto themselves [from] which there could be no higher appeal in either principle or practice." To acknowledge God's rule is to recognize that human beings are not the masters of their fate or of the universe, and hence that human government is properly limited in scope. As Fornieri correctly notes and explains at length, such a belief is not a violation of the separation of church and state, but the very foundation of it.
Such thinking is causing this country a lot of trouble, and I am not sure that all of the people who are pissed off (on both sides) fully understand why.

Let's examine the statement that "human beings are not the masters of their fate or of the universe, and hence... human government is properly limited in scope." Whether human beings are masters of their fate or the universe is a silly question, because it is self apparent that unless they destroy the world, they are not (and even if they did, they might not be). I have no problem at all in acknowledging that, and I don't think it threatens anyone. Nor do I have a problem with government being limited accordingly. I don't want man playing God, whether in God's name or outside God's name -- in the name of man. (Communists are atheists, while Islamofascists are devoutly religious. Both are murderous, elitist swine.)

The problem is, the Constitution was not intended to rule the universe, or even the measly fate of mankind; it was intended as a limit on the power of human beings to govern us here in the United States. If people want to say that this is because God limits the power of man, fine. But they don't stop there. Instead, they use the concept of God as master of our fate as a starting point, and reason that if God masters the fate of the universe, then he masters the fate of man, and therefore he masters the direction of the Constitution, and the United States. Standing alone, this may appear to be a statement of philosophy, maybe theology. But instead of standing alone, and instead of being used as a limit on the power of man, the rule of God is being used to expand the power of man!

Thus, instead of being "under" God in the philosophical sense, Americans are claimed to be subordinate to God's rules -- as defined by certain people.

It's very scary, because if taken seriously the idea would give ultimate power to a few men: those who can claim successfully to be the most knowledgeable about God, and thus best able to speak for God. The only way to determine which men that might be would be to fight another religious war -- of precisely the type the founders wanted to avoid.

This can only happen if the only people who claim we live under God are those who want to speak for God.

The people who think they have a right to speak for God think that "under God" means under them.

It's ironic, because they claim the opposite.

Such a philosophical contradiction makes me wonder whether they even believe in God.

(But that's none of my business.)

posted by Eric at 05:04 PM | Comments (12)

Who wasn't looking? (Who's STILL not looking?)

Here's the latest earthshaking conclusion about the Sandy Berger affair:

"We don't know what he was thinking when he did it." (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
I'm tempted to ask, "What did you not know about what he was thinking and when did you not know it?"

While I'm troubled by a number of aspects of the scandal (bad security, repeated incidents, long investigatory delays), I previously attributed this to the old boys network mentality coupled with overzealous partisanship by a man who confused national security with getting his own job back.

I hope I was right, and that that's all there is to this.

But the problem is, there's the distinct possibility of another, far more sinister motivation:

The woman who wrote the definitive book on a Middle Eastern connection to the Oklahoma City bombing says the classified terror-threat report at the center of a criminal investigation of former Clinton aide Sandy Berger might include information about a high-level al-Qaida operative having visited OKC ahead of the 1995 attack on the Murrah Federal Building.

.....Jayna Davis, author of "The Third Terrorist: The Middle Eastern Connection to the Oklahoma City Bombing," points out the writing of the report was in the same timeframe Yossef Bodansky, former director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, confirmed that Dr. Ayman Al-Zawahiri, one of al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden's lieutenants, traveled to Oklahoma City in the spring of 1995 " to insure the smooth execution of the pending terrorist strike against the Murrah federal complex," said Davis.

"Bodansky explained that he did not confirm Al-Zawahiri's mission to the heartland state until late 1999," Davis told WND. "This revelation coincides with Richard Clarke's drafting of the Berger-directed review regarding the realization that al-Qaida had reached America's shores."

Asked Davis: "Was Bodansky's confirmation that the chief lieutenant of the bin Laden terror network traveled to the U.S. to oversee final preparations for the 1995 terrorist strike on the Oklahoma City federal building included in Clarke's draft reports that are now officially missing from National Archives?

"Did Berger and Clarke review Bodansky's skillful analysis of the Murrah Building bomb that drew striking parallels to the techniques used by known Islamist groups for operations in Argentina and elsewhere?"

Good question.

Might the long delay in the Berger investigation raise the possibility of a bipartisan coverup that failed?

Just a thought.

I am not trying to generate conspiracy theories here, but the questions about Oklahoma City have not gone away. Bodansky's no conspiracy nutjob; he does his homework. And it was Richard Clarke himself who raised the Oklahoma City connection on page 127 of his recent book, Against All Enemies. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

Similar suspicions were voiced by former CIA Director Woolsey in 2002:

Former CIA Director James Woolsey also expresses skepticism that Timothy McVeigh, executed for the Oklahoma City bombing, and his accomplice Terry Nichols, sentenced to life in prison and awaiting further trial on murder charges, could have planned and executed this monstrous crime all by themselves.

Woolsey believes the work of persistent investigators, reporter Jayna Davis and Middle East expert Laurie Mylroie, are onto something, as many clues in their separate probes point ominously toward Baghdad.

"[W]hen the full stories of these two incidents [Oklahoma City and the first Trade Center bombing] are finally told,” he told the Journal, "those who permitted the investigations to stop short will owe big explanations to these two brave women. And the nation will owe them a debt of gratitude.”

Those who permitted the investigations to run short? Now who might they have been?

Last fall, Rand Simberg noted Berger's past attempts to cover up the Khobar Towers blast, and speculated that there'd be even more motivation to cover up Oklahoma City:

we've never really found all of the perpetrators of the Oklahoma City bombing, for the same reason, with an additional one. Not only would proof of a Middle East connection have required undesired action on the part of the Clinton administration, but it would have diluted the politically-useful message that this was the sole act of "angry white men," the same ones who'd been stirred up by Rush Limbaugh into giving the Republicans control of Congress the previous fall.
If there was anything touching on Oklahoma City in the files Berger handled, it would certainly have been political dynamite which both parties would consider worth covering up.

If the right people are looking the other way, it's a lot easier to grab the right stuff.

Just a thought. I'd hate to see a national security betrayal of such magnitude be passed off as a partisan political scandal (with pants and socks tossed in as if for comic effect).

posted by Eric at 10:59 PM | Comments (2)

Tim Blair, call your office

This image has been making the rounds. A teeny tiny Sydney Opera House. Just sixty four microns long. I know it's not practical, or even decorative.

What it is, is very cool.

For the metrically challenged, a millimeter is roughly one 25th of an inch.
A micron (or micrometer) is one 1000th of a millimeter.

The tiny Aussie wonder can take its place next to the Cornell Nano Guitars, mark one and mark two.

If you still haven't gotten your fill of electron microscopy for the day (really, does anyone?) check these out.

posted by Justin at 08:01 PM | Comments (2)

Leeches beware! My inner cone is guarded by Solid Snake!

Yesterday was Friday, which means I'm overdue for online tests!

Thank the gods for my esteemed colleague Ghost of a flea, for the online test pickins are slim indeed these days. The very resourceful Flea supplied two of them, and while surprisingly, both our results differ, I am much indebted.

The first test is morbid enough for my fancy: "What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?"

My destiny is to be sucked dry by leeches.

Being sucked dry by leeches isn't so bad.
You will be sucked dry by a leech. I'd stay away
from swimming holes, and stick to good old
cement. Even if it does hurt like hell when
your toe scrapes the bottom.

What horrible Edward Gorey Death will you die?
brought to you by Quizilla

(The Flea, however, is to die from swallowing tacks, a much braver and more dignified destiny....)


The problem is, the leeches will have a hard time sucking me dry, because numerous other tests revealed that I am a vampire. (Which probably explains why I'm not threatened by these results.)

Besides, if, as the next test shows, I'm Solid Snake, I have some pretty nice weaponry.....

Nick, by the way, got to be Lara Croft from Tomb Raider.


Were I a more normal person, I might find something unsettling about my destiny of being sucked dry by leeches even though I'm protected by an ophidian defense system. But I guess that's just what life is all about.

Still, I guess it's a good idea to discover what they're all after. Obviously, they seek my inner ice cream cone!

Mine is chocolate.

So there!

Your Icecream Flavour is...Chocolate!
You are the all time favorite, chocolate! Turning white kids black since the 1800s. Staining carpets, car seats, and bed sheets for centuries. One thing is for sure, you will never go out of style. You can't go wrong with chocolate!
What is your Icecream Flavour?
Find out at Go Quiz

Via the charmingly Neopolitan Miss O'Hara.


FINAL NOTE: In the interests of science, readers seeking the truth about leeches should read this:

....[T]he leeches or Hirudinea are hermaphrodite. This means they possess both male and female reproductive organs, normally several pairs of testes and one pair of ovaries which share a single genital opening, and during copulation both parties give and receive sperm. The exception to this rule is the Gnathobdellids which are often protandrous meaning the are reproductively male first and then female later because the male reproductive organs develop first.

Is this what I'm getting into?


posted by Eric at 05:17 PM | Comments (1)

Well, Timing-- what have you got to say for yourself?

Eric has recently ranted on a popular pasttime, namely questioning the timing of things. And since that post President Bush's payroll records, which the Pentagon previously thought had been destroyed, have surfaced. Every news outlet that lets out to my little apartment has been repeating the refrain that some have "questioned the timing" prefacing the caveat that the records offer nothing new to the speculation over the fulfillment of the President's service obligations.

So what then is this business of questioning the timing?

With Sandy Berger the case is clear enough. Berger did something wrong, and the timing of the release raises a specter over the Kerry campaign and the looming Democratic convention. To question the timing there is simply to suggest that the issue was made public not to expose a wrong, but to deal a political blow. It casts doubt upon the sincerity of the revelation, though it in no way absolves Berger, though it is clearly meant to blur the focus.

Now to question the timing when the president's pay records surface, and to preface that question by noting that it proves nothing, leads one to wonder what the point of the question might be. And ultimately its not far off from the Berger case.

While it's true that the records prove nothing about Bush's stint in Alabama, they in the very least do not help the DNC's outrageous claim that Bush went AWOL (even Kerry finds this distasteful), a claim taken for granted by the pom-pom crowd who argue every foul a fair ball for the ol' home team. (Did I take the politics-as-baseball analogy too far?)

The AWOL charge smells familiar to me. Maybe that's because I'm an old fashioned philologist who spends an inordinate amount of time weeding through senseless speculation and conjecture in modern scholarship. I've been called a positivist, which is supposed to be a bad thing in these days of historicism run amok, dressing up common sense in jargon and calling it a revolution. But I digress.

To claim that Bush went AWOL is empty rhetoric unless the Texas Air National Guard declared him AWOL, which it did not. Still, the claim is enough to get the faithful fired up, and the burden of proof is transferred to the accused. When nothing concrete can be produced to say, "George W. Bush did not go AWOL," signed by a superior officer, the chorus begins an odious ode that hints us toward the tragic discovery.

But do we really demand that people disprove unfounded allegations? This is a short step from an ad hominem attack, and these kinds of fallacious red herrings are tossed out daily by leftists. A friend reminded me just yesterday about the bait set for him by a professor once in a lecture. Against the prevailing historicist tide my friend argued that Plato and Aristotle were more than products of a given time and culture, and that individual thought and universal truth is possible and can be understood from a text.

The professor's response was that Aristotle thought women were inferior.

It's been a long road here, but this is the crux: To question the timing, to speculate about the worst cause of an unclear event (like those who wondered whether Bush 'went AWOL' to avoid drug testing), and to counter a valid argument through an ad hominem attack is part and parcel of the leftist worldview.

There are no facts, no universal values, but only interpretations and possible "readings." Rather than focus on what we know, we focus on what could be; rather than address this issue, we become distracted by that.

What more would you expect from the people who brought you the vast right wing conspiracy?

posted by Dennis at 02:35 PM

The love that dare not speak its name?

Anyone interested in the concepts of shame and disgust should read Julian Sanchez's interview with Martha Nussbaum:

Unlike anger, disgust does not provide the disgusted person with a set of reasons that can be used for the purposes of public argument and public persuasion. If my child has been murdered and I am angry at that, I can persuade you that you should share those reasons; if you do, you will come to share my outrage. But if someone happens to feel that gay men are disgusting, that person cannot offer any reasoning that will persuade someone to share that emotion; there is nothing that would make the dialogue a real piece of persuasion.

Reason: As a follow up, can you say something about how that cashes out into a critique of communitarian ideals?

Nussbaum: The prominent defenders of the appeal to disgust and shame in law have all been communitarians of one or another stripe ([Lord] Devlin, [Amitai] Etzioni, Kass), and this, I claim, is no accident. What their thought shares is the idea that society ought to have at its core a homogeneous group of people whose ways of living, of having sex, of looking and being, are defined as "normal." People who deviate from that norm may then be stigmatized, and penalized by law, even if their conduct causes no harm. That was the core of Lord Devlin's idea, and it is endorsed straightforwardly by Etzioni, and, in a rather different way, and in a narrower set of contexts, by Kass. My study of disgust and shame shows that these emotions threaten key values of a liberal society, especially equal respect for people and for their liberty. Disgust and shame are inherently hierarchical; they set up ranks and orders of human beings. They are also inherently connected with restrictions on liberty in areas of non-harmful conduct. For both of these reasons, I believe, anyone who cherishes the key democratic values of equality and liberty should be deeply suspicious of the appeal to those emotions in the context of law and public policy. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

I quite enjoyed her comparison of murder to homosexuality in this context, because I have long noticed that those who hate homosexuals tend to be more disgusted by homosexuality than by murder.

This, of course, is not only irrational, but it is against one's self interests. To be more disgusted by non-harmful conduct than by harmful, dangerous conduct is to reverse not only moral proprieties, but common sense ones.

While I haven't read her book, I was a bit disappponted that neither Ms. Nussbaum nor her interviewer discussed the emergent forms of shame and disgust which are often to be found on the left.

Cigarette smokers seem to have become the homosexuals of the 21st century. By that I mean they're occupying the ecological niche the homosexuals once occupied in the popular imagination. They are forced to hide in dark corners, congregate in unpleasant places reserved for them, and even then, they are glared at, sneered at, assaulted on occasion, and made to feel that the world would be better off without them. In many communities, they are not allowed to smoke in public anywhere, even outside.

In some of the fashionable circles in which I run around, Republicans are also beginning to resemble homosexuals. They look ashamed of themselves and won't speak up when their social betters belittle the stupid Bush, the Hitler Bush, the Osama Bush, lest they be ridiculed, ostracized, not invited back. I can often spot these people by their silence.

Varius reminded me of this not long ago when he said,

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.)
Now, I am not saying that everyone should love Bush or Republicans. But I've been around long enough to know shame when I see it, and I suspect that there's a sort of ecological niche for it in any society, country, or group of people. It may even be part of human nature; an illogical (and sometimes loathsome) part, but a part nonetheless.

It is natural enough for partisan ideologues to attempt to utilize shame and disgust as a weapon against their political opponents, and while I'll object to it when I see it, there's not much I can do to stop it.

It's one thing when Republicans (or people who love Bush) are afraid to say so. What's worse is the attempt to make people who love their country afraid to say so.

Here are Michael Moore's thoughts about those who display the flag:

For too long now we have abandoned our flag to those who see it as a symbol of war and dominance, as a way to crush dissent at home. Flags are flying from the back of SUVs, rising high above car dealerships, plastering the windows of businesses and adorning paper bags from fast-food restaurants. But these flags are intended to send a message: "You're either with us or you're against us," "Bring it on!" or "Watch what you say, watch what you do." (Via James Lileks.)
Are SUV owners and small business owners really saying that? I don't think so; rather, I think Moore is pissed because certain Americans are daring to display the flag in a shameless display of patriotism.

It's not yet the love that dare not speak its name, but some people have been working on it:

Though plans call for four university music and song groups to perform at an evening vigil, not a single patriotic song will be sung, at the behest of organizers. Instead, songs of remembrance will be offered up. Also, to prevent the exclusion of those who don't believe in the American Flag, there will be no tribute to the flag. "The flag has become a symbol of U.S. aggression towards other countries. It seems hostile," [Berkeley Graduate Assembly President] Quindel said.
That was at a September 11, 2002 vigil at UC Berkeley.

A place where certain love dare not speak its name....

ANOTHER THOUGHT: That the left also utilizes disgust and shame as tactics ought to give pause to Leon Kass and others on the right who have claimed that repugnance is a form of "wisdom." No doubt Michael Moore thinks his is!

posted by Eric at 12:23 PM | Comments (10)

Is air security a threat to better "relations"?

I have not had time to read the entire 516 page 9/11 Commission report.

But the Philadelphia Inquirer has, and I can only hope that they're wrong, because they declare -- as a central thesis of the report -- that the United States must: relations with Muslims around the world, saying that growing hostility among Muslims toward American power and influence had fueled the terrorist movement.
I don't know what that means, but I worry that it's code language for appeasement.

I hope I'm wrong about this, but I think the war debate is shifting gears -- away from Iraq and towards the idea of whether we are (or should be) at war. Everywhere I look, I see evidence that the country that the country is divided into two groups: those who acknowledge that we are at war, and those who won't. The latter believe that the war can be wished out of existence, and will go away if we make peace with people who are sworn to destroy us, and have been doing their best for years.

I agree with Ryan Boots:

Here are just a few questions we really need answered:

-What has changed in airline safety since 9/11?
-Are we still frisking grandmothers and six-year-olds and letting Mohammed Atta-lookalikes cruise through metal detectors? If so, why?
-How well is the Patriot Act really working? Is it preventing terrorism? Is it helping track down al-Qaeda cells? What aspects of the Patriot Act work, and what portions of it don't?
-What is being done to protect industrial infrastructure, such as nuclear plants and sources of water?
-What has been done to strengthen border security? (snicker)
-Have the immigration loopholes exploited by the 9/11 hijackers been closed? If not, why not?

These are just a few of the questions that we need--desperately need--a fair, nonpartisan group to look at and analyze. The one thing the 9/11 Commission did for America was to illustrate how such a nonpartisan team should not be run.

Via Glenn Reynolds, who reflects elsewhere on the sorry state of airline security nearly three years after 9/11:
Bureaucracies are naturally slow learners, but they've had nearly three years -- and an expensive new Cabinet-level agency -- to learn the lessons of September 11. It looks as if they haven't gotten there yet. That's particularly sad since, as Brad Todd noted, it took American civilians only 109 minutes to learn the lessons in question. I hoped that things were getting better, but now that seems doubtful.

If I were running the Kerry campaign, I'd be making a bigger deal about this stuff. I wonder why they're not?

I think the reason they're not is because of an inherent conflict between "repairing relations" and fighting the enemy, which of necessity means ensuring Americans are safe when flying in their own skies. Political correctness has made it impossible. Bush and the Republicans not only can't change things, they've institutionalized political correctness. Does anyone imagine that a Kerry administration would do otherwise?

UPDATE: In a related vein, I heard something on the radio today that I have been unable to confirm on the Internet. David Hackworth, speaking on the Liddy Show, stated that when agents of the Border Patrol, in the course of their duties, apprehended a group of aliens trying to cross the U.S. at the Arizona border, an Arabic-speaking agent discovered them speaking in Arabic. Colonel Hackworth was told that they were wearing baseball hats and American-style clothing [the garb of choice for Mexicans trying to blend in as United States citizens], and that the Border Patrol has been ordered not to discuss this incident. Wish I could provide a link, but I am unable to find this story anywhere. (That does not disprove it, however, and so I decided to share it here.)

Justin speculated that one reason this story might be suppressed would be the inevitable political fallout from predictable defenders of the Arabic-speaking aliens: that they shouldn't be treated any differently than any other aliens trying to slip through!

I certainly hope that wouldn't happen, but in a way, I wish it would, and I hope the story is confirmed. Perhaps if enough people yell holy hell, something will change.

MORE: Also from the Arizona border, there's this report about the successful sneaking of fake WMDs into the United States:

American Border Patrol spokesman Glenn Spencer told the Arizona Daily Star the test was intended to show how easy it would be for terrorists to sneak deadly weapons across the border.

Mike King, a former Army sniper who was assigned to Fort Huachuca as a National Guardsman after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, said he's hoping the demonstration will help convince government leaders that the country's southern border is a national security risk.

"I mean, you have people with backpacks, bottles of water and zero training coming across. I just wanted to show how easy this is for somebody with training to come into this country," said King, who now works as a technical director for the border-watch group.

Two members of the group carried a suitcase in a backpack into Arizona west of Naco Monday night.

One American Border Patrol member said the two men crossed a border fence that separates the United States from Mexico, then headed to a house in Sierra Vista without detection.

The Border Patrol had no immediate comment on the claim by the Sierra Vista-based group.

Looks like there's a lot of stuff not to be commented on these days.....

MORE BORDER INSECURITY: The 9/11 Commision ducks the issue of easy availability of visas for Saudis:

Afforded only a brief mention—buried in a footnote on page 492—was a reference to what Mr. Mohammed reportedly told U.S. interrogators last year: that 15 of the hijackers were Saudis because they had the easiest time getting visas.

The Saudi visa policy was the natural result of the “courtesy culture,” an effort spearheaded by the former head of Consular Affairs, Mary Ryan, which started with her appointment in 1993. The goal was simple: make “customer” service and satisfaction the top priority in visa policy, where the “customer” was not American national security.

If the problem is "buried in a footnote," is it fair to guess what will be done about it?

posted by Eric at 08:33 AM | Comments (1)

It was the breast of times ...

This is from Reuters:

Bigger Breasts for Free: Join the Army

Jul 22, 9:15 AM (ET)

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Army has long lured recruits with the slogan "Be All You Can Be," but now soldiers and their families can receive plastic surgery, including breast enlargements, on the taxpayers' dime.
The New Yorker magazine reports in its July 26th edition that members of all four branches of the U.S. military can get face-lifts, breast enlargements, liposuction and nose jobs for free -- something the military says helps surgeons practice their skills.

"Anyone wearing a uniform is eligible," Dr. Bob Lyons, chief of plastic surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio told the magazine, which said soldiers needed the approval of their commanding officers to get the time off.

Between 2000 and 2003, military doctors performed 496 breast enlargements and 1,361 liposuction surgeries on soldiers and their dependents, the magazine said.

The magazine quoted an Army spokeswoman as saying, "the surgeons have to have someone to practice on."

Perhaps what we need is not so much an intelligence czar as a financial iron fist. Be on the look out for outcry over "defense" spending.

posted by Dennis at 03:54 PM | Comments (2)

It Was The Wurst of Times...

Here’s an interesting note from Brothers Judd, who also find Dr. Ehrlich contemptible, though coming from a somewhat different perspective. Seems our POTUS was visiting Amish country this week. Read about it here, cause you sure won’t find it in the LA Times.

I find the whole scenario charming, as much as anything because of personal experience with Stoltzfus meat products. If you’re ever in Lancaster county, check out their all-you-can-eat family style restaurant. The Stoltzfus family make a damn fine line of sausage too, as Molly and Puff would attest, if only they weren’t dogs.

Molly loves me now, and I owe it all to Stoltzfus packaged meats. Is this a good thing?

Full disclosure. I have zero financial interest in the Stoltzfus family enterprise.
I am not now, nor have I ever been, a Stoltzfus.
I am a satisfied customer.

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

Moral lessons from the Philadelphia Inquirer

Here's the Philadelphia Inquirer, pontificating about Martha Stewart:

Let what Martha Stewart did serve as a lesson and a warning to other investors - even if that lesson so far appears lost on the perfectionist homemaker-mogul.

Stewart's crime of lying to federal investigators about a well-timed stock sale wasn't in the same league with corporate-accounting scandals that toppled entire companies.

However, there was no way that authorities could overlook the attempted coverup by Stewart and her former stockbroker, Peter E. Bacanovic, who on Friday was given a sentence nearly identical to Stewart's.

Such deceits are the bread and butter of securities fraud, even if federal prosecutors in the Stewart case were unable to prove illegal insider stock trading.

So Stewart may continue to proclaim her innocence and tiptoe around a genuine apology. That's her right, and it's understandable since she's appealing the conviction. But as the case has unfolded, Stewart has had less and less reason to complain about being singled out as a high-profile defendant.

The minimum penalty meted out at her sentencing - five months in jail, plus another five months of house arrest - paled in comparison to what lesser-known defendants face for robbing fewer dollars from a convenience store.

Let's see. Lying about something they couldn't even prove you did is worse than robbery? Robbery, for those who don't know criminal law, consists of taking property by force or threat of force. A guy who sticks a gun in the face of a convenience store clerk may not get much money, but he is endangering human life! That is why robbery is such a serious crime, and is in no way morally comparable to lying (much less morally superior)!

The Inquirer concludes with some heart-felt advice for Ms. Stewart:

Best advice for Stewart as she faces time behind bars? Simplify, of course. And maybe learn just a smidgen of humility from the experience. That would be a good thing.
Simplify? Lying is like violent crime? (The Inquirer certainly knows about simplification.....)

Under the circumstances, I think the lecture on humility is a bit much.

But hey, let's try to remain humble anyway, and turn to today's Inquirer editorial on Sandy Berger:

Even if his main sin is just being one disorganized fellow, Berger committed a serious security faux pas. He was right to resign as an informal Kerry adviser.

But you know who was even more in the wrong?

House Speaker Dennis Hastert and House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who used the curiously timed leak about this months-old matter to engage in a hasty partisan smear.

Let's see. Lying about a non-criminal stock sale is worse than robbery and deserves prison, but a "faux pas" involving national security deserves, er, having to resign? From the newly revised post of "informal adviser"? But the Republicans are "even more wrong" for committing a "smear"?

In a way, I feel sorry for the people who have to crank out these logically impenetrable editorials and wildly variable moral principles. The mental contortions required almost remind me of the demands placed upon those poor Communist Party members back in the 1930s. (First Nazis bad; then peace with Nazis; then war with Nazis!)

But at least in those days, there was an identifiable party line to be followed. If there's one today, I can't find it.

posted by Eric at 03:53 PM | Comments (1)

Ketchin up with the kultural kampfire

Can't ketch up with anything anymore, but now I see that Justin Case has written another cool post, so I can relax. At least a little.

You really should read Justin's well-researched fisking of Paul Ehrlich too, if you haven't already. And if you have, read it again, because I don't think it's gotten the attention it deserves.

I am relieved that my concerns about elitism in the national national security crowd seem to have been justified: "Some users are more equal than others." (Indeed! But ketch-up without bergers burgers? I thought they always came went together.)

I don't know how much time I'll have for posting today, so I'm leaving a few cooked edibles; ketch up or not!

Susie at Practical Penumbra has done an excellent job with this week's Bonfire of the Vanities, so go read it! Otherwise, you'll never learn about these:

  • group therapy for Metallica!
  • Campaign endorsments from Sean Hackbarth!
  • Harvey posts about dirty socks. Now why have personal matters become so politicized? I remember when Socks was only the White House cat!
  • (Susie socked it to me, of course. But centaurs don't wear socks!)
  • Gourmet food here.
  • With a cigar!
  • Touching love story..... (Hey, if it happened to him it can happen to anybody!)
  • And a bumpersticker to put on your favorite neighbors' cars!
  • I won't spoil the rest, but Susie's posts -- be they edible, healing, taxing, or mushy -- make this week's fire a very unextinguishable one!

    I better stop here, cause I'm getting all b-u-r-n-e-d out, and I need to save my strength!

    Oh, and be sure to read this week's Carnival of the Vanities. (I can only spread so much ketch up in one post!)

    posted by Eric at 10:00 AM | Comments (1)

    DeLong and the short of it

    Feeling lazy today, so no mammoth research project. Just a short pointer to a lost treasure of science fiction. Aristoi, by Walter Jon Williams.

    Have you ever tried to daydream a perfect world? I know I have. What Williams portrays so vividly in this novel is precisely that, a world where things have started to go seriously right. No poverty, no warfare, no disease for the most part, and a system of meritocratic governance that is a model of fairness and transparency. Plus, we haven't been assimilated by hyperintelligent robots.

    In a word, boring. But not for long! Some folks are never satisfied, be life ever so pleasant. They get fractious and restless, looking for great causes to lend meaning to their lives. Lucky for us readers. It makes for a more dramatic story arc, involving conspiracy, murder, revolution, and the greatest crime in human history. Really.

    I have long been mystified as to this book's lack of popularity. I loved it from the very first page, and thought it would win prizes, go to multiple printings, become an acknowledged classic. That turned out not to be the case, though it did get good word of mouth. Too talky? Who knows. It has a great deal in common with The Golden Age, which I brought to your attention here. Both books go pedal to the metal showing just how very rich and strange the future might be.

    Do you think maybe Williams should have have left the (male) protagonist's impregnation of his (male) lover till later in the book? Unenlightened readers might have been put off by that. No worries, guys! He falls in love with a nice lady doctor in chapter two and remains straight for the next 200 pages! Don't be scared!

    The whole multiple personalities thing might also have put people off. See, in the future it's discovered that given the right stimuli, nearly anyone can support multiple personas of varying intelligence and empathy. Simultaneously. This is not viewed as a mental disorder, but rather as an enhancement or empowerment. Think of the possibilities for delegating authority. If you can't do it, people feel sorry for you. It's a novel idea, one I've not seen too often before, and a bit tricky to read at first. It also leads to considerable comic effect as we evesdrop on the protagonists internal conferencing. One of his sub-personalities is an utterly oily political type, with a propensity for "handling" people. Yet another is a devout paranoid, prone to seeing the worst in everyday encounters. "He's going for a weapon...kill him, KILL HIM!". Usually it's not a weapon. Usually he isn't allowed to "drive".

    The book may start off a little slow, with our hero playing a bit too much of the foppish artiste, but have patience. There's bloodletting in bucketloads by the time you reach the home stretch. And while the main character is a self-satisfied nance, he's got steel where it counts. Oh, and there's lots of languid, decadent fooling around too...

    If you want more than just my word for it, the very fine blogger Brad DeLong also liked it. And unlike lazy me, he showed enough initiative to provide a couple of excerpts. Fair warning though, this one has a spoiler in it. It can also be accessed at the bottom of the prior link, so resist temptation if you value spontaneity.

    If you like the book, you might be interested in this interview with its author.

    And just for the hell of it, here's an interview with John C. Wright. It's well worth checking out.

    posted by Justin at 01:39 AM | Comments (2)

    Patriotic dedication?

    Considering that no less of an authority than Linda Ronstadt has called Michael Moore not just a patriot, but "a great patriot," I think it's high time that the rest of us ordinary citizens (you know, the dumbest people on the planet) pay attention to patriotism.

    Patriot Michael Moore certainly does, and he knows patriotism when he sees it.

    “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.”
    And with Moore's moral support behind them, the Iraqi patriots have heightened their determination to win:
    A militant group calling itself "The Holders of the Black Banners," announced Wednesday it had taken two Kenyans, three Indians and an Egyptian hostage, and said it would behead a captive every 72 hours beginning Saturday night if their countries do not announce their intentions to withdraw troops and citizens from Iraq.

    None of those countries is part of the 160,000-member U.S.-led coalition; however, interim Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi appealed last week to India and Egypt to send in troops.

    Moore patriotism is on the way! Isn't it inspiring?

    It's a lot of trouble to keep on top of these beheading videos. But anything for the cause of patriotism, I suppose.

    I think that 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."

    posted by Eric at 07:01 PM | Comments (1)


    This story (of nuclear warheads found in Iraq) is so unlikely to be true that I'll just treat it hypothetically.

    Let's just suppose that three nuclear warheads were discovered hidden deep in a concrete trench in Iraq. Would it be reported? If so, would the claim then be made that these warheads are now scattered all over the world so what's the big deal about Iraq? Or that Saddam Hussein had them long before? (Never mind before what...) Or, who are we to complain when we have them and Israel has them?

    Of course, Bush still lied, because we know he never had enough "reliable intelligence" to know that they were there, hence it makes no difference if they were found -- because Bush couldn't have known!

    And in any event, WHAT ABOUT THE TIMING! If there were WMDs, why did they wait until now to discover them? Sounds suspiciously like the questionable timing of the capture of Saddam Hussein to me! (via Bryon at Slings And Arrows.)

    After all, the election is just months away!

    Is there no shame?

    NOTE: I find the timing of this post to be most inconvenient, as I am in the middle of other things. But now that others have raised the timing issue (via InstaPundit) before I did, I have no choice.

    I would like to ask one question, though. By what logic are accused defendants heard to complain about the inconvenient timing of criminal allegations?

    And what makes Terry McAuliffe such an expert about these things?

    UPDATE: Questioning the timing is a popular pastime. (Over 4800 timing questions served!)

    Maybe we should all question the timing.....

    (Not a bad idea for a bumpersticker!)

    MORE: Speaking of timing, former Assistant secretary of Defense Frank J. Gaffney, Jr. thinks that the timing of the Berger scandal couldn't be more appropriate:

    ...[F]ar from distracting the public from the factors that contributed to the deadly attacks that cost nearly 3,000 American lives that day in September 2001, the disclosure of Sandy Burger’s misconduct would be the perfect introduction to a theme that surely will be a central theme of its report: The considerable contribution made to the worst attacks on this country in its history by the lax attitude towards national security secrets that pervaded the executive branch during the eight years that preceded the Bush presidency.

    ...Sandy Berger’s alleged theft of classified documents from the National Archives is no more a diversion from the 9/11 Commission’s subject than it is an anomaly. Rather, it bespeaks an indifference to, if not actual hostility towards, the fundamentals of sensitive national security policy-related information and tradecraft that should feature prominently in the Commission post-mortem on the September 11th attacks. Assuming, that is, such a focus was not too embarrassing for Jamie Gorelick – or too inconvenient for the Clinton-Kerry team that hopes the American people will not be reminded of the “bad old days,” and invite a reprise by returning that team to high office.

    Read it all.

    posted by Eric at 03:34 PM

    "a silicon crystal doped with arsenic impurity"

    Linda Ronstadt apparently enjoys starting fights:

    "My career has befuddled other people, and it's befuddled me," admitted Ronstadt, 58, who finds her fans are polarized by her nightly on-stage salute to "Fahrenheit 9/11" filmmaker Michael Moore.

    "I've been dedicating a song to him – I think he's a great patriot – and it splits the audience down the middle, and they duke it out," she said.

    "This is an election year, and I think we're in desperate trouble and it's time for people to speak up and not pipe down. It's a real conflict for me when I go to a concert and find out somebody in the audience is a Republican or fundamental Christian. It can cloud my enjoyment. I'd rather not know."

    I'm a little befuddled too. (At least semi-befuddled.) I'd rather not have known that Linda Ronstadt loves Michael Moore, because now her music will remind me of unpleasant things. It's as if it's contaminated.

    I'm also befuddled by her statement that she'd rather not know that "somebody in the audience" is politically not to her liking. (I think Ronstadt's use of the term "Republican or fundamental Christian" to describe opposition to Michael Moore is disingenuous.) If she doesn't "want to know" about her fans' politics, then why is she deliberately inflaming them by dedicating a song to a man whose dedication to polarization is so clearly documented? And if she really hates only Republicans and fundamentalists and only wishes to inflame and polarize them, why use Michael Moore? Why not burn George W. Bush in effigy? Or burn a Bible?

    Very befuddling.

    As is this comment:

    "I don't understand this country sometimes and I really fear for it," she adds. "The government is making everybody in the world hate us, including the people that used to be our friends."

    Anyone who disagrees with that is welcome to get in line, behind whoever she manages to rile at the Aladdin this time.

    "I keep hoping that if I'm annoying enough to them, they won't hire me back," she says with a laugh.

    I think she'll get her wish, because while she may not be making everyone in the world hate her, she's certainly alienating many of the people who used to be her friends.

    If annoying people makes her laugh, she must split her sides over scenes like this:

    The biggest excitement of the night, by a long shot, came when Ronstadt then dedicated her encore of "Desperado" to filmmaker Michael Moore, kick-starting a boo-cheer competition throughout the venue that drowned out her singing and left grown-ups in tuxes and evening gowns yelling at each other on their way to the parking lot. (Via Tim Blair.)
    By setting her own fans against each other, what is Linda Ronstadt trying to accomplish?

    Career poison?

    Not long ago, a science textbook was widely criticized for displaying a picture of Linda Ronstadt next to a caption reading "silicon crystal doped with arsenic impurity."


    Junk science?

    No; it's a basic principle that in order to make a semiconductor, you must introduce an impurity into the silicon crystal -- Arsenic, or Phosphorus will do. It's called doping.

    Perhaps the textbooks were right.

    In my opinion, anyone who would do to her fans what Ronstadt does has a poisoned silicon chip where her heart ought to be.

    posted by Eric at 03:08 PM | Comments (4)

    Sterilization Now: Redux

    The U.S. has refused to aid the U.N.'s Population Fund for reasons cited in Eric's response to an earlier post on the subject: forced sterilization and abortion in China.

    Coercive population control as a goal of the radical left has crept up too in Justin Case's excellent essay on Paul Ehrlich, Estimated Prophet.

    Eric suggested I include the rest of my exchange with the person who spammed me in an effort to replace the $34 million with private contributions, so that shall follow. But I think the outcry is just plain silly in light of what the U.S. government already does for the cause:

    The United States is the largest donor of bilateral assistance to help improve the health of women and children and is providing more than $1.8 billion this year through a U.S. Agency for International Development fund, department spokesman Richard Boucher said. This, he said, includes $429 million for reproductive health, including family planning.

    Excerpted from the Washington Post article linked above.

    Now on to the exchange.

    Continue reading "Sterilization Now: Redux"

    posted by Dennis at 11:42 AM | Comments (2)


    Hey, at the risk of irreverence, since everyone's talking about accidental shreddings "down there," check out this story:

    Crazed surgeon amputates penis

    From correspondents in Bucharest

    July 19, 2004

    A ROMANIAN surgeon underwent a fit of madness while operating on a patient's testicles and instead cut off the man's penis and sliced it into three pieces, hospital officials said.

    The surgeon, Naum Ciomu, was described as a senior member of the hospital staff and a professor of anatomy.

    He had been operating on a 34-year-old man for a testicular malformation when he committed the act, the officials said.

    Am I allowed to say "Ouch"?

    posted by Eric at 10:34 AM | Comments (3)

    When the country was in the best of pants....

    Even though I quoted the man recently, I never thought I'd need to concern myself about the contents of Sandy Berger's pants! But this story is hard to ignore:

    WASHINGTON (AP) - President Clinton's national security adviser, Sandy Berger, is the focus of a Justice Department investigation after removing highly classified terrorism documents and handwritten notes from a secure reading room during preparations for the Sept. 11 commission hearings, The Associated Press has learned.

    Berger's home and office were searched earlier this year by FBI agents armed with warrants after he voluntarily returned documents to the National Archives. However, still missing are some drafts of a sensitive after-action report on the Clinton administration's handling of al-Qaida terror threats during the December 1999 millennium celebration.

    Berger and his lawyer said Monday night he knowingly removed handwritten notes he had made while reading classified anti-terror documents at the archives by sticking them in his jacket and pants. He also inadvertently took copies of actual classified documents in a leather portfolio, they said.

    "I deeply regret the sloppiness involved, but I had no intention of withholding documents from the commission, and to the contrary, to my knowledge, every document requested by the commission from the Clinton administration was produced," Berger said in a statement to the AP.

    Lanny Breuer, one of Berger's attorneys, said his client has offered to cooperate fully with the investigation but had not yet been interviewed by the FBI or prosecutors. Berger has been told he is the subject of the criminal investigation, Breuer said.

    There's a lot of speculation about what Sandy Berger was up to, but one thing is clear to me: unless you have an uncontrollable sexual compulsion, you don't inadvertently stick things in your pants. So far as I know, the documents weren't X-rated.

    Via Glenn Reynolds, here's Ed Morrisey, who has a background in working with classified documents:

    It's been well over a decade since I worked on such material, but I can tell you the rules even now. It's not just the document itself nor the data that's classified -- it's both, together and separately. If you jot down classified information in the form of notes, they're just as classified as the source material, and even in case of any doubt, you have to treat them as the same classification level until the proper authority can review them. What's more, as a former NSA, Sandy Berger damned well knows this. You cannot take notes from a classified document and just walk out with them in an unsecured and unapproved manner -- and since Berger stuffed them down his pants, I suspect he is well aware of this.

    Remember, the Democrats had American national security in this man's hands (and his pants, apparently) for eight years, and Kerry promises more of the same. Chilling, isn't it?

    Definitely chilling. But whether this will have a chilling effect on national security is another matter. My problem is that Berger and guys who think like him are unable to separate their own monumental, power-addicted egos from national security. They tend to think that the country's national security would be better off in their hands (OK, pants), and thus they don't see the rules as applicable to them.

    This is reflected in comments by Berger friend and colleague David Gergen:

    David Gergen, who was an adviser to Clinton and worked with Berger for a time in the White House, said Tuesday, "I think it's more innocent than it looks."

    Appearing on NBC's "Today" show, Gergen said, "I have known Sandy Berger for a long time. He would never do anything to compromise the security of the United States." (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Oddly, I agree with Gergen, at least as to what's inside Berger's mind. He presided over the country's national security apparatus for years, he's now Kerry's leading foreign policy advisor, and he wants his job back! To him, the right man -- SANDY BERGER -- being in charge is in the country's national security interests. Therefore, anything he can do to help Kerry is in the best interests of national security.

    (I guess such thinking can charitably called "good intentions....")

    That we live in a constitutional republic not run by third world kleptocrats (who typically claim that what's best for them is best for the country) doesn't seem to have occurred to him.

    But I don't wanna be too hard on the man; perhaps he's been hanging out with the wrong crowd....

    No prison time! (But I think it's fair to get into the documents' chain of custody, and maybe take a look at Berger's meetings and phone logs, etc.....)

    And in Berger's defense, though, I will say that he may be a prisoner of his own history, repeating a strategy that worked before:

    When Clinton made his numbingly long-winded address to the 1988 Democratic National Convention, Berger was there, assuring him that it was not a career-killing disaster.

    Throughout the 1992 campaign, he served as foreign policy adviser to Clinton. Berger's goal then, as recalled by campaign veterans, was to make sure the Arkansas governor at least did not get humiliated on foreign policy issues by the more experienced George Bush.

    This dependent relationship created an unusual bond. "Sandy provided a comfort level on a subject on which the president was manifestly uncomfortable," said one White House aide.

    Speaking of history, here's a Berger quote from 1998:
    Clinton's National Security Advisor Sandy Berger stated in the Washington Times in 1998: "Other products [besides VX gas] were made at Al Shifa. But we have seen such dual--use plants before -- in Iraq. And, indeed, we have information that Iraq has assisted in chemical- weapons activity in Sudan." Now working in the Kerry camp, both Sandy Berger and Jamie Rubin defended the bombing of that plant by stating that Iraq was assisting al Qaeda make deadly VX gas.
    I suppose it's possible that Berger wants to hide something (or perhaps "un-say" something), but I don't see how stuffing it in his pants is an effective tactic at this late stage.

    Whether this is a tragedy or a comedy depends on your perspective. I've just never trusted people who want to apply to others rules from which they exempt themselves.

    UPDATE: Virginia Postrel is also willing to give "Bumbling Berger" a break, but hates the hypocrisy involved. And Stephen Green (whose cool new blog design I love, by the way) really knows pants!

    ....[T]he former National Security Advisor to President Clinton stuffed classified information down his pants and walked (a bit oddly, I'd wager) to his car. So that I might not be labeled a partisan hack, let me first say something in Sandy's defense – at least he didn't also have a shredder down there. Because you just know that Fawn Hall could have destroyed top secret documents with a top-secret spy device hidden in her not-so-Top-Secret cotton thong.

    And before we continue with this sad excuse for an essay, let us be thankful that I didn't use this segue to force you to picture Sandy Berger in a cotton thong.

    Now then. The fact that Berger stole classified data doesn't bother me. The fact that he stuffed them down his pants doesn't bother me.

    ....What bothers me – and what should bother you – is that the man who was too concerned with the law to get Osama when he had the chance, was rather cavalier about the law when it came to shoving classified items down his 46-inch waistband.

    Sandy Berger covered his ass, quite literally, with the papers which, just might, show how he inadvertently helped Osama bin Laden murder the asses of 3,000 of Berger's fellow Americans. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    How do you spell national security? C.Y.A.?

    UPDATE: It appears that Berger still hasn't given back all the documents!

    However, some drafts of a sensitive after-action report on the Clinton administration's handling of Al Qaeda terror threats during the December 1999 millennium celebration are still missing, officials and lawyers said. Officials said the missing documents also identified America's terror vulnerabilities at airports to seaports.
    This may be a bigger scandal than we think.

    No wonder it didn't make the New York Times! (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    posted by Eric at 08:38 AM | Comments (2)

    Blustering bloggers, complacent Americans, and "complex motivational issues"

    Ever wondered why your local newspaper won't even use the word "terrorist"?

    By now just about everyone has weighed in on Alex S. Jones’ remarks in a piece called "Bloggers Are the Sizzle, Not the Steak." Some excerpts:

    ....this moment of blogging legitimization — and temporary press credentials — doesn't turn bloggers into journalists.

    .....bloggers, with few exceptions, don't add reporting to the personal views they post online, and they see journalism as bound by norms and standards that they reject. That encourages these common attributes of the blogosphere: vulgarity, scorching insults, bitter denunciations, one-sided arguments, erroneous assertions and the array of qualities that might be expected from a blustering know-it-all in a bar.

    ....Presumably many Americans, especially young ones, will look for something with more spice and feistiness, which means they may well be looking at blogs and no doubt adding their own kibitzing via the medium's famed interactivity. This can be fun, and it can also be important. It was political bloggers and their fans who insulted and harassed and eventually embarrassed the major media into paying attention to the comments suggesting racism that Mississippi's Sen. Trent Lott made at South Carolina Sen. Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party. Media coverage forced Lott's resignation as Republican leader in the Senate, but it was bloggers who badgered the media until they did their job.

    .....In these early days, blogging still has the charm of guileless transparency, which in the blogosphere means that everyone — no matter how cranky or hysterical — is presumed to be speaking his or her mind with sincerity. It is this air of conviction that makes bloggers such potent advocates.

    However, if history is any indicator, such earnestness will attract those who would exploit it, and they include some canny, inventive people. There is already talk of bloggers who would consider publishing items for cash and commercial blogs that tout products.

    Blogging is especially amenable to introducing negative information into the news stream and for circulating rumors as fact. Blogging's fact-checking apparatus is just the built-in truth squad of those who read the blog and howl loudly if they wish to dispute some assertion. It is, in a sense, a place where everyone has his own truth. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Everyone has his own truth?

    So says Alex S. Jones.

    While I can't speak for the blogosphere, I don't agree with the philosophy that truth varies according to each individual's version of it. Might Mr. Jones be complaining that each individual blogger has his own bias? It's hard to tell, because the reference is so elliptical, but if I didn't know any better I'd swear that he has confused bias with the concept of truth. What I like about blogs is that while yes, there is bias, there's also disclosure of bias. Bloggers admit what they think and why they think it.

    Yet guys like Jones take themselves so seriously that they write their own thoughts as if they think they're writing facts. I know I'm not perfect, and I do tend to rail at things I don't like. But to see my efforts described as "vulgarity, scorching insults, bitter denunciations, one-sided arguments, erroneous assertions and the array of qualities that might be expected from a blustering know-it-all in a bar" -- from a Pulitzer Prize winning journalistic scholar at the pinnacle of his professional career -- is unsettling, and tempts me to resort to the tactics of which he complains. (And, which, by the way, Jones himself does in the above attack!)

    I think the fairest way to proceed is to simply supply some of the musings of Alex S. Jones -- and leave others to speculate about individual truths.

    According to Jones, incivility is bad if you're Paula Jones or G. Gordon Liddy:

    This year a new element was added: bald incivility to the president, apparently just for the fun of it. Insight magazine, a publication associated with the conservative Washington Times, invited Paula Jones as one of its guests.

    The Washington press corps was electrified with delicious anticipation at the spectacle to come. Only Monica could have generated a greater buzz. She had been invited, but declined.

    The evening's most eagerly awaited moment came when President and Mrs. Clinton walked into the room, while the Marine Band played "Hail to the Chief." Just as expected, Paula remained seated, as did her tablemate, G. Gordon Liddy, who was another Insight guest. Paula and Gordon also declined to join in the traditional toast to the president. They had been brought there to snub the president, and they did their job.

    Hey, at least they admitted their bias.

    But how about Al Franken? He's biased too, but he gets a fellowship at Harvard's Shorenstein Center (which Jones directs).

    Shorenstein Center director Alex S. Jones said Franken’s presence broke new ground for the fellowship program.

    “I think it’s a very disparate class in some respects,” he said. “We have journalists and academics, but for the first time we have a satirist.”

    After Jones got Franken the Harvard job, Franken was caught using Shorenstein stationery to lie to Ashcroft -- which Jones defended. It was "an error in judgment." Hey, all truth is individual truth, right?

    But some truths are more equal than others. Here's Jones complaining that conservative allegations of White House vandalism found "fertile ground":

    "I think it was this calculated effort to plant a damaging story," said Alex S. Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University. "There was a sort of fertile ground for believing anything bad."
    The fertile ground included a GAO report confirming the damage, but that's just another individual truth.

    What about real truth? Is there such a thing? Where would Jones have us go to find it? Why, the always-correct New York Times!

    "As far as I'm concerned, there's no better news organization on the earth than The New York Times," says Jones, a Pulitzer Prize-winning former media writer for the Times.
    Those interested in truth might also check out Jones'
    Words of War program:
    Has the press lived up to its responsibility to fully explore the Bush administration's Iraq policy? Is the Web delivering on the promise of the age-old American ideal of freedom of the press? What does a photojournalist think about when faced with taking pictures of the worst terrorist tragedy in American history? When are photographs too controversial to publish?


    Is Jones a sort of self-appointed, independent media "guardian"? To his credit, he does ask "Why Do Many Readers Hate Us Again?"

    So why have we lost the public's high regard? Does the public have our number or does the public misjudge us? And what should we do now?

    The public loved us most in November, when flags rippled on the corners of TV screens and from on-camera lapels. Journalists were asking few tough questions regarding civilian bombing casualties and civil liberties, and the American military was rolling to a stunning victory in Afghanistan. Despite the tragedy of Sept. 11, we had a lot of good news to cover, and even pieces on the tragic aspects of the story seemed to forge a common sense of outrage and purpose. The more thorny elements tended to be put aside until a later day.

    This spring and summer, that day came. The triumphant story ran its course, and the what-really-happened story began to be covered, with disquieting results. We started to get reports that there were significant civilian casualties, and serious questions began to be raised about the wisdom of an invasion of Iraq. Darkening the news atmosphere further were the stories of Enron Corp., Global Crossing, and the betrayal of shareholders. The market fell. The news from the Middle East had seldom been worse. These past six months have not been a happy time on the news pages.

    So, has the public simply returned to its pre-9/11 attitude when the press returned to its normal adversarial role as the news itself turned bad? When the lapdog turned back into a watchdog?

    No doubt that is a big part of the drop in our approval rating. But we would be letting ourselves off the hook too easily to believe that the problem lies entirely with the public's distaste for us whenever we simply do our job.

    So that's it! The public is blaming the news media for simply doing its job!

    (The above article received quite a bit of attention in the blogosphere, with a roundup of links here, and a good fisking here.)

    As to what Jones thinks the news media ought to be doing, it's hard to tell. But he praises Dan Rather for ignoring the Chandra Levy story, while criticizing the stampede to proclaim Bush the winner in 2000, yet he doesn't seem fond of maverick behavior by Fox News.

    Then there's journalistic neutrality on the war:

    But David Westin, the president of ABC News, said it was important for his journalists to maintain their neutrality in times of war. "The American people right now need at least some sources for their news where they believe we're trying to get it right, plain and simply," he said, "rather than because it fits with any advocacy we have."

    Mr. Westin added, "Our people don't have to lead the American people to the conclusion they should reach about these horrible terrorist acts."

    Alex S. Jones, the director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy at Harvard University, said that by reporting the news with such an American perspective, Fox News was failing to explain the evolution of the other side's motivation against the United States.

    "I think people need to understand what's going on on the other side of the equation, how the U.S. is viewed by its critics," he said.

    OK. Fair enough. How does Jones think our "critics" (am I allowed say "enemy"?) view us?
    "The enemies of America recognize that the propaganda war is where they have their greatest strength," said Alex S. Jones, director of Harvard's Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy. "They can't win this war with guns. They can only win it by persuading their world that we are in a culture war, which we absolutely do not want to be in. They are trying to portray this country as the enemy of Islam and Arabs."
    Of course the enemy is "trying to portray this country as the enemy of Islam and Arabs." That's what they do, and they have already largely succeeded. This can only mean that when Jones states that Americans must be told "how the U.S. is viewed by its critics," he means that we must be told that we are seen as "the enemy of Islam and Arabs." (Because, of course, we "need to understand what's going on on the other side of the equation.")

    If you want to know how the U.S. is viewed by its "critics," by all means read their own words in Little Green Footballs.

    They hate us. They want to kill us. I get it. When people want to kill you, it's very clarifying.

    How much more clear can such an "equation" be made?

    On the other hand, might the other part of the "equation" be that we deserve to be hated around the world? To be killed?

    Jones does not say.

    He doesn't like to tell us little folk (and to him, bloggers are little folk) what he thinks.

    But I did find something.

    About as elitist a remark as I've ever read, here's Alex S. Jones' view of complacent, self-absorbed Americans, and what to do about them:

    We recognized [terrorism] as a serious problem, a problem to us as a nation, but even then, even in that context, we had simply ignored the question of a complex motivational issue about how we were viewed from abroad.

    I think that what this suggests is a situation and a problem that we all understand very well. The problem, number one, of Americans in a kind of complacent self-absorption, who do not care about the way they're viewed from the world at large and do not really care a great deal about the world at large; and, number two, the long-recognized problem of a diverse country, getting larger and larger and more and more diverse all the time, in which people who are prospective readers and viewers of news look at the world through a prism that is not necessarily international by their lives, but is certainly international in its complexity and diversity.

    We're going to try to plumb how local news organizations, of great importance to the communities they serve, are approaching how to deal with a diverse population, and also [how to deal with] an American public that needs to know things about the world but may be reluctant to find those things out.

    Who put this guy in charge anyway?

    (It isn't just the blogosphere he's after....)

    UPDATE: As Beck at Incite noted, bloggers have sunk their teeth into this story like rabid pit bulls. Via InstaPundit, the following are some of the blogosphere's best canines. Matt Welch thinks Jones has a "warped view of journalism" while Jeff Jarvis sees Jones as a self annointed priest "keeping the rabble out of the cathedral." Patrick Belton accused Jones of doing the same thing he accuses bloggers of doing, while Ernest Miller at Corante sees bloggers as emerging journalists. And Joe Gandelman, noting that while bloggers have not paid the dues expected of journalists, it is baloney to accuse them of taking money for stories without a shred of evidence.

    Journalists, of course, by their nature take money for what they write.

    If I had to contrast bloggers as they are now with traditional journalists, it would look a little like this:

  • USUALLY NAMED (or at least personalized so you know who they are)

    ACCOUNTABLE (a bit like Ebay; you build a reputation for reliability, persistence and honesty)

    ADMIT BIAS (Most blogs have an admitted philosophy, style, or slant, which is plainly disclosed.)

    CORRECT MISTAKES (A constant chore, whether with or without input from peers)


  • USUALLY NAMELESS (generally impersonal except for the regular column writers)





    UPDATE: From N.Z. Bear (via Glenn Reynolds), I see that I need to add to each category above: "WATCHES THE MEDIA" and "HATES BEING WATCHED" respectively.

    posted by Eric at 05:34 PM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (4)

    Zelda doesn't do Dobie anymore....

    Instead, she attacks the Terminator!

    Arnold Schwarzenegger recently used the term "girlie men" in a disagreement with lawmakers, and for this he's being denounced for "homophobia":

    Democrats said Schwarzenegger's remarks were insulting to women and gays and distracted from budget negotiations. State Sen. Sheila Kuehl said the governor had resorted to "blatant homophobia."

    "It uses an image that is associated with gay men in an insulting way, and it was supposed to be an insult. That's very troubling that he would use such a homophobic way of trying to put down legislative leadership," said Kuehl, one of five members of the Legislature's five-member Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Caucus.

    "It's ironic that the governor would try to find a metaphor for weakness when his real problem is that we're being too strong," she added.

    Actually, whether "girlie" is "associated with gay men" depends on who's doing the associating. Most gay men I have known are attracted to men and not women, and the more macho the men, the more they're attracted. The cultivation of a butch appearance and ethos among gay men is so well known as to not require extended comment or serious debate. While there are gay men who can be called "girlie," they tend not to fare well in the bar scene, and often suffer ridicule far worse than the sort of comment made by Arnold.

    Among heterosexual men, however, there is the documented phenomenon of metrosexuals. Isn't it possible that a guy like Schwarzenegger might just as easily have had them in mind?

    Or Saturday Night Live?

    How any of this is "homophobic" escapes me.

    I don't think there'd have been the slightest outcry had Kuehl accused a Schwarzenegger of macho posturing. I don't recall much of a fuss when she said his supporters were lacking in rational thought:

    "Voters watched Arnold Schwarzenegger rescue everybody, saving the world in an hour and 51 minutes, and that really appealed to them," said Democratic state Sen. Sheila Kuehl, D-Santa Monica. "They put aside rational thought about if Arnold Schwarzenegger could really do the job. They just voted for the recall out of anger and for Schwarzenegger out of hope. They voted for him because they hope someone will rescue them from the angst they feel."
    Bear in mind that Sheila Kuehl starred as "Zelda" in "Dobie Gillis" (a role and a show I liked). Instead of accusing her voters of putting aside rational thought in electing her, the governor acknowledged her role in TV history. Kuehl's reaction strikes me as a bit defensive:
    Kuehl recalls Schwarzenegger bounding out of his Hummer in the Capitol basement to give her a bear hug. "Senator," she quotes him, "I just found out you were on TV. I'll bet I'm the only one in the Capitol who knows that." Kuehl didn't have the heart to tell him that, no, practically everyone in the building knew she'd played Zelda Gilroy in the early '60s TV show "The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis."
    Then there's Kuehl's claim that "if this guy was not a movie star he would not be governor."To that Bryan M. Westhoff replies:
    Just so I am clear, this is coming from the woman who played Zelda on 'Dobie Gillis.' And she gets to be a State Senator? People in glass houses Sheila. People in glass houses.
    I'm not alone in finding Kuehl's remarks offensive. Here's Boi from Troy:
    I am offended, not by the Governor's remarks, but by the reaction to them. Senator Kuehl and Assemblyman Leno are promoting homophobic stereotypes of effiminate qualities attributed to gay men. If they understood the homoeroticism between SNL's Hanz and Franz, they would understand the real meaning of girlie men--those who are too weak to fight back and represent themselves. There are too many members of the State Legislature who fit this mold--those who are beholden to the theocracy of the religious right or those beholden to the theocracy of big government on the left...and too few who are joining with the Governor to represent the rest of us Californians.
    Promoting of inaccurate stereotypes? Maybe someone could ask Sheila Kuehl whether she lied about Superbowl violence.

    I don't think she'd like it. Omphalos (the blogger who supplied the Superbowl link) also says she hates criticism:

    ....the way to piss her off is to suggest there might be something she doesn't know.

    posted by Eric at 02:45 PM | Comments (4)

    Tall tale?

    Via an email, I just learned about an extinct race of giants in ancient Arabia:

    They were so tall, wide and very power full that they were able to pull out big trees just with the one hand. But what happen after when they become misguided and disobeys Allah SWT, Allah SWT destroyed the whole nation. ULEMA KIRAM of Saudi Arabia believes that this body belongs to AAD nation.
    Check out the picture!

    But alas! It's another elaborate hoax!

    I wish people would stop fueling these urban legends, because I get all riled up, only to find my hopes dashed.

    On the other hand, some of the strangest tales turn out to be true. The Centaur, for example, was once thought to be nothing more than an ancient superstition. Until, that is, experts discovered the real thing.

    posted by Eric at 03:02 PM | Comments (2)

    On loving the killers

    Shouting "fire" in a crowded mosque is not free speech....

    So why would it be freedom of religion?

    Wretchard at the Belmont Club posted a very interesting response to David Warren:

    One need only look at our cities, airports, and streets, at the schools with their security guards, even the systems of public transportation, not to mention the embassies, and the synagogues – to see the whole astonishing array of police and security services. The fact that the authorities everywhere refuse to name the evil does not negate that evil. Yet we know perfectly well that we have been under threat for a long time; one has only to open one’s eyes and our authorities know it better than any of us, because it is they who have ordered these very security measures. ... Today the war is everywhere. And yet the European Union and the states which comprise it, have denied that war’s reality, right up to the terrorist attack in Madrid of March 11, 2004.

    But the problem with conceding the point to David Warren and Bat Y'eor is that it would cause a revolution in domestic and international politics, something neither the Democratic nor the Republican parties are prepared to do. Domestically it would mean that for the first time in American history, a major branch of a world religion would be declare a de facto enemy of the state. Not people, not a country; nothing with a capital unless it be Mecca, but a system of religious belief. It would strike at the very root of the American Constitutional system, the separation of Church and State. Internationally it would signify that the principal enemy host, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, whose ruling house is intimately connected and support this ideology, must be overthrown or changed. It would indicate that the Iraq campaign, which cost the Bush administration so much political capital, is not the end but the mere beginning.

    One the most most important lessons of the Global War on Terror is how closely linked it is with Western domestic politics. The Madrid bombing of March 11, 2004 and the American Presidential elections are perfect examples. The reason for this is simple. Fighting the Jihadi enemy would mean overturning the 20th century political and economic foundations to their roots. It would mean disrupting the Big Tent of political correctness; putting a prosperity heavily dependent on oil supplies at risk; and replacing an entire paradigm of international relations. For that reason the act of naming Wahabi Islam as the principal enemy will evaded until it is absolutely unavoidable; until after a mushroom or biological cloud puts a period after the debate. The only exit from the madhouse that Warren and Y'eor describe is through the door we fear the most, the one which compels us to recognize the foe with no name. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    I tend to agree with everything except the statement that "It would strike at the very root of the American Constitutional system, the separation of Church and State." I see no reason why recognizing Islamofascism, Radical Islam, Wahhabism -- whatever you want to call it -- as the enemy strikes at the heart of the American system. The separation of church and state is based on the First Amendment, which bars the government from either respecting an establishment of religion or preventing the free exercise thereof.

    How would recognizing the Jihadist movement as a direct enemy of the United States in any way respect an establishment of religion or prevent the free exercise thereof?

    During the Cold War, there was little question that we were at war with Communism. At one point, Communists were considered enemy agents. Why are Islamofascists any different?

    I suppose the argument could be made that interference with Jihadi suicide bombers constitutes preventing the free exercise of religion, but would such a claim be taken seriously if we prevented Aztec revival cultists from chopping out beating human hearts in a religious rite? Religious views are not a license to commit murder, or to mutilate the genitalia of young girls. Nor should they be a license to wage war.

    Religious views should never allow enemies to get a pass, whether the battlefield is in Iraq, or at the airport metal detector.

    In a must-read post (the best I have seen on this entire subject, in fact) Mark Steyn analyzes this mindset very eloquently, and correctly sees the problem as an inability to face ludicrously simple truths:

    This story.....seems to confirm [] the sheer constraints under which an advanced western society can wage war in an age of political correctness. It’s not just the weediness of Norm Mineta but, as I note below, a broader unwillingness to speak the truth about who it is who’s trying to kill us. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
    In numbing detail, Steyn goes on to catalogue institutionalized PC stupidity.

    "Thousands of Americans died because of ethnic squeamishness by Federal agencies."

    Yet Steyn's conclusion is suprisingly optimistic:

    [N]o one will ever hijack an American plane ever again - not because of idiotic confiscations of tweezers, but because of the brave passengers on the fourth flight. That's why the great British shoebomber had barely got the match to his sock before half the cabin pounded the crap out of him. Even the French. To expect the government to save you is to be a bystander in your own fate.
    Expecting the government to save you is about as reasonable as expecting the PC crowd to save you. And even in those rare instances where the former does save somebody, you can always count on the latter to raise a stink.

    If I had to make up a hypothetical example, I couldn't come up with a better one than, say, a cougar ready to attack children near an elementary school. Let's try using the truth as a hypothetical example:

    Police shot and killed a 108-pound mountain lion treed in the heart of Palo Alto on Monday, saying it posed an imminent threat to hundreds of children who were about to be released from two nearby schools.

    The male cat, estimated to be 2 to 3 years old, sparked alarm after it was first reported by early-morning dog walkers and a delivery man around Rinconada Park -- less than a mile from Highway 101 and far from the foothills that the big cats normally call home.

    ....The animal "was a huge threat to public safety," and what would happen if a tranquilizer was used was just too unpredictable, said Palo Alto police Detective Kara Apple. "It was lunchtime for nearby elementary schools, and students were going to be getting out shortly.''

    In many places, the cops would have been heroes. (At least, the parents might have thought so.)

    There are of course a number of reports of attacks by cougars (mountain lions). (Here's a nice roundup with a cool picture.)

    But let's return to Palo Alto. According to Outdoor Life magazine, there's talk of erecting a shrine.

    To the heroic police officers?

    No! To the cougar, of course.

    The police were evil, even comparable to the Americans at abu Ghraib:

    A note next to a bouquet of roses read, “God bless your soul, dear Cougar.” Another: “I would gladly have given my life to save you.” A “call for justice” read, “African American man unjustly beaten. Mountain lion killed. (Police) Chief Lynn must go.” One writer stated that he was ashamed to be an American. First Abu Ghraib, then this.
    More here. And, this Oregonian's website has the unmitigated gall to express concern about the growing numbers of cougars who've "almost wholly lost their fear of man," and, well, like to eat children! (Gulp?)

    Much as I'd hate to think that there's any connection between the kneejerk defenders of mountain lions and the kneejerk defenders of suicidal Islamofascists, I worry that there is. Psychologically, at least. I suspect that for some people, a deep-seated self hatred takes the form of sympathy for killers of humans, whether motivated by religion (or what we're supposed to give a pass as religion), by ordinary criminality, or simply by predatory animal instincts.

    This might in turn be linked to hatred of those who defend themselves, but others have posted thoughts more articulate than mine. For example, Demosophia speculates about a confrontation:

    between what I think is an outmoded and failed doctrine of irresponsibility and a new doctrine taking partial responsibility for one's own defense. The two doctrines ware sharply contrasted by the way different sets of airplane passengers handled a gang of hijackers on September 11, 2001. The only plane that was not used as a guided missile was the one in which citizens decided not to sit meekly in their seats waiting for the "authorities" to fix things.

    As 911 recedes from public memory so too does the awareness of the failed doctrine that aided the hijackers in three of the four planes. And if openly carrying a firearm in a restaurant once in awhile helps, even at the margin, to remind people of that failure it's worth the hassle. (Via my blogfather Jeff.)

    Self defense can take many forms.

    But what about those who praise the killers and attack those who believe in self defense?

    What's the best defense?

    posted by Eric at 01:16 PM | Comments (3)

    Is socialized morality conservative?

    This remark by Ramesh Ponnuru certainly passes muster as the quote of the day:

    [T]he split between libertarians and social conservatives is likely to determine the shape of politics over the next decades.
    I agree. And I am beginning to think that "social conservative" is a more descriptive term than "moral conservative." But as I said in a previous post, whether one is morally conservative isn't the point. Many libertarians are morally conservative in their personal lives. As James Glassman notes, young people today tend to be morally conservative. (I think that's a good thing too; and I say this as a veteran of the 1970s excesses, which killed dozens of my friends.)

    But politically, the question is not what you do personally; it's what you'd use government force to make others do. Example:

    David Weigel, 22, the former editor of a conservative magazine at Northwestern University, a contributor to the libertarian magazine Reason and an intern at the editorial page of USA Today, said that last spring his college paper had trouble finding any conservatives on campus who supported amending the constitution to ban same-sex marriage.

    He contended that even young conservatives who maintained a strict moral code for themselves were increasingly reluctant to regulate the behavior of others. "I am personally abstinent," he said, "and I plan to stay that way, but I have no problem with international aid programs that use or distribute condoms."

    NOTE: I try to fact check the New York Times to the extent that I can, and a bit of research revealed that David Weigel has his own blog, in which he confirms that he was quoted correctly.

    How much of a Big Brother are you? Attaching the word "social" to those conservatives who'd use government force to police morals places them on the social engineering side of the spectrum where they belong. That's fair, because the more big government one wants, the more the word "social" applies.

    The question might also be asked whether big government conservatism is conservatism at all. If not, then libertarian moral conservatives would appear in logic to be more conservative than communitarian social conservatives.

    But since when has logic had anything to do with social engineering?

    CORRECTION: Beck points out in an email that the quote I had misattributed to Ramesh Ponnuru above was actually Glenn Reynolds' commentary occurring directly AFTER Ramesh's quote. Beck is right and I appreciate the correction. The first paragraph above should read as follows:

    This remark by Glenn Reynolds certainly passes muster as the quote of the day:

    [T]he split between libertarians and social conservatives is likely to determine the shape of politics over the next decades.
    Thanks Beck!

    posted by Eric at 12:07 PM | Comments (2)

    Paul Johnson beheading video released


    Via Paul at Wizbang, I just discovered that the actual Paul Johnson beheading video has been released, and is available for download here. (I posted about Paul Johnson before here.)

    I feel pretty strongly about this issue, and despite repeated criticism, I have made available the Daniel Pearl and Nick Berg beheading videos, as well as links to the Kim Sun Il beheading video.

    I am annoyed (but not terribly surprised) by those who are believe that an outraged citizen showing the terrorists' handiwork to others is a terrorist or an "accessory" and I wrote a post about the matter here. And once again, if seeing these videos helps fuel the warrior spirit which is required, then that's reason enough to help make them available.

    Paul got it right in my opinion:

    The terrorists don't understand that beheading people and releasing video of it will not scare us, it will only piss us off.
    Nor, apparently do certain control freaks in the United States understand that.

    Or perhaps they do. Perhaps they don't want us to be pissed off....

    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: 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....

    UPDATE (09/21/04): I see that this post is still attracting web traffic, which is probably related to the savage beheadings of Eugene Armstrong and Jack Hensley. Please be careful about watching (because it's the worst I've seen) but here is the link to the Armstrong video. Dr. Rusty Shackleford links to NEIN which also hosting the video. (Another download site is here.

    Once again, Americans need to remember what we are fighting, and why. It's nothing less than a war between civilization and barbarism. I won't mince words here: I believe those who defend the torturers of Americans are the enemy, plain and simple. Here's Bat Ye'or, author of Islam and Dhimmitude: Where Civilizations Collide:

    The war against a global jihadist terrorism can be won only if the civilized world is united against barbarity. Until now European democracies supported Arafat, the initiator of jihadist terrorism, hostage-taking and Islamikazes. The war will be won if we name it, if we face it, if we recognize that it obeys specific rules of Islamic war that are not ours; and if democracies and Muslim modernists stop justifying these acts against other countries. The policy of collusion and support for terrorists in order to gain self-protection is a delusion.

    UPDATE (09/23/04): The bloody bastards have supplied their hideous video of Jack Hensley being beheaded, which is available here and here.

    If you're as appalled as I was, you might consider donating to the Jack Hensley Foundation.

    (Via Dr. Rusty Shackleford.)

    posted by Eric at 10:14 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (2)

    Good news for the heart and soul?

    Whoopi Goldberg recently stated her view on America's heart and soul:

    "America's heart and soul is freedom of expression without fear of reprisal," she said in a statement.
    Cool! I hate reprisals too!

    QUERY: Does the no reprisal rule apply to Dr. Laura too? Or are some expressions more free than others?

    In a way though, I think Whoopi is right. Although I don't think she meant her statement literally, if we take it at face value she isn't saying that freedom of expression without reprisals is America's heart and soul; only that an absence of fear is. I am all for an absence of fear as America's heart and soul, and I note that in the past, Whoopi has been quite outspoken, even facing serious criticism merely for saying she was an American:

    subordinated individuals often employ individualism as a buttress to racial stigma. An example is Whoopi Goldberg, who denies her connection to Africa by saying, "Don't call me an African American, I am an American."
    Believe it or not, it took courage for her to say that, and despite the current flap, I haven't forgotten it. (Even if I disagree with her assessment of her current predictable predicament.)

    posted by Eric at 09:43 AM | Comments (5)

    Terror in the skies? Or in the courts?

    Is it conceivable that terrorists or their supporters might resort to litigation as one means of pursuing their goals? I don't know, but I have something I thought I should share.

    James Lileks makes an excellent point while contemplating a scary recent example of inadequacies in airline security:

    Our present enemy will nuke us as soon as they can, because it means heaven, period.
    Via William J. Beck, III, who notes what he would have done:
    Hmm. I have an idea.

    I don't know about anyone else, but I would have simply walked straight up to one of these people and said, "Hi, there. I've been watching very closely, and I'm going to keep doing that until we're on the ground. In the meantime, you should tell me: What, exactly, are you guys up to?"

    To that I say that we need more Americans like William Beck.

    I don't talk about personal experiences as much as I should, but after reading the Terror in the Skies article, I feel obligated.

    I was scheduled to fly from Philadelphia to San Francisco on September 12, 2001. On the seemingly dull morning of September 11, I turned on Howard Stern, and the first thing I heard was a very grim, "This is World War III!" I'm a seasoned Stern listener, and I knew from his tone of voice that he wasn't joking, so I turned on CNN.

    I don't think I turned it off until the wee hours of the morning of September 12. Needless to say, my flight was canceled, and the next available flight to San Francisco was September 15, because the airports were closed. That flight was spooky, as the plane was only about one-third full, and people were visibly nervous. Sitting next to me was a huge, Samoan-looking man, and when we landed in San Francisco, he was met by an older woman (probably his mom), and both of them embraced, sobbing. (Real tears were flowing; things were that heavy.)

    I stayed for a week, my return trip having been scheduled for September 22, 2001. On that day, the mood at the San Francisco airport was even scarier than it had been in Philadelphia. There'd been some sort of speculation in the newspapers about possible cosmic significance of the 9/22 date, and warnings were constantly broadcast about the need to "report anything of a suspicious nature."

    And boy! What happened at the gate sure looked suspicious to me!

    While I have no particular fear of people from the Mideast (I've traveled there a number of times, and enjoy getting lost in bazaars; my favorite city is Istanbul, which I've visited three times), there was a man at the counter who was young, bearded, and loudly insistent -- just to the point of anger, yet at the same time it seemed to me that he was going out of his way to cooly control his anger. He had his cell phone out, was demanding to be boarded, and it was clear that he lacked a boarding pass or a ticket, but he was very insistent and kept carrying on a three-way argument with the counter person and someone on his cell phone. His behavior was completely inappropriate considering the circumstances; and there had been news reports that some of the 9/11 terrorists had been thwarted on September 11 because they'd shrilly demanded boarding despite inadequate tickets. Anyway, you had to be there to understand how utterly bizarre it appeared; almost everyone in the airport was in a state of fear, and here was this guy trying to bully his way onto a flight!

    I could see the United flight crew sitting there watching this man intently, and they appeared more than a little alarmed, so I figured no one needed to hear from me that this looked suspicious. Frankly, the whole thing reeked of suspicion; I've been flying for over forty years and I've never seen anything like it. It occurred to me that the man could either be a terrorist or crazy, so I watched him closely. After many minutes of demanding to board, I saw him turn and make eye contact with another Mideastern-looking man, following which the second man sat down in the boarding area for less than 30 seconds, then got up and quickly walked back towards the main terminal. It didn't appear that the United employees could see that, so I wrote them a note, and handed it to one of the women behind the counter. Here's a copy, which I still have because I was asked to testify about it later.


    (The original of the above was submitted to the jury as evidence in Baig v. United Airlines, San Francisco Superior Court Number 400689.)

    Next thing, the Mideastern man was given what appeared to be a boarding pass. At that point I decided to watch him during the entire flight, as I wanted be ready to tackle him if anything happened. But instead of sitting down with the passengers, he went and sat down -- facing the passengers! -- on the floor in front of the moving ramp in the concourse aisle in front of the gate. (Again, very strange behavior of the sort I have never seen in a lifetime of flying.)

    Finally, the flight began boarding, and about the same time I got in line some security types in suits surrounded the man and started asking questions. I have to say, I was a bit relieved that I wasn't going to have to spend the flight watching him, but I had no way of knowing what he was really up to. As I boarded, the woman to whom I'd handed the note came up to me and reassured me that my note was not the reason the man had been kept off the plane, but that the entire flight crew had told the pilot that if that man was on the plane, they refused to fly.

    I thought that was the end of it. What I didn't know until much later was that the man filed a discrimination lawsuit against United:

    In a lawsuit filed in San Francisco Superior Court, M. Ahsan Baig, a U.S. resident of Asian descent, said he was singled out because of his race when a flight crew prevented him from boarding a Sept. 22 flight to Philadelphia.

    The suit is one of the first of its kind in the nation.

    Baig said he was told that a United crew member had seen him engage in "suspicious communications" with another passenger, prompting the captain to bar him from the flight. Baig hotly denied the charge, which he said a United representative could neither explain nor prove. Baig said that he had been on the phone to his wife and to a company straightening out a ticket mix-up just before he sat down in the waiting area.

    A customer service manager repeatedly apologized to Baig for the incident and immediately got him on another flight.

    But -- as I said -- he did not sit down in the waiting area! Not that I read anything about it until much later, but San Francisco columnist Deborah J. Saunders commented at time time about the incident, and later, so did did Rich Lowry:
    9 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers drew special scrutiny before they boarded their flights, but none were actually questioned....

    In late September, M. Ahsan Baig was kept off United Flight 288 from San Francisco to Philadelphia because the pilot didn't like the way he seemed to be furtively talking to another passenger in the waiting area. Baig, a California computer specialist who is from Pakistan, got on another flight 90 minutes later after apologies from a ticket agent. An hour-and-a-half delay, for many fliers, might be considered a good day at the airport. For Baig, it was the occasion for a civil-rights lawsuit.

    I testified, and Baig's attorney did his level best to make me look like a bigot. I guess that didn't work, because that San Francisco jury came in with a verdict in favor of United. [If that's a hassle to open, the Google cache is here.]

    I feel the need to post about this now because I think lawsuits like the one I went through tend to discourage what should be encouraged. Citizens should work cooperatively and use common sense.

    As this shows (or at least so it appears), Big Brother can't be expected to protect us.

    We have to protect ourselves -- hopefully with common sense, but with our lives if necessary.

    Even if we get dragged into lawsuits!

    UPDATE: As I get ready to post this, I see that plenty of excellent bloggers have weighed in on the Terror in the Skies article. (Steven Den Beste has some great advice, too!)

    I sure hope that the Syrians weren't trolling for litigation.

    UPDATE: My thanks to Glenn Reynolds for linking to this post, and a warm welcome to all InstaPundit readers.

    Patterico speculates about how litigation fears could be used as a terrorist weapon:

    If I headed Al Qaeda, I would assign some Arab people to create incidents on airplanes (like this), get tossed off, and file some discrimination suits. Once those suits were settled, and the airlines appropriately cowed, I would be able to send my terrorists onto a plane en masse -- and if anyone tried to search them, I'd instruct them to cry "discrimination!"

    But Osama doesn't need to do this, because the government is already doing this work for him. As the New York Times reported in April, since 9/11 our very own U.S. government has filed and settled numerous lawsuits against various airlines for alleged discrimination against "travelers believed to have been of Arab, Middle Eastern or Southeast Asian descent." As part of the settlement, the airlines (including American, United, and Continential) are required "to provide civil rights training over the next two years to its pilots and cabin crew." In Continental's case, the settlement provides that the training "must cost the company no less than $500,000."

    Via Glenn Reynolds, who also quotes an email posing the question of whether the troublesome fliers are "decoys to distract attention from something more important."

    The bottom line (as I see it) is that security measures are being compromised by politically correct ideologues unable to distinguish between interning Japanese Americans in concentration camps and delaying a suspicious passenger's flight. What will it take to change that?

    posted by Eric at 06:11 PM | Comments (4)

    Some things I'm not fortunate enough to forget....

    It's poetry review time, like it or not!

    (Which means that it's time to analyze drivel -- which I tend to hate....)

    An unfortunate truth about me is that I'm really not all that into poetry. But John Kerry came to Philadelphia yesterday and in a speech to the NAACP, singled out in a praiseworthy manner not one but two Stalin apologists. That offends my low standards. I might have been willing to overlook one. You know, nobody's perfect, and, of course, "mistakes were made."

    But two? That's too many!

    The two in question were W.E.B. DuBois and Langston Hughes. As to DuBois, his love of Stalin and Communism and his malevolent anti-Americanism are not open to serious dispute (see my previous post on the subject). Here's Kerry's reference to DuBois:

    W.E.B. Du Bois talked about the two Americas years ago. He called it "a nation within a nation." John Edwards and I have talked about that divide for many years now.

    Our job, between now and November is to end the division between the fortunate America and the forgotten America. We must come together to build one America.

    What "nation within a nation" was DuBois talking about? Here's PBS:
    Du Bois moved increasingly to the left in his political thinking, embracing a Marxist analysis of black labor in the United States and eventually advocating a "nation within a nation" form of black economic separatism or cooperation during the Great Depression. In 1944, in his mid-seventies, Du Bois declared that he would spend "the remaining years of [his] active life" in the fight against imperialism.
    I'm not at all sure that Kerry understands what the "nation within a nation" meant. DuBois wanted to create one, and Kerry thinks he referred to an existing one.

    Here's more:

    In contrast to Garvey, Du Bois believes in the existence of “a dual identity or ‘double consciousness’ that is both African and American, and, consequently rejects black nationalism proper.” Du Bois makes no suggestion that Black Americans should “return” to Africa, but that they actually have more right to call themselves American since they did the bulk of the work to build America. However, his nationalist ideas are similar to Garvey’s in relation to his beliefs of “origins” and the historical basis of modern Black identity. When he discusses beginnings “he makes a number of claims about the superiority of Africa,” and like Garvey “he professes that more so than other groups, Africans advanced ‘from animal savagery toward primitive civilization.’” Du Bois sees African Americans as a “protonation” not yet realized, a “nation within a nation,” and “privileges an African Gemeinschaft (an organic community based on kinship) over the European Gesellschaft (a rationalized, mechanistic community).”
    DuBois is considered by many to be the father of multiculturalism, and hence his "nation within a nation" idea must be seen within that context:
    Du Bois (1933) conceptualization of Pan Africanism was based on anti-racist, anti-colonial, anti-imperialism and for "the industrial and spiritual emancipation of Negro people (p. 247)." As Gbadegesin notes (1996), Pan Africanist movement took its roots from "the social heritage of insult in slavery and colonial exploitation (p. 233)." Du Bois organized five Pan-African conferences, in 1911, 1921, 1923, 1927 and in 1945 to emphasize the collective work of Africans, African Americans and the colonized people of the world. In order to combat colonialism, Du Bois urged people of African descent to put aside language, cultural, religious differences to unite for a common struggle. Within the context of Pan Africanism, Du Bois collaborated with Ghanaian leader Nkrumah in attempts to organize collective struggles of Africans and African Americans. As noted by Moses (1994), Du Bois’s political views were deeply grounded within Afrocentric thoughts, particular within African music, history, spirituality, etc. Du Bois viewed African communalism and collective nature of family useful within the African American context. For Du Bois, knowledge from the continent of Africa was important for Black resistance in the United States, which he called a "nation within a nation."
    So perhaps, in fairness to Kerry, the reason he and Edwards have "talked about that divide for many years now" is, as Kerry claims, to "end the division between the fortunate America and the forgotten America" and "come together to build one America." If so, it will mark a new moment in Democratic Party politics, as multiculturalism is based not on ending divisions but creating them.

    Again, I'd be a little more willing to trust Kerry if it weren't for the fact that he goes on to quote a second Stalin apologist, the poet Langston Hughes:

    The great poet Langston Hughes put it this way:

    Let America be America again...Let it be the dream it used to be...for those whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain, whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain must bring back our mighty dream again.

    With your help, in 2004, we can...we must...we will...bring back our mighty dream again.

    Stirring words of praise. "Let America be America again" sounds like a hell of a campaign slogan too! (It is, of course, Kerry's campaign theme.)

    But what does it mean? Here are some lines Kerry omitted:

    Who said the free? Not me?
    Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
    The millions shot down when we strike?
    The millions who have nothing for our pay?
    For all the dreams we've dreamed
    And all the songs we've sung
    And all the hopes we've held
    And all the flags we've hung,
    The millions who have nothing for our pay--
    Except the dream that's almost dead today.

    .....From those who live like leeches on the people's lives,
    We must take back our land again,

    O, yes,
    I say it plain,
    America never was America to me,
    And yet I swear this oath--
    America will be!

    Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
    The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
    We, the people, must redeem
    The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
    The mountains and the endless plain--
    All, all the stretch of these great green states--
    And make America again!

    Aside from the Marxist sentiments, it's inherent in the poem that the word "again" is used mockingly -- for Hughes makes clear that America never was the way he wants to remake it; the reason for the word "again" is to give lie to the despicable and hypocritical American Dream (which fellow Stalin-lovers know to be a cruel myth).

    Timothy Noah recently reminded the Kerry forces not only of the underlying Stalinist sentiments, but of the lie inherent in Langston Hughes' chorus of "Let America be America again." It's not nostalgia, as the poet makes abundantly clear by stating over and over again that it "never was." Rather, the poem's goal is to remake America into something it never was: a Stalinist workers' paradise:

    Anyone who takes the time to read "Let America Be America Again" will quickly understand that its entire thrust is that nostalgia for a golden age of American freedom is a crock. In the poem, idealized paeans to "the dream [America] used to be" alternate with parenthetical responses exposing the harsher reality ("America never was America to me"). Who is this angry dissenter? Hughes answers in a voice that echoes Walt Whitman's:
    I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
    I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
    I am the red man driven from the land,
    I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek—
    and so on. Rather than pretend America ever was the land of the free (remember, this was written by a black man in the Jim Crow era), Hughes urges his heterogeneous countrymen to fulfill for the first time America's promise of freedom:
    America never was America to me,
    And yet I swear this oath—America will be!
    "Let America Be America Again," you may have noticed, is not one of Hughes' better efforts. Like a lot of poetry written during the Great Depression, it's didactic and influenced by naive admiration for the Soviet experiment.
    Is that what Kerry wants? I'm sure he'd deny it, but when he goes out of his way to laud two Stalin apologists, and makes a poem by one of them the center theme of his campaign, I find it unsettling.

    I don't want to live in a workers' paradise where the state owns the means of production. This country is too close to that already.

    The fortunate versus the forgotten?

    I don't know how to analyze such phraseology; like much of what Kerry says it defies rational analysis. How, for example, does one determine whether one is "fortunate" or "forgotten"? Are these two words opposites? It strikes me as a waste of time to get into a lengthy discussion over whether one can be forgotten as well as fortunate. (Some are very fortunate to be forgotten, while others are very unfortunate to be remembered....)

    But I will say this: Communism was unfortunate, and it should not be forgotten.

    Why praise those who supported it?

    UPDATE: Might the key to successful interpretation (of the Hughes poem and campaign theme) lie somewhere in Kerry's heart?

    "The question, setting aside the campaign, is: Where is John Kerry's heart?" said Kagan, who has advocated a muscular U.S. approach to world affairs. "My sense is his heart is in the anti-Vietnam, '70s-'80s left." (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Yes Again! (Indeed.)

    UPDATE (in reverse order): If you want more 70's nostalgia, you won't be disappointed. Just keep scrolling to the last post. Justin wrote it, and I think it's a real gem.

    posted by Eric at 08:51 AM | Comments (1) | TrackBacks (1)

    Estimated Prophet

    The End of Affluence was published in 1974. A dark time for the Republic. Darker than many younger people, today, might credit. The reality was quite bad enough, but life is never so challenging that a little panic mongering can’t help the zeitgeist along. And what the zeitgeist back then said was that America was washed up. Vietnam proved it and Nixon proved it. We were weak and corrupt. Inflation proved it, too. We were weak and corrupt and getting poorer by the day. And our cars were crap on wheels, just ask anybody. To be young then was to need cheering up.

    So I have a special place in my heart for Paul Ehrlich. He saw my world was going to hell in a handbasket and said “It's worse than you think. You have no hope. The things you love the most must end, and soon, lest we kill the planet.” And I believed him, because all my teachers said so too...When Earth Day Three rolled around, all us kids were fed eco-doom stories to commemorate the event . Mr. Pirro said we were running out of oil for fuel. Soon cars would be a “rich man’s toy “ again. Maybe the police and ambulance services would use them. Or maybe the firefighters. But private citizens? Uh uh, kid, its ricksha time for the common man. "What about airliners?", I said. "Surely we won’t just give up flight?" Airplanes too, he assured me solemnly. The Club of Rome had studied the matter. They had used computers and mathematical models. Computers, yeah. That meant it was all scientific. So just you forget about space travel, kid. It's an unaffordable luxury, soon to be abandoned.

    Mr. Pirro was only an English teacher, but I believed him anyway. He was young enough to seem kind of hip. They had used computers.....

    And real scientists said so too, so you could take it to the bank. Scientists like Paul Ehrlich of Stanford University. I think Dr. Ehrlich has a lot to answer for. He did the nation a real disservice promoting his bleak, ascetic vision. Years later, after doing my own research, I realized that none of the terrible things he predicted would ever come to pass, and thankfully, it has been so. A valuable lesson, that. But at the time, I was as gullible as any other high school kid, and I really truly believed that time was running out for the modern technological world. I loved that world deeply and still do.
    Being a product of the public schools, however, I had no knowledge of economics, theoretical or applied. We were never even taught about compound interest! So how was I to know that his version of the economic wisdom was as flawed, as simplistic, as anything I could have come up with on my own. After all HE had a Doctorate. In Science!

    In retrospect, I don't think it is good for people, individually or as a nation to believe their own doom is a foregone conclusion. Without hope, why struggle, or plan, or dream? Growing up during the cold war, I was subjected to a corrosive acid drizzle of cynical hopelessness from the popular culture. Hey, why plan ahead if the next 30 minutes could bring the end of the world? Like, we all wondered if we would live to be thirty man (Mod Squad)....You would be a fool to spend time studying or investing in the long term. It etched away at my confidence and crept like a little charnel worm into my happiest moments. Everything and everyone I ever loved could be snuffed out at a moments notice, and if they by purest chance were ALLOWED to live, well, civilization was going to fall anyway, or hadn't you heard? We would be burnt to vapor, or die retching from fallout poisoning, or nerve gas convulsions, and even if we did everything RIGHT and kept the Soviet menace at bay, it would all be for nothing, because we would be living in a fallen, medieval world. Thanks Paul!

    Well, as we all know now, none of that happened. And some people think a taste of armageddon is bracing, it builds character. But I will never forgive that arrogant idiot for frightening a generation. I know people who went to their graves believing him, believing his every stupid word. They died feeling sorry for us, knowing that they had seen the best of times, that nothing better would follow, or COULD follow, that science had proven it. The Golden Age was ending with them. There are people alive today who still believe that.

    The bastard.

    And he will never ever admit that he was wrong....

    So, shall we set the wayback for 1974? Get comfortable. This will take awhile.

    What are the prospects for the future? We are facing within the next three decades, the disintegration of an unstable world of nation-states infected with growthmania....This is what underlies the sudden, seemingly mysterious shortages and the widespread inflation that have plagued the world. p 4

    In the early 1970s, the leading edge of the age of scarcity arrived. With it came a clearer look at the future, revealing more of the nature of the dark age to come. p 7

    If you face what's coming squarely, you may be able to ride the crest of the tidal wave that will engulf society, rather than be crushed beneath it. p 8

    Yikes! And this is just from the introduction. So, rather than assent to some heavy crushing action, we should take resolute steps. Such as for instance...

    For instance, it is prudent, we suggest, to stash a few cases of tuna in your basement (if you're lucky enough to have a basement and the money for the tuna) because periodic protein shortages (or at least sky-high prices) seem certain to occur within the ten-to-twenty-year shelf-life of the cans. p 10

    Riiight. End of the world. Tuna in the basement. I must confess to laughing out loud when I re-read this paragraph. My MOM kept tuna in the basement. Along with sealed tubs of hard winter wheat, "Just in case.". I was down there last year. Thirty years on and it's still there.The wheat, that is. My mom would NEVER let tuna sit that long.

    We think our diagnosis of the ills of society is substantially correct, even though the exact pattern of the decline remains obscure. Nevertheless, or suggestions for "cures" must be taken with caution, since among other things, no one, including ourselves, has had any prior experience of the disease. After all, industrial society has never been threatened with total collapse before! p 12

    The above quote might be mistaken for humility, if you squint a bit. Relax, it's not typical.

    We live in a a crowded suburban area in a moderate-sized house without a basement. Our only child is an adult. We enjoy our friends and our work too much to move to a remote spot and start farming and hoarding-although we think that may be a very intelligent choice for some people. If society goes, we will go with it... p 13

    But not before eating some yummy tuna.

    This vast tragedy, however, is nothing compared to the nutritional disaster that seems likely to overtake humanity in the 1970s (or, at the latest, the 1980s). Due to a combination of ignorance, greed, and callousness, a situation has been created that could lead to a BILLION OR MORE PEOPLE STARVING TO DEATH. p 21

    One way or another, the human population explosion will probably come to an end well before it reaches the often-discussed UN projection of some 6.5 billion people in the year 2000. It would be a miracle if the halt were caused by a precipitous decline in family sizes...Lacking miracles, the halt will occur in the only other way possible-THROUGH THE DRASTIC SHORTENING OF THE LIVES OF ENORMOUS NUMBERS OF HUMAN BEINGS. p 31-32

    Emphasis not mine. Regarding those shorter lives, ahem.

    The exact timetable of society's decline and the sequence of steps on the down staircase are impossible to predict, but they are relatively unimportant. What you need to know is that in ten or fifteen years-twenty or twenty-five at most-you will be living in a world EXTREMELY DIFFERENT from that of today-one that, if you are unprepared for it, will prove extraordinarily unpleasant. p 34

    Kind of funny isn't it. Everything he stated above is true, but not in the way he meant it. Sure is a funny old world.

    Your children should have it impressed upon them that their adult life-style will bear very little resemblance to yours... p 36

    Well, yes and no...

    We can be reasonably sure, then, that within the next quarter of a century mankind will be looking elsewhere than in oil wells for its main source of energy. p 49

    To put it simply, mankind has blown its chance for a smooth transition to an equilibrium society. The general economic trend is going to be downhill from now on. There may be temporary reversals-renewed flows of oil, bumper harvests, partial recoveries-but as the end of the century approaches, each decade will be worse than the preceding one for the average American, to say nothing of the average human being. How can we be so sure...? One reason is that many important trends have a built-in momentum that would make reversal difficult, even if the effort were made. p 92-93

    So then, we can be pretty confident here, right? Momentum is key.

    For some countries-India, for example-the boat has already sailed. p 104

    Just as a casual aside, Ehrlich really does seem to have it in for India. In "The Population Bomb" he advocated forced sterilization for the Indian peasantry.

    The contrast between India and China is striking. While there is more political freedom in India, there is more freedom from hunger and poverty in China-and few would contend that the average Indian is better off than the average Chinese. India has been a colossal failure at population control; China shows every possibility of success. It is clear that many underdeveloped countries could learn a great deal from the Chinese example... p 106-107

    Yessss, we could ALL learn a great deal from the Chinese. Coincidentally, Jeremy Rifkin loved Red China too. The place seems to just...speak... to a certain mindset. Is it the sense of order and united purpose, or what?

    Future major crises in Europe, such as one caused by severe food shortages, for example, will no doubt be met with cries of "The hell with you Jack, I've got mine". Keep an eye on France in particular-she can probably feed herself, something most other European nations cannot do. p 114

    "Keep an eye on France in particular..."

    Right again, for the wrong reasons. Some day we can do political Ehrlich. His analysis of seventies politicians showed stunning acumen.

    Scientific leadership has, if anything, been worse than religious leadership. In theory at least, scientists ought to know better, but they sent men to the moon when cities on Earth were dissolving, and transplanted hearts in preference to tackling the problems of overpopulation and mass starvation. p 146

    Pesky scientists...sending men... to the moon.......Cities!...Dissolving! Hearts...Transplant!...Transplant!!

    To growthmaniacs, poisoning the consumer and mortgaging the future of society are a small price for one last fling at affluence The major question now is whether that fling will materialize...We think probably not. The food crunch is likely to undermine the world economy and result in political instability that will affect every corner of the globe. But a temporary boom is POSSIBLE-accompanied by short-term gluts of commodities like meat, wheat, and gasoline-although the long-term trend is clearly downhill.
    The Dow-Jones average might even hit 2000! p 174
    We hope a last fling does not occur. Such a boom would all but destroy any remaining chance to make a smooth transition to an equilibrium society....The final growth spurt of the cowboy economy would be like the sudden brightening of a light bulb just before it goes out. p 174

    Lands sake's, now we got spurting cowboys!

    With or without a terminal boom, what will the long term trends look like from the viewpoint of most Americans?....Instead of being concerned with "Keeping up with the Joneses" in terms of newness of car and number of household gadgets, people will increasingly worry about how to keep nutritious food in their children's stomachs and roofs over their heads. The purchase of food will take a bigger and bigger portion of the household budget, and, unless the grow-it-yourself movement really catches on, the quality of the average American diet will deteriorate....Rising costs of land, lumber, aluminum, roofing materials, plastics, and the like will make the single-family home an unattainable dream for most people. Many people who already have homes will find themselves hard pressed to pay for gas or electricity for cooking and heating, or for water to keep their gardens. growing. p 174-175

    Hence, the plague of "monster houses" on the land.

    There are, indeed, "hard times a-coming." Even if there is no final boom and bust, the economic world of the near future will be a very different place from that of today. We suspect that it will be much less complex. On one hand, there will be a relatively few gigantic corporate entities, private or nationalized, attempting to fill basic needs: food housing, clothing, transportation, and medicine. p 175-176

    Just ask any Lepidopterist.

    On the other hand, there will be a resurgence of small family-based enterprises-farms, shops, maintenance businesses-through which people attempt to provide for themselves the security that is otherwise unattainable. The vast diversity of businesses that manufacture and distribute the goods of our "cowboy" economy will have largely disappeared.
    Most of the Japanese firms that today shower us with electronic gadgets will have gone defunct as Japan's situation deteriorates, and the higher costs of necessities will have so reduced demand for television sets, radios, tape decks, and the like that few new firms will have entered the market. Similarly, a wide array of non-essentials, from convenience foods to recreational vehicles, will have largely vanished along with the companies that produce them.

    It is instructive for the reader to take a moment, and contemplate the above passage. Read it twice. This man was awarded a MacArthur "Genius Grant" worth a third of a million.

    Probably before 1985, a general recognition of the changed economic status of the nation will lead to a stock-market collapse even more severe than the one that preceded the onset of the depression of the 1930s. This time, however, the public will be aware of the depth of our economic difficulties, and confidence in the market as a place to make money may be more or less permanently eroded. It is very likely that before the end of the century the stock market, as we know it, will disappear as a factor in the lives of individuals. p176

    Now, I don't claim to know much about the stock market. But I do know what a 401k is. I suppose you could claim that the market had to reinvent itself to keep itself alive. Lower commissions, special tax breaks, index funds, etc., etc. But really, adapting to changing circumstances is what people DO. To think they couldn't would be the height of arrogance... Never mind...

    We can expect that either processed food prices will become outlandish or quality will decline as processors try to reduce their costs. Either way, they'll lose customers. p 203

    Well, I am convinced. Now we have marshalled our collective will. But, what is to be done? The people require a leader with answers! How about a few concrete proposals?

    A way to cut back here is for neighbors who shop in the same stores to form car pools. If you live close enough to your market, you might consider walking with a shopping cart, Also, it"s good exercise. Or you might try a three-wheeled bicycle, which can carry quite a lot of groceries. p 203

    Picture the stylish Berkeley mom, doggedly peddling her tricycle to the co-op, recycled shopping bag cinched onto her back, Kinda gets you doesn't it? Or how about this scenario, "I'm out of sugar, Dot! Let's carpool to the market!". It could be made to work.

    Over the next decade or two, Americans should try to cut their per capita energy consumption in HALF. This effort lies at the heart of any solution to national and world scarcity problems. Such a reduction, however, would require far more than such half-hearted measures as lower speed limits and reduced commercial lighting, although these help. Nothing less than a reorganization of the American way of life is required. p 221

    No half-hearted measures! Nothing less is required!

    I really think the next few sentences sound better when read with a German accent. Some might differ. Perhaps Chinese?

    Much of what should be done is obvious. The entire pattern of transportation for the US should be changed, and this means that our settlement patterns must also change........p 222

    The entire pattern of transportation.

    There are many relatively minor changes that, if made across the nation, could add up to significant energy savings...Electrical-resistance heating ...should be banned in new homes and offices...Unnecessary lighting in offices and factories should also be banned....There should certainly be a ban on lighting for business advertising when the business is closed. p 226
    Completely frivolous uses of power, such as gas yard lamps that are permanently lit, should be outlawed altogether.

    Definitely German. No frivolous power!

    ...vacationing by automobile could be discouraged...Vacation time could be increased to four to six weeks annually...

    Just like in France!

    Three-day weekends, which create enormous jams on highways, can be eliminated by abolishing the recent shift of most holidays to Monday.

    I am surprised such a simple and obvious solution remains unimplemented.

    All these proposed changes are entirely possible; undoubtedly you can think of others. And none of them would reduce our standard of living. p 227
    It is essential to start behaving NOW as though energy were a scarce and precious commodity-because it is, even if most people don't realize it. p 228
    The first thing you should do is USE PUBLIC TRANSPORT WHENEVER POSSIBLE. p 233
    If you live a ridiculously long distance from your work, no public transport is available, and car-pooling is impractical, you might consider moving closer (or changing jobs). p 234
    If a second car still seems essential to you, consider joint ownership with neighbors or friends... p 234

    I grow weary. Perhaps just one more excerpt.

    Heavy industry...may undergo very little further increase. Some types of manufacturing indeed may even collapse abruptly, depending on the availability of raw materials and energy and on the course of events. The most unnecessary, wasteful, and antisocial activities-such as the packaging and bottling industries, some kinds of weapons, aircraft, cheap plastic products, etc.-are likely to be eliminated either in a conventional depression or the real energy crunch. p 237

    Let's just keep an eye out for those anti-social yard lamps.

    How do you follow an act like that? Not easily. I think I'll delegate.

    Back in 2000, "Scientific American" ran a short puff piece on Ehrlich. To call it fawning would be inappropriate. But so very true. Check it out here.

    Here's just a taste for the link shy:

    "At the age of 68, Ehrlich remains an unbowed six feet, two inches. The deep, sonorous voice that must have delighted Tonight Show producers still rumbles out from his rangy frame. Here at his summer workplace, the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory in Gothic, Colo., in the heart of mountains some 120 miles southwest of Denver, he’s grown a beard that makes him resemble one of the Victorian-era miners who once worked the area. His large hands firmly grip the steering wheel of his Jeep as we climb the steep, grooved mud track to the cramped four-room cabin he has shared with wife, Anne, for the past 40 summers."

    His large hands firmly grip....? Ooooh Fabian, I'm melting inside!

    " Ehrlich is unrepentant. Sure, his famous book had its faults, he acknowledges, but he counters, “Show me a scientist old enough to write something in 1968 who would still write the same thing today, and I’ll show you an idiot.” ".

    I can't speak for all scientists, but there were plenty of engineers, economists, and geologists who went on the (obscure) record trying to debunk this jackass. We can imagine them as skinny, turkey-necked fellows, thin of hair and thick of glasses, perhaps with pocket protectors.They never got the media play that Mr. Eco-doom managed to hustle up. We never heard their message over at the High School, in Mr. Pirro's class. But unlike Dr. Ehrlich, they actually knew what they were talking about. THEY got it right. THEY don't have to revise a word.

    "His take-no-prisoners wit and tidbits about the local environment spice the conversation. (The Western Fuels Association becomes the “Western Fools Association,” his long-standing antagonist the Cato Institute is a “thoughtless tank,” and presidential hopeful George W. Bush is dismissed as “George Shrub ... this guy who is running for some office in our country."

    There was a time when I loved Scientific American.

    Scientific American. Less of either with every year.

    posted by Justin at 11:34 AM | Comments (4)

    "16 words" (and more than an 18 minute gap in reporting...)

    Well, I can't really accuse the Philadelphia Inquirer of refusing to acknowledge Iraq's attempts to purchase uranium from Niger. But most people -- if they read this article without any other reference -- would remain clueless:

    First, Butler, formerly Britain's top civil servant, said Britain had received information from "several different sources" to substantiate reports that Iraq sought to purchase uranium from Niger. The Senate report found that similar claims by U.S. intelligence, which found their way into President Bush's State of the Union address last year, were based on a single set of forged documents.
    You really have to parse that carefully. And even if you did, you might think that "similar claims" and "forged documents" also applied to "several different sources." Thus, unless they read InstaPundit where they could find excellent analyses like this, Philadelphians reading the story would never have the slightest idea that Iraq indeed did attempt to purchase uranium in Niger.

    Certainly they won't get a clue from the Inquirer's headline:

    "British probe blames data, not Blair
    It said he didn't intentionally mislead but used "seriously flawed" information on Iraq.
    And of course, Philadelphians will probably never again read about the heroic "whistle blower" Joe Wilson whose mysterious disappearance has been commented on by others. (Links via Glenn Reynolds.)

    And remember Bush's famous "16 words"?

    The British Government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa.
    The specter of Watergate was invoked over them, and there were repeated calls for impeachment.

    Nothing about them now, because the 16 words turned out to be true.

    What can we expect from forgers of fake turkeys? (Also via Glenn Reynolds.)

    The only thing I might add to this outrageous orgy of non-reporting is something I "added" one year ago:

    Might it be true that the Bush administration has more evidence about WMDs than they let on?

    If so, then the Democrats (and the left in general) have seriously underestimated a popular Republican president.

    It wouldn't be the first time.

    If Mr. Kelly's warning doesn't quite jumpstart your political imagination, consider it in the context of this intriguing report about the French origins of the (allegedly) forged intelligence about Iraqi attempts to purchase uranium from Niger:

    the president’s accusers may soon have to eat their words. A growing number of sources demonstrate President Bush’s words were accurate and based on intelligence that originated . . . with the French.
    It is not my purpose here to defend Bush. (As a libertarian, I am highly suspicious and distrustful of both parties.) Rather, I am wondering whether his attackers -- blinded by an all-consuming hatred of Bush -- (how many times have they said this was "worse than Watergate"?) will spend the next two or so years trapped in an ambush they thought they had laid.
    A growing number of sources?

    Not that you'll find them in your local newspaper.

    I guess we should consider ourselves lucky that they appear at all.

    UPDATE: Honesty is being restored by Joe Wilson here. Except I think it may be slated for demolition.....

    MORE: The Wall Street Journal is not shying away from this story:

    Mr. Wilson's disinformation became the vanguard of a year-long assault on Mr. Bush's credibility. The political goal was to portray the President as a "liar," regardless of the facts. Now that we know those facts, Americans can decide who the real liars are.
    I only wish that the word "we" included readers of other newspapers.

    AND MORE: Roger L. Simon thinks the word "RAT" is more descriptive of Joe Wilson than "whistle blower." Not just any old rat, either, but a rat of distinction:

    Wilson is no ordinary rat, the likes of which have abounded in virtually every political party since time immemorial. He is a deeply evil human being willing to lie and obfuscate for temporary political gain about a homicidal dictator's search for weapon's grade uranium. Think about that when you walk into your dining room tonight and sit down to dinner with your family. And think about this -- John Kerry, The New York Times, even some bloggers are willing to soft-pedal this. And they call themselves "liberals." Puh-leeze! (Via the deservedly gloating Glenn Reynolds.)
    I'm tempted to ask why it is that rats keep getting glorified as heroes, but I don't want to get off-topic.

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

    Quotes from war-mongering Democrats

    Via an email from a friend, I have a collection of fascinating and apparently true quotes which seem worth sharing. While I have not verified each quote, I have read some of them before, so I suspect the rest are true. (Anyone who can show otherwise, please let me know.....)

  • "One way or the other, we are determined to deny Iraq the capacity to develop weapons of mass destruction and the missiles to deliver them. That is our bottom line."
    - President Clinton, Feb 4, 1998
  • "If Saddam rejects peace and we have to use force, our purpose is clear. We want to seriously diminish the threat posed by Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program."
    - President Clinton, Feb. 17, 1998
  • "Iraq is a long way from [here], but what happens there matters a great deal here. For the risks that the leaders of a rogue state will use nuclear, chemical or biological weapons against us or our allies is the greatest security threat we face."
    - Madeline Albright, Feb 18, 1998
  • "He will use those weapons of mass destruction again, as he has ten times since 1983."
    - Sandy Berger, Clinton National Security Adviser, Feb, 18, 1998
  • "We urge you, after consulting with Congress, and consistent with the U.S. Constitution and laws, to take necessary actions (including, if appropriate, air and missile strikes on suspect Iraqi sites) to respond effectively to the threat posed by Iraq's refusal to end its weapons of mass destruction programs."
    - Letter to President Clinton, signed by Sens. Carl Levin (D-MI), Tom Daschle (D-SD), John Kerry ( D - MA), and others Oct. 9, 1998
  • "Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process."
    - Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D, CA), Dec. 16, 1998
  • "Hussein has ... chosen to spend his money on building weapons of mass destruction and palaces for his cronies."
    - Madeline Albright, Clinton Secretary of State, Nov. 10, 1999
  • "There is no doubt that ... Saddam Hussein has invigorated his weapons programs. Reports indicate that biological, chemical and nuclear programs continue apace and may be back to pre-Gulf War status. In addition, Saddam continues to redefine delivery systems and is doubtless using the cover of a licit missile program to develop longer-range missiles that will threaten the United States and our allies."
    - Letter to President Bush, Signed by Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL,) and others, December 5, 2001
  • "We begin with the common belief that Saddam Hussein is a tyrant and threat to the peace and stability of the region. He has ignored the mandate of the United Nations and is building weapons of mass destruction and the means of delivering them."
    - Sen. Carl Levin (D, MI), Sept. 19, 2002
  • "We know that he has stored secret supplies of biological and chemical weapons throughout his country."
    - Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002
  • "Iraq's search for weapons of mass destruction has proven impossible to deter and we should assume that it will continue for as long as Saddam is in power."
    - Al Gore, Sept. 23, 2002
  • "We have known for many years that Saddam Hussein is seeking and developing weapons of mass destruction."
    - Sen. Ted Kennedy (D, MA), Sept. 27, 2002
  • "The last UN weapons inspectors left Iraq in October of 1998. We are confident that Saddam Hussein retains some stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons, and that he has since embarked on a crash course to build up his chemical and biological warfare capabilities. Intelligence reports indicate that he is seeking nuclear weapons..."
    - Sen. Robert Byrd (D, WV), Oct. 3, 2002
  • "I will be voting to give the President of the United States the authority to use force-- if necessary-- to disarm Saddam Hussein because I believe that a deadly arsenal of weapons of mass destruction in his hands is a real and grave threat to our security."
    - Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Oct. 9, 2002
  • "There is unmistakable evidence that Saddam Hussein is working aggressively to develop nuclear weapons and will likely have nuclear weapons within the next five years ... We also should remember we have always underestimated the progress Saddam has made in development of weapons of mass destruction."
    - Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D, WV), Oct 10, 2002
  • "He has systematically violated, over the course of the past 11 years, every significant UN resolution that has demanded that he disarm and destroy his chemical and biological weapons, and any nuclear capacity. This he has refused to do."
    - Rep. Henry Waxman (D, CA), Oct. 10, 2002
  • "In the four years since the inspectors left, intelligence reports show that Saddam Hussein has worked to rebuild his chemical and biological weapon stock, his missile delivery capability, and his nuclear program. He has also given aid, comfort, and sanctuary to terrorists, including al Qaeda members. It is clear, however, that if left unchecked Saddam Hussein will continue to increase his capacity to wage biological and chemical warfare, and will keep trying to develop nuclear weapons."
    - Sen. Hillary Clinton (D, NY), Oct 10, 2002
  • "We are in possession of what I think to be compelling evidence that Saddam Hussein has, and has had for a number of years, a developing capacity for the production and storage of weapons of mass destruction."
    - Sen. Bob Graham (D, FL), Dec. 8, 2002
  • "Without question, we need to disarm Saddam Hussein. He is a brutal, murderous dictator, leading an oppressive regime .. He presents a particularly grievous threat because he is so consistently prone to miscalculation .. And now he is miscalculating America's response to his continued deceit and his consistent grasp for weapons of mass destruction... So the threat of Saddam Hussein with weapons of mass destruction is real."
    - Sen. John F. Kerry (D, MA), Jan. 23. 2003
  • Did Bush lie?

    If he did, it seems he had plenty of company.

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

    Civil Union or Civil War?

    Is this country headed for another Civil War? And is gay marriage the last straw leading to secession?

    Cory Burnell thinks so. And so do his supporters, who are spearheading a modern secessionist movement to take over the state of South Carolina. (Via Nick Gillespie.)

    More here, an even more partisan view here, and a color-ful view here.

    After all, the Civil War started with secession in South Carolina, and, well, here some folks are trying to do it again!

    I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.

    According to Burnell, the last straw was indeed gay marriage:

    Cory Burnell, president of the non-profit group, recently told the conservative publication WorldNetDaily a primary motivating factor for the group was the recent court decision in Massachusetts that opened up the way for gay marriages. "Our Christian republic has declined into a pagan democracy," said Cory Burnell. "There are some issues people just can't take anymore, and [same-sex marriage] might finally wake up the complacent Christians."
    Burnell seems to forget that this country was not founded as a "Christian republic" or a "pagan democracy" -- but a place where people were as free to be Christians as they were pagans -- or none of the above. But regardless of one's religious perspective, there doesn't seem to be much disagreement that the main issue fueling this wannabe Civil War is gay marriage.

    Talk of religious war and secession naturally engenders very strong feelings, on both sides. (Especially now, when America is the target in another religious war.)

    In an update to my last post on gay marriage (from which Glenn Reynolds was kind enough to quote), I opined that the Civil War could have been averted by compromise. As others disagree, I think I should explain.

    Obviously, there was no compromise, because the war occurred. I don't think much good came out of it, either. (Unless you think countless people dead or grieving, decades of bitter hatred, hypocrisy, the Ku Klux Klan, vicious racism, and Jim Crow laws are good.)

    And if, as some have suggested, the Civil War was a religious war, then that just makes it all the more odious and reprehensible. A country founded on religious freedom should not be fighting civil wars over religion, and I am all for just about any compromise if that would prevent such an evil.

    Putting aside the states' rights and tariff issues for the sake of this discussion, the modern idea that human beings should not be property was on a collision course with the institution of slavery. Something had to give, but the moral high ground claimed by each side simply would not allow it. To me, it's simple logic that the abolition of slavery destroyed what had previously been private property. Rather than wage war over the idea, wouldn't it have been more sensible to pay slaveholders to free their slaves, declare slavery over and spare the nation the war?

    Slavery was abolished by constitutional amendment, but not until after the war.

    Inflammatory as it is, can the idea of same sex marriage be as noxious as slavery? Some people think so, but I doubt there are enough of them to start another Civil War. But the analogy is problematic, because marriage cannot normally be said to be as coercive as slavery. (Although I have expressed reservations that it might become involuntary.) Remember that in the case of slavery, it was abolition of slavery that was seen as invasive; slavery was the status quo. Here, the status quo is opposite sex marriage only, so the analogous question becomes whether or not allowing same sex marriage amounts to abolition of marriage. I don't see how it does, because no one would lose the right to marry.

    Clearly, a significant number of people feel that their marriages will be weakened if same sex marriage is allowed. I have not yet seen a logically convincing argument as to how this might happen, and, despite my reservations about same sex marriage, I don't understand the "dilution" argument, much less the "destruction" one. It strikes me as based largely on emotion.

    Yet the other side's position is also quite emotional. A piece of paper and a definitional change (neither of which are needed for two people to live together, share or bequeath property, care for or visit each other in hospitals, or even in many cases to obtain insurance benefits) does not strike me as going to the heart of citizenship in the same way as voting, free speech, the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure, to bear arms, to sit on juries, etc. Maybe I just don't care about marriage as much as the people who yell and scream, but the institution strikes me as primarily a legal way to protect children in cases where parents break up. Perhaps it would be more fair to allow marriage only as a child protection institution; childless couples would be legally regarded only as domestic partners and subject to whatever partnership laws existed in a state.

    In any case, I am in favor of states' rights, and for what it's worth, I remain implacably opposed to the apparently doomed Federal Marriage Amendment.

    It might be a good idea to watch the South Carolina secession experiment, though. If enough people really want to do it, it might be a good barometer to determine whether same sex marriage will lead to civil war, or just a less civil union.

    I hate the Culture War, and I wish none of this had happened. But no one asked me.

    What worries me the most is a growing conflict between absolute belief in rational thought and absolute belief in the supremacy of religious texts, with the proponents of each side believing quite passionately that they hold the moral high ground -- even that the other side is evil (or crazy). Clearly, they cannot both be absolutely right. I do wish they'd remember that in a free country, we all share the right to be wrong!

    posted by Eric at 11:13 AM | Comments (9) | TrackBacks (1)

    epistles as missiles? -- just another dud

    I received a chain e-mail this morning from a well-meaning acquaintance who thinks she's somehow fighting for reproductive rights and other 'good' things ('good' because somehow connected with the U.N.) by spamming her address book with an ad for Molly Ivins's latest hootenanny--a rollicking, down-home blend of countrified wit and wisdom from the Smith College grad with a Columbia Masters'--Bushwhacked: Life in George W. Bush's America. It's a sequel of sorts to her 2000 screed, Shrub: The Short but Happy Political Life of George W. Bush, and once again she has brought along veteran journalist Lou Dubose (probably to do the bulk of the work while she has her name emblazoned larger than the title, like any pulp romance on the supermarket rack).

    Here's the text:

    Continue reading "epistles as missiles? -- just another dud"

    posted by Dennis at 04:38 PM | Comments (7)

    Western Science is So Wonderful

    Solar power looks poised for a breakout over the next few years.

    Over on Futurepundit, Randall Parker has provided an excellant roundup of recent news in this post. Apparently, while all our backs were turned, the fellas in the lab have figured out a whole new paradigm for collector structure.

    Instead of relying on rigid, expensive, crystalline photovoltaic cells, these new solar collectors are applied onto flexible rolls of plastic, which makes them far less expensive and fragile. Or so we all hope.

    This will not liberate us from the oil ticks clutches tomorrow, more's the pity. But it will be helpful at, the very least.

    What I find so encouraging about this, is that a whole slew of companies seem to be following (very) roughly similar lines of development. Besides Iowa Thinfilm, we have Nanosys, Nanosolar, and Konarka.

    Plastics, Ben. Plastics.

    May the best product win.

    posted by Justin at 04:23 PM | Comments (3)

    Mirror, mirror, off the wall!

    David T. Hardy and Jason Clarke, authors of the latest bestseller about Michael Moore (Michael Moore Is A Big Fat Stupid White Man) are interviewed here.

    Their assessment of Moore?

    In our book we explore the parallels between his behavior and an emotional illness known as Narcissistic Personality Disorder -- an illness which also features in totalitarian leaders. It combines an apparent, and I stress apparent, overblown ego with an inner self-loathing. Look at what Moore most loathes -- and he IS it. A very wealthy, white, American male. He is what he hates.

    I don't think his vision goes beyond that. He talks of ideals far on the left end of the spectrum, but I doubt he understands much of them, and from recent reports hasn't even bothered to vote in recent years. He only praises Cuba (in his "Letter to Elian") because it's, shall we say, "not American." For some reason he hasn't moved to Havana, but prefers to live in a million dollar apartment in Manhattan and suffer under capitalism.

    How does one develop such a wholly self-aggrandizing form of narcissistic self hatred? Read the whole thing, but here's a summary:
    All you really need is some self-contempt combined with the ignorant belief that there are no limits to human hope. Then when you start your social engineering experiment to purify the environment around you. . . .we know the end result.
    While Moore and his fans find Hardy and Clarke's criticisms intolerable, their book has been catapulted to the New York Times bestseller list -- in no small part thanks to bloggers:
    Hardy: As far as the general population: our book just made the New York Times bestseller list, No. 9, first week it was available.

    It will never, of course, sway the cult of Moore. Their emails are stunning in their intellectual depth. Here's a few samples: "You suck, Fascist Republican Looser (sic) !!!!!" "Do you really think there is ONE American stupid enough to believe your pathetic misrepresentations of Michael Moore?" "How much have you been paid to try and manipulate the minds or an already confused public?" and "It's rather obvious to me and a lot of other people that you sir and aRE right wing idiot just like Bush."

    As far as our hopes: in a democracy, the cure for abuse of freedom of speech is EVEN MORE freedom of speech, and that is the cure Jason and I have applied. It is falsity that cannot stand the light of the sun. If Mike really wants to stand in that light, we'll debate him on the follow proposition: Bowling for Columbine and Fahrenheit 9/11 mislead their viewers and draw them to false conclusions. That's the offer, a fair and open debate, equal time, pick your time and place.

    Clarke: To date, feedback on the book has been amazing. The blogosphere has responded beyond my expectations, pushing the book first up to #3 on, and then playing a significant role in the book landing on The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and Publisher's Weekly bestseller lists. And reaction from the book's audience has been overwhelming, as well. Prior to the debut of the book, negative mail in response to my website,, was running high. Since the debut of the book, positive mail has now drowned out the noise of negative mail by at least a 3-1 margin.

    I hope the book will reach all corners of America, serving to offer an alternate view to any person skeptical, or just plain curious, about Moore's vision of our country and our world. The old adage suggests that we heed the message, not the messenger, but in Moore's case -- given his free ride in the media and his largely unchecked fame machine -- I think the early success of the book suggests that people are interesting in learning the truth not just about Moore's message, but also about his true motives as a messenger.

    I guess Moore is preaching mostly to his fellow narcissists.

    It's troubling to see so many people apparently incapable of even a little genuine self reflection....

    More on the disorder here.

    And here is the classical condition which started it all. This is not said by way of endorsing Narcissus or narcissism, but merely to remind readers that Moore's disease was neither unknown to the ancients, nor admired by them.

    posted by Eric at 03:53 PM | Comments (1)

    Of Socialism and the Perennial Scapegoat

    I'm not a religious man, but there must be some kind of higher power at work here, tipping this tower of babble toward the re-emerging Red-threat. Get in your bomb shelters, kiddies, 'cause the Commies are coming.

    I jest, but lately I can't escape the prevailing silence and revisionism surrounding communism and particularly Stalinism, and it has been addressed more than a few times here.

    Once again I was listening to NPR and was informed that the worst act of anti-semitism since World War II was an attack on a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that left 85 dead.

    WWII ended in 1945, and Stalin was murdering Jews into the 1950s.

    What am I missing?

    That Stalin was an anti-semite can not be questioned, and the fact was acknowledged even by his daughter:

    "His anti-Semitism surely originated from the long years of struggle with Trotsky and his supporters,. What was originally political hate gradually became a feeling of racial hatred against all Jews, without exception."

    This also explains W.E.B. DuBois's virulent hatred of Trotsky.

    Could it be a coincidence that we're seeing a white-washing of communism's history at the same time as a resurgence of anti-semitism on the radical left?

    Let's not forget that Nazism was not fascism, but precisely what it's full name says: national socialism.

    I'll close with two quotes from, Erik von Kuehnelt-Leddihn, whom I've only just stumbled upon in writing this post.

    The first is a brief excerpt from his essay The Four Liberalisms, while the second is the full text of his article for the National Review, 30 January 1987, "Anti-'fascism.' (why national socialism is not fascism)."


    To lump together traditional monarchists and National Socialists as "rightists" is as confusing as to label leftist semi-socialists as "liberals." The last-mentioned error is a relatively recent one, and since I came for the first time to the United States at the tail end of the New Deal, I was a witness to the beginning of this deplorable perversion.


    A VIGOROUS DEBATE is going on in Germany about a monument to the victims of "Fascism' to be erected in Hamburg by the noted Austrian sculptor Alfred Hrdlicka. In point of fact, Fascism, a purely Italian movement, had no German victims. What the city elders of Hamburg and the sculptor have in mind are the victims of National Socialism, a term that is absolutely taboo in leftist circles.

    To be sure, during the two years that the Ribbentrop-Molotov pact was in effect, the Soviet press loyally spoke of "National Socialism'; but after the Germans invaded the USSR in June 1941, the Soviets started referring to their German counterparts as "Hitlerites' (Gitlerovtsy). When it came to the Nuremberg trials, a difficulty arose over what the defendants should be called. The Soviets proposed fashisty, but the Western Allies wanted to stick to "National Socialists.' The solution was found in the folksy term Nazi, which they themselves had used (a book by Goebbels, a sort of catechism, is entitled Der Nazi-Sozi). Meanwhile, to please the democrats on the Allied side, who could not bring themselves to admit that National Socialism was a broad, popular mass movement, the trial was officially directed against the "Nazi conspiracy.' But once the trial was over, and the Soviets were no longer constrained by the sensibilities of their recent allies, they reverted to using the official label "fascist' for every movement, ideology, political notion, and conviction that did not meet with their approval.

    For anyone who does not have the Soviets' interests at heart, however, there is no reason whatsoever to call National Socialism "fascist.' German National Socialism anteceded Mussolini's fascismo, and its roots are Bohemian, not Italian. It goes back to the Czech National Socialist Party, founded in 1896 by nationalistic dissidents from the Czech Socialist Party. In 1903 they were copied by Germans from Bohemia and Moravia, who created the German Workers' Party. At a big meeting in Vienna in May 1918, this party changed its name to the 'German National Socialist Workers' Party' (DNSAP) and expounded a distinctly leftist program.

    Hitler was then still at the Western Front, but the DNSAP had a rich literature--which can be found in the Hoover Institution--adorned with the swastika. The program was anti-Habsburg, anti-aristocratic, anti-clerical, and anti-capitalist (among other things, it demanded the democratic control of 'peoples' banks'). In addition, it was anti-Jewish. Since Marx himself was a fanatical Jew-baiter, and anti-Semitism always figured in the Socialist parties' programs (as proved by the magisterial work of Edmund Silberner), there is thus very little difference between the International Socialist and the National Socialist program. (Naive observers have claimed that the Third Reich was capitalist. In fact, 'capitalists' in the Third Reich had the same function as the 'patriotic capitalists' in Mao's China: They were mere administrators in a planned economy, impotent to carry out any independent action.) In his speech after the Anschluss in April 1938, the new National Socialist mayor of Vienna, Party Comrade Neubacher, told the Socialist Party leaders that National Socialism was, indeed, genuine Socialism.

    The taboo on the term "National Socialist' has been methodically obeyed by the Left everywhere. Two years ago I received a long letter from a German institute for the research of contemporary history, asking me to inform them of my "anti-fascist' activities in America during World War II. I replied that I had been too busy studying other totalitarian movements to spend much time concentrating on Italian matters. (Of course, I knew very well what they meant). Italian Fascism was, after all, a purely local affair, its problems bothering nobody outside Italy. Only after that doubtful, well-dressed genius Anthony Eden had driven Mussolini into Hitler's arms did the Duce's intellectual and moral decline truly begin. The murder of Matteotti was foul (still, the murderers had to stand trial), but I know of no "anti-fascists' (except terrorists) executed by the Duce prior to 1939. Between 1922 and 1939 far more people were put to death in the United States than in Italy, both absolutely and relatively. Imprisonments and confinements did take place, but even the diaries of the Communist Antonio Gramsci (written in jail) do not mention inordinate severity. Hannah Arendt, who has studied this subject, tells us that in the majority of political trials, the accused were acquitted-- something unheard of in either National Socialist Germany or the USSR. Without the rise of Hitler, Italian Fascism would have remained an insignificant chapter in world history.

    HOW GENERALLY is all this known? The latest edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica that I have seen has no entry for 'National Socialism.' After much looking, I finally discovered one for the 'Nazi Party.' I thereupon wrote a postcard to the editors suggesting that, following that pattern, they should not have articles on Communism and Socialism but, rather, on the 'Bolshie Party' and, as the Viennese say, the 'Sozi Party.'

    The quarrel about Nazism versus Fascism is by no means merely a semantic question. The past is always with us, whereas the present is but the dividing line between past and future. Two statements by Confucius should be kept in mind: 'Study the past and you will know the future'; and, 'State and society perish if the meaning of words is distorted.'

    We've talked recently about red-baiting. Now let's address the Jew-baiting of socialists -- Nazis and communists alike.

    posted by Dennis at 01:37 PM | Comments (2)

    Credit where credit is due....


    The Philadelphia Inquirer has at last let its readers know about the U.N. scandal:

    At least eight official investigations have begun into the largest financial rip-off in history: preliminary estimates from the GAO point to $10 billion skimmed or kicked back or otherwise stolen in the United Nations dealings with Saddam Hussein.

    Seeking to manage the news of the scandal, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan appointed former Fed chairman Paul Volcker to head an internal investigation. That seemed to slam the door on U.N. cooperation with truly independent inquiries, but Volcker last week announced that "appropriate memorandums of understanding with a number of official investigatory bodies are in place or in negotiation."

    To overcome criticism like mine of his committee's lack of subpoena power or ability to take testimony under oath, Volcker has hooked up with Robert Morgenthau, the Manhattan district attorney, who has been prosecuting two men in an unrelated distressed debt case at BNP Paribas; that's the French bank the U.N. used for its oil-for-food letters of credit. That grand old prosecutor has a staff skilled at following money and has sitting grand juries available to encourage truth-telling.

    Bless William Safire for continuing to pursue a story which is really the scandal of the year. (Unless, of course, the non-reporting of it is considered a bigger scandal than the scandal itself. It might be!)

    UNSCAM has received so little coverage that few Americans know about it at all. Repeatedly, I expressed my outrage over the Inquirer's non-reporting, and, while I have been generally unsatisfied (I did get a call from editor Carl Lavin), at least they have run Safire's column.

    Part of the problem may be that there's enough blame to go around to trigger a bipartisan-style coverup:

    The U.N. has stonewalled three committees of the U.S. Congress, refusing to reveal its 55 internal audits, claiming that our State Department's members on the U.N. "661 committee" had approved all kickback-ridden contracts.

    But State has been slow-walking congressional requests for documents that reveal its own poor oversight and that embarrass the U.N., which it now wants to placate. State could impede the hunt overseas through mutual legal-assistance treaties, and can continue to diddle the House committees of Henry Hyde and Chris Shays, but our diplomats cannot evade chairman's letters from the Senate PSI.

    Who else is on the trail of the skimmed billions, much of it owed to those Kurdish Iraqis shortchanged by U.N. dispensers of largesse? Playing catch-up to Morgenthau, a U.S. attorney in New York has subpoenaed records of several American oil companies; our Treasury Department charged a couple of minor players with illegal transactions with Iraq.

    Meanwhile, back in Baghdad, where much of the grandest larceny ignored by the U.N. originated, the investigation by the old Governing Council was stopped by Paul Bremer because its leaks alerted the world and upset the U.N. The search for damning documents was relaunched under non-Chalabi auspices, but the chairman of Iraq's Supreme Audit Board, Ihsan Karim, was killed on his way to work two weeks ago. Criminal enterprises have heavy money at stake in this.

    Volcker, still in a start-up stage after four months, assures the Wall Street Journal he hired a great senior staff. But one is Richard Murphy, former ambassador to Saudi Arabia and a veteran Arab apologist on TV. Will he prevail on Jordan's king to get the Philadelphia Investment Corp. in Amman to open its files about financing favored "beneficiaries"? Or dare to demand the United Arab Emirates order its Al Wasel and Babel trading company to explain the lucrative electrical projects that had nothing to do with food?

    State Department? Oil Money? Do I smell the beginnings of a bipartisan aroma?

    Bear in mind that with a scandal of this magnitude, what's being exposed at this early stage in the heavily-stonewalled investigations may be the equivalent of a few bare skeletal parts being exposed just on the surface of a mass grave.

    My thanks to the Philadelphia Inquirer for having the courage to run this piece.

    I only hope the digging doesn't stop, because if history teaches one thing, it's that bipartisan coverups work.

    posted by Eric at 09:36 AM

    News like this makes me want to volunteer!

    If this is is true, I find it completely unacceptable:

    the government of Iran is sponsoring an "Army of Martyrs," which claims to have 10,000 volunteers for suicide attacks on the U.S., including attacks with atomic weapons.
    I mentioned this suicide army before, and the fact that a government is behind it is bad enough. That the same government seeks to be (or already is) a nuclear power makes me very grateful on the one hand that American armed forces are sitting next door in Iraq. But I am impatient on the other hand.

    This situation is worse than what the U.S. faced from Saddam Hussein. Iran is further along in nuclear weapons development, and is a more practiced, more bitter enemy of the United States than was Saddam Hussein (who had been defeated in the earlier war, and was thus more inclined to be cautious). Iran sponsors Hezbollah and is a major source of unrest in Iraq.

    I think there's a better case for regime change in Iran than there was in Iraq, and I supported regime change in Iraq.

    But fortunately for the mullahs, I'm not Bush....

    UPDATE: Not that I consider this to be particularly news, but it's now official that Iran is linked to al Qaida. Via Glenn Reynolds, who asks

    Will those who said that it was wrong to invade Iraq because there wasn't enough evidence of such a connection now weigh in in favor of invading Iran?
    Shall I hold my breath?

    posted by Eric at 09:17 AM | Comments (2)


    Glenn Reynolds asks whether the proponents of the Federal Marriage Amendment are being played for suckers. The Amendment is sure to fail, and its failure could embolden the other side to go ahead with the drive for same sex marriage.

    So why are they pushing for it?

    I think that the proponents are more cynical than they might appear. I think they know they are going to lose, and therefore they'd rather lose in a big public way -- before the election. This maximizes their leverage (at least their perceived leverage, which is what leverage is all about in politics), because the election will probably be close as hell, and if it is, they can claim that they were the "key" to victory, win or lose:

  • 1. Bush won because Americans are fed up with the homosexual agenda. Had Bush not stood up to the homosexuals, he'd have lost!
  • 2. Bush lost because he didn't work hard enough for the agenda of his "base," so they sat it out. Had Bush done a better job of standing up to the homosexuals, he'd have won!
  • Kinda hard to lose if you think that way.

    Even if you lose!

    MORE: Of course, if the defeat of the FMA means more gay marriages, this only moves the country towards the dramatic "showdown" activists tend to crave. It also increases the likelihood of a backlash, helps the anti-gay-marriage activists raise money, keeps them on television -- all the usual ideologue goodies.

    Forgive my cynicism, but I've seen enough single issue politics and enough identity politics to last a lifetime. It's a broken record. But they want us all to listen!

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

    An additional thought: listening to Hugh Hewitt on the Liddy Show today, I realized that I overlooked another reason why some FMA proponents might go all out even in the face of certain defeat. They believe passionately in their cause -- all political costs be damned. Which of course fits right in with Glenn Reynolds' suspicions that they're being played for suckers. (My speculation relates primarily to those who are doing the playing.)

    I wish people would remember that the right compromise at the right time could have averted the Civil War.

    UPDATE (07-18-04): Thomas Frank, writing in the New York Times, speculates that failure was indeed the proponents' goal:

    Failure on the cultural front serves to magnify the outrage felt by conservative true believers; it mobilizes the base. Failure sharpens the distinctions between conservatives and liberals. Failure allows for endless grandstanding without any real-world consequences that might upset more moderate Republicans or the party's all-important corporate wing. You might even say that grand and garish defeat — especially if accompanied by the ridicule of the sophisticated — is the culture warrior's very object.

    The issue is all-important; the issue is incapable of being won. Only when the battle is defined this way can it achieve the desired results, have its magical polarizing effect.

    Which is another way of saying that win or lose, it's a victory. Of course, Thomas is silent about the equally cynical nature of those on the other side who pushed this issue into the forefront of American politics -- also to "magnify the outrage" -- without regard to the possibilities of a backlash, or of the permanent bitter feelings which make people unwilling to ever compromise.

    posted by Eric at 09:25 PM | Comments (6) | TrackBacks (1)

    It hurts, but can't change my mind....

    I wish it hadn't happened, but it has. The great Rachel Lucas has quit blogging again, and this time it appears permanent.


    I don't have time and my typing fingers literally do not have the strength, and besides, honestly, if I were to blog at this point in America's history, it would almost entirely consist of me screaming about how much I hate stupid people, politicians, Democrats, socialists, Hillary Clinton, Hollywood activists, and all the other various and assorted ass-knobs who fill the news each day. I cannot bear it. Besides, I truly do not have any original insight. I don't, and all who ever thought I did were fooling themselves. I can rant and I might be able to string nice bitchy words together but I can't tell any of you one single thing you either don't know already or that you can't find in better form somewhere else. Read Drudge every day, more than once. Watch the Fox News Channel. Listen to Neal Boortz. Vote Republican, not because Republicans are always right (they are not) but because Republicans are the only chance we have of not being ruled by Democrats, who, in this day in America, are so disturbingly like the Socialists and various other baby Fascists of early-20th-century Europe that it is frankly appalling. Anyone can know these things if one just knows one's history. So that is it from me for now. (Via One Little Victory.)
    I won't forget Rachel (although I started blogging too late). It's very discouraging, and while I can understand her reasoning, I think she's being too hard on herself, because she was one of the most original and articulate thinkers on the Internet. I completely disagree with her self assessment that she "can't tell any of you one single thing you either don't know already or that you can't find in better form somewhere else" because she often posted about things I didn't know, and which were not to be found in better form somewhere else. She's either wrong about that, or else blogging itself is a worthless, useless activity.

    I'm sorry that Rachel left the blogosphere on a depressing note. And it's a rainy, dreary, depressing, day today. Not much I can do about any of it.

    I can't even quit.

    Seriously. The gods told me I had to do this for three years (of which one year is up), so quitting is simply not allowed. As Rachel might have put it: No. matter. what. happens.

    I run and do exercises every day, rain or shine, like it or not, and I intend to treat blogging the same way. I've dealt with depression, death, and more, and blogging at its very worst consists of forcing yourself to post, no matter what your mental state. I'll just have to do that. And if I don't like it (or if a black mood overwhelms me), I'll just tough it out the same way one might wait out a bad acid trip. Nothing lasts forever.

    But even when it hurts, as an existential experience, I am enjoying this.

    Especially now that I have two more bloggers aboard. . .

    UPDATE: And now the sky is falling.

    Sure you won't change your mind, Rachel?

    UPDATE: Ambivalence? Can it be? Hope so.

    There isn't enough common sense in the world, and to lose Rachel's would be a victory for those who have none, or want us to have none. (Their numbers include, of course -- but are not limited to -- "stupid people, politicians, Democrats, socialists, Hillary Clinton, Hollywood activists, and all the other various and assorted ass-knobs who fill the news each day.")

    UPDATE: Check this out! I've never been happier to have been wrong than I am right now!

    posted by Eric at 06:37 PM | Comments (1)

    Building a better world

    Over the past few days, the Philadelphia Inquirer has been -- as the NAACP holds its convention here -- glorifying W.E.B. DuBois . And in vintage Marxist terms like this:

    ....[S]ince the 1980s, the maldistribution of income in the United States has become greater in favor of the rich than in any other modern democracy, and it is rapidly growing worse. Corporate profits have incurable elephantiasis. CEOs receive huge bonuses that have nothing to do with their often poor performance. Employees work harder for less pay, and there is less work for more people. Much of higher education is now priced so far above the means of middle-class Americans as to be available, if at all, only through crushing indebtedness. In the American political climate of 2004, it is all but impossible to have a meaningful debate on taxes for social-democratic initiatives. There are permanent open seasons on affirmative action and women's reproductive rights.

    As for that swaggering about the world, that, too, appears to be with us indefinitely. It seems that the U.S. government and a significant portion of the public see themselves living in the black and white world of clashing civilizations a la Samuel Huntington and other catastrophist writers. Many students of history are saying: Yesterday, we had a republic; today, we have the Homeland Security State. How can all this have happened?

    As the NAACP's long record of reproach attests, there has always been a dark side to that mythic city on a hill whence our ideals and institutions are said to derive. But 9/11 has robbed us once again of that innocence we Americans seem to lose every other decade. Quite understandably, many citizens feel that they have to trade some of their liberties in return for security. However, this is an old, bad Faustian bargain. Unless we take great care, the Homeland Security State and its Justice Department handmaidens, Patriot Acts I and II, may well leave our civil liberties as maimed as the New York cityscape has been by al-Qaeda.

    Fifty-odd years ago, in the preface to the 50th anniversary edition of his watershed study The Souls of Black Folk, Du Bois rendered his definitive assessment of the inherent limitations not only of American democracy but also of the world order of the American Century:

    "I still think today as yesterday that the color line is a great problem of this century," he wrote. "But today I see more clearly than yesterday that back of the problem of race and color lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: And that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance and disease of the majority of their fellow men; that to maintain this privilege men have waged war until today war tends to become universal and continuous, and the excuse for this war continues largely to be color and race."

    Du Bois saw, with horrific clarity, that the fundamental problem of the age was not so much color but unregulated capital: the exploitation of the great majority of humankind by the kleptocratic minority.

    I hope I'm right in believing that the NAACP of the 21st century fully embraces Du Bois' unmasking of these primal motives for injustice and war.

    To NAACP Board Chairman Julian Bond, DuBois is a hero. But then, Bond believes that Communist Party leaders James and Esther Jackson are "a model of what Black youth should and ought to do."

    Here's Bond on "Bush and other Republicans":

    NAACP chairman Julian Bond, speaking to lawmakers and business leaders in Indiana last month, said Bush and other Republicans appealed to a racist "dark underside of American culture."

    "They preach racial equality but practice racial division," Bond said. "Their idea of equal rights is the American flag and Confederate swastika flying side by side."

    At the 2001 NAACP convention in New Orleans, Bond said Bush "has selected nominees from the Taliban wing of American politics, appeased the wretched appetites of the extreme right wing, and chosen cabinet officials whose devotion to the Confederacy is nearly canine in its uncritical affection."

    OK, fair enough. Or unfair enough, depending on your perspective. (Until today I never knew there was such a thing as a Confederate swastika.)

    It's all relative, isn't it?

    So is truth, and DuBois was -- always -- an utterer of truth!

    Always an utterer of difficult and unpopular truths, Du Bois's writing still has the ring of prophecy come true. "The inflexible truth he embraced was that, just as Africans in the United States 'under the corporate rule of monopolized wealth ... will be confined to the lowest wage group,' so the peoples of the developing world faced subordination in the global scheme of things capitalist."
    According to Bond and the NAACP, Bush is the demon of the dark underside. No doubt if he were alive today, DuBois would agree. Doubtless so would many of Bond's other Communist heroes.

    But what kind of people did DuBois admire? Who were his heroes?

    Here's W.E.B. DuBois, uttering the truth about Joseph Stalin:

    Joseph Stalin was a great man; few other men of the 20th century approach his stature. He was simple, calm and courageous. He seldom lost his poise; pondered his problems slowly, made his decisions clearly and firmly; never yielded to ostentation nor coyly refrained from holding his rightful place with dignity. He was the son of a serf but stood calmly before the great without hesitation or nerves. But also - and this was the highest proof of his greatness - he knew the common man, felt his problems, followed his fate.

    .....His judgment of men was profound. He early saw through the flamboyance and exhibitionism of Trotsky, who fooled the world, and especially America. The whole ill-bred and insulting attitude of Liberals in the U.S. today began with our naive acceptance of Trotsky's magnificent lying propaganda, which he carried around the world. Against it, Stalin stood like a rock and moved neither right nor left, as he continued to advance toward a real socialism instead of the sham Trotsky offered.

    Three great decisions faced Stalin in power and he met them magnificently: first, the problem of the peasants, then the West European attack, and last the Second World War. The poor Russian peasant was the lowest victim of tsarism, capitalism and the Orthodox Church. He surrendered the Little White Father easily; he turned less readily but perceptibly from his ikons; but his kulaks clung tenaciously to capitalism and were near wrecking the revolution when Stalin risked a second revolution and drove out the rural bloodsuckers.

    Um, yeah, Stalin definitely drove them out. They were exterminated.

    But you didn't really have to be a kulak:

    In reality however, the term "kulak" was a loose term to describe anyone who opposed collectivisation, which included many peasants who were anything but rich.
    If Stalin were alive today, the term "kulak" might even include many members of the NAACP.

    Not the leadership, of course. They're the ones who get to do the defining. And the judging.

    And if we move the (very elitist) DuBois into the 21st Century, his semi-official biographer offers an insight into what such a judgment might be:

    But in a world today where we are supposedly moving beyond race, I think you would hear Dubois modify that and say that people of color must be judged by the content of their politics.
    I don't doubt one bit that DuBois would say that. Nor do I doubt that much of the NAACP leadership agrees with it.

    Much as I abhor ending on a note of irony, I think it fair to ask why the NAACP refuses to take a position on gay marriage. Bond thinks it's just as well:

    When the NAACP opens its national convention here today, one of the hottest issues of the moment - same-sex marriage - will be nowhere on its agenda.

    Gay-rights advocates have challenged African Americans to see the homosexual-marriage struggle as a modern-day civil-rights cause. And the timing for an open discussion or vote by the nation's premier civil-rights organization seems perfect: The U.S. Senate is debating the Federal Marriage Amendment, which would define marriage as solely a heterosexual institution.

    But no one pushed to have the issue aired at the convention, said NAACP board chairman Julian Bond. And he, for one, is just as happy.

    "It would be a healthy discussion to have," Bond said in a telephone interview. "But I would be fearful of what might happen" because "it very well could" cause moments of rancor - and a vote he would regret.

    In his case, that would be a vote against same-sex rights.

    Bond is a staunch supporter of gay civil rights, yet he knows that antipathy to same-sex marriage is widespread among African Americans, and may be roiling beneath the NAACP's official silence.

    A national poll by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press in November found that 60 percent of black respondents opposed gay marriage. A December New York Times poll put the figure at 75 percent. The Pew poll found blacks less inclined than whites or Hispanics to support gay marriage, with just 28 percent in favor.

    Might they be breathing a sigh of relief that President Bush didn't attend?

    There are a lot of people who think there are bigger issues than gay marriage. The NAACP obviously thinks socialism is a bigger issue.

    In a way, they're right.

    Which is why I think opposing socialism is a bigger issue. If I lose my economic freedom and my property rights, what's the point of a legal relationship with the ostensible purpose of protecting them?

    UPDATE: Here's DuBois's biographer, David Lettering Lewis, on writing:

    I write in longhand; I consider the computer a television set with a keyboard.
    Gee. I thought my computer was more like a Gutenberg press than a television set, but what do I know? I hate television!

    posted by Eric at 10:26 AM | Comments (5) | TrackBacks (1)

    All play and no work!

    Back from New York state, and I am delighted to see that Varius wrote a nice, well-thought-out post! Makes it so much easier when you're a nut like me who can't stand to neglect things.

    A few pictures from the trip.

    First, Puff in the forest:


    And here's a long, naturally formed wall which caught my fancy:


    Bridge between New York and Pennsylvania:


    And finally, Puff -- all worn out from too much partying:


    posted by Eric at 10:06 PM | Comments (3)

    Now, that's what I call blaming the victim.

    Yesterday on NPR I heard an interview with the co-author (Dana Lindaman) of a book about textbooks called History Lessons. They've excerpted passages from history textbooks around the world that treat of America and Americans in some ::ahem:: interesting ways.

    Entertaining was the portion from North Korea which called Americans "the bastards" who crossed the border into "our republic" after plotting invasion and jumping around like maniacs.

    But something interesting happened. Lindaman was asked whether the book had new signifcance after 9/11, and he had the nerve to be a spineless relativist.

    One of his purposes in writing the book was to teach kids to think "critically," which means teaching kids that there is no such thing as a fact, but only the ideology with which your parents and politicians wish to indoctrinate you.

    Once kids in American schools got past their disbelief that other countries would tell such lies about us, they began to question whether our textbooks lie to us. And this is good, and has significance after 9/11, because -- as Lindaman informs us -- we (America) need to understand that we leave a very large footprint abroad, and we don't think about it when we walk away. By reading his book, we might just come to understand why people hate us.

    Up till that point Lindaman seemed to suggest that it was the ideology of state-generated or state-supported textbooks, but then asked us to understand the rest of the world's reaction to our ignorant footsteps.

    And that's unconscionable. Especially after he acknowledged that the U.S. is anomalous in being the only country in the world which does not dictate history curriculum, and that textbooks in the U.S. are black and white in dealing with historical fact, while textbooks in France, for example, (which conform to national curriculum standards) contain many shades of gray in efforts to avoid blame for supporting or aiding the Nazis.

    Dana Lindaman is a grad student at Harvard in Romance Philology, so it's no surprise that his take on history is really the same old cultural studies song and dance that wants to have it both ways: to lay claim to truth through "readings" of the "narrative" of history while denying the possibility that traditional historians can report facts.

    His assessment was plainly based in the soup of modern theory, but the advantage traditional history has over theory -- and will always have over theory -- is that it begins with an immense body of documentary evidence and seeks to reach a conclusion. Theory begins with a conclusion and offers novel interpretations of the world to justify that conclusion.

    It's what keeps academic journals filled and pads many a CV on the road to tenure.

    But what do I know? I'm only a classical philologist.

    posted by Dennis at 12:59 PM | Comments (4)


    Hope someone posts something today (a hint from the Beastly Overlord), as I am driving up to New York (state) and won't be back until late tomorrow.

    Already running late!

    posted by Eric at 10:37 AM

    1968 was just a draft

    Damn, this is really good!

    The left today is the same as it was then. The members of the S.D.S. and Weather Underground would find welcome homes with MoveOn and DemocraticUnderground.

    Our Hard Hats of today are beating the Left without having to resort to using pipes wrapped in flags, crowbars or the like. Instead, they're educated, informed, articulate and bold beyond words. And the Left fears them more than they ever feared taking a beating in '68.

    In 1968, the hippies loved having film-clips of their bloodied visages playing on the evening news. Such images turned sympathies to their cause, no matter how wrong they actually were.

    And we're not giving them those images to play with, this time. At least, not yet. And not unless it comes to us defending ourselves, our families and homes and our Nation.

    But if it comes to that, we're ready.

    My God, how we are ready.

    And that's what sets me back a bit, you see. For I too, am ready. And I hate, absolutely hate, finding myself in that state. But it's really very simple, you see.

    Our future is either with that of the United States of America residing as a true Sovereign Nation, existing among and with other sovereignties of like heart and spirit.

    Or as a subject State, of bended knee before the collective of the U.N, otherwise known as Eurpoia. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Fortunately, as long as we have the Constitution and the right to bear arms, we cannot be ruled -- by Europia or anyone else. And despite the polarization, I don't think things are as bad as 1968. Americans are not as naive. Every man can now have his own Gutenberg press if he wants. Communism has been demonstrated to be a miserable failure, and apologists for it are, well, a very sorry lot whose noise conceals their lack of popular support.

    Which is why they support the enemies of the people who don't support them. And fascist causes in place of Communist ones (which puts them in the v ery embarrassing position of calling enemies of fascists "fascists.")

    The biggest difference between now and 1968 is that now there's no draft. When that and the war ended, things got pretty quiet.

    At least, until the left went after the guy who ended the draft and the war.

    You'd almost think they weren't really anti-war, but that's a whole different topic.


    The people who decided to murder over 3,000 citizens of the world in New York came from the most educated strata of their societies. To seek to comprehend their actions with reference to a medieval religion is to neglect the extent to which they are a product of modernity.

    ....For Foucault as for Fanon, Hezbollah, and Osama bin Laden, the purpose of violence is not to relieve poverty or adjust borders. Violence is an end in itself. It is exalted by Foucault as "the craving, the taste, the capacity, the possibility of an absolute sacrifice."

    Derrida reacted to the collapse of the Soviet Union by calling for a "new international." Whereas the old international was made up of the economically oppressed, a new alliance of “the dispossessed and the marginalized" would unite to combat American led globalization.

    ....What the terrorists have in common with that strand of European nihilism, whose consequences in Europe in the C20th were millions of deaths, is belief in the primacy of the radical will, unrestrained by any existing moral teachings. This is the reason why Al Qaeda finds it easy to ignore the teachings of mainstream Islam, which prohibits the deliberate killing of non-combatants; they not only hate their [former] selves, they not only hate the [contemporary] world, their religion is based upon hatred of God. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Ditto Stalin, who saw the new religion while he was a seminarian in Tiflis.

    posted by Eric at 06:22 PM | Comments (3)

    Deaf rabid mob boss seeks nuns?

    It's Friday, which is traditionally quiz time here at Classical Values. Last week I was not only busy with out-of-town visitors, but there's such a dearth of online tests that it takes forever to find them. And so, because I don't want this to be a "blogligation" I took a mini Fourth of July holiday.

    But now it's serious test time! First, from Michele at A Small Victory I found a fascinating quiz called "20 Questions to a Better Personality."

    Wackiness: 50/100
    Rationality: 62/100
    Constructiveness: 50/100
    Leadership: 56/100

    You are an SRDL--Sober Rational Destructive Leader. This makes you a mob boss. You are the ultimate alpha person and even your friends give you your space. You can't stand whiners, weaklings, schlemiels or schlemozzles. You don't make many jokes, but when you do, others laugh out loud. They must.

    People often turn to you for advice, and wisely. You are calm in a crisis, cautious in a tempest, and attuned to even the finest details. Yours is the profile of a smart head for business and a dangerous enemy.

    You have a natural knack for fashion and occupy a suit like a matinee idol. Your charisma is striking and without artifice. You are generous, thoughtful, and appreciate life's finer things.

    Please don't kick my ass.

    Kick your ass? Frankly, the testers HURT me when they said that! Hear that, testers?


    In all honesty, I've never thought of myself as a mob boss or a leader or a matinee idol, but I'm flattered. By the way, here are the choices of other personality types.


    What kind of music is a mob boss supposed to like? Nathan Cardon links to the Dead German Composer Test, which gave me another flattering result.

    Take the Dead German Composer Test!

    (That's OK, because Beethoven couldn't hear what he wrote, and neither can I.)


    If I'm a mob boss and a dead German composer, then I guess I need to know what I died of, and whether I'm damned.

    As to the former, I found a test called "Which Horrible Affliction are you?"

    I get to be RABIES!

    I am Rabies. Grrrrrrrr!
    Which Horrible Affliction are you?
    A Rum and Monkey disease.

    This means I froth at the mouth and my bite is worse than my bark.



    Last of all, we come to my eventual destiny, by means of a test called "Are You Damned?"

    From the looks of the results, I guess I am.

    Sex With Nuns
    Are You Damned?
    Brought to you by Rum and Monkey

    Odd, because I'm not into that sort of thing.

    Must be another annoying metaphor.....

    posted by Eric at 03:54 PM | Comments (4)

    Responsibility gap?

    A big rape scandal at LaSalle University has edged Iraq off the Philadelphia Inquirer's front page.

    It's a typical story: athletes in dorm room plus booze plus sex equals rape and coverup scandal. As former coach Speedy Morris puts it,

    These things are happening at many campuses.
    Are they?

    What attracted my attention about the story was the apparent blurring of the distinction between victim and criminal. Here's the way one of the "suspects" surrendered:

    Cleaves, 22, of Paterson, N.J., surrendered at 8:45 p.m. at the Special Victims Unit at Episcopal Hospital, said Lt. Tom McDevitt. He bypassed reporters and photographers by entering the hospital through a tunnel, police said. Cleaves was accompanied by his attorney, who was not immediately identified.
    I had to reread it, because I thought that was usually the way victims were treated; entering anonymously through a victims unit via a special tunnel?

    I guess these guys must think they're pretty special "suspects."

    And what about the "victims"? According to the article,

    The 19-year-old woman, a student at the University of New Haven in Connecticut, told police she was intoxicated when she met the two basketball players outside St. Miguel Court on campus around 1 a.m. and accompanied them to a dormitory room. The men raped her, she said, and she next remembered waking up on a couch in the dormitory.

    She was taken to Germantown Hospital, where she met with police.

    After the woman talked to investigators, one of her friends, a 20-year-old member of the La Salle women's basketball team, said she, too, had been raped.

    When did they "realize" they'd been raped? The next day?

    Maybe I'm a little jaded, but if I was raped I think I'd know it right away, and I'd fight like hell. I can't see myself going to a dormitory room of my own free will and then waking up and discovering the next day that I was raped. Not even when I was 19 years old!

    Am I hopelessly old-fashioned? Or sexist?

    In an accompanying article, a "mutual" standard is announced, and the reason I'm putting it in my blog is that I am having conceptual difficulty understanding it:

    "The good that can come out of this is that more people will see the problem for what it is," Bath said. "We have to educate young women about this issue, and we also have to educate young men. Don't put yourself in position to be a victim or a perpetrator.

    "Young men, including athletes, have to be made to understand: You're not entitled to sex. And if the woman is drunk, you're even less entitled to sex. It's a crime."

    OK, let's parse that.

    I think I have a pretty good idea how to avoid being a victim. But how do I avoid putting myself "in position" to be "a perpetrator"? Any idea what that means? I mean, usually, the way I manage not to perpetrate crimes is simply by not perpetrating them.

    Position? Do they mean sexual positions? Or merely in any tempting locations? There are sexually attractive people in many locations; does this mean that there should be no dating? No kissing? No heavy necking?

    Analogizing to other forms of crime, does that mean that people shouldn't work near money lest they put themselves "in position" to be a perpetrator?

    Then there's the entitlement issue. Certainly, I am not entitled to sex. Agree completely. I never thought I was. The statement makes me wonder whether there is an entire new class of people out there who believe in sexual entitlement as a matter of right. Is that true? What have I been missing?

    Then there's this:

    if the woman is drunk, you're even less entitled to sex. It's a crime.
    Only if the woman is drunk? Isn't that sexist? Or is all drunken sex is a crime? That's news to me, and if it's true, then I must have been a serial rapist all those years that I drank and had sex with various lovers.

    It's been a long time since I took criminal law, but I never learned that drunkenness automatically transforms sex into rape. True, intoxication tends to negate the ability to consent, and I remember cases stating that if a doctor has sex with an unconscious person, it's rape, as there was no consent. In fact, here's the relevant California statutory language:

    Where a person is prevented from resisting by any intoxicating or anesthetic substance, or any controlled substance, and this condition was known, or reasonably should have been known by the accused.
    But consumption of alcohol by two consenting people does not invalidate consent. Alcohol breaks down inhibitions and boundaries; that's one of the reasons people drink.

    I'll say this: if these people were all gay men, no one would be complaining of rape. Why is that? Because it's basic common sense among homosexuals that if you go to someone's bedroom late at night and get drunk with him (or meet him in an already drunken state in say, a bar!), there's an understanding that, far from being rape, sex was the whole idea. Each party would, without any hesitation, accept his own responsibility.

    Accept responsibility?

    But aren't homosexuals irresponsible? Immoral? Immature?

    They must be, because why would any responsible person imagine that getting drunk and visiting someone's bedroom at 1:00 a.m. means sex?

    Is it irresponsible to assume sexual responsibility?

    Obviously, I am missing something.

    posted by Eric at 08:53 AM | Comments (4)

    Googling for Pravda Truth

    When was Stalin born?

    You'd think that would be an easy question to answer. A verifiable historical fact. But there doesn't seem to be agreement among historians, although this book makes a compelling case that the conventional date of December 9 (21 modern calendar) 1879 is wrong. According to Mr. Radzinsky, Stalin lied about his birthday, and actual birth records show December 6 (18 modern calendar), 1878 as his true date of birth.

    But what is truth? An agreed-upon set of facts? The "true" facts? Can we talk in terms of scientific truth in matters of history? If a majority of historians agree with the traditional date, then who is this Radzinsky to come along and claim otherwise? Whose records "rule"? The majority's?

    With this in mind, I decided to resort to democracy. There seem to be five dates of birth in contention: December 6, 1878, December 18, 1878, December 9, 1879, December 21, 1879, and January 2, 1880. Bear in mind that things are complicated by the old-style Russian calendar, twelve days behind, and so confusing to Westerners that many of them still don't know whether to call the Russian Revolution the October Revolution or the November Revolution.

    This is because previous to the revolution, Russia used the old Julian calendar, which the revolutionaries replaced with the Western, Gregorian calendar. To adjust the older calendar, 12 days must be added to dates from the 19th century, and 13 to dates from the 20th century.

    Google the date of December 6, 1878 and you'll get only three hits. (Although if you correct that date, from the old Russian calendar, to December 18, 1878, you'll get nine.)

    NOTE: THIS ONE LINK (an official Russian government site) seems quite authoritative to me.

    But Google December 21, 1879 and you'll get 576 hits. (The old Russian date of December 9, 1879 yields five hits.)

    Even the miscalculated (12 days added twice) date of January 2, 1880 yields twenty one hits.

    Stalin's birthday is of at least as much interest to astrologers as historians, because the resulting profiles vary greatly (the latter chart is based on the more accurate date of December 18, 1878, while the former is based on the mistaken date of January 2, 1880).

    But mistakes are popular; more astrologers mistakenly believe in Stalin as a Capricorn (1830) than Stalin as a Sagittarius (774).

    So when was Stalin's birthday, anyway? Not that anyone should particularly care, but why so much misinformation? And why the persistence? I'm personally interested because I've read so many books about the man, and I want to know. I think it's pretty clear that the longstanding "official" date was wrong. That this is confirmed by the official Russian site convinces me that the new date is right.

    But does that make me right?

    Truth is one of those odd things which always seems out of reach. Whether it's elusive or relative, it's just not possible to agree -- even on things as basic as the birth date of one of the most important figures of the 20th Century.

    You'd think historians would get it together, but there doesn't seem to be agreement. On a very, basic, fact.

    Now, if this were Hitler's birthday, you can bet there'd be a clamor.....

    By the way, there's far more web interest in Hitler's birthday (4580 hits) than in Stalin's birthday (21 hits).

    Stalin would be amused.

    And I think he'd be tickled pink to know that the date he selected for his fictionalized birthday remains the most popular to this day!

    posted by Eric at 02:03 PM | Comments (6)

    No more stories; no more surprises!

    This is outrageous.

    A UK government inquiry into the intelligence used to justify the war in Iraq is expected to conclude that Britain's spies were correct to say that Saddam Hussein's regime sought to buy uranium from Niger. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
    A central thesis of the Bush Lied doctrine has just gone down in flames.

    Last night I asked myself whether the Philadelphia Inquirer would be reporting it, and this morning I checked.

    Lo and behold; no story! But I think I'll check their website right now, because sometimes things make it in there that aren't reported in the hard copy.

    Nope. There's only this report -- about how the U.S. -- "without U.N. authorization" -- removed yellow cake uranium and other radioactive material from Iraq. (How dare we!)

    Not long ago, Bush's "deceptive" reference to the attempted Iraqi purchase of yellow cake uranium was one of the biggest stories of the year. Because Bush was said to have relied on bad intel, there were repeated cries for impeachment. And now that it turns out the Iraqis did attempt to purchase uranium after all, it's not news.

    No retraction, not a word. No news may be reported which might conceivably make Bush look good, particularly if it vindicates him over something once considered grounds for impeachment.

    To be fair to the media, though, there is growing concern that Bush is manipulating events in order to win reelection.

    [E]ven as the president's poll numbers were sliding, his administration was implementing a plan to insure the public's confidence in his hunt for Al Qaeda.

    This spring, the administration significantly increased its pressure on Pakistan to kill or capture Osama bin Laden, his deputy, Ayman Al Zawahiri, or the Taliban's Mullah Mohammed Omar, all of whom are believed to be hiding in the lawless tribal areas of Pakistan.
    (From Hugh Hewitt, via Glenn Reynolds.)

    The piece is titled "July Surprise" and I am not surprised. I guess if they have to report news items which might make Bush look good, they can always caution readers to be aware that Bush is manipulating events.

    Perhaps BUSH KNEW all along that there really was evidence to support the yellow cake uranium report. It was part of his reelection strategy to send the incompetent Joseph Palme Wilson to Niger, leak his wife's identity, release deliberately forged reports as a cover, first admitting they were false but knowing all along that the true ones would eventually surface a few months before the election, all as part of a reelection strategy!

    Such sophisticated, masterful manipulation!

    (And I thought Bush was supposed to be stupid.....)

    MORE (ON LESS NEWS): Arnold Kling demonstrates that the "basic determinant of our standard of living has increased [under the evil Bush adminstration] by almost as much as during the entire 32 quarters of the Clinton Administration", but it's not being reported, despite the fact that the Bush administration is not claiming credit for it:

    The other reason that the productivity story is not big news is that the current Administration is unpopular with the media. As much as the media is averse to reporting good news, I think that productivity would receive greater coverage if the big gains were taking place on a Democratic President's watch. The upbeat productivity data would "fit" the story of competent Democratic stewardship of the economy. But it would spoil the narrative of the Bush Administration as bumbling and Hoover-esque to point out that the most fundamental measure of our economic strength is shooting through the roof. It's not that I think that high productivity growth is a partisan story that reflects well on President Bush. But the failure to report on the phenomenon is a partisan story that reflects poorly on the ability of the press to rise above its biases and keep the public informed. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)
    Come on! Surely there's a way to report good news without allowing people to think well of Bush!


    Perhaps economic productivity is being deliberately stimulated as part of an election strategy.

    Sure sounds evil to me!

    UPDATE: Another monstrosity was the LA Examiner reporting that Paul Bremer made no farewell speech when he had, which speech was freely available. Where do these big media tyrants think they are? The Soviet Union under Stalin?

    posted by Eric at 08:34 AM | Comments (1)

    Good News for Modern Fan!

    I'm told Vernor Vinge has just released a new short story," Synthetic Serendipity". It's a companion piece to his 2002 short ,"Fast Times at Fairmont High". If you liked one, you'll probably like the other. The cheat sheet version can be found here. The story deals with good, fun stuff like ubiquitous computing, consensus reality, and pervasive localizer nets. If you find any of that compelling, you might want to check out the rest of the magazine, "IEEE Spectrum Online". It's good. Want more? There's a thread on Slashdot, which grapples with these topics in that uniquely Slashdot way. Enjoy.

    posted by Justin at 08:25 PM | Comments (1)

    The war gets hairy!

    Forgive me for being slow. I've been swamped lately, and until today I had no idea how important John Kerry's choice of John Edwards was.

    But then I read this:

    You may have also heard that the man I selected is John Edwards of North Carolina.

    (APPLAUSE) And I want you to know we think this is a dream ticket. We've got better vision. We've got better ideas. We've got real plans. We've got a better sense of what's happening to America. And we've got better hair. I'll tell you that goes a long way.

    Kerry is right, of course. Just ask any of the Big Three newscasters; better hair goes a long way!

    The war? It's no more than a national bad hair day; nothing that can't be cured by a newly invigorated scalp.

    Forget terrorism; better hair is serious business!

    Aren't some things worth dyeing for?

    posted by Eric at 01:26 PM | Comments (7) | TrackBacks (1)

    Neurotically simple

    Do the idiotic bumperstickers of the sort discussed in a couple of recent posts shed light on a particular need in the human mind? Or only in some human minds?

    This recent article on political neuro marketing -- "Looking for a 'politics center' in the human mind" -- made me wonder....

    Political campaigns have now jumped on the bandwagon. Highly paid political consultants are teaming up with brain imagers - who wish they were more highly paid - to monitor changes in blood flow in the brains of people as they watch political advertisements. They are finding that brain activity differs between Democrats and Republicans who watch the same political advertisement. And they are impressed that brain areas known to be involved in mediating emotions such as fear are activated during the advertisements.

    None of this is surprising. Politicians have always played to voters' fears - and openly so. Democrats and Republicans do have different reactions to each others' candidates, and as a result they vote for different candidates on Election Day.

    Forget for a moment how "liberals" or "conservatives" might respond, say, to images of 9/11, or a crime victim. Might there be a similar personality type -- perhaps the type which responds positively to simplistic bumpersticker messages -- which can be found on both so-called "sides" of the political spectrum?

    I refer to the type of person (a type which scares me, by the way) who wants everything simplified. Prepackaged, preprocessed thought, in easy-to-manage sound bites or visual images. Is there a specific, identifiable, kind of person who wants everything made easy, who wants the thoughts of others conveniently placed into his brain, and who would even advertize these thoughts? If so, I would think a primary goal of neuromarketing would be to locate such people, get to them first with your idiotic message, and then wale away with symbols of reinforcement lest the other side overpower him with more powerful images and messages.

    I worry that the primary goal of "neuromarketing" might be aimed at the more gullible, and that the people who dismiss it as nonsense are not the target audience. Whether this is consistent with a Republican form of government (or even with democracy) is debatable, but as the stress of information overload accumulates, it strikes me as inevitable.

    While the New York Times had a longer article about this subject a few months ago, the Inquirer's tone is dismissive:

    Freud's discovery of the unconscious was a watershed event in the history of science. But so far, the unconscious has proved impervious to detailed anatomical, chemical, and physiologic studies designed to unlock its secrets. Imaging blood flow in the brain will likely suffer the same fate. What sets us far apart from other species is our faculty of language, and advertisers and political consultants should focus their efforts on finding cleverer and more reliable ways of asking their subjects simply to say what they think.

    ...[N]euromarketing and neuropolitics, slick and sexy as they are, are little more than distractions - and cynical ones at that.

    Distractions from what?

    finding cleverer and more reliable ways of asking their subjects simply to say what they think? Is that really what neuromarketers want to know? In the New York Times article, a political consultant spins it differently:
    It would be nice to figure out what's actually going on inside their heads.
    Remember, the goal here is not scientific research for its own sake, but winning elections.

    From what I've seen (and as the bumperstickers suggest), there's a group of people who are susceptible to wanting to think particularly cool thoughts that they think might impress other people in the same way they might want to wear clothes that make them appear trendy and stylish (or, for that matter, reactively contrived to appear just the opposite). Might there be a group of people who want to think cool thoughts but don't have the energy to generate them in the same way that there are people who don't have a clue about fashion in clothing?

    Political bumperstickers tend to be the simplified versions of thoughts (or what pass for thoughts) of other people, prominently displayed.

    The bumpersticker people might be onto something.

    Idiotic as they are, slogans work.

    The Russian Revolution was fueled by them, and every totalitarian mass movement has used them.

    They work precisely because of simplicity, but what about the people with this need for simplicity? Are the neuromarketers going to target them and bypass everyone else?

    Of course, there's this skeptical view:

    A more skeptic view of neuromarketing is that cognitive scientists, many of whom watched from the sidelines as their molecular colleagues got rich, are now jumping on the commercial bandwagon. According to this view, neuromarketing is little more than a new fad, exploited by scientists and marketing consultants to blind corporate clients with science
    Is that it? Is junk science becoming political?

    Or maybe political science is being taken over by junk science....

    Maybe someone can suggest a bumpersticker.

    We need one, because Neurosociety is complicated!

    UPDATE: I was so preoccupied with science that I almost forgot about a technicality called "the truth" -- but I was reminded of its existence by Megan McArdle's post about Michael Moore:

    What Moore does is not journalism--but it is taken as journalism by a significant portion of the audience. He wants it to be taken as journalism. And apparently, so do a lot of people who think they can't win the election without dressing up their campaign ads as documentaries.

    I have no stirring closer to wrap this up with, except that I'm disappointed. I mean, are we trying to figure out what the truth is here, in this great social experiment we're all running, or are we just trying to delude people into going along with us? Because while I've certainly, in my time, said stuff that wasn't true, I've never knowingly done so. Everything I write, I pretty much believe -- not in some "larger truth" sense, where I feed you a bunch of completely false statistics in order to convince you to support something I favour, but in the smaller, terribly bourgeois sense that if I tell you that marginal income tax cuts don't measurably increase work hours, it's because I believe that marginal ncome tax cuts don't measurably increase work hours. I may be wrong, and certainly my beliefs about things like taxation are influenced by my beliefs about larger issues of personal liberty and so forth. But I do at least try to tell y'all what I think is true, without leaving anything important out. I would like to think that most people out there feel the same way.

    Of course, I know that people do stretch the facts and so forth when they're advocating passionately. But endorsing lying as a policy strikes me as really, well, wrong. I'm sure that's terribly naive and outre. But there you are--when the revolution comes, I'll be the first one with my back against the wall. (Via Glenn Reynolds.)

    Considering Moore's well-known view that Americans are "possibly the dumbest people on the planet," the deliberate endorsement of lying as policy might be wrong, but hey, at least it's politically scientific!

    And lying is, of course, all relative. As another profound bumpersticker goes,

    At least when Clinton lied, nobody died!

    More on neuroscience and lying here, but how will neuroscience "detect" lies believed to be the truth, or the lied-to who believe and repeat them?

    UPDATE: Glenn Reynolds links to a related, more appalling article, "NeuroCops to Patrol Your Brain?"

    In addition to waging a “war on drugs,” the federal government is now working to eradicate the "disease" of drug use. These metaphors, notes the CCLE report, play an important role in driving federal drug control policy because they frame the remedies available to the government.

    For example, the 2003 National Drug Control Strategy casts users of illegal drugs as “vectors of contagion” who are “in denial” about their “disease” and who need treatment before “transmitting the disease to others.” Such language, says the CCLE report, lends itself to coercive treatment wherein the government feels justified in “medicating” drug users through policies of ‘compassionate coercion.’ “Coercion, whether ‘compassionate’ or otherwise, is still coercion,” cautions the CCLE report.

    The author worries about the coercive use of drugs for mind control purposes.

    Forgive my cynicism, but calling undesirable behavior a "disease" and treating it with mind-altering drugs is nothing new. Millions of schoolchildren are given Ritalin or amphetamines to make them behave. It should not surprise anyone to see the mind control forces engage in government drugging to stop individual drugging. There's no logic to it at all, except that the need some people have to control others is often passed off as logic (although the above metaphors are about as logical as the ones on the bumperstickers.)

    Denial isn't limited to drug addiction.

    Power can be equally addictive. As history shows, it can be much more destructive.

    posted by Eric at 09:23 AM

    Rifkin Redux

    Hello all. Back with another episode of the wit and wisdom of Jeremy Rifkin. Before I begin though, perhaps I should address a question Eric raised. Who the hell is Jeremy Rifkin and why should you care? To be honest, I've been following his career so long, I had forgotten that he might lack the brand recognition he once commanded. Back in the 80's, it seemed like you couldn't read an article on biotech or gene-splicing without being subjected to his "balancing viewpoint". He founded a small but energetic lobbying organization, the "Foundation on Economic Trends" and instigated a number of annoying lawsuits intended to spike the guns of the nascent biotech industry. Beyond that, he was a moderately prolific author, with no little popularity among the birkenstock set. I first became aware of him in 1987, while reading a refutation of his work in a popular science book. Frankly, what I read did not predispose me to rush out and buy his book. However, in one of those funny little coincidences that make life spooky and mysterious, the VERY NEXT DAY I was urged to read it by a young woman of my acqaintance. Strongly urged. She said if I read ONE BOOK that year it should be "Entropy" by Jeremy Rifkin. She made me promise. So you see, none of this is my fault.

    A week later, I chanced across that same young woman at a loud boozy party. She asked me if I had read the book yet, and if so, what I thought of it. I proceeded to tell her (in a loud boozy way)that the book might have been considerably improved by the addition of some real physics. I believe I was on point 4 of my 19 point critique when she began edging away from me with that oh so familiar desperate look. Her parting shot was "I still think the book has good ideas."

    Against igorance, the gods themselves, etc. More to the point, the people skills, much practice they require. I haven't seen her since, but she left a rich legacy. To my surprise I found myself getting a real jones for dear Mr. Rifkin. There was just something so endearingly awful about his lackluster prose and luddite pretensions, that I couldn't get enough of him. I found "Algeny" and read it cover to cover. Then I read Stephen Jay Gould's review of the book "...a cleverly constructed tract of anti-intellectual propaganda masquerading as scholarship." Don't hold back Steve, tell us how you really feel. "Among books promoted as serious intellectual statements by important thinkers, I don't think I have ever read a shoddier work." Um, yeah, what he said. I actually HAVE read shoddier works, but I had to dig for em'.

    Being sporadically completist, I decided to plow through his entire available works. A public library expedition ensued, leading me straight to the subject of today's post "The Emerging Order"( co-authored with Ted Howard ). Cha-ching! Up till this time I had subscribed to the default interpretation of his motives and ideology. He presents himself as a vaguely leftish lawyerly type, well groomed, well tailored, sober as a deacon. Digging into background, we find he cut his political teeth in the 60's anti-war movement. He was a national coordinator for the "National Committee for a Citizen's Commission of Inquiry on United States War Crimes in Vietnam". In 1972 he helped found the "People's Bicentennial Commission" He helped sponsor the first national anti-Vietnam War rally in 1967. In 1966 he organised student opposition to germ warfare at the University of Pennsylvania. So far, so normal. I knew lots of guys like that in college. They tasted the sweet nectar of political activism and never looked back. What sets Jeremy apart from that crowd is that he ISN'T a liberal, secular-humanist, one worlder chowderhead. Within his Dr. Phil-ish breast beats the fiery and brimstony heart of a mystic. A mystic who loves you, yes YOU brothers and sisters, and wants what's best for you. Which, by the way, will involve completely tearing down and rebuilding the structure of modern capitalism. You don't mind, do you?

    Which takes us back to the question, why should you care? To paraphrase another critic, why flog the carcass of Rifkin's work? Because it isn't dead yet. Because the man would dearly love to be a menace. Because his paltry, stunted vision of the Human Future would preclude the "full flourishing" of our loved descendants. Because he actually had credibility in Washington once, and would like to get it back, God help us.

    What I'm hoping to do here is exhume some of his more spectacular quotes from the memory hole and prop them up, zombie-like, in Eric's nice, shiny, digital window display. People should know that he has a very, very long history of misanthropic anti-tech screedery. Beyond that, I would hope to address the line-up of usual suspects who find themselves fellow travelling with him.
    You may know the names; Ehrlich, Kass , McKibbin, Fukuyama, Callahan.
    You should also know what they've said. It isn't pretty, and it deserves to be heard more widely. Hopefully, folks will figure out that if a man was consistently an idiot twenty years ago, he probably still is.

    This is a bit of a shift from Classical Values more usual beat. If you find the daily political churn more engrossing, well, I can't really blame you. But someday, the war will be over (or at least managed), and we can turn our attention back to peace time pursuits. And the churn will always be with us. So I say, take a few minutes for the long view. The really long view.

    If Rifkin, Kass, and company have their way, a great many people are going to die useless, premature, preventable deaths, for no good reason whatever. They will be dying for half-wit ideology, the bad dreams of small dreamers. To ridicule such ideas is no less than they deserve.

    But enough preamble, lets get quoting!! (Note the contractually mandated CV exclamation marks!!)

    ...whatever the standard or expert opinion to which one turns, there is no doubt that the oil spigot is about to run dry. p48

    It's hard for most of us to imagine that the usable oil on this planet will be gone in the next twenty years or so. After all, it took nearly three billion years of natural evolution to create this tremendous stock of energy. Nonetheless, there is only enough ultimately recoverable oil reserves left to provide each person with 500 barrels. This means , says Lester Brown, that the average American, driving a full-size automobile and averaging 10,000 miles per year on the road, would use over forty barrels per year, or his entire share of of the remaining oil, in just twelve years. p 49

    Good thing Reagan deregulated when he did, eh? These are pretty much a standard part of the Rifkin wind-up, the intro panic graphs, intended to assure that reader that things really ARE as bad as he says they are. Authoritative sounding figures supply him with literal scare quotes.

    For the past thirty years, the American economy has been relying on technological advances in specific growth industries, most of which are now maturing and showing signs of leveling off in terms of growth. Wonder drugs, the computer industry, photocopying and television immediately come to mind. All of these growth industries have been heavily dependant on large amounts of energy and other nonrenewable resources. More important still, there appears to be nothing on the horizon that can begin to replace these older technologies. About the only major technological advances in recent years capable of reaching a consumer market potential of 100 percent are permanent press pants and pocket calculators. It's not surprising that Dr. James L. Heskett, of the Harvard Business School, has remarked: "We have seen the topping out of technology. We won't have the technological advances we've had in the last twenty or thirty years." p 82

    It sure was nice of Harvard Business School to have a wacky professor willing to go public. Makes it all sound more credible with an academic on board. I don't doubt that more sober voices, even at Harvard itself, were willing to dispute the point. But Rifkin will never let you hear them in HIS book. And besides, these words were published in 1979. Back then, there was plenty of apocalypse to go around. A few years later, when gene-splicing finally showed up on Rifkin's radar ( A New Hope for industrial civilization!) he decided he had to strangle it in the cradle.It was a moral imperative. Now on with our quotes.

    Today, the capitalist system serves much the same function as the Catholic Church did during the medieval era...The capitalist church, like the Catholic Church of six centuries ago, is slowly losing its authority...The American public has become increasingly hostile to the economic system, a trend that will escalate as we move further and further into economic contraction between now and the turn of the century. The list of grievances has become almost endless: unsafe products permanently disable and kill tens of thousands of Americans each year, corporations bribe candidates and illegally buy elections, chemical companies pour deadly substances into rivers and lakes, and the system itself seems unwilling or unable to curb inflation or ease unemployment. p 218-219

    This assertion has so little relationship to reality, it's hard to know where to start. I know of no one who thinks of buying and selling as a substitute for faith. Do you? As for the litany of woe, when was it any different? Waaah.

    The mass anxiety wrought by the steady breakdown of the present system and the emergence of a new and still undefined economic order is becoming more pronounced with each succeeding day. This anxiety is not yet manifesting itself as a frontal assault on capitalism, science, technology and the professional class...Still, like the Reformation period, the submerged anxieties produced by the shifting from one epoch to another are surfacing around specific occurrences that are related to the larger picture...disease is, once again, beginning to provide dramatic focus for the expression of society's individually and collectively felt anxieties. Not surprisingly, the evangelical-Charismatic movements are turning their attention to this area of concern. p 219

    Cancer is the new plague. It strikes without warning and seemingly wihout reason....
    Cancer, like the plagues is a direct consequence of the changing economic period we're living in. Seventy to 90 percent of all cancer, according to government studies, is caused by the environment of industrial capitalism...
    p 220

    Now we're getting somewhere. Capitalism equals Death! But, what can we possibly Do About It ? Just wait, I strongly suspect there is an answer...

    Just as the Catholic Church was unable to deal satisfactorily with the anxiety wrought by the arbitrary nature of the plague and its ruthless destruction of human life, today's capitalist establishment is also without answers. If there is one element that has shaken public confidence in science and technology more than any other it would be the ineptness of the commercial health establishment and government in dealing with cancer...Today, with billions of dollars of tax money spent, a solution is no more in the offing than before. The reason is that the problem does not lend itself to a particular scientific cure....

    Just one element? Perhaps this analysis is a bit...reductionist? In any event, we can rest assured that a solution will present itself in short order. Breaking the problem down to a tractable size is half the battle...

    On the contrary, it is science itself that is responsible for cancer....
    Science created chemical pesticides nuclear radiation toxic substances and all of the other ingredients that cause the disease.... p 220

    Didn't see that one coming did you? Sounds almost Victorian in it's majesty. Ladies and gentlemen, the Problem is....... SCIENCE.... ITSELF!! Anesthesia, antibiotics... it's all a trap. Don't even get me started on protease inhibitors. But we still need A Solution!

    While it is conceivable that the medical establishment could find a new technological cure for cancer, it is more than likely that the cure itself would merely serve to create an even greater set of problems in human biology at some future date. Ultimately, the answer to the problem of cancer (and other more sophisticated diseases that might replace it ) lies in the establishment of a new world view based on an ecologically balanced steady-state economic system. Only by slowing down the entropy process and restoring the natural balance and interplay of nature can the problem of cancer be ultimately put to rest. Until that realization sets in, the popular response to likely to ba a mixture of public resentment and hostility toward the scientific medical establishment (which is justified) and a search for alternative cures. That search has already begun.... p 221

    This quote is a classic specimen of Rifkiniana. ONLY by following the prescriptive advice of the polemecist, can we avoid the grisly advancing doom which we are assured threatens us. This card is played relentlessly in book after book. As a bonus feature, we can see a popular meme of the time, the "technology doesn't solve any problems without creating worse ones." If I had a buck for every time some ditzy hippy told me that, I'd be a single-malt drinker. Mmm, Talisker...But, I digress. We've worked our way through the wind-up, here's the pitch!

    Today, millions of Americans are professed adherents of faith healing as an alternative to medical science.... p 221

    The Charismatics have found a new confidence amidst the anxiety and chaos of the modern world...That confidence is providing the liberating energy and the potential revolutionary power that could dislodge the existing order. p 222
    While we’ve already caught a glimpse of the revolutionary potential in the shift of faith from medical science to faith healing, the full gravity of what’s taking place only becomes apparent upon deeper examination of the underlying assumptions behind the Baptism of the Holy Spirit… p 222

    Do you begin to discern the tenuous lineaments of The Solution?

    For the Charismatics, proof of election or salvation is supernatural, not materialistic. One becomes convinced that he is saved by the Baptism of the Holy Spirit….for the Charismatic, observable proof is to be found in special gifts... p 223

    One of the important aspects of special gifts is that they are, in fact, observable and repeatable, just like scientific phenomena. Unlike science, however, their manifestations do not depend on what the individual does, but what God (through the Holy Spirit) does. The individual is no longer in “control” as with scientific truths. Instead, He becomes the faithful repository of supernatural truths. When a Charismatic “lays hands” on someone, and in so doing, cures them of an ailment by the special gift of faith healing, there is no doubt that the results of the procedure are often observable-as observable as the results of a medical operation. But it is not the special skills or knowledge of people that cures the victim, but the indwelling spirit of God…. p 223

    And it's out of the park! The crowd goes wild! Ladies and gentlemen I believe we have a real winner here, "Just like scientific phenomena"!!

    The Charismatics have replaced the scientific method with supernatural power….They have taken the human being from a horizontal perspective to a vertical one…..their challenge to the existing order is profound and could well end up turning the world upside down, just as the Reformation did a half millennium ago. To begin with, vertical experience provides an ahistorical context. The Charismatics believe that God can speak to each person today just as authoritatively as he spoke to the Apostles 2000 years ago. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit sets up a nonlinear frame of reference…His revealed truths are timeless. When they reside in the individual human being and reveal themselves through special gifts, they act to liberate people from the limited world of life and death, past and future. During these moments man and woman become at one with God and the unity of his total being. p 224

    While this might appear abstract, at first, it has very real consequences in everyday life. For example, one of the overriding themes of the age of expansion is “technique”….The ultimate objective of technique is to overcome time and space limitations altogether and to produce an ideal, efficient state. Technique is humanity’s way of trying to create a timeless world, a world of total unified being, omnipotent, all present and eternal. Technique is a horizontal race to a vertical finish. Of course, human beings can never win the race; in fact, we can never even finish it. The more people apply technique, the more we reduce the components of life to their particulars and the further away we slide from the universality we’re striving for. The age of expansion is characterized by the notion that people can overcome all limits. Time and space, however, are the very real limits imposed upon all life. By trying to overcome these limits, people try to become God; this failure is reflected in a world in shambles, destroyed largely by science, technique and our own hubris. p 225

    So the telegraph and the railroad are an attempt to become God? And the Nissan Sentra? And the serum to Nome? Our world is destroyed and in shambles? I am intrigued, please tell me more.

    The Baptism of the Holy Spirit eliminates the need for efficiency and technique. In so doing, it sets up conditions for return to a balanced ecosystem. With special gifts people can overcome this world’s time and space limitations and become one with God directly, now. Humanity doesn’t need to get sidetracked on a long and futile journey technologizing people and nature…..Speaking in tongues is a more powerful form of communication than any satellite network…..The gift of prophecy is more powerful than any computer information system……it is providential and inerrant. p 225

    We are now entering hyperspace....

    It is no accident that the Charismatic movement has emerged at the very time that our economy is moving from the industrial to the postindustrial age…p 225

    Special gifts, say the Charismatics, are God’s signs. In a secular sense, they are indeed signs-signs of the anxiety and hostility being engendered by the emergence of the new postindustrial order. Imagine, for a moment, the significance of tongues….Speaking in tongues contradicts all communications theory…..If everyone spoke in tongues, it would be indecipherable according to communications logic. Yet millions of people are now doing just that. They are speaking in tongues and the evidence is that they are communicating more effectively with each other as a result. ….p 227

    Next stop Alderaan, twenty minutes...

    Anyone can speak in tongues; it provides the kind of access that people feel is denied them by those who hold a monopoly over communications in this society. Speaking in tongues requires no special training. It is a universal language available to all men and women……It does not provide partial information, or inaccurate information, but the complete body of truths necessary for life. This is so because the truths are those revealed by God, and therefore all-inclusive.

    I'm tempted to say"Don't get cocky, kid!". But this all happened a long time ago.

    Backed up by the most sophisticated communications hardware that money can buy, evangelicals are now threatening the long-standing hegemony over the airwaves previously enjoyed by CBS, NBC, and ABC…..All of this is just for openers, boasts Jim Bakker, head of PTL television network. PTL stands for both “People That Love”and “Praise The Lord”. p 106

    And Jim did so very much loving, didn't he?

    During the show viewers are urged to call in and discuss their personal and spiritual problems with some of the 7,000 trained volunteers staffing some sixty regional telephone centers strategically placed across the country...

    …..the studio lights darken, the camera scans the audience as heads are lowered in prayer…looking into camera left, the Reverend James Bakker, attired in an egg-blue suit, standing against a blue-velvet background, begins quietly:
    “There is a prostate gland condition that God is healing right now …there is a spinal condition, perhaps a missing disc that is being restored…someone to my left has a kidney ailment…there are growths and in the name of Jesus those growths are gone…you will not need surgery…there is something that goes into the marrow of the bone…and the Lord is healing it.”
    A toll-free telephone number is flashed on and off the TV screen. The telephone banks begin to light up as thousands of callers from across the country dial in. The operators have a computer form in front of them listing ailments in alphabetical order, starting with arthritis. Other boxes list major emotional and spiritual problem areas. p 107

    The best equipment money can buy? Sixty regional telephone exchanges? Hmmm, ( A little Sylvester Junior voice here) "Oh the irony, father!" Wasn't the Holy Spirit supposed to obviate the need for all these clunky materialistic networks and computers and junk? Isn't this stuff just mere "technique"? Won't it add to the entropic flow, hastening doomsday?Couldn't we use the Force? Master Yoda says we are luminous beings, not "this crude matter". Sigh.

    The answer to impending resource limits is Elmer Fucking Gantry...

    Maybe this explains how he learned to work a room.

    In books to come, Mr. Rifkin grows a tad bit more shy about exposing his secret heart. But if you know what to look for, it's all still there. I can prove it.

    Our next Rifkin Opus, mercifully not soon, will be "Entropy", the big daddy book of Rifkindoom. In it, he lays out a more secular path to eco-salvation, but if you're a Giant Puppet Head person, don't worry. We still get to destroy Capitalism!

    posted by Justin at 09:09 PM | Comments (8) | TrackBacks (1)

    Rendell takes a page from Bush? Not quite.

    By now it's old news, but Pennsylvania has legalized slot machines.

    Governor (and former DNC chairman) Rendell was on the radio yesterday sounding like a proud father who just landed a little more bacon, letting the kids know just how much better their lives would be. His example was far from convincing:

    If you make $50,000 a year, he rhapsodized, and live within city limits, you will receive $600. That's right. $600. Basking in the glow of his own beneficence he beamed that this is "not an insignificent amount of money," nor is the $385 earmarked for those $50k/yr earners employed in the city but who live in the suburbs.

    He repeated this for emphasis: $600 and $385 are not insignificant amounts of money.

    (But I don't make $50,000 a year, Ed. So how significant is the rebate for the poor and working classes? The $50k city resident already pays $2,250/yr for a tax that was created to temporaily assist the government during the Great Depression. The suburbanite has been paying $1956.35. The sub-$50k crowd will get far less, so yes, $600 is insignificant.)

    People, we have been assured, will benefit from having this money in their pockets.

    Thanks Ed!

    But wait! This is coming from a guy who thought in 2002 that Presiden't Bush's tax cuts were a really bad idea:

    "The economy is in shambles because of that tax cut," says Pennsylvania Governor-elect and former D.N.C. chair Ed Rendell. "We can translate that into things people understand: 'You're not going to get money you need for social services to make your life better. Why? Because they gave all the money away in a tax cut.' Find everything that people are concerned about, everything that they need from government in their lives, and attach it to tax cuts."

    Yes. You can't have money from the government because they already gave it back to you.

    Ed wants to have it both ways. He'll give you a $600 check with one hand while with the other he takes more money via the state income tax, which has been his plan all along:

    The Bush plan is not a "real stimulus plan," said Democratic Gov. Ed Rendell of Pennsylvania. He has proposed increasing his state's income tax and legalizing slot machines at racetracks to finance reductions in local property taxes and increased school subsidies.

    "We need to stimulate our economy, pump money into creating new roads, new railroads, fixing up our airports," he said. "Those things create jobs, do good, and help American business."

    In fact he doesn't believe that tax cuts are a good thing. He believes that the only way to stimulate the economy is to collect more taxes and hire more state employees (who are of course notoriously hard workers -- like that guy on the city road crew who sits on a bucket holding a "slow" sign for $28/hr).

    Ultimately Rendell's cuts in the property tax and the city wage tax are a smoke screen. He realizes that people want more of their own money, and by throwing them a fatty bone, offset by slot machines, he can distract them from the real meat that's been stripped away.

    Hm. I didn't mean to make him sound like Prometheus. Honest. But you do know how Zeus punished mankind for Prometheus' deceit, don't you?


    One might say that Rendell's slot machines will release all evils upon men, while hope alone clings within, and no amount of pocket change will coax it out.

    (Classical ending supplied solely for the amusement of Eric, the Beastly Overlord.)

    posted by Dennis at 04:18 PM

    That bumper really sticks in my craw...

    If y'all recall my rant on a certain bumper sticker, you can now see it for yourself, with many other brilliant gems besides:


    Bumper sticker wisdom has, I fear, proliferated, now appearing on t-shirts as well. On the 4th I saw one the read


    And it made me think of this:


    Which may not make sense, but neither does FREADOM. And it makes me laugh.

    posted by Dennis at 09:31 AM | Comments (5)

    Stubborn memories....

    I live near Valley Forge National Park, and so when people visit me I like to take them there. Each time I learn something new.

    A favorite Valley Forge landmark is the statue of General Friedrich von Steuben. Where others had tried and failed, he instilled order and pride into Washington's starved and dirty Revolutionary soldiers encamped during a winter so awful that its memory still evokes two timeless expressions: Paine's "times that try men's souls" and Shakespeare's "winter of our discontent":

    George Washington's troops could easily be followed as they trudged through the wintry expanse of southeastern Pennsylvania in late December 1777. The soldiers, many of them ragged and shoeless, left bloody footprints in the snow, marking the grueling progress of this army of the American Revolution toward winter quarters at Valley Forge.

    There was no shelter for the men when they reached the exposed, hilly landscape of that misnamed redoubt, actually a plateau Washington chose largely for its defensibility. (A nearby hollow had once been the site of a smithy, hence the designation.) Tents provided their only barrier against frost and wind. Their commander in chief insisted that he, too, would shelter in a tent until his troops were able to cut down trees and construct log huts for themselves.

    Washington despaired for the fate of his army. "The whole of them," said his comrade-in-arms, Gen. John Sullivan, were "without watch coats, one half without blankets, and more than one third without shoes .. many of them without jackets ... and not a few without shirts." None had enough to eat; some had gone hungry for days. Exhausted and ill, men were deserting in great numbers, heading home to their families and farms. It was a dark moment for the Revolution and for Washington. From his makeshift headquarters, he wrote to warn Congress: "unless some great and capital change suddenly takes place .. this army must inevitably ... starve, dissolve or disperse."

    Steuben (who'd been recruited away from the domain of Frederick the Great by Benjamin Franklin) was able to turn this situation around:
    His offer of service was accepted, and he reported to Gen. George Washington at Valley Forge, Pa., on 23rd of February. When he arrived at Valley Forge he was appalled by the condition of the army, his own words speak for themselves --"It would be an endless task to enumerate the abuses which nearly ruined the army."

    There seemed to be little accountability for supplies, officers could not even sure of the number of men under their command. Equipment of all kinds was lacking, with soldiers without clothing or even muskets, worse still there was a complete lack of discipline.

    Troops were even in the habit of coming and going as they pleased, those who living nearby walking away and return to their homes to attend to their farm chores . On the operational level, although they were good individual fighters, the American infantry's ignorance of the elementary principles of drill or manoeuvring often put them at a fatal disadvantage against their well-trained British/ Hanoverian opponents

    Steuben immediately took control of this military chaos and set out to change it. Personally becoming a drill sergeant, he started teaching marching, marksmanship and battle tactics. He introduced group training, hand picking 100 men, training them and sending them out to train others. He put into practice camp sanitary methods and established common latrines, away from the tented areas, while tents themselves were erected in lines in a proper military fashion. Soon the camp began to have a ordered disciplined appearance which in turn no doubt effected the self esteem of Washington's troops.

    All of this organisation, including the necessary orders, was handicapped by Von Steubens lack of English. However Nathaniel Greene and Alexander Hamilton were great admirers of Steuben's efforts and it was these two men who actually passed on his orders.

    Impressed no doubt by the change beginning to come over his army, Washington recommended, to Congress, on 30th of April, 1778, that Von Steuben should be appointed Inspector General of the Army. Congress complied and in May 1778. Not all of Washington's Generals had the same degree of respect for what Steuben was accomplishing. Generals LaFayette, Lee and Mifflin felt that they were being interfered with in the training of troops under their command (This may even have been tinged with a little jealousy?), nevertheless, Steuben continued with his valuable task.

    During this time Steuben wrote his training manual known as 'The Blue Book', more formally known as, "Regulations For The Order And Discipline Of The Troops". The book included detailed instructions for the discipline and conduct of officers and enlisted men, as well as organisation of units, and all related issues. Washington approved the book and printing commenced of three thousand copies ordered by Congress.

    So much for background. (Modern revisionists, of course, are more fond of Steuben for less important reasons.) On this latest visit, I saw a quote I'd never noticed before, which not only explains how he did it, but which provides historical confirmation of a fundamental aspect of the American psyche:
    Baron von Steuben, the former Prussian army officer who came to this country during the Revolution and became the drillmaster of the Continental Army, at one point wrote back to a former colleague in the Prussian army, Baron von Gaudy, about these Americans whom he now found himself training. "[T]he genius of this nation," von Steuben held, "is not in the least to be compared with that of the Prussians, Austrians or French. You say to your soldier, ‘Do this, and he doeth it’; but I am obliged to say, ‘This is the reason why you ought to do that; and then he does it.’"
    Americans are not a submissive people, and that's a particularly good thing. (Especially now, when once again we are under attack by people whose principal belief system is based on submission.)

    Steuben reminded me again of this Stephen Green classic:

    Dread is for the weak; defiance is, perhaps, the American virtue.

    And here's the statue:


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



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

    "We won't be watching."

    So says Talk Left (via Dean Esmay) about the Wassef Ali Hassoun beheading video which terrorists have promised to release.

    If they execute this man (a big mistake, according to this Marine) I'll sure as hell watch the damned thing, and to the extent that it "desensitizes" me (something highly debatable in itself), I'll be that much more filled with implacable, relentless hatred for the bastards who did it. I don't have to forgive. Or forget.

    There are mixed reports about whether Hassoun has been killed, but obviously, a video of his death would confirm it.

    Once again, these beheadings are nothing new; it's been more than two years since Daniel Pearl's murder, and no doubt that there will be many more.

    Dean adds his thoughts about desensitization:

    Each time a terrorist group beheads someone the general populace is becoming a mite more desensitive. A tiny part of the shock value and revulsion wears off, because human beings are basically resiliant. Reality is adjusted in a relationship akin to when you stick your hand in a sink of water: your hand goes in and the water adjusts around the hand. Similarly, our perception of reality (a more brutal world) adjusts.
    Like U.S. soldiers eating lunch on a pile of enemy corpses, perhaps?

    For the terrorists, possibly food for thought.....

    I'll be watching.

    MORE: Kevin at Wizbang, as usual, offers comprehensive coverage of this awful story, with many links, for those who want to keep track of the video (if one is released).

    UPDATE (07-08-04): According to this report, the Hassoun kidnaping and beheading threat may be a hoax. I have no way of evaluating the story, other than to say that in the pictures released, Hassoun did not look nearly as stressed as the previous captives.

    posted by Eric at 12:31 PM

    The Anti-Kass

    We here at Classical Values try to move product on a daily basis. When we don't, management has harsh words for us. I have been ordered to blog, and today, dammit! Well okay then. I have a dauntingly gigantic Rifkin post in the works, but it's not...quite...ready. You may be sorry when it is.

    Till then, how about I step up to the plate with a book report? Just a short little placeholder of an entry, to satisfy my beastly overlord. Hear that Scheie? Eat hot death! Try paying me!

    Anyway this book won't be for everybody. First, you gotta love science fiction. And not the easy stuff, either. This book is disorienting for the non-aficionado. Or dull. Either way, you have been warned. Second, it ends rather abruptly, as in a major cliffhanger. Did I mention it's part one of a trilogy?

    With those caveats in mind, let me just say that this is one of the best sf reads of the last couple years. Title? "The Golden Age" by John C. Wright.

    Mr. Wright USED to be a lawyer. Just one more positive thing about him. And he might have been quite a good one if this book is any indicator. He methodically and entertainingly throws in the kitchen sink, the upstairs tub, and every other piece of relevant plumbing he can grab onto. I mean, this book has everything.

    Nanotech, neurotech, cognitech, life-extension, space travel, artificial intelligence, telepresence, virtual reality, a libertarian as-close-to-utopian social order as you can imagine, well, it reads like a Glenn Reynolds wish list. As they say, read the whole thing.

    UPDATE: It occurs to me that a good salesman should let the product sell itself.

    As and when I get more time, I'll add some excerpts to whet your appetite. Here's the first.

    Staring up at the night sky, Phaethon opened his hearing to include ground-based and satellite radio. Information flowed into his brain. There were countless signals and communications radiating from Earth, from the satellite city-ring, the houses of the moon, and green Venus in her new cooler orbit, already shining with the radio noise of civilization. The collected asteroids of the remade planet Demeter had fewer cities, but brighter, as the scientific communities and experimental modes of life there used more energy than sober, older Terra. The Jovian moons, a solar system in miniature, were a beacon of immeasurable energy, life, motion, and noise; some people considered it the real center of the Golden Oecumene. At the Leading and Trailing Trojan points, the million space-metropoli of the Invariants pulsed with calm and steady rhythms. At the edge of night, the Neptunian energy-webs and communication systems extended out to the Oort and Kuiper belts. There were a few distant flickers from remote stations beyond that; one beacon from the Porphyrogen observatory at 500 AUs, like a last spark in the dark.

    UPDATE: From virtual space to the real world.

    Phaethon was surprised to find himself in blank thought-space. His self-image was gone. His body was nothing but a pair of floating gloves, here. To his left and right were red and blue icon cubes, representing basic routines...A half-dozen black slabs, like shields, represented security, anti-intrusion and privacy-guarding routines. There was a yellow disk-shaped icon representing communication circuits. And that was all....

    The barren emptiness was oppressive. And it certainly ignored Silver-Gray traditions of detailed utter realism. There wasn't even a "wallpaper" image here-no room, no desktop....words appeared unsupported in the air:"WARNING. You are about to disconnect from all Rhadamanthine systems and support. Do you wish to proceed?"

    He touched finger to thumb, spreading his other finger: the yes signal.

    A moment of disorientation floated through him. For a moment, his mind was clouded; the sensations in his body changed, slowed, became somewhat numb, and yet more painful. He opened his eyes and winced.

    Phaethon was awake in the real world.

    The medical tubes and organs wrapping him were made of hydrocarbons, and slid aside, re-forming themselves into water and diamond plates for easy storage. Phaethon stood up slowly from his coffin, surprised and shocked.

    The room was small and ugly...the walls were dumb-walls, not made of pseudo-matter, not able to change shape or perform other functions...

    Despite silver-gray promises of total realism, his self-image in mentality was represented as being stronger and more agile than his real body in reality...

    A second shock came when he looked down at his body. The skin was a dull, leathery substance; it looked very much like inexpensive artificial skin. He pressed his fingers against his chest, his stomach, his groin. Beneath the flesh, he felt, or perhaps he imagined, that some of the organs under his fingers had the hard, unyielding texture of cheap synthetic replacements.

    His senses were duller. Distant objects were blurred; his hearing was restricted in pitch and range, so sounds were dull and flat. Perhaps his skin was slightly numb as an aftereffect of the crude medical care he had been under. Or, what was more likely, the sense impressions directed by the computer stimulated his nerves more thoroughly and precisely than his natural organs...

    posted by Justin at 09:45 PM | Comments (5)

    The sky is falling pleasantly

    I liked the cloud patterns the other night, but they moved so quickly that by the time I ran inside, the spaces between the clouds had grown from cracks to substantial gaps. The effect was still there.


    Of course, I prefer the sky in this Los Angeles neighborhood, captured by an artist friend who does a better job than I ever could with a camera.


    Eat your heart out, Thomas Kincaid!

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

    A special privilege for Communists but not Nazis?

    A commenter with whom I often disagree raised an interesting point about ad hominem attacks. I think confusion about the definition of ad hominem attacks is sometimes exploited for political reasons.

    Is stating that someone is a Communist necessarily an ad hominem attack? If so, then why? Certainly, it is not an ad hominem attack to apply the labels of "Republican," "Democrat," or "libertarian" to people who believe any of those things. Are Communists entitled to some sort of exception?

    Yet there's no getting around the fact that some terms (Communist, Nazi, even Zionist) have become loaded weapons which are hurled at political opponents precisely as ad hominem attacks.

    Does it depend, then, on whether or not the person being characterized is in fact a Nazi, Communist, or Zionist? Calling Joseph Goebbels a Nazi, Gus Hall a Communist (or Theodore Herzl a Zionist, for that matter) would not be ad hominem attacks under any rational standard, for that by definition is what those people are.

    I think what James Lileks and others have objected to is the routine use of terms like Communist and Nazi to deride people who clearly are not Communists or Nazis.

    Fascist and Marxist are a bit more complicated. I can't honestly claim to have known too many admitted fascists, but I have known many open Marxists, and I was once one myself. The term "Marxist" is not seen as particularly derisive. The problem is, I have also known many people whose political beliefs were Marxist in every way, yet they would bristle at being called Marxists.

    "Communist" has usually denoted membership in the Communist Party, but the problem with genuine Communists is that most of the Communists who really get stuff done deliberately conceal their status as Communists; even to the point where they'll yell and scream if anyone called them a Communist.

    They call it "red baiting."

    "Red baiting" is a strange term, because it is one of those labels which has almost approached ad hominem status itself, yet there's no clear definition of what it is. Certainly, falsely stating that someone is a Communist as a smear tactic is deplorable.

    But even there we get into a disagreement. Because, a real Communist ought to say that because there's nothing wrong with being a Communist, why should calling someone a Communist be a smear?

    A classic example is that of feminist author Betty Friedan. A Communist Party member and radical activist for years, she posed as a clueless middle class housewife who woke up, and issued America its wake-up call. Yet she indignantly calls any examination of or questions about her Communist background "red baiting."

    There's no such thing as "Nazi baiting." True, there are very few Nazis, but occasionally they are discovered, and while they might deny it, I have never heard any claim of "Nazi baiting." The charge of Nazism would either be true or not. Either way, "Nazi baiting" would be an absurdity.

    Yet, as typified by the case of Betty Friedan, "red baiting" is said to apply regardless of whether an individual proves to be a Communist or not. If an accusation is wrong, it's "red baiting," and OK, I can handle that. Being tarred with the brush of Stalin is a pretty gruesome accusation. By why is it "red baiting" (and morally opprobrious) to point out that someone is a Communist if it's true? And why is it that ex-Communists who have changed their minds and now hate Communism don't consider questions about their past to be red baiting?

    Are Communists having their cake and eating it too?

    Why should they be entitled to such a special privilege?

    To be sure, showing that someone is a Communist (or a Nazi, or a Hezbollah supporter) does not defeat unrelated arguments or claims. But it bears on any person's credibility if he denies or attempts to hide the truth.

    Wish I could find a good definition of "red baiting," but it's slippery. I'll say this though: when I was involved in Berkeley politics, being called a "Red baiter" was a more dangerous charge than the accusation of being a Communist.

    UPDATE: Here's an example of the special privilege in action. (Via Glenn Reynolds.) I doubt an ex Nazi would be quoted like that.

    posted by Eric at 08:05 AM | Comments (6)

    Less Kerry means more hatred?

    Jeff Jarvis notes that the Democrats are "not running their campaign for John Kerry. They are running only against George Bush."

    While many Democrats would like to see more of Kerry, a stubborn, recurrent problem is Kerry's history of making himself his own worst enemy. He just keeps putting his foot in it. "Out of sight, out of mind," however, is not a good election year strategy, and the fact is that much of the Democratic base runs on hatred of Bush....

    So Bush-as-villain seems to be the default position, like it or not. I don't think it will resonate well with the voters, because Bush hatred is almost as tired as it is vicious, and if it continues in this direction, Bush may become a sympathetic figure.

    History shows that Americans can get very tired of being told their president is a villain.

    posted by Eric at 11:19 AM | Comments (6)

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